Investigations by Bury’s Liberal Democrat Councillors have reveals that uses of Bury’s libraries have dropped a shocking 55% since the review of libraries in 2016.
At the start of 2017 Bury Council’s Labour leadership concluded a ‘consultation’ of Bury library users and decided to close 10 of the 14 libraries. During the consultation, many people, including us, raised significant concerns that people would be excluded from the library service as it was not feasible to travel. Since then the library service has also slashed the opening hours of the libraries – for example Prestwich Library had a 40% reduction in opening hours (47 hours to 29.5 a week).
Not surprisingly this has resulted in a massive drop in library usage.
In 2018, there were 323,100 visits reflecting the first full year with four libraries. This compares with 681,350 visits in 2017 when the closures began to be introduced, 725,520 in 2016, and 795,200 in 2015. That is a 55% drop in library use from before the changes.
This is a real shame. Although most people in Bury do not use Libraries, for many people that do they are an important facility, providing access to facilities that wouldn’t otherwise be available and also helping reduce isolation and loneliness.
At the time of the review we proposed alternative models, for example using volunteers to help keep smaller libraries open and other libraries open for longer. We even proposed money to pay for this (proper volunteer management and training) in a fully-funded budget amendment at the time.
The public are being consulted with on two specific areas, these are:
Proposal to merge six fire stations into three new ones (in Bolton, Manchester and Stockport).
Proposal to remove the ‘second fire engine’ from 8 Fire Stations. (None of which are in Bury, or the Broughton Fire station which serves Prestwich.)
Like all fire services, Greater Manchester is continuing to have make savings because of financial pressures. These proposals will ensure that the service is on the right financial footing to be able to continue to serve the people of Greater Manchester.
The recommended option would reduce the fire service as follows
NOW 41 Fire Stations 56 Fire Engines 1246 Firefighter posts
IN THREE YEARS – 38 Fire Stations – 47 Fire Engines – 1052 Firefighter posts
To find out more about the proposals and read the full Outline Business Case, click here. The press release announcing the proposals can be found here.
Please do also let us know what you think about these changes so we can represent you best at a Greater Manchester level.
Bury Liberal Democrats have announced their key priorities for the local elections on 2 May 2019: Congestion and Air Pollution; Environment and Green Spaces and Safe and Strong Communities.
Congestion and Air Pollution Communities all over Bury suffer from congestion causing delays and increasing air pollution. Many secondary roads suffer from use as ‘rat runs’. Metrolink is a brilliant public transport option, but it is overcrowded and fares are going up well above inflation (19% over three years). Based on Transport for Greater Manchester’s own figrues, 1 in 8 passengers don’t buy a ticket.
Campaign to immediately tackle the worst congestion hot-spots by reviewing traffic flow, traffic lights sequencing and shifting parking bays off main roads onto off-street parking.
Propose traffic calming schemes where they are most needed – particularly outside schools and where roads suffer from use as ‘rat runs’
Propose a freeze on Metrolink fares, and instead tackle fare-evasion and passenger concerns over safety through the introduction of conductors on all trams – paid for by increased ticket sales.
Campaign for increased capacity on the Metrolink by extending the ‘third tram’ (Trafford Centre line in 2021) to at least Whitefield, and eventually to Bury (currently this is proposed to terminate at Crumpsall).
Tackle Air Pollution by introducing compulsory ‘no-idling’ zones around all of our schools and through prioritising newer low/zero emission buses in future bus company negotiations.
Environment and Green Spaces Bury Council is proposing through the Greater Manchester Spatial Framework to build 6,000 homes on our precious green belt land, as well as destroying whole areas of green belt for industrial use. Bury is not doing enough to help our environment by reducing waste and increasing healthy green travel.
Reject the current GMSF proposals and campaign for NO loss of green belt land.
Focus on providing the affordable houses that local people need by building on existing brownfield sites, particularly bringing life back to our town centres.
Move Bury to the forefront of developing healthy and green travel through the faster development of safe walking and cycling routes right across the Borough.
Reduce the amount of waste that Bury produces by moving Greater Manchester, and Bury in particular, to being a place with less waste produced, through working with supermarkets and residents to reduce uneccessary waste.
Safe and Strong Communities Everyone knows that the police are underfunded and it is not surprising that crime levels in many areas are increasing again. Greater Manchester Police have the worst record in the country for solving hate crimes in England.
