Key Issues

John has a strong record of action and has campaigned extensively on a number of issues affecting local residents. Some of the most notable issues include:

Protecting local services:

- Ewing School: John has joined parents and pupils from Ewing School in Didsbury in the fight to save the school from closure.
The Christie: John played an important role in securing a return of the £6.5m that The Christie hospital lost in the Icelandic banking collapse.
Post Offices: John campaigned extensively against government plans to close local post offices

Bringing new services to south Manchester:

- Metrolink: John fought long and hard to bring Metrolink to south Manchester

Fighting for our local environment:

- Chorlton Meadows: John has joined backed hundreds of local residents in their efforts to block the development of Hardy Farm at Chorlton Meadows.

Fighting for Ewing School

Ewing School in Didsbury is a specialist school that caters for children between 5 and 16 years of age who are on the autistic spectrum. Labour-run Manchester City Council plans to close down Ewing and relocating the students to nine mainstream schools.

Since these plans became apparent, John has worked hard in the campaign against the proposals. He has worked closely with the parents’ group PACE and local Lib Dem colleagues to raise awareness of the issue and to urge the council to reverse its decision.

John invited Ewing pupils and parents down to Parliament as part of the campaign to save the school from closure

In June 2009 John submitted a 10,500-strong petition to Parliament in a bid to stop the school being closed. However, on 5th January 2010, the council’s Labour-majority Children and Young Person’s Scrutiny Committee voted for the proposal and announced plans to close the school by 2012. Manchester Liberal Democrats have vowed to reverse the school’s closure if they win a majority of seats on the council in May 2010.

The video below was filmed during a December 2009 protest against the planned closure:

Further coverage of the issue is available via any of the following links:

- South Manchester Reporter – ‘Protesters stage demo against school closure’ – Dec 2009.
John Leech MP – ‘Last Chance to Save Ewing School’ – October 2009.
BBC News – ‘Petition over school closure plan’ – June 2009.
South Manchester Reporter – ‘Thousands say NO to school closure’ – January 2009.

Helping Secure the Future of The Christie

The Icelandic banking crisis of 2008 brought about the collapse of Kaupthing, Singer and Friedlander bank, and with it went £6.5m worth of donations that The Christie hospital in Withington had invested with the firm. This meant that future research projects were under threat, so a huge campaign – ‘Cash Back for Christie’ – was launched and led by the Manchester Evening News.

Part of this campaign saw a delegation of nurses, health bosses, patients and Members of Parliament delivering a 100,000-strong petition to Downing Street that called on the government to intervene and secure a return of the money to The Christie. John was one of MPs who formed part of this delegation and he subsequently delivered a copy of the petition on the floor of the House of Commons paying tribute to all involved in the campaign.

John Leech and Christie Nurse, Helen Ferns, delivering the petition to Downing Street

Prior to this, in March 2009, John tabled a parliamentary motion criticising the Financial Services Compensation Scheme for not allowing the hospital to make a claim for the money and supporting The Christie’s bosses decision to apply for a judicial review to overturn this.

The following month he met with Kevin Brennan, the government minister responsible for the voluntary sector to urge him to step in and help secure a return of the money.

The Cash back for Christie campaign proved a real success and in June 2009 it was announced that the money would be returned to the hospital, as reported by Channel M:

For more information on the Cash back for Christie campaign click on any of the following links:

- John Leech MP – ‘Leech welcomes return of Christies millions’ – Jun 2009..
Manchester Evening News – ‘Christie wins back millions’ – Jun 2009.
Manchester Liberal Democrats – ‘John Leech MP to hand in “Cash back for Christie” Petition next week’ – Apr 2009.
Manchester Evening News – ‘Cash Back for Christie campaign’ – Mar 2009.

Working to save local post offices

2007 saw the Labour government proposing to close 2,500 post offices nationwide
– one in five branches. This was one top of the 4,000 that had already been closed since they came to office in 1997, and the 3,500 that the previous Conservative government had shut.

Two of the branches that were earmarked for closure were in the Manchester Withington constituency – at Ladybarn and Parrs Wood.

John Leech signs up to the petition against post office closures

John campaigned heavily alongside his Greater Manchester Lib Dem colleagues against the plans, tabling a parliamentary motion in opposition to the proposals and delivering a 1,500-strong petition to Parliament in July 2008.

Yet despite overwhelming local opposition to the cuts, both branches, and hundreds like them across the country, were closed.

