Hands up if you voted for a £10 tram tax?

Council Leaders in Greater Manchester have voted to introduce a £10 a year charge for pensioners to travel for free on Metrolink and trains.

The charge will come into effect in 2020 and is expected to bring in in around £1.2 million, straight out of the pockets of Greater Manchester’s pensioners. This was supported by the nine Labour Council Leaders (including Bury’s), the Labour Mayor and the Conservative Leader of Bolton Council.

Bus travel will still be free, but for us this extra charge for pensioners at the worst possible time. Free TV licenses for the over 75s end next year, and many older people being hit by increasing fuel and Council Tax bills.

Sign our petition to scrap the new tax here

Liberal Democrat Announce Candidate for Mayor of Greater Manchester

Liberal Democrats in Greater Manchester have announced their candidate for the election for Greater Manchester Mayor in May 2020.

Councillor Andy Kelly, who is the Leader of the Liberal Democrat Group on Rochdale Council will take on Labour’s candidate, Andy Burnham.

Andy said: “The Tories are playing parlour games with people’s lives and Labour are betraying those they profess to represent I felt the need to step up to the plate.

Greater Manchester voters deserve better representation, we need someone who is not afraid to be frank about our future. That person is me.

This year the Liberal Democrats made huge gains in the local elections, with 700+ gains nationally – the party’s best local election results. Many of these gains were in the Greater Manchester region. Three weeks later we gained two members of European parliament in the North West as voters turned away from both Labour and the Conservatives.

I am keen to take Burnham on his three years of delivering nothing.”

Andy Kelly’s first pledge has been to scrap the GMSF: “We need to find REAL solutions to the housing crisis. To provide the right homes, in the right places; reversing Labour’s local obsession with socially cleansing our community.”

Reporting Back: Cabinet Meeting

Last month was there regular meeting of Bury Council’s Cabinet. Opposition Leaders are allowed to attend the meeting but not vote. Councillor Cristina Tegoloreports: 

Corporate Finance Monitoring Report
The Leader and Cabinet Chair, submitted the Cabinet Financial monitoring report.  The report informs Members of the Council’s financial position for the period April 2019 to June 2019 and projects the estimated outturn at the end of 2019/20. The revenue budget projections highlight the fact that budget pressures exist in some key areas and it will be necessary to continue to maintain the high level of scrutiny, control and support around the Budget Recovery Boards and to further develop the savings pipeline.  The report projected an overspend at the end of the year of £0.996m.  

Greater Manchester Full Fibre Programme
The Leader of the Council submitted a report setting out details of the Greater Manchester Full Fibre programme. The report provided an overview of the capital funding available for GM of £23.8m. The funding will connect full fibre to over 1,300 GM Public sector sites.  These include Local Authority, GM Fire and Rescue, Health and Social Care partnerships (CCGs) sites across the region. 

The Cabinet agreed to an investment of £469k capital from Bury Council plus additional capital to fund a dedicated Project Manager post on a 2-year fixed term basis.

Revised Supplementary Planning Document 6 – Alteration and Extensions to Residential Planning 
The Leader of the Council submitted a report setting out details of the Supplementary Planning Document (SPD) 6.  The document provides more detailed guidance to support Unitary Development Plan Policy H2/3 and sets out a range of requirements for alterations and extensions to residential properties.

The main thing we raised at the meeting were concerns about lack of provisions for electric vehicles. We invited the Cabinet to explain to Bury citizens, who are applying for amendments to their garages and driveways, who is eligible to apply for the Electric Vehicle Homecharge Scheme and how to access it.
https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/772404/evhs-guidance-for-customers-v-2.3.pdf

Our worry is that the changes should consider safety and include detail information for EV Homecharge. Bury citizens should take advantage of government grants to help fund the cost of a specially designed home charging point, which is safer than charging from the mains. I am not sure these issues have been addressed sufficiently.

