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Archive for September, 2014

We want your budget-saving ideas

Wednesday, September 17th, 2014

It’s no secret that we are living in testing times, times of significant and punishing cuts to the Council’s central government grant. Just to put it into perspective since 2010, the Government has reduced the money it provides us for services by £104 million.

By 2017 Tameside’s funding from the government will have been cut in half and we face a further reduction of £38 million over the next two years.

Taken with the cuts already imposed, the people of Tameside have had £142 million in total slashed from their services. That’s over £1,500 less per household to pay for local services.

We know that services are important to our residents, and we want to make sure that despite our budget cuts we continue to make the borough a place where people are proud to live.

With this in mind it would seem obvious; therefore, that spending taxpayers’ money is a responsibility we take very seriously. As a Council we think it’s important to help struggling residents without compromising protecting the most vulnerable and doing everything we can to reduce costs.

However, we can’t face this challenge alone. We need to come together as a community to focus on making Tameside a place where everyone does their bit and shares the benefits.

That’s why I launched our budget consultation simulator at last night’s Full Council meeting. We want to hear your views on how we can balance the budget following the imposed cuts. We want to know what you believe are the priority services, where we should spend the remaining money we have, and how we can work together to build a borough of which we can all be proud.

How would you deal with another two years of government budget reductions? As it prepares to face another round of cuts, Tameside Council wants to know how residents and businesses believe it should react.

This is not about tackling inefficient wasteful councils – the Audit Commission independently assessed us as being one of the best and most efficient in the county.

Council tax payments provide only one third of the money the Council has to spend. The other two-thirds comes directly from the Government. This is the money we need to fund care homes, children in care, highways and refuse collection amongst all the services we deliver.

This means we have hard choices to make. We want to hear from the people and businesses of Tameside about how they think these cuts should be tacked and how the budget can be balanced. We can’t spend more than we have – that’s the law. We have limited choices in how we cut spending or raise money. All involve difficult choices.

Would you agree to increase recycling, so that we spend less on expensive landfill tax? Maybe you think we should spend less on street cleaning? Whatever it is, we want to hear from you. Contact us through the Big Conversation at www.tameside.gov.uk/tbc/current

Take a step back in time

Friday, September 12th, 2014

In the past I’ve written about people having a tendency to overlook the many fine buildings in our borough. Not any longer. I don’t think I’ve ever known such interest in a heritage weekend, or such a packed timetable.

Tameside has something for all tastes this year – ranging from formal visits to historical sites to fun events such as our tea dances and Victorian beach at Ashton Market.

At 11am on Saturday, Cllrs John Taylor, Brian Wild and Joyce Bowerman will be taking part in an attempt to break the world record for brewing cups of tea. Some of them plan to wear 19th century costume so it promises to be quite an event. Whether or not they manage to write Tameside’s name in the Guinness Book of Records, I’m hoping they’ll still raise lots of money for Tameside4Good.

I’m sure one of the most popular attractions will be the guided tour of the old Ashton baths at Henry Square. It offers a rare chance to see inside a fine mid-Victorian building which closed 40 years ago, and which we hope will soon become a hub for digital businesses. For more information call 0161 342 4242.

There really is far more to see and hear than I can list here, but you can find full details at www.tameside.gov.uk/heritageopendays and of course there will be access to our two grade one listed buildings – the churches of St Michael in Ashton and Mottram.

As a Droylsden councillor, I have to mention the Moravian settlement at Fairfield. Even after 200 years it still retains much of its original character and is a very interesting place to visit. The guided tours are fascinating.

Tameside may be a product of the Industrial Revolution but it has more than its share of fine buildings, many of which have features designed by highly respected architects and artists. Heritage Weekend offers a welcome chance to see them and I strongly encourage you to take advantage of it.

The North – Better Together

Friday, September 5th, 2014

With the debate raging in Scotland between the pro union and pro-independence camps, I thought it timely to argue the case for greater devolution for the North.

Common ground shared by both the nationalist and many in the “Better Together” camp is that the UK is over centralised and London centric. Whatever the result in mid-September, more powers shaped and delivered by the Scottish parliament are inevitable. Surely if it is good enough for Scotland, it is good enough for the North. The economy in the North West alone has a Gross Value Added contribution to the UK of some £130billion compared to the Scottish GVA of some £106 billion.

I and the other leaders of the Combined Greater Manchester Authority as well as those across the North of England are determined to have an even greater say on the resources we need for our communities to prosper.

For too long the powers that be in Westminster and Whitehall have decided that they know what is best for our localities and people, resulting in huge disparities in wealth, investment, infrastructure provision and services.

This imbalance in our economy is clearly illustrated by Treasury figures on public supported infrastructure projects. London’s per capita spend is £5,426 per resident, while in the North West it is projected at £1,248. This approach to London centric investment is counter to all the empirical evidence that large scale infrastructure projects will yield greater economic returns for those areas in most need. It also lacks common sense.

The second and related aspect of the imbalance is in our political structures. While Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have their own government assemblies, ours are fragmented and un-co-ordinated. We must strengthen the voice of the North with greater co-operation between strengthened Local Enterprise Partnerships. The scale and pace of City Region and area region government needs to be stepped up and a genuine connection between the electorate and local governance needs to be enhanced.

Greater Manchester has been ahead of the game and the recent City and Growth Deals will see significant investment (£476.7million projects will start in 2015/16 and help create 5,000 jobs, support over 75,000 people learning new skills and generate up to £80million in public and private investment. The One North, strategic transport investment plan has been an exemplar of what can be achieved with greater co-operation between northern city regions. As this co-operation grows, the North will need to develop more shovel-ready major infrastructure projects to shift resources from the South East to the North.

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