Tuesday, 31 July 2012

Friday, 27 July 2012

Chorlton Green Farmers' Market and Craft Fair, 28 July, 11am-5pm

Let's get Chorlton Library Listed!

If you have seen the front page of this week's South Manchester Reporter (pictured below) you will know that I am leading a campaign to get Chorlton Library Listed. This week I submitted an application for Listed Building status to English Heritage. The City Council are planning to vacate the current building and build a new joint Library and Leisure Centre. As part of this plan the Council will give the current Library building away to property developers to help cover the costs. Whilst there is not currently any specific threat to the building its future is uncertain once it has been given away. Therefore it is important that our Library building is protected for future generations. 

The Library is without doubt my favourite building in Chorlton and I have really enjoyed researching its history. The Library was funded from a £5000 donation from Dr Andrew Carnegie, the Scottish-American steel magnate and philanthropist. It was opened just three months after the start of the First World War on 4 November 1914 by the Lord Mayor of Manchester, Alderman McCabe. It was the first time a sitting Lord Mayor of Manchester had officially visited Chorlton. The Building was designed by the first City Architect of Manchester, Henry Price, who also designed the Grade II listed Didsbury Library and many other Manchester landmarks like Victoria Baths. There is a fascinating story that the original plans for the building sent to Dr Carnegie were lost in the North Atlantic on-board The Titanic.

I have my fingers crossed that English Heritage will see the historical and architectural merits of the building and protect it well into the future. Please let me know if you have any additional information or documents that may support the bid.

Monday, 23 July 2012

Lib Dem minister talks jobs in Manchester visit

On Friday, Transport minister Norman Baker was at Manchester Piccadilly following the announcement of £322 million extra funding towards the Northern Hub rail project for Manchester which could create 30,000 jobs and a £4.2bn boost for the regional economy. Also announced was £1 million given to Manchester Victoria under the Coalition government’s ‘Access for All’ scheme which aims to improve access to public transport. The money will go towards a new lift to the footbridge, ensuring level access across the station, new handrails and landings on the existing footbridge.

In previous blogs I’ve written about other investments in the area announced by Norman Baker, it’s clear that Liberal Democrats are in government fighting for Manchester and fighting for jobs.

Norman also joined the Liberal Democrat candidate for Manchester Central, Marc Ramsbottom, to discuss what the new Northern Hub investment means for Manchester.

Friday, 20 July 2012

Weekly list of Chorlton planning applications we 13 Jul 12

Below are recently submitted Planning Applications in the Chorlton area. You can find out more information about any of the proposals on the City Council's Planning Portal at http://tinyurl.com/yv6lex or by contacting the South Area Planning Group Manager - Roger Hall; Tel: (0161) 234 4536; email: r.hall@manchester.gov.uk . You can also make a Planning representation (in support or opposition) to Mr Hall or the designated planning officer for each application. Please feel free to contact me on (07947383740; cllr.v.chamberlain@manchester.gov.uk) if you wish to discuss any application and please also send me a copy of any representation you make.

099719/FU/2012/S1 562 Wilbraham Road Chorlton Manchester M21 9LB (The Hellenic Centre, pictured)
Change of use from community centre with self-contained apartment above (Class D1) to a single dwelling house (Class C3)

099905/FH/2012/S1 3 Marmion Drive Chorlton Manchester M21 9JD
Erection of two storey side and single storey rear extension to form additional living accommodation following demolition of existing outrigger

099920/FH/2012/S1 6 Sibson Road Chorlton Manchester M21 9RH
Erection of new front porch following demolition of existing porch

099879/FH/2012/S1 148 Brantingham Road Chorlton Cum Hardy Manchester M21 0TS
Erection of single storey side and rear extension to provide additional living accommodation

Wednesday, 18 July 2012

How Green are Manchester Labour?

Marc Ramsbottom selected as Liberal Democrat Prospective Parliamentary candidate for Manchester Central

Manchester Liberal Democrats are pleased to announce that Marc Ramsbottom has been chosen as the prospective parliamentary candidate for the upcoming Parliamentary by-election for Manchester Central constituency.

Marc is very well qualified to be Manchester’s next MP he is a local resident and former councillor for Manchester city centre for 12 years. 
He has stood in the constituency in the last two elections, halving Tony Lloyd’s percentage majority.

Marc says “I’m delighted to have been chosen to fight for the constituency for the third time.   I want to use this election as an opportunity to air all the good things that the Lib Dems in government are doing, some things that normally get ignored.  We’ve received the biggest ever funding settlement for our Schools, tax cuts for lowest and middle earners, the Pupil Premium and the Northern Hub are just some examples.  
In Manchester Central the only party who can beat Labour are the Liberal Democrats, the Tories haven’t elected a Councillor in Manchester in over 20 years and have never represented Manchester Central.”

