Bury Courts to Close – Threat to Local Justice

The Government has confirmed that the Magistrates Court in Bury is to close, alongside a large number of other courts across the country.

In the North West the following courts will be closing:
Accrington County Court
Accrington Magistrates’ Court
Bolton County Court and Family Court
Bury Magistrates’ Court and County Court
Kendal Magistrates’ Court and County Court
Macclesfield County Court
Macclesfield Magistrates’ Court
Oldham County Court
Oldham Magistrates’ Court
Ormskirk Magistrates’ Court and Family Court
Runcorn (Halton) Magistrates’ Court
Tameside County Court Closing
Trafford Magistrates’ Court and Altrincham County Court
Warrington County Court

Liberal Democrats have warned the closure of so many local courts threatens to undermine access to justice for local people. Victims and witnesses will have to travel, sometimes a significant distance, to attend their nearest court or tribunal proceedings rather than going to their local magistrates’ court.
We support any attempts to upgrade our legal system but this should be done while maintaining a high functioning and local justice system.

In Bury we were strong supporters of the all-party council motion and camapaign to save the court in Bury during the Government’s consultation period, and it is a shame the Government has not listened to local people.

CourtClosed

 

Liberal Democrats Justice Spokesperson Jonathan Marks QC said:
“Publishing the Government’s response to the consultation on court closures as Parliament rises for recess is a sneaky move to prevent debate on an issue fundamental to British justice.

“The closure of courts, particularly in rural areas, threatens access to local justice. There are clear savings to be made in the Court system, but simply shutting courts at the expense of the communities they serve is not the right approach.

“Courts should only be closed where it can be demonstrated that local communities will not lose out. Greater efficiency cannot always be achieved by a ‘digital by default’ approach.”

Mental Health Report

Mental Health Report

Liberal Democrats welcome the Mental Health Taskforce Report which looks to revolutionise our mental health services and bring an end to discrimination.

Critically, it endorses the plan to introduce comprehensive maximum waiting time standards in mental health. Mental health was left out of maximum waiting time standards when they were introduced by Labour over a decade ago. The Liberal Democrats introduced the first ever waiting time standards in mental health – but until there are comprehensive rights to get treatment on time, discrimination against those with mental illness will continue.

It is excellent news that the Taskforce has recommended that out-of-area mental health placements are eliminated entirely. Too often people with mental illness are shunted across the country as a result of bed pressures in local hospitals, and Norman Lamb MP has repeatedly called on the Government to bring an end to this practice.

It is essential that the Government makes sure that these recommendations are properly funded and delivered in full.

However, while the Government says it will commit an extra £1bn for mental health by 2020, it’s not clear how much of this money is new. There is a suspicion that this is recycling money made in previous announcements, while the rest will be taken from other parts of the system with no money to spare. We need complete transparency on where this money is coming from, how much of it is new, and how and when it will be spent.

Norman Lamb MP

Housing

Liberal Democrat peers will protect social housing by blocking controversial plans in the government’s Housing and Planning Bill.

Controversial plans in the Bill, which Liberal Democrat peers hope to curb include the imposition of starter homes, Pay to Stay, the extension of Right to Buy and the end of lifetime tenancies.

These four are among around 100 amendments published today to the Government’s Housing and Planning Bill.

The Liberal Democrats have moved to strike out Pay to Stay altogether, while Labour has put forward amendments to water down the policy.

Pay to Stay will see  families or individuals with a total income of £40,000 plus a year in London, and £30,000 plus outside the capital, forced to pay the rental market rate. The increase of which will go to the Treasury rather than local councils.

 

Standing Up for Private Renters

At the most recent meeting of Bury Council, the team of Lib Dem councillors were successful in getting the Council to agree to take more action to stand up for private renters.

Across Bury around 14% of all housing is private rented housing, meaning private landlords are a major provider of housing in the Borough. Our view is that it is great that people wish to invest in housing in the Borough and provide options for housing in the area.

The vast majority of private landlords are good and responsible landlords, but many people get in touch with us with concerns about the minority who might treat tenants badly and leave houses in a poor state of upkeep which can bring down a local neighbourhood.

A motion brought to Bury Council by Lib Dem Councillors, supported by other parties and now the policy of the Council called for:

– the Government to take more action, and take further the powers to tackle ‘rogue landlords’ and ‘revenge evictions’
– lobby the Government to move towards a compulsory licensing scheme for private landlords.
– Bury Council to extend its own Landlord Accreditation Scheme – currently only 1.5% of properties are part of the scheme – we would like to see accreditation as the ‘norm’ so that tenants know that a house they are renting is part of an approved scheme
– look at extending the ‘paperless bond’ deposit support scheme, which is currently only available to people in certain circumstances and eligible for Housing Benefit.

