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.”
Just to report back from two recent Council meetings. Last month the Council’s Audit Committee met.Councillor Steve Wrightreports:
At the previous meeting in late July the committee should have been presented with the final Audited accounts. The Councils Auditors (Mazars) were unable to sign the accounts because of problems with valuations.At this meeting the Account would be signed off by Mazars and further explanation of the issues with them. The valuations were on Property Plant and Equipment although there wasn’t overall any discrepancies in the values the Auditors said
Significant difficulties during the auditDuring the course of the audit we encountered some significant difficulties with the accounts initially presented for audit, most notably in relation to the compliance with the Code, the capital accounting arrangements, and responses to audit. This meant there was extensive and unexpected effort required to obtain sufficient, appropriate audit evidence, including in respect of the following, which is indicative rather than exhaustive.
Accounting for Property Plant & Equipment is one of the more technically difficult areas of the Council’s accounts. It is also one of the areas of highest value and therefore is identified by us as an area where there is a significant risk of material error. Our audit work identified a number of issues:
the fixed asset register did not initially reconcile to the ledger and accounts disclosures;
the instructions to the Council’s valuer were last issued in 2014/15 and were therefore out of date. There was no evidence of reviewor consideration of the work required in the intervening period;
there was a lack of clarity on the effective date of revaluations undertaken in year – the extant (though dated) instructions to the valuer and valuation certificates were based on 1 April 2018 but finance applied the valuations as at 31 March 2019;
the consequence of the confusion above the valuation date gave rise to an error in the depreciation charge for 2018/19, as well as the amounts charged through the capital reserves; With all these issues with the Audit the extra time and effort put in by Mazars it was estimated that the extra cost to the Council for the Audit would be £30000.
In Addition to the audited accounts the committee had a look at the quarterly financial monitoring report which didn’t look to bad with the outrun estimated at under one million pounds compared to two and a half the previous year. Which means that no over spend could be achievable this year. However the panel were shocked to hear that nearly two million pounds had been used from the CCG budget to top the figure up.
Corporate Core and HR The ‘Corporate Core’ was established recently to bring together several existing areas of the Council into one team. This has seen a single HR team being established to deliver a 20% reduction in costs. A joint communications team has also been set up.
‘Bury 2030’ Bury 2030 is the name given to the Council’s scheme to work towards the future of the borough over the next ten years. All members of the public will have the opportunity to contribute their ideas and priorities, whether these are for the whole borough, their town or even just their street. A school competition will also take place to ensure the thoughts of school children are taken into account.
Staff Volunteering Policy A new policy has started up at Bury Council to allow all staff to be entitled to 3 days a year of volunteering during work time. Bury was previously one of only a few boroughs in the region that didn’t have such a scheme. A register will be used to ensure that local charities and organisations that wish to benefit or included on the scheme.
Other issues – The Council is updating the corporate risk register to help the Council to deal with the potential impact of Brexit
– A project manager has been put in charge of the Prestwich Village development plan, with a draft plan to cabinet hopefully being ready relatively soon.
– A cross-party working group has been set up to work towards future actions and plans for Bury Market.
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.
Greater Manchester’s Council leaders have announced that the next draft of the Greater Manchester Spatial Framework (GMSF) will definitely be delayed to summer 2020.
Over 60,000 comments on the latest draft were received and the Council Leaders say that they will use the next six months to have ‘further engagement’ on the main issues. The comments received from the public on the previous draft will be published at the start of October.
Councils will approve the next draft in June 2020, no coincidence at all that this will be just after the council elections and elections for Greater Manchester Mayor which take place in May………..
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.
Council Leaders in Greater Manchester have voted to introduce a £10 a year charge for pensioners to travel for free on Metrolink and trains.
The charge will come into effect in 2020 and is expected to bring in in around £1.2 million, straight out of the pockets of Greater Manchester’s pensioners. This was supported by the nine Labour Council Leaders (including Bury’s), the Labour Mayor and the Conservative Leader of Bolton Council.
Bus travel will still be free, but for us this extra charge for pensioners at the worst possible time. Free TV licenses for the over 75s end next year, and many older people being hit by increasing fuel and Council Tax bills.
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.”
Last month was there regular meeting of Bury Council’s Cabinet. Opposition Leaders are allowed to attend the meeting but not vote. Councillor Cristina Tegoloreports:
Corporate Finance Monitoring Report The Leader and Cabinet Chair, submitted the Cabinet Financial monitoring report. The report informs Members of the Council’s financial position for the period April 2019 to June 2019 and projects the estimated outturn at the end of 2019/20. The revenue budget projections highlight the fact that budget pressures exist in some key areas and it will be necessary to continue to maintain the high level of scrutiny, control and support around the Budget Recovery Boards and to further develop the savings pipeline. The report projected an overspend at the end of the year of £0.996m.
Greater Manchester Full Fibre Programme The Leader of the Council submitted a report setting out details of the Greater Manchester Full Fibre programme. The report provided an overview of the capital funding available for GM of £23.8m. The funding will connect full fibre to over 1,300 GM Public sector sites. These include Local Authority, GM Fire and Rescue, Health and Social Care partnerships (CCGs) sites across the region.
