Executive Leader Cllr Kieran Quinn

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Councillor Kieran Quinn, Executive Leader of Tameside Council

Archive for June 2017

Putting Devolution into Action

Friday, 30 June 2017

With all the excitement of the General Election earlier this month people could be forgiven for forgetting the election that took place just five weeks earlier. I’m referring, of course, to the election for the newly created position of Metro Mayor of Greater Manchester. This election was won by Labour’s Andy Burnham, former Cabinet Minister and Shadow Home Secretary.

When campaigning for Andy it’s fair to say that there were many local residents who didn’t understand what the position was, or why we needed it. This was perhaps borne out in the disappointingly low turnout for the vote of below 29%. Elections for new positions often suffer from low turnout. It’s not too long ago that we had the first Police and Crime Commissioner election with a turnout of just 13.93% and the first election for Mayor of London had a far lower percentage voter turnout than subsequent elections for the same position.

I’d argue that both of these cases demonstrate that once a position is established and local residents start to see the difference the holder of the new post can make, people become more engaged and recognise the importance of having a say on who gets to do the job next time around. That’s why I welcome the two major announcements that Andy has made since taking office just last month and believe that these strike the right tone early on in demonstrating the power of the new Mayor of Greater Manchester.

Throughout the campaign Andy made a pledge to donate 15% of his Mayoral salary to a new homelessness action fund, established with the goal of ending rough sleeping in Greater Manchester by 2020. The fund was established on his first day in office and has raised over £25,000 so far. Applications are now open for homelessness charities and support organisations to make bids for funding and the first grants have already been awarded.

I often write here about the work that Tameside Council undertakes to improve the life chances of our young people, working hard to improve school standards, provide new further education facilities and ensure that local youngsters receive good advice on how to get on. One thing however, that we’ve not had the resources to do ourselves, is to replace the valuable support that was previously provided by the Education Maintenance Allowance, cruelly scrapped in 2010

Education Maintenance Allowance was principally used by students to pay for travel to and from Further Education Courses. Public transport is a significant expense for those who have to travel to access education and is felt particularly acutely among young people from low income households. That’s why I welcome the announcement by the Mayor’s office that, from September, half price bus travel will be extended to 16 and 18 year olds in Greater Manchester. This measure will make staying on in education more affordable for our young people.

In just over one month since the first elected Mayor of Greater Manchester was sworn in here are two significant changes that demonstrate the difference that the new post can make to people’s lives across the region.

“I’ll believe it when I see it”, so the saying goes. With this flurry of policy announcements we certainly are “seeing it” and I’m sure that this will aid in the understanding of the job when voters next go to the polls, translating in to higher voter turnout.
 

Posted by: Executive Leader


Making A Difference with Shared Lives

Wednesday, 28 June 2017


Why do people choose to live together? Emotional attachment, finances and a desire for stability can all play their part when it comes to making that big decision. But what about those for whom the domestic life that we sometimes take for granted seems like a distant dream? That’s where Tameside’s “Shared Lives” scheme comes in.

Officially, the Shared Lives scheme in Tameside encompasses a variety of different services, but they all have the same basic goal. Instead of the traditional model of care, vulnerable people in Shared Lives, particularly those with learning disabilities or mental health needs, are given the opportunity to live with and share in the daily lives of their carer.

How exactly this happens depends on what works best for the carers and for those signed up to the scheme. We have placements ranging from long-term support lasting years to respite periods lasting anything from an afternoon to a few weeks. All have the same basic aim, to give vulnerable people the experience of domestic living, promoting integration into the community and helping them gain the skills and confidence to become more independent in the future.

It’s a truly inspirational thing to see in practice, turning service users from passive recipients of care into members of a family unit who give as much as they receive in love and support. To give you just one example, look at the story of Lesley and Ros.  

Lesley, a 53 year old from Denton, became a carer on the scheme four years ago after taking early retirement. What started off as a role providing day support and respite care to Ros, a 36 year old with Down’s Syndrome, turned into a long term placement that has now gone on for two years and counting. As well as getting involved in family and home life, Ros has also carved out her own hobbies and interests. She volunteers at a local nursery two days a week, visit MENCAP’s day centre and is involved in a variety of activities like drama, horse riding and drumming.

