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 October, 2015

Be Safe This Autumn

Friday, October 30th, 2015

With the clocks going back and the evenings starting to draw in, Halloween and Bonfire Night to me mark the true beginning of winter and the run up to Christmas. Both are occasions that should be, and usually are, associated with parties and family fun.

Unfortunately there are often a few idiots who prefer to make people’s lives a misery through indulging in anti-social behaviour and criminal damage. Sometimes not paying attention to the proper safety precautions – things like misusing fireworks on Bonfire Night and not checking where your children are going and with whom on Halloween – can also turn nights of celebration into nights of tragedy.

That’s why we’re working with the Greater Manchester Police and our partners on a multi-agency, Greater Manchester-wide campaign called Operation Treacle. Its aim is simple – to prevent, tackle and protect against bonfire and firework injuries, anti-social behaviour and criminal damage during the Halloween and Bonfire Night period.

As part of this work we’ve set up a website, www.safe4autumn.com that makes all of Operation Treacle’s information easily and publically available.

It includes safety tips for Halloween and phone numbers to report anti-social or criminal behaviour should you need to. You can also download Treacle posters here – these will let people know whether trick or treaters are welcome at your house or not. We want everyone to have an enjoyable and a safe Halloween. We understand that trick or treating has become an exciting tradition for youngsters, but we also understand that can be distressing for some vulnerable members of the community. We ask trick or treaters to respect the wishes of those who choose not to mark the occasion or face the consequences.

When Bonfire Night rolls along, we’d sincerely urge you to attend an organised event rather than risking your safety by having your own bonfire and/or fireworks. If you still want your own bonfire or firework display, then please make sure you know about bonfire safety guidelines and follow the firework safety code. Every year on Bonfire Night there are hundreds of accidents – some of which involve children and some of which could have been avoided entirely had the proper precautions been taken. It’s always better to be safe than sorry.

We’re not saying people shouldn’t be allowed to enjoy themselves – we’re saying is that the period is best enjoyed when you respect both your own safety and the safety of others. We urge everyone to stay safe, respect their neighbours and, most importantly, have fun.

Kickstarting Growth in Tameside

Thursday, October 29th, 2015

At the Q&A at the Business Summit questions were asked about transport infrastructure and the use of local traders.

No man is an island, and the same is true with councils as well. To achieve our goals for Tameside we cannot assume that the Council has all the answers and solutions. Working with partners both locally and nationally in areas where we share an interest is one of the best ways to deliver effective and efficient solutions to the issues that we face.

That’s why last week I held two separate breakfast summits to give all our stakeholders in the private and public sectors an opportunity to share what we can all do together to improve Tameside as a borough and as an economy. On Wednesday I held a Business Summit that was attended by over 70 local businesses, including companies as diverse as manufacturing firm Coleherne Ltd (a Pride of Tameside Business Award winner) and digital outfit Banter Media. I discussed the good progress we’ve made on our pledges to help young people, the long-term unemployed and ex-force personnel into employment by offering them support and providing businesses with incentives to take them on. The meeting also provided an excellent opportunity for the council and businesses to network and share ideas, most notably how we can best take advantage of new devolved powers in areas such as transport infrastructure and skills development.

At the Housing Summit we showed how housing investment in Tameside could be used as an engine for growth.

On Thursday I also held a summit on residential growth in Tameside with over 100 major housing developers, landowners and others involved in the housing delivery chain. I’ve said before on this blog that I think that the crisis in housing is one of the biggest challenges we face as a country. We’re not building enough, and we’re not building them at the quality and price levels that people need. But where other people are talking, we in Tameside are doing. At the summit, the first of its kind to be held in by a Greater Manchester local authority, I announced the council’s plans to release 36 hectares from former school sites and other council-owned land to kick-start the delivery of 1,500 new homes. We also took the opportunity to discuss several important issues such as the challenges faced by housing developers, the advantages of Tameside’s location between Greater Manchester, the Peak District and Yorkshire and how the council could support delivery through mechanisms such as the £300m Greater Manchester Housing Investment Fund and the Greater Manchester Spatial Strategy.

