Holiday time – a real problem for councillors on Facebook and Twitter

As every politician knows, you’re never going to please everyone; so an unhappy posting on the Gatley Facebook group mentioning my name wasn’t a great surprise. Sometimes people simply disagree with me, and sometimes I get things wrong.

On this occasion the complaint was about my lack of response. The resident was upset that he’d posted a query on the Facebook group, tagging me so it popped up in my notifications, and I’d not replied.

Fair enough, perhaps. Except his post was made on a Tuesday lunchtime in August – on a week when I happened to be on holiday abroad – and the complaint was that an hour had passed without response. Not a week or a day, but an hour.

And here’s a bit of a social media conundrum for those councillors using Facebook or Twitter to communicate with residents. These tools make fast communication a breeze – you’re notified that someone’s mentioned you and it’s a matter of a few seconds to reply. Two Facebook groups cover my ward, and they have over 3,000 members between them. They’re an excellent way to talk to residents, answering questions and helping with problems.

But what about when your reply takes longer? Just a few years ago people would write to their councillors by good old Royal Mail and no-one would blink an eye at a response taking days or weeks. Those days are gone – I doubt I receive more than ten letters a year from constituents. As people come to expect a speedy response from me (because that’s what they normally get) delays become more noticeable.

One strategy is to deliberately slow down your replies on email, Facebook and Twitter. Have a policy of never replying in less than a few hours, setting a realistic expectation of a response time. That way when you can’t reply sooner, people aren’t so surprised. It’s a pretty good approach, but not one that suits the way I work.

If you’re away for longer periods you can always include an out of office message on your email and phone. That works less well for Facebook and Twitter. As a councillor my address is published on the Council website, as well as my own, so advertising to thousands of people that I’m on holiday probably isn’t the cleverest home security idea.

When I holiday in the UK (as I normally do) I’ll check for messages a couple of times a day and get back to people. If I do it too much, my family – quite rightly – start complaining. This year I had a rare foreign holiday (exotic Belgium) but with wifi in the apartment I was able to follow the same approach. That meant the good people of Cheadle and Gatley mostly got a reply from me within 12 hours. It might not have satisfied my friend on Facebook, but other residents seemed happy enough.

To be honest, I don’t really like my solution. As one of three councillors in my ward (though the only one on Facebook or Twitter), it would be nice to be able to holiday for a week or two without the ever-present eye of the Internet on me and without coming back to a huge pile of comments complaining at my failure to respond to questions.

Perhaps others have better social media solutions.

Manchester Harriers Primary School cross country at Cheadle college

Cycle parking grants of up to £10,000 on offer

In line with the wider investment into cycling, Transport for Greater Manchester (TfGM) are offering grants to Registered Social Landlords (RSLs) in the Greater Manchester area to help landlords either improve cycle facilities or build new ones.

Up to 100% of the costs of installing new or improved cycle parking facilities can be applied for, with £10,000 being the maximum amount allocated.

The application closing date for the scheme will be the Friday 3rd October 2014. For further information on how to apply and about the scheme please email: [email protected] or call 0300 123 1675.

For further information please click here.

Cheadle and Gatley Junior Football Club Fun Day

cheadle gatley football fun day

Could your children qualify for free school travel

Stockport Council administers the free school travel scheme for our area and they are concerned that, despite promoting it, take up has so far been low.

The council has asked councillors to help spread the word to get more parents to apply for free school travel.

Check here to see if your children might be eligible.

Parking worries over new Cheadle Royal rules

The owners of the Cheadle Royal Business Park are to start enforcing the ‘no parking’ rule on the roads in the park with a private enforcement company and fines for transgressors.

The Lib Dems are worried that this will lead to more parking problems around St Anne’s Road North.

With our colleagues in Heald Green, the Lib Dems successfully pressed for more yellow lines along St Anne’s Road North to stop people parking right up to the chicanes – and that does seem to have made it safer. We looked at ways to reduce the total traffic but that’s less easy – and putting down more lines risks just moving the cars around.

We will be closely monitoring the situation, but we’re disappointed that Muse and the businesses on the park seem to be moving in a way that could make the parking problem even worse along St Anne’s Road North and our requests that they take action to improve the situation (such as by restoring the shuttle bus which ran successfully last year) have not been heeded.

Find out your flood risk

The Environment Agency provide maps to show the flood risk at your property. Take a look here (and be sure to read the notes to find out what it really means).

Cheadle and Gatley flood risk areas

Cheadle and Gatley flood risk areas

Tatton cinema development brief

The Lib Dems are currently working with Stockport Council to progress a Compulsory Purchase Order on the Tatton Cinema site.

Here is the development brief going out to anyone interested in developing the site.

Gatley Carrs Tree and Bird Walk – all welcome

On Monday, 18 August at 6.30 pm Gatley Carrs Conservation Group will be holding their first tree walk on Gatley Carrs, which will be combined with a bird walk. John Pollard will supervise the tree walk and Peter Owen the bird walk. Meet on the Car Park at the end of Brookside Road.

This is the first time GCCG have hosted a tree walk and John is hoping not only to point out the large variety of trees but will also explain the history of the trees which have been planted on Gatley Carrs for the past 100 years.

Because of the great changes in the use of Gatley Carrs it is not surprising that we have many very old trees, some planted in the last thirty years and some very new ones. It is possible that another tree walk could take place in winter when we will have only the shape of trees to distinguish the various variety of trees and we look forward to your feedback on the subject.

Stockport Council budget savings 2015-17: the detailed business cases

Over the next two years (2015-17) Stockport Council has to reduce it’s controllable day-to-day spending by over 20% – savings of £39.5 million.

The Liberal Democrats have developed the Investing in Stockport (IIS) programme – rather than cutting existing services, we’ve turned it around. We started off looking at the outcomes we want to achieve, at the money we’d have left and then looked at how we could develop ways to deliver our outcomes.

Some things will be done very differently – in many cases we’re looking to work with public sector partners like the NHS, with other councils and with local residents to deliver services which the Council might in the past have done itself.

Last month we published our general approach to tackling the budget reductions.

Last week we published the detailed Lib Dem proposals for finding most of the savings (not quite all – we’ll be bringing forward further proposals in the coming months).

These are the Liberal Democrat group’s proposals for the budget. Stockport is Lib Dem-led but is a minority council and there’s nothing stopping other groups bringing forward their own proposals if they disagree with ours. Since anything significant may well need a consultation, that should really be done sooner rather than later. The final decisions will be made next February at Budget Full Council.

The Lib Dems have previously invited the other groups to work with us on developing the budget. The Independent group took that up, Labour and Tories have not yet done so, though the door remains open.

Today I’m publishing the business plans for each of the savings – see below. These come with a warning: they are working documents which will change over time. They set out all the detail we have about the proposals and will form the basis of consultations, and will be amended as they go on.

For convenience in displaying them here, I’ve merged all the business plans together into one PDF. You can download individual documents here.