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GMSF – Next draft not until summer 2020

Greater Manchester’s Council leaders have announced that the next draft of the Greater Manchester Spatial Framework (GMSF) will definitely be delayed to summer 2020. 

Over 60,000 comments on the latest draft were received and the Council Leaders say that they will use the next six months to have ‘further engagement’ on the main issues. The comments received from the public on the previous draft will be published at the start of October.

Councils will approve the next draft in June 2020, no coincidence at all that this will be just afterthe council elections and elections for Greater Manchester Mayor which take place in May………..

Call for Conductors on Trams

At last week’s full meeting of Bury Council, the local Liberal Democrat group proposed a motion calling for Metrolink to trial the use of conductors on trams.

The motion was passed with unanimous support from all parties in the Council, which means the Council will now formally request the move from Transport for Greater Manchester

New Prestwich Councillor Michael Powell used his ‘maiden speech’ to propose the motion, pointing towards the hope that conductors on trams would help to alleviate two particular existing issues with the service – rise in anti-social behaviour and violence, and high levels of evasion. Last year, police were called to nearly 3,500 Metrolink incidents and Metrolink currently estimate that 1 in 8 journeys across the service are currently going unpaid.

Our view is that there is a simple solution for both of these problems- providing permanent on-board staff on all journeys across the network.

Around £10 million is current being lost each year from fare evasion. This would be enough to pay for about 300 conductors.

The Liberal Democrat proposal was supported by the whole of Bury Council at the meeting and the proposals will now go forward to Transport for Greater Manchester. 

Reporting Back: Planning Committee

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

Liberal Democrat Councillor Cristina Tegoloreports back:

Prior to the Committee meeting, a site visit took place in respect of planning application 63324, at the Moutheath Industrial Estate off George Street in Prestwich. 

At the meting this application received approval but we raised some concerns:

We discussed a proposed development to the south of George Street, in Prestwich, for the erection of 124 no. dwellings. 

An outline planning permission on the site had already received outline planning consent in February 2017 (for the demolition of the existing buildings and the redevelopment of the site for up to 160 dwellings and 2,959 square metres of employment floorspace). Therefore, the Planning Committee could only consider matters in relation to the layout, scale, appearance and landscaping of the proposed development. 

The applicant will be taking advantage of a national policy, Vacant Building Credit (VBC), which is intended to incentivise brownfield development, including the reuse or redevelopment of empty and redundant buildings. In short term, under the VBC policy, the floorspace of any existing vacant unit is used to offset the number of affordable housing that that the landowner has to provide when redeveloping a brownfield site.

The vacant units in the proposed development have a total floorspace of 5,365.5 square feet, which would reduce the on-site affordable housing to 18 units. 

We analysed the merits and I raised at the meeting the following points:

  • Highlighting that this “generic” development was not catering for the specific needs of the local community which contains a significant Orthodox Jewish population, the second largest in the UK.
  • Identifying those units that did not have an accessible WC at ground floor level and that didn’t allow for manoeuvring space for a wheelchair by the main entrance door.
  • Putting an investigative so that electric vehicle charging points would be included.
  • Clarifying that the proposed 2.1metre high close boarded timber acoustic fence, and any perimetral fence within the boundary, should be installed based on the final FFL of the proposed development, which will be finalised only when the level of Singleton Brook is confirmed.

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

Organ Donation Week 2-8 September 2019

For one week, the UK celebrates those who donate organs, and therefore those who save lives. It draws attention to the subject of organ donation, and encourages more and more people to get involve, and help save someoneís mother, child or friend.

As the NHS website says: “Donation Week is a week of activity to shine a light on the generosity of donors and the incredible impact they have on transplant recipients, and an opportunity to educate, inform and inspire people, to help save and improve more live.”

The laws around organ donation are changing
From spring 2020, organ donation in England will move to an ‘opt out’ system. You may also hear it referred to as ‘Max and Keira’s Law’.

This means that all adults in England will be considered to have agreed to be an organ donor when they die unless they have recorded a decision not to donate or are in one of the excluded groups.

You still have a choice if you want to be an organ donor or not when you die.

The law is being changed to help save and improve more lives. Every day across the UK, someone dies waiting for a transplant

This factsheet explains how the law around organ donation in England is changing, what you need to do, and the choices you can make.

You can find out more here.

Hands up if you voted for a £10 tram tax?

Council Leaders in Greater Manchester have voted to introduce a £10 a year charge for pensioners to travel for free on Metrolink and trains.

