Ceremonial Mayor, Members of the Council, welcome to the first Council of the year and Happy New Year to you all!
I hope all of you have had an enjoyable and much needed break over the festive period and are looking forward to what we can achieve together in the New Year!
Before we begin proceedings, I would like to pay my respects to the commitment, work and memory of Councillor Peter Connor.
Peter was an exceptionally dedicated and much loved councillor, championing many causes for those in greatest need. He led the way for many years in housing and later adult social care, laying the foundations, which has helped so many across our city. Peter was well respected by his fellow Councillors and throughout the community of Kersal, where he served with great commitment for many years. Peter was always someone you could approach in the knowledge that he would help in any way he could, trying to find solutions to make a difference to the lives of the people of Salford. Peter encapsulated the true Spirit of Salford.
Peter will be deeply missed, our thoughts and prayers remain with Peter’s family and friends.
I would also like to welcome Councillor Damian Bailey to the City Council and congratulate him and the residents of Pendlebury for supporting a Labour councillor who I know will work tirelessly in their best interests. Damian’s election is testament to the value that the people of Salford place in the Labour Party and I look forward to working with Damian.
Now, it would be safe to say that the results of the election of December 12th were not what I, nor many in this chamber, would have anticipated or wished for. Although we retained our seats in Salford, many longstanding Labour areas in Greater Manchester and the North of England changed hands in a historic night which has changed the face of British politics.
Although I viewed the result with great sadness, there are some comments I would take away from it. Firstly, the people of this country voted for Brexit, and confirmed to us on the 12th that the results of that referendum must, and shall, be adhered to. Brexit will happen, and have a profound and in many cases a challenging impact on our economy and society but it is the democratic will of this nation, which must be respected. Secondly, I will be frank, my Party’s campaign could have been better organised and communicated more effectively with a clear structure and narrative(s). This was a failing of the leaders’ office and the party machinery, and necessitates serious reflection, listening and consideration for future reform from future leadership candidates.
Lastly, voters in the North of England and many other post-industrial areas of the country are clearly feeling left out, disenfranchised and angry. This anger must be understood by all parties it is the very real pain of people whose prospects and life chances have been cut short.
I believe that Labour’s manifesto had some of the answers to the issues facing these people. Our Green New Deal would have brought environmentally sustainable industrial growth back to this country, based on a strategic approach to infrastructure-led development. Our National Investment Bank would have provided vital funds available for industries to upskill, update and find new capital for their plants, technology, R&D and innnovation. Our infrastructural investment programme would have put money into the roads, the schools, the hospitals and the transport of these regions to enable growth and prosperity to return.
But it remains to be said that Labour lost these people, by continuing a national trend in politics of London-centric politics which began under Thatcher, intensified under Blair and has been continued by every administration since. This is an exclusionary and elitist form of politics which has excluded many from public life, culturally and organisationally. It is a politics which must end! London is important to the economic and industrial success of Britain but so too are the many cities, towns, villages and communities outside of London and the South East
Boris Johnson has made many, many promises to the people of these areas promises which I’m sceptical will be kept with early indications from the first few months suggest that U-turns are already being planned in many key areas. The date of planned Brexit is already being delayed, and discussion of the transition period being extended is on the table.
The master-mind behind the Vote Leave campaign (including the lie of £350m extra per week for the NHS) Dominic Cummings, has already been seen on Twitter discussing with Dr. Allen Green, conceding that there are ‘lots’ of things that ‘could happen (or not happen) which would make [him] wish leave had not won the referendum’. Johnson’s proposals to end the legislative alignment of Britain and the EU could lead to this being dragged into a conflict with the Lords, who believe that proposals in the current Withdrawal Agreement passed by parliament would force courts up and down the country to reinterpret all case-law creating legal chaos!
From pledging during his campaign that the chance of no deal was “absolutely zero” recent comments from the Prime Minister in his first interview of the New Year suggest that no deal is in fact still a very real possibility.
We are still faced with vague promises on social care, with no dates for the promised reforms we were pledged during the election still no Green Paper and yet again government forcing Councils up-and-down the country to hike the Adult Social Care Precept by 2% to pay for social care.
