Dramatic increase in complaints against Labour-led Stockport Counci

Research by Stockport’s Liberal Democrat councillors has revealed that there has been a dramatic increase in the number of complaints upheld by the Local Government Ombudsman against Stockport Council, over the last three years since Labour came to power. The number of cases regarding SMBC considered by the Ombudsman over the period 2016-2019 has increased by 20% but the number of complaints upheld has increased by a massive 100% according to figures obtained by the Liberal Democrats.

Leader of the Liberal Democrats at Stockport Town Hall, Cllr Mark Hunter, said “These figures show a worrying trend of not just more complaints from local residents to the Ombudsman but – significantly – many more of them are being upheld. As the highly regarded independent referee of disputes between the Council and residents, going to the Ombudsman is often the final sanction a resident can take. For the Council to be losing so many of these cases suggests something is very wrong. Looking back over the figures for the previous three years of Liberal Democrat leadership, 2013-2016, Stockport Council had only one in ten complaints upheld against it. In the three years of Labour leadership the figures show that now over one in five cases are successful against the Council.

“From my questions at the full Council meeting yesterday evening it seems Labour are once again asleep at the wheel when they should be investigating the reasons why complaints have soared and why the Council is losing so many of the appeals to the Ombudsman. Liberal Democrats demand better, Stockport residents deserve better, and we are asking for an urgent review of just exactly how these complaints are dealt with by Stockport Council”.

Stockport Liberal Democrats call for action on engine idling

Liberal Democrats on Stockport Council are proposing a motion to bring forward plans for No Idling Zones across the borough, particularly near schools, to try to improve air quality.

Speaking ahead of publication of the motion, Cllr Colin MacAlister, Liberal Democrat councillor for Marple South and High Lane, Shadow Cabinet Member for Regeneration, and mover of the motion, said: “All of the evidence shows that we need to improve air quality, particularly around our schools. For example, contract school buses often sit with their engines running whilst waiting for the school day to end, pumping harmful gases into the environment. Car drivers need to play their part too.

“We need action by the council and Transport for Greater Manchester to educate people through a proper public awareness campaign, and this needs to be backed by fair enforcement measures.”

Cllr Becky Senior, Liberal Democrat councillor for Marple North and seconder of the motion, added: “The problem is not just around schools. There are lots of public spaces like railway stations where taxis, for example, habitually leave their engines running for extended periods. We are asking for officers to do a comprehensive assessment of where No Idling Zones should be introduced across Stockport to have the most impact and to then deploy the existing civil enforcement officers and the anti-social parking camera car to enforce them.

“We hope that this non-partisan motion will be welcomed by and gain support from all parties across the council chamber when it is debated next week.”

The text of the motion can be read here. It will be debated at the Full Council Meeting on Thursday 12th September.

Stockport Labour lurch ever further to the left

Speaking after the announcement of Labour’s selection of another hard-left prospective parliamentary candidate (PPC), this time in Ann Coffey’s seat of Stockport, Cllr Mark Hunter, Leader of the Liberal Democrat Group on Stockport Council, said: “It was disappointing but hardly a surprise to see that the Momentum-backed candidate was recently selected as PPC for Stockport. Reports on Labour’s own channels tell of manipulation of the shortlist to give a favoured hard-left candidate, supported by John McDonnell amongst others, a clear path to victory. This ignored the local party’s decision for an all-woman shortlist and excluded a well-known local councillor who had been endorsed by the Jewish Labour Movement.

“It must be a terrible time to be a moderate Labour supporter. With no clear position on Brexit and with roles at all levels being taken over by Momentum, it is no surprise that support for and membership of the Liberal Democrats is at an all-time high, with many former Labour members coming to us. It does help to explain why the current Labour administration appear to be asleep at the wheel and getting nothing done – they are too busy having to focus on their internal rifts.”

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Call-in relating to Ludworth Primary School

Three Liberal Democrat councillors recently “called-in” the Cabinet decision relating to increasing the size of Ludworth Primary School.

Ludworth Primary School is one of twenty schools highlighted by the Council as having the worst traffic problems in Stockport Bourough. It also sits within 100m of another primary, St Mary’s RC, which, like other schools, has its own traffic problems.

Marple is one of two priority wards with a serious shortfall of primary places..The plans to expand Ludworth by a half-form entry are a small but welcome means of addressing this. The Cabinet decision was a great opportunity to get this right and plan well.

Back in October, consultations at the school were not widely publicised in the community so ward councillors organised their own consultation meeting, attended by some 70 people and with the Cabinet member for Education accepting an invitation to join us. That produced an agreed set of minutes and proposals which were sent through to the Council at the time.

