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Archive for December, 2014

Happy Christmas everyone!

Wednesday, December 24th, 2014

On behalf of Tameside Council I would like to wish you and your family a Merry Christmas.

Christmas is a special time for many of us. Lots of people use the festive break to get away from the daily pressures we all face, whether those pressures are at home or work.

In particular, many of us use the festive period to spend time together with friends and family – reconnecting the bonds and relationships that mean so much to each of us.

As Christians prepare to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ we should also take time to remember those across the borough who feel vulnerable or are suffering at this time of year.

I know many people already look out for their neighbours. But I would encourage each and every resident to take the time to check on a neighbour; give them a call and make sure they’re ok.

Times are still difficult and we know there’s not a lot of spare money around. So I would like to pay particular tribute to the many people, voluntary groups, churches and charities in Tameside who will be looking after those alone or homeless this Christmas time.

I wrote a blog on Foodbanks last week and how they have been a lifeline for some of the most vulnerable children and families in Tameside in recent years. With this in mind please consider making an extra donation which could make the difference for a Tameside family over the festivities.

We often take our public services for granted and expect them to be there for us whenever we need them, no matter the time of day let alone the time of year. So we should also pay tribute to those who will be working over Christmas and the New Year so that the rest of us can have an enjoyable break.

In particular the NHS, the police, our fire & ambulance services; council workers and our armed services – thank you for your dedication and service.

Have a merry Christmas and a happy New Year.

Time to take stock

Monday, December 22nd, 2014

As the year ends, it’s often a time to take stock of everything that has happened and work out what you want for the future.

Sometimes that can be as simple as an individual deciding to kick a bad habit. Here in the council we’ll be thinking about how we can make life better for our residents next year.

The sad fact is that is too often the reality of Christmas is far from the images of happiness and plenty we see on the television.

For too many residents, Christmas brings up thoughts of food banks, household budgets stretched past breaking point and the ongoing struggle to make ends meet.

I’ve made absolutely no secret of the fact that I think destitution on this scale has no place in a country like Britain, and the key to fixing it is to end the culture of high unemployment on one hand and low pay on the other.

Not only is it the right thing to do, it’s also the only choice that makes economic sense.

That was why, when I set out my 15 pledges at the start of the month, I made sure that fair work and fair pay was at the heart of our plans for 2015. Next year we will guarantee employment and training for any young person or armed forces veteran in the borough, give small businesses the help they deserve to invest in Tameside and reiterate our support for the Living Wage.

Of course, it hasn’t taken long for the naysayers and doom-mongers to stick their heads above the parapet and ask where we’ll find the money for all this.

But, as research from the Joseph Rowntree Foundation has shown, tackling worklessness and low pay doesn’t just reduce poverty, it reduces the amount of money spent on benefits, healthcare, law enforcement and social services.

A single unemployed person moving into a full-time Living Wage job benefits the local economy to the tune of £14,436. If we could do that for every unemployed person in Tameside, the local economy would be over £134 million better off.

Put bluntly; our plans won’t cost money, they’ll make money.

Unfortunately, a lot of that is money we’ll never benefit from. For every £1 of public money we save through getting people back into work, the borough will only see 7p of it.

That’s money that could be spent filling potholes, keeping our remaining libraries open and ensuring that vital services are there for the people that need them.

As part of the devolution agreement signed last month, Tameside and the other Greater Manchester councils will be taking control of government programmes in apprenticeships, complex dependency and business support.

Surely there’s an argument to be made that if local government is taking up more of the responsibility it should get to keep more of the savings made?

In this age of austerity, there aren’t a lot of chances to do the right thing and save money at the same time. Working with residents and businesses to promote growth and reduce poverty in our borough is one of those opportunities.

Next year, we intend to grab it.

Why you should shop local!

Tuesday, December 16th, 2014

People are always telling me they want to see bustling high streets full of independent businesses, and I always agree with them.

I’d love to see a return to the way things were when I was a boy but many things have affected our town centres over the last few years, not least austerity which has left people with less money to spend. However, if we are serious about reviving our high streets we, the residents of Tameside, are the ones best placed to take action.

We need to use our local shops more.

To help with this, the Council has organised a shopping reward scheme which operates on a win-win basis. By using the Tameside Loyalty Card (TLC) customers get discounts and special deals from participating retailers, and of course the shops get more business.

All those taking part will be listed on an online register and will display stickers in their windows.

I can’t recommend this scheme too highly. Retailers, restaurants and other businesses are the backbone of the Tameside economy. If we can give them that little bit of extra support, the whole borough will benefit.

One of the many distinctive things Tameside’s towns have to offer is the wide variety of independent shops, cafes and restaurants. The big shops sell quality goods, but meat from a high-street butcher, for example, is tastier and it’s more likely to be locally sourced.

