GMSF, sorry ‘Places for Everyone’, back in July…..

Nine Greater Manchester Councils, including Bury, have been asked to schedule meetings in late July to agree the new version of the Greater Manchester Spatial Framework.

All councillors in Bury have been written to giving a new date for a Cabinet meeting to agree the plan for consultation (21 July 2021), and a Full Council meeting on 28 July 2021 to finally agree the plans for submission to Government.

The previous plans had to be abandoned last year, when Liberal Democrat councillors on Stockport Council were sucessful in defeating the proposals there. Now the other nine councils are proceeding without Stockport and the plan has a new name ‘Places for Everyone’.

We don’t know what the plan will say yet, publication is expected in July. As residents will know all of Labour’s previous plans have included building on large swathes of green belt and, including a large number of new houses in Prestwich over near Simister and Bowlee.

We will let you know as soon as we see the plans. The view of the Liberal Democrat councillors across Greater Manchester hasn’t changed, we are opposed to all building on green belt land. We do need new, especially more affordable houses, but these should be built on the significant amount of existing ‘brownfield land’, and by revitalising our town centres. If the last 15 months have tonight us anything, we need our green spaces more than ever.

Reporting Back: Bury Council Cabinet

Councillor Michael Powell reports back from the Cabinet meeting of Bury Council on 26 May 2021:

East Lancashire Paper Mill site- Plans were approved to bring forward building on the former site of the East Lancashire Paper Mill in Radcliffe. A collaboration agreement will be entered into by the Council with Homes England to begin development of the site for housing.

Acquisition of the Longfield Shopping Centre- The Council are continuing with it’s proposed process of purchasing the Longfield Centre in Prestwich Village and that a property centre manager will be appointed to oversee the purchase. The Council has also confirmed that it is looking at enter a joint venture agreement with developer Muse for the regeneration project and that they expect it to take six months to finalise these arrangements. The paper outlining these plans in more detail can be read here.


‘Levelling Up’ Bids confirmed- Two bids will be submitted by the Council to the Government’s Levelling Up Fund, one for Radcliffe and another for promoting for development of Bury Town Centre through the establishment of a Bury ‘flexi-hall’.

Banking Services Procurement Process- The decision was approved for Bury Council to become the Lead Authority for the procurement of a banking services framework on behalf of Greater Manchester.

Public Consultation on the draft climate strategy and climate action plan- The Council has produced a draft Climate Action Strategy and Climate Action Plan for Bury to set out what needs to be done to achieve it’s target of becoming carbon neutral by 2038 and it carried out a consultation with residents and other stakeholders on the draft documents. The draft climate strategy breaks down the project into 11 key action areas, including the Green Economy, Environmental Justice and Carbon Offsetting. The full Climate Strategy can be viewed here.

Draft Housing Strategy- The Council commissioned Campbell Tickell to develop a housing strategy for the Borough, which meets the needs of different sections of the population at different stages of their lives. The draft Strategy was subject to extensive stakeholder and public consultation for twelve weeks commencing 30 November 2020 to the 22 February 2021. The paper on the Housing Strategy can be viewed here, along with the findings and responses from the public consultation.

Update on Covid-19 in Bury and the Local Response- A report was presented updating the borough’s position related to Covid-19 and the response locally. The report noted that at the time of writing, England and Bury’s case rate have been falling since mid-March 2021 and Bury until recently had the lowest rate in Greater Manchester and a similar rate to the England average. However, it highlighted growing concerns about rising numbers of cases in the UK particularly in the North West and Bolton specifically of the B617.2 (Indian/Delta) variant. The report also noted that over 100,000 adults in Bury have received their first vaccination and around two thirds of those have already received their second vaccination. Additionally it stated that overall uptake rates in Bury remains amongst the highest in Greater Manchester across all cohorts. The full update can be read here.

Paper from the meeting are here. Any questions please don’t hesitate to ask.

Reporting Back: Annual Council and Mayor Making

This Wednesday was Bury’s Annual Council meeting and Mayor Making ceremony. These are the important annual meetings which determine the leadership of the Council for the ‘municipal year’.

