Council Budgets Next Week

Next Wednesday, Bury Council will set its budget for the 2020-21 financial year, and also outline plans for the coming three years. For residents we find out what the Council’s plans are, and importantly how much Council Tax we will be expected to pay from 1 April 2020.

The final details won’t be known until next Wednesday, when the ruling Labour group makes its proposals, but we already know a lot of information.

The Council has already announced that the budget requires substantial savings, but this is less than might have been required because of ‘one off’ items that have been found.

The Council Tax proposal at this stage are for an increase in the Bury Council element of 2%, plus a further 2% increase in the adult social care levy.

However, this 4% rise is only part of the picture, as residents will also have to pay the Greater Manchester elements of the Council Tax (Police, Fire and Mayor). Added together this means that Council Tax will rise by more like 5% for residents.

Last week was the Greater Manchester Scrutiny Meeting where the Greater Manchester presented his proposals to Councillors. The proposals are:

Police – Council Tax will rise by £10 for a Band D property which will deliver an extra £10 million for Greater Mancheter police. This rise in itself doesn’t pay for any extra police officer, but the Government will also provide Greater Manchester with just under £10 million which is about 347 police officers.

Fire – Council Tax will go up 10% £6.25 for a Band D property. This is the first rise for the Fire Authority for some time in Greater Mancheter. What this rise means is that, for 2020-21 only, the Fire Service will not need to reduce the number of fire-fighters in post across the service. There are still big decisions to be made here, but these will be made over the coming year.

Mayor – the Council Tax we pay for the Mayor of Greater Manchester will go up by 45%. The vast majority of this increase will be going to pay for the Mayor’s plans to make bus travel free for 16 and 17 year olds.

We will do a full report next week, when the full budgets are understood, as well as what proposed your local Liberal Democrat councillors make.

Reporting Back: Planning Committee

On 21January was the monthly meeting of Bury Planning Control Committee. This is the meeting made up of the 11 Councillors who represent the various wards of the borough of Bury. The committee determines planning applications for certain major developments and others where objections have been received. Councillor Cristina Tegoloreports: 

Prior to the Committee meeting a training for the Planning Control Committee took place. Usually the training is arranged monthly by the Planning Department. This time, following consultation with Dave Marno, Head of Development Management Planning Services Department of Resources and Regulation Bury Council, I invited Stephen Hodder to speak to the planning committee and planning officers. Stephen is a local architect and Past President of the RIBA who won the inaugural Stirling Prize for the Centenary Building at Salford University. He’s currently Chair of the Construction Industry Council. His talk was about design quality in the planning process.

At the Planning Control Committee meeting all submitted applications were approved but I raised some concerns on the following applications:

Access road off Halsall Close, Gorses Quarry, Bury, App No. 64022
We discussed an application that was submitted retrospectively for the removal of a stretch of vegetation and trees to an access track which is located within a semi-rural area and is in the Green Belt. The access track carries a bridleway and footpath reference 24BUR.The works caused the embankment to become unstable in parts and some tree roots were exposed and protruded from the side of the embankment. The works had also caused minor landslides of earth and stones to fall into the access track. The application submitted wanted to implement a scheme of ecological mitigation and re-profiling/stabilising works.

We analysed the merits and I raised at the meeting the following points:

I considered that the engineering works would not constitute inappropriate development in the Green Belt and would comply with point b) in para 146 of the NPPF. However, I suggested that the works were offering the opportunity to introduce a rest area with benches by the side of the now enlarged access track. My comments were taken on board and will be incorporated into the scheme. 

Site at corner of Spring Lane & Bury Road, Radcliffe, App No. 64518/Full
We discussed a proposed development, on the corner of Spring Lane, Bury Road and Pine Street, for the erection of 15 no. x 1-bedroom apartments, provided over 3 floors with the main entrance on the side elevation facing the associated car parking. 

The site was previously occupied by St Mary and St Philip RC Church, which was demolished in 2009, and is currently vacant. The scheme will deliver 100% affordable housing.

