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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.

Simon Lepori is our candidate for Greater Manchester Mayor

Liberal Democrats in Greater Manchester have chosen Trafford resident, Simon Lepori, to be our candidate in in the Greater Manchester Mayor elections in May.

Simon has lived in Stretford, Greater Manchester with his partner for the past 15 years. He joined the Liberal Democrats in 2015. He stood for Trafford Council in 2016, 2018 and 2019. He stood for Parliament for the Wythenshawe & Sale East constituency at the 2019 general election.

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He worked in the health and social care sector for 17 years from 2002-2019 and returned to the NHS frontline during the first wave of the Covid-19 pandemic. He now works for the Liberal Democrats.

His priorities are:

– building a healthcare system fit for the 21st century in Greater Manchester

– refocusing policing back into communities, with well funded youth services from local councils to help stem the tide and cycle of crime and disorder

– a transport system that works for Greater Manchester not against it

– a housing plan that puts people first, not developers.

“Let us rise up from the ashes of Covid & recession and rebuild Greater Manchester together”

Find out more here.
Simon is currently asking Greater Manchester’s residents for their views on policing – take this short survey here.

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

GMSF becomes GMSF of the 9

Greater Manchester’s Council Leaders have voted to carry on with a version of the Greater Manchester Spatial Framework for just 9 boroughs, after Councillors in Stockport rejected the proposals.

The GMSF which proposed provision for 180,000 extra homes over the next 15 years was opposed by many people because of involved the destruction of so much green belt land, including large amounts of green belt across Bury. In Stockport, where Labour councillors do not have a majority, the plans were blocked by the towns 26 Liberal Democrat councillors alongside other opposition members.

The remaining nine Greater Manchester Council Leaders have agreed to draw up a Greater Manchester Spatial Framework for the nine boroughs only. The authorities will work on a revised version that removes proposed land allocations in Stockport and redistributes targets for building homes and creating jobs across nine boroughs instead of 10.

Public consultation is planned for June 2021. (You will note just after the local elections and the election of the Greater Manchester Mayor.)

Bury’s Liberal Democrat Council Group Leader Michael Powell said:
“As we have always said, GMSF was simply the wrong plan. It was wrong because it would have meant the wholesale destruction of so much of our precious green belt land.”

We clearly do to plan for new homes, especially the affordable homes that people so desperately need. We want to see a new approach which not only sees our future housing need built on our existing brownfield land and revitalising our town centres, but also sees the homes that people need and want in our communities, not the houses that developers want to build.

Greater Manchester needs a radical new plan. Our fear is that the GMSF9 will just be just more of the same.”

Our Fight to Raise Carer’s Allowance

Unpaid carers are doing a remarkable and important job in very difficult circumstances. They deserve our support. But many carers are facing extreme financial hardship.

900,000 full-time unpaid carers rely on Carer’s Allowance – but at just £67.25 a week, it’s just not nearly enough.

Carer’s Allowance is just £67 a week. It’s just not nearly enough.

It is the lowest benefit of its kind – another example of how carers are too often an afterthought for many politicians.

Many unpaid carers have been struggling for months, often relying on foodbanks to feed themselves and the people they care for.

We’ve got to do better
Liberal Democrats are calling on the Government to immediately raise Carer’s Allowance by £1,000 a year, the same as the uplift in Universal Credit.

Carers face big challenges every single day; challenges that have been made even harder by coronavirus. A recent survey by Carers UK found that most are having to spend more time looking after loved ones during this pandemic.

Most haven’t been able to take a single break since it started. Most are simply exhausted.

And now they are worried.

Liberal Democrats will stand up for carers

Worried about their own mental health, worried about what will happen if they themselves fall ill – because there’s no one to take over – and worried about whether they can cope in a new lockdown.

We must do far more to support our wonderful carers.

The Liberal Democrats will stand up for carers and lead the way to a more caring society as we emerge from this pandemic.