The Annual Council meeting was this year held in the sports hall of Castle Leisure Centre, to allow for social distancing between councillors.

Labour, as the majority group, remain in charge of the Council.

Leadership of the Liberal Democrat group remains unchanged, with Councillor Michael Powell as Group Leader and Councillor Cristina Tegolo as Deputy Group Leader.

Councillor Steve Wright has been appointed Chair of the new Children and Young People Scrutiny Committee.

A State of the Borough debate takes place at Annual Council. You can watch the whole meeting online here. Councillor Powell’s statement on behalf of the Liberal Democrat group in State of the Borough Debate is 57 minutes in. The papers for the meeting are here.

Following Annual Council the Mayor Making ceremony took place with reduced numbers at Bury Town Hall.

Holyrood Ward councillor Tim Pickstone was re-appointed as Mayor, the first person to be appointed for a second successive year since 1951.

Bury Samaritans remain as the Mayor’s charity for 2021-21, alongside Greater Manchester HIV Charity George House Trust. The Mayor’s Chaplain remains Reverend Jez Hackett from Prestwich and Heaton Park Metrhodist Churches.

You can watch the Mayor Making ceremony online here.

It’s time to Restore Community Policing.

The Liberal Democrats are calling for a return to proper community policing, where officers are visible, trusted and known personally to local people. 

Everyone has the right to feel safe where they live, and everyone who has been the victim of a crime deserves justice.

But for too long, the Government has been ignoring victims, failing the police and letting our communities down.

And that’s why, last year, 1.8 million cases were closed without a suspect even being identified.

In Greater Manchester the police force failed to record an estimated 80,100 crimes reported to it between 1 July 2019 and 30 June 2020, amounting to about 220 crimes a day, according to a report from the Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire and Rescue Services.

Even before the Covid pandemic, too many people felt unsafe in their own homes or walking down their own streets. In fact half of all people never even see police patrols in their local area.

Government Ministers like to talk tough on crime, but they have failed to do what works to actually keep people safe. Their unnecessary police cuts have contributed to a rise in serious violence.

Police need the officers, resources and time to focus on preventing and solving crimes.

Instead, the Tories want to waste police time chasing centralised Whitehall targets and carrying out pointless, suspicionless Stop and Search.

That’s why today, the Liberal Democrats are calling for a return to proper community policing, where officers are visible, trusted andknown personally to local people.

We will do what works to build communities where people are safe and feel safe too.

In Greater Manchester, policing is the responsibility of the Greater Manchester Mayor. Liberal Democrat candidate Simon Lepori, is asking for residents views on this important issue. Take part in Simon’s survey here.

Reporting Back: Answers to Questions

Last month was the regular full meeting of Bury Council. As always your local team of Liberal Democrat councillors asked our full quota of questions on local issues. Here are some of the more interesting issues raised:

Longfield War Memorial
Councillor Steve Wright asked about the Prestwich war memorials, which are currently out of public view because of the closure of the Longfield Suite:
Q – Now that it has been confirmed that there are no plans to reopen the Longfield Suite in Prestwich, can the Leader confirm what the plans are for rehousing the war memorial located in the Suite?
A –

A full and final decision has not yet been made, and residents are still able to contribute to the consultation survey and put forward their views. The consultation will continue to run until 17 March 2021, via the One Community website: – https://www.onecommunitybury.co.uk/burycouncil- civicvenuesfeedback

Following public consultation, all consultation feedback will be thoroughly analysed and considered. A report will be scheduled at Cabinet in early Summer in order for a final decision to be reached.

If a decision is reached at Cabinet to permanently close the Longfield Suite, alternative options will be explored to relocate the war memorial.

Potholes
Councillor Michael Powell asked about reports of Potholes:
Q: Could the Leader inform members on the number of reports made of potholes, in each of the last five years?
A:

The number of potholes reported in each of the last five financial years is as follows:
2015/16 – 2942
2016/17 – 2798
2017/18 – 4587
2018/19 – 2170
2019/20 – 2400
2020/21 – 1397 to date (09/03/2021).

