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July 2019

Good Morning Chair & Members of the Council…

I am delighted to welcome Councillor Brooks to the council and congratulate him and the residents of Walkden South for supporting a Labour councillor who I know will work tirelessly in their best interests.

Following on from the minutes silence I would like to add my thoughts and remember the genocide that took place on 11 July, fifty years after the world said “Never Again” to the horrors of the Holocaust.

The name Srebrenica has become synonymous with those dark days in July 1995 when, in the first ever United Nations declared safe area, thousands of men and boys were systematically murdered and buried in mass graves. The victims, predominantly Muslim, were selected for death on the basis of their identity. This was the worst atrocity on European soil since the Second World War. The lesson from Srebrenica is that no society is invulnerable to prejudice and intolerance.

We must all remain vigilant against these forces, and take positive action to build stronger, more resilient communities.

As the schools start to break up we are all aware of the very real problem for families of hunger in the school holidays.

The school holidays should be an exciting time for children and their families, but for many struggling to make ends meet it pushes them further into food poverty and insecurity.
Building on the success of last years holiday food support, as part of the city’s anti-poverty strategy and together with Booths Charities I am grateful that we are able to launch the Healthy Holidays food vouchers to help towards the cost of food during the six week holiday.

The £30 grocery vouchers will be made available to those eligible through the Salford Assist programme, implemented to help people facing a crisis or emergency. Around 8500 children qualify for free school meals in Salford and we hope that this scheme will go some way to supporting many vulnerable families. Families that do not qualify for the free school meal voucher scheme, but are in need of some short term support to meet basic needs can also get help through Salford Assist. I would urge all Members of the Council to cascade the message to your communities that there is help available.

As of yesterday the council has received 300 applications for the scheme. One mum has said ‘Thank you so much, it will make such a difference to me and my children over the holidays’.

Britain’s housing system is not delivering the homes that the country needs or that people can afford. These are issues which go right to the heart of the planning system, and the National Planning Policy Framework introduced by the Tories in 2012.

Conservative policy makes no distinction between different types of housing, it is concerned only with quantity. It places no value on contributions to infrastructure from developers, and restricts our ability to gain them. It presumes in favour of ‘sustainable development’ wherever it is… that is a presumption which threatens our protected green space. It is a developer’s charter, interested only in maximizing profits for private developers and landlords – not in the slightest for catering to the real needs of the British public.

To meet the government’s arbitrary target of 300,000 homes a year, each Local Authority has been allocated its share – in Greater Manchester that amounts to 201,000 homes by 2037. Developer profits are prioritised over contributions… if a Developer is able to show that contributions the Council requests make their development ‘unviable’, then they can refuse to make those contributions.

What we are left with is a planning system which is unable to effectively regulate the types of homes which are built, and unable to guarantee a flow of the new homes we actually need. With a system stacked so much in favour of developers, to solve the crisis we need to be a developer ourselves. We are beginning to turn a corner in Salford with affordable and social rented homes.

Our number of affordable home starts in 2018/19 accounted for 23% of all starts in Greater Manchester - 2nd highest in Greater Manchester – up from 11% in 16/17.
Importantly, Salford, like 4 other Greater Manchester authorities are now able to seek much needed social rented funding.

Although there is a lead in time, 17% of starts on site for 18/19 were for social rent, of which one in nine where in Salford.

In relation to completions over the past three years Salford has delivered the most completions of any Greater Manchester Authority accounting for 21% of all completions.
However, despite policy changes and working collaboratively with affordable housing partners to exploit new opportunities, delivering the right volume size, type and tenure of affordable housing is still a challenge for Salford, like many other areas.

That’s why this council has set up Dérive.

Building on the success of the first Dérive Business Plan, the second £15.8m Business Plan to deliver 117 units has been approved.

