Monday 7th November
Labour Group Meeting - Anti Social Behaviour Report
Then quite a long meeting preparing for the budget.
Tuesday 8th NovemberListened to Kwame Anthony Appiah’s lecture on Radio 4, or to be really honest, the radio was on in the background, while I did some work; that’s how it started anyway. Every now again, magic happens on Radio 4 and it casts a spell on you. (Listen Again - Very Recommended)
Popped over for a visit to a number of Gorgeous Gorse Hill sites with officers and Ruth from the group. The progress this group’ has made in opening up neglected patches is nothing short of phenomenal. Today’s meeting was primarily to make sure litter bins were installed and upkeep regimes were sensitive to work the community were doing - no more inappropriate use of herbicides.
Then over to the town hall for three meetings:
the first with Helen Jones Corporate Director for Economic Growth Environment and Infrastructure and her deputy Richard Roe. These are two genuine stars of Trafford’s corporate team, but too often and it’s the same across the board, these shadow meetings are more a test of our questioning than a directorate briefing. The primary question I want answering each month is the directorate challenges keeping them awake at night?
A handful of Tory councillors defecting and it would be a totally different game, but instead we have to chip away at the issues we know about. In my judgement it’s always more important to be informed about the issues we don’t know about. It’s clearly not the best preparation for any incoming governing party, but it seems to be the way we do things in councils, all councils. We’re not unique, I know that.
Second meeting was with Iain Minto from the Mall. Amongst the issues discussed was the forthcoming business rates reduction. It’s infuriating that the Government is giving so much transitional protection to the South East and making the rest of the country pay, They are ignoring the disparity that has already caused overheating in the capital whilst suffocating the North. The current Mall owners have been a breath of fresh air compared to previous owners but it would be good to see Government working on the side of those making investment and taking risks.
Yes, there’ll still be a reduction in May in the business rates for the Mall, but it won’t be as big a reduction as even the Government admits it should be.
When there’s actually a moral case for a punitive rate increase in the City of London in order to provide reparations for the damage it’s done to the rest of us, instead we see the opposite. We were promised a rebalancing, yet businesses in the Mall will still be subsidising the business rates of Harrods. If that’s rebalancing, it’s Tory rebalancing and it stinks.
Third Meeting was a scrutiny session on the One Trafford - Amey contract.
Really good scrutiny is rare in Local Government. In my experience the best scrutiny is in topic areas where either there’s an acknowledged issue to resolve, or just an area where there’s little political capital to protect. The One Trafford - Amey contract is not such an area.
There is too much of a divide on the One Trafford Contract for it to be effectively scrutinised by a cross party committee.
I’ve spoken to Conservative Councillors who admit they wanted to outscource from the moment they took control of the council in 2004. They simply believe that in everything the pursuit of profit is a more efficient model of working than an ethic of public service. I disagree, but it doesn’t matter how much tangible proof you present counter to their belief. They are zealots, it’s an article of faith. We may as well be speaking in tongues.
Leaving the political dogma aside, it remains transparently clear that the Cabinet Member with responsibility for environmental operations is either not willing or not capable of holding the service to account. It’s a default position of denial and impatience with any suggestion that things need to improve, that we want them to improve, that we want to help them improve. A reputation for closed eyes and ears was not improved by this session.
The bottom line is that every £ we spend on cleaning up litter and fly-tipping or paying unneccesary landfill costs on recyclable waste is money that we can’t spend on surestart, youth clubs or parks. Regardless of whether it’s outsourced or an in-house service, it’s clear that unless we engage better with the public and give the impression we want to work with them and listen to their concerns, we’re not going to improve things. That listening has to start at the top.
Home - to watch the Presidential election.
I’d begun to trust the polls were right. Usually a bad idea.
It was always clear that there was very little enthusiasm for elite insider politics that Hilary Clinton was offering.
However, it seems in the immeditate aftermath everyone is able to extract something from the entrails of this election that provides an inarguable case for their preferred path to power, whether it be Corbyn, Boris, Farage etc. The only thing certain is that they won’t all get what they want.
Wednesday 9th NovemberAnother scrutiny meeting - this time it’s a task group on the Educational Health & Care Plans (EHCP). These had been in disarray during the summer - in a really bad state; and they’re vital for a child with special needs’ transition to a new school. We’ll pursue this task further but, whilst it’s not an issue I’ve been leading on, I came away from the meeting feeling that the new officer they’d recruited after the debacle, was someone that would make a real difference.
Thursday 10th NovemberLibrary volunteering.
No meetings so I stop smoking - seems a nice symmetry to it. Only started again in the aftermath of brexit, so if I stop because of Trump….it seems right. I don’t know what this all means, but if I can convince myself it was the right time to stop, it helps.
Friday 11th NovemberTransport for Greater Manchester Committee in the morning. The big issue was choice of new routes for when the Deansgate route begins. I suppose the plum route for areas is whether their tram goes to Piccadilly Station or not. It was easier when Bury and Altrincham were the only two ends of the lines. But Metrolink is a network, it’s not designed so that the tram you begin your journey on is the tram that you stay on for the whole journey. So the meeting was more fractious than usual. Our Metrolink will continue to link with Bury and Piccadilly Stn, so we’re considered to be winners in this.
In the afternoon I draft a council motion on lobbying government not to outllaw new publicly owned bus companies. I hope it’s a motion that gets submitted by the Labour Group. It’s competing with other worthy motions so we’ll see. Then drafted another leaflet/letter and had it printed. This one on the Station Road planning application. Really believe the loss of this green strip in a densely built environment would be probably more damaging than many places that receive full protection of countryside acts etc.