Flooding meeting

Today is the first day of a short recess for Parliament as Parliament does not sit again until a week on Monday.

A big thank you to all those who attended the public meeting at Radcliffe last night. The meeting followed an afternoon drop in session where representatives from bodies such as the Council, the Environment Agency, Six Town Housing and United Utilities where all on hand to answer questions.

I am back in the office today catching up with casework and constituents queries.

Tomorrow, I am departing the UK to visit Salt Lake City in Utah USA where I have been invited to give a lecture to some of the students at the University. I will be endeavouring to keep my blog up to date but apologies in advance if for any reason this is not possible.

AD Plant Ramsbottom Planning Appeal

Last month I wrote to the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government Eric Pickles MP explaining the importance to Ramsbottom of the appeal against the decision by Bury Council’s Planning Committee to refuse the application to build an Anaerobic Digestion Plant at Fletcher Bank Shuttleworth. Today I have heard from the Minister for Local Government Kris Hopkins MP ( who has replied as being the matter falls within his Ministerial responsibilities)  that he has decided to ‘recover the appeal’.

The Public Inquiry which is presently taking place in Bury will still proceed.  The Inspector will still prepare a report and make a recommendation as to whether the appeal should be allowed. The matter will then be determined by the Secretary of State impartially and in light of all the facts.

Zero Hour Contracts

As part of his latest re-launch the Labour Party leader Ed Miliband has spoken out against zero hour contracts. My view is that, properly used, such contracts can play an important role in a dynamic economy. I don’t recall Mr Miliband condemning Labour run Bury Council who clearly thought these contracts were useful as the reply to a Freedom of Information Request revealed the Council employed 3,418 people on such contracts in 2013.
Although this is being billed as a ‘new’ announcement back on 25th April on the Politics Home website the Labour Leader wrote:
‘We’re going to end the exploitation of zero hour contracts and say very clearly, by law, if you’ve worked for 12 months doing regular hours you should be entitled to a clear right to a regular contract, not a zero hours contract.’

For many people such as students, the self-employed and older workers zero hours contracts provide the flexibility they need. They suit both employer and employee. The Government is legislating to prevent employers from incorporating ‘exclusivity’ clauses in these contracts as the effect of such clauses is to stop employees from having other employment. Zero hour contracts are not new and the Office for National Statistics estimate that even as far back as the year 2000 there were 225,000 such contracts and the Labour Government did not nothing to legislate about them then.

Refuse collection and iPads

I had never heard of an apparent proposal from Bury Council to buy an iPad for every refuse collection lorry until I was contacted by a local journalist in the middle of the Bank Holiday weekend. I have nothing against the use of new technology but it does seem rather incongruous that the efficienct collection of refuse should depend on the use of an iPad.

The first question that has to be asked is ‘What is the problem that needs to be solved?’

If the problem is the learning of new routes the most economical, simplest and most sensible idea would be to give drivers a map with the new route marked on.

If the problem is how to record which households have not put out their recycling surely a simple clipboard, a few sheets of paper and a pen/pencil would do the same job just as quickly and easily.

There would be no danger of the battery running out. Much less training required. Much less risk of expensive equipment being stolen. Much less chance of delicate equipment being damaged. Much less cost.

Of course this debates overlooks the more fundamental question of what value the information would be to the Council. There are any number of genuine reasons what a household may not be putting a particular recycling bin out for collection. For example: the householder may be away on holiday/ they may not actually be producing any waste because of their purchasing habits/ they may work away most of the week/ they may take their recycling to recycling centres themselves/ they may make use of their waste themselves – personal recycling…….. there would no doubt be many more perfectly genuine reasons.

Furthermore I am no technology expert but I know enough to know that there are many other tablet style computers that could do the job more cheaply.

Council Meeting

I attended a meeting of Bury Council last night. The two main debates were on the police and the issue of the pay for Council employees. It has generally been agreed nationally that because of the economic situation there would be no general increase in pay this year. Labour proposed that negotiations restart with the Unions. The motion was defeated.

Full Council on Bonfire Night

On Wednesday evening I attended the full meeting of Bury Council. After the recent “Full up” signs during the debates on pay and regrading the public gallery was back to a more usual number – 3.

The main debates were on extending Disability Living Allowance for Blind Persons which was moved by Councillor Yvonne Wright (Con. Tottington) and on the problems caused by the current economic recession. Both motions received support from all three parties.

It was perhaps appropriate as the Council was meeting on 5th November that the Report from Outside Bodies this time was from the Fire Authority and Councillor Jack Walton (Con. Church Ward) gave a full and comprehensive report.

Strike (in)action on way.

I attended a meeting of the Conservative Group on Bury Council last night and one of the main topics of debate was the threatened strke action by certain groups of local authority workers which is scheduled for the 16th and 17th July. This means that some of bins might well not be emptied and many other Council services will be seriosly disrupted. The dispute is over pay and we were informed that although the ballot on strike action was carried by a majority of 55% to 45% there was a turnout of only 27% so in reality around 15 union members out of every 100 actually voted for the strike.