twentytwentyfour diary

Wake up, forget JCBs and defend Trafford’s services!

I’ve already written one piece on Trafford’s finances, so I want to report on some other things that have been going on, but for a councillor, the February budget-setting meeting is probably the most important on the calendar. It didn’t feel like that last week and the headline references the lack of focus coming from the other parties

I also want to mention some of the more interesting things that have been happening locally. The story that everyone’s had an opinion on is the Stretford sun loungers, but I also want to celebrate Lostock Park’s outdoor gym because I’ve been using it.

Davyhulme Active Neighbourhood


The Davyhulme Park scheme was part of the Urmston Active Neighbourhood, a project that aims to develop a safe and attractive walking and cycling network for the Urmston area. The wider project is community-led and is being developed by One Trafford Partnership. The project aims to encourage people to make walking and cycling a natural choice for shorter journeys, which will improve their health and the air quality in the area.

The Davyhulme scheme would have seen heavy planters like those above installed on several roads in the area to prevent through traffic between Lostock Circle and Urmston Town Centre. The problem was that the road closures imposed more problems on the people living in the area than on through traffic. The community fed back on the plans to this effect and the Davyhulme Scheme is now cancelled and won’t be revived.

Lostock Park

The park already boasts the best skateboard facility in Trafford, but they’re by no means finished.

Lostock Park’s newly installed outdoor gym is breathtaking. Without doubt it is the best outdoor gym in the north of Trafford and probably for many miles around. The winter rain has made it a little squelchy in one patch but hopefully, once the grass re-establishes itself that will sort itself.

It’s been ideal for me. After having my heart attack at the end of September, I’m trying to boost my fitness. I’m doing cardiac rehab at the George Carnall centre on a Thursday which is great, but I need a daily exercise. I have never been to an indoor gym and to be honest, it doesn’t appeal, but I do like these outdoor machines. The instructions are on the machines and I think I’m using them effectively. Today was my third consecutive day there and I believe they call it a burn, but I’m definitely feeling it.

The Friends of Lostock Park have once again excelled at getting investment in without fuss and making a real difference. Given so much they have delivered is health and fitness orientated, they’re really making a difference.

Trafford’s Budget

Budget Council took place last week (21st February). This key date on the council calendar always generates much excitement. Over the years the chamber has seemed to fizz, spark and crackle with fierce rival parties throwing verbal grenades about the opening hours of a library or some other highly contentious policy choice from the ruling group of the day.

This year turned out rather dull despite the extreme gravity of the council’s current financial position. The three opposition parties each proposed amendments to the budget proposals.

  • The Conservatives proposed using latest JCB equipment on potholes
  • The Lib Dems proposed free car parking in Timperley.
  • The Green Party proposed using number plate recognition technology to identify parents taking their children to school in a car.

I can see a degree of merit in all the opposition proposals. We do need more innovation from Amey, car park charges shouldn’t undermine trade in Timperley – (we can keep an eye on it). Finally, we do need to encourage walking to school but I worry about the surveillance culture.

However, the real problem with these budget amendments is that they don’t address the precipitous financial predicament we’re in. We’re using £5.6m of reserves to plug the gap in this coming financial year. The rise in council tax brings in £3.6m plus £2.4m for the social care element. That £5.6m from reserves is going to leave a hole we’ll have to fill next year before we even think of trying to keep up with rising costs. Even increasing council tax next year will just about cover the £5.6m. But at the same time, we have a Designated School Grant (DSG) time-bomb that’s currently cushioned by a ‘statutory override’ – essentially an instruction from the government not to make it active in the accounts until March 2026 when it won’t be this government’s problem.

The budget report section on the statutory override says at 1.5.12

“However, the statutory override is only in place to 31 March 2026. At this point, if there is no further extension, Trafford’s accumulated DSG deficit has potential to be greater than the Council’s total reserves in which case it would be technically insolvent and mean a S114 would be required.”

Paragraph 1.5.12 in Trafford’s budget report

I used a picture of Mr Micawber to illustrate a blog piece on the council finances. I honestly don’t know if something will indeed turn up. Our saving grace is that we’re not alone, but it felt like if we all pretended that everything will turn out right, then it probably would.

Trafford’s Mission to achieve financial happiness, or at least balance its budget

Circle Court

The block is closing. It’s a mammoth task to find appropriate new homes for over 100 tenancies. A lot of progress has been made and we’ve worked with L&Q along this path. Hopefully, we’ll have it all done ahead of time. I think they’ve made some real progress. We’ve been very impressed with the work that Kerry and the other officers have put into this and many residents are already fixed up.

Circle Court

Stretford Sun Loungers

The work to transform what used to be Stretford Arndale/Mall continues as does the reshaping of Kingsway.

It’s fair to say the new stylised seating has been a talking point. The Daily Mail has taken a pop at us for installing “Benidorm-style sun loungers. It was a bit of a shock to see them. Despite representing a part of Stretford that is key that is key to its vibrancy, infuriatingly Lostock and Barton councillors don’t get consulted on our town centre. Nevertheless, I like them and I want more.

Seating is a vital part of bringing our streets back to life. Places to sit and talk are a vital part of a liveable town. It doesn’t rain all the time. A few years back TfGM were removing seats from bus shelters. Seats were seen as a problem. Seats are never the problem, it’s the lack of facilities for young people that is the problem. Seats that allow conversations are always a good thing.

I don’t know whether the transformation of the mall will work. Even if the Mall regeneration eventually fails I’d still be supportive of the provision of seating. I know my friends at my physio class were laughing at those sun beds. The interesting thing about that conversation was they were all sat down laughing at it. Conversations are better sat down and I’ve seen more smiles on Kingsway this week than I have done in a long time.

General Casework Roundup

photograph of hand with pen

I’ve had a variety of casework recently.

  • Dog Poo in path between Ely Ave and Barton Road. This is a particular blight on a daily schedule. It’s clearly a big dog and no attempt to clear the mess is taking place. (ongoing)
  • Rehousing issue (currently dormant whilst other solutions explored)
  • Hedging Issue (ongoing)
  • A number of drainage issues in roads (ongoing)

They will be missed

We have lost two veteran champions for the area. Ann Day and Tony Lloyd will be hugely missed.

Ann, John in the background and myself at Lostock Library

Ann was chair of Lostock High School, chair of Trafford health watch and championed local communities throughout her life. She was generous and always working. A huge loss to this area and her lovely family.

I will miss Ann terribly.

Tony Lloyd was our MP when I first joined the Labour Party. He was a Labour man in the true sense of the word. The tributes from all corners of political life say everything that needs to be said about him.


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