A to Z of services          A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P R S T U V W Y Z

Archive for September, 2015

Have Your Say on the Council’s Budget

Wednesday, September 30th, 2015

Every so often I find out that, despite my long years in politics, I still have the capacity to be surprised.

This time last year we rolled out the first edition of our online budget consultation. The reason we did it was simple; we wanted to show the people of Tameside the true extent of the financial challenge we faced, free from the misrepresentations and the distortions that often occur when local government and money are mentioned in the same sentence.

We trusted that the people of Tameside would be willing to take part, and you absolutely delivered. By the end of the consultation period we had received over 1,000 responses through the online budget simulator alone, and nearly 3,000 responses if you include others ways of getting in touch like e-mail, letters and social media.

To put that into perspective, out of the 63 local authorities that used the budget simulator only 3 had a higher response rate than Tameside.

But the truly important thing is what you told us.

Firstly, 73% supported rolling out the bin swap as a way to protect vital services and the environment by reducing the amount of waste we send to landfill.

Secondly, when faced with the choice, 78% of you supported an average council tax increase of 4.2%. That’s over twice the amount we’re legally allowed to raise council tax by without having a costly referendum.

Honestly, if somebody had told me that would be the outcome at the start I don’t think I would have believed them.

Because we had that information, we made the decision to increase council tax by 1.9% last year. As everybody was quick to remind us, we were the only council in Greater Manchester to do so. But we knew that we had the people of Tameside behind us when we made that choice.

It also showed us something else. People absolutely have opinions about the challenges we face, and as elected officials we need to give them the chance to make those opinions heard.

That’s why we’re launching our second online budget consultation. From now until 22nd December anybody in Tameside can give their views on how to manage the cuts imposed on us by the government.

To help as many people as possible reply we’ll be putting on over 150 budget simulator events and drop-in sessions throughout Tameside in libraries, Active Tameside centres, community groups, children’s centres and more.

If you’re unsure about how to complete the budget simulator then council staff will be happy to explain to you how it works and help you through the process of completing it at any of these events and drop-in sessions. You can find where and when they’re being held in your area by downloading the schedule here.

Alternatively, if you’re happy with completing the budget simulator by yourself, then you can do so here.

If you’ve completed the budget simulator, then I’d ask you also to spread the word about it to your family, your parents, your friends and your neighbours. If they also live in Tameside then get them all to complete it as well. There is no such thing as a wrong opinion, and the more replies and information we get the better we will be able to use them to inform our budget decisions for next year.

Democracy doesn’t get more direct than this.

A Proud History of Arms: Tameside's First Victoria Cross

Friday, September 25th, 2015

The Victoria Cross has been awarded 1,358 times to 1,355 individual recipients.

Throughout most of the history of this island men (and later on, women) from Tameside and its historical predecessors have fought with gallantry and distinction in Britain and lands further afield. It is therefore only fitting to commemorate the fact that this month 160 years ago a Tameside man became one of the first recipients of the Victoria Cross, and the first non-officer to achieve the award.

Although the Victoria Cross was not established until 1857 several awards were backdated to recognise acts of bravery during the Crimean War 1853-56. One of these acts was undertaken by Andrew Moynihan. Originally born in Wakefield in 1831, Moynihan moved to Dukinfield at a very young age and lived near Crescent Road. Up until he joined the army at 17 his life was typical for most young Tameside men of that time. He went to school at the Wesleyan Methodist School on Mill Lane, Ashton and worked for periods in Flash Hall Mill (which stood on the site now occupied by Tameside Central Library on Old Street, Ashton) and James Ogden’s Mill in Hall Green, Dukinfield.

It was at the Battle of Sevastopol that Moynihan etched his name into the annals of British military history while assaulting an armoured citadel known as the Redan. Despite suffering no fewer than 12 wounds Moynihan, by this point a Sergeant in the 90th Regiment of the Perthshire Volunteers, killed five Russians and rescued two officers under heavy fire. For this act he became the first non-officer to receive the Victoria Cross. He went on to earn his officer’s commission and the year after was honoured on his return to Dukinfield at the Astley Arms, where he was presented with a golden watch inscribed “Presented to Ensign Moynihan by the inhabitants of Dukinfield for his gallant conduct in the attack on the Redan on the morning of September 8, 1855 – September 26, 1856”.