We want Shared Lives to create as many enduring friendships like the one between Lesley and Ros as possible, but that will only happen as long as we have a large and flexible pool of carers and caring environments. That’s why we’re encouraging anybody who might be interested to come forward and apply to become a Shared Lives carer. No formal qualifications are expected or necessary, and we actively encourage people of all backgrounds, skills and life experiences to take a look. All we ask of potential carers is for them to have a genuine awareness, understanding and empathy for supporting vulnerable adults, and a spare bedroom if they want to undertake anything longer than a short term placement. You can take up a caring role in additional to your normal job or it can be a full time commitment. Full training and support as well as an excellent allowance is provided to all successful applicants.

For more information on how to apply to be a Shared Lives carer, visit the council’s website at http://www.tameside.gov.uk/sharedlives/applytobeacarer. Make no mistake, you could help make an extraordinary difference to people’s lives. If you don’t want to take my word for it, then I’ll leave you with the words of Lesley, “Anyone thinking about it should just try it – shadow somebody who already does it and experience what we do. It can really enjoyable with the right support, it’s more than a job - it’s life-enhancing for all involved”.   
 

Posted by: Executive Leader


A wealth of opportunities

Friday, 23 June 2017

Yesterday saw Stalybridge Civic Hall showcase a range of post-16 careers and further education options to hundreds of students from across Tameside.

The careers and apprenticeships exhibition offered information and taster sessions on a range of vocational and academic courses available to Tameside young people when they leave school. Looking at the diversity of subjects and activities that were represented yesterday there is truly a whole host of opportunities locally for Tameside youngsters looking to get on in life – certainly far more than I recall being advised of when I left school.

We can be truly proud here in Tameside of the offer from local employers and FE providers. Among the stands were several from Tameside College including; a virtual welding simulator, catering, carpentry and joinery, motor vehicle service and maintenance, hair and beauty, sports science and public services. Many of these courses have been improved, or made possible, by the huge investment that has gone in to FE facilities such as the new Advanced Technologies Centre and the joint public service centre under construction in Ashton Town Centre.

Clarendon Sixth Form, another institution that has received investment in spectacular new facilities, was also on show. Bringing history to life with a chainmail outfit and medieval weaponry, their humanities department stand proved very popular. The academic route offered here provides a good grounding for those seeking to go on to further study at University.

Whilst many people talk fondly of Tameside’s engineering heritage the engineering industry that is still present in our Borough doesn’t always receive the same level of attention. It was through the presence of Hawke International, the Ashton based engineering firm, that this sector of our economy was represented. Much more of our present day engineering and manufacturing is promoted as part of our Made in Tameside campaign.
On the subject of Tameside’s Further Education and employment offer it would be remiss of me not to take this opportunity to provide an update on the progress of our Vision Tameside Joint Public Service Centre. It was a pleasure earlier this week to attend the “topping out ceremony” on site and meet with many of the construction workers involved in the project. Among them was Kyle, a joinery apprentice from Droylsden who had the special job of being photographed fixing the final piece of steel to the building framework. Construction is progressing well and is on schedule to be completed next autumn as planned.

Young people in Tameside today have a whole host of opportunities that can be seized to help them get on in life. Yesterday was an excellent representation of that and as Council Leader my ambition is to open more doors for our young people and prevent any from being closed. With exciting projects like Vision Tameside in progress or planned across the Borough we have the high quality jobs for our young people to take on too once they’ve gained their skills.

The future of Tameside is very bright indeed.        
 

Posted by: Executive Leader


Mind the (Wealth) Gap

Wednesday, 21 June 2017


It’s time we had a conversation about wealth.

For as long as I can remember the main arguments over who has what in society have focused on income instead of wealth. The two might sound similar, but there are some important differences. While income is measured in terms of what you earn, wealth is measured in terms of everything you own, including properties, vehicles and suchlike. It’s very possible for somebody to have no income but still be incredibly wealthy, or have a high income but little or no wealth.

That distinction matters, especially when we confront the twin spectres of inequality and generational fairness. 1% of people in Britain, or around 488,000 people, own 14% or £11 trillion of the nation’s total assets. On the other end of the scale, 15% (7.3 million) either own no assets at all or are actively in debt. Since most people’s biggest source of wealth is housing the rise in house prices and the corresponding fall in home ownership, particularly among the young, is also having a serious impact on wealth inequality. A report by the Resolution Foundation has found that 82% of housing wealth increases between 1993 and 2012 were due to a boom in house prices rather than any kind of active behaviour. At its height in 2003, one in six of all working property-owning adults were earning more from the rising value of their home than they were from their job. This is wealth that young people have found themselves locked out from, to the extent that an adult born between the years 1981-85 had half as much total net wealth aged 30 than a typical adult at the same age five years before them.

