22 February 2017 Councillor John Taylor
We Won’t Mess Around
Last year I wrote in my first Executive Member blog that my focus for 2016 would be rolling out the council’s Enforcement Strategy for fly-tipping and littering. Not only do Tameside residents deserve to live, work and do business in a clean and attractive borough, but the economic argument was unquestionable as well. Clearing almost 300 cases of fly-tipping a month cost the council £300,000 last year alone. That’s money that won’t go to looking after the vulnerable or disabled, money that won’t go into filling potholes, money that won’t be reinvested in projects that will benefit Tameside in the future. All because of the actions of a small number of people who not only won’t play by the rules, but have been allowed to get away with it for far too long.
That’s why we released our Environmental Enforcement Strategy. It makes clear, in black and white, what residents can expect from us and what we expect from our residents. When fly-tipping or littering does occur, the Strategy also lays out how this can be reported by residents and what actions the council will take to arrange removal and bring those responsible to justice.
We know as well that it’s not just enough to take action against fly-tippers and litter louts; we must be seen to take action against them as well. So using every method at our disposal, from newspapers to social media, we’re publicising the good work that our Greenspace, Waste, Environment and Highways teams do. Naturally, a lot of this involves enforcement action (Search for #wewontmessaround on Twitter) but we want to take the chance to show off about some of the other great work they do as well. In the past week alone we’ve highlighted our Greenspace Volunteers keeping our hedgerows and pathways clear, our Environmental Health Officers maintaining and improve hygiene in Tameside’s shops and restaurants and our Highways Team’s work with Greater Manchester Police to improve safety for cyclists on our roads. We’re going to be doing much more of this in the future, and we want to take you along for the ride with us.
Don’t let anybody tell you what we’re doing isn’t working either. The Environmental Enforcement Strategy is just one part of a wider plan to increase recycling and reduce fly-tipping in Tameside, a plan that’s seen our recycling rate increase well above the national average to 58%. That’s 9,648 tonnes of waste that isn’t being sent off to landfill, polluting the environment and costing the council millions in the process.
So, a year on from when we made our pledge to crack down on fly-tipping and littering in Tameside, I think we can look back with pride at the great progress we’ve made. That carries with it a responsibility to not keep the bar at the same level in the year ahead, but set it higher still. I think we can do it. The people of Tameside want us to do it. Let’s get on with it.
If you’re a Tameside resident and want to know more about the Council’s Environmental Enforcement Strategy you can visit our website here. A list of Frequently Asked Questions can also be found here.
31 January 2017 - Councillor Peter Robinson
Signing the Children in Care Council Pledge
Ask any person who has left the family home about the experience and they will probably say that it was one of the most challenging times of their lives, a precarious period where one wrong decision could leave their future hanging in the balance. Yet if you wish to make your own way in the world it is something that everybody will have to face one way or another.
Now imagine having to go through all that except without the benefit of a supportive network of family and friends. It’s for that reason that children leaving care are among one of the most vulnerable groups in our society. Research shows that they are three times more likely to be cautioned or convicted of an offence, four times more likely to have mental health issues, eight times more likely to be excluded from school and five times less likely to achieve at least 5 good GCSE grades.
That’s why at the last meeting of Full Council in 2016 I was delighted to put my signature next to those of other Tameside councillors on the Children in Care Council (CICC) Pledge.
This pledge, drawn up by the children and young people in the care of the council, promises that we will do everything in our power to let them reach their full potential and allow them the same opportunities in life as other young people their age. This pledge commits us to always involving children and young people when making decisions that will affect them. It commits us to understanding and accommodating the life stories of each and every person that comes into our care. It commits us to making sure that when children and young people leave our care they know what support (including financial support) they are entitled to. Finally, it commits us to listening to the experts at the Tameside Children in Care Council and seeking their advice in the recruitment of staff and the selection of service providers.
Every person working in the Council, be they an elected official or a member of staff, is a corporate parent. The work we all do has an impact on our children in care, even if it isn’t directly related to the service area itself. That carries with it responsibilities and duties that we need to take very seriously indeed. With the signing of this pledge, I believe that we are taking a big step in fulfilling them. Thank you to all the staff, councillors and members of the Tameside Children in Care Council who helped to make it happen.
14 December 2016 - Councillor Jim fitzpatrick
Building on a Year of Progress
As the end of the year approaches, it’s a good time to look back and take stock of what has happened over the past twelve months. To say that they’ve been turbulent is something of an understatement, and the consequences will be felt not just in Britain but across the world. That makes it more important than ever to continue the work we’ve done this year to make Tameside a better place to live, work and invest in.
It’s a year that saw the completion of Phase 1 of the Vision Tameside project. It seems like yesterday that local girl and Coronation Street star Brooke Vincent opened the new Clarendon Sixth Form College, but students have been studying A-levels and creative arts in its state of the art facilities for over a year now. In September we also saw the opening of the Advanced Engineering and Technology Centre on Stamford Street, which is now educating young people for careers in cutting edge industries such as electronics, engineering, hydraulics, computer coding, medicine and forensics. Together, the 3,200 advanced manufacturing businesses in Greater Manchester employ enough people to fill the Etihad Stadium and generate £2.4 billion in Gross Value Added. Two thirds of these businesses are in South and East Manchester, and we intend to provide every single one of them with motivated, talented and made in Tameside employees.
Next year will see work continue on Phase 2 of Vision Tameside. By now the sight of the old Council Offices in the Ashton skyline is a distant memory. Over the next eighteen months or so the new Advanced Skills Centre and Joint Public Service Centre will take its place. We’ve combined forces with Tameside College to bring together training in vocational skills and council services under the same roof. The new building will be up to date with all modern environmental and structural specifications, making it a great deal easier and cheaper to run. We’re also taking a look at what can be done with the old Ashton Town Hall to secure its place as one of our most important historical buildings.
Beyond Vision Tameside, I firmly believe that 2017 will be another big year for renovating and improving our buildings and infrastructure. We’ve seen projects outside of Ashton get underway or reach a conclusion. Most notably, our £20 million investment in our leisure offer is bearing fruit with family attraction Total Adrenaline in Mottram and Dukinfield’s 24/7 iTrain gym facility respectively. Next year that investment will reach Hyde and Denton as well as work begins on adding a swimming pool to the existing facilities at Active Hyde, and on the new jewel in Active Tameside’s leisure crown, the Denton Wellness Centre. The combination of a commercial offer with facilities that will attract people not just from Tameside, but across Greater Manchester, will help us keep these new leisure centres on a financially sustainable footing. We did it with the Sky High Adventure Centre in Droyslden, and this leisure investment is that model on a bigger and wider scale. We also know that helping people get healthy and active is not only good for them, but will also us money that is desperately needed to cope with the further cuts that we know are coming over the next four years.
So while we should rightly feel proud when we look back at all we’ve achieved this year in difficult circumstances, we should also look forward at the work that is still be done.
You can find out more about Vision Tameside here: http://www.visiontameside.com/latest-news/Active Tameside’s website http://www.activetameside.com/ also contains information on the progress of our leisure investments.
05 December 2016 - Councillor Brenda Warrington
Bringing our Communities Together at Christmas
Any Executive Member at Tameside Council has to get used to juggling a large number of responsibilities at a time. While the bulk of my workload is focused around Adult Social Care and Wellbeing, I also take a lead in promoting community cohesion and social inclusion across the borough.
It’s a job that I consider to be particularly important as we approach Christmas. It may be a Christian holiday, but our events and celebration across this month seek to include everybody in our communities regardless of how they celebrate, or don’t celebrate, on the 25th December. I can think of no better example of this than last month’s Lantern Parade, a truly spectacular event which saw 1,000 people from all our towns, including community groups, schools, colleges, bands and dance groups, turn out on the streets of Ashton.
