Speaking at the most recent meeting of the Full Council, Stockport Council Leader Mark Hunter was able to update Councillors on the ‘Next Stop Stockport’ campaign to get Metrolink to the borough.
Speaking at the meeting Cllr Hunter said: “The extension of the network to Stockport has been promised many times but we are still waiting despite all the assurances. There have been any number of dramatic announcements, telling us that delivery of the business case is ‘imminent’ – but still we wait for our turn.
“Let’s not forget that when Metrolink was first introduced in Greater Manchester over 30 years ago, it was always understood that all parts of the city region would eventually benefit. After all, we have all paid into the investment in transport infrastructure through our Council Tax precepts over many years, yet Stockport residents are still to enjoy the benefits of the network locally.
“We have worked closely with the GMCA, TfGM and before that GMPTE, and AGMA, to advance our case and, we have engaged constructively at every step. We have even protected the preferred line of the route through the Stockport town centre within our transformation agenda and the work of the MDC. The new Transport Interchange, currently being completed, has been designed and built specifically in a way that can accommodate the arrival of Metrolink. Everything is in place – we just need the green light from Andy Burnham and co.
“Well, some of us feel we have waited quite long enough. Our patience is exhausted. The ‘Next Stop Stockport’ campaign is designed to highlight our demands and what we believe to be an irrefutable case to the relevant authorities and make clear we have been patient for quite long enough. We need action, not words and the time for talking has passed.
Cllr Hunter went on to advise Councillors that Mayor Burnham has been invited to a roundtable event with local business leaders in December.
Cllr Hunter added: “Our business leaders are fully on board with our efforts and the Mayor will hear directly from them just how important it is the finally come good on this longstanding promise to bring Metrolink to Stockport.”
As you may have heard, yesterday we lost a stalwart friend and ally as John Pantall sadly passed away.
John was a remarkable man in so many ways and a tremendous public servant for almost forty years. His commitment to the Liberal Democrats and Stockport Council was second to none and he was well-respected across the Council chamber. Loyal and reliable, John would never let you down – if he said he was going to do something, he could be guaranteed to follow through. John was a stalwart supporter of the causes he believed in and indefatigable in his efforts to represent the people of Cheadle Hulme North who he represented so assiduously over the years.
He was also a personal friend of many years standing, and I will miss his wise counsel. A kind and generous man who did not let his advancing years get in the way of a full and active life. I visited him in Stepping Hill just a few days ago, and he was keen to catch up on the Town Hall gossip and share his views on what needed to be done(!) – bright and alert almost to the end.
At this sad time, our thoughts and condolences are with Marlis and his family who I know were with him at the end. A great guy who will be sadly missed by all who knew him, a one-off and a legend in Cheadle Lib Dem circles.
Cllr Mark Hunter Leader of the Council Leader of the Liberal Democrat Group Stockport MBC
Following months of poor service from Royal Mail and after assurances were received from the Chief Executive’s Office at Royal Mail, the delays to postal deliveries across many part of Stockport have worsened.
Speaking after the Full Council Meeting where he highlighted this issue, Cllr Mark Hunter, Leader of the Council and of the Liberal Democrats at Stockport Town Hall, said: “It is not uncommon for local people to have only one or two deliveries in a single week, with several days nothing at all being delivered followed by – in some cases – a dozen items of mail arriving on a single day. Apart from the obvious irritation and inconvenience of not having a reliable, regular postal delivery, there are real concerns that some people are missing urgent medical appointments – which in many cases they have waited months to obtain – as a result of not receiving their appointment notification in time.
“Clearly, the situation is unacceptable in any circumstances but, as the price of a single first-class postage stamp has just increased to £1.25, it feels very much like Royal Mail are no longer taking their responsibility seriously. This is not the fault of the hardworking post men and women, who do a difficult job in all weathers, but rather a sign that something is seriously wrong at a management and senior management level.
“I have therefore taken the next step and written to the regulator, Ofcom, drawing their attention to these problems and officially requesting that a formal investigation is carried out into what appears to be a service in chaos.”
Following united opposition, the Labour Mayor and Deputy Mayor of Greater Manchester have dropped their proposal to downgrade the cover at Offerton Fire Station, the Fire Brigade Union have written to thank Stockport Lib Dems for our support and campaign on this issue.
