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Archive for April, 2012

Make sure you use your vote

Monday, April 30th, 2012

As everyone is probably aware, Thursday is local election day which is the public’s opportunity to tell us politicians what they think of us. Altogether the Tameside public will be asked to cast their vote for 19 candidates, one for each ward across the borough.

Voting in local elections is important, I would argue more so for our residents than voting in the general election. For a start it’s the decisions this council makes that have a more profound effect on residents’ day-to-day lives, the services and facilities they use as well as things such as their health and wellbeing. It’s the one time throughout the year that the voting public can have their say on whether they think we’re doing a decent job.

Tameside residents do have a reputation for active participation in local elections. Last year all 19 ward elections attracted a voting rate of over 30%, but we are looking to do much better this time around. It may seem obvious but the more people who turn out and vote the more democratic the election and the more credible the mandate for those in power. That surely has to be what voters want?

This year I would urge even more residents to use their vote; it’s the best way of ensuring everyone plays their part in the democratic process.

To help our residents the council has provided a whole raft of useful information to help them during the elections. Information on where the nearest polling station is and the election timetable and information on and for all the candidates and their agents is up there.

And just to make the whole event more up-to-the-minute the council has also set up a dedicated Twitter address so anyone interested can follow the council throughout the election process. The hash tag is #TLE12 for those who are interested.

So people should have no excuse for not taking part and casting their vote in next Thursday’s elections because all the crucial information can be found by clicking on: http://www.tameside.gov.uk/elections/electors

Go on play your part and have a say in how you would like Tameside to be run as we move forward.

Something we can all be proud of

Friday, April 27th, 2012

It’s now less than 100 days before the start of the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games.

In preparation for this on Sunday 24 June, the eyes of the world will be on Tameside as we welcome the Olympic torch relay into Ashton.

This will be a fantastic, once in a lifetime opportunity for people to see the Olympic flame and feel part of the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games.

The torch will be carried across the UK by 8,000 torchbearers who have been nominated and chosen for their inspirational stories.

Take 49-year-old Martin Plant from Dukinfield, who has been chosen for his hard work and dedication coaching children at Stalybridge Celtic Football Club. Martin has been working as a volunteer at the club for eight years, giving up his weekends to help youngsters grow and develop their skills, helping them foster a love for the sport. Martin is a great example of someone who has selflessly given up time to help others, something we can all aspire to do.

The aim of London 2012 is to ‘inspire a generation’ and I am sure Martin, through his coaching, is already well on the way to fulfilling this goal.

As well as the spectacle of the relay, people will also have the chance to carry on the celebrations at the fantastic event we have planned. This will be a true show stopper and something that everyone in Tameside can be part of.

With less than 100 days to go before the start of the London 2012 Games I want to make sure the Olympics leaves a lasting legacy here in Tameside. Our Olympic legacy team has been working together for the last three years to make sure this happens. The eyes of the world will watching us this summer so let’s hope we make it a spectacle we can all be proud of

Find out how you can get involved by looking at our Olympic Legacy webpage at www.tameside.gov.uk/olympiclegacy

The Definitive Hopefuls

Wednesday, April 25th, 2012

You may be surprised to hear that my role as councillor also means that I have responsibility for the borough’s looked-after children – as a corporate parent.

I joined other members recently on a training project which helped us to understand the role and responsibility further.

I had the privilege of meeting our ‘Definite Hopefuls’ – a dedicated group of young people who have been chosen to represent the voice of looked-after children (children under 18 who we are legally responsible for) at the Children in Care Council.

They delivered our training impeccably. We explored in great detail what it means to be a corporate parent and more importantly what it means to the child and young person. We talked about the highs and lows of being a corporate parent and listened to a moving presentation by a young person about loneliness and the struggle they faced moving onto independent living.

To help bridge the gap between care and independent living we discussed the new training sessions, developed by staff and young people, which focus on day-to-day skills such as cooking and budgeting matched with sessions to help emotional well-being and self-esteem.

These children and young people show more resilience than most and I was inspired by their positive outlook and their passion to achieve the best possible outcomes for all looked-after children in Tameside.

We’ve now agreed to participate in an annual training session, run by the Definite Hopefuls, as part of our member development. They will also be helping to develop a new website aimed specifically at looked after children, to help them find out how to access services and where they can go for help.