The Council is acutely aware that every pound spent locally can have huge benefits for the borough. It helps businesses which, in turn, employ local people, who will then earn the money to buy more goods and services.

That’s why we’re doing all we can to get attract people into our town centres and to help local businesses. We’ve made it cheaper to park, and are about to launch the Tameside Enterprise Fund which will be focused on companies with fewer than 20 employees and supporting young people who want to start their own business.

To find out more, register your business, or to apply for a TLC card so you can begin shopping and saving in participating Tameside stores visit www.tamesideloyaltycard.co.uk

If you don’t have access to the internet you can apply by phoning 0161 342 2121.

Give your local high street some TLC. Sign up for the Tameside Loyalty Card and shop local.

Help us plan our budget

Friday, December 12th, 2014

I would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who took part in our biggest ever budget consultation which has just closed.

Over 1,000 people completed the innovative budget simulator to help us shape our priorities under the dark cloud of additional central government cuts. Additional cuts that amount to £38 million over the next two years, a huge total of £142 million by 2017. This is why it was so important that as many of our residents took part in the consultation as possible.

My council prides itself on engaging with the public, we need to listen to every voice, group and individual to help respond to this challenge. I am pleased to say that the tremendous response to our consultation puts Tameside in the top 5 % nationally for listening exercises.

A broad array of people took part in the consultation from the young and not-so-young voices in Tameside College and Ashton 6th Form, to customers using the Citizens Advice Bureau. Tamesiders of every class; creed; religion; BME background; sexual orientation or disability had their say. One thing that we obviously all share is our passion for Tameside and our resilience to see this challenge through.

We are now analysing all the responses received, and we’re keen to start using what you’ve told us to inform our decision making. It is clear from the initial survey results that people feel strongly about a number of issues, for example the public’s adamant we shouldn’t reduce spending on planned maintenance to our roads and highways.

We are listening to what you’ve told us and fully intend to remove these proposals from our identified savings target. Once we have analysed the results we will publicise what you’ve said and present your views to all councillors at the next Full Council meeting in February. This is important so that they are fully aware of the public’s views and can begin using the consultation’s results to help shape the council’s budget decisions.

Support small businesses

Friday, December 5th, 2014

Small and independent businesses in Tameside make a vital contribution to our community, add to the character of the towns in our borough and are a source of local jobs.

That’s why I am happy to get behind our local shops and firms as part of this year’s Small Business Saturday tomorrow.

The idea of ‘Small Business Saturday’ comes from the USA. Last year, towns and cities across Britain began to embrace the initiative and a movement was born. Small Business Saturday is a grass-roots campaign that encourages people to shop locally and support small and independent businesses in our local community.

Last year was the first time it took place. It was the largest celebration of small business the country had seen. It can help many of the 4.9 million small and medium sized businesses in the UK link together, champion their vital role in local communities and create a buzz about entrepreneurship and people starting out.

Tameside, this year has had two of the 100 companies profiled in the run up to the big day. Magpies Nest in Stalybridge, who are an award winning independent ladies accessory shop established in 2013 based in Armentieres Square and Bennett Staff Bureau who have been operating in Tameside for 53 years and winners of the 2013 Pride of Tameside manufacturing and service provider award. Both businesses will be holding events on the day.

Tameside’s six town teams are also supporting Small Business Saturday with entertainment around the town planned in Ashton and in other towns, businesses will be displaying posters and holding events to show their support. The day is also being advertised on the websites and across social media.

On top of this we have bucked the national trend by reducing car parking charges to encourage shoppers to shop locally. In the new year we will launch our Tameside Shop Local Initiative to add an even further boost to our local economy.

For more information on Small Business Saturday and associated events visit https://smallbusinesssaturdayuk.com/

Let’s back our small businesses.

Optimism is the Key

Wednesday, December 3rd, 2014

At the meeting of the Full Council yesterday, I had the opportunity to deliver my annual keynote address as the Executive Leader of Tameside Council. Not only is this a time for reflection but an opportunity to look forward, setting out my council’s current challenges and outlining our vision for the forthcoming financial year.

It is no secret that one of these challenges is the additional £38 million of cuts imposed on Tameside by central government. By 2017 over 50 % of our funding will be cut, that is £142 million in total. Together we have the daunting task of continuing to grow our economy while protecting services, jobs and the most vulnerable citizens. I would like to pay tribute to all those residents who have contributed towards shaping our budget priorities through the budget simulator; a record 9,000 plus so far. If you have not already done so please take this opportunity to have your say by visiting www.tameside.gov.uk and following the links to the budget consultation.

At times, putting your head in the sand and outlining a position of despair may seem attractive to some. That is not the Tameside Way. I and my colleagues on the council are determined to tackle our financial difficulties head on, and I look forward with optimism.

