Warm Welcome to Electric Bus Trials

Liberal Democrats across Greater Manchester have welcomed the announcement earlier last week that officials from Transport for Greater Manchester (TfGM) have met with the Volvo Bus Corporation to discuss proposals to replace the current bus fleet with a new electric fleet run on rechargeable batteries.

A spokesperson for the Lib Dem group on Transport for Greater Manchester has welcomed the move:

“I am pleased that Volvo have indicated that they would like to start a trial of up of thirty new battery-powered buses in Manchester city centre in 2017, and that they would also like to back this with an investment in charging points.”

“The Liberal Democrats firmly believe that making our public transport system greener must be seen as a priority. We need to move away from fuel-guzzling, carbon-emitting vehicles to clean, quiet electric vehicles. We have already made progress with hybrid vehicles but this represents the next step. We look forward to the day when passengers can ride on any bus knowing that they have made a green choice for their journey.”

European Union Referendum – Make Sure You Can Vote

Voting takes places across the country on Thursday 23 June 2016 in the important referendum to determine whether the country will remain in, or leave the European Union.

Many people may be on holiday or other commitments on this additional polling day.

Anyone can sign up for a postal vote. The votes arrive in the post for you just under two weeks before the election and you just need to return them in postage paid envelope.

The deadline for applying for a postal vote for the EU Referendum is Wednesday 8 June 2016, so you don’t have that long.

You can do this online, by filling in and printing out this form and sending it to the Town Hall. If you would like a form but cannot print one out please just let us know and we will drop one round.

Please note that if you have already signed up for a postal vote, you don’t need to re-register again. 


Local Elections – Thank you for your Support

Just to thank residents across Bury for their support in the local elections last week.

Our two best results were in Holyrood Ward, where we took a seat from Labour:

Steve Wright (LIB DEM)1,733
Labour 1,463
Conservative 280
UKIP 229
Green 139

and in St Mary’s Ward where we lost by 19, but cut Labour’s majority down from 892 last year:

Labour 1,349
Michael Powell (LIB DEM)1,330
Conservative 463
Green 126

Lib Dem Group Leader, Cllr Tim Pickstone said:
“A huge thank you to voters in Prestwich, who have sent a very clear message that we are fed up with the way we are treated by the Labour-run Council. We’re gutted we didn’t quite make it in St Mary’s Ward, but coming so close is a great foundation for the future. We will continue to be working hard for local residents, all-year-round.”

Results for the whole of Bury are here.

Petition to Save the HomeStart Charity

Local campaigners have launched a petition to save the local charity ‘Home-Start Bury’. This is a charity which supports local families by offering support, friendship and practical help to parents with young children.

Bury Council funded Home-Start thorugh it’s ‘Commissioning Fund’ for a period of three years starting in 2013/14. That came to an end on 31 March 2016. During this period Homestart received a total of £69,000 from the Commissioning Fund.

This is the statement from the Trustees of Home-Start from their Facebook Page”
“It is with much sadness that the Board of Trustees has taken the difficult decision to close Home-Start Bury. This is due to a 100% cut to zero in our funding by Bury MBC.
The Impact is 70 families lose vital support, 3 staff loses their jobs, and 50 highly trained volunteers lost to the community.
When Home-Start Bury closes, there will be no other early intervention services to support families in the same way that Home-Start does: offering personalised parent-to-parent support in the confidential environment of the family home during weekly visits for as long as the family needs support for. This early intervention approach stops many families from reaching crisis point and needing costly statutory support.
The Staff and Board have exhausted every possible avenue for funding, but to no avail. External grant makers like BBC Children in Need, Big Lottery and Lloyds TSB prefer to have some reassurance that there is at least some commitment from Statutory services…so in effect, the cut in our funding is preventing us from bringing £££££ in to the Borough.
Our hearts goes out to those families as well as our brilliant staff and volunteers.
All families and volunteers are aware of the situation and support is being offered to signpost families to other local facilities like the children’s centers.
We have written to the relevant officers within the Local Authority and elected members of the council. As yet, we have not had any responses.
If you are a council tax payer in Bury, please write to your local councillor if you think this is wrong.
You can also follow us on twitter @homestartbury
Thank you for all the messages of support we have had so far, we are overwhelmed with peoples kindness x”

Online Petition
An online petition has been set up to support the charity. If enough people sign the petition it will trigger a formal debate on the issue at the Town Hall.

You can read the petition and add your support here.

Saying ‘No’ to the Snoopers Charter

Liberal Democrats on Bury Council were last week successful in getting Bury Council to take a stand against the Investagatory Powers Bill (sometimes referred to as the ‘Snoopers Charter’).

