Liberal Democrat Membership – Highest its ever been!

105,480 – That’s how many people had joined the Liberal Democrats as of last weekend! That makes it official – our party is the biggest it’s ever been.

First of all welcome to our new members – you’ve joined Britain’s biggest liberal family. We couldn’t be more excited to have you on board.

It’s been a brilliant month for our party – We’ve elected more councillors in one set of local elections than ever before, we’ve gained more MEPs than ever before and we’ve topped a nationwide Westminster voting intention poll for only the third time since the 1980s

Our movement is going from strength to strength – and we aren’t going to stop. We’re fighting to give the people of Brecon and Radnorshire the chance to elect a new, pro-EU MP. We’re going to elect a new leader to take our party into its bright new future. Our campaign to stop Brexit gains more momentum every day.

The Conservatives are going to waste this Brexit extension squabbling amongst themselves. Jeremy Corbyn continues to fight to drag Britain out of the European Union. Public opinion has changed – the people want to stop Brexit. Only the Liberal Democrats will give you, not politicians, the final say on leaving the EU.

Join the Liberal Democrats here.

Reporting Back: Overview and Scrutiny Committee

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. 

Councillor Michael Powell reports on some of the key priorities for each area are below:

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! 

Reporting Back: Planning Committee

On the 21 May was the monthly meeting of Bury Planning Control Committee. This is the meeting made up of the 11 Councillors who represent various wards of the borough of Bury. The committee determines planning applications for certain major developments and others where objections have been received.

Councillor Cristina Tegoloreports:

Prior to the Committee meeting, a site visit took place in respect of planning application 63785at Elton High School to assessed the creation of new artificial grass pitch together with associated floodlighting, boundary treatment and equipment storage.

The following applications received approval without any major concern:

North Manor App No. 63038, 60039
We discussed a change of use of an existing barn into a yoga and leisure use (App No. 63038) and a listed building consent for the same change of use (App No. 63039).

Bury West – Elton App No. 63834
We discussed the proposal for the erection of two semi-detached houses at the north of Green Street, Bury.

The following applications received approval but we raised some concerns:

Ramsbottom and Tottington – Ramsbottom App No. 63617
We discussed a proposed development to the west of Manchester Road, in Ramsbottom, for the erection of 35 no. dwellings.

A residential development on the site had already received outline planning consent in November 2016 (for up to 50 dwellings). Therefore, the Planning Committee could only consider matters in relation to the layout, scale, appearance and landscaping of the proposed development.

However, the site was designated as a Site of Biological Interest as it supported relatively species-rich grassland. The proposed site plan and landscaping plan confirmed that an area of 3,300 square metres of species rich grassland would be located on the east side of the site.

We analysed the merits and I raised the following points:

  • Increasing the area designated for Special Biological Interest (SBI) and putting an investigative so that part of the land on the west side of the site, which was indicated in the landscaping plan as private land, could be also open land designated for SBI
  • Including electric vehicle charging points
  • Clarifying the affordability criteria for the dwellings

More information and the full papers for the meeting are here.

Choosing the Next Lib Dem Leader

This summer, Liberal Democrat members will be electing a new Party leader. There are two candidates:

Find out more about Jo Swinson MP

Find out more about Ed Davey MP

Every member gets an equal say in choosing who they want to lead our party. 

To get your vote, all you need to do is join the Liberal Democrats by midnight on Friday 7th June. Membership starts at as little as £1 per month. A great time to encourage friends and family to join!

North West hustings for the new Leader take place on 14 June 2019, 7pm in Manchester. We’re hoping to arrange a ‘Bury’ team at the hustings so please get in touch if you are interested in going.

European Elections – Thank you!

Well done to the North West’s two new Liberal Democrat members of the European Parliament – Chris Davies and Jane Brophy.

Chris, who lives in Oldham, was MEP for the North West until 2014. Jane, who lives in Timperley, is a local Liberal Democrat councillor on Trafford Council. They join the largest ever team of Liberal Democrats MEPs – 16 across Great Britain.

The North West Region has 8 MEPs, which are allocated proportionately depending the votes for each Party. Results for the North West region were:

Brexit Party 31.2% – 3 MEPs

Labour 21.91 – 2 MEPs

Liberal Democrats 17.2% – 2 MEPs

Green Party 12.4% – 1 MEP

Conservative 7.6%

UKIP – 3.6%

Change UK – 2.7%

Bury’s votes are counted separately before being added towards the North West total. Bury’s votes were:

Brexit Party 31.3%

Labour 21.2%

Liberal Democrats 16.2%

Green Party 11.3%

Conservative 9.6%

UKIP 3.5%

Change UK 3.2%

European Parliament Elections 23 May 2019

Voting takes place on Thursday, 23 May 2019 to elect members of the European Parliament.

Polling stations are open as normal – 7am – 10pm – you don’t need your polling card to vote.

If you have a postal vote, which you have not yet returned. You can fill it in as normal and take the sealed envelope down to your local polling station on Thursday (or in fact any polling station in Bury).

In the North West we will be electing eight members of the European Parliament – these are shared out proportionately between different parties depending on their level of support.

Liberal Democrats believe that the importance of the United Kingdom’s membership of the European Union has never been clearer. The national humiliation of Theresa May’s Brexit puts so much at risk – the NHS, our public services, jobs across the country, peace in Northern Ireland, the unity of the UK and our global reputation as a country that is confident and outward-facing. It doesn’t have to be this way. 

Find out more and read our European Manifesto here.

Other Councillors not spending money allocated to them

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.

