Good morning to you all, and welcome to the first full council since the local elections.
As you will all be aware, the first anniversary to mark the senseless attack at the Manchester Arena will take place on Tuesday, May 22, 2018.
This will be an intensely emotional time for so many people. Everyone touched by those events has a unique personal experience. We know that many of our employees were affected that night and have been involved in helping people recover from the incident. The spirit of the people of Greater Manchester has been overwhelming as we strive to support those families who lost loved ones or suffered terrible injuries as they try to rebuild their lives.
I would like to congratulate our newest councillors on their election victories.
- Joan Walsh in Cadishead,
- Ari Leitner in Kersal,
- Stuart Dickman in Swinton South,
- Sophia Linden in Pendlebury
- and Salford's youngest ever councillor, Laura Edwards in Walkden South.
I am extremely pleased to see such a diverse array of representatives for the people of this city join us in the council chamber.
Knowing several of the new councillors as I do, I am certain the people of this city will be greatly served by our new intake.
I'd also like to pay tribute to a friend, colleague and member of the Mayoral Team for all her hard work, dedication and commitment to the residents of Kersal ward and Salford. Ann-Marie will be sadly missed but I'm optimistic we'll see her return to the Labour benches at some point in the near future.
Once again, the people of Salford returned an overwhelming Labour council at the recent local election – and a huge mandate for our government in this city. However, national concerns regarding our party's response to claims of anti-semitism were clearly heard on the doorstep in the city during the campaign, and this is an issue which as a party I believe we must deal with robustly, fairly and decisively if we are to maintain the trust placed in us by the people of Salford, and particularly our Jewish community.
But overwhelmingly, the people of this city responded to Labour's message of hope, optimism and social-equity - a campaigning voice for the people of Salford as government austerity continues to ravage our services. It is a testament to the knowledge and acumen of the people of this city that government's attempts to 'devolve' austerity haven't stuck - that the people of Salford know who the real culprit is.
This afternoon, I unfortunately won't be able to stay for the installation of the Ceremonial Mayor as I will be taking the train down to London to meet with government over funding of Early Years education, in particular the Direct Schools Grant (DSG).
As many of you will be aware, I have been a part of a parent and staff-led campaign for fairer funding for Salford's remaining 5 Local Authority Nurseries launched after changes to the DSG forced us to reconsider their viability. Changes now require the Local Authority to 'passport through' 95% of the DSG to non-Local Authority providers of Early Years education, effectively on to the private sector. The government has also promised '30 hours free provision' of childcare to 'working parents'... parents earning over a certain level of income in work.
The hourly rate for childcare providers is paid directly out of the DSG, massively increasing the demand on that budget.
Combined, these two policies have created a situation where our traditional funding for the nurseries via the DSG is called into question. These 5 nurseries, each rated 'Outstanding' by OFSTED, provide an incredible service to parents in Salford - and particularly to children with special educational needs. The nurseries all operate in areas of high deprivation (according to the government's own IMD) and are well regarded by many of our schools.
However, as Local Authority providers they are not recognised in the government's drive to privatise early years' education and turn councils into commissioner's, rather than providers, of services in the city. At the meeting I will be making the case to the Minister for a revision of the Early Years funding formula, to reflect the needs of Local Authority run nurseries such as those in Salford. This also comes at a time when the National Association of Head Teachers at the end of last month published the findings of a survey, highlighting that the government's commitment to 30 hours free provision for working parents:
- Has displaced 3 and 4 year olds entitled to only 15 hours.
- Is impacting disadvantaged 2 year olds because they're deemed more expensive' because of the staff to child ratio of 1:4.
- Has resulted in 10% or fewer low-income families eligible for the Early Years Pupil Premium (EYPP) accessing the 30 hours free provision.
It is not right that outstanding nurseries, catering to deprived neighbourhoods and children with SEND are not considered valuable by a government committed to the ideological destruction of public services.
It is not right that through simple merit of not being administered by a school, our nurseries have been deprived access to the £55m pot of 'transitional funding' available for 'Maintained Nursery Schools' to protect them from closure because of cuts and austerity. It is not right that hundreds of nurseries, both public and private, are facing closure across the country as a direct result of government's changes in hourly rates to fund 30 hours free childcare care for selected 'working parents'.
Our government claims to care about early needs - but clearly are willing to sacrifice quality, experience where it fits their privatization agenda.
I will fight these changes for the people of Salford, but I am glad to say that the nurseries campaign - UNISON, parents and staff - are fighting at my side.
The people of this city recognise that budgeting during Tory austerity is more difficult than robbing Peter to pay Paul - they have seen through the devolution 'trap' the Tories have set the people of this country. The only answer to endless cuts from government is the election of a Labour government.
July 5th will see the 70th anniversary of the foundation of the NHS.
Though there is talk of celebration and commemoration for this incredible institution that has served our country so well, the anniversary event is bound to be a sad one. The NHS is saddled in debt, accrued through the pernicious reforms of Thatcher, New Labour and the Tories under Jeremy Hunt. From the introduction of Hospital Trusts onwards, NHS reform has been committed to an agenda of fragmentation, commissioning out services and bringing in internal market 'competition'.
As a result of endless re-organization and the imposition of market reforms, the NHS is now practically on its knees. By the end of December 2017, NHS Trusts reported debts of £1.281bn, up from £761m the previous year. Healthcare spending in the UK is a fraction of that of other EU nations at 8.5% of GDP (the EU average is 10.1% and the OECD average is 9.1%). The Tories are squeezing Britain's healthcare to breaking point.
