Last Wednesday was the regular meeting of Bury Council’s Cabinet. This is the meeting made up of the eight Labour cabinet members. Opposition Group Leaders are invited to attend but not vote – Councillor Tim Pickstone reports:
Greater Manchester Clean Air Plan We have previously reported on the Greater Manchester proposals for a Clean Air Zone charging proposals where lorries, vans, taxis and buses which had polluting Diesel engines would need to pay a daily fee to drive in Greater Manchester. (£100 per day for a lorry or bus, £7.50 per day for a taxi or van).
The main thing we raised at the meeting was concerns about the impact on the proposals on buses and bus passengers.
At the moment around 2,000 buses are in use every day in Greater Manchester which do not meet the clean emission targets. That is a charge of £76 million a year just to buses. The plan is to retrofit buses (ie put a new engine in them) even if it was feasible to do this to even 1,000 buses in the next year is doubtful (and this was cost millions).
Our worry is that the changes will mean that: – bus services will be cut back by the operators – bus fares will go up so that operators can re-coup the £100/day fee – many bus services are ‘subsidised’ by Greater Manchester tax-payers, so we will have to pay the £100/day fee, which will probably mean that less services can be subsidised.
I am not sure these issues have been addressed sufficiently.
Mutually Binding Agreement The Cabinet considered the ‘Mutually Binding Agreement’ between Bury Councils and various NHS bodies that operate in Bury to operate as single Local Care Organisation. This means that many current Councils services will be run alongside current NHS services.
The plan is that this will make services more ‘joined up’ for local people. If it does that then good!
Mayor of Bury 2020-21 Next year it is the turn of the Labour Group to nominate the Mayor of Bury. Their nomination is Councillor Trevor Holt who has represented East Ward in Bury for 36 years. Trevor is a retired Postman, who will be one of the very small group of people to have served as Mayor twice, having previously been Mayor of Bury in 1996-97.
Manchester Airport CarPark Investment There was a private and confidential item about Manchester Airport which I am not allowed to report on. However the local press has reported on it, so you can read all about it there!
More information and the full papers for the meeting are here.
The deadline for consultation in the Greater Manchester Spatial Framework has recently closed. Here is the response from Bury’s Liberal Democrat Group:
Thank you for being given the opportunity to comment on the revised proposals of the Greater Manchester Plan for Jobs and Homes (Greater Manchester Spatial Framework).
Please find below the formal response of the Liberal Democrat Group of councillors on Bury Metropolitan Borough Council.
We would like to make two general comments, which relate to the proposals as they affect Bury as a whole. As Councillors who represent Holyrood Ward which includes the villages of Simister and (part of) Bowlee, we would also like to make specific comments as they affect the Northern Gateway housing proposals south of the M60/M62.
Jobs, housing and land in Bury
We agree that there needs to be additional housing in Bury, and indeed across the whole of Greater Manchester. We also agree that there needs to be high quality jobs for people in Greater Manchester.
We strongly believe that this growth needs to be managed to best meet the needs of our local communities. Specifically:
We need the homes that people need, specifically a strong provision of housing units that suit younger people and also older people who wish to ‘downsize’ but remain close to family and friends.
We need the homes that people can afford. We currently have a crisis that an increasing number of people are being excluded from buying their own home and are trapped living with parents, or trapped in high rental accommodation. We need to provide a good mixture of housing that means people can find the homes they need and can afford.
Growth must not come at the expense of quality of life. Greater Manchester’s green belt has ‘done what it was intended to do’ very successfully over the 50/60 years by ensuring that there are ‘green gaps’ between our towns and communities. We believe these green gaps are worth preserving to provide gaps between our towns, space for leisure and also something to alleviate the high levels of air pollution we suffer from.
On housing numbers we believe the Government is wrong to force councils to use 2014 figures, when more recent figures given a lower amount. Even the 2018 figures will be available soon and may well provide a more realistic forecast of growth given the current economic uncertainty following the EU referendum in 2016.
