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

Greater Manchester Spatial Framework – One month to have your say!

The formal public consultation on the Greater Manchester Spatial Framework ends a month from now on 18 March 2019. This is your opportunity to have your say on these important plans which will have a massive impact on our local area for generations to come.

You can take part in the consultation online, or in the post. Details of the online consultation are here.

Responses sent in the post should be to: Planning Team Consultation, GMCA, Churchgate House, 56 Oxford Street, Manchester, M1 6EU

The GMSF proposes 202,000 new homes in Greater Manchester (to put that in context the whole of the city of Manchester is currently 200,000 homes). That includes:
– 9,500 in Bury – 5,000 of which on Green Belt land.
– Greater Manchester will lose 4% of its green belt land, but in Bury the figure is 12% and in Prestwich and Whitefield significantly higher (37% and 33%). 
More details on the big Prestwich/Whitefield/Middleton Development here.
More details on the other big Bury plans (Elton Reservoir and Walshaw) here.

Our view is that we do need some more housing, but this needs to be the homes that people need and can afford. We would do this on existing brownfield sites and be regenerating town centres – with no loss of green belt land.

Sign our petition to say Hands off our Green Belt here. 

The map below is the proposed Northern Gateway site across Prestwich, Middleton and Whitefield where green belt land would be lost.

Decision made to reduce IVF provision for Bury patients

From October 2018, any new applications to seek funding for IVF (In Vitro Fertilisation) services will be capped to one funded cycle for Bury patients.

The decision to reduce provision in this area from the current offer of up to three funded cycles, to one, was made at the most recent meeting of the NHS Bury Clinical Commissioning Group’s (CCG) Governing Body, and follows a six week consultation period.

IVF is one of a number of areas where the CCG has explored potential savings to reduce the expected financial gap. Moving to one funded cycle of IVF will save the CCG up to £170,000 every year.

The consultation which ran from 6th August to 16th September aimed to capture views and feedback on plans to review Bury’s policy in relation to the provision of IVF services. More than 400 individuals shared their views through a survey. The opportunity to feed back views was promoted through the press and social media, online, in GP practices and through local networks, with requests to speak to any local groups welcomed.

The NHS say that having considered the responses received, no significant areas emerged that the CCG had not already considered. There was a strong theme to emerge around concerns the impact a reduction in provision could have on mental health and demand for mental health services.

This change in provision from October 2018 will relate to new referrals, and will not affect those couples that are already having an individual funding request referral considered, or have had funding agreed.

Taking Action on Tax Avoidance

Liberal Democrat councillors on Bury Council have been successful in a a move to get Bury Council to play its part in tackling corporate tax avoidance.

Lib Dem Councillors brought a motion on tax avoidance to the last full meeting of Bury Council. The motion was supported by other parties and is now the official policy of Bury Council.

The proposal was part of an initiative by the International Aid charity Cristian Aid and their  tax justice campaign, which aims to put pressure on companies who don’t pay tax. Christian Aid’s rationale is the sheer scale of the money lost to the developing world each year through corporate tax avoidance – estimated to be anything between  $100-$300 billion worldwide each year.

Councillor Tim Pickstone said in proposing the motion: “We agree wholeheartedly with Christian Aid, but for us tax avoidance in this country is also vitally important. Anything up to £30 billion a year is lost to public funds in Britain each year. £7 billion is lost each year just by the tax just by companies operating in Britain who declare profits made in Britain in other countries. This has to stop.”

“Government must take a lead on tax avoidance and as individual consumers we can all play our part. But local councils can and should play a role. As Councils we procure a large number of goods and services, and we can and should use that ‘purchasing muscle’ to put pressure on companies who do not pay their fair share of tax”.

Under the proposals that were agreed by the Council meeting, Bury Council will review its procurement policies to ensure that it fully considers the tax paying record of companies when making purchasing decisions. A report will be brought to the Cabinet in the next twelve months to finalise the details.



