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

Black Pride

Secretary of the newly formly Liberal Democrat Campaign for Race Equality talks about her experience as someone who is BAME and LGBT, and why events like Black Pride are so important.

Sunday was UK Black Pride, a day to hear from and celebrate those of us who live in the BAME-LGBT intersection.

I am one of these people.

My name is Nadya Phoenix and I am on the board of the newly established Liberal Democrat Campaign for Race Equality.

Coming out was a long, and at times very lonely road for me. It took attending an Arab Lesbian/Bisexual event for me to realise that I was not alone. It was a massive step in accepting my sexuality and myself.

This is why intersectional celebrations like Black Pride are so important. For a long time, the voices of those experiencing compounding marginalisation were the ones we did not hear from at all.

I’m proud to live in a Britain that is fighting to change that. I hope you will join me in this fight.

I wish you a very happy Black Pride.

Nadya Phoenix

Government Breaks Promise to ban Pensions Cold Calling

Liberal Democrat MP Stephen Lloyd has slammed the Government for failing to meet their deadline to ban cold calling by companies selling pension products.

During debates on the Financial Guidance and Claims Bill, Treasury Minister John Glen committed to “ban pensions cold calling quickly” and promised to make a statement to Parliament if he failed to do so by the end of June.

That deadline has now passed and Stephen Lloyd is demanding that a minister appears before the House of Commons to explain the reasons for the delay.

The Government commitment to ban pensions cold calling was secured by Liberal Democrat peer John Sharkey through winning key amendments in the House of Lords to ban cold calls from organisations selling various financial services.

Liberal Democrat Work and Pensions Spokesperson, Stephen Lloyd MP, said:
“A cold calling ban for pension products is urgently needed to protect the most vulnerable in our society from harassment and deception.

“The proposed ban had cross-party support, including from the Work and Pensions Select Committee, and the Government said they were committed to bringing in the ban as soon as possible. But this promise sounds increasingly hollow.

“Whilst the Treasury is hopelessly consumed by Brexit, they are standing by as vulnerable people are deprived of their financial security.

“The Conservatives have promised to get on with this. It is past time they did.”

The Pankhursts: Suffragette City Tour

You are invited to this professionally led walk is in memory of the Pankhursts – Emmeline, Christabel and Sylvia – fierce campaigners, resolute radicals, recalling their city centre haunts and outlining their struggle.

Starting at St Ann’s Church at 17:30, the tour will last approximately 2 hours.

To RSVP please go here: https://www.libdems.org.uk/clairehalliwell/the_pankhursts_suffragette_city_tour

GMSF Delayed, Again…

The next draft of the Greater Manchester Spatial Framework (GMSF) has been delayed again by the ten Labour Council Leaders in Greater Manchester.

The second draft was originally meant to be published in June 2018, but was recently delayed to July – now we’re not expecting to see anything until much later in the year.

The previous plan had been to provide for an extra 227,000 new houses across Greater Manchester (the equivalent of another Bolton and Bury added together) in the next 20 years. New population growth figures released by Government show a lower rate of predicted population growth for Greater Manchester, and there are more figures expected in September.

Previous plans would have seen whole swathes of Green Belt Lane across Bury destroyed by housing and industrial land.

The first draft of the GMSF would have seen 20% of Bury’s greenbelt land lost, almost 50% in Prestwich and Whitefield. We’re demanding that this should now by 0%. 

Bury Council is refusing to commit that the Green Belt is now safe saying: “Although no guarantees can be given is likely that less Green Belt land will have be released in Bury to meet housing needs than originally envisioned”. At the Greater Manchester Mayoral election in May 2017 Labour promised “no net loss of Green Belt land”, a promise they still seem to be breaking.

Our view as Liberal Democrats is that we DO need more housing. In particular we need more housing the people need and can afford, which is not necessarily the same as what developers want to built to make the most profit.

We want to see 100% of this building outside of Greenbelt land, using the extensive brownfield sites that exist across Greater Manchester.

Vince Cable Speech: Housing

Vince Cable explores how we can end the housing crisis through pragmatic steps to create more affordable homes, protect those who are renting, and help people get on the property ladder.

“At the centre of the last budget was a pledge to build 300,000 UK houses a year to address the ‘housing crisis’.

We were taken back to the days when a post-war Conservative Government, under Churchill, was elected with this level of ambition, and more than succeeded.

Or to the interwar National Government when, under the much-maligned Neville Chamberlain, when there was a similar level of ambition and achievement in the aftermath of, and as an antidote to, the Great Crash.

More recently, in 1969, when I was embarking on a political career as a councillor in Glasgow, a record level of 378,000 homes were built.   Large scale house building was then the template of successful local government.

Today, there is a significantly larger number of people per home available.

Yet in the 2010 post-crisis nadir only 133,000 homes were built during the year. And even as the economy comes out the other side, there were just 178,360 in 2016/17.

Brexit now threatens development rates again.  Already two-thirds of small and medium sized construction firms are struggling to hire bricklayers and carpenters, 10% more than was the case even three months ago.  There is a worsening crisis in construction recruitment which threatens any political aspiration to build more homes.

An estimated 240,000 to 300,000 units per year are needed to keep up with the rate of household formation but even that figure excludes a lot of hidden demand – in the form of young people living with their parents, for example.

This historic failure of governments – of all stripes – to stimulate housing supply at anything like the levels needed to meet demand is at the root of a great deal of social, and particularly inter-generational, injustice in the country today.

So while some of the solutions are necessarily technical, we should keep in mind throughout the end game. An affordable, secure home for all – and in particular for young people, to whom it is presently out of reach.

I want to set out how we could return to the levels of house building last seen two or three generations ago; and how a Lib Dem, mixed-economy approach, of public and private sector, can deliver it.”