There are three issues that particularly concern us:

– the Bill would require all communications companies (e.g. Internet Service Providers and telephone companies) too keep a complete record of our electronic communciation for a whole year (email,s instant messages, web browsing history, gaming, etc etc). With something like a mobile phone this effectively means a record of where we are, as this data is being sent continuously to our phone company. It means asking companies like Talk Talk (who lost a large amount of its own customer data not long ago) to keep this information and us trust them that it is secure.

– the Bill gives public bodies the right to have bulk surveillance warrants, which would grant public bodies the right to see the information on everyone with a ‘common interest’ – e.g. everyone who went to a meeting or rally, with just one warrant.

– a lack of properly resourced judicial oversight over the Home Secretary, to make sure that any surveillance that is done is approved in a very and proper legal process.

Lib Dem councillors proposed a motion, which raised serious concerns about the Bill. This was then supported by all Labour and some Conservative councillors and has now been successful in becoming the policy of Bury Council.

You can watch Lib Dem Group Leader Cllr Tim Pickstone speak on the debate here:


Saying NO to forced Academies

Liberal Democrat Party leader T m Farron MP has strongly criticised the Government on its priorities for school education, and the decision recently announced that ALL schools must convert to being an ‘Academy’.

Tim wrote an Open letter to teachers at Easter, on the eve of their main teaching union conference. The full letter can be found here.

Ensuring every child has the opportunity to make the most of their talents and be anything they want to be is at the very core of what we believe

The Government think that converting a school to an academy will automatically drive up standards. They’re wrong. What drives up standards is a well-funded education system and a teaching workforce who receive proper support and recognition for their work.

Academies are schools that are run by a private sponsor. They are outside of the local family of schools, not accountable to the local community, allowed to set their own curriculum and terms and conditions for staff.

Our fear is that this policy will be a costly and disruptive process for thousands of schools across the county, most of whom are already facing significant pressures including squeezed budgets and falling teacher morale.

T4GM Budget Report Back

Like all public bodies, Transport for Greater Manchester has recently been setting its budget for 2016-17. Stockport Councillor Iain Roberts is the Lib Dem’s group leader on Transport for Greater Manchester Committee reports back:

“The total day-to-day spending budget (i.e. not the big investment projects) for TfGM comes to a little over £270 million for 2016/17. Most of that money comes from the ten local councils, some from the Government and a little from other sources. That’s the same as the current year, and follows 3% cuts in each of the last two.

TfGM has no influence on about 70% of that money. Rail payments from the Government of £49m get passed straight onto the Northern franchise holder. £47m funds the English national concessions for bus travel (such as the free pass for pensioners) and £90m goes on financing capital expenditure – repaying loans on money TfGM has borrowed.

On top of that there are other costs – rent, rates and energy – that TfGM has little control over.

Metrolink spending is ring-fenced – profits made from Metrolink are fed back into the tram network for future improvements and expansion.

So what can TfGM influence?

There are local bus concessions – cheap tickets we fund in GM for child travel, people with certain disabilities and tram and train concessions. That comes to £19m. The supported bus services – funding bus services that wouldn’t be commercially viable on their own – costs £27.1m. Ring & Ride costs £4.6m. And finally operational costs – operating bus stations, travel shops, bus shelters, traffic signals and passenger information boards plus a few other things – comes in at £37m.

TfGM faces a number of cost pressures: local authority cuts, increased employers’ NI and higher pension fund costs will be met from efficiencies. There are also new responsibilities coming with devolution (we hope!). The big two are for TfGM to take ownership of the 97 stations across Greater Manchester and bus franchising. The initial costs of those will be met from reserves – money that’s been put aside for the job.

TfGM say there are no plans to further reduce the bus network from 2016/17 onwards – good news, as we’ve seen too many services cut in the last couple of years.”

Tim Farron MP consultation on Unaccompanied Children Refugees

The Liberal Democrat leader, Tim Farron MP, has launched an open consultation on ways Britain can support unaccompanied refugee children.

It is estimated there are more than 20,000 unaccompanied refugee children amongst those who have reached Europe, many of whom are at risk from being trafficked into prostitution or child labour. Liberal Democrats have repeatedly backed Save the Children’s call for the government to offer safe haven to 3,000 of these children, the UK’s fair share.

Tim Farron hosted a cross party roundtable which looked at how the Government and communities could welcome these children and what resources, support and tools are needed. The meeting was attended by over 20 experts and organisations working with refugees, vulnerable children and foster carers.

Tim Farron MP said:
“These children have fled desperate situations, are now vulnerable and at risk from traffickers. I have repeatedly called for the government to take, 3,000 children, which is Britain’s fair share. We recognise communities will need support to meet this challenge, which is why we’re inviting everyone to be a part of this consultation process to set out how we can meet this moral obligation and pressure the government to do the right thing.”