NHS Bury announce cuts of £5.2 million

Bury’s NHS Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) has announced cuts of £5.2 million for the financial year just started, towards meeting an expected £7.3 million deficit for the year.

The cuts agreed are:
Primary Care (GPs etc) £1.1 million – the largest items being:
– Terminating the Vulnerable Patient Scheme, saving c£0.1m.
– Terminating the Clinical Pharmacist scheme, saving c £0.3m-£0.6m.
– Reducing the prescribing target by £0.5 million – though a decision about whether this will include stopping prescribing nicotine replacement options has been postponed.

Secondary Care (Hospitals) £1.8 million – the largest items being:
– Reducing the amount of treatments that are deemed no proven clinical benefit; or of potential clinical value but only in a clearly defined set of clinical presentations/criteria by £1 million a year.
– Reducing diagnostic tests by £0.8 million in a full year (out of £7 million a year so more than 10% reduction).

Community Services £0.5 million:
– Do not renew the Minor Eye Conditions Service, saving c£0.2m in year.
– Other service reviews, including some IVF, targeting saving c£0.3m in year. (Though the decision on IVF has been postponed).

Other: £1.8 million
Savings made centrally, including relocation the HQ building from Silver Street.

Liberal Democrats nationally have called for an extra £6 billion for the NHS, to be paid for by an extra 1p on Income Tax, because the NHS is having to make cuts like these in Bury.

Don’t Persecute Honest Passengers!

Don’t persecute honest passengers, prosecute fare-dodgers is the message from the Opposition Spokesperson on Transport for Greater Manchester Committee.

Investigations from the Lib Dem team of councillors here in Bury revealed that an estimated one in eight Metrolink passengers are fare-dodgers with T4GM confirming that they estimate that 12% of journeys are not paid for.

Last year the nine Labour and one Conservative council Leaders who make up the Greater Manchester Comined Authority voted to to put up fares for honest Metrolink passengers by an inflation-busting 19% by 2020 when one in eight passengers travel free.


Liberal Democrat Spokesperson on Transport for Greater Manchester Councillor Howard Sykes said: “There are 40 million tram journeys a year so fare-dodging is estimated to cost Metrolink about £9 million in lost revenue a year. Rather than hammering the honest passenger, transport bosses need to focus on tackling fare evasion. 12% non-payment is a disgrace. Everyone should pay their ‘fare share’, so we say tackle the fare-dodgers. We need more enforcement officers on the line at more times and we need to ruthlessly prosecute non-payers.”

Liberal Democrats in Bury have previously called for an automatic ticket “barrier” system, perhaps at all but the city centre stops, which is used on most urban public transport systems to reduce fare evasion.


Greater Manchester Housing Update

Two important announcements in the last month about future housing construction in Greater Manchester.

The first is the publication, by the 10 Greater Manchester Councils (the Greater Manchester Strategic Authority, GMSA) of a detailed map of land identified for future housing and employment developments. The Councils estimate that this is potentially enough land for an extra 175,000 homes across greater Manchester over the next 20 years.

The Mayor said: “We’ve published this data so everyone can see the land we’ve identified for potential development. We’re now asking local people, community groups and others to take a look at these sites and let us know if there are any we have missed, or if there are other sites they think we should consider”.

The full map is available here. Most of these sites are what you might call ‘brownfield’ sites. For Bury, the heaviest concentration of them is in Radcliffe. Some of the sites (the East Lancashire Paper Mill site in Radcliffe, or the Cussons site in Rainsough) already have plans for housing. Some (land behind Tesco in Prestwich) are/have already being built on.

The second announcement is a deal that is being discussed  between the Government and Greater Manchester. Under the terms of the deal

  • Greater Manchester has to deliver on a Strategic Plan to provide land for 227,200 new homes over the next 19 years (to 2035). (To put that into context Bolton, Bury and Salford added together currently contain 283,000 homes.)
  • Greater Manchester would have ‘accelerated delivery’ getting up to 12,375 new houses a year (to put that into context that is a new Whitefield every year).

