Part of the City Mayor’s work is to campaign on behalf of the people of Salford to change national policies and laws for the better for local people. Here are some examples:

21 January 2021

Letter from myself to the Secretary of State Robert Jenrick MP and to the Chancellor in response to the consultation on the Provisional Local Government Finance Settlement and proposed council tax and precept increases for 2021-22.

See the letter on the consultation on the Provisional Local Government Finance Settlement and proposed council tax and precept increases for 2021-22

Dear Secretary of State

Salford City Council recently responded to the consultation on the Provisional Local Government Finance Settlement 2021-22, whereby we as a local authority were not able to agree with a number of statements on the basis that the proposals are insufficient to address the needs of our communities and the hardship faced by vulnerable people within Salford and do not seek to reverse the budget reductions imposed during the period of austerity, which has disproportionately impacted local government since 2010/11.

You’ll be aware that Salford is ranked the 18th most deprived local authority in England according to the 2019 Index of Multiple Deprivation (IMD) with approximately 30% of the population living in areas classified as highly deprived. The current approach to funding does not adequately reflect the level of demand and complexity of services required by our community. This is evidenced by the significant budget pressures we are experiencing relating to increasing demand and cost in service areas such as looked after children and adults social care. The government must ensure that any changes to resource distribution resulting from the Fair Funding Review adequately reflect the pressures faced by cities such as Salford.

Similarly, you’ll be aware that we still have no national funding solution to solve the crisis in funding social care, with the Living Wage Foundation in November 2020 also highlighting that almost three-quarters of frontline care workers are paid less than the real living wage. In the absence of a national funding solution you’ll be aware that the government has opted to introduce a precept onto local council tax bills since 2016/17 of up to 13%, rather than coming forward with a national funding solution to ensure social care is properly funded and our care workers are paid the real living wage, without requiring engagement with regressive forms of taxation (precepts) to tackle this long-standing issue.

These deep concerns have led us to propose a motion highlighting our position and how we hope government will respond. At the meeting of Salford City Council held on 20 January 2021 the following motion was approved and adopted:

1. This Council notes that:

i. on 25th November 2020, the government set out the outcome of the 2020 Spending Review, suggesting that core spending power for councils in England would increase from £49.0 billion to £51.2 billion in 2021/22, an estimated 4.5% cash-terms increase and a rise on real terms.

ii. the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government’s provisional local government finance settlement 2021/22 supplies the detail behind the increase and opens a 4 week consultation between 17th December 2020 and 16th January 2021.

iii. the data behind the provisional settlement shows that, when the government suggested in the 2020 Spending Review an estimated 4.5% cash-terms increase for councils in England, they are in fact assuming that councils in England will increase council tax by 2% and the adult social care precept by 3% to raise £1,918.4 billion from council tax payers in England in 2021/22.

iv. consequently within the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government’s core spending calculations for councils in England, the government contribution element constitutes only 13% of the overall increase of £2.2billion - so, of the stated overall increase of 4.5%, only 0.6% or £292.7million relates to the government element.

v. the government’s 2020 Spending Review and the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government’s provisional local government finance settlement 2021/22 set against a backdrop of 10 years of austerity and local government cuts, which has seen Salford City Council face £211 million in cuts to core government grant and unfunded budget pressures since 2010/11 and an overall reduction in core funding from central government of 53%.

2. This Council recognises that:

i. the underlying assumptions within consecutive government
Spending Reviews and the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government’s core spending power calculations for councils in England has been to force councils in England to increase council tax and precepts and passport the costs of any increases onto local council tax payers.

ii. the government has failed numerous times over a number of years to hit its own deadlines to publish details of care system reforms for adults with disabilities and the elderly, which has resulted in the government introducing the Adult Social Care (ASC) precept in 2016/17, forcing councils in England to considering increasing this government introduced precept by 13% between 2016/17 and 2021/22 with no national funding solution still on the horizon.

iii. the fair funding review for local government has also been delayed for a second year, with the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local
Government confirming in April 2020 that the implementation of the review
will not go ahead in 2021/22 to allow councils to focus on meeting the
immediate public health challenge posed by the pandemic.

iv. council tax and precept increases are regressive forms of taxation which impact the poorest and lowest paid within our communities the most.

3. Therefore, this Council calls on H.M. Government to:

i. urgently increase the overall funding provided by the government to all councils in England from the government’s £292.7 million in the core
spending power calculations to allow councils in England to mitigate the
impact(s) on local council tax payers.

ii. urgently resolve the adult social care funding crisis and bring forward proposals to mitigate the impact(s) on local council tax payers.

iii. make progress with the fair funding review, ensuring that differentials with regards to poverty and inequality and council tax payer’s ability to pay are effectively factored into any future methodology for determining centralgovernment grant. 

We would be grateful if you could consider the points identified in the motion, particularly those detailed in the final paragraph (3) with regards to call on the government.

A copy of this letter has also been sent to the Chancellor of the Exchequer.

We look forward to your response.

3 January 2021

Letter from myself to the Secretary of State about changes for schools and colleges because of the pandemic.

See the letter to the Secretary of State about school openings

Dear Secretary of State,

Thank you for your letter of the 31 December 2020 setting out changes to the start of the spring term for schools and colleges. We share your Department’s concerns about the rapid changes in the path of the coronavirus pandemic, particularly as rates in Salford are currently at 196.3 per 100,000 of population (rising from around 135 per 100,000 in the week of 7 December). Rates in Greater Manchester are currently as high as 270.7 per 100,000 of population, with the latest available data from Public Health England for the city-region highlighting that nearly all Local Authorities are seeing rises in cases.

These rates will be reflected amongst the school community and with the new strain of the virus, infections potentially could spread rapidly, with latest data from Greater Manchester’s Emergency COVID-19 Committee suggesting that currently we’re seeing 25% of infections from the new more transmissible strain of COVID-19. Therefore the rising positive rates, and positivity rate data, suggests a more cautious approach is needed to the opening of primary schools, special schools and alternative provision, with the City of Salford’s rise in rates in the five to nine age group increasing from 58.8 per 100,000 on the 7 December 2020 to 117.5 per 100,000 on the 27th December 2020.

The ONS infection survey also shows alarmingly high increases nationally throughout school age cohorts from Year 2.

It is imperative that we take early action for our area so that the pattern that has developed in the South East is avoided, especially at a time when we’re anticipating the mass mobilisation of the vaccines following the recent positive news of the UK’s approval of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine and the existing mobilisation of the Pfizer vaccine within our city. Greater Manchester is already managing worryingly high pressures in hospitals which is reflected in the area’s Tier 4 status.

We agree that regular attendance at school is vital for children’s education and wellbeing. At the end of the autumn term, attendance at Salford’s schools was above the national average, which was due to the commitment of our school staff in ensuring disruption to children’s learning was minimised.

The last minute policy changes by your Department throughout the pandemic have had a real impact on the wellbeing of dedicated education professionals and the festive period has been no exception. Information about mass testing was provided right at the end of term, special school leaders were provided with policy documents late on New Year’s Eve and secondary schools have been expected to work over this weekend to access IT equipment for vulnerable children.

The new strain of the virus and the rising case levels in the city mean that we are deeply concerned about the return to primary schools, special schools and alternative provision next week, with our city’s university already asking students not to return to their term time accommodation until at least 25 January 2021 and secondary schools adopting a phased return of pupils, with all secondary school pupils not expected back until the 18 January 2021.

You’ll also be aware of the situation update the government received at the 74th SAGE meeting on COVID-19 on the 22 December 2020, which highlighted at point 11: “It is highly unlikely that measures with stringency and adherence in line with the measures in England in November (for example, with schools open) would be sufficient to maintain R below 1 in the presence of the new variant. R would be lower with schools closed…”

We are urging your Department to reconsider your position around face to face learning in Salford and other areas subject to Tier 4 restrictions as you have recently done for London.

Additionally, we recognise how difficult it has been for national unions in reluctantly reaching their deliberated position of calling for remote learning (except for vulnerable children and children of key workers) for the first two weeks of January in primary schools. The impacts of the festive relaxation of restrictions are still unknown, teachers have not been told when they will be immunised, nor have they been prioritised for immunisation and effective mass testing in schools is still not yet in place. We will support any Salford school leader who assesses that it is not safe to open their school following a risk assessment, particularly where there is a shortage of available staff.

The contribution made by education professionals to this country’s response to the pandemic has been exceptional. These staff deserve the trust and support of your Department to be able to do their jobs in the most challenging of circumstances.

We look forward to your response.

23 November 2020

Letter to the Chancellor from myself to urgently address issues with the spending review announced this week.

See the letter to the Chancellor about the spending review

Dear Chancellor,

COVID-19 and the necessary national restrictions have created complex challenges for many people and businesses in Salford. The emergency financial support the Government has provided throughout this crisis, including the recent furlough extension and additional support for the self-employed has helped to limit the economic impact, but it still hasn’t been extensive enough.

In recent years Salford has rapidly grown as a city and, alongside Manchester, has been central to driving economic growth in wider GM economy. The city economy that has developed in Salford is based around an approach to economic development and urban regeneration that has successfully encouraged enterprise, attracted companies into new office developments, supported large levels of residential development, new hotels, visitors to leading cultural venues such as the Lowry and students to study, live and work in our great city. An increasingly vibrant digital and creative industries cluster, leisure and food and beverage scene has emerged alongside this. Salford is a young growing city with a higher than average young working age population.

As such the restrictions have had a particularly severe impact on Salford and its emerging dynamic city economy. In Salford between March and September we have seen an increase in the unemployed claimant count of over 7,000 and over 14,000 Universal Credit claimants. We have had over 35,000 residents claim / rely on furlough support. This impact is amplified still further given Salford faces great levels of deprivation and poverty related challenges in many of our communities. Salford needs more growth not less and this growth needs to be more inclusive.

There remain, according to the National Audit Office, a staggering 2.9 million people who are simply not eligible for the COVID-19 financial support schemes. These are hardworking people that have fallen between the cracks of the Government’s support initiatives during this unprecedented national crisis. This is an intolerable position for these businesses and individuals to still be in.

After eight months without support many are facing continued financial hardship through no fault of their own and huge uncertainty ahead – their incomes have dried up, but they can’t access the financial support they desperately need.

Once these businesses are gone – they are likely to be gone for the foreseeable future, given the challenges to re-establishing themselves after significant financial hardship. That is why I am asking you to urgently address their situation in the Spending Review this week.

Specifically, I am calling on you to:

  • Rectify the significant gaps in the self-employed scheme that leaves out the newly self-employed, those who pay themselves in dividends, those earning a mix of PAYE and self-employed income, freelancers, some sole traders, those denied furlough and businesses who have missed out on support.
  • Fundamentally reform the self-employed scheme to reduce the number of people excluded and better reflect loss of earnings.
  • Focus on making the UK’s main safety net work better for these workers given so many self-employed workers are relying on Universal Credit instead.

