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Lib Dems Criticise Council over Prestwich’s “crumbling” roads

Liberal Democrats have criticised Bury Council’s under-investment in road repairs after a local councillor discovered a two-metre deep crater on a Prestwich street.

Cllr Donal O’Hanlon, Liberal Democrat member for St Mary’s ward, discovered the hole on Lowther Road, and launched a stinging attack on road maintenance in the borough. “We can’t go on like this – the condition of our roads is appalling, and the amount we are allocated to repair them is paltry!” said Cllr. O’Hanlon.

“Bury Council announced it’s annual budget recently, but the amount given over to road repairs was so low that we can’t even afford to fix the single neediest road. Local Area Partnerships decide how much of the meagre money allocated can be spent on the upgrading of the roads and pavements, but there is nowhere near enough.”

Cllr O’Hanlon described the moment he almost became a victim of the crumbling road himself. “I came round the corner and swerved around a dip in the road. I got out to investigate, and found a crater two metres deep. The damage to someone’s car if it’d fallen in, let alone the shock to the person, would far outweigh the cost of keeping the road in a decent condition!”

Prestwich Area Partnership has been allocated less than £200,000 by Bury’s Conservative-controlled Council to repair all the roads and pavements in the town. ”What we need is a real investment in our roads – the proverb ‘A stitch in time saves nine’ springs to mind. Is this what we get for our massive 4.9% Council Tax rise?” asked Cllr O’Hanlon. “I call on the Executive Member of the Council responsible for roads, Cllr. Dorothy Gunther, to come and see the appalling mess she is currently presiding over, and ask for her commitment to rectify matters immediately.”

Lib Dem Oasis Verdict: Room for Improvements, not 200,000 fans

Local Lib Dem Councillors have praised clean-up staff following recent Oasis concerts in Heaton Park, but voiced concerns that not enough was done to protect local people during the recent events.

The concerts, which saw 210,000 people enjoy music in the park over three nights, generated controversy over noise, but passed largely without major trouble.

Commenting on the concerts, Cllr Vic D’Albert, Liberal Democrat member for Holyrood and Parliamentary candidate for Bury South said “What’s clear is that over 200,000 people came to Prestwich and had a great time. But there were lots of problems for the people that live here, and we need to get the balance right. Before Manchester City Council think about having more concerts here, they need to think about Prestwich residents.”

Residents complained about excessive noise, particularly on the first night when a power failure caused a delay to the end of the concert.

Cllr D’Albert said “Of course there was going to be noise, but I think continuing until 11.25 was too late, and I will be demanding that this never happens again. I want to know why the stage was set up facing the houses of Prestwich rather than the open space of the park, and why revellers weren’t moved on quicker at the end. This was particularly unpleasant for older residents and people with young children.”

Parking arrangements were only partially successful. Cllr D’Albert said “We were given assurances that public transport would work and parking wouldn’t be a problem. Whilst streets in St Margaret’s and Sheepfoot Lane were well protected, those in Sedgley and Rhodes were not, and this wasn’t good enough. Buses and taxis were dropping off people in the wrong place, and queues for trams were very long. We need improvements to help residents.”

Cllr D’Albert did praise some aspects of the organisation. “I thought the street cleaning service was excellent, and lots of local people enjoyed a concert, either as paying spectators or for free in their gardens. A lot of local people enjoyed themselves, and local businesses received a welcome boost in trade. The gigs have raised the profile of Prestwich, and that’s great. In addition, some of the profits will be spent improving local parks, so people will see long term benefits as a result of short term disruption.”

“Prestwich Local Area Partnership will receive a report into all aspects of the concerts, and make this available to local people so that we can represent their views. I look forward to working with everyone – local people, and Bury and Manchester Councils – to make sure that if these things are to happen again, we in Bury make Manchester City Council learn from what happened. There’s certainly room for improvement, but perhaps not for 200,000 people across three nights in quick succession. We need to deal with the noise better, reduce the numbers and restrict activity to sensible times and durations. We need to strike a balance between Prestwich people and money for Manchester.”

REPOSSESSIONS: Labour Failing people in their hour of need

LIBERAL Democrats in Bury have slammed as ‘totally inadequate’ a government scheme supposed to help families facing the loss of their homes.

