Chair, and Members of the Council,
Firstly I would like to reflect on the tragic and sombre issue, which has impacted us all and our fellow citizens across the world. I am deeply saddened to stand before you today to pray for the fifty victims who have been murdered in the devastating attack on two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand and for the three people killed in the attack in the City of Utrecht in the Netherlands.
Our thoughts and prayers continue to be with the friends and families of those that have lost loved ones and those that have suffered injuries. These are senseless attacks and we stand united with the people of New Zealand and the Netherlands.
In moving on, I would like to take this opportunity to thank Councillor Hunt, Councillor Stone, Councillor Ord, Councillor Dobbs, Councillor Watkin, Councillor Clarkson, Councillor Paul Wilson and Councillor Lindley 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 both serving the people of Salford and transforming the city to what it is today. This is their last Full Council Meeting and I am sure you will join me in wishing them well for the future.
I would also like to congratulate the winners of the City’s first ever ‘Spirit of Salford’ awards the first set of awards for local people who have contributed to our communities across the City in amazing ways. Each and every one of those winners has made an incredible contribution to our City and it was my privilege to be able to join them in recognition of their achievements at the A.J. Bell Stadium on Thursday last week.
We have all walked into the Town Hall this morning to the chanting of the Conservative lobby against the Greater Manchester Plan for Homes, Jobs and the Environment (re-drafted GMSFT) outside. In addition to this, I have acquired the following curious Conservative Party artefact which has been delivered to Worsley and Boothstown residents:
We have here a classic example of local Tory misinformation, halftruths and fabrication.
The usual fare for the opposition’s electioneering campaigns, but I thought that some scrutiny should be applied to just a few of the claims made here!
The leaflet claims that ‘The Labour City Mayor and Greater Manchester Mayor want to build on our green fields’! It says that our ‘Local Conservative Councillors have been fighting these and similar proposals over many years’ and that their ‘most recent opposition was against building 600 houses on land off Worsley Road’!
Furthermore, they have ‘won the first two battles, and now await the decision by the High Court’!
I am also sure that many of our officers in the Planning department will be bemused to see the Salford’s Conservative Councillors taking sole credit for the Council’s opposition to Peel development on Broadoak Farm opposition which this Council has successfully raised using sound planning arguments against vicious opposition from developers.
The reality is, the Salford Conservatives have had minimal bearing whatsoever on fighting developers in the courts they have put nothing more than cursory opposition forward on GMSF sites and there is no coincidence they raise these issues now with Local Elections around the corner!
They claim to dislike a great many decisions taken by this Council, yet they continually fail to raise serious opposition. They have failed for several years to provide the people of Salford with an alternative Budget.
They failed to provide the public with their own proposals to the Boundary Commission before those proposals had to be submitted and here they claim to have been ‘fighting’ planning proposals put forward, yet during a period of 3 years we have barely heard a peep.
Council, the fact of the matter is that Salford Conservatives cannot provide serious opposition because they know that more than ever before in Local Government history the decisions made by Local Councils are bound by the policies of their government.
Endless cuts, disempowerment, obfuscation, language games and confusion.
But whereas the Salford Conservatives have been busy attempting to justify their existence to the voters, what they don’t tell the public in their leaflet is that Salford Labour has been battling with the Conservative national government over its prescriptive National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) for a great many years. It is the National Planning Policy Framework which places ‘viability’ over ‘suitability’ of development and prevents our Council acquiring its fair share of contributions to infrastructure from would-be developers.
It is the National Planning Policy Framework which enforces our Local ‘Objectively Assessed Housing Need’ target the same ‘objectively assessed’ target somehow balances out at the 300,000 housing units per year by the mid-2020s to enable the Conservative Party to meet their own seemingly arbitrary manifesto target.
It is the Conservative Government who have told the Greater Manchester Combined Authority that our ‘Housing Deal’ from government which as you know included £8 million of revenue and a £50 million land fund to enable the prioritisation of development on brown-field is contingent on our providing 227,200 homes in Greater Manchester by 2016/16 and 2034/2035 and an accelerated delivery rate of 12,375 homes per annum up until 2026.
It is the Conservative Government who, when faced with downsized estimates of housing need using the 2016 Sub-National Housing Projections from the Office for National Statistics last year, told us to not use the latest projections and use the previous 2014 Sub-National Housing Projections, which would deliver a higher ‘Objectively Assessed Housing Need’ target for Greater Manchester.
Whilst the Conservative Government has been chopping and changing the rules, as has happened an awful lot over the past few years it has been myself and Andy Burnham making representations on behalf of Salford and Greater Manchester residents - not our Local Tory group!
