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Archive for September, 2012

Last Orders for the Cotton Tree

Friday, September 28th, 2012

As Executive Leader of the Council I am always keen to promote business in Tameside. A thriving economy is crucial to the borough’s development and you can see evidence of this commitment when you look at sites such as Ashton Moss and Crown Point North to see what I mean.

That’s why it may appear as if I’m going against the grain when I say I am pleased that one business, the Cotton Tree pub in my ward of Droylsden East has finally been closed down.

I don’t say this lightly, but it was with a sense of relief that I heard the Licensing Panel made the decision to revoke its licence on Thursday. I was one of those called to give evidence to back the application and the hearing made for uncomfortable listening.

I recalled one incident when I was waiting for the traffic lights to change directly opposite the Market Street pub. A mass brawl spilled out from the pub and into the road, bringing vehicles to a standstill.

That just isn’t right and when you consider that the pub is at the main gateway into Droylsden, it is simply unacceptable. Local businesses and residents stood united in their opinion that the town and Tameside would be a better place once last orders had finally been called on the Cotton Tree.

Like I said at the outset, I will do everything within my power to encourage and promote business within Tameside, but not at any cost. The number and severity of the incidents which have taken place at this pub is simply unacceptable.

I am sure the vast majority of people will agree with me when I say that I for one am glad the Cotton Tree pub has closed its doors for good.

Community strength in Hattersley

Tuesday, September 25th, 2012

Like the rest of the borough, and indeed the country, the people of Hattersley are grieving the tragic deaths of police officers Fiona Bone and Nicola Hughes within their close-knit neighbourhood.

But the strength of community spirit, kindness and warmth demonstrated by the residents in the face of such shock and disruption has been truly overwhelming.

From offers of help to bringing out cups of tea and cakes, local people have been nothing but supportive and generous in their treatment of police and council officers working in the area in the aftermath of the tragedy.

I have also been both moved and impressed to see how neighbours are looking out for each other during this difficult time. Take for instance long-time resident Sheila Bell who, despite currently being unable to return to her home in Abbey Gardens, has been working with the Council to ensure all her neighbours have got their correct medicines, prescriptions and other essentials.

She even organised a surprise 90th birthday party for fellow displaced resident Nancy Lawrence this week. I had the pleasure of meeting both women and was inspired by their sense of love for their neighbours and for the estate where they have both lived for 46 years. They know Hattersley to be a safe and caring community and they can’t wait to move back in their homes and among their friends.

Council staff and patrollers are continuing to work closely with the police to get people back into their homes as soon as possible and to ensure all residents feel secure and supported. My heartfelt thanks goes to everyone in the area for their thoughtfulness and cooperation at this time.

United in grief, standing as one

Friday, September 21st, 2012

I have been overwhelmed by the show of support this week for the callous killing of police officers, Fiona Bone and Nicola Hughes. It’s at times like this when Tameside’s community really show their true colours, united in grief and standing as one in the face of this unprecedented level of public scrutiny.

Under the circumstances, I felt it was inappropriate to have political debate at Tuesday’s Full Council meeting, and why I agreed with the leader of the opposition that as a mark of respect, talking about Council business at this time just didn’t seem right. It is also why we opened and closed the meeting with a minute’s silence in memory of Fiona and Nicola.

I think it is important that we remember and pay our respects to highlight to all concerned just how appalled we all are.

That’s why we opened a book of condolence at Hyde Town Hall, a place where the borough’s public can go and leave a permanent record of their feelings on this tragic event – http://www.tameside.gov.uk/pressreleases/condolence. If you wish to show your support to the family of the officers and to the wider police family you can do so by making your views known, at the last count nearly 200 people had left their thoughts. I have also been moved by the number of our staff based here in Ashton’s council offices, many of whom are also Tameside residents, who would like to sign the book. With this in mind we are placing more in our reception and at Hattersley Community Centre.

Or you can join the 35,000 people who have gone online to sign the police’s own book of condolence at: http://www.gmp.police.uk/mainsite/cond.htm.

Floral tributes may also be left at the police cordon at Ashworth Lane, and donations for charities to be determined at a later date by the families can be sent to Tameside Divisional Headquarters, Ashton Police Station, Manchester Road, Ashton-under-Lyne, OL7 0BQ.

Unfair and inaccurate

Friday, September 21st, 2012

 

During the last week I have been shocked and angered by some of the misleading, unfair and inaccurate reporting of Hattersley and its residents in the national newspapers. References to outdated stereotypes of nearly 50 years are a disservice not only to the local residents but also to the wider public that these newspaper purport to serve. It is irresponsible to tar a whole community by the monstrous evil acts of a few individuals.