In return the Government will look at
Taking four Housing Infrastructure Fund Forward Funding bids through to co-development:
– Manchester’s Northern and Eastern Gateways;
– City Centre Salford Housing Growth Programme;
– Bolton and Wigan Key Route Network;
– South East Manchester Bus Rapid Transit Scheme.

–  Provide a Land Fund of up to £50m to provide support for the remediation of brownfield land for housing. The land fund should deliver at least 4200 homes and will be subject to value for money assurance.
– Provide up to £8m capacity funding to build the Greater Manchester Place Team to support the ambitious increase in housing delivery, building on the Manchester City Place team.
– Provide £10.25m to help regenerate the Collyhurst estate to deliver more affordable homes.

It is really important to notice that the current land identified has potential for 175,000 new homes, but the Council are committing to plan for 227,200 new homes. For us this rings massive alarm bells that the next draft of the Greater Manchester Strategic Framework being published (just after the local elections) in June 2018 will again include the destruction of Green Belt land (Draft 1 included massive loss of Green Belt in Prestwich, Whitefield, Unsworth and around Elton Reservoir).

So good news that so much brownfield land has been identified. Concern that the Councils are signing up to a plan that could see the Mayor going back on his pre-election promise of no net loss of Green Belt.



Reporting Back: Life after Walk-In Centres

The last month saw two opportunities for us to raise residents concerns about what will replace our Walk-In Centres in the revised package of ‘Urgent Care’ across the whole of Bury. The was the regular meeting of Bury Council’s Health Scrutiny Committee, and also a meeting of the Liberal Democrat Council Group with the CCG (Clinical Commissioning Group) Chair.

All areas are experiencing very high demand at hospital Accident and Emergency Department . The current estimate is that 30% of patients that visit A and E do not need to be at such an intensive service. The Government has new guidance for Urgent Care Services for the whole of England.

Bury will have just one Urgent Care Centre, which will be built adjacent to the Accident and Emergency Department at Fairfield General Hospital. (Manchester will be providing a similar Urgent Care Centre at North Manchester General Hospital.) The Urgent Care Centre has to have access to diagnostic services (e.g. X-Ray) which means it realistically does have to be on the hospital site which is where this equipment is. Being next to A and E will help reduce the number of people who currently attend A and E for more routine urgent needs, which can be dealt with at the Urgent Care Centre.

The full urgent care service across Bury will be:

Pharmacy – there will normally be a consulting room were the pharmacist can give advice and propose medication etc for minor ailments and wounds etc.
GP Surgery – All of the current services will be provided.
Integrated Health and Social Care Hub – initially three (Prestwich, Bury and Radcliffe, but eventually one in each township area)  – A mixture of Medical professional will be based in the Hub.  This will allow patient to have face to face advice from a GP. This will also allow elderly and vulnerable patients with complex issues to be seen in the local community, and will reduce hospital visits.
Urgent Treatment centre – will be located at the hospital in a separate building along side A & E.
A and E – Will treat all emergencies.

We asked a lot of questions about the Integrated Health and Social Care Hub, which will be replacing the Walk-In Centres at Prestwich and Moorgate in Bury, with a new one in Radcliffe. What was clear to us is that the Hub will be very different from the current Walk-In Centre which has general ‘walk-in’ access to Senior level of Nurse. In the future there will be some element of ‘walk-in access’ to the services at the Hub – e.g. GP appointments, this will not be particularly advertised or promoted and access to services by phone will be the preferred route. It was hoped that some of the clinics and other services that currently take place in Outpatients Departments in hospitals could take place at the Hubs, which means less trips to hospital for some people with longer term health needs.

We raised a concern that the some in the media were being too simplistic saying that Walk-In Centres have been ‘saved’ and will continue as they are now in the future, which is clearly not the case. Bringing local services together under one roof at the ‘Hub’ is a good idea, but it is certainly not the Walk-In Centre we currently have. It is important to note that the Hub will only be for people who are register with a GP in the Borough of Bury, so will not be for people who are registered with GPs outside of Bury.

