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.”

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.

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

Reporting Back: Health Scrutiny Committee

Last month was the Bury’s Health Overview and Scrutiny Committee. Councillor Cristina Tegolo reports:

The Committee’s role involves reviewing and scrutinising any matters relating to the provision and operation of health services in the area of the Council, scrutinising organisations external to the Council and holding the Leader / Cabinet Members to account. Bury’s Health Overview and Scrutiny Committee meets in public and includes a public question time at the start of the meeting. Scrutiny committees actively welcome involvement with the public and seek the views of members of the public on services that are being considered. Scrutiny committees also welcome suggestions for subjects to be considered for inclusion in the scrutiny work programme.

Geoff Little, Chief Executive Bury Council provided an update on the Health and Social Care Reforms. Chris O’Gorman, Local Care Organisation Independent Chair, and Julie Gonda, Director of Adult Social Care, provided an update on Bury Local Care Organisation. John Hobday, Consultant in Public Health, provided an overview of key health and well-being data for Bury and Highlited areas for future interventions. Mr Little explained how, despite amount of money being spent, outcomes and health expectancies for Bury people are still not acceptable. In Holyrood life expectancy for 2013 – 2017 for a male was 77.6 years to 79.5 years (inSt. Mary’s it is 79.5 years to 81.4 years)and for females was 82.4 years to 84.1 years (in St. Mary’s is 84.1 years to 85.7 years). Bury “One Commissioning Organisation” wants to have a program of reforms based on the needs of Bury residents, clients and patients. Ultimately and over time the Bury “One Commissioning Organisation” will encompass all strategic commissioning from the Council and CCG and other public services where possible. The main goals are to:

  • Empower Bury people to remain well and make healthy decisions
  • Close the financial gap and improve outcomes 
  • Create a different model based on understanding of families and carers
  • Take control of the system as whole 
  • Improve services in the community for the most vulnerable
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I commented on the importance of education and especially promoting health and wellbeing of children under 5. I also welcomed Bury Council’s plan to empower Bury people to remain well for longer and supporting and caring for people in their homes. However, I pointed out that the Planning department is probably not aware of the objectives of the “One Commissioning Organisations”. I gave as an example the planning meeting that I attended on the previous day, in which a Community Centre at the heart of a residential area, which could be used for exercising classes and health promoting activities, was changed into offices and a block of apartments (in Green Belt and in Conservation Area) had received planning permission even if the 16 apartments were missing the most basic accessibility and inclusive design standards.

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

Reporting Back: Bury’s School Standards

Just before Christmas Liberal Democrat Group Leader Councillor Tim Pickstone caught up with Bury’s recently appointed Assistant Director of Education and Inclusion, Paul Delbridge-Smith, who took up post with Bury Council in August.

One of Paul’s first priorities was to get an accurate picture how Bury’s schools are doing and how well they are performing in educating children in the Borough, as well as to look at the role of governors in securing good quality schools.

The overall picture is extremely concerning given the recent declines in school performance and standards, in Ofsted judgements, and in the rankings of Bury local authority when compared to other local authorities across GM, the North West and nationally. However, it is important to stress that behind these headline figures are some excellent and successful schools, including many close to me here in Prestwich, and also the hard work and commitment of all our teachers, teaching assistants and support staff.

The headlines are: 
– In 2007, Bury was doing OK. It was ranked 45th best out of 148 local authorities in England in headline results (5 A*-C GCSE including English and maths)

– By 2017, Bury was doing badly. I is ranked 141st worst out of 162 local authorities in England in headline results – that is the 21st worst out of 23 local authorities in the North West.

– Bury is the worst local authority in the country for permanently excluding children (ie in 2017 we permanently excluded more children than anywhere else, as a proportion of children).

– Bury is bottom of the table in Greater Manchester for the % of good or better schools (10th out of 10) according to www.watchsted.com

Moving Forwards
The very good news is that the new Assistant Director and his team have a clarity and clear vision for rapidly improving and transforming Bury education and its schools and academies. Some of their aims and priorities include:

– getting Bury back into the top 10% in the country (for education quality and standards, through securing exceptional educational provision and leadership
– ensuring children make continued accelerated progress in their day to day learning, growth and development.
– raising aspirations and ambitions for Bury children, young people and families, particularly the disadvantaged, most able, children from black and ethnic minority communities, and those with special educational needs.
– tackling poor performance through investing in school governance,
– tackling poor behaviours in the education system by ensuring high standards and expectations in school attendance, inclusion, and support services
– tackling inequalities and disadvantage for all children
– ZERO permanent exclusions through providing inclusive settings, inclusive schools and inclusive communities where every child in Bury can stay in a Bury school and be well supported
– ZERO out of borough placements – keeping children safely placed in Bury schools and settings.
– ZERO NEET (not in education, employment or training) – so securing the life chances of all young people as they move successfully into adulthood.

