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Archive for March, 2012

Pledge to support our armed forces

Thursday, March 29th, 2012

There is no doubt that the people of Tameside are immensely proud of their links with the Armed Forces.

This stems from the borough’s long military heritage. Until the 1950s, Ashton was a garrison town. The Duke of Lancaster’s Regiment, successor to the Manchesters, has the Freedom of the Borough. I will be proposing that the same honour is conferred on the Mercian Regiment, which has absorbed the Cheshires.

Over the last two years, Tameside Council has worked hard to reflect this pride. We have unveiled a new war memorial to honour all those killed on active service since 1945. District assemblies have erected smaller community memorials.

Now, however, we want to give formal recognition to our close relationship with the services through an Armed Forces Community Pledge.

This is a statement of mutual support between the Borough and the Armed Forces. It would promote an understanding of the issues which affect serving and former members of the military, promising that they and their families will never be at a disadvantage when it comes to the provision of council services.

I’m sure I can count on your backing for this. How do I know? Because each year, I see the crowds get bigger at our Remembrance Sunday ceremonies and on Armed Forces Day. In 2010, thousands packed the streets of Hyde in appalling weather to applaud the 1st Battalion of the Mercian Regiment on its return from Afghanistan.

The more cynical among you may think that councillors only attend these events for political reasons, but nothing could be further from the truth. I have immense respect for the services, and the way they do their duty so courageously in warzones like Afghanistan and I truly believe we have an individual obligation to acknowledge the debt of gratitude we owe.

That is why I see it as the duty of this Council to support the Armed Forces Community Pledge. It is my intention to sign it on behalf of the people of Tameside on Armed Forces Day (Saturday, 30 June), during the celebrations at Victoria Park, Denton.

If you would like to know more about our military history, please take a look at the Museum of the Manchester Regiment in Ashton Town Hall, or visit our excellent local studies and archives centre. Find out about Tameside’s many Victoria Cross winners at www.tameside.gov.uk/blueplaque/victoriacross

Why not offer a helping hand?

Wednesday, March 28th, 2012

Volunteering is something we do very well in this country. Whether it’s a youth group, a church, or a drama society, you can be certain there will always be someone in the background giving their time and effort for free.
If you think about it, we couldn’t cope without volunteers. Take Droylsden FC. I attend their games whenever I can and season after season I see how much the Bloods depend on people to help out with tasks such as selling programmes.
A couple of weeks ago I told you about the good work done by the Friends of Droylsden Canal. They are a group of volunteers who do invaluable work in tidying the towpath and making sure the area around the waterway looks attractive.
At Tameside Council we have always felt it important to recognise these selfless people. Last June we held our inaugural Pride of Tameside Volunteer Awards and honoured the outstanding achievement of people from a wide range of organisations.
The full line-up of worthy winners was
• Joanne Bromley (Anxiety UK),
• Christine Clough (Tameside History Forum and Friends of Gorse Hall),
• Deborah Connolly (People First Tameside),
• Gareth Cottrell (103.6FM Tameside Radio),
• Paul Kitchen and Sam Hudson (Citizens Advice Bureau),
• Tom Lowther (Stalybridge Scouts),
• Ed McConliffe (Body Positive North West),
• Khyati Patel (Tameside Black and Minority Ethnic Women’s Network),
• Irene Philips (Mencap)
• Adam Whitfield (Wooden Canal Boat Society).

Many of these people overcame personal adversity and want to pass on their experience and knowledge to help others.
Now, we want to actively encourage volunteering among our own staff through the Tameside Employer Supported Volunteering Scheme. It’s a project which I believe will bring benefits to the council, to the workforce and the wider community.
Once the Tameside Employer Supported Volunteering Scheme is up and running I will be encouraging council staff to look at how they can take part and help their community. If they do so they can count on the full support of their employer – Tameside Council.

