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Posts Tagged ‘Tameside’

Loanshark crackdown benefits local savers

Wednesday, February 22nd, 2017

1 in 4 families have fewer than £95 in savings

Among this week’s headlines was the stark figure that one in four families in the UK have fewer than £95 in savings. When £95 would barely cover some of the most basic car repairs, a boiler breakdown or the latest gadget for a child’s birthday, the fact that 25% of British households have so little in savings should be a cause of grave concern for the Government.

Clearly the solution to this is the investment in infrastructure and better paid jobs, which I’ve consistently called for, that would drive economic growth, and also the ending of public sector pay restraint which has meant that wage growth has been outstripped by rising prices for many years now. Unfortunately for my Council colleagues and I, these are matters that are currently out of our hands. However, where we can make a difference as the local authority we do.

For example, last week we heard news that our local Credit Union, Cash Box has recruited 50 new members since December via an initiative that gave a cash incentive for new joiners using money confiscated from illegal money lenders. A partnership between Tameside Council, Cashbox and the England Illegal Money Lending Team had recovered £1250 from loan sharks and used this to award a £25 savings boost for each of the first 50 new members who made at least two monthly payments in to their account.

Cashbox is our local credit union

This scheme follows our ‘Generation Savers’ pledge last year to encourage a culture of saving amongst our residents from an early age. The pledge provided a £10 bonus for 11 year olds who opened an account on their transition from primary to secondary school. There has been good interest and uptake in this, but we are clear that we need to improve further in order to truly embed the culture of saving that we desire for Tameside.

It is hoped that the new members who joined as part of these two initiatives will continue to be regular savers and will have money set aside, that they otherwise wouldn’t have had, for any future emergencies.

In addition to being a safe place to deposit your savings (and the opportunity to earn a dividend on them which, owing to record low interest rates, can be better than savings rates offered by banks) Credit Unions also act as a responsible lender, offering loan products to those who haven’t quite saved enough for any eventualities. Borrowers can take out a loan knowing that the provider is a fair and legal lender, and also that the interest being paid is reinvested back in to members and the community given that the Credit Union is a mutual organisation.

Promoting and growing Credit Union membership therefore meets two objectives. Firstly it encourages our residents to put away some of their earnings for a rainy day, and secondly it provides an alternative to expensive payday lenders and loan sharks.

I therefore welcome this growth in membership and will support any initiatives that seek to grow the credit union further.

Why I welcome the Bus Services Bill

Thursday, January 19th, 2017
First Greater Manchester operate a high proportion of services locally

First Greater Manchester operate a high proportion of services locally

If ever a list were to be drawn up of the worst pieces of legislation ever passed, the 1985 Transport Act would be on it. The deregulation of bus services outside of Greater London that it implemented (why was London exempt if it was such a good idea?) led to fragmentation, higher fares and falling passenger numbers. Greater Manchester is a prime example of this.

Locally there are two major players in the bus market, Stagecoach and First. It was claimed that deregulation would drive down fares by allowing competition between operators, however there are very few places in Greater Manchester where the two companies actually compete. Instead the conurbation has been carved up with First operating the majority of services in the North and Stagecoach in the South. Essentially we’ve swapped a public monopoly for two private ones.

This has allowed the two firms to charge whatever fares they believe they can get away with and flood the profitable corridors with buses to keep any sniff of competition of the road – despite many of the vehicles running barely half full for much of the day. For example, if I want to travel from Ashton to Oldham on the bus, what choice do I have? It’s First’s 409 or a fair old walk! Equally, from Hyde to Manchester it’s just Stagecoach’s 201. And if you ever do need to make a journey that uses services operated by more than one operator, from Mossley to Denton for example, you’ll have fork out for a more expensive ‘System One’ ticket.

Even more frustrating is when you consider the public money given to the firms in the form of subsidies. Bus operators receive a fuel subsidy called the ‘Bus Service Operator Grant’ for all services they run, even those on the profitable corridors. The operators then ask for an additional grant to run services that are not profitable but are deemed socially necessary such as those serving the more rural parts of Tameside which would otherwise be cut off. That’s a lot of tax payer’s money being paid to essentially enable large multinational companies to make a profit. There has to be a better way surely?