Christmas is also a time to look out for each other as well, especially our older and vulnerable residents. While our Adult Social Care and Community Response teams do brilliant work Christmas is one of their busiest times of the entire year, especially when we face the weather conditions that we have recently. That’s why we ask residents to make it their business to keep an eye out for neighbours, family members, friends and homeless people. Even things as simple as popping round to see if the neighbour is okay, or helping an elderly person walk along an icy path, helps make Tameside a safer and friendlier place for everybody.
Finally, Christmas is about appreciating what we have and helping those who are less fortunate. At this time of year, the Council and its partners operate a number of appeals and campaigns to spread the Christmas spirit and make a real impact to people’s lives. This includes Tameside 4 Good’s Toy Appeal, which works with the Tameside Reporter and Tameside Radio to encourage people to donate new, unwrapped toys and gifts that will be sent to 10,500 children and young people living in poverty in Tameside. If you want to take part you can take donations to any of the drop-off points in the borough by 15th December.
If you want to help further you can also donate your food, money or time to one of our local foodbanks at: http://tamesidefoodbanks.madewithjam.org/. Of course, like most people, I would much prefer a country where nobody was forced to turn to foodbanks for help, but in the circumstances we find ourselves in they are an important support for many vulnerable people and families. Donations can be dropped off to local libraries in the run up to Christmas, and items like long-life milk and orange juice, tea, coffee, sugar, biscuits, fruit, vegetables and tinned foods are particularly welcome.
Bringing communities together and offering a helping hand to those who need it. That to me is what Christmas in Tameside means. So in that spirit, I’ll finish by taking the opportunity to wish you all a Happy and Healthy Christmas and New Year.
17 November 2016 - Councillor Lynn Travis
First Class Learning in All Environments
There are some children for whom learning in a classroom just works. They can sit down, listen to the teacher, absorb the knowledge and reproduce it when necessary. Every so often they might run into difficulties, but it’s usually because what they are being taught is advanced or hard to grasp, not because they have difficulties with how it is being taught.
That’s all well and good for some, but what about the children that don’t learn very well in a classroom? Go into any school in the country and you’ll see them. The children that always kick up a fuss. The children that spend the lesson staring out of the window. The children that look like they would rather be anywhere else. You might call them troublemakers and think that it would be better if they weren’t there at all, but all our children are entitled to a high-quality education. Surely there’s another way to help them learn, outside of the four walls of a classroom?
Millbrook Primary and Nursery School asked that question, and because of their efforts to answer it they’re now the first school in the UK to receive the prestigious Leadership Centre Award. The school took “outside the classroom” learning quite literally, and adopted Forest School based learning across the curriculum.
Forest School learning encourages the emotional and social development of children by getting them outside and engaged in activities such as den building, natural crafts, games and campfire songs. All the aspects of learning you would normally expect is still taught but in a different way and in a different environment. What’s more, it also encourages independence, self-confidence and self-esteem, especially among children who find it harder to engage with purely academic work. It’s a way of teaching that Millbrook have been practicing successfully for over eight years now. They’ve even gone to the effort of building their own on-site Forest School area, complete with a treehouse and chicken run.
The Leadership Centre Award is wonderful achievement for the school, and yet more recognition that Millbrook – not only one of the top performing schools in the country, but also recently shortlisted by the Times Education Supplement for 2016 Primary School of the Year – are willing to go the distance to give their pupils a happy, well-rounded education and the key skills they will need to find success in life.
But the success of Millbrook also highlights the wider issue of how important it is to make sure that no child is left behind when it comes to education. Every child matters and every child should have the best possible chance to reach their full potential. The council’s work with schools, whether it be investing £250 million to improve the facilities and buildings they can offer, or working together through the A+ Trust to share best practice, has been put in place with this fundamental belief at heart. It’s served us well so far, and I’m confident that it will continue to do so in the future.
10 November 2016 Councillor Gerald Cooney
Tomorrow’s Engineers, Today
What employment sector contributes more than 27% of the UKs total GDP, and is expected to have almost a quarter of a million vacancies to fill by 2022? The answer is engineering. From designing the roads we drive on to building the machines that help us work, engineers are absolutely essential to keeping our country and our economy running. That’s true now, and it’ll be true in the future as well.
That’s why we’re supporting Tomorrow’s Engineers Week in Tameside. From 7-11th November, councils, schools and colleges across Greater Manchester are working together to shine the spotlight on engineers and engineering careers. Altogether, the engineering sector already employs more than 50,000 people in Greater Manchester, or to put it another way, 4.5% of all the people who work across the city and its towns. Not only that, but 70% of our engineering companies are looking to expand and invest in the next twelve months. That’s what a thriving, healthy employment sector looks like, and it’s right that we highlight the great work that they do.
But Tomorrow’s Engineers Week is about more than throwing numbers and percentages at people. We want to showcase people in Tameside who, quite literally, want to be tomorrow’s engineers. People like Isha Ahmed who is studying a Level 2 Engineering course at Tameside College with the hopes of going to university afterwards. Or aspiring IT Technician Daniel Hullock, who is studying a HND course in Computing to help him get to where he wants to be. And the College is helping fuel both their dreams and the dreams of others by putting on a variety of activities over the week, including spectacular time-lapse videos of a 3D printer and some advanced robotics alongside visits by employers and industry personalities.
As always however, our commitment to tomorrow’s engineers lasts a lot longer than just a week. The engineers who will work at the cutting edge in the future need cutting edge facilities to learn in, and that’s exactly what we’re providing them with. The new Clarendon Sixth Form College and Advanced Engineering and Technology Centre have already opened their doors as part of the Vision Tameside project, and together they are helping to support our plans to develop higher skill levels in advanced manufacturing in our young people. No other area in Greater Manchester is investing in their future in the way that we are, and I’m absolutely certain that the many engineering and manufacturing companies that have made Tameside their home will be spoilt for choice when it comes to apprentices and employees over the next few years.
So if you’re a young person in Tameside and want to see what all the fuss is about, have a look at the Tameside College website here to see how you can get an engineering qualification, and then go to the Tomorrow’s Engineers website here to see what you can do with it afterwards. You may just be taking the first step on the road to a rich and rewarding career.
03 November 2016 Councillor Alison Gwynne
Bereavement Services, the Council’s Unsung Heroes
Ask most people what the council does and you’d probably get a reply like “They empty the bins”, “They fill in potholes” or “They look after my grandparents”. While we do all of those things, it overlooks many of the other vital services the council provides. As Executive Member for Clean and Green Tameside many of these also fall under my brief, and of all of them I would argue that none is as sensitive as our Bereavement Service.
The Council performs around 2,000 cremations and 500 burials a year, and in every single one of them we aim to provide a well-organised and dignified burial or cremation service in strict accordance with the faith and needs of the deceased and their families. That might sound simple enough, but it involves a lot of dedication and hard work. To give you just one example; while cremation is permitted by Sikh, Hindu, Buddhist and most Christian teachings it is prohibited by Muslims, Orthodox Jews and Orthodox Christians. There may also be cultural or personal preferences about how any funeral service should be conducted.
Perhaps because death isn’t something any of us like to spend a lot of time thinking about, I’ve heard a lot of urban myths, misinformation and (sometimes) complete nonsense about what happens before, during or after burials and cremations. I’m fairly sure you’ll have heard some of them yourself.
That’s why we’ve joined the national Tell Us Once service, which allows you to report a death to all the necessary government agencies through the council. This means that you don’t have to spend time to contact multiple people or spend money on multiple death certificates.
That’s also why everybody involved in the bereavement process here in Tameside; from our registrars to our cemetery workers to our adult carers are always ready to offer support, information and assistance to anybody who needs it during that most difficult of times.