The charge will come into effect in 2020 and is expected to bring in in around £1.2 million, straight out of the pockets of Greater Manchester’s pensioners. This was supported by the nine Labour Council Leaders (including Bury’s), the Labour Mayor and the Conservative Leader of Bolton Council.

Bus travel will still be free, but for us this extra charge for pensioners at the worst possible time. Free TV licenses for the over 75s end next year, and many older people being hit by increasing fuel and Council Tax bills.

Sign our petition to scrap the new tax here

Liberal Democrat Announce Candidate for Mayor of Greater Manchester

Liberal Democrats in Greater Manchester have announced their candidate for the election for Greater Manchester Mayor in May 2020.

Councillor Andy Kelly, who is the Leader of the Liberal Democrat Group on Rochdale Council will take on Labour’s candidate, Andy Burnham.

Andy said: “The Tories are playing parlour games with people’s lives and Labour are betraying those they profess to represent I felt the need to step up to the plate.

Greater Manchester voters deserve better representation, we need someone who is not afraid to be frank about our future. That person is me.

This year the Liberal Democrats made huge gains in the local elections, with 700+ gains nationally – the party’s best local election results. Many of these gains were in the Greater Manchester region. Three weeks later we gained two members of European parliament in the North West as voters turned away from both Labour and the Conservatives.

I am keen to take Burnham on his three years of delivering nothing.”

Andy Kelly’s first pledge has been to scrap the GMSF: “We need to find REAL solutions to the housing crisis. To provide the right homes, in the right places; reversing Labour’s local obsession with socially cleansing our community.”

Reporting Back: Cabinet Meeting

Last month was there regular meeting of Bury Council’s Cabinet. Opposition Leaders are allowed to attend the meeting but not vote. Councillor Cristina Tegoloreports: 

Corporate Finance Monitoring Report
The Leader and Cabinet Chair, submitted the Cabinet Financial monitoring report.  The report informs Members of the Council’s financial position for the period April 2019 to June 2019 and projects the estimated outturn at the end of 2019/20. The revenue budget projections highlight the fact that budget pressures exist in some key areas and it will be necessary to continue to maintain the high level of scrutiny, control and support around the Budget Recovery Boards and to further develop the savings pipeline.  The report projected an overspend at the end of the year of £0.996m.  

Greater Manchester Full Fibre Programme
The Leader of the Council submitted a report setting out details of the Greater Manchester Full Fibre programme. The report provided an overview of the capital funding available for GM of £23.8m. The funding will connect full fibre to over 1,300 GM Public sector sites.  These include Local Authority, GM Fire and Rescue, Health and Social Care partnerships (CCGs) sites across the region. 

The Cabinet agreed to an investment of £469k capital from Bury Council plus additional capital to fund a dedicated Project Manager post on a 2-year fixed term basis.

Revised Supplementary Planning Document 6 – Alteration and Extensions to Residential Planning 
The Leader of the Council submitted a report setting out details of the Supplementary Planning Document (SPD) 6.  The document provides more detailed guidance to support Unitary Development Plan Policy H2/3 and sets out a range of requirements for alterations and extensions to residential properties.

The main thing we raised at the meeting were concerns about lack of provisions for electric vehicles. We invited the Cabinet to explain to Bury citizens, who are applying for amendments to their garages and driveways, who is eligible to apply for the Electric Vehicle Homecharge Scheme and how to access it.

Our worry is that the changes should consider safety and include detail information for EV Homecharge. Bury citizens should take advantage of government grants to help fund the cost of a specially designed home charging point, which is safer than charging from the mains. I am not sure these issues have been addressed sufficiently.

Residents Parking Review
The cabinet has agreed the details of a new annual residents parking scheme:

  • Over 50% of the properties affected must be in favour of a scheme for it to be implemented.
  • A minimum of 10 properties must indicate support to initiate the Council to investigate a residents parking scheme request.
  • The costs and fees associated with all residents parking schemes are reviewed annually as part of the budget setting process with the objective of being cost neutral.
  • Each scheme will be reviewed every 5 years to ensure that they continue to be supported by the local community and demonstrate value for money.

Hopefully, the revised residents parking policy will provide a more comprehensive guidance that officers can follow.  Our worry is that costs and fees associated with residents parking scheme could raise considerably.

Purchase by the Council of 458 Bury New Road, Prestwich (Istambul Restaurant)
The Leader of the Council submitted a report setting out details of plans to purchase the freehold of a commercial property in Prestwich has emerged. Because of commercial information, part of the proposals were considered as an ‘exempt item’ which we cannot report back on. 