Lib Dem Group Leader Cllr Tim Pickstone said:
“Although the vast majority of rented accommodation is great, there are examples everywhere of houses that are badly kept and where landlords are exploiting their tenants. What we would like to see is a much more professional system where private landlords need a kind of license. Local government also needs to be adequately resourced to provide advice to private tenants.”

The Bury Times wrote up the debate here.

“We must shine a light on the barbaric practice of FGM” Lynne Featherstone

Responding to reports that a case of FGM is reported in England every 109 minutes, Former Liberal Democrat DfID Minister Lynne Featherstone said:

_71657025_71657024

“The Liberal Democrats in Coalition ensured the NHS must report cases of FGM , it is vital that we shine a light on this barbaric practice.

“It is shocking how many cases are now coming forward but we must see this as a positive. Without knowing the true extent of the problems we do not face a hope of stopping it. The rate in which cases are reported shows how much work is still left to do. We must highlight the issue in schools, ensuring that young girls are educated about the issue at a young age.

“Tomorrow is International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation and the fight is far from over. The more we increase awareness of the horrific nature of FGM the easier it will be to end it.“

Trades Union Condemns 15 Minute Care Slots

The local government trades union, UNISON, has condemned local councils who insist on providing 15-minute homecare visits for elderly and disabled people.

Research last year by the local Lib Dems found that Bury provided 200,000 home care visits of 15 minutes or less in a year. The research showed that on average 549,000 home care visits were provided – 37% were of 15 minutes or under and 4% 5 minutes or under.

Sign our Petition to end 15 Minute Care Visits in Bury here.

Find out more about UNISON’s Save Care Now campaign here.

(c) UNISON

A new report by UNISON reveals that 74% of councils are still commissioning 15-minute homeware visits. The union says that these councils are acting against National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) guidelines on homecare.

And UNISON believes that the lack of time homecare workers are given to provide care symbolises an “escalating crisis” in the homecare system.

A report “Suffering Alone At Home“, published by the union in January, contains a number of personal experiences of homecare workers, which help to illustrate the human cost of the cuts.

It also includes a new survey of 1,102 homecare workers. Of these:
– 58% have been given just 15 minutes or less to deliver personal care for homecare users;
– 57% have been given just 15 minutes or less to deliver personal care for somebody they have never met before
;
– 61% have not had enough time to provide a dignified level of personal care to a homecare user aged over 90 years;
– 74% believe they do not have enough time to provide dignified care for their homecare users.

UNISON gleaned its information about local authority operations under the Freedom of Information Act. It found no improvement in the attitude to 15-minute homecare visits in the past year, with councils ignoring the recent NICE guidelines – among these, that care workers should spend at least 30 minutes on home visits to older people in England.

Homecare workers speak out
“It makes me feel angry, ashamed and embarrassed…. Service users feel let down by workers constantly changing, coming at different times every day and being in a rush to do the job and move on because of their time constraints.”

“I hate not having enough time with dementia clients, because they tend to be very lonely.”

“Not being able to spend longer with clients who are terminally ill makes me feel as if I’m shortchanging them – and makes it seem as if I don’t care about them.”

“A lot of the elderly are lonely, and if we have to leave early you are taking away one of their few opportunities for some company.”

“It’s disrespectful. These people have lived through wars to become reliant on help. It feels like you’re abusing them or their rights.”

“In the past I have been the only person to see a service user on Christmas day and their birthday. It makes you feel very sad and you just try to do your best to make it a bit more special.”

“12 years experience didn’t prepare me for the feeling of failing a person.”

“Guilt, that is what you feel. I am not in this type of work just for a wage. I want to make a difference to people, more so to those who have no-one. I want to let them know there are people who care.”

Lib Dems call for fair funding for Mental Health Services

The Lib Dem’s shadow Health Spokesperson has called for fair funding for mental health services following research that showed that mental health trusts continue to be under significant pressure, including a rise in the number of unexpected deaths and suicide.

Norman Lamb MP

The figures from NHS England were unearthed after an FOI request from the Liberal Democrat Health spokesperson Norman Lamb, and cover serious incidents reported between 2012-2013 and 2014-2015.