I want to put on record my support to Excluded UK’s excellent campaign to raise the profile of the three million people who have no access to support. We know in Salford there are many people within this category, impacted directly and indirectly given their businesses and livelihoods are tied up with our growing city economy that has necessarily been put on hold.

The Spending Review is an opportunity to consider this important group and ensure they too have adequate protection so that when we emerge out of this, they can help in returning our great city back to its vibrant self and delivering on our long term mission to build an inclusive economy in Salford for all.

28 October 2020

Letter from myself to TSB in support of keeping the Irlam TSB branch open.

Letter to TSB about the proposed closure of Irlam TSB branch

Proposed closure of Irlam TSB branch

I am writing in respect of the proposed closure of the Irlam branch of TSB, which was recently announced as part of your national rationalisation programme. As a result of these proposals, the residents of Irlam will be left without a single bank branch in their area and with an ageing population (the number of residents 75 years or older nearly doubled between 2006 and 2016), this presents a major issue for the residents of Irlam and the wider community, further exacerbating the existing challenges we have with financial exclusion in the city. 

Similarly, these proposals are also happening at a time when Irlam’s Post Office facilities on Fiddlers Lane have also closed, further constraining the services and facilities available to the community locally. 

You will also likely be aware that there has been parliamentary interest back in 2017 with the issue of financial exclusion, when the House of Lords financial exclusion committee published a report asking the government, the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) and banks/financial institutions to give greater priority to tackling financial exclusion citing the “accelerating trend for banks to focus on online services at the expense of their branch network as potentially excluding older people and others who lack access to the internet”.  I’d be interested to understand how TSB has actively considered the work of the committee and sought to mitigate the consequences of your rationalisation programme on residents and communities in Irlam and the city of Salford?

The COVID-19 crisis has forced many people to change their day to day activities and despite banking being identified as a key activity within the UK, Irlam now finds itself potentially without an accessible bank branch. Unfortunately, many of our residents will not have access to online banking and physical bank branches are a vital lifeline to many elderly and vulnerable residents.

A significant number of self-employed residents and SME’s also rely on physical bank branches to provide cash banking facilities and advice. Salford is the fastest growing economy within Greater Manchester and has a diverse business base covering most sectors. Irlam is home to 235 businesses employing 2,250 people, the majority of the companies based there fall within the transport and storage sector, and business administration and support services sector. Self-employed and micro businesses account for 85% the smaller businesses tend to rely on local banking facilities and the closure of the only bank in Irlam would prove detrimental to such businesses. In addition, the nearby development of Port Salford when fully operational will provide capacity for up to 3,000 jobs, further increasing the need and demand for local banking services.

I would welcome the opportunity to discuss the proposed closure of the Irlam branch of TSB at your earliest convenience, so that I can fully demonstrate the impact the closure will have on the communities of Irlam who rely greatly on this branch’s banking services.

I look forward to hearing from you at your earliest convenience.

19 September 2020

Letter from myself to Secretary of State to raise concerns about lifting the evictions ban

See the letter from myself to Secretary of State to raise concerns about lifting the evictions ban

Dear Secretary of State,

I am writing to you as the Greater Manchester Combined Authority’s portfolio lead for Housing, Homelessness and Infrastructure, as we await the first impacts of the lifting of the evictions ban due to take place this weekend. As you know from earlier correspondence, we are fearful that we are facing a surge in evictions, which may overwhelm services and lead to a sharp rise in homelessness. At this worrying point in the pandemic in Greater Manchester, we must do all we can to minimise that surge, in the interests of tenants and landlords, but also as an essential public health intervention.

This winter will be a challenging one, and we are concerned that the unwinding of furlough for 384,700 people across Greater Manchester will, for many, drive reductions in household incomes, increase reliance on Universal Credit and lead to growing rent arrears. While some welcome adjustments to national policy have been made, we need to look at the immediate and longer term implications for landlords, tenants and the affordable housing market as a whole, so that we can help them manage a way through the ongoing crisis. We must find a new equilibrium where the private rented sector can provide good, stable homes for households at a range of income levels.

We are grateful for the tremendous efforts made by our partners in the Greater Manchester Housing Providers group through the crisis, not least in their contribution to our ‘Everyone In’ efforts and subsequent work with homeless people. But it is clear that the social housing sector simply cannot provide sufficient affordable homes in the short term to meet a surge in demand from former private rented tenants. We must make the private rented sector sustainable and affordable as we continue to live with Covid-19. If we fail, we foresee huge need for additional temporary accommodation, with all the financial and societal costs that we know will follow. We await with interest remaining announcements on the Next Steps Accommodation Fund bids made from Greater Manchester, and welcome the allocations announced earlier this week for short term accommodation.

We are now seeing increasing anxiety from landlords as mortgage holidays are ending and tenants’ financial stresses grow as the pandemic continues and economic recovery remains partial and slowed by the remaining and returning restrictions applying in different parts of Greater Manchester. Ministers’ are rightly encouraging landlords and tenants to talk to each other and work together to find a way to sustain tenancies. We support that approach, and we are today issuing further advice to echo and amplify those messages, and to connect tenants and landlords to available advice and support to make that easier. However, there will be limits to the ability of landlords to be flexible, based upon their own individual financial circumstances (and we would urge Government to continue to ensure lenders are aware of the need for a considered approach where landlords are struggling to maintain mortgage payments, given the possible consequences for their tenants). This places tenants in a vulnerable position of hoping that their landlord has deep enough pockets to be able to consider rent holidays or reductions.

However, we note the likelihood that the courts processes as now set out are likely to give us some breathing space before any possession claims will be granted in any great number. While that leaves concerns about the possibilities of growth in illegal evictions, we should nonetheless make best use of the three or more months potentially available. There are a number of practical interventions we would urge Government to consider, as follows:

  • Ensuring the Courts enforce Pre-Action Protocols for landlords who are looking to evict, and consider all reasonable prevention action including the addition of County Courts as Duty To Refer agencies in respect of tenant possession proceedings, working in partnership with local authorities and other support organisations;
  • Provide direct financial support to protect tenants from building up rent arrears as a result of Covid-19 impacts, as proposed by Shelter, the NRLA, Crisis and others. We note that the Welsh and Scottish governments have both established funds to offer low or no cost loans to landlords or tenants in this situation where issues are likely to be temporary in nature. This could complement grant support to those reliant on benefits or with no recourse to public funds to deal with rent arrears before they get out of control, and give landlords reassurance that they don’t need to pursue eviction. Enhancing Discretionary Housing Payment funding for local authorities is one potential mechanism to deliver this;
  • Providing emergency prevention monies to local authorities (in the form of Housing Options Covid-19 Burdens monies or Discretionary Housing Payment top up) to increase their capacity to advise, mediate, and support people to avoid eviction and rent arrears;
  • Removing or suspending the operation of the benefit cap, which has seen a 93% increase in application in the 3 months to May, and making an early commitment to extend the one year £20 per week increase in the standard allowance in Universal Credit and the basic element in Working Tax Credit so that tenants and landlords can budget with confidence that this will remain in place;
  • Restoring the link to the 50th percentile of local market rents for Local Housing Allowance, recognising the increasing numbers of households who are, or will soon be as a consequence of Covid-19, reliant on Universal Credit or other benefits to help meet their housing costs, and the limited supply of available affordable accommodation;
  • Taking effective action to help people with No Recourse to Public Funds to access safe, self-contained housing;
  • Allowing direct payment to landlords (private and social) as a default for Universal Credit, while giving all claimants to opt out if they wish;
  • Improving communication between private landlords and DWP to assist in resolving and preventing arrears arising unnecessarily.

We also request that Government considers two further very specific issues. Firstly, in a situation where financial stress on lower income households is at perhaps unprecedented levels, the operation of the non-dependent deduction to housing benefit has emerged as a further additional stress point. This can encourage families to evict usually younger adults, and thus increase risk of homelessness. Non-dependants cannot get housing benefit for their contributions to household costs, but these are assumed to be being received when the householders’ housing benefit is calculated. In the current public health climate, we would urge this deduction to be removed from the system, as a simple and low cost means to reduce demand for alternative accommodation.

Secondly, a short note is attached at Annex A regarding the interface between the Next Steps Accommodation Programme (and other homelessness/rough sleeping prevention initiatives) and the rules applied to people under 35 years old with regard to Local Housing Allowance. We include a suggested resolution to the issues this raises.

I am also copying this letter to the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions.

Yours sincerely

Annex A: Under-35s Shared Room Rate Exemption

Issue

Local Housing Allowance regulations applying to under-35s work to contradict the principles of the Next Steps Accommodation Project and other government funded initiatives aimed at reducing rough sleeping and ending it within the life of this Parliament.

Background

The Under-35 Shared Accommodation Rate makes housing this cohort of very vulnerable younger people in appropriate, affordable and accessible accommodation extremely difficult. The severe shortage of one bedroom socially rented accommodation means that most rough sleepers and homeless people will have to seek accommodation in the private rented sector. Unless they fall into very tightly defined existing categories, under-35’s will have no other option than to source shared accommodation which will not be in line with their needs, or the other people within that accommodation.

This is problematic for both the delivery of rough sleeper specific accommodation under government funded programmes, and for their move on from that accommodation. This leaves some of this cohort unable to afford some accommodation established through these government funded schemes. Where people have been able to access self-contained accommodation through these schemes, the person’s ability to maintain the progress achieved in their move on accommodation is significantly hindered when self-contained move on becomes impossible due to the Shared Accommodation Rate regulations.

Recommendation

We would request that DWP alter existing regulations so that:

  • Anyone under 35 and living in accommodation provided under Next Steps Accommodation Project, Rough Sleeper Initiative and Housing First are exempt from the Shared Accommodation Rate;
  • Under-35’s moving from the above MHCLG programmes are exempt, after 3 months, from the Shared Accommodation Rate when they move to their settled accommodation;
  • That all under-35’s who have been placed in accommodation by a local authority, in recognition of their homeless relief powers, are exempt from the Shared Accommodation Rate. This should include their homelessness relief accommodation and their move on accommodation.

GMCA believe that the current LHA regulations around under-35’s and the Shared Accommodation Rate are putting the viability and successful outcome of a number of government funded homelessness programmes at significant risk.

9 September 2020

Letter from myself to all residents in the city to update on the council’s coronavirus response. 

Letter to residents in the city about coronavirus infections

Dear Resident(s),

I am writing to update you on the council's current coronavirus response, and to let you know how you can play your role in helping prevent further lockdown restrictions in Salford. We all need to work together to prevent the spread of the virus - keeping social spaces, businesses, schools and workplaces open.