We also appreciate that, even after the funeral and the mourning process is over, you still may want something that will help you remember the deceased. The chapel in Dukinfield Cemetery contains a Book of Remembrance. Inscriptions are entered under the date of death and a page is turned daily so that the names appear annually on the anniversary day. Memorial plaques or plates can also be placed in the chapel or along the walls of the main driveway in the cemetery. Benches made out of recycled material (making them less prone to damage or vandalism) can also be purchased, and we will make every effort to locate it as close to the deceased’s final resting place as possible.
If you need to organise a funeral for a loved one in Tameside, or you simply want to find out some more information you can contact our Bereavement Service on 0161 330 1901 or visit their website at http://www.tameside.gov.uk/Bereavement. The National Health Service website also offers help on how to deal with the emotional impact of bereavement on their Live Well website at http://www.nhs.uk/livewell/bereavement/.
20 October 2016 Councillor John Taylor
Hands-on-Help with Online Safety
Has there been an invention in recent history that has had a bigger impact on our lives than the internet? I, for one, can’t think of any. As a gateway to almost every piece of knowledge you could ever ask for, from online encyclopaedias to the football scores, it helps us communicate with each other and share information on a completely different level to anything that came before.
That’s something that should absolutely be celebrated. We can’t turn the clock back, nor should we particularly want to. However, we also have to acknowledge the potential risks that come with such technology, especially to our children. Many children and young people, most of whom have been brought up with technology, far outstrip their parents (myself included) in their know-how and ability to get the most use out of social media and the internet. That has many benefits, but it also opens them up to hurtful behaviour, unsuitable or inappropriate information and, in the worst cases, exploitation.
The first reaction by some parents might be to lock up the computers, smartphones and games consoles and throw away the key. While I can see where they’re coming from, I don’t think that solves the problem. The best way to keep your children safe online is to give them access in a monitored and reasonable way. Think of it this way, if your children want to go and play in the park, you’d go with them to keep an eye on them, tell them to not talk to strangers and make sure they stay away from the road. You don’t refuse to let them ever go out. The same principles work online as much as they do offline.
That’s why we’ve teamed up with the Greater Manchester Police and Crime Commissioners Office and creative tech company MadLab to offer parents free, hands-on help to keep their children safe online. This help is broken down into two separate hour long sessions. The first is an introduction to what you need to be aware of online, including cyber bullying, online shopping, radicalisation, eating disorders and protecting personal information and images. The second workshop will provide practical help about how you can set up security and privacy settings on your children’s devices. You can even bring the devices with you and do it there and then. No previous experience or expertise in technology is necessary, and the courses themselves are designed to be as simple, easy and convenient as possible.
For further information and details on how to book onto a session visit our website at http://www.tameside.gov.uk/libraries/events/onlinesafety They’re been held at different times of day across several of Tameside’s libraries from November to February, so there’s a good chance you’ll find at least one session that you can fit around your usual routine. The new online world might seem daunting, but by understanding and talking to your children about the dangers you can keep them safe and maybe learn a bit about it yourself into the bargain.
07 October 2016 - Councillor Lynn Travis
Coding Clubs: Learning and Playing for the Future
Almost everybody has heard of the “Three Rs”, reading, writing and arithmetic, which for centuries have formed the basis of modern education systems, the building blocks upon which more advanced learning rests. The implication is that anybody who does not possess those basic skills will find it close to impossible to function and get on in society.
In the last few years, there have been calls to add computer skills to that list of basic skills that people simply need to know. It’s a compelling argument. Have a sit down for a minute and try to think of a job, any job, which does not involve some sort of work with computers these days. Have a look around your house and count up how many of the things you own, from phones to TVs to cars, run on computers of different types and power. If we haven’t got to the point already where not being able to use a computer is considered a bigger hindrance as being unable to read, write or add up, it can’t be very long before we get there.
That’s why one of our Pledges for 2016 was “Every Child a Coder”. We have committed ourselves to helping set up coding clubs in primary schools to get our young people started on learning the computer skills they need at the earliest possible age. Our ambition is nothing less than making sure every child in Tameside, regardless of their background, has the chance to learn the key ideas of computer science and how programming works, as well as giving them the chance to develop their skills further if they so choose. As Executive Member for Lifelong Learning, I pledge to do everything I can to make that a reality. In fact, I’ve recently finished the training I need to help run a Coding Club myself in a primary school in Ashton.
Our pledge doesn’t stop at the school gates though, as we’ve taken steps to put on extracurricular activities in programming and coding in our libraries and museums as well. In the summer we ran the first ever Tameside Hackathon, giving children between the ages of 13-18 the chance to take their coding and programming skills out of the classroom and into the real world. We worked with Madlab, a Manchester-based, not-for-profit digital company to put on a “Make Stuff” event at Portland Basin last month featuring coding, crafting and building workshops and activities. So far the feedback from these has been nothing but positive, and we plan on putting on more and similar events in the near future.
Part of the reason we’re doing this is simple common sense, the more our children know about computers and technology, the better prepared they’ll be for the workplaces of the 21st century. There’s a lot to be said as well, however, for learning for its own sake. I don’t expect everybody that attends a Coding Club will go on to make a career out of it, nor will many of them even want to particularly do so. But if coding and programming can expand their minds and teach them a new way of looking at the world, then who knows where it will end up taking them. Let’s keep working together to give every child in Tameside that most precious of opportunities.
27 September 2016 Councillor Alison Gwynne
Taking Out Tameside’s Waste
Over at Green and Clean Tameside we’ve been working hard with you to achieve better recycling rates, which have now hit 57%. To put that it another way, that’s 5994 tonnes of waste not being sent to landfill. That’s absolutely fantastic news and an increase of over 40% since we introduced the Bin Swap last year.
We would never have been able to do this without the overwhelming support of Tameside’s residents. To the residents who made the effort to figure out what goes in each bin, the residents who took pride in what their local area looks like, and the residents that have volunteered hours of their time to help with environmental improvement, thank you. It was your hard work that made this possible.
Unfortunately though, there are still some people who continue to blight our streets with dumped rubbish, graffiti and dog mess. With help from council employees and residents, we have been able to identify the hotspots for these issues and devise plans to tackle them.
That’s why we launched a massive community clean up in Ashton last month. Our neighbourhood and environmental services brought together residents, Councillors, religious groups and volunteers from companies such as McDonald’s, Regenda, Holy Trinity Community Centre, New Charter Housing and Greenscape to clear the area around Layard Street, Kenyon Street and Uxbridge Street. Council bin wagons and Greenscape lorries were used to clear almost 5 tonnes of waste and empty 80 contaminated bins, after which street sweeping vehicle and volunteers with litter pickers moved in to pick up anything that had been missed.
But that isn’t the end of the story. After the clean we went around residents in the area explaining the need to recycle and how to do it properly, planting the seeds for a sustainable solution to waste problems in the area. I’m confident that after these visits the vast majority of residents will see not only the importance of looking after their local area, but the pride and the benefits that come from doing so.
The council will be more than happy to offer help and advice to anybody who wants to organise a community clean up in their area, and you can get in touch with us at firstname.lastname@example.org to find out more. By working together we can build on what we’re achieved to deliver even better results for Tameside next year.
12 August 2016 - Councillor Brenda Warrington
Tackling elderly loneliness
When it comes to taking care of the elderly in Tameside it’s clear that prevention is always better than cure. To give just one example; a few hundred pounds spent outfitting a bathroom for an elderly resident with mobility difficulties costs a lot less than the hospital care that would be needed if they slipped and fell whilst having a shower.
But as well as the financial, there is also a social angle to prevention as well. What does it say about us as a society if we only start paying serious attention to elderly people when they enter our hospitals and care homes? Isn’t it in all our interests to make sure the assistance and support is in place for our elderly people, regardless of their health and age, to live the most fulfilling and independent lives they can?