Ensign Moynihan’s career did not end with Sevastopol and the Crimea. He served with the forces that suppressed the Indian Mutiny in 1857 and was then stationed in Ireland and Gibraltar. By 1865 he was a Captain and appointed musketry instructor for the island of Malta. Tragically, this would be his last posting, as he died on May 1867 of brucellosis from drinking unsterilized goat’s milk. He was 37 years old. His body was buried in Malta, while his Victoria Cross is currently on display at the regimental museum of the Cameronians in Hamilton, South Lanarkshire.

Despite his premature end, Andrew Moynihan and his family continue to make their mark today. Moynihan’s son Berkeley rose

to be a Major General and one of the foremost surgeons of his day, for which he was raised to the peerage. The present Lord Moynihan, his grandson, is Colin Moynihan, a former Minister for Sport, chairman of the British Olympic Association and the winner of a silver medal for rowing at the 1980 Moscow Olympics. On 14th September 2005 he unveiled a plaque in Dukinfield commemorating the 150th anniversary of his great-grandfather’s achievement.

Child Sexual Exploitation: It's Not Okay

Tuesday, September 22nd, 2015

It’s not always easy to discuss an issue like Child Sexual Exploitation, but with our responsibilities as a Local Authority for the safeguarding of children it’s not an issue that we can shy away from.

The difficulty many people have in choosing how to approach the subject shows the importance of the campaigns and work happening locally on the issue.

This week marks the first anniversary of the ‘It’s not okay’ campaign. The campaign was put together by the Phoenix Team, a number of public and third sector partners in Greater Manchester, in order to raise awareness of CSE and help more people to recognise the signs and have the confidence to report it.

Tameside Council and our partners in Greater Manchester have always taken the issue seriously, long before this campaign was launched, but the well-publicised experiences of other parts of the country show that whilst local authority and police staff have the expertise to deal with the issue, they cannot be everywhere at once. It’s only by raising awareness amongst the public that we can have more eyes and ears looking out for the signs and preventing any more young people becoming victims of this kind of abuse.

The campaign also works to change attitudes to the issue. Many people wrongly believe that CSE is exclusively about adults grooming children and the abuse of young people by other young people can sometimes be dangerously dismissed. There have been cases of where young people have used the internet to share indecent images of themselves with people they believe to be friends, only to find that they are later used against them as blackmail.

To celebrate the anniversary of the ‘It’s not okay’ campaign, there will be a series of events taking place as part of a week of action.

Under the banner ‘Know who your friends are’, young people will be encouraged to consider whether or not their online friendships are safe. It’s clear that some simply don’t understand that if they choose to share indecent images of themselves, they have absolutely no control over where that image ends up once they’ve clicked send.

The Phoenix Team will be visiting schools in the Borough to deliver information on the issue and support young people to have the confidence to come forward if they are the victims of abuse.

Tameside College will be providing sexting awareness training for students and staff so that they can better understand the consequences of sending sexual images via text or smartphone app.

The events and campaigns planned are intended to be high profile and will be promoted by the Council on our Facebook and Twitter pages, so it’s likely that you or somebody you know will see or hear about the issue during the course of the week.

If you don’t hear however, but would like more information, visit the It’s not okay website at www.itsnotokay.com for more information or follow @itsnotokaygm on twitter.

It’s only by working together as a Borough and community that we can stamp out this kind of abuse altogether.

Housing is our biggest challenge

Monday, September 21st, 2015

It is my firm belief that one of the single biggest challenges facing us today is the simple fact that as a country we are not building enough homes. The numbers speak for themselves. The 1950s and 60s are now looked upon as a golden age of cheap housing, as both Labour and Conservative governments made building a national priority. In 1968, 425,800 houses were built for a population of 55.21 million. In 2015, we have built 156,816 houses for a population of 62.28 million. For those of you keeping count that means 50 years ago we built 271% more houses annually for a population that was 12% smaller.

This slowdown in house building has had a predictable knock-on effect on prices. According to research conducted by Nationwide, in 1968 the average price you could expect to pay for a house was £3,903. If house prices had risen in line with inflation over the intervening years you could expect to buy the same house for a little over £60,000 in 2015. Instead the average house price has increased to £194,258, with areas such as London seeing prices skyrocket far beyond even that.

This has meant that for anybody on the 2015 full-time average wage of £25,000 a year 93% of England and Wales is now considered unaffordable to buy in, and if you’re on the full-time minimum wage of £14,000 a year that goes up to 99%. The human cost of this is not hard to imagine. That’s young people that can’t get on the housing ladder, families that can’t get a home for them and their children, and more and more income going into rent and mortgage payments at a time when budgets are already stretched to their limits.

