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Archive for January, 2014

Preserving for future generations

Wednesday, January 29th, 2014

No one seems entirely certain why the original Hurst Cross existed. Was it a medieval marker on the lonely road to Oldham? Was it the site of a Roman resting place? Or was it an imitation of the crosses erected by Edward I in memory of his wife, Eleanor?

It doesn’t really matter. The Hurst Cross monument we have inherited from the Victorians has become one of Tameside’s best-known landmarks. So I am delighted that at the same time as carrying out essential road-safety work to make the junction safer around Queens Road, Nook Lane and Kings Road, the Council has been able to restore the cross. It will be moved a few yards, cleaned and lit, and it will still dominate the area as it has since Hurst was a village entirely separate to Ashton.

We are planning to have a “reopening” ceremony in the middle of February when we will place a new time capsule in the structure to go alongside the bottle put there in 1868 when Hurst Cross was built. Unfortunately, the ensuing 146 years hadn’t been kind and all we found was a perished newspaper and a halfpenny. Keep an eye on our website tameside.gov.uk or our Facebook and Twitter feeds for the date and time.

The project will do much to improve an area where there have been 11 road accidents over the last five years. Research shows that safety schemes such as the one being carried out in Hurst Cross have a proven record of reducing accidents and protecting drivers and pedestrians. More than three-quarters of the project’s £260,000 cost is being paid by the Greater Manchester Casualty Reduction Partnership Award Fund.

When the cross was originally unveiled, Silas Andrew, a member of the old Hurst Local Board, gave a speech in which he promised to take care of the monument and hoped that the board’s successors would do the same. I like to think Silas would be happy if he could see how Tameside Council is preserving the cross for future generations.

The importance of food banks

Monday, January 27th, 2014

I find it a very sad fact that in 21st century Britain, 70 years after the welfare state was established at the end of the Second World War, food banks have again become a fact of life.

There are several in Tameside including one in Droylsden which was set up late last year by my fellow ward councillor, Cllr Susan Quinn.

As you would expect, food banks receive many donations over Christmas. However, the need for them exists all year round. Hunger may be more keenly felt at a time when the more fortunate among us are indulging ourselves but it doesn’t disappear when the decorations come down.

Food banks need support during all 12 months and for that reason I want to ask you to bear them in mind. When you do your shopping, please make it part of your routine to buy a couple of extra items – tins or packets – which can be donated. Nowadays, many supermarkets have collection points so you may not even have to take them home.

By making regular donations you will help struggling people eat a varied diet or even just keep body and soul together. Food banks also provide a place where help is confidential and no one is there to judge.

I would also like to pay tribute to the people who give their time to organise food banks, and to those who volunteer to help or show their support in any way. They all have that basic common decency – a belief that the very least people can expect in a developed country such as ours is to have enough to eat.

A few bob for a couple of tins of beans or a packet of biscuits isn’t much to ask. As the saying goes: there but for the grace of God . . .

The fast track to prosperity

Friday, January 24th, 2014

Did you know that London and the South East account for 89% of current investment in Britain’s transport infrastructure?  Billions are being spent on the Crossrail project which takes trains across the capital, and on Thameslink which takes them from north to south.

Elsewhere the talk is of a new or vastly extended airport, and of course all this comes less than two years since the Olympics led to the regeneration of large parts of east London.

I fervently believe the time has come to redress the balance so that England’s regions start to benefit.  For me, the best way to do this would be to offer unequivocal support for the HS2 high-speed rail link.  As KPMG, one of the Britain’s big four auditors, has pointed out, the line would boost the northern economy by freeing capacity on other routes and drastically cutting journey times.

On the west coast main line, which stretches from London, through Manchester, and into Scotland, passenger numbers are rising by around 10% a year.  Across the country, the West Midland Regional Rail Forum has found that 11 years’ worth of projected passenger growth took place in the four years from 2008.  Demand is expected to increase by another 14% by 2018.

The HS2 line, which should reach Birmingham by 2026, and Manchester and Leeds by 2030, could transform the north if the project is handled properly and its construction is coupled with good housing, offices and a competitive pricing policy for tickets.

It has so much potential to create prosperity.  However, before anything can be done, the Government has to give its full support.  Once it is clear the line will be built, the necessary confidence will exist.  At the moment, investors are hanging back because the Government is displaying doubts.  This dallying must stop.

HS2 could regenerate the north – and at the same time provide a boost for Tameside – in the same way that so many parts of London have been revived.  European countries such as Germany, France and Spain have demonstrated the worth of high-speed rail.  Surely the time has come for Britain to do the same?

If our country is to become a truly 21st century economy able to compete with traditional partners as well as the emerging markets, it has to rebalance so that some of London’s dominance is shared with the regions.  HS2 would do much to achieve this.

Helping you to get the best energy deal

Thursday, January 23rd, 2014

We are all advised regularly that switching energy supplier is a good idea if you want to save money on your fuel bills. However the market – and vast array of different tariffs and offers available – is confusing, and puts many people off from trying to find a cheaper deal.

A new Greater Manchester energy switch scheme is offering residents an easy “win-win” opportunity to find a better deal. The ‘Better Energy Deals’ scheme aims to organise a collective of as many households as possible to negotiate the best possible gas and electricity rates for consumers.

The scheme follows two similar Greater Manchester collective energy auctions last year, to which more than 40,000 households signed up saving an average of £116 a year. However, unlike the 2013 schemes, people will also be given information about other money-saving offers that are open to them, so they can be confident of choosing the best possible deal.

Residents anywhere in the UK can register their interest at www.betterenergydeals.org.uk or by calling 0800 988 2426. The offer is also open to people on pre-payment meters. There is no obligation to switch suppliers until you receive your offers and are happy you can save money. If you then decide to go ahead with one of the deals, all the hard work of switching is done on your behalf. Anyone can sign up from 20 January until midnight 3 March – the collective auction will take place on 4 March. What we do know is the more people who sign up, the better the collective deal will be as the Energy Companies will want to attract those new customers or ensure they don’t lose existing customers – it’s all about people power.

Last year Tameside had the highest take-up rate across the region, with more than 5,500 residents signing up – the highest proportion of households to register in any one borough. I know energy prices and the costs of keeping homes warm continues to be a serious concern for many residents and I would encourage everyone to register for this next auction to see if they can make a saving. There really is nothing to lose.

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