We analysed the merits and I raised at the meeting the following points:

  • I fully appreciated that the scheme provides 100% affordable housing but I pointed out that in this block of apartments there are only one-bedroom flats and there isn’t a lift.
  • I also said that in a 3-storey apartment block without lift, people with long- and short-term mobility impairments, elderly couples that wish to downsize, parents with toddlers will be excluded or disadvantaged.
  • I was happy to see that a scheme for the provision of electric vehicle charging points would be submitted to and approved in writing by the Local Planning Authority. However, I said that Bury Council should do a lot more to create sustainable buildings and minimise their environmental footprints. Ideally. we should also have renewables energy systems (such as solar and wind) and we should conserve and reuse rainwater.

I also said that that the perimetral metal fencing around this block of apartments should be replaced with green hedging plants to give privacy and at the same time to support wildlife and create a small eco-friendly habitat. This comment was taken on board and will be incorporated into the scheme. 

Land adjacent to 152 Butterstile Lane, Prestwich, App No. 64902/Full
We discussed a proposed development in a small rectangular plot (70sqm) of hardstanding at the southern end of the Neighbourhood Shopping Centre, on the corner of Butterstile Lane and Carr Avenue. The development consists of a two storey red brick building attached to the existing unit at 152 Butterstile Lane. The new build has a retail unit (40sqm) at ground floor with a shopfront onto Butterstile Lane and a 2-bed flat at first floor level.

We analysed the merits and I raised at the meeting the following points:

I said that the external appearance and design of the proposal in relation to its height, scale and layout was not in line with the adjoining buildings. I considered that the relationship of the proposal to the surrounding area was not acceptable as the proposed development had a different finished floor level, its windows were at a different level and the height of the roof (both the ridge and the gutter) broke the continuity of the row of terraced houses and shops on Butterstile Lane. I said that the scheme in my opinion should have been redesigned and that this was a miss opportunity to create a corner store with some quality design in a lively neighbourhood.

My comments weren’t taken on board, I voted against and the application was approved with no amendments.

More information and the full papers for the meeting are here.

Reporting Back: Full Council

Last week was the regular ‘Full Council’ meeting for Bury Council – the main meeting of all 51 councillors. Almost all the meeting this time was taken up by policy motions proposed by the different political parties.

The Liberal Democrat Group proposed a policy motion on Loneliness and Isolation, an important issue that we wanted the Council to take more proactive action on.

Councillor Michael Powell, who proposed the motion said:
“(our) motion this evening seeks to address the growing trend of loneliness and isolation felt amongst many individuals in our various communities. To give you an idea of how far reaching these issues are, it is estimated that one in ten people over the age of 65 are likely to be classed as either isolated or severely lonely.

However, it is also very important to note that loneliness and isolation are not issues which exclusively effect a particular area of society or age-range. They effect a wide range of people, regardless of age or background. For example, research conducted by the group ‘Campaign to End Loneliness’ has found that an increasing number of young people are being found to suffer from loneliness and isolation, and that 16 to 24 year olds are actually the most likely age group to report feeling lonely or isolated.”

The motion proposed that Bury Council takes a number of steps to make residents aware of all the support services that are in place, and make sure it has a ‘joined up’ approach on other policy issues (e.g. transport or communications) to make sure that wherever possible everything contributes to tackling loneliness and isolation.

The motion received the support of all parties, and has now become the agreed position of the Council.

The Conservative Group proposal was to have a ‘Community Governance Review’ for Radcliffe. Essentially this would have undertaken a formal review to decide whether it would be a good idea to have a Town Council for Radcliffe in the future.

Town Councils are a common feature in many areas of England, but not in Bury. They are additional to the Borough Council, but provide local services in a town. Next door in Bolton, for example, both Horwich and Westhoughton have their own Town Councils.

In principle we would support the idea, through it is important to say that we should make sure it didn’t cost more money for residents, but we don’t see why it is just Radcliffe that should have this review. Other areas of Bury (Ramsbottom, Prestwich, Whitefield etc) might also want their own Town Council.

