BLOG: First Council Meeting


Last Wednesday was my first council meeting and Manchester's first council meeting with an opposition for two years.

In the meeting I asked about the recent closure of the Brian Hore Unit, eroded rights of council tenants, the concerns of road safety in relation to blocked drains and access for disabled persons on pavements where the cycle lanes are too wide.

I'm disappointed that I was interrupted by the Council Leader, Richard Leese, who requested I ask fewer questions. Councillor Andrews, to whom my questions were directed, then struggled to answer my concerns, but has promised to report back with further information soon.

Later in the meeting, rather than committing to a review of tenants’ rights and honouring promises made by the council at the point of council to housing association transfer, Deputy Leader Councillor Priest instead took the opportunity to publicly ridicule my team and I.

I'm very grateful that Councillor Chappell answered my questions about the width of pavements for disabled person and has committed to investigating my concerns in relation to this. I look forward to the results of her investigation.

I will continue to press the council for more information on both of the other issues that went relatively unanswered.

You can watch the meeting below, with a text version of my questions below the video.

 

QUESTIONS TO COUNCIL:

1. To the Executive Member for Adult Health and Wellbeing - what assessment has been made of the changes to quality and access to services for recovering alcoholics since the closure of the Brian Hore Unit?

Supplementary question:
After the Council claimed in Court that services for recovering alcoholics who had remained sober for more than 6 months would be maintained,CRI were forced into hurriedly providing services that they had never intended to provide. What is the estimated additional cost of these services, has the Council been asked for additional resources to provide these services? And what guarantees are there that these services will be maintained in the long term, and finally what scrutiny is planned by the council as to the effectiveness of these alternative services? 
2. To the Executive member for neighbourhood services - what is the Council's expected standard of performance in clearing blocked drains on Manchester's highways, and what is the current actual performance?

Supplementary question:
Council officers informed me that the expected standard of performance was for drains to be cleared within 12 weeks, but that it was taking up to 20 weeks in many cases. One case that I am aware of on Parrswood Road was first reported over 12 months ago, and despite assurances to me that it would be cleared by 5th May, after being reported for the third time, yet again the job was not completed. Does the Executive Member think that this is acceptable, and assuming that she does not, what is she going to do to ensure that these jobs are completed on time?
 
3. To the Executive Member for the Environment - in order to comply with legislation and to support access for people with disabilities, what is the minimum recommended width for pavements in Manchester?

Supplementary question: the Executive Member will be well aware  that there has been significant criticism of the design of the new cycle lanes along Wilmslow Road. Near to the junction with Lapwing Lane, where the cycle lane is routed behind the bus stop, the pavement has been narrowed significantly and the position of the street light column means that the footpath is too narrow for wheelchairs or prams to pass. Will the Executive member commit to ensuring that the route is fully accessible for disabled people, and not forcing wheelchairs and prams into using the cycle lane?

4. To the Executive Member for Housing - what assessment has been made of the impact on the rights of tenants since Council stock transfer?

Supplementary question:
When tenants in South Manchester voted to transfer, they were promised that they would retain all their existing tenants rights. I have serious concerns that these rights have been eroded over the years, particularly in relation to right of succession, and more recently the prospect of tenants being charged for maintenance of open spaces near to their homes. Will the Executive member commit to a review of tenants rights by the Council to see whether promises made to tenants have been kept?

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