There’s work we can do right now to encourage more house building within Tameside. As Chair of the Greater Manchester Pension Fund I am working to ensure the fund invests in housing developments to address this challenge. In a recent speech to the RESI Housing Conference the Housing Minister, Brandon Lewis, described the setting up of Matrix Homes, a joint venture between the city council and the Greater Manchester Pension Fund to bring forward new homes for rent as pioneering. Tameside Council is part of the Greater Manchester Spatial Framework, which is currently working on plans to identify land and housing requirements for the next 20 years. The devolution deal for Greater Manchester promises a new housing investment fund, worth up to £300m, with the aim of building 15,000 more homes over 10 years. Within Tameside itself we are also making efforts to increase the supply of land. This was identified as a key concern in last year’s budget consultation and we will continue to work in this area through releasing council-owned land and bringing brownfield sites back into development. Over the last 18 months the Council has worked with New Charter to release land for 330 units of affordable housing. In addition approximately 29 acres of land on former schools sites has been released for housing development. These measures will help alleviate some local pressure, but it cannot solve the whole problem. This is a national issue that will require a truly united response.

It is therefore up to all of us, private and public, Labour and Conservative, town hall and Whitehall, to put our heads together and get us building again. For the public sector, this should involve lifting Treasury-imposed borrowing caps that stop councils investing in new buildings. Councils in Scotland already have this freedom and are currently building the same amount of houses as English councils despite having a tenth of the population, and councils as diverse as urban Labour Manchester and rural Conservative Wiltshire are supporting a lifting of the cap in England. The private sector could also be encouraged to build through supporting smaller house builders and “use it or lose it” measures to prevent land banking.

None of this will be easy to do, nor will it work immediately. We cannot undo 30 years of neglecting house building overnight, but we do not have any time to waste to begin the work. I don’t feel I’m exaggerating when I say that this is an issue that will define the next generation of British society.

Customers are at the heart of everything we do

Thursday, September 17th, 2015

Customer service is at the heart of everything we do in Tameside Council. We must never forget that our purpose is to do our best for our communities and for our residents, many of whom have nobody else to turn to. That’s why we asked Customer Service Excellence, an independent body set up by the Cabinet Office, to conduct an assessment of the council through their Customer Service Excellence Standard.

The Standard is made up of five criteria; Customer Insight; Culture of the Organisation; Information and Access; Delivery and Timeliness and Quality of Service. The assessment was carried out via a desktop review followed by a multi-day visit where assessors reviewed physical documentation, carried out observations, and spoke to customers, staff and partners to review our attitudes and working practices towards customer service.

Now the results are in, and we’ve succeeded beyond even our best expectations. Tameside Council, or should I say our staff, have received a 100% score for Customer Service Excellence, including eight “compliance plus” awards where we have demonstrated exceptional best practice in certain areas. These awards were given for:

• Identifying the needs and expectations of all customers, particularly those who are considered to be “hard to reach”. 

• Effectively using customer data to inform the ongoing development of services.• A clear corporate commitment to customer service that has been communicated and embedded effectively across the entire council. 

• Empowering staff at all levels to help drive the continued focus on customer service.

• Engaging and involved our workforce in the ongoing development of council services, including a series of workforce engagement sessions.

• Making partnership working an important part of service delivery.• Demonstrating examples to show partnership working has been put into practical effect for the last three years.

• Providing support for local businesses, organisations and communities.

Achieving these awards would not have been possible without the first-class efforts of our staff, in particular those on the front line, to passionately develop and deliver customer-focused services.

However, we cannot afford to rest on our laurels. The next few years will see the council extensively redesign its services to cope with continuing austerity measures. Excellent customer services will play an absolutely vital role in helping to design these changes, communicating them to our residents and making sure that nobody who needs our help gets left behind.

You can rest assured that we will be continuing to find ways to build upon our customer service successes to meet these future challenges.

The full report can be read at Item 6 here: www.tameside.gov.uk/executive/cabinet/26aug15/agenda

I also urge residents to participate in our consultations, most notably the second online Budget Consultation which is due to begin at the end of September. Every resident taking part will be another valued opinion about what we want the Tameside’s future to look like.

A humanitarian crisis we can't ignore.

Friday, September 4th, 2015

As with most other people in the country, I was saddened and appalled this week to see some of the horrific images that have circulated the world. It has taken the death of a three-year old boy called Aylan Kurdi, drowned with his brother and mother off the coast of Turkey when their overloaded boat capsized, to shock us from our complacency and see the current refugee crisis for what it is. Before our eyes, the worst humanitarian disaster of this decade is unfolding.