An inspirational evening

Thursday, March 22nd, 2012

I attended the inaugural Pride of Droylsden awards last Thursday and what an inspirational night it turned out to be.

Based on the highly successful borough-wide Pride awards the event was intended to showcase and pay tribute to Droylsden’s local heroes, those people who make the town a better place to live and work.

The fact we are all facing some challenging economic times means that, for me, we should be doubly determined to celebrate where we live and the community we are a part of.

The turnout for the awards, which was held at the fabulous newly built Droylsden Academy, was impressive with 55 local organisations represented in what turned out to be a fun evening.

I was particularly struck by the strength and depth of the winning applications and it was a privilege to be part of something which quite clearly highlighted just how proud everyone there is of their town.

Young and old alike were represented which I found particularly inspiring and it is something I am sure we will want to continue with next year.

The winner of the Youth of the Year award is a case in point. Seventeen-year-old Sean Carling has a severe illness which means he has been under Manchester Children’s Hospital and a psychologist’s care for much of his life and has often fought through horrendous pain. He has also had over 50 operations, but despite this he is an inspiration to me and others.

Sean is an outstanding example of how people should live their lives – determination, will-power, enthusiasm and overcoming difficulties despite the odds.

I would say the whole Pride awards idea was such a success that I am sure Tameside’s other towns will be introducing their own some time soon.

My fellow Droylsden councillors, Ged Cooney and Jim Middleton, had a busy night presenting the awards, but what a remarkable setting and backdrop for them to do it in.

I must give massive thanks to everyone who took part, including of course the winners and the staff at the school for not only hosting the event, but for making it such a special night: they certainly contributed to what turned out to be an all round excellent evening.

What every high street needs

Monday, March 19th, 2012

You don’t have to cast your mind back too far to realise shopping has changed a great deal. It bears little resemblance to what some of us may remember from our youth, when we were sent to the corner shop on errands or had to carry a bag for our mother.

Fridges and freezers mean that people no longer have to shop for perishables on a daily basis. The days of queuing at a counter are long gone, stores are open on Sundays, shelves are packed with exotic foodstuffs and internet shopping has become a phenomenon.

However, amidst all this change, one thing has remained the same. British people love the high street and expect to see plenty of independent retailers. That’s why Tameside Council is doing so much to make our town centres accessible, attractive, welcoming places. By doing so we have met one of the recommendations set out by retail marketing consultant Mary Portas last December.

You may remember the report in which she outlined the measures she believes are necessary to revitalise high streets. I’m glad to say that Tameside had already implemented many of these, including a free parking scheme, an empty properties policy and getting people involved.

Traders and members of Hyde Business Forum were fully consulted on the £1.25 million improvement plan for the area in front of Hyde Town Hall which will transform the market. Ashton is getting a £1.5 million investment which will also result in a new civic square. We also work closely with our partners at the Ladysmith and Arcades shopping centres on schemes to attract shoppers – something which will become easier when Metrolink arrives.

Tameside Council is also supporting Stalybridge’s bid to become one of 12 towns chosen to pilot the government scheme based on Mary Portas’s report. We are part of a town team alongside traders and community groups and if our bid is successful we will use whatever lessons we learn to improve our other town centres.

Ultimately, however, Tameside Council can only do so much. What every high street needs most to prosper is traders with business acumen and the patronage of the public.

So I would appeal to shopkeepers to do their best to make their shops the sort of places people want to visit, and I would ask residents to use those shops. There are plenty of them across the Borough as well as top-class markets in Ashton and Hyde.

Tameside Council will do whatever it can, but you need to play your part too.

City deal for Tameside

Thursday, March 15th, 2012

After years of slow decline many of the UK’s cities are now enjoying a renaissance with new investment, new housing and new hope. This is particularly true for Manchester which, since the IRA bomb devastated the city centre, has seen an amazing turn around in fortune.