We would fully endorse the plans. As we understand the road to this might not be easy. As Bury’s schools come up for inspection by OFSTED in the coming years some schools that are currently rated as ‘outstanding’ may well (on their current performance) be downgraded.

The ’shape’ of our schools is likely to change with more schools becoming ‘Academies’ (or joining existing schools who are academies), or more working together between schools in different areas, through forming management partnerships, federations or cooperative trusts.

Hope this update is useful and please do not hesitate to ask if you have questions.

Government’s Waste Strategy Doesn’t Go Far Enough

This week the Government published a consultation on Waste Strategy, which has been criticised for its lack of ambition.

The strategy aims to:
– Introduce a tax on single use plastic with less than 30% recycled content.
– Consider banning plastic packaging where there are alternatives.
– Legislate to allow government to specify a core set of materials to be collected by all local authorities and waste operators.
– Commit to a deposit return scheme for bottles and cans.
– Ensure all households get food waste collections.
– Try to build a stronger UK recycling market.

But critics are angry at the time it is taking the government to implement measures such as the deposit return scheme for plastic bottles and cans. The rollout of such a system may not happen for another five years. With the Scottish government expected to introduce its deposit system by 2020, and the packaging producers – who would pay for the system – wanting it to be UK-wide, why does our government think it would take a further three years to get in line?

Liberal Democrats say:
We desperately need to tackle the mountain of plastic waste that is devastating our oceans. Liberal Democrats have therefore long championed deposit return schemes as a proven measure across the world for reducing waste.

The UK Government’s support for this scheme is welcome, but 2025 is a long way away when solutions to the damage being inflicted on our environment are so urgent.

That is why we have set the bar with an ambition to ban all single-use plastic within three years and the introduction of a levy on all producers and retailers that produce or use single-use plastics, including for single-use cups.

Reporting Back: Full Council

Bury’s final ‘Full Council’ of the year took place at the end of November. This is the meeting, normally six times a year, where all 51 Bury Councillors meet to undertake some of the important functions of the authority.

Gambling Policy
Every few years local authorities have to publish a ‘Gambling Policy’, which was agreed by councillors. Liberal Democrat councillor Tim Pickstone asked the Cabinet member what consideration or changes to the policy had been made in the light of recent reports about the number of children and young people who were involved in gambling at worrying levels. The response was that there had been input on this area at the consultation stage and that this is an important issue for us to take forwards.

Risk Register Annual Report
The Council has to present an annual report of it’s ‘Risk Register’ which sets out how it is managing risk going forwards. We have previously raised concerns about the fact that almost the very high number of risks which are marked as serious – particularly the ability of the Council to deliver financial savings. Liberal Democrat councillors asked what the Council is doing to plan around the risk of a ‘no-deal Brexit’, and the impact this might have on things like staff who work in the health and care sectors – the response was that this was being done at a Greater Manchester level.

Questions
Liberal Democrat councillors always ask the maximum number of questions at Council meetings and this was no exception. At this meeting our questions included: police and fire call-outs around bonfire night, plastic recycling, World AIDS Day, Council use of bailiffs, process for resident parking schemes and amount of fly-tipping reports. For the full questions and answers see here.

Motions
Council meetings consider one motion per political party. The Lib Dem motion was on ensuring future council houses are built to a high standard. We also supporter the motions from other political parties on police funding and ‘planning gain’ monies.

The full papers for the meeting are here.

Building homes ‘Fit for the Future’

At the most recent full meeting of Bury Council, the Liberal Democrat group of councillors were successful in getting the whole Council to sign up to a principle of building future homes which are ‘fit for the future’.

Recently the Government has announced a relaxation of the restrictions on Councils which will hopefully mean that Bury can soon finance building new homes, including new Council Houses, something that has not happened in any numbers for many decades.

For us this is a really important opportunity to make sure that people have homes that they can afford and are right for people. These homes will be in use in 100 years so we need to get things right.

Our proposal committed the Council to putting into practice important ideas that will ‘future proof homes’, for example:
– Low carbon energy efficiency homes, with solar panels, underfloor heating, and high quality insulation, doors and windows – both reducing carbon emissions and future fuel costs for residents;
– Clean air, with electric charging potential ‘designed-in’ and sustainable street trees on new roads as a norm.
– Active lives built in, with high quality cycling provision and ‘child-friendly’ low speed or shared space a standard for new residential roads.