To everybody reading this, I’d ask you to switch to Google quickly and search for some images of what cities in Syria look like today. If you honestly believe you could survive and prosper there then you’re a far braver person than most. You do not crowd into a leaking boat, or cling onto the side of a lorry, or put yourself in the hands of people smugglers if you’re only looking for, as some rabble-rousers would claim, “the good life”. You do it because if you don’t leave there’s a very good chance that you soon won’t have a life at all. The fact that we have only taken in 187 of these desperate souls through the government’s Vulnerable Person Relocation scheme should be nothing less than a source of national shame. We should and must be doing much, much more if we are to satisfy both our international obligations and our basic human decency.

Nobody is suggesting that we can take every single person. In just Syria alone it is estimated that up to 4 million of its citizens, half of them children, are now refugees in another country, but I know I speak with the people of Tameside when I say that we stand willing to do our part and take our fair share.

It can be done. We have done it in the past. In 1999 when the war in Kosovo was at its height Tameside took in 62 Kosovars from the town of Shtime. The conflict may have ended afterwards, but our commitment did not. We appealed to our business and residents to provide basic household essentials, and we worked with international aid agencies to help rebuild the town and reunite refugees with their families when they returned home. We are also proud members of the United Nation’s Gateway Protection Programme, which has resettled 3,000 refugees nationally, 150 of whom have found a safe haven in Tameside from countries such as Kosovo, Ethiopia, Somalia, Nepal, Congo and Iraq. I am sure they have fond memories of the generosity and warmth of Tameside and its people, and we must show those qualities once again if we are called to do so.

In the long term, work must be done to find a lasting solution to the refugee crisis by ending the conflicts and oppression in the Middle East and North Africa that produced it. Finding that solution is beyond the abilities of a local council, but until it is found we will work with our partners including fellow Greater Manchester councils, housing associations, landlords and charities to mitigate some of the terrible human cost. This is a crisis that demands action, and we will not stand idly by and wait for others to do it for us.

Pride of Tameside Business Awards

Thursday, September 3rd, 2015

Young entrepreneur Sam Ward’s 2nd business, The Tweed Brewing Company was awarded the “Richard Nash Start-Up Business of the Year” award.

One of the biggest annual events in the borough in recent years has been the Pride of Tameside Business Awards. These awards celebrate not just businesses that have been successful in Tameside, but businesses that have been successful in a way that has a positive impact for the whole of the borough. This could be through being committed to taking on local apprentices, providing an example of successful entrepreneurship or showing they’ve gone the extra mile to make Tameside a better place to live, work and do business in. What you do doesn’t matter. Size doesn’t matter. Turnover doesn’t matter. The only criterion is the ability to show that you’ve done good while you’ve been doing well.

I’m glad to say that this year’s Pride of Tameside Business Awards, held in the Village Hotel on 3rd July, was the best ever both in terms of numbers of applicants and the quality of the eventual winners. We should have absolutely no false modesty in celebrating this and presenting Tameside diversity and innovation to the UK and the world.

Beauty and fashion business Tropical Palms work in giving back to their community has earned them a “Pride Special Recognition Award”.

Beauty and fashion business Tropical Palms work in giving back to their community has earned them a “Pride Special Recognition Award”.

That’s why two weeks ago I personally visited some of the winners of this year’s Pride of Tameside Business Awards to see what they do, how they do it and what their secrets for success are. I’ll saw businesses like Bardsley Construction who won “Construction Business of the Year” by using their growth to invest in the skills and career development of eleven apprentices last year. I paid a visit to “Start Up Business of the Year Award” winner The Tweed Brewing Company whose 22 year old founder Sam Ward is blazing a path that other young people in Tameside could follow. And I found out how Challenger SiteServices, a family-owned company that provide portable toilets for hire, managed to do the double and come away with “Business of the Year” and “Service Provider of the Year” on the back of their outstanding corporate and social responsibility policies.

But the Pride of Tameside Business Awards are by no means the only way we are promoting business and investment in Tameside.

The “Made in Tameside” campaign is producing great results in marketing and profiling high quality companies and skills in the borough. For example, did you know that the ovens used in the restaurants in Disneyland are made by a business in Denton? You can see more details about the Made in Tameside campaign and the businesses taking part on our website here.

Vehicle mechanics Timperley Motors commitment to their customers has been recognised with the “Buy with Confidence Trader of Year” award.