There have been no numbers set on the promised investment in northern infrastructure and investment in the North of England. Though I welcome government’s ending of the Northern Rail franchise given their sustained under-performance the idea that simply extending that franchise to another company without significantly upgrading the infrastructure will solve the problem is misleading at best and Jake Berry’s insistence that Transport for the North and Andy Burnham share the blame for the failure of Northern, after their repeated insistence over many years to government that Northern were failing and we needed intervention, is nothing short of a shameful reinvention of recent history. And government’s policy of revoking the hugely successful policy of City-wide landlord licensing in Liverpool has had a chilling impact on Greater Manchester’s plans to properly regulate our private rented sector, protecting tenants and challenging the Dickensian housing conditions that continue to plague millions of our residents in this city-region, and thousands of our residents in Salford.
The value of such promises from the current government is yet to be seen!
Meanwhile, rather than wait around for such promises to materialise, this Council will have to continue to do what it does best fighting for the interests of the people of this city!
It was my pleasure last week to open Route 29, the new scheme for young people and those on the edge of care, which has been co-designed by young people who have been through the care system or had direct experiences of services in our City. The scheme has seen us provide a fabulous new facility, including a gym and recreational areas, for young people who could of potentially been placed outside of City and away from. The scheme has seen several care leavers themselves go on to take jobs at the new home, using their own direct experience of the care system to help others experiencing the same issues. This heart-warming story is the perfect example of the innovative and creative work we are doing in this local authority to make lives better for residents, all whilst maximising value for money for the tax payer.
It was also my pleasure yesterday to join in announcing that Islington Mill, the arts and cultural hub off Chapel Street, has been awarded more funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund to secure the much needed renovations. Our shared vision is for a Mill complex which includes New Islington Mill and the adjacent Regents Industrial Estate, placed into the hands of a Community Land Trust (or an appropriate governance arrangement) through which rents will be set by the tenants of the properties themselves. Salford has always been a working city and protecting the low-rent environment needed for artistic and creative industries to survive will be vital moving forward. The Islington Mill model provides us with a community-driven and controlled model through which to protect these industries from rising land values associated with economic growth meaning we won’t see the brain and creative drain that London has experienced over the past decade.
A very exciting development indeed!
This city’s green agenda continues apace with Friends of the Earth announcing that Salford is the most ‘climate friendly’ Local Authority area in the North West, and joint 5th across the country. This is no surprise when we consider the £126 million of investment that this City Council has helped to facilitate into green infrastructure in Salford over the past 4 years, investment which has seen the creation of hundreds of miles of cycle paths,new parkland, like the river Irwell’s second flood basin, huge projects like the RHS’s 5th national garden, reservation and protection of Mossland, and the renovation of many of our existing parks.
We continue to defend areas of natural beauty such as the Broadoak site from future development, and are disappointed that more public money will need to be spent to continue to defend the City Council’s position in the Court of Appeal, after this City Council has had £211 million cut from its budget since 2010, and having central government grant reduced by 53% since 2010 under Tory and Tory-Lib Dem governments whilst at the same time demands for children and adult services continues to grow.
We are also committed to plans for the creation of a huge 350 hectare City Forest Park between ourselves, Bolton and Bury to further protect and preserve natural woodland and wildlife in our city-region. This Green Revolution in Salford is the culmination of a decades’-long green agenda for which we are beginning to see results. Last year we honoured former councillor and ex-serviceman Ben Wallsworth with Freedom of the City for his contributions to this authority as a local councillor. It was Ben’s vision for open green space and parkland that has seen us protect, preserve and expand green provision over the course of decades including the development of Cutacre Park, and our pioneering legal work preventing peat extraction and ensuring net bio-diversity in developments.
This revolution is not only opening new spaces for residents, but also helping to preserve this city’s heritage as encapsulated in the marvellous redevelopment of the Worsley delph and canal completed recently.
As the national political agenda continues to evolve, many things seem to remain the same. In that space, Salford is still doing all it can to ensure that residents of this city have jobs to go to, things to see and do and hope for the future!
Thank You very much.