In a motion to be discussed at the Full Council meeting on 18th October, Stockport Liberal Democrats are calling for a “dignity bags” scheme to operate at secondary schools and colleges across the borough so that young women can be assured of access to sanitary products.
Cllr Lisa Smart, proposer of the motion and Deputy Leader of the Liberal Democrat Group, said: “It is a scandal that, in a country as rich as Britain, ‘period poverty’ is an issue. Research shows that young women are embarrassed about periods and those in low-income families in particular can feel unable to ask their parents or carers to buy the sanitary products they need as they are yet another expense.
“Whilst in an ideal world there would be universal free provision of sanitary products, we feel an appropriate starting point is to provide them free of charge to young women in our schools and colleges.”
Cllr Mark Hunter, seconder of the motion and Leader of the Liberal Democrat Group, said: “All the evidence is that young women from poorer families are likely to miss school as a result of not having access to sanitary products. The simple change of making sanitary products available free of charge in schools and colleges could help more of these young women achieve better learning outcomes and have a much brighter future.”
Following yesterday’s news release by the Greater Manchester Combined Authority (GMCA) and Mayor Andy Burnham regarding possible further delays to the Greater Manchester Spatial Framework (GMSF) due to uncertainty about the formula Government is to use to set housing growth targets, Stockport Liberal Democrats agree that the government need to get their act together.
Cllr Lisa Smart, Chair of the Greater Manchester Housing, Planning and Environment Scrutiny Committee and Deputy Leader of Stockport’s Liberal Democrat Group, said: “We agree with Andy Burnham that the Government’s handling of setting housing targets is shambolic. Version two of the GM Spatial Framework proposal was due to be made public for consultation some months ago but it was initially delayed when the latest national population projections were released and it is being delayed again waiting for the Conservative Party to get their act together in Westminster. Residents deserve to know where the thousands of new homes are going to go.”
In the same news release, the GMCA announced that there would be a vote on the GMSF proposals in each of the 10 participating councils, despite the requirement for this being removed following a technical change to the process.
Cllr Mark Hunter, Leader of the Liberal Democrat Group on Stockport Council, said: “We are pleased to see the GMCA agrees with Liberal Democrats that it is vital each council retains a vote on the final proposals. We would prefer to see bottom up plans developed by local communities to deliver the housing those communities need. The Conservative government’s rules will impose targets that will see unprecedented levels of development in certain areas.”
Stockport Liberal Democrat Deputy Leader and Bredbury Green and Romiley councillor Lisa Smart proposed a motion seeking to extend voting rights to those aged 16 and over, seconded by Will Dawson, Liberal Democrat councillor for Offerton.
Speaking after the meeting, Cllr Smart said: “I am thrilled to have championed a move by Stockport Council to back calls for the introduction of votes at 16. As a campaigner on education, it is an issue close to my heart having met so many engaged and inspiring young people.
“I am so pleased that councillors from across Stockport voted overwhelmingly in favour of my proposal to call for voting rights to be extended to citizens aged 16 and over, as well as greater involvement of young people in community decision making.”
Cllr Dawson said: “Working as a lecturer at Aquinas College, dealing with this age group is my day job so I know how interested and engaged in politics 16 and 17 year olds can be, especially right now as our country is going through what I believe will be the huge trauma of Brexit. Many of the arguments against allowing these young people to vote were used over a hundred years ago to try to deny votes for women.
“It must be right that the people who are likely to be among the most affected by contemporary political issues and for the longest time are allowed to fully participate in our democracy.”
Stockport Council will now write to the British Youth Council, local Members of Parliament, the Greater Manchester Mayor, the Prime Minister and the Minister for the Cabinet Office asking them to consider extending the voting age to 16 and 17 year olds, in particular for local government and devolved elections and for referenda in England and Northern Ireland.
Following a heated debate where several Conservative and some Labour councillors argued against a people’s vote to give the public a final say on the Brexit deal, a Liberal Democrat motion calling for this was passed overwhelmingly at Stockport Council’s recent meeting.
Liberal Democrats argued that the impact of Brexit so far and the lack of a clear way forward in the negotiations with Europe meant that the public should be able to determine whether any proposed deal was good enough, or to decide to keep the many benefits Britons currently enjoy by staying in the European Union. Councillors voted 40 to 15 to back the Liberal Democrat proposals
Speaking after the meeting, Liberal Democrat Group Leader and Cheadle Hulme South councillor Mark Hunter said: “Theresa May’s government continues to fail to make headway with the Brexit negotiations and appears to be held hostage by an ultra-right wing faction within the Conservative Party and ten members of a hard-right party from Northern Ireland, with time rapidly running out.
“Enough is enough. We demand a People’s Vote on Europe so that the public can have the final say on whether the deal proposed is good enough or whether we would be better remaining within the European Union.”
Cllr Lisa Smart, Liberal Democrat Group Deputy Leader and Bredbury Green and Romiley councillor, said: “We have held several street polls where we ask residents five questions about the Brexit negotiations. Time and again people tell us they believe Brexit is not going well, that it will not be good for our NHS, jobs or the UK more generally, and they call for a People’s Vote on the final deal.
“Stockport Council is the latest to pass a motion on behalf of our residents calling for this and I hope the government soon realise the strength of feeling this issue is creating. We demand better.”
Leader of Stockport Liberal Democrat Group, Cllr Mark Hunter, has described the Northern Powerhouse as “dead in the water” and challenged central government to better demonstrate their commitment to investment in the North West.
Speaking at the recent Liberal Democrat annual conference at Brighton, Cllr Hunter claimed that because the Northern Powerhouse was originally the creation of George Osborne, the current Conservative government are paying only lip service to the idea of more power for the region.
“The Northern Powerhouse exists now in name only to all intents and purposes,” said Cllr Hunter. “It is little more than a gesture to help a few North West Tory MPs to hold on to their seats at the next general election.
“Transport is a clear example of its failure. We have just seen a summer of chaos on our local and regional rail services with no practical oversight or intention from central government. Thousands of rail users have been inconvenienced and yet the minister does nothing. It is simply unacceptable that so many local people continue to struggle with over-crowded and unreliable rail services.
“The time for government intervention is long overdue,” Cllr Hunter concluded.
At a meeting of the Greater Manchester Combined Authority last month the Labour leader of Stockport Council, the other nine Labour council leaders and the elected mayor agreed to take away the requirement for each Council to individually vote to agree the controversial forthcoming Greater Manchester Spatial Framework (GMSF), which is expected to include proposals for considerable green belt development.
In an innocuous paragraph hidden away in a description of the revised timetable, brief reference was made of taking an ‘in principle’ decision, changing the approach taken from being a “Joint Development Plan” to a “Spatial Development Strategy”.
Cllr Lisa Smart, Deputy Leader of Stockport Liberal Democrats and Chair of the Greater Manchester Housing Planning and Environment Scrutiny Committee, has uncovered that this means that any decision to implement GMSF need only be approved by a vote of the 10 council leaders and the mayor. The previous approach would have required a vote in each of the 10 constituent full councils for the proposals to be accepted.
Cllr Smart said: “This is a blatant power grab by Andy Burnham and Greater Manchester Labour bosses. Power should be given to, not taken away from, local people who have real concerns about transport, school places and hospital beds that have not yet been fixed by this plan.
“We need the right homes in the right places. Labour and the developers have failed to win the argument with local people about building on the green belt. They are running scared that they wouldn’t win a vote in each council and so now they are changing the rules.
“This is an abuse of power and they must think again. Once our greenbelt is gone it is gone for good.”