I was very pleased to join Cllr Wendy Meikle and Cllr Patrick McCauley at the official opening of 20th Century Stores by Stockport’s MP Ann Coffey today. Speaking to the traders it’s clear that the marketplace is getting a real buzz around it with the historic market itself coming on leaps and bounds and the specialist shops around the outside – especially the expanding vintage offer – really starting to take off.
Stockport’s Lib Dem led council has ensured that there will be no increase in Council Tax for the fourth time in five years. This is a significant real-terms fall in council tax over that time, helping particularly families on low incomes.
The Lib Dem budget is the latest step in transforming the council – a journey we started in 2009 when the then-Labour government told us about the cuts that were coming.
Stockport Council will have £235 million to cover our day-to-day running costs for 2015/16. The money coming into Stockport as government grant is low, only £137 per head, much lower than that for our neighbours – Manchester £269 per head and Tameside £201 per head.
This means finding savings of more than £15 million to balance the council books. We are legally obliged to set a balanced budget where the money coming in matches the money going out over the year.
Our priority is to protect services that support vulnerable adults and children, by far the largest part of our spending. We are doing this by working more smartly, joining up different council sections and working more closely with the health service, the police and the voluntary sector to cut out duplication.
We have not closed public libraries, ensuring that they provide help in accessing services – unlike some of our neighbours.
We have not closed parks, but are trying to work more closely with Friends of Parks groups to achieve greater efficiency.
We have set up a special programme of £100 million to resurface roads and pavements over the next few years.
Neither Labour nor the Tories put forward any amendments to the budget, nor did they propose an alternative budget. The Conservatives made speech after speech telling us how flawed it was before voting for it! .
Thanks to everyone who came along to the community litter pick on Sunday morning – organised by residents at short notice via the Gatley Facebook group, about ten of us cleared the whole length of the path from Foxland Road to Hawthorn Road inside an hour.
Lib Dem candidate Graham Greenhalgh (left) helps out at the litter pick
Lib Dem council candidate Graham Greenhalgh, who helped out, said “Thank you to everyone who came along – it just shows what a few people can achieve in less than an hour on a Sunday morning.”
Cheadle Mosque has raised £1,000 to support sick children on Stepping Hill Hospital’s children’s wards.
Worshippers at Cheadle Mosque served up culinary delights to help raise the money. Arshad Sheikh, the Mosque’s office manager, said, “Health is a blessing and when people land up in hospital it can be a tough time for both them and their families. This is why we wanted to support Stepping Hill, our local hospital, as they do such a great job in looking after people.”
The money was raised at a special fundraising event in the community with food stalls selling delicacies from around the world, an ice cream stall and a chocolate fountain.
Devy Dar, one of the stall volunteers, said, “Children played such an integral part in the event, helping us to collect the money, so it is great that it is going towards the children’s unit at the hospital.”
The children’s Tree House unit, which looks after 26,000 children per year, will use the monies raised to purchase outdoor toys for their new sensory garden.
Karen Vernon, ward manager in the children’s Tree House unit, said, “We would like to say thank you for such a generous donation, which will make a real difference for our young patients.”
At Mark Hunter’s public meeting about the Kingsway/Gatley Road junction the three agencies Mark got along (Highways Agency, TfGM and Stockport Council) gave a joint presentation just giving the background, before we opened it up for people to offer their own thoughts and ideas.
This is that presentation. Apologies that in the conversion to be viewed online some of the graphics have gone slightly wrong, but I think it’s all fairly explanatory. It sets out three main things
- What’s already happened to the junction to improve traffic flow (which has meant that, even though the amount of traffic coming through the junction has increased substantially, the delays have remained similar).
- What the modelling shows would happen if there were right filters (or “indicative arrows” in the proper jargon).
- What improvements are planned for the next few years.
We’ll be reporting back with the ideas raised, and the next steps in making improvements, including the big study planned for this summer.
The Council has received a planning application to convert Bruntwood Hall and Bruntwood Park into a 22 room boutique hotel.
Change of use and refurbishment of Bruntwood Hall from office to a 22 room luxury hotel, with associated bars and restaurant areas with external terrace and spa at ground floor. An additional courtyard extension to create additional circulation space is also proposed.
You can take a look at the plans here, and – if you want – submit your comments to the council.
Last week I took a look at the Council’s day-to-day spending for the coming year. A few years ago the day-to-day spending would have dwarfed our investment spending, as it did for nearly all councils nearly all the time. We would spent hundreds of millions in revenue but only tens of millions in capital. That’s all changed in Stockport. Our revenue spending is falling with the government’s spending cuts, but the amount we’re investing in our borough is rising.
For 2015/16 the day-to-day spending we have control over (our “cash limit” in the jargon) will come to £168 million. The amount we’re investing through capital spending will be more than £190 million, with plans to spend nearly half a billion pounds over the next few years. That’s a deliberate decision the ruling Lib Dem group have taken to use the opportunity of lower interest rates to start making a real difference to the infrastructure of the borough.
