Reporting Back – Full Council July 2014

Earlier in the month was the regular meeting of Bury’s Full Council – the opportunity five times a year when all Councillors meet together.

The meeting interestingly too place the night before the announcement in the press and on TV about the three-weekly bin collections. However no mention was made of this new policy at Full Council (TV interviews had clearly already been recorded). Papers for the Cabinet meeting which contained the proposal seemed to be handed out as people left the meeting.

This was my first Full Council meeting as the only Liberal Democrat councillor. Although it has its advantages ( for example it’s easy to decide how the Liberal Democrats will vote) it also has significant disadvantages. We can’t propose motions and any questions to the Leader get put at the very bottom of the list and then don’t get answered! (I understand this might be reviewed, as hopefully it fairly clear that this isn’t a fair way of doing things…)

Public Question Time
Two main issues were raised:
– the speed limit of the unrestricted section of Turton Road, which I understand will be reduced to 50mph, and the possibility of 40mph is being investigated.
– a second issue was the proposal for the withdrawal of the (commercially run) bus service which serves Affetside. Thankfully Transport for Greater Manchester have stepped in and a solution for a subsidised service has been found.

Questions to the Leader
I submitted two questions – which were only answered in writing.

Councillor Pickstone
Could the Leader say what proportion of staff who are currently employed by the Authority at levels below the ‘living wage’ are employed in schools? The Council is currently proposing to increase the pay of staff on the minimum wage to something a little higher, but still below the recommended ‘Living Wage’.If I had been given a supplementary question I would have asked about how the Council was addressing the issue of schools budgets that would have been affected by this.

A. There are 646 schools-based employees who currently earn an
hourly rate of pay that is below the Living Wage of £7.65 per hour.
This amounts to just under 56% of the total number of employees
who earn less than the Living Wage. This Labour administration is
very clear that it aspires to pay all staff at or above the Living Wage
and the simple reason that we cannot do this at the present time is
the sheer scale of the cuts imposed on us by the coalition
Government which Councillor Pickstone’s party plays a full role in.
However, despite this, the proposals on terms and conditions that
we have just begun to consult on provide for a move towards the
Living Wage for the lowest paid of our employees.

Councillor Pickstone
Will the Leader join me in welcoming the £245,000 extra money for potholes for Bury from the Government? How will the funding be split between townships?

A. As I said in an earlier answer, I am pleased that we have qualified
for this funding because it shows that the Government recognize that
Bury Council delivers best practice when it comes to highway
maintenance. However this money only goes a fraction of the way to
making up for the savage cuts that the Government has previously
made to our highways funding and so it is clear to everyone that the
blame for potholes on our roads lies firmly at their door.We intend to
spend the money in the areas of most need and so it is not possible to
provide a township split at this stage.

Motions
A Labour motion on a ‘Fair Deal for Bury’ proposed calling for all-parties to lobby Government for a review of the ‘funding formula’ which (for many years) has been viewed as unfairly underfunding Bury compared to other councils. There was a long debate, including an amendments from the Conservatives. I ended up supporting this motion.

A Conservative motion addressed the issue of Bury’s ‘Core Strategy’. The consideration of this issue has been suspended by the Planning Inspector, as there are issues around the supply of land for future housing. The Conservative motion also included opposition to all wind farms, which I don’t support.
In the end a Labour amendment was adopted which I was able to support.

Any questions please don’t hesitate to get in touch.

Tim

Lifting the lid on the gender pay gap

Large companies will be legally required to publish the difference between what they pay men and women, under manifesto plans set out by Liberal Democrats.

Liberal Democrats would make it a legal requirement for companies employing more than 250 people to publish the average pay of their male and female workers.

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This would create pressure from staff and customers to account for and close any pay gap that exists between men and women.

The plans were announced by Liberal Democrat Leader Nick Clegg, Minister for Women and Equalities Jo Swinson and Business Secretary Vince Cable.

