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Archive for March, 2013

Smoke free play

Wednesday, March 27th, 2013

Protecting your children from harm is one of the biggest responsibilities a parent faces. Whilst it may be difficult, the best way to protect your child from passive smoke is not to smoke in front of them.

This will also help ensure children don’t become addicted themselves as research shows that most people start smoking during childhood, with 90% of smokers starting before the age of 19.

With this in mind, Tameside Council and Tameside and Glossop NHS, have launched a new health and wellbeing campaign to encourage smokers to move away from children and protect them from seeing adults smoking. In particular, people are being asked not to smoke at the school gates and in parks and play areas.

The economic benefits of discouraging smoking around children include a reduction in cigarette litter, which is estimated to cost Tameside £1.6m a year. There is also, in the longer term, savings to be made because of increased productivity and better health: it’s estimated that each year smoking costs the borough £66million because of ill-health and early death.

Primary school children have been involved in creating posters to promote the smoke free message and the winning design – by Hannah Sanderson of Hurst Knoll School – will be displayed at schools gates and play areas across the borough. I hope that all parents, indeed all smokers – will join together in supporting this voluntary ban to help protect children and keep their environment safe.

The numbers are impressive

Tuesday, March 26th, 2013

According to Transport for Greater Manchester’s website the Metrolink is set to become the largest urban tram network in the United Kingdom.

The new lines including those to Tameside and Oldham will help reduce congestion on the regions roads with a predicted five million fewer car journeys every year, and is estimated to increase the number of trips passengers make each day from 55,000 to more than 90,000.

Since the first lines to Bury and Altrincham opened in 1992, the network has more than doubled in size, with lines to Eccles, Oldham, Rochdale, Chorlton, Droylsden and MediaCityUK bringing passengers into the heart of Manchester city centre. Trams now run to 65 stops covering over 43 miles of track.

Such impressive increases in passenger numbers shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone though because they have been mirrored in the newly released stats for passengers using the trams to and from Droylsden. In the first week it was open to the general public, nearly 8,000 people used the tram to and from the town, with the figure growing from 861 on Monday 11 February to an impressive 2,566 the following Sunday. By the end of the following week (Sunday 24 February) the overall figure had climbed to over 9,000.

The impressive passenger figures are consistent with the positive feedback my fellow Droylsden councillors and I experienced during the recent fun day held outside the Concord Suite and the numbers using the tram over the weekend before the official start date. Standing room only on these trams is a good indicator of what a vast majority of people think of Metrolink and what we have said all along: The trams to Tameside are a welcome addition to the public transport system.

For me it’s all about connectivity and that’s what the Metrolink is bringing to Tameside. Connectivity is one of the main thrusts of our drive to reinvigorate the local economy because it gives our residents and businesses the ability to travel more quickly to and from work. Once the Metrolink extension to Ashton (by the end of the year we are told) is open it will benefit those from right across the borough and if the Droylsden usage figures are anything to go by the numbers benefitting from trams into Tameside are bound to be equally impressive.

March 4 energy

Thursday, March 21st, 2013

If you didn’t take part in the Greater Manchester energy switch which Tameside Council helped to organise earlier this year, and you’ve been upset at missing out on the savings that were on offer, I have good news.

A second wave of the scheme was launched on 4 March, and you have up to and including Monday, 8 April, to sign up. Considering the average saving of £122 on annual power bills that the first switch realised for people in Tameside, it’s well worth taking part.

Signing up couldn’t be easier. Simply visit the dedicated website (there’s a link below) and enter your details. There’s no obligation to switch supplier if you’re not satisfied with the offer you get, and you don’t have to live in Greater Manchester. The scheme is open to people across England, Scotland and Wales.

You don’t have to take my word for it. This is what Alan McMahon of Stalybridge had to say about the offer he received: “Making a saving of £250 a year will be a real benefit to me. I’m 67 and I think there are real advantages for elderly people to join the scheme as we can always expect fuel prices to go up just before winter begins.”

If you’re not online, why not ask a friend to help you sign up? You can register as many as five households on the same e-mail address. Or just ring the Energy Advice Centre for free on 0800 009 3363 (Monday to Friday 9am to 5pm).

An auction on 9 April will be used to sort out the best deal. E-mails explaining the new offer will be sent out from 17 April.

This really is a quick and simple way to cut down on your annual outgoings. What’s more, although the average saving last time was £122, that doesn’t mean you couldn’t save more. The only way to find out is to sign up now.

Investment loan takes the biscuit

Wednesday, March 20th, 2013

You’ll all know Hill Biscuits, who are one of Tameside’s oldest companies. They were established more than150 years ago and I’m sure many of you will have enjoyed the enticing smells coming from Tudno Mill as you’ve driven along Manchester Road, Ashton.

They produce a delicious range of products which includes custard creams, malted milks and Nice biscuits.

I’m very happy to be able to tell you that with support from Tameside Council, Hill’s has become the first firm to receive a loan from the Greater Manchester Investment Fund. They have been granted £276,000 which will allow them to create 45 jobs by installing new production and packing facilities at their Smith Street base.