John Leech joined fellow Lib Dems in campaigning to save Greater Manchester's post

John has since opposed plans to part-privatise Royal Mail as well as tabling a parliamentary motion, Early Day Motion 609, calling for Royal Mail to use its profits to keep post offices open. This motion attracted cross-party support from all sides of the House of Commons.

More information on work to help keep open local post offices can be found at the links below:

- South Manchester Reporter – ‘Post offices to close – its final’ – Aug 2009.
John Leech MP – ‘John Leech MP takes Post Office Fight to the Floor of the House’ – Jul 2008.
South Manchester Reporter – ‘MP takes post office fight to parliament’ – Jul 2008.
John Leech MP – ‘John Leech MP keeps up fight against Labour’s Post Office cuts’ – May 2007.

Bringing Metrolink to south Manchester

One of John’s pledges when elected to Parliament in 2005 was to fight to bring Metrolink to south Manchester. Plans had previously been unveiled to extend the tram system to Chorlton and Manchester Airport, but they were scrapped in 2004 because of financial concerns.

John Leech discusses Metrolink with Euro MP Chris Davies

Nevertheless, John repeatedly called for an extension to south Manchester and in his capacity as both a member of the transport select committee and a Lib Dem transport spokesman he played an influential role in the campaign to bring Metrolink to the area.

Prior to the 2008 referendum on the Manchester Congestion Charge, John wrote to then-Secretary of State for Transport, Geoff Hoon, urging him to guarantee funds for public transport improvements for south Manchester irrespective of the outcome of the vote. He also quizzed the Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, on the same issue at Prime Minister’s Questions. Hoon though warned that there was ‘no Plan B’, so the resultant resounding ‘no’ vote appeared to put the extension in jeopardy.

However, the campaign to secure an extension continued, with John pressing transport ministers to release the money that had been earmarked for the extension. Immediately after the ‘no’ vote, John tabled a parliamentary motion, Early Day Motion 345, which called ‘on the Government to ensure that Greater Manchester is not short-changed as a result of the no vote so that public transport improvements including across the whole of Greater Manchester, Metrolink extensions, can proceed.’

Following the concerted campaign by John and others, in May 2009, the government performed a U-turn and announced that £195m would be found for the scheme, with the Association of Greater Manchester Authorities to provide the rest of the required funds. The expansion is set to be completed by spring 2011.

More information on the efforts to bring Metrolink to south Manchester can be found via any of these links:

- John Leech MP – ‘Leech welcomes Didsbury metrolink extension’ – May 2009.
South Manchester Reporter – ‘Two tram lines: No congestion charge’ – May 2009.
South Manchester Reporter – ‘MP urges Brown to hand over £3 billion of transport funds’ – Dec 2008.
outh Manchester Reporter – ‘End of the line for Metrolink dream’ – Jul 2004.

Protecting Chorlton Meadows

In the summer of 2009 plans were unveiled by West Didsbury Football Club to build an all-weather football pitch on the site of Chorlton Meadows and reconvert part of the meadows to football pitches.

Before the plans were submitted, John met with representatives of the club and emphasised the importance of consulting with local residents. Although he is a strong advocate of improving sports facilities in the area, he had real concerns about the impact that the all-weather pitch would have on the local environment, the noise that it would generate and the light pollution that would result from it.

John joined hundreds of local residents for a picnic in protest at the development plans

As a result of these concerns, John and local Lib Dem councillors took the issue up with the planning department at Manchester City Council, outlining their opposition to the all-weather pitch.

Hundreds of local residents did the same, with a petition against the proposals petition attracting 1,500 signatures- including John’s. Over 6,200 people have since joined the ‘Save Chorlton Meadows’ Facebook group and a Save Chorlton Meadows website has been set up to publicise the issue.

On 8th November 2009, John joined hundreds of local residents for a protest picnic on the meadows, addressing the crowd and assuring them of his support.

The planning application will now go before the council’s planning committee on Thursday, 14th January for a final decision on the proposals.

Coverage of the issue from Channel M:

More information on the efforts to protect Chorlton Meadows can be found via any of these links:

- South Manchester Reporter – ‘New Years D-Day for meadows pitch plan – Dec 2009.
South Manchester Reporter – ‘Outcry prompts Metrolink rethink’ – Oct 2009.
South Manchester Reporter – ‘Sports development plan opposed’ – Sep 2009.
Save Chorlton Meadows Blog – ‘Email from John Leech’ – Aug 2009.