The so called journalist used adjectives such as “bleak, grim and dismal” to describe the area when, thanks to a strong and vibrant local community and successful private and public sector partnerships, the reverse is true.

Residents are proud to live in Hattersley and Tameside and our good working relationships with the Police, who protect our community and have our wholehearted support means that Hattersley, along with the rest of Tameside, has one of the lowest crime rates in Greater Manchester.

The future for Hattersley and its residents is bright. The on-going £250m investment programme has seen the replacement of the area’s schools, construction of a children’s centre, the construction of brand new leisure facilities, development agreements for the building of 900 private homes, a new District Centre including food retail, shops, businesses and community facilities alongside environmental and public realm works that have transformed the neighbourhood.

The tragic and appalling events of 18 September have touched the entire country, and left the residents of Hattersley and Tameside reeling in a state of shock. I believe the sensationalist and inaccurate reporting that we have seen in some of the national newspapers only detracts from the sorrow and respect that this whole community feels at the loss of two dedicated and brave community police officers.

I have personally written to editors of all the papers involved in the strongest terms to express my concerns and to correct their misconceptions and mistakes and I will also be making a formal complaint to the Independent Press Complaints Commission. I know how strongly the local people feel about the misrepresentation of their community and I and my fellow Councillors will support them in any way we can to put the record straight.

A tragic day

Wednesday, September 19th, 2012

It was with the greatest of sadness that I heard yesterday that two young female police officers lost their lives in the line of duty, protecting our society and our values.

It was a tragic day for Tameside, for the families of these brave officers, and for our Police force who have the full support and backing of the Council and the borough’s residents.

It is on days like this that we realise the selfless risks that police officers and those in the uniformed forces face every day to make our society a better and safer place.  For officers like those that died today, the risk to life and limb is a reality they live with every day.

I know that many people will be upset and disturbed by these events.  Over the coming hours, days and weeks, the Council, our MPs, and the Police will be doing everything we can to support those affected by these monstrous events from the families of the officers who lost their lives so tragically, our uniformed forces affected by the loss of their colleagues and our communities who have been affected by these terrible crimes.

In recognition of the huge debt of gratitude that we owe these officers, the flags on all Council buildings will fly at half-mast to reflect that we stand united in our grief as one council representing all Tameside in our sadness at today’s events. 

Last night at the meeting of Full Council, the Mayor led on a minute’s silence to honour the lives of these two brave officers, Fiona Bone and Nicola Hughes and to send our thoughts and prayers to family and friends.  Every decent person in this country stands alongside them, united in grief and shock.  All of us across Greater Manchester have them in our prayers.

Last edition of the Tameside Reporter

Friday, September 14th, 2012

Local Studies & Archive CentreI was sad to learn that the Tameside Reporter may have printed its last edition. I will be genuinely sorry if it proves impossible to rescue the newspaper.

Although the relationship between councils and the local press can sometimes be challenging, a good paper has a vital part to play in the community. We should also bear in mind that they provide employment. Whenever a newspaper folds it means that jobs are lost and the local economy suffers a blow.

As it said on this week’s front page, the Reporter has been affected not only by the ongoing recession, but also by a change in the way people choose to get their news.

When I was growing up there were many papers to choose from and you might have one delivered in the morning, an evening paper at teatime, and then get a local on a Friday. Today, a lot of people prefer to use their smartphone to surf the internet.

That’s why we, as a council, were swift to embrace new media and make full use of sites such as Facebook and Twitter.

Whatever the future holds, the Reporter will always have an enduring legacy. Its entire archive, dating back to 1855, is available on microfilm at Tameside Local Studies Centre in Ashton. These newspapers are an invaluable resource for anyone researching the history of the borough.

They show how life has changed over the last 157 years and provide a unique record of sporting events, entertainment, crime, royal visits, elections and more. The Reporter’s photographic archive, which we also hold, offers an intriguing glimpse of our towns in years gone by.

Of course the local studies centre, which is part of Tameside Central Library, Old Street, holds much more than back copies of newspapers. It has an extensive collection of books, maps and documents. Twice a month it hosts sessions for people wanting to learn how to trace their family tree.

More details of what is on offer are available at www.tameside.gov.uk/localstudies

On the up!

Wednesday, September 12th, 2012

We hear so much these days about the economic downturn that it is always heart-warming to learn about projects that are bucking this trend.

The recent examples I’m thinking of are the re-development prospects of a number of eyesores in Stalybridge town centre; eyesores that have become a real issue for shoppers, traders and visitors to the town.

