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Archive for January, 2013

An engine for growth

Tuesday, January 29th, 2013

The Government’s announcement that the high-speed rail link between London and Birmingham will be extended to Manchester and Leeds offers a long-term promise of prosperity down the line. It has been called an engine for growth and I believe that to be a very apt description.

With trains running at speeds of up to 225mph, journey times between London and Manchester will be slashed to 68 minutes. The HS2 project brings with it the promise of more than 10,000 jobs in the North West as the region begins to realise its full economic potential.

HS2 will also connect us to Europe’s high-speed network. The Continent already demonstrates the many benefits of high-speed rail. Germany, Europe’s most prosperous country, has the Inter-City Express system which provides super-fast travel between its major cities and beyond. Spain, Italy, Belgium and The Netherlands all have their own projects.

Of course many voices will be raised against HS2, but that’s nothing new. Almost 200 years ago there was staunch opposition to the construction of railways in the Victorian era, yet they proved to be the backbone of the Industrial Revolution. They made it possible to move goods and materials quickly about the country, fuelling the expansion of cities like Manchester, Birmingham and Leeds which will all be on the new network.

Railways cemented Britain’s place as the world’s leading industrial power in the 19th century. If we are to be a major player in the 21st century economy I believe it is vital that HS2 is completed.

As the project develops over the next 20 years, Tameside will be ideally placed to benefit. I’m determined that we get a ticket on this high-speed train to prosperity.

Have a ball this Valentine's Day!

Thursday, January 24th, 2013

Valentine’s Day ought to be a simple, but it can be a tortuous affair – at least for men. All you want to do is declare your love but there are so many things to consider: cards, chocolates, gifts.

Fortunately, I’m able to make one of the steps relatively simple. If you’re looking for a place to take your beloved for a special evening, why not try the Mayor’s Valentine’s Ball which is used to raise funds for a range of worthwhile causes. What could be better than donating money to Tameside charities while enjoying an excellent night out at the same time?!

This year’s event is taking place at Dukinfield Town Hall on Friday 15 February and promises to equal last year’s success with tribute band Planet Abba headlining this time around. Tables for eight people can be purchased at a cost of £320 or individual tickets at £40 per head, with those lucky enough to secure a ticket treated to a four-course meal with coffee as well as the entertainment.

Those who attend can also buy raffle tickets either on the night or in advance for £5 a strip with an impressive list of prizes available. These include:

• A Caran d’Ache Leman Rollerball Pen
• Corporate Hospitality for two people at a Stalybridge Celtic Football Club home game
• Meal for four at Reflections Restaurant, Tameside College
• Selection of bottles including champagne, fine wines and spirits
• Gift vouchers for Marks and Spencer and O’Brien’s Menswear

It promises to be a spectacular and memorable night, so I would urge you to get your tickets quickly so that you don’t miss out.

To make your reservation or to obtain further details, please contact the Mayor’s office on 0161 342 3087.

Will you be paying for the first time?

Tuesday, January 22nd, 2013

This February and March, thousands of the borough’s households will find Council Tax bills dropping through their letter boxes for the very first time. This is because the Government is abolishing the current National Council Tax Benefit Scheme and has asked each council to design a local scheme called the Council Tax Support Scheme but has reduced the existing grant funding that currently pays for it by £3.3 million. This means, a much larger number of our residents will be forced to pay something – even those who had previously not had to pay a penny.

My concerns about the changes are twofold. I fear many claimants may not understand how they will be affected (or worse will ignore their bill and wrongly assume that they do not have to pay it). I am also anxious about the impact the new scheme will have on already struggling household budgets. I am told more than 6,000 claimants are already in arrears with their payments – a situation which could get much worse once these new rules are introduced.

The Government has said that pensioners should be protected from the changes but the proposals will have a substantial impact on all other working age claimants. I am urging everyone who is concerned that they may be affected to seek advice as soon as possible. Council staff and partners will be on hand to offer support and guidance. There is also an on-line calculator available at www.tameside.gov.uk/counciltax/support scheme to help people work out how much they may have to pay.