You can find out more about this project and our work with the Definite Hopefuls and the Care Council by contacting The Participation Team, based at the Newton Centre in Hyde, on 0161 303 3285.

Support local football

Friday, April 20th, 2012

Whatever the media might tell us, there is far more to English football than United, City and the premier league.

Most soccer in this country is actually of the non-league variety – a level at which Tameside holds a unique place. No other borough in the country has six clubs playing at a senior level within the semi-professional game.

I hold non-league football in very high regard. That’s why I was so keen to join in sponsoring Droylsden’s last game of the season, on 28 April. Clubs like the Bloods are at the heart of their community and my fellow Droylsden councillors and I were only too happy to give them a little help.

Hyde, Stalybridge and Droylsden have all spent the 2011-12 season in Blue Square Bet North. Ashton United are in the premier division of the Evo-stik (Northern Premier) League and Mossley and Curzon Ashton are in the Evo-stik first division north. Further down the non-league pyramid, in the Manchester League, we have Dukinfield Town.

As Blue Square Bet North is only two steps away from Coca-Cola League Two it does make you wonder when a Tameside club will get into what a lot of us still think of as the fourth division.

So far, only one Tameside outfit has played in the Football League. Stalybridge Celtic spent a couple of seasons in the old third division north in the 1920s. Unfortunately, they couldn’t afford it and were forced to resign. Over in High Peak, Glossop North End actually reached the first division at the start of the 20th century but they were bankrolled by Sir Samuel Hill-Wood who later provided the funding to make Arsenal a power in the game.

Nothing stirs up Tameside football fans more than to ask them the question “is it time to have one club for the borough?” For the moment, however, I think we should take pride in what we’ve got.

We have six clubs providing great football in this borough, and if you’ve ever been to a Hyde-v-Stalybridge or Stalybridge–v-Droylsden game you’ll know that Tameside derbies are just as intense as anything you would see at Old Trafford or the Etihad Stadium.

If you have a free afternoon or evening next season, give non-league football a chance. I promise you, you’ll enjoy it.

The right to Independent Living

Tuesday, April 17th, 2012

Last week I attended the funeral of a good friend and former colleague Bernard Walsh. He was a passionate trade unionist and a dedicated councillor for Stalybridge for many years. He was particularly vociferous in his support for disadvantaged people and played a key role in ensuring that the sheltered housing accommodation at Beaumont House came into being. The centre gives people with disabilities the opportunity to live independently in an environment where they can easily access the support they need.

Most of us take living independently in our own homes for granted and yet for a growing number of people, including many who are disabled, frail or elderly, this is not the case. Supporting people with conditions such as dementia requires long term intensive support if they are to live independently in their own homes rather than in residential care homes or remain in hospital beds.

For as long as it remains a practical option, everyone agrees that the best outcome for all is that the individual is supported to live in their home. Living independently is also far more cost effective than the alternatives.

There is increasingly sophisticated technology that can be installed in the home to monitor and provide remote support, but regular visits from care workers to help with day-to-day tasks like getting out of bed, washing and dressing, making meals, cleaning and ironing as well as doing the shopping is what makes the real difference.

Our adult social services support around 20,000 people with a variety of needs. In addition there are as many as 20,000 other carers living in Tameside who look after their loved ones at home. We currently spend £90 million a year supporting those we care for and this represents a large percentage of the council’s overall spend. Next year alone we must find £5.9 million of savings in this area.

The way we deliver our adult social care is going to have to radically change in the future. In Tameside, the number of people over the age of 65 is forecast to increase by 13% in 2015, by 22% in 2020 and by 33% in 2025. In addition, people are living longer which will create even more demand for services. This rise in demand will not be matched by Government funding meaning a new approach to the delivery of social care and support is needed.

I fear that many carers looking after loved ones and disabled people currently being supported to live in their homes are living on a knife-edge of independence – if one element of support is withdrawn the whole package may fail. If this happens more and more people who would be better off living at home would find themselves in residential care or in hospital beds.

Not only will this cost more to the tax payer in the long run, it will serve to deliver poorer outcomes to those affected and it removes what I believe is a fundamental right to live a dignified independent life in your own home for as long as is practical.

In some cases people may need us to help adapt their homes or provide supportive technology like personal alarms. In other cases they may need practical help around the home, or it could be support for the army of carers who already look after family and friends.