Now make no mistake, I’m not calling for more on road competition. The bus wars on Oxford Road in South Manchester are the clearest local example that such a thing recreated on Hyde Road, Ashton New Road or Oldham road would be a disaster for air pollution and congestion. However, if we are to have competition, we must have a system that ensures that it is genuine and that gets the biggest bang for the public buck. That’s why I welcome the 2016 Bus Services Bill.

The Bus Services Bill will hand power over the regulation of bus services to the new Greater Manchester Mayor. Just like in London, locally accountable politicians will be able to control the routes, frequency and fares and design a network that is responsive to local need, affordable, and complements, rather than competes with, the heavy rail and Metrolink services. The competition will be taken off the road and in to the process of letting the contracts to run services. This regulated system in the capital has led to a flat £1.50 single fare and a strong upward trend in the number of passenger journeys on London’s buses since 2000. This is in stark contrast to the rest of the country where bus use is in steady decline.

And so the improvement on offer for transport is one of the many reasons I am such a fierce supporter of the Greater Manchester Devolution deal. Devolution is a journey and as the combined authority grows and shows that it can make a success of the powers it is entrusted with in my view we should look to expand our reach. Whilst it may be bus services today, in transport terms the next logical step in my mind is railway stations and local commuter railway services. Then where, who knows? But whichever path we take I am firmly of the view that there are many powers, currently exercised in the corridors of parliament that would be far better exercised in the corridors of Greater Manchester’s Town Halls.

New Year’s Resolutions

Friday, January 6th, 2017

one-you-localised-postNew Year, new you, or so the saying goes. We’re now a few days in to 2017 and all but a very small number will likely have managed to stick to any New Year’s resolutions so far.

I’ve heard a few from friends and family about giving up particular foods, drinks and even social media. Though if, like millions of others, your resolution relates to improving your health and fitness then the Council, in partnership with Tameside and Glossop Clinical Commissioning Group and Public Health England, will be able to help.

Public Health England has launched a national campaign to mitigate the impact of modern life on the nation’s health. Research has found that the effects are particularly acute amongst the middle aged. 87% of men and 79% of women aged 40-60 are overweight or obese, exceed the Chief Medical Officer’s alcohol guidelines or are physically inactive. Obesity was found to be the biggest problem for this group with 77% of men and 63% of women overweight or obese, an increase of 16% in the past 20 years. `These problems, if not tackled, can lead to more serious illnesses, such as diabetes, later on. Since the mid-90s the number of middle aged people being diagnosed with this illness has doubled.

But help is at hand. The experts at Public Health England have devised a quiz that asks a few simple questions about diet and exercise and offers advice at the end based on your responses. There are also a range of smartphone and tablet apps available to help guide you. They’re all very easy to use and I can strongly recommend them.

Here at the Council we’re doing our bit too. This time last year I was writing about the £20 million investment in our leisure facilities that would see Tameside’s sports facilities drastically improved with new centres being opened and upgrades to existing ones. The first, which opened in Novemeber last year, was the conversion of the Active Longdendale gymnastics centre in to trampoline and soft play centre Total Adrenaline. This is a facility that will encourage young Tamesiders to get active from a very early age.

Total Adrenaline opened in November 2016

Total Adrenaline opened in November 2016

Later this month will see the opening of iTrain gym in Dukinfield. Making use of the old Dukinfield Baths, which had reached the end of its life, the gym will offer 24/7 access plus a crèche, café and meeting rooms for use by community groups. It will be a true community hub.

In the longer term Hyde leisure pool will be extended to house a regular swimming pool alongside the existing leisure pool, Ashton leisure centre will be refurbished or rebuilt and Denton will have a new state of the art ‘Wellness Centre’.

I have long believed that the success of a place is about more than just shiny new buildings or ‘physical regeneration’ to use the technical term. It’s about the health and wellbeing of the people who live there too. Our partnership with Tameside and Glossop CCG, Active Tameside and Public Health England and this investment demonstrates that, under my leadership, Tameside Council is committed to this agenda. As the year progresses many more plans and projects will come forward that will back this up and lays the foundations for the success of Tameside, as a place, long in to the future.