Our approach would be have zero loss of green belt land. The Mayor of Greater Manchester promised zero net loss of Green Belt in the run up to his election and he should stand by that promise.
We would do this through:
Making maximum use of brown field sites across all ten districts.
Reviewing density on all existing sites to ensure maximum housing provision on sites to be used.
Working with more with our neighbours (particularly in Bury’s case Rossendale)
By being more ambitious in our plans to revitalise Town Centres to provide higher density living.
We believe that in doing this we can make a strong case to the Planning Inspectorate to have an increase in housing, which may well be below the 2014 figures, but which can be met with no loss of green belt land.
With regard to employment land. We feel that the current Northern Gateway site is an overdevelopment. It is an area with very poor public transport access and on a motorway which is already at capacity. We would prefer to focus employment in existing town and city centres with good public transport links. We believe Bury’s towns could make a strong case for better employment opportunities, particularly around higher quality provision of offices or for small and start up businesses.
Transport Capacity in the Bury-Manchester corridor and M60 North
We are concerned about the lack of capacity, and the lack of proposed increased capacity, on the main transport corridor between Bury and Manchester.
We are councillors who represent a ward in Prestwich and Whitefield, both of which currently suffer from significant congestion in transport at the present time. This is both on the roads, with the A56 through Prestwich recently scoring as the most congested road in the North West of England (and eight most congested nationally).
The Metrolink line is a brilliant asset for Bury, but at present the tram is full to beyond capacity at the southern end of the line, with the existing housing.
There is no capacity improvements forseen on the A56 in the transport plan published alongside the GMSF. Indeed in the revised Bee Network proposals the A56 is highlighted as a core route for safe cycling all the way to Manchester. We very much welcome safer cycling but this would seriously reduce vehicular capacity on this route.
The only capacity improvement proposed for the Manchester to Bury Metrolink is the additional 2ndtrams that have already been ordered which may well help with the current capacity issues but will not cope with more houses.
As a minimum we need to provide additional Metrolink capacity on the Bury Manchester line. At the moment a tram (Airport) terminates at Victoria. Another (Trafford Centre) is proposed to terminate at Crumpsall in 2021. At least one of these needs to be extended to Bury (or at least Whitefield) to deal with the congestion which exists between Crumpsall and Whitefieid.
The M60 as it passes between Prestwich and Whitefield is a highly congested stretch of motorway. We have recently endured many years of roadworks to create a smart motorway but there remains very significant capacity problems with standing traffic at many times of the day. Not only is this bad for travel times but it also will contribute to poor air pollution and reduce life expectancy.
The GMSF in its current proposals will add to this congestion with the creation of the Northern Gateway employment site on a massive scale. This will be significant increase in goods and car journeys on the M60 north/M62 which there is just not the capacity to do so. There are vague indicates for an additional motorway junction near to Birch services, but this will make congestion worse as junctions add to congestion not alleviate it.
The northern gateway site is sited poorly for public transport and this lack of public transport is not addressed in the transport plan (except the vague plan of new bus routes). Most young people cannot drive so employment should be provided alongside good public transport links.
The only proposal to address capacity is a vague plan to improve the flow of traffic at Simister Island. As the councillors who represent Simister we have grave concerns about the impact on the village of any new construction which will seriously impact on the village, but also on the two schools (St Margaret’s primary and Parrenthorn High) which are both close ot the junction the southern side.
We strongly believe that these transport, congestion and air pollution issues must be addressed properly in the GMSF. We cannot have a proposal for jobs and houses that is adding to congestion, adding to air pollution and as a result reducing life expectancy.
Housing Proposals in Simister and Bowlee
As councillors for Holyrood Ward we have the honour of representing residents in the village of Simister and also the western halves of Bowlee and Rhodes which are part of Bury MBC.
