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Inequality and the Generation Gap. More Than Meets the Eye?

February 14th, 2017

Read any newspaper or magazine which focuses on economics and politics over the last few days and you will have almost certainly stumbled upon the idea of “intergenerational inequality”. The basic argument goes; for most of modern history in Britain every successive generation has enjoyed improved living standards compared to the generation that came before it. However, thanks to the economic crisis of the past decade there is a real chance that this will not hold true for the generation born between 1981-2000 (the so-called “millennials”). A basic tenant of our social contract and a fundamental aspiration for every parent, that our children should have a better life than we did, has been thrown into doubt in a way that is truly unprecedented.

Is that fear justified? I’d argue “Yes, up to a point”. It’s true that the figures don’t make for pretty reading. According to the Resolution Foundation, older millennials (around 30-35 years old) are the first workers to earn less than those born five years before them, and many of them entered work before the Great Recession. At the same time, it’s been reported recently that pensioner household incomes have overtaken those of working age equivalents for the first time.

Clearly something needs to be done, but the danger here is that we start seeing intergenerational inequality as a zero sum game, where making things better for young people can only be done by taking away from older people. Will, for example, will following the advice of some in abolishing the “triple lock” on pensions (where pension increase per year by the higher of the growth in average earnings, the Consumer Price Index or 2.5%) create good-quality, high-paid jobs for young people by itself? I’d argue not. Reducing inequality must come from lifting people up to the same level, not dragging them down.

I’d go further and say that treating entire generations like some vast amorphous block does nobody any favours. Take two young people born on the same day; one living in the countryside and another living in an inner city. Do they really have any similarities beyond the fact that they share a birthday? Do we miss any potential inequality in income and opportunity between these two because we’re more focused on how they’re doing compared to their parents? A few facts and figures can show what this means in practice. While some pensioners may be earning more than those in work, there are still 1.6 million pensioners (14% of the total pensioner population) living below the poverty line after housing costs. A higher income young person at age 20 has a greater income than a poorer member of their parent’s generation at any age.

We must resolve ourselves to fighting inequality wherever we see it, not setting up one generation against another. Fortunately, there are more than a few ways in which we can do this. Building more and better housing will benefit both young people looking to settle down and older people looking to move or downsize in retirement. Protecting pensions gives security not just to people on the verge of retirement age, but to young people who want to know that pensions will still be there for them decades from now. This is more than a dry debate about economics. If we accept that inequality both between and within generations is one of the gravest issues we face (and I believe it is) then how we deal with it says a lot about what kind of country we are.

I’ve had enough of the policies of scapegoating, divide-and-rule and “us versus them”. We need to be far more ambitious and far more progressive before we can even begin to put things right.


 

Hate Crime Awareness Week

February 10th, 2017

At the end of last week shocking footage emerged of a torrent of vile racist abuse being directed at a man travelling home from work on a Salford bus. The footage was widely shared on social media, thankfully leading to the perpetrator’s arrest and, in the process exposing much of what he said to attempt to justify his behaviour as utter nonsense (he had claimed that his 77 year old Grandfather had fought in World War II though, at 77, he would have been only 5 or 6 years old when the war ended in 1945). It’s disgusting crimes like this that demonstrate the importance of our support for Hate Crime Awareness Week.

Hate Crime Awareness Week is a national initiative that has been promoted locally in Greater Manchester by the office of the Police and Crime Commissioner, Tony Llloyd. It has been an annual event for the last five years and began on Monday this week. It has involved a range of events being held across the region including many, right here in Tameside.

Our roadshow at Stalybridge Tesco

Whilst the example I gave above was that of racist abuse, hate crimes are no less serious when committed against people on the basis of religion, gender, sexuality or disability. It’s for this reason that a range of different organisations were involved in the events that marked the week in Tameside. In addition to the Council roadshow which visited busy shopping and leisure locations around the Borough, LGBT group Out Loud created a piece of artwork to mark the week, disability advocacy group People First Tameside used digital storytelling to discuss their experiences and the Friends of Duke Street Music Project are composing a piece of music to communicate the issue of hate crime.