We proposed an amendment to the motion, to make it cover the whole of Bury. Our proposal was agreed and is now the Council’s policy. The Conservatives voted against wanting the review to just look at Radcliffe.

The Labour Group proposed an important motion on tackling Islamaphobia, which included signing Bury Council up to the International Definition on Islamaphobia. We were very happy to support this important proposal which was agreed.

The papers for the meeting are here, any questions please ask!

Reporting Back: Strategic Commissioning Board

Last night was the regular meeting of Bury’s Strategic Commissioning Board, this is the relatively new body which brings together the Coucnil and NHS Bury to make joint decisions about health and care services. Opposition Group Leaders can attend but not vote. Councillor Tim Pickstone reports:

Public Health Priorities in Bury: 
The Director of Public Health gave a report on the public health prioritis in Bury, based on the health needs of local people. These are identified as:

• A good start in life

• Adverse Childhood Experiences & Mental Wellbeing

• Primary and secondary prevention of Long-Term Conditions (including MSK)

• Comprehensive behaviour change strategy which emphasises making healthy options the default options.

• Income & wealth equality

• Supportive relationships & social connections & community empowerment

• Decent Affordable Housing

• Ensuring all residents benefit from clean & green environments

This report set out the rationale for each of these priorities and summarises what ‘good’ would look like, the current position in Bury and provides a series of recommendations designed to help move us further, faster. 

Urgent Care Review
The Board agreed to go ahead with public consultation on a review of Urgent Care services in Bury. This review and consulation focuses on all the services that are available to people who need urgent health care – GPs, Walk-In Centres, and services at hospitals like A&E and Urgent Care Centres. 

People will recall that there was a similar review a few years ago which resulted in proposals to close Bury’s two Walk-In centres. This doesn’t mean that this will be the proposalst this time, though it is important to note that this is ‘phase 1’ of the review, focussing on Fairfield hosptial, and that there will be a phase two, focussing on North Manchester General Hosptial, later in the year.

The consultation will test the following principles with members of the public:

• Making it easier to book a same day appointment at your GP practic

• Upgrading and enhancing some of our facilities so that they are open longer and have access to diagnostic tests you might need such as X rays and blood tests.

• Making the service offer streamlined, simplified and standardised with consistent opening hours, a Bury wide triage system and a number of options to refer you to once you have been assessed either in the Community or at FGH

• Making it easier to speak to a local clinician in Bury if you have rung 111

• Making sure you get the right advice and are booked into somewhere to be seen to reduce the time you would have to wait if you had just walked in somewhere 

We will circulate details of the consultation when it happens. 

Intermediate Care Review 

A review is also taking place of Intermediate Care services in Bury. Typically these are services where people are cared for when leaving hospital. 
Bury currently has a number of intermediate care sevices, this includes: 
– Bealey Intermediate Care Unit (Radcliffe) 
– Killelea Intermediate Care Unit (Bury) 
– Discharge to Assess Beds 
– Reablement 
– Intermediate Care at Home Rapid Response Service

In summary the proposals are to reduce the number of physical beds availablee from 74 to 49, but making more efficient use of them to deliver 658 admissions per year and a average length of stay of 26 days – AND to increase capacity of reablement to 70 and delivering 983 admissions per year whilst delivering an average length of stay of 26 days. 

Review of Learning Difficulty Respite Servies 
A review is currently taking place of the above service, which particularly focusses on the future of the Cambeck Close service in Whitefield. 

The papers for the meeting are here. Any questions please ask.

Plan to Tackle Knife Crime

Ahead of his debate on 27 June 2019 in Parliament, Brian Paddick, Liberal Democrat Home Affairs spokesperson in the Lords, has launched a five-point plan to tackle the knife crime epidemic.