Health spokesperson Norman Lamb said:

“The Clinical Commissioning groups should be equally focussed on mental health as well as physical health.

“At the moment whenever they feel under pressure to cut budgets, it’s the unprotected mental health services that get sliced.

“Year after year the problem occurs, and year after year the problem gets worse.

“This cannot continue any longer. People are literally dying as a result of the horrific under funding. People are losing their lives as a consequence of the institutional discrimination of mental health.

“The way that funding gets allocated to mental health always means that it loses out.”

Responding to the Google tax settlement, Susan Kramer, Liberal Democrat Treasury Spokesperson, said:

“This settlement shows once again that the Government is allowing one rule for the biggest companies and another for ordinary taxpayers.

“Last year HMRC didn’t even bother to answer the phone to taxpayers up to 55% of the time, yet they are more than willing to spend years negotiate sweetheart deals with giant multinationals.

“Any ordinary small business owner who failed to pay their taxes for 11 years wouldn’t be getting a cosy chat with HMRC Officials, they’d be getting a knock on the door from the bailiffs.   We need HMRC to begin prosecuting the largest companies as strongly as they do any other business operating in the UK.”
key_Susan_Kramer

Help us keep Bury Fracking Free

In the ‘media quiet’ days before Christmas, the Government awarded an additional set of Fracking licenses to private companies. Threes of these license blocks cover the Bury area, including one which covers parts of Prestwich.

License areas 70, 80 and 81, which includes a part of Prestwich, Whitefield, Bury, Radcliffe, Ramsbottom, Tottington and and then right across towards  Bolton have been awarded to Hutton Energy Ltd for exploration.

Screenshot 2016-01-20 09.34.31

Fracking, or ‘Hydraulic Fracturing’ is where underground rock is fractured by the high pressure injection of ‘fracking fluid’ to create cracks underground where natural gas can be released.

Residents will be aware of campaigners in many other parts of the country (e.g. in Lancashire) being very opposed to fracking sites near them.

Many of the areas covered by the Fracking License in our Green Belt – land which has been left as green and recreational land
Many of the areas covered are in former mining areas with old mining shafts and diggings, and areas have suffered from subsidence in the past.

Fracking is a controversial subject – there is more information about the environmental impact that Fracking can have at the Greenpeace website here.
http://www.greenpeace.org.uk/climate/fracking

You can help us campaign to Bury Fracking Free by signing our online petition here.

Tim Farron challenges Government’s increasingly right wing agenda

Dangerous proposals by the Government which threaten individual freedoms risk exacerbating racial and religious tensions, Tim Farron has warned.

By linking the practices of ordinary British Muslims with radicalisation the Prime Minister risks alienating large sections of our society.

Leader of the Liberal Democrats Tim Farron said:

“Talk of banning veils and the deportation of women who struggle with English are worrying ideas from a government pushing an increasingly right wing agenda.

key_Tim_Farron

“These are hugely worrying times for British values. Of course we need to seriously tackle home grown extremism but isolating vulnerable groups is not the way forward.

“With Islamophobia on the rise, now is the time for an open and serious inter-faith dialogue not headline grabbing policies which do nothing but appeal to the right wing of the Tory base.

“Liberal Democrats will always support an open minded, tolerant United Kingdom which does not cow tow to the politics of fear.”

Tacking Illegal Parking outside Schools

The Lib Dem team on Council have asked the Council if it will consider using the ‘Camera Car’ currently used to enforce bus lanes, to tackle some of the worst illegal parking outside some of our schools.

Lib Dem councillor Mary D’Albert asked the Council to consider the use of the camera car outside of schools, a practice that happens in many other local authorities, including next door in Manchester.

The Council stated that “The CCTV car is currently utilised during peak and off peak periods to enforce bus lanes”

It went not to say that:
“At some point in the future we may look at investing in fixed CCTV equipment to enforce bus lanes. This would then free up the vehicle to carry out enforcement outside schools. In order to carry out this type of enforcement we will need to apply for a new approved device status for the vehicle from DfT. The current approval would not cover the variation in enforcement.”

C_71_article_1470103_image_list_image_list_item_0_image

Recently Bury Council reviewed the bus lanes going into and out of Bury Town Centre, and has agreed to review bus lane in the south of the Borough. The result of the review so far has been to completely suspect the Rochdale Road bus lane (the Heap Bridge motorway junction to the Town Centre).

Although it is important to make sure that drivers do not abuse bus lanes that are still in force, we believe that there should be some capacity to do this, given the significant problems that there are around some of our schools.