If that’s something we should strive for, and I believe that it is, we need to think seriously about elderly loneliness. It might not sound like a big issue, but if elderly loneliness was a physical illness it would probably be considered one of the great health crises of our times. Research has shown that loneliness and social isolation are as harmful to health as smoking 20 a day, and are actually a greater risk factor than other well-known issues such as obesity and physical inactivity.
We’re not talking about something that a handful of elderly people are suffering from either. A 2013 study showed that 63% of adults aged 52 or over who have been widowed, or 51% of those who are separated or divorced reported feeling lonely some of the time or often. 59% of adults aged 52 or over whom reported poor health said they feel lonely some of the time or often, compared to 21% of those who say they are in excellent health.
We need to start overcoming this, and that involves recognising that every elderly resident suffering from loneliness or isolation has their own story and needs to be involved in shaping their own solution. That’s why earlier this summer we teamed up with Manchester Camerata to work with over 50 Tameside residents who suffered from loneliness, dementia and other mental health issues. Working with the Camerata professionals, our residents came up with the songs, narrative and staging for “Mr Romeo and Mrs Juliet”, a brand new, made-from-scratch opera that was performed at Dukinfield Town Hall and Hyde’s Grafton Centre.
It was an inspiration to see how elderly people from all walks of life could come together and use their creativity and decades of experience to produce something truly unique. For the sake of our adult social care services and for the dignity and happiness of our elderly residents we need to do many, many more things like this, and the council and I will keep working to make sure that we get them.
01 September 2016 - Councillor Peter Robinson
Our Children Deserve Better
The summer months, in particular August, are often known in political circles as the “silly season”. With Parliament in its summer recess and many politicians on holiday newsworthy events tend to be thinner on the ground. Not so in the world of children’s social care, where we’re currently preparing for the biggest shake-up in a generation as the Children and Social Work Bill works its way through the process of becoming law.
The bill seeks to reform and improve children’s social care in three key areas; making sure that young people who leave the care system receive the support and services they need to help their transition into independent adulthood, encouraging permanent adoption as an alternative to fostering when appropriate and driving improvements in the social work profession by introducing more demanding professional standards and setting up a specialist regulator.
As somebody who has knowledge of how our country’s care system works, both as a former foster carer and the current Executive Member for Children and Families, I see a lot to like in the theory of the bill. You’d be hard pressed to find anybody who’d disagree with the argument that stability and long-term support is important for children in the care system, or that we should train and encourage our social workers to deliver the best service for children and young people in care. That being said, there are a few things that concern me once we dive deeper into what this actually means in terms of policy.
Firstly, in regards to regulation of social workers, there is already an independent and effective regulatory body in the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC). Tearing it down and starting again is not only disruptive and expensive; it will make social workers directly answerable to the government in a way that no other health or care service is. This runs the risk of the new government-run regulator prioritising good headlines and short-term political priorities over what’s best for the profession and the people who rely on it. At the time of writing, the government has also produced no evidence as to why such a drastic restructuring is necessary.
More worrying than this however, are the powers the Bill gives to the government to “exempt” care providers from their legal duties under the 1989 and 2004 Children Acts. The government claims that this will allow for the trial of “new and innovative” ways of working. In practice, this opens the door to the outsourcing and privatisation of our social care system in the name of “innovation”, a word that this government has a bad habit of throwing about without ever telling us what it means. In this bizarre world, the best way to protect our children is to get rid of laws that protect them. The government argues that this is an alarmist view of the Bill, but we’ve seen this same charade played out in our schools enough times for us to treat anything similar with justified suspicion.
Looking after children is one of the most important responsibilities faced by local government. If there are to be any reforms or changes, they must be supported by hard evidence and a cast-iron guarantee that the welfare of children and young people will come first. There is no place for blind ideology, baseless conjecture or a “make it up as you go along” attitude. I and others have made our concerns clear, and we await the government’s response.
01 August 2016 Councillor Gerald Cooney
A Helping Hand for Tameside’s Jobseekers
One of the defining features of the technological revolution we are living through is how it is making the world smaller. Once upon a time sending a message to somebody on the other side of the country could take days, and sending a message to another continent could take weeks. Today, you can send the same message electronically to anywhere in the world in a matter of seconds. It’s an astonishing change that’s happened in a relatively short period of time, and I don’t think any of us have quite grasped what it means for our future.
But it’s also true that, in a lot of other ways, our lives have stayed the same. To give you just one example, most of us still need some kind of job to earn and get on in life. Even here the power of technology can still be used to bring people and jobs together, with the potential to give some our most hard to reach residents an easier route into the workforce.
That’s why Tameside Council have joined forces with MyWorkSearch, a powerful online tool for jobseekers. As well as showing local jobs, MyWorkSearch scans through major online employment websites and thousands of individual employer websites to give users the most comprehensive, up-to-date list of available jobs possible. The website also has a variety of kits to help you put together a high quality CV and cover letter, which can then be e-mailed or printed off as required. Last but not least, there’s 24/7 online support including How To videos and eLearning content for those who may need to help finding their way around the website.
Access to MyWorkSearch is completely free. All you have to do is register at your local library, the locations of which can be found on our website here. Other jobseekers and councils across the country have used MyWorkSearch with a great deal of success, and I look forward to seeing how it works for the people of Tameside.
We’re not stopping there either. As a council, we’re committed to supporting local people to get into and stay in the world of work in as many ways as we can. We’re attracting new jobs into the area through investments like Vision Tameside, the Ashton Old Baths refurbishment and the redevelopment of our markets. We’re also putting in the work to make sure that our local people, young and old, have access to learning and training that will help them gain the skills they need to thrive in the jobs of today and the jobs of the future.
It’s an exciting time for Tameside, and we going to make sure we take as many people as possible with us on the journey.
22 July 2016 - Councillor Jim fitzpatrick
Securing Tameside’s Future with New Schools and New Homes
Over the past few years we have been rolling out the most ambitious and far-reaching programme of modernisation and regeneration that Tameside has seen for decades. Over the past year we have brought the Ashton Old Baths back into use as a high-technology digital hub. We have invested over £250 million into our local education system (which also included opening the first totally new school in Tameside’s history, with another one on the way). We have put £20 million into rebuilding and regenerating our leisure centres to help residents live a health and active lifestyle. We have reached milestones on the Vision Tameside project as we opened the new Clarendon Sixth Form College and started the demolition of the old council offices..
It’s a record any council would be proud of, and we’re nowhere near finished yet.
Throughout this entire process we’ve had people asking, “How are we paying for all this?” It’s a perfectly reasonable question, so today I want to take the opportunity to answer it. Some of the money is coming directly out of the council’s capital budget, and we are working with our partners in the public and private sector so they can contribute to and have a real stake in projects where appropriate. The £250 million we invested into our schools was part of the national Better School Fund (BSF), and came with an expectation that we would pay some of it back at a future point.
To that end, we are consulting on planning permission for housing development on five former school sites. As we always do with these kinds of processes, we are undertaking assessments to make sure that any impact on the local area, such as access to public services, availability of open space, traffic flow, road safety and air quality is understood and accounted for. No planning application will be submitted and approved until these assessments are completed to our satisfaction.
What I won’t accept are the accusations that we have somehow sneaked these through the back door and hoped nobody would notice them. We made it clear that a portion of the investment from the BSF would have to be paid back, and that selling council land for housing development would be a way of releasing the money to do so. We have never attempted to mislead people or conceal this fact.
Furthermore, it is no secret that a lack of housing is one of the biggest challenges that is facing not just Tameside, but the entire country. Building in or close to existing communities will provide quality housing to local people without them having to leave an area that they may have been born or grown up in. The boost in the economy from additional jobs, more residents shopping at local businesses and increase council tax receipts will also free up money to be ploughed into further investment, creating a virtuous cycle for the borough and community.