I know I may have surprised a few people with this statement but I want to offer Tameside an agenda of hope rather than despair or fear. Last night I outlined 15 initiatives my council will deliver in 2015, pledges that will offer opportunities, hope, economic growth and a better Tameside.

1. Youth jobs pledge – 6 months paid employment for any young person who is unemployed or not in training.
2. Tameside Enterprise Scheme – Supporting small businesses that invest in Tameside and mentor local young people.
3. Free swimming events for the under 16s.
4. Fair credit and fair pay – Tameside’s response to unfair pay-day lenders and our support for the Living Wage.
5. Helping older people feel safe in their homes.
6. Family activities – A programme of activity days in the school holidays.
7. Free travel for the long term unemployed – Supporting the long term unemployed with travel costs once they have got back into work.
8. Affordable homes reserved for Tameside people.
9. Veterans jobs pledge – 6 months’ work, skills training and transition support for our local heroes.
10. Town centre loyalty scheme – A scheme that rewards local shoppers who support local business.
11. £1 million to tidy up town centres – using local businesses to smarten-up street furniture including bins, benches and bollards.
12. Greening Tameside – Rolling out the bin swap and replacing street lights with more effective and environmentally friendly LED lighting.
13. £1 million to repair potholes.
14. Cheaper car parking – Providing the cheapest Council long stay parking in Greater Manchester.
15. Youth Council – Bringing young people closer to the democratic process to have a voice.

A Helping Hand for those most in need

Monday, December 1st, 2014

Like many of you, my family and I are busily preparing for Christmas while juggling the challenges of the day job. Christmas is a time for celebration, reflection and family, but for some it can be a very stressful period. If you are out of work or on a low wage your energy will be spent trying to manage a tight budget, while the rising cost of living means big compromises in your lifestyle.

For too many Tameside residents the choice is between heating or eating. In fact for some, feeding themselves and their families has become a challenge too far, Food banks are now a growing industry in Tameside and many parts of the UK. This is a sad indictment of society and goes to show that the much talked about economic recovery is far removed from some people’s lives. The Council and I are determined to grow the Tameside economy, create sustainable employment and to maximise opportunities for all. In the short term, some of our residents need an immediate helping hand. Council staff and Citizen Advice Bureau workers inform me that the demand for crisis support is unprecedented, with the Trussell Group reporting a 20% increase on this period last year.

I am acutely aware that many of the families seeking support have young children, children that deserve to look forward to Christmas as much as their friends. The compassion of staff and Tameside citizen’s never fails to impress me, many have donated food items, advent calendar’s and toys for those most in need.

If you have not already done so, I urge you donate too your local Foodbank. All the contact details can be found by clicking on the following link www.foodbanksintameside.org.uk

If you have money and debt worries please call Tameside Citizens Advice Bureau on 0161 342 5005

Armed services covenant

Monday, December 1st, 2014

At the start of November, thousands of people attended acts of remembrance across the borough to show their appreciation for the sacrifices made by the armed forces in defending our country.

This year’s events were particularly poignant, marking 100 years since the start of the 1914-18 conflict which was supposed to be the war to end all wars. The peace lasted only 19 years and since 1945 there has been only one year – 1968 – without the death of British forces on active service. You have only to switch on the news, or surf the net, to find reminders that our young men and women are still defending our interests overseas.

With a 13-year operation in Afghanistan barely concluded, the RAF is again flying missions over Iraq and special forces are active on the ground. All three services are helping to fight the ebola epidemic in West Africa.

Wherever the British armed forces are found you can expect to find Tamesiders. Men from our borough lost their lives in Iraq and Afghanistan and I believe it is only right that we honour their memory by making a commitment to look after their comrades.

At the most recent meeting of Tameside Council’s executive board, I had the honour of reviewing and reinforcing our borough’s Armed Services Covenant. It was introduced in 2012, following a successful campaign by the Royal British Legion, and demonstrates our determination to transform the relationship between our communities and those in the armed services.

The central principle of the covenant is a simple one. Serving men and women, as well as veterans and associated families, should not have to suffer any disadvantage because they are or were in uniform.

I know many of you feel as indebted as I do towards those willing to risk their lives so that we can continue to enjoy the many freedoms we take for granted. So it is very disappointing to learn from organisations such as the RBL that serving and former armed services personnel are more likely to be homeless and suffer the consequences of poor mental health.

The Armed Services Covenant responds to a number of these issues with practical measures that can make a huge difference to people’s lives. They include prioritising veterans in terms of mental health support services and making sure their families do not miss out in terms of housing allocation and school places. The Tameside Covenant, which also acts as a one-stop shop of support, can be found at www.tameside.gov.uk/armedforces

Moving forward, I have asked council officers to set up an Armed Forces Covenant executive group which will bring together the resources of the public, private and voluntary sectors. It will liaise with services personnel past and present to create further support services and projects.

I have plans for further measures and hope to reveal them soon.

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