Executive Leader Cllr Kieran Quinn

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Councillor Kieran Quinn

Archive for July 2016

On the Side of Good Business

Friday, 29 July 2016

One of the paradoxes of the current debate about good business is that, for all we talk about it and support it, there is not a great deal of agreement as to what it actually means. In particular, the law has little or nothing to say once you go beyond the fundamentals such as the minimum wage and health and safety. For the vast majority of businesses and business owners, a basic sense of morality and an eye on the long term keeps them on the straight and narrow. Unfortunately, every so often a more unscrupulous character will go to the absolute edge of that legal void and commit acts that, while not illegal, would be considered by most to be utterly immoral.

In that vein, some of you may remember a month or so ago Sir Philip Green appeared in front of two Parliamentary committees to answer questions regarding the collapse of BHS. Their final report was released this week, and to say that it is damning does not begin to do it justice.

The highlights are as follows. After buying BHS in 2000, Sir Philip Green and his family took almost £580 million out of the company in dividends, rental payments and loans. The company’s pension funds went from holding a substantial surplus to a deficit that eventually reached hundreds of millions of pounds. Sir Philip Green and the BHS investors refused to address this, going so far as to sell the company for £1 rather than allow The Pensions Regulator access to the company’s financial records. The business was sold in a manner that ignored concerns about takeover regulations and the ability of the buyer, Mr Dominic Chappell (a man who no prior retail experience), to maintain BHS as a going concern. BHS went into administration at the end of the April, by which point Mr Chappell had also taken £2.6 million out of the business in fees and loans.

It should be noted that the payment of large dividends, which can be justified if the business is thriving, and the existence of a pension fund deficit, which can be caused by low interest rates and tough trading conditions, are not by themselves signs of negligence. The key difference in the BHS case is that Sir Philip Green took out dividends at the expense of investment and growth in the company, and did nothing to address a large and growing pension deficit when he had the personal wealth and capability to do so.

There is a very real human cost to this as well. BHS employs over 11,000 people across the country, many of whom now face an uncertain future through no fault of their own. The 20,000 current and future holders of BHS pensions could also face cuts to pay-outs that they worked for decades to earn. Almost without exception, it has been the innocent who have suffered while the guilty have walked away even richer than before.

I am proudly pro-business, and I am also the chairman of a pension fund. It is for these reasons that I consider what has happened to BHS to be nothing less than a national scandal. We need businesses that thrive and prosper for the benefit of all, not businesses that exist only to enrich a select few at the expense of their workers and the taxpayer.

As she entered Downing Street, our new Prime Minister promised a more responsible capitalism. She could make a start by using the power of her office to define, in black and white, what a good business is. If necessary, this should be backed up by law. That is only way to make sure that another Sir Philip Green never gets his hands on another BHS.

Posted by: Kieran Quinn

Join the Tameside Hackathon

Sunday, 24 July 2016

Are you aged between 13 and 18? Are you into coding and computers? Looking for something new and exciting to do in the school holidays? Then the first-ever Tameside Hackathon may be just the thing for you.

The concept is simple. As part of the Council’s “Every Child a Coder” Pledge for 2016 we are launching a free competition to test and challenge the digital skills and creativity of our young people. Teams of young hackers aged 13-18 will pick from a variety of challenges set by our sponsors and will then develop a digital product or solution over the two day event. These will be presented as the end of the Hackathon, with the winning team walking away with some great prizes.

For the young people who take part, it will be an opportunity to have fun, meet people with similar interests and develop the skills that will help them to success in the workplace of the digital future. Every one that takes part in the Tameside Hackathon will also get the opportunity to join a Greater Manchester-wide hack meet-up at the Sharp Project in Newton Heath, Manchester on 13th August.

The Tameside Hackathon takes place at the refurbished Aston Old Baths on Tuesday 9th to Wednesday 10th August, 10am-4pm. If you want to join us, either alone or as part of a team, you can register by going through to the Eventbrite page here. For those who need transport to and from the event, we may able to assist if you call us on 0161 342 5138.