Residents Parking Review
The cabinet has agreed the details of a new annual residents parking scheme:

  • Over 50% of the properties affected must be in favour of a scheme for it to be implemented.
  • A minimum of 10 properties must indicate support to initiate the Council to investigate a residents parking scheme request.
  • The costs and fees associated with all residents parking schemes are reviewed annually as part of the budget setting process with the objective of being cost neutral.
  • Each scheme will be reviewed every 5 years to ensure that they continue to be supported by the local community and demonstrate value for money.

Hopefully, the revised residents parking policy will provide a more comprehensive guidance that officers can follow.  Our worry is that costs and fees associated with residents parking scheme could raise considerably.

Purchase by the Council of 458 Bury New Road, Prestwich (Istambul Restaurant)
The Leader of the Council submitted a report setting out details of plans to purchase the freehold of a commercial property in Prestwich has emerged. Because of commercial information, part of the proposals were considered as an ‘exempt item’ which we cannot report back on. 

The property is located on the site where the Council is planning to develop the new Prestwich Village scheme.  The Cabinet agreed to utilise the fund established to create an ‘Investment Property   Acquisition Fund’. Our worry is that the purchase of this commercial property is not based on a regeneration strategy. Indeed, the Council hasn’t consulted with Prestwich residents yet and key stakeholders haven’t prepared a detailed proposal that justifies an expenditure of approx. £500K.

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

Govt forced to publish data showing less than 3 in 10 UK exporters are prepared for ‘no deal’ Brexit

Govt forced to publish data showing less than 3 in 10 UK exporters are prepared for ‘no deal’ BrexitNew data obtained by the Liberal Democrats from HM Treasury shows less than 3 in 10 exporters to the EU are ready for a ‘no deal’ Brexit.  Figures suggest most will not be ready until the beginning of 2021.

In a no-deal Brexit, businesses that currently only trade with EU countries will need to apply for an Economic Operator Registration and Identification (EORI) number to trade goods into and out of the UK.  HMRC uses this number to identify the business and collect duty on their goods.Various business lobbying organisations have been warning for months of a serious lack of preparedness amongst firms for a ‘no deal’ Brexit and how few British exporters to the EU have an EORI number enabling them to continue to trade after a ‘no deal’ Brexit.Chuka Umunna MP, the Liberal Democrats’ Treasury & Business spokesperson asked HM Treasury (HMT) for the latest figures on how many businesses that will need an EORI number to export to the EU have one, in a parliamentary question on 18th July. 

However he was told by the Financial Secretary Jesse Norman MP in an answer shortly before the summer Recess on 23rd July that “data on the number of traders that would need a UK EORI number is not readily available.”

This was in spite of the fact that Government has already privately shared the most recent data with various business groups. HMT also publicly released such data at the start the year but that was before leaving the EU ‘do or die’ on 31 October 2019 became government policy.Mr Umunna threatened to raise a Point of Order, complaining to the House of Commons Speaker about the unwarranted withholding of such data from Parliament, and also said he would submit a Freedom of Information Request to force disclosure of the latest data. 

As a result, HMT have now provided the latest EORI numbers data to Mr Umunna which suggests less than 3 in 10 exporters that will need an EORI number to trade in a ‘no deal’ scenario have one. If exporters to the EU register for an EORI number at the current rate (up to 10,000 per month), all businesses exporting to the EU won’t be registered until the beginning of 2021 at the earliest.The data reveals:* Since December 2018, approximately 66,000 traders who currently trade just with the EU have been issued with a UK EORI number. * However, based on 2018 data, HMRC estimate that there are approximately 150,000 VAT registered traders who currently trade with the EU and may therefore need to obtain a UK EORI number.* Figures released by HMRC in February 2019 revealed there were a further 95,000 non VAT registered businesses that trade with the EU and need to take action too. * According to HMRC the volume of businesses that have registered for UK EORI numbers to date is equivalent to around two thirds of the total value of trade undertaken with the EU, by VAT registered companies.
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Commenting on the forced release of the latest EORI data, Chuka Umunna, the Liberal Democrat Treasury & Business spokesperson, said:“These figures reveal that an overwhelming majority of UK exporters to the EU are unprepared for a ‘no deal’ Brexit and will not be in a position to deal with the mountain of red tape and bureaucracy it will burden them with on 31 October.  “Pursuing a ‘no deal’ Brexit is wholly irresponsible political choice of the new administration for which there is no mandate and which will put businesses and jobs at risk.“Any form of Brexit will harm the economy and put obstacles in front of UK firms which is why Liberal Democrats not only want a final say for the people on any deal but are also the only party that can get into Government which is committed to stopping Brexit altogether.”