Outside of London and the South East, Manchester is the powerhouse for economic growth in the UK and so it’s not only good for Mancunians to see the city doing well, it’s important for the whole country. Alongside having a highly skilled workforce, good transport infrastructure and world class communications, Manchester now needs more independence to take decisions and spend money in ways that will help the local economy.

What is very clear is that what is good for Manchester may not be the right thing for London, Birmingham and Leeds and visa versa. We need to recognize the uniqueness of our cities and allow local decisions to be taken by local people who know what is best for their area.

Unlike London, which has an elected Mayor, Greater Manchester is governed through the Combined Authority which is made up of the Leaders of all 10 local authorities. The Combined Authority provides the leadership to take the city region forward, to marshal resources and to compete with the biggest and most successful cities in the world – what we now need is more devolved decision making powers from Westminster.

The case for this will be made through the “City Deal” for Greater Manchester, which provides a clear rationale for greater devolution and local decision making to drive economic growth for the region. It includes proposals to strengthen our infrastructure to support long term growth, create an investment framework that prioritises economic impact and raises productivity by increasing skills and reducing benefit dependency.

This will lead to accelerated business growth and more inward investment, and will allow us to exploit our growing reputation for as an important base for scientific research, new media and the wider knowledge economy.

The Greater Manchester Deal will allow us to generate the right conditions to grow the local economy – which will benefit Greater Manchester, Tameside and the whole nation.

If the Deal is given the green light it could deliver a total of 60,000 apprenticeships, pilot new incentives for businesses to invest in training and draw the strength of its employers and local colleges and training providers to more closely match the skills and needs of the local economy.

And as I outlined above any good news for Greater Manchester’s economy is also good news for Tameside and for the whole country. Implementing the Deal sounds like the right thing to do for Tameside and the rest of Greater Manchester.

Have your say on dementia

Wednesday, March 14th, 2012

Dementia has been in the headlines again this week with calls to Government to change the way that sufferers are regarded and treated. Predictions are that those diagnosed with dementia are set to rise to unprecedented levels. What is clear is that the current systems that we have in place to treat and support people with the disease are already becoming unaffordable and will not cope with the rise in demand.

Early identification and treatment can slow down the onset of dementia and assistive technologies can help people to live independently in their own homes for longer. Together these measures are an important part of what we must do in the future to both save money and improve the quality of life of sufferers.

I’ve mentioned several times before that due to the massive cuts we are being forced to make to our budgets, the council is facing some tough decisions ahead.

That’s why I launched the Big Conversation in which we seek your views on our proposed changes to service. I, along with the rest of the council, think it’s crucial that we involve communities in our decision-making because, ultimately, what we decide to do inevitably has a profound effect on the borough’s residents and businesses.

In one of the latest consultations we are asking for comments on our proposed changes to the dementia day services.

One of the proposals involves concentrating the services we provide on one site instead of the current two. This will mean being able to focus the services and increase opportunities for people across the borough to take up more mainstream services and activities.

Our aim is to provide practical and emotional support to people who live with dementia and of course their carers. This new approach will reduce their social isolation and enhance their daily routine.

But as I explained at the outset of this blog, any big decision on the future of council services will need public consultation – so please take the time to have your say on the consultation at http://www.tameside.gov.uk/tbc/dementia

Take a walk on the canalside

Friday, March 9th, 2012

I’ve talked in past blogs about the importance of taking pride in your local environment.

That’s why I didn’t hesitate when I was asked to support the Friends of Droylsden Canal. In accepting I also promised I would promote their activities as much as I could to make sure people not only knew what they were doing, but also offered their help.

And I’m being true to my word because the dedicated group have got another volunteer day coming up on Saturday 11 March from 12 noon until 4pm which they’re hoping will lead to more volunteers donning clean up gear and getting stuck in.

They’ll be meeting at Droylsden Water Adventure Centre and doing work to tidy up the entrances to the canal towpath to help make the waterway look attractive and inviting for anyone wishing to enjoy this beautiful part of the town.