Currently leading employers are encouraged to publish pay gap information on a voluntary basis, but Liberal Democrats want to go further.

Liberal Democrats are the first major party to commit to enforcing gender pay transparency by law.

Commenting, Nick Clegg said:

“Forty years after the Equal Pay Act was passed it is utterly unacceptable that women are not being equally rewarded in the workplace – with women paid, on average, 20% less than men.

“Real equality means fair pay. It’s time to accept that the voluntary approach does not go far or fast enough.

“We need to lift the lid on what big companies pay the men and women they employ, with that information there for every employee and customer to see.”

In 2013, the average woman earned 19.7% less than the average man and Liberal Democrats want to see equal pay for equal jobs.

Jo Swinson added:

“The Liberal Democrats have fought for shared parental leave, extra childcare, a new right to request flexible working, and we are determined to tackle the issue of gender pay.

“If women in the workplace are to have the same opportunities and choices as men, they must be properly rewarded for their talents and skills – it’s as simple as that.”

Liberal Democrats will work with businesses on what information companies should publish and how often they should do so.

Vince Cable said:

“We’re consulting with business to make sure we get the detail right, but ultimately this is a good step for our companies.

“We’ve already seen some of our biggest firms lead the way on publishing pay gap information. They know that their staff will appreciate real openness about the way men and women are paid and real effort to close any gap that exists.”

You can join the camapign today: http://www.libdems.org.uk/breaking_down_the_gender_pay_gap

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90% Say NO to 3-weekly Bin Collections

An online poll conducted over the five days since Bury Council announced it was proposing to introduce a three-weekly collection of the main ‘grey’ bins has shown that 90% of residents are opposed to the change.

Almost 800 people have taken part in the online survey so far, which asked people if they agreed with the proposals to change to a three-weekly collection:

Do you agree with Bury Council’s proposal to collect our grey bins once every three weeks?

Screenshot 2014-07-16 12.10.15

As Liberal Democrats we’re hugely committed to recycling, so we asked residents for ideas people felt worked best to enable Bury residents to recycle more:

What ideas would you support to increase the amount of recycling in Bury?

Screenshot 2014-07-16 12.10.22

 
The questions were:
Smaller Grey Bins (for everyone)
Smaller Grey Bins (optional)
Increased education and information about recycling
Fines or penalties for not recycling
Financial incentives to encourage recycling
Reducing packaging from local supermarkets
More garden composting
Other

If you’ve not taken part you still can here.

Your Views and Ideas
People submitted hundreds of other comments and ideas which we’ll be collating and analysing over the next few days.

Here are just a few of them:

“It is ridiculous to reduce collections of general waste before putting the correct recycling facilities in place. Bury do not accept many plastic items and these are bulky, so the grey bins are full in a fortnight.”

“This proposed policy penalises those with babies (we will have 2 in nappies for a short while), the sick/disabled and any others who may produce slightly more non-recycable waste but cannot get themselves to the tip. These people will possibly have stinking bins outside their back door for 3 weeks. If you miss a collection (unavoidably) you are in trouble! This policy has led to fly tipping elsewhere which will cost the council more money. This should be a last resort with all avenues pursued to help people recycle first.”

“We recycle most of our waste and still struggle with having a full grey bin within a week, let alone 2 weeks. If the service went 3 weekly we would not manage. I am not 100% up to speed as to what plastics are recyclable and which are not, so more help in this area would be welcome.”

“We are a family of five, our bin over flows now at two weeks we have to sometimes go to the tip with our extra bags of rubbish as it is, because we don’t want the cats/dogs /fox’s getting into out rubbish! I cannot believe this is even an option unbelievable!!!!!”

