Executive Leader Cllr Kieran Quinn

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Councillor Kieran Quinn, Executive Leader of Tameside Council

Archive for March 2016

How We Fell Into a Housing Crisis, and How to Get Out of It

Wednesday, 30 March 2016

Graph showing house building in the UK from 1946-2012 by local authorities, housing associations and private builders. Source: http://blogs.ft.com/ftdata/2013/02/22/about-those-housebuilding-stats/

I’ve written several times in the past about how housing, or more precisely the lack of it, is one of the biggest challenges we face as a country. It seems particularly appropriate that, on a week where the government is tearing itself apart over the gross unfairness of its own budget, the Chartered Institute of Housing (CiH) released their annual report of the UKs housing market. It does not make for pretty reading.

Two pieces of data in this report illustrate in the starkest of terms the disaster that has befallen British housing. Firstly, demand-side support (that is to say, investment to help people buy houses) such as Help to Buy and Starter Homes now amounts to £43 billion while supply-side support (that is to say, actually building houses to people to rent or buy) totals less than half of that at £18 billion. That figure is enough for the CiH to conclude that investment in affordable housing will soon fall to its lowest level since the Second World War.

You don’t have to be a student of economics to understand that the only thing that happens when you increase demand without increasing supply is that you make things more expensive. That’s why housing prices in many parts of country are now approaching their 2007 peak, and in many other places (mainly London and South East) they’ve gone far, far beyond that.

That leads us nicely on to the second piece of data, which shows that despite the money thrown at helping people to buy their own homes, first-time buyer numbers have not increased. In 2000 over half a million people bought their first home, 15 years later that number has plummeted to less than 300,000. Put simply, all the government has got for its £40 billion is an unsustainable housing bubble that has made it even harder for people to get their foot on the property ladder.

And if you think that’s bad, people who rent have it even worse. If investment (or the lack of it) continues at its current rate it is estimated that a combination of Right to Buy sales, demolitions and conversions will lead to a 9% loss in both council and housing association properties let at social rents by 2020. That’s a loss of over 350,000 badly needed social rented homes. Not only are the government refusing to build more homes for let at social rates, they are going out of their way to get rid of their existing stock as quickly as possible.

We’ve already seen where this path leads us. Obscene house prices leading to a colossal housing benefit bill for the Treasury and collapsing home ownership among the young. The only thing more infuriating than the economic illiteracy of our current housing policy is its devastating human cost.

We need to have a serious conversation about rebuilding our housing market from the ground up. We have made progress on this as a council through Residential Growth Summits and our house building and investment work with the Greater Manchester Combined Authority, Greater Manchester Pension Fund and Matrix Homes has been so ambitious that even Conservative ministers have praised it. However, in truth this is a national problem that requires a national solution. For the sake of the economic and life chances of the next generation we need to start finding that solution sooner rather than later.


Posted by: Executive Leader


£20 Million of Investment in Leisure

Thursday, 24 March 2016


Just before Christmas last year I announced that the council was launching a wide-ranging consultation on how we make the Tameside leisure estate sustainable and provide the people of Tameside with the facilities they deserve.  In light of the deteriorating state of our existing buildings and our ambitions to shape the health and life expectancy of our residents we felt that radical action was necessary to make sure that our leisure effort remained fit for purpose in the future.

We wanted and expected the people of Tameside to have their opinions on the matter, and the feedback you’ve given us has been invaluable in helping us to improve our plans. That’s why I can announce that we have now developed and agreed a £20 million programme of investment into local sports and leisure facilities. Whether you take part in sport on a serious basis or just want to be active so you can stay healthier for longer; you will soon be able to do so in some of the best facilities that Greater Manchester has to offer.

We know from the consultation that access to swimming facilities formed a large part of your concerns, so let me put any fears you may have to rest on that now. These proposals will create 2480 square metres of available pool space in Tameside – an increase of nearly 200 square metres on the current provision. This space will come from adding a swimming pool to the existing aqua-facilities at Active Hyde, and from our centrepiece facility, a new Wellness Centre for Tameside. Located in Denton, it will contain an eight-lane 25-metre competition standard swimming pool, learner pool, gym, sauna, soft-play area, tin-pin bowling facility, sensory suite and café.

But our plans go far beyond increasing our swimming pool space, and into other areas of health and fitness. Active Dukinfield will be converted into a sports village, including a gym and fitness suite, crèche, soft play facilities, and a café concession. After the Wellness Centre in Denton is completed, we will put together plans to refurbish or replace the pool at Active Ashton, guaranteeing that a swimming facility will remain in the town. We are also committed to the creation of a play centre at the old Active Longdendale site in Mottram.