Tameside needs more and better schools. Tameside needs more and better housing. We are delivering on both of these, but we want to do it in a way that brings local residents with us on the journey. If you have any comments or questions please let us know and they will be considered as a part of the planning process. Together, we will get results for Tameside.
20 July 2016 Councillor John Taylor
Strengthening Our Local Democracy
Here in Tameside we are proud of our democracy. I’ve always believed that local people should have a real say and input into the decisions made by the Council. Since 1999, one of the main ways we have let residents have their say is through our six District Assemblies.
These groups, which meet four times a year, have a duty to “consider, review and monitor” council activities in their area and provide a clear channel for residents to refer their concerns to the council’s executive. They are an important part of our local democracy, and they are bodies that I am proud to support. That being said, we’re always looking at ways to make the council and our democracy run better, and the time has come to update the District Assemblies model. There are two main areas of concern.
Firstly, as well as the District Assemblies there are a variety of other neighbourhood groups and community forums across Tameside. Bringing them together to better co-ordinate their work would allow us to do more at a quicker pace. Secondly, while the old District Assemblies attempted to fit the historical boundaries between Tameside’s towns as much as possible, there were a few bits that didn’t fit. For example: Audenshaw and Droylsden were put together as one area, and Mossley did not have a District Assembly of its own.
That’s why at the meeting of Full Council last week plans were proposed and approved to replace the six District Assemblies with nine new Town Councils. These Councils will give all of the historic towns of Tameside their own platform, and they will also receive support from two new Neighbourhood Forums, one for the East and one for the West of Tameside. Despite the increased number of bodies these new arrangements will also be more financially efficient, freeing up almost £45,000 that can be put to use elsewhere.
Together, these new organisations will work to engage and inspire communities and partners to be stronger, more vibrant and self-sufficient. They will work closely with the council and other public and private groups on a wide variety of local issues such as health, prosperity, crime and finances. Not only will they have a say on how service provision by the councils and our partners should happen in their area, they will be given the resources to directly support service provision through small grants and generating their own income for reinvestment. Most importantly, they will allow any area of Tameside that have their say to do so in a way that suits their own circumstances and priorities.
The exact details of what the new Town Councils and Neighbourhood Forums will look like will become clearer in the next few months as the council and other interested parties work to get them set up. Even at this early stage I think they are an exciting and important step in growing Tameside’s local democracy, and I encourage all of our residents to offer them their full support.
5 July 2016 Councillor Alison Gwynne
Serious About Licensing, Serious About Your Safety
One is the most important responsibilities of local government is the licensing and registering of certain types of businesses. Any business that supplies alcohol, or puts on public entertainment events such as singing, dancing or indoor sport, or provides late-night refreshment is required by law to possess a single premises license from their local authority. Furthermore, businesses that sell alcohol also require an appointed “Premises Manager” to hold a personal license to supply and authorise the sale of alcohol.
Despite what some might say, this isn’t needless bureaucracy. A fair and well-run licensing system allows people to enjoy themselves safely whenever they go out and protects the wider community from harm, disorder, crime and public nuisance. As Executive Member in charge of licensing, it’s a job I take very seriously indeed.
There are over 750 licensed premises in Tameside, covering everything from pubs to parks, theatres to cinemas. The overwhelming majority of these businesses abide by the responsibilities and obligations in their licenses. Unfortunately, there are also a tiny minority that do not. Every day of the week the council’s licensing department works to identify these rogue businesses and take firm and decisive action against them.
In recent times we have seen a particularly unpleasant example of just how important licensing and enforcement is. In June last year, 21 year old Dominic Doyle was stabbed and killed outside Hughes’ Bar in Denton. While five men and a woman were convicted of the murder, a further investigation by the council and the police found that the license holder had committed multiple violations including selling alcohol beyond the hours permitted under his license and selling alcohol to minors. The bar was immediately put under new management and is now operating without any trouble. What’s more, we have also been able to convict the license holder personally for his actions. At Tameside Magistrate’s Court his personal license was suspended for six months and he was ordered to pay £360 in fines, prosecution costs and victim surcharges.
Justice done. Let nobody be under any illusions, the council will continue to work with the police, courts and our other partners, using every power at our disposal to make sure that our licensing system works to promote responsible businesses and safe communities.
If you’re a license holder in Tameside, or if you’re interested in applying for a license for whatever reason, you can find contact details and frequently asked questions on the council’s website here. Our licensing customer services on Tame Street in Stalybridge are also open to the public from 10am-12pm and 2pm-4pm Monday to Friday for those who have enquiries or issues.
30 June 2016 - Councillor Lynn Travis
Investing in Education
In my last blog I wrote about the investments that we have made in building new schools in Tameside and the rewards we have reaped from having done so. These investments replaced some of our old, crumbling, secondary education estate with new, state of the art facilities fit for the 21st century.
Despite Building Schools for the Future, the funding pot that paid for many of these investments, having been cut by the then coalition government back in 2010, Tameside is continuing to invest in the new classrooms and buildings that we need to continue our success. However, whilst the previous spending on new secondary schools was about updating and improving facilities, the investment taking place today is for a different reason – growing demand.
Census data collated in 2011 tells us that more and more people are choosing Tameside as a place to start their families. This is of course great news and perhaps the best demonstration of the faith that people have in Tameside as a great place to live, work and invest. Though a growth in population and an increase in birth rates does bring a set of challenges for the council.
We need to ensure that when the children being born today are ready to go to school, there are schools for them to go to. That’s why two brand new schools, Inspire Academy Ashton and Discovery Academy Hyde, have been built – the first wholly new schools to be built since the formation of Tameside in 1974.
The two form entry Inspire Academy opened to reception pupils in September 2015 and when full will provide primary education to 420 pupils aged 4-11. Equally, the Discovery Academy on Porlock Avenue will open its doors to two classes of reception children in September this year, adding another 60 children each year until it reaches its capacity, also of 420.
Government policy states that any new school must be either an academy or free school and both Inspire and Discovery will be academies sponsored by council delivery partner Carillion. The two new builds were funded by a grant from the government’s targeted basic need fund following a successful bid for cash by the council. In total the new schools represent an investment of £14m in Tameside children.
We’ve already seen what effect new buildings can have on the attainment of local children. I know that these fantastic new facilities will inspire similar success in more of our young people.
28 June 2016 - Councillor Peter Robinson
Time to Foster, Time to Care
At the end of last month Tameside took part of one of the biggest fostering events since I became Executive Member for Children and Families. Foster Care Fortnight, a national event held from 16-29th May, showcases the commitment, passion and dedication of foster carers nationwide. It also highlights the benefits and training available for people who may want to become foster carers but haven’t yet been willing or able to take that first step. For two weeks Tameside Council helped spread the message; now is the time to foster, now is the time to care.
It’s not just a catchy slogan; the need for foster carers has arguably never been greater. It’s estimated that across the UK a child comes into care in need of a foster family every 20 minutes. That means we needed over 1,000 more carers just to break even over the two weeks of Foster Care Fortnight. In Tameside alone there are 244 children in local authority care in need of a loving home and family compared to the 159 households that provide both short term and long term fostering placements. As a proud former foster carer for over a decade, my priority for the rest of my time as Executive Member for Children and Families is to bring the first number down and the second number up.
Our work promoting Foster Care Fortnight was a two-step process. Firstly, we wanted to make more people aware that foster caring was an option. We did this by launching a massive publicity campaign that took in both social media and more tried-and-tested methods such as distributing posters and flyers, and commissioning advertising on buses, roadside railings and local radio stations.
Secondly, we wanted to show people what foster caring actually involved in reality. That’s why we put on two drop-in events at the Denton Centre on Wednesday 25th May, bringing in social workers and existing foster carers provide information and answer questions from the public. But we wanted a more personal, human touch as well, so we asked Tameside foster carer Marie Buxton to tell us her story. If you haven’t heard about Marie in the Manchester Evening News, on the BBC, or on local radio and newspapers then I urge you to take a look on the council’s website here. It’s a truly inspirational story about the rewards that foster caring can bring if you’re willing to put in the work and commitment it requires.