Both events have given me optimism that, even in the midst of the financial challenges we face, we have the resources and the expertise in Tameside to deliver on what matters to our residents and businesses. I look forward to many more such events in the future, and I look forward even more to getting on with the hard work that must be done to turn Tameside into one of the best places in the country to live, work and do business in.

The Big Tidy Up is Underway

Wednesday, October 28th, 2015

The Big Tidy Up started this month in Stalybridge and Mossley and will have spread of all of Tameside's towns throughout the next year.

When I announced the 15 Pledges for 2015 at the end of the last year one of the biggest pledges was launching a program to tidy up Tameside’s town centres and key gateways. After working with town teams, residents and local businesses I’m delighted to announce that the Big Tidy Up is now well underway in Tameside. Work has already started in Stalybridge and Mossley, and up to the end of this year and the start of the next we will move on through the rest of Tameside’s towns, including Denton and Dukinfield in November and Hyde in January.

All these Big Tidy Ups will see local businesses and council employees working together to paint, repair and replace street furniture such as benches, bins and bollards, remove out of date signage, refresh street and pavement markings, repair loose paving stones, and deep clean walkways. Green spaces will also be smartened up through replanting and cutting back foliage. While some of the work is specialised (such as street lighting) and needs to be undertaken by our in-house teams, wherever possible we have opened work contracts to local competition. For example, in Stalybridge the painting is being done by a company based in Audenshaw and the repaving and repairing of footways and squares is being handled by Droylsden-based civil engineers.

But the Big Tidy Up is not just about improving the public realm in Tameside for its own sake. It is recognised

One of the most high-profile jobs in the Big Tidy Up so far has been the jet-washing in Stalybridge town centre.

that a clean, attractive town centre brings in new investment, retains existing investment and helps people see Tameside as a good place to live, work and do business in. Many of our other pledges for 2015, such as the Tameside Loyalty Card and cheaper town centre parking, are also helping to provide a boost to all our town centres. We’re giving everybody the chance to get involved too by inviting residents, charities and community groups to launch their own tidy ups. If you or anybody you know wants to get involved then please get in touch with either myself or the council.

I believe the Big Tidy Up as well as our other pledges proves that despite the massive financial pressure we face we are still finding ways to invest in areas that are important to our residents and important for the future. I’ve said it before, but despite the challenges in front of us we will continue to be ambitious in making Tameside a place that all our residents and businesses can be proud of.

Make Sure You Have the Right to Vote!

Monday, October 26th, 2015

If you check your post over the next few weeks you may notice a letter from the Council about something called “Individual Electoral Registration” (IER). Today I want to explain what it is and why it is so important.

Individual Electoral Registration is a new form of registering people to vote in the UK. Previously, the “head of household” was responsible for registering all eligible voters who lived at their address, but now every individual is responsible for their own registration. Most people who are currently registered to vote will be registered automatically under the new system, although we still require people to confirm their details every year to make sure nothing has changed.

However, some people who have not had to register to vote before may be required to do so now. If you need to register, please respond to the letter you receive as soon as possible. There are several ways in which you can register. You can do it online at www.registerbyinternet.com/tameside, over the phone by calling 0800 197 9871 or you can fill out the form in the letter and send it back to the Council. You need to provide ‘identifying information’ (usually a date of birth and National Insurance Number) and your application will then need to be verified before you are added to the register. If you cannot provide this for whatever reason then get in touch and we will see if an alternative form of evidence of identity can be arranged.

Failure to register will result in you losing your chance to vote in elections and referendums in the future. It is estimated that up to 7.5 million people entitled to vote are not currently registered, and that a move to IER without a corresponding drive to register new voters could see a further 1.9 million removed from the electoral registers. For the sake of healthy democracy we need to bring that number down, no matter who they end up voting for. But not registering to vote can affect you personally as well. Almost all credit check companies will look up the electoral register when assessing your credit rating, and not being on it can lead to a lower credit score and complications in getting a mortgage, mobile phone contract or anything else that requires monthly payments.