We’ve been able to sign off on the cost of these programmes for two reasons. Firstly, we’ve taken lessons from the success of the Sky High Adventure Centre on how incorporating a commercial offer into our leisure and health facilities can attract private investment and reduce costs for the council and taxpayers. Secondly, physical inactivity in Tameside costs us at least £21.5 million per year in avoidable health, social care and economic productivity costs. Even a 1% increase in physical activity among our residents would generate annual savings of around £650,000. Getting Tameside active is as good for our finances as it is for our health.

I won’t apologise for investing in the well-being of our residents and our economy, and the proposals that you’ve helped us to create will allow us to do exactly that. To those who took part in the consultation, thank you once again. I look forward to working with you in the future to turn these proposals into a reality.

Posted by: Executive Leader


Ashton Old Baths: Remembering Our Past, Looking to our Future

Friday, 18 March 2016




Our heritage is a massive part of what makes Tameside such a special place. While we always look to the future, we draw strength and inspiration from our past as we do so. That’s why I’m delighted to announce that this Saturday we will bear witness to the rebirth of the Ashton Old Baths. Through digital projections, choreographed dancing and a thematic soundtrack the opening celebration will be themed around “New Beginnings” as we tell the story of the building’s 146 year old history.

And what a history it is. Designed by Henry Paul and George Robinson and opened to the public in 1870, the original baths were one of the first public facilities of its kind anywhere in the UK. The original swimming pool was 100 feet long, 40 feet wide and held over 120,000 gallons of water. When they were originally built, the Baths stood as the statement of a proud borough looking towards a bright future, and they served the people of Tameside for over a century until they fell out of use.

Even then, they still had a special place in the hearts of many. During events like our Heritage Open Days it wasn’t unusual to see people lining up down the street to spend just two minutes in a building that formed such an important part of their childhood. We weren’t willing to stand by and let an iconic piece of Tameside’s history crumble away. In 2013, the Council worked with the previous owners, the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) and the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) to secure the necessary funding to give the grand old building a second life fit for the 21st century.

After 3 years of hard work, on Saturday the Ashton Old Baths will begin its new life as a cutting-edge business incubator centre. Its new main purpose will be to support the creation and expansion of innovative businesses with high growth potential, mainly in the creative, media and digital sectors. In the coming months a commercial will be appointed, final fit-out works completed and initial tenants recruited. Together with our rollout of high speed broadband connections, free Wi-Fi in our town centres and our investment in skills education and training through Vision Tameside, the Ashton Old Baths will form a key part of our plan to shift Tameside’s economy to focus on high-skill, high-quality manufacturing and technology.

These efforts have already started to bear fruit even at this early stage, as the work has allowed us to employ two apprentices in heritage construction and heritage event management. The event on Saturday is also the culmination of our efforts to keep the community involved and engaged with the project every step of the way, as hundreds of local residents and schoolchildren visited the building while renovations were ongoing to learn about its architecture, history and design.

The opening celebration, funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund and the Association of Greater Manchester Authorities, will begin outside Ashton Old Baths at 19:30 on Saturday 19th March. It is not ticketed and everybody who wants to celebrate the beginning of a new chapter in Tameside’s history is invited. I hope to see you all there.


Posted by: Executive Leader


The North Deserves a Better Budget

Friday, 18 March 2016

 

It’s a familiar ritual by now. Every Budget Day for the past 6 years local government leaders up and down the country have woken up hoping for the best but preparing for the worst. Yesterday was much the same.

Local Government has so far borne the brunt of the Chancellor’s cuts to public spending, and Northern urban councils like Tameside have been affected worst of all. On current projections we are set to have had £200m taken away from us by the Government by 2020.

There are some limited crumbs of comfort in the Budget for Greater Manchester. The £300 million for transport infrastructure in the North is welcome. However far more money will be required before anything becomes a reality. It also does nothing to rectify the obscene North/South divide in transport investment. One project in London, the Elizabeth Line, has at £14.8 billion cost almost 50 times more than what has been allocated for the entire Northern Powerhouse in this Budget.

As we should have come to expect from this government, there are also far too many cases of ideology triumphing over evidence, common sense and indeed, basic reality. Nowhere is this more apparent than in their plans to turn every school into an academy by 2020.

