Executive Leader Cllr Kieran Quinn

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Councillor Kieran Quinn, Executive Leader of Tameside Council

Archive for November 2016

Small Business Saturday

Friday, 25 November 2016

The wares of a small local business

The wares of a small local business

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

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

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

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

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

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


Posted by: Executive Leader


Actions Speak Louder than Words

Thursday, 24 November 2016

Autumn Statement

Cast your minds back for a moment to the weeks immediately after Brexit. When Theresa May walked into Downing Street she delivered a series of speeches unlike any I’ve heard from a Conservative Prime Minister in recent memory. Obviously, she talked a lot about Brexit, but she also talked about taking on vested interests, cracking down on tax avoidance, doing more for struggling families and giving employees more of a say in how their workplace is run. It was a surprising and welcome change of words, but I decided to wait to see what would happen in terms of action before I got too excited.

Five months or so later, and we’re getting some idea of what kind of action a May government is going to take. Unfortunately, following this week’s Autumn Statement, it appears that my scepticism back in the summer was justified.

Let’s talk about what the government said they would do first. They made the right noises about investment, but we’ve seen absolutely nothing in terms of new or radical solutions. The policy announcements we’ve seen in the Autumn Statement in no way matches the sheer scale of the challenge that we face in rolling back the damage and decay inflicted upon our infrastructure by austerity. £1.1 billion for roads might sound like a lot, but that barely covers what is required in Greater Manchester, never mind the entire country. Releasing money for 140,000 new homes sounds a considerably less impressive when we know that we need at least 200,000 a year every year just to keep our heads above water. Taking steps to reverse our decline in research and development spending – a vital part of building the economies of the 21st century – is welcome but it still leaves Britain far below the figure of 3% of GDP recommended by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). Time and time again, it’s bold talk followed by timid action.

Then let’s talk about what isn’t happening, such as the promise to put employees on company boards. This isn’t some kind of unique and radical policy. The Germans have had workers on boards for decades, and they have one of the most successful economies in Europe. During the summer the Prime Minister made this one of her flagship policies, but at a speech to the Confederation of British Industry this week she went out of her way to say that she was not going to force companies to do it. No matter what you think of the policy, that’s a complete and total U-turn. The government have also refused to abandon their planned cuts to Universal Credit. These cuts will cost many working families, the type of families that the Prime Minister claims to be looking out for, thousands of pounds in lost income by the end of the Parliament. They will also wipe many of the gains people will see from the increase in the “National Living Wage”, ensuring that the Chancellor repeats his predecessor’s trick of giving with one hand and immediately snatching away with the other.

So there we have it. Despite what they said, the government has flunked every opportunity to take the decisive and radical action they promised back in the summer. What we’ve ended up with is a familiar story for anybody who has lived through the last six years of governments. A pittance of investment that leaves our vital infrastructure on life support, headline-grabbing promises that are abandoned as soon as the ink is dry on the newspapers and always, always “jam tomorrow” for hard-working families that are struggling today. It would be bad enough in normal times. In these extraordinary times it’s the fast track to catastrophe.


Posted by: Executive Leader


Flooding in Tameside

Wednesday, 23 November 2016

Flooding in Tameside
Staff involved in the clean up operation following the floods
Following a busy day responding to yesterday’s flooding I wanted to take the opportunity to reflect on the efforts of the Council staff who co-ordinated the relief effort.

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

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

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

Whenever the next emergency comes we will be ready.

Posted by: Executive Leader


Investing in Childcare: Good for Families, Good for Growth

Friday, 18 November 2016

Childcare

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

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

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

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

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

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


Posted by: Executive Leader


Honouring our Fallen this Remembrance Day

Monday, 14 November 2016

Honouring our Fallen this Remembrance Day
Once again the people of Tameside did themselves truly proud when communities across the Borough came together to mark Remembrance Sunday. A commemorative service was held in every one of Tameside’s nine towns and attendance at all was noted to be at least as large, if not larger, than last year. Of those I went to something that stood out for me was the number of young people attending to pay their respects. To me it shows that, despite the time that has passed since the tradition first began, the memory of the soldiers who gave their lives for our freedom continues to endure.

The Remembrance services came just days after we had named our first road after a local fallen serviceman. The naming of the new Denton Link Road after Lance Corporal Andrew Breeze forms part of Tameside Council’s commitment to ‘Honour Our Fallen’ and many more roads are to follow.

Lance Corporal Andrew Breeze was 31 and serving under the B (Malta) Company, 1st Battalion of The Mercian Regiment (Cheshire), when he was caught in an explosion and killed while clearing an area to increase security at a checkpoint on 12 June 2010. The former Audenshaw School pupil and member of the Church Lad’s and Girls’ Brigade at Christ Church, Denton, had enlisted into the Army in February 1996 and served in both the UK and Cyprus as well as on operations in Northern Ireland, Iraq and Afghanistan. I met Andrew’s parents, Anthony and Florence Breeze, at the site of the new road on Thursday. The new ‘L/Cpl Andrew Breeze Way’ road sign – which also features a red poppy – has been manufactured by ex-service personnel at the Royal British Legion Industries (RBLI) Factory in Ashford, Kent.

