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Reporting Back: Cabinet 10 July 2013

by prestwichfocus on 11 July, 2013

Last night was the regular meeting of Bury Council’s Cabinet. This is the important decision making meeting for the Council which I get to attend as an opposition leader.

Three main issues:

Libraries
As previously report the meeting considered a recommendation from the Labour Group to abandon their previous plans for an investment in ‘community hubs’ to provide a long term future for Libraries, and instead proceed with reducing the staff in libraries by around 21 ‘whole time equivalent posts’ – about 1/3 of the staff library staff outside of the main Bury Library (which has already had its review).

I made a couple of points:
– my regret that this was a real lost opportunity to give us Libraries in Prestwich, Whitefield and Radcliffe that were fit for the 21st century, and also a model which financially gave us the best chance of preserving local services (ie if libraries, civic suites, adult care and adult education were located together in the same buildings). There were clearly issues with the detailed plans in each area, but perhaps not impossible to iron out.
– concern that this whole consultation process had been a waste of time. The Council was saying that the whole scheme was unaffordable, but if that is what it had thought why had it done the consultation involving 100s of people? Around 90% of people asked about the improved adult care services in the proposal had been in favour, who now have their hopes dashed.

Apparently the Community Hubs model would have meant £3.5 million investment in local services in Prestwich, Whitefield and Radcliffe. I voted against the proposal to abandon the scheme but this was agreed by Labour Councillors.

School Balances
This was the first meeting of the Cabinet of this financial year so there were a number of ‘year end’ financial reports to the meeting.

I asked a question about school balances:
The Government has increased funding for schools in Bury by £5 million in the last year (largely this is through Pupil Premium which I know has really benefitted some of our local schools). However, at 31 March 2013, schools in Bury had ‘unspent’ balances of £6.2 million.

The good news is that this is slightly lower than the year before, but it is still a lot of money being saved up, rather than spent on children’s education. 6 secondary schools have reserves of over £1/4 million each, one of them over £1/2 million.

I do understand that schools sometime ‘save up’ for good reason. (I’m a Governor at our own St Margaret’s Primary where we have been saving for a classroom extension which is being built this summer.) However I think its important that there is a balance between spending the money and saving.

Radcliffe Market Hall

Lastly the Council agreed a major scheme to refurbish and improve Radcliffe Market Hall. Seems like a great scheme and good for Radcliffe. I can’t tell you how much the scheme will cost (as it’s commerially sensitive), but it is VERY good news for Radcliffe, and again nothing for Prestwich……..

Any questions please ask. Papers are here.

Tim

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