But just because Foster Care Fortnight is over doesn’t mean we’re going to stop promoting foster caring and carers. If you think that you can provide a stable and caring home then get in touch with us at www.tameside.gov.uk/fostering or on 0161 368 8865. People of all ages and backgrounds are welcome to apply, and ongoing training and financial support is provided. If you think you’ve got what it takes, then please apply and make a real and positive difference to the lives of children and young people in Tameside.
08 June 2016 - Councillor Brenda Warrington
Celebrating our carers
Last week the Leader wrote about the army of volunteers that support community projects and activity across Tameside.
This week marks the week we celebrate the efforts of a very specific kind of volunteer – the nation’s army of unpaid carers.
National carers’ week runs from 6th to 12th June to raise awareness of caring, highlight the challenges carers face and recognise the contribution they make to families and communities throughout the UK. It is estimated that up and down the country there are 6.5 million people caring unpaid for an ill, frail or disabled family member or friend. However, many of these people do not consider themselves carers; they are just being a husband, wife, mum, dad, son, daughter, a friend or a good neighbour.
A report published last November by Sheffield University estimated that unpaid carers save the Government £132 billion per year – the cost of a second NHS, a staggering increase compared to the estimated £61 billion in 2001. Much of this can be put down to Britain’s ageing population. However this doesn’t explain all of the increase.
In addition to the record number of unpaid carers, the report also found that those who are providing care are providing more hours than ever. Government funding cuts to local authorities like Tameside means that the role of councils in providing care has been scaled back – not by choice, but out of necessity to balance the books. Whilst local authorities have been forced to step back, the caring needs of the individuals who relied on care services has not reduced, and overwhelmingly unpaid carers have picked up the slack. This set of circumstances places overwhelming pressure on unpaid carers, many of whom in addition to their caring responsibilities still have to work full time and many of whom are children.
The picture is not set to improve any time soon. Continuing government cuts to local authority budgets make the total estimated funding gap between the care that we need to provide and the care we can afford to provide at £700 million every year. This is clearly not sustainable.
The government needs to urgently step up and provide the funding required to support the vulnerable citizens who rely on care services. Until that time, Tameside Council will ensure that every possible offer of support is made to those who provide these vital services in our communities for no reward.
If you know a carer in Tameside, or are a carer yourself, a range of services are on hand to provide support. These can be accessed at the carer’s centre in Hyde Town Hall from 11am-2pm every week day and more information is available on their website.
There will also be a range of events held throughout Carers Week. Look out for stalls outside supermarkets and in our town centres.
02 June 2016 - Councillor Jim fitzpatrick
Investing in our Borough
In my last blog I wrote about how we as a Council have rejected the false arithmetic of austerity, choosing instead to invest in making improvements to the lives of our residents. I’m happy to report that we have made great progress in doing exactly that.
Firstly, in March we announced how we were going to invest £20 million to transform the way we do sport and leisure in Tameside. The centrepieces of this investment will be the new Wellness Centre in Denton and the conversion of Active Dukinfield into a major health and fitness facility. Hyde will get a new pool and Ashton will be retained and refurbished. In a time of harsh and continuing austerity, we managed to do this by listening to what our residents want, and then working with our partners and organisations in the private sector to release the funding and investment that lets us make it happen.
The demolition of the old Tameside Administration Centre also continues apace. Due to the lay-out of the building and its location next to Ashton’s listed town hall and water board offices we couldn’t just pull it down or demolish it in one go. Instead it has been deconstructed from the inside-out. It may not be spectacular but it’s certainly effective. We’re now close to taking down the last part of the building, removing it once and for all from the Ashton skyline. It will be replaced by Phase 2 of Vision Tameside, a modern building that will incorporate both the council offices and Tameside College’s Advanced Skills Centre, with space for other public sector partners too. By itself this new building will save almost £1.5 million a year in running costs alone, and together with the rest of the Vision Tameside project it will add over £300 million in Gross Value Added a year through the creation of businesses, jobs and apprenticeships.
Progress is all well and good, but we also have some real achievements in the present as well. Last year we remodelled the former BT and ASDA roundabouts in Ashton to improve traffic flow and the safety of drivers and pedestrians. This month the Tameside Council site team that oversaw the works received a Considerate Constructors Scheme gold award for their outstanding community engagement, immaculate appearance, workforce safety and environmental consideration. Not only did they win it, they beat a variety of big public and private sector constructers to do it. We should applaud their commitment and hard work, and take it as a sign that we can compete with the very best in the private sector.
Nor do we plan on stopping there. I’m particularly excited by our 2016 Pledge to refresh Tameside Works First, which will commit us to buying goods and services from local providers as much as possible. When you look at all this, you can see why I’m looking forward to a very exciting future for Tameside. Let’s keep going forward together.
20 May 2016 - Councillor John Taylor
Proud of Our Local Markets
Last time I wrote in this blog I told you that Tameside has the best markets in the country. I still believe that, but it’s not enough to put the effort in to be the best. You have to put the effort in to stay the best as well.
That’s why I’m delighted to tell you that, after 15 months of work we’re entering the final stages of our redevelopment of Ashton Market. This includes laying the foundations for the final three kiosk units, installing new street lighting and making sure the essentials such as ducting, drainage, utilities and paving are all hooked up and correct.
It’s not just about the bricks and mortar though. You could have the best facilities in the world, but if you don’t have the staff and traders to run it you’re stuck. That’s why I think that we have the best traders and staff in the country as well, and this month the National Market Trader’s Federation agreed with me by awarding our very own Nicola Martin the prestigious title of Market Manager of the Year. I’m sure I speak for everybody that knows Nicola when I say that it was thoroughly deserved.
In the modern world there are more ways than ever to do your shopping, a decent chunk of which don’t involve leaving your house. If markets are going to be successful we need to give people good reasons to visit them instead of logging on to Amazon or a supermarket’s Online Shopper. Our investment in facilities and staff gives people those reasons. Not only will it help us attract and retain customers, it will help us attract and retain more traders, making sure that we have as wide an offer of goods and services as possible.
We also need to get the word out about just how good all our markets are. That’s why we’re taking part in the Love Your Local Market Fortnight from May 17th-31st. On Tuesday we had catering students from Tameside College at Ashton Market Hall preparing delicious recipes from market-bought ingredients, and on May 28 the professional chefs will strut their stuff at Hyde Market with a series of demonstrations. We’ll also be giving you the chance to vote, either online at http://www.tameside.gov.uk/markets/LoveYourLocalMarket2016 or in the one of the ballot boxes have been placed around the borough, for your favourite restaurant, baker/confectioner, café and takeaway. Last, and perhaps most importantly of all, we’ll be highlighting how markets are one of the best drivers of entrepreneurship we have by offering free pitches to first-time traders at Ashton Market, Hyde Market and the Stalybridge Farmer’s Market.
As a former market trader I’m only too well aware of the special place markets hold for people in Tameside. Not only that, but I know how a good market can drive investment, jobs and pride in an area. That’s why we’ve done what we’ve done, and that’s why our markets have won award after award. I don’t intend for us to stop now.
16 May 2016 Councillor Gerald Cooney
Being more active
Being more active is something that most people have, at some point, pledged to be. For many it’s immediately after the indulgence of the festive period that the motivation kicks in.
Off the back of this some people sign up for the gym; or commit to going swimming twice a week; or pledge to take up running. To anybody who found themselves in that position back in January, and has stuck to their commitment, I say well done! For those that haven’t I say don’t give up. Try again but work your way up to your goal.
Many of us who do decide we want to be active and get fit are unrealistically ambitious about the amount of exercise we can get in to doing when starting from a point where we do little or none. It’s no fun to struggle and it can put you right off if you set out to run 5k but find yourself stopping for breath 4 or 5 times along the way.