Another big change proposed is access to services by telephone. The first number that people in Bury will be encouraged to phone is their GP practice where staff will be able to take calls to guide the patient to the appropriate medical professional. Outside working hours this number will be redirected to a 24/7 number. We asked questions of the CCG about the capacity of reception staff in GP practices to help people in this way and how staff would be trained to be able deal with a variety of issues. We also asked about confidentiality in GP practices (e.g. where the phone is answered next to the waiting room).

The 111 phone number will be still available if you need advice on such things as urgent dental appointment, the availability of pharmacy out of hours etc

Hope this information is useful please get in touch if you want more information. More details too at these FAQs from the CCG.

School Reform Package Proposed

The Liberal Democrats have launched a package of education reforms that would inject greater parental and teacher trust in the English schools system.

The education reforms proposed include:
-Replacing Ofsted with a reformed independent schools inspectorate system that assesses teacher and pupil well-being, as well as results, and a focus on whether school leaders can deliver future improvement
Replacing league tables with a broader set of indicators, including qualitative data on pupil well-being
– Qualitative information would come from getting pupil and parent feedback on how well a school is doing, as well as looking at indicators such as what happens to a pupil when they’ve left a school, like attaining university places
Scrapping mandatory Sats for years two and six and replacing with moderated teacher assessment and lighter-touch testing
– A ‘curriculum for life’ that includes relationships and sex education, financial literacy and first aid
Establishing a specific individual responsible for mental health in schools to help children
An end to Conservative cuts to education, such as protecting per-pupil spending in real terms, including in further education

Liberal Democrat leader Vince Cable said:
“Children must have a well-rounded education and our systems should not just be tick-box exercises. The Gove revolution has produced a Dickensian approach to education. We need to take account of information from teachers, parents and children views as part of improved qualitative and quantitative assessments of our schools.”

Liberal Democrat Education Spokesperson Layla Moran said:
“The over-emphasis on high stakes testing has meant the system has overlooked so many other elements of the development of the child. Parents want to know there children’s well-being is looked after and that they are taught lessons for life, such as first aid and financial literacy, and have the prospects to succeed.

“We need inspectorate and league table systems that recognise these values, in addition to looking at exam and test marks in maths and English.”

“It’s time to scrap GMSF” says Mayoral Candidate

JANE BROPHY, the Liberal Democrat candidate for Mayor of Greater Manchester, is calling for the Greater Manchester Spacial Framework (GMSF) to be scrapped.

The GMSF process will only go ahead if all ten councils in Greater Manchester and the newly elected mayor vote in favour of it. If any one of the eleven deciding vote against the plans, then it will fall – and the Liberal Democrat mayoral candidate is now pledging to do just that.

Jane Brophy said: “The Government and Greater Manchester Combined Authority should have worked together with local councils, local people and local communities to ensure no more houses were built on our greenbelt until all other options were exhausted.

“There was no attempt to have any conversation with local people and their voices have been ignored. We now risk blindly destroying our green spaces and depriving our children of the areas to grow and play in.

“Before we open up the greenbelt for development we must bring empty homes back into use, develop every old mill building, empty warehouse, factory, brownfield space and derelict piece of land that we can.

“Only when all those options were exhausted should we have considered moving onto the greenbelt. But our voices have gone ignored for long enough and it’s now time to scrap this GMSF process.

“There was no discussion about where was going to be developed, and clearly no intention to begin any discussion.

“The GMSF has been top down, rather than from the bottom up. We need a plan that fully involves local people and their communities right from the start.

“This should have been about responsibly building affordable homes in areas that are near public transport and existing links, and it should be for local people in each area to decide the future of their community, not for a secret group at Manchester Town Hall to present a completed plan.

“Therefore, I am now withdrawing my support from the GMSF process and if elected I will vote to block the process, and work to ensure each and every local resident and local community is involved properly in the process to build the much-needed homes.”

More information