Gorse Hill Labour

A regular blog and updates from Mike Cordingley, Councillor for Gorse Hill Ward in Trafford – Gtr Manchester.

Councillor Update July 2020

Covid

Trafford is experiencing the rise in positive cases of Covid seen across Greater Manchester. We don’t seem to be experiencing a corresponding rise in hospital admissions.

The rise in positive tests seems to particularly focused on a younger segment of the population. The message continues to be vigilent and get tested if you have symptoms. Trafford’s testing facility is at UA92 this week. Tests are booked via the NHS.

Impact on Council Finances

Dealing with Covid-19 has had a huge impact on Council finances for this year. Remember that the Government’s diktat was to do what was necessary.

The Government has issued grants to councils but go nowhere near addressing the full amount.

So looking at this year’s budget spend, we’re about £17m down on where we should be for the year.

The Government is talking about spreading the cost but Trafford under Labour has been a frugal council. I’d like to see finance reform but unless that happens we’re going to need support from Government. It’s my view you can only squeeze so much out of Council Tax.

Trafford Leisure

You may have seen reports that the impact on Trafford Leisure in terms of maintaining a service has been even greater than on the council since they’ve not been able to open their centres. The council has reconfigured reserves allocated to the Trust to assist but since some of these reserves were connected to a new Stretford Leisure Centre/Pool, it’s obviously a concern to us in Gorse Hill.

Crime

Crime in Greater Manchester is currently up by 25% compared to the same time last year. This is a significant change as the figures for April and May were quiet in comparison.

I’m told that Trafford is not seeing the same increase. That may be across Trafford as a whole but my experience suggests that there is a peak in crime and disorder, as well as anti-social behaviour.

We are not very good at reporting crime in Gorse Hill. We know there is drug dealing at a number of locations. It’s not being reported to the police.

Do report on Crimestoppers too. It gives police vital information to apply resources

Lostock Circle Court

Circle Court has been due regeneration for a number of years. Windows are draughty and uninsulated and it needs all aspects bringing up to 21st century standards. There were hints that building a new hotel (still subject to planning) could bring in the receipts needed to assist. However, the financial outlook is such that the Housing Trust has indicated that any regeneration is now pushed back.

As councillors we’re arguing that this is precisely the right investment to be making at this time. We’re angry about it and will continue to make the case.

Waste Disposal

I don’t think closing the household waste and recycling centres was ever a good idea. They are at last open but we’ve been left with a legacy across the ward of fly-tipping and overflowing and abandoned commercial waste. I’m doing my best to find a way through these but people are angry and I understand that.

We also seem to have had a spate of bin thefts this week. Now the collection service is supposedly back to normal, expectations are confused and it’s clear that there’s a backlog of frustration and unattended fly-tipping and a big increase in incidences of rats across the ward.

Schools

The September resumption is a really difficult issue. Schools have been operating primarily as learning hubs with most of their pupils learning at home. The effectiveness of the learning we know is very mixed and the quality of the learning environment is extremely varied. The impact of covid-19 on learning will range from almost zero to a level seriously detrimental to the child’s outcomes.

Teachers and staff have worked incredibly hard throughout the period. I know there are worries about a full resumption. I suppose I’m in the camp where I just think we have to get children back. It is not going to be easy.

I’m a governor at Lostock High as well as Old Trafford Community Academy; but I did want to report back on Lostock as it’s important to the ward. Since May we have a new Headteacher, Lindsay Brindley. I’m really impressed with how she’s addressing the current situation. She’s managed to recruit some really proven senior staff into key positions. She’s worked so hard and I really wish her all the best in September when it’ll be the first time she’s had all the children back.

GP Practices

Extremely disappointing that Trafford’s GP practices with the worst ratings amongst patients were all located in the Stretford/Old Trafford area.

Trafford has 30 practices:

27 – Delamere Medical Practice, Stretford (72),
28 – Old Trafford Medical Practice (67),
29 – North Trafford Group Practice, Stretford (61)
30 – Brooks Bar Medical Centre, Stretford (60).

Only Lostock avoided the bottom places coming in at 14.

I raised this with the Director of Public Health but I suspect it’s an issue for the CCG and the Council’s Health Scrutiny. I suppose looking at the position as a whole, then Trafford’s practices are doing well, however I’m not happy our practices are failing to serve their patients as well as others.

Housing

There are a number of pressures building up whilst covid-19 lockdown has been in place. It is only now that Social Landlords are entering into new lets. We had an effective freezing of movement. The ban on evictions extends until 23rd August.

Obviously no one wants to see evictions without cause but sometimes it’s the only way for a situation to ease and it’s pressured to say the least at the moment.

