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Archive for August, 2014

Libraries – a success story

Thursday, August 28th, 2014

As we continue our journey of difficult choices in the face of severe and ongoing government cuts to our budget, I’m confident we are being guided by the right priorities. Rather than saving buildings and assets we are working to protect frontline services and safeguard children and vulnerable adults.

A good example of this is the way we have successfully retained and improved the much loved and valued libraries service while reducing its costs by £1.5 million.

Two years ago Tameside Council launched a radical redesign so that we could have a high quality service which met people’s needs but remained affordable. Wifi and e-books are just two of its many modern features.

Some of our libraries have moved to new and more accessible locations. Mossley Library is now in the single-level George Lawton Hall, only a very short walk away from the old Wyre Street site. Hattersley Library has reopened in the bright and modern Hub on Stockport Road. Both have enjoyed a significant increase in usage since relocating. The feedback has been overwhelmingly positive.

We have retained a library in every district assembly area despite having to close five smaller branches. At the same time, we have created a comprehensive service with new technological features and more community involvement.

Denton West End Library is a fantastic case in point. It has reopened as community library and centre thanks to the involvement of volunteers. Elsewhere, old buildings have been adapted to provide other much-needed local amenities. The former Newton Library is being rented by a chemist and Hurst Library has been converted into a day nursery.

The libraries service continues to evolve and move forward as we ensure it remains efficient and fit for the future.

Hyde Library will soon move into new state-of-the-art facilities at the near-by town hall. This will release the Victorian Union Street building, which has become costly to maintain. At the same time it is helping to secure the future of the town hall which dates back to the 1880s.

Bringing more services under one roof is a simple and effective answer to protecting the services that matter most. It also cuts costs and makes our most prestigious buildings viable.

I am proud that, unlike some authorities, Tameside is facing up to the issues. It is taking brave but forward-thinking and necessary steps to save valued services even though the Government has cut our budget by a third with more reductions to come.

What’s more – as the libraries redesign demonstrates – changes can rejuvenate services and help them to thrive.

Why health care services need to change

Tuesday, August 26th, 2014

Tameside Council is one of the key partners driving forward Integrated Health and Social Care Services across Greater Manchester and I, for one, believe that puts us in a really strong position to effect change.

Change such as the length of time people have to wait to see a doctor.

A lot has been said about the pressures facing Accident and Emergency departments across the country, which is why I and my colleagues continue to argue that everyone should be able to get an appointment with their GP within 48 hours. It is also why my colleague, Cllr Brenda Warrington, received the support of her fellow members when she tabled a motion at Tameside Council’s July meeting calling for a future government to repeal the Health and Social Care Act 2012. This would remove enforced competition and release some of the pressure the embattled NHS seems to be constantly under.

The withdrawal of support for walk-in centres and the reduced service provided by NHS Direct has added to this pressure, but the more fundamental reason is the historical emphasis on acute care.

After years of a disjointed attitude to health and care, it is now time for a common sense approach to the delivery services that are devolved and shaped by the local communities they serve. This has to be an agenda which is not driven by budget pressures or one where the bulk of financial resources are used as a sticking plaster to tackle long term illnesses at a late stage.

Budgets and staff need to be realigned to prevent problems associated with alcohol, drugs, smoking and sedate lifestyles. The earlier we intervene, the better any problems associated with childhood obesity, mental health illnesses, heart, liver disease and cancers can be prevented and reduced.

I also believe that patients should be at the very core of any new health and social care services with a one-stop shop national health and social care service, genuinely from cradle to grave.

Most of all, I want Tameside to be a healthy borough where people are more active, more often, live longer, more fulfilling lives are able to stay in their own homes as opposed to long stays in hospital.

To have your say on improving services throughout Greater Manchester, take part in the Healthier Together consultation today at Healthier Together

Don't throw money away – recycle!

Friday, August 15th, 2014

THURSDAY is the day for bin collections where I live. Over any week my family will have accumulated cans, yoghurt pots, newspapers and general waste, all spread across the four bins we have.

Given that so much plastic can go into the green bin, I find it very frustrating that I cannot recycle the likes of yoghurt pots, so I am raising this with the new chair of Greater Manchester Waste, Cllr Catherine Piddington, who happens to be a Tameside councillor.

As we filled the black bin, or the £andfill bin as I prefer to call it, I realised I might as well have been throwing away £10 notes. Every tonne of “rubbish” we send to landfill costs the Council £300 – an incredible £5 million a year that could be spent on vulnerable children or looking after the elderly. We have to stop literally wasting money, so as a bit of a reminder I have asked that stickers be placed on £andfill bins to point this out.

Of course some household waste is beyond our control. Packaging from supermarkets is clearly an issue that still needs attention.

The recent bin-swap project has demonstrated a step change in the level of recycling in Tameside.

Using a bigger bin to collect glass, tins and plastic has led to recycling rates increasing by a whopping 20% in the pilot areas of Hurst, Ridge Hill, Haughton Green, and Richmond Park, Dukinfield. That is a saving of £120,000 in only six months.

We are now looking at how we can make sure this progress continues. I know that change is not without teething problems, so I want to ensure that we learn from the recent pilots.

In conclusion, I want to make one thing clear: we will not be going to three-weekly bin collections. I want to ensure that by education and design we are able to do our bit for the environment and protect services in Tameside.

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