Simister is a unique part of Prestwich and indeed Bury. It is a proud village community, unique in being the closest village to Manchester city centre. The village has strong links with the surrounding countryside, most of which is dairy farms but also sees significant equestrian use with horse riding a daily feature in the village. The village is of a linear nature based along Simister Lane which is an extremely narrow road which already struggles to cope with existing traffic. Simister is the home to Holyrood Ward’s largest employer, the Brookvale centres for people with learning difficulties, which provides residents with a pleasant village environment. Simister has an important nature site, the Simister Wetland, which is of scientific importance and the home to many living creatures some of whom have protected status.
Be very clear that the proposals, as they now stand, would destroy this village. Even though the proposals seem to indicate that there would be a gap of a 100m or so between the existing village and new houses, this will still destroy the character of the village. It is utterly ridiculous to think that a village can survive its character if it is completely surrounded by 2,700 new houses.
On the Bowlee and Rhodes side the proposals seem to indicate that all the traffic from the 2,700 new houses will enter and exit onto Heywood Old Road. This road already suffers from sever congestion with standing traffic going right up towards Heywood in the mornings. There is just no capacity to have any roads emptying out onto Heywood Old Road and this scheme has been poorly thought out.
The green belt land which surrounds Simister and Bowlee is an important piece of Green Belt which must be protected.
It currently provides a green barrier between the urban areas of Prestwich and Middleton and between Whitefield and Middleton/Heywood. If the proposals of the GMSF go ahead there will be continuous development between Prestwich, Whitefield, Middeton and Heywood which would seriously impact on the quality of life for people who live there. A ‘green strip’ needs to be retained between these communities.
As previously stated, air pollution is a significant concern in the M60 and M62 areas. These motorways are extremely congested, and will be even more congested if the Northern Gateway employment site is developed. Development of 2,600 hosues around Simister and Bowlee will mean building right up to the M60 and M62. We should not be building houses in places which will give people a reduced life expectancy.
Councillor Mary D’Albert, Holyrood Ward
Councillor Tim Pickstone, Holyrood Ward (Group Leader)
Councillor Steve Wright, Holyrood Ward (Deputy Group Leader)
Liberal Democrats are supporting a Private Members Bill which would give people who are in Britain because they have claimed asylum, the right to look for paid work.
Liberal Democrat MP Cristina Jardine tabled a private members bill in Parliament which would change the current regulations.
As it stands, people seeking asylum who make it to Britain are only allowed to work after twelve months after submitting their claim for asylum AND only if they can fill a job on the government’s very narrow shortage occupation list (like ballet dancer, or nuclear waste decomissioner).
Instead the government pays a £5.39 per day stipend, forcing many people into poverty or the illegal economy, and obviously costing money.
Our vies is that everyone deserves the right to work, to put food on the table.
The change we’re requesting is so small as far as government policy is concerned – we’re asking for the UK to catch up with the rest of the western world – but the difference it would make to asylum seekers would be transformative.
Greater Manchester’s council leaders and the Mayor have agreed an outline business case to put to Government for the introduction of clean air zone charging.
Why is this happening:
People will be aware of the significant concerns about rising air pollution across the country. The Government has placed legal responsibility for complying with NO2 limits with local authorities.
The proposals are that:
– All diesel buses and HGV lorries that do not meet emissions standards would pay £100 a day to drive in Greater Manchester (not including motorways).
– All diesel taxis, minibuses and vans that do not meet the emissions standards would pay £7.50 a day to drive in Greater Manchester. (not including motorways).
A two-phase approach would see diesel buses, coaches, HGVs, taxis and private hire vehicles face daily charges from 2021, charges for vans would follow by 2023.
There would be no charges for private cars.
Part of the business case being put to Government is that there would be Government money made available to help non-compliant buses, lorries, vans, taxis be upgraded or ‘retro-fitted’ to be non or low emission vehicles.
Issues and Comments The plan has been criticised from different sides:
Friends of the Earth are critical that the plan is not fast enough, and does not cover all polluting vehecles.
Manchester Friends of the Earth say:
“We are dismayed that Greater Manchester will not tackle illegal levels of air pollution before 2024.