While the focus of the Hackathon will be on meeting new people and learning new things, there’s always the possibility that it could lead to the creation of something with potential to succeed as a business idea. The mobile group messaging app GroupMe, which was coded in a day and a half at a hacking event in 2010 and sold to Skype for almost $80 million a year later, is one of many famous examples. So if you think you and your friends have what it takes to make the next GroupMe, or even the next Pok√©mon Go, then come to Ashton Old Baths in August and show us your stuff.

But we’re not just looking for young people to take part in the Tameside Hackathon. We’re looking for businesses to sponsor the event and provide mentors for the young people taking part. We already have Purple and Banter Media on board providing challenges and prizes for the Hackathon, and we’ve received support from other local and national organisations such as Active Tameside, O2, Bradley’s Bakery, Tameside Reporter and Care Together. If you want your name added to that list, you can find out what it involves and how to get in touch with us on our website here.

Good Luck and Happy Hacking.

Posted by: Kieran Quinn

Now is the Time to Take Action on Climate Change

Friday, 22 July 2016

Last week over 36 local, regional and national organisations in Greater Manchester, including councils, the armed forces and the emergency services, took part in Operation Triton II. The exercise, the biggest one ever held in the region to date, simulated an emergency response to extreme weather causing a breach in the Dovestones Reservoir on Saddleworth Moor. As military helicopters circled the skies overhead, officers from Tameside Council were on the front lines coordinating simulated rest centres and ensuring the safety of our residents.

Now, before anybody panics, it is highly unlikely that we will be faced with such a terrifying scenario in real life. That being said, while we hope that the lessons we have learnt from Operation Triton II will never have be to put into use it is important that we prepare ourselves as best we can for any major event or disaster that may occur in the future.

Around the same time the new Conservative government, in office for less than a day, officially abolished the Department for Energy and Climate Change. It has been absorbed into the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills and rechristened the “Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy”. Unfortunately, I suspect it’s not a coincidence that the words “Climate” or “Climate Change” appear nowhere in this new department’s name.

You couldn’t make up a more extreme contrast if you tried. While local government and its partners are actively preparing for the potential risks and consequences of climate change, central government has killed off the only department in Whitehall that saw planning for and mitigating the effects of climate change as a serious priority.

I’ve written in the past that the scientists believe that we have passed the point of no return when it comes to climate change. It’s no longer a question about whether there will be any consequences. The question now is about how bad the consequences are going to be.

In Tameside we are doing as much as we can to reduce our own carbon footprint, including planting trees, increasing recycling, rolling out LED lighting and designing our buildings to be more energy efficient. The truth however is that taking real and ambitious action on climate change can’t be done at a local level. We need national leadership to promote environmentally friendly policies not just across the country, but within the international community as well. At a time where it is needed more than ever, that leadership is sorely lacking.

This June has been the hottest June globally since we began measuring the temperature of the planet. It is the ninth consecutive month that the record for the highest global temperature has been broken. This is the new normal. The sooner we recognise that, the sooner we can start doing something about it.

Posted by: Kieran Quinn

Get Into Reading This Summer

Wednesday, 20 July 2016

Do you know your Oompa-Loompas from your Vermicious Knids? Could you pick Willy Wonka or Agatha Trunchbull out of a line-up? Would you prefer to ride around in a giant peach or a great glass elevator?

If those questions make sense to you then you’ll probably be interested to know that this summer the country is celebrating the 100th anniversary of Roald Dahl’s birth. Over a quarter of a century after his death the renowned author, poet and ex-fighter ace still remains one of the world’s most beloved children’s authors, with over 200 million copies of his books being sold worldwide. That’s why the 2016 Summer Reading Challenge, which we are whole-heartedly supporting here in Tameside, will be themed around Roald Dahl’s life and works.

The idea is simple. Over the summer holidays we are challenging children aged 4-11 to sign up to the Big Friendly Read and read six library books from their local library. Not only is it fun, it’s also absolutely free. Furthermore, every child who completes the challenge will be a proud recipient of a medal, wristband and certificate celebrating their achievement. Here in Tameside, any child who completes the Big Friendly Read before Saturday 24th September will also be entered into a special prize draw for a chance to win a Clip n’ Climb experience for up to 10 people, courtesy of Active Tameside and the Sky High Adventure Centre.