“There are two of us in our house and we downsized to the smaller Bin a few months ago which only takes 3 or 4 Black bags. We recycle all paper,cardboard,bottles and grass and our Bin is full every two weeks but so are the neighbours with bigger bins and four or five people living in the house. Sometimes lids are left ajar as they can’t fit it all in. Once every two weeks is bad enough. Some countries get collections 2 or three times a Week!!!!! Will Bury council now be reducing our council tax for this reduced service? How do they feel about the increase in the carbon footprints as most of us will have to go the Skip with our excess Rubbish. Really appalling decision. The Rats of Bury must be dancing and laughing in the sewers”

“Most supermarket packaging is not able to be recycled – this is where the real issue lies. Yoghurt pots, jelly pots, some fruit juices with plastic tops, ready meal trays, packaging for fruit, fish etc. This is the reason why the main grey bin is always full up so quickly and why it is impossible to go to a 3 week empty on this bin. As a family we recycle everything that we can but many items cannot be recycled and that’s the problem.”

“As a family of two adults and one child I struggle to see why the council feel three weeks is suitable. We recycle all bottles and cans, in fact our blue bin is 85/90% full every collection along with the cardboard bin being completely full each collection. We recycle far more than I thought was possible and I’m proud of that fact. My mindset has changed over the years from when everything went in the grey bin and that’s fantastic.

“As a family of two adults and one child I struggle to see why the council feel three weeks is suitable. We recycle all bottles and cans, in fact our blue bin is 85/90% full every collection along with the cardboard bin being completely full each collection. We recycle far more than I thought was possible and I’m proud of that fact. My mindset has changed over the years from when everything went in the grey bin and that’s fantastic. Having said that I feel two weeks is manageable for us as a 3 person family. It will be completely unmanageable with 3 week collections. That problem would be exacerbated should any more people live in this house. There will be an increase in fly tipping if this ludicrous idea is brought in. Reduction in packaging should be the first step rather than taking away a service that is just about adequate.”

“This is a dreadful idea. We recycle all the time and our bin is at full capacity at emptying time. I have two young children. The risk of rats and maggots is not to be underestimated”

“More bottle bins or recycle points near to supermarkets or place people visit often so it is easy recycle”

“We make full use of all 4 bins and try not to buy items with excessive packaging but with a growing family we only just manage with the grey bin emptied every 2 weeks.”
“I agree that we should re-cycle more and be encouraged to do so but as general waste needs to be decreased there should be mechanisms to enable more plastics to be accepted.”

“We are a family of 6 and cannot cope with the fortnightly collections. We have to use our elderly neighbours grey bin also we have use the local tip, I am very conscious about the environment and recycle everything we can.”

“I noticed that one of the key aims of this change is to promote recycling. I feel that it would also help the situation if a wider range of plastic recycling was included within the blue bin. For example plastic containers (such as yoghurt pots, margarine/ice cream tubs, fruit/vegetable punnets, cream/custard pots, plastic trays e.g meat/fish/cake trays, soup/sauce pots, plastic cups, empty plastic bags, carrier bags and film).”

“My bin is usually too full to close by collection day and I live ALONE. How are families supposed to deal with this? I recycle religiously and absolutely nothing goes in my grey bin that can be recycled, ever, but I do have 2 house cats. My bin smells enough as it is, can you imagine how bad it will be with 3 week old used cat litter in. Even with the litter in individual bags!!”

“Bury council should do more to inform citizens exactly what can and can’t be recycled. The information on the website does not have enough detail.There is a lot more the council could do first before asking it’s citizens to accept a reduced service, such as recycling absorbent hygiene products and recycling lower grade polymers. This would reduce the amount of grey bin waste significantly.”

“Supermarkets produce most of my grey bin contents with plastic packaging, but the inability of Bury Council to recycle PET/plastic cartons is another stumbling block.”
“Stuff is often put in grey / black bins because it is not acceptable to be put in the other bins due to that item not being acceptable by Bury Metro for recycling…
There should be less restriction on what can go in recycling bins. The current information is confusing and frustrating. EG I can put a clear plastic bottle in my blue bin but a clear plastic container which had contained fruit cannot. To the uninitiated this makes no sense at all. Therefore it is put in the black bin. Citizens are then accused of not recycling; enough! We are trying – so help us to recycle more by making more things acceptable for recycling.”