Greater Manchester has the highest rates of emergency admissions to hospital for asthma in the whole country. But Greater Manchester will not have a plan in place before the end of 2019 and is not planning to achieve legally compliant air quality levels before 2024.
The government’s own evidence is that the most effective measures are Clean Air Zones covering all polluting vehicles. This must be introduced as soon as possible, along with measures to help people out of their cars and into cleaner methods of transport.” (full comments here).
Bus, taxi and fleet operators have also objected to the increased costs:
Stagecoach Manchester hinted the clean air zone plan could make travelling on buses more expensive, with the charges buses would face being passed on to fares.
Figures show Greater Manchester local authorities licence around 2,100 taxi vehicles and 13,800 private hire vehicles. Of those, 89 per cent of taxis and 67 per cent of private hire vehicles are currently non compliant with required emission levels under the plans.
For buses, there are about 2,200 buses operating in Greater Manchester of which about 2,000 are currently not compliant with the regulations. Even we managed to replace or retrofit half of those buses by 2021, then buses would still be charged £36 million a year.
What do you think? Our view is that something must be done about air pollution. Replacing polluting diesel vehicles with cleaner engines should be a key part of this.
BUT we worry that the charging proposals as they are will hurt too many people (anyone who uses a bus, self employed and small businesses etc).
For the Prestwich area, we worry that no attention is being given to motorways, which are one of our biggest sources of air pollution.
We think we must also focus on reducing the number of cars on the road – for example by increasing Metrolink use by making fares affordable (currently 1 in 8 passengers don’t pay at all!) and providing increased capacity, AND by making walking and cycling safer and more attractive.
Next steps – The plans need to be submitted to government by the end of March
– Everyone in Greater Manchester – residents, businesses, organisations, interest groups andpoliticians – will have the chance to have their say and help shape how we tackle air pollution. GM will be launching a public conversation in mid-May, running until the end of June, for people to give feedback and help shape the detailed design.
– A Full Business Case would then be developed by the end of 2019.
– Subject to government approval, measures would be introduced by 2021.
Figures released this week by the Government show that 597 deaths in 2017 related to street homelessness. Manchester, with 21 deaths, had the highest number. Birmingham (18) and Bristol, Lambeth and Liverpool (all 17), also registering more than one death a month.
Our view is that the fact that nearly 600 people died on our streets in 2017 is not just a tragedy, but a national disgrace of which we should be deeply ashamed.
These figures show that all over the country, our homelessness crisis is at epidemic levels and people are indefensibly losing their lives. Liberal Democrats want the Government to be building up to 100,000 affordable social homes a year and to provide accommodation and support to those in need.
The Mayor of Greater Manchester, prior to his election, promised to “end rough sleeping in Greater Manchester by 2020”. This is only 10 months away, and we need to hold the Mayor to account for his promise.
A Freedom of Information request by Liberal Democrat MP Layla Moran has shown that 6,518 ‘offenders’ were found guilty under the Vagrancy Act (1824) between the years 2014 to 2017 in England and Wales. Greater Manchester Police made 441 prosecutions in the four year period.
“The Government, and local authorities, should be ashamed that they have continued to allow the use of a law that makes rough sleeping a criminal offence, and for it to be used so prolifically with little regard for the people afflicted.This law was controversial 200 years ago, and it has no place in a modern, compassionate society.I call on the Government to back my cross-party campaign to scrap the Vagrancy Act, a Bill which criminalises and degrades the most vulnerable, and should bring shame to those who allow its use.”
Liberal Democrat MP Layla Moran is campaigning to scrap the 1824 Vagrancy Act.
Last night was the ‘Budget Council’ meeting at Bury Town Hall, where councillors set the Council’s budget for 2019-20, as well as the Council Tax rate residents will pay.
