Question Time comes to Ramsbottom

The Bury Branch of the National Union of Teachers are hosting a “Question Time” event at Ramsbottom Civic Hall on Thursday 30th June starting at 7.00pm.

This will be an open public meeting where local Councillors from each of the main political parties in the Bury North constituency will speak about their views and opinions about education, both locally and nationally, and answer questions.

They recently hosted a similar event in Prestwich (Bury South constituency) in April which was attended by parents, teachers, governors of various schools amongst others.

If you have any questions don’t hesitate to contact us.

Local Elections – Thursday 5 May 2016

Ian Schofield (centre) with Cllr Rob Hodkinson and Cllr Ian Bevan

Ian Schofield (centre) with Cllr Rob Hodkinson and Cllr Ian Bevan

We are absolutely delighted to support Ian Schofield as the Conservative Candidate for Ramsbottom in the local elections on 5th May 2016.

On Thursday 5th May, you will have a vote to decide who is going to be one of your three local Councillors – joining Ian Bevan and Rob Hodkinson representing Ramsbottom Ward on Bury Council – after Luise Fitzwalter announced that she is standing down from her seat on the Council.

Ian lives on Cheshire Court, off Peel Brow, in Ramsbottom.  He is married to Ann, and semi-retired after a long career in the Automobile Association (AA).

He is active in the community and many in our town will know him as a Committee Member at Ramsbottom Cricket Club.

Ian is particularly pleased to have the support of many members of our town’s sporting clubs and associations, including Harry Williams, Chairman of Ramsbottom United Football Club.

Ian Schofield and Harry Williams, Chairman of Rammy United FC

Ian Schofield and Harry Williams, Chairman of Rammy United FC

Commenting on the recent floods that affected the town centre, community and sporting facilities such as the Football Ground, Cricket Club, Bowling Club and Nuttall Park, Ian said:

The flood water of the River Irwell deposited tonnes of mud and silt all over the centre of town. At Ramsbottom Cricket Club, damage to the cricket square has devastated the club. Substantial damage occurred to the club’s ground maintenance machinery and the road at the far side of the ground was almost washed away, leaving a £70,000 repair bill.  As a Committee Member at the Cricket Club, I have worked hard to ensure that the Club is restored to its former glory. It was heartbreaking to see the damage sustained, but very encouraging to see the community coming together to clear the mess.”

Ian Schofield, residents and Club Members cleaning up the Cricket Ground

Ian Schofield, residents and Club Members cleaning up the Cricket Ground

On tackling Ramsbottom’s crumbling roads, Ian has worked with local Councillors to ensure that potholes are reported and repaired.  Ramsbottom has been plagued with deep, dangerous potholes and crumbling roads for some time now.  As your local representatives, we have been demanding that our town has its fair share of highway resources and put forward a proposal for an additional £2million to be invested into the Borough’s roads over the next 12 months – a proposal rejected by the Labour Party on Bury Council.

Ian is also opposed to development in our Green Belt, including at Fletcher Bank, Church Fields and other sites around our town which are under threat from developers.

Ian Schofield (centre) with Cllrs Ian Bevan & Rob Hodkinson at Church Fields

Ian Schofield (centre) with Cllrs Ian Bevan & Rob Hodkinson at Church Fields

Ian said: “It has been wonderful to have had such a warm reception from residents who have said they agree with our local campaigns; for our fair share of resources for Ramsbottom’s crumbling roads; protecting our Green Belt from development; promoting a long term solution for the Mondi Paper Mill site on Bridge Street, supporting our local businesses, and tackling anti-social behaviour.”  

“I do hope that you will support me on Thursday 5th May to help maintain our town as one of the top places to live in the country. I pledge to always put Ramsbottom first.”

 

Ramsbottom’s Crumbling Roads!

Cllr Rob Hodkinson and Ian Schofield

Cllr Rob Hodkinson and Ian Schofield

We all know how bad the roads and footpaths are in Ramsbottom at the moment.   As your local elected representatives, we are constantly reporting potholes and highway issues.

The Highways Department tell us that they are under-resourced, particularly in terms of manpower – as we understand that highway operatives have been reduced in number from around 50 to 15.  This, and the recent bad weather / flooding, has led to delays in repairs.

At the Budget Meeting of Bury Council on Wednesday 24 February 2016, as part of the Conservative Group of Bury Councillors, we put forward a resolution for £3,100,000 to be diverted towards urgent highway maintenance, repairing pot holes, undertaking line markings, fly tipping enforcement, gully and culvert cleansing, dog fouling enforcement, street light repairs and reinstating two-weekly residual bin collections.

We believe that this would also save the Council money in the medium to long term from having to undertake constant pothole filling works.