The Cabinet agreed to an investment of £469k capital from Bury Council plus additional capital to fund a dedicated Project Manager post on a 2-year fixed term basis.
Revised Supplementary Planning Document 6 – Alteration and Extensions to Residential Planning The Leader of the Council submitted a report setting out details of the Supplementary Planning Document (SPD) 6. The document provides more detailed guidance to support Unitary Development Plan Policy H2/3 and sets out a range of requirements for alterations and extensions to residential properties.
Our worry is that the changes should consider safety and include detail information for EV Homecharge. Bury citizens should take advantage of government grants to help fund the cost of a specially designed home charging point, which is safer than charging from the mains. I am not sure these issues have been addressed sufficiently.
Residents Parking Review The cabinet has agreed the details of a new annual residents parking scheme:
Over 50% of the properties affected must be in favour of a scheme for it to be implemented.
A minimum of 10 properties must indicate support to initiate the Council to investigate a residents parking scheme request.
The costs and fees associated with all residents parking schemes are reviewed annually as part of the budget setting process with the objective of being cost neutral.
Each scheme will be reviewed every 5 years to ensure that they continue to be supported by the local community and demonstrate value for money.
Hopefully, the revised residents parking policy will provide a more comprehensive guidance that officers can follow. Our worry is that costs and fees associated with residents parking scheme could raise considerably.
Purchase by the Council of 458 Bury New Road, Prestwich (Istambul Restaurant) The Leader of the Council submitted a report setting out details of plans to purchase the freehold of a commercial property in Prestwich has emerged. Because of commercial information, part of the proposals were considered as an ‘exempt item’ which we cannot report back on.
The property is located on the site where the Council is planning to develop the new Prestwich Village scheme. The Cabinet agreed to utilise the fund established to create an ‘Investment Property Acquisition Fund’. Our worry is that the purchase of this commercial property is not based on a regeneration strategy. Indeed, the Council hasn’t consulted with Prestwich residents yet and key stakeholders haven’t prepared a detailed proposal that justifies an expenditure of approx. £500K.
More information and the full papers for the meeting are here.
Govt forced to publish data showing less than 3 in 10 UK exporters are prepared for ‘no deal’ BrexitNew data obtained by the Liberal Democrats from HM Treasury shows less than 3 in 10 exporters to the EU are ready for a ‘no deal’ Brexit. Figures suggest most will not be ready until the beginning of 2021.
In a no-deal Brexit, businesses that currently only trade with EU countries will need to apply for an Economic Operator Registration and Identification (EORI) number to trade goods into and out of the UK. HMRC uses this number to identify the business and collect duty on their goods.Various business lobbying organisations have been warning for months of a serious lack of preparedness amongst firms for a ‘no deal’ Brexit and how few British exporters to the EU have an EORI number enabling them to continue to trade after a ‘no deal’ Brexit.Chuka Umunna MP, the Liberal Democrats’ Treasury & Business spokesperson asked HM Treasury (HMT) for the latest figures on how many businesses that will need an EORI number to export to the EU have one, in a parliamentary question on 18th July.
However he was told by the Financial Secretary Jesse Norman MP in an answer shortly before the summer Recess on 23rd July that “data on the number of traders that would need a UK EORI number is not readily available.”
This was in spite of the fact that Government has already privately shared the most recent data with various business groups. HMT also publicly released such data at the start the year but that was before leaving the EU ‘do or die’ on 31 October 2019 became government policy.Mr Umunna threatened to raise a Point of Order, complaining to the House of Commons Speaker about the unwarranted withholding of such data from Parliament, and also said he would submit a Freedom of Information Request to force disclosure of the latest data.
As a result, HMT have now provided the latest EORI numbers data to Mr Umunna which suggests less than 3 in 10 exporters that will need an EORI number to trade in a ‘no deal’ scenario have one. If exporters to the EU register for an EORI number at the current rate (up to 10,000 per month), all businesses exporting to the EU won’t be registered until the beginning of 2021 at the earliest.The data reveals:* Since December 2018, approximately 66,000 traders who currently trade just with the EU have been issued with a UK EORI number. * However, based on 2018 data, HMRC estimate that there are approximately 150,000 VAT registered traders who currently trade with the EU and may therefore need to obtain a UK EORI number.* Figures released by HMRC in February 2019 revealed there were a further 95,000 non VAT registered businesses that trade with the EU and need to take action too. * According to HMRC the volume of businesses that have registered for UK EORI numbers to date is equivalent to around two thirds of the total value of trade undertaken with the EU, by VAT registered companies. \ Commenting on the forced release of the latest EORI data, Chuka Umunna, the Liberal Democrat Treasury & Business spokesperson, said:“These figures reveal that an overwhelming majority of UK exporters to the EU are unprepared for a ‘no deal’ Brexit and will not be in a position to deal with the mountain of red tape and bureaucracy it will burden them with on 31 October. “Pursuing a ‘no deal’ Brexit is wholly irresponsible political choice of the new administration for which there is no mandate and which will put businesses and jobs at risk.“Any form of Brexit will harm the economy and put obstacles in front of UK firms which is why Liberal Democrats not only want a final say for the people on any deal but are also the only party that can get into Government which is committed to stopping Brexit altogether.”
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.