Liberal Democrats stop Labour’s silent, permanent closure of Stockport Central Library

At last night’s meeting of the full council, Stockport councillors voted overwhelmingly to support a Liberal Democrat motion calling for Stockport Central Library to re-open as soon as social distancing restrictions have been removed and not to permanently close or remove library services unless and until there has been a proper consultation on any alternative plans.

In a planned attempt to wreck this motion, Labour proposed an amendment which sought to allow Central Library to remain closed even once COVID restrictions no longer apply. This would be a silent, permanent closure of the much-loved library without proper public consultation.

Speaking after the meeting, Iain Roberts, Lib Dem Councillor for Cheadle and Gatley Ward and mover of the motion, said: “I’m very pleased our motion on Stockport Library passed last night in the face of an attempted wrecking amendment by Labour. In their amendment Labour showed their true colours – they clearly want to close the Central Library and move it elsewhere if they win funding from the Future High Streets fund. This means they have a plan that they are not sharing with councillors or residents.

“Whilst they do not have to do what we asked, over 4,000 people signed a petition submitted to the meeting on this and the majority of councillors supported our call for openness and transparency, so I hope they do the right thing by publishing their plans and engaging with our residents.”

Louise Ankers, Lib Dem Councillor for Hazel Grove Ward and seconder of the motion, said: “At the meeting I explained the importance to me of the Carnegie Libraries, having used the one in Dunfermline during a large part of my childhood and having used the Central Library here to study for my Open University degree.

“I’m glad we had the opportunity to highlight this important issue and to save the Central Library from a silent closure. The Cabinet should not rush into decisions like this in reaction to short-term pressures and they should now be honest about their plans and the way forward. It may be that providing library services elsewhere in the town centre is a better answer, but residents need to be involved in this decision in a meaningful way and not just be presented with a fait accompli.”

Stockport Lib Dems remain opposed to Greater Manchester housing plan

Following the publication earlier today of the final proposals for the Greater Manchester Spatial Framework, Liberal Democrat councillors at Stockport Town Hall have re-stated their determination to vote against the plans when they are put before a special meeting of the Council in November.

The Liberal Democrats, with 26 councillors – exactly the same number as the minority Labour administration, have consistently opposed the plan because of the damage they fear it will do to the Green Belt. Instead, the Lib Dems have been strong advocates of Stockport’s own Local Plan which, they say, could facilitate new homes where they are needed and protect valuable green spaces at the same time.

Cllr Mark Hunter, Leader of the Liberal Democrat Group, “We have always argued that these proposals were fundamentally flawed from the very start. They amount to nothing less than a gilt edged invitation to developers to come and cherry pick the most valuable sites in our area. We recognise the need for new homes, but they must be must be in the right places. Green Belt is a special resource and once the Council allow developers to build on it, it is gone for good – we ought to be protecting it for future generations to enjoy”.

Stockport Council will host a special meeting on November 17th to decide it’s position on GMSF. The current composition of the Council is Labour 26, Liberal Democrat 26, Conservatives 8 and Independent Ratepayers 3.

Local Lib Dems welcome government climb down over cancelled rail service

After arranging a petition, launching a Councillor Call for Action, calling an extraordinary Area Committee Meeting with transport officials and resolving to fund a rail service themselves, local Liberal Democrats are delighted to hear that the government have now climbed down and instructed Northern Trains to reverse its decision to cease service on the Rose Hill, Marple line.

It has now been announced that Northern will be instructed to run a partial service at peak times from Monday 14th September.

Bredbury Green and Romiley councillor Lisa Smart, initiator of the Councillor Call for Action and Lib Dem spokesperson for Hazel Grove said:

“I am delighted to see that our pressure has made the government see sense and exercise the power it had all along to require Northern to continue to deliver a much needed service on this vital line. Whilst it is disappointing that the full service will not be delivered, this is far better than what we were facing only a few weeks ago. Along with my Lib Dem colleagues in Marple and Woodley I will continue to campaign for a return to the full service as soon as possible.

“I want to thank local residents for responding to our petition and supporting our campaign. The strength of feeling they have shown has gone a long way towards making the government finally do the right thing and helped us secure a guarantee that the line will not be closed down in the future. This just goes to show how strong our community can be when we work together – next time I hope Northern will think twice before trying to remove services from our area.”