The Labour Councillors however voted down this resolution and pushed through a budget that puts up your Council Tax up by 3.94%.

Why didn’t they just do 4%? The reason is that they would have had to put it to a local referendum.

Bury and Ramsbottom Conservatives opposed this increase in Council Tax at a time when they are cutting services.  They could have avoided it by supporting our Budget proposals to raise extra income and investment in our town which would also have increased business rates revenue to the town.

In addition to the money for highways, we also proposed:

• £1,800,000 to increase funding for help with demand pressures in adult social care and protecting vulnerable people.

• £100,000 to appoint an Inward Investment Manager to attract businesses to our Borough which would offer better paid jobs for local residents and opportunities for young people to progress into a professional career, for example in high tech or health sectors.

Our proposals would be FUNDED by:-

• £2,000,000 from a one-off contribution from General Fund balances (reserves).

• £1,300,000 income from the 2% Social Care precept (100% Ring-Fenced to the adult social care budget)

• £1,135,000 by outsourcing back office support services such as legal services

• £300,000 savings from the agency staff budget

•£150,000 from reducing senior staff salaries (where over £50,000 pa) by 10%

• £80,000 from reducing funding for Trade Union Officials whose time is paid by the Council and not trade union members.

• £25,000 from Removing Deputy Cabinet members’ allowances and Councillors’ Special Responsibility Allowances by 10%.

• £10,000 Savings in electronic working and courier services and withdrawing free meals for some Councillors

Let us have your comments …

 

Funding for Community Groups

Please find below details of available funding streams that were recently announced by the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner for Greater Manchester.

Do you work with any groups who may benefit from these funds? 

Bury Third Sector Development agency have organised a briefing event for the funds.  The Commissioner’s staff have kindly agreed to attend to present the fund and answer any questions you or groups you work with may have.

This will be held on:

Thursday 18th February 10.00am – 11.00am/11.30am. Peel Room, Elizabethan Suite, Bury Town Hall. If you are attending then please let B3SDA know asap: info@b3sda.org.uk

Summary of Funds

There are three funding pots available:

  • Commissioner’s Neighbourhood Fund (£200,000): Grants up to £1000 are available for projects aimed at reducing demand on policing services, building safer neighbourhoods, increasing neighbourliness and encouraging communities to help themselves and others.
  • Active Citizen’s Fund (£200,000): Grants up to £5,000 for projects that encourage citizens to become involved in local community projects and organisations and supports volunteers.
  • Youth Aspiration Fund (£500,000): Youth groups and organisations can apply for grants of up to £30,000 for projects aimed at empowering young people and developing their life skills.

More information about the three funding pots, including allocation criteria, and all the guidance needed about how to apply is at: www.gmpcc.org.uk/funding.

The deadline for applications is 11am on Monday 29th February.

Please pass this information on through your networks to any groups or organisations you think would be interested

Revamp for Children’s Playgrounds

Bury council have announced the investment of £500,000 into the children’s play areas across the Borough.

The play areas concerned in Ramsbottom include Nuttall Park, Bolton Road West, Peel Brow and Whalley Road.

This announcement follows a condition survey which revealed that many play areas were in need of repair or refurbishment due to wear and tear, and in some cases, vandalism.

Half of he money will come from the Council’s capital fund and half from the receipts from local planning schemes paid for by developers.

Bury’s Children’s Centres are changing…

Cllr Ian Bevan and Cllr Rob Hodkinson at Ramsbottom's soon to close Children's Centre.

Cllr Ian Bevan and Cllr Rob Hodkinson at Ramsbottom’s soon to close Children’s Centre.

As of 1st June, Bury Council will be delivering Children’s Centre services via a Hub and Spoke model.

A Hub will be the main building where many Children Centre services are delivered. The Spoke will also have some Children Centre services and activities operating, but these will not be running all the time.

From the 1st June, Bury Council will operate from the following buildings:

  • Bury North and West Children’s Centre Hub – this will be based at the current Woodbank with Elton Children’s Centre site.
  • Ramsbottom Children’s Centre buildings will close and services will cease to be delivered from this site.
  • Tottington Children’s Centre, based at Tottington Library, will no longer be a dedicated site but will be used for outreach services.

Bury Council will also be increasing their outreach work, and will be utilising community venues to provide a more flexible and community focused service. Services are also due to change with more services being focused on those families who are most at need. However, the Council will still be providing some universal services that are available to all families with children aged under five years old.

All Children’s Centre Hubs and Spokes will be required to deliver a core set of services, in addition to this the Council will also be analysing local intelligence and data to prescribe services which are identified as being needed within that community.

Look out for more information over the next few weeks.

