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Archive for August, 2015

Setting the Record Straight on Bin Swap

Tuesday, August 25th, 2015

Over the past month or so since we announced the roll out of the Bin Swap program across Tameside we have received a considerable amount of feedback from residents. Contrary to what you might hear most of our residents have been supportive. Some of them have genuine concerns which we will do our best to resolve, but some have concerns about the Bin Swap because they’ve been given a false idea of what it actually involves. Today I want to set the record straight by highlighting the five biggest myths about the Bin Swap I’ve heard on the streets, in the media and on the internet.

5 Myths about the Bin Swap

1. Bin Swap will increase fly-tipping or force people to go to the tip more.

Data we’ve recorded from the bin swap pilot has shown that overall capacity for the disposal of household waste is unchanged, with the amount of waste being presented at the kerbside remaining the same or going slightly up. This means that households are still disposing of the same amount of waste. It’s just in different bins now. The evidence tells us that most people are having no significant issues that have resulted in them having to use public bins, illegally fly-tip, or take their waste to the recycling centre.

2. Bin Swap will reduce the amount of waste we take away from people’s houses.

Bin swap does not reduce the total waste capacity of households. There is still 477 litres of bin space each week for waste disposal. The only difference is that residual waste capacity has been reduced by 40%, which has been balanced out by a corresponding increase in recycling capacity. Bin swap makes no changes to your collection day or your collection frequency.

3. Bin Swap will let us reduce council tax.

We are charged by the Greater Manchester Waste Authority for every tonne of waste we send to landfill. We predict that a successful roll out of the Bin Swap will reduce these costs by approximately £3 million out of the £12 million we currently pay. That might sound like a lot, but it utterly pales in comparison to the £104 million we’ve lost since 2010 and the £38 million we expect to lose in the next two years from government cuts. The money we save from Bin Swap, along with the money we save from anywhere else, will be used to keep the lights on in our most vital services. It might not be a popular thing to say, but that’s the truth.

4. Bin Swap roll out wasn’t discussed with residents.

The Tameside Labour manifesto for the 2015 local elections stated that a full roll out of the Bin Swap would form one of our key election pledges. We have been working with residents and businesses to inform them about the Bin Swap and make sure that the roll out goes as smoothly as possible.

We asked for people’s opinions about it in our online budget consultation last year, we launched a pilot programme in four areas in borough, and then used these to conduct a robust evaluation. As part of this we sent officers to the pilot areas so we could listen to and learn from the experiences of people on the ground. 711 survey forms were completed, a total of 17% of the number of households in the area. That’s a number we can stand by when national polling companies routinely claim to speak for the country when they consult a fraction of a fraction of a percent of the population. We also make sure that the households we surveyed were of a variety of sizes, from single person studios to 6+ person families. The information we gathered allowed us to see what was going well and where we needed to put more support in place.

We’ve also been promoting the Bin Swap through all the council’s social media channels and our on-going Bin Swap roadshows. We’re putting on 88 roadshows over a period of 4 weeks in markets and shops across Tameside, so there’s sure to be one somewhere near you. From Day One we have been clear and open about our ambitions for the Bin Swap, and we have consulted with business and residents every step of the way.

5. Bin Swap offers no help or support for large families.

Our surveys in the Bin Swap pilot areas showed us that people had concerns about how larger households would cope. On the back of this feedback we have introduced an exceptional circumstances policy. Households of 6+ people and households with specific medical or sanitary requirements will receive an additional landfill container free of charge for as long as they need it. We also invite households who do not fall under the exceptional circumstances policy to contact us if they feel that they are having difficulties. We will be only too happy to discuss their situation and help them with their recycling needs.

I’ve said it before, but I’ll say it again. Rolling out the Bin Swap is not a decision that I or anybody else in the council has taken lightly, but in the context of massive cuts to vital services and the need to do our bit for environment we need to find ways of doing more with less. Bin Swap is also a cheaper and easier option than many of the alternatives used by our neighbours such as have going to 3-weekly collections, or spending almost £3 million buying new, smaller bins. Most people I’ve talked to have understood that it is the right and necessary thing to do, I hope those who disagree will join them in giving the Bin Swap a fair chance.