The property is located on the site where the Council is planning to develop the new Prestwich Village scheme.  The Cabinet agreed to utilise the fund established to create an ‘Investment Property   Acquisition Fund’. Our worry is that the purchase of this commercial property is not based on a regeneration strategy. Indeed, the Council hasn’t consulted with Prestwich residents yet and key stakeholders haven’t prepared a detailed proposal that justifies an expenditure of approx. £500K.

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

Govt forced to publish data showing less than 3 in 10 UK exporters are prepared for ‘no deal’ Brexit

Govt forced to publish data showing less than 3 in 10 UK exporters are prepared for ‘no deal’ BrexitNew data obtained by the Liberal Democrats from HM Treasury shows less than 3 in 10 exporters to the EU are ready for a ‘no deal’ Brexit.  Figures suggest most will not be ready until the beginning of 2021.

In a no-deal Brexit, businesses that currently only trade with EU countries will need to apply for an Economic Operator Registration and Identification (EORI) number to trade goods into and out of the UK.  HMRC uses this number to identify the business and collect duty on their goods.Various business lobbying organisations have been warning for months of a serious lack of preparedness amongst firms for a ‘no deal’ Brexit and how few British exporters to the EU have an EORI number enabling them to continue to trade after a ‘no deal’ Brexit.Chuka Umunna MP, the Liberal Democrats’ Treasury & Business spokesperson asked HM Treasury (HMT) for the latest figures on how many businesses that will need an EORI number to export to the EU have one, in a parliamentary question on 18th July. 

However he was told by the Financial Secretary Jesse Norman MP in an answer shortly before the summer Recess on 23rd July that “data on the number of traders that would need a UK EORI number is not readily available.”

This was in spite of the fact that Government has already privately shared the most recent data with various business groups. HMT also publicly released such data at the start the year but that was before leaving the EU ‘do or die’ on 31 October 2019 became government policy.Mr Umunna threatened to raise a Point of Order, complaining to the House of Commons Speaker about the unwarranted withholding of such data from Parliament, and also said he would submit a Freedom of Information Request to force disclosure of the latest data. 

As a result, HMT have now provided the latest EORI numbers data to Mr Umunna which suggests less than 3 in 10 exporters that will need an EORI number to trade in a ‘no deal’ scenario have one. If exporters to the EU register for an EORI number at the current rate (up to 10,000 per month), all businesses exporting to the EU won’t be registered until the beginning of 2021 at the earliest.The data reveals:* Since December 2018, approximately 66,000 traders who currently trade just with the EU have been issued with a UK EORI number. * However, based on 2018 data, HMRC estimate that there are approximately 150,000 VAT registered traders who currently trade with the EU and may therefore need to obtain a UK EORI number.* Figures released by HMRC in February 2019 revealed there were a further 95,000 non VAT registered businesses that trade with the EU and need to take action too. * According to HMRC the volume of businesses that have registered for UK EORI numbers to date is equivalent to around two thirds of the total value of trade undertaken with the EU, by VAT registered companies.
Commenting on the forced release of the latest EORI data, Chuka Umunna, the Liberal Democrat Treasury & Business spokesperson, said:“These figures reveal that an overwhelming majority of UK exporters to the EU are unprepared for a ‘no deal’ Brexit and will not be in a position to deal with the mountain of red tape and bureaucracy it will burden them with on 31 October.  “Pursuing a ‘no deal’ Brexit is wholly irresponsible political choice of the new administration for which there is no mandate and which will put businesses and jobs at risk.“Any form of Brexit will harm the economy and put obstacles in front of UK firms which is why Liberal Democrats not only want a final say for the people on any deal but are also the only party that can get into Government which is committed to stopping Brexit altogether.”

Answers to Questions: Police Issues

At the last full Council meeting of Bury Council, Liberal Democrat councillor Steve Wright asked a number of questions to the Greater Manchester Police representative: 

Community Policing Expenditure:
Could the Council’s member of the Greater Manchester Police and Crime Panel inform members what proportion of the Greater Manchester Police budget is spent on local community police teams?

We were quite shocked about how low the future is: 
The proportion of Greater Manchester Police budget that is spent on Neighbourhood Policing and Community Liaison is 11%.

Members will also be aware that in March the local approach to community policing changed with the introduction of a new Neighbourhood model. The model reverts back to a previous incarnation with 3 dedicated Inspectors taking responsibility for North, Central and South regions of the borough. This change combined with new shift patterns resulted in more Officers on the beat at any one time.

