Reporting Back: Budget Council

Bury Council met on Wednesday 24 February 2021 to set the Council Budget for the coming year, including the rates of Council Tax. Here is a summary of what happened:

Headlines
The proposals from the majority Labour Group of councillors were adopted. This includes:
5% increase in Council Tax (actually 4.94%) from 1 April 2021. For a Band D property the Council Tax will be £2001 per year (this ranges from Band A £1334 to Band H £4002)
1.5% increase in Council House rents
– To balance the books, the Council is proposing to make around £20 million of cuts/savings over the next two years (mostly to adult social care), but also to spend £26 million of its reserves (taking the reserves level down to a very low level (just £11 million after two years)).
– The budget assumes that the Longfield Suite and the Elizabethan Suite will close (but there was a change of mind in Ramsbottom and the Civic Suite there will stay open).
Street lights will be dimmed between midnight and 6am.
£17 million will be spent next year on Radcliffe Regeneration. Regeneration in other towns is moving more slowly, so the investment in Prestwich next year is just £75,000.

Some good news in the proposals was that the Council will ‘more towards’ Social Care staff being paid a living wage (but that won’t be achieved immediately). Lunches for children entitled to Free School Meals will be provided over this summer holiday.

What did the Liberal Democrats do?
Liberal Democrat councillors voted against the above budget. There are some good things, and obviously the Council is having to do its best in difficult circumstances, but we couldn’t not support many of the proposals.

We made alternative proposals, which were sadly voted down, to:
Bring Forwards the Prestwich Regeneration, accelerating this process but £3 million a year.
Put Recovery First – by investing in young people’s jobs and training with a massive increase in apprentices, helping out with children’s mental health in schools and with outdoor leisure and footpaths.
No Idling Zones outside Schools – provide money to enforce no-idling zones outside all schools to tackle air pollution that particularly affects children.
Common Sense Ideas – fixing the CCTV that doesn’t work in Prestwich Town Centre, more money across Bury to tackle rat runs, speeding traffic and potholes.
Sadly these proposals were voted down by Labour Councillors and will not be happening this year.

You can listen to Liberal Democrat Councillors Michael Powell and Cristina Tegolo talking about this proposals here (3 hours 2 minutes in!)

Let us know if you want more information. The full papers for the meeting are here.

Reporting Back: Greater Manchester Combined Authority Budgets

Earlier this week was the regular meeting of the Greater Manchester Combined Authority Corporate Issues and Reform Scrutiny, to look at the budgets for the various Greater Manchester combined/joint authorities for 2021-22. Prestwich councillor Tim Pickstone reports:

The various bodies which make up the Greater Manchester Combined Authority (the Mayor, the Combined Authorities, and then the joint services like transport, fire, police and waste) all have separate budgets, but are now agreed at the same time though the Combined Authority.

Mayoral General Budget and Precept Proposals
There is no change proposed to the Mayoral General Precept for 2021/22 at £90.95 (Band D) comprising of £66.20 for functions previously covered by the Fire and Rescue Authority precept and £24.75 for other Mayoral General functions. This is unchanged from 2020/21;

There are no changes proposed to the crew and fire engine numbers for Greater Manchester Fire (previous proposals are now not being implemented.

Greater Manchester Transport Budgets
The funding for core GM transport services remains unchanged for 2021/22, this is a levy charged to all ten local councils paid out of our regular Council Tax.

There is a very high level of uncertainty about some aspects of transport budgets in the coming year. In particular this is around Metrolink, where there are currently very low passenger numbers (and therefore low ticket income) and significantly lower usage of buses. The Government has been providing grants to cover the losses on Metrolink and other costs, but there is no certainty if this funding will continue or whether it will be high enough. A decision has not yet been made on bus reform. If the Mayor decides to proceed with a Regulated bus network then there will be significant expenditure to make this happen and revisions will need to be made to the budget.

Our Pass – the free bus pass for 16-18 year old will continue into 2022 to enable it to be properly evaluated under more ‘normal’ circumstance.

Supported Bus Services will continue to be under significant pressure during 2021/22 due to a combination of inflationary pressures, lower income and the risk of further commercial services stopping. Paper E sets out the proposed waste budget for 2021/22 for the nine GM Districts Councils who are part of the GM waste contract. The report highlights the 2020/21 position being breakeven, taking account of a refund of levy of £20m to Districts approved by GMCA in July and September 2020.For 2021/22 the report recommends:

Greater Manchester Waste
The Waste Authority has made a refund of £20million to the nine districts that make up the authority (everyone except Wigan).

The waste budget for 2021/22 make a charge to the nine councils of£162.4m, which represents an average 2.9% decrease over 2020/21. This saving is a result of a cheaper contract with the private sector contractor who deals with the disposal of rubbish.