At the last meeting council were informed of the plans to provide a mixed tenure development at Duchy, Irwell Riverside. This scheme will deliver 72 units, 32 sale, 22 shared ownership, 10 affordable rent and 8 units for Dérive. Duchy was Dérive’s first scheme to enter contract.

Following on from this I was delighted to approve the sale of the land, subject to planning at Astley Road in Irlam and Cadishead to allow 27 new affordable homes to be built. The site will be a mix of 6 affordable rent homes, 6 for social rent, 10 for shared ownership and a further 5 homes for Derive.

Another three schemes are in advanced negotiations that will deliver a further 72 units across wards in the city. Our forthcoming Local Plan will seek a minimum of 20% affordable housing on new residential sites in Salford, rising to up to 50% where viability allows, and we will be applying this approach to larger sites from later this year through our Planning Obligations SPD. Housing Providers are already beginning to answer the call, bringing forward independent social housing projects across the city.
The forthcoming Greater Manchester Housing Strategy I have produced through the Combined Authority also emphasises the importance of social and supported accommodation – crucially looking to lever in funding from health to help deliver on the need for 15,000 more units of supported accommodation in GM over time.

In Salford we have 6,280 households on the housing waiting list, 191 people in statutory temporary accommodation and 115 in A Bed Every Night accommodation and that is against a national 12 per cent drop in the number of developers starting on site to build social rented homes last year.

There are 52 bids for every affordable home we advertise and homeless presentations to continue to rise. All of this shows the necessity of Derive as a chief driver in tackling the shortage of truly affordable and socially rented properties in the city. It was my honour to speak with so many partners to deliver Housing First in Greater Manchester.

Here in Greater Manchester we are one of just three national pilots, alongside the West Midlands and the Liverpool City Region. This project means an extra £8m over three years for Greater Manchester, with which we aim to provide support and accommodation for up to 400 people with very complex needs. This money is a drop in the ocean compared to what our Local Authorities and services have lost to austerity, but as targeted funding we can make a real difference.

Rough sleeping has increased by 487% in GM since 2010. We have a 350% rise in temporary accommodation, and a huge rise in waiting lists meaning that vulnerable people find it much harder to access housing.

This is a crisis, and Housing First is amongst the few truly evidence-based approaches to tackling entrenched rough sleeping and homelessness. It has been used to eradicate homelessness in Finland, and used extensively throughout North America, Canada and parts of Europe. The principle is simple: stable housing and wrap-around support is the best anti-dote to homelessness.

Supported accommodation was once used much more extensively in this country than it is now to tackle homelessness, as well as a variety of other problems. The loss of our social housing sector has had a huge and detrimental impact on this, as well as our social services being ravaged by nearly a decade of cuts. So we are incredibly pleased to be selected as a pilot for this policy. We believe that Housing First is the single most effective tool in our armoury to tackle the problems of homelessness in Greater Manchester, and that a successful trial here will be an incredibly powerful argument for the provision of more social and affordable housing nationally.

This is the start of a hugely important journey in the drive to tackle homelessness and rough sleeping in GM. I am proud to be a part of it, and proud to see so many other GM organisations playing such a key role too.

The Universal Credit scam currently hitting the headlines was brought to my attention by our in house Welfare Rights and Debt Advice Service that in Salford, three households, which could be the tip of the iceberg initially approached us for advice and assistance following a Universal Credit scam which left the families, all of whom have young children, in financial hardship and distress. Protocols have since been put in place across all agencies to monitor the situation.

It has become apparent that a scam is being employed to obtain lump sum Advance Payments from Universal Credit by offering to help people obtain a loan, gaining personal information from the victim and claiming Universal Credit without their knowledge or consent in order that they access these payments.

This is a nationwide issue which according to the BBC estimates to have cost the taxpayer over £20m and up to 42,000 cases. This is despite back in 2013, government announcing that Universal Credit would reduce fraud and error in the benefits system.