The Mortgage Rescue Scheme was announced in November last year by the Government following an alarming rise in the number of people having their homes repossessed by mortgage lenders. But Labour ministers have restricted the scheme to only 6,000 homes across the whole of England.

That means only one in 25 households facing repossession claims in the courts – the first part of a process mortgage lenders have to go through to repossess a home – will get help under the scheme. 713 repossession claims were issued in Bury in 2008, and many more are expected in 2009. But only 29 are likely to have their homes saved under this scheme.

Vic D’Albert, Parliamentary candidate for Bury South said, “The Mortgage Rescue Scheme was launched with a great fanfare by the Government in the autumn. But it is totally inadequate for the tidal wave of repossessions that local residents are facing.

“The idea behind the scheme is something Liberal Democrats have long been pushing – giving councils and housing associations the opportunity to help residents in mortgage arrears by buying a share in the equity of the home, or even buying it outright. The householders would then rent back their home, therefore avoiding eviction.

“But Labour have taken a good idea and then failed to make it a reality. Only 29 families in Bury out of 713 facing repossession will get help. This is totally inadequate. “Labour are behaving like King Canute sitting on the beach hoping they can order the repossession tidal wave to roll back into the sea. At the same time, families are being engulfed in repossession orders and homes are being swept away.

“Repossession is a terrifying reality for too many people in Bury. The Mortgage Rescue Scheme needs to be expanded urgently or else residents will face being thrown onto the streets.This failing Labour Government is failing people in their hour of need”

Vic D’Albert is Lib Dem Parliamentary candidate for Bury South. Keep up to date with all his activities at www.vicdalbert.net

BURY COUNCIL MUST GET A GRIP OF SCHOOLS ISSUE

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Lib Dem Parliamentary Candidate for Bury South, Vic D’Albert has told Bury Council they “need to get a grip of the situation affecting Radcliffe Riverside and The Derby High Schools as they risk letting down both schools”. 

Problems with the planned re-building of Radcliffe Riverside on the old East Lancashire Paper Mill site has rumbled on for months and recently new plans that envisaged utilising The Derby High School site were mooted. Then following the Councils decision being approved The Derby School Governors rejected the proposals.

Vic D’Albert said, “This whole saga has veered from concern to anguish to anger amongst those affected. And now if Bury Council don’t deal with this issue properly they risk losing millions of pounds of investment in local High Schools.”

Under the Governments’ Building Schools for the future programme, Bury Council can tap into millions of pounds of grants for rebuilding and refurbishing local schools. Bury Council planned to tap into these funds for the rebuild of Radcliffe Riverside and refurbishment of other schools. However the Government makes it conditional that the Local Authority addresses issues of spare capacity (as a result of falling rolls) and they need assurances that all affected schools support the proposals. 

“The recent turn of events which has seen Radcliffe Riverside unhappy at plans and The Derby High reject the proposals, now means these proposals and the much needed funds are at best in serious jeopardy. Bury Council needs to get a grip of the situation for the benefit of all concerned. They need to bring people together, consult properly with all stakeholders and deal with this issue. If all concerned need to be locked up together in the town hall until the matter is resolved then so be it.

“This situation cannot be allowed to continue drifting with the arguments being raged through the local media.If Bury’s Conservative administration fail to deal with this properly they will adversely affect the future education of thousands of high schools students.”

Vic D’Albert has today written to Bury Council’s Director of Childrens Services urging a special summit meeting of all concerned is organised in order to resolve the issue and progress the matter formally, breaking the deadlock. He has suggested representatives of both Governing bodies, Head teachers Officers, and the Councils Executive Portfolio holder should be involved at the very least.

PLAN TO BOOST AFFORDABLE HOMES IN BURY

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Bury South Liberal Democrats have welcomed plans to boost affordable housing and avoid home repossession. 

The plans, launched by the Liberal Democrat Shadow Chancellor Vince Cable MP and Shadow Housing Minister Sarah Teather MP, include: 

  • providing refurbishment loans for owners of empty homes if the homes are leased to housing associations,

  • boosting the amount of private housing for rent including using empty commercial property temporarily as housing,
  • bringing in a new type of secure mortgage to help boost lending to house buyers,

  • letting councils and housing associations buy up unsold private houses and allowing them access to funds to bring their homes up to social housing standards,

  • making sure the courts allow repossession only as a last resort.

