I chaired a good meeting last night looking at social housing within Trafford. It was a meeting I was quite keen to have. I think a lot of us had picked up on a perfect storm affecting people hoping to set up home in Trafford. Inflated house prices, a dysfunctional private rented sector and a social housing sector growing ever more distant from their tenants and the greater community of Trafford are creating real hardships. We’re all too aware of how difficult it is to get good quality accommodation with a landlord committed to ensuring their properties remain decent places to live. High rents mean it’s very difficult to save sufficient deposits. No-fault evictions mean tenants are forced to leave properties at the whim of their landlord in order to put up rents or to sell at inflated prices. The cost of moving at such short notice further erodes any chances to save. It is a broken housing market.
I wanted the meeting to look at the extent the Council can intervene. Frustratingly, the obvious solution of delivering old-fashioned council houses seems bedevilled with insurmountable obstacles. In order to provide council houses, the Council would have to borrow with the expectation of generating income from rent or sale. Right-to-buy automatic discounts of up to £85,000 make it impossible to recoup the investment. Trafford currently is such a high demand area, we’d never be able to build up sufficient stock to make it viable.
We know Thatcher aspired to a home-owning democracy. However, inflated house prices partly generated by the private rented sector those over-generous discounts have crushed that aspiration and we have got huge disparities between the ages. We have a problem with few tools at our disposal to alleviate the impact.
I think there’s a sense in Trafford that nationally, Labour can’t ignore this problem any longer. Labour is the only party that can hope to reset the housing market and it’s blindingly obvious that council housing has to be part of the mix. We need to shout about it more than we are doing. Economically it has a hugely detrimental effect on our cities.
Meanwhile, we need to call out Housing Associations. They need to deliver on those core values that provide their charitable status. Clearly, the Mayor’s focus to now has been on planning where development can take place. It’s now time to shift the focus onto tenure and tackling exploitative rents.
A good little meeting (40 mins) but with a real focus on tackling the inequities of housing. We haven’t got all the tools we need but at least we’ve brought it back to the fore of thinking.
Days are getting longer and there’s a more upbeat feel to everything. We’ve had a couple of dry weekends and it’s great that so many are taking the opportunity to get outside. I’ve been out delivering party leaflets the last couple of Saturdays and I’ve made a resolution this year that I’ll only leaflet in company. We’ve led such solitary lives during lock-down, I’m just not prepared to waste the opportunity to chat to someone outside my bubble whilst I walk the streets. It may be less efficient but some things are more important and it’s a resolution I’m sticking to. It makes leafleting fun and I’ve found it thoroughly enjoyable.
Lots of litter picking going on in Stretford and other places in Trafford. Partington in particular has been especially noteworthy. But it’s Stretford that’s my focus, and isn’t it fabulous how the baton has been picked up by the Stretford Litter Pickers. Hannah and the team seem to have really caught the mood. If you’ve not yet joined their Facebook group, you really should.
This Saturday they’ll be working from Hawthorn Road on that strip of green-space below the Bridgewater Canal.
Continuing to work on the Gorse Street/Chester Road Alley. It’s regularly being fly-tipped by a takeway. Empty bulk containers of chicken are being put out in the alley with impunity. Pressing the council to take action. We’re on a promise for having restoration of lights which seem to have been switched off. The alley is very dark at night and it would improve things to have the council’s lights switched back on. We’ve also had some incidents of human defecation (the working assumption is late night delivery workers) and clearly lights would deter.
The good news is that the last of the abandoned commercial bins has gone and at the same time there’s greater engagement of residents on both sides of the alley.
Sadly, the bid for integrated community funding was unsuccessful. Disappointing as the work on the alley is a classic case of integration arising from common cause. An issue that brings people together is often a better vehicle for funding than existing groups looking for an issue.
HGVs getting lost in residential areas. Progress being made in reinforcing a message that HGVs should not use a route from M60 junction 7 (A56 Stretford/Sale). We really could do with some signage deterring this and I’m pursuing it.
Curzon Road parking issues. This revolves around the increased popularity of Lostock Park, particularly the skateboard section. Not making as much progress with this as I’d like. What we need is a proper audit/survey of parking rather than a catalogue listing of ‘H’ bar prices and dropped kerbs.
School Governors Meetings – I’ve had so many this March – headteacher appraisal, governors update meetings on return to school, Core Group meeting, SEN teacher appointments, Headteacher appointment approval, School Financial Value Standard meetings.
Vaccine progress meeting – more on this in a separate post to follow
Planning meetings – too many applications for one meeting – had to adjourn to a continuation meeting
Children and Health Scrutiny – really recommend the latest Children’s meeting on school places. It’s available on youtube.
Labour Party AGM, Labour Group meeting – AGMs are always a bit turgid and it’s better when there’s contest. Slightly subdued this year.
Mayor’s Challenge Fund Tranche 2 preview meeting. One of the projects shown to us was the Talbot Road/Greatstone Road junction. I’m delighted to say that I’ve been shown a scheme that will withstand actually being implemented. Fingers crossed that this can be delivered without interference.
“The details you provided were passed to our maintenance supervisor who has advised that a team will be in the area within the next 5-7 weeks and at this time, they will assess the site to understand what work needs to take place.
Due to current circumstances, our main priority is keeping the railway running for key workers and freight which means smaller jobs such as graffiti and fly tipping aren’t being prioritised like they usually would.
This being said, once the team have established the level of graffiti, the clearance will be added to their work bank to take place when resource is available.