Summer Fun in Tameside

Monday, August 24th, 2015

Erin (7) and Kai (8) Lonsdale from Dukinfield working with the artist Paul Doyle in summer activities at Portland Basin.

We’re now almost at the end of August.  The summer holidays have moved along and if you had young children you’d have no doubt dreaded the cries of “We’re bored”. That’s why this summer in Tameside we committed ourselves to working together with Active Tameside, volunteers and community groups to put together a 31 day, 300+ event summer activity programme. From 1st August our libraries, art galleries, parks, leisure centres, museums and youth centres were working overtime to make sure the children of Tameside were kept entertained, healthy and safe through the summer.

Here’s just a small sample of some of the activities on offer: Let’s say you wanted to do a big day out with the kids on Thursday 20th August. You could have started off in the morning by watching Pendle Production’s re-enactment of Pinocchio in Stalybridge’s Cheetham Park, and then follow that up in the afternoon by going to Tameside Central Library to take part in free treasure hunts, craft activities and games. Or if you wanted an all-day event you can go down to Active Copley for a full range of sporting and fun activities including swimming, basketball, arts and crafts, football, cycling, trampolining and much more. With fourteen separate events, most of them free, on that day alone you’d have been sure to find something your children would love.

But if you don’t want to take my word for it then listen to some of the praise we’ve received from Tameside families. Dina Darby from Stalybridge has said that, “It is easy for the children to get bored over the school holidays and this is a great alternative to expensive days out to keep them busy and entertained”. Grandparents Ken and Julie Earith told us about how they brought their three grandchildren to “really good, well organised activities (that) give children something positive and creative to do. They also get them outdoors and mixing with others”. People like Chaim Cohen have even come from as far as Prestwich to enjoy Tameside events, and he’s declared them “worth travelling across Manchester to visit”.

As well as these events, I’m also happy to say that we have also been putting on free swimming events for the under-16s at the Active Tameside centres in Ashton, Denton, Dukinfield, Hyde, Copley and Medlock. In total there were 500 places over 10 days using all the facilities Active Tameside has available such as Zorb balls, wave machines and inflatables. Admission is on a first-come, first-serve basis on the day, so make sure you don’t miss out as they will end on Friday 28th August.

I make absolutely no apology for going the distance to make sure that every child in Tameside has a great summer regardless of their personal tastes or

Onlookers at Dukinfield Park watching "Secret Garden", one of several "Theatre in the Park" events held as part of our summer activities program.

financial means, but I’d be lying if I said that there wasn’t a longer-term motive at work as well. I’ve said it before, but all the recent research suggests that children who exercise regularly are not only healthier, but more confident and motivated than their peers. Good habits taken up when young can last a lifetime, and we are doing our part to make sure that all our young people pick up the good habit of healthy living. It’s better for them, it’s better for their parents and it’s better for us.

You can find a complete list of our summer activities in our online brochure available on the council’s website here. They don’t end until 31st August so there’s still time to turn up to some excellent events if you’ve missed out so far. I wish you all the very best in planning and enjoying what’s left of the summer.

Another Step Forward in Devolution

Monday, August 24th, 2015

In my role as Lead on Investment and Finance in the Greater Manchester Combined Authority I’m happy to say that there was more excellent news recently as ministers agreed to give the Combined Authority, of which Tameside which is a key member, control of £300m worth of European Union money. This will make us the only area in the country other than London and Cornwall that, as part of the drive towards further devolution, will be able to decide for ourselves how to invest this funding.

The ERDF focuses its investments on innovation and research; the digital agenda; support for small and medium-sized enterprises and the low-carbon economy.

The ERDF focuses its investments on innovation and research; the digital agenda; support for small and medium-sized enterprises; and the low-carbon economy.

Explaining the inner workings of the EU can be a tricky job at the best of times, but the money comes from two bodies known as the European Regional Development Agency and the European Social Fund. The purpose of these organisations is to balance out economic development across Europe by directing funding to areas to help them boost jobs and growth. For the 2014-20 funding period they are releasing around £5 billion to kick-start local projects throughout the country. Previously the money allocated to Greater Manchester was controlled by the North West Regional Development Agency, but this was scrapped by the coalition government and control was transferred to Whitehall.