As you will probably know, there has been an increase in confirmed COVID-19 cases across the city from the end of August. In Salford we are taking a proactive approach to track and trace, monitoring the spread of the virus to contain it and protect vulnerable people - but despite our efforts, cases are rising sharply especially affecting older people and those with a pre-existing health condition. There are simple steps everyone can take to protect each other:

  • Wash your hands frequently for at least 20 seconds. Where soap and water isn’t available, then use hand sanitiser
  • Stay two metres apart from people you don’t live with
  • Wear a face covering when you are out and about in enclosed public spaces e.g. shops and public transport unless you have a medical condition that makes you exempt
  • And most importantly, if you think that you may have the virus, you must stay at home and get tested if you are symptomatic. This stops transmission of the virus to other people. For further information on how to arrange a test please visit the NHS website or call 119 if you have problems using the internet.

We know that self-isolating can be difficult for many people, particularly for those who live alone or on a low income. Please contact our Spirit of Salford Helpline on 0800 952 1000 if you need support. Please stay at home even if you need help – we have volunteers who will help with walking dogs or arranging food deliveries. We can advise on financial and welfare support if taking time off will affect your income or you are concerned about your job or housing situation.

Social gatherings of more than six people are now illegal across the country. The new restrictions won’t apply to schools, workplaces, weddings, funerals and organised team sports as long as COVID-secure guidance is followed. The council website keeps information up-to-date so to check the national and local restrictions in Salford see our coronavirus pages

Salford is also taking a lead on the longer term approach to containing the virus in the city by introducing community testing. I firmly believe that community testing is the best way to protect people and communities, to locate and stop the spread of the virus as soon as possible until a successful vaccine or treatment are found.

This saliva-based test is aimed at people without symptoms. By providing saliva into a container, the sample will then be sent for a simple laboratory process known as a LAMP test. We are arranging to run this test in Salford, starting small to ensure we are getting the results back in a timely manner. Over the coming weeks, we will start to offer community testing in local areas. This will be built up to cover the whole city.

This community testing will help support work to stop the spread of the virus, by identifying positive cases early. This will mean people can rapidly follow advice to stay at home if they test positive, and if the test is negative, they can continue to go about their daily life with the usual COVID-19 precautions. People with symptoms that may be Coronavirus will still need to access the throat and nose swab from the existing national testing system and sites.

Please do everything you can to keep your family, friends, colleagues and the wider community safe, let us all show the Spirit of Salford.

27 July 2020 

Letter from myself to the Secretary of State about the Building Safety Remediation Fund and the concerns of Greater Manchester.

See the letter to the Secretary of State covering Building Safety Remediation Fund and concerns of Greater Manchester 

Dear Secretary of State

Building Safety Remediation Fund – the Concerns of Greater Manchester 

I’m writing to raise Greater Manchester’s concerns about the scale and scope of the Building Safety Remediation Fund following the publication of the prospectus and associated guidance last week. You’ll be aware that registration for the prospectus comes to an end this coming Friday 31 July 2020.

In Greater Manchester we welcomed the announcement of the fund in March and considered that this may finally offer hope to so many of our residents living in high rise buildings that their homes could be made safe. It is over three years now since the fire at Grenfell Tower claimed the lives of 72 people and still thousands of our residents are living in unsafe buildings.

In the Greater Manchester Housing Strategy 2019-2024 we restated our commitment for safe, decent and affordable housing for our residents.  This requires us to deliver new homes but we also need to ensure all of our residents are able to live in safe, decent and affordable homes that give us a stable foundation for all that we want to achieve. We know that warm, safe and secure homes help us ensure our population is healthier and supported to make the right life choices from early years to the end of life. We want to make sure that Greater Manchester residents, whether living in high rise tower blocks or pre-1919 terraces, are safe and feel safe in their homes.

In Greater Manchester we have done more and gone further than anywhere else in the country to respond to what is clearly a national industrial crisis of a growing scale. The creation of the Greater Manchester High Rise Task Force in 2017 has meant we have worked collectively to ensure that high rise buildings have been inspected and any necessary works identified and that all services are prepared to deal with a major incident. Through the work(s) of the Task Force, we have taken difficult steps to require building owners to identify and assess cladding materials and have repeatedly warned that the problems are widespread and that the situation in Greater Manchester was indicative of a safety crisis that would affect the entire country.

Our residents have and continue to live with anxiety about a fire in their building and for many who own their homes this is exacerbated by the fear of life changing bills to make their homes safe, which will also leave some residents facing potential bankruptcy. 

We have repeatedly called on Government to do more to ensure the safety of residents and address the current problems in buildings across Greater Manchester and the country. We called on Government to provide financial assistance to innocent leaseholders and waive requirement for VAT on essential fire safety works which in effect leaves the Treasury facing a windfall tax whilst leaseholders in some cases face financial ruin. Through the Task Force we have responded to the various consultation exercises and welcomed proposals for legislative reform but have consistently made it clear that this would do little to address the current industrial and regulatory crisis.

The announcement of the Building Safety Fund by the Chancellor in the March Budget was welcomed and offered hope to our residents. It gave housing providers and managing agents who are responsible for arranging the works required to buildings confidence that remediation of the buildings could be achieved. It gave us reassurance that the Government had fully appreciated the scale of the problems we have repeatedly highlighted and was committed to fulfilling its duty to keep citizens safe.

However, following the publication of the Fund Prospectus it is now clear that our confidence and the optimism of residents in welcoming the fund was misguided. We are clear and united in our view that the Fund simply does not go far enough and the “cladding lottery” created by the ACM fund has now become a safety lottery.

The fund is simply not large enough and nor is its scope wide enough.

Although cladding is a serious and significant risk it is not the only risk and residents should be protected from all costs arising from failures at the design or construction phase. The fund must cover other fire safety defects relating to the structure of the building and compartmentation works along with the replacement of balconies and walkways where these pose a risk to residents.

To date, 20% of high rise buildings in Greater Manchester have identified significant fire safety deficiencies relating to their construction or refurbishment. If this is representative of the national picture then in excess of 2000 high rise buildings are likely to be affected. You made £600 million available for the remediation of less than 500 buildings identified as having ACM cladding. There is no available evidence to suggest that the remediation of other cladding types and fire safety failings will be less costly than the remediation of ACM cladding.

The average cost for remediation of buildings in Greater Manchester is in the region of £4million. This means that approximately 25% of the fund could be required to fund remediation of high rise buildings within Greater Manchester alone.

The cost of interim measures is a significant concern for residents and landlords, with residents in the private sector having to bear the costs themselves, also placing significant financial burdens on social landlords. It is disappointing that the fund does not offer any assistance with meeting the costs of interim measures. 

The arbitrary deadline and ‘first come first served’ approach will create a further lottery.

In Greater Manchester we have worked tirelessly to ensure that buildings have the relevant assessments undertaken, however you will be aware of the limitations on capacity for assessments to be undertaken. The approach set out in the prospectus disadvantages leaseholders in buildings with complex problems or where there have been delays in obtaining the relevant assessments because of a shortage of competent professionals/industry capacity. 

The exclusion of buildings where work has been committed to means residents in some buildings will still bear the costs.

Restricting access to the fund in a way that will leave residents in buildings where work has already been commissioned excluded from the fund despite being liable for funding work and does not protect residents from unfair costs.

You will no doubt be aware of the case of Skyline Central 1 in Manchester, a building where the warranty has expired and you have already ‘named and shamed’ the Freeholder for failing to act swiftly on ACM remediation. Work has commenced on site after residents were hit with bills for the work and many forced to enter into loan agreements with the Freeholder. In our view it is not fair or justifiable that those residents are excluded from financial assistance and left with long term debts as a result of work having commenced. 

Local Authorities and Registered Providers must be able to access the fund without restriction.

The Government committed to meeting the costs of remediating ACM clad buildings across the social housing sector but the funding for removal of other dangerous cladding systems is now restricted. This has significant implications for all local authorities and our partner social landlords – without access to funding for the works required other improvement programmes and ultimately other Greater Manchester residents will suffer. 

There is little or no consideration of industry capacity and the requirement to tender before December 2020 and for work to commence in this financial year is unachievable.

The requirements in the Fund Prospectus do not appear to take any account of industry capacity and the complexity of arranging and procuring works in relation to the requirement to tender before December 2020 and for works to commence prior to the end of March 2021. It is clear from the pace of remediation of ACM buildings and the administration of the existing fund including approvals that arranging works and obtaining the necessary approvals is complex and time consuming. The fund must be available to all buildings which require remediation and not restricted through arbitrary and unrealistic deadlines. 

The fund must be extended to ensure the safety of all residents including in non-high rise buildings

We are concerned that despite the publication of the ‘Consolidated Advice Note’ by your department in January which makes clear that remediation of ACM and other cladding systems should be considered on buildings under 18 metres there is no support to protect residents from the cost of this work. This is extremely concerning given that buildings of under 18 metres were not included in the “combustible cladding ban” introduced by your Department in December 2018 and there is no indication that warranty claims will be supported.

The Task Force has repeatedly raised that the 18 metre height threshold is not an adequate determinant of risk and a failure to protect residents from the costs of remediating buildings below this height is as arbitrary as the threshold itself.

Following the third anniversary of the Grenfell tragedy, at which we in Greater Manchester remembered all those who lost their lives, their loved ones and their homes. In follow-up to this anniversary we are calling on you and your colleagues across Government to do more to ensure that tragedy is not repeated.

We urge you to work with the Chancellor to ensure that adequate funding is available to protect the safety of residents in Greater Manchester and across the country which is the primary obligation of Government. It is a broken regulatory system that has caused this crisis and residents, local authorities and social landlords should not bear the costs of failures that are not of their making.

We look forward to your urgent attention to these issues and response at your earliest convenience as we fast approach the deadline you’ve set for registering for the Build Safety Remediation Fund.

10 July 2020

Letter from myself to the Secretary of State requesting that the necessary COVID-19 data is shared with local areas.

See the letter to the Secretary of State about local areas access to COVID-19 data

Dear Secretary of State

We are writing to raise our concerns about your statements on the Andrew Marr Show on Sunday 5 July on which you stated that Councils had access to the COVID-19 data they need. This is simply not true. We believe it is imperative that we are honest and transparent about the data on which we are relying to respond to the virus, whilst being accountable to and supporting our residents and local communities at this challenging and difficult time.

From March 2020, COVID-19 became a notifiable disease and SARS- COV-2 added to the list of notifiable causative agents under the Health Protection (Notification) Regulations 2010. As with all notifiable diseases there is a legal requirement for laboratories and clinicians to report all cases of COVID-19 to Public Health England (PHE) and there are also duties to inform the 'proper officer' in the relevant local authority. It’s also worth noting that Section 73A(1) of the NHS Act 2006, inserted by Section 30 of the Health & Social Care Act 2012 gives Directors of Public Health (DPH) statutory responsibility for exercising their local authority’s functions in planning for, and responding to emergencies that present a risk to the public’s health in addition to other statutory responsibilities and as the proper officer for notifiable diseases.

