Firstly I would like to take this opportunity to thank Councillor Christine Hudson, Councillor Howard Balkind and Councillor Bernard Lea for their hard work and dedication to the people of Salford over the years. There are so many highlights for each of the councillors who have played their part in transforming the city to what it is today. This is their last council meeting and I am sure you will join me in wishing them well for the future.
On the 3rd April, the brand new state of the art freestanding midwifery-led unit at Ingleside will be opening its doors. The facility, the only one of its kind in Greater Manchester, set in the beautiful Oakwood Park is able to offer women from across the city, the choice to give birth to their baby in a home from home environment. You will be aware following the announcement early 2017 to close the remaining midwife-led birthing centre at Salford Royal. The council took the brave decision with support from Salford CCG, NHS England, Salford Royal and partners to launch its campaign to keep babies born in our city.
The building has been totally modernised, bringing a magnificent victorian building back into use. I would like to thank the large numbers of people and organisations across the city for their generous donations that have helped made our vision a reality. We anticipate up to 800 babies born each year and look forward to the first birth at the Unit. In response to the failure of successive governments to invest adequately in financing social and council housing, the biggest single reason for the homelessness crisis we are faced with today.
One of the first announcements following the election of Paul Dennett as City Mayor was our intention to build new council homes in the city. The model we have developed, the brainchild of the late councillor Paul Longshaw, was a business model for social housing funded entirely separately from the Housing Revenue Account. We have set up a general development company with a housing arm, Derive.
The Derive model is important, as an independent council developer allows us to choose accommodation and developable sites based on the logic of social need, and not just market growth. It puts the initiative back into the hands of the local authority, our model provides a completely self-funded route through which we are able to provide homes at social rents in our city, and spur the development of other affordable homes. We are also looking at the mixed-housing market approach to secure local growth, and ensure against social ghettoisation.
Alongside our ambitions to create affordable housing are our plans to secure continued growth in the city. Only then will we be able to lift the aspirations of families who feel that they have real opportunities to secure stable affordable accommodation, together with a good well paid job. The launch of the ambitious masterplan to creating a new University Vision and City District at the heart of Salford’s transforming economy is another demonstration of our capacity to innovate with partners across the city.
The plan sets out a vision for the next two decades enhancing connections with surrounding neighbourhoods and communities and tapping in to the area’s unique potential to deliver an unrivalled place to learn, live, work and visit. The joint approach will link education with local industry, arts, culture, heritage and residential across 240 acres offering one of the largest investment and development opportunities in the region.
Pendleton Together have been carrying out extensive testing on a new cladding an insulation solution. The fire safety experts are recommending that the likely replacement insulation will be mineral fibre and this will be combined with a cladding with a mineral core. A programme of further works has been developed to ensure that the blocks are as safe as possible for all residents. Works will commence Spring/Summer and residents will be kept informed at every stage of the programme. Members will be aware of the City Mayor’s commitment to the installation of sprinklers in the blocks and consultation will take place with residents shortly.
Whilst I appreciate the anxiety of residents I want to thank them for their patience. I want to reiterate that every effort is being made to ensure their safety both now and in the future.
The BBC recently reported that Academy budgets are in an even worse state than those of council run schools with 8 out of 10 in deficit.
A report predicts that two more years could see the entire sector facing insolvency. Clearly the government is disputing the findings but clearly this demonstrates another failing policy to the potential detriment of our young people.
The changes to welfare continue to hurt our most vulnerable residents and the introduction of Universal Credit will only serve to exacerbate an already desperate situation for some of our residents. The continued government’s austerity measures and unfair funding formulas are restricting local authorities’ ability up and down the country continue to deliver vital service for our most vulnerable. We will all be aware of the financial problems of Tory controlled Northamptonshire County Council who have been issued with a section 114 notice banning expenditure on all services except those that protect vulnerable people. It is the first time that this notice had been issued in nearly 20 years and raised fears that the council could not set a balanced budget for 2018/19.
There is no doubt that the continued attack on local government and front line services will see other councils reach this point in two to three years if the government does not provide a more sustainable framework for local government finances. We find ourselves, again having to make extremely difficult decisions as austerity continues to bite. The decision to consult on the future of our local authority day nurseries is soul destroying.
It is a direct result of the government turning its back on our most vulnerable residents and starving local authorities of vital funding streams. We have listened to parents, staff and other organisations and fully appreciate and support their anger at this government. As a result the decision was taken to delay the start of the consultation for a month to join with the Trade Unions to campaign on the unfair funding arrangement and lack of funding. In addition, the City Mayor has written to the Minister jointly with the Leader of the Conservative Group urging government to make our Local Authority Day Nurseries eligible for funding in the same way Local Authorities with Maintained Nursery Schools continue to currently receive.
There will be a demonstration march on Saturday 24th March from Victoria Park, Swinton to the Civic Centre to once again ask the government to reconsider its funding formula to protect our nurseries.