The second time I rose to speak at tonight’s Council meeting, it was in support of a motion brought by the Leader of the Conservative Group, Cllr David Greenhalgh, regarding the highly controversial Greater Manchester Spatial Framework. This is a highly controversial subject, with large residents’ groups popping up to fight against it. Cllr Morris, Labour Group Leader and Leader of the Council, has a veto he can use to block the Spatial Framework but he has so far not used it.
My original speech was quite conciliatory and was a request for the Labour Group to work with the Conservatives and the minority parties on the Council to fight the Spatial Framework in Bolton’s best interests. I had to re-write it to a large extent today because of a Labour leaflet I was passed today. The leaflet attempts to blame the Conservatives for the housing problem in Bolton and tries to frame Labour as the protector of the people of Bolton; even though Cllr Morris could have vetoed the Spatial Framework and chose not to.
The full text of the speech as I presented it is below.
We all know the Spatial Framework has been one of the most controversial ideas this council has faced for some time – although I feel an argument could be made that it shares this distinction with another matter we’ve already discussed tonight. The feeling amongst the people of Bolton is that we are all being asked to shoulder a burden that other Councils are refusing to properly share.
Moreover, a number of Councillors have been using the Spatial Framework to attempt to score petty points against others; claiming they are the defenders of the public interest against the inaction of others – Bolton West’s MP, Chris Green, has born the brunt of that particular bit of nastiness, despite his long-running campaigns against the Spatial Framework.
Now we have this leaflet from Labour, delivered in Westhoughton, which tries to blame us for Labour’s decade of misrule. This leaflet claims the housing crisis was, and I quote, “caused by the Tories and Lib Dems”. This is utterly ridiculous! A quick glance at FullFact, the Independent fact-checking charity, finds that social housing building fell under the Labour government compared to its Conservative predecessor.
That’s 13 years of Labour failing to deliver the housing we need – and yet now Labour want to try to blame us for not magically reversing their lack of foresight during a five year Coalition? Pull the other one, it’s got bells on.
It’s not the Conservatives who are to blame for the housing problem Bolton faces. It’s not the Conservatives who are to blame for the farce of the Spatial Framework. As we all know, the Spatial Framework is under the control of AGMA, and AGMA is unfortunately under the control of the Labour-run Councils.
I therefore find it quite saddening that while Labour harps on about defending “the people’s” interests, it has so far done nothing to stop this blatant undermining of the people’s best interests. The Spatial Framework requires all Council Leaders to agree to it, does it not? Why then, since it is so definitely not in Bolton’s best interests, has Bolton Council’s Leader not yet vetoed it?
If this motion does not pass, and I sincerely hope that is does pass, will the Leader give us his assurance that he will use his veto and block this disgraceful assault on our borough? I’ve asked for it, my Ward colleagues have asked for it, Chris Green asked for it, the people asked for it.
Will the Leader back up his words in the Bolton News on the 1st of September and the bold statement in this Labour leaflet about “protecting our green spaces”? Will the Leader promise this Council he will veto spatial framework and protect Bolton?
Cllr Nick Peel, who always rises to attempt to belittle me whenever I speak in Council (his favourite turn of phrase is suggesting that I don’t do my research, which is of course ludicrous), then rose to echo Cllr Morris’ earlier claim that he did not understand what I was saying. I think all this shows is that Labour simply don’t listen when opposition Councillors are speaking; as the speech was perfectly straightforward.
Cllr Peel also claimed that the leaflet Labour put out didn’t make the statements I said it made; which is not true either. The headline refers to a “Tory greenbelt land grab”, so any claim that they are not trying to blame the problem on us is simply indefensible right from the start.
At tonight’s Council meeting, I rose to speak on two motions. The first was a motion brought by Leader of the Council, Cllr Cliff Morris, which discussed the Council’s provisions for assisting terminally ill members of staff. While I supported the motion, the Leader’s motion raised several questions that I believe require answering, so I rose to speak. The full text of my speech is below.
