Fight goes on to save vital rural bus

Despite the cancellation of two important meetings to re-examine the decision to axe the 375 bus service, a route that serves several isolated communities in Stockport borough, local Liberal Democrats have vowed to keep on fighting to save it.

The 375 service is an essential lifeline for residents in many communities including Mellor, the area’s most rural village, taking them to Stepping Hill Hospital, shopping and to visit friends and family.

A large team of local campaigners and councillors, including Cllr Malcolm Allan in Marple, Shan Alexander in Hawk Green, Oliver Harrison in Offerton and Cllr Charles Gibson in Hazel Grove, have been working tirelessly to save the service. And the campaign is also backed by Parliamentary campaigner Lisa Smart, who has seen first-hand how essential the service is to people across the area.

She explained: “The 375 is the only bus to Stepping Hill hospital for people in Mellor, is a lifeline for those living in Hawk Green, provides essential transport to the Bosden Farm Estate in Offerton and is relied upon by people in Hazel Grove.

“Many people have no alternative available. The decision taken by the committee has been challenged but meetings about it have had to be cancelled because of the Coronavirus outbreak. We want the decision put on hold until it can be properly scrutinised.”

Shan Alexander, who lives in Hawk Green and uses the 375 service – one of the communities most badly affected by the move – added: “It is so short-sighted of members of the Greater Manchester Combined Authority committee who voted for it to end. We are passionate about saving the service and are so grateful to local schools, The Marple College, community groups and individuals who have made their voices heard on this.”

Her comments were backed by Cllr Charles Gibson in Hazel Grove, who said: “For more than 3,600 people to sign our petition, both online and on paper, since it was set up on 17th February is astonishing and just shows how important the 375 bus is to so many. Please sign and share the petition if you haven’t already.”

Local campaigner Oliver Harrison from Offerton explained: “An important scrutiny meeting was cancelled because of Covid-19 and now today’s meeting, but we can’t allow the decision to scrap the 375 service to stand. We hope that common sense will prevail and a decision will not be made until the current crisis is over.”

Finally, Cllr Malcolm Allan, who represents Mellor, commented: “I have spoken to and been contacted by people who have no other way to do their grocery shopping, visit friends, attend college or get to vital hospital appointments if this bus is axed.”

With the meetings that could have saved the bus service now cancelled it is more important than ever that people keep signing and sharing the petition at lisasmart.org.uk/save_the_375_bus

Stockport Liberal Democrats mark International Women’s Day

Stockport Liberal Democrats have committed their support to International Women’s Day, which celebrates the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women, whilst also marking a call to action for accelerating gender equality.

Cllr Lisa Smart, Deputy Leader of the Liberal Democrat Group and Councillor for Bredbury Green and Romiley, said: “International Women’s Day is an important date on the calendar, celebrating progress towards equality but also highlighting the inequalities which still exist. In 2020 we should not be seeing so few women in senior roles, nor should those who do make it as being extraordinary. We should not be having to fight for basic rights and recognitions, exemplified by the BBC’s recent difficulties with equal pay. This year the theme is ‘Each for Equal’, highlighting how a gender equal world can only be created by each of us individually choosing to challenge stereotypes and fight bias and acting collectively to create a gender equal world.”

The photo below shows Muna Hull (left), school crossing patrol for the past 25 years at St Christopher’s School in Romiley, who was invited by her ward councillors (Cllrs Lisa Smart and Angie Clark, middle and right) to represent the ward at the International Women’s Day event held at Stockport Town Hall on 10th March 2020.

Stockport Liberal Democrats hit out at ‘shambolic’ Stepping Hill parking plans

Liberal Democrats in Stockport have hit out at the Labour-led Council over its ‘shambolic’ consultation on parking proposals around Stepping Hill.

There have been unacceptable delays to papers being sent out, along with proposals that have been drawn up and presented to residents with little consideration of residents’ wishes or consultation before plans were put to people in the area around the hospital.

Local residents have suffered years of chaos as a result of the lack of available parking at Stepping Hill hospital and Lib Dems have had many meetings and discussions with local people, council officers and the health service in that time.

Cllr Will Dawson, Liberal Dem Councillor for Offerton ward, said: “Many people have told me that the information has not reached them in the post and because of the delays we have worked with residents so that although the closing date is published as 6th March, the Council will accept responses until March 13th.”

Cllr Mark Weldon, Liberal Democrat Councillor for Stepping Hill ward, added: “We have written to the Council and the Labour Cabinet for an explanation as to why packs were delayed. We believe the proposal is flawed and if we run the Council in May we will work hard with residents to find a positive solution to this ongoing problem.”