I have written to the Minister to express my deep concern that the Universal Credit Full Service continues to operate nationally and is failing to protect financially vulnerable people and their children from exploitation by scammers.

I am concerned that these recent examples illustrate a number of flaws within the online Universal Credit system, in particular; the digital by default design and ongoing IT problems including the online ID verification which means the scammers can impersonate someone else with minimal personal information being used to make a false claim.
Furthermore, the design of Universal Credit itself with an in built 5 week wait for a first payment means people in poverty and/or without savings find it very difficult to pay for essentials including food, fuel and rent whilst waiting for Universal Credit to be paid.
By way of mitigation, it appears the DWP has introduced the Advance Payment application facility on line.

The scammers are exploiting this system by falsifying Universal Credit claims to obtain Advance Payments to the detriment of people already living on a very low income and putting them into further financial hardship. It seems clear that if Universal Credit did not have a 5 week wait necessitating the recoverable advance payment system then, this window of opportunity for exploitation would not arise.

People who are victims seem to be left in a desperate position as their legacy benefits stop which can also put their tenancy at risk and they may be worse off on Universal Credit or may have their Universal Credit stopped pending a fraud investigation.

Without the rapid assistance of our council services, these victims were likely to have been evicted and made homeless.
We are aware that the experiences in Salford are being repeated in other places.
I have sought assurances from the Minister that these scams are being looked into urgently and appropriate safeguards put in place to prevent further instances.
There is an option for victims to be put back on legacy benefits if they wish if they have reported their situation to the police and
Assurance that those victims should not have to repay the loans that were applied for fraudulently without their consent if they have reported the scam to the police.
I was delighted to be given the recent news that the NHS Salford Clinical Commissioning Group annual assessment for 2018/19 has resulted in a rating of ‘Outstanding’ for the fourth year in a row.
This is truly testament to the strength of partnership working in the city and all the staff within the Clinical Commissioning Group whose efforts have contributed to the attainment of this annual rating and had such a positive impact upon health and social care outcomes for Salford residents. 12

I was delighted to be a part of the annual Aspire awards with Councillor Gina Reynolds to celebrate the hard work and commitment of staff. The awards are presented to people and teams, and are chosen by their peers in recognition of their achievements. It was inspirational to listen about the work of the staff who support our vulnerable adults and young people in Salford.

On the night six care workers received their long service awards, 165 years of dedicated service.

Carol Torkington, Ann Anderson, Sue Herbert, Margaret Gormley and Liane Freebody-Smith all have served 25 years in the field of care work and 40 years for Marie Dunne.
I would like to thank all the incredible staff at Aspire for the care they provide to our residents.

It was fantastic to attend a number of events over the last few months and to see so many residents enjoying the Chinese dragon boat race, the Pink Picnic and the Armed Forces Day Parade and Family Fun Day at Winton Park.

More recently I attended the Precarious Carnaval day with Councillor Stephen Coen to celebrate the Bridgewater Canal’s 258th Birthday and later with the ward councillors for Walkden South at the Birch Road Action Group’s ‘The Green, Greening Event’. There is so much on offer in Salford and my thanks go to the organisers for all the wonderful events throughout the year.

Finally I am delighted to learn that four Salford green spaces can continue to fly their Green Flags with pride.

Blackleach Country Park, Clifton Country Park, Boothsbank Park and Peel Green Cemetery, have kept their Green Flag status for another year.

Boothsbank Park in Boothstown scored in the highest category with judges praising the planting and community orchard, how the park attracts birds and insects and the dedication of the Friends of Boothsbank Park to the appearance and upkeep of the site.

The council have invested Section 106 money from developers in resurfacing paths, installing security lighting and adding a new play area and multi games area.
Peel Park, Victoria Park and Winton Park, which were checked but not judged this year, also have Green Flag status. I would like to congratulate council staff and volunteers for this wonderful achievement and all those involved should be very proud of themselves for all their hard work and commitment.

Thank you for listening today!!!