Answers to Questions: Police Issues

At the last full Council meeting of Bury Council, Liberal Democrat councillor Steve Wright asked a number of questions to the Greater Manchester Police representative: 

Community Policing Expenditure:
Could the Council’s member of the Greater Manchester Police and Crime Panel inform members what proportion of the Greater Manchester Police budget is spent on local community police teams?

We were quite shocked about how low the future is: 
The proportion of Greater Manchester Police budget that is spent on Neighbourhood Policing and Community Liaison is 11%.

Members will also be aware that in March the local approach to community policing changed with the introduction of a new Neighbourhood model. The model reverts back to a previous incarnation with 3 dedicated Inspectors taking responsibility for North, Central and South regions of the borough. This change combined with new shift patterns resulted in more Officers on the beat at any one time.

The new Policing precept announced for 2019/20 also resulted in 3 additional Police Officers for Bury who have now started and will further bolster the Officer numbers available.

Metrolink Incidents: 
Could the Council’s member of the Greater Manchester Police and Crime Panel inform members how many incidents have occurred which have required police attendance on the Metrolink in the current financial year and previous two financial years?

The answer is that there are a lot, and the level is increasing: Unfortunately, limitations of how the data is recorded means that we can’t provide a figure for 2017/18. The following data is a combination of Police data, Metrolink data and Transport for Greater Manchester Data.

In 2018/19 – There were 3481 incidents

Between April 2019 and 30th Jun 2019 there were 946 incidents, which is approximately 8% higher than the same point last year.

Members may be aware that security on the Metrolink is overseen by the Travelsafe Partnership which is jointly led by TfGM and Greater Manchester Police (GMP) with support from:

o Metrolink;
o Stagecoach;
o First Manchester;
o GoAhead NW; and
o British Transport Police.

Travelsafe has been in place since 2015 and commenced as a 3 year pilot. At the end of the pilot the Partnership went through a period of review and a complete change in leadership and moved away from the traditional ‘boots on the ground’ approach to more intelligence-driven tactics and prevention.

There is a TravelSafe Partnership Strategy in place for 2019-21 the following aims:

o Improve the perception of safety & security across public transport, offering reassurance to passengers;

o Manage instances of Crime and Anti-Social Behaviour (ASB) occurring on the transport network; and

o Discourage fare evasion.

Also, Members will be glad to hear that the Travelsafe Partnership have funded 50 PCSOs to help manage security on the network and a further 8 Officer employed by the Network. There is also a proposal to move to 50 Police Officers with a broader Transport remit sometime in the future.

The additional investment combined with the intelligence-led planning will start to see more targeted work, bringing the number of recorded incidents down.

Reporting Back: Greater Manchester Fire Programme for Change Scrutiny

Earlier this month was the regular meeting of Greater Manchester’s Corporate Issues and Reform Scrutiny Committee – specifically focussing on the proposals from Greater Manchester Fire for changes in the fire service going forwards.

Each of the three GM Scrutiny Committees consist of 15 councillors from across Greater Manchester (at the moment that is – 11 Labour, 3 Conservative 1 Lib Dem). Prestwich Lib Dem Councillor Tim Pickstone was elected Chair of the Scrutiny Committee for 2019-20, and reports back:

The meeting was held at the Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service Training and Safety Centre in Bury – the largest Fire-Fighter training facility in the UK. Before the meeting proper we had a tour of the facilities and demonstration of some of the fire-fighter training that takes place at the centre, including a demonstration of some of GM Fire’s new equipment for dealing with high rise fires. I would very much recommend that all schools take up the offer of free training provided by the centre which has some excellent facilities. Our meeting was held in the full-scale ‘street’ mock up inside the centre.