Liberal Democrats have launched an online consultation based on the outcome of this meeting and are inviting experts and any member of the public to submit proposals to form a blueprint of how Britain can accept the unaccompanied minors who have arrived in Europe.

The consultation document can be read here

Consultation responses should be sent to 3000@libdems.org.uk by the 18th March 2016

Budget Council Meeting: Reporting Back

Last Wednesday at Bury’s Budget Council Meeting the ruling Labour group of Councillors voted for an increase in Council Tax from 1 April 2016 of 3.8%.

The increase is made up of a basic increase of 1.94%, plus a further 2% social care levy, together with Police and Fire increase of £5 and 1.99%. Council house tenants will see their rents reduced by 1%.


The bulk of the extra money raised in this 3.8% increase (£2.7 million) will go towards increasing costs in social care costs, particularly the need to pay staff the Government’s living wage. A smaller amount (£0.6 million) will go towards flood resilience and highways repairs.

The budget has been set with continuing severe reductions in Government funding for local government, meaning that Bury Council has had to make savings or £11.6 million for 2016-17. Bury continues to get a very funding poor deal from central government – £294 per person with the national average being £352 per person.

The most significant savings will be made through working better together with local health services, saving £2.5 million, and making more use of things like Local Authority Trading Companies to save £2 million. The Council will also be looking to increase the other income it receives by £1.6 million by looking at potential for new charges, and ‘more robust enforcement strategy’. Our very significant concern is that there is no read detail given on these savings, which will obviously have a significant impact on residents, and staff, which is not yet clear.

Apparently 230 people across Bury took part in the Council’s consultation on the budget.

New Council Tax Rates are:
Band A – £1,047.52
Band B – £1,222.10
Band C – £1,396.69
Band D – £1,571.29
Band E – £1,920.47
Band F – £2,269.64
Band G – £2,618.81
Band H – £3,142.58

Liberal Democrat Group Proposals

The Liberal Democrat Group’s alternative budget was to:

Spend £2 million of the Council’s spare ‘reserves’ to take urgent action to repair the worst roads and pavements.
All residents will be aware that from decades of poor investment the state of too many of our roads is a disgrace. Over a three-year period the Council spent £3 million paying out compensation or legal costs for claims against poor road surfaces. We wanted to make help redress this issue and think this is a worthwhile use of spare reserves that the Council has.

– Invest more money in Adult Social Care, specifically to end the use of 15 minute home care visits in Bury.
Liberal Democrats would have put up Council Tax by the social care levy only (2%) and spent this money on improving the care we give to the most vulnerable people that the Council helps. Our research has recently shown that Bury provided 200,000 home care visits of 15 minutes or less in a year. Trades Unions, charities, and NICE Guidelines all condemn 15 minute care visits as totally unacceptable as care, except in occasional circumstances as part of a bigger package of support.

More money to improve our local environment.
We wanted to improve our local areas by setting up a small budget of £5,000 for each Council Ward area to spend on local priorities such as: graffiti, alleyways, tree replacement, fly-tipping or dog fouling – whatever the priority is for each local area. We would fund this through spare resources in the New Homes Bonus.

Unfortunately Labour Councillors voted against our alternative budget and these improvements will not happen this year.

The full papers for the Council meeting are here.

Sign our petition to End 15 Minute Care Visits in Bury here.

Lib Dems ask T4GM to Consider a ‘Cycle Alert’ Scheme

The Lib Dems on Bury Council have asked the authority’s representatives on the Transport for Greater Manchester Authority to consider the introduction of a ‘Cycle Alert’ scheme, to reduce the number of cyclist deaths or serious accidents caused by heavy goods vehicles, including buses.

Lib Dem Councillor Mary D’Albert asked what consideration has been given by T4GM to working with bus operators to introduce a ‘CycleAlert’ or similar system in Greater Manchester.

Cycle Alert has been used by Transdev buses in York since 2013 in an important effort to reduce the amount of cycle deaths as a caused by large vehicles. The system alerts HGV drivers if there is a cyclist with a cycle alert installed. A system like this (and there are other schemes from other companies) could reduce cycling deaths in the city region.

Councillors were assured that T4GM is aiming to increase the number of cycle trips across the conurbation, as well as providing improved infrastructure and complementary measures to benefit cyclists.
– Over 2000 cyclists have received bespoke one to one on-road training since our training programme started in 2012.
– Safe Urban Driver Training, accredited training for HGV and bus drivers has been rolled out to almost 500 drivers, and this will continue to educate HGV drivers.
– TfGM have worked with bus drivers to allow them to experience riding a bike, and educating them from a cyclists point of view, at bus depots across Greater Manchester.

It was confirmed that Cycle Alert recently presented at a recent Bus Operators meeting and TfGM are considering options around this.