Easing of Lockdown

I think generally it’s gone well. Clearly a lot of this is for the council to police. The requirement to wear a mask was 100% adhered to when I visited Tesco, but I understand the company (along with Sainsburys) is now saying they won’t intervene with people not wearing a mask. I think that’s a mistake.

From what I have seen bars are quiet.

Really disappointed to see the Up Top project not proceed. I have no inside information on what happened there.

Not comfortable with gyms reopening personally.

Supporting the A56 Bike Lanes

I’ve made my position clear that I very much welcome the bike lanes. Perhaps interestingly, I think it’s less about facilitating bike riding and more about taming the A56 so that traffic movement is at civilised speeds and steady whilst people can reclaim the pavements for walking and chatting without the poisonous exhausts and imposing roar.

I think we’re going to see more facilities brought in quite quickly. Close to home we might see some filtering around Gorse Avenue and Ashover Street. Apparently letters are going out today though I’ve not seen them.

Trafford Press Release – Closing Rat Runs

Planning

Planning appeals have been lodged against refusal on:

  • Hotel at corner of Warwick Road and Chester Road
  • The safe-storage facility opposite Arnold Clark showroom

A planning application has been submitted for the B&Q site to build 333 apartments (use class C3) and communal spaces ancillary to the residential use; flexible space for use classes A1, A3, D1 and/or D2; undercroft car parking; new public realm; and associated engineering works and infrastructure | Former B&Q Site Great Stone Road Stretford M32 0YP

We’ve also received a pre-planning consultation letter in respect of 13 storey appartments on Warwick Road. The letter has also been delivered to local residents.

Lastly,

This continues to be the busiest time I can remember for casework. At the same time, Trafford’s officers are mainly working from home. I’m continuing to do my best to deal with issues. I have had a mixture of complete success, partial progress and getting nowhere on various issues.

It’s a fabulous role being a councillor. It’s much better when I can get out and about as trying to deal with it all from a laptop is a pain. Have a great summer and hopefully things will be a little bit better come September.

ONS figures show the loss covid has had on our areas

The good news is that Gorse Hill Ward has fared slightly better than the places around us according to official statistics. We don’t have within the ward those elderly peoples homes that have suffered so much. This probably improves our figures. Nevertheless, it is good news that our adherence to the lockdown is paying off. We’re coming out of this in a lot better state than we might have done.

The three output areas that approximate to the make up of Gorse Hill Ward total 12 covid deaths since the start of the pandemic. Clearly this is absolutely tragic and my thoughts go out to the family and friends of those we have sadly lost. However, it could have been so much worse.

You can enter your postcode into the top left hand corner of the map to zoom into your area. Or you can go to the Office of National Statistics by clicking on the link below and accessing the data directly from their site.

A councillor’s update from behind the lockdown

Lockdown Blues

I’ve been remiss in not blogging since virus arrived. I wanted to avoid getting in the way of the advice coming from the authorities whether Government, NHS or Council.

There’s been an incredible effort by local people to beat this threat and we all acknowledge the commitment of workers in essential services. As well as health and care workers, I pay particular tribute to our shop workers, our street cleaners, refuse collectors, bus drivers, delivery drivers, those that keep our drains and sewage systems working. In fact I pay tribute to everyone who has worked or volunteered during this period.

Lockdown commenced on 23rd March. Almost everyone agreed we should reduce the transmission of the virus through a massive reduction in social interaction. The UK threw in the towel as far as tracing and containment was concerned and opted for a lesser version of the lockdowns introduced in Spain and Italy.

There’s talk of lockdown now being eased but it’s difficult to see it happening quickly. The death toll in hospital across the three days to Saturday 25th April was over 1,900. This about the level we had at the beginning of April. So we’re nowhere near the levels we had when lockdown started (less than 150 – 3 day rolling). Hopefully we can see the trend of reduced deaths continue. We’re only at the start of this.

So what’s going on during lockdown?

Planning continues – The biggest planning application we’ve been dealing with recently is the nine storey hotel at Lostock Circle. This should have been heard at the April meeting but it’s been deferred to allow an impact assessment on the hotel market locally (known as the sequential test).

Gorse Hill Pub is up for sale. Obviously we’ll keep an eye on this but with lockdown in operation there’s a worry about the whole sector.

Council meetings are suspended. We’ve had a couple of online video conferences but essentially normal democratic scrutiny is unavoidably suspended. We try to do our best by email but it is difficult.

Council Finances – Trafford relies heavily on council tax and business rates. We anticipate the impact this year will be well over £30m. This is stark. It affects all councils and really worries me. I don’t trust the government and I don’t trust their solutions. They invariably make hedge fund holders and asset strippers richer, whilst the rest of us struggle.