Greater Manchester Police
The Greater Manchester Police, Crime and Fire Panel approved an increase of £10 per year for a Band D property. This equates to the equivalent of 325 new police officers.

Capital Budgets
The Combined Authority has a very large capital programme (around £1/2 billion) the largest part of which comes from Government grants. The capital programme pays for:

  •  The Greater Manchester Transport Fund (‘GMTF’);
  • Metrolink extensions;
  • Metrolink Trafford Line extension;
  • Other Metrolink Schemes;
  • Transport Interchanges;
  •  Bus Priority;
  • Other capital projects and programmes including Transforming Cities, Active Travel, Joint Air Quality Unit (JAQU) Early Measures Investment Funding (EMIF) , Clean BusInitiatives, OLEV-EV-Taxi, , Smart Ticketing and Cycle City Ambition Grant (CCAG 2);
  • Transport Major Schemes;
  • Minor Works (including schemes funded by Integrated Transport Capital Block andGrowth Deal);
  • Capital Highways Maintenance, Traffic Signals and Full Fibre;
  • nvestments including Growing Places, Regional Growth Fund and Housing Investment Fund; and
  • Economic Development and Regeneration Schemes.

Hope this is useful. The papers for the meeting which contains all the detail are here. Please get in touch if you have any questions.

Simon Lepori is our candidate for Greater Manchester Mayor

Liberal Democrats in Greater Manchester have chosen Trafford resident, Simon Lepori, to be our candidate in in the Greater Manchester Mayor elections in May.

Simon has lived in Stretford, Greater Manchester with his partner for the past 15 years. He joined the Liberal Democrats in 2015. He stood for Trafford Council in 2016, 2018 and 2019. He stood for Parliament for the Wythenshawe & Sale East constituency at the 2019 general election.

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He worked in the health and social care sector for 17 years from 2002-2019 and returned to the NHS frontline during the first wave of the Covid-19 pandemic. He now works for the Liberal Democrats.

His priorities are:

– building a healthcare system fit for the 21st century in Greater Manchester

– refocusing policing back into communities, with well funded youth services from local councils to help stem the tide and cycle of crime and disorder

– a transport system that works for Greater Manchester not against it

– a housing plan that puts people first, not developers.

“Let us rise up from the ashes of Covid & recession and rebuild Greater Manchester together”

Find out more here.
Simon is currently asking Greater Manchester’s residents for their views on policing – take this short survey here.

Highways England chooses flyover for Simister Island

Highways England have chosen the so-called “Northern Loop” option for improving Simister Island, which connects the M60, M62 and M66.

This means they propose to build a flyover and loop to create continuous lanes on the clockwise M60. The M60 between Prestwich and Whitefield will be widened to 10 lanes (plus more at the junctions), by converting the hard shoulder.

The scheme application will be made to the Planning Inspectorate, who will examine the application in public hearings and then make a recommendation to the Secretary of State for Transport, who will decide whether or not the project will go ahead (target date for decision summer 2023).

Our view remains that this is not the right plan for our area and we will continue to oppose the plans through the planning hearings . The solution to congestion cannot always be to build bigger and wider roads:

  • Highways England admit in their own consultation that this scheme will not reduce air pollution.
  • The scheme will cost £340 million. Imagine how much that could achieve if it was spent on improving public transport and the local area.
  • Ten lane running between Prestwich and Whitefield is too much for this tightly packed residential area with houses (and four schools) so close to the motorway.

More information from Highways England here.

GMSF becomes GMSF of the 9

Greater Manchester’s Council Leaders have voted to carry on with a version of the Greater Manchester Spatial Framework for just 9 boroughs, after Councillors in Stockport rejected the proposals.

The GMSF which proposed provision for 180,000 extra homes over the next 15 years was opposed by many people because of involved the destruction of so much green belt land, including large amounts of green belt across Bury. In Stockport, where Labour councillors do not have a majority, the plans were blocked by the towns 26 Liberal Democrat councillors alongside other opposition members.

The remaining nine Greater Manchester Council Leaders have agreed to draw up a Greater Manchester Spatial Framework for the nine boroughs only. The authorities will work on a revised version that removes proposed land allocations in Stockport and redistributes targets for building homes and creating jobs across nine boroughs instead of 10.

Public consultation is planned for June 2021. (You will note just after the local elections and the election of the Greater Manchester Mayor.)

Bury’s Liberal Democrat Council Group Leader Michael Powell said:
“As we have always said, GMSF was simply the wrong plan. It was wrong because it would have meant the wholesale destruction of so much of our precious green belt land.”