Join our Campaign for an increased Carers Allowance

Reporting Back: Bury Full Council

Last week was the regular ‘Full Council’ meeting for Bury Councillors, this was meant to the important meeting where the Greater Manchester Spatial Framework was to have been agreed, but this was withdrawn from the agenda. Liberal Democrat Group Leader Councillor Michael Powell reports:

Bury Council only meets in full seven times a year, but this November meeting was to have been particularly special, as it was where Bury was to agree, or not agree, the Greater Manchester Spatial Framework (GMSF). This plan, for another 180,000 houses across Greater Manchester in the next 17 years has to be agreed by all ten Councils before it can go out for consultation.

Bury Council’s Cabinet, which consists of just Labour councillors, agreed the plan unanimously earlier in the month but this had to be approved by full Council. In Stockport, where no party has an overall majority, things didn’t go ‘according to plan’ and their meeting was adjourned.

Bury has decided to delay considering the plans until the position in Stockport is clear. We find out if Stockport has managed to reach an agreement on Thursday, but it could also be adjourned again. At the moment there is no date for the proposals to come back to Bury Council.

Public Question Time
GMSF was the main topic of consideration for public question time. Residents in the Simister and Bowlee area did a particularly good job of getting questions in with a whole host of excellent questions on Heywood Old Road, Simister Lane traffic, air pollution and the ‘Northern Gateway’ industrial site.

The answers to questions have not yet been published, but we’ll share these as soon as we have them.

Business Items
Four important business items came to full Council and were agreed:
– a revised Council Constitution
– agreement that the ward boundaries review (there will be new ward boundaries for the 2022 local elections) will stick with 17 wards / 51 Councillors.
– a revised Corporate Plan
– a revised licensing policy.

Questions to the Leader
The only remaining item of business was questions. The Liberal Democrat Group, as always, asked the maximum number we are entitled to. We’ll report back on some of the detail in the future but the most interesting answers included:

Councillor Steve Wright asked about the A56 cycle lane (abandoned half finished):
Can the cabinet member for transport and infrastructure clarify why the decision was made to not complete the planned ‘pop-up’ cycle lane on the A56 and how much of the Government funding to enable active travel remains unspent? 

Answer:
There was an accumulation of factors that lead to the decision not to install the pop-up cycle lane element of this emergency active travel scheme. The Council considered the impacts on traffic as witnessed on site after some lining went down, had received concerns from bus operators about the stop designs in the cycle lane, had heard reports of similar measures being removed and under-utilised in other districts and recognised that there were challenges with Salford’s delivery/continuation of the pop-up cycle lane in the City centre – essentially leaving the pop-up as a cycle lane to nowhere. The public, however, will still benefit from a new length of unsegregated cycle lane near St Mary’s Park as well as two controlled toucan crossings.

The EATF Tranche 1 was a Greater Manchester allocation and, as such, money spent on measures is claimed back rather than given up-front. However, the Council is also seeking to introduce a Low Traffic Neighbourhood in the Brandlesholme area in line with the governments express expectations for “…local authorities to make significant changes to their road layouts to give more space to cyclists and pedestrians.” to lead to a more pleasant environment that encourages people to walk and cycle.

Councillor Wright went on to ask if the dangerous section of cycle lane at the end of St Ann’s Road could be looked into (cars are being forced into the cycle lane because of right-turning traffic. There was no commitment to look at this.

Councillor Powell asked about school closures during Covid:
How many schools and school bubbles have had to close due to Covid-19 cases since schools reopened in September and how does this compare to the other authorities in Greater Manchester? 

Answer:
Just under 50% of all primary and secondary schools have reported one or more confirmed cases within their setting, involving either members of staff or pupils. Many of these schools have gone on to experience a number of confirmed cases, largely as a result of the prevalence of Covid-19 in the wider community.

In the majority of instances, this has required other staff members and/or pupils to self- isolate as a consequence of being a close contact of a confirmed case.

At its highest point in late September/early October there were approximately 2,000 pupils absent representing 7% of the school age population. Through measures to more accurately identify close contacts, this number has reduced, but remains in the order of 1,000 pupils absent from school each week.

Since September, four schools have had to close to all pupils for a period of time, through a combination of confirmed cases and close contacts amongst staff, reducing staffing levels below sustainable levels.