Appropriately, the week also coincided with Tameside Council’s launching of the ‘Safe Spaces’ initiative. Safe spaces are designated places around the Borough where people who feel threatened can express their identity without fear of discrimination or attack. They are also locations where hate crimes and incidents can be reported. Operated by local organisations and agencies, they are independent of the police so as to recognise that some victims may have concerns about going to the police, or lack the confidence to make a report themselves. Many of them are organisations that can offer support to hate crime victims in addition to approaching the police on their behalf. The full list of safe spaces is available online here www.tameside.gov.uk/hatecrime/reporting/locations.

Tameside is a diverse community, and it is from this diversity that we draw strength and are a more vibrant and successful place. Schemes that root out, expose and deal with, discrimination of any kind will always enjoy my full support. In the words of the late Jo Cox MP, we are far more united and have far more in common with each other than things that divide us.


 

The Climate Change Struggle: A Little Ray of Sunshine?

February 8th, 2017

I’ve written about climate change in this blog before, and it’s rarely been good news. After you’ve read about the serious rise in global temperatures now being inevitable, the government abolishing the Department for Climate Change and flooding right here in Tameside I wouldn’t blame you for feeling a bit hopeless.

That’s why I welcomed a bit of optimistic climate-related news last week. We know that the only way to reduce our global CO2 emissions is to make a serious move away from using fossil fuels to generate most of our electricity and power our vehicles. Up until now most people thought that it wouldn’t be economically possible. A new report from Imperial College, London and the Climate Tracker think-tank, rather aptly titled “Expect the Unexpected” instead offers the argument that growth in the electric vehicle and solar panel market could led to demand for fossils fuels peaking as early as 2020.

Let me give you an example to show how they reached that conclusion. When IBM released the first PC in 1981 it cost almost £8,000, and that was considered cheap. Around about the same time, Ken Olsen, the founder of computer company Digital Equipment Corporation, said “There is no reason why anyone would want a computer in their home”. Fast forward thirty or so years, I’m writing this blog on a laptop that costs 40 times less and is easily thousands of times more powerful than that IBM PC. That laptop is also one of an estimated two billion computers that are used around the world, in everything from phones to cars to household appliances and goodness knows what else.

What’s the point I’m trying to make? When a new technology appears it’s almost always expensive and impractical, but it gets cheaper, more powerful and easier to use very quickly. As it was with computers, so it looks like it’s going to be with renewable energy. The cost of solar panels has fallen by 85% in the last seven years, while batteries for electric vehicles are 73% cheaper now than they were in 2008. If those costs keep going down people, businesses and countries might start using renewable energy not because if any particular feelings about climate change, but because it’ll actually be cheaper than fossil fuels.

Of course, it’s all very well saying that, but it looks like there are enough willing to take that prediction to the bank. Saudi Arabia, not exactly a country people think of when it comes to renewable energy, is looking to invest £40 billion in wind and solar power by 2030. China is planning for half of its increase in electricity generation over the next 4 years to come from £291 billion worth of renewable energy infrastructure. Almost all of Costa Rica’s electricity in 2016 was produced by renewable energy, compared to 5.7% in the UK over the same time.

Tameside is doing its bit as well. The Greater Manchester Pension Fund, administered in Droylsden and chaired by yours truly, has invested £150 million in the UK’s second largest onshore windfarm in South Lanarkshire, Scotland. Closer to home we’re continuing to roll out LED lighting to all of Tameside’s streets, recycling bins to all our town centres and thousands of trees in every space we can find for them. We’ve also worked closely with our residents to increase recycling in the borough by over 50%, with more to come in the future.

So let’s not underestimate the challenges that we face by choosing to tackle climate change, but let’s not underestimate the opportunities either. Putting Tameside and Greater Manchester at the forefront of the struggle is not just the right thing for the planet; it may very well be the right thing for creating the jobs and the economy of the future as well.


