Wyre Forest Constituency Labour Party & Labour Group, Wyre Forest District Council - Manifesto 2016

Labour stands for social justice and civil rights for all our people.  We want well-paid and permanent jobs in Wyre Forest and decent housing as part of an environment in which our communities can thrive.

Contents:

Living Wage

We will

  • In recognition of Wyre Forest’s official designation as a low-waged area, support payment of the Living Wage, as defined by the Living Wage Foundation, as a minimum level of remuneration for full-time employment.

Economy

We will

  • Develop a Work Charter with local employers and trade unions, to encourage skills training and local investment in the Wyre Forest economy, and work towards payment of at least the Living Wage.
  • Ensure that the lines of communication internally between Forward Planners, Economic Development officers and Development Control officers  are clear, in order to maximise economic development opportunities.  
  • Ensure that there are sufficient numbers of officers carrying out these roles, so as to be able to interact effectively with the business world.
  • Focus the modest direct funding available for economic development in the district on funding apprenticeships and supporting business start-ups and small businesses.

Housing

The cost of housing prevents around 50% of Wyre Forest residents seeking a home from being able to buy.  There are over 2,000 households on the Waiting List for rented accommodation from housing associations, around 700 of which are assessed as being currently “inappropriately housed”.

We will

  • Shape all Housing policies mindful of the fact that “affordable housing for purchase” starts at around £125,000 in Wyre Forest and that so-called affordable housing for rent is often too expensive to be truly affordable for local people.  “Social rent levels”, therefore, are often more appropriate.
  • Work with all housing associations, but continue to regard Wyre Forest Community Housing as the main provider of rented accommodation.
  • Despite the problems posed to local authorities by the terms of the Housing and Planning Bill, (likely to become law in 2016), use the planning powers of the district council to ensure that there is both a mix of tenures and a range of house types on significantly-sized, privately-developed sites.
  • Through partnership with housing associations or co-operatives, build housing at social rent levels on land owned by Wyre Forest District Council.
  • Work with housing associations to minimise the impact of “Right to Buy” legislation.
  • Work with housing associations to reduce the proportion of properties they are required to offer for Shared Ownership, which has a poor take-up in Wyre Forest.
  • Recognising that there are now 5,500 households in privately-rented accommodation in Wyre Forest, draw up a register of private landlords.
  • Expand the Empty Homes work of the district council by creating a full-time post for the role.
  • Give financial priority to the prevention of Homelessness.
  • To enable frailer people to remain in their own home, seek to increase spending on Disabled Facilities from the current £800,000 ceiling.

Planning

Labour will seek to involve the maximum number of residents in the Planning process. With reference to land use, we will observe a strict hierarchy of brownfield site re-use first , then in-fill, then “other urban”, then greenfield.  We will seek to retain current Green Belt designations and limit the extent of the re-use of brownfield sites in the Green Belt.

We will

  • Encourage greater involvement of Town and Parish councils.
  • Increase the number of planning application decided by the Planning committee
  • Ensure that planning consent recognises and reflects local needs.
  • Seek the release of land held in “land banks”.
  • Adhere strictly to the Local Development Plan.
  • Ensure that large scale development takes place only where the local infrastructure can support it.
  •  Ensure that Section 106 monies are spent promptly for the benefit of the immediate locality.
  • Support rigid enforcement of breaches of planning consent and law.
  • Resist any further pressure to reduce the area of land designated for industrial use on the Silverwoods, (former Sugar Beet), site.

Town Centres

  • We will support initiatives directed at maintaining and extending the number of active frontages.  
  • We will support “Safe at Night”, “Safe Place” and Dementia-friendly initiatives.
  • We will consider the introduction of play equipment in safe areas of our streets.

Kiddderminster

Major redevelopment is underway, at Exchange Street/Town Hall, the Bullring, Worcester Street and the Old Magistrates Court/Glades Leisure Centre sites, the principles of which Labour supports, subject to potential design, sustainability and environmental impact caveats.  Also, we seek extensive public consultation at every step of the way.