The Council’s Welfare Rights and Debt Advice Service provide free and confidential specialist level advice and representation in matters of welfare benefits, tax credits and debt issues. For advice on benefits and tax credits call us on the Welfare Rights Freephone Advice Line on 0800 074 9985, Monday, Wednesday and Thursday 9.30am – 12.30pm.

For help with debt issues, a debt advice drop-in surgery is held on the first and third Thursday of the month at Customer Services, Ashton-under-Lyne, between 9.30am – 12noon. If you have mortgage arrears you can contact the Council on 0800 328 0008. Please see www.tameside.gov.uk/welfarerights or www.tameside.gov.uk/debtadvice for more information

Being prepared for snow

Thursday, January 17th, 2013

If forecasters are correct, then the snow we experienced at the start of the week was just a mere flurry in comparison to what is expected towards the weekend.  Forewarned is forearmed and I would like to encourage everyone to plan ahead to ensure they are best placed to cope with any adverse conditions.

The Council’s Winter Weather Pledge aims to set out what we will do to help residents in the event of bad weather.  This includes gritting all the main routes and doing all we can to keep the priority roads open, collecting waste when it is safe to do so, supporting schools to remain open and keeping people updated on any affected services via Twitter.  It also gives very useful advice on clearing snow from driveways and pavements and stocking up on your own private supply of grit, which is readily available from supermarkets and garden centres.

I’m pleased to say the Council was well prepared for icy conditions last weekend – all services operated as normal during the snow.  We have staff monitoring the weather forecasts and local conditions day and night and we are quick to respond where necessary. This work will continue throughout the current cold snap. I would urge everyone to do what they can to keep themselves safe if conditions should worsen.  May I also appeal to everyone to look out for any elderly or vulnerable neighbours – please help to clear their paths and driveways and let us know if you are concerned about their health or safety.

New vision for Ashton town centre

Wednesday, January 16th, 2013

Nothing ever stands still – to thrive and maximize its appeal to visitors, a town must keep looking forward, spotting new trends and opportunities to develop. With this in mind, the Council is working on a new vision for Ashton town centre, which will provide a modern offer for shoppers and businesses while still retaining its character, sense of community and historic charm.

At the centre of the plan is a new look civic square to be designed by international urban design and architectural consultants Taylor Young – the very same firm behind the award-winning refurbishment of the market hall after it was devastated by a fire in 2004. The makeover aims to help make the town centre a more appealing place to stay and shop, enhancing the market and increasing footfall. The work will form a wider package of improvements for Ashton, which includes the development of an urban village, a new administrative centre and a potential decision for Tameside College to move into the town centre.

The Council is also working with the landlord of the current Marks and Spencer unit in Warrington Street to find a new retailer for the space. In the meantime, preparations to open the new, larger M&S on Ashton Moss on 23 January are well underway. The store, which will bring more than 60 new jobs to the borough, will have a fresh, contemporary feel and will offer a wider range of products – including homeware and a café – for shoppers.

Business is also looking good for Ashton market which reported an increase in visitors and income during December in comparison to the same month in 2011. The market continues to move with current shopping trends, having recently installed free wi-fi and an open eating area for visitors. It has also been named Britain’s Greenest Market for its efforts to be eco-friendly and sustainable.

Ashton is Tameside’s main commercial centre and, as such, it is to the economic benefit of the whole borough that it remains commercially competitive and attractive. I believe we have a strong vision to take it forward.

A thriving market

Thursday, January 10th, 2013

Cllr Kieran Quinn in Ashton Market

There’s no denying these are tough economic times all round – not least on the high street – so I was delighted to hear that despite these challenges Ashton Market has reported an increase in visitors and income.

The market hall received 83,699 visitors in the week leading up to Christmas – a 12 per cent increase on the same week in the previous year.  The market ground also achieved its best December income for three years, achieving an 11 per cent increase on 2011.

This confirms how Ashton Market is not just holding its own but is indeed prospering.  This is testament to the hard work and commitment of traders and market staff, as well as to the desire to take this much-loved historic market forward so that it meets current and future shopping trends.

