Members of the public were invited to put questions to the Mayor and councillors on matters within the powers and duties of the Council.
Seven public questions were submitted as follows:-
· Relating to why the A6 to M60 Relief Road had been included in the new Greater Manchester Transport Strategy Delivery Plan and the Greater Manchester Spatial Framework when the contributions to last year’s SEMMMS Refresh public consultation had to be published or considered.
The Leader of the Council and Cabinet Member for Policy, Finance and Devolution (Councillor Alex Ganotis) responded that the A6 to M60 relief road has been included as an option for further development within the Transport Delivery Plan and that this was the case for all the schemes consulted upon as part of the SEMMMS Refresh consultation. The draft Delivery Plan did not make a commitment to deliver the scheme within the next five years and it explicitly recognised that funding had not been secured, rather it simply restated the Council’s existing policy.
· Relating to a number of accidents that had taken place at the junction of the A555 near the Brookside Garden Centre.
The Leader of the Council and Cabinet Member for Policy, Finance and Devolution (Councillor Alex Ganotis) responded that the Council was aware of some minor incidents at the junction with Chester Road involving right turning vehicles going towards Poynton and not giving way to oncoming traffic. The layout and signals at that junction had been checked and although no issues were identified some road markings had been altered to remind drivers to wait and ensure that the road was cleared before turning right. Councillor Ganotis stated that he was also aware of the very serious incident at the Macclesfield Road junction that had taken place earlier in the week, however as there remained an ongoing police investigation it was not possible to comment further.
· Relating to the proposal to remove funding for the 300 Metroshuttle bus service and the need for a connective bus route in the light of proposals to increase the number of residential properties in the town centre.
The Leader of the Council and Cabinet Member for Policy, Finance and Devolution (Councillor Alex Ganotis) responded that he agreed that it was important that there was a connective bus service within the town centre. However, while it was recognised that the 300 bus was a useful service, it nonetheless cost the Council over a quarter of a million pounds a year to operate. Consideration was being given to patronage and usage patterns and also at alternative funding arrangements and whether other bus services could be diverted to mitigate the impact of the proposal.
· Relating to the proposal to remove free school bus passes and the difficulties that pupils would face in getting to their school.
The Cabinet Member for Education (Councillor Dean Fitzpatrick) responded that the Council took the education of its young people seriously, however for a number of years the eligibility criteria for free school bus passes had been over and above both the statutory requirement and that of Stockport’s neighbouring local authorities in Greater Manchester. The Council had fully considered the responses to the consultation and officers had been asked to prepare options for a staged implementation of the proposal to ensure that it would not impact on parents who had already made a decision about what school they would like to send their child to in 2019.
· Relating to whether Stockport Council supported the re-regulation of bus services in Greater Manchester.
The Leader of the Council and Cabinet Member for Policy, Finance and Devolution (Councillor Alex Ganotis) responded that he personal supported bus re-regulation and that while he could not speak for other members, he considered that the majority of the Council would also support it. However, the Bus Services Act placed a number of requirements on transport authorities prior to embarking on re-regulation which included the full consideration of alternatives such as bus partnership arrangements. It was therefore important that sufficient time was taken to explore these options to ensure that any decision that was taken was robust and could withstand legal challenge.
· Relating to the current campaign by the Liberal Democrat Group in Stockport in the effect of reduced government funding on the NHS and the contribution of the Conservative/ Liberal Democrat coalition government to the deterioration of the NHS through the introduction of the Health and Social Care Act 2012.
Councillor Mark Hunter thanked the questioner for highlighting the campaign by the Liberal Democrats to demand better for the NHS. Councillor Hunter stated that while the King’s Fund had said that that the top-down reorganisation of the NHS was distracting and damaging, it also said that claims of mass privatisation were exaggerated.
Councillor Hunter stated his belief that the issues being experienced by the NHS now were not the fault of a specific coalition government but rather the consequence of decades of insufficient funding a failure by successive governments to create a fully funded and integrated health and social care system.
· Relating to the amount of money that had been saved following the establishment of Stockport Together; whether it was achieving its saving target; the current percentage reduction in attendances at Accident & Emergency at Stepping Hill hospital and the number of beds that had been or would be cut at the hospital.
The Cabinet Member for Health (Councillor Tom McGee) responded that
Stockport Together had been established because the four years ago it had been identified that over the period 2015 to 2021 there would be a shortfall of approximately £150m in the ability of the system to deliver against increases in demand and an ageing population.
Councillor McGee stated that the original business case had put £16m in an approved recurrent investment into community health, adult social care, and primary care. While there had been some cashable benefits, this was not at the level that had been hoped for.
It was further stated that for the period April-December 2018 there had been an increase of approximately 1.5% in the number of admission to the A&E department at Stepping Hill Hospital compared the same period in the previous year.
Finally, with regard to the number of beds at the hospital, it was stated that numbers fluctuate with increased provision being made during the winter, for example. In addition, the hospital had recently secured investment in a further 24 bed upper-chest surgery unit. It was confirmed that capacity would only be reduced when suitable alternatives had been put in place and were working.