Spend 100% of the extra police funding delivered through the increase in Police Council Tax on visible front line policing and shift focus back to visible local policing.
Provide extra police focus on solving hate crimes in our local communities.
Immediately end the disgraceful use of 15 minute home care visits by Bury Council.
Provide extra resources to enable our local schools to help increase support around mental health issues.
Prioritise the development of local services to tackle acute lonliness, particularly among older people.
Invest in our community groups and services and significantly increase the number of volunteering opportunities available.
Ensure that the redevelopment of Prestwich Village only goes ahead after the views of local people are heard, and with the current level of community facilities as a minimum.
The deadline for consultation in the Greater Manchester Spatial Framework has recently closed. Here is the response from Bury’s Liberal Democrat Group:
Thank you for being given the opportunity to comment on the revised proposals of the Greater Manchester Plan for Jobs and Homes (Greater Manchester Spatial Framework).
Please find below the formal response of the Liberal Democrat Group of councillors on Bury Metropolitan Borough Council.
We would like to make two general comments, which relate to the proposals as they affect Bury as a whole. As Councillors who represent Holyrood Ward which includes the villages of Simister and (part of) Bowlee, we would also like to make specific comments as they affect the Northern Gateway housing proposals south of the M60/M62.
Jobs, housing and land in Bury
We agree that there needs to be additional housing in Bury, and indeed across the whole of Greater Manchester. We also agree that there needs to be high quality jobs for people in Greater Manchester.
We strongly believe that this growth needs to be managed to best meet the needs of our local communities. Specifically:
We need the homes that people need, specifically a strong provision of housing units that suit younger people and also older people who wish to ‘downsize’ but remain close to family and friends.
We need the homes that people can afford. We currently have a crisis that an increasing number of people are being excluded from buying their own home and are trapped living with parents, or trapped in high rental accommodation. We need to provide a good mixture of housing that means people can find the homes they need and can afford.
Growth must not come at the expense of quality of life. Greater Manchester’s green belt has ‘done what it was intended to do’ very successfully over the 50/60 years by ensuring that there are ‘green gaps’ between our towns and communities. We believe these green gaps are worth preserving to provide gaps between our towns, space for leisure and also something to alleviate the high levels of air pollution we suffer from.
On housing numbers we believe the Government is wrong to force councils to use 2014 figures, when more recent figures given a lower amount. Even the 2018 figures will be available soon and may well provide a more realistic forecast of growth given the current economic uncertainty following the EU referendum in 2016.
Our approach would be have zero loss of green belt land. The Mayor of Greater Manchester promised zero net loss of Green Belt in the run up to his election and he should stand by that promise.
We would do this through:
Making maximum use of brown field sites across all ten districts.
Reviewing density on all existing sites to ensure maximum housing provision on sites to be used.
Working with more with our neighbours (particularly in Bury’s case Rossendale)
By being more ambitious in our plans to revitalise Town Centres to provide higher density living.
We believe that in doing this we can make a strong case to the Planning Inspectorate to have an increase in housing, which may well be below the 2014 figures, but which can be met with no loss of green belt land.
With regard to employment land. We feel that the current Northern Gateway site is an overdevelopment. It is an area with very poor public transport access and on a motorway which is already at capacity. We would prefer to focus employment in existing town and city centres with good public transport links. We believe Bury’s towns could make a strong case for better employment opportunities, particularly around higher quality provision of offices or for small and start up businesses.
Transport Capacity in the Bury-Manchester corridor and M60 North
We are concerned about the lack of capacity, and the lack of proposed increased capacity, on the main transport corridor between Bury and Manchester.
We are councillors who represent a ward in Prestwich and Whitefield, both of which currently suffer from significant congestion in transport at the present time. This is both on the roads, with the A56 through Prestwich recently scoring as the most congested road in the North West of England (and eight most congested nationally).
The Metrolink line is a brilliant asset for Bury, but at present the tram is full to beyond capacity at the southern end of the line, with the existing housing.
There is no capacity improvements forseen on the A56 in the transport plan published alongside the GMSF. Indeed in the revised Bee Network proposals the A56 is highlighted as a core route for safe cycling all the way to Manchester. We very much welcome safer cycling but this would seriously reduce vehicular capacity on this route.
The only capacity improvement proposed for the Manchester to Bury Metrolink is the additional 2ndtrams that have already been ordered which may well help with the current capacity issues but will not cope with more houses.