Craig Wright, founder of Friends of Marple Station, said:

“I am so proud of our local community. My heartfelt thanks go to everyone who got involved in the campaign and to our local councillors for taking action that put pressure on the minister to change his mind and to our local councillors for taking the action that finally pushed the minister to change his mind and use the power he has to stop Northern from closing the line for 3 months.”

Local Lib Dems agree to fund rail service which Northern plan to close

At an extraordinary meeting of Marple Area Committee last night, Liberal Democrat councillors secured agreement in principle to the council funding the operation of the Marple Rose Hill line to deliver services between Rose Hill, Romiley, Woodley, Hyde Central, Hyde North and Guide Bridge stations using West Coast Railways as the operator as Northern Railway has refused to reconsider the temporary closure of the line from 14th September.

At the meeting, Lib Dem councillors also secured a commitment from Northern Railway’s Regional Director, Christopher Jackson, that the temporary closure is not a pre-cursor to a permanent one, and the line will resume normal operation after 14th December. Mr Jackson also confirmed that the relevant Conservative government minister did have the ability to prevent the line closure, but had chosen not to exercise that power.

Following a Councillor Call for Action initiated by Liberal Democrat Councillor Lisa Smart, the councillors from the Marple and Werneth Area Committees met with representatives from Northern Railway, Transport for Greater Manchester and relevant council officers to discuss the closure, which will see services axed from Rose Hill and Woodley stations and services reduced from Romiley station, as well as affecting services in Hyde and Guide Bridge and further increasing pressure on Marple Station.

The meeting was also attended by the three Chairs of the “Friends of” groups for Romiley, Rose Hill and Marple stations who each made passionate representations against the withdrawal of the service, highlighting the impact it will have on local transport users, and challenged the rationale behind it. Their voices echoed those of the 5,540 people who had signed the Liberal Democrat survey opposing the line closure.

At the end of the meeting councillors resolved to use their local funding powers to run a train service for one week, inspired by a previous initiative by Tim Farron MP in Cumbria, to prove that it can be done and to try to make Northern Rail think again about this closure.

Cllr Lisa Smart, parliamentary spokesperson for Hazel Grove and councillor for Bredbury Green and Romiley, said: “We stand behind our local residents who have once again shown the need for this vital railway service and local Liberal Democrat councillors have acted where Northern Trains and the Conservative government have failed to.

“By using the relatively limited powers available to us we have been able to do what both Northern Trains and the Department of Transport have so far refused to do. We call on Northern Trains and the Conservative government to think again and reinstate this service once the very limited local funding runs out.”

Local Lib Dems welcome new leader

Liberal Democrats across Stockport have welcomed the election of Ed Davey as the Leader of the party and backed his plans for a National Listening Project.

In his acceptance speech, Ed Davey announced his plans to “get beyond Westminster” and speak to people across the country so they can tell us “what matters most to them.”

Ed Davey, who has been a party member for 30 years and was first elected in Kingston and Surbiton in 1997, won the leadership election with 42,756 votes.

Layla Moran, his competitor in the contest, congratulated him on Twitter, saying: “I look forward to working with him to campaign for a better future for Britain.”

Lib Dems act to save local train line from closure next month

Stockport’s Liberal Democrats are fighting to save the Marple Rose Hill to Manchester Piccadilly line from closure due next month as recently announced by Northern Rail, which is currently under control of the Conservative Government following years of poor performance.

Cllr Lisa Smart, parliamentary spokesperson for Hazel Grove and councillor for Bredbury Green and Romiley, said: “Following the huge success of our petition, which has seen over 5,400 signatures, and given the unhelpful response received from the Department of Transport after local councillors along the route wrote to them asking for intervention, I have today launched a Councillor Call for Action.

“This little used process allows local councillors to champion issues of public concern when other avenues have been exhausted. My colleagues on Werneth and Marple Area Committees will meet at the earliest date allowed to discuss this important issue and we have invited representatives from Northern Rail to try to overturn this decision and keep the trains running. We are determined to explore all avenues to protect this vital local service for our residents.”