Leader of Manchester Lib Dems, Cllr Simon Wheale said, “Marc was a fantastic Councillor and is very well regarded amongst residents and businesses in the City Centre.  He is the best person to take on Labour in what will be a two-horse race in Central.  We’ve got a lot to shout about in Manchester and just this week the Northern Hub was announced which could create 30,000 jobs and a £4.2bn boost for the regional economy.”

Following the announcement of the £322 million extra funding towards the Northern Hub rail project for Manchester, Lib Dem Transport Minister Norman Baker will be visiting the constituency on Friday to officially launch Marc’s campaign.

Transport Select Committee Road Safety Report is not good enough

A Transport Select Committee report on Road Safety “should have gone further” to quantify the effects of changing the speed limit to 80mph says South Manchester MP John Leech.

Mr Leech had proposed an amendment to the report to ask the Department for Transport to set out “the financial implications of the proposals and a calculation of the expected increase in deaths and serious injuries as a result of the increased speed limit."

John has repeatedly argued that the speed limit should not be raised without evidence that this would not compromise road safety and lead to an increase in fatalities.

John Leech says: “Until I see evidence to the contrary, I will continue to believe that raising the speed limit would cost money, increase death on the road and harm the environment. The Department for Transport need to do a full assessment on the impact that raising the speed will have on road deaths and accidents along with a full report on the financial implications. The report needed to be stronger and more critical on the Government’s failure to carry out these much needed assessments.”
The Road Safety Report published on 18/07/12 can be found here http://www.parliament.uk/business/committees/committees-a-z/commons-select/transport-committee/
John's amendment to the report were as follows.

Page 33, para 48, line 23.
After limit add “It is of concern that there has been no calculation by the Government as to the costs associated with stricter enforcement of an 80mph limit and creating more variable speed limits on sections of the motorway network deemed inappropriate to see an increase to 80mph
Page 34, para 49. At the end add
“ , with the Department setting out the financial implications of the proposals and a calculation of the expected increase in deaths and serious injuries as a result of the increased speed limit.”
The amendments were voted down.

Weekly list of Chorlton planning applications we 6 Jul 12

Below are recently submitted Planning Applications in the Chorlton area. You can find out more information about any of the proposals on the City Council's Planning Portal at http://tinyurl.com/yv6lex or by contacting the South Area Planning Group Manager - Roger Hall; Tel: (0161) 234 4536; email: r.hall@manchester.gov.uk . You can also make a Planning representation (in support or opposition) to Mr Hall or the designated planning officer for each application. Please feel free to contact me on (07947383740; cllr.v.chamberlain@manchester.gov.uk) if you wish to discuss any application and please also send me a copy of any representation you make.

099546/FO/2012/S1 49 Longford Road Chorlton Cum Hardy Manchester M21 9WP (pictured above)
Erection of 2no. semi detached, two storey dwelling houses with accommodation in roof space and associated landscaping and boundary treatment

Plans for the new properties:

099857/TCA/2012/S1 21 Meadow Bank Chorlton Manchester M21 8EF
Works to trees

099568/FH/2012/S1 68 Egerton Road South Manchester M21 0ZH
Erection of two storey rear and single side extension together with single storey detached garage and store to rear

099646/FH/2012/S1 202 Brantingham Road Manchester M21 0TD
Erection of part single, part two storey side extension to form additional living accommodation

Tuesday, 17 July 2012

Chorlton Bus Station Toilets

I recently contacted the Council to ask about the future of the recently closed Public Toilets at Chorlton Bus Station. A number of residents have contacted me because they are concerned about the lack of Public Toilets in Chorlton and because they were concerned the building would get vandalised. Last year Manchester City Council closed all but one public toilet in the City. This is the response I have recieved:

"I refer to your enquiry regarding the public conveniences at the bus lay-by at Chorlton.

The decision to close 13 sets of public toilets was set out in a committee report to Executive dated 16th February 2011, Communities and Neighbourhoods Overview and Scrutiny Committee 17th February 2011 and Resources and Governance Overview and Scrutiny Committee 28th February 2011. The report detailed the budget proposals for the Neighbourhood Services Directorate. The decision to close the facilities was supported by an Environmental Impact Assessment undertaken by Neighbourhood Services.

The budget savings arising from the closure of the public toilets across the City formed part of the new budget allocation for the Neighbourhood Services Directorate and arose in response for all services across the council to make savings.

There are no future plans to re-open any of the closed facilities with neither the Council or TfGM able to operate the facilities.

Alternative use for some of the facilities is currently under review but size, location and restrictions on parking in most of the locations mean that on the whole these buildings are not commercially viable."

Let me know if you have any suggestions for how the building could be put to (better) use.

John Leech MP slams plans to put a Subway in Manchester School

Reacting to a report in the Manchester Evening News today, South Manchester Liberal Democrat MP John Leech has criticised plans to place a Subway in Parrs Wood School.