While many people, with good reason, associate Remembrance Sunday with the fallen in the two World Wars I feel that it’s particularly important that we remember these more recent victims of war as well.

Thankfully, we’re far, far away from the dark days of tens of thousands of British soldiers losing their lives on a single day of battle. That shouldn’t diminish the sorrow we feel at every loss nor the respect we feel for their ultimate sacrifice; the sacrifice of men like Gunner Wilfred Hewitt of the Royal Artillery, who died at the Imjin River in Korea in 1851. Men like Lance Corporal Eric Halkyard who, despite being born in Denton, was killed fighting in Vietnam in 1971 with the Royal Australian Regiment. Men like Sergeant Mark Stansfield, Corporal Joseph Etchells, Kingsman Sean Dawson and Corporal Harvey Holmes, all of whom, like Lance Corporal Breeze, gave their lives in service in Iraq or Afghanistan.
Honouring our Fallen this Remembrance Day

Our Honour our Fallen pledge ensures that these brave men remain in our thoughts as much as the men of the Somme, the Battle of Britain and Normandy. As a council we’re also committed to recognising the work that our servicemen do to keep our communities and country safe, not just on Remembrance Sunday but every day. We were the first council in Greater Manchester to sign the Armed Forces Covenant, and our Armed Forces Jobs Pledge along with our work with the Tameside Armed Services Community and breakfast clubs ensure that current and former armed forces members have all the support they need, whenever they need it.

If you would like to nominate a local fallen hero for recognition you can do so here. Together, we will make sure that we all remember them.


Posted by: Executive Leader


£20 million leisure investment takes shape

Friday, 11 November 2016

Last week I had the pleasure getting to see the results of the first phase of the investment of £20 million of Tameside’s leisure facilities. I’m talking of course about iTRAIN and Total Adrenaline.

At the former Dukinfield leisure centre I saw the remarkable progress in the site’s conversion to a state of the art gym and fitness suite. Although there were piles of rubble, bare brick walls and scaffolding in almost every direction that you could look, the high quality finished product that will eventually replace the tired old baths here is beginning to take shape.

The new 24/7 iTRAIN gym takes shape

The new 24/7 iTRAIN gym takes shape

When iTRAIN opens in 2017 the building extensions added, mezzanine floors inserted and previously unseen rooms brought in to public use will mean that the floor space available to centre users will easily be more than double what it was previously. In addition to the 150 station fitness suite, free weights area and café you’d expect, the centre will boast an underground cycle studio, indoor running track and crèche. In order to fit around modern lifestyles the centre will be open 24/7 and offer no-contract memberships.

Next to Longdendale, to check out how the new Total Adrenaline trampolining and soft play centre was coming along. The old Active Longdendale gymnastics centre had closed years ago and until now Active Tameside had struggled to find a use for it, so much so that the vacant unit had been on the market to let for months. Walking in to the building it was clear that this centre was at a very different stage in its refurbishment. Set to open in just two weeks’ time the Laser Quest, soft play area and trampolines were all in place. All that appeared to be left to do were some finishing touches.

Total Adrenaline will be an excellent addition to the Tameside leisure estate. It will be a facility that won’t just provide for the people of Tameside but, given its uniqueness in the east of Greater Manchester, will attract visitors from much further afield too. The pricing structure of the centre is very reasonable too recognising Active Tameside’s role in getting as many people active as possible rather than just making as much money as possible.

Total Adrenaline

The new soft play centre at Total Adrenaline

Whilst the new facilities themselves are wonderful the most satisfying thing about them is the way that they came about. Like almost all sport and leisure trusts across the country that operate facilities on behalf of Local Authorities, Active Tameside receives support from the Council for their day to day activities. Given the cuts to Council budgets that have been well reported it was only a matter of time before consideration was given to whether this was still affordable. At this point Tameside could have followed the lead of many other authorities and balanced the books by closing leisure centres. However, consistent with the Tameside way of doing things we instead chose to invest. Invest in facilities that will grow the number of Active Tameside members. Invest in new centres that will get more people more active. Invest in commercial offers like these which, along with the bowling coming to Denton, will mean that Active Tameside will be able to wash its face financially.

Once again our unique approach is reaping huge benefits for the people of Tameside.


Posted by: Executive Leader


So Much for the End of Austerity

Monday, 07 November 2016

Money
With everything that’s gone on in the past few months it’s not surprising that quite a few things, many of which would have been big news had they happened at a quieter time, have slipped under the radar. One of these happened today, as the lowered benefit cap came into force across the country.