If you want to do your bit for democracy and make your life a great deal easier into the bargain, then I urge you to keep an eye out for the registration letters that will be coming out shortly. Especially keep an eye out if you’re young, in private rented accommodation and/or move frequently, as you are the people most likely to need to update your information. If you want to do more then you could also have a word with friends, colleagues and family members to make sure that they register too. Together we will make sure that everyone who is entitled to vote in Tameside is free to do so.

Tameside is Top of the Class

Thursday, October 22nd, 2015

Earlier in the month I said that educating our children is one of the most basic and vital services that local government and its partners provide. The parents of Tameside’s children expect us to give their children the best possible start in life, and if we fail in that duty it is right that we are held responsible for it. We’ve faced up to that responsibility, and in the last few years we’ve worked together with schools, teachers, parents, children and partners to make a united and a determined effort to deliver on it.

I’m now delighted to tell you that in August this hard work bore fruit. Tameside is now the most improved authority in the North West and the 11th most improved local authority in England for pupils achieving 5+ A*-C grades (including Maths and English). This improvement in results also puts us above the national average.

In terms of individual schools, many of them also achieved outstanding results. Some of the highlights include: St Damian’s RC Science College in Ashton achieving the boroughs highest 5+ A*-C pass rate (including English and Maths) with 79%, Fairfield High School for Girls achieving a 77% success rate (an increase of 6%) and Audenshaw School achieving a 71% success rate (an increase of 8%). Three schools: the aforementioned St Damians, Longdendale, and Copley all improved their pupils successes in exams by over 10% compared to last year.

What makes this especially satisfying is that we’ve reached these goals despite the financial challenges we face. We’ve achieved results that equal or beat affluent boroughs with more funding for schools and lower figures for child poverty and deprivation.

Almost every politician, think tank and charity – regardless of their political leanings – accepts that education is the best route for children to escape poverty, yet for too long the belief (and, unfortunately in some cases, the reality) has been that the quality of your education is dependent on how well-off your family and your local area is. The work that we’ve put in proves that this doesn’t have to be the case, and that we’re gone some way – although by no means all the way yet – to prove that there is another, better path.

We should therefore absolutely celebrate how far we’ve come, but at the same time we must acknowledge that more work remains to be done. I am absolutely certain that the teachers, parents and education professions in Tameside are up to the task. It might be a cliché, but for our children’s future let’s keep going onwards and upwards.

The Great Public Health Carve-Up (Part 2)

Thursday, October 15th, 2015

Almost half a year ago I reported in this blog that the government had announced a £200m cut in local health spending. Local authorities such as the one I lead have had a legal responsibility for improving the health of our residents, for running public health services such as sexual health programs, alcohol and substance abuse treatments, and for providing advice and information so those who need our help can access it.

I bring this up today because the government has now launched a consultation on a further cut to our public health funding next year on top of what we have already suffered. Greater Manchester as a whole is losing almost £10 million in public health money after April 2016, but that figure hides more than a few other stories. I said last year that while these responsibilities often go unnoticed, they are absolutely vital in keeping the NHS financially sustainable. A penny spent by local authorities on helping someone give up smoking is hundreds of pounds the NHS doesn’t have to spend when the same person develops lung cancer.  Furthermore, many of the frontline health services we use are commissioned from NHS providers. A public health cut would add more pressure to beleaguered NHS finances, either from reduced income from commissioned services or from increased service demand in the absence of preventative care. It’s a classic example of robbing Peter to pay Paul in the name of “austerity”.

It’s no secret that Tameside suffers from poor health outcomes. The recently released Index of Multiple Deprivation shown that Tameside was the 16th most deprived out of 326 local authorities studied for health deprivation. Our healthy life expectancy (How many years people can expect to live in a “healthy state”) is 57. We desperately need investment in the kind of preventative measures that public health services specialise in. So how has the government responded to this need? By cutting our health grant next year by £1 million this year and £340,000 next year. Worst still, the cuts are being distributed in a manner that breaks the link between an area’s need for public health services and the funding given to run those services. This is due to two things: Firstly, the new figures to calculate how much funding is required for sexual health and substance misuse services are not connected to either the level of need or the harm caused by drugs and alcohol in the area. Secondly, the government has reduced the amount of funding that children in poverty receive compared to children not in poverty.

