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Archive for December, 2013

My Christmas message

Tuesday, December 24th, 2013

I don’t think it’ll come as a surprise to anyone if I say that this year has, once again, been difficult for us all. I remember writing a blog a couple of years ago saying that everyone, the Council, residents and businesses alike have all suffered. This is just as true today as it was then.

I am immensely proud of what we have achieved this year, despite the many and varied hurdles we have had to face and overcome. This is especially true when I consider that we have continued to deliver quality value for money services for our residents.

Households across Tameside are facing tough choices just to keep up with basic living costs. In the same way that many residents are making difficult decisions about their budget, the Council must continue to do the same.

Over the last three years we have seen a 41% cut to our funding which is set to rise to 56% in the coming two years. This means the choices we have to make about the services that you expect and rely on are becoming increasingly difficult.

We are looking for different ways of doing things. We want to work more with individuals and community groups and support them in keeping their local areas clean and well cared for. This is not a new concept; it’s a return to how things used to be. By doing this we will have more money to spend on safeguarding vulnerable young and elderly people in our community.

I certainly feel as if we have achieved a great deal over the last 12 months. Although I cannot detail all our achievements I have listed my top 10 below:

• Worked with Tameside College to develop brand new first class further education
• Pressed Transport for Greater Manchester for better public transport in Tameside
• Took on pay-day loan companies and provided better and more coordinated financial information and support for households in debt, and an affordable, ethical alternative source of credit.
• Encouraged local employers to adopt the Living Wage
• Promoted and encourage households to energy switch, .working with Community and Voluntary Action Tameside to help target the elderly and those most in need
• Attracted new employers into Tameside and encouraged businesses to grow and create new job opportunities
• Supported local entrepreneurs and those wanting to start their own business
• Promoted apprenticeships, working towards our pledge of having 1 in 4 young people in an apprenticeship by 2015
• Offered incentives to local communities to take on some of the responsibility for their areas – You Choose will be refocused to reward those who recycle
• Worked with residents to help them recycle more and send less waste to expensive landfill.

This couldn’t have been done without the tireless help and support of our staff and partners and it’s these people who deserve the highest praise and thanks for all that has been achieved.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year and see you in 2014

Christmas market was a cracker!

Tuesday, December 24th, 2013

There’s nothing like a Christmas market to get you into the festive spirit – the sights, smells and sounds are so evocative that I, for one, think spending time walking round the stalls with your family is unbeatable.

This was certainly true of Tameside’s first Christmas market in Ashton which closed on Sunday after two fantastic weeks. The feedback from the stall-holders and public has been really positive and visitors to the event enjoyed daily live entertainment and free children’s rides as well as a bar and 30 traditional cabin stalls offering food and festive fare.

Although we’ve already received an impressive number of positive comments the Council is still keen to gather as much feedback as possible from visitors and traders to help build on this success for next year.

We’ve received lots of wonderful feedback from visitors who have enjoyed the market and the lovely, festive atmosphere as well as from businesses who have seen an increase in trade. I would like to thank everyone for shopping locally and supporting their local traders.

We would really like to hear from more people about what they thought worked well and any constructive suggestions to help us build on this success for the future. We will be reviewing all the feedback before making plans for next year.

Ashton Market Hall saw an increase in trade during the Christmas Market, with over 3,000 more visitors through the doors during the first week than the same period last year.

So help make next year’s Christmas market in Tameside even better by giving your views on this year’s event by joining the Big Conversation at www.tameside.gov.uk/tbc

A Feast of Festive Fun

Friday, December 13th, 2013

I NEVER doubted that the Ashton Christmas Market would be popular, but the crowds that turned up to enjoy the opening ceremony surpassed all my expectations. There were thousands in the town centre on 8 December, all enjoying a truly magical spectacle.

Of course, there’s nothing like strolling around a Christmas market and soaking up the atmosphere to get you in the mood for the festivities, and it seems you agree because that’s what you have been telling me.

I’ve been receiving some very positive comments. The town-centre traders are loving the boost in business, but I’ve also heard from families who were thrilled by the lights switch-on, fireworks display and the lantern parade. Many of the people who have spoken to me tell me they have been back at least once.

On my own visits I’ve encountered a wonderful family atmosphere. I see some having a drink while others are browsing the stalls or waiting with their children for a free ride on the carousel or helter skelter.

Yet there’s even more to the Ashton Christmas Market than that. The fact is it’s all ours. We haven’t simply brought in a commodity – the market is literally made in Tameside. The 30 wooden cabins being used to sell the fabulous range of festive fare were all built from scratch by students at Tameside College. The borough’s many bands have come together to entertain the shoppers. Looking at the market, and the large numbers attending, has made me feel very proud.

The Christmas Market is open from 3pm to 9.30pm (Monday to Friday), 10am to 9.30pm (Saturday) and 10am to 5pm (Sunday).

Free parking is available from 10am to midnight throughout December on the Wimpole Street, Crown Street, Mill Lane and Union Street car parks in Ashton. The market is also conveniently located for public transport links including the Metrolink.

So if you’re in Ashton’s town centre make sure you pay the market a visit. I know you’ll find it well worth your while.

Tribute to Nelson Mandela

Friday, December 6th, 2013

Like the rest of the world I was deeply saddened to hear the news that the unique and inspirational Nelson Mandela has passed away.

For me as far as world leaders go, he more than most, embodied the spirit of hope and promise of change for good. His journey from prisoner to president embodied the idea that human beings and countries can change for the better.

The Mandela who led the African National Congress into government was a strong, self-confident and dignified person who also exuded humility that 27 years of imprisonment did little to diminish. Although he frequently described himself as simply part of the ANC’s leadership, I don’t think there was much doubt that he was the most affective and influential political figure of his generation in South Africa.

To the wider world he represented many things, not least an icon of freedom but also the most vivid example in modern times of the power of forgiveness and reconciliation. I personally always found his lack of bitterness astonishing and profoundly moving and I defy anyone not to be touched by his fierce dignity and unbending will to sacrifice his own freedom for the freedom of others.

It’s strange that although we knew this day would come, nothing can diminish our sense of a profound and enduring loss.

To mark his passing the Union flag will be flown at half-mast on Council buildings and the Mayor has opened Books of Condolence at both Ashton’s town hall and in customer services. If possible, please find the time to make the effort to sign it in memory of a man whose political legacy of non-violence and the condemnation of all forms of racism will continue to inspire us all.

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