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Archive for December, 2012

Droylsden’s Christmas crackers

Tuesday, December 18th, 2012

Droylsden

I have to commend the shopkeepers of Droylsden for coming up with two great children’s competitions this Christmas. Both of them involve youngsters getting their parents out and about in the Droylsden Centre.

Ten shops have got into the seasonal spirit by organising a treasure hunt. All the children have to do is go round the centre looking in shop windows to find 10 Christmas pictures. They then record the number of each one and the name of the shop where it appears.

All the correct entries will go into a prize draw which will be held at noon on Sunday, 23 December.  Forms and further information are available from Max Spielmann at 6 Queens Walk or JD Carroll Jewellers at 22 Queens Walk. 

In the “Creative Christmas” competition, the shops are asking children to produce a festive picture.  Youngsters aged 3-5 and 6-8 need to collect a set picture from JD Carroll and then colour it in.  Older children (9-11) have free rein to create their own Christmas design.

Prizes will be available for the best entries. Once again Carroll’s Jewellers is the place to go for more information.

I’m sure both competitions will be a huge success. If you have children yourself, why not get down to Droylsden this week and get them to take part? You never know, you might even find a few bargains.

Saluting public-sector workers

Monday, December 17th, 2012

Postal Workers Day

It was great to stand shoulder to shoulder with postal workers at the inaugural National Postal Workers’ Day.  It is at this time of year when we see most clearly the extra effort given by these dedicated public servants. 

All year round they provide an essential universal service to communities rich and poor and it would be a dark day if ever we lost this service.

Of course, it’s easy to think about postmen and women at Christmas as they are largely dealing with the things we are all so keen to receive. However, they are out there pounding the streets throughout the year, January to December, no matter how bad the weather, making sure we get our mail. 

You can show support for your local postie by tweeting @CWUnews using #posties or put your comments on the CWU Facebook group.

Yet postal staff aren’t the only people in the public sector going the extra mile this Christmas. Across the UK there are many thousands employed by central and local government who are working hard to ensure people like us get the services we rely on. Many of them are here, in Tameside, and I would like to thank them for their efforts.

So while you’re thinking of postal staff working through the night and early hours sorting all those cards and parcels, please don’t forget all the other public-sector people, many of whom won’t get a day off this Christmas.

Don’t let sharks take a bite out of you

Monday, December 17th, 2012

GMP Photo

The police can count on the full support of Tameside Council as they carry out Operation Challenger.  It has been described as a crackdown on the criminal networks which cause so much misery across Greater Manchester and its plan is simple.

It brings together a wide range of national and local enforcement agencies, including this authority, and combines their resources. Criminals will be targeted and put under so much pressure that it becomes much more difficult for them to operate.

Operation Challenger was launched on 11 December. You may have heard about the early-morning raids which resulted in 10 arrests for illegal money lending. These sharks feed on the misfortune of others offering, say, £50 for Christmas presents, and then charging an extortionate rate of interest. Failure to repay on time and in full will result in dire consequences.  

Fortunately, there is plenty of support available for those who feel pressured towards taking one of these “loans”. To find out what’s on offer, and how to get in touch, please visit www.tameside.gov.uk/welfarerights/xmas 

So please, do your part by rejecting the advances of loan sharks and rest assured that we, here at Tameside Council, will do all we can to support you, the police and Operation Challenger.

Welcome to Cash Box Credit Union

Let’s cheer Rebecca to a BBC win

Friday, December 14th, 2012
Rebecca Tunney

Rebecca Tunney

It’s great to hear that Rebecca Tunney has been shortlisted for the BBC Young Sports Personality of the Year Award. I’ll be watching on Sunday evening and hoping that she can win a prize I believe she thoroughly deserves.

It won’t be easy. Rebecca’s rivals, swimmers Jessica-Jane Applegate and Josef Craig, both won gold medals at the summer’s Paralympics. However, she has a highly impressive CV herself.

Rebecca, a gymnast who lives in Ashton and attends Droylsden Academy, was the youngest competitor at the London Olympics, aged only 15. She finished 13th in the individuals and was a member of the British women’s team which came sixth. Rebecca is also British all-round champion and the holder of a Pride of Tameside Sports Award.

“BBC Sports Personality of the Year” goes out at 7.30pm on Sunday on BBC One, BBC One HD and Radio Five Live. It will be presented by Claire Balding, Sue Barker and Gary Lineker.

There’s no vote – the winner will be chosen by a panel of experts – but I’m sure Rebecca can rely on Tameside to cheer her on.

A fair living

Thursday, December 13th, 2012

If we are to reduce people’s dependency on the welfare state we need to pay workers a decent living wage that means they can provide for themselves and their families.

Tameside Council is committed to continuing to provide a ‘Living Wage’ policy as part of its ongoing commitment towards its lowest paid staff despite the freeze in pay rises in the public sector for the last three years.

The living wage is an hourly rate set independently every year. It is calculated according to the cost of living and gives the minimum pay rate required for a worker to provide their family with the essentials. At its heart is an ethical argument for lifting workers out of poverty and reducing reliance on top-up benefits. The minimum wage in the UK is currently £6.19 per hour. The latest annual calculation saw the living wage rise in November 2012 by 25p from £7.20 to £7.45 for those outside London.