So, let’s talk seriously about the GMSF, and Salford’s Local Plan. When Andy Burnham promised a ‘radical rewrite’ in May 2017, the issue wasn’t just Greenbelt (although we have seen a 50% reduction in Greenbelt lost since the original document). The issue was about getting the right homes into the right places making sure that the strategy tied together with our other priorities in Greater Manchester, ensuring tenure mix, employment opportunities and ecologically friendly development for the people of Greater Manchester.
Greater Manchester is faced with numerous opportunities and challenges over the coming decades, and it is those challenges that the GMSF sets out to tackle. We have a rapidly growing economy, and with that a rapidly growing population. These are people new to Manchester who need places to live - so that demand for accommodation doesn’t push prices up to an unsustainable level.
This phenomenon takes place within the context of a nation-wide housing crisis, a crisis even acknowledged by the Conservative Government in their own White Paper where for many years not enough homes have been built to keep pace with demand. This is the product of a failed housing policy nationally, which has seen Local Authorities and the public sector squeezed out of its once huge role in the delivery of housing across the country.
But the long and short is, even without our current rates of growth there aren’t currently the number of houses we need to keep a roof over everyone’s heads, with 97,000 people on housing waiting lists across Greater Manchester Local Authorities.
In addition to this our residents are going to need to travel around the city-region and to do so we need to make the most of our transport infrastructure trains, trams and buses.
But our current stock will not be enough to cater for everyone - and major improvements are needed to ensure that Greater Manchester isn’t faced by gridlock in the future. Government have given us a housing target (201,000 in Greater Manchester – plus an 8.6% buffer) which is a number which must be met if we don’t, all our Local Plans could be faced with legal jeopardy and Local Authorities faced with ‘planning by appeal’.
And in the midst of all this development, we must also keep existing residents interests and concerns about their local community, geography and lifestyles central in our considerations.
The culmination of the efforts sees a Greater Manchester Spatial Framework that far better balances the lives of current residents against the demands of Greater Manchester to grow, provide new employment and residential development space, and upgrade its infrastructure.
It is the extension of a conversation based on responses from over 27,000 Greater Manchester residents, as well as extensive discussions with elected members, experts and planners in each Local Authority in Greater Manchester. The current draft is fully integrated with our Housing Vision document, a precursor to the Housing Strategy which is to be published later in the year.
That means that the kinds of accommodation as well as the numbers are taken into consideration. The GMSF now promises an additional 50,000 affordable homes over the lifetime of the plan that’s a significant chunk of the total of 201,000 extra units we are required by law to provide by 2037 through the government’s ‘objectively assessed housing need’.
Further than that, of those 50,000 affordable homes, 30,000 are to be social rented properties - truly affordable for residents across Greater Manchester.
It also combines with our infrastructure framework, with pains taken to reduce loss to greenbelt by prioritizing higher-density housing clustered around transport infrastructure and the urban core of the city-region. That is combined with our Town Centre challenges - regeneration strategies for high streets and Town Centres across Greater Manchester - bringing life back into our towns.
Commitments to carbon-neutrality by 2038 and a planning presumption against fracking provide much-needed safeguards against free-wheeling destruction of our environment, providing safeguards for our future. And the new plan also provides a strategic overview and analysis of our key Green Infrastructure - parks, cycle-paths and more, off the back of the Greater Manchester Combined Authority already committing £160m to start to realise this vision.
In every sense, we have improved our original offer to the public and established thorough and evidence-based structures to facilitate the future development of this city region.
Within the tight regulatory framework provided by the Tories, your representatives and Council Officers here and across Greater Manchester have jumped back-flips and somersaults to provide the best possible deal for Greater Manchester.
Our infrastructure is crumbling! We need to get this right - and no amount of technically illiterate Tory campaigning should get in the way of this goal.
Tories in Stockport, Trafford and Bolton are now campaigning to remove themselves from the GMSF to protect their greenbelt a movement which would see each of those areas have to build more homes than have currently been allocated! In their opportunistic attempts to score cheap points against Labour, the Tories are leading their own voters down a blind path.
And that’s a familiar story at a national level, too.
Following Speaker John Bercow’s decision not to allow a third ‘meaningful vote’ on Theresa May’s Brexit deal, we are facing unprecedented uncertainty over the future of the country. Despite promises of an ‘end to austerity’, the government is offering nothing to places like Salford.
Nothing, that is, other than ‘Brexit Bribes’ to our MPs to convince them to back her shambolic negotiations. A few weeks ago the nation was appalled at the offer made by Chancellor Philip Hammond, the ‘Stronger Towns Fund’ to pay off Northern MPs to vote for them in the Chamber. The amount was a paltry £1.6bn to last until 2026, with £320m of that to go to the West Midlands to shore up the Tory Metro-Mayor, Andy Street.
This was a bribe from its conception all the way through to delivery. This government does nothing other than deliver cash to friends of the Conservatives to keep themselves in power.
This is the shocking mentality of our governing party today!