Speaking after the decision was announced and the letter from the Fire Brigade Union was received, Cllr Mark Hunter, Leader of the Lib Dems at Stockport Town Hall said: “I was relieved to hear that the Labour Mayor and Deputy Mayor of Greater Manchester have dropped this proposal, as were residents across Stockport. This is the second time in the past two years we have been faced with a reduction to the fire service within the borough and we have successfully argued our case on both occasions that a reduction in service would be unacceptable.
“I am delighted that the Fire Brigade Union recognise that, just as they themselves were, Stockport Liberal Democrats were opposed to this plan from the start. I particularly want to thank my colleagues Cllrs Lisa Smart and Tom Morrison, our parliamentary spokespersons from Hazel Grove and Cheadle respectively, who led our campaign on this vital issue.”
Following the recent issue of a Section 114 notice by Birmingham City Council signalling their effective bankruptcy, last night Stockport’s Liberal Democrat Cabinet agreed its first response to the difficult financial climate currently facing local government.
With the need to find almost £11m of savings or additional income for the next financial year, and a cumulative total of just over £44m by 2027/28, work has already started towards the budget which will need to be agreed by the Full Council in late February.
Speaking after the Cabinet Meeting, Cllr Mark Hunter, Leader of the Council, said: “Like all councils, we face significant financial challenges as a result of local government funding not keeping pace with the increased demand for services as well as the inflationary and national economic impacts on our costs. When people are coming up to me in the street and asking whether Stockport will be the next Birmingham, you know council finances are part of the public conversation like never before.
“We have a very strong tradition in Stockport of financial resilience and robustness. Councillors of all political stripes know that we have to work together and take the very difficult decisions needed to balance our books, rather than shy away from those decisions or try to gamble our way out of any deficit through speculative investments. We take seriously our role as custodian of public money and delivering best value.
“We also remain ambitious for Stockport in the face of these challenges. Our strong reputation means we have the ability to draw in one-off funding for regeneration schemes such as the Mayoral Development Corporation and the Transport Interchange, bringing money into our local economy and improvements to our borough.”
Cllr Jilly Julian, Cabinet Member with responsibility for the council’s budget, added: “Our Borough Treasurer has confirmed that it is highly unlikely that Stockport would need to issue a Section 114 notice. This is due to the robustness of our approach and the way all councillors work together on the council’s budget to deliver the best outcomes for the whole of Stockport.
“Some 70% of the council’s budget is now devoted to demand-led services, such as adult and children’s social care. We await the government’s long-promised solution to funding social care and we agree wholeheartedly with the Local Government Association that far more funds need to be provided to help us cope with rising costs and demand. In the absence of that extra money, we will do what is needed to deliver a balanced budget and ensure our continued financial robustness.”
The reports outlining the scale of the financial challenge the council faces and the initial responses of the Liberal Democrat Cabinet can be found here:
In preparation for the opening of the new park at Stockport town centre’s Interchange development, Council Leader Mark Hunter and Cabinet members Cllr Grace Baynham and Cllr Mark Roberts all planted trees in the new two-acre town centre park.
Speaking after the event, Cllr Mark Hunter said: “The interchange is a fantastic development and the inclusion of two-acres of green space in the town centre demonstrates how we are prioritising green space in the development of our borough. The Interchange is not just a transport hub, it’s a space for everyone in Stockport to enjoy and it is a great example of partnership working between Stockport Council, the Greater Manchester Combined Authority and Transport for Greater Manchester.”
Cllr Grace Baynham, portfolio holder for Parks, Highways and Leisure, added: “The Interchange means that buses will all be able stop in one place rather than in different parts of the town centre, making it easier for people to use public transport. We continue to press the Greater Manchester Combined Authority to extend Metrolink into Stockport, which the interchange has been specifically designed to accommodate”.
Cllr Mark Roberts, portfolio holder for Climate Change and Environment and Deputy Leader of the Council, said: “I am delighted that renewable energy has been built into the heart of the interchange project with the inclusion of solar panels, and I welcome the new urban greenspace being built into the heart of the town centre, increasing biodiversity”.
The interchange is due to open in 2024.
Pictured are Cllrs Hunter, Roberts and Baynham planting trees and inspecting the roof-top solar panels.