In Tameside we’re for our young people getting the best possible education, be it from academies or local authority schools. 91% of children attending a local authority school in Tameside are at a good or outstanding school as opposed to 36% of those attending academies. All the evidence suggests that forcing local authority schools to become academies is one of the worst things you can do if you want to raise standards and local accountability. That’s why I’ve called for a Regional School Commissioner to be appointed for Greater Manchester as part of any future devolution deal, a call that I will state again here. If we’re supposed to continue being responsible for how well our children do in schools despite academisation we need to be given the power to make it happen.

And to go with the good and the bad we’ve got the ugly as well, in the form of the announcement of further £3.5 billion cut to the public sector and a £1.2 billion cut to disability benefits. These are cuts to some of the most vulnerable people in our society, either through taking money straight out of their pockets and through taking money out of the services that they rely on. All to pay for tax cuts for big corporations and some of the highest paid people in the country.

So what do we have when it’s all said a done? If you’re rich, live in the South or are a big business, then you’ll probably think it’s a good Budget. On the other hand, if you’re poor, live in the North or use public sector services then you’ll fear the worst. If that sounds familiar, it’s because it is. Once more, it falls to us to protect the most vulnerable and maintain the services that our communities rely on. It was a hard task before, and this Budget is not going to make it any easier.

Posted by: Executive Leader


Tameside is Council of the Year

Thursday, 17 March 2016

 


I am really pleased to be able to tell you that Tameside Council walked away with the prestigious award for Council of the Year at the 20th annual LGC Awards.

When we put our name in the hat to be considered for the award we knew we were going to be facing a big challenge. There are over 400 councils across the country, all delivering fantastic services and excelling in their own way, but the staff and the members of Tameside Council have never shrunk from a challenge yet.

Our presentation highlighted the work we have put in transform Tameside’s economy by improving the skills of our residents, developing our infrastructure and reforming our service delivery. We wanted to show how we remained ambitious despite the financial challenges we face, and that our ambition had delivered concrete results through success stories like Vision Tameside, our investment in schools, the Greater Manchester Pension Fund, English Fine Cottons and the I-Network.

It’s a record that we’re proud of, and it’s a record that impressed the judges as well. I usually don’t quote long passages from other people, but I’ll make an exception in this case. In naming us the winners of the award, the judges said of Tameside, “This is a bold and creative council which shows influence, realism and courage. It has demonstrated how its current ambition is the culmination of years of hard work.”

I couldn’t have put it better myself.

This isn’t just an award for the Council. It’s an award for all our staff, our volunteers, our communities and our partners. Everything that we have achieved has been achieved because of people who work day in and day out to improve the lives of Tameside residents and make Tameside the great place we all know it is. To all those people, this is your award.

However, as we celebrate we should bear in mind that there is more hard work in front of us. I saw last night how the other councils nominated for the award; Leeds, Barnsley, Cornwall and Norwich, brought their own impressive achievements to the table. If we rest on our laurels now they will be more than happy to overtake us.

That being said, this award is proof beyond all doubt that we have within Tameside the skills, the desire and the knowledge in place to keep going onwards and upwards. Thank you and congratulations once again.


Posted by: Executive Leader


Creating Generation Savers in Tameside

Tuesday, 15 March 2016

 

In Tameside we value young people. It’s an easy thing to say, but turning words into action can be another matter entirely, which is why at the end of last year we set up a Tameside Youth Council to help us do exactly that.  Despite the complaints of some who still seem to think that young people should be seen and not heard, it’s taken less than three months for them to deliver valuable input. They’ve correctly pointed out that we still have work to do in making sure that all our young people are taught essential life skills. Foremost among these life skills is financial management.

Our pledge to enrol every child starting high school in Tameside into a credit union account with £10 to start them off was a direct result of what the Youth Council have told us. I’ve heard some absolute nonsense from the usual suspects about what this pledge actually means, so today I want to set the record straight.

This is not giving our children free money. They cannot walk into the credit union, take out the £10 and spend it on what they fancy. The money is a reward that we expect them to earn through learning the basics of financial management and building a relationship with respectable financial institutions. It’s an investment in their education and future that will pay off multiple times over further down the line.

Because we’ve seen what happens when we don’t teach our children these basic life skills. We’ve done a lot of work to crack down on loan shark and their legal equivalent, payday lenders, in Tameside, but the best way to put them out of business is to make sure that nobody ever feels the need to use them in the first place. Creating a savings culture is the single best way to achieve that. All the research says that doesn’t happen overnight or by itself, and the younger our children are when they start to learn it, the better.