John said today,

“My instinct is to oppose these plans, and urge the school, and Subway, to think again. Schools should be offering a balanced range of dinners to pupils, not just sandwiches.”

Local Lib Dem Councillor Andy Taylor added,

“I work in public health. I see the effects of fast food on child obesity every day. Schools have an obligation to reduce obesity levels, not add to them.”

Guest Blog by 20's Plenty for Us

With Rod King (r), Founder of 20s Plenty for Us, and Norman Baker MP (c),
Lib Dem Transport Minister. In February, I put forward a successful
Council Motion to introduce 20mph limits on all of Manchester's
residential roads. 
20’s Plenty for Us welcomes the proposal for new speed limit guidance regarding 20mph limits. Now over 8m people live in local authorities who have already committed to 20mph limits as the default for all residential roads and it is important that the DfT is aligning itself better with what is developing good practice within such progressive local authorities.

The DfT’s own surveys say 73% of people support 20mph speed limits in residential streets.[1] Already councils in Portsmouth, Brighton & Hove, Islington, Warrington, Liverpool, Wirral, Wigan, Lancashire, Oxford, York, Cambridge, Waltham Forrest, Newcastle, Hackney, Bristol, Bishopbriggs, Middlesbrough, Bath & NE Somerset, Camden, Darlington and others have committed to roll 20mph limits out to all residential roads.

Councillor and local government action to agree and implement 20mph residential road speeds has been in direct response to tangible citizen support – eg petitions and letters. Local politicians have been listening to constituents wanting “20 is Plenty where people live”. Increasingly local councillors have voted the “national” speed limit of 30mph for built-up roads as excessive for up to 94% of their urban roads. Consultation on revised DfT guidance to bring it into line with current practice at local authority level is therefore long overdue. The guidance also incorporates the changes on 20mph limits made in the 2011 signage review which made it cheaper and more flexible for traffic authorities to implement and mix 20mph limits and zones.

The new guidance in principle recognises the strong community benefits for both safer streets and also for developing active travel, community health and more sustainable transport. However, 20’s Plenty for Us believe it misses an opportunity to provide clarity and firm direction on slower speed limits.

Rod King, Founder of 20’s Plenty for Us commented:-

For the last 5 years, progressive local authorities have been implementing authority-wide 20mph speed limits for residential roads in order to make those communities “better places to be”. This is in tune with community aspirations for not only safer streets but more liveable streets. Health professionals have long called for restraint on the speed of vehicles in public spaces to decrease casualties and create healthier communities.

Whilst this proposal better aligns government guidance with local needs, it must recognise that on our crowded urban roads then a 30mph limit is only appropriate in certain conditions. Such a speed limit may have been right in 1934 but only on a minority of urban roads will it now provide the safety, convenience and benefits which communities demand.

With 145 local 20’s Plenty campaigns around the country and our contact with many councils already implementing such schemes, we will be looking to improve the proposals to better reflect the need for clear guidance from central government on a matter which is so important to the liveability of our towns, cities and villages.”

20’s Plenty For Us campaigns for a 20mph default speed limit in residential streets without physical calming. http://www.20splentyforus.org.uk/. You can find out more information about 20's Plenty for Manchester at www.manchester.20splentyforus.org.uk email: manchester@20splentyforus.org.uk.

Monday, 16 July 2012

Manchester Lib Dems welcome huge investment for Northern Hub

Manchester Liberal Democrats have welcomed the funding of the Northern Hub in full as part of the huge £9bn investment in the rail industry in the UK announced today.

It will see 700 more trains a day running between towns and cities across the North, with space for 44m more people to travel by rail each year.  Manchester Victoria could get a £27m revamp and Manchester Piccadilly two new platforms with the capacity for faster trains to overtake slower ones.

Chorlton Lib Dem MP, John Leech, said: “This is about increasing capacity and making sure we have a rail network in the North West fit for 21st century, it’s a huge boost jobs and growth. “

“I am very pleased with this announcement today; I have lobbied ministers hard on the need for improved rail services in the North since I was elected in 2005 and raised it on the floor of the house in February.

“The announcement will mean more than £4bn of economic growth and up to 30,000 jobs created and is vital in bridging the North/South divide.“

“Previous governments have underinvested in rail.  We are determined not to repeat the mistakes of the past and see a modern and efficient rail system - for both passenger and freight – as crucial to improving competitiveness.”     

 The Liberal Democrats in government are overseeing the biggest expansion in railways since the Victorian age, including over £18bn of investment including Crossrail and HS2 over 3 years. The Coalition has already approved £85m to create a rail link between Victoria and Piccadilly stations and a plan to electrify lines from Manchester to Lancashire and Yorkshire.

Thursday, 12 July 2012

Chorlton Business Club

A new, free resource for business people will be launched at Chorlton Library on Tuesday 24 July (5:45 – 7:30pm).

The Business Information Point will provide a wealth of information via access to online materials and specialist business databases.