The canal towpath which runs from the Manchester border on one side to the Audenshaw boundary on the other has been adopted by the group who have pledged to not only tidy it up but beautify it for everyone to enjoy. The project is part of British Waterways adopt-a-canal scheme, which has been set up to encourage positive action like this.

Further volunteer days are planned throughout the summer months when the group intends to carry out maintenance work along the towpath including painting the lock gates and fencing to improve its appearance, cut back overgrown vegetation and plant spring bulbs together with local primary schools in late summer.

So get involved and join us in making Droylsden a place we can all be proud of.

Thursday, March 8th, 2012

One of the Council’s major priorities and a key message I always mention in my keynote and budget speeches is the importance of protecting the environment.

That’s why my message and that of Tameside Council is that we are working hard to reduce the borough’s impact on climate change and why we are supporting the Greater Manchester Climate Change Strategy 2011. This sets out Greater Manchester’s plan to build a low carbon economy by 2020, reducing carbon emissions by 48 per cent and reacting to the changing climate while creating future jobs and new industries in the ‘green’ sector.

But we cannot or should not do this alone. Individuals and businesses can take small steps to make a difference and they can start next week – Climate Week.

The energy efficiency bus will be on Ashton Market on Tuesday between 10am-2pm for members of the public to get advice on saving energy and money. While on Wednesday the information stand on Ashton Market ground will be packed with information about the council’s recycling services.

The Council is doing its bit by installing powerPerfector units across a number of Council buildings, which reduces the electricity we use and therefore our carbon footprint. The plan is to install more powerPerfectors in Council buildings and schools over the coming months.

Sustainable travel day is next Thursday which should prompt us all to think about how we travel around. Sustainable forms of travel are commonly considered to be walking and cycling yet also include the use of public transport, car sharing and new technologies such as electric cars. I, for one, will be travelling round on my bike to support the day.

But there are also plans for the borough including a cycle route across Ashton town centre due for later this year and a new secure cycle hub at Ashton Pools for easy access to the town centre.

The Council is also hoping to introduce an electric vehicle charging point to encourage the uptake of electric vehicle usage this year.

Climate Change activities culminate with the world ‘Earth Hour’ on Saturday 31 March, at 8.30pm, when lights will be switched off in Council floodlit buildings as well as the statues on Lord Sheldon way, in Ashton.
We’re doing our bit, can you help?

Investing in our youth

Friday, March 2nd, 2012

I was fortunate enough to be invited to the official opening of the hugely impressive new £29 million Droylsden Academy this week, which is just one part of the £200 million borough-wide Building Schools for the Future programme.

Developed on the former Droylsden High School for Girls school playing fields in Manor Road this remarkable new building signifies a great landmark in the town’s regeneration and brings together the whole school community for the first time.

I was joined by the Mayor Cllr Susan Quinn, fellow Droylsden councillor Ged Cooney, Lord Lieutenant Warren Smith and the council’s Chief Executive as we were shown round the fantastic new facilities by Chair of Governors Peter Ryder and the school’s principal Derek Davies.

Featuring an innovative and impressive, state of the art, open plan design, over three floors, including a welcoming entrance plaza with juice bar and café style dining facilities, auditorium plus a raft of other magnificent features, the place is simply breath-taking.

As well as being treated to excellent performances by the school’s pupils I had the opportunity to speak, giving me the chance to thank everyone who’s been involved in turning what was a simple but distant vision into a reality.

Phase 2 of the development starts soon with the demolition of the existing building on the site to enable the completion of the 3G all weather pitches, playing fields and landscaped areas.

I was so impressed with the school I’m planning more visits over the coming weeks. Next week it’s due to host Droylsden District Assembly’s regular meeting while on 15 March I’ll be there again for the awards night for the town’s Pride competition which has been running for several weeks now.

I think it’s fair to say that I’m sure anyone visiting these or any other event is bound to be equally impressed and proud of what we have achieved for the borough’s youth.

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