Parliamentary spokesperson for Bury South Lib Dems, Vic D’Albert said, “There are many people right across Radcliffe, Whitefield and Prestwich who are struggling to get their own home or are facing repossession because of the recession. We must do all we can to help residents through these bad times. 

“Many homes built just before the recession started lie empty, often because the banks are not lending to people wanting to buy, yet there are many people needing a place to live. We want to unblock the system and our plans will help to do that. 

“Giving housing associations and councils the opportunity to buy up empty homes that builders cannot sell will mean hundreds of local families will be able to rent a place of their own.

Home energy plans mean cheaper bills in Bury

PLANS by the Liberal Democrats to massively increase the energy efficiency of all homes will lead to big savings in energy bills, say Bury Liberal Democrats.

In a message to local residents, Parliamentary spokesperson for Bury South, Vic D’Albert has backed the plans to raise the standard of home energy efficiency.

“The energy efficiency standards of 99 out of every 100 homes fall well below what they should be,” said Vic D’Albert. “Nearly every one of us is spending money on bills to heat the great outdoors as so much energy escapes from our homes.

“We want to bring home energy efficiency up to the highest level possible. In the past year, fuel bills have gone through the roof. But too often, our heat is escaping through the roof as well. Our plans will put an end to that.

”By cutting energy waste, we are also cutting the damage we do to the environment. It’s a win-win situation: lower fuel bills and fewer emissions that are leading to climate change that has given us extreme weather.”

The Liberal Democrats’ plans include requiring energy companies to use some of the £9 billion profit they have made from emissions trading to insulate the homes of the poorest residents.

They will also set up a National Green Loans scheme which will pay for a complete overhaul of the energy efficiency of people’s homes. Repayments will be added to energy bills with the loan paid off from the savings in energy use. Loan repayments will not be allowed to be more than the savings.

“This is a great idea for helping people to cut their energy bills and help us save the planet,” said Vic D’Albert.

Council graffiti response “woefully inadequate” say local Lib Dems

Council graffiti response “woefully inadequate” say local Lib Dems

Local Councillors have reacted with anger after another spate of graffiti in Prestwich, and are calling on the Council to take immediate action to clean up the mess.

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Cllr Vic D’Albert, Liberal Democrat Councillor for Holyrood ward and Chair of Prestwich Local Area Partnership said “I am disgusted that vandals continue to bring misery to local people by daubing our streets with graffiti. And I am equally angry with the Council’s woefully inadequate response. This has been going on for too long now, and it’s about time action was taken. The Local Area Partnership and the Police are already using very tight resources to try to manage this problem, but the Council need to take action now to help us and clean up the streets”

Liberal Democrats at Bury Town Hall have been campaigning for action for months. At a Council meeting in February they staged a demonstration displaying photographs of graffiti which has blighted Prestwich for months. The Council have offered graffiti kits for residents and businesses, but have so far directed no extra resource to clear up a problem which is getting worse.

Lib Dem spokesperson for Environmental Service Cllr Ann Garner said “The graffiti is on everything from streets signs to walls, and from utility buildings to business property. Graffiti kits are not a suitable solution except in limited circumstances. The Council have the power to insist that utility companies clean up graffiti on their property, and need to direct real efforts into cleaning it from their own property. I am proud of what Prestwich has to offer, and it is being ruined by graffiti which goes uncleaned for months.”

Cllr D’Albert concluded “We need to work together on this. Prestwich Councillors are doing their bit by leading the community fight. The Police did their bit by catching offenders, and we are supporting them to try to catch the latest offenders. But the Council are letting us down. They need to take action to clean up Prestwich now. “

Ends

Notes to Editor
Cllr Vic D’Albert is the Chair of Prestwich Area Partnership and is a Councillor for Holyrood Ward in Prestwich
Cllr Ann Garner is the Lib Dem Spokesperson on the Environment and is a Councillor for Sedgley Ward in Prestwich

Children in Bury will benefit from Schools Plan

PROPOSALS from the Liberal Democrats for big improvements to schools and teaching will see around £11 million of extra cash for schools in Bury to boost the education and life chances of thousands of children say local party members.

