An announcement has been made by local Health chiefs that a bid is being prepared for a replacement for Stepping Hill Hospital through the government’s recently announced New Hospitals Programme.
Speaking after the announcement, Cllr Mark Hunter, Leader of the Liberal Democrats at Stockport Town Hall, said: “We welcome this news as a great opportunity to bring much-needed, new health facilities into Stockport. It is an acknowledgement by our health partners that, despite the sterling efforts of our dedicated medical and support staff, Stepping Hill Hospital is no longer fit for purpose. A new hospital would provide state of the art facilities which are accessible and avoid the resource-drain of the current, aging buildings. I hope the government will prioritise Stockport’s bid.”
Cllr Helen Foster-Grime, Shadow Cabinet Member for all health matters, added: “This is a highly competitive process, with only eight hospitals to be built in this funding round. We have an urgent need to replace our current hospital buildings but there are no guarantees that this bid will be successful. There is of course no detailed information about the proposed new hospital as yet. We look forward to further clarification in due course.”
A Liberal Democrat investigation into the unexpected recent refurbishment of the Town Hall’s council chamber meeting room has revealed that £172,000 was splashed on redecorations, including an eye-watering £16,000 on carpets alone.
This is at a time when residents have been struggling with the financial impacts of Covid and when the council itself needs to find £23m of service cuts and other savings in the year ahead.
Cllr Mark Hunter, Leader of the Lib Dems at Stockport Town Hall, said: “I find it staggering that this Conservative-backed Labour administration think this non-essential expenditure is appropriate at a time when council funds are so stretched. They clearly knew this would be sensitive because the costs were hidden as part of an even larger amount agreed some time ago for improvements to the town centre civic complex.
“In the next couple of weeks we should see the first proposals for cuts and savings coming through our Scrutiny Committees as part of the process leading to setting the council’s budget next February. When we see what the proposed impact to frontline services will be, we will remind the current administration that almost £200,000 of council tax payers’ hard earned cash has been simply wasted on paint and carpets in a meeting room.”
At the meeting of the Full Council last night, Stockport’s Liberal Democrat councillors refused to support a report built around an excessive housing target of 18,581 additional homes, as work on Stockport’s own Local Plan limps forward.
Whilst the Lib Dems have long support the overall approach of developing Stockport’s own Local Plan, having called for this since 2016, the report failed to acknowledge the work being done to protect our Green Belt by rejecting the formulaic Housing Need figure, which is based on outdated population growth estimates, and seeking a much more realistic target which is sustainable and deliverable.
Speaking after the meeting, Mark Hunter, Leader of the Liberal Democrats at Stockport Town Hall, said: “We have worked hard with the other political groups to try to make them see that we cannot just roll over and allow the government to scare us into concreting over the Green Belt. The report before us totally ignored this work and made no mention of the letter we had sent, asking the Conservative government to confirm that we could work to a lower number to protect our valuable open spaces.
“We had a response from the Housing Minister early this week, confirming that we could take this approach, but even this was not formally brought before us at the meeting.“
Cllr Colin MacAlister, Shadow Cabinet Member for Economy and Regeneration, added: “The Labour cabinet member made much of his continued disappointment about the Lib Dem-led withdrawal from the flawed Greater Manchester Spatial Framework, and the continued use of an artificially high housing “target” just feels like sour grapes.
“Of course the Lib Dems support the continuation of work on a Local Plan, based upon a Brownfield First strategy, but we had to signal our dissent from an approach which could put so much at risk.
“Sadly, and again with Conservative support, Labour were able to force this report through. We will continue to engage and to argue for a Local Plan based on a sustainable and deliverable lower target that protects our Green Belt and green spaces.”
At Thursday’s meeting of the Full Council the Liberal Democrats secured backing to adopt “20’s Plenty” on Stockport’s residential roads.
Liberal Democrat Councillor Mark Roberts from Bredbury Green and Romiley, who brought the motion for debate, said:
“I was glad the other political groups could see the benefits our motion would bring to Stockport and supported our call for action. This was something we would have brought in immediately in if we hadn’t been blocked from forming an administration by the Conservatives and Labour working together after the local elections. It is too important an issue to delay, so I was happy to do some back seat driving of council road policy and force them to act!
“The current administration has been given a mandate by all councillors to work to introduce “20’s plenty” and tackle some of the systemic speeding issues across the borough, and we look forward to this being implemented.
“This really could save the lives of Stockport residents and prevent the heart break of losing a beloved pet on the road. The petition we created backing this is currently open, so people can still add their voice and help us maintain pressure on the Council to act.”
The petition is available here: 20’s Plenty for Residential Streets Across Stockport (lisasmart.org.uk)
At the meeting of the Full Council, Stockport’s Liberal Democrat Group secured support for the council pursuing White Ribbon Accreditation.
The White Ribbon Campaign seeks to end male violence against women and accredited organisations embed the principles contained in the White Ribbon Pledge of never committing, excusing or remaining silent about male violence against women.
Speaking after the meeting, Cllr Mark Hunter, Leader of the Lib Dems on Stockport Council, said: “Having submitted a motion in mid-June, calling for the council to seek White Ribbon Accreditation through the usual channels, you can imagine my surprise when the Labour cabinet issued a press release in early July telling the world that they are already intent on doing this despite the absence of any published decision to do so.
“It was disappointing that Labour felt the need to re-write our motion with their amendment, only to reach the same outcome. As the issue is far more important than the wording of a motion, we accepted their amendment despite its flaws and we look forward to seeing rapid progress so that we can mark 25th November’s White Ribbon Day as an accredited organisation.”
The Liberal Democrats are presenting a motion to the next meeting of the Full Council calling for residential roads across Stockport to be 20mph, in an effort to improve road safety and tackle issues of air quality.
Cllr Mark Roberts of Bredbury Green and Romiley said: “On the doorsteps we have found that slowing the speed that people drive on our residential roads is a big issue for residents. Many years ago the Lib Dems brought in a policy of 20mph outside schools when we ran the council, and now we want to see the widespread adoption of slower speeds on the roads we live on too.
“Given the on-street parking across the borough that compresses traffic, 30mph can just seem too fast and a slower speed limit could help save the lives of many loved pets and help protect children. Residents should be able to reclaim their street from the cars which race down them.
“As the administration in waiting, we will use the channels available to us to encourage the current Labour Cabinet to take the issue seriously, including presenting a motion at the July Council Meeting backed by a petition that residents can sign, and I hope the other political parties will support us on this important issue.”
Cllr Jilly Julian of Cheadle Hulme North added: “Residents are constantly getting in touch about road safety related issues, and speed is top of the list of concerns. I believe that having a 20mph limit on appropriate residential roads is an important first step to reducing the instance of serious injuries and being able to make Stockport streets safer.
“Dangerous and inconsiderate parking, potholes, impassable footpaths and so on are among the factors contribute to vehicle and pedestrian accidents and injuries on residential streets, but the faster the vehicle, the less time there is to react to those hazards. Slower vehicles have a much better chance of seeing us and of us seeing them, with plenty of time to stay safe. By reducing speed, we reduce the ‘multiplier’ in terms of the likelihood of the accident happening and the impacts and consequences it may have.”