The Tameside Loyalty Card Scheme is also going from strength to strength with 214 businesses providing 310 offers to 1281 signed-up residents, and if you haven’t signed up to take advantage of some of the great offers available you can do so here.

I hope you will all take part and join me in supporting the great businesses we have in Tameside.

Tax Credit Cuts: How to Make Work Not Pay

Wednesday, September 2nd, 2015

Low paid work is one of the greatest social problems we face in Britain today. It is nothing short of a national disgrace that in one of the richest countries in the world over 600,000 people struggle on zero-hour contracts and almost five million people are not paid a wage that enable them to live in a decent manner. The government has pledged to do more for working people, but in the month and a half since the Stability Budget has come out more and more evidence has piled up to show that this claim is hot air.

If that sounds a little strong, then I invite people to judge by the government’s actions and not their words.

After the Budget in July, The Independent (with a bit of help from the House of Commons Library) tells us that somebody who receives income tax credits and housing benefit would lose 93p on every £1 they earn beyond the £10,600 a year personal tax allowance, up from 90.6p last year. For those receiving only income tax credits, the amount of extra earnings lost will be 80p on every £1, up from 73p.

Bear in mind that the highest tax rate on the books at the moment is only 45p on every £1. This is in effect a stealth tax rise for some of the poorest in our society.

This is on top of Paul Johnson, the head of the Institute for Fiscal Studies, condemning government claims that an increase in the minimum wage (I refuse to call it a living wage, because it isn’t) would compensate for tax credits cuts as “plain wrong”. The IFS being the IFS, they have the figures to back that up as well. They have calculated that no less than 13 million families will lose an average of £260 a year from the benefit freeze announced in July. Three million of those same families would also lose another £1,000 a year from cuts to tax credits. These changes will disproportionately hit low income working households.

So, if you put these together you have a series of regressive tax credit and benefit cuts that both cuts the incomes of people in work, and then penalises them for attempting to earn more through clawing back the overwhelming majority of whatever extra they make. This is not a system that does anything to reward work or help people stand on their own two feet.

It also looks like I’m not the only one saying that the government’s claims to be for “working people” should be taken with some scepticism. Now even some Conservative MPs, such as Andrew Percy (Aberconwy) and Guto Bebb (Brigg and Goole), are sticking their heads above the parapet to accuse these cuts of being “eye-wateringly painful” and reversing “a key policy platform of the last five years, namely making work pay”.

There are plenty of ways to make work pay. Cutting working benefits and tax credits that hard-working people rely on is not one of these ways.

A Tale of Two Countries: The IPPR on the North-South Divide.

Tuesday, September 1st, 2015

The United Kingdom is one of the most unequal countries in the developed world. We are a country where the 10% richest of households hold 44% of our wealth compared to only 9.5% for the poorest 10% of households. The Luxembourg Income Study, released in 2010, shows that even before this government came into power out of 30 OECD countries only the United States, Mexico and Israel had greater levels of income inequality than the UK.

These are sobering figures in their own right, but even they still do not tell the whole story about inequality in our country.  Thankfully, the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) North think-tank has this week released regional income figures that show just how far we have to go to deal with the UK’s economic imbalances.

Their analysis runs the rule over the official figures and has found that disposable income in the North is £2,300 lower per head than the rest of the country, standing at £15,300 per year compared to a UK average of £17,600 and a London average of £22,500. In the whole of the North, only Cheshire East and North Yorkshire sneak into the top 50 richest areas in terms of disposable income per head, and all but 5 areas in the North fall below the national average.

The figures get even worse when you look at the imbalance in terms of government expenditure. The average London household receives £899 more value from services than the average household in the North, including £610 more on education, £110 more on bus travel, £70 more on rail travel, £40 more on housing subsidy, £60 more on school meals and £80 more on the NHS.

The economic case for investing in the North is self-evident: If the North of England was a nation in itself its economy would be the eight-largest in the EU, ahead of countries such as Sweden, Denmark and Belgium. Even halving the output gap between the North and the national average would increase national output by £41 billion. The moral case is equally compelling: Is it just or fair that Northerners have less disposable income than Londoners while also receiving fewer benefits for their taxed income than Londoners?

The Northern Powerhouse will only achieve its purpose when people start feeling its effect in their pockets. This can only happen by putting the building blocks in place for better jobs, higher wages and greater productivity. We’re up for meeting the challenge. The next few months will show us if the government is equally committed.

Tameside Logo