Update on Children’s Centre Closure

Cllr Ian Bevan and Cllr Rob Hodkinson at Ramsbottom's Children's Centre.

Cllr Ian Bevan and Cllr Rob Hodkinson at Ramsbottom’s Children’s Centre.

At last week’s Council meeting, a petition was presented by nearly 3,000 residents asking for a review of the Council’s decision to close some of the local Sure Start Children’s Centres.

Unfortunately, Councillors were forbidden from speaking and no debate took place due to a change in the Council rules.   I found this unacceptable and undemocratic of our Labour-controlled Council.

The petition was put to a vote but the Labour Councillors present, including Ramsbottom’s Labour Councillor – Luise Fitzwalter – voted to ignore the petition and continue with the plan to close Ramsbottom’s Children’s Centre.

Cllr Rob Hodkinson and I voted to review the decision but we were voted down.  As you will recall, both Cllr Hodkinson and I undertook a survey of 2,500 homes and overwhelmingly, parents were opposed to closure. Parents tell us that they need a Centre which offers them support, comfort, a place to meet other parents, access to services and facilities.

I recall that Ramsbottom’s Children Centre was a floating service having been incepted by the then Conservative-controlled Council in the summer of 2008.   The co-ordinator was based at Ramsbottom Library, as Bury Council could not find it a suitable home.

My predecessor, Cllr Diana Ashworth, a Conservative Councillor for Ramsbottom and who was Bury Council’s Children’s Cabinet Member at the time had a long-standing commitment to building a dedicated children’s centre in Ramsbottom.

She brought forward proposals to transform the old Ramsbottom Heritage Centre on Carr Street, into a permanent Children’s Centre.  That building was in a poor state of repair, so it was demolished and a new one was erected in its place.

Unfortunately, Diana retired from the Council in May 2010.  In her place, I was honoured to have opened the new building in 2011 after my election to the Council in 2010.  I was rightly proud that a Conservative Council had established a Children’s Centre right here in Ramsbottom.

The Children’s Centre went from strength to strength.  It was a tribute to the hardworking staff involved that it was classified as Good with some outstanding features by Ofsted who confirmed that the “care, guidance and support offered to families are outstanding”.

The centre has been serving children from birth to five years and their families since then (there are over 800 families in Ramsbottom with children under five).  It offers family support and early learning services.

The centre has a range of activities that offer an opportunity for babies and children to be active. These include ‘Wellies and Worms’ [which my son thoroughly enjoyed], walks for families in the local park, ‘Tiddlers’ swimming and ‘Baby Moves’, an active session for babies.  Provision of ante- and postnatal support, a drop-in breastfeeding clinic, and support for women suffering from postnatal depression became invaluable to local parents.  The activities include a Saturday morning dads’ group.

There have been strong links with health partners, the local registrar, housing and other statutory agencies.

I am right disappointed that our Labour-controlled Council is withdrawing from the Children’s Centre.   We will see outreach workers appointed to concentrate on those families that are “most in need”.  Some of the services will remain and discussions are in place with Ramsbottom Library.

We are working with our local churches and voluntary bodies to see if alternative provision can be arranged for many of the other services, as many already offer support to parents with several toddlers groups already in existence.

Bury Council announce 2015 Budget consultation

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Bury Council have launched a public consultation on plans to save £15.8 million from next year’s (2015/16) budget.

The annual budget that the Council have control of (excluding education and schools) is around £138.5 million.

Bury Council have already:

  • Streamlined the number of Council Departments from 4 to 3 with a resulting 30% reduction in managements posts;
  • Reduced the number of employees – 400 employees have left the Council since 2011, although 3,400 FTE staff remain (excluding teaching staff);
  • Internal Efficiencies have generated over £10 million in savings;
  • Self management of facilities have been promoted, such as allotments, bowling greens, parks, football pitches etc;
  • Increased the amount of on-line and web based services.

Nearly £10 million a year has been saved since 2011/12 but there is still much more to do.

Several proposals have already been announced, including reducing bin collections to once every three weeks; closing of children’s centres etc.

Further details have now been published and are contained in a 2015/16 budget consultation document.  Unfortunately, the document is fairly vague as to where savings can be made but it sets out the reasons why the council needs to make savings and which general areas of spending are under review.  My colleagues and I will be pressing the Council Leader for more detail on the proposals.

Bearing in mind that this is your money that is being spent – as a taxpayer and council tax payer – the council is keen to hear the views of as many people.

To read the proposals, and make comments, go to:

http://www.bury.gov.uk/index.aspx?articleid=10052

The deadline for comments is 9 January 2015.  The Council’s 2015/16 budget will then be set at a special meeting of the Council on 25 February 2015.

