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Archive for October, 2014

Budget challenge

Friday, October 31st, 2014

The Government has cut £142 million of funding from the services we provide to you. That’s £1,500 less per household to pay for local services. These are big numbers. These are crippling cuts.

It is no secret however, that local government is changing.

With the money central government provides to the Council ever dwindling we are being forced to rely more heavily on the council tax we receive from our residents. From you.

We have to deliver a balanced budget. So we have to change not only what we deliver, but also how we deliver it and to do that we need to know what matters to you most.

To do that we have embarked on our biggest ever budget consultation with residents to date.

We’ve have an open door for your voice to be heard. We want to know how you would make the savings and balance the budget.

On 16 September, I launched Tameside’s online budget simulator.

We want to hear from as many people from every house, street and business in Tameside.

We have been running a promotional campaign to get the word out and encourage people to speak up and voice their opinion. From presentations at District Assembly and Town Team meetings to drop in sessions at the Carers’ Centre. Libraries have computers, set up and ready, so that anyone can call in and complete the simulator with assistance from staff, if wanted.

Last Friday, I took part in a workshop with students from Tameside College, Ashton Sixth Form and Droylsden Academy. It was clear that I was working with our stars of the future.

Using the on-line simulator was the easy part. What they did find difficult though was making the hard decisions. Where should we make our cuts? Who gets what? How can we bring more money in?

So you can see these are tough decisions, and provoked a high level of debate.

I want this budget consultation to bring the community and the Council to a common understanding of the challenge and a desire to work together to secure our future.

So please take some time to have a go at the Tameside budget simulator. You can access it from the homepage of the Council’s website or by clicking here. And if you complete the simulator you will be entered into a prize draw and stand a chance of winning a year’s sports club membership with Active Tameside.

Residents remove lender’s sting

Friday, October 24th, 2014

We are bombarded with so much bad news these days that it feels extra special whenever something positive happens.

So you’ll understand I was delighted to hear that Wonga, the payday lender, had agreed to write off the debts of 330,000 of its customers and to waive interest for a further 45,000. It’s estimated this will cost Wonga £220 million but, in truth, many of these loans should never have been approved.

Wonga’s arm was forced when the Financial Conduct Authority imposed new, common-sense rules to regulate affordable lending. However, this didn’t happen by chance. It was the result of a grassroots campaign within Tameside’s communities.

As we approach Christmas many people will be tempted to take out payday loans because they don’t want their children to miss out on this year’s must-have items. I can understand the temptation but I would strongly urge you to resist it. Payday lenders charge astronomical rates of interest and the terms and conditions you have to accept allow them to take money directly from your bank account.

Fortunately, there is a viable and low-cost alternative – credit unions which are not-for-profit financial co-operatives run by local people for local people. They offer loans at lower rates than many high-street lenders and also encourage you to save.

You can find more about credit unions here

If you find it impossible to get a loan you can afford, why don’t you consider the My Home Finance scheme? The payback terms are extremely competitive and are supported by both Tameside Council and New Charter Housing. You can find out more by phoning 0190 525805 or by visiting www.myhomefinance.org.uk

Recognised by our peers

Tuesday, October 21st, 2014

 

Tameside Council’s ambition and achievements have been praised by a national review body.

Earlier this year we participated in a corporate peer challenge. This was part of the Local Government Association’s “Taking the Lead” strategy which is designed to generate continuous improvement among local authorities. These challenges provide councils with an independent review across key areas, but focusing on top-class frontline services and efforts to promote economic growth.

Our review team was led by Cllr Peter Box, the leader of Wakefield Council, and Tony Reeves, chief executive of Bradford Council.

I am proud to be able to tell you they recognised Tameside Council as an organisation with ambition and a willingness to take tough but necessary decisions. Even though we will have lost half our government funding by 2017, we were seen to have planned ahead and to be coping well with unprecedented challenges.

The team also noted that Tameside has a well-respected leadership team. Everyone, including elected members, was aware of the changing role of local authorities and how, rather than simply supplying services, they must now help people to help themselves.

On the economic front, the review team found us to be a council constantly seeking out opportunities. We were commended for our efforts to improve transport links and to equip young people with the necessary skills for the 21st century economy. Business partners described Tameside as approachable, flexible and helpful.

Council staff also came in for praise. They were seen as enthusiastic and energetic with an understanding of the need to adapt.

This support we received through the peer challenge will allow us to forge ahead, confident in the knowledge that from the nuts and bolts of service delivery, through to vision and strategic leadership, we are in a strong position to provide for our residents.

However, welcome as this news may be, it cannot be the end of the story. One thing we must never do is become complacent. With the team we have, and the dedication that has been shown, I am confident we are capable of meeting the challenges we will inevitably face in the years ahead.

www.tameside.gov.uk/TamesidePeerChallenge

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