Now we’ve got our money back, and instead of it being handled by a distant quango it will be handled by the people who are best placed to see where investment and funding needs to go to create Greater Manchester solutions for Greater Manchester issues. Specifically, we intend to vigorously invest in research and innovation and promoting small to medium sized enterprises. This will help Greater Manchester become the high-tech, high-quality employment area we know it can be. The previous round of funding in 2007-13 helped support projects on the cutting edge of science and economics such as The National Graphene Institute (£23m), Greater Manchester Business Growth Hub (£4.2m), the Royal

The National Graphene Institute (shown here under construction) was one of the projects part-funded by the last round of European development funding.

Eye Hospital (£3.7m), and The Landing in Media City (£6.8m). Together, these created more than 22,000 jobs across Manchester and the North West. Over the next funding period we fully intend to beat those achievements and beat them well.

When put together with the control of health and social care budgets and the retention of 100% additional business rate growth this move confirms once more that where Greater Manchester leads on devolution the rest of the country follows. It is my hope that other parts of Britain, especially in the North, will eventually be able to benefit from the same powers. As I’ve said many times before, this is an idea whose time has come. The only questions left now are “How far?” and “How soon?”

Reaching New Heights in Droylsden

Wednesday, August 19th, 2015

Last year when we set out our pledges for 2015 I talked about how we needed to put serious work in to make sure that all our residents have the opportunity to turn healthy living into a lifelong commitment. This goal, like anything in life, is a lot easier to reach if you can enjoy yourself while you’re doing it.

Sky High Adventure in Droylsden features four courses; Soft Play; Caving and Bouldering; Clip n’ Climb; and High Ropes.

That’s why I’m delighted to tell you about the opening of the Sky High Adventure centre at Active Medlock in Droylsden last week. Formerly the preserve of adrenaline junkies and professional mountaineers, the number of registered climbers in the UK has tripled since 1990, and the British Mountaineering Council (BMC) estimates that 5 million men, women and children use artificial climbing walls every year. The Sky High Adventure centre, only the fifth to be built in England and the only one of its kind in the North West, will allow people of all ages to join this climbing craze in a fun and safe environment.

The Adventure centre includes a range of activities designed to provide an active and challenging day out for families, young people, adults with disabilities or additional needs, corporate team building, youth groups and parties. Some of my personal favourites include the “Skyscraper” – a nerve-jangling climb up the side of a building, the “Leap of Faith” – a jumping course across a series of platforms suspended in the air, and the “Iron Chimney” – a vertical climb inside a narrow tower.

The Sky High Adventure centre is only the fifth to be built in England.

The centre has been built at no cost to the council, and Active Tameside’s investment is expected to pay for itself within the next 10 years. The centre has also created 16 new jobs for people in the local area. As important as the financial and employment benefits however will be the health benefits that those taking part will enjoy. NHS Choices says that regular participation in rock climbing (both indoor and outdoor) can lead to improved stamina, agility, flexibility, muscle strength and problem solving skills. It can also have measurable benefits for people who suffer from dyspraxia or mental health issues.

So, when it’s all said and done, if you want a fun and healthy day out then I cannot recommend the Sky High Adventure centre enough. If you don’t want to take my word for it then visit the centre’s Trip Advisor page and see what the public are saying about it. I hope to see you all down there soon.

Gone but Never Forgotten: A Tribute to Lena Eason

Monday, August 17th, 2015

Whenever famous 20th century sons and daughters of Tameside get mentioned it’s always the same names that inevitably crop up; Geoff Hurst, Margaret Beckett, Simon Hoggart to name a few. While all of them have undoubtedly gone on from here to achieve incredible things in their own fields, in terms of rolling your sleeves up and getting involved in your own community there are few who had the impact on Tameside that Lena Eason did. That’s why I, along with the rest of the council and community, heard the news of her death last month with the greatest sadness.