Capital spending is buying the car, revenue or day-to-day spending is running and maintaining it, and we’re buying more metaphorical cars than ever before.
Where does the money come from?
The total capital resources for 2015/16 is £190,603,000 (just over £190 million).
- £71 million comes from capital grants, mostly from the government. These are normally used where we want to do something that will improve Stockport but won’t necessarily bring in more money to the council – transport projects like the A6 to Manchester Airport Relief Road and the Town Centre Access Package are two examples.
- £89 million comes from borrowing. The Council can borrow from the Public Works and Loans Board which offers a lower rate of interest than the banks. Of course, we have to repay those loans (plus interest) so we can’t just borrow for any old reason. Either the project has to give us a return on our investment that covers the cost of the repayments (e.g. Stockport Exchange) or it has to save money so we would have ended up paying as much through other costs (e.g. the road and pavement repair programme).
- £7 million is from “capital receipts” – the name given to the money the council gets when it sells things. Most commonly, the council sells property it no longer uses.
- £13 million comes from “revenue contributions” – the accountants taking money that’s originally earmarked for day-to-day spending and using it for one-off investment spending. We’re allowed to do that, but we’re not allowed to go the other way – we can’t take capital money and use it for day-to-day spending. Councils are forbidden from selling off the family silver and using it to fund the normal running of the authority.
- £8 million comes from the Housing Revenue account, another pot of money in the council built up from the rent payments of people in social housing.
- Some other smaller sources make up the remainder.
Where does the money go to?
A lot of capital investment projects run over several years, and depending on how the accounting has been done for a particular project it may only be part of that money that appears in our budget for 2015/16.
The main projects for 2015/16 are:
- £3 million to invest in the council’s existing assets – major repairs for example.
- £9 million as a loan to Stockport Homes to build their new HQ. The money will be paid back with interest, and the efficiencies Stockport Homes realise by moving into a modern office will pay for the scheme over time.
- £5.5 million as a loan to Solutions SK to buy new vehicles, to be repaid.
- £14 million investment in Stockport Exchange phase 2 – new public realm, hotel and offices on the old Grand Central site in front of Stockport Station.
- £7 million to build a new leisure centre in Brinnington along with other investments in sport and leisure.
- £21 million for the new Redrock development on the Bridgefield site in the town centre (a new cinema and restaurants plus many other improvements around that area).
- £7 million to build new affordable and social housing
- £12 million for the second year of the Lib Dem £100 million programme to properly resurface all the bad roads and pavements across Stockport.
- £8 million for school expansion schemes.
- A number of smaller projects make up the rest
You can find out more about the 2015/16 budget, and even have a go at setting a council budget yourself with our budget simulator, here.
Thank you to everyone who gave up their Friday evening to join us at Mark Hunter’s public meeting about the Kingsway/Gatley Road junction. We had people from the Highways Agency, TfGM and Stockport Council to give a presentation about what’s happened, the challenges of the junction and what’s planned. We then had a Q&A before breaking out into smaller groups to come up with ideas for improving things.
The suggestions ranged from ways to improve traffic flow across miles, to big ideas like underpasses and motoways to much smaller ones like cameras and extra paint on the ground.
We’ll be reporting back in more detail in the next few weeks, with several pieces of work already planned to make further small improvements and a big study over the summer looking at traffic flows across the area.
One tip I got was to look at Google Maps traffic flow data to see where the queues are longest around the junction. You can see these for yourself by looking at Google Maps, selecting “traffic” and then “typical traffic”. The red lines show the longest queues.
Traffic at 5pm on a typical Wednesday
8am on a typical Monday morning
From Manchester Airport:
The Highways Agency and their appointed contractors are continuing work to replace the Thorley Lane Bridge over the M56, situated between junctions 5&6.
To enable the successful completion of the works a full closure of the M56 between Junctions 5 and 6 in both directions is planned from 22:00 on Friday 27 Feb to 05:00 on Monday 2 March 2015. This is to permit the new bridge to be installed in its final position. Following this work it is anticipated that the bridge will be fully open for public use at the end of March.
Whilst significant work has been undertaken to minimise disruption to airport users, it is inevitable that some delays will be experienced during peak times. All airport users are therefore encouraged to allow additional time for journeys to and from the airport during this period.
Further details of this closure and diversion routes here.
Travis Perkins plan to move away from their current Cheadle site (off Lime Grove) towards the end of 2015, relocating to Sharston.
Although there have been lots of rumours flying around as to what might happen to the site, or what might already have been discussed, that’s really (as far as we know) all there is to tell at the moment.
It’s likely Travis Perkins will want to sell the site and no doubt get full commercial value for it, but they probably won’t do anything until they actually move out. TP haven’t approached the Council and there haven’t been any discussions yet about future uses for the site.
When TP get closer to moving off, the Lib Dem team will be pressing those sorts of discussions to take place – though of course any purchase would have to stack up commercially.