The resources on offer are sure to help budding entrepreneurs and those who are looking to grow an existing business, while also offering information for jobseekers, consumers, students and inventors.

Resources available at the Business Information Point will include COBRA, the Complete Business Reference Advisor, which contains hundreds of small business ideas, plus practical how-to guides, checklists and factsheets.

Mint UK, a powerful business intelligence database, will also be open to users, who can also access help, advice and downloadable business plan templates through Ask About Business.

Meanwhile, jobseekers can use Ask About Jobseeking, an online toolkit including practical advice, case studies and tutorials.

The launch event will also give attendees the chance to sign up to the new Chorlton Enterprise Club.

The Enterprise Club will support both residents who are thinking of starting a business and existing businesses. There will be a regular programme of workshops and speakers, as well as the chance to access expert advice and networking opportunities.

To book your place at the free launch event, contact Oliver Larke - 0161 227 3700 / o.larke@manchester.gov.uk


Tuesday, 10 July 2012

Council should go Meat-Free to promote Sustainability

Manchester City Council should be championing more ‘Green’ and Sustainability initiatives say Manchester’s Liberal Democrats. The Lib Dems have put forward a Council motion calling on the Council to introduce a raft of radical Green policies such as going Meat-free one day a week, declaring opposition to controversial Fracking for gas, offsetting flights from Manchester Airport, and sourcing all Council electricity from Green providers.

I am propposing the motion at tommorow morning's Council meeting. Our motion is calling for the Council to acknowledge that it has a huge part to play in tackling Climate change and creating a sustainable green City. One way the Council can do this is to remove meat from the menu one day a week; evidence shows Vegetarian and Vegan diets have only a fraction of the carbon emissions of meat-based diets.

The Council will not have any authority to help residents become more ‘green’ if they are not promoting sustainability in everything they do. If our motion is agreed it will reaffirm establish commitments and introduce a number of policies that will reduce carbon emissions in Manchester, protect biodiversity, promote sustainable transport and make Manchester a better place to live.

Among the other policies being proposed are: a Bee Action Plan, reduced supermarket waste, continued opposition to Nuclear, improved recycling rates, introduction of 20mph limits in residential areas, and promotion of cycling including a cycle carriage on off-peak Metrolink trams and longer distance bus services.

The Liberal Democrat motion is available as item 17 at: http://www.manchester.gov.uk/egov_downloads/11_July_2012.pdf

Liberal Democrat MP for Manchester Withington, John Leech, has previously tabled a Parliamentary motion calling for Parliament to go "meat-free" on Mondays: http://www.parliament.uk/edm/2010-12/669

This article appeared in the Manchester Evening News on 11 July:

Don't let Council block off Library Walk

How Library Walk looked before
 the Council's £170m refurbishment
 Manchester City Council have submitted plans to block off Library Walk between Central Library and the Town Hall Extension. This is something that I am completely opposed to. I do not think it is right for the Council to be blocking off one of our City's most impressive roads. You can see my representation below.

You can view the Council plans at: http://pa.manchester.gov.uk/online-applications/applicationDetails.do?activeTab=summary&keyVal=M40NFJBC6K000. Please let me know if you need a hard copy. I understand that this application will not go to the Planning Committee until the late Summer/September so there is still time to submit a late representation (in support or opposition) to Ms Emily Greaves (e.greaves@manchester.gov.uk). Please feel free to contact me on (07947383740; cllr.v.chamberlain@manchester.gov.uk) if you wish to discuss the application and please also send me a copy of any representation you make. This is the representation I sent to the Planning Department: 

The Council's Vision

I wish to object to the above planning application. I have received numerous representations from constituents about this application and not a single one has been in support of blocking Library Walk off.

Library Walk is a nationally significant example of outstanding urban design. The unusual and unique shape of the space following the curve of the library slowly reveals views of the Cenotaph in one direction and the Friends Meeting House. This is not accidental as described in the supporting documents of the planning application. It is a considered piece of outstanding urban design by Vincent Harris. This well thought out urban design would be destroyed if the above planning application is approved.

One representation I received said:
"Closing the walk is vandalism. It will have a detrimental effect on the Library, the Town Hall Extension and the surrounding conservation area. The views will be lost and the proportions of the space will be changed. Both these Grade II* listed buildings by E.Vincent Harris are widely recognised as being important, with the Town Hall Extension being considered his finest work. Library Walk is not just a gap between the buildings but part of the architectural composition which contributes to the success of this renowned building. We should be learning from this nationally important example rather than destroying it."

The suggested Memorial Gates blocking Library Walk are not an appropriate way of commemorating the Peterloo Massacre. They are not in a prominent location and seem to have been tacked onto the Transformation work as an after thought. Gates closing off one of the best parts of the city to public use and extinguishing a public right of way is an uncomfortable metaphor for a memorial commemorating the massacre of people standing up peacefully for democracy.