We clearly do to plan for new homes, especially the affordable homes that people so desperately need. We want to see a new approach which not only sees our future housing need built on our existing brownfield land and revitalising our town centres, but also sees the homes that people need and want in our communities, not the houses that developers want to build.

Greater Manchester needs a radical new plan. Our fear is that the GMSF9 will just be just more of the same.”

Our Fight to Raise Carer’s Allowance

Unpaid carers are doing a remarkable and important job in very difficult circumstances. They deserve our support. But many carers are facing extreme financial hardship.

900,000 full-time unpaid carers rely on Carer’s Allowance – but at just £67.25 a week, it’s just not nearly enough.

Carer’s Allowance is just £67 a week. It’s just not nearly enough.

It is the lowest benefit of its kind – another example of how carers are too often an afterthought for many politicians.

Many unpaid carers have been struggling for months, often relying on foodbanks to feed themselves and the people they care for.

We’ve got to do better
Liberal Democrats are calling on the Government to immediately raise Carer’s Allowance by £1,000 a year, the same as the uplift in Universal Credit.

Carers face big challenges every single day; challenges that have been made even harder by coronavirus. A recent survey by Carers UK found that most are having to spend more time looking after loved ones during this pandemic.

Most haven’t been able to take a single break since it started. Most are simply exhausted.

And now they are worried.

Liberal Democrats will stand up for carers

Worried about their own mental health, worried about what will happen if they themselves fall ill – because there’s no one to take over – and worried about whether they can cope in a new lockdown.

We must do far more to support our wonderful carers.

The Liberal Democrats will stand up for carers and lead the way to a more caring society as we emerge from this pandemic.

Join our Campaign for an increased Carers Allowance

Tackling the Climate Crisis Together

Liberal Democrats have committed to ambitious plans for fight against our climate crisis.

Our planet is in crisis, balanced on a knife-edge at the point of no return. 

Due to man-made climate change, global temperatures are soaring, the polar ice caps are melting faster than ever before, and whole nations are already facing the existential crisis of rising sea levels and extreme weather. Whole species of animals are being wiped out month by month, and global famine is a very real threat.  

This is something that we can only tackle if we all work together, collaborating with every single nation across the globe. No one will be unaffected, but, just like with Brexit, the poorest in society will suffer first and suffer most deeply.

We need to take action now. The government needs to move much faster and be much more ambitious in the steps it is taking to prevent the largest global crisis the world has ever faced. And as President Trump unpicks environmental protections one by one, harming the whole world in the process, we need to take centre stage as a global leader on tackling man-made climate change.  

That’s why, at the Liberal Democrat Autumn Conference in Bournemouth, our members have backed radical action to cut carbon emissions by 75% in the next 10 years. 

The Liberal Democrats will:

  • Empower councils and give them the resources to reduce emissions and set up green projects in a way that makes sense in their own communities
  • Plant 60 million trees a year, every year, which is one tree for every person in the UK
  • Convert rail networks to ultra-low-emission technology (electric or hydrogen) by 2035
  • Ban non-recyclable single-use plastics within three years
  • and a whole lot more!

There’s no time for wringing our hands when it comes to the climate crisis. Our new policy lays out a credible plan for fast, effective action to beat global heating.

Find out more here.

GMSF – Next draft not until summer 2020

Greater Manchester’s Council leaders have announced that the next draft of the Greater Manchester Spatial Framework (GMSF) will definitely be delayed to summer 2020. 

Over 60,000 comments on the latest draft were received and the Council Leaders say that they will use the next six months to have ‘further engagement’ on the main issues. The comments received from the public on the previous draft will be published at the start of October.

Councils will approve the next draft in June 2020, no coincidence at all that this will be just afterthe council elections and elections for Greater Manchester Mayor which take place in May………..

Call for Conductors on Trams

At last week’s full meeting of Bury Council, the local Liberal Democrat group proposed a motion calling for Metrolink to trial the use of conductors on trams.

The motion was passed with unanimous support from all parties in the Council, which means the Council will now formally request the move from Transport for Greater Manchester

New Prestwich Councillor Michael Powell used his ‘maiden speech’ to propose the motion, pointing towards the hope that conductors on trams would help to alleviate two particular existing issues with the service – rise in anti-social behaviour and violence, and high levels of evasion. Last year, police were called to nearly 3,500 Metrolink incidents and Metrolink currently estimate that 1 in 8 journeys across the service are currently going unpaid.

Our view is that there is a simple solution for both of these problems- providing permanent on-board staff on all journeys across the network.

Around £10 million is current being lost each year from fare evasion. This would be enough to pay for about 300 conductors.

The Liberal Democrat proposal was supported by the whole of Bury Council at the meeting and the proposals will now go forward to Transport for Greater Manchester. 

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