by timpickstone on 15 September, 2011
Last night was the regular “Full Council” for Bury MBC, the meeting five or six times a year when all 51 elected councillors meet together. As seems to be becoming commonplace, it was another long meeting and we didn’t finish until 10.15pm.
The main items of interest were:
Members Allowances and Expenses
The Council agreed to reduce the ‘special responsibility allowances’ that some councillors receive by 10%, and also to abolish travel expenses for councillors (except for meetings or events that are outside of Bury MBC).
The Liberal Democrat group fully supported this proposal – in these difficult financial times it is important that Councillors share in the savings that need to be made. We did raise a couple of concerns:
– in doing this the Council is moving away from the recommendations of the Independent Renumeration Panel. We set up this panel to provide a fair way of the Council setting councillor allowances, without councillors ‘deciding themselves’. We understood that this was a temporary measure, but that in the long-run we should be using an independent panel, not ourselves to set our allowances.
– in the new scheme there will be no allowances for the Chairs of Local Area Partnerships – fully understandable in the current financial climate, but we are concerned that this somehow shows that the Chair of a Township Forum is somehow less important, or less hard work than the Chair of, say, Audit Committee (who receives c Â£6,000 a year). This will be reviewed in the future.
A number of questions were submitted both in writing and verbally from members. Regrettably only 7 of the 22 written questions were answered, so we never got to my two questions (a question on the Farmers Markets, and a question on public health). Questions and answers to all questions are on the Council website here.
One interesting answer was in response to a question from my Lib Dem colleague Cllr Mary D’Albert. Mary asked about the St Mary’s Court sheltered accommodation scheme in Prestwich Village. Previously councillors had understood that the scheme would be phased out ‘at some time before 2025’, but a couple of months ago the Council started advising the 17 residents how they could move out and applied for a grant to knock the facility down and replace it with a non-council facility. Mary asked why it was that the first local councillors knew about this was when distressed residents of the sheltered accomodation scheme rang them – Labour’s view of their own practice – ‘It’s unacceptable’ (said Cllr Shori, Executive Member for Adult Care). We’re glad he agrees….
One Prestwich Labour Councillor (rather stupidly, but never mind) asked the Leader to explain why it had been such a good idea to buy iPads for Bury’s bin lorries. The Labour Leader of the Council said: “I think iPads do provide good value for money … I support the iPad’s in bin lorries”. He also confirmed that he knew about the decision to purchase the iPads before it was made. Apparently having iPads in bin lorries will save Â£170,000. I have an iPad (not bought by taxpayers money!), but its not saved my Â£170,000 yet!!!
Amusingly the same Prestwich Labour Councillor was reminded that only in March this year he presented the Mayor with a petition from 250 Prestwich residents calling on the Council “to immediately suspend proposals to stop weekly grey bin collections”. Something his group are now pushing ahead with in two weeks time…
We debated a motion from the Labour Group on the Health and Social Care Bill. A similar motion has been submitted in town hall’s across the country all of them unfortunately full of mistakes and half-truths.
I spoke in the debate on behalf of the Liberal Democrat Group and highlighted the things that were wrong with what the Labour Party were saying:
– they accused the Coalition Government of cutting NHS funding. In fact NHS funding is (as promised) going up. In Bury its going up this year by Â£9,000,000 – an increase of of 2.9%.
– they accused the Health and Social Care Bill of being an unnecessary reform. I highlighted some of the very good things in the Bill, in particular abolishing unaccountable Primary Care Trusts and replacing them with a system where health professionals decide on local health services, accountable to a Health and Wellbeing Board whose membership is decided by the (elected) local council
– they accused the Bill of somehow privatising the NHS, whereas the Liberal Democrats in Government have made it very clear that there will be ‘no privatisation of the NHS on our watch’.
Labour are highly hypocritical on the NHS. When they were in Government they guaranteed private health providers a fixed price regardless of the number of operations they performed. This meant that the last Labour Government paid Â£252 million to private healthcare providers for doing nothing! – the same money would have paid the wages of 1,700 nurses for the same period.
Unsurprisingly, given the Labour majority on the council, this ridiculous motion was carried. Together with the rest of the LIberal Democrats I voted against.
Questions to Joint Authorities
Finally we considered questions to Joint Authorities. I asked a question to the Police Authority asking our representative to pass on our thanks to the police men and women who were involved in the Salford and Manchester riots and their aftermath, and to outline how the police are going to review their operation. My Lib Dem colleague Vic D’Albert asked about the Labour Leader of the Greater Manchester Fire Authority who had claimed I think Â£20,000 in travel expenses! Apparently First Class travel is now banned by the Fire Authority…..
Any questions please ask. The papers for the meeting are here.