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The meeting heard from the Greater Manchester Mayor’s office about the background to the review of the fire service. The Mayor is responsible for the Fire Service and the ‘Programme for Change’ review was commissioned with the aim of coming up with a programme to address the challenges faced by the service.

The consultation process on the Programme for Change has now finished, and final proposals are being developed. These proposals were:
– removal of six ‘2nd’ fire engines (Manchester Centre, Blackley, Heywood, Moss Side, Oldham and Eccles).
– Crewing level of 4 (as opposed to 5) on all fire engines
– Three station mergers (Bolton Central and Bolton North, Manchester Central and Phillips Park, and Stockport and Whitehill).
– For fire-fighters changes include a new shift system, more modern annual leave arrangements
– new delivery models for Prevention, Protection, Youth Engagement and Administration

Following the proposals, the Mayor of Greater Manchester wrote to Greater Manchester Councils and MPs to clarify that:
– there would be no reduction in the number of fire fighters from the May 2017 levels
– there would be no compulsory redundancies

The Scrutiny Committee had a lot of questions and comments on the proposals to the Chief Fire Officer and his team. There were a number of points that we wanted to look at further at a meeting which will take place before the Greater Manchester Authority makes further decisions on the proposals in the Autumn. These include:
– the ability of the fire service to cope with growth in Greater Manchester – more houses, more high-rises and the exceptional growth in the city centre areas in Manchester and Salford Quays.
– understand fully how GM Fire has responded to the issues raised by people in the consultation process
– understanding the financial issues around crewing levels and the sustainability of this going forwards into future years.

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

A Primary School’s worth of children becoming homeless this summer

More than 300 children face becoming homeless during the school holidays this summer as a result of the housing crisis, the equivalent to a primary school’s worth of children, councils have warned.

The Local Government Association estimates 320 homeless children in England could be placed into temporary accommodation over the next six weeks, based on trends for the last two years.

The number would exceed the size of an average primary school, which has 282 pupils.

The LGA, which represents councils, is calling on the new Prime Minister to make tackling homelessness an urgent priority.

According to latest government figures, there are more than 124,490 children living in temporary accommodation.

The severe shortage of social rented homes available to house families in mean councils have no choice but to place households into temporary accommodation, including bed and breakfasts.

Not only is this financially unsustainable for councils, it is also extremely disruptive to the families and children involved.

Placements in temporary accommodation can present serious challenges for families – from parents’ employment and health to children’s ability to focus on school studies and form friendships.

As part of its Councils Can campaign, the LGA wants the new Prime Minister and his government to introduce a range of measures to help councils tackle homelessness and to give them the tools and powers to resume their historic role as major housebuilders of good, quality affordable homes for social rent.

It says councils should be allowed to keep 100 per cent of receipts of council homes sold under Right to Buy – to reinvest in new replacement homes – and to also be able to set Right to Buy discounts locally.

With councils facing a £421 million funding gap by 2025 to tackle homelessness, the LGA is urging the Government to use the Spending Review to give councils long-term sustainable funding to prevent homelessness from happening in the first place.

It is also calling on the Government to adapt welfare reforms so local housing allowance rates go back to covering at least the lower 30 per cent of market rents.

LGA Liberal Democrat Group Leader Howard Sykes said:

“While for many children the summer holidays will be a break from school to be enjoyed with family and friends, for others they face the tragedy of becoming homeless.

“It is not right that hundreds of children risk enduring the disruption of being placed into temporary accommodation.

“Councils desperately want to find every family a good, quality home, but the lack of available housing is making this an almost insurmountable challenge.

“This is why we are urging the Prime Minister to make tackling homelessness a priority.

“While it was good the Government lifted the housing borrowing cap to give councils more freedom to build new homes, the new Prime Minister should take this even further and in the Spending Review give councils the tools they need to resume their historic role of building the homes the country needs.”

NOTES TO EDITORS

1. Methodology: The calculation of 320 children potentially being placed in temporary accommodation is based on a two-year trend, from December 2016 to December 2018, the most recent period for which data is available, which shows an extra 231 children are being placed in temporary accommodation every month.