In all cases we will continue to re-design and re-think how we deliver our services so that we can continue to protect people’s right to independence.

Tameside is top of the class

Thursday, April 12th, 2012

As a father of two I understand how important it is for parents to find the right school for their children.  You always want the best for your family, so securing a place at your preferred choice can be a cause for worry.

With this in mind I would have thought that anything which helps to ensure parents can continue to take their children to the schools of their choice, and in their local area, is going to be popular.

This year Tameside was in the top eight in England and Wales for the number of pupils who were allocated their first preference for secondary school places. We were also the first council to receive 100 per cent of admissions online. I am very proud of both achievements.

However, if we want this kind of success to continue, careful planning is needed to cope with growing numbers of children in some parts of the borough. Mindful of this, we have made money available to ensure we can deal with the expected increase in pupil numbers.

We are consulting on our plans in the towns most affected by the population increases – Ashton, Dukinfield and Hyde/Hattersley. The Heys and Rosehill, Ashton; Flowery Field and Godley, Hyde; and Lyndhurst, Dukinfield; have been identified as being in need of extra places for the start of the school year in September, 2013.

I suppose you could say that in some ways we have become victims of our own success.  The borough’s schools are popular because of their levels of achievement which are rising faster than the national average.

This isn’t something that has occurred by chance.  It has happened because we never stand still on any issue and will always strive to secure the best for the residents and businesses of Tameside.

When it comes to waste I’m green, are you?

Tuesday, April 10th, 2012

It’s amazing how quickly we can adapt to change and turn-around our habits. 

Just as I don’t think twice these days about putting on a seatbelt when getting into a car, I have quickly got used to separating our waste at home and recycling.  It has reached the point where it almost feels socially unacceptable to put something like a glass bottle into a black bin.  How times and attitudes have changed! 

We all have a responsibility to help divert as much of our rubbish as possible from expensive landfill – both for the sake of the environment and to save money.  At the council we are always looking at ways to help people recycle as much as possible and this month sees the rolling out of free food waste caddies and liners to make it really easy to recycle your food waste.

Image of a food caddy

The caddies can sit neatly on your kitchen worktop, or in a cupboard, as an easy way to collect and store your food leftovers rather than having to keep going outside to your brown bin.  Homes without gardens will also receive their own compact 23litre brown bin for food recycling.

Currently Tameside spends £14.5m a year on waste collection and disposal – this is set to significantly increase as costs go up.  However, more than £4m a year could be saved from landfill charges if the borough reaches its target of a 50 per cent recycling rate.  This is easily achievable and could even be surpassed if we all start using our caddies. 

Before you know it, scraping your leftovers into a black bin will feel as unthinkable as someone smoking in a public building or driving without a seatbelt……..and just like the other two it is something we can all benefit from.

It's all go for Hattersley

Thursday, April 5th, 2012

Hattersley is quite possibly the part of Tameside that has undergone the most profound transformation in recent years. It is now embracing a bright future and, as my colleague Cllr Jim Fitzpatrick, the first deputy, never tires of telling me, all set against such a spectacular moorland backdrop.

Since 2006, when Manchester City Council transferred the properties to Peak Valley Housing Group, more than £200 million has been spent on regenerating the area.

Two new primary schools have been built – Arundale and Pinfold – and £3 million has been invested in the Ken Ward Sports Centre which was officially opened earlier this month. Peak Valley has refurbished hundreds of homes, there are new flats on Honiton Avenue, the old wooden properties have been replaced with bungalows, and 850 private houses are being built.

I’m happy to say that the work to improve Hattersley is still going at full tilt. Construction is well under way on a £4 million community hub which should be finished in July. All the worn-out facilities at Kingston Arcade are being transferred to a modern gateway complex at the junction of Ashworth Lane and Stockport Road, including the library, community centre and cyber café.

The district centre will stand close to the new Tesco store which will provide hundreds of jobs and the railway station is in line for an upgrade.

Alongside this, crime levels continue to fall. Police figures show that burglaries, thefts and car break-ins are down by around a half on 12 months ago. It’s a similar picture for the patrollers in terms of calls about youths causing a nuisance.

These are exciting times for Hattersley. If you want to see how much the place has changed, I would invite you to go up there and take a look. I know you’ll be very pleasantly surprised

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