 

Count them in

February 3rd, 2017

Councillors Cooney, F Travis and I signing the letter of support.

Last week at the meeting of Full Council I had the pleasure of lending Tameside’s support to the important ‘Count Them In’ campaign being run by the Royal British Legion. The campaign calls for additional questions to be incorporated in the 2021 census that would help to identify members of the Armed Forces Community. The reasoning for this is simple. The more we know about the composition of our communities the better organisations like the Council can plan how best to use their resources.

Despite the next census being more 4 years away the Office for National Statistics and their devolved equivalents are already planning the questions that will be asked when it lands on residents’ doormats. We now have a once in a generation opportunity to influence what those are and it is important that we seize it.

Tameside has a track record of supporting armed forces veterans. We have the armed forces and veteran’s breakfast club every second Saturday at Portland Basin. We launched the veteran’s jobs pledge in 2015 which has so far assisted 9 ex-service personnel back to work. We have recognised the service of local fallen heroes Tony Downes and Andrew Breeze by naming the new Pension Fund building and Denton Link Road respectively in their honour. And finally we provide ongoing support and networking opportunities for veterans through the Tameside Armed Services Community group, TASC.

However, whilst this is a huge range of support services and arguably far more than neighbouring authorities do for their veterans, it still only reaches relatively few of the people that could find their support valuable. It is estimated that, within Tameside, there are more than 4000 members of the armed forces community, though TASC’s membership is just 300. There are therefore more than 3500 more armed forces veterans in the borough that the Council and other organisations who could offer help do not know about. Absurdly, following the 2011 census, we actually know more about the Borough’s Jedi population than we do about our armed forces population!

Under my leadership the Council will continue to support our armed forces community wherever possible, regardless of whether we have the census’ help in doing so. Though, should this campaign be successful, our job will be made much easier.

If you or an organisation you know could lend support to this campaign the details are here http://www.britishlegion.org.uk/get-involved/campaign/count-them-in/.


 

A Shocking Lack of Priorities

February 1st, 2017

Regular readers of this blog will know that I take every opportunity to criticise the hypocrisy of the government’s ideological austerity. The kind of austerity that sees services and investment cut to the bone but always seems to make vast amounts of money available for pet projects. After some excellent work by our very own Angela Rayner we’ve recently been given a clear example of the damage this kind of thinking has done to our country’s education system.

Cast your minds back to March of last year, when the then-Cameron government announced plans to force all schools in England to become academies. I wasn’t alone at the time in thinking that the plans were ruinously expensive, massively impractical and unlikely to increase standards. In the face of opposition from Parliament and the teaching profession the government was forced to first shelve and then abandon the plans completely.

“What does that have to do with what’s happening now?” I hear you ask. At the time the policy was announced the Treasury allocated £500 million of funding to support the mass academisation process. Now that it’s not going ahead, the government has clawed back £384 million of that funding (The rest, according the Department for Education, had already been spent on “other education projects”, whatever that means).

Let me say that another way. The government was willing to spend £500 million on making every school in England an academy. When that project was dropped they could have chosen to redirect that freed-up money to other forms of investment in our schools. Investments like smaller class sizes, better equipment and materials, or training for teachers. Investments that, unlike academisation, have solid evidence behind them to show that they lead to improved standards. Instead, they chose to let the money disappear back into the bowels of the Treasury. Probably never to be seen again.

It would be somewhat justifiable if our education system was already swimming in funding. What’s actually happening at the moment is the worst crisis in teacher recruitment in living memory and a warning from the National Audit Office that we’re on course for a £3 billion cut in school spending by 2020. The Grammar School Head’s Association say that their schools may resort to asking parents for hundreds of pounds a year to plug the gaps in funding cuts, and Cheshire East Council have gone as far as to confirm that they are looking at moving to a four day school week to make ends meet.