For the DPH to be able to effectively deal with any notifiable disease and carry out their statutory duties in the protection of the health of their population, it seems clear that the minimum information required is: patient identifiable data every 24 hours, 7 days a week; the same methodology used to cleanse the data from Pillar 1 and 2 testing; and, patient identifiable data for both positive and negative test requests and results. This data needs to be of high quality, complete and delivered in a timely manner for both testing and tracing to have any effect on our ability to successfully manage outbreaks as detailed in our COVID-19 outbreak management plan, which government asked all upper tier local authorities to put in place – we published Salford’s on our website on 30th June 2020. DPHs and council leaders up and down the country have being calling for months for better data to be shared with us locally. This has simply not been forthcoming. For you to claim otherwise is at best disingenuous.

Up to date personalised information on Pillar 1 and Pillar 2 testing is the minimum needed to ensure we can effectively respond to the virus locally. Contrary to your assertion that ‘local areas have been receiving the information they need’ this data was only shared with our DPH for the first time on 29 June, for all positive tests. Information confirmed cases (that is, on individuals who have tested positive) was only received for the first time on 2 July.

Whilst we welcome this move - even now the information falls far short of what we need to operationalise our outbreak management plan and effectively prevent the spread of the virus and potential outbreaks. The information now shared via the Daily Pillar 1 and Pillar 2 exceedance report provides at best an incomplete picture of the virus locally. It does not provide information on the total number of tests, the type of testing, or the setting for that test; it does not include any information on suspected cases, only on positive test results; information on occupation, workplace, and workplace postcode is generally missing or incomplete; it provides postcode level data only, with no personalised information – making it almost impossible to connect information to reliable track and trace data, and to map cases to settings or locations in the city. Unbelievably, information on ethnicity is not routinely provided, which is inexcusable given our understanding of the increased risk our Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic Communities face during this pandemic as highlighted by the recent review undertaken by PHE, which confirmed that the risk of death from COVID-19 is higher for ethnic minorities. Similarly, you may also be aware that ethnicity isn’t routinely recorded as standard on death certificates in England & Wales, having implications for the robustness of data being reported and intersectional analysis. There is also up to a week’s time daily between the test result and information reaching us locally – acting against timely intervention and prevention actions locally.

Similarly your implied criticism of our local public health expertise is unwarranted. Our public health teams have been working tirelessly from the very beginning to understand the virus locally and to ensure targeted support is in place across all our settings and the wider community. Similarly, Salford City Council has been working at a city-regional level with our Greater Manchester colleagues, given our devolved arrangements in the Combined Authority and Health & Social Care Partnership to mutually support each other through sharing SitReps, infection control information and data sharing on hospitals (bed occupancy, admissions, new infections) and Registrar data on COVID-19 related deaths. However, understanding the virus locally and supporting settings and the wider community can only be achieved with good quality information.

In addition to this our local intelligence teams are required to make the best possible use of the multiple data sources available, including: the PHE Centre Daily COVID-19 Surveillance Report; the PHE NW Manchester COVID-19 Care Home situation line list; NW Pillar 1 and 2 Exceedance report; PHE NW Contact Tracing daily report; the PHE Centre Weekly COVID-19 Surveillance Report; PHE postcode cases and tests information; and the PHE NW low level geography COVID-19 weekly report. In addition to these data reports we are also asked to interpret a disparate range of published data - daily cases (PHE), weekly deaths (ONS).

All show slightly different elements of test, track and trace information, with different timeframes, different baselines, and different points of comparison. Unfortunately this complex set of reports creates a complex labyrinth of information that is at best unhelpful and at worst dangerous. They have been foisted on our local teams (often without pre-warning) in what can only be described as unplanned and chaotic data and information governance. These have come via standard email, secure email, uploaded to secure websites requiring multiple passwords to access. Some have required data sharing agreements before we have been allowed to access them. And yet we still don’t know how many people in Salford have been tested, who they are, where they live or why they were tested.

In fact, this picture is so unhelpful, we have built our own track and trace case management platform to fill a gap in the national information and to ensure our DPH has access to good quality real time information on both suspected and positive cases in the city.

It is exactly this sort of partial and confused data and information sharing that led to a local lockdown in Leicester and which we would not want to see repeated in Salford, or in any part of Greater Manchester. Our Public Health Teams and our communities deserve better.

Yours sincerely

2 July 2020

Letter from myself to highlight the plight of The Lowry arts centre with its theatres and galleries at Salford Quays.

See the letter to the Secretary of State on impact of coronavirus on creative industries

Dear Secretary of State,

I am writing in regard to the upcoming announcement on emergency funding by Arts Council England for the arts and creative industries sector. A sector that was growing at 5 times the rate of the wider economy, employing over 2 million people and contributing £111.7 billion to the economy prior to the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic according to research undertaken by Oxford Economics, commissioned by the Creative Industries Federation last month. In terms of the projected economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the creative industries the research also highlights:

  • A projected combined revenue drop of £74 billion for the UK’s creative industries in 2020 (£1.4 billion a week), with a GVA drop of £29 billion. 
  • 406,000 (1 in 5) creative jobs expected to be lost. 
  • Impact to be felt in all parts of the UK, with creative industries projected to be hit twice as hard as the wider economy overall and up to three times as hard regionally. 
  • The North West is projected to lose 30% of its creative jobs (48,000) and see a 30% (£1.4 billion) drop in creative industries GVA.

Specifically, within this broader context of a potential cultural catastrophe facing the UK I would like to highlight the plight of The Lowry arts centre with its theatres and galleries at Salford Quays, which is an exemplary institution and source of significant economic, social and cultural contributions within the city of Salford, the North and beyond.

The Lowry receives just 5.5% of its annual budget from statutory public funding – significantly below the arts industry average. As you yourself have highlighted on social media this week, these types of organisations – which have worked hard to increase income from non-Government sources - are more vulnerable given the current climate and no sector-specific support package being available.

As I am sure you are aware, as a registered charity, for every £1 The Lowry receives in public support it generates £9 through its own activity - and every penny The Lowry generates is ploughed back into the organisation and into our communities through their outreach, learning and engagement work, targeting some of the most deprived communities in Salford (classified as the 18th most deprived local authority according to the government’s own Index of Multiple Deprivation) and Greater Manchester.

To support this work, the Lowry runs one of the country’s most successful volunteer schemes with over 25,000 hours donated each year.

Since lockdown began, The Lowry has been closed and at present there is no opening date in sight. Due to the organisation’s entrepreneurial approach and its reliance on commercial revenue streams rather than public money, the current context has significantly impacted on the financial security and resilience of The Lowry – which is a huge concern for the local authority.

Opening 20 years ago in April 2000, The Lowry is the cultural cornerstone of the MediaCityUK regeneration project and the most visited cultural institution in the whole North West. With over 850,000 visitors a year, The Lowry generates more than £30m (GVA) for the local economy and employs 250 people (many of them local residents) with a further 500 jobs created through its supply chain. 

The Lowry as a venue-based cultural institution has been critically important along with the BBC’s move out of London in catalysing the economic renaissance of Salford’s derelict docklands and represents a strong and successful early example of steps taken towards levelling-up and re-balancing our economy. It is vital that this momentum isn’t lost as we continue to realise the economic potential of Salford Quays as we recover from the COVID-19 pandemic. With MediaCityUK expected to double in size over the next 10 years delivering a further 1,800 residential units, 50,000m² office space and creating a further 6,000 new jobs, it presents the government and UK economy with a significant opportunity as we recover from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Despite difficulties, The Lowry is still determined to be a model of best practice in the industry. To help continue its community outreach, learning and engagement work, they have raised £30,000 through their ‘Futures Fund’ – and have continued to offer cultural provision through the launch of #LoveLowry – an online programme of art and creative activities.

But for The Lowry, and other cultural institutions whose income is primarily raised outside the public purse, times as you are aware are exceptionally difficult, especially as the government plans to universally end the current furlough arrangements on 31 October 2020 despite the disproportionate impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and government’s lifting of the lockdown on the arts and creative industries sector. Inevitably there is a huge amount of work to be done to ensure the survival of venue-based cultural institutions such as The Lowry and their critically important role in place-making and economic development.

As I’m sure you would agree, The Lowry should not be penalised for having delivered on government targets for financial self-sufficiency – especially when the institution provides such an important role in the regeneration of our region and has a proven track record of social and community value/impact.

We are looking to you as Secretary of State to provide clear guidance on how and when venues like The Lowry can re-open, the extension of the Job Retention Scheme for the arts and creative industries sector and ongoing financial support to enable venues like The Lowry to re-open safely and viably.

I would welcome any opportunity to talk you and your team about these matters, perhaps with The Lowry chief executive (Julia Fawcett OBE) and chairman (Sir Rod Aldridge) joining the call?

I look forward to your response.

24 April 2020

Letter from myself to the Secretary of State to raise concerns about the impact of coronavirus on care homes and community care settings.

See the letter to the Secretary of State 

Dear Secretary of State

I am writing to raise my concerns about the ongoing impact of COVID-19 across the City of Salford, and especially within our care homes and community care settings. Care workers are doing an exemplary job in challenging and unprecedented times to ensure the wellbeing and safety of our vulnerable residents, and we are doing our very best locally to support them. However, I’m deeply concerned that government support, advice and guidelines are not robust enough to either protect them fully, or enable them to protect the residents under their care.

The data released by ONS on Tuesday 21 April 2020 is truly shocking for those families, friends and colleagues that have tragically lost loved ones as a consequence of the COVID-19 pandemic, and my thoughts and prayers are with all families, friends and colleagues at this time. 

However, the information shared by the ONS on Tuesday was not a surprise to those working in the City of Salford. The ONS statistics show Salford’s care home deaths attributable to COVID-19 as reported on death certificates at 46 – but we believe there are local factors which illuminate the deficiencies of national reporting and government support, advice and guidance at this time. Particularly, we believe Salford’s local response regarding testing significantly influences these figures and points to a desperate need for more community, care homes and mass testing and contact tracing to be urgently rolled out nationally, especially if we’re to start contemplating lifting the lockdown and entering the recovery phase.

In Salford we have been tracking the level of infections and deaths in our care homes since the very early days of the current pandemic, utilising a strong integrated partnership between the city council, the Clinical Commissioning Group, Salford Royal Foundation Trust, and care providers.

We know that Salford saw outbreaks earlier than in other areas and our figures for both infections and deaths in care settings reflect this earlier pattern. For far too long there was no community testing and as we know contact tracing within official PHE guidance was dropped as we exited the containment phase, with outbreaks being managed on symptoms alone. Without this testing, and on the advice of the Director of Public Health, in Salford we took the early decision with our care homes to isolate all residents regardless of symptoms and to have a high level of suspicion that any atypical symptoms could be COVID-19. This approach means we understand the spread of COVID-19 well. Similarly, we’ve also noted from national and international media/press coverage and research into the COVID-19 pandemic that people can present as asymptomatic and exhibit other symptoms than the often cited fever and cough, which in our opinion further supports the need for urgent testing and contact tracing within our communities, care homes and generally.