It may also be worth raising this issue with Trafford Council to see what they can do to assist with the problem. If they contact us directly, I’ll be able to forward this on to the necessary team so the 2 parties (as well as Northern) can look at what options are available.”
I think it is worth talking to Trafford officers. There’s no question the subway badly needs investment. I’d really like to see it on the Bee Network schedule for walking and cycling investment. It’s not really been taken up by the local cycling forum, presumably because it’s seen as primarily a walking route. Somehow we’ve got to squeeze it onto the programme. The obvious solution is replacing the steps with a much longer gradient on both sides. This would actually make the station wheel chair accessible too.
So I’m inclined to pursue once Christmas is out of the way.
I was contacted in June in respect of an infestation of rats at a property on Gorse Street. This was an exceptionally large and bold infestation that were moving openly on a lean-to roof of the property’s outbuilding.
Whilst the infestation of rats was the trigger for the contact, there were a lot of separate issues in connection with the alleyway.
The Chester Road businesses are generally keeping their commercial waste bins in the alley. Most are unlocked, but increasingly we’re seeing commercial bins locked shut. This is welcome, but has implications for the flats above shops. Bags of household waste are routinely thrown into open commercial bins.
An issue as recently as June was the blocking of the alley drain due to congealed oils and fats. There have been long periods of the drain being blocked and a large milky white sludge collecting as a large puddle in the alley. Responsibility was disputed between the council and United Utilities, but I understand that that is now clarified with the council taking on responsibility.
However, residents understandably are keen the takeaways undertake their business responsibly and it has not always been the case.
When a business ceases trading
At least one of the takeaway businesses ceased trading during the first lock-down and essentially shut-up shop, leaving their commercial waste uncollected and un-invoiced.
This was unresolved for months. The bin was left festering whilst accumulating even more black waste bags alongside it.
Eventually this bin was removed, presumably by the contractor; and the Council removed the bags (as fly-tipping) a week or so later.
As a minimum, I’m arguing that there needs to be clear indications as to which business a bin belongs to. If a business does ‘a runner’ and ceases trading it should be made relatively easy for a third party to contact the waste contractor. On this bin I couldn’t do that, all I could do was tell the waste contractor it was one of theirs and it was unlikely they’d get paid for removing it.
We should therefore expect it to be standard that all commercial bins in the alley should have an indication as to which business they are contracted to. We would hope that the council would make this a condition of keeping bins in the alley.
We would also expect that commercial bins in the alley should be locked so as to avoid accumulating fly-tipped waste and overflowing.
Flats above the shops with no bins
We’ve inherited a situation where it’s commonplace that no bins are attached to the flats above the shops there. Even if they had bins, it’s not clear where they could be kept.
Quite sensibly in many ways, the residents use plastic bags to take out and dispose of the waste. However, it’s not efficient and encourages pests; and it’s never been part of the waste contract whether Amey or their predecessors to collect waste in bags. We do not want to change that.
But it’s completely unacceptable to have the situation we had with the commercial bin in the photograph. Most of that waste is domestic ‘fly-tipped’ waste put into a commercial bin that was abandoned.
We’ve got to get to a proper scheme of waste disposal for these flats. They’re council tax payers and they’re entitled to a proper scheme. I don’t know whether that will be bin stores in the alley or some form of communal bins, but the current situation is not tenable. We need to work with the residents to come up with a solution.
Although we made massive strides since June, we’ve still got a way to go. I want to get to a situation where rats go hungry and move on by, that there’s not a ready supply in the alley.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Timely that we just met on the same day (Monday) that Andy Burnham was announcing radical improvements to Manchester’s public transport.
It’s obvious we all have a stake in the our environment and no one wants to see our green and pleasant land turned to dust. It’s so good that we have cross-party involvement. I think it’s going to be a worthwhile committee.
Clearly there are global aspects to reducing greenhouse gas emissions but putting our own house in order is never a bad place to start and it has to begin at the local.
We agreed last night that we’re going to want to benchmark our energy consumption as a council. I’m quite keen we go a lot further. The Royal Family seems able to measure its carbon footprint, as can Tesco. I think Trafford can too! We’ll see how that conversation resolves itself.
One of the interesting conundrums we’ll face is whether to measure only that which comes under Trafford’s control. I believe that climate change is a matter for all of us, not just a data collector hidden away somewhere. We should even be capturing data on emissions from commuting. It’s been done elsewhere and it helps everyone appreciate the full extent of the impact we make in our working lives. It’d be quite fascinating to see the carbon footprint of councillors – I think we can make significant percentage reductions in greenhouse gas emissions here.
We also need to consider the extent to which we can guide via the planning process reducing the carbon footprint on new development. I don’t think we’ve progressed as much as we predicted in the 1980s. There was a television series on Granada back then called House for the Future and we genuinely expected homes to be self-sufficient in energy use and far more sustainable that has transpired.
Whilst the House for the Future template might have derailed, there has been progress in design standards abroad and Councillor Jerome has been quite keen to promote Passivhaus design to the committee. The carbon footprint of these is so much lower than a standard build. We need to be recommending quite a shift in our planning expectations. The extent to which this can be implemented locally will be something we want to test.
We’ve also had time to look at some smaller scale projects:
Both of these groups are relatively small but are collectively generating green energy locally using communal assets.
We also talked about District Heating schemes and some suggestion that Trafford Park could offer heat sources. Not so sure myself. Tend to find that the big heat producers recycle that heat to the nth degree themselves. There was a proposal for the incinerator at Barton to be supplying heat for the housing development being built alongside it. Councillor Carey is going to talk to the power station at Carrington, so we’ll give it a chance.