His public health approach which he has called on the Conservative Government to enact is outlined below:

  1. Enabling parents to be there for their children by tackling in-work poverty & providing the support parents and their children need.
  2. Safe and healthy alternatives to gangs: providing a positive safety net for those whose parents can’t provide the support their children need.
  3. Healing the damage caused by Adverse Childhood Experiences by addressing the psychological impact with intervention at ‘teachable moments’ and countering the normalisation of violence through compulsory sex and relationship education.
  4. Inclusive education: fewer excluded pupils, adaptable education that addresses every pupil’s needs, including teaching the realities of criminal gangs.
  5. United against knife crime: restoring community policing so police and communities can work on the same side against the knife carriers.

Following the launch of the plan, Brian Paddick said:

“Knife crime claims a new life almost every day but the Conservatives are not taking the crisis seriously. We have witnessed devastating cuts to our police force as well as a piecemeal approach which fails to make any impact.

Knife crime is a public health emergency and therefore demands a public health response. Government departments should be working together to enact the changes we need to get a grip of this rise in violent crime.

The knife crime epidemic needs a cohesive and joined-up approach which is what the Liberal Democrats have put forward. Not only must we address the decimation of community policing, but we must tackle other factors driving knife crime such as in work poverty and school exclusions.

So tomorrow I will call on the Government to enact our plan. By doing so, we can move towards a society where young people are safe on our streets.”

Reporting Back – Budget Council

Last night was the ‘Budget Council’ meeting at Bury Town Hall, where councillors set the Council’s budget for 2019-20, as well as the Council Tax rate residents will pay.

The proposals from the ruling Labour Group were agreed. These include:

– Council Tax rise of 4.4%. The maximum rise allowed by Government without a referendum is 3%, so this is made up of 2.94% rise by Bury, and then on top of that are higher than inflation rises by Greater Manchester Police £24 a year for a Band D property and a more than doubling Greater Manchester Mayor’s tax from £8 to £17, for a Band D property.

– The Council has used some of it’s previous reserves – £5 million – to make the budget balance this year. This is perfectly legal, but obviously they can only be used once – so they are already creating a problem for 2020-21 when additional cuts of £5 million will need to be found.

– Money remains very tight and significant savings need to be made. Two that stood out for us is a reduction in the amount available for road repairs of £600,000 and a reduction in the amount spent on home care visits for older people who need this support of £1.4 million.

– The Council has increased the amount of Council Tax that must be paid on an empty property to double the normal rate.

– Using this extra income to borrow more there  is some money for some new things by borrowing about £4.5 million . This includes £1 million to refurbish Bury Market and money to take forwards proposals in Prestwich, Radcliffe and Whitefield town centres (the money to do the studies, not the money to build anything).

What did the Liberal Democrats do?
We didn’t support the budget, there are some good things, but in general we couldn’t support a budget that was cutting road repairs and home care visits and only balanced by using reserves.

We made an alternative proposal which included:
– More money for road repairs (£3.6 million)
– More money to tackle congestion and ‘rat runs’, and money to tackle air pollution outside of schools (No-idling zones) (£0.5 million)
– More money to address mental health concerns in schools and to tackle fly-tipping (£0.6 million over three years).
The proposal was affordable by reducing management costs by just two posts.

Regrettably Labour Councillors voted agains these proposals.

Hope this is useful please get in touch if you have any questions. The budget papers for the meeting are here.

New Council Tax Rates (from 1 April)
Band A – £1217.44
Band B – £1420.35
Band C – £1623.26
Band D – £1826.19
Band E – £2232.00
Band F – £2637.80
Band G – £3043.63
Band H – £3652.35

GMSF Housing Proposals – Bury Liberal Democrat Statement

Today Greater Manchester’s Labour leaders are publishing the revised proposals for the ‘Greater Manchester Spatial Framework’ to provide 201,000 new homes in Greater Manchester over the next 20 years.

Councillor Tim Pickstone, Bury’s Liberal Democrat Group Leader said:

For Bury this plan is a disgrace. While other boroughs like Bolton have maintained all future housing growth in the town centre, Bury Council seems determined to bulldoze over whole swathes of countryside.