Starting small and setting realistic goals is the best way to up the amount of exercise you do each week – and this is where a campaign that Tameside Council is promoting this month comes in.
May is national walking month, and as part of the celebrations, ‘Living Streets’ is running a #try20 campaign; encouraging people to fit just 20 minutes of walking in to their daily routine. I said earlier that setting realistic targets to begin with is the way to get in to doing regular exercise and 20 minutes of walking per day seems to fit the bill.
Physical activity has been identified as one of the best things you can do to reduce the risk of a number of illnesses including heart disease, dementia and high blood pressure; so it’s more than worth the effort for just 20 minutes per day.
For those beginning from a base where they do little or no exercise, by starting with just 20 minutes per day you could gradually work up to the 10,000 steps per day recommended by the NHS.
To help, Tameside Council have put together a number of walking routes that can be enjoyed at a range of local beauty spots and these can be found here.
Walking; it’s free, it’s good for your health, and it’s enjoyable. How many things in the world tick all three of those boxes these days? I look forward to seeing you out there.
31 March 2016 Councillor Alison Gwynne
Building a Green and Happy Tameside Together
As Executive Member for Clean and Green my job description is simple; protecting the public and protecting the environment. Doing this involves making sure we are doing the right thing as a borough and a council in a wide variety of areas, including waste management, carbon reduction, environmental health and street cleansing.
We know that making and keeping Tameside clean and green is something that our residents care deeply about. That’s why they’ve been so supportive of our drive to improve recycling in the borough. However, as in many walks of life, it only takes a tiny minority refusing to play by the rules to ruin it for everybody else through fly-tipping, graffiti, dog-fouling and other forms of environmental vandalism. It’s even more unforgivable when you remember that, as we face another round of government cuts, every pound we have to spend cleaning up after them is a pound that cannot be put into our desperately stretched vital services.
We’ve said in the past that we’re going to get tough on these people, but today I can back those words up with evidence. Our environmental team, along with our parking contractors NSL, have launched a co-ordinated clampdown on known fly-tipping hotspots. In Ashton alone we have targeted Old Cross Street, Fleet Street, Wimpole Street, Wood Street and the Stamford Arcade area, and we will move on through the rest of Tameside in good time. Where our teams find fly-tipped waste we also examine it for evidence of who dumped it so they can face the full force of the consequences. We’re also making sure that businesses comply with their waste obligations. That’s why we’ve issued 16 compliance notices and 7 fixed penalty notices against businesses without proper commercial waste contracts.
This crackdown goes hand-in-hand with our bold plans to help make environmental sustainability everybody’s business. We’re making it easier for people to recycle when they’re out and about by putting up recycling bins in all our town centres and council offices. We’re helping people find their green fingers by encouraging them to grow their own food in window boxes, gardens, community spaces and allotments. We’re planting a minimum of 2016 trees across Tameside to offset our carbon emissions and improve biodiversity. None of these cost big money, but if we work together they will give us something that you can’t put a price on, a green borough and a clean environment.
That’s how we will get a Clean and Green Tameside; giving people the power to make a difference to our environment and cracking down on those who abuse our environment. We’ve taken the first steps towards that goal, and I’ve got no intention of turning back now.
24 March 2016 - Councillor Lynn Travis
Protecting What Works for Tameside Schools
As Executive Member for Lifelong Learning I am delighted at the progress we have made in improving education in Tameside over the past 12 months.
Our GCSE results last year mean that Tameside is now the most improved authority in the North West and the 11th most improved local authority in England for pupils achieving 5+ A*-C grades (including Maths and English). What’s more, our expected progress in English and Maths is now in line with or higher than the national average. The good news doesn’t stop with GCSE results either, as our Key Stage 2 results showed that 80% of pupils moving on to secondary education achieved at least Level 4+ in reading, writing and maths, our third year of sustained improvement after rises in 2013 and 2014.
None of this happened by accident. It has taken the commitment and hard work of the local authority, schools, parents, teachers, governors and the pupils themselves to bring us to where we are today. Through £250 million of investment in our schools and through the work of organisations such as the A+ Trust we have created a vision for education in Tameside that everybody has been able to get behind. Working together, sharing experience and building partnerships to deliver on what really matters, giving all our children the best start in life through high quality education.
It’s a proven model for success, which is why I’m confused and angry that the government seems to be ignoring it in favour of pushing their own ideology into our classrooms by forcing every school to become an academy. To be clear, I’m absolutely for good schools, be they academies or local authority controlled. What I’m absolutely against however, is the idea that academies are somehow automatically better than local authority schools, because they’re not. I know that from the stories I’ve been told about parents and local communities who have found themselves cut out of having a say in their own children’s learning, something that abolishing parent governors will only make worse. I know because the figures show that 91% of our local authority schooled children are taught at a “Good” or “Outstanding” school while only 36% are taught in a “Good” or “Outstanding” academy.
I intend to fight this ideological move to force academies on Tameside, just as I’ll fight to increase standards and education quality in all our schools. To achieve both of these there can be no standing still, we must build on our progress or we will start falling behind. I’m confident that we can do it.
14 March 2016 - Councillor Peter Robinson
Supporting Our Carers, Protecting Our Children
In January this year I took over the brief of Executive Member for Children and Families, covering areas such as supporting vulnerable children, preventing sexual exploitation and helping families to turn their lives around. It’s a huge and varied brief, but an incredibly rewarding one.
It’s also a brief that is deeply important to me personally. For over a decade, in both Manchester and Tameside, my wife and I were long-term foster carers for a series of young teenagers. When people asked a few months ago if I would be happy to have a Syrian refugee next door, I could answer that I have been delighted to have an Afghani refugee living in my house in the past.
My experiences showed me how rewarding fostering can be, and my current brief reminds me that we need more people who are willing to become foster carers. While most people have an image in their head of fostering being a long-term commitment, possibilities also exist for respite foster carers to take on children or teenagers for shorter periods of time. If you’re interested in applying to be a foster carer, please check the website here for more information about the process and frequently asked questions.
This week is also a Greater Manchester-wide “It’s Not Okay” Week of Action. We hold several of these across the year to raise awareness of and promote advice on keeping children safe from sexual exploitation. For this week of action, we will be focusing on the dangers faced by children who run away from home. The evidence shows that 95% of children identified as being vulnerable to sexual exploitation have been missing from home at least once, and in many cases children staying out for long and unexplained periods can be a red flag that they are getting into or involved in dangerous situations.
I would urge anybody who has concerns about vulnerable children to inform either the council’s social work team or the Greater Manchester Police. Refusing to talk about it because it isn’t considered a respectable or comfortable subject is the greatest shield that those who prey on children could ask for. I would never be able to forgive myself if children continued to suffer abuse because I never spoke out, and I’m sure that the people of Tameside would feel the same way.
I’ve always prided myself on my reputation as a can-do councillor, and I intend to live up to that reputation as an Executive Member in the months and years ahead. There are too many families and children depending on the services that Tameside Council provides for me to do anything else.
07 March 2016 - Councillor Brenda Warrington
Leading the Charge on Integration
I was appointed Executive Member for Adult Social Care and Well-Being at Tameside Council in May 2013. Since the initial announcement last February of the £6 billion devolution of healthcare to Greater Manchester by far my biggest responsibility has been to help plan and put into action the devolution and integration of health and social care in Tameside.
It’s not every day that you find yourself at the forefront of one of the most exciting and challenging public sector reforms in half a century, but what does it all mean? If somebody asked I could go on and on about transformation funds, integrated care organisations, single commissioning groups and all the other details about the legwork that has to be done to make integrated and devolved health and social care a reality in Tameside. I know that most people on the street are asking far simpler and more important questions. Questions like “What does it mean for me?”, and “Will my health and social care services still be there when I need them?”
