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Archive for November, 2015

Have a Safe and Affordable Christmas

Friday, November 27th, 2015

You can get free advice on debt at our drop-in sessions, 1st and 3rd Thursday every month, 9:30-12. Clarence Arcade, Ashton

We’re now well into the run-up to Christmas, and across the whole country thoughts will inevitably be turning towards making plans to get the presents, food and other items that are considered necessary to put on a great celebration. Unfortunately, many people may find themselves being stretched to the limit financially to achieve this. The Money Advice Trust, an independent charity, warned that in January last year one in eight people struggled to make ends meet after spending on Christmas the previous month. Worse still, it is estimated that 1 in 10 people who borrowed money for Christmas in December 2014 were still paying off loans from the previous years’ festivities, piling debt on top of debt.

We know that managing finances, especially in hard economic times, can be a challenge for some people in Tameside. Many experiencing such difficulties, often through little or no fault of their own, are driven to turn to payday lenders and loan sharks for a short-term cash boost. This may seem like a quick and easy way out of a tight spot, but eye-watering interest rates, often as high as several thousand percent in the case of some payday loans, can very quickly make a bad situation worse if even one repayment is missed.

More than 4000 adults and over 300 young people now have shares in Cash Box, enjoying secure savings and affordable loans. Their current total share balance stands at well over £1.4m.

More than 4000 adults and over 300 young people now have shares in Cash Box, enjoying secure savings and affordable loans. Their current total share balance stands at well over £1.4m.

The Council and its partners have several different programmes to help people avoid, or recover from, the scourge of unmanageabledebt. For these seeking advice our welfare rights service offers free, confidential and impartial debt advice on the 1st and 3rd Thursday of every month, 9:30-12 at Clarence Arcade in Ashton. The Tameside Citizens Advice Bureau and other agencies also run a joint service called the Money Information Network Tameside (MINT) which aims to not only give people advice about debt, but also to give people the tools and skills to avoid the debt trap in the first place.

We also provide safe and affordable credit options to help people who want or need a loan out of the hands of loan sharks and payday lenders. The Cashbox Credit Union allows you to deposit money like a normal bank account which you can then borrow against at a rate of 26.8% APR. The National Housing Federation have also set up a service called My Home Finance, which provides people who cannot access high street lending with financial advice and allows them to borrow money at far lower interest rates than payday loan companies, around 69.5% APR as opposed to Wonga’s 1,509% APR.

The Council and I are determined to grow the Tameside economy, create sustainable, high-quality employment and give every resident the best possible chance to get on. But we know this is a long-term project, and that there are people in financial difficulty who need our help now, especially over the Christmas period. To those people I say: We are here for you.

Our response to the Comprehensive Spending Review

Wednesday, November 25th, 2015

As you can imagine, I watched this afternoon’s Comprehensive Spending Review with considerable interest. The first thing that leaped out at me, as I’m sure it will for most people, is the huge, colossal U-turn that the Chancellor has performed on working tax credit cuts. This isn’t a reduction in working tax credit cuts. This isn’t slowing down the rate of working tax credit cuts. This is a complete and total abandonment of the entire idea; dropped like a hot potato after a furious outcry from politicians (including quite a few Conservatives), charities and the public.

You won’t hear me complaining about this. Since the moment they were announced I, along with other Labour councillors up and down the country, believed that working tax credit cuts were an unforgivable attack on the very same hard-working people that the Conservatives claim to represent. But this U-turn should teach us two things. Firstly, in the face of sustained pressure for common sense solutions this government will back down from its ideological drive to shrink the state. Secondly, if this government ever claims in the future that “There is no alternative” they should be tempted with the contempt those words deserve. Austerity is a choice. Indiscriminate cuts are a choice. There is another way. Don’t let them tell you otherwise.

I’m also pleased that the Chancellor has seen it fit to allow us to raise more money in council tax for the provision of adult social care. Across the country, council adult social care services are dangling off a cliff, and if we fall over the edge we’ll probably end up dragging the NHS with us. However, the Chancellor has another thing coming if he thinks that this will be the answer to our social care ills. Even if Tameside Council took the full 2% precept in council tax it would raise just £1.4 million, a drop in the ocean compared to the £79.5 million that adult social care services cost us per year. In that respect this is  a sticking plaster.

It also doesn’t allow us to raise money for other equally important services, including children’s services, disability support and public health. I support any measure that lets us make sure that our elderly can live in comfort and dignity, but I will continue to also fight for fair funding for children who need our help, people living with disabilities who rely on our support, the homeless and the countless others who are currently facing the full force of government cuts. The measures announced today do nothing for these people.

