Reporting Back: Answers to Questions

Just to report back on some of the questions that the Liberal Democrat team of Councillors on Bury Council asked at the last Full meeting. Please let us know if you have any comments or ideas for questions in the future.

Greater Manchester Spatial Framework
There had been significant concern in local councils across Greater Manchester that there had been a ‘downgrade’ in the status of the final decision on the Greater Manchester Spatial Framework when it happens (presumably next year). Originally the GMSF would have to be voted on and agreed by all 10 local councils, including Bury, but there had been fears that the downgrade of status in the decision meant that the 10 Leaders (and Mayor) could make the decision on their own.
Councillor Tim Pickstone asked: “Could the Leader reaffirm previous commitments, that members of this Council will vote on final proposals of the Greater Manchester Spatial Framework?

Answer: “It is our intention that Members will ultimately have to vote on the implications of the GMSF through the adoption of our Local Plan which sits under the GMSF and will act in accordance with it.”

Further clarification confirmed that Bury Council WILL get a vote on the final GMSF, which is very welcome.

Large Class Sizes
Councillor Steve Wright asked about the worrying number of secondary classes in Bury which are over 30. Last year, research from the Lib Dems found out that there had been a 265% increase in classes over 30 pupils in 2016/17 school year.
Question: “Could the Leader update members on the number of secondary school children in Bury who are taught in classes of more than 30 children, and how this compares to previous years?”

The answer was that in the 2017-18 school year, there was a further increase, to 65 classes across Bury, with more than 30 pupils in it. That was a total of 2104 pupils. The highest number was St Monicas (441 pupils) followed by Elton and Parrenthorn. (To be fair on these schools some of the classes were 31 pupils, including 10 classes at Monicas.)

Council Culture
Residents may remember the very serious issues 18 months ago around a child protection issue which led to the departure of the Council’s Chief Executive and Director of Children’s Services, and a major independent investigation. When receiving the report of the investigation, Councillors agreed on 20 July 2017 to undertake “an all-party piece of work, involving Officers and Members, with outside support as appropriate, to ensure that the Council has an appropriate culture of working at senior levels in the Authority, which reflects the highest standards for public office and public service.”
Councillor Tim Pickstone asked: “Could the Leader update members on this piece of work?
The answer: “The all-party piece of work on culture within the organisation of the Council has been scoped and a proposal obtained. The Chief Executive has reviewed the proposal and is of view that this work would be most valuable if deployed after a corporate review of the organisation planned for later this year. This will allow the work to be part of a wider improvement plan for the organisation as a whole.”
We will continue to pursue this issue…

Council Property outside of Bury
Finally Councillor Mary D’Albert asked for an update on the property which Bury Council has bought outside of Bury.
The properties which the Council has bought are:
Northern House, Fenay Bridge, Huddersfield – acquisition cost £2,300,000 (Capita offices)
43 to 45 Lever Street, Manchester – acquisition cost £2,560,000 (Bakerie restaurant)
18 to 20 St Anne’s Road West, Lytham St Anne’s – £1,010,000 (Prezzo resteranno)

 

Swinson secures govt commitment on parental pay transparency

Commenting on the Government announcement that it will consult on greater transparency on parental pay, Jo Swinson, Deputy Leader of the Liberal Democrats, said:

“I am delighted that the Government will be consulting on putting my parental pay transparency bill into law.

“This is a simple regulatory change with great benefits for employers, employees and job applicants.

“It is a national scandal that each year in the UK 54,000 women lose their jobs because of maternity and pregnancy discrimination. Conservatives must listen and deliver real change.

“The Government is right to consult on this but it must take swift action in the interest of all working parents.”

Jo Swinson is pursuing a Private Member’s Bill, tabled on 6 June 2018, to require organisations with more than 250 employees to publish details of their parental leave and pay policy.

This latest campaign victory comes after Swinson secured support for her Bill from ten major employers last week. These were Accenture, Addleshaw Goddard, Deloitte, Direct Line Group, EY, KPMG, Linklaters, RBS, Santander and PwC.

The Government announced its consultation on 1 October: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/new-legislation-to-ensure-tips-and-gratuities-go-to-employees

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.

Calls for International Treaty on Plastics

A legally binding international treaty on plastics is the call from the Liberal Democrats following a major debate at their Party Conference. The treaty would encompass phased reductions in the production, consumption and trade of virgin feedstock.

It would also include a financial mechanism providing aid and capacity-building assistance to developing countries.

Liberal Democrat Group Leader in Bury, Councillor Tim Pickstone said:
“The problem with plastics is not only on our shores. It is a problem that impacts the environment, communities and wildlife across the globe. The Government therefore has a duty to lead from the front and start weaning the world off plastics. But instead of leadership on the environment, all this Conservative Government offers is empty words.”

We are calling for real international action to save our environment from the scourge of single-use plastics.

– Banning the use of non-recyclable single-use plastics that have affordable alternatives
– Implementing a deposit system for all container products.
– Requirement all packaging to include recyclability options.

Demand better on plastics – add your name to our open letter today.

Photo Credit: Christophe Launay/Race for Water 2015.