It’s not like we’re the only ones to have realised this. Locally, Glasgow and Southwark Councils have launched their own schemes. At a national level, expanding credit unions and encouraging saving habits has the support from politicians of almost every party. You won’t find Stella Creasy (Labour), Damian Hinds (Conservative), Mark Williams (Liberal Democrats), Douglas Carswell (UKIP) and the Archbishop of Canterbury agreeing on many things, but on this they speak with one voice.

This isn’t about right and left, this is about the right and wrong things to teach our children. Anybody who comes out against this pledge needs to explain what they’d do instead to make sure the next generation grows up with financial sense, and why we should ignore taking action on something that we’ve been told is a priority to the young people of Tameside. I think this is an innovative and exciting approach to a serious issue, and I look forward to seeing it being put into practice.

Posted by: Executive Leader


Tameside: Caring About Mothers Every Day

Wednesday, 09 March 2016


You can tell a lot about a country by looking at how it treats its mothers. As the country celebrated Mother’s Day last weekend, it is right that we show our appreciation for the role that mothers play in raising the next generation and making our economy and society a richer, better place. But I’ve always said that true appreciation comes from how you treat people day in and day out, not from how you treat them for a day or so every year. By that measure, the way our country treats mothers is poor and getting worse.

Why do I say that? Research from the House of Commons Library has shown that policies announced by this government over the past year will leave mothers across the country almost £13 billion a year worse off. A toxic cocktail of cuts to universal credit, the four-year freeze on child benefit and other welfare payments, reductions in housing benefit and other policies means that if you’re a mother you’ve never had it so bad. That applies if you’re in work or out of work, married or unmarried. We’re not taking about small amounts here either. To give just two examples; a 23 year old single mother, working in a primary school and living in rented accommodation is £2,800 a year worse off. A nurse and her partner, living in a rented house with three children, are £5,100 a year worse off.

Let’s not underestimate what this means. That kind of money is the difference between a family living comfortably and a family that can’t make ends meet. It’s the difference between their children having opportunities and their children struggling to get on in life. These cuts will lead to more children living in poverty. We know it and the government knows it as well. That’s why they quietly scrapped their own child poverty targets halfway through last year.

In Tameside we appreciate the role that mothers play in the family and in the workplace. That’s why last year one of our pledges was to put on activities, including some free of charge, that all the family could enjoy. This year we’ll do that again, but bigger and better, with 40,000 free family activities to support mothers and their families. A bouquet of flowers and a card on Mother’s Day is all well and good, but if we want to truly support mothers then providing economic security for them and their children, now and in the future, is a far better gift. We’re committed to making it happen in Tameside, now the government should do the same.


Posted by: Executive Leader


Looking After Our Veterans

Monday, 07 March 2016



Just before Christmas I wrote about how we were reaffirming our commitment to veterans in Tameside by helping them into employment through our Armed Forces Jobs Pledge. I said at the time that we had no intention of making that the end of our work to support those who have given service to their country, which is why we’ve helped to set up a Veteran’s Breakfast Club in Tameside.

The concept is simple. In any one of the 57 breakfast clubs in places such as the UK, Germany, Spain, Cyprus and Bosnia it’s not unusual to see stories being traded between people who remember the beaches of Normandy and those who returned from the deserts of Iraq. They’re places where ex-servicemen, regardless of where or how long ago they served, can meet to have breakfast and chat to fellow veterans.

This isn’t about remembrance. It’s about doing something in the here and now for our veterans.

It’s true that leaving the armed forces is very different from leaving most other jobs. For many, it combines the worst aspects of changing a job, moving house, leaving friends and losing a support network. While it is true that a majority of veterans return back to civilian life without real difficulties, it is estimated that out of the approximately 750,000 men and women that have served in the armed forces since 1991 about 66,000 will need some form of physical or mental health support either now or in the future. Even those who do not need such support could nevertheless feel a sense of lost comradeship and loneliness when they are back in civilian life. The Breakfast Club caters to all these needs, from simple socialisation to a gateway for further help if necessary.

You can find more information about Veteran’s Breakfast Clubs across Europe on their website here .

The first meeting of the Tameside Veteran’s Breakfast will be held at 10am, April 9th 2016 and the second Sunday of every month after that, at the Bridge View Café attached to Portland Basin Museum. Food has to be bought but tea and coffee are free. If you’ve served in the armed forces or know anybody who has, then please come along to or let them know about this opportunity to meet, chat and remember.