The proposals from the ruling Labour Group were agreed. These include:
– Council Tax rise of 4.4%. The maximum rise allowed by Government without a referendum is 3%, so this is made up of 2.94% rise by Bury, and then on top of that are higher than inflation rises by Greater Manchester Police £24 a year for a Band D property and a more than doubling Greater Manchester Mayor’s tax from £8 to £17, for a Band D property.
– The Council has used some of it’s previous reserves – £5 million – to make the budget balance this year. This is perfectly legal, but obviously they can only be used once – so they are already creating a problem for 2020-21 when additional cuts of £5 million will need to be found.
– Money remains very tight and significant savings need to be made. Two that stood out for us is a reduction in the amount available for road repairs of £600,000 and a reduction in the amount spent on home care visits for older people who need this support of £1.4 million.
– The Council has increased the amount of Council Tax that must be paid on an empty property to double the normal rate.
– Using this extra income to borrow more there is some money for some new things by borrowing about £4.5 million . This includes £1 million to refurbish Bury Market and money to take forwards proposals in Prestwich, Radcliffe and Whitefield town centres (the money to do the studies, not the money to build anything).
What did the Liberal Democrats do? We didn’t support the budget, there are some good things, but in general we couldn’t support a budget that was cutting road repairs and home care visits and only balanced by using reserves.
We made an alternative proposal which included:
– More money for road repairs (£3.6 million)
– More money to tackle congestion and ‘rat runs’, and money to tackle air pollution outside of schools (No-idling zones) (£0.5 million)
– More money to address mental health concerns in schools and to tackle fly-tipping (£0.6 million over three years).
The proposal was affordable by reducing management costs by just two posts.
Regrettably Labour Councillors voted agains these proposals.
Hope this is useful please get in touch if you have any questions. The budget papers for the meeting are here.
New Council Tax Rates (from 1 April)
Band A – £1217.44
Band B – £1420.35
Band C – £1623.26
Band D – £1826.19
Band E – £2232.00
Band F – £2637.80
Band G – £3043.63
Band H – £3652.35
Last week was an important opportunity to scrutinise the Council budgets which are set at a Greater Manchester level with the regular meeting of the Greater Manchester Combined Authority ‘Corporate Issues and Reform Scrutiny. Bury’s Lib Dem Councillor Tim Pickstone represents Bury on the Committee and reports here:
Mayor’s General Budget A part of our Council Tax bills are paid directly to the Mayor of Greater Manchester’s office. A large part of this is for fire services, for which there are no major changes this year in total costs.
In 2018-19, for the first time, the Mayor levied an extra General Levy to residents of £8 a year (for a band D property). The proposal is that this will increase by 125% to £17 per band D property.
The rationale for this increase is around buses. They Mayor wishes to introduce free bus travel for 16 and 17 year olds – estimated at costing up to £9 million. There are also significant monies set aside for future ‘bus reform’ – this is recent changes to legislation which gives city regions like Greater Manchester the potential to have a more regulated bus system.
Bus travel in Greater Manchester has been steadily declining over the last 20 years (as with most of the rest of the country), but the Mayor sees improved bus travel as a key solution to congestion. We’re less convinced this is the only way forwards and would like to see significant investment in all pubic transport options (tram and train) as well.
I asked the Mayor about the 16/17 year old free bus travel. One question is that this is only buses (so not free travel on trams and trains) which I feel will limit the usefulness off getting young people to opportunities (like apprenticeships) which are difficult journeys by bus. A second concern is what measures will be taken to make sure all bus users feel safe using the bus, for example at night.
Transport There is not proposed to be any increase in the amount local councils have to contribute to Transport for Greater Manchester in 2019/20 – though there is extra money for bus reform and 16/17 year old travel (see above). The largest expenditure items in Transport are – concessionary travel for pensioners, subsidised bus services and the cost of borrowing (largely the cost of building new Metrolink lines in recent years).
Police The proposal from the Greater Manchester Police and Crime Commissioner (who is Greater Manchester is the Mayor) is that the police element of our Council Tax should go up by the maximum allowed by Government which is £24 per year (for a band D property).