Inheritance tax overhaul part of radical Lib Dem plans to tackle wealth inequality

Inheritance tax overhaul part of radical Lib Dem plans to tackle wealth inequality
Liberal Democrats have today set out bold reforms designed to spread opportunity, power and wealth more fairly throughout society and to give everyone a stake in the UK’s economic success.

The party expects these reforms to raise an additional £15 billion per year, though this is likely to grow as the rate of wealth passed down increases in the coming years.

Liberal Democrat members will debate and vote on the proposals at the party’s Autumn Conference in Brighton next week.

Proposals include:
Overhauling inheritance tax – taxing recipients progressively on all large gifts received at the same rates as income from employment, above a generous tax-free lifetime allowance, instead of the current system of levying tax on the value of an estate left behind.
Taxing capital gains and dividends – equalising the tax treatment of wealth and work by taxing capital gains and dividends through the income tax system.
Reforming pension tax relief – introducing a flat rate of relief on pension contributions, thus rebalancing relief towards lower earners; and limiting the tax-free lump sum the wealthiest can withdraw from their pension pots.
Lifelong learning and a “Citizens Wealth Fund” – using the revenues from wealth taxation to invest in public services, fund an ambitious programme of lifelong learning to prepare workers for the future economy, and establish an independent Citizens Wealth Fund to invest on behalf of the country.

Liberal Democrat leader Vince Cable said:
“The bold proposals we have set out today represent a serious and informed response to this challenge. They follow closely on the work of the Resolution Foundation and the IPPR, which have reached similar conclusions on the policies needed to address Britain’s deep economic divides.

“While it is increasingly clear that taxes will have to rise if we are to afford the crucial public services and investment we all rely on, hard-pressed workers should not be the only ones paying up. It is time to put Britain’s wealth to work.”

According to the ONS, 44% of UK wealth is owned by 10% of households, whilst only 9% is owned by the poorest half of the population.

The spokesperson’s paper “Giving Everyone a Stake” can be found here.

NHS Bury consulting on reducing funding for IVF

NHS Bury are asking patients and the public to share their views on proposals to review Bury’s current policy in relation to commissioning In Vitro Fertilisation (IVF) services.

The consultation will run for six weeks from Monday 6th August to Sunday 16th September 2018.

Within the consultation document the CCG describes the reasons why it is considering changing its policy on commissioning IVF services, and seeks feedback from local people, stakeholders and health care professionals on a range of options.

An important part of the survey is to offer the opportunity for people to highlight if they feel the CCG has failed to consider something significant before coming to a decision.

IVF is one of several techniques available to help people with fertility problems have a baby.

NHS Bury CCG is one of only four CCGs in the country that provides IVF fully in line with NICE guidelines, including offering up to three funded cycles.

Bury’s projected spend for IVF in 2018/19 is around £320,000. The majority of CCGs in England offer one funded cycle.

Feedback from the consultation period will help to inform the Governing Body to make a decision on the future provision of IVF in Bury at its meeting on 26th September 2018.  The Governing Body meets in public and will publish the outcome of the consultation on its website, through social media and via the press and media.

How to get involved:

An online survey is available HERE, also available via the CCG website homepage buryccg.nhs.uk and in paper format by calling 0161 253 7636.

Views can be sent to the CCG by letter or e-mail:

  • By letter to: NHS Bury Clinical Commissioning Group, Communications and Engagement Team (IVF consultation) Townside Primary Care Centre, 1 Knowsley Place, Knowsley Street, Bury, BL9 0SN
  • By e-mail: to buccg.communications@nhs.net

The Liberal Democrat Group on Bury Council has been asked to meet with the CCG to give our views as part of the consultation, so please let us know if there are points you would like us to make (c/o Councillor Tim Pickstone tim@burylibdems.net

Lib Dems Commit to End Rough Sleeping

The Liberal Democrats have become the first major party to commit to ending the “national scandal” of rough sleeping across Britain, including across Greater Manchester.

The latest figures show there were 189 people sleeping rough in Greater Manchester in 2016, many are young people and many believe these figures to be only the tip of the iceberg.

The Liberal Democrats have set out a series of measures to end rough sleeping, including introducing a Housing First provider in each local authority that would put long-term homeless people straight into independent homes rather than emergency shelters.

The news comes as a coalition of homelessness charities, including Centrepoint, Crisis, Homeless Link, Shelter and St Mungo’s, have called on political parties to commit to end rough sleeping in Britain.

Liberal Democrat Parliamentary Candidate for Bury South, Andrew Page, said:
“It is a national scandal that so people are sleeping on the streets in 21st century Britain.

“By increasing support for homelessness prevention and properly funding emergency accommodation, we can end rough sleeping across Greater Manchester and across the country.

“We will ensure our local authority has at least one provider of Housing First services, to allow long-term homeless people to live independently in their own homes.

“The evidence suggests that supporting people and giving them long-term, stable places to stay is far more successful in tackling homelessness than constantly moving them to different temporary accommodation.

“Under this government, homelessness has soared and young people have been stripped of housing benefit, threatening to make matters even worse.