Stretford Mutual Aid

Stretford Mutual Aid has been established at Stretford Public Hall as hub to support various local support groups in delivering to individual needs such things as:

  • Food shopping
  • Getting fuel (if you’re on a pre-paid meter)
  • Getting essential medication
  • Looking after pets
  • Someone to talk to

If you live alone, are struggling to make ends meet, are self-isolating or generally in need of advice or support please contact 0300 330 9073 (8.30am to 5.30pm, Monday to Friday).

Select option 4 for Trafford and then ignore the options for ‘goods and services’ or ‘pensions’ – just hold the line and they will signpost you to Stretford Mutual Aid.

Gorgeous Gorse Hill, Lostock Community Partnership, Love Gorse Hill and especially Gorse Hill Studios are all supporting and part of this initiative. It’s no surprise to me that local people initiated this response almost immediately that lockdown was called.

Labour has a new leader

For the first time in years I think, I voted for the leader, deputy leader and NEC candidates who all won. I must be growing ‘on message’ for the first time in my life.

It was always going to be difficult at this time for whoever won the leadership. The challenge is to establish credibility as a potential party of Government. I wish Sir Kier well.

Labour’s leaked dossier

For those not following Labour’s in-house troubles, the dossier reveals a party HQ in which individuals modelled themselves on characters from the Thick of It satire, who were more interested in undermining Jeremy Corbyn’s 2017 General Election campaign and used their position to trip up and embarrass the leadership.

None of this is a shock – to be honest, Labour Party’s HQ had been riven with cliques long before Jeremy Corbyn was chosen as our leader. However, those who were in positions at the top of the bureaucracy, whose wages were being paid by ordinary members, who chose to work against their employers and are still benefiting from the patronage of the party should have the ties with the party removed. We’ve got to put an end to this in-fighting and we can’t have these people like Lord Iain McNicoll still involved in any way.

We need a reform of the party bureaucracy. I would advocate strengthening the regional democracy. They should hold HQ to account rather than the other way round.

We still have to deal with antisemitism within the party and it was reassuring that the introduction made clear that it continues to be a blight that has to be dealt with.

It will be a test of both Kier Starmer and Angela Rayner. If they get this right, then the whole party can move forward together. I worry that they may simply try to consign it to a different time and leave a festering wound that will come back to hurt them.

Casework Review

Assisted bin collections have been the one area of the refuse service that has troubled me during lockdown. I have had a couple of cases that could have been handled much better.

This doesn’t detract from the praise I bestowed at top of this page. I do think our refuse collectors have done a fantastic job. The green bin collections are something I really didn’t expect to resume before normality returned so it’s been a real bonus.


Business Relief – called in on a small number of cases to try to help resolve. The teams support these have been working round the clock and they’ve been tremendous in getting info back to businesses.


Hospital Visiting for serious cases. Sadly this is one those really awful aspects of social distancing. There’s no easy answer. With such a contagious disease amongst us, hospitals have had to impose really hard restrictions on visits even where the patient’s illness is not covid-19. Patient Liaison have been incredibly understanding and have tried to facilitate electronic communication etc but it’s incredibly hard on the family. One reason we really need to beat this virus.


Surrender of rented property on death of tenant – clearly lockdown creates special problems when surrendering a home and I have had clarification that account will be taken of these difficulties. Definitely get in touch with a councillor or citizens advice if a landlord is making demands to remove belongings etc.


Foster Care Support during Covid – Lockdown is difficult for us all but for the council’s foster parents it brings extra burdens. With schools closed and at the same time having to manage social distancing there’s clearly a need to support foster parents and it’s something that’s been raised locally.


Social Distancing whilst mobile and not in a car – I am particularly engaged in this issue and it’s one that’s deserving of it’s own piece, but the second class status we give to pedestrians and cyclists is one that’s giving problems when it comes to social distancing. Anyone who’s walked, cycled or ran will have found themselves in the middle of the road when passing with the 2m margin.

Public Transport will be an issue too when lockdown eventually eases.


Gorse Hill – Behind the Takeaways – There’s a build up of commercial waste bins and the drains are blocked with congealed gluck. Seriously, what sort of an advert do they think this makes for their produce?

I’m hoping Environmental Enforcement can take action and perhaps even involve Food Standards. I want to support businesses, but not if they fail to look after their premises and surroundings.

I do want to hear your views

Please leave a comment below or join the debate on Facebook if that’s where you find this post.

Lastly…

We will get through this. Stretford is a wonderful town and it’s a place where we look after each other. So don’t suffer alone, do get in touch and don’t don’t forget the Stretford Mutual Aid number 0300 330 9073.

Stay classy.

Elinor Ostrom

This interests me. I’ve never come across Nobel prize winning economist, Elinor Ostrom. I’m going to learn more because this coincides with much that inspires me.