A Successful Year at GMPF

Friday, December 23rd, 2016

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Some of you might know that as well as serving as the Executive Leader of Tameside Council I am also the Chair of the Greater Manchester Pension Fund. I’ve written a little bit about pensions in this blog in the past, but as we come to the end of the year I want to take the chance to put a little more focus on what has been a truly momentous year in the world of local government pensions.

With 352,292 members and over £20 billion in assets the Greater Manchester Pension Fund is by far the largest local government pension fund in the country. Though as a fund with even higher ambitions, at the start of the year we reached an agreement to team up with fellow pension funds in Merseyside, Lancashire and West Yorkshire to create a £40 billion combined pension pool.

All well and good, you might say, but what does that actually mean? I’ve written a lot this year about some of the problems Tameside and Britain faces, the most relevant ones here being our productivity crisis and the fact that a small minority of businesses are still getting away with not meeting their obligations to their employees and society. Getting pension funds, in Greater Manchester and elsewhere, to combine their resources is the way we are starting to create our own solutions to these big national issues.

The way we’re going to do that is quite simple. £40 billion is a lot of money, and we can use that money to invest in projects that are good for the pension fund and good for our society and economy as well. Pension funds are uniquely placed to make this happen. We’re embedded in our local communities, we have the sheer financial muscle needed and we’re an investor for the long term. Governments and private companies will often not touch an investment that will only start providing a return years or decades from now, but that project is perfect for a pension fund which needs to find ways to pay out to members years and decades from now. We’re already doing this to a certain extent, but the plans that we have started to put in place this year will allow us to do this quicker, better and on a larger scale.

Investing in infrastructure is not the only thing we can do, we can also invest in businesses as well. That gives us the opportunity to influence their board of directors and management by exercising our rights as shareholders. If we think a company executive is being paid too much for the job they are doing, we can do something about it. If we’re unhappy with a business using zero-hour contracts and tax havens, we can do something about it. This is something that is already happening. To give just one example, companies that had to backtrack over pay increases for executives due to shareholder opposition in the last year alone include betting company Paddy Power, online gambling firm PlayTech and the Foxtons estate agency. Next year we’ll be working together on ways to make sure that the voices of pension funds are heard further in all the places in which we hold assets.

There’s no doubt in my mind that 2016 will go down as a milestone year in pensions. If you’re a member of the Greater Manchester Pension Fund, rest assured that your retirement is safe in our hands. If you’re a resident of Tameside, rest assured that we all supporting investment that will make the borough is better place to live, work and do business in. If you’re concerned with how some businesses run things, rest assured that those concerns are shared by us as well. Roll on 2017, and the next step.

A Greener Borough

Tuesday, December 20th, 2016
Cllr Quinn thanked countryside volunteers who have planted thousands of trees in Tameside

Cllr Quinn thanked countryside volunteers who have planted thousands of trees in Tameside

‘Think globally, act locally’ is the motto of environmentalist groups around the world. Quite literally it means that each of us can collectively rise to the global challenge of climate change by beginning at home and make small changes to our lifestyle or behaviour. This could be stopping eating meat for one day per week as encouraged by the celebrity-backed meat free Monday campaign, cycling to work a few days per month instead of driving, or turning over part of the garden for vegetable growing to reduce food miles.

Each of these small actions, if replicated by all 220,000 residents of Tameside, or all 65,000,000 people in the UK, can make a huge contribution to reducing the damaging greenhouse gas emissions that are responsible for many of the extreme weather events we’ve had recently.

Large organisations like the Council clearly have a role to play too. This can either be as an enabler that makes it easier for residents to do the right thing or by taking action ourselves. Our pledges for this year contain examples of both. The ‘Get Tameside Growing’ pledge has been led by our excellent greenspaces team. They’ve worked hard throughout the summer with local schools and a range of voluntary groups to build capacity for communities to become more self-sufficient with respect to food. As an example, the two allotments cared for by mental health charity Mind have not only produced local, organic food but provided therapy for people with learning disabilities too.