Make no mistake, she might have been small in stature but Lena Eason was a colossus. She was born in Ashton in the 1920s: a time of depression, deflation and decline as Britain haltingly recovered from the human and economic cost of the First World War. What she saw and experienced must have had an effect on her, and she was a proud member of the Labour Party for longer than most of us have been alive. Today if we want to learn about Attlee, Bevan, Gaitskell and Morrison we have to reach for a history book. Lena grew up when they were in their prime.

Along with her late husband Jim, whom she married in 1941, Lena entered public life by becoming a councillor for Ashton-under-Lyne. In 1972 they were named Deputy Mayor and Mayoress, and they would become Tameside’s first Mayor and Mayoress when the borough was created in 1974. In 1991 she went one further by becoming Mayor in her own right with her daughter-in-law as Mayoress.

Outside the council her list of achievements and contributions could fill a book, but here are just some of the highlights. She served for 25 years as a magistrate on the Ashton bench. She was a member of Ashton’s Christie Cancer and Holt Radium Committee for more than 20 years, and following the death of her son Michael from mesothelioma she became a member of the Greater Manchester Asbestos Victims’ Support Group. She also donated her time and effort to support the Tameside Blind Association, Tameside Centre for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing, and the Inskip League for Disabled People. She was chair of governors at Fairfield High School, a governor at Stamford and Hartshead high schools and Hurst Knoll, Trafalgar and Canon Johnson Primary Schools. She also served on the community health council for eight years and was chair of the Ashton – Chaumont Town Twinning Association for 13 years. She also found the time to be president of Ashton No 2 District Girl Guides. Last and not least, she capped it all off by being made an Honorary Alderman of the borough in 2006. Considering what she did for Tameside it was the least we could do.

Lena Eason is survived by three of her four children – Ian, David and Martin. Her funeral service will take place on Tuesday 18th August in St John the Evangelist Church in Hurst. It might sound like a cliché, but we truly shall not see her like again.

Showing Respect for our Elders

Friday, August 14th, 2015

Attendees at the Spread the Warmth Tea Party, held by Tameside Council and Age UK at Ashton Town Hall as part of a programme of events aimed at providing older people with an opportunity to get together and tackle the issue of loneliness.

With all the talk that has been kicked off by the devolution of powers to Greater Manchester over the past year, people on the street may be forgiven for wondering what it all means for them. The powers that we are taking over from central government will allow us to create plans and solutions at the local level for a variety of economic and social issues. Nowhere is this needed more urgently than in making sure we do right by our elderly population.

In Tameside 16.3% of our population are already over 65, by 2021 that will increase to 23.2% as those born in the second half of the 20th century starting reaching old age. Increases in divorces rates, life expectancy and population mobility are also leading to many more of our elderly population living alone than would have been the case in the past. Ensuring that they can play a full and fulfilling role in Greater Manchester, now and in the future, is therefore not something we can afford to dawdle on. Charities such as Age UK and the Campaign to End Loneliness are making us aware of the terrible costs of allowing our elderly people to live in isolation. Their work has shown that loneliness can be as bad for you as cigarette smoking, and is a major risk factor for dementia, suicide and other health issues. All these have a corresponding impact on council services, putting pressure on services already ravaged by cuts and increased demand. Vigorously tackling elderly loneliness would allow us to do a lot of good for individuals and the community while also saving money on vital services.

Charities such as Age UK are working on a national and local level to provide vital services designed to tackle and prevent loneliness and isolation.

The Greater Manchester model to do this involves two things. Firstly, by working with our health and social care partners and community-based groups we are putting in place a system to proactively identify and get in touch with those who are most at risk from loneliness. This isn’t a box-ticking exercise; we find out what is important to them and fit our support to match. Secondly, we’re starting to think about how we can change our city spaces to create “age-friendly” communities. In some cases this can be as simple as making sure there are good-quality pavements, seats and benches so elderly people can get around comfortably. In the longer term, we can work towards identifying naturally occurring retirement communities and providing them with the service and support their residents need to live and thrive in their own homes.

We have already started to put the wheels for these plans in motion through the Greater Manchester Health and Wellbeing Board, and the devolution of health and social care powers to the combined authority will only accelerate this process. In the meantime, I urge you all to play your own part. Even inviting an elderly neighbour or family member around for a cup of tea and a chat could do them the power of good. Together, we will make sure that old age needn’t be the end of a healthy and happy social life.