It is not just the right thing to do on ethical grounds – by closing the wage in-equality gap – but it’s also an investment in our local community which makes sound business sense. A key outcome for the Council over the next 12 months is to reduce residents’ dependency on public services – we simply cannot afford to continue delivering them in the way we have in the past. By adopting the living wage we can help build communities that are not only more confident and empowered, but also more self-sufficient.

Fighting back against fuel bills

Wednesday, December 12th, 2012

As temperatures continue to plunge, I think the cost of soaring household fuel bills are preying on everyone’s minds. Retail energy rates have more than doubled in less than seven years and this trend is set to continue, placing more and more local families in fuel poverty.

Residents will soon have the chance to fight back and save up to £200 a year off their energy bills by joining the Greater Manchester Collective Energy Switch. Launching in January 2013, the switch will be open to all households and will be a quick and easy way for people to get a better deal on their gas and electricity.

The scheme – being supported by Tameside Council in conjunction with the other nine Greater Manchester authorities – aims to organise a “collective” to negotiate the best possible energy rates for consumers. All residents will have to do initially is register their interest in joining the scheme. There is no obligation for them to actually switch until they receive an estimated bill based on the new collective tariff and they are happy the scheme has saved them money.

This is about everyone joining together to negotiate better value energy rates. It couldn’t have come at a more crucial time.
Look out for further details on the Council’s website and our Twitter and Facebook sites in the new year.

Trams are on track!

Monday, December 10th, 2012

A Metrolink tram

Monday 11 February. That’s a date I and many others have been looking forward to for four years because that’s the date we have finally been given by the Transport for Greater Manchester (TfGM) for the official unveiling of Metrolink to Droylsden.

That we have had to wait so long for this has been a source of deep frustration for me and the local community. We have experienced firsthand the disruption and impact of the work involved in building the new line – only to suffer delays time and again.

I know this has been a testing time for Droylsden residents but we can all see the finishing line and as disappointing as the delays have been, there is no doubt in my mind that Metrolink’s arrival in the town will be a massive boost to residents and businesses alike.

With a tram running every 12 minutes and taking around 20 minutes to get to Droylsden from Piccadilly, how can it not be of benefit to the town?

In recognition of the disruption caused to everyone, TfGM will be handing out free three-day passes to residents and schoolchildren in the Droylsden area for use on the East Manchester line in the days leading up to the official launch. Households in the town will receive more details closer to the time.

I know it’s been a long time coming but I feel sure that once it is established everyone will get on board and give it the support it deserves.

Judge on the results!

Tuesday, December 4th, 2012

Tameside schools are far from bottom of the class when it comes to achievement and attainment.

The recently published Ofsted judgement is based on an opinion by inspectors on the performance of schools. It is a subjective measure of many factors such as leadership, capacity to improve, etc. It is unsurprising that it tends to be the more affluent areas that get the better judgements.

However, most parents and pupils prefer to judge schools by the results that their children achieve. This is an objective test based on actual data, which can be verified and doesn’t rely on feelings or impressions. It is the same measure for every school and doesn’t depend on the views of the inspectors who inspect the school that day.

The number of pupils achieving 5 or more A* to C grades in Tameside is about average for Greater Manchester and only 1% off the national average. Importantly, Tameside’s results are improving at a much faster rate.   GCSE trend which clearly shows Tameside accelerating attainment 5A*-C beyond both our statistical neighbours and the national figure. Also % 5A*-C including English and Maths demonstrates we are now almost in line with our statistical neighbours and have consistently closed gap to national figures since 2007/8.

Despite the controversy over English grades Tameside has continued to improve and was 6th across Greater Manchester in the league table of the number of pupils achieving five or more A* to C Grades including Maths and English.

In terms of our primary schools, the Government’s objective measure of performance is achievement of level 4 in Key Stage 2 in English and Maths. An impressive 82% of our pupils achieve level 4, which is well above the national average and only 3% off the highest in Greater Manchester.

 

There has been a significant increase in KS2 scores in 2012, both in Tameside and at a national level, but we have consistently maintained the gap above the national position as the following table indicates:

The improvements in Tameside at KS4 over the last few years cannot be underestimated, and it reflects the commitment and determination of staff, governors, pupils and parents in schools across the borough. 

Even on Ofsted’s own judgements out of nearly 100 schools, only 2 of our schools are deemed inadequate. Not a single secondary school falls into this category.

It is worth remembering that in 2006, we were achieving below 50% for 5+ A*-C and below 40% for 5+ A*-C including English and Maths whereas now we are at. 

Tameside has made significant strides in academic achievement and this can in part be attributed to the significant resources of over £200 million invested in new buildings with the Building Schools for the Future Programme that I have delivered over the last 5 years together with Cllr Gerald Cooney the Executive Member for Learning and Achievement. It is regrettable that this Government chose to end that investment in 2010 cutting off a further £100 million planned investment into our schools and the future of our young people.

The improving journey of achievement also reflects the hard work of staff, governors, pupils and parents who deserve recognition for their dedicated efforts. As always we will continue to do everything we can as a local authority to continue to raise achievement and aspirations in our schools.

The true measure of our success is what our children achieve and we know that this is improving year on year.

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