Waste The final element of GM revenue finances is the waste disposal service which has been undergoing significant changes in recent years as the Council’s bought ourselves out of the previous contract with Viridor Laing and are now re-tendering the service.
Capital Budgets A large amount of money also flows through the Combined Authority around capital or investments – around £1/2 billion in 2019-20. The largest individual items here are the continuing work on the Trafford Centre line extension to Metrolink and the Housing Investment Fund on new houses.
More information and the full set of Committee papers are here. Any questions please ask!
The formal public consultation on the Greater Manchester Spatial Framework ends a month from now on 18 March 2019. This is your opportunity to have your say on these important plans which will have a massive impact on our local area for generations to come.
You can take part in the consultation online, or in the post. Details of the online consultation are here.
Responses sent in the post should be to: Planning Team Consultation, GMCA, Churchgate House, 56 Oxford Street, Manchester, M1 6EU
Our view is that we doneed some more housing, but this needs to be the homes that people need and can afford. We would do this on existing brownfield sites and be regenerating town centres – with no loss of green belt land.
A survey released by Age UK has found that more than 50,000 older people have now died waiting in vain for care during the 700 days since the Government first said it would publish a Care Green Paper
Over the same period, in excess of half a million older people (626,701) have had their requests for social care refused, and 7,240 older people have had the terrible experience of running down all their savings because of their care bills, leaving them reliant on the state to fund their care in future and with nothing to leave for loved ones after their death and 1,263,844 older people have developed an unmet need, such as being able to wash or dress. This is 1,805 developing an unmet need every day.
Commenting on the findings, Liberal Democrat Health Spokesperson, Baroness Judith Jolly, said:
“The statistics and personal stories uncovered by Age UK are deeply distressing to read. I cannot understand how the Conservative Government can hear these stories and continue to ignore the crisis in social care.
“The Conservative Government has failed. They have delayed the Social Care Green Paper six times because of their failure. The Conservatives must now work with other political parties to achieve a genuine long term, sustainable settlement for the NHS and social care.
“The Liberal Democrats would put a penny on income tax to directly invest funds in social care. We will also keep making the case for a new, dedicated NHS and care tax to guarantee a modern, effective and efficient NHS and care system to ensure that when our loved ones need help, help is there.”
Bury Liberal Democrat Councillor Mary D’Albert said:
“Now is the time for answers. Every day that is spent further defining the problem and consulting on changes, is another day in which people’s lives are not being lived to the full.
“The current system of social care is unsustainable and will buckle under the weight of demand. With people living longer, increases in costs and decreases in funding, adult social care is at breaking point. This is something that the Government must address in its Green Paper on social care and in the forthcoming Spending Review.”
Last week the Government published its annual ‘Local Government Spending Allocations.
Councillor Tim Pickstone, Liberal Democrat Group leader on Bury Council said:
“Councils still face a funding gap of more than £3 billion this year. The money councils have to provide local services is running out fast and there is huge uncertainty about how they will pay for them into the next decade and beyond.
“If we truly value our local services then we have to be prepared to pay for them. Fully funding councils rather than smaller “one off” bits of extra funding is the only way they will be able to keep providing the services which make a difference to people’s lives, such as caring for older and disabled people, protecting children, building homes, maintaining our parks, fixing roads and collecting bins.
“Investing in local government services will also help reduce pressure on other parts of the public sector, such as the NHS, and save money for the public purse.”
Liberal Democrat Local Government Spokesperson Wera Hobhouse MP added:
“This settlement does nothing to address the growing inequalities across our country. The highly regressive council tax system means that, as the Conservative Government continue to underfund local government, subsequent council tax rises hit poorer communities the hardest.
“There must be a reform of council tax to prevent the places with the highest demand for services for vulnerable people, struggling the most to fund it.
“Liberal Democrats demand better than the sticking plaster that has been presented. The Government are once again kicking the can down the road, instead of setting out a long-term financial package that provides security for our local services.”