In December 2016 there were 118,930 children living in temporary accommodation, which increased to 124,490 in December 2018. A difference of 5,560 amounts to 231 each month over a two year period. Calculated across six weeks – the length of the school holiday – this would make 320 children.

Full data available.

2. Councils in England face an overall funding gap of £8 billion by 2025. The LGA’s #CouncilsCan campaign calls on the new Prime Minister to ensure the forthcoming Spending Review secures the future of vital local services and the long-term financial sustainability of councils. Visit our campaign page for more information – https://www.local.gov.uk/spending-review-2019

Answers to Questions: Rubbish and Recycling

At the most recent full Council meeting of Bury Council, your Liberal Democrat team of councillors asked a number of questions regarding rubbish and recycling. 

Questions and Answers below:


Councillor Cristina Tegolo asked about the number of households that have had their bins removed by the Council: “Could the Leader inform members how many households have had recycling bins removed in the current financial year and previous two years?”

(Answer) 
The following numbers of bins (of all colours) have been asked tobe picked up or removed by residents via the Contact Centre: 

2017/18 706 bins 
2018/19 584 bins 
2019/20 176 bins  (so far)

The majority of these bins are ‘abandoned’ in back street environments and are often contaminated recycling bins, which cannot be emptied on a recycling round. 

Generally speaking an Officer would not remove recycling bins from a household for persistent misuse and contamination other than in the case of capacity, where someone might genuinely have difficulty determining what waste should go in each bin and who inadvertently are incapable of recycling properly. 

Councillor Steve Wright asked about how much of the blue and green bin waste streams were rejected because of ‘contamination’ (the wrong things being put in the bins.The answer – 18.45% of blue bin waste seems extra–ordinarily high – 1 in 6 lorries of rubbish rejected because they are contiminated….. “Could the Leader inform members how many tonnes and what percentage of Bury’s ‘blue bin’ and ‘green bin’ waste streams were rejected due to contamination the current financial year and previous two years?” 

(Answer) All co-mingled recycling (glass, can sand plastic bottles) collected across GM (with the exception of Wigan Council) is delivered to a single sorting facility or MRF (Materials Recycling Facility) at Longley Lane, Sharston in South Manchester. Co-mingled recycling in Bury is collected in the blue bin. 

The average MRF reject rate (for the whole of GM) for the above time period is 18.45%. Rejects consist ofitems incorrectly placed in the co-mingled recycling by residents that cannot be recycled and they are incinerated with associated energy recovery. 

In the previous two years thefollowing tonnages of rejects from Bury have been incinerated: 

2018/19 1733 tonnes 
2017/18 1560 tonnes 

Reject rates for the paper and card recycling stream i.e. the green bin in Bury are minimal by comparison and as such no contamination figures are provided by the GMCA.

Councillor Tim Pickstone asked a related question about the amount of plastic waste which ends up in the ‘grey bins’ stream – the answer seems like quite a lot!:“Could the Council’s spokesperson on the GMWDA inform members what the estimated volume and percentage of plastics are that are disposed of through the residual waste stream?” 

(Answer) Using data from the recent waste composition study, it is estimated that c. 58,841 tonnes of plastic – this is 16.05% for all dense plastics and plastic films in the residual kerbside collected waste stream in Greater Manchester. 

Councillor Steve Wright asked how much money the 9 local councils in Greater Manchester spent on buying Greater Manchester Waste Disposal out of the PFI (private finance initiative) deal with Viridor Laing.The amount (£1/2 billion) is a staggeringly large amount of public money….. “Could the Council’s spokesperson on the GMWDA inform members how much public money was spent releasing the Authority from the previous waste disposal contract with Viridor Laing?”

(Answer) Greater Manchester Waste Disposal Authority’s £500m buy-out was funded by around £300m in borrowing from the region’s combined authority – via Oldham council, Manchester council and the region’s pension fund – along with £120m government borrowing. The remainder comes from up-front cash already held by GMWDA. 