As I write this other members and officers in the council are poring over the small print and analyses of the entire Comprehensive Spending Review. As soon as we know the full implications of what has happened today we will share them with you. As with most of these things over the last five years I doubt it will be good news. The Chancellor has made his choices, and our job now is to deal with the consequences in a way that protects vital services and vulnerable people in Tameside.

A letter to David Cameron MP

Friday, November 20th, 2015

Readers of this blog will most likely have already seen coverage of the correspondence between the Prime Minister and the Oxfordshire County Council Leader.

The letters confirmed the worst fears of Local Government leaders like myself, who have always suspected that national politicians have little idea of how Local Councils work or the services they provide.

David Cameron’s criticism of the way his local Council is implementing the cuts that his government is forcing them to make was the kind of thing that producers at the BBC would dismiss as too outrageous and unrealistic if the story was pitched to them by up and coming scriptwriters.

Most troubling for me was the assertion that Council’s should be looking for ‘creative solutions’ to their budget challenge and reducing back office functions. Having suffered from budget cuts for more than five years, I’m not sure why the Prime Minister would believe that we are yet to do those things.

It’s for this reason that I have written to the Prime Minister and the full text is reproduced below.

If and when I receive a reply, readers of this blog will be the first to know.

Special Delivery: Councillor Kieran Quinn's letter to the Prime Minister

Making Digital Tameside a Reality

Monday, November 16th, 2015

We are continuing work on our project to transform the Ashton Old Baths into a state of the art digital and business hub.

It has been a fact through history that the people who could master the technologies of their time enjoyed a massive advantage over those who could not. This covers everything from stone tools used thousands of years ago to the steam engines that powered the Industrial Revolution. In the modern world we may not be using stone tools or steam engines as much anymore, but the basic concept is still an important one. In today’s Information Age, not knowing how to use the internet and digital technologies can be a significant barrier to full participation in society and the economy.  Research has shown that the average person could save up to £560 a year on online shopping alone, and for the vast majority of jobs today some degree of digital skills (or, at the very least, the willingness to learn them) has become an essential requirement.

That’s why the report on digital exclusion, produced and released by the BBC, the Local Government Association and the London School of Economics, is an incredibly valuable piece of research. The report combines eight metrics, covering digital infrastructure and skills in an area and the age, health, education and income of an area’s population to calculate the risks of people in a given local authority being digitally excluded. This allows for a complete picture of why digital exclusion is a risk. For remote areas such as the Highlands and Islands of Scotland, it could be because the digital infrastructure does not reach the people living there. For deprived inner city areas, the digital infrastructure may exist but the people there lack the income or skills to access it.

The latter is the case for Tameside. The infrastructure in the borough provides 93.4% of the population with at least the minimum speed of broadband internet if they can access it, but only 74% of the population have all five of the basic digital skills (defined as managing information, problem solving, communicating, creating and transacting) and of those only 35% have used all five of them in the past three months. That is something we urgently need to address. This is much bigger than just making Tameside look good in a survey. For the unemployed or underemployed, digital skills are a gateway to more and better jobs. For the young, digital skills can be an incredibly powerful educational tool. For the elderly, digital skills can be a resource to keep in contact with friends and family to keep loneliness at bay. It is also estimated that local and central government could save up to £5 billion a year if as many services as possible were provided online.

Digital exclusion is not an insurmountable problem. All we need to do in Tameside is make it easier for individuals and organisations to

get online by giving them the infrastructure and the skills they need. The work on this has already begun. We are improving our digital

We are also making sure our young residents have a grounding in coding and digital technology through courses at Tameside College and the new Sixth Form building.

infrastructure by launching a £3 million renovation of the Ashton Old Baths. Formerly the first municipal swimming pool in the country, it will be reborn as a high-tech business hub with one of the fastest internet connections in the country to support the development in new digital and media businesses in Tameside. We’ve also teamed up with MadLab and CodeUp Manchester to arrange three free coding workshops for adults in Tameside in the run up to Christmas. Reserving a place on one of the courses costs £3, which is reimbursed when the course is completed. For more information, including dates and times please check our website here. We want every resident, business and charity in Tameside to have the skills and confidence to make the most of the digital world, and we have an opportunity and an obligation to make it happen.

Young People: Give Us Your Views About Your Tameside

Wednesday, November 11th, 2015

For at least the past two decades or so political scientists and commentators in the UK have been asking themselves the same question in concerned tones, “Why aren’t young people voting anymore?”.

It’s a good, and worrying, question. Even a brief look at the figures can give you cause for alarm. It’s true that the turnout for young voters (aged 18-24) has been below the turnout of the general population since the 1970s, but the gap has only widened since then. In the 2010 General Election the turnout for young voters was just 44% compared to 65% for the electorate as a whole. Research by European agencies in 2013 also showed that out of all the European Union countries, young adults in Britain were ranked bottom for their engagement with their countries political process. Put bluntly, we are at risk of raising a generation who don’t vote and don’t want to vote.