The levels of absence are broadly in line with other GM authorities although the situation remains dynamic and subject to constant change.

You can read the papers for the meeting here.
You can watch the whole meeting here.

Reporting Back: Greater Manchester Scrutiny

Last week the regular meeting of the Greater Manchester Combined Authority Corporate Issues Scrutiny Committee was able to meet with the Mayor of Greater Manchester to scrutinise his work to date around the Covid response. The Committee is made up of Councillors from throughout Greater Manchester and Bury’s rep this year is our local councillor Tim Pickstone. Tim reports:

This meeting focussed on two main issues:

Greater Manchester Waste Disposal Authority Budget Issues
The Committee received an update on budget issues for the Waste Disposal Authority for the current year, and also looking forwards to financial challenges around waste disposal in years to come.

The main challenge this year has been the impact of Covid on how much rubbish we produce.

(these figures are in ‘000s)

Essentially, lockdown, together with schools being closed and working from home has meant a significant increase in the amount of waste that we put in our bins at home, particularly residual (grey bins) and co-mingled (blue bins). Interestingly despite all the ‘internet shopping’ deliveries people seem to have been having, the amount of cardboard we recycle is down this year.

The result on the Waste Disposal Authority is overspending this year and will need to take around £20 million from its reserves to balance the books.

Looking forwards to 2021-22 onwards, the Waste Disposal Authority will need around £160-£170 million each year in total from the nine Councils that make up the WDA. There are risks around Brexit, particularly if this changes the ‘market’ for recycled materials (ie if it is more difficult for us to export recycled materials abroad). In addition the Government is currently consulting on potential major policy changes which might mean the way our bins are collected is changed (ie perhaps more bins, perhaps more frequently). If this happened it would have major financial consequences on waste disposal costs. Hopefully Government would cover these costs, but never quite seems to be what happens in reality.

Greater Manchester Mayor, Covid Response
The Mayor outlined some of the challenges experienced at a Greater Manchester level through Covid, and the current development of a ‘Living with Covid’ plan to guide the work of Greater Manchester over coming months.

He explained that other policy areas are being progressed:consultation on the clear air zone, minimum licensing standards, GMSF now being taken through the ten Councils.

He said that we would be aware of the disagreements discussions with the Government over recent weeks. A lot of the things that were being demanded by Greater Manchester when we were put into Tier 3 have now been delivered for the whole country in the second lockdown.

£60 million (£20 per head) is being received from Government and discussions are taking place to work out how best to spend this money, including thinking about sectors of the economy which are really missing out from other support.

Peak pressure 

We discussed how it looked as though there might be a decrease and levelling off in Covid cases in Greater Manchester, but it will be a challenging month ahead. There are discussions with Government on mass testing.

Members asked questions on:
– homelessness
– the music economy in Greater Manchester
– transport (particularly whether the current tram pricing structure worked for people who worked from home some days a week)
– support for the airport and travel industries.

I asked a question about town centres, which had been a key policy area for the Mayor before Covid, and how he expected this policy to change given the massive challenges that many town centres were facing with small businesses leaving the high street.

The papers for the meeting are here:
https://democracy.greatermanchester-ca.gov.uk/ieListDocuments.aspx?CId=216&MId=4042&Ver=4

You can watch a video of the meeting here:
https://teams.microsoft.com/l/meetup-join/19%3ameeting_YTEyODAzMjEtMGNlMC00MzdhLTk1NTAtMGRhZTkzZTQ3YWU4%40thread.v2/0?context=%7b%22Tid%22%3a%22e8d8036a-b5f9-4f3f-9d36-d7cd740299bb%22%2c%22Oid%22%3a%22967f3f39-e2ff-4b86-aaa2-4791ec3951ce%22%2c%22IsBroadcastMeeting%22%3atrue%7d

GMSF – Wrong Plan, Wrong Time

Greater Manchester’s ten Local Councils have published the new version of the Greater Manchester Spatial Framework. 

This is the plan to build 180,000 new houses in Greater Manchester over the next 17 years. 

