Stockport Lib Dems call for Treasury Select Committee inquiry into RBS branch closures

Following the recent shock announcement by the Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) to close another 162 branches nationwide, Stockport Liberal Democrats have called on the bank to re-think its proposal and have asked Stockport Council to write to the Chair of the Treasury Select Committee – Nicky Morgan MP – demanding an inquiry. The Lib Dems have also submitted a motion to the next meeting of Stockport Council condemning the five branch closures proposed in the borough and hope to get all party support for their campaign.

Cllr Mark Hunter, Leader of the Lib Dem Group at Stockport Town Hall, said: “As RBS is owned by the tax-payer these proposals to reduce their high street presence still further are simply unacceptable. Many jobs will be lost and for those people who still use these facilities the trek to the next nearest branch will cause great inconvenience. In Cheadle Hulme the problem is especially bad as this is the last remaining bank branch in the district centre. We reject the assumption that internet banking is the right choice for everyone – many people still prefer to conduct their business face to face.

Deputy Leader, Cllr Lisa Smart, added: “Bank branches can be anchors in their high streets and draw customers to neighbouring small businesses. Losing 31 branches across Greater Manchester and five across Stockport will be a further blow to our hard-working retailers. We hope that the Treasury Select Committee will take up our call for an inquiry into this ill-thought proposal.”

Lib Dems call for resignation of a senior Labour councillor

Stockport Liberal Democrats have called for the resignation of a senior Labour councillor after she was forced to apologise for using “abusive” language on social media. Cllr Kate Butler, the cabinet member responsible for Economy and Regeneration at the Town Hall, was formally rebuked by Council bosses who said “the language used was abusive and can reasonably be regarded as bringing the office of councillor into disrepute”.

Cllr Butler was alleged to have referred to a representative of various community groups a “sock puppet w*****”.

Leader of the Liberal Democrat Group at Stockport, Cllr Mark Hunter, said “There’s simply no excuse for this kind of behaviour and it is plain wrong that the Labour leadership of the Council continues to support this member on its front bench. Cllr Butler has been found guilty of breaching the councillors’ code of conduct on two counts and should be relieved of her duties forthwith.

“The fact that this incident happened several months ago and the complaint has only come to light because of this week’s report by the Manchester Evening News is simply wrong – councillors and local people would otherwise have been kept completely in the dark.

“Having been reprimanded officially by the Council, Kate Butler should have done the decent thing and offered her resignation, but to continue to be backed by the Labour leadership and keep her front bench position just demonstrates the contempt some Labour politicians have for the general public.”

Cllr Lisa Smart, Deputy Leader of the Liberal Democrat Group added ” Residents are right to expect the very highest standards of behaviour from the people they elect to represent them. I just don’t see how Cllr Butler can bring the community together to make the most of the ongoing investment projects given her past behaviour. For that reason, we are calling on her to resign from her role on the Labour Cabinet with immediate effect and allow someone else to take these projects forward.”

Stockport Liberal Democrats call for action on town centre

Speaking after further announcements of retail closures affecting Stockport Town Centre, Cllr Mark Hunter, Leader of the Liberal Democrat Group, called for urgent action from Stockport Council. He said: “It is clear we need to up our game and not just let this happen around us. We need to respond to the changing pattern of retail with radical ideas and vision.

“Now we should be thinking big and encouraging more residential development in the heart of the town, taking advantage of the excellent transport links. At a time when developers are increasingly targeting our valuable green belt, we need to ensure that the full potential of Stockport Town Centre is fully realised.

Cllr Lisa Smart, Deputy Leader of the Liberal Democrat Group, said: “Stockport Town Centre has great transport links and would make a fantastic location for more residential development. As the nature of the way we shop changes, we need bold thinking and strong leadership to drive our town forwards.”

Stockport Lib Dems pledge to freeze parking charges in district centres

Stockport Liberal Democrats have pledged to freeze parking charges in district centres if they regain control at the Town Hall following this summer’s elections.