Blocking off Library Walk will also create a pedestrian flow problems as it will force pedestrians to walk round a very large 'urban block'. This is currently demonstrated by the closure due to the building works. Permeability of the block is recognised as a critical element in successful urban design. This problem is not solved by allowing pedestrians to cross through the space during office hours.

The Plans are also part of the unacceptable privatisation of public space. There have been suggestions that blocking off Library Walk will improve safety. More accessibility not less makes the city a safer place for women, men and children.

The closure of Library Walk is unnecessary. The design of the refurbishment of the library and town hall extension includes be a strong connection between the two buildings at the lower level. A further connection at street level is not necessary to the success of the scheme but it is detrimental to the city.

I encourage the Planning Committee to reject this application.

Monday, 9 July 2012

Price of Patronage

Time to honour Manchester's Musical Heritage and Culture

This article appeared in today's Manchester Evening News. This is the motion I am proposing at Full Council on Wednesday morning:

Recognising Manchester’s Musical Contribution

This Council notes that:

The Government’s Plan For Growth, published alongside the Budget specifically identified the UK’s creative industries and tourism amongst sectors with the greatest potential to drive economic growth.

UK Music has challenged public bodies “to realise the potential of this considerable economic asset.”

More than 100,000 people in the UK derive their main source of income from the music industry.

Manchester has just seen nearly a quarter of million people enjoying the Stone Roses reunion homecoming concerts at Heaton Park.

Manchester has a varied, vibrant and independent music scene.

Manchester has a rich musical heritage which has contributed and continues to contribute to numerous musical movements.

The fantastic work done by Manchester Tourist Guides, writers such as Dave Haslam and John Robb and the Manchester Music Archive and many websites in setting off an explosion of interest in Manchester's
musical heritage.

Manchester musicians are ambassadors for our city and have raised the profile of the city around the world.

That it was thirty years ago that the Hacienda Club opened and The Smiths were formed.

Manchester could and should do more to celebrate its diverse musical culture and heritage.

This Council Resolves:

To permanently recognise the cultural and economic value of Manchester's pop and rock music heritage by looking at all options for setting up a Manchester Music Hall of Fame in the city.

To set up an Induction process for the Manchester Music Hall of Fame to consider inducting the Smiths this year - thirty years after they were formed.

To work with Marketing Manchester and Manchester Tourist Guides to promote the concept of a Manchester Music Hall of Fame.

To work with the Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce, MIDAS and the New Economy and the wider business community to link all of Manchester's music based businesses into the promotion of Manchester's music scene and its' musical heritage across the world.

To explore all opportunities to develop Manchester's brilliant Music Archive.
To work with all interested partners to develop a musical heritage plaque scheme and all other bright ideas such as renaming the Hulme footbridge with a Joy Division connection.

To ask the Chief Executive to report back as soon as possible with proposals that push forward the full recognition of Manchester's musical heritage and the importance of Manchester's music scene to our economic future.

Let me know what you think.

Lets get more Young People involved in Politics

This is the column I wrote for the Manchester Evening News which appeared on today's Viewpoints page:

Many friends think I was mad to get involved in politics at a young age, but in fact it was inevitable after the Iraq War. I felt strongly that the action being taken in my name was completely immoral, and I wanted to find a way to voice my opposition. In Manchester, effective opposition came only from the Liberal Democrats. When I joined the Lib Dems and started meeting politicians for the first time I saw the positive impact politics could have; particularly at a local level. I saw how politicians can change an area for the better, and how standing up for individuals to faceless organisations like the Council makes a real difference to people’s quality of life. My involvement also showed other areas that need fixing in our system and ways to improve my local area. This is what encouraged me to stand for the Council.

We all see that our political system is broken and tired. In Manchester’s recent local elections people showed exactly what they thought of politics... by staying at home! Just one in four Mancunians cast a vote in May - in some areas it was even worse. Young people are proportionally much more likely not to vote - maybe because they recognise that the current system is rotten! Young people and the population in general care about the same issues: people feel their opinions don't count and that politics is too dominated by parties and vested interests. But perhaps young people feel this more acutely.

When I was elected Manchester's youngest ever Councillor the vast majority of people were very supportive and saw it as a positive move. There were of course some people (not all in other parties) who thought the idea of a 20 year old Councillor was absurd. They forget that Councillors are elected to represent the whole population. A 20 year old councillor is just as capable of representing a 70 year old constituent as the reverse situation.

I have now done the job for two years, and I still believe as strongly in the positive impact politics can have. However I am often frustrated that the system we have is so tribal and hidden from the public. Last week, I tried to make it possible for the public to directly question Council bosses at Committee meetings. This idea went down like a lead balloon - established councillors dismissed it as a stunt. They thought that allowing a Public Question time was farcical and that they should only consider it when there were no opposition Councillors! Incidents like this make me see why so many people are turned off by politics.