Posted by: Executive Leader


Making Pensions Work for Tameside

Thursday, 03 March 2016

 

There was good news in the pension world as the Greater Manchester Pension Fund, of which I am Chair, once more showed that it is at the forefront of transforming pensions and investment in local infrastructure. Last month we presented to the government our plans work with pensions funds from across the country, including Merseyside, West Yorkshire, Lancashire and London to deliver a £45 billion “Northern Powerhouse” pension pool, with £1 billion specifically earmarked for investment in local infrastructure.

Those are some impressive numbers, but I want to take the time to explain what it means for the person on the street. There has long been an interest in using pension funds to invest in long-term infrastructure for two reasons. Firstly, the scale of investment required for such projects means that multi-nationals, large banks, national governments and pension funds are the only organisations that have the resources to hand to do so. Secondly, most investments in infrastructure produce stable and predictable cash flows over a very long period of time. Perhaps not ideal for investors looking for quick money, but perfect for pension funds who have to think about paying out to members 40 and 50 years down the line.

The Greater Manchester Pension Fund has been a long-term champion of investment in infrastructure to develop our area while also safeguarding our member’s pensions. We have a long history of backing local infrastructure projects in Tameside and throughout Manchester such as Matrix Homes, One St Peters Square and the £800 million joint venture in Manchester Airport City.

Our deal to create a Northern Powerhouse pension pool is bringing this appetite for large-scale investment onto the national stage. Through this we expect the creation of a £1 billion pot that will be available for infrastructure investment by September 2016. By pooling and reducing our administration and management costs we also expect to save around £30 million, money that can be put to far better use elsewhere. The £45 billion of the total asset pool is also bigger than the minimum of £25 billion recommended by the government, putting us in a position to stand toe-to-toe with global wealth funds and other big investors on projects such as airports, shipping terminals and railways.

The need for investment in our infrastructure has never been greater. The productivity of our workers and our ability to grow as an economy can no longer be held back by crumbling, out-of-date infrastructure. I’m happy that the Greater Manchester Pension Fund and its partners are going to be a big part of the solution.

Posted by: Executive Leader


Tameside Pledges #16for16

Wednesday, 02 March 2016

 

Our 15 pledges for 2015 outlined what I wanted to achieve that year to make a real difference in Tameside. Covering a range of areas from fair credit, to improving the borough’s environment and supporting jobs and enterprise, our 15 for 15 delivered a comprehensive programme of improvement in a way that was transparent and easily understandable to anybody that wanted to measure our progress.

Well, I’ve always been a believer in the saying, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”. That’s why at Full Council I unveiled a second set of pledges, 16 more for 2016. Together they will form an ambitious and wide-ranging program of work that will produce real results for our residents and businesses.

We’ll follow the example of Guardsman Tony Downes House in Droylsden by naming new streets built in Tameside after local men and women who have lost their lives in service.

We’ll improve our roads and streets while slashing our carbon footprint by investing a further £1 million to fill in potholes and continuing our roll-out of super-efficient LED lights.

We’ll work with our residents to tackle over 160 grot spots across the borough, ridding our communities of fly-tipping, graffiti and littering. For those who want to recycle while they’re out and about we’ll make it easier by installing recycling bins in all of our town centres and council offices.

We’ll do our bit for the environment by encouraging our communities to grow their own food. We also pledge to plant a minimum of 2016 trees, improving the look of Tameside’s streets and open spaces, offsetting our carbon emissions and fostering greater biodiversity.

We’ll ensure that the council continues to support Tameside’s businesses to the best of its ability by purchasing services and goods from local providers wherever possible.

We’ll make sure that our children have the best start in life by giving them the skills they need to handle the challenges of the information age through the creation of coding clubs in all of Tameside’s primary schools. When they get older we’ll help them create good saving habits by opening a credit union account with £10 deposited for every 11 year old starting high school in September.

And we’ll help all of Tameside get connected by rolling out free WiFi across all of our town centres and offering workshops and classes on computer skills for those who want to get online but lack the ability or confidence to do so.

These new pledges show how, even in a time of austerity, we can still work together to produce results in what really matters, making a real difference to our local economy and the lives of our residents. As the year goes on my colleagues and I will deliver frequent updates on this blog, through social and traditional media and elsewhere on how we are progressing.

You’ve told us what your priorities for Tameside are. These pledges are our promise to deliver on them. The hard work begins now.

Posted by: Executive Leader


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