Our decision to expand recycling facilities in public buildings and town centres is another case of where we’ve provided the means for others to be greener. As everybody living in Tameside will know already, the way domestic refuse is collected was changed some time ago in an effort to improve recycling rates. Clearly the home is not the only place where waste is generated, and so if we wanted to divert even more of Tameside’s refuse away from landfill then we had to do something else too. At the last count our recycling rate was over 55%, an increase of more than 15 percentage points compared to two years ago. The savings on landfill tax are also going a little way towards offsetting the impact of the enormous government cuts we’ve had to face.

Two of our pledges for this year fall in to the category of ‘direct action’ where the Council has made green choices itself. Firstly, the street lighting replacement programme is well in to its second year and over 8000 lanterns have been replaced with super-efficient LEDs so far. The savings on electricity usage have been enormous, and the reliability of this new type of lamp means that money will also be saved as a result of fewer repair callouts needing to be made. Secondly there is our pledge to plant at least 2016 trees for 2016. This target has been smashed at relatively little cost to the taxpayer. The trees have been provided free by Ovo energy or bought using contributions that developers have made for environmental improvements following a construction project, and the planting work has been carried out by conservation volunteers. It is hoped that, as well as punctuating our urban landscape and improving air quality, they could help to reduce the impact of flooding in the future by breaking up the soil with their roots and increasing its capacity to hold water.

And so Tameside is doing much to tackle climate change. It could be argued that we are setting an example for others to follow. It’s for this reason that I’ll continue to talk up this Council’s green credentials in the hope that they do. It is, after all, in all of our interests.

Small Business Saturday

Friday, November 25th, 2016
The wares of a small local business

The wares of a small local business

Here in Tameside, for the fourth year running, we will be celebrating small business Saturday. Taking place on the first Saturday in December, just as most shoppers are beginning to think about buying Christmas gifts, the day highlights the work of the millions of small and medium sized businesses across the country.

The stats tell us that for every £1 spent in a local business between 50p-70p is reinvested locally. Therefore choosing to buy a product at your local shop rather than the out of town supermarket is an effortless way to support your local economy. Tameside Council recognises this importance. As a Borough comprised of 9 distinct towns each with their own identities, having vibrant town centres each with a unique local shopping offer is key to preserving their individuality. That’s why as well as supporting the national Small Business Saturday initiative we run a range of campaigns ourselves too.

Our Tameside Loyalty Scheme is a card that anybody living or working locally is eligible for which can be used to access a range of offers in local businesses. From a £5 discount on an iPhone screen repair in Stalybridge to 10% off stationery supplies in Hyde or money off a new set of dentures in Ashton there is something for everybody covered under the initiative!

Made in Tameside’ highlights the work of local manufacturing companies, many of whom had humble beginnings at kitchen tables or in garages in the Borough. These are local businesses providing local jobs and exporting the Tameside name around the world. Firms such as Tweed Brewing Co., Hyde, who produce beers sold in Manchester’s fashionable northern quarter, or Bradley’s bakery, Ashton, who bake the world famous pork pie wedding cakes or Coleherne engineering, established in 1905, which produce white metal bearings used on the North Sea Statoil platform.

Finally, our local ‘Buy With Confidence’ scheme provides a list of approved Tameside based tradespeople in one accessible place. Local people who want to extend their home, need a new boiler, or are looking to have their garden landscaped can go to a ‘one stop shop’ directory knowing that, not only do the tradespeople listed there meet the high standards required by the Council, but also live locally and will be spending the money they earn from your job locally too.

So on Saturday 3rd December, coinciding with the start of the Tameside Christmas markets which itself showcases a range of local traders, we will continue the long tradition of supporting the small local businesses that are the engines of our economy.

Flooding in Tameside

Wednesday, November 23rd, 2016
Staff involved in the clean up operation following the floods

Staff involved in the clean up operation following the floods

Following a busy day responding to yesterday’s flooding I wanted to take the opportunity to reflect on the efforts of the Council staff who co-ordinated the relief effort.

The level of rainfall Tameside and other nearby areas experienced on Monday evening was unprecedented. Following receiving the forecasts the gulley cleaning teams worked tirelessly to attend all of the drains in areas that were considered to be particularly at risk of flooding. Whilst the sheer volume of water that fell meant that this preventative action was ultimately not enough to completely avoid flooding, the position could have been much worse had this not been done. I think that I would speak for many in expressing deepest thanks to the staff involved who worked the extra hours to protect our residents.