Putting it bluntly, if you’re a young person in Britain today you already have less wealth than your parents did at your age, and it’s only going to get worse as things stand.

That’s a situation that can’t be allowed to continue, but as with everything when it comes to generational inequality, we need to be careful with how we go about it. It’s all too easy, as I’ve said in the past, to see it as a “zero sum game” where things can only be made better for one age group by making things worse for another one. I’ll stand by my belief that setting generations up against each other in the ways we’ve seen happen since 2010 is no way to run a society. The best way to solve generational inequality is to bring young people up instead of dragging older people down.

One way in which this could be done that I think is worthy of discussion is introducing a tax on wealth with the purpose of funding an all-out programme of both public and private housebuilding. Even as wealth has risen significantly as a share of national income, the amount of taxation raised from it has not increased since the 1980s. A tax on wealth above £1 million, with allowances made for primary residences or pensions could raise billions. Indeed, a wealth tax of between 0.5% and 1.5% in France, which has been collected since the 1980s, raised 4 billion Euros last year. That would let us double the funding already allocated to the government’s Home Building Fund, opening up the financing to build almost half a million new homes in the long-term.

Some may call it unworkable, but I’d argue the only thing that’s unworkable at the moment is keeping on going the way we’re going. If Brexit and the General Election have shown us anything, it’s that business as usual is no longer an option. Let’s start making a future that works for everyone.
 

Posted by: Executive Leader


Time To Clean Up Our Air

Friday, 16 June 2017

At the start of the year I described the 1985 Transport Act, which deregulated bus services everywhere in the country outside of London, as one of the worst pieces of legislation that you’ve never heard of. As we mark the first ever National Clear Air Day this week I want to look at the other end of the spectrum and talk about what I think is one of the best pieces of legislation ever passed in Britain, the 1956 Clean Air Act.

Look back on any picture of a major British city, be it Manchester, London, Glasgow or anywhere in between, from a century ago and the first thing you’ll notice are the chimneys and the ever-present grey smog. In London in 1952, four years before the passing of the Act, the so-called “Great Smog” is estimated to have killed over 4,000 people and caused trains, cars and public life to screech to a halt. That we do not face those kinds of health horrors today is largely down to the passage of the Clean Air Act. Among measures like relocating power stations away from urban areas and increasing the height of chimneys, it created “smoke control areas” in cities and towns within which only smokeless fuels could be used, encouraging houses to use cleaner electricity or gas for their power and heating.   

60 years later we may not be choking in pea-soup smog, but the challenge of protecting the cleanliness of the air we all breathe remains as urgent as ever. Instead of factories and fireplaces, the great polluter in the 21st century is the explosion of cars and trucks on our roads. In Greater Manchester the levels of nitrogen dioxide, a pollutant caused by road traffic, has been in violation of EU regulations every year since 2011. What’s worse is that modern air pollution is a silent killer. Very few people die from dirty air itself. They die from the respiratory problems, cancers and other health problems brought about or exacerbated by dirty air. The Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs estimates that up to 40,000 deaths in the UK a year can be blamed on or hastened by air pollution levels.

With a death count that high, you’d think the government would be falling over themselves to take action. You’d be disappointed. Since 2015 they’ve been taken to court repeatedly over their failure to produce a strong enough policy for tackling air pollution. After the latest court case, the government first attempted to use the General Election as an excuse to delay its release and then, when that failed, released a plan so lacking in concrete detail and action that they’re probably going to end up back in front of a judge anyway. Once again, it looks like local government will have to step up to do what they can in the face of apathy and feet-dragging from Westminster.

The good news is that this is one area where devolution could make a real difference, especially by encouraging people in Greater Manchester to cycle or take public transport instead of driving around the region. Tameside’s network of cycle lanes is both extensive and growing, and I’ll keep banging the drum on the Greater Manchester Combined Authority for both a “Metrolink Circular Line” linking up the towns and boroughs orbiting Manchester, and the strongest possible deal for bus franchising and regulation.

If we really want to show the people of Greater Manchester what the new powers they’ve received mean for them, cleaning up our air and revolutionising our transport infrastructure into the bargain seems like a pretty good place to start. We might not be able to get a Clean Air Act for the 21st century, but we can still work together in Greater Manchester to make a reality the improvements that we all want to see.   
 