It’s not often in this blog you’ll hear me agree with Russell Brand, but I do think that a lot of young people don’t vote because they don’t feel like they have a stake in the system. It’s for this reason we declared that as part of our 2015 Pledges we would set up a Tameside Youth Council. At the time of writing this we are currently in the final stages of delivering on that Pledge. The Youth Council will provide young people with a platform to not just get their opinions heard, but taken seriously by decision-makers in the council and other organisations in the borough, integrating the Tameside Youth Council into our decision-making.

As it currently stands we estimate that the Youth Council will comprise of around 60 young people representing schools, youth and equality groups and geographical areas. It will be a strictly non-party political organisation, we want young people to be comfortable getting involved and letting us know their views about their Tameside. Council officers and elected members will also work closely with Youth Council members to make sure they get the support and training they need to contribute as fully as possible to discussions. It is our hope that the Youth Council will play a full role in council decisions – even taking part in full council meetings.

I cannot overemphasise how much is at stake here. The larger our voting base and the more engaged our voters are the healthier our democracy will be. The young people of today will be the voters, the decision makers and the opinion formers of tomorrow; we must help them to get involved themselves. The creation of the Youth Council is a vital first step to achieving this. If you’re a young person, or you know a young person, that wants to get involved then please get in touch with the council via e-mail, telephone or social media and we will let you know what the next steps are. I look forward to working with you.

We will remember them

Monday, November 9th, 2015

Myself and the Droylsden Royal British Legion President & Chairman at the Remembrance Service in Littlemoss on Saturday.

Remembrance Sunday is the closest Sunday to the moment when the guns finally fell silent at the end of World War One. A war that started in August 1914 and was supposed to be “over by Christmas” had finally ended over four years and 17 million deaths later. The men that fought came face to face with some of the most horrific battles in human history. Today the gas attacks of Ypres, the butchery of the Somme and the shelling at Gallipoli are to us either lines of text in a history book or memories passed down second or third-hand from generations before us. We should be thankful that we will never have to experience their like ourselves.

I find this Remembrance Day especially poignant as we have now passed the 100 year anniversary of the beginning of the First World War. With the death of Florence Green in 2012 at the grand old age of 110 there are now no known surviving veterans of WWI anywhere in the world.  It is now that the “Remembrance” in Remembrance Day takes on a special significance. It falls upon us to honour their sacrifice and make sure those that come after us never have to suffer what they did, because nobody else is now able to do it on our behalf.

But we also must remember that, even if the tradition of Remembrance began with the end of WWI, it continues to encompass every conflict that British soldiers have found themselves in since that time. Even if most of these conflicts have not been on the same scale as the World Wars, that does not mean that the sacrifices of those who died in them are any less, nor does it reduce the need to honour their memory. The fact that at least one British soldier has died on active duty every year bar one (1968) from 1945 to the present day should give us pause. 16 of those brave men who died since 1945 have been from Tameside, including Guardsman Neil “Tony” Downes, who was 20 when he was killed in a landmine blast in Afghanistan in 2007, less than two weeks before he was due to return home. It is in his honour, and in the honour of all of Tameside’s fallen, that we have named the new Greater Manchester Pension Fund building “Guardsman Tony Downes House”.

We should also look back to see how far we’ve come since the dark days of the trenches. In 1916, 60,000 young men died in a single

There was another excellent turnout as we marched to commemorate the fallen at Droylsden's Remembrance Service on Sunday.

morning on the first day of the Somme, a scale of slaughter that seems almost unimaginable today. When I look up at the roof of my house tonight I don’t have to worry about a bomb falling through it, yet 70 years ago an entire continent was laid to waste as bombs fell through roofs morning and night, day after day. That freedom, not just freedom as we commonly think of it, but freedom from being shot, bombed and gassed, was earnt by the blood of those less fortunate than us. Truly, they gave their lives in war so that we could live in peace.

Organisations across Tameside held their own events on the weekend of Remembrance Sunday including services, wreath laying and parades. On behalf of the council I attended two such events in Littlemoss on Saturday and in Droylsden on Sunday. Two acts of remembrance will also be taking place on Wednesday November 11th itself in Ashton and Hyde, and the Council and I will also be observing the customary 2 minutes silence at 11am. You can find details on our website here; all interested members of the public or organisations are more than welcome to attend.

Sporting Achievement, Sporting Participation

Wednesday, November 4th, 2015
The statue outside Roy Oldham Sports Village in Ashton-under-Lyne near Manchester. It depicts Tameside's three World Cup winners – Geoff Hurst, Jimmy Armfield and Simone Perrotta.