Speaking about Labour’s proposals, Cllr Mark Hunter, leader of the Lib Dem Group, said: “Labour are proposing a huge hike in parking charges in places like Cheadle, Cheadle Hulme, Marple, and Romiley. In the district centres, they want to scrap the one-hour charge and replace it with a minimum two-hour charge instead, whilst in certain car parks near to railway stations they want to replace the current free parking with hefty charges.

“Labour’s own figures suggest this will mean over a third of the visits to our district shopping centres will cease, which would be a huge blow to our already hard-pressed local traders. The local representative of the Federation of Small Businesses has written to all councillors in protest, highlighting the dangers of this folly.

“Labour also forecast over a third of cars currently parking for free near the railway stations will no longer park there, which is likely to mean those cars will either get displaced to park on nearby residential roads or they will add to the commuter traffic already clogging our roads.

“Stockport’s Lib Dems have pledged to freeze the parking charges in our district centre and railway station car parks if we are returned to power in May.”

Greater Manchester Police facing £6.93m real-terms cut despite government smoke and mirrors

Greater Manchester Police are facing a real-terms cut of £6.93m next year, the Liberal Democrats have revealed.

Yesterday the government announced that core funding for police budgets will remain exactly the same as last year.

Taking into account inflation, that means Greater Manchester Police will face a real-terms cut of £6.93m.

The additional £270m of funding the government claims to be investing in the police nationally depends entirely on local Police and Crime Commissioners raising the police precept in their areas, which the Liberal Democrats have branded a “stealth council tax rise”.

Lib Dem Group Leader at Stockport Council, Cllr Mark Hunter commented:

“The Conservatives are ignoring calls from senior officers to increase investment in our police.

“The impact of this cut in police budgets will be felt in our communities and in our streets.

“With crime rising, the government should have increased police budgets in real terms.

“Even the Conservatives’ attempt at a stealth council tax rise won’t be enough to protect local police forces.

“I’m genuinely shocked that Ministers are ignoring the alarming rise in serious crime with this short-sighted decision.”

Labour fail to take decision over much-needed relief road

At its November meeting, Stockport’s Labour Cabinet failed to take a decision on whether to seek funding from the Department for Transport for the work needed to prepare a final business case for the A6 to M60 Relief Road, the final link in delivering the road part of the South East Manchester Multi Modal Study.

Whilst faced with a Group split down the middle on this issue, and in an apparent attempt to dodge the decision by sending it to the Full Council Meeting on 30th November, the Council Leader found that this decision could only be taken by the Labour Cabinet.

Instead, a note had to be circulated to Councillors on the morning of the meeting explaining that their role would be advisory only.

Speaking about this situation, Cllr Mark Hunter, Leader of the Liberal Democrat Group on Stockport Council, said: “We were in the ludicrous position of having a two and a half hours debate about an issue over which the Council Meeting has no decision making power. The Labour Leader of the Council has yet again shown that he freezes when faced with a difficult decision and that he does not understand the powers he has and the processes he should follow.

“The debate itself was very mature and the Council Meeting’s recommendation was to do what was blindingly obvious all along – seek funding for a full business case so that we can get a proper understanding of all of the costs and benefits of the proposed relief road.

“But the focus on this one issue meant that there was no time to hold the Cabinet to account, to debate motions on matters of importance to our residents, or to properly consider a huge contractual decision about waste disposal. All of this was cast aside or rushed through as the meeting ran out of time.”

Cllr Lisa Smart, Deputy Leader of the Liberal Democrat Group, added: “We know that there are residents who are desperate for an end to be in sight to the traffic congestion and pollution they face every day. We know there are other residents who are desperately worried about the impact of this bypass and want it stopped. The debate last night showed that the best way forward is to gather in the information needed to see whether a full business case stacks up.

“But this was already known nearly a month ago when the Labour Cabinet ducked this decision the first time. There will now be a third meeting in December when the Cabinet will re-visit this and do what they should have done a month earlier.

“The current window for government funding closes this month until next June, which could mean Labour’s failure to show leadership will result in yet further delays to this long awaited relief road.”