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Archive for February, 2013

There is such thing as a free lunch

Wednesday, February 20th, 2013

Children at Gorse Hall Primary School

In these tough economic times – when all of us are feeling our ever decreasing budgets stretched to the limit – it is more important than ever to make the most of what financial support there is available. An easy way for families on low income to get an extra helping hand is to claim free school meals.

School meals offer children a healthy, nutritionally balanced midday meal – keeping their energy levels up for the busy afternoon ahead – while also saving parents the effort of planning and preparing a packed lunch every day.

It goes without saying that free school meals certainly ease the burden of the weekly food shopping bill for those who are eligible. But what some people may not realise is that, as well as saving families money, they also bring valuable additional funds to schools through the Pupil Premium.

The Pupil Premium gives schools an additional £900 for every pupil in receipt of free school meals. Schools are obliged to ensure the extra money directly benefits the children on free school meals. This additional funding can also often have a wider positive impact on attainment across the school. It is still worth claiming free school meals even if your child has packed lunches as the school will then still receive the Pupil Premium money to spend on your child’s education.

Claiming free school meals is a no lose situation for children, parents and schools and applying could not be easier – if you apply online at www.tameside.gov.uk/schoolmeals you will receive an instant decision. Don’t delay – for those most in need there is such thing as a free lunch and it makes sense to start reaping the benefits straight away.

You choose who gets the cash

Thursday, February 14th, 2013

If you want to see the benefits of the Council’s You Choose scheme – which has just re-launched for 2013 – then you need look no further than Tameside Titans Dance Club. The group runs dance sessions for young people and adults with learning or physical disabilities, helping them to build confidence, mobility and team work skills as well as keep fit and have fun.

The club – which goes a long way to making a positive difference to the lives and wellbeing of the many members – was one of 186 valued projects to receive money from the You Choose fund in 2012. This year there is more than £300,000 – saved from the borough’s recycling efforts – in the pot for residents to allocate to worthy local causes through a programme of public votes events.

This style of funding – known as participatory budgeting – ensures that the limited resources available go straight into the heart of communities to support the projects which matter most to the people who live there. I’m delighted that, despite the unprecedented Government cuts we are facing, this scheme enables us to help support many of the voluntary organisations that make a huge contribution to improving the lives of local people.

We had very positive feedback from our You Choose public vote events last year, with nearly 1000 residents taking part and voting X factor style to decide how to allocate the funds. Events for all eight district assemblies – as well as a Tameside-wide event – will be held throughout the year. For further information and a full application and event timetable see tameside.gov.uk/youchoose

Have your say

Wednesday, February 13th, 2013

A few months ago in a previous blog I urged people to make sure they used their vote to elect the inaugural Police Commissioner – the person responsible for running Greater Manchester’s police force.  Although the commissioner is not responsible for day-to-day policing operations, it is responsible for setting the force’s priorities, something that will impact on us all.  That is why I felt it important that as many people as possible voted.

Tony Lloyd, who was elected last November and has now taken up his new post, paid us a visit last week to meet Council staff and launch his Police Plan – an outline of what he intends to do during his time in the role.  I am also pleased to announce that he will be attending our 26 February Full Council meeting to address the chamber – and he wants to hear residents’ views on concerns and issues in their area.

As Commissioner, his job is to give the public a voice at the highest levels and to make sure the Police are kept accountable.  He also works to reduce crime and deliver an efficient police service.  Although he can’t tell the police how to do their job, he does have the power to appoint and even dismiss the Chief Constable.

You can send your questions to Mr Lloyd by email to communications@tameside.gov.uk before Tuesday, 19 February.  Please make sure to include your name and address and bear in mind Mr Lloyd can only talk about his role as Police and Crime Commissioner.  He is unable to discuss individual cases or people or on-going Police investigations.  You can find out more about the role of Police and Crime Commissioner and view Mr Lloyd’s Police Plan at http://www.gmpcc.org.uk

If you cannot attend the Full Council meeting to listen to Mr Lloyd’s responses , you can watch it live on the Council’s website homepage: tameside.gov.uk or follow the questions – and Mr Lloyd’s responses – on Twitter by following @TamesideCouncil.

All aboard

Thursday, February 7th, 2013

I’ve just had the first run out from Piccadilly to Droylsden on the Metrolink tram ahead of its official unveiling next Monday and what an enjoyable trip it was.

It has been four years coming, but I feel sure once people see just how quick, clean and reliable it is, they will agree it was worth the wait.

For me, it’s a lot more than the Metrolink bringing greener, cleaner travel trams to Tameside and with it improved economic prosperity to the region – it’s also about connectivity.

We have been promised that the line will be opened all the way to Ashton town centre by the end of the year, dramatically improving links from the city centre right along that eastern corridor to Droylsden. That has to be good news for households and businesses alike.

The tram took just over 10 minutes to reach Droylsden from Manchester – and that was on a day when road traffic was running slowly due to the icy conditions.

The first open-to-the-public tram will roll into Droylsden early on Monday morning but before its official launch and in recognition of the disruption caused to people along the route, Transport for Greater Manchester, who operate Metrolink, are handing out free three-day passes to some households in the Droylsden area.

Those who have qualified for one of these free passes, which they can use on the East Manchester line in the days leading up to the official launch, should have had them through the post by now. In other words those who qualify will be able to travel along the line for free on 8/9/10 February.

I am particularly proud of this unique offer because it’s in recognition of all the hard negotiations the six Droylsden councillors carried out with Metrolink on our ward residents’ behalf.

Energy consumers wield their power

Wednesday, February 6th, 2013

If you signed up for the Greater Manchester Fair Energy scheme, I have good news. You can look forward to saving an average of £122 a year on your gas and electricity bills.

The auction took place on 29 January and the successful bidders were Scottish Power, Ovo and Co-operative Energy. Those who took part should be receiving their offers within the next few days.

It’s fair to say this is one of the most successful initiatives that Tameside Council has led in recent times. More than 35,000 people registered an interest – with 4,355 from our borough alone.

I am also delighted that we have scored a couple of notable firsts. This is the first time one of the big six power companies has taken part in a switching auction. Hopefully, the others like Eon, EDF and British Gas will have seen what Scottish Power has done, realise the merits and participate in future.

After all, what do they have to lose? This is about good business. By taking part, and offering a competitive deal, they will scoop up thousands of new customers.

Also, for the first time, offers are being extended to people on pre-payment meters. This means some of Tameside’s poorest people will be able to cut their bills significantly. That’s got to be a good thing.
If you missed out this time, don’t worry, you’ll get another chance in the spring. Keep an eye on the Tameside Council website – www.tameside.gov.uk –  where you’ll be able to register.

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