In Bury, there are plans to build on four major ‘green belt’ sites. Three of these are for housing: at Walshaw, around Elton Reservoir and in Prestwich 1,550 houses to the north of Heaton Park near Simister and Bowlee. The fourth is a massive ’employment’ site, the ‘Northern Gateway’ on green belt land stretching from Whitefield to Middleton north of the M62. You can read the proposals in detail here.

Our view is that GMSF is simply the wrong plan. It builds on our precious green belt land. 9% of Bury’s green belt will be lost forever (across Greater Manchester only 3.25% is lost). It risks being out of date before it starts using housing need growth projections that date to before Brexit, and before Covid.

We DO need more homes in the borough, particularly more affordable homes, but these should be built on brownfield land and through regenerating our town centres, but not at the expense of losing our precious green spaces. 

Covid-19 has shown us that we need our open spaces more than ever.

We don’t think it is right that Greater Manchester councils are proposing to consult with the public in the middle of a pandemic – over Christmas…. At a time when people are rightly focussed on Covid-19 and its massive impact on our lives, it is a disgrace to even call this a consultation.

All ten councils in Greater Manchester must approve the plan. Bury Council gets its vote on 25 November 2020. Please tell us what you think about the proposals and what points we should be saying at this important meeting.

Tell us what you think about the GMSF proposals.

GMSF – Wrong Plan at the Wrong Time

The Greater Manchester Spatial Framework is the wrong plan, at the wrong time, say Liberal Democrats across Greater Manchester. 

As the whole region comes to terms with being in Tier 3 Covid Alert, Bury and the other Greater Manchester Councils have chosen today, of all days, to publish the latest proposals for housing land.

Wrong Plan 
GMSF is the wrong plan because it builds on our precious green belt land. Despite massive public opposition, Greater Manchester Councils seem determined to build on green belt land.

Bury’s Liberal Democrat Councillors recognise that we will need more homes in the Borough, and we want to build the high quality, affordable and energy efficient homes that people need, but not at the expense of losing our precious green spaces. 

During the Covid-19 pandemic, residents have been using our great outdoors for exercise and solace.  This experience this year tells us, we need our open spaces more than ever.

Our precious Green Belt land must be protected with development restricted to existing sites and brownfield land. 

GMSF’s housing need numbers are based on 2014 data.  The numbers are now off.  We are now in the middle of a Covid-19 pandemic and soon we will face an uncertain future after Brexit; both will have a massive impact on our future economy and our housing need.  GMSF is out of date before it even written never mind published.

Wrong Time
Greater Manchester Councils are proposing to consult with the public in the middle of a pandemic – over Christmas….

In a democracy, people need to be able to meet, to discuss, and to campaign around the issues that affect them in their local areas.  This is the wrong time to conduct any consultation if it is to be meaningful and inclusive.  At a time when people are rightly focussed on Covid-19 and its massive impact on our lives, it is a disgrace to even call this a consultation.

GMSF is also already based on an outdated process.  The Government’s White Paper ‘Planning for the Future’ sets out the new way that local plans will be drawn up and new ways that housing numbers will be calculated.

Councillor Michael Powell, Liberal Democrat Group Leader, said:  “I believe that this is the wrong plan presented at the wrong time.”  

“Building on Green Belt cannot be justified, especially when, with the economic downturn forecast on the coat tails of Covid-19 and Brexit, we will have more empty shops and offices and undeveloped sites in the town centre that could serve for housing. ” 

“Furthermore, people will just not be engaged with this final stage of consultation as they focus on keeping themselves and their families safe from disease and unemployment, as well as celebrating Christmas as best we can.

The Conservative Government’s Planning for the Future proposals will in any case make GMSF redundant as they require every Greater Manchester Council to produce an entirely new local plan within 30 months of the legislation being passed.  It is crazy to proceed with GMSF when the rules are so clearly about to change.”

Liberal Democrat Councillors across Greater Manchester will oppose the latest GMSF proposals when they are presented to their Councils. In Bury this is expected for 21 November 2020.