Finally, in response to a request from a resident, Councillor Tim Pickstone asked about what the council’s approach was when a dead cat was picked up by the refuse collection teams: “Could the Leader inform members what the Council’s approach is to waste collection of dead pets, particularly dead cats (ie cats found dead in the street). What measures are in place to attempt to contact owners through cat’s microchips?

(Answer) When a dead pet (usually a cat) is picked up from the highway by the Street Cleansing service it is brought back to Bradley Fold Depot to be scanned. The exception is those animals that are so mutilated as being incapable of being scanned. 

If the scan detects a microchip it will identify its number. An Officer then contacts an organisation called ‘Petlog’ who will confirm the contact details of the animal’s owner. The same Officer will then contact the owner explaining the situation to them and giving them two options. 

They can leave the animal with Street Cleansing to dispose of, explaining to the owner precisely what this means, i.e. it is delivered to SUEZ at Fernhill Transfer Loading Station for placement in a freezer from which it is collected by another company who remove the animal for cremation. Alternatively, the service will deliver the animal back to its owner if requested. 

If no chip is detected in the animal then it is kept for a maximum of 24 hours on the vehicle before being delivered to SUEZ and placed in the freezer. 

Once an animal is placed in the freezer it cannot be retrieved by the owner because it is then classed as hazardous waste, only to be removed for disposal via incineration. 

Hope these answers are useful – get in touch if you have any questions or comments!

Lib Dems: Honouring Turing ‘a painful reminder’

Today, Liberal Democrats have celebrated the announcement that computer pioneer and code-breaker Alan Turing will feature on the new design of the Bank of England’s £50 note.

It was the campaign by the Liberal Democrats, led by John Leech, the former MP forManchester Withington, which eventually led to Alan Turing’s posthumous pardon. During the campaign, Leech submitted several bills to Parliament. After his campaign proved successful, Leech turned to secure pardons for the 75,000+ other men and women convicted of the same outdated crime in what is now nicknamed the Alan Turing Law.

Following the announcement, Leader of the Liberal Democrats Vince Cable said:

“Alan Turing made an immeasurable contribution to our country. 

“Not only is he the father of modern computing, but the work that was done at Bletchley Park in cracking the German Enigma Machine saved countless lives in bringing the war to an end.

“He was for an important period of time also a resident in my Twickenham constituency when he worked at the National Physical Laboratory at Teddington.

“Today’s announcement is monumental in recognising the invaluable work he did. It is also an important reminder of a part of our history where prejudice and blatant bigotry were enshrined in law.

“In honouring him today, we must also remember that bigotry and discrimination leads to a terrible waste of talent for society as a whole.”

Welcoming today’s news, Turing pardon architect John Leech said:

“It is almost impossible to put into words the difference that Alan Turing made to society, but perhaps the most poignant example is that his work is estimated to have shortened the war by four years and saved up to 21 million lives.

“I’m absolutely delighted that Turing will be the face of the new £50 note and I hope it will go some way to acknowledging his unprecedented contribution to society and science.

“But more importantly I hope it will serve as a stark and rightfully painful reminder of what we lost in Turing, and what we risk when we allow that kind of hateful ideology to win.”


Liberal Democrat Councillors secure more ambitious Climate Change target

Bury’s team of Liberal Democrat councillors have been successful in getting Bury Council to sign up to a ambitious target of 2030 to be a carbon neutral Council and borough, as our part in tackling the climate emergency.

The agreement came as a Liberal Democrat Group amendment to a Labour Group motion on climate change, which had proposed a more modest target of 2038. The Liberal Democrat proposal was accepted and is now the policy of Bury Council.

Liberal Democrat Council Group Leader Tim Pickstone said:

“2038 is not ambitious enough. This is an emergency because we have not done anything about it.

In 1979 this might have been a worry. In 2019 it is an emergency. In 2030 it is game over because this is when scientists tell us that climate change is irreversible damage. It is ridiculous to think that people not even born yet have to wait to be adults before we can achieve this.

What do you do in an emergency? Greta Thunberg tells us that we need to act like our house is on fire. What you don’t do in an emergency is set up a Working Gropu! We are making decisions every day that affect our climate and we need to change policies immediately.

You can see Councillor Pickstone making the proposals here.