Ten months later we had a Cabinet paper come to scrutiny committees which failed to address adequately the traffic issues, was vague and non-specific about the measures it did include, and ignored the St Mary’s implications. The Children and Families Scrutiny Committee made detailed recommendations to improve the report but, when the report went on to Cabinet for decision, it was unchanged.

The Cabinet meeting that agreed the paper did so after facing 18 questions from residents, highlighting areas where the paper was inadequate. Despite this, the Cabinet agreed the report with no changes, prompting Lib Dem councillors to “call-in” the report to a further scrutiny meeting.

Speaking after the call-in, Cllr Malcolm Allan, councillor for Marple North, said: “At the call in, Lib Dem councillors proposed amendments to the report to include a specific and clear set of actions that officers have agreed are feasible, practical, not costly and workable. Without this there is no guarantee the children will be as safe as they should be, and the school will be faced with battling these issues rather than focussing on the children and the expansion plans. These proposals received cross party support from members of the committee, with only the Labour members abstaining.

“We hope the cabinet now take note of this input from the community and agree to change the report as requested by the scrutiny committee.”

Statement regarding recent flooding across Stockport borough

Speaking of the recent flooding incidents within Stockport and the national-level incident at Whaley Bridge that threatened the borough along the River Goyt, Cllr Mark Hunter, Leader of the Liberal Democrat Group on Stockport Council, said: “Concerns have been expressed by residents about the extensive recent flooding in various parts of the borough. The usual rainfall for all of July fell in just a few hours last Wednesday and these almost biblical storms affected many areas, particularly the A555, parts of Romiley, Woodley, Cheadle Hulme and Bramhall.

“As elected members, we have been kept well informed by senior officers of the activity undertaken by the council and our partner agencies, particularly the police, fire service and Environment Agency, in response to the flooding. We have also heard many reports from residents thanking the council for their swift action. Alongside this, the threat of a dam burst in Whaley Bridge, with potential to cause a tidal flood all along the River Goyt, saw the army being deployed in Marple in case an evacuation had to be arranged. Modelling suggested that in a worst-case situation, the flood from the dam could impact the Merseyway area of the town centre.

“I am satisfied that the council and its partners did everything they could in response to the dual emergencies they faced over the past week. However, I am concerned about several issues where previous problems seem to have recurred from other recent floods.

“The repeated closure of a new bypass is particularly embarrassing. I note that the main problem last time was the failure of the pumps along the old section of the A555 to clear sufficient water, and that new pumps have been procured and were nearing installation when the current flood happened, and I am assured that this work will be completed as a priority. It is unacceptable for the road to be closed by rainfall in the way it has and we will be seeking assurances that the drainage is fit for purpose once the new pumps are installed.

“It is also unacceptable to hear stories of residents reporting blocked grids several months ago, for apparently no action to be taken by the council, and for these same blocked grids being identified as possibly having contributed to localised flooding. We will be seeking further assurances that all proactive measures to reduce flooding risks are being taken across the borough.

“Officers have already agreed that a detailed enquiry into this major incident needs to be undertaken, reporting initially to the council’s Scrutiny committees, and we await the report with keen interest. We expect the council to take all necessary steps to do their best to ensure that residents and properties are not put at risk in the same way in future.”

Local Lib Dem champion Charles Gibson wins Hazel Grove by-election

In yesterday’s Hazel Grove by-election, local Liberal Democrat champion Charles Gibson was elected to Stockport Council with a majority of 207 over the Conservative candidate.

Speaking after the result was announced, Cllr Mark Hunter, Leader of the Liberal Democrat’s at Stockport Council, said: “I am absolutely delighted with this result. Charles will be a first-rate councillor for Hazel Grove and a big asset to our group. I want to thank everyone who went out to vote in the appalling weather we had throughout the day.

It was a good night for the Liberal Democrats as, once again, local residents chose to back our positive campaign and a strong local champion and rejected the negative campaigning of both Labour and the Conservatives.”

Cllr Lisa Smart, Deputy Leader of the Lib Dems, added: “I have worked closely with Charles for several years now and I know he will work hard to support the residents of Hazel Grove. Added to the historic victory in the Brecon and Radnorshire by-election, it really was a great night for the Liberal Democrats.”

The full result was:

Charles Gibson 1401 votes
Conservative candidate 1194 votes
Labour candidate 329 votes
Green candidate 142 votes
Majority 207

Pictured are Charles Gibson with Liberal Democrat councillors and local campaigners, celebrating the announcement of Charles’ by-election victory.