The plans were launched by Party Leader Nick Clegg and Shadow Secretary of State for Schools, David Laws MP. They call for raising standards in all local schools; closing the gap between children from rich and poor families and ending the era of Government meddling in education.

Speaking about the proposals to a meeting of members and residents, Councillor Tim Pickstone, who leads the Lib Dems in Bury said:

“There are a number of radical ideas to ensure all young people get the best start in life. The extra cash will make a real difference in our local schools.

“I am particularly pleased that funding is proposed to cut infant class sizes to private school levels of 15.

“We will also introduce a £2.5bn Pupil Premium, to ensure that extra funding goes to the pupils with the highest needs, whichever school they are in. And some of that extra money will pay for after school and Saturday classes, and extended school days.

“We will also get central government off the back of schools, teachers and pupils. The days of ministers in Whitehall stifling schools and interfering with everything that happens in the classroom must end.

“Schools here in Bury need to be freed to teach children rather than spend their time obeying ministerial orders and trying to achieve government targets.

“The schools proposals put forward by the Liberal Democrats will go a long way to ensuring that the many thousands of local children who go to local schools have at least as good a start in life as the small number who are educated privately.”

The proposals will be debated at the party’s spring conference in Harrogate in March.

Bury Lib Dems “Ashamed of Pay and Grading Calamity.”

Liberal Democrats on Bury Council are “ashamed” of the treatment of Council staff in the recent Pay and Grading review, according to Liberal Democrat Group Leader Cllr Tim Pickstone.

Cllr Pickstone, speaking at the meeting of Bury Council on February 4th, said “In all honesty, I was ashamed of the review. I was ashamed that that staff were sent letters saying that their salary would drop – only to be sent new letters a couple of months later saying that the rates would fall even more, and ashamed that staff were sent dismissal letters giving over the Christmas holidays, and then saw them withdrawn because of a lack of consultation.”

The Liberal Democrats supported a motion of no confidence in the Conservative Leader of the Council, Cllr Bob Bibby. But Cllr Pickstone said “It is true that the Conservatives run the Council and must take much of the blame for this calamity, but there has been a breakdown in relations between the Council and its staff representatives, and in my view the Labour Party must also take their share of blame because they were in control of the Council when this started.

Liberal Democrat spokesman for Resource and Performance, Cllr Richard Baum said “The Council has not been at its best whilst the Conservatives have been running this process. The Tories made a mockery of the scrutiny process by bending the rules around how decisions are overseen by the Council, and have consistently refused offers of help from other parties to try and work this out.”

Green plans will boost jobs and homes in Bury

Liberal Democrats in Bury have given their backing to plans for investment in green schemes that will make homes warmer, cut energy bills and improve public transport.

The plans, called Green Road out of Recession, were announced on 18th December by Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg MP. 

The plans will cost £12.5bn, which would be paid for by scrapping the recent VAT cut. The vast majority of that money will be spent immediately, making a real impact on the economy and people’s lives right away. 

Green Road out of the Recession proposals include:

  • A five-year programme to insulate every school and hospital, with 20% completed in the first year
  • Funding insulation and energy efficiency for a million homes, with a £1,000 subsidy for a million more

  • Building 40,000 extra zero-carbon social houses

  • Buying 700 new train carriages

  • Installing energy and money saving smart meters in every home within five years

“The plans proposed by Nick Clegg and the Liberal Democrats will give an immediate boost to the economy here in Bury,” said Vic D’Albert, Lib Dem Parliamentary Spokesperson for Bury South“. And by insulating people’s homes, it will help thousands of residents whose heating bills have gone through the roof in the past year.

 “I would particularly welcome the widespread introduction of smart meters in homes which would prove a massive boost to the increasing numbers of residents suffering from fuel poverty across the area.” 

Richard Baum, Parliamentary spokesperson for Bury North also welcomed the proposals adding, “Whilst Labour and the Conservatives are quietly dropping serious interest in tackling climate change and damage to the environment, Liberal Democrats believe that moving forward with green action on homes and transport will create jobs, cut energy bills, put money back into people’s pockets and protect the environment. It’s right for Britain and it’s right for Bury”.