John Leech has launched the Liberal Democrat manifesto for the 2018 local elections in Manchester. Called ‘Manchester Together’, it features key policies such as tackling homelessness, housing 50 at-risk Syrian refugee families and reversing the recent pay rises for senior staff in the town hall.
ON REFUGEES AND OUR MORAL DUTY:
- Immediately develop plans to house 50 at-risk families from refugee camps. In the long-term, we will also investigate how best to house as many orphaned child refugees as possible.
ON EU CITIZENS:
- Demand the Brexit secretary guarantee the rights of EU citizens and maintain our stance on a referendum on the Brexit deal.
ON TRANSPORT AND ROADS:
- Use some of the estimated £50million Manchester Airport dividend to establish a SmartTransport Development Fund dedicated to offsetting heavy carbon transport.
- Introduce for a young commuter’s price cap, so they never pay more than half the hourly living wage rate to commute to work.
- Crackdown on lazy road re-surfacing.
- Demand all developments over 15 dwellings meet the 20% affordable quota, and where not economically viable, force the developer to contribute financially to the benefit of the local community.
- Guarantee safe, affordable housing for young people transitioning from foster care to adulthood.
- Launch an investigation into all emergency housing applications to make sure that no one slips through the net.
- Use council-owned premises to house every rough sleeper in Manchester before approving any further city centre developments.
- Provide an administration address to every homeless person so that they can take the first step in getting their life back on track - this means they can begin applying for jobs.
ON PLANNING AND DEVELOPMENT:
- Crackdown on the destruction of historical buildings important to the heritage of Manchester.
- Safeguard Manchester's Gay Village as a site of cultural importance.
- Reinstate community police officers.
- Offer business rate discounts to bars, clubs and restaurants that successfully adopt the ‘Ask for Angela’ procedure and attend training.
- Increase council tax for the wealthiest to fund police resource increases; providing an extra £40.4million of funding for GMP, £30.2million more than the current Labour proposals - this would fund an extra 200 police officers in Greater Manchester.
- Ensure every mental health patient had a bed if they require it.
- Introduce Sexual Health Hubs across Manchester allowing people to book appointments outside of work hours.
- Launch an education programme, working with local professional architectural colleges to assess our high streets and neighbourhoods to create fully inclusive access points for disabled people across our city.
- Protect and increase the SEN budgets available to every school in Manchester.
- Highlight schools without cooking facilities and look to private-public partnerships for a solution to ensure every child gets a healthy lunch.
- Increase adult vocational studies to retain the diverse skill set of Manchester’s workforce.
ON THE ENVIRONMENT:
- Invest in cycle highways by using government investment to build cycle only roads to service commuters.
- Review cycle storage units in all social housing blocks and make safe storage units a requirement in all apartment planning applications.
- Guarantee a plastic-free Manchester starting with a zero-tolerance policy on throwaway plastics.
- Begin requiring all pubs, clubs and cafés to remove plastic straws from display and provide environmentally friendly alternatives for those who request them. We recognise that current options, such as biodegradable, wheat, glass and stainless steel straws, are unsuitable for some disabled people, so we would not impose a blanket ban until a suitable alternative is in place.
- Ensure full and comprehensive enforcement of all breaches of environmental law restrictions.
- Create a dedicated business start-up support service for entrepreneurs.
- Provide business rate discounts for locally owned, independent businesses.
- Provide a three-year business rate relief for any creative and new media company setting up or relocating to Manchester.
- Lobby for the relocation of the Department of Culture, Media and Sport to Manchester.
- Work alongside the tourism and hospitality industries to deliver a coordinated package to visitors that will boost visitors to the city.
- STEM subject support will be provided through workshops with sixth forms and schools to introduce young people to the industry requirements and innovation within science, technology, engineering and mathematics
- Stamp out the rise of homophobic bullying in Manchester’s schools after a report from Cllr. John Leech showed an alarming rise.
- Continue our campaign with football teams to kick homophobic chanting out of the game for good.
- Work for a grown-up, evidence-based policy on sex work in our city.
Offer free sexual health check-ups for sex workers and support unionisation to ensure the same scrutiny and accountability you would find in any other line of work.
- Install gender-neutral toilets at all public toilet locations in the city.
- Campaign for the inclusion of 16 and 17-year-olds in local and national elections, and referendums.
- Campaign for women-only swimming and gym sessions in council-owned premises and nonbinary changing room facilities.
ON LABOUR'S RECORD:
- A Robin Hood reversal of the recent top pay rises of up to 60% for council bosses and give it back to our city’s lesser-paid workers.
- Reject any unnecessary spends such as council-paid concerts, £350million on town hall refurbishments and 60% pay rises for top bosses.
- Force every elected councillor and senior council officer to declare all interests before taking office.
- Demand the publication of all tax receipts of elected councillors.
- Demand the publication of all political donations.
- Hold councillors to account - too many councillors are getting away with unacceptable behaviour. We should expect more from our town hall.
- An end to back-room decision making - the public need to know what's going on in the town hall.
Commenting on the manifesto, Cllr. John Leech said: "Our campaign is about everyone and everything that makes Manchester the great city it is today; a strong local community, a celebration of diversity and non-conformity.
"Liberal Democrats care passionately about our local communities because it's where we live and it's what we believe in. We will always put local people first and it's about time our council did too.
"On the 3rd May, we have a chance to elect a council that leads from the front; that cities around the world look up to; where we celebrate diversity, house the homeless, welcome the desperate and build a future for our children. But only a vote for the Liberal Democrats can break this one-party state and build that vision."
In 2016, John Leech stormed his way back on to Manchester Council in a shock victory that signified the first gain for any party other than Labour for the first time in six years in Manchester and provided an opposition for the first time in two years.
Manchester faces all-up elections this year meaning all 96 seats are up for grabs. Labour currently holds 95/96 seats with John Leech as the only Liberal Democrat.