“I feel outraged about the council’s plans to only empty the grey bins every 3 weeks. It would only cause problems in practical ways and antagonism towards the council.”
“As a family of 5 with 2 extra children at weekends, the current waste facilities are far from adequate.
I’m sure that for single people and couples this will be fine bit not for us, and I suspect many others feel the same way. If this goes through I would like to know the council can justify it.”

“I do not agree with this proposal. We try to recycle as much as possible but there are many things that cannot be recycled. E.g. yoghurt pots, many plastic containers etc. despite our best efforts after 2 week our grey bin is full and particularly in the summer smells. To go to 3 weekly collections would make matters worse.”

“The idea to stretch it out another week is laughable. The quantity of materials accepted by the council is minimal and will be off putting to the majority. Increase the types of plastics allowed and recycling will increase naturally”
“Recycling should be encouraged however there needs to be a line between recycling and cleanliness. The grey bins fill extremely quickly and we recycle everything. However having a baby with nappies and also 2 dogs, getting the bins done every 3 weeks means the smell is going to be horrendous. I can honestly say we don’t use our small brown bin due to the smell!! It was very unhygienic, a terrible idea! And especially in summer when all the flys are drawn to it! Disgusting! I do agree with recycling but I also want a safe SMELL FREE home for my baby.”

“I disagree strongly about fining people for refuse mistakes, after all, making an unintentional mistake is not a crime. Clearer instructions is needed, and an extra bin for larger families should they bring in 3 weekly emptying.”

“I have 3 cats and my grey bin is not only full, but also stinks after 2 weeks, so I would not agree with the new proposals. I suspect mothers with babies and children experience the same problem. I also cannot see how increasing collection to 3 weeks will, in any way, increase recycling.”

“There is a disincentive to recycling paper and cardboard because the green bin gets too full too quickly and so the rest has to go in the grey bin. There are too many plastic products which cannot presently be recycled in Bury despite their having recycling logos on them. e.g. yoghurt cartons, plastic trays, etc.”

“How do you justify this proposal – surely it must contravene health & safety regulations? It must encourage vermin – rats mice foxes etc. Personally, I’d rather pay a little extra community charge and have my cardboard tin/glass recycling collected 3 weekly and my normal garbage collected weekly. I think this is a ridiculous proposal. I am strongly in favour of financial penalties for those who don’t recycle.”

“Composters should be made more readily available and be free to replace brown bin. More plastic recycling should be offered for plastic packaging/bags etc not just PTE bottles”
I live alone, but recycle everything possible. My principle content of the grey bin will be mostly soft plastic and containers that cannot be recycled with bottles etc. + a small amount of cooked items (mostly bones) that cannot be recycled but are securely wrapped in the soft plastic. My bin therefore never suffers smells and so a 3 week cycle won’t create a problem for me. If a 3 week cycle save the Council money, great and I’m up for it! More education please for non recyclers. They are costing us money!!”

“We are a family of 4 and we recycle 100%, in fact I’m obsessed with it. Each of our bins is filled to the top at bin collection time, If it goes to 3 weekly I will have excess grey bin rubbish. I think people may fly tip as Prestwich tip is no longer open and most won’t drive to Lumns Lane or Salford.”

“If brown bin was collected weekly and grey bin tri-weekly, the incentive to recycle ALL food waste is explicit. People hate smelly bins. Obviously green and blue bins don’t really smell. Most of the material that makes grey bins smelly is organic waste that should be on the brown bin anyway. So, small brown bin, small grey bin and one and three weeks collections respectively would, I feel, dramatically increase uptake and use of brown bin and thus recycling statistics.”

“If this means that the small brown food waste bins will only be collected every three weeks, there will be health risks. I was away during the last collection and two weeks later my small brown bin was full of maggots.”