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.
Bit late with this for one reason or another but I wanted to do a write up on Trafford’s Budget for 20/21.
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.
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 FundingandBusiness 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.
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.
A big thank you to all our services who worked through Storm Ciara. We shouldn’t underestimate the task of getting things back to normal after something like this.
My workload has been particularly focused on Lostock High School and continuity within the school as the head moves on to new challenges. We want to see the changes that have already taken place become embedded. I am still so thrilled at the standards set by pupils as at the previous week’s Holocaust memorial and that’s exactly where we want the school.
Circle Court Hotel
It’s nine storeys and 197 rooms so it’s bigger than I would like, and it’s creating the need for residents’ parking to be displaced. The main focus is on making sure the residents don’t lose out, that they gain from employment opportunities both within the construction and longer term operation of the hotel.
Labour Party Nomination – Lisa gets 12 points from Stretford and Urmston
I voted to nominate Lisa Nandy for leader and Angela Rayner as her deputy. I think for the first time, my choices coincided with the majority of members in Stretford and Urmston Labour Party. So it’s quite nice that I’m mainstream for once. I think Lisa is the one that’s showing the most insight into the reasons we lost and how we go about regaining trust.
Living Streets is the charity promoting Everyday Walking. Essentially normal urban walking to nip down to the shops or get the kids to school. A small group of us has decided to get a Local Living Streets Group set up for Stretford. We know there’s a lot going on to get Bee Networks developed and we’re keen to see that happen, but we’re also keen to put pressure on to improve existing crossings as a matter of urgency through timings etc. and it’s something we want to pursue. We’ve got the seal of approval from Living Streets HQ, so you should be seeing us spring to life in the coming weeks.
Stretford Memorial Hospital and the lack of Health Infrastructure for Stretford/Old Trafford
I noticed Stretford Memorial Hospital came up on the agenda at Health Scrutiny the previous week. There was no report attached so I ran through the YouTube video to see what it was about.
It’s presence on the agenda was triggered by my colleague Councillor Judith Lloyd. Judith quite rightly wanted to know what was happening following the closure Stretford Memorial. She was making the point that there was a dearth of decent quality health resources in the north of the borough. It’s a point I too have been making. The Conservatives steered everything to Altrincham, we now need to make sure that we get some decent facilities here.
A shorter update this week. Quite a bit of casework but two events dominate everything else. Holocaust Memorial Day and Brexit.
We stand together
Trafford’s Holocaust event was on Wednesday. Incredibly well attended, the event grows every year. The theme this year was Stand Together. The event told the story of Sam Walshaw, born in Poland, he was only 11 when war broke out yet, miraculously, survived the horrors of Buchenwald and Dachau. His parents and four of his siblings were gassed at the Treblinka extermination camp. Only Sam and his sister Rachel survived.
Three students from Lostock High school then told their present-day stories. The stand together theme was so apt. We live in an inter-related, co-dependent world and yet populist leaders in this country and abroad, foment division for political gain to an extent that I hope shocks. We need to be shocked. If we view the collective hatred of (our) faith, politics, nationality, skin colour as part of our daily grind without being shocked, then we have already begun preparing the ground for something poisonous to flourish.
I was incredibly moved by the three Lostock students. They had been through so much but they have come through it as incredible human beings and in that, there is so much hope.
Brexit is Done
I didn’t vote for Brexit. I lost.
I’ll not forgive David Cameron for holding the referendum during a period of severe austerity that imposed a loss of place, sustenance and respect on so many in our communities. I do not begrudge holding the referendum, I just begrudge the timing and the entitled self-confidence with which Cameron went into it.
Nevertheless I lost, we lost; and it should have been clear that we had to carry out the people’s instruction. We had to leave. Labour tried to prevaricate. For three years we prevaricated, neither fish nor fowl. Brexit but not this Brexit; Another referendum. And we got hammered for it, we lost communities that had Labour written through like a stick of rock. And I don’t really want to forgive the architect of that disaster, but it looks like I’m going to have to, as I think we’re about to elect him leader.