The new Policing precept announced for 2019/20 also resulted in 3 additional Police Officers for Bury who have now started and will further bolster the Officer numbers available.

Metrolink Incidents: 
Could the Council’s member of the Greater Manchester Police and Crime Panel inform members how many incidents have occurred which have required police attendance on the Metrolink in the current financial year and previous two financial years?

The answer is that there are a lot, and the level is increasing: Unfortunately, limitations of how the data is recorded means that we can’t provide a figure for 2017/18. The following data is a combination of Police data, Metrolink data and Transport for Greater Manchester Data.

In 2018/19 – There were 3481 incidents

Between April 2019 and 30th Jun 2019 there were 946 incidents, which is approximately 8% higher than the same point last year.

Members may be aware that security on the Metrolink is overseen by the Travelsafe Partnership which is jointly led by TfGM and Greater Manchester Police (GMP) with support from:

o Metrolink;
o Stagecoach;
o First Manchester;
o GoAhead NW; and
o British Transport Police.

Travelsafe has been in place since 2015 and commenced as a 3 year pilot. At the end of the pilot the Partnership went through a period of review and a complete change in leadership and moved away from the traditional ‘boots on the ground’ approach to more intelligence-driven tactics and prevention.

There is a TravelSafe Partnership Strategy in place for 2019-21 the following aims:

o Improve the perception of safety & security across public transport, offering reassurance to passengers;

o Manage instances of Crime and Anti-Social Behaviour (ASB) occurring on the transport network; and

o Discourage fare evasion.

Also, Members will be glad to hear that the Travelsafe Partnership have funded 50 PCSOs to help manage security on the network and a further 8 Officer employed by the Network. There is also a proposal to move to 50 Police Officers with a broader Transport remit sometime in the future.

The additional investment combined with the intelligence-led planning will start to see more targeted work, bringing the number of recorded incidents down.

Reporting Back: Greater Manchester Fire Programme for Change Scrutiny

Earlier this month was the regular meeting of Greater Manchester’s Corporate Issues and Reform Scrutiny Committee – specifically focussing on the proposals from Greater Manchester Fire for changes in the fire service going forwards.

Each of the three GM Scrutiny Committees consist of 15 councillors from across Greater Manchester (at the moment that is – 11 Labour, 3 Conservative 1 Lib Dem). Prestwich Lib Dem Councillor Tim Pickstone was elected Chair of the Scrutiny Committee for 2019-20, and reports back:

The meeting was held at the Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service Training and Safety Centre in Bury – the largest Fire-Fighter training facility in the UK. Before the meeting proper we had a tour of the facilities and demonstration of some of the fire-fighter training that takes place at the centre, including a demonstration of some of GM Fire’s new equipment for dealing with high rise fires. I would very much recommend that all schools take up the offer of free training provided by the centre which has some excellent facilities. Our meeting was held in the full-scale ‘street’ mock up inside the centre.

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The meeting heard from the Greater Manchester Mayor’s office about the background to the review of the fire service. The Mayor is responsible for the Fire Service and the ‘Programme for Change’ review was commissioned with the aim of coming up with a programme to address the challenges faced by the service.

The consultation process on the Programme for Change has now finished, and final proposals are being developed. These proposals were:
– removal of six ‘2nd’ fire engines (Manchester Centre, Blackley, Heywood, Moss Side, Oldham and Eccles).
– Crewing level of 4 (as opposed to 5) on all fire engines
– Three station mergers (Bolton Central and Bolton North, Manchester Central and Phillips Park, and Stockport and Whitehill).
– For fire-fighters changes include a new shift system, more modern annual leave arrangements
– new delivery models for Prevention, Protection, Youth Engagement and Administration

Following the proposals, the Mayor of Greater Manchester wrote to Greater Manchester Councils and MPs to clarify that:
– there would be no reduction in the number of fire fighters from the May 2017 levels
– there would be no compulsory redundancies

The Scrutiny Committee had a lot of questions and comments on the proposals to the Chief Fire Officer and his team. There were a number of points that we wanted to look at further at a meeting which will take place before the Greater Manchester Authority makes further decisions on the proposals in the Autumn. These include:
– the ability of the fire service to cope with growth in Greater Manchester – more houses, more high-rises and the exceptional growth in the city centre areas in Manchester and Salford Quays.
– understand fully how GM Fire has responded to the issues raised by people in the consultation process
– understanding the financial issues around crewing levels and the sustainability of this going forwards into future years.

The papers for the meeting are here. Any questions please ask!