As a minimum we need to provide additional Metrolink capacity on the Bury Manchester line. At the moment a tram (Airport) terminates at Victoria. Another (Trafford Centre) is proposed to terminate at Crumpsall in 2021. At least one of these needs to be extended to Bury (or at least Whitefield) to deal with the congestion which exists between Crumpsall and Whitefieid.
The M60 as it passes between Prestwich and Whitefield is a highly congested stretch of motorway. We have recently endured many years of roadworks to create a smart motorway but there remains very significant capacity problems with standing traffic at many times of the day. Not only is this bad for travel times but it also will contribute to poor air pollution and reduce life expectancy.
The GMSF in its current proposals will add to this congestion with the creation of the Northern Gateway employment site on a massive scale. This will be significant increase in goods and car journeys on the M60 north/M62 which there is just not the capacity to do so. There are vague indicates for an additional motorway junction near to Birch services, but this will make congestion worse as junctions add to congestion not alleviate it.
The northern gateway site is sited poorly for public transport and this lack of public transport is not addressed in the transport plan (except the vague plan of new bus routes). Most young people cannot drive so employment should be provided alongside good public transport links.
The only proposal to address capacity is a vague plan to improve the flow of traffic at Simister Island. As the councillors who represent Simister we have grave concerns about the impact on the village of any new construction which will seriously impact on the village, but also on the two schools (St Margaret’s primary and Parrenthorn High) which are both close ot the junction the southern side.
We strongly believe that these transport, congestion and air pollution issues must be addressed properly in the GMSF. We cannot have a proposal for jobs and houses that is adding to congestion, adding to air pollution and as a result reducing life expectancy.
Housing Proposals in Simister and Bowlee
As councillors for Holyrood Ward we have the honour of representing residents in the village of Simister and also the western halves of Bowlee and Rhodes which are part of Bury MBC.
Simister is a unique part of Prestwich and indeed Bury. It is a proud village community, unique in being the closest village to Manchester city centre. The village has strong links with the surrounding countryside, most of which is dairy farms but also sees significant equestrian use with horse riding a daily feature in the village. The village is of a linear nature based along Simister Lane which is an extremely narrow road which already struggles to cope with existing traffic. Simister is the home to Holyrood Ward’s largest employer, the Brookvale centres for people with learning difficulties, which provides residents with a pleasant village environment. Simister has an important nature site, the Simister Wetland, which is of scientific importance and the home to many living creatures some of whom have protected status.
Be very clear that the proposals, as they now stand, would destroy this village. Even though the proposals seem to indicate that there would be a gap of a 100m or so between the existing village and new houses, this will still destroy the character of the village. It is utterly ridiculous to think that a village can survive its character if it is completely surrounded by 2,700 new houses.
On the Bowlee and Rhodes side the proposals seem to indicate that all the traffic from the 2,700 new houses will enter and exit onto Heywood Old Road. This road already suffers from sever congestion with standing traffic going right up towards Heywood in the mornings. There is just no capacity to have any roads emptying out onto Heywood Old Road and this scheme has been poorly thought out.
The green belt land which surrounds Simister and Bowlee is an important piece of Green Belt which must be protected.
It currently provides a green barrier between the urban areas of Prestwich and Middleton and between Whitefield and Middleton/Heywood. If the proposals of the GMSF go ahead there will be continuous development between Prestwich, Whitefield, Middeton and Heywood which would seriously impact on the quality of life for people who live there. A ‘green strip’ needs to be retained between these communities.
As previously stated, air pollution is a significant concern in the M60 and M62 areas. These motorways are extremely congested, and will be even more congested if the Northern Gateway employment site is developed. Development of 2,600 hosues around Simister and Bowlee will mean building right up to the M60 and M62. We should not be building houses in places which will give people a reduced life expectancy.
Councillor Mary D’Albert, Holyrood Ward
Councillor Tim Pickstone, Holyrood Ward (Group Leader)
Councillor Steve Wright, Holyrood Ward (Deputy Group Leader)
Greater Manchester’s council leaders and the Mayor have agreed an outline business case to put to Government for the introduction of clean air zone charging.
Why is this happening:
People will be aware of the significant concerns about rising air pollution across the country. The Government has placed legal responsibility for complying with NO2 limits with local authorities.
The proposals are that:
– All diesel buses and HGV lorries that do not meet emissions standards would pay £100 a day to drive in Greater Manchester (not including motorways).