Thankfully, local analysis shows the numbers of residents with symptoms is reducing in most care homes that had experienced initial outbreaks. This suggests the position in Salford’s care homes is potentially beginning to stabilise. We have had robust reporting of infections and deaths from the very beginning, and we believe this work is potentially reflected in our higher than average mortality figures.

Locally, we are being proactive in the integrated support and partnerships we have with our care providers – including the reporting and management of symptoms; planning the use of scarce PPE, and other resources; and more recently, the local provision of testing to ensure that our staff and colleagues can work safely.

Our good practice includes:

  • Every Salford care home has appropriate end of life care plans with all their residents. Individuals, their families and their GPs shape these end of life plans.  This means that people can choose their preferred place of dying, even in these really difficult times.
  • Salford has done a lot of work over the past four weeks to ensure those non-Covid patients that are medically fit have been discharged into the community. This was to ensure there was enough beds in the hospital to cope with the expected peak in demand of COVID-19 admissions. Once discharged, patients are being supported at home by our District Nursing team who are providing a seven day service.
  • We have developed our own local testing facility for health and care staff, and their families. Our facility is operated and run by local council and hospital staff, to CQC and PHE national standards, and is able to return reliable results quicker than the national sites. We were able to have this facility up and running within 48 hours over the Easter bank holiday. It ensures our front line staff can safely stay in work. 
  • We have a local support package for the army of unpaid carers across the city, recognising the incredible role they are doing supporting family and individuals in the community. Carers are being supported through our local Spirit of Salford (SOS) Helpline; we are developing specific support for vulnerable carers with our voluntary sector, particularly Gaddum, one of our oldest voluntary sector organisations in the city, including specific support for carers of people discharged from hospital and older carers for people with learning disabilities. And we have invested extra funding to provide additional weekly online support for carers and people living with dementia.

We have done this locally because of a passionate belief in the value and importance of our care workers and of all carers – which must be placed on equal footing nationally with the priority that is rightly placed on the exemplary work of our NHS colleagues. 

We are not complacent. Despite everything we are doing locally, the pressure on staff within the care system as a result of ongoing national shortcomings cannot be underestimated. I would urge you to rectify these urgently.

  • Pressures for staff, residents and families of the continuing changes to PPE guidance together with the constant pressure as to whether supplies will be available and sustainable continues to cause huge anxiety. Despite repeated assurance, the safe and regular supply of PPE remains inadequate. It is simply not good enough. 

We are in contact with every care home in the city daily. Ensuring an adequate supply of appropriate PPE is a constant challenge. National supplies via the GM LRF are simply insufficient to meet need. Too often what is delivered is well short of the orders placed or the delivery expected. We are only able to provide what our care homes urgently need because of the additional efforts of partners locally to secure PPE direct from international and national suppliers, with our Greater Manchester system currently and expected to continue to source more PPE than we’re receiving from government.

We further believe that government guidance recommending that ‘sessional usage’ of PPE masks is inadequate and puts both care receivers and carers at risk, encouraging over-use of PPE equipment and a diminution in its efficacy.

Six weeks into the current crisis this is simply not sustainable or acceptable.  Government must as a priority ensure a sufficient and reliable ongoing supply of essential PPE to both the NHS and care homes and all those providing essential care in the community.

  • Despite your repeated reassurance, the position on testing for key front line workers and for community testing remains woeful. It is leading to unreliable and potentially distorted public reporting of figures.  Similarly, the ONS figures reported on Tuesday have been compiled from death certificates reported through the General Register Office and we know that all deaths since the pandemic broke haven’t and currently aren’t mandatorily being tested for COVID-19.  

It is shocking that government have not introduced mass testing and contact-tracing for at least all symptomatic people as the current numbers of cases at best creates false pictures. It keeps from people the true scale and impact of this pandemic on real people, families, friends, colleagues and loved ones.  At worst this means we do not have an accurate understanding of the disease and how to support our key workers residents now or during the next few weeks and months as we hopefully move to recovery.

  • We strongly challenge and deplore the link between numbers of cases and “poor performance”. In reality those like us who are testing more, have seen more cases and this needs to be reflected across the country. National communications must be better informed.
  • Social Care should no longer be treated as a poor relation to the NHS. Both are critical front-line services, essential to the wellbeing of people in Salford and especially in this era of integrated health and social care. As an accredited Living Wage Employer, Salford is committed to ensuring all our staff continue to receive at least the real living wage. Future financial settlements for local government must ensure that funding is in place so that all care workers in all settings can be paid at least the real living wage. With more than five million people paid less than the real living wage, a third of key workers earning £10 per hour or less and more than 50% of care workers paid less than the real living wage I would strongly urge you to support this argument with the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government and with the Chancellor, especially if we’re serious about recovery and the heroic and invaluable role played by our NHS, care workers and key workers during this crisis. 

Our care staff have continued to provide outstanding personal care to the city’s older and most vulnerable residents. They have done this is in the face of unprecedented challenges and personal risk. They deserve nothing but the very best support from Government – and I would welcome your reassurance that the issues in this letter will be urgently resolved.

20 April 2020

Letter from myself to the Prime Minister to highlight the impact coronavirus is having on the city and the urgent need for more funds so vital services are not affected.

See letter sent to the Prime Minister

Dear Prime Minister

As City Mayor of Salford I am writing to emphasise how important it is that local government is fully supported in our efforts to fight the Coronavirus. Let me also say at the very outset that Salford City Council, and all our partners across the city, are totally committed to doing everything we can to support our residents at this critical time. Please also accept my well wishes for your ongoing personal recovery.

The NHS is rightly at the centre of our national effort to tackle this crisis – its work is exemplary. So too has been the wide ranging work of local councils which has been less in the spotlight. In Salford we have benefited from our enduring partnership with our colleagues across health and the wider public, private and voluntary and community sector, so that we can put in the additional services and support that is needed at this critical time.

It is imperative that Government fully funds the additional costs of this local response to this challenge.

I welcome the initial £1.6bn funding that was provided to local councils at the beginning of this crisis. Alongside this the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government was clear – that councils should spend whatever it takes to support people, and that costs would be fully reimbursed by Government. The announcement this weekend of a further £1.6bn support is also welcome – and I wait to see details of how this will be allocated. I am though concerned by the changing language of your Secretary of State that local government must now ‘share the burden’ of this crisis.

Anything less than full cost recovery would leave local councils in a perilous financial position after ten years of austerity. Salford has lost 53% of its funding from central government over that decade which has led to budget reductions of £211m from our budget – and many of our critical services have already been cut as a result. Salford’s initial estimate is that the additional costs of Coronavirus will be approx. £33m, for the first six months of 2020/21 – from a loss of income and the additional demands placed on all of our services, from adult social care, children’s safety and welfare, ensuring children can access education, support for victims of domestic abuse, to waste and recycling and the provision of business advice, guidance and support. There is a real risk that this cost will increase which will be reflected in any future financial submissions. As a minimum, councils must be no worse off as a result of the Coronavirus response.

Councils have provided food and wellbeing support to our vulnerable residents, including all of those on the Government’s shielded list; we have set up a community help line as part of the city’s Spirit of Salford Network ensuring no-one is isolated or alone at this time; we have administered new business grants on a scale not seen before; we have kept parks and our green spaces open; Salford has been able to maintain a full waste service; we have managed the delivery of PPE; and we have continued to support our vulnerable children and older people across the city. Our staff have maintained critical front-line services to ensure our residents are supported.

We are legally required to set a balanced budget. Anything less than full funding for the costs of our response to Coronavirus will only mean one thing – further cuts to local services, impacting some of the most vulnerable in the city and exacerbating job losses and unemployment after ten years of austerity and cuts in local government. Cuts to the very services we - and you - have relied on to support our residents in this crisis. 

Salford Council stands ready to continue to support our residents through this crisis. But I want to be clear – any shortfall in funding support from the Government will mean cuts to front-line services, job losses and increased unemployment, impacts for our local supply-chains, the community and voluntary sector, local businesses and a diminution in the support we are able to provide to our most vulnerable residents. 

This is not just a short term issue. Local councils have proven throughout this crisis just how important our role and services are in our communities. Now more than ever, Government must put local government funding on a secure long term future. Before the pandemic, Government was planning an autumn Spending Review, we were in the middle of a Fair Funding Review; a partial or full reset of business rates; a review of the New Homes Bonus; there was discussion of a Devolution White Paper; and of course a long term sustainable approach for adult social care is long outstanding. All of this creates long term funding uncertainty for local government.

Local Government will continue to support our communities throughout this pandemic. But we will also be central to the long term economic recovery that must follow. Recovery cannot mean using council tax and increasing regressive charges on our residents to pay for crucial local services.  Nor can it be recovery on the cheap. As an accredited Living Wage Employer Salford is committed to ensuring all our staff continue to receive at least the real living wage. Future financial settlements must ensure that funding is in place so that all care workers in all settings can be paid at least the real living wage.

Anything other than full funding of local government for our response and funding for longer term financial stability would be a betrayal of the critical front line workers in local government, and of the people of Salford.

I look forward to hearing from you urgently on this issue.

7 September 2019

Letter sent from myself with the councillors of Swinton and Pendlebury to Swinton Lions Rugby Club in response to their recent board statement and specifically the proposal to rename the club: “Manchester Lions”.

See the Swinton Lions Rugby Club letter

Dear Mr Andrew Mazey,

I have read with concern “Board Statement: The Future” regarding the marketing and branding issues faced by Swinton Lions Rugby Club, in particular the proposal that Swinton Lions rename themselves the “Manchester Lions”. In addition to my own concerns about this move as Salford’s City Mayor, I have also noted wide-spread dissatisfaction amongst fans regarding this proposal, particularly given the lack of fan consultation over the decision.

Swinton Lions are a historic club with long-standing connections to the people of Salford and Swinton. The club is a fixture of the cultural and sporting heritage of our city, and I firmly believe that a name change excluding Swinton and Salford will do serious damage to that heritage – both in the eyes of current fans and subsequently to the club’s own economic prospects.

Your statement notes that: “Success will not come just by introducing the brand playing name of MANCHESTER LIONS RLFC. The best chance of success comes from engagement with key partners such as tourist agencies, local authorities, educational bodies, other sporting associations and clubs…” etc...

I would suggest that in respect of Local Authorities, further discussions are yet to be had with Salford City Council and I would politely note that the Council’s recently agreed loan of £60,000 in 2017 is an indication of our willingness to work with the club to assist where possible (within the imposed constraints of government austerity and local government cuts) and find solutions that would work.

However, despite the City Council’s willingness to work with the club I’m not aware that there has been any invitation to myself as City Mayor, to Councillors nor City Council officers to discuss with stakeholders avenues through which to search for potential alternatives for the club’s future.