It seems like a lifetime ago since it was announced, so allow me to refresh your memory. One of the first policies of the coalition government back in 2010 was to reduce the total sum people could receive in benefits to £26,000 a year for couples with or without children and lone parents. After the General Election in 2015 a further reduction was announced, bringing the cap down to £23,000 a year for families in London, and £20,000 a year for families outside. It is this second cap that takes effect today.

You might ask what difference this will make. The answer is “Quite a bit”. Research by Shelter shows that unless you lived in one of the more expensive bits of London, you would probably not have come up against the 2010 benefits cap. Renting a two bedroom property was still affordable in 94.1% of England for a couple with two children, and if you were a single parent with two children you could afford the same in 96.1% of England.

That isn’t the case as of today. Under the reduced benefits cap areas that nobody would describe as super-expensive have suddenly become unaffordable. That includes pretty much the entire south of England and chunks of Manchester, Leeds and Birmingham. All in all, it’s estimated that 57.9% of England will be off-limits. Remember as well that we’re not talking about this affecting tabloid-press caricature families with seventeen children; we’re talking about this affecting couples or single parents with one or two children. That’s a lot of families who woke up this morning facing a struggle to keep a roof over their heads and food on the table.

More broadly, this policy is a relic from a previous government. We knew what Cameron and Osborne wanted; balancing the books at any price. May and Hammond claim that fairness is their watchword. Where is the fairness in children being denied basic essentials such as food, shelter and heating because it’s been decided that their parents have too large a family, or that they live in the wrong part of the country? Where is the fairness in families from Tameside and elsewhere in the country continuing to pay the price for an austerity that not even the government believes in anymore?

Of course, the main concern of the government is getting people off the welfare bill and saving money, but even here the evidence suggests that, so far, the benefits cap has failed on both. Only 5% of those affected by the previous cap moved into paid work (and, despite what some might think, I’d be willing to bet that for a lot it wasn’t for lack of trying). In terms of savings, the previous benefit cap was estimated to save £65 million last year, but much of these savings went straight back out again through the costs of housing support grants, homelessness and providing skills support. When you look at the big picture, it’s difficult to argue with the IFS’ judgement that any savings from the reduced benefits cap will be “trivial”.

So, to sum up, we have a policy that will cause undue suffering and hardship, which will probably not achieve its goals, and was created to reach a target that no longer exists. On this day, isn’t it time we took a step back and wondered if this is really the kind of country we want to be?

Posted by: Executive Leader


We Shine Brighter Together

Friday, 04 November 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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


Posted by: Executive Leader


Goodbye to the education bill

Wednesday, 02 November 2016

Droylsden Academy, one example of the investment in Tameside schools

Droylsden Academy, one example of the investment in Tameside schools

There was once a time when an education bill was a landmark piece of legislation. The 1944 Education Act, commonly known as ‘The Butler Act’, made clearer the distinction between primary and secondary education that still exists today. The 1976 Education Act formally abolished the 11+ and selectionby ability. The 2000 Learning and Skills Act established academies. How times have changed.

There is no better illustration of the political football that education has now become than the dropping of the most recent education bill. The bill, originally announced in March, set out plans to force all schools to academise by 2022, abolished parent governors and removed the school improvement role of local authorities. Little more than 6 months later, a written statement to parliament, quietly published on Thursday evening, has shelved all of these proposals for good.

As you would expect I have a view about the initial proposals themselves. I also have a view about whether a written statement to parliament is a respectful way to announce the abandonment of plans for such an important area of government responsibility. I even have a view about whether this government has a mandate for the changes it plans to undertake. However, these views are not for this blog today.

What I want to talk about in this blog are the implications for local authorities of this bungled announcement.

Had the Education Bill been passed it would have removed the responsibilities for school improvement from local Councils and placed them in the hands of the regional schools commissioner. In preparation for this, £600 million of cuts to local authorities were pencilled in for next year to reflect the fact that Councils would no longer be delivering this service. However, despite Councils now set to retain their role in school improvement, the cuts are still planned to go ahead. This will leave local authorities woefully under resourced to fulfil their responsibilities to young people.

This isn’t just me as a Labour Council leader sounding off about the cuts. The chief inspector of Ofsted, Sir Michael Wilshaw, recently described English schools as ‘mediocre but getting better’. Whilst it’s not language I would have used the acknowledgement that schools are improving is welcome, though how can this improvement be sustainable if the money to support it is cut? In addition, the leaders of Kent, Hampshire and Buckinghamshire County Councils have spoken out about being left ‘in limbo’ over how they are expected to fund their school improvement services.

Across the Country there are 20,000 local authority maintained schools and hundreds more academies which purchase school improvement support from the local Council. In Tameside the Council has used its powers and this money to drive the improvement in both schools and academies that, in 2015, saw our GCSE results improve faster than anywhere else in the North West. The haphazard scrapping of their education bill put this all at risk. The government must clearly stipulate the expectations for education that it has of Councils and, when it has decided what these are, allocate the funding to support them.


Posted by: Executive Leader


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