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Archive for May, 2016

Quality Housing for Tameside

Friday, May 27th, 2016
Councillor Quinn addressing landlords at Denton Golf Club

Councillor Quinn addressing landlords at Denton Golf Club

Shortly before the election I wrote in this blog about how underinvestment in housing was leading to a situation where hard working people were struggling to keep a roof over their head. At the time, I said that this was a national problem that required action at the national level. However, that doesn’t mean we can’t take action ourselves here in Tameside.

This week we took a big step towards making that action a reality. The council met with the National Landlords Association at Denton Golf Club to discuss how we can work with the private rented sector to meet housing needs as well as provide an alternative to home ownership in Tameside. Over the last ten years, the private rented sector in Tameside has increased from 9.8% of all housing stock to 14.3%; an overall increase of 45.9%. Unless there is some radical change in housing policy at the national level I expect that figure will continue to increase in the future. If we want to find a solution to housing in Tameside, we need to bring the private rented sector into the discussion. It’s as simple as that.

Part of this is working together to make the private rented sector in Tameside the best it can be. For every horror story about dodgy landlords or irresponsible tenants there are many more that take their responsibilities seriously and do their best for the properties they rent or own. That’s why we intend to set up a Tameside Rental Standard to promote good practice and lay out what is expected for all parties in a private renting agreement. This will allow us to encourage good landlords and tenants and focus our common resources on the minority that attempt to dodge their obligations and cause the greatest problems.

The other focus of the meeting was discussing how the private rented sector can do more for vulnerable children and adults. As the private rented sector expands and access to social housing becomes more challenging it is inevitable that greater numbers of people who require safeguarding and services will find their way into privately rented accommodation. We cannot let that mean that they are beyond our help if they require it. We intend to make sure that all private sector landlords are provided with the information and contacts they need to protect the health and well-being of their tenants.

It is my hope that this meeting will be the first milestone in our journey to create a sustainable, high-quality private rental sector in Tameside for the benefit of both landlords and tenants. It is in all our interests to make sure that this works, and I am confident that if we work together we will able to do exactly that.

Welcome Tameside’s New Mayor.

Wednesday, May 25th, 2016

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Yesterday I held the first meeting of the Full Council following the local elections held at the start of the month. As well as laying out the council’s agenda for the rest of the year, I was delighted to welcome Councillor Phillip Fitzpatrick to the role of Civic Mayor of Tameside for 2016-17.

Councillor Fitzpatrick has served the people of Tameside and the ward of Hyde Newton in a variety of roles since 2009, including as Deputy Mayor, Member of the Hyde War Memorial Trust and Member of the Greater Manchester Waste Disposal Authority. I am confident that will do a brilliant job as Mayor, following in the footsteps of his father, Honorary Alderman Joseph Fitzpatrick, who was Mayor himself in 1987-88.

I also took the opportunity to introduce and welcome the Labour council team and the Executive Members that will deliver for Tameside over the next year. Covering everything from the council’s finances to keep Tameside clean and green these councillors play a vital role in making our goals and objectives a reality. As part of our communications strategy, there will be more opportunities than ever for you to keep in touch and up to date with them. As well as the usual communication channels, since the start of the year every Executive Member now has their own blog on our website here to keep you informed of all the major developments that have happened in their areas. We will also host blogs for other council members as and when they have news to report.

It is often said that it is the hard times where you really find out what you’re made of, and I think that is definitely true when it comes to local government. When times are hard, as they have been over the past six years, it’s easy to retreat into yourself and point the finger at others when things go wrong. I’m proud that we haven’t done that in Tameside. Even as other people have tried to blame us for the cuts the government have imposed, we have responded with taking responsibility, choosing partnerships over division and not falling for the comfort of easy solutions.

That approach is now starting to bear fruit. In the hardest times for local government in living memory we have real results,Mayor-PB2_8680 real achievements and real awards to our name, not least our award of Council of the Year by the LGC. I challenge any organisation, public or private, to say that they could do better with the resources available.

It’s about being ambitious. It’s about doing what works. In this Full Council I took the opportunity to reflect not only on how far we’ve come, but also outlined where we will be going in the future. We cannot get complacent now, and with our new Mayor, we will go forward into the rest of the year with optimism and purpose.