And Cllr Charles Gibson, Liberal Democrat Councillor for Hazel Grove ward, stressed the need for “as many people as possible to express their view and get their voices heard so that the Council is clear about what people think of this proposal”.

Stockport’s £6.4m Climate Emergency Fund blocked by Labour and Conservative Councillors

At last night’s Budget Council Meeting, the Liberal Democrat proposal to establish a Climate Emergency Fund of £6.4m in the coming year was blocked by the combined votes of Labour and Conservative Councillors, leading to further delays before the Council starts to take real action on the Climate Emergency.

In a non-partisan and well-argued proposal, the Liberal Democrat Councillors sought to commit an amount equal to the dividend the council receives from its shareholding in Manchester Airport Group, and the proposal included a requirement that future windfalls should be committed to tackling the Climate Emergency first so that we can transform the borough.

Speaking after the meeting, Cllr Lisa Smart, Deputy Leader of the Liberal Democrat Group and proposer of the amendment, said: “The biggest single issue facing us all is the climate emergency. Almost a year ago there was all-party agreement that we should declare a climate emergency but the Labour administration has been asleep at the wheel, taking months to even send a letter to the Prime Minister, let alone actually deliver any meaningful actions. It is really disappointing that opposition members refused to support an action plan to tackle this simply because it came from our side of the chamber.”

Cllr Mark Hunter, Leader of the Liberal Democrat Group, said: “We are disappointed that the other Groups voted together to block action on the Climate Emergency and that we must wait even longer before we can set to work on vital priorities, such as tackling recurrent flooding in places like Bramhall and Romiley. Many people will be surprised to see that the minority Labour administration is now propped up by a small number of Conservative Councillors who supported all of their budget proposals. My colleagues and I will revisit this and many other Labour decisions if we have the opportunity to do so.”

Cllr Malcolm Allan, Liberal Democrat Councillor for Marple North, added: “Part of the money was to be determined at a ward level, so that the local community could bid for projects to tackle the Climate Change emergency in ways specific to their areas via their local councillors. The remainder of the money would have been used strategically on bigger projects and those that cross wards, like improving flood protection or working up business cases for better transport connections such as tram train to Stockport from Marple and Cheadle. We don’t want to wait for a project and then find we have no money. We should allocate cash now so we can act quickly – otherwise we’ll wait another year for anything to get done.”

You can read the full proposal here:
Liberal Democrat Budget Amendment 2020

Stockport Liberal Democrats mark Holocaust Memorial Day

On the 75th Anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau, the Nazi concentration and death camp, Cllr Mark Hunter, Leader of the Lib Dem Group on Stockport Council, attended the memorial event held at Stockport War Memorial today on behalf of all residents and his council colleagues.

Speaking ahead of the event, Cllr Hunter said: “It is vitally important that we never forget the appalling events of the Holocaust and that we take this opportunity to remember the victims of this and subsequent genocides. I remember well my visit with the Holocaust Education Trust to Auschwitz-Birkenau, the site of the largest mass murder in history, when I was Cheadle’s Member of Parliament. What I saw there will stay with me always.

“On Holocaust Memorial Day we reflect on the tragic, deliberate taking of lives on an unimaginable scale and resolve to do all we can to fight against prejudice and intolerance, to challenge antisemitism and to oppose all forms of bigotry.”

Stockport Lib Dems wary of renewed promise of ‘tram tomorrow’

Stockport Liberal Democrats cautiously welcome the announcement made by GM mayor Andy Burnham that progress is being made towards the delivery of a business case for Metrolink to bring trams to Stockport, but with no work starting until 2025 and no trams running until some years after this.

Speaking after the public announcement, Cllr Mark Hunter, Leader of the Lib Dems on Stockport Council, said: “Of course we welcome any sign that Metrolink will finally come to Stockport. This was what was promised back in the early 1980s and, as Stockport has continued to financially and politically support the expansion of the Metrolink network into other boroughs, it is what has been repeatedly promised time and again over the decades since.

“This announcement is little more than a re-statement of what has been agreed before. In 2015, joint work between then Lib Dem-led Stockport Council and Transport for Greater Manchester set the aim to bring Metrolink in to Stockport in the funding period 2020-25, so this is actually just an announcement that the ambition has been pushed back to the end of the queue yet again. Frankly this feels like déjà vu, I remain to be convinced that any work will have started on installing tram tracks by 2025, and funding has to come from central government to make this happen.

“Stockport residents are tired of being given crumbs off the table and won’t settle for more promises of ‘tram tomorrow’.”