The number of reported potholes has deceased by over 50% since 2017/18, which clearly demonstrates that our investment in highway maintenance through the Highway Investment Strategy is improving our road network.

Compensation
Following on from this, Councillor Cristina Tegolo asked about compensation from road users:
Q: Could the Leader inform members on the amount paid out by the authority, and the amount spent on legal costs, for compensation claims as a result of poor road and pavement surfaces, for the last five financial years?

A:

Metrolink Ticketing Options
Councillor Steve Wright asked about different ticketing options to suit people who are being asked to work more flexibly than before:
Q: Could the authority’s spokesperson on the Transport for Greater Manchester Committee inform members what steps TfGM is taking to facilitate more flexible working practices through ticketing options?
A:

TfGM currently control ticketing options for the Metrolink network only, with fares and ticketing on the bus and rail network controlled by their respective operators.
Operators and transport bodies including TfGM have been examining the case for more flexible ticketing options over the last few years, as changes to working patterns have become more evident. The impact of the Covid-19 pandemic has accelerated changes to working patterns, as employers and employees adapt to home working and alternative working patterns.

TfGM are working with bus and rail operators to support flexible ticketing initiatives where they can and in July last year launched Clipper, a carnet-style ticketing option for Metrolink. Customers benefit from a discount for travelling multiple days but can choose the days of travel across a number of weeks, providing greater flexibility for those who may have previously bought a traditional season ticket, but now travel less often.

Contactless payment on Metrolink also provides customers with the flexibility of only paying for the journeys they have already made, with fares calculated for them up to a daily cap.

Rail operator Northern also introduced a new flexible ticketing option in July 2020, providing ten unlimited travel days for the price of nine, to be used any time during a six-month period. The option was introduced after the first national lockdown, ahead of predicted changed to passenger travel patterns.

Waiting times for 101
Councillor Michael Powell asked about waiting times for people calling the Police non emergency number 101:
Q: Could the authority’s spokesperson on the Police and Crime Panel inform members on what the average wait time is for 101 calls to be answered in Greater Manchester, how does this compare to previous years and what proportion of calls hang up before being answered?
A:

The average waiting time for 101 calls over the last 12 months is 2 minutes and 53 seconds, which has seen a marginal improvement from the previous year.

The abandonment rates are slightly higher than the previous year at 27%. Whilst GMP are always striving for improvement when these results are considered in the context of Covid, it is a more understandable outcome.

Members will no doubt be aware that all public services have suffered from impacts to staffing through the Pandemic and the 101 service has been no different. With a need to prioritise calls to the 999 service there have been capacity issues over the last 12 months. However GMP report that the situation is now improving with recruitment of new staff a priority.

There continues to be a drive towards online facilities such as

Livechat facility, an online tool which is answered in about 16 seconds. This option continues to be used more and more by the public, which is positive.

Greater Manchester Police are also promoting their call-back service at peak times, where call-handlers will return calls for those assessed as low-risk to avoid people queuing – about half of the calls received and resolved at Switchboard relate to requests for updates on previously reported crimes.

The Police & Crime Panel will continue to scrutinise the work of the Call centre and I will provide further updates to Council in the future.

Full answers to all questions can be found here and here. Any questions please ask!

All Change for Buses

In recent weeks there have been two significant announcements which will have a major impact on bus services in the future.

Firstly, at a Greater Manchester level, it was announced that the decision that is recommended to the Mayor is for a ‘franchised’ bus system in Greater Manchester. This decision, to be made formally by the Mayor at a later date, is being taken after about two years of consultation on the subject, alongside a campaign by some bus operators to oppose the proposals.