Across Greater Manchester only 4.1% of green belt land is lost, in Bury it is a shocking 12% and in Prestwich and Whitefield it is more like 40% lost. Village communities like Simister and Bowlee will be changed for ever, as will areas near Elton reservoir and Walshaw, with a ridiculous and unnecessary level of housebuilding in the green belt.

Nobody explains how an extra 9,500 houses worth of people will somehow fit on the Metrolink or down the A56. There are vague plans for a new motorway junction at Birch services, even through everyone knows that area of motorway is already full to capacity.

We do need new houses, almost certainly not 201,000, but we do need more houses that people can afford. But we also need countryside.

Bury Council’s Labour leadership has failed to listen to its own residents and gone back on the Mayor’s pledge for no net loss of green belt.

More information:
GMSF Overview
Transport Strategy Summary

Summer BBQ Sunday 29 July 2018 – All Welcome

The Bury Liberal Democrats would like to invite you to join us for our summer BBQ, taking place on Sunday 29th July at 17 Prestwich Park Road South, M25 9PE from 5pm onwards.

All members and supporters are welcome, and please bring family and friends.

Tickets will be priced at £10.00 for adults and kids come free! Please let us know of any special dietry requirements beforehand. Tickets can be purchased here:

https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/preview?eid=47662580060

We look forward to seeing you there!

Securing Clean Air Zones around our Schools

Liberal Democrat councillors on Bury Council were able to secure all-Party support last week for a proposal to introduce ‘Clear Air Zones’ around all of our local schools.

In many parts of Bury, particularly near to our main roads, busy junctions and our high number of motorways, there are areas of  poor air quality and that pollutants in the air can exceed safe limits.

Air pollution  has a massive impact on people’s health with the young and other people with increased health risk like many elderly eople being most at risk.

There have been statistics that show that in Bury the impact of poor air pollution equates to approximately 950 years of life lost per year.

There is no single answer, and no easy answer to tackling air pollution. In Greater Manchester there are starting to be efforts to tackle congestion and more needs to be done such as removing the most polluting buses from our streets. Other issues are dependent on Government action and we would have concern that the Government’s current timescales are woefully unambitious.

The Liberal Democrat proposal is to create enforceable ‘no-idling’ zones around schools, so that people do not wait outside a school with a car engines running.

Lib Dem Councillor Steve Wright said: “This is a simple action that can be taken is to make enforceable ‘no-idling zones’ outside all of our schools. It never ceases to amaze me how many parents are waiting to collet their children (or grandchildren) leaving their engines running which is just about the worst thing you could do.

We’re hoping that this move, with education combined with the additional prospect of this being something our wardens can come and enforce will make a significant difference outside our schools.”

As a second step we would also like to extend this to play areas and outside hospitals and health centres and to work with our local NHS providers to do this.

This map shows areas of high pollution around the M60 and A56 in Prestwich/Whitefield.

David Davis, Boris Johnson and Brexit Chaos

Tom Brake MP: I’m running out of words to describe what a mess this Government is in. Chaos, dissaray, shambles, omnishambles.

Bluntly, the resignations of David Davis and Boris Johnson on Monday makes it clear: this government is up shit creek without a paddle.

It is obvious to all – Brexiters and Remainers alike – that Theresa May cannot deliver on Brexit.

This is most important issue in a generation and the government has failed.

There’s only one option for them now. Hand Brexit back over to the people to have the final say on the Brexit deal, and include the option to remain in the EU.

My fellow Lib Dem MPs and I will be calling on the government to extend ‘Article 50’ (or delay the day we’re set to leave the EU) today.

But to pile the pressure on, I need your help.

I want 100k people to sign our petition.

Please sign our petition to Exit from Brexit today.

And ask just one friend. Perhaps its someone at work, a fellow parent at the school gates or a neighbour. We all know someone who might sign if only we asked them.

You can find the petition here: https://www.libdems.org.uk/brexit