The proposal received all-Party support and is now Council policy. A report and update on the issue will be prepared for the Council’s Cabinet on the issue in the next ‘municipal’ year.

The full text of the motion is here.

Reporting Back: Council Finances

Last week was the meeting of Bury Council’s Cabinet, and earlier this week the meeting of the Council’s Audit Committee. Both meetings considered the mid-year financial report for the Council which raise some very concerning issues. Councillor Tim Pickstone was at the Cabinet, Councillor Steve Wright was at the Audit Committee:

Both meetings heard that the Council is currently estimating a roughly £3.5 million overspend for the current financial year, which would take the Council’s usable reserves down to just £2.5 million.

At both meetings we raised concerns about the significantly more worry size of overspending that is behind this figure:

  • The Council is expecting to overspend by £7.8 million on ‘demand pressures’ – mostly additional children with special needs and older people’s increasing care needs, both of which obviously need to be covered.
  • The Council is overspending by £11.3 million on savings it has failed to achieve. These are savings that have previously agreed by Councillors, but not delivered. Mostly this is failures to achieve savings in the Council’s Communities and Wellbeing directorate (£9 million) on issues such as older people’s care, leisure services and the council’s civic suites. It also includes a failure to deliver £1.2 million of savings on waste collection which the report says could be achieved by charging residents for garden waste.
  • There is then a shortage of income for the Council of £2.9 million – anything from less than expected rental income or less than expected parking income.

In the short term these overspends are mostly being covered by ‘one off’ items:

  • Using one-off grants from Government
  • Using up some of the Council’s reservers
  • Other one-off savings

Our worry is that this is not sustainable into the future. The massive problems that the Council has this year (demand pressures, failure to deliver savings and income shortfall) are not going to magically disappear over the next few months, and in February Councillors will have to, by law, set a balanced budget   for 2019-20 in which even more savings will be required.

At the Audit Committee it was revealed that one of the three commercial properties the Council has purchased outside of Bury using taxpayers money – the Prezzo in Lytham St Annes, has now closed as a restaurant, so the the Council is getting no income for this investment.

This is the second year running that the Council’s Labour administration has produced very worrying financial reports at this stage in the year. This is now getting very worrying given the low level of Council reserves.

The full report is here.

 

Reporting Back: Greater Manchester Scrutiny Committee

Last week was the regular meeting of the Greater Manchester Corporate Issues and Reform Scrutiny Committee. Prestwich Councillor Tim Pickstone represents Bury on the Committee:

This months meeting focussed on three issues:

Kerslake Report Implementation
Following the Manchester Arena attack, an Independent Review of the events and aftermath of the attack was conducted by five independent members and chaired by Lord Kerslake. This led to the publication of a report making 50 recommendations. The Committee is receiving updates on the implementation of this Report.

Some of the recommendations need to be addressed nationally, and contact has been made with Government to progress change here. Other issues are the responsibility of specific services, and we heard specifically from the Fire Service about changes they were making learning from the attack. The implementation of the recommendations is being led by the Greater Manchester Resilience Forum, which brings together all the agencies that need to be involved in a major incident or disaster like the Arena bombings, to ensure that all agencies are working together.

Greater Manchester Combined Authority Budget Update
The Greater Manchester Combined Authority now brings together a large amount of public spending. This includes everything to do with police, fire, transport as well as the new work and new spending which is being done directly by the Mayor or the Combined Authority at a Greater Manchester level. The functions of the former Greater Manchester Waste Disposal Authority are being brought into the CA this year.

In total the revenue budget of all these functions combined together is around £900 million this year. The capital budget (spending on one off projects) is around £500 million this year.

I asked about two issues: firstly, the underspend this year on money from Government for cycling projects (£10 million this year and then £50 million a year fort he next three years) and how we make sure this money is spent on cycling and walking. Secondly I asked about the money being spent on the Mayor’s promise to end homelessness in Greater Manchester and the costs of the ‘bed for all’ scheme this winter (and how this can be sustained going forwards).

Greater Manchester Waste Procurement Update
The Committee also received an update on the procurement process for private delivery of waste disposal services. This item was held in private because it is confidential commercial information about the different companies that are bidding to provide this service to Greater Manchester (which also means I cannot report on the detail).

Two years ago Greater Manchester spent a lot of money buying itself out of the previous contract with to deliver waste services and is now re-tendering.I asked questions about the sustainability of what we are tendering for – particularly with the changes in waste going forwards that we are  hearing about with plastic waste.

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