Gorse Hill Labour

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

Alleyway Blues

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.

April 2020

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.

May 2020

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.

November 2020

More New Homes for Trafford Wharf?

It’s reported that Hilti, are moving their UK headquarters from Trafford Wharf Road into central Manchester. The site they’re vacating is a large one and it’s being marketed as suitable for residential.

It could be that this site together with the twin towers of No1 Old Trafford, next door is providing up to 800 new homes (given this is a slightly larger site).

I’ve asked for updates from the council officers. It’s early days but it’s not out of the question that yet more could follow. Up to now that area has largely been focused on offices. The market has changed and we’ll want to keep an eye on developments. It’s an area with excellent transport links with investment in walkability and cycling on the Salford side. I can see a lot going for it, but we’ve got to make sure that services like GPs, Dentists and Schools can meet demand.

A levels and Alleyways

Councillor Update

Local people performing miracles. Getting on with it and sorting out their neighbourhood.

whilst in government

Every contract seems to go to the mates of Johnson or of his free-wheeling ministers. Everything the government touches seems to fall apart. It matters.

The lazy algorithm

The algorithm replicating the previous year’s results was inherently unfair. The calculation took no account of effort or attainment. It was a rotten method, and it would never stand up to the scrutiny of real-life circumstances. Leaving the retreat so late was incredibly frustrating. Given no exams, these results could have been released months ago. That would have given time for appeal and challenge before university places needed to be allocated.

Thankfully, the combined might of the pupils and schools, together with backing from our very own Kate Green in her role as Shadow Education Minister forced the Government to abandon it. I’m so grateful that the pupils won before it was applied to GCSEs.

It’s not all good. BTEC results are only just beginning to filter through after being pulled at the last moment.

Perhaps the hardest hit has been those students who were independently submitting themselves to resits to get the grades for their chosen University. They’re not getting any grade, and now the worry is that it’ll be much harder next year.

Please sign the petition for universities to honour the 2020 offer.

Sign the petition on Change Org

Covid 19

Local lockdown continues to apply in Trafford. Wigan and Stockport having their lockdown relaxed, it can’t be long before the measures are lifted here too.

I’m not sure the additional restrictions in themselves have had the substantial impact, but they reinforced the message that the disease continues in our community. My hesitation is that measures need to make sense within the context of what is going on in the local area. We should design our own measures. This should be Andy Burnham’s job with the support of the local councils and our superb Directors of Public Health.

We need the data. We need our Directors of Public Health to know who’s getting the disease and the places where they may have caught it. National tracing is not working. Another of Boris Johnson’s mates has the job of running track and trace. Local knowledge is a tremendous part of effective track and trace. We need full devolution of this to make it work properly.

Overall Death Rate

Trafford got through the peak Covid-19 in better shape than most metropolitan boroughs. Testing for coronavirus before discharging patients back to care homes had a significant impact. However, we are seeing a slightly more pronounced increase in deaths now compared to the five-year average. These are small numbers, but it’s worth monitoring as we move forward.

Council Work

Local Plan

All councils set out a local plan for their area. It forms the basis of planning development decisions the council takes on applications that come before it. I’m a member of a consultative group on Trafford’s Local Plan as it has fallen out of date.

It’s a necessary, and sometimes boring document, but councils can be ambitious and visionary, if they choose. I am keen that the plan should bolster neighbourhoods and communities. I am attracted to the ethos of the 15 minute city. Trafford’s outdated plan encourages urban sprawl. It’s going to be an interesting debate.

Urban sprawl as a planning concept has lost its sheen, but it seems at least in Trafford to be the default model. You’re just not allowed to call it sprawl.

You can describe a development as a once in a lifetime opportunity to invest in an attractive urban extension with nearby access to town amenities and close to a renowned rural setting. These developments have no public transport links and no shops or community setting.

I hope we can produce a local plan that puts people at the heart of it.

Stretford Town Centre

Keep an eye out for the next update on Stretford’s Masterplan. We were hoping this weekend to reopen the continuing conversation on the town’s evolvement. We didn’t quite get everything ready, but it’s coming.