Taking Local Action on Climate Change

Friday, May 20th, 2016

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Last week a piece of news appeared that was almost certainly missed by most people, but which may carry the gravest of implications for all our futures. Global carbon dioxide concentrations are poised to hit 400 parts per million (ppm) for both the first and last time. The last time as the Earth’s natural weather cycles mean that, once the 400 ppm milestone is breached, carbon dioxide concentrations will never fall below that level again. Put simply, we have now hit the point where, even if by some miracle we stopped putting greenhouse gases into the atmosphere tomorrow, we still will not be able to escape the consequences our past emissions will wreak upon our planet.

You might be wondering why I’m writing about this on a council blog. You might be saying that surely this is too big an issue for us, and it’s not like we can do a lot about it anyway? I have to say that I disagree. We all share this planet. Acting on climate change is all our responsibilities, and only through collective action can we hope to be successful. Local government can also play a big role in improving the environment and curbing greenhouse gas emissions in their own areas.

Part of that is acknowledging what we can all do better. That’s what we’ve done at the Greater Manchester Pension Fund. Last month the Asset Owners Disclosure Project (AODP), an independent global non-profit set up to protect people’s retirement savings from the risks posed by climate change, gave us an “A” for the leadership we have shown in managing climate risk in our investments. Not only is that a great result in itself, it’s also an improvement of over 100 places from this time last year. We’ve always prided ourselves on looking beyond the bottom line when it comes to social responsibility, and I’m delighted that our work has been recognised.

We’ve also committed ourselves to improving Tameside’s environment through several of our 16 pledges for 2016. We intend on build upon last year’s success at improving recycling rates by placing public recycling bins on all council offices and town centres. Our LED lighting program is continuing apace, improving our street lights while cutting both our running costs and our carbon footprint. We’re planting at least 2016 trees to support greater biodiversity, improve our street scene and absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. We’ll get Tameside growing its own food in gardens, windows boxes, community spaces and allotments. When it is completed, our new Joint Service Centre will be over £1.5 million a year cheaper to run, much of this coming from better energy efficiency. All of these are examples of how we are doing our bit to slow the march of climate change while at the same time improving the quality of life of our residents.

We do not have time to waste. Last month was the hottest April on record globally – and the seventh month in a row to have broken global temperature records. The World Bank tells us that by 2050 climate change could endanger 1.3 billion people across the world and cost £158 trillion, double the total output of the global economy. This is not scaremongering; this is hard data and figures. We need to find a better, more sustainable way, and Tameside stands ready to do its part.

Dementia Awareness Week in Tameside

Wednesday, May 18th, 2016

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Over the past few decades we have seen extraordinary developments in medicine and technology, allowing people to live longer and better lives than they could have hoped for at any other time in history. In the space of a century in Britain the average life expectancy at birth has gone from 47 to 79 for men and 50 to 83 for women.

I know of very few people who would argue that this is a bad thing, but as we all start living longer we have to face up to things that those who came before us would never have survived long enough to encounter. Of all of these, arguably none is more prevalent or feared as dementia.

The figures do not lie. In 2013 it was estimated that there were 815,827 living with dementia in the UK, 773,502 (94.8%) of who were aged 65 and over. If the prevalence of dementia rises the way it is expected to rise, this will increase to 1,142,677 by 2025 and 2,092,945 by 2051. That’s 156% more than are afflicted with dementia today. Already it is hard to find somebody who hasn’t experienced family or friends who are suffering or have suffered through dementia, and it looks like that’s the way things are going to stay for the future.

All of which makes it even more important than we all know the basic facts about the disease so we can identify its onset and find out how we can support and connect with those living with the condition. Key to this is making sure that people receive a quick and accurate diagnosis, as this is what unlocks the gateway to further support.

That’s why we’re supporting Dementia Awareness Week in Tameside. From 15th-22nd May there will be a variety of activities and events for those living with dementia, their families and/or carer, and those who simply want to know more about the disease.

As well as putting on a variety of fun and creative activities we will also be encouraging people to sign up to be dementia friends, helping them understand what it is like to live with the disease and learn the little things they can do to help. These dementia friend sessions can either be attended at one of several locations across Tameside. Go to https://www.dementiafriends.org.uk/register-digital-friend to register and find out more. A complete list of other Dementia Awareness Week activities in Tameside can be found at on our website at http://public.tameside.gov.uk/pressreleases/f1030pressreleasestory107.asp?story=1046&keyword=.

We fully intend to practice what we preach. Every elected member in Tameside will be attending a Dementia Friend session before Full Council next week. Together we can all help to make life as comfortable as possible for those living with the disease, and we can all start doing it right now. I’m completely behind Dementia Awareness Week, and I know the people of Tameside will be as well.