As you will be aware, the Town Hall recently celebrated Swinton Lions Rugby Club’s 150th anniversary in Salford by flying the club’s flag; this was not merely an empty, symbolic gesture but a genuine recognition of the importance which this club has for so many of our residents. We fully support the club’s success but as a team which continues to represent the community of fans, the township of Swinton and the City of Salford’s proud long-standing sporting heritage. Swinton and Pendlebury Labour Party branches sponsor Swinton player Matty Ashton, such is the strength of feeling for the team.

As custodians of the club, it is my belief that the board must listen to its fans. I firmly believe that the decision to rename the club the Manchester Lions is a regressive move, and one which could damage this amazing institution in years to come.

Yours Sincerely,

Paul Dennett                                                    

City Mayor of Salford                                      

NB: Also signed by the Councillors of Swinton and Pendlebury:

  • Councillor Stuart Dickman,
  • Councillor John Ferguson,
  • Councillor Bill Hinds,
  • Councillor Derek Antrobus,
  • Councillor Sophia Linden,
  • Councillor Jim Dawson,
  • Councillor Heather Fletcher,
  • Councillor Barry Warner,
  • Councillor Jim Cammell

24 August 2019

This is the last letter I added my name to from the Local Government Association Labour Group of leaders up-and-down the country, which highlights the crisis situation in local government since austerity in 2010.

See the letter to the Prime Minister about austerity

Dear Prime Minister,

As Labour council leaders we run councils that millions of citizens rely on to deliver good quality public services - protecting vulnerable children and older people, keeping streets clean, and running much-loved parks and libraries.

But since 2010 our funding from government has been cut by more than 60p in every £1 we previously received, and many council budgets have now reached breaking point. Hundreds of thousands of hard-working council staff who deliver our services have lost the equivalent of £1 of every £5 they earned before, and are now the lowest paid in the public sector. Adult social care is crumbling, more children are being taken into care than ever before, and there is a dire shortage of council housing. In each of the last few years the only response from the government has been to produce sticking plasters – small short-term pots of money designed merely to paper over the cracks for another year. This can’t go on.

In your campaign to become our new Prime Minister you claimed that you would bring our country together. There is no better way for you to prove that this was more than empty rhetoric than by truly ending austerity in local government. No more sticking plasters - we need a serious long term re-investment to ensure a sustainable future for councils.

Therefore as Labour Council leaders we are calling on you to:

  • Immediately invest £2bn in children’s services and £2bn in adult social care to stop these vital emergency services from collapsing
  • Reverse the changes to the council funding formula that have forced the biggest cuts on to councils in the most deprived areas
  • Pledge to use the Spending Review to restore council funding to 2010 levels over the next four years

We would welcome the opportunity to discuss this with you.

Yours sincerely,

  • Cllr Nick Forbes - Leader of the LGA Labour Group and Newcastle City Council
  • Cllr Louise Gittins – Leader, Cheshire West and Chester Council
  • Cllr Chris Read – Leader, Rotherham Council
  • Cllr Judith Blake – Leader, Leeds City Council
  • Cllr Danny Thorpe – Leader, Royal Borough of Greenwich
  • Cllr Sharon Taylor – Leader, Stevenage Borough Council
  • Cllr Sir Richard Leese – Leader, Manchester City Council
  • Cllr Susan Hinchcliffe – Leader, Bradford Council
  • Mayor Joe Anderson – Mayor, Liverpool City Council
  • Cllr Steve Curran – Leader, Hounslow Council
  • Mayor Rokhsana Fiaz – Mayor, Newham Council
  • Cllr Graham Morgan – Leader, Knowsley Council
  • Cllr Richard Watts – Leader, Islington Council
  • Cllr Sir Steve Houghton – Leader, Barnsley Council
  • Cllr Simon Henig – Leader, Durham County Council
  • Cllr Ian Moran – Leader, West Lancashire Borough Council
  • Cllr Nesil Caliskan – Leader, Enfield Council
  • Cllr Rob Polhill – Leader, Halton Council
  • Cllr Richard Metcalfe – Leader, City of Lincoln Council
  • Cllr Alyson Barnes – Leader, Rossendale Borough Council
  • Cllr Tom Beattie – Leader, Corby Borough Council
  • Cllr Debbie Wilcox – Leader, Newport City Council
  • Cllr Lewis Herbert – Leader, Cambridge City Council
  • Cllr Georgia Gould – Leader, Camden Council
  • Cllr David Molyneux – Leader, Wigan Council
  • Mayor Marvin Rees – Mayor, Bristol City Council
  • Cllr Clare Coghill – Leader, Waltham Forest Council
  • Cllr Simon Blackburn – Leader, Blackpool Council
  • Cllr Shaun Davies – Leader, Telford & Wrekin Council
  • Cllr Tricia Gilby – Leader, Chesterfield Borough Council
  • Cllr Mohammed Iqbal – Leader, Pendle Borough Council
  • Cllr Ann Thompson – Leader, Barrow Borough Council
  • Cllr Miles Parkinson – Leader, Hyndburn Borough Council
  • Cllr Mohammed Khan – Leader, Blackburn with Darwen Borough Council
  • Mayor Norma Redfearn – Mayor, North Tyneside Council
  • Mayor Paul Dennett – Mayor, Salford City Council
  • Cllr Christopher Hammond – Leader, Southampton City Council
  • Cllr Muhammed Butt – Leader, Brent Council
  • Cllr Ian Ward – Leader, Birmingham City Council
  • Cllr Julie Jackson – Leader, Nuneaton and Bedworth Borough Council
  • Cllr Darren Rodwell – Leader, Barking and Dagenham Council
  • Cllr John Clarke – Leader, Gedling Borough Council
  • Cllr Erica Lewis – Leader, Lancaster City Council
  • Cllr Peter Chowney – Leader, Hastings Borough Council
  • Cllr Graeme Miller – Leader, Sunderland City Council
  • Mayor Ros Jones – Mayor, Doncaster Council
  • Cllr Steve Siddons – Leader, Scarborough Borough Council
  • Cllr Tudor Evans – Leader, Plymouth City Council
  • Cllr Julie Dore – Leader, Sheffield City Council
  • Cllr Neil Moore – Leader, Vale of Glamorgan Council
  • Cllr David Poole – Leader, Caerphilly Council
  • Cllr Peter Box – Leader, Wakefield Council
  • Cllr Chris Emmas-Williams – Leader, Amber Valley Borough Council
  • Cllr Sean Fielding – Leader, Oldham Council
  • Mayor Sir Peter Soulsby – Mayor, Leicester City Council
  • Cllr Russ Bowden – Leader, Warrington Borough Council
  • Cllr Bob Cook – Leader, Stockton on Tees Borough Council
  • Cllr Iain Malcolm – Leader, South Tyneside Council
  • Cllr Peter Lamb – Leader, Crawley Borough Council
  • Cllr Shabir Pandor – Leader, Kirklees Council
  • Cllr Jack Hopkins – Leader, Lambeth Council
  • Cllr Martin Gannon – Leader, Gateshead Council
  • Cllr Andrew Western – Leader, Trafford Council
  • Cllr Huw David – Leader, Bridgend Council
  • Cllr Gavin Callaghan – Leader, Basildon Borough Council
  • Cllr David Ellesmere – Leader, Ipswich Borough Council
  • Cllr Brenda Warrington – Leader, Tameside Council
  • Cllr Graham Henson – Leader, Harrow Council
  • Cllr Andrew Morgan – Leader, Rhondda Cynon Taff Council
  • Cllr Simon Greaves – Leader, Bassetlaw District Council
  • Cllr Matthew Brown – Leader, Preston City Council
  • Cllr Nancy Platts – Leader, Brighton and Hove City Council
  • Cllr James Swindlehurst – Leader, Slough Borough Council
  • Cllr Doina Cornell – Leader, Stroud District Council
  • Cllr Anthony McKeown – Leader, High Peak Borough Council
  • Cllr Elise Wilson – Leader, Stockport Council
  • Cllr David Jones – Leader, Bury Council
  • Mayor John Biggs – Mayor, Tower Hamlets Council
  • Cllr Yvonne Davies – Leader, Sandwell Council
  • Cllr Allen Brett – Leader, Rochdale Council
  • Mayor Damian Egan – Mayor, Lewisham Council
  • Cllr David Mellen – Leader, Nottingham City Council
  • Cllr Stephen Brady – Leader, Hull City Council
  • Cllr Alan Waters – Leader, Norwich City Council
  • Cllr Julian Bell – Leader, Ealing Council
  • Cllr Tim Swift – Leader, Calderdale Council
  • Cllr Peter Marland – Leader, Milton Keynes Council
  • Cllr Stephen Alambritis – Leader, Merton Council
  • Cllr Ian Maher – Leader, Sefton Council
  • Cllr Tony Newman – Leader, Croydon Council
  • Cllr Hazel Simmons – Leader, Luton Borough Council
  • Cllr Stephen Cowan – Leader, Hammersmith and Fulham Council
  • Cllr George Adamson – Leader, Cannock Chase District Council
  • Cllr Sam Corcoran – Leader, Cheshire East Council
  • Cllr Mark Ingall – Leader, Harlow District Council
  • Cllr Ian Brookfield – Leader, Wolverhampton City Council
  • Cllr Ian Gilbert – Leader, Southend-on-Sea Borough Council
  • Cllr Huw Thomas – Leader, Cardiff City Council
  • Cllr David Baines – Leader, St Helens Council
  • Cllr Milan Radulovic – Leader, Broxtowe Borough Council
  • Cllr Anthony Hunt – Leader, Torfaen County Borough Council
  • Cllr Peter John – Leader, London Borough of Southwark
  • Cllr George Duggins – Leader, Coventry City Council
  • Cllr Martin Stears-Handscomb – Leader, North Hertfordshire District Council
  • Cllr Joseph Ejiofor - Leader, London Borough of Haringey

16 August 2019

I sent a letter to the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of ASDA about the issues trade union GMB has raised and I stand in solidarity with all ASDA workers.

See the letter to the ASDA CEO

Dear Mr Burnley,

A number of MP’s have written to you regarding the serious concerns constituents and their Union, GMB have raised with myself about the imposition of a new contract “Our Asda Contract” that they believe will leave them significantly worse off for a number of reasons, not only on a monetary basis.

It does appear that longer serving employees are losing the most, particularly in terms of holidays.

Your own policy on Long Service clearly shows additional days for:

  • 3 years’ service
  • 5 years’ service (2 days)
  • 10 years’ service
  • 15 years’ service
  • 20 years’ service
  • 25 years’ service
  • And each subsequent 5 years milestone thereafter.

Anthony’s letter to all Colleagues states:

“The additional days of holiday entitlement you earn for long service would remain unchanged”

The last significant change to your holiday entitlements provision, as I understand it, occurred in 2009 with the implementation of the Working Time Directive, enforcing 28 days leave for all employees.

At that time, in your policies, a new starter was entitled to 22 days leave.  A Colleague with 10 years’ service in 2009 was entitled to 26 days leave.

All Colleagues regardless of length of service also received a floating day for Christmas, to be used any time from November to end of March the following year.