– All diesel taxis, minibuses and vans that do not meet the emissions standards would pay £7.50 a day to drive in Greater Manchester. (not including motorways).
A two-phase approach would see diesel buses, coaches, HGVs, taxis and private hire vehicles face daily charges from 2021, charges for vans would follow by 2023.
There would be no charges for private cars.
Part of the business case being put to Government is that there would be Government money made available to help non-compliant buses, lorries, vans, taxis be upgraded or ‘retro-fitted’ to be non or low emission vehicles.
Issues and Comments The plan has been criticised from different sides:
Friends of the Earth are critical that the plan is not fast enough, and does not cover all polluting vehecles.
Manchester Friends of the Earth say:
“We are dismayed that Greater Manchester will not tackle illegal levels of air pollution before 2024.
Greater Manchester has the highest rates of emergency admissions to hospital for asthma in the whole country. But Greater Manchester will not have a plan in place before the end of 2019 and is not planning to achieve legally compliant air quality levels before 2024.
The government’s own evidence is that the most effective measures are Clean Air Zones covering all polluting vehicles. This must be introduced as soon as possible, along with measures to help people out of their cars and into cleaner methods of transport.” (full comments here).
Bus, taxi and fleet operators have also objected to the increased costs:
Stagecoach Manchester hinted the clean air zone plan could make travelling on buses more expensive, with the charges buses would face being passed on to fares.
Figures show Greater Manchester local authorities licence around 2,100 taxi vehicles and 13,800 private hire vehicles. Of those, 89 per cent of taxis and 67 per cent of private hire vehicles are currently non compliant with required emission levels under the plans.
For buses, there are about 2,200 buses operating in Greater Manchester of which about 2,000 are currently not compliant with the regulations. Even we managed to replace or retrofit half of those buses by 2021, then buses would still be charged £36 million a year.
What do you think? Our view is that something must be done about air pollution. Replacing polluting diesel vehicles with cleaner engines should be a key part of this.
BUT we worry that the charging proposals as they are will hurt too many people (anyone who uses a bus, self employed and small businesses etc).
For the Prestwich area, we worry that no attention is being given to motorways, which are one of our biggest sources of air pollution.
We think we must also focus on reducing the number of cars on the road – for example by increasing Metrolink use by making fares affordable (currently 1 in 8 passengers don’t pay at all!) and providing increased capacity, AND by making walking and cycling safer and more attractive.
Next steps – The plans need to be submitted to government by the end of March
– Everyone in Greater Manchester – residents, businesses, organisations, interest groups andpoliticians – will have the chance to have their say and help shape how we tackle air pollution. GM will be launching a public conversation in mid-May, running until the end of June, for people to give feedback and help shape the detailed design.
– A Full Business Case would then be developed by the end of 2019.
– Subject to government approval, measures would be introduced by 2021.
A survey released by Age UK has found that more than 50,000 older people have now died waiting in vain for care during the 700 days since the Government first said it would publish a Care Green Paper
Over the same period, in excess of half a million older people (626,701) have had their requests for social care refused, and 7,240 older people have had the terrible experience of running down all their savings because of their care bills, leaving them reliant on the state to fund their care in future and with nothing to leave for loved ones after their death and 1,263,844 older people have developed an unmet need, such as being able to wash or dress. This is 1,805 developing an unmet need every day.
Commenting on the findings, Liberal Democrat Health Spokesperson, Baroness Judith Jolly, said:
“The statistics and personal stories uncovered by Age UK are deeply distressing to read. I cannot understand how the Conservative Government can hear these stories and continue to ignore the crisis in social care.
“The Conservative Government has failed. They have delayed the Social Care Green Paper six times because of their failure. The Conservatives must now work with other political parties to achieve a genuine long term, sustainable settlement for the NHS and social care.
“The Liberal Democrats would put a penny on income tax to directly invest funds in social care. We will also keep making the case for a new, dedicated NHS and care tax to guarantee a modern, effective and efficient NHS and care system to ensure that when our loved ones need help, help is there.”
Bury Liberal Democrat Councillor Mary D’Albert said:
“Now is the time for answers. Every day that is spent further defining the problem and consulting on changes, is another day in which people’s lives are not being lived to the full.
“The current system of social care is unsustainable and will buckle under the weight of demand. With people living longer, increases in costs and decreases in funding, adult social care is at breaking point. This is something that the Government must address in its Green Paper on social care and in the forthcoming Spending Review.”
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.