The old Casablanca’s and a number of other prominent sites in the town centre had fallen into such a state of disrepair I often wondered if they would ever be brought back into use. It is extremely frustrating because despite our best endeavours the Council’s powers are limited in dealing with issues such as these.

But thanks, in no small part, to the newly formed Town Team who worked tirelessly with all interested parties we are finally seeing the fruits of their labour.

As was recently announced in the local press the Casablanca’s site has been purchased by the borough’s biggest social landlord, New Charter Housing and is currently being prepared for demolition ahead of re-development.

We have been working closely with the Stalybridge Town Team and a number of owners of derelict properties and expect more positive developments in the near future.

These properties had become blots on the landscape and reflected badly on the town, whereas now they signal a centre whose star is rising once again. Something I’m sure is a welcome relief to those who work, shop and live there.

Arthur blazed trail for today’s black stars

Friday, September 7th, 2012

Arther Wharton

Whether it’s Manchester United or Ashton United, it’s hard to imagine any senior football team taking the field these days without at least one black player.

Things have moved on a great deal since the 1970s when the appearance of Laurie Cunningham for West Bromwich Albion caused a huge amount of comment.  Or when the only black footballers we saw were in World Cup or European ties.

Players, of course, should always be selected on the basis of ability.  Race should never enter into the equation.  Pele is regarded as the greatest footballer of all time purely because of his astounding skills (even though some of might think George Best has a claim to the title).

However, if race was an issue in English football as recently as 35 years ago, imagine what it must have been like in Victorian times. That’s why I was eager to attend the unveiling of the blue plaque commemorating the achievements of Arthur Wharton, the world’s first black professional footballer.

Incredible as it may seem, Arthur, who was born in Ghana, was playing for clubs like Rotherham and Sheffield United in the 1890s.  Later, he turned out for two now-defunct Tameside teams – Ashton North End and Stalybridge Rovers. He was a goalkeeper of great ability but also very fast. So much so that he held the world record for the 100 yards sprint.

At the plaque unveiling, which took place at the Tameside Stadium, home of Curzon Ashton, it was great to meet people like Mike McKenzie, who became our borough’s first black football manager when appointed by Hyde United in 1994.

I was also delighted that Gordon Taylor, chief executive of the Professional Footballers’ Association, was able to take part in the ceremony. Gordon was born in Ashton and began his playing career with Curzon Road Methodists who merged with Assheton Amateurs 50 years ago to form Curzon Amateurs, now Curzon Ashton.

It is a matter of great pride to me that the Council has been able to recognise Arthur Wharton’s achievements. I fervently hope that Tameside will always be a welcoming place for talented sportsmen and women.

Salute to an inspirational father

Thursday, September 6th, 2012

If you saw swimmer Matt Walker come third in the S7 50-metre freestyle at the Paralympics on Tuesday, I’m sure you would have been moved by the way he dedicated the bronze medal to his late father, Alan.

It was a very emotional moment. However, Matt’s words had a particular poignancy for me because Alan was a former Tameside Council employee who spent 16 years in our IT department before retiring in 2003.  Sadly, he died of cancer in June of this year.

It is clear from Matt’s comments and what has appeared in the press that Alan was a very special man and an extremely devoted father. He dedicated his life to helping his son achieve his dream.

Matt made the decision to become a competitive swimmer when he was 10, after watching the 1988 Olympics in Seoul.  Alan backed him all the way.  He worked closely with the British Paralympic swimming team as a friends and family co-ordinator of the supporters’ group.  In doing so he helped Matt become one of the most respected Paralympians of all time and the winner of gold medals in Sydney, Athens and Beijing.  His medal tally currently stands at a very impressive 12 – three gold, five silvers and four bronze.

We have been fortunate that through his father’s association with Tameside, Matt has forged close links with our Sports Development Team, Schools Sports Partnership and Cllr Dawson Lane who is the Assistant Executive Member for Sport and Leisure. Last year, in the lead up to the London Olympics, he visited 10 of our primary schools to raise awareness of the games and use his gold medals and experiences to motivate children to take up sport.

Beyond that, Matt, who was born with cerebral palsy, has gained a master’s degree in business from Manchester University and was awarded the MBE in the 2009 New Year’s Honours.  He has even found time to do voluntary coaching and spent many years as a group leader in the Scouts.

Next on Matt’s calendar is to see if he is selected for the men’s 4x100m medley relay (34 points) on Saturday.  With any luck he will be and will extend his gold medal sequence over four Paralympic games.

I’m sure everyone in Britain, let alone Tameside, will be urging him on. Good luck Matt!

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