If you do have any specific comments or suggestions regarding Ramsbottom, then please feel free to contact me:

Thank You.

Plan to close Ramsbottom Children’s Centre?

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Back in 2010, I was honoured to officially open Ramsbottom’s Children’s Centre on Carr Street – opposite Rammy Library.

We have used the facilities as a family – my youngest son particularly liked ‘Wellies and Worms’ sessions.

Over 900 families in Ramsbottom also have children under 5 years of age, who like me use the Children’s Centre.

I was therefore shocked to learn that our Labour-run Bury Council has unveiled plans to axe 11 full-time staff from the children’s centres and convert 7 centres, including Ramsbottom, into nurseries.  Schools and other organisations will be asked to bid to run them.

The proposal is to be considered by the all-Labour Cabinet meeting at the town hall at 6pm on Wednesday 3rd September.

Meanwhile, the council is proposing to establish children’s centre hubs, designed to cover each area of the borough where the most deprived youngsters live, although Ramsbottom will not be included.

If the cabinet approves the proposals, a 12-week consultation will begin with staff, unions and service users and a final decision would expect to be made in December.

You can see the full proposal here:

Click to access Report.pdf

Please let me know your views by completing the boxes below.

 

 

 

I have been so proud to have represented Ramsbottom

Councillors Ian Bevan and Robert Hodkinson at Ramsbottom Chocolate Festival

Councillors Ian Bevan and Robert Hodkinson at Ramsbottom Chocolate Festival

It seems a long time ago that I was first elected to represent Ramsbottom on Bury Council. In fact, it was just 4 years ago – in May 2010.

An awful lot has happened since then – both in Ramsbottom and on Bury Council.

My first “maiden speech” in the Council Chamber was on the issue of Fairfield Hospital and its re-organisation and my first ‘event’ was ‘cutting the ribbon’ at the opening of Ramsbottom’s new Children’s Centre opposite the Library.

I have introduced proposals – adopted by the Council – to improve transparency and accountability – by publishing online council spending to encourage financial responsibility, improve accountability, and be of substantial benefit to Bury and Ramsbottom residents.

I have consistently asked questions about our town in the Chamber, helped fight off the planned fourth supermarket in the town centre, and most high-profile of all, fighting the proposed Anaerobic Digestion Plant in Ramsbottom, with residents and RAWS.

I have worked with local residents groups, Ramsbottom Business Group, and volunteer groups who strive to enhance our town.

I have pushed my proposal to recruit “Neighbourhood Champions” – these would be volunteers who can report instances of such problems as potholes, graffiti and fly-tipping in their own streets to the Council. I know that Councillors spend a lot of time reporting these things, but councillors don’t visit every street in their wards every day of the week.  Encouraging volunteers to help the Council seems to me eminently sensible. Neighbourhood Watch schemes have shown that people respond to encouragement to keep a look out. My only criticism is that the Council’s own staff or those of their contractors – such as road sweepers, Parks staff, etc – should already be reporting these matters rather than leaving it to councillors or residents.

I have helped literally hundreds of people with local casework – housing issues, planning, neighbour disputes, parking etc.

In my spare time, apart from my full time job and my young family, I have spent as much time as possible undertaking residents’ surveys and knocking on the doors of people in Ramsbottom so that I can take your views back to the Council, our MP and the Government.

I have had tens of thousands of “hits” on my blog, and thank everyone that has taken the time to read it.   Many of you follow me on Twitter and Facebook.

I have tried to listen, to talk and to engage with as many Ramsbottom residents as possible. That is the real reason why I have thoroughly enjoyed being the local Councillor for Ramsbottom.   I have been immensely proud to have done so.

I was asked yesterday by a resident of Shuttleworth if I’d ever fancy being the Ramsbottom MP. I currently spend a quite ridiculous amount of my spare time supporting my town as a Councillor and I am so proud to have done so over the last 4 years.

Turning to the local elections on Thursday, voters have never had so much choice in Ramsbottom – 5 candidates to choose from. Whatever your viewpoint – left, right, liberal, green, and all shades in between – there’s a Candidate that shares your outlook. Whilst I am the only candidate that actually lives in the ward, I know that if elected, they would all endeavor to do their utmost for Ramsbottom.

I always encourage people to spend those few minutes putting their “X” in the box on their ballot paper – whoever they choose to vote for.

Finally, I would like to thank my volunteers for their invaluable help over the last 4 years – for their pounding the street, delivering newsletters, and obviously for their kind donations to my campaign.

I would dearly love to continue representing my town, and hope that you will consider me, and the work I have done for our town and its residents, when you come to cast your vote on Thursday.

Thank You.

Ian