A Peaceful Window on the Past

Thursday, August 13th, 2015

When you think of buildings of historical interest in Tameside it is only natural that your mind would first be drawn to our outstanding industrial heritage. If Britain was the workshop of the world then Tameside was the workshop of Britain, clothing and fuelling the Industrial Revolution through its cotton mills and coal mines. However, if you want to know the story of one of our most famous places you need to go a little further back and a little further afield.

Specifically, you need to go to Bohemia (now the Czech Republic) in 1457, where a group of followers of the Christian reformer Jan Hus created the first Protestant Church.  Although centred on Moravia in Bohemia (hence their common name of the “Moravian Church”) their evangelical work took them all across Europe. The Moravian Church arrived in Tameside in 1751, when a congregation and a small settlement were established in Dukinfield to provide a base for preaching on the Western side of the Pennines. The settlement we see now began in 1783 when they purchased sixty acres of land in Fairfield, Droylsden on a 999-year lease.

From this patch of ex-farmland in Droylsden sprang one of the country’s finest examples of a model village. Planned and built to be self-governed, self-contained and self-sufficient the village, which included 110 members at its height, possessed its own inn, shop, bakery, farm, laundry, fire engine, night watchman, inspector of weights and measures, road overseer and doctor. Single men and single women lived in their own group accommodation, and all profits from the settlement were reinvested into charity work.

As Droylsden has grown the Moravian Settlement is no longer the self-contained community it used to be, but its character and architecture continues largely unchanged. It remains the largest settlement of its kind of Britain, and all its buildings are listed as being of Special Architectural and Historical Interest. Public worship, Sunday schools and community groups also continue to be run from the Church, which remains the beating heart and focus of the village.

The Moravian Settlement and its long and unique history is something that we should be rightly proud of. That’s why I’m nominating it as one of England’s Great Places, a scheme being run by the Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI) to celebrate some of the most attractive, inspiring and historical places in the country. The nominations close on September 1st, so I urge you to apply online here to help the Moravian Settlement or some of the other great places in Tameside such as Werneth Low, Stamford Park or the Huddersfield Narrow Canal get the national recognition they so richly deserve.

The Future of Local Government

Wednesday, August 12th, 2015

It’s certainly been an eventful couple of weeks. With the ink barely dry on the budget, the Chancellor has launched the second phase of his ideological drive to gut the public services we rely on. The 2015 Spending Review, scheduled for November 25th, envisions departmental spending cuts of as much as 40% on top of what has been endured since 2010.

There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that local government will suffer the brunt of these new spending cuts, as has consistently been the case since 2010. In Tameside we have already lost £142m of our budget since 2010, and we expect to lose a further £50m by 2020. Councils up and down the country have performed miracles in absorbing horrific budget reductions while maintaining the services that local people rely on, but we have now reached the point where further cuts will start to fall in places and services that residents will notice and miss.

It would be optimistic in the extreme to expect the drive for spending cuts to relax even in the face of this imminent crisis. The only way for local government to avoid financial catastrophe is to fundamentally transform the way we operate. This will involve a genuine transfer of power from the centre to councils, not just the handing over of money and/or responsibility that we have seen so far.

Since it has also become clear that the Departmental for Communities and Local Government is unwilling or unable to fight our corner against the Treasury, local bodies such as councils and enterprise groups should be allowed to have a genuine voice and influence in any future spending review negotiations. In financial terms, I would like to see us argue for ending the ludicrous referendum limit on council tax rises and giving councils the freedom to set their own council tax bands, fees and charges. In policy terms, I would like to see councils being given a free hand to run and fund their own services as they see fit, subject only to a regular central government (or, preferably, an independent body) audit to ensure that they are meeting their statutory obligations.

The devolution we have seen in Greater Manchester this year is an encouraging first step but we are clear that this must be the beginning of the journey, not the end. Unless any further budget cuts are met with an equal increase in the powers of local government the current arrangements will amount to little more than slapping a sticking plaster on a mortal wound. We have long gone past the point where devolution and transformation are nice to haves, they are now absolutely vital to the survival of local government in any form.

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