Despite these efforts, Council staff unfortunately had to turn their attention to a relief effort to help households and residents who were most severely affected. Staff worked through the night with the emergency services and the environment agency to make structures safe, pump water away and minimise travel disruption. Again this silent army conducted themselves with the utmost professionalism and responded to residents’ needs with the sensitivity that was required given the distress many people were in. I offer my deepest thanks to them all and feel reassured that, should an emergency ever occur again in Tameside, we will all be in safe hands.

When events like this have taken place we always use the experience to learn how we could adapt our systems and working practices and this occasion will be no different. Whilst the response was an excellent example of partnership working between the Council, emergency services and even volunteers from the local community, we will review the events and our response carefully to see if there are any areas for improvement.

Whenever the next emergency comes we will be ready.

Investing in Childcare: Good for Families, Good for Growth

Friday, November 18th, 2016

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One of the more encouraging signs from he new government (and believe me, there haven’t been many) is that it appears to be more willing to invest in what it considers to be vital infrastructure projects. Now, when most people think of infrastructure they think roads, railways and other physical buildings, but there is a human element to infrastructure as well. For example, what if I told you that there is in Britain an infrastructure problem that means that 1 in 4 employees cannot work the hours they would want to work, and causes 1 in 10 to quit their jobs entirely. It causes considerable amounts of stress for families and, in the worse cases, leaves them with less money per month than is considered necessary for a basic standard of living. That problem is the high cost of childcare.

That might sound like an exaggeration, but let’s look at the facts. The Childcare and Early Years Survey of Parents shows that 78% of parents of children aged 0-14 in England used some kind of childcare. 59% of those parents pay for it, and the cost is increasing. The price of sending a child under two to nursery part-time (around 25 hours a week) is now £116.77 per week in Britain, or £6072 a year. That’s a 1.1% rise since 2015. To take a fairly common example, a hypothetical family with one child under two in part-time childcare and one child aged five at an after-school club can now expect to pay £7,933 a year for childcare. That’s over 28% of the UK median household income, making British childcare among the most expensive in Europe.

That means that for many parents in Britain, especially those on a lower income, it simply doesn’t make financial sense to find a new job or work more hours. Why would you if any extra money you make (plus a bit more as well) disappears into paying for childcare? Some can rely on family or friends to plug the gap with unpaid or informal childcare, but many do not have that option. You can imagine what happens next. Research by Middlesex University and the BBC has shown that a quarter of UK business leaders say that employees have cut their hours because of childcare costs, and more than 10% said that some staff had quit for the same reason. In total, one third said that childcare, and the availability and cost of it, was a key issue in recruiting and retraining staff.

While there is some government support available for childcare, such as the childcare element of Universal Credit and working tax credits or funding for free nursery places, it is clear that more needs to be done. As with pretty much everything else, government cuts are set to make the situation worse. Even though they’ve promised in increase in free childcare to 30 hours a week, the funding they’ve provided means that 3 out of 4 councils will face a shortfall between the money they receive and the cost of the putting the policy in place. This means that childcare providers will have to cut places or raise fees to make ends meet. If this continues the absolute worst-case scenario, that of councils being unable to meet their statutory duties for childcare, is very much a possibility.

We need to expect far, far better. I would like childcare to be seriously considered as vital infrastructure when it comes to making investment decisions. There might not seem to be many similarities on the surface between building new roads and giving every child in Britain a free nursery place, but a sustainable and high-quality childcare system has the potential to be one of our greatest assets for raising incomes, increasing productivity and reducing inequality. Let’s realise that potential, and stop selling Britain’s children and families short.

Visit http://www.tameside.gov.uk/surestart/nurseryplaces for more information about childcare services in Tameside.

We Shine Brighter Together

Friday, November 4th, 2016

cwajvf2xgaanvkdIs there a more exciting time of year than the build-up to Christmas? I for one can’t think of any. After Halloween and Bonfire Night we can look forward to some big events to carry us through to December and beyond. We always aim to go one better here in Tameside however, so one of the most anticipated days is a little something of our own creation. On 12th November we’ll be lighting up the borough as our famous Lantern Parade once again takes to the streets.

