Meeting the Minister

by prestwichfocus on February 12, 2013

On Friday, myself and other Liberal Democrat Group Leaders from across Greater Manchester were able to meet with Local Government Minister Don Foster MP. Don is the Lib Dem minister in the Communities and Local Government Team.

We had asked to meet with the Minister to discuss a couple of issues that as Greater Manchester councillors we wanted to raise with Government.

Local Government Finance
Over the next couple of weeks (Bury is a week on Wednesday) all councils will be setting their ‘budget’ for next financial year (2013-14). This includes setting the increase in Council Tax (if any) that as local residents we will all have to pay.

As I am sure you will appreciate these are difficult times for the whole public sector, and local councils are no exception. We wanted to make sure the Minister understood that while we understand the need for savings across all services, it is important to makes sure that what we get in Greater Manchester, including in Bury, is ‘fair’ for the rest of the country. For Bury this has always been an issue as we are a relatively poorly funded authority under Governments of all political persuasion.

Bury has a ‘spending power’ of roughly £2,043 per household (broadly the total budget of council tax + rates + grants). This is a 2.4% reduction from last year. Obviously there are areas in the country who get more money (e.g. Liverpool gets £2,740 per household because of the needs of local residents); by comparison Huntingdon in Cambridgeshire gets only £1,871 per household.

We made sure the Minister was aware of the need for fair treatment for Greater Manchester authorities, including Bury.

Planning Laws
We also discussed current changes around planning laws which make it easier to get planning permission in some cases. (The idea was to help kickstart the local economy be encouraging building work).

As local councillors we believe that it is important that there is a democratic planning process in place, which gives local people the chance to object to planning applications where they need to, and we discussed these important issues with the Minister.

Please let me know if you have any questions or comments.

Tim

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