We will

  • Seek to re-define the primary shopping area of the town to exclude Worcester Street, Bromsgrove Street and the former Magistrates Court building.
  • Use council Planning powers and its influence as a major landowner in the above area to develop it for mixed housing and mixed craft, retail, commercial, leisure or cultural uses.
  • Support the re-opening of Worcester Street to traffic and the conversion of many of the existing retail units to residential use, but seek to retain limited leisure and retail uses at the Prospect Hill end of the street.
  • Develop a partnership scheme with a housing association or co-operative, on council-owned land in Bromsgrove Street.
  • Prioritise better connectivity within the town centre and between it and Comberton Hill through co-ordinated street paving and signage.
  • Advocate as a major priority the filling-in of underpasses leading to and from the town centre and their replacement with surface-level, traffic-light controlled pedestrian crossings.
  • Work with landowners to improve the appearance of currently vacant sites.
  • Seek a more pro-active approach to the problem of air pollution in the Horsefair.

Stourport

We will

  • Pursue policies and seek funding to retain and enhance the character of the Conservation Area.
  • Support the development of the Bridge Street-to-Basins link, accepting that a residential element may be necessary to make the project viable.
  • Promote the Mitton Street-to-town centre route.
  • Promote the full use of the Civic Centre and Civic Hall
  • Improve signage.
  • Improve public toilet provision.
  • Maintain the Riverside as an attraction for local residents and visitors.
  • Seek a more pro-active approach to the problem of air pollution in High Street.

Bewdley

Major redevelopment of Load Street car park is underway with the building of a new Medical Centre and the future base for the Library.  On completion, the old Medical Centre and the Fire Station are due to be demolished and replaced by car parking, shops and houses.  We call on Worcestershire County Council and the Fire Authority to ensure that the Fire Station remains in Bewdley until 2020, when it is expected that the new “Blue Light Hub” will have been established.

We will

  • Pursue policies and seek funding to retain and enhance the character of the Conservation Area.
  • Propose that Bewdley Museum be open throughout the year.
  • Call on the county council to create a 20mph Central Zone and provide more foot crossings, to prioritise the safety of pedestrians.
  • Seek a more pro-active approach to the problem of air pollution in the town centre.

Environment

We will

  • Improve the council’s performance on the recycling of household waste.
  • Encourage green policies and practices in all council departments.
  • Ensure that planning permissions are granted with the highest levels of environmental protection, including strict adherence to the principles of Sustainable Urban Drainage.
  • Protect watercourses.
  • Work with the Environment Agency to provide as much flood control through natural forms as possible.
  • Work with Bewdley Town Council and the Environment Agency to ensure optimal protection on the Wribbenhall bank of the Severn.
  • Take a more pro-active role in promoting energy-saving schemes for domestic properties.

Tourism

There are numerous attractions for visitors in Wyre Forest.  Unfortunately, there is a limited infrastructure to encourage them to stay for more than a day visit.

We will

  • Ascertain the capacity of the council’s Economic Development officers to address Tourism issues and prioritise the appointment of a dedicated Tourism post, if necessary.
  • Be mindful that, in addition to the specific attractions which draw visitors into the district, our town centres need to offer reasons for people to visit them.
  • Recognise the significance of the night-time economy for Tourism, with particular reference to Kidderminster.
  • Be mindful of the continuing shortage of appropriate hotel accommodation in the district and seek interest from providers.

Health and Well-being

We recognise that many of the services for which the district council is responsible are significant in this category.  Therefore, we make the general commitment to be aware of it in all relevant matters of policy- and decision-making.

We will

  • Ensure that in Sport, Recreational and Cultural sectors, activities will be designed to be as inclusive as possible, including specifically designed provision for particular target groups.
  • Seek to maintain the full range of cultural services currently offered.
  • As a stakeholder, advocate for an increase in the range of services available at Kidderminster Hospital.

Public Transport

Although Wyre Forest District Council does not have responsibility for this service, its severe limitations in the district pose problems for many local people.  Therefore, we will take every opportunity to engage with the responsible authority, Worcestershire County Council, and bus operators, to seek to improve the range and frequency of bus services.

Local Government Finance

Labour is anti-austerity and is disgusted by the continued policy of the UK Government in placing the burden of austerity on the backs of the poorest in society.  While we welcome the February 2016 report of the OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development), which calls for greater investment in public infrastructure, our policies must remain within the law and, therefore must be able to be applied within a budget currently projected to shrink in each of the next three financial years.  However, even at the cost to the council of income which could be spent on services, we will not support policies which discriminate against the poorest residents of Wyre Forest.

Democratic Representation

We are opposed to the recent reduction in the number of polling stations and believe that the consequence will be lower turnouts in the affected areas.

We will

  • Encourage people no longer served by a convenient polling station to vote by post.
  • Support the re-opening of discontinued locations at the next polling stations review.

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