Tameside’s share of that £384 million would have amounted to almost £70 for every pupil in our schools. We’re probably not going to see increases in funding from any other source either. While on paper the government’s latest reforms to school funding gives Tameside a little extra money, Angela’s work has shown that when you throw in inflation and the impact of further cuts that we know are coming down the pipeline it amounts to slapping a sticking plaster onto a gaping wound.

If you thumbed through a copy of the Prime Minister’s Industrial Strategy you’ll have seen that one of the longest chapters is on “Developing Skills”, or to quote it verbatim “ensuring that everyone has the basic skills needed in a modern economy”. The kind of education system that delivers that isn’t something that happens by itself. It needs strong and fair funding. It needs to be run by people who know what works and have the freedom to put their expertise into practice.

What it absolutely doesn’t need are Ministers in Whitehall letting ideology and bias dictate their funding and policy decisions. Britain’s future and our children’s education is too important to be turned into a political football.


 

Creating the Next Generation of Coders

January 27th, 2017

Coded on a BBC Micro and released in 1984, space trading simulator “Elite” went on to sell over a million copies and influences the genre to this day.

If you went to school in the 1980s you’ll almost certainly have run into the BBC Micro at some point. Launched in 1982 and designed with an emphasis on education, this unassuming grey box became the gateway for an entire generation of young people to learn about coding, computing and software development. British technology luminaries such as David Braben (who used the BBC Micro to develop “Elite”, one of the most influential and best-selling video games of all time) and David Darling (founder of Warwickshire-based games development company Codemasters) owe their careers to a decision 30 years ago to not just teach young people how to use new technologies, but to provide the resources for them to apply their own creativity as well.

Fast forward to 2017, and we have access to technology whose power and scope is beyond anything that could have been imagined by those 1980s schoolchildren. Now more than ever, it is important to make sure our children have a solid understanding in how these technologies work. We don’t expect them to all become technology and computer entrepreneurs, but we don’t expect everyone who learns English to become a writer or everyone who learns Maths to become a mathematician either. We teach reading, writing and maths because they are essential to understanding the world in which we live. If it isn’t already, knowing how technology works will soon be as important to get on in life as those other basic skills.

With that in mind, the BBC has updated the venerable old Micro for the 21st century. The BBC Micro Bit, inspired by similar devices such as Raspberry Pi, is a far smaller (about half the size of a credit card) but also far more powerful device than its predecessor. Simple programming tasks, like setting its LEDs to light up in a certain pattern, can be done using just the Micro Bit itself. However, it can also be connected up via Bluetooth or USB to other Micro Bits or electronic devices to create and use more complicated programs. The dedicated www.microbit.org website also contains enough software and tools so that the Micro Bit’s possibilities are limited only by the imagination of its user.

The Micro Bit has already made its way to our country’s schools, but here in Tameside we want to go above and beyond in the name of teaching our children about technology. Our commitment was enshrined at the start of last year in our “Every Child a Coder” 16 for 2016 Pledge, and after the success of our Tameside Hack in the summer we’re in the process of finalising our plans to hold a second Hackathon over the February half-term. We’re also putting on free starter sessions for young people in Years 6, 7 and 8 at Hyde Library to help them find their way around the BBC Micro Bit and program some great projects. The first session took place this Monday, but spaces are still available at the time of writing for the second session on the 30th January. The event is completely free and you can book your place on the dedicated webpage here.

I’ve always had the view that education is not just a means to get a job and build a future, although those are undoubtedly important. It is a valuable thing in and of itself. Maybe one of the children at our Hackathon or Micro Bit sessions will go on to create the next great video game or computer program in 20 or so years, but I won’t consider our work a failure if that doesn’t happen. If we can open our young people’s minds to the possibilities and opportunities that technology can offer them to understand not just the world, but themselves, then that is an excellent return on investment in my book.


 

Is there still life in the “Northern Powerhouse”?

January 25th, 2017

£556 million of investment has been announced for the North, but is it enough?

