by Iain Roberts on 10 September, 2017
The Lib Dem team run regular residents’ surveys where we ask what you would like your councillors to be working on. Some of the problems are really big, tough ones. Some are outside our direct control. Others we can act on more easily. But all of them we try and find a way to do something about.
Here are the top issues you raised in our 2017 survey – in order of how many people raised them.
Crime, anti-social behaviour and policing
You’re concerned about crime and the policing issues. Although we don’t directly control the Police, we look to work with them where we can, and to campaign on issues – like the problem getting through on the 101 non-emergency number. Greater Manchester Police is funded by the Government and run by Mayor Andy Burnham.
Our recent work includes
Pavement and road repairs
When most councils around the country were looking at managed decline, the Lib Dems in Stockport created a £100 million investment programme over nine years to properly repair all the bad roads and pavements in the borough. The work is now in its third year so a lot of work has been done, but well over half the repairs are still to come.
“You only have to walk around some of the residential areas in Manchester to see the difference,” said Iain.
We live in an area that’s economically successful with low unemployment. But that means lots of people travelling around – to work, to the shops and to leisure activities. There’s only so many roads we can build – there’s little space left to build more. So new roads is one part of the answer to the traffic issues, but getting more people using public transport, walking and cycling has to be part of it too. To do that, we need better bus services, trains, trams, cycle facilities and pavements.
“Just a few days ago I attended a workshop with senior people from Highways England and Network Rail,” says Iain. “We need to ensure they are working with us to get people around Greater Manchester, not just looking at the big projects to move people between the cities.”
Former Tatton cinema
No list would be complete without it! The Tatton has been vacant since 2001. It’s a private site, so there are no easy solutions but we carry on working on it, speaking to the owners and the council about what can be done.
There is a planning application that we are told is near approval to have a Co-op store and 36 apartments on the site. We think that’s a decent use for the site and we want to see it happen. If it stalls for any reason, we’ll be putting pressure on the council to move ahead with the Compulsory Purchase Order (CPO) that the Lib Dems got put in place.
“The Tatton has been a blight on Gatley for far too long,” said Iain. “We want to see it sorted and we’re doing all we can to make it happen.”
You’ve raised a number of issues around parking, including the lack of parking in Gatley village centre, the villages trying to compete against Cheadle Royal and others, pavement parking, inconsiderate parking around schools and the roads around the village centres and Gatley railway station getting jammed with parked cars.
We work to improve the situation where we can. On many roads that means putting down double yellow lines to ensure that parking is safe and people don’t get blocked in. We made long-stay parking in Cheadle more expensive which means there are more spaces for shoppers.
But there’s only so many parking spaces available, so just like with traffic, if we want to improve parking we need to get more people to use bus, train, tram, bike or walking to get around.
Public transport is important for everyone. If you want to use a bus, train or tram you want a good service. Public transport needs to improve so that some people who currently drive will find public transport a more convenient option. And if you want to stay in your car, you want other people to use public transport so you have fewer traffic jams and can find a parking space – so it’s still important to you for public transport to be improved.
We continue our long-running campaign to have a tram/train service from Stockport through Cheadle and Gatley (including a Cheadle station/tram stop). We also want a better bus service to connect Cheadle and Gatley to the tram at East Didsbury. There are a whole range of other public transport improvements across the wider area, from Oyster-style travel smart cards to a “Crossrail for the North” connecting our big cities that are also important.
NHS and Social Care
The Liberal Democrats have been leading the way in the campaign to protect our healthcare system. Nationally we are the only party to both promise an increase in funding and spell out how we’ll pay for it. Locally it was the Lib Dems who broke the story of the scandal where KPMG consultants on £1000 a day or more were brought in to tell Stepping Hill Hospital how to save money. They didn’t make the savings but took the cash anyway.
Stockport Lib Dems introduced the Stockport Together plan to make the best use of the money we have – a plan that now has the support of all parties across the council chamber.
Speeding traffic remains a big issue here as everywhere else. We always look for ways to reduce speeding, but we admit that there’s no perfect solution.
Flashing speed signs do help, as do more speed limit signs, but there are always people who ignore them and the Police don’t have the resources to monitor smaller roads very often. Physical measures like speed humps and chicanes slow down traffic but people often don’t like them. (Whenever we survey local residents, we nearly always get a majority opposed to having speed humps or chicanes on their road).
As a last resort, residential roads can be blocked off to stop rat-running – with bollards in the middle or at one end. That works, but inconveniences local residents so people often don’t want it. We also have to be careful about just moving problems around instead of solving them.
Litter and Street Cleaning
We want to see our streets looking well-kept. You tell us that you think they are OK but could be better. We agree. We’ve worked hard to tackle graffiti with some success. We help out with community litter picks whenever we can. The councillors work to direct the council’s efforts to get specific problems sorted, as we’ve recently done around Massie Street car park.
We’re also very grateful to community groups like Cheadle Civic Society and Gatley Village Partnership, not to mentioned the community-minded individuals who help out.
We are looking for ways we can make the council’s money stretch further.
Our village centres
With the economy weakening post-Brexit, we are very aware of the pressure our village centres are under, and you’ve told us that you’re concerned too.
We work with Cheadle Village Partnership and Gatley Village Partnership on initiatives to help our local centres. We work to promote “shop local” initiatives and independent traders. In Cheadle we changed the parking charges in the car park to free up more parking for shoppers.
We know our villages will change as people’s shopping habits change. But we want to avoid too many hot-food takeaways (something we don’t have the power to do right now) and empty units and that’s an ongoing job.
Another perennial problem, the Kingsway junction is used by massively more vehicles than it was ever designed for. We can make small changes, but fundamentally the only long-term fixes are a bigger junction or fewer cars using it.
The Lib Dem approach has been to get improvements made wherever we can. The traffic people tell us that the effect of the improvements are that the queues are about the same as they were ten years ago, even though the traffic using the junction has increased significantly. You can judge whether you think that’s right!
We’ve done a lot of work on the most common request – a right-turn filter light. The problem we always hit is that even a short right filter would (according to the modelling that’s been done) significantly increase traffic queues on the A34 and the Highways Agency and TfGM both refuse to allow that.
Stockport is currently reviewing its transport plans for the next 20 years and the Lib Dems are working to ensure that the A34 and the Kingsway Junction feature in that list.
Education and schools
You are concerned about the state of education. We agree. The Conservative policy of taking responsibility for education away from local councils and giving more of it to private companies doesn’t seem to be working very well!
We are glad the Conservative plans to scrap free school meals were seen off, but there are some serious issues for our local area, including Gatley Primary’s expansion (the Government refused them funding) and proposals from the Laurus Trust to build a new primary and secondary school on the Cheadle College site.
Parks and green spaces
We are passionate about the need to preserve our parks and green spaces. We work to support Friends groups wherever possible and there is some amazing work done for Gatley Carrs, Walter Stansby, Hall Street Green, Cheadle Green, Brooklyn Crescent Park and others.
But our green spaces are under pressure from development and from lack of funding. We are very concerned that Labour, who run Stockport Council, turned down our request to make Gatley Carrs a “Field in Trust” which would protect it from future development.