If you want to join in the Big Friendly Read you can do so by signing up at any one of Tameside’s libraries. Last year we got 2,726 children to take part, and this year we intend to go one better. To help anybody who joins along in the challenge, our libraries will be putting on a series of activities such as treasure hunts, crafts and games based on some of Roald Dahl’s most famous books and characters. As with everything else in the Big Friendly Read these events, details of which can be found on our website here, are free and there’s no need to pre-book.

But the Big Friendly Read is just one part of the larger programme of activities we’re putting on for children and families this
summer. Over the month of August we will be hosting a series of outdoor theatre performances in Tameside’s parks, including adaptations of classic children’s stories by CS Lewis, Robert Louise Stevenson and Mark Twain. Our countryside teams and museums will also be getting in on the act with a variety of free and fun indoor and outdoor events.

So if you want to your children to have fun and learn this summer in Tameside have a look to see what activities suit you. From reading challenges to live plays, countryside walks to handling birds of prey, come and join us and get your next few months sorted.

Posted by: Kieran Quinn

A Privatisation Too Far

Friday, 15 July 2016

Amidst the drama of the last few weeks it’s easy to forget that the business of running the country is still continuing. For people who are concerned about the actions of this government it is especially worrying, as they have a golden opportunity to push through unpopular or controversial policies while the attention of the media and the population is concentrating on the fallout from the referendum.

One of the biggest issues that could slip under the radar in this manner is the government pushing ahead with the privatisation of the Land Registry. Established in 1925, the Land Registry is, quite simply, a record which holds information about land and property across England and Wales. It is estimated that 87% of all the land in the country is covered by the Registry, adding up to a total value of £4 trillion (including £1 trillion in mortgages). If you’ve ever bought or sold any kind of property (a house, a shop etc.) odds are that a record of it will be found on the Land Registry.

But the Registry is more than a simple record of who owns what and where. An entry on the Land Registry means that your property rights are protected by the state. Governments and markets use information about house prices and sales to judge the health of the British economy. While it costs money to run, the fees it charges mean that has also delivered back a profit to the Treasury for 19 years out of the last 20.

Put simply, it does exactly what it’s supposed to do, and it makes money for the country while doing it. Furthermore, unlike utilities, transport and other public service sell-offs of the past, there isn’t an argument to introduce more competition. It’s easy to image several competing electricity companies or bus operators; it’s a great deal harder to imagine several competing Land Registries.

But there is a bigger argument than simply efficiency and profit. At a time where the housing crisis and large-scale tax avoidance have become massive political issues, a transparent and impartial Land Registry is required now more than ever. Handing it over a private company that may want to reduce transparency to protect their commercial confidentiality or hide conflicts of interest is utterly counter-productive to achieving this. It’s not just me saying this, as an attempt to privatise the Registry in 2014 was vetoed by the Liberal Democrats. Two years later, MPs from all the major parties (including a former Conservative minister) along with non-partisan bodies like the Law Society and the Competition and Markets Authority are still united in their belief that this is a privatisation too far for those who value transparency and impartiality.

I pride myself on being a supporter of strong, independent businesses. If a serious case can be made for a service being run better or more efficiently by the private sector, then I’ll give it a fair hearing. What I’m against is privatisation that aims for nothing but a short term monetary gain, regardless of what the negative consequences will be in the future. Selling off the Land Registry is about as clear cut an example of this “bad” kind of privatisation as I can imagine. I urge the government to look again.

Posted by: Kieran Quinn

Looking to the Future in Tameside

Wednesday, 13 July 2016

In politics, as in life, you can have periods where it seems like a years’ worth of events are occurring in the space of a few weeks. That’s exactly how I felt yesterday as I held the first meeting of Full Council since the EU Referendum.