And it is the wasteful privatization agenda which bears the heaviest burden for this failure. The NHS currently has over 100 PFI funded hospitals, making up a total spend of £11.5bn. By the time these contracts have been paid back, the taxpayer will have paid out over £80bn.
Still, in these times of cutbacks and austerity, our Labour Party in Salford is still able to offer glimmers of hope and improvement.
It was my honour to announce the opening of the new birthing centre at Ingleside in April. The centre provides state of the art facilities in the comfort of the beautiful grounds of Oakwood Park. Its opening was a victory which could not have been achieved without the tireless efforts of Labour Party members and local Salford residents, who spent hours on the streets of this city collecting signatures for petitions and raising money through our crowd-funding campaign.
Over £100,000 was raised by the people of this city to go towards the centre, which simply could not have opened without that support. People Power made sure that despite cuts and loss of services, babies are still able to be born in this city - maintaining our sense of heritage, community and identity. But despite some successes, Tory incompetence at a national level is having a devastating impact on the communities of this city.
This is the party of low tax, which forces Local Authorities to plug deficits created by austerity cuts each year by raising precepts and base rates of council tax. It is the pro-work Tories who have introduced pernicious welfare reforms, pushing thousands of families into insecurity and destitution.
Early signs show that the introduction of Universal Credit - widely panned as a terrible and cruel system - when combined with the Bedroom Tax, benefit caps and wider welfare reforms will contribute to the epidemic of homelessness and rough-sleeping currently sweeping across our city, city region and country.
And it is through their economic incompetence and the ludicrous logic of austerity that Britain is now the slowest-growing economy in the G20 according to the OECD, with a productivity crisis looming in addition to an impending skills shortage exacerbated by Brexit. Meanwhile, Ministers cherry-pick pet projects on which to splurge their cash.
£70m handed out to Cambridge City Council for council housing in one of the wealthiest regions of the country, as a bribe to encourage the city into a local devolution deal.
£50m to expand grammar schools, whilst our public provision suffers yearly cutbacks.
£56bn for HS2, whilst Northern England's rail infrastructure rusts and creaks under the strain of many hundreds of thousands of commuters - and the Northern Powerhouse dream is sidelined.
Whilst public services from the police, to the fire-service, the NHS to the DWP and local government are starved of the finances they need, central government spending continues to spiral out of control.
Meanwhile, crime is skyrocketing, poverty is on the increase and we are seeing the re-emergence of what was once referred to as the 'working poor'.
In January I launched Salford Council's pioneering research into conditions in the private rented sector in Salford - 'Precarious Lives'. The paper detailed the appalling conditions that Salfordians increasingly expect to live in, in our ever-expanding private rented sector.
When nearly 40% of homes sold under Right to Buy have become private lettings, and no subsidy is made available for the building of social housing and councils are restricted from building council housing (despite repeated public promises from Theresa May), increasing numbers of individuals are seeing property as an asset from which to make money from potential renters.
With that, we have seen an explosion in house prices creating a vicious circle of un-affordability,
…in which renters are charged ever higher rates to live in properties,
…whilst home-ownership becomes ever-more the preserve of a diminishing numbers of elites.
In our paper, residents revealed their fears about retaliatory evictions for requesting repairs, psychological instability brought on by short-term tenures (as short as 6 months) and poor conditions such as damp and mould severe enough to compromise the structure of the buildings in which they lived.
This is not Victorian era Britain - this is 21st Century Salford. Yet increasingly working families are being exposed to this kind of impoverishment. According to UNICEF, 1 in 5 British children under the age of 15 suffers from food insecurity, making us the 34th in performance against the top 41 richest developed nations.
In cities like London, Birmingham and Manchester nearly half of all children now grow up in poverty. But despite these tremendous challenges, Salford Council still leads the way in making progress for the people of this city. We are the fastest growing region in GM, both economically and in terms of population. The Local Authority's investments into our city over 30 years has kick-started investment in digital and tech industries at Salford Quays, making Salford one of the best places to invest in the United Kingdom.
Major companies continue to be attracted to the city, bringing with them much needed business rates, jobs and professional services.
- Indian IT giant Tech Mahindra have opened their 'HQ for North' in Salford creating 60 new jobs.
- HMRC have announced their relocation to Two New Bailey to take the entire building on a 25 year lease.
- Kellogg's have moved 420 staff to Orange Tower in MediaCity after almost 30 years in Old Trafford
- and The Incremental Group have joined the digital and tech sector at MediaCity and will employ 60 staff by 2020.
Further to these successes, Salford is fast becoming the ideal destination for Channel 4's relocation of its out of London HQ and creative hubs.
To make sure that residents of Salford benefit from these opportunities, our ambitious Digital Inclusion programme: 'Digital You' will see 8,000 of our most vulnerable residents gaining basic digital skills and getting on-line by 2020. Without this growth, the outlook for our city would be bleak. This growth has been predicated on 30 years worth of brave investment decisions from this city's Labour council - plugging the gap where the market has failed and creating opportunities for ordinary people.
The Salford Story disproves the Tory narrative of austerity and small government working best for growth. This city shows the importance of a proactive Local Government in shaping and directing the market to best serve the needs of the people, and providing services for those who need it the most.
Despite our hardship, it is with great pride that I look upon the achievements of this great city over the past few decades - and strive to continue to do justice to the judgement of my predecessors.