I have no doubt that the 2016 Lantern Parade will be the biggest and best ever. Since early October residents and artists have been hard at work delivering lantern building workshops and bringing some truly extraordinary ideas to life. We’ve also teamed up with the renowned Handmade Parade to provide that extra and spectacular touch. The aim is to bring all of Tameside’s towns and communities together under the banner of “We Shine Brighter Together”. So whether you’re from Ashton, Dukinfield, Stalybridge or anywhere in between, you can rest assured that you’re more than welcome to come and represent your area with pride.

But a big town parade is nothing without our community groups taking part as well. Previous Lantern Parades have seen music and dance contributions from all of Tameside’s brass bands, Scout and Guide Associations, primary and secondary schools, youth theatres, resident groups, sports clubs, charities and many more. No matter what the weather, their hard work and your presence will make sure that there’s a sparkle and a twinkle in Ashton on 12th November.

It’s true that the Lantern Parade is one of the highlights of the year in Tameside, but it also serves a broader purpose as well. The Parade, the Christmas market and all the other celebrations across Tameside give a valuable boost to our town centres. Every person who comes to a Christmas event in Tameside is a person who supports our local businesses, now and hopefully in the future as well. Given that previous Lantern Parades have attracted up to 7,000 people it’s fair to say that it more than pays back the money spent on it.cwajvztxcaam35j

Don’t forget that while the Lantern Parade is the main event, there are several other celebrations going on in Tameside throughout the month as well. From Denton’s Got Talent to the Santa’s Grotto Narrowboat in Stalybridge there is sure to be something for everybody as each town puts on their own unique show. Details about these other Christmas celebrations can be found on the council’s website here.

The 2016 Lantern Parade will begin at 6pm on Saturday 12th November on Katherine Street, Ashton. From there it will make its way to Stamford Street before going through the town centre to Old Cross Street where the finale – including a fireworks display – will kick off at 7pm.  Spectators are more than welcome to turn up at any point along the parade route, and our volunteer marshals will be more than happy to point you in the right direction. See you in a week or so for what I’m sure will be an evening to remember.

The importance of self care

Monday, October 31st, 2016

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Looking back at my previous blogs it’s fair to say that my I often use it to promote healthier living in Tameside. This week I considered writing about another subject but the importance of the topic I wanted to discuss today was such that I couldn’t waste this opportunity to raise awareness of it.

I’m talking about the Tameside public health annual report which was published in late September. The report identifies the common health problems our residents experience and the best way for us to use our resources to tackle them and improve the quality of life for our residents. The report is unique in the way that it is the first to have been produced since the implementation of the devolution of health and social care services to Greater Manchester and the creation of Tameside and Glossop’s own integrated care organisation.

The report has a particular focus on self-care and is helpful in explaining in detail what that is. Self-care is not just putting a plaster on a cut or taking a paracetamol for a headache, it includes much of what people do on a day to day basis. For example, brushing your teeth, watching what you eat or taking exercise are all considered self-care since they are things that contribute to reducing the risks of developing more serious illnesses further down the line. The report emphasises the importance of taking care of yourself and identifies how easy it is to incorporate self-care activities in to your daily routine.

The benefits to this are twofold. Those who look after their health lead longer, happier lives and by reducing the risk of developing serious illnesses reduce the pressure on the NHS too. Who wouldn’t want to lead a long healthy life and avoid going in to hospital?

Here in Tameside we’re doing all we can to support people to take care of themselves. We’re running a range of initiatives from dementia friends to mental health awareness campaigns. We’re promoting smoking cessation clinics and programmes that help residents reduce their alcohol consumption. And of course, we’re also investing £20m in new and refurbished leisure facilities across the Borough that will make it easier for our residents to get active. Worryingly 33% of Tameside’s population take fewer than 30 minutes of exercise each week, significantly increasing their chances of strokes, heart attacks and type 2 diabetes. By increasing the physical activity rate of Tameside people by just 1% it is estimated that we would reduce the cost of dealing with the consequences of inactivity by £650,000 per year giving us thousands more to spend on other vital public services.

Of course there is always going to be a role for health professionals and medicine, but by choosing the most appropriate way of managing our own health we can ensure that the precious health service and council resources are deployed in the best way towards those with the greatest need.

The public health annual report can be read here.

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