Madam Mayor, I read this motion with some concerns; just as I read the original basis of this motion with concern back in April, when it was called the TUC’s Dying To Work campaign. Now I’d like to reassure the opposing party that my concerns are purely technical here – the overall goal of the campaign the Leader is replicating in his motion is laudable – but it would be remiss if the issues raised by his motion were not addressed.
Firstly, the claim that “terminally ill employees are not currently protected under national disability legislation” is untrue. While Labour’s Equality Act 2010 stripped me of some of my hard-won rights as a transsexual person, it did not remove rights from disabled people; nor did it change the status of terminally ill people, who for the most part are classified as disabled from the moment they receive their diagnosis.
Under section 6(1) of the Equality Act, a person is classed as disabled if they have “a physical or mental impairment” and that “impairment has a substantial and long-term adverse effect on [their] ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities.” This is exactly the same as the definition in section 1 of the Disability Discrimination Act 1995; as the Leader should know since it was his party that introduced the Equality Act.
Now, as ACAS point out in their guidance, there are some exceptions to this rule that can take some people with terminal or life-threatening illnesses out of the protection of being classed as a disabled person. For progressive illnesses, the protection will not come in immediately upon diagnosis; it will instead begin when the condition begins to affect the person’s ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities.
For other conditions, such as HIV or Cancer, the person is classed as disabled the moment the diagnosis is received; because the progress of illnesses such as those is usually difficult, if not impossible, to predict.
So to say terminally ill employees are not protected under current legislation is untrue. They are protected. My Party protected them, and your Party continued their protection. Now let’s move on to the second point of concern. The Leader states that terminally ill people can “be dismissed if they are no longer able to conduct their role with reasonable adjustments”. My issue here is the implication of this statement.
Is the Leader suggesting that a staff member should be able to remain in a role that they can no longer undertake? That’s what this reads like. At a time when we are cutting staff numbers and cutting back on services many families find essential, this to me seems entirely unworkable.
Surely a better solution would be to find the affected person a role that they can still undertake, rather than keep them on in a position that is no longer suitable but, due to the cutbacks we have already made, must surely still need doing? The alternative seems, to me, to be asking us to pay someone to do a job they can’t do, and then to leave that job undone.
Now I agree that nobody should be forced out of work due to a terminal illness. Nevertheless, current disability protections call for “reasonable adjustments” for a very good reason – because those adjustments are reasonable based on the needs of both employee and employer.
The Leader appears to be asking us to go beyond that, into the realm of unreasonableness. He’s asking us “to make adjustments to ensure [terminally ill staff] are able to stay in work as long as they wish”. Where it’s possible to do that, I wholeheartedly support him – but can he assure us that arrangements will be made to ensure that all work this Council has identified as needing to be done will still be done, so the families and vulnerable people of Bolton who rely on that work being done will not be left in the lurch as a result of these definitively beyond-reasonable adjustments?
The Leader responded to my questions by informing the room that he didn’t understand what I was saying, and then went on to say his motion was the Council’s position on provision for terminally ill members of staff. If that is the case, why was there a need for the motion in the first place? As a rule, we don’t tend to bring motions to replicate existing policy. Once again, the Leader causes more questions than he answers.
Earlier this week, the Cabinet Member for the Environment on Bolton Council, Nick Peel, said in the Full Council meeting that the introduction of slim bins had not increased fly tipping in the town. I didn’t believe this – how could it be true when so many people were taking photographs of fly-tipped rubbish? So I decided to take a walk down a long street in Nick Peel’s Ward, Tonge with the Haulgh, to see what the situation was there.
The street, Back Tonge Moor Road, runs from the junction with Crompton Way in the north, right down to the River Tonge. It’s part residential, part commercial and backed by a long row of residential properties. Essentially, it’s a perfect cross section of the Ward; given its mixture of uses. Most importantly, this are only got its new slim bins this week. Where better to examine the effects of the slim bins on fly tipping?
Here are the results:
As you can see, there’s a lot of fly tipping in this area. There always is bit of fly tipping, but this is far in excess of what there was before the slim bins started to roll out across the town. The place is a mess and if the slim bins haven’t caused this increase, they’ve certainly not helped to decrease the problem.
The ball’s in your court, Nick.