This investment will extend their product line which, in turn, should help them find more customers. What’s more, the majority of these jobs will go to people who have been unemployed for more than 12 months.

I think you’ll agree that this is excellent news. It shows what Tameside Council is able to achieve when it works with the private sector, even in the current financial climate.

Jobs and prosperity are a top priority for Tameside Council. Members and officers spend a great deal of time working to attract investment into the borough, and with a fair measure of success.

The Greater Manchester Investment Fund exists to support projects that generate economic growth and create jobs. I would encourage all Tameside companies to take advantage of the opportunities that are available.

You can get full information of what’s on offer from the Tameside Business Family. Just log on to www.tamesidebusinessfamily.com

Big decisions need your input!

Wednesday, March 13th, 2013

In this austere climate of unprecedented Government budget cuts and tough spending decisions, never has it been more important for everyone in the borough to work together to find the best way forward.

Over the coming weeks and months, the Council will be proposing changes to services delivered to our neighbourhoods. Through The Big Conversation, we want residents, businesses, service users and partners to get fully involved in this redesign process and have their say on what we do and how we do it.

The Council has already been forced to cut £57m from its budget over the last two years. This has led to the workforce reducing by over 1,800 employees and services being redesigned, reduced or stopped altogether. In the next two financial years we will have to deal with a further £39m of cuts, this being part of an estimated £118m reduction in our budget over the next four years as a result of the Government’s imposed funding cuts.

To deal with these financial challenges, we must adopt a more radical approach to how we and our partners work. We will continue to deliver good quality services that our communities most rely on – but we won’t be able to deliver them in the same way as before. It’s also important that local people and communities take on more responsibility, together with the Council, for their neighbourhoods and wellbeing. From picking up litter to keeping an eye on elderly neighbours and recycling more – we need residents to take a more active role and do their bit to help Tameside continue to be a great place to live and work.

This is not going to be an easy journey for anyone but we can all help smooth the way by working together and getting involved. To find out more about The Big Conversation and have your say seewww.tameside.gov.uk/tbc

Offering a helping hand

Tuesday, March 12th, 2013

In the present climate, I am sure saving money is proving difficult for many of the borough’s families. I am thinking particularly about those families who are trying to save up for a deposit on their first home.

Long gone are the days when a building society would offer the first-time buyer a 95% or even 100% mortgage on their dream home. Today the best deal you can hope to get is 90% of the money you’ll need.

That’s why I was pleased to launch a scheme in partnership with Lloyds TSB to help the borough’s residents onto the property ladder. Called the Local Lend a Hand scheme it offers first-time buyers the chance to buy a property with a deposit of only 5% as well as a range of fixed-rate mortgages at a lower rate of interest.

Like all local authorities, Tameside continually looks for ways to improve the lives of those it serves, that’s why we’ve invested £1 million in this scheme. By helping people to buy homes in Tameside we will be giving our local housing market a much-needed boost.

Subject to Lloyds’ criteria, borrowers are now able to pick any existing property in Tameside up to a maximum loan of £130,000 and take that first step onto the property ladder.

For more information simply pop into the nearest Lloyds TSB where I’m sure they’ll be pleased to help

Celebrating apprenticeships

Monday, March 11th, 2013

Youth unemployment is at a record high nationally with over one million 16-24 year olds out of work. The fact that 64,000 of these young people are in the North West alone is shocking in anyone’s book.

That’s why the North West Trades Union Congress has developed a Charter for Young People and why Tameside Council is keen to add its name to the growing list of supporters the scheme is attracting.

It’s also very timely because the sixth annual National Apprenticeship Week will take place next week from 11-15 March 2013 and looks set to be the biggest and best yet, with hundreds of events expected to take place across England. Co-ordinated by the National Apprenticeship Service, the Week is designed to celebrate Apprenticeships and the positive impact they have on individuals, businesses and the economy

But if there’s one thing you can always count on with this Council, it’s that we never wait for things to happen – we’re more likely to make them happen!

Here in Tameside we have been quietly getting on with creating opportunities for the borough’s young and that’s why we are one of the best performers in Greater Manchester with 700 employers recruiting Tameside residents for apprenticeships. This hasn’t happened by chance, it’s as a result of hours and hours of dedicated support by the Council and its partners in the public and private sector. Annual apprenticeship fairs where we bring employers and young people together and the annual apprenticeship Pride awards where we celebrate the borough’s apprentices are just two reasons why we are, and intend to stay, at the top when it comes to supporting our youth through these uncertain times.

Here at Tameside we can never be accused of failing to practice what we preach – a quick look at the photo at the top of this blog clearly demonstrates that. All the apprentices in this picture are employed by the Council throughout the borough – a policy we’ve had in place for some years and one we plan to continue with for many years to come.

The North West TUC will be launching a wide ranging campaign to focus attention on youth unemployment and to rally support for action – I would urge everyone to sign up and help us help our young along the path to employment.

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