The political and economic shockwaves from the result are still playing out, and I don’t think anybody can say for sure where we’re going to be as a country at the end of it all. The focus must now be on making sure that Tameside is in the best position to survive and thrive in a future outside the European Union. At yesterday’s meeting of Full Council we took the first steps towards successfully undertaking this most vital of tasks.

An important part of this will be making sure that the council is more responsive to the needs and concerns of local residents. There is a general acceptance that the current system of District Assemblies can be improved to better fit the history and geography of Tameside, and to make sure that reduced levels of government funding can be better targeted at where they have the greatest impact.

To that end, we have proposed to replace the District Assemblies with nine town councils and two wider Neighbourhood Forums. These new bodies will be encouraged to generate their own income to support plans for their communities. They will also be far cheaper to run, freeing up around £45,000 that can be ploughed back into other projects.

We’re also looking at the bigger picture as well. Just as residents need to feel like decisions in Tameside are things that are done with them and not to them, so Tameside and Greater Manchester need to have more input on decisions that affect them at a national level. In the short term, this should involve Greater Manchester having a seat at the table when the Brexit discussions begin.

In the longer term, we need to look at an approach to devolution that is far more ambitious than the current top down, make-it-up-as-we-go-along parcelling out of powers from the centre. I want to see all parts of our United Kingdom, countries and cities alike, handed not just power but real sovereignty. There have already been some exciting developments in this area, and I will be following them closely as the dust settles from the referendum.

What is clear is that we cannot waste time by trying to re-fight the referendum. We must move quickly and respond to what has happened in a productive and positive manner. It’s true that things will never be the same again, but let’s work together to make sure that change is good for Tameside and for everybody who lives, works and does business here.

Posted by: Kieran Quinn

Support Local Businesses This Independent Retailer Month

Friday, 08 July 2016

Since 2011 the month of July has been marked down on the calendar as Independent Retailer Month. The month highlights the vital role that smaller, local, independent retailers play in our communities, our economies and in the retail sector as a whole.

It’s true that for some people the convenience of supermarkets, having everything you need under the one roof, is a convenience that can’t be beat. However, I would like to take this opportunity to urge anybody who hasn’t tried shopping locally to give it a go, and I’ll give you several good reasons to do so.

The first, and most obvious, is that more of the money that is spent in an independent retailer goes not into a multi-national company’s bank account or the pockets of distant shareholders, but directly back into the local economy. It’s estimated that for every £1 spent with a small or local business, 63p stays in the local economy compared to 40p with larger businesses. That might not sound like a lot at first, but it adds up very quickly.

Secondly, small businesses help build and strengthen communities. They are embedded in, and respond to, their communities in a way that larger businesses simply cannot. Even something as simple as a local food shop stocking more of a popular choice of food highlights the kind of bonds that can be built between local businesses and their customers. Furthermore, while one supermarket is likely to look the same as every other one, there is far more variety between small businesses, giving every community its own unique look and identity.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, the beating heart of entrepreneurship and innovation in the UK isn’t on “Dragon’s Den” or “The Apprentice”. It’s in the markets, the town centres and the high streets of every community in the UK. 60% of all private sector employment in the UK is in small and medium enterprises (SMEs), and the road to providing high-paid, high-quality work in Tameside runs through investing in and supporting our local businesses. There’s simply no other way to achieve our goals for the borough.

We’ve launched a number of schemes to do exactly that, from encouraging apprenticeships, to renovating our award-winning markets, to throwing our weight behind national events like Small Business Saturday. We’re also continuing to run the Tameside Loyalty Card Scheme, which allows residents to get great deals at a variety of local businesses. So far there have been 355 special offers on from 232 businesses across Tameside, covering everything from exercise classes to restaurant meal deals.

So support Tameside, support Independent Retailer Month and save yourself a bit of money into the bargain. Together we will build a strong and unique community that we can all be proud of.

Posted by: Kieran Quinn

Registering to Vote Is For Life, Not Just For An Election

Wednesday, 06 July 2016

One of the side-effects of the EU Referendum vote in Tameside has been a big increase in the amount of people registering to vote. Despite the well-publicised issues with the government’s online registration system, 4,466 people in Tameside added themselves onto the electoral register in the month between the local elections and the EU Referendum.

