Liberal Democrats are renewing calls for the Vagrancy Act to be scrapped following the publication of new ONS statistics revealing a rise in the deaths of homeless people in 2018.
The ONS data shows that there were an estimated 726 deaths in 2018, an increase of over 20% on the previous year. In the North West alone region 103 homeless people are estimated to have died.
Liberal Democrat Group Leader Councillor Tim Pickstone said:
“These figures are simply shocking. Clearly it takes more than a rough sleeping strategy document and the creation of a Minister for Homelessness to fix this epidemic. We should all be deeply ashamed that this is getting even worse.
“This out of sight, out of mind mentality needs to stop now. People are dying, and we need to take a more compassionate approach to ending this homelessness crisis. We must protect the most vulnerable people in our society, but instead the Conservatives are sitting on their hands.”
Liberal Democrat MP Layla Moran led a Private Members Bill earlier this year to scrap the Vagrancy Act:
“We first need to scrap the cruel, Dickensian Vagrancy Act, which criminalises rough sleeping. The Conservatives are more than welcome to bring back my Bill that would repeal it in a heartbeat.
“The Liberal Democrats demand better. We would also build up to 100,000 social homes a year to provide the accommodation and support people need.”
Liberal Democrats have committed to ambitious plans for fight against our climate crisis.
Our planet is in crisis, balanced on a knife-edge at the point of no return.
Due to man-made climate change, global temperatures are soaring, the polar ice caps are melting faster than ever before, and whole nations are already facing the existential crisis of rising sea levels and extreme weather. Whole species of animals are being wiped out month by month, and global famine is a very real threat.
This is something that we can only tackle if we all work together, collaborating with every single nation across the globe. No one will be unaffected, but, just like with Brexit, the poorest in society will suffer first and suffer most deeply.
We need to take action now. The government needs to move much faster and be much more ambitious in the steps it is taking to prevent the largest global crisis the world has ever faced. And as President Trump unpicks environmental protections one by one, harming the whole world in the process, we need to take centre stage as a global leader on tackling man-made climate change.
That’s why, at the Liberal Democrat Autumn Conference in Bournemouth, our members have backed radical action to cut carbon emissions by 75% in the next 10 years.
The Liberal Democrats will:
Empower councils and give them the resources to reduce emissions and set up green projects in a way that makes sense in their own communities
Plant 60 million trees a year, every year, which is one tree for every person in the UK
Convert rail networks to ultra-low-emission technology (electric or hydrogen) by 2035
Ban non-recyclable single-use plastics within three years
and a whole lot more!
There’s no time for wringing our hands when it comes to the climate crisis. Our new policy lays out a credible plan for fast, effective action to beat global heating.
At last week’s full meeting of Bury Council, the local Liberal Democrat group proposed a motion calling for Metrolink to trial the use of conductors on trams.
The motion was passed with unanimous support from all parties in the Council, which means the Council will now formally request the move from Transport for Greater Manchester
New Prestwich Councillor Michael Powell used his ‘maiden speech’ to propose the motion, pointing towards the hope that conductors on trams would help to alleviate two particular existing issues with the service – rise in anti-social behaviour and violence, and high levels of evasion. Last year, police were called to nearly 3,500 Metrolink incidents and Metrolink currently estimate that 1 in 8 journeys across the service are currently going unpaid.
Our view is that there is a simple solution for both of these problems- providing permanent on-board staff on all journeys across the network.
Around £10 million is current being lost each year from fare evasion. This would be enough to pay for about 300 conductors.
The Liberal Democrat proposal was supported by the whole of Bury Council at the meeting and the proposals will now go forward to Transport for Greater Manchester.
Last week was the monthly meeting of Bury Planning Control Committee. This is the meeting made up of the 11 Councillors who represent the various wards of the borough of Bury. The committee determines planning applications for certain major developments and others where objections have been received.
Prior to the Committee meeting, a site visit took place in respect of planning application 63324, at the Moutheath Industrial Estate off George Street in Prestwich.
At the meting this application received approval but we raised some concerns:
We discussed a proposed development to the south of George Street, in Prestwich, for the erection of 124 no. dwellings.