Here is how Liberal Democrat Councillors spent the budget in Holyrood Ward.

Here is the full spend / underspend for each ward:

Bury East AvailableSpendEMDB allocated per ward
Moorside 2105.002395.004500
Redvales Ward 1300.003200.004500
East Ward 2966.761533.244500
6371.767128.24
Bury West AvailableSpendEMDB allocated per ward
Elton Ward 871.703628.304500
Church Ward 234921514500
3220.705779.30
RTNMavailableSpendEMDB allocated per ward 
Ramsbottom 267218284500 
 North Manor291.204208.804500 
 Tottington045004500 
2963.206036.80 
 
Radcliffe availablespendEMDB allocated per ward 
North1719.482780.524500  
West4188312 4500 
East1226.533273.474500  
 71346365.99 
     
Whitefield & UnsworthavailablespendEMDB allocated per ward 
Pilkington Park28701630 4500 
Besses3772.19727.81 4500 
Unsworth3100 14004500 
 9742.193757.81 
 PrestwichavailablespendEMDB allocated per ward 
St Marys 38116894500 
Sedgley 1454.803045.204500 
Holyrood 0.38 4499.624500 
  5266.188233.82 

Government must be more ambitious than a 2050 Greenhouse Gas target

Responding to the expected announcement that the Climate Change Committee has recommended 2050 as the date the UK becomes a net-zero greenhouse gas emitter:

Liberal Democrat Climate Change Spokesperson Wera Hobhouse MP said:

“This report tells us the very minimum we need to do to cut our greenhouse gas emissions to net-zero, but this Tory Government must be more ambitious. We have a responsibility as a country in the face of a climate emergency facing the entire world.

“We saw only last week that some in the cabinet are refusing to say they accept the scientific consensus on climate change which is incredibly alarming. Liberal Democrats demand better. Climate change is scientific fact, not an opinion to be debate – that time has passed.

“That’s why Liberal Democrats are calling on a net-zero target of 2045. This will focus minds and make the United Kingdom a world leader in cutting emissions, while also taking responsibility for the damage our country has caused over the last century.”

Former Liberal Democrat Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change Ed Davey said:

“Climate change should be at the heart of Government – as Liberal Democrats successfully worked for during the Coalition.

“Climate action by Liberal Democrat ministers saw a huge expansion in renewable power, the setting up of the Green Investment Bank and Britain leading key international climate negotiations at the EU and UN, winning new more ambitious targets. 

“In contrast, the Tory record by themselves since 2015 has been appalling: scrapping our zero carbon homes law, dramatically slowing down green energy investment, privatising of the Green Investment Bank and refocusing of energy policy away from renewables on to fracking and nuclear.

“Liberal Democrats would declare a climate crisis and introduce a radical new programme to decarbonise capitalism, forcing investments to consider climate risk, shifting them into clean, green technologies.”

(Graph from Carbon Brief)

Reporting Back – Full Council

Earlier this month (8 April 2019) was the regular ‘Full Council’ meeting of Bury Council. This is the meeting, six times a year, where all 51 councillors are in attendance.

This meeting, as you may have seen reported online and in the press, was controversial before it started. At each full Council all political parties submit motions for discussion. However at this meeting, one motion (the Conservative Group one) was ruled out of order and both the Liberal Democrats and Labour motions were withdrawn upon advice from the Council Solicitor.

The reason for this is a law around what is called ‘Purdah’, which is the period running up to an election where a Council must be ‘non-political’. We obviously understand the law, but the way that this meeting was scheduled has meant that very important issues – like the Greater Manchester Spatial Framework – have not been properly debated by your local Councillors. This is wrong and we asked the Mayor for a review of the whole process around Council motions to make sure this never happens again.

Without motions, the remaining business of the Council was:

  • Additional daytime ‘panels’ for the Licensing Committee to consider applications to become taxi drivers. At present these take place in the evening, but in the future daytime meetings will also take place with smaller panel of (3) councillors. We opposed this because we feel that this sort of function, where councillors sit in a quasi-judicial role (ie non political) needs to be where all councillors can attend – in the daytime we are restricted to just councillors who do not work. 
  • Questions to the Leader of the Council – our questions included a question on preparation for a ‘no-deal’ Brexit (this was before the European Council had met!), childhood obesity and also a question about the Council’s ‘investment’ property in Lytham St Annes. this was an Italian restaurant, but sitting empty and costing Bury’s Council Tax payers over £2,500 a month business rates and service charges. With reference to Bury Pride (which was coming up on the Saturday) we also asked the Council Leader if he would raise with the Mayor of Greater Manchester to write to the Government about the appalling situation in one Commonwealth country (Brunei) where the penal code now says that lesbians and gay men should be stoned to death. 
  • Questions on Joint Authorities – our questions included a question about the fact that Greater Manchester Police are bottom of the table when it comes to racially and religiously-motivated hate crimes being closed without a suspect (46% are). What we were told is that theprimary reason for this figure is the fact that Greater Manchester have been particularly successful in increasing the reporting of Hate Crime. We understand that, but surely other police forces have done similar things, and it is no excuse for Greater Manchester being at the bottom of the table.

Mary D’Albert, who has was first elected as a Liberal Democrat councillor in Prestwich in 2008, is finishing as a Councillor in May and we took the opportunity to thank her for her service at the meeting. Mary and her husband Vic have given Prestwich and Holyrood Ward three decades of service as local councillors which is an amazing contribution.

Any questions on the meeting please just ask. The full papers are available here

55% drop in Library usage since closures

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.