To meet the legal minimum holiday requirement Asda awarded a system of “top up days”.  The longer serving the Colleague the less “top up days” they received.

Since 2009, up until now, a Colleague with 10 years’ service then, has earned/been awarded, in line with Company policy, a further 2 days, taking them to 28 days, plus the top up day, whilst new starters still have 22 days, plus 5 top up days, plus the floating day.

Therefore, if new starters are now to be moved to 28 days, and long serving staff’s “entitlement earned would remain unchanged”, surely an employee with 20 years’ service would be entitled to 34, i.e., the statutory minimum plus the 6 they have earned.

If that is not to be the case perhaps you can explain to me, and more importantly, your loyal, long serving employees, why this appears to be the case?  They do appear to have been misled.

I make no apologies for the length of this correspondence, the matter seems to have been made unnecessarily complicated and it need not be.

It is very straightforward and your employees should keep their earned entitlement, as promised, and in-line with your policies.

Low pay is a scourge in our economy, as our economic ‘recovery’ has overwhelmingly been built from low-paid and insecure work on poor terms and conditions.

This is especially highlighted by the recent work of the Low Pay Commission in April this year drawing attention to an estimated 439,000 people in the UK being illegally paid below the hourly minimum wage, representing 30,000 more people when compared with the previous year, the highest since the government’s national ‘living wage’ was introduced in 2016.   

According to the TUC, average UK earnings are still £1,000 a year below their pre-crisis peak. The Bank of England has described the last decade as being the worst period for pay growth in two centuries, and around one in five employees is paid below two thirds below the median wage.  Similarly, the Living Wage Foundation also highlight that approximately 6 million people earn less than the real living wage of £9.00 per hour (or £10.55 per hour in London), struggling to keep their heads above water.

Within this context, the protection of decent terms and conditions of employment and pay where they have survived is all the more important. The shocking return of in-work poverty in 21st Century Britain as the norm must be avoided at all costs.

I look forward to your response.

Yours sincerely

Paul Dennett                                                                       

City Mayor of Salford       

5 July 2019

A further open letter from myself to the Board of Directors at Swinton Park Golf Club following emails and letters received by residents and Rebecca Long-Bailey seeking clarity to their plans in light of the pre-planning request recently received by the city council.

See the further letter about Swinton Park Golf Club

Dear Sir/Madam,

Swinton Park Golf Course

I am writing in follow-up to my letter of the 15th April 2019 regarding the consideration seemingly being given by Swinton Park Golf Club to the potential sale of the club and golf course for the purposes of development.  To date I haven’t received a reply to this letter but receipt of my letter has been acknowledged and I understand it has been shared with the board of Swinton Park Golf Club.

Following my original letter it has recently come to my attention that a pre-application planning request has been received by City Council officers from Bellway Homes regarding the potential use of the site to develop residential accommodation.

You may have also seen the recent open letter addressed to myself, following the pre-application planning request from Salford and Eccles MP, Rebecca Long-Bailey, requesting clarity on the City Council’s position.

To reiterate, as stated in my previous open letter, the golf course land is not currently included in the City Council’s Unitary Development Plan (UDP), nor are there any development proposals within the draft Greater Manchester Plan for Homes, Jobs and the Environment (the Spatial Framework) to allocate this land for the purposes of meeting local housing need.

You also may be aware that within the draft Spatial Framework, the city-region is looking to prioritise brown-field development through its brown-field preference policy and although this has no status currently, the city-regional Mayor’s Town Centre Challenge, continuing urban density in the city-region’s centre and the work we’re doing on small sites within Greater Manchester’s Housing Strategy are all indicative of our prioritisation of a brown-field preference approach to development within Salford and Greater Manchester.  As it stands currently the Spatial Framework is planning for 75% of all the new homes to be built in Greater Manchester by 2037 to be on brown-field sites, whilst within Salford that percentage will be even higher – nearly 90%.

Within the UDP under Policy R1 we make it clear that on sites such as Swinton Golf Course, “development will not be permitted unless” … “it has been clearly demonstrated that the site is surplus to recreational requirements, and the development would facilitate the wider regeneration of the local area”. Such evidence has not been presented to the City Council thus far, and as such the City Council’s starting position in the event of any potential sale for development is that the land should remain as recreational/leisure space.

As residents are increasingly expressing concern towards these plans, and as neither the City Council nor myself have received any correspondence from yourselves in relation to either the financial situation of the club or the seeming desire to consider selling the club and golf course for the purposes of housing development, I would really appreciate hearing back from yourselves at your earliest convenience.

As I’m sure you can appreciate there is significant public interest in conversations and developments that are clearly happening between the owners of Swinton Park Golf Club and seemingly Bellway Homes and given the recreational/leisure value that residents have derived from this club/golf course over many years it’s imperative that information and any intentions pertaining to its future are shared in a timely and open manner.

To this end, I look forward to hearing from the board.

Yours faithfully

Paul Dennett                                                                       

City Mayor of Salford

15 April 2019

It was brought to my attention from residents and social media that consideration is being given by Swinton Park Golf Course to sell their course to a house-builder. Please see a letter I sent to Swinton Golf Course asking for clarification of their intentions.

See the letter about Swinton Park Golf Club

Dear Sir/Madam,

RE: Swinton Park Golf Course

It has been brought to my attention through residents and social media that consideration is being given by the owners of the golf club to selling your course and club-house to a house-builder.

This is as much as I know at the present time, although today I have been made aware that a house-builder is seeking information about the planning status of the site.

The Golf Club and its course are well established in Swinton, and to my knowledge successful. In the week of Tiger Woods victory at the US Masters, it is very disappointing to hear that the future of the Club is in real doubt.

I understand that the site of the golf club is not included in the existing City’s Unitary Development Plan, and there are no development proposals for it in the Local Plan or Greater Manchester Spatial Framework. This makes sense, as there has never been any intention on the City Council’s part of promoting the site for housing development. If you or a house-builder are looking to advance a proposal for housing development on the site, then you need to know that the City’s starting position will be that this well-established golf course should remain as a golf course. This would be supported by the council’s planning policies.

I would be very grateful if you could let me know what the current position is regarding your intentions regarding the future of the golf course, what is true and what is not true in terms of information being exchanged on social media and by residents.

Yours faithfully

Paul Dennett                                                                       

City Mayor of Salford

13 November 2018

Just sharing the open letter I sent to Mr Chris Green MP regarding the Greater Manchester Spatial Framework (GMSF) and his recent comments in the Manchester Evening News.

See the letter to Mr Chris Green MP regarding the GMSF

Dear Mr Chris Green MP

I write in connection with the recent comments you made about the Greater Manchester Spatial Framework process in the Manchester Evening News on Tuesday 30th October 2018 and felt it was important to reply to you as Greater Manchester’s portfolio holder for Housing, Homelessness and Infrastructure.

Your recent comments suggested that local Leaders are “wasting time”, “faffing around”, “need to be decisive” and that they even “allowed events to overtake them”.  You also stated that It seems that national government has set a target of 300,000 houses, so I’m concerned that the changes in the ONS figures haven’t been reflected in the government’s expectations,”

These sensational, headline-grabbing and unfounded comments are exceptionally disappointing to read and I feel demonstrate a real lack of understanding as to what is precisely involved in city-regional spatial planning and the challenges we’ve been facing in Greater Manchester.    

I am particularly surprised at your comment around the ‘apparent’ government target of 300,000 homes.  As a Parliamentary Candidate you campaigned in 2017 on delivering a million homes by the end of 2020, whilst also delivering half a million more by the end of 2022.   The Conservative Government’s Chancellor of the Exchequer presented the Autumn Budget in November 2017 setting out the Government’s commitment to deliver 300,000 homes per year by the mid-2020s in England.

The Mayor of Greater Manchester and I wrote jointly to the Secretary of State, James Brokenshire M.P. requesting further information on how this 300,000 figure had been arrived at and seeking reassurance the revised Local Housing methodology was linked to demographic projections rather than to meet a political imperative.  This letter was copied to all Greater Manchester MPs including you. We have not had a reply to this letter to date.

Despite your hyperbolic comments, as a Greater Manchester Member of Parliament I am keen to update you on precisely how we’ve got to this point.

The Greater Manchester Combined Authority wanted to go out to consultation at the end of October/start of November 2018, however the Government have not been able to provide us with a definitive Local Housing Need figure which is fundamental to determining how much housing we need to be providing for across Greater Manchester.

The GMSF is a statutory Plan, following a statutory process. It has to be evidence based, and that evidence will be tested through a Public Examination in front of an independent inspector. It has to conform to the government’s National Planning Policy Framework, and we have been taking it forward at a time when the government has consulted on, and then finalised, a standardised methodology for determining Local Housing Need.  The government’s methodology relies heavily on assumptions about population growth and household formation, and those assumptions have also been changing over the last 6 months. A more detailed chronology of events is attached at Appendix 1.

The government has recently issued a further consultation about what assumptions local authorities must use in calculating their Local Housing Need to ensure that at a national level its manifesto commitment of 300,000 new homes a year is planned for. The government is also saying that we must not use the latest ONS projections, because they are flawed as a basis determining housing requirements. If we fail to take into account your government’s Policy Framework and how it tells us we should plan for new housing, then we will have an unsound Plan which fails through Public Examination, which would be “wasting time”

As I’m sure you can appreciate, this has been deeply frustrating from my point of view, illustrating how definitive Central Government ‘methodologies’ (or lack of at this point in time) can have significant implications for consultation timetables and our ability to make progress and get on with evidence-based strategic planning at a city-regional level in Greater Manchester.

May I therefore politely suggest that Greater Manchester Leaders and the Greater Manchester Combined Authority are certainly not “wasting time”, nor are they “faffing around” and our desire to be decisive is being significantly hampered by a lack of clarity from the Government.

Hopefully this response also robustly demonstrates that Greater Manchester Leaders and the Greater Manchester Combined Authority certainly haven’t “allowed events to overtake them”, but that the systemic uncertainty created by the Government, the Office for National Statistics’ population and household projections and your own political party’s 2017 manifesto commitments has primarily been the logical and rational reason behind Greater Manchester Leaders and the Greater Manchester Combined Authority having to consider delays.

The Greater Manchester Spatial Framework will be a plan for jobs, homes and the environment that will help to make our city-region one of the best places in the world to live and work.  I’m committed to making sure we make that vision a reality and hope you’ll work with us to make this happen.

In light of this, you may wish to take up your concerns and seeming frustration with the Government and members of the political party to which you belong.  I therefore hope this detailed update on the Greater Manchester Spatial Framework proves to be useful in any of your future endeavours.

Finally, given the importance of these issues to people in Greater Manchester, I have taken the decision to publish this letter.