Greatstone Hotel

A planning application to demolish the Greatstone Hotel and build a 6 storey apartment block

101637/OUT/20 | Outline planning application for the demolition of existing hotel and erection of 69 residential apartments, including details on layout, access and scale, with all other matters reserved. | Greatstone Hotel 845 – 849 Chester Road Stretford Manchester M32 0RN

Casework

  • Motorbiking gang tensions on Chester Road
  • Nansen Park investment
  • Gorse Street Alleyways and Environs (issues of cleanliness and waste removal processes)
  • Parking issues connected to Lostock Park visitors.
  • Waste removal at Milton Court – serious breakdown in services
  • Sub-standard street restoration following tree removal in Lostock
  • Vibrations caused by structural issues on foundations on Barton Road
  • Housing issues – a number of residents unable to move from inappropriate accommodation. Covid-19 has effectively clogged up housing allocation.
  • Overgrown passageways and footpaths
  • Royal Mail Deliveries
  • Accommodating Active Travel (walking and cycling) v The needs of people in cars and vans
  • HGVs getting lost in residential areas trying to find Trafford Park, particularly Moss Road and Avondale Road.

Those Bowness/Derwent Alleyways

It’s always brilliant to help community clean-ups but the work of Dave on the Bowness / Derwent Estate has been of another level. It’s took us a few weeks but he’s achieved so much.

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.

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.

Planning Committee

It was half term and so a quieter week than normal. However, it was dominated by a particularly heavy Planning and Development Meeting on Thursday.

Sometimes you just have to site-visit

Google Earth is a great resource for planning committee members but sometimes you’ve just got to get on your bike and go and see. So I took trips out to Altrincham and Partington.

Altrincham

Application for variation of Erection of detached dwelling, following demolition of existing garage block on eastern side of Greenbank House.

Greenbank is quite an impressive mansion on Altrincham’s Downs. It already had been converted to flats and the landowners had planning permission to build a separate single storey detached apartment in place of the garage block. Construction was well underway but it hadn’t been built to plan.

The planning officers recommended approval of the new plans. The temptation might be to refuse on the basis that they frankly had taken liberties in building something different. However, the changes weren’t radical, it wasn’t as though they’d built more storeys. You have to ask whether the plans now such that you would not have approved them had they come to planning committee in this form initially? In this instance I felt I would have voted to grant the application and so I was content to approve. The developer though takes a huge risk in not building to approved plans.

Partington

Cycling to Partington is not my favourite journey. The A6144 is a nasty piece of road; too narrow and too fast. The pavements have really high kerbs and you ride in fear of being taken out through too close a pass.

When I have used a bus to get to Partington, the service has been infrequent and in this weather I don’t suffer long waits at bus stops willingly, so I end up risking it on the bike.

The application was to convert a disused nursing home on the A6144 into a mini-housing estate, utilising the existing building and adding an extension to get four houses out of the site as well as a new separate bungalow at the back.

The issue was parking. Planning officers had recommended approval.

This is where planning rules get messy because the Local Highways Authority objected due to under provision of a single on-site parking space. This under provision against a maximum by one space. We don’t have a minimum provision but Local Highways officers can take a view as to the impact on the highways network. And we’re back to the A6144 being too fast and too narrow, so we don’t want overflow parking out on the main road.

Anywhere but Partington, I think I would have wanted to allow the application as it was presented. We really do need to provide decent public transit for Partington. I’d love to encourage more to use their bikes but that main road really is horrible. So we’re left with a place dreadfully reliant on the car. That’s not going to be sustainable as we close down our city to petrol and diesel over the next decade or so.

We deferred this particular application as we were advised it may be possible to get that extra space into the scheme but it’s not really the long term answer, is it?

Warburton

This is an application to build up to 400 (Four Hundred) dwellings on open land. The land which is situated beyond the southern edge of the built up area of Partington. The site extends to approximately 24.8 hectares and spans two parcels of land which are separated by the route of Warburton Lane (which divides the site on a north/south axis).

The developers Redrow Homes have appealed against non-determination by the council within the timeframe. It now goes to inquiry.

The applicant’s decision to submit a non-determination appeal came at a time when negotiations were continuing in an attempt to resolve outstanding issues; a process that it was understood both parties were committed to.

To grant planning permission on this ad hoc basis for up to 400 dwellings, and on greenfield in the absence of supporting infrastructure would be at odds with central planning principles in the NPPF of providing sustainable development.

The site of the 400 Dwelling Warburton Development just South of Partington

The planning committee determined that it would have opposed and that should be the council’s stance at the inquiry commencing 21st April 2020.

Other Applications

  • The Market Hall Urmston
  • Football pitches and supporting infrastructure adjacent to Soccer Dome, Trafford Park
  • Soccer Dome to become new location for Event City, Trafford Park

All approved.

Lastly,

I wasn’t allowed to determine this one because I was supporting it. Approval was granted for the Wine Bar on Davyhulme Road East next to Della Roma. I was pleased that the committee agreed with me that the hours of opening should be allowed until 11pm (12 at weekend) rather than the 10pm proposed by officers. I’m hoping the new wine bar will be a welcome enhancement to our street scene.