Essentially Greater Manchester would be the first area outside of Greater London to have a franchised bus network. What this means is:

  • Bus routes and prices would be brought under the control of Greater Manchester Combined Authority.
  • Private bus companies would be invited to run these routes under a franchise agreement.
  • The arrangements could lead to improvements in the service – e.g. more electric buses, integrated ticketing across bus/tram/train etc.
  • The new arrangements would happen in three phases, starting in 2023 with most services which operate in Bury part of the second tranche starting in 2024.
  • This will cost a lot of money to introduce, about £134 million – with about £50 million coming from local council tax payers including what looks like an increased Mayor’s precept in future years.

As with all of these major proposals a lot of work will need to be put into the detail. At present Greater Manchester has a mixture of commercial services that bus companies run at a profit (e.g. the 135 up Bury Old Road/A56), and then subsidised buses (e.g. the buses to North Manchester or up to Simister). It will be interesting to see what the proposals for a franchised model will be.

The second announcement was from Government, with its National Bus Strategy, which outlines how the Government expects transport authorities throughout England to improve bus services. Interestingly the Government is very clear that it expects most areas to use a ‘partnership’ model with bus companies, rather than the ‘franchise’ model which is looks set to be used in Greater Manchester.

The Government will only give money to local transport authorities if they meet its new criteria. They say that they expect to see more bus lanes and similar measures on major bus routes.

More information on the Greater Manchester proposals here.

More information on the Government’s National Bus Strategy here.

Reporting Back: Budget Council

Bury Council met on Wednesday 24 February 2021 to set the Council Budget for the coming year, including the rates of Council Tax. Here is a summary of what happened:

Headlines
The proposals from the majority Labour Group of councillors were adopted. This includes:
5% increase in Council Tax (actually 4.94%) from 1 April 2021. For a Band D property the Council Tax will be £2001 per year (this ranges from Band A £1334 to Band H £4002)
1.5% increase in Council House rents
– To balance the books, the Council is proposing to make around £20 million of cuts/savings over the next two years (mostly to adult social care), but also to spend £26 million of its reserves (taking the reserves level down to a very low level (just £11 million after two years)).
– The budget assumes that the Longfield Suite and the Elizabethan Suite will close (but there was a change of mind in Ramsbottom and the Civic Suite there will stay open).
Street lights will be dimmed between midnight and 6am.
£17 million will be spent next year on Radcliffe Regeneration. Regeneration in other towns is moving more slowly, so the investment in Prestwich next year is just £75,000.

Some good news in the proposals was that the Council will ‘more towards’ Social Care staff being paid a living wage (but that won’t be achieved immediately). Lunches for children entitled to Free School Meals will be provided over this summer holiday.

What did the Liberal Democrats do?
Liberal Democrat councillors voted against the above budget. There are some good things, and obviously the Council is having to do its best in difficult circumstances, but we couldn’t not support many of the proposals.

We made alternative proposals, which were sadly voted down, to:
Bring Forwards the Prestwich Regeneration, accelerating this process but £3 million a year.
Put Recovery First – by investing in young people’s jobs and training with a massive increase in apprentices, helping out with children’s mental health in schools and with outdoor leisure and footpaths.
No Idling Zones outside Schools – provide money to enforce no-idling zones outside all schools to tackle air pollution that particularly affects children.
Common Sense Ideas – fixing the CCTV that doesn’t work in Prestwich Town Centre, more money across Bury to tackle rat runs, speeding traffic and potholes.
Sadly these proposals were voted down by Labour Councillors and will not be happening this year.

You can listen to Liberal Democrat Councillors Michael Powell and Cristina Tegolo talking about this proposals here (3 hours 2 minutes in!)

Let us know if you want more information. The full papers for the meeting are here.

Reporting Back: Greater Manchester Combined Authority Budgets

Earlier this week was the regular meeting of the Greater Manchester Combined Authority Corporate Issues and Reform Scrutiny, to look at the budgets for the various Greater Manchester combined/joint authorities for 2021-22. Prestwich councillor Tim Pickstone reports:

The various bodies which make up the Greater Manchester Combined Authority (the Mayor, the Combined Authorities, and then the joint services like transport, fire, police and waste) all have separate budgets, but are now agreed at the same time though the Combined Authority.