While on the day this helped boost the turnout for the referendum within Tameside to 66% (considerably higher than the turnout for the General Election last year, which ranged from 57% to 59% in the three constituencies that Tameside falls in), the expansion of the electoral register will also have more profound consequences in the future.

One of the most significant may be how Tameside’s representation in Parliament is decided. As I explained last year, the government has introduced Individual Electoral Registration to replace the old registration system of the “head of household” registering all eligible voters in their address. However, the government also then declared that their boundary review of how seats in Parliaments are allocated across the country would be based on the numbers within the new electoral register.

I’ve made my concerns about this approach clear in the past. I think that, at best, it’s an odd way of drawing boundaries when drawing them based on the raw population figures (mainly from the census) is both simpler and more accurate. At worst, it punishes areas with low electoral registration turnout (usually less well-off areas or areas with large student populations) by depriving them of a voice in the democratic process in favour of areas with a higher turnout (usually better-off areas or areas with a high elderly population). However, unless a new government changes course, it is what we are stuck with. We therefore need to take steps to make sure as many people as possible in Tameside are on the electoral register.

Being on the electoral register also has benefits for you as well. While the EU referendum has now passed, you can register whenever you want. Once you’re on the register, you don’t need to worry about it again unless you change your name or address. Most credit checking companies will also look to see if you’re on the register, which means that having your name on it makes getting access to loans, insurance and other financial services quicker and smoother.

So even if the elections and referendums are over for the moment, let’s not take a step back in making sure Tameside’s voice is heard. If you’ve already registered to vote, thank you very much for your contribution. If you haven’t, do your bit for democracy and make your own life a bit easier into the bargain by registering today.

Posted by: Kieran Quinn

In Memory of the Fallen

Friday, 01 July 2016

At 7:28am this morning the entire nation united in a two minute silence to remember the 100th anniversary of the Battle of the Somme. At 7:28am on the 1st July 1916, ten mines were exploded under German trenches after an artillery bombardment so intense it was heard on Hampstead Heath in North London. Two minutes later over 120,000 British soldiers went over the top across a 16-mile long front to assault the German trenches.

By the end of the day, over 58,000 of them had fallen to machine guns, shells and bayonets. It was the bloodiest 24 hours in British military history. When you compare it to the casualties among our armed forces in other famous battles in our countries past; 8,400 at Waterloo, 255 during the entire Falklands War and 1,964 during the months of the Battle of Britain, the sheer scale of the slaughter becomes apparent. Even though he was on the opposite side, I’m sure that German officer Friedrich Steinbrecher spoke for everybody when he said, “Somme. The whole history of the world cannot contain a more ghastly word”.

But that first, cataclysmic day was by no means the end of the carnage. The wider Somme offensive raged for over five months. By the time the autumn mud and sheer mass of casualties brought the battle to a screeching halt, over 1.2 million soldiers on both sides were lost. It was, in the worst sense of the word, a lost generation of young men. A Sergeant in the Glasgow Chambers of Commerce Regiment, David S Morton, wrote to his local newspaper asking them to publish a list of the casualties among his men, as it was no longer possible for him to write a letter to each family individually.

There were casualties closer to home as well. At the start of the war, Lord Kitchener had agreed that those who “joined together” would “serve together”. At the Somme and many other battlefields throughout France, they died together as well.

Tameside’s fallen on the first day of the Somme included Sergeant Phillip Preston, Private Allen Shaw, Private Fred Knowles, Private G Crowther, Private Alfred Sellers, Lieutenant Alfred Eric Hampson, Lieutenant P Gordon Ross and Lieutenant Eric Goddard. There are almost certainly more whose bodies were not found or identified in the fighting. Private Tom Lees wrote to his parents saying that he was one of only nine men from Hyde left in the Manchester Pals Regiment.

For these men, and for the countless others who fell in every bloody field of World War One, we stood in silence today and swore “Never Again!”

Posted by: Kieran Quinn

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