There we have it. Seven months to the day after the EU referendum Prime Minister Theresa May unveiled her plan for a post-Brexit Britain. A plan which means that, for the first time in a long time, Britain will have an industrial strategy of some description – which I welcome.

Setting aside the question about whether such a plan should have been formulated prior to June 23rd so that we were prepared in the event of a ‘Leave’ vote, let’s look at the proposals, particularly what they mean for the North, in more detail.

As part of the plans the government has pledged £556 million to the ‘Northern Powerhouse’, an initiative that myself and counterparts in other northern local authorities believed to have gone with the sacking of George Osborne last summer. These were fears which were compounded when the new government also withdrew support for EXPO 2025, planned for Ashton Moss, late last year. It was therefore a relief to see the phrase ‘Northern Powerhouse’ reappear in the government’s industrial strategy press release.

However this was only a small comfort. Whilst £556 million sounds like a lot of money, what will it actually buy for the combined regions of the North West, North East and Yorkshire? To put it in to context the total budget of Manchester City Council in 2014/15 was £563 million. The money pledged is therefore less that the amount that just one small part of the North, which in total has a combined population of almost 15 million, had to spend on its half a million residents. £556 million also pales in comparison to the £1.2 billion pledged for the London Underground’s Northern Line extension!

On the government’s project list to be funded by this cash are: an intermodal transport terminal on the East Yorkshire coast, a ‘21st century’ conference centre and hotel at Blackpool’s Winter Gardens, £10 million for the Manchester and Cheshire life sciences fund and some flood defences in Yorkshire. I’m not suggesting for a moment that these aren’t worthy projects, but where is the ambition? Where is High Speed 3, the East-West high speed rail link? Where are the plans to build the homes we need for the 2 million on housing waiting lists nationally? Where is the money for the circular Metrolink line that would connect Greater Manchester’s satellite towns without the need to travel across the city centre?

I know I’m not the only one who is disappointed with the underwhelming announcements from the Prime Minister and Business Secretary yesterday. Indeed, senior figures in the Leeds City Region criticised the announcements for handing almost double the amount of cash that Leeds is getting to Greater Manchester. So if I’m annoyed about the lack of ambition and meagre amounts of money pledged when other areas think we’ve done alright, colleagues from elsewhere in the north must be positively furious!

I began this blog by welcoming the industrial strategy, and I do. Despite its shortcomings it is, after all, more than anything else we’ve had for a long time. Though my message to the government is – don’t do things by halves. This is a good start, but if this is it the ‘Industrial Strategy’ and ‘Northern Powerhouse’ will be things that will exist in name only.


 

Why I welcome the Bus Services Bill

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.


 

How To (And How To Not) Call Time on Excessive Pay.

January 16th, 2017

The city of Portland in America, which has recently passed a law raising taxes for businesses whose CEO-to-workers pay ratio is over 100-1.

If you watched the news last week you can’t have helped but have noticed the furore that the Leader of the Labour Party kicked off when he suggested that there should be some kind of cap on high earnings.

Excessive pay is more than an economic problem. At a time where salaries and job prospects for those on the lower end of the scale are getting more precarious by the day it becomes a moral problem as well. I agree with Corbyn insofar as he says that inequality, especially income inequality, is harming our society and our public services. It’s no secret that levels of pay at the top of business and industry have skyrocketed far beyond anything resembling sanity. The High Pay Centre, an independent think-tank, estimate that FTSE 100 CEOs are now paid 130 times more than the median pay of their staff, compared to 45 times more two decades ago.

Where I disagree with Corbyn is on what should be done about it. I am, and continue to be, against a hard cap on earnings. It’s a crude and blunt instrument, the financial equivalent of performing heart surgery with a sledgehammer. It also runs the risk of incentivising behaviour such as hiding pay through share options and payments-in-kind.