Scale matters. For Ostrom, localism is the only real model of democracy. The current – minimal – view of democracy – where we occasionally vote for a representative at one or another tier of government, maybe pick an option in an occasional referendum – is fine for what it is. But there are deeper kinds of legitimacy when decisions are made closer to home – giving people meaningful control over the institutions, services, and assets that have the biggest impact on our own neighbourhoods.

Council Budget Time

Bit late with this for one reason or another but I wanted to do a write up on Trafford’s Budget for 20/21.

Council Income

Unlike the national Government, councils only have a few ways that they can raise income to spend on our behalf.

  • Council Tax – the obvious one levied in 8 bands. Regressive, the more valuable your property, the less the rate of council tax you pay as a percentage of its value. And we have some very valuable properties.

£11m for Scooby Doo Mansion

  • Fees and Charges – Some councils make as much from parking charges and fines than they take from council tax. Westminster Council takes in more than £80m from parking alone. Then you have all the bus lane infringement type penalties etc. Westminster Council has the lowest council tax in the country and some of the most expensive properties. Tourists are money!
  • Central Government Funding and Business Rates – Trafford’s business rates are pooled with the other Greater Manchester Authorities before they come back to us, but whilst the rates themselves are set by Government there’s still financial incentive for us to support business growth.

    Government Grants are by nature subject to the vagaries of central government’s priorities. Increasingly we are seeing Government ministers claiming they are putting money into social care when all they’ve really done is to allow councils to increase council tax.
  • Income from investment – Trafford’s asset investment strategy gives a sustainable revenue stream whilst facilitating development and regeneration and also supporting local authority functions.
  • Reserves – Trafford traditionally has held low reserves compared to other councils.

This year’s budget changes

  • Trafford’s net budget is increasing from £169.94m to £175.20m or 3%.
  • Council Tax is increasing by 3.99%

You can see from those two figures above we’re putting more in than we get back. This Tory Government is still not pulling its weight and it’s leaving council tax payers to make up the difference.

I’m particularly pleased we’re taking £3.8m from the budget support reserve to invest in measures which are expected to increase the quality of services and lead to reduced demand on Children’s Services.

  • We’re increasing the amount we’re able to borrow for asset investment. It’s going to be £500m we can take our investment borrowing up to. So far this strategy is working. I would not abandon the strategy, but I do think we need increasing levels of oversight. The fund is now nearly twice the size originally envisaged.
  • Fees and charges are generally going up modestly.

I am really pleased that Labour controlled Trafford (now entering it’s third year) is continuing to soundly manage the council’s finances. I take a little bit of pride in that, as it was something I really wanted to impress on colleagues and officers in that first year. Tom Ross my successor as cabinet member for finance has improved on this and it’s great to see the investment going into children’s services. We saw what happened in Conservative controlled Northamptonshire with the leadership there bankrupting a council. We will not allow that to happen in Trafford.

The levels of council tax rises that all councils are having to impose does worry me. The council tax system is not designed to carry that weight. It is too much of a burden on young families starting out in life where all their income is being directed to mortgage and family. We should not be placing the financial burden of social care so much on the council tax system. That really needs addressing by central government. We won’t be able to shift it all at once but we urgently need to start the transition to a national care service.

Jane Baugh

Labour in Trafford lost a true heroine of its movement today

Labour in Trafford lost a true heroine of its movement today. It’s so sad that Jane Baugh has passed away. She has been an extraordinary citizen of Trafford and a committed socialist throughout her life.

She was terrific in the council chamber and could dish it out like a prize fighter but would remain the model of decorum outside. She took her civic duties incredibly seriously and was a true leading light of the Sale community. She will be incredibly missed.

Jane and I were often on different sides of the debate but we always had time for each other. Our last exchange was lovely:

Mike: Barry has said it all. Fifty percent of the vote in Priory tells you it’s not just your colleagues who love you, the voters do too.

Jane: Thanks so much Mike. Your kind words really appreciated and keep up the the excellent work. You are an excellent councillor. Fondest regards Jane.

Thank you Jane

Councillor Andrew Western, Trafford Leader of the Council said:

I am devastated by this news. Jane was an incredibly committed and passionate Councillor who always fought for what she believed in. She was a linchpin in the Sale community.

Jane was an astonishingly talented politician. A brilliant speaker and a fearless advocate she was at her best in the Council Chamber championing the causes she felt strongly about.

She was a force of nature. I will miss Jane’s friendship, her encouragement and her support. Most of all I will miss one of the most robust and steadfast voices I have ever known railing against poverty, injustice and intolerance. My thoughts are with Peter and all her family. Rest in peace Jane, you have been an inspiration to us all.