Mayoral General Budget and Precept Proposals
There is no change proposed to the Mayoral General Precept for 2021/22 at £90.95 (Band D) comprising of £66.20 for functions previously covered by the Fire and Rescue Authority precept and £24.75 for other Mayoral General functions. This is unchanged from 2020/21;

There are no changes proposed to the crew and fire engine numbers for Greater Manchester Fire (previous proposals are now not being implemented.

Greater Manchester Transport Budgets
The funding for core GM transport services remains unchanged for 2021/22, this is a levy charged to all ten local councils paid out of our regular Council Tax.

There is a very high level of uncertainty about some aspects of transport budgets in the coming year. In particular this is around Metrolink, where there are currently very low passenger numbers (and therefore low ticket income) and significantly lower usage of buses. The Government has been providing grants to cover the losses on Metrolink and other costs, but there is no certainty if this funding will continue or whether it will be high enough. A decision has not yet been made on bus reform. If the Mayor decides to proceed with a Regulated bus network then there will be significant expenditure to make this happen and revisions will need to be made to the budget.

Our Pass – the free bus pass for 16-18 year old will continue into 2022 to enable it to be properly evaluated under more ‘normal’ circumstance.

Supported Bus Services will continue to be under significant pressure during 2021/22 due to a combination of inflationary pressures, lower income and the risk of further commercial services stopping. Paper E sets out the proposed waste budget for 2021/22 for the nine GM Districts Councils who are part of the GM waste contract. The report highlights the 2020/21 position being breakeven, taking account of a refund of levy of £20m to Districts approved by GMCA in July and September 2020.For 2021/22 the report recommends:

Greater Manchester Waste
The Waste Authority has made a refund of £20million to the nine districts that make up the authority (everyone except Wigan).

The waste budget for 2021/22 make a charge to the nine councils of£162.4m, which represents an average 2.9% decrease over 2020/21. This saving is a result of a cheaper contract with the private sector contractor who deals with the disposal of rubbish.

Greater Manchester Police
The Greater Manchester Police, Crime and Fire Panel approved an increase of £10 per year for a Band D property. This equates to the equivalent of 325 new police officers.

Capital Budgets
The Combined Authority has a very large capital programme (around £1/2 billion) the largest part of which comes from Government grants. The capital programme pays for:

  •  The Greater Manchester Transport Fund (‘GMTF’);
  • Metrolink extensions;
  • Metrolink Trafford Line extension;
  • Other Metrolink Schemes;
  • Transport Interchanges;
  •  Bus Priority;
  • Other capital projects and programmes including Transforming Cities, Active Travel, Joint Air Quality Unit (JAQU) Early Measures Investment Funding (EMIF) , Clean BusInitiatives, OLEV-EV-Taxi, , Smart Ticketing and Cycle City Ambition Grant (CCAG 2);
  • Transport Major Schemes;
  • Minor Works (including schemes funded by Integrated Transport Capital Block andGrowth Deal);
  • Capital Highways Maintenance, Traffic Signals and Full Fibre;
  • nvestments including Growing Places, Regional Growth Fund and Housing Investment Fund; and
  • Economic Development and Regeneration Schemes.

Hope this is useful. The papers for the meeting which contains all the detail are here. Please get in touch if you have any questions.

Highways England chooses flyover for Simister Island

Highways England have chosen the so-called “Northern Loop” option for improving Simister Island, which connects the M60, M62 and M66.

This means they propose to build a flyover and loop to create continuous lanes on the clockwise M60. The M60 between Prestwich and Whitefield will be widened to 10 lanes (plus more at the junctions), by converting the hard shoulder.

The scheme application will be made to the Planning Inspectorate, who will examine the application in public hearings and then make a recommendation to the Secretary of State for Transport, who will decide whether or not the project will go ahead (target date for decision summer 2023).