There is so much mudslinging in politics that all politicians come out looking bad. Most people find it hard to tell the differences between the parties and for some nothing changes whoever is in power. With so many parents not voting is it any wonder why young people don’t feel motivated to go and vote. However it would be wrong to suggest young people don’t care about political issues as movements like Make Poverty History and Occupy have demonstrated.

In parts of Manchester you can get elected by the logo on the ballot slip without speaking to a single voter. That is plain wrong. We need some form of proportional representation at national as well as local level so that every vote counts. Politicians must be less remote and talk a common language. There is no excuse for a Politician not to have at least some form of Social Media presence.

If young people are given more information about politics they will question more and get involved in changing it. We need to put more value on Citizenship classes, and we also need to see voting as a key transition into adulthood. Should we consider sending out information on voter registration and how to vote to 15 year olds with their NI cards? Over half of 17 to 25 year olds were not even registered to vote in the last General Election.

We should also start to encourage Young People to get involved in Politics at an early age. Youth Councils and Youth MPs should be given a real voice and power to challenge. We should lower the voting age to 16. Because at sixteen you can work, pay tax, have sex, get married, and join the army, yet you can't have a say in the way the country is run. A lot of talented young people don’t see politics as an accessible career and this needs to change.

We also need to have a serious think about how we conduct our voting. How many people didn’t vote in May because they didn’t know there was an election on or because the polling station closed before they could get to it? For that matter why can we only vote in polling stations? When we can manage our finances securely by laptop or mobile, why shouldn’t we vote that way too?

I am Chair of the Communities Scrutiny Committee and in the Autumn we are going to look at why voter turnout was so low and how to involve more people in the democratic system. I would be really interested to hear your views on how we can boost voter turnout and improve our political system whatever your age or background. Please send me any suggestions to cllr.v.chamberlain@manchester.gov.uk or via Twitter @Chorlton_Victor or write to me via Manchester Town Hall, M60 2LA.

Saturday, 7 July 2012

Time Capsule at Central Library

 On Thursday I was delighted to be able to attend the a ceremony in Central Library (half way through refurbishment!) to announce the winners of the Time Capsule Competition for Manchester School Children. Children were asked to suggest an object that would give children in 2092 an idea of what it was like to be a child in 2012. There were eleven winners from schools across the City and they each got the opportunity to place their suggested item in the capsule and receive a cash prize for them and their school from the sponsors. The Time capsule will be buried under Library Walk for 80 years.

Well Done to Stanley from Chorlton CoE School who suggested putting a Manchester United and Manchester City shirt in the capsule because "it shows the love and passion for football in Manchester."

Below are some photos of other winning entries and the refurbishment work:

Public Question Time needed at Town Hall

This article appeared in today's Manchester Evening News.

In May I was appointed the Chair of the Council's Communities Scrutiny Committee. I was hoping that the Communities Scrutiny Committee could have a standing 'Public Question Time' item at the beginning of each meeting, inviting members of the Public to ask questions of the Executive Member and/or Strategic Lead Officer relating to their responsibilities. A number of other Councils' Scrutiny committees have a similar item (e.g. Liverpool).However I was told that this would not be possible as it is not constitutional in Manchester. Therefore I requested Council Bosses and other Scrutiny Chairs consider this issue and how we can open up the Scrutiny process more to the public.

Too much of the Council's work is done in front of empty public galleries because residents don't feel their input is valued or the decisions make any difference. I want Council Bosses to be directly answerable to any Manchester Resident that asks them a question. Allowing members of the public to have an input will make the whole Council more accountable and could help improve the Council's work. Scrutiny Committees would be able to pick up more issues that matter to Manchester's residents by actively involving them. The current system is deeply flawed because most people don't even know the option of asking Executive Councillors questions online exists, not all the questions are published, and you can only ask politicians for an answer. My proposal could be better publicised, it would be upto the Chairs to accept written questions submitted in advance, all Q&As would be in the minutes, it would allow people to directly question powerful Officers as well and it is likely that it would influence members of the Committees to ensure they put residents views first.

Sadly when this item was considered on Thursday morning it was rejected and rubbished by the Leader of the Council, Sir Richard Leese, and the Labour Committee Chairs. Various reasons were given e.g. people can use online Questions, that public question time at Council meetings used to be a farce and that this idea should be re-examined in a couple of years time when there will be no opposition Councillors. I was very disappointed that it was rejected without actually considering the merits and I will be continuing to push for it!

For reference you can ask Executive Councillors questions related to their remit at this address: https://secure.manchester.gov.uk/forms/form/28/ask_a_lead_councillor_a_question

The remit of the Communities Scrutiny Committee is Community Cohesion, Crime and Policing, Domestic Violence and Abuse, Equality and Inclusion, Information and Advice Services, Older People, Respect Agenda, Youth Offending / Disorder. Please get in touch if you have any questions or suggestions about areas the Committee should examine. 