Yours sincerely

Paul Dennett                      

City Mayor of Salford
Greater Manchester Portfolio Lead for Housing, Homelessness and Infrastructure

Appendix 1

GMSF CHRONOLOGY OF EVENTS

The initial draft Greater Manchester Spatial Framework was published for consultation on 31st October 2016 and ran until 16th January 2017. This initial consultation generated over 27,000 responses from across Greater Manchester. Following this initial consultation we also had a Mayoral election across Greater Manchester as required by the Coalition Government /Devolution Deal and consequently a commitment to a radical re-write.

In light of the volume of responses received and the publication of the revised Greater Manchester Strategy: Our Place Our People in October 2017, (which reflected the manifesto commitments following the Mayoral election), Leaders took the decision on the 28th July 2017 to consult on the next initial draft of the GMSF in June 2018.

On the 14th September 2017 the Government published a wide ranging consultation entitled: Planning for the right homes in the right places, which included a proposed standardised national methodology for calculating Local Housing Need and ran until 9th November 2017. This followed on from the publication of the Government’s Housing White Paper, Fixing our broken housing market, in February 2017.

The Government’s response to the Planning for the right homes in the right places consultation, was published in March 2018, which included the standardised national methodology for calculating Local Housing Need. Sub National Household Projections are a key input to the standardised methodology

The most recent delays to the Greater Manchester Spatial Framework have been necessary due to the Office for National Statistics’ publication of new official Sub-National Population Projections on the 24th May 2018, which indicated a reduction of around 43,000 (15% lower than anticipated) people across Greater Manchester by 2036. These projections inevitably raised legitimate concerns about whether or not it would be prudent to go out to consultation in June 2018 given the implications of such population projections for the purposes of spatial planning in Greater Manchester.

Following the Office for National Statistics’ publication of the Sub-National Population Projections the Government also published the revised National Planning Policy Framework in July 2018, acknowledging the issue raised by the Office for National Statistics’ Sub-National Population Projections, pre-emptively stating:
“The Government is aware that lower than previously forecast population projections have an impact on the outputs associated with the method. Specifically it is noted that the revised projections are likely to result in the minimum need numbers generated by the method being subject to a significant reduction, once the relevant household projection figures are released in September.
In the housing White Paper the Government was clear that reforms set out (which included the introduction of a standard method for assessing housing need) should lead to more homes being built. In order to ensure that the outputs associated with the method are consistent with this, we will consider adjusting the method after the household projections are released in September. We will consult on the specific details of any change at that time.
It should be noted that the intention is to consider adjusting the method to ensure that the starting point in the plan-making process is consistent in aggregate with the proposals in Planning for the right homes in the right places consultation and continues to be consistent with ensuring that 300,000 homes are built per year by the mid 2020’s.”

The Office for National Statistics published the Sub-National Household Projections on the 20th September 2018 which resulted in a reduction of 58,055 households across Greater Manchester over the 20 year period.

The Ministry of Housing Communities & Local Government published a further Technical consultation on updates to national planning policy and guidance in October 2018 running until December 2018.

This is seeking views on the following:

  • For the short-term, to specify that the 2014-based data will provide the demographic baseline for assessment of local housing need.
  • To make clear in national planning practice guidance that lower numbers through the 2016-based projections do not qualify as an exceptional circumstance that justifies a departure from the standard methodology; and
  • In the longer term, to review the formula with a view to establishing a new method that meets the principles in paragraph 18 above by the time the next projections are issued.

23 October 2018

Letter to Prime Minister and Chancellor in advance of the Autumn Budget announcement on. This is specific to the on-going funding challenge we continue to face in our council budget, threatening the future of five Local Authority Maintained Nurseries in the City of Salford.

See the letter about the threat to five Local Authority Maintained Nurseries 

Dear Prime Minister and Chancellor,

I write to you both in advance of the Autumn Budget announcement on Monday 29th October 2018 in relation to a specific on-going funding challenge we continue to face in our council budget, threatening the future of 5 Local Authority Maintained Nurseries in the City of Salford.

In previous meetings and correspondence with the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Children and Families, Nadhim Zahawi (MP) we have raised our on-going financial concerns. Each of these 5 nurseries are rated ‘Outstanding’ by Ofsted and provide an incredible service to the local community - highly valued by local schools and parents. They operate in some of the most impoverished areas of the city, and provide specialized services for children with SEND, making them an irreplaceable public asset.

However, changes to Early Years funding have made it impossible to continue to finance the nurseries through traditional channels. The requirement that 95% of the Early Years Direct Schools Grant (DSG) be ‘pass-ported’ to the Private Voluntary Independent (PVI) sector leaves too little resource in the budget to finance the nurseries.  In addition, the commitment for 30 hours free childcare for working parents has put a huge burden on our PVI Early Years sector in Salford – meaning that remaining money which would otherwise have been available for our Nurseries is now committed to propping up that funding gap.

We entirely endorse government’s commitment to expanding childcare provision, however we do not believe that either Local Authorities or the Early Years sector in general have been provided with the necessary resources to make this commitment a success. The crisis facing nurseries up and down the country, several hundred of which are facing closure, has been recognized by experts and government’s already. In particular, the funding situation faced by publically owned nurseries in the aftermath of budget changes has been noted by government, leading to its commitment of annual £55m ‘Transitional Funding’ for nursery schools up until 2019-20 (after many of those organisations faced closure). There is continued talk of more investment in Early Years, and on the 3rd July, Nadhim Zahawi (MP) expressed on the Today Program his desire that councils refrain from making ‘premature decisions’ on nursery closures, before conversations were completed on the future of early years spending.

Yet in Salford we are still to be reassured that government, or indeed the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Children and Families, fully appreciate the distinction between Local Authority Maintained Nurseries and Nursery Schools, a distinction which has rendered Salford’s 5 Maintained Nurseries thus far ineligible to access the £55m of ‘Transitional Funding’ provided to prevent publically owned nurseries from closure. We are also given no concrete commitment that a serious attempt to properly fund Early Years is under consideration.

Entering into our 8th consecutive year of austerity, we simply cannot afford to keep the nurseries open in their current form, without severely impacting other essential services for residents of our city.  You’ll also be aware that Salford is the 22nd most-deprived local authority in the country according to the government’s own Indices of Multiple Deprivation.  Since 2010, we have seen £198m taken from our spending power as a direct result of cuts to the Revenue Support Grant and other changes to Local Government financing. This equates to nearly 50% of our budget, in a city where demand for essential caring services, health improvement services and services to tackle social exclusion were already much higher than the national average.

I note with some hope the comments made by yourself during Conservative Party conference regarding the ‘our hard work paying off’ and the ‘end of austerity’. We also await the Chancellor’s Autumn Budget statement later this month to see whether or not this commitment means any tangible resource for Local Authorities, and particularly our nurseries.

However, the time approaches when the council must set its annual budget for the year. We still have no clarity on the future of nursery funding, nor whether or not Local Authority Maintained Nurseries will be included in any money dedicated to that sector.

We also have no further information from government on the realization of their 2017 manifesto commitments to help primary schools develop nurseries where they do not already have one, and support maintained nurseries supporting them to grow.

If there is any serious chance that more resources will be made available for our nurseries, it is imperative that this news reaches us soon. Decisions must be made to keep the city council solvent – and unfortunately, the future of our outstanding local nurseries still hangs in the balance.

If it were possible to gain any clarity on the chance for further support for these amazing institutions from government, it could make all the difference.

Yours sincerely,

Paul Dennett

City Mayor of Salford

5 June 2018

Letter to the Secretary of State in connection with the severe problems being experienced by rail travellers across Salford, which have become significantly worse since the introduction of the changes to the timetable on the 20th May 2018.

See the letter about problems being experienced by rail travellers across Salford

Dear Secretary of State,

Rail travel across the City of Salford

We are writing to you in connection with the severe problems being experienced by rail travellers across Salford, which have become significantly worse since the introduction of the changes to the timetable on the 20th May 2018.

In recent weeks, our inboxes and social media pages have been inundated with messages and images from Salford residents and commuters, furious at the state of the services being provided.

Complaints are received on a daily basis from Salford residents and commuters about the terrible rail service that is being provided. These complaints include delays and cancellations to services, over-crowding, issues of health and safety and under-staffing.

Despite now being one week into the new timetable, the situation is not improving and we have returned from the bank holiday weekend receiving even more complaints.

We have highlighted below examples of the issues and frustrations that rail travellers in the City are facing and have brought to our attention:

  • Delays and cancellations leading to journeys to and from work taking significantly longer than timetabled. Last week alone rail passengers were arriving late for work over 5 consecutive days. This must be seriously affecting the productivity of workers and the economy of the region.
  • Passengers unable to carry their journey in full by rail due to delays and cancellations and having to complete the remainder of their journey by either bus, metrolink or taxi at their own personal cost, despite having a valid rail ticket.
  • Services shown on timetable information as ‘on-time’ only to be delayed or cancelled with several minutes notice. In some instances several trains in succession have been cancelled whilst passengers are stood waiting at stations. I have also been sent screenshots showing departures where every train is running over 30 minutes late.
  • Seriously over-crowded services and in some instances trains that simply couldn’t accommodate any more passengers because they were so full.
  • Station platforms that are seriously over-crowded. We have seen photographs where hundreds of people stood at Salford Central Station are unable to board trains as they were already full when leaving Manchester Victoria Station.
  • Poor air quality at stations due to emissions from outdated, stationary diesel rolling stock.
  • A high proportion of the announcements at the railway stations as the reason for a delay or cancellation being due to ‘the lack of a train crew member’. This would suggest either under-staffing or poor logistical organisation.
  • Despite station staff doing their best to help there is a serious lack of information and a great deal of confusion around what is happening.

The provision of a clean, safe and efficient rail service is becoming increasingly important to the lives of residents in Salford and Greater Manchester, as our increasing population brings more cars and congestion on our roads. Northern Rail and Network Rail have a huge responsibility to the people of this city-region, a responsibility on which they are falling short.

We further understand that Northern Rail receive one of the highest rates of taxpayer subsidy for any line in the country, when calculated at pence-per-passenger by kilometre. State subsidy for rail is now around 3 times the amount given to British Rail at the end of the 1980s, receiving an average of £5bn in subsidy over the past 5 years. And yet, services are overcrowded, trains are old and the price of a standard single fare has increased by 208%.

We would like reassurances that everything in your power is being done to remedy the current crisis in rail provision set out in this letter, and that the residents and commuters of Salford and Greater Manchester will not have to indefinitely suffer from the poor service on our railways.

Finally, there needs to be an agreed and urgent deadline for when the significant backlog of outstanding Delay Repay claims will be dealt with, along with the introduction of a broader compensation offer for regular users given the scale of the disruption, paid for by fines levied at Arriva Rail North.

Yours sincerely

Paul Dennett
City Mayor of Salford

Councillor Roger Jones
Executive Support for Transport

Barbara Keeley
Member of Parliament for Worsley and Eccles South

Rebecca Long Bailey
Member of Parliament for Salford and Eccles

Graham Stringer
Member of Parliament for Blackley and Broughton

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