So Friday was my gammon day. I was a person to avoid all week if truth be told.
Sunday I did a bit of a solo canvass on one side of Gorse Street.
Pulled a calf tendon at Parkrun on Saturday so I can’t run even for a bus. Thankfully the bike remains the best way of getting round and whether the calf is redundant on those pedals or it’s specific tendons, I don’t know, but I’m thankful I can get around. I actually had access to the car this week but you’ll be pleased to know I never used it once.
You’ll see that the following update contains a friendly nudge to my council that they get a move on with the Bee Network.
Monday was neighbourhood watch
Gurdev Singh is one of those people who when he sees things need doing he gets on with doing it. It’s great that Gorse Hill ward has so many of these people. Gurdev lives in Lostock and he’s seen enough attempted burglaries and car thefts to know that it’s a growing problem, that the place is not kept as clean as it should be and there’s too much dog dirt in the park and paths.
We receive the invitation in the morning for an inaugural neighbourhood watch meeting in the evening. He’s done some advertising on Facebook and we get enough people. It was such a worthwhile meeting it earned its own post here.
One thing the meeting really underlined was the need for more policing resources and it very much prompted me to respond in favour of the precept increase on council tax proposed by our Labour mayor and Deputy.
Tuesday Circle Court Drop-In
With PCSOs Jonathan and Mike, as well as officers of Trafford Housing Trust and Ian Underhill of Safer Trafford for their regular drop in.
Wednesday Trip to Trafford Park Hotel
Thrilled to see the inside of Trafford Park Hotel for the first time in 30 years, maybe longer. More here
Hopefully we can get this heritage jewel into use again.
Design Guide Presentation
There’s a lot of good work going on in Trafford about urban planning for the 21st century and beyond. I still worry that the Council’s decision makers are not yet ready to break old habits. So we might adopt new design standards, but only if we know we can ignore at leisure.
Trafford habitually rejects planning applications for want of parking despite there being no minimum figure already. The car is given far more status than greenspace or play areas for children.
This was my initiative. This street backs the shopping parade and pub in Gorse Hill. The combination of commercial premises, particularly take-aways as well as above-the-shop accommodation and a residential area means bringing people and services together is a challenge. The alleys and street needs a deep clean, we need better management of cleaning and litter removal and not just from the council.
On Thursday I got councillors and officers together just to focus on Gorse Street. We need to identify what’s adopted and what’s not, work with the commercial waste and try to develop a permanent strategy. We can’t continue just tweaking, removing the odd bag of builders waste etc. So it’s an issue I want to return to.
Urmston Active Travel
500+ people in a wedding venue in Urmston to hear Chris Boardman launch the Urmston Active Neighbourhood. Lots of activities set up but the sheer weight of numbers was the big story.
The numbers of people turning up to this meeting are really important. We’re now into the third calendar year of the bee network project. Whilst other local authorities like Salford are making good progress on moving forward from design stage, Trafford is beginning to lag behind now. It would be a shame if we didn’t make progress. The Talbot Road cycleway we inherited put Trafford at the forefront. The 500 people turning up to the Urmston event shows Trafford residents want to keep us in the leading pelatron on active travel.
Over to Broadheath for a Labour Party canvass in support of Denise Western. Denise is a very popular councillor and that came through on the doorstep. It felt ok, better than I expected if truth be known. We see the polling, but out on the doorstep it felt ok, at least in Broadheath.
Almost forgot to mention the Stretford town centre consultation. People are really keen. The mall is an issue, its physical presence sits on the wrong trajectory for me. There aren’t enough routes that place a person accidentally passing through the mall. I get the sense that I’m in a minority as far as the mall’s potential is concerned and I’m more than happy to see Stretford get its overdue attention.