A furious Lib Dem Councillor claims Labour are delaying council debates to block his motion to introduce a late night tram for Salford.

Cllr Alex Warren, Liberal Democrat for Quays, took to Twitter to express his outrage at the way the motion was adjourned at this month’s full council meeting.

He claims it was unfair not giving the issue sufficient time for debate.

“They cause a load of political chaos at meetings because they haven’t got a plan, then they use their political power to delay debate,” he said.

But Labour Cllr Mike McCusker, lead member for planning and sustainable development, said there would be a cross-party meeting held in November.

Cllr Warren claimed the disputes began a week before the full council meeting took place, when Labour decided to put through an amendment that “re-wrote the whole thing and took everything I wrote out”.

This was blocked by the City Solicitor, the legal advisor to the council, on the grounds it didn’t “enhance, add to or edit slightly” the original motion put forward.

But Cllr Warren said: “The two Labour mayors paused the meeting for 20 minutes at the start whilst they thought of ways to stop me from talking about this.

“They don’t want this to happen because they don’t want, one, a popular thing happening under a Liberal Democrat name, and two, because they want the political control.

“They paused the meeting twice to find a rule in the council constitution that defers the discussion on something to another meeting without any kind of debate or discussion at all.”

Labour hold all but six seats on the council so were able to vote through a motion to delay the debate to another time.

Cllr Warren accused Labour members of trying to “stifle any kind of debate”. He said: “To pause a debate for 20 minutes because you can’t get your own way is beyond petty and very shameful use of power in my opinion. Let’s actually talk about it, not defer, delay and filibuster so that we can’t actually talk about these things.

“They realised they didn’t have the facts in front of them, they couldn’t shut me up so they decided to delay the entire discussion. They were ill-prepared for the debate so they paused it using their power.”

Introducing a night tram on the Eccles line was a central policy Cllr Warren was elected on this year, winning his seat from Labour’s Phil Tresadern.

The motion’s aim was to write to Travel For Greater Manchester (TfGM), on behalf of Salford Council, requesting a three-month trial of a tram that ran until 2am over the weekend. This trial period would look to see how popular the late night service was. He also asked the Mayor of Salford to write to Andy Burnham.

trams infographic
Credit: Mel Cionco

“I’d love to have a 24-hour network but in an ideal world, it would start earlier, 5pm, because people commute earlier, and end at 4am. I know the best compromise we can come to at the moment would be something like the current service but running until 2am from Thursday to Saturday.”

During the 1980’s, Labour secured £20 million in funding from the then North West Development Agency to extend the existing Metrolink line linking Salford Quays to Manchester and Eccles.  The City Council entered into a 10-year agreement to underwrite any revenue shortfalls for the MediaCityUK Metrolink extension from September 2010 and committed £1.598m in capital through unsupported borrowing to complete the MediaCityUK Metrolink extension on the 12th December 2011. These originally ran from 7am-8pm, Monday to Friday, and from 9am-6.30pm on Saturdays. However, Labour’s consistent campaigns have extended the service to what it is today.

Cllr McCusker argued an issue with the motion is its lack of integration to the rest of the Salford, and agreed with the Conservative amendment that late night buses would also need to be implemented into the city to accommodate hospitality workers who don’t live near tram stops.

“What the Tories are saying is if you did get the tram at 3 o’clock in the morning to Eccles, what then? You would have to have an ongoing night bus from Eccles to people’s destinations. If you had to walk from Eccles Tram Stop to Swinton, that is a long distance. It would only guarantee some people get part of the way home, so it’s not really a solution.

“The motion also failed to mention the completely different funding model which it is subject to and the cuts to Local Authority funding since the Liberal Democrat / Conservative Coalition government, and subsequent governments.

Cllr McCusker also thought the Liberal Democrat motion assumes that Transport for Greater Manchester are not aware and already acting to expand services where they possibly can in line with the Greater Manchester Transport 2040 strategy, which places accessibility to safe and accessible public transport at its heart.”

Cllr McCusker refused to say if Labour would support a three-month trial of late night 02:00 trams from Thursday to Saturday.

Cllr Warren said: “I am always in support of extra public services. But the Conservative and Labour group were talking about buses, I’m talking about the tram. I don’t want to confuse the two because they’re two different modes of transport.”

Cllr Warren was inspired by the successful campaign run by Ella Watson to reinstate night trams following the rape and murder of Sarah Everard in London by Met Police Officer Wayne Couzens.

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