Across the board the story of this cut is that deprived areas with higher levels of premature morality have lost out to affluent areas with ageing populations. A public health system that favours authorities with aging populations is worse than useless when most of the people in your authority won’t live long enough to benefit from it. We need a funding system that lets us improve health equalities across the country, giving people the chance to grow old no matter where they are born. The current system of cuts is the exact opposite, widening gulfs in health outcomes and making the most important factor to a long life being what postcode you live in.

Show Your High Street Some TLC

Thursday, October 8th, 2015

One of the things I’m passionate about is encouraging our residents to shop locally and visit their own high street. That’s why last year we launched our Tameside Loyalty Card Scheme, providing residents and business with a win-win solution to make sure all our town centres are the vibrant and busy centres of commerce we all want them to be.

The concept is simple. The TLC Scheme gives shoppers access to offers and discounts at participating stores across Tameside. The stores themselves register with the scheme and agree what rewards they are offering to shoppers. Participating stores are also allowed to place a window sticker in their shop showing they are members of the scheme as well as being listed on the dedicated TLC website. It’s no different from the membership and loyalty schemes of almost every major high street retailer; we’re just rolling it out to support small and local businesses in Tameside.

10 months on and I’m glad to say that uptake of the scheme has been excellent. At the time of writing this 222 businesses were registered on the scheme, providing 329 offers to 1315 residents. We expect that figure to keep growing as more residents and businesses become aware of the scheme in the future. The current offers available provide discounts on products as diverse as baby chairs, MOTs and photo printing and enlargement.

We’ve also received positive feedback on the scheme from residents and businesses. To give you a flavour, Pride of Tameside Business Award Winners Timperley Motors stated that “The Tameside Loyalty card has introduced our business to potential new customers, whilst giving the customer the opportunity to receive a discount or special offer. As residents we have also registered for a loyalty card and check out offers on a regular basis and are great believers in the #shoplocal campaign”.

If you haven’t yet signed up to the TLC Scheme yet then you can do so by registering on the dedicated website here or by calling the council on 0161 342 2121. It’s absolutely free so there’s no reason to not start taking advantage of some of the great deals while doing your bit for Tameside businesses.

But the TLC Scheme is by no means the only way we are helping promote local business. We know that hard economic times and changing shopping habits mean that we need to go the distance. That’s why we’ve taken decisive action by reducing parking charges, prioritising investment decisions that increase footfall and launching the Big Tidy Up to clean up all our town centres. Together we will make Tameside the best place in Greater Manchester to live, work and do business in, now and for the future.

Inspiring our Children to Discover: New Schools in Tameside

Wednesday, October 7th, 2015

One of the most basic and vital services that local government and its partners provide is educating our young people. We have a legal and moral responsibility to make sure that every young person in Tameside can reach their full potential.

That’s why I’m delighted to announce that the Autumn Term is now in full swing at the Inspire Academy on Mossley Road in Ashton. While in the past we have knocked down and re-built existing schools, the Inspire Academy is the first brand new school to be built in Tameside since the creation of the borough in 1974. But the Inspire Academy is not the only new school that is being built in Tameside. Work also continues on the Discovery Academy off Porlock Avenue in Hattersley, and its doors are set to open in time for the start of the Autumn Term next year.

Both academies are located in areas where demand for school places is predicted to increase sharply in the next few years. Together, they will offer places for 840 children aged 4-11 and 104 nursery places.  Plans have also been put in place to allow the academies to expand their capacity on a year by year basis.

We would not have been able to build these schools in this tough economic climate without £8 million of grant funding from the government’s Targeted Basic Need Programme. However, this money comes with the condition that the schools are sponsored academies. It’s not what I would have wanted in a perfect world, but given a choice between academies or no new schools at all I make no apologies for taking the decision that’s best for Tameside.

The Carillion Academies Trust will therefore be sponsoring and running both schools.  We’ve worked closely and productively with them while the schools were being planned and built and I’m sure this good relationship will continue in the future.

But in the modern world education is a lot more than what goes on in schools. While we may be hands off with the new academies the council retains important roles in areas such as children’s centres, apprenticeships and youth services. In December we will also be formally launching Tameside’s first Youth Council, ensuring that the voices of our young people are heard in all the decisions we make.  With this, we are doing our bit to make sure that the future for those who come after us is as bright as it can possibly be.