An outline planning permission on the site had already received outline planning consent in February 2017 (for the demolition of the existing buildings and the redevelopment of the site for up to 160 dwellings and 2,959 square metres of employment floorspace). Therefore, the Planning Committee could only consider matters in relation to the layout, scale, appearance and landscaping of the proposed development.
The applicant will be taking advantage of a national policy, Vacant Building Credit (VBC), which is intended to incentivise brownfield development, including the reuse or redevelopment of empty and redundant buildings. In short term, under the VBC policy, the floorspace of any existing vacant unit is used to offset the number of affordable housing that that the landowner has to provide when redeveloping a brownfield site.
The vacant units in the proposed development have a total floorspace of 5,365.5 square feet, which would reduce the on-site affordable housing to 18 units.
We analysed the merits and I raised at the meeting the following points:
Highlighting that this “generic” development was not catering for the specific needs of the local community which contains a significant Orthodox Jewish population, the second largest in the UK.
Identifying those units that did not have an accessible WC at ground floor level and that didn’t allow for manoeuvring space for a wheelchair by the main entrance door.
Putting an investigative so that electric vehicle charging points would be included.
Clarifying that the proposed 2.1metre high close boarded timber acoustic fence, and any perimetral fence within the boundary, should be installed based on the final FFL of the proposed development, which will be finalised only when the level of Singleton Brook is confirmed.
More information and the full papers for the meeting are here.
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.”
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.
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
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.
Last week was the first Overview & Scrutiny meeting of the new Council year which saw a series of presentations by representatives from the different Council departments. These outlined each department’s work programme and priorities for the coming year.
Strategy and transformation: – Developing a ‘corporate core’- bringing support services and staff together to build up capacity and improve efficiency- Quarterly budget monitoring report updates to be sent to Councillors as well as end of year reports- Lead officers to be put in charge of each work stream (e.g. Finance, Governance, ICT and Digital, HR)Children and young people: – Increasing number of foster carers inside the borough and reducing reliance on external carers- Enhanced support for care leavers- Working to further reduce permanent exclusion numbers- Enhanced early support strategy to support new LAC (Looked After Children)- Implement early intervention schemes in schools needing support
Operations: – Continuing to work towards a more productive and reliable waste service operation- Implementing a ‘preventative maintenance’ approach to highways (i.e. developing a programme for all roads to be addressed after a set period to prevent deterioration of highways)- Introducing a plastic strategy to minimise use of single-use plastics across the borough- Improving the customer interface to make reporting problems involving highways even easier and more efficient for residents
Business growth and infrastructure: – Beginning work on regeneration scheme in Radcliffe- Implementing £10 million investment in Prestwich village centre (following consultation process with residents in the Summer)- Continuing to develop land and property portfolio- Moving forwards with GM spatial framework and focusing on scope for development on brownfield sites- Working towards potential regeneration of Bury Interchange (supported by T4GM)
The papers for the meeting are here. Any questions please just ask!
Investigations by Bury’s Liberal Democrat councillors has revealed that Labour and Conservative councillors have not allocated around half of the money allocated to them for their local communities.
Only two areas – the Liberal Democrat councillors in Holyrood Ward and also the councillors in Tottington – have allocated the total of £4,500 allocated under the Elected Member Discretionary Budgets during that period.
The scheme was set up in December 2017 for councillors to support local projects and initiatives within their ward and wider township at their discretion.
More information was provided in an investigation by the Bury Times, reveal that only £41,801.96 was spent by councillors in their communities out of a possible £76,500.
Liberal Democrat Group Leader Cllr Tim Pickstone said: “We welcomed the decision to provide councillors with small delegated budgets to spend on priorities in their own wards. Liberal Democrat councillors in Holyrood ward have had no difficulty making sure all of that money has gone to the right place supporting a whole variety of community groups and initiatives.”
“There are so many good causes that need our support so I am amazed that only two of the 17 wards in Bury have spent the money that has been allocated to them.”
Councillors in Radcliffe West spent the least money at £312 out of a possible £4,5000 while Besses and St Mary’s wards spent around £700 each.
Liberal Democrat Group Leader, Councillor Tim Pickstone said: “This is the first time in a decade that the Liberal Democrats have won so many seats in Bury. Not only that but we also got significantly more votes than Labour across the three Prestwich seats.
Local people are sending a clear message that Labour’s policies around building on our green belt land, and their failure to tackle congestion and air pollution need to change”.