I’ve always made it clear that I have no issue with people reaping the rewards if they work hard and are successful. What has happened in recent years is that CEOs and executives are receiving colossal pay packets for just getting by or, in some cases, even failing completely. The example I highlighted the last time I wrote about this subject was Bob Dudley, the chief executive of BP, who received a 20% pay rise last year despite the company recording the biggest operating loss in its history under his watch. When we also start seeing massive pay ratios between workers and executives the question has to be asked if their performances could ever justify it. You could potentially make an argument that a top notch chief executive is, say, responsible for 20 times more than an average employee and therefore deserves to be paid 20 times more, but can you make the same argument for 50, 100, 150 times more?

So if I think something needs to be done but I’m against a hard cap, then where does that leave me?

Luckily we already have a way to move money around society to benefit us all, a way that has been proven to work for centuries across the world. It’s called the tax system. That’s why I’m interested in an experiment conducted by the city of Portland in America, which is introducing tax increases of 10% and 25% for business whose CEOs are paid more than 100 and 250 times more than the median employee respectively. This “inequality tax” would help pay for basic public services in the city, such as housing and police/firefighter salaries. If Portland can pull off a long-term shift in cultural change towards executive pay while raising money for public services at the same time, then why can’t they do the same thing here in the UK? Its questions like this that I’ll be asking the Prime Minister over the next year.

Inequality is not inevitable, but it will take serious action to turn around a ship that has been allowed to get out of control for far too long. The fightback must start here. A fair society is a stronger society, and I will do everything in my power in Tameside Council and in the Greater Manchester Pension Fund to make it happen.


 

Major progress on Vision Tameside

January 13th, 2017
The steel signing ceremony in December last year

The steel signing ceremony in December last year

Late last year I had the pleasure of visiting the site of the former TAC in Ashton-under-Lyne, now demolished to make way for a new state of the art joint public service centre. The visit was an opportunity to see the progress that had been made in laying the foundations for the new building and ceremonially sign the first part of the steel framework that will support the building.

Something that struck me when arriving in the compound was just how large a site the former TAC occupied.  Built in 1981 to replace a range of offices across the Borough, TAC brought together Tameside Council staff and facilities under one roof. By the end however the building was half empty and costing more to keep open then was either justifiable to local taxpayers or affordable in the age of austerity. Whilst TAC was an innovative idea and facility when constructed, the 1980s specifications it was built to were unsuitable for the 21st century, and architecturally it’s unclear whether the design was ever consistent with any fashions.

When we commissioned the new building we were determined that we wouldn’t repeat previous mistakes. The new public service centre currently under construction will meet the highest energy efficiency criteria possible and cost significantly less that the £1.7 million per year that TAC cost to run. It will be shared with Tameside College and house their advanced skills centre, further reducing the costs to local taxpayers whilst providing our young people with the skills they need to be successful in life in a first class setting. There will be space for Wilko to return to the site from their temporary home in the Arcades and the historic stone façade, behind which the Co-operative Bank and the Cheshire Building Society were housed, will be retained.

At the time of my visit in December only one staircase had been constructed. Having been in Ashton this lunch time significant progress has been made since. It’s clear that 2017 will be where the building will really begin to take shape and residents will see major changes even from outside the site barriers.

There has been significant progress on site since last year

There has been significant progress on site since last year

Whilst the signing ceremony itself was a major milestone in the beginning of construction work, the more significant milestone will be the completion. The regeneration of Ashton Town Centre and wider Tameside that this project has kick-started is more significant than anything else since the formation of the Borough in 1974. Jobs have been, and continue to be, created as ‘Vision Tameside’ progresses, and the local economy has been boosted by the money these workers spend locally and the increased footfall in to the town centre.

As I look back at the Council reports that were considered to agree the construction of this building I recall one of the reasons listed as making TAC’s replacement necessary was its £2 million maintenance backlog. Whilst I could spend time wondering how and why it was allowed to get to that point I am more minded to think that we were fortunate not to have spent that money keeping up to date with the maintenance of a building that had not been fit for purpose for some time.

 


 
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