Friday, 6 July 2012

License Application: Kansas Fried Chicken, 424 Wilbraham Road, Manchester, M21 0AS

A couple of weeks ago I posted an email I received which explained that the License for Kansas Fried Chicken lapsed over 3.5 years ago. I have now received notification that an application has been received by the City Council for a New Premises Licence for Kansas Fried Chicken, 424 Wilbraham Road, Manchester, M21 0AS.

A summary of the application is as follows:

Proposed trading hours for the provision of late night refreshment:
Sun to Weds 2300 to 0200, Thurs 2300 to 0300, Fri and Sat 2300 to 0400

Proposed opening hours for the premises:
Sun to Weds 0800 to 0200, Thurs 0800 to 0300, Fri and Sat 0800 to 0400

If you have any comments, you can make these directly to The Licensing Unit  (e-mail: premises.licensing@manchester.gov.uk) or write to: The Licensing Unit, Regulatory & Enforcement Services, Premises Team, PO Box 271, Manchester, M18 8YU by 30 July 2012. The Licensing Authority may only consider a representation relating to the effect of granting of a licence on the licensing objectives, which are: Prevention of crime and disorder; Public Safety; Prevention of public nuisance and the Protection of children from harm.

As a local Councillor I can make representations to support local residents; as can John Leech MP (leechj@parliament.uk; 434 3334). If you wish for us to do so, please let us know and send us a copy of any representation you may be making.

Chorlton planning applications for the week ending 29 Jun 12

Below are recently submitted Planning Applications in the Chorlton area. You can find out more information about any of the proposals on the City Council's Planning Portal at http://tinyurl.com/yv6lex or by contacting the South Area Planning Group Manager - Roger Hall; Tel: (0161) 234 4536; email: r.hall@manchester.gov.uk . You can also make a Planning representation (in support or opposition) to Mr Hall or the designated planning officer for each application. Please feel free to contact me on (07947383740; cllr.v.chamberlain@manchester.gov.uk) if you wish to discuss any application and please also send me a copy of any representation you make.

099699/JO/2012/S1 8 Albany Road Chorlton Manchester M21 1AZ (Site of the former Cosgrove Hall)
Variation of condition no.2 of planning permission ref: 094755/FO/2010/S1 to allow the creation of a roof terrace

099799/TCA/2012/S1 49 Whitelow Road Chorlton Manchester M21 9HG
Works to various trees

099713/FH/2012/S1 62 Egerton Road South Whalley Range Manchester M21 0ZH
Erection of single storey rear extension following demolition of existing extension and bay window

Thursday, 5 July 2012

Overnight work on the South Manchester Metrolink Line

Transport for Greater Manchester are going to be sending out the following letter to warn residents (living int eh affected area shaded on the above map) of planned overnight work taking place on the Chorlton Metrolink Line. Please get in touch with me if you have any concerns or require more information.

I am writing to advise you that we will shortly be carrying out some overnight works on the South Manchester Line.

The work will take place from Mauldeth Road West to the junction with the Altrincham Line at Trafford Bar for a 27 hour possession starting on Sunday 15th July 2012 starting at 12am.

The works will require the use of plant vehicles to gain access to the overhead line equipment. These vehicles will gain access to the Metrolink track via the new depot at Trafford.

In order to minimise impact to residents, when plant is not in use it will be switched off. We do not expect this work to cause excessive noise or disruption, however you may see workers and vehicles on the site during the hours of working given above.

This out-of-hours working has been agreed in advance with your local authority.

Managing construction work

All the work will be carried out in line with TfGM’s Code of Construction Practice (COCP). This includes measures to ensure that safety procedures are followed and to control activities which may affect local residents and businesses including noise, working hours and pollution.

Please note that construction sites can be dangerous places – sites are fenced in for the protection of the public. For your own safety, please do not try to access the site. There will be no need for anyone to enter your property or business without prior arrangement. If we do need access to your property we will request this in advance and our representatives will carry appropriate identification.

If you are in any doubt, do not allow access to your property and please call our helpline numbers (0161 244 1555 or 0845 604 2724) to confirm the identity of any person claiming to be a TfGM, Metrolink or MPact-Thales representative.

How to find out more

If you have any queries at all, please do not hesitate to contact either myself or a member of my team on 0161 244 1555 (office hours) or email future.metrolink@tfgm.com. If requested, we are also happy to arrange to visit you at home or at your place of work to discuss the project further.

To report any urgent issues or incidents relating to this work, please call 0845 604 2724. This number will be staffed 24 hours a day.

Yours faithfully

Neil Harrison

Stakeholder Communications Manager, Transport for Greater Manchester

Suspicious ATMs around Chorlton

Last Saturday evening I learnt that there was an iPod attached to the ATM outside the Unicorn on Manchester Road filming people's Pin codes. I immediately alerted the Police and this is the reply I have recieved about how they plan to tackle this problem in Chorlton:

"To date there has been a couple of reports relating to devices attached to ATM's on the Chorlton and Chorlton Park Wards. These reports are connected with the type of ATM's used by the Co-Op Bank, specifically the one situated at the junction of Barlowmoor Road and hardy Lane and Unicorn Groceries, Manchester Road.