Our view remains that this is not the right plan for our area and we will continue to oppose the plans through the planning hearings . The solution to congestion cannot always be to build bigger and wider roads:

  • Highways England admit in their own consultation that this scheme will not reduce air pollution.
  • The scheme will cost £340 million. Imagine how much that could achieve if it was spent on improving public transport and the local area.
  • Ten lane running between Prestwich and Whitefield is too much for this tightly packed residential area with houses (and four schools) so close to the motorway.

More information from Highways England here.

Last chance to have our say on Bus regulation

Greater Manchester is consulting on the future of the bus system.

Currently, the bus companies decide the routes, frequencies, fares and standards. There is no coordination and limited oversight.  Where bus companies decide not to run services and where necessary, the public sector pays to fill in the gaps. 

Franchising means bus services would be brought under local control. Greater Manchester Combined Authority (GMCA) would coordinate and invest in the bus network, while the bus operators would be contracted to run the services.  

Between October 2019 and January 2020, GMCA held a consultation on a proposed franchising scheme for the city-region’s buses. Over 8,500 of you gave us your views, with eight out of ten respondents who answered the relevant question supporting the proposed franchising scheme.

CONSULTATION DOCUMENT  (PDF VERSION)

In June, GMCA received the results of the consultation and decided, before a final decision could be made that the impact of Covid-19 on the bus market and proposed franchising scheme should be considered.

Covid-19 has caused a lot of uncertainty over how people will travel in future. So, TFGM has used four scenarios in a report which looks at potential future travel demand in Greater Manchester and what it could mean for GMCA’s proposals to change how buses are run. 

Under all scenarios, franchising is still the best option to achieve Greater Manchester’s long-term ambition for a fully integrated public transport system and GMCA still has funding available to pay for the transition to franchising. 

Under franchising, GMCA would be responsible for the bus network and that means it would have more of the financial responsibility and the risks. Depending on the impacts of Covid-19, GMCA might have to make difficult choices about the bus network in the future to manage these financial risks – such as providing further funding or making reductions to the network. 

But even under the other options available – such as entering into a partnership with bus operators or making no change to the bus market – there would still be difficult choices as GMCA would need to pay to fill more of the gaps in the commercial bus network. But GMCA would have to do this with no overall coordination and none of the other benefits of franchising.

Despite the additional financial risks, the net benefits of franchising for Greater Manchester are still likely to be higher and more deliverable than other options, such as a partnership with bus operators and so will provide value for money.

GMCA is consulting on the proposed franchising scheme in the light of the findings of the Covid-19 Impact Report.

Why proceed now?

The impact and effect of Covid-19 remains uncertain. Delaying a decision on franchising reduces the uncertainty about the impacts of Covid-19 and what partnerships operators may offer as time goes by.

But there are reasons why a decision about how buses should be run should be made sooner rather than later, as the challenges facing the bus market have not disappeared. Even before Covid-19, bus use was falling and the public sector was providing significant subsidy to operators through payments for subsidised services and concessionary fares. During the pandemic, operators have also received emergency funding from government.

If bus usage remains low in the future and central government stops or reduces its emergency funding, bus operators may reduce services or increase ticket prices. This may mean the public sector having to provide additional funding to keep essential services running, especially for key workers and the poor and vulnerable who depend on the bus network. Fewer bus routes or more expensive tickets could also mean more people driving, increasing congestion and pollution.

Take part in the consultation

Anyone can take part in the consultation. You do not have to live in Greater Manchester or be a regular bus user to have your say. You can answer as a member of the public or in an official capacity (e.g. as an elected representative, statutory consultee, business or other organisation). 

Please be aware that if you are answering in an official capacity, your response may be published. Decision-makers will have access to all responses during and following the close of the consultation period. References or quotes from responses from a member of the public will be done on an anonymised basis. 

Fill out the questionnaire.

Email your feedback to gmbusconsultation@ipsos-mori.com

Give your feedback by phone on 0161 244 1100 (you will be forwarded through to our independent research organisation Ipsos MORI to submit your response) 

Write/send a completed questionnaire to Freepost GM BUS CONSULTATION