Posted by: Executive Leader


The Cost of Living Crisis Won't Wait

Wednesday, 14 June 2017

Graph mapping the annual growth in consumer prices and weekly earnings since January 06 (Source: Office for National Statistics)

Here’s a pretty uncontroversial statement: the world of today and the world of 200 years ago, when Napoleon and the Duke of Wellington strode the battlefields of Europe, are two very different places. Yet they are also alike in more ways than you’d think. Unfortunately, one of these similarities is the miserable state of wages and household finances.

The alarm was sounded back in March by the Resolution Foundation, which released figures shortly after the spring Budget claiming that the 2010s so far have been the worst decade for pay growth in Britain since the 1800s. The outlook for the rest of the decade scarcely looks better either, as the Institute for Fiscal Studies predicts that families will miss out on a further £12,000 of pay growth by 2020.

So it’s not great, you might reply, but I’ve talked about it before. Why am I bringing it up again? A bleak picture has been getting bleaker in the past few months as the Office for National Statistics confirmed that we are entering a new period of rising inflation as well. Increases in the costs of things like food, clothing and computer games helped to bump this month’s rate of inflation up to 2.9%; the highest rate since June 2013 and far higher than the Bank of England’s 2% target. It’s entirely possible that utility price rises and a continued increase in food costs could ratchet inflation up to as much as 3.25% by the autumn.

When inflation outstrips wage growth there can be only one outcome; as the value of the pound in their pocket goes down, people start getting poorer.

What makes the situation we’re in even stranger is that all this is happening during a period where the unemployment rate is the lowest it’s been since 1975. Back then, increases in the cost of living were matched by demands from employees for higher pay. It speaks volumes about the state we’re in when employees are unwilling or (more likely) unable to press for higher pay even though jobs are fairly plentiful and they’re facing severe cost of living increases.   

Solving this stagnation of wages while maintaining employment will probably be one of the great economic challenges of our time, but if we want to remain a country that offers a fair day’s pay for a fair day’s work it is a challenge that we have to meet. No one plan by itself will provides a lasting solution, but I can think of a number of approaches that can (and should) be taken simultaneously.

We need to recognise the importance of the public sector investing to boost productivity, particularly in infrastructure, and compel government (local and national) to back up the rhetoric we’ve begun to hear recently with genuine financial action. We need to tackle a system of executive pay that too often encourages businesses to inflate their short-term share price (and, by extension, their own pay and bonuses) over spending on productive investment. We need to raise education and skills, particularly increasing the quality and quantity of apprenticeships on offer for those who can’t or won’t go through university.

There is little time to waste. The current weakness and instability in Westminster might be dominating the headlines, but the cost of living time bomb of rising inflation and stagnant wages will not wait for the government to get their house in order. For the sake of society and basic decency, we cannot afford to leave anybody behind as we seek to build a new economy for the 21st century.
 

Posted by: Executive Leader


A Vote for Hope

Friday, 09 June 2017

I’m delighted to be able to resume my column with some great news, knowing that our vision of a fairer more positive society has won through in Tameside and across the Country.
 
All three constituencies in the Borough have returned massive Labour majorities. My congratulations go to Angela, Andrew and Jonathon for their resounding victories, all of which are the result of years of dedication and hard work in their constituencies.
 
I am still taking in the results of last night. I knew after talking to voters that the Labour message of hope was winning through on our doorsteps. I have heard commentators call the national result the revenge of the young, what I do know is that this has been a vote for the future, a vote for a positive vision of a fairer, stronger country, a country which gives back dignity to working people.
 
I think it's also a testament to the work of the council, despite the years of cuts, in sustaining the sorts of services that support our most vulnerable and creates hope through opportunity for our young.
 
Voters in Tameside have turned out in force to say no to ideologically driven austerity and yes to hope, yes to investing, yes to a more positive vision of this country. I have spent a lot of time talking to young people, urging them to make their voices heard and here, in this place, as in many parts of the Country, they have done just that.
 
Those who rejected the cynical, opportunistic Tory snap election rejected a campaign built on negativity in favour of a vision of hope. A vision built around fairer taxation, investment in schools, hospitals and hard pressed local Councils. Every vote for Labour represents a vote for more homes for young families, more police on our streets, properly funded schools and a vote to restore our beloved NHS after years of underfunding.
 
The election was also a lesson to the dark forces who seek to undermine our democracy through attacks like those we saw in Manchester and London. Our nation has demonstrated that we will not be cowed, we will stand up and be counted, and we will fight for our democratic rights.

There is much to do in the coming days and weeks. The shape of government is still to be agreed. In Tameside we will continue to fight for a fairer deal, for hard working families, for the vulnerable and marginalised, for our towns and our communities.

 

Posted by: Executive Leader


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