Victory for #NorthernPowercut campaign

Tuesday, October 6th, 2015

Back in June Council leaders across the region were disappointed by the Government’s decision to ‘pause’ the electrification of the Trans-Pennine rail link.

Prior to the general election the Chancellor George Osborne made much of his plans to create a ‘Northern Powerhouse’. The idea of re-balancing the economy away from the South-East is a sound one and something that Northern Council leaders like me have long argued for. The opportunity to improve transport links across the North and deliver solid economic growth for our region was something that, I believe, we needed to grab with both hands.

However, immediately following the general election, a key part of the ‘Northern Powerhouse’ programme – the electrification of the Trans-Pennine rail link – was shelved.

To say that we felt let down would be an understatement. The economic benefits to Tameside of improving rail links over the Pennines had been taken away just a matter of weeks after they had been promised.

That’s why Council Leaders across the region refused to let this U-turn go. We got together and discussed how we could get the government to deliver on their election pledge. Councillors agreed to bring forward and debate a motion at their meetings of full Council to pile pressure on the government to give us the railway improvements they promised.

Tameside, Manchester, Stockport and Oldham Council’s, working with the Manchester Evening News’ #NorthernPowercut campaign, all debated and passed motions calling on the government to reverse the cancellation of the electrification works. In the end, it appears that the pressure of hundreds of angry northern Councillors and members of the public was too much, and the government has reinstated the plans.

Electrification of the Trans-Pennine route will provide capacity for six fast trains per hour between Manchester and York via Leeds. Journey time will also be reduced by up to 15 minutes.

The benefits to the economy of having a fast, frequent and reliable link connecting the major northern cities will run in to the billions. Here in Tameside we are determined to capitalise on our location on the rail line and ensure that the whole of Tameside feels the benefit of having the mainline Stalybridge railway station within the boundaries of our Borough.

The actions of Tameside, and other Council’s across the region on this issue show that, despite the difficult times Local Government exists in today, we can still punch above our weight and hold the government to account.

Honouring the Fallen

Friday, October 2nd, 2015

Unveiling the plaque in honour of Guardsman Tony Downes with parents Sheryl and Ronnie Downes and J.P Summerscales of the Grenadier Guards.

Some of you may not know that as well as serving as Leader of Tameside Council I am also the chair of the Greater Manchester Pension Fund. With £13.3 billion of assets, the Greater Manchester Pension Fund is the largest local authority pension scheme in the UK. Over 340,000 members look to us to provide them with security and dignity in their old age once their careers in the public sector end.

Since the Greater Manchester Pension Fund moved to Droylsden in 1988 we have made our home in the Concord Suite in Villemomble Square. It has served us well over a period of almost 30 years, but the time is right to move on to a more modern building to accommodate our expanding operations. However, we have not abandoned our commitments to the local area. The new pension building, larger but also more energy efficient, has been built a stone’s throw away from the old one, ensuring that jobs, skills and investment remain in Droylsden.

But as well as this we are also taking the opportunity to honour our local heroes as well. That’s why the new pension building is named after a young man who gave his life for his community and country. Guardsman Neil “Tony” Downes was 20 when he was killed in a landmine blast in Afghanistan in 2007. Tragically, his death came less than two weeks before he was due to return home. His parents continue to live in Market Street in Droylsden, and after receiving their permission and consulting residents and businesses the new Greater Manchester Pension Fund has been named “Guardsman Tony Downes House”.

Today saw the opening of Guardsman Tony Downes House. Members of the council, the family of Tony Downes and representativesfrom the Grenadier Guards and the British Legion will be in attendance. The word “hero” is often overused in this day and age, but by any standard Tony Downes was undoubtedly a hero. But we also must remember that in honouring Tony Downes were all also honouring all those from Tameside and elsewhere who have fought and died for their country; in Iraq and Afghanistan, in France and in lands and times further past. It is my sincere hope that immortalising his name in brick and mortar will be seen as a reflection of both our shared pride in their lives, and our shared grief at their passing.

Tameside Logo