The method being employed is one where the offender, or offenders, attach a card trap device to the card slot and a camera above the key pad. A number of devices have been recovered from the various scenes and these are to be forensically examined.

The staff at the stores where the ATM's are located conduct checks on the ATM's during the stores opening hours, however the period of risk is between the stores closing and it reopening again. I have requested Officers check these ATM's when able during the night and to provide a presence in the area.

I have requested the message be passed via Twitter for the community to be aware of the issue and to report anything suspicious.

Enquiries are ongoing to establish the identity of the offender(s)."

Please let me and the local Police know if you encounter any similar devises around Chorlton. You can follow Chorlton Police on Twitter at @GMPChorlton

Chorlton MP joins fight to stop Tesc-opoly

Yesterday I blogged about a 10 Minute Rule Bill being propposed by a Lib Dem MP to prevent the demolition or change of use of a pub or local independent shop without planning permission. Planning permission would also be needed before the premises or land could be used for a supermarket. If this bill is successful it would prevent future developments like Tesco's conversion of the former Feather's Pub without Planning Permission.

I am pleased to learn that Chorlton's Liberal Democrat MP John Leech is fully supportive of this Bill and will be a Sponsor of the Bill when it is heard next week. Chorlton Liberal Democrats have been and will continue to be champions of our local independent shops and businesses.

Give south Manchester a new Primary School says Chorlton MP

Chorlton MP John Leech has called on Manchester City Council to use government money to build South Manchester a much needed new Primary School.

John Leech said, “Every year I have been inundated with constituents who the council have let down and told them there is no primary school place for their child.  I have consistently called for the council to open a new School; the council should be using this share of the government money to solve the problem once and for all”.

The Government has allocated an additional £600m for pupil places this year to authorities that have a shortfall of primary places in 2013/14. Manchester has been given over £12.5 million to deal with their shortage of places.

Children’s Minister & Liberal Democrat MP Sarah Teather is in Manchester today at the conference for the Association of Directors of Children’s Services.

Sarah Teather said, “I have visited Manchester on many occasions and seen the problems first hand, it’s clear that the Labour council and previous Labour Government turned a blind eye."

“Children in Manchester deserve an excellent education, and with the Liberal Democrats in government this much needed funding is at last being provided.  Despite the difficult financial times this Government is committed to solving the crisis in school places in Manchester and has put its money where its mouth is."

Wednesday, 4 July 2012

MPs urged to fight Tesc-opoly

I have written to all of Manchester's MPs calling on them to support Liberal Democrat MP Julian Huppert’s Private Members Bill when it is presented to Parliament next week.
The Bill, if passed, would prevent the demolition or change of use of a pub or local independent shop without planning permission. Planning permission would also be needed before the premises or land could be used for a supermarket. If this bill is successful it would prevent future developments like Tesco's conversion of the former Feather's Pub without Planning Permission. 
I’ve asked our local MPs to support this bill as it highlights the threat to our local pubs and shops which we are fighting constantly to protect. It is crucial that we do everything in our power to safeguard them.
The full wording of Julian Huppert’s 10 Minute Rule Bill motion is below and will be presented to Parliament on Tuesday 10th July 2012:
Local Services (Planning)
That leave be given to bring in a Bill to enable local planning authorities to require the granting of planning permission prior to the demolition or change of use of premises or land used or formerly used as a public house or local independent shop; and to enable local planning authorities to require the granting of planning permission if premises or land will be used for a supermarket; and for connected purposes.
Please also write to your local MP asking them to support this Bill. If you live in Chorlton your MP is John Leech and you can contact him at john.leech.mp@parliament.uk . You can find out who your MP is at http://www.writetothem.com/ 

Independent Retail Day

Today is Independent Retail Day. List of Chorlton independent businesses taking part in the Tag Pass it On! scheme available here: http://www.tagpassiton.com/savings/chorlton.html

Time to fix our broken political system

It's time to fix our broken system. Join in at https://www.facebook.com/FixParliament

Tuesday, 3 July 2012

Security Review of Town Hall is needed

This article appeared in yesterday's Manchester Evening News:

It's shocking and deeply irresponsible that the security at the Town Hall has been compromised in this way; particularly as the Council pays for 24 hour security. In tough times the Council should not allow precious resources to be lost in this way. However more importantly most offices in the Town Hall contain highly confidential and sensitive information and it is very worrying that this information is not as secure as it needs to be. It's a breach of the Public's Trust. I've asked the Council to carry out a security assessment across the Town Hall to prevent any potential thieves; and to ensure sensitive information is not lost.

Sunday, 1 July 2012