At its heart, integration can be broken down into two simple things.
Firstly, how can we make the healthcare journey better for those who use it? I’m sure that many of our elderly residents, or people that know elderly residents, have a story about having to give details in hospital and then give the exact same details again to a care worker when they return home. Care Together will integrate Tameside and Glossop’s preventative and proactive care, GP’s, social care and hospital provision, delivering better services for local people. Those in need of support will receive it in a more co-ordinated way, without having to work their way through a complex system.
Secondly, how do we deliver better value for money? Through integrated care and initiatives such as the Greater Manchester-wide Taking Charge campaign, we can help people live longer and healthier lives and stop them ever needing to go to hospital in the first place. Every pound we spend on preventing things like obesity, alcohol and tobacco addiction or sexually transmitted infections is hundreds of pounds saved on hospital visits and treatment further down the line. When care is necessary, it will be provided closer to home using early support to prevent unnecessary hospital admissions.
We’ve made excellent progress towards making this is a reality over the last 12 months. However, much more remains to be done and as always the spectre of more savage cuts is looming over the horizon. Currently we estimate that due to government cuts there is a funding shortfall of £69 million for health and social care services in Tameside. The introduction of the 2% social care precept will only increase this funding by a little over £1.4 million.
We need action taken on this and we need it now, or the consequences will be catastrophic. So long as I am in this post I can assure you that I will continue to fight for a fairer and better deal for health and social care in Tameside.
01 March 2016 - Councillor Gerald Cooney
Building a Healthier Tameside Together
As Executive Member for Health, Housing and Economic Growth my job is to improve the lives of every person in Tameside by making sure they have access to good health services, high-quality housing and decent jobs. Making sure this happens involves not just working with residents and organisations in Tameside, but making sure that the powers we are gaining from devolution in health and social care, housing and business growth are used in the way that benefits Tameside the most.
And it’s a big job. Government figures on health deprivation put Tameside as the 16th most deprived of the 326 local government areas they studied. If that wasn’t bad enough we’re facing more government cuts, including over £200 million from our public health budgets. These cuts are making the job of getting our residents healthy, housed and in work even harder, and they widen the terrible inequalities that already exist in life expectancy in this country. The age at which the average person in Tameside can expect to live without suffering major health problems is 57. In the richer parts of the country that number is 20 years higher. For too many in Britain, where you’re born decides when you die.
We do have some good news though, as the hard work we’ve put into improving life expectancy in Tameside is starting to show results. Early death rates amongst males in Tameside have undergone marked improvement, decreasing to 1,327 out of every 100,000 in 2014. That’s an 8% drop from last year, and has put us closer to the Greater Manchester average of 1,283.5 out of every 100,000. We still have a lot more to do to hit our target to bringing us up to the average of England, but these figures show that we’re heading in the right direction.
That’s why we’re going to keeping creating and supporting new campaigns to help people make better choices and take greater responsibility for their health and well-being. Along with the other Greater Manchester councils, we’re asking for what you would like to get out of health devolution through the Taking Charge programme. We’re also working with the NHS to spread awareness of some of the biggest health dangers we face, including smoking and eating too much sugar. The NHS Smoke Free website has information and resources if you want to quit smoking, and Change 4 Life Sugar Smart shows you the hidden dangers of sugar to you and your children and gives advice and apps to help you eat less of it.
At the end of the day, we can’t force anybody to become healthier if they don’t want to, but what we can do is make sure that people who want to have all of the help and advice that they need. That’s how we’ll get to where we need to be, and that’s what I’ll be working towards.
09 February 2016 - Councillor Jim fitzpatrick
Securing Tameside’s Future
This year will mark the sixth year since I became First Deputy of Tameside Council, with responsibility for the council’s financial matters. By unfortunate coincidence, this year will also mark the sixth year of savage Conservative austerity since they came into office in 2010.
Now, being responsible for the council’s money during the biggest assault on the public sector for a generation may not be most people’s idea of a dream job, but it is a job I do with pride. I do it because I believe in the incredible potential of Tameside and its communities, and I do it because I honestly think that despite the cuts we are on the verge of something special this year.
The way we’re going to get ahead of the dead hand of austerity is by investing in Tameside and its people, giving our communities both the skills they will need in the future and the opportunities to use those skills. I can’t think of a better example of this digital future than the work currently ongoing in the Ashton Old Baths.
When Tameside was one of the beating hearts of the Industrial Revolution, the baths were a statement of local pride and investment. 40 years after they closed they will be reborn as a high technology hub, helping Tameside residents to create the jobs and the businesses of the future with the fastest broadband possible with current technology. We’ll also be joining forces with our schools, colleges and partners to improve the digital literacy of everybody in Tameside. Our intention is to make Tameside not just one of the most digitally aware areas of the country, but one of the most digitally aware areas in the world.
We also need to make sure we manage the next round of government cuts, ensuring that we can continue to provide the vital services that our residents need. Over the next four years we will be faced with a budget cut of £94 million, on top of the £104 million we have already suffered since 2010. These are levels of cuts that can only be managed by taking actions that we would never have considered 50, 10 or even 5 years ago.
One area where this can clearly be seen is in our buildings. “Services before buildings” has been our watchword for several years, and today I reaffirm that basic message. Put simply, we need to focus on what we do, not where we do it from. To that end, last year we sold 48 redundant buildings, freeing up over £2 million to mitigate the impact of cuts on our services. This year we intend to go much, much further than that. A target of £15 million in capital receipts a year for the next 3 years has been set, and I am confident that we will reach it.
But these are by no means the only area I’ll be working on this year. I’ll also be putting into place plans that will increase the amount the council spends with local businesses and organisations in the Voluntary, Community and Faith sectors.
I hope to let you know how all this and more is going on through the year. Until then, I will continue to do my very best for Tameside and the communities that we all know and love.
01 February 2016 - Councillor John Taylor
Looking Back, Looking Forward
As Deputy Executive Leader of Tameside Council one of my main responsibilities is to make sure that major projects and changes to council policy roll out smoothly. That definition covers a lot of things, but today I want to talk to you about two in particular.
One of the highlights of my year is always the annual Tameside Christmas Market. I completely believe that we have the best markets in the country, and we have the awards to prove it, but at Christmas we always try to make that extra special effort. This year brought the challenge of the ongoing improvement work at Ashton Market, which required us to spill over from our usual spot in the market square onto Fletcher Street. Thanks to the hard work of everybody involved I’m happy to say that the event was as big a success as ever. I was particularly proud of the stage we set up to allow choirs, brass bands and community groups to entertain visitors while the market was running. After speaking to many of them I know that they were absolutely thrilled to be able to perform in front of such a crowd.
We are currently undertaking an assessment of how the event went, and I hope to be able to announce the result of that in the near future. We’re also looking at extending the current contract for Christmas Market in Tameside, ensuring that this brilliant family and community event continues for the next three years at least. Our residents want to see it happen. Our shop owners want to see it happen. Our market traders want to see it happen.
In early 2016 my focus will be on rolling out the council’s enforcement strategy for fly-tipping, graffiti and dog-fouling. The litter louts that blight our streets with bin bags, dog mess, furniture and goodness knows what else hold their neighbours and their communities in absolute contempt. I make no apologies for saying that I think we need to come down like a ton of bricks on them, and I’m sure most of our residents who do the right thing with their waste will agree with me. If you fly-tip and we catch you, you’ll run the risk of being publically named and shamed for the entire borough to see. No ifs, no buts, no excuses. We can’t afford to have our streets ruined, and we certainly can’t afford to spend money cleaning up for others when our vital services are struggling under government cuts.
I look forward to the work ahead, and I’m sure that the vast majority of the people in Tameside will join with me to make our borough a place we can all be proud to live, work and do business in.