Doing What Works in Tameside

Thursday, May 12th, 2016

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In my last blog I talked about the big steps we have made as a council over the past twelve months, and how those achievements have been recognised by our residents at the ballot box and by other public sector bodies through being nominated for, and winning, a number of awards.

One of the reasons we have gotten this far is that while we are unwavering on what we want to achieve, we have taken a pragmatic and flexible approach to how we achieve it. For us, delivery is not a discussion about “public or private”, but a discussion about “what works and what doesn’t work”.

To give you just two very recent examples; one of the reasons why we have been able to invest £20 million into preserving and upgrading our leisure facilities is by incorporating a commercial offer to encourage private investment through things like on-site cafés and ten-pin bowling. We also managed to bring cotton spinning back to Tameside for the first time in over a century by bringing together private companies such as Culimeta Saveguard with public funding from bodies like the Textile Growth Programme.

Often it is all too easy, depending on your political views, to write off either the public sector or the private sector. You’ll always find somebody willing to label the public sector as workshy and ineffective, just like you’ll always find somebody willing to condemn the private sector as short-termist and rapacious. At times there may be some examples that lend truth to those claims, but when you’re trying to deliver for residents falling back on stereotypes and assumptions is an easy route to failure.

If you want to see what happens when you do fall prey to the fallacy of “public sector bad, private sector good”, look no further than what is happening to Tata Steel. It is clear to most people that we cannot allow a strategically vital British industry to go to the wall, yet it cannot survive in its current state in the private sector.

The obvious solution is to allow for the public sector to do more, bringing together the best of public and private to save the steel industry and reform it to better meet the challenges ahead. That’s what’s worked in Tameside, and it sounds like that’s the approach the government is going to take as well. I only wish they had done it sooner instead of sitting back while the warning bells were ringing.

It is our focus on “What works” that has allowed us to deliver on our plans for Tameside in the past, and sticking by it will allow us to deliver on our plans for the future as well. We don’t just believe it’s the right thing to do, the results have proven to us that it’s the right thing to do. There will be much more proof in the months and years to come.

Moving Forward for Tameside

Tuesday, May 10th, 2016

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After a break of over a month to comply with election law, I’m delighted to be able to resume my blog with some great news about the council’s achievements and our work going forward from the election.

Back in March we walked away with Council of the Year at the 2016 LGC Awards, beating out local authorities like Leeds, Norwich and Cornwall in the process. Since then we have been shortlisted for three more awards for specific areas of the council’s work.

Our ground-breaking new recycling scheme, which has delivered one of the most dramatic increases in recycling rates in the country, has been nominated for an award by the Municipal Journal magazine. If that wasn’t enough, a collaboration of Tameside teaching staff has been shortlisted for the “English Team of the Year” prize in the national TES Schools Awards and Millbrook Primary School has been also shortlisted in the same awards for ”Primary School of the Year”. The finals for all three of these will be held in June, and I hope to be able to give you yet more good news when the time comes. The work of our Care Together and workforce development teams has also been recognised and commended.

Last week also saw the voters of Tameside get their say on how we are doing, and I’m glad that once more they have chosen to place their faith in Tameside Labour to continue delivering for the borough. Our candidates took 18 out of the 20 seats up for election, with a share of 52% of the vote across the borough.

Over the past twelve months many of our long-term plans for Tameside have started to come to fruition. We’ve taken a big step on the journey that is Vision Tameside by officially opening the new Clarendon Sixth Form college. We transformed the Ashton Old Baths into a digital and creative business incubator fit for the 21st century. We brought cotton spinning back to Tameside for the first time in over a century. We led the way on bringing pension funds across the country together to drive growth and investment. We successfully turned our 15 pledges for 2015 from words into action, and we’re doing the same this year with our 16 pledges for 2016.

But we cannot be complacent. We are judged not only on what we have delivered in the past, but on what we will deliver in the future. I make this promise today to the people of Tameside; we will continue to put in the hard work to improve our economy and society to protect us today and prepare us for tomorrow. This will include making the changes to promote growth and opportunity for all, pioneering new ways of maintaining services in the face of government cuts, and leading innovation and investment locally and nationally.

With the endorsement of our residents and the recognition of our peers, we should have the confidence to move forward together and complete the task we have been given. As always, I promise to keep you informed and involved every step of the way.

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