The statue outside the Roy Oldham Sports Village in Ashton-under-Lyne near Manchester. It depicts Tameside's three World Cup winners – Geoff Hurst, Jimmy Armfield and Simone Perrotta.

When it comes to sporting history I will happily match Tameside against any other part of a country. For a borough of 220,000 people we have produced a spectacular number of world class performers in a variety of sports over the years.

Most famous would be Tameside’s hat-trick of World Cup winners; Geoff Hurst, Ashton and England’s hero in 1966, Denton’s Jimmy Armfield, a unused substitute in the same 1966 triumph and Simone Perrotta, who despite winning the World Cup with Italy in 2006 was born and lived in Ashton until the age of four. In the world of boxing another instantly recognisable name is Hyde’s Ricky Hatton; a former WBA, IBF and IBO world champion at welterweight. In rugby union, Eric Evans of Audenshaw would be remembered by people of a certain vintage as England’s captain during the 1957 Five Nations Grand Slam. Mike Ford, one of the most prominent names in rugby coaching today, current Bath head coach and former defence coach for England, Ireland, Saracens and the British and Irish Lions, also got his start coaching Dukinfield RUFC to a cup and two promotions.  The London Olympics also had a Tameside representative in artistic gymnast Rebecca Tunney, born and raised in Droylsden.

We should be rightly proud of these top-level achievers, and there are many more we could mention as well. But we also need to think about how the average man or woman on Tameside’s street can get into (and enjoy the health benefits from) sport, no matter what level they end up playing at.

There are many ways for people in Tameside to get involved in physical activity, including sports clubs, Active Tameside centres and cycling paths.

On that front there is still much more to do. 33% of Tameside residents still take less than 30 minutes of physical activity per week, increasing their chances of stroke, cardiovascular diseases, obesity and heart attacks and costing theborough an estimated £21.5 million per year. That’s why we’re working with our partners, most notably Active Tameside, to provide a high quality exercise offer that is affordable and accessible to everybody in Tameside regardless of age, physical ability and income. For our young people there are several sports clubs, including football, rugby and cricket, throughout the borough that have active and competitive youth teams. We also recently celebrated the official opening of the Sky High Adventure Centre in Droylsden, which provides a new and exciting way for people to turn healthy living and physical exercise into a lifestyle choice.

I’ve heard it said before that if exercise was a medicine or a drug every doctor in the land would be falling over themselves to prescribe it. And it’s true. We see “Healthy people in a healthy borough” as far more than a catchy phrase. Even in tough financial times, we need to work together and ensure that healthy living and exercise is embedded in the heart of every person in Tameside.

Keep Calm and See a Doctor: Cancer Awareness

Tuesday, November 3rd, 2015

The months of October and November are important months for the cause of cancer awareness. October saw Breast Cancer Awareness Week, and as we move into November Lung Cancer Awareness Month is about to begin. While most people are all too aware of cancer and its terrible effects, many forget to take the steps necessary to detect the disease in its early stages and get themselves checked by their GP.

There are a number of reasons why people might delay getting themselves checked. It could simply be because they don’t know the signs and symptoms, or they mistake them for something else. They could also delay because they don’t want to know what the doctor might find, or for certain cancers (particularly testicular cancer for men) they may be too embarrassed to explain things.

Today I urge you to learn the potential signs of cancer and overcome your fears; it may just save your life. The numbers don’t lie. Research has shown that 90% of women diagnosed with breast cancer at the earliest stage survive for at least five years compared to 15% of women diagnosed at the most advanced stage. The five-year survival figures are similar for lung cancer (70% if caught early compared to 15% if caught late), ovarian cancer (90% and 5% respectively) and bowel cancer (9 out of 10 survive after an early diagnosis). As cancer treatments get more advanced an early diagnosis becomes even more important as it will allow medical professionals to make sure sufferers receive the most effective and appropriate treatments. Caught early enough, there are few cancers these days that cannot be fought with modern medicine and techniques.

There are more than 200 different types of cancer, all with their own symptoms and signs. Cancer Research UK’s website has a list of some of the most common ones here. The symptoms may be caused by something much less serious than cancer, but it’s always best to check. Even this list is by no means exhaustive, often the best advice in spotting cancer early is simply to know your own body and get yourself checked by your GP if you notice anything that isn’t normal for you. Make sure you double-check if you are older as well; almost 36% of all cancers are diagnosed in people over the age of 75. It’s far better to be safe than sorry.

You can also help by spreading awareness among family, friends, neighbours and colleagues as well. While many organisations, public and private, run their own awareness campaigns word of mouth from person to person is still one of the best ways to spread information. While a cure for cancer may still be far away, with a few simple changes and some awareness you may very well end up saving other people’s lives as well as your own.

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