The market hall is fully occupied and offers the additional benefits of a communal seating/dining area and free Wi-Fi.  Other features I’m sure have added to its success include the very popular monthly farmers’ market as well as regular special events and entertainment.  The market has also received wider acclaim, having recently been named Britain’s Greenest Market by the National Market Traders’ Federation in recognition of its efforts to be eco-friendly and sustainable.

We are certainly not out of the woods in terms of the financial climate and I doubt 2013 is going to be an easy ride for any retailer but it is reassuring to know Ashton Market is in a strong position to move forward.  I urge people to continue shopping locally and supporting their town centres.  For anyone who hasn’t visited the market for a while, why not drop by and see what it has to offer?

Youth centre is at Droylsden’s heart

Wednesday, January 9th, 2013

Councillors and Officers at the constuction site of the new youth centre

Droylsden Youth Centre has provided a tremendous service to the town and indeed Tameside for many years.  It offers football and boxing, giving youngsters a constructive way to work off their excess energy.

As you might expect, its success is only possible because of dedicated adult helpers who give their time freely.  One of these is boxing coach Charlie Grice and I was delighted that he was awarded a British Empire Medal in the New Year Honours.  Charlie spends five days a week volunteering at the Lewis Road centre and thoroughly deserves his accolade.

It also puts him on a par with his good friend and colleague Alan Bradbury who was awarded the MBE in 2007 for his work with young footballers.  Alan has been involved with the youth centre for 50 years and it’s thanks to his efforts that a lot of excellent players got a start in the game including former Manchester United and England midfielder Nicky Butt.

Charlie and Alan have both worked tirelessly to raise money for the new Droylsden Youth Centre which should be completed this May.  Last week I visited Lewis Road and was very impressed by what I saw.  The £1.3 million development will clearly be a great base providing much-needed 21st century facilities. It will allow the centre to move forward and is a million miles from the old building – a prefab nursery dating back to 1940 which was only meant to last 15 years.

The majority of the scheme has been paid for by the Football Foundation, but I’m pleased that Tameside Council was able to make a contribution and ensure that the project was delivered.  As far as I’m concerned it’s money very well spent.  Droylsden Youth Centre does so much for young people in this area.

If you would like to learn more about the centre and the new development, please visit www.droylsdenjuniorsfc.co.uk Link to External Website.

The power is in your hands

Thursday, January 3rd, 2013

Want to save money on your energy bills?

On behalf of everyone at Tameside Council, please let me wish you a very happy new year. I hope you are all rested after a very enjoyable Christmas break and ready for the challenges and opportunities that 2013 will present.

January is, of course, the traditional time for making resolutions. If you only make one this year, can I encourage you to make your household one of the hundreds that have joined the Greater Manchester Collective Energy Switch since its launch on 2 January?

Gas and electricity prices have more than doubled in the last seven years and I think people more than ready to embrace this new chance to stand together to fight back against the soaring rates.

The scheme simply aims to organise a collective of as many households as possible to negotiate the best possible energy rates for consumers. It is open to all addresses – including those with pre-payment meters – and is a quick and easy way for people to save up to £250 a year on their gas and electricity bills. All residents have to do is register their interest in joining the scheme.

There is no obligation for anyone to actually switch until they receive an estimated bill based on the new collective tariff.

The Council will be running the following roadshows to explain the switch further, answer any questions and help people to register their interest:

  • Sunday 13 Jan 9am to 2pm – Stalybridge Farmers’ Market (10am-2pm)
  • Tuesday 15 Jan  10am to 2pm – Ashton Market Ground (10am-2pm)
  • Saturday 19 Jan10am to 2pm  – Denton Crown Point Retail Park
  • Wednesday 23 Jan 10am to 2pm – Hyde Market Ground (10am-2pm)

The deadline for registering interest for the first auction is 28 January 2013. Residents who have already recently switched to a new provider will have further opportunities throughout the year to register for collective switches so no one should miss out on getting a good deal. The simple process of registering takes just a few minutes – after that all the work in finding the best deal and switching is done for you.  I urge everyone to get on board and find out how much they could save.

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