Executive Leader Cllr Kieran Quinn

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Councillor Kieran Quinn

Archive for October 2016

The importance of self care

Monday, 31 October 2016

The importance of self care

Looking back at my previous blogs it’s fair to say that my I often use it to promote healthier living in Tameside. This week I considered writing about another subject but the importance of the topic I wanted to discuss today was such that I couldn’t waste this opportunity to raise awareness of it.

I’m talking about the Tameside public health annual report which was published in late September. The report identifies the common health problems our residents experience and the best way for us to use our resources to tackle them and improve the quality of life for our residents. The report is unique in the way that it is the first to have been produced since the implementation of the devolution of health and social care services to Greater Manchester and the creation of Tameside and Glossop’s own integrated care organisation.

The report has a particular focus on self-care and is helpful in explaining in detail what that is. Self-care is not just putting a plaster on a cut or taking a paracetamol for a headache, it includes much of what people do on a day to day basis. For example, brushing your teeth, watching what you eat or taking exercise are all considered self-care since they are things that contribute to reducing the risks of developing more serious illnesses further down the line. The report emphasises the importance of taking care of yourself and identifies how easy it is to incorporate self-care activities in to your daily routine.

The benefits to this are twofold. Those who look after their health lead longer, happier lives and by reducing the risk of developing serious illnesses reduce the pressure on the NHS too. Who wouldn’t want to lead a long healthy life and avoid going in to hospital?

Here in Tameside we’re doing all we can to support people to take care of themselves. We’re running a range of initiatives from dementia friends to mental health awareness campaigns. We’re promoting smoking cessation clinics and programmes that help residents reduce their alcohol consumption. And of course, we’re also investing £20m in new and refurbished leisure facilities across the Borough that will make it easier for our residents to get active. Worryingly 33% of Tameside’s population take fewer than 30 minutes of exercise each week, significantly increasing their chances of strokes, heart attacks and type 2 diabetes. By increasing the physical activity rate of Tameside people by just 1% it is estimated that we would reduce the cost of dealing with the consequences of inactivity by £650,000 per year giving us thousands more to spend on other vital public services.

Of course there is always going to be a role for health professionals and medicine, but by choosing the most appropriate way of managing our own health we can ensure that the precious health service and council resources are deployed in the best way towards those with the greatest need.

The public health annual report can be read here.

Posted by: Kieran Quinn

Public protection in Tameside

Friday, 28 October 2016

Public protection in Tameside
Of the hundreds of services that Councils like Tameside provide one of the most important is arguably public protection and safety.

This week the Council held the first in a series of ‘Days of Action’ to tackle the misuse of disabled parking bays, blue badges and other enforcement issues like illegal parking and fly tipping. Deputy Leader Councillor John Taylor joined enforcement officers on Tuesday who issued fixed penalty notices when anybody was caught contravening parking regulations or identified as having dumped rubbish.

I know as a ward Councillor that issues like these are things that the overwhelming majority of residents are keen to see the Council take action on. As well as being irritating and a nuisance illegal parking is dangerous – those restrictions are there for safety reasons – and fly tipping has to be cleaned up, diverting cash from other important services. Some photos and information from the day are on our facebook page here.

This weekend also marks the beginning of winter and the run up to Christmas. With the clocks going back the nights will begin to draw in noticeably sooner. Many families will be planning to celebrate Halloween and Bonfire Night too and Tameside Council and Greater Manchester Police have relaunched operation Treacle to promote safe and responsible celebrations.

Of course most people don’t need to be told how to ensure their Bonfire Night and Halloween parties pass off safely. However unfortunately there are still a minority who prefer to make people’s lives a misery through indulging in anti-social behaviour and criminal damage. Sometimes not paying attention to the proper safety precautions – like misusing fireworks on Bonfire Night and not checking where your children are going and with whom on Halloween – can also turn nights of celebration into nights of tragedy.

The campaign website, www.safe4autumn.com has been updated for this year and includes safety tips for Halloween and phone numbers to report anti-social or criminal behaviour should you need to. You can also download Treacle posters here – these will let people know whether trick or treaters are welcome at your house or not.

When Bonfire Night rolls along, I’d encourage you to attend an organised event. There are plenty to choose from and bound to be one near you. Though if you are holding your own bonfire or firework display, then please make sure you know about bonfire safety guidelines and follow the firework safety code. Every year on Bonfire Night there are hundreds of accidents – some of which involve children and some of which could have been avoided entirely had the proper precautions been taken. It’s always better to be safe than sorry.

Finally, this seems as good an opportunity as any to remind people that the clocks go back this Saturday evening. Remember to change them before you go to bed and spend your extra hour on Sunday well!

Posted by: Kieran Quinn

A Step in the Right Direction.

Wednesday, 26 October 2016

Sports Direct

In the past I have written quite a bit on why, as a country, we need to champion good business. Businesses that care about more than just the bottom line, and are well-run, well-managed, and committed to environmental sustainability and the welfare of their staff. Unfortunately recent events have shown that we are currently far away from that ideal. Not only have we seen individuals get away with deeply immoral actions, we’ve also seen how the weaknesses in our regulations and legislation have allowed a small number of businesses and business owners to commit and prosper from such actions. Sports Direct, BHS, Deliveroo. The list goes on, with massive consequences for businesses and the communities, workers and pensions that depend on them. We can, and should, expect better.

That’s why I think it’s important to note two very positive developments that occurred last week. On Thursday MPs voted to strip Sir Philip Green, the former head of BHS, of his knighthood for his part in the collapse of the company. I’ve written about the scandal of BHS in more detail here, but the key point is that he took a business that had been a permanent fixture on the British high street for decades, and ended up selling it for £1 with a £571 million pension scheme deficit. It should tell you everything you need to know that the vote to strip him of his knighthood ended up passing completely unopposed. While responsibility for actually making any decision rests with the Honours Forfeiture Committee and not Parliament, it nevertheless sends an uncompromising message.

That being said, far more important to me is that he commits to paying his fair share of tax and reimbursing the BHS pension fund for every single penny of the deficit he inflicted on it. If he does that I’m really not that bothered whether he remains Sir Philip Green or is forced back to being plain old Mr Philip Green. We also need to be careful about falling into the old trap of pinning the blame for all the problems and failures we face onto one man, and ignoring the fact that the system that allowed him to get away with his actions must also take a large share of the responsibility. As long as the rules of the game remain the same, there will always be another Sir Philip Green waiting in the wings.

Changing the rules of the game brings me to the second piece of news, which is that HM Revenue and Customs have set up an “Employment Status and Intermediaries Scheme” that will react to complaints and investigate companies that have declared a high amount of self-employed workers. I cannot welcome this enough. 1 in 7 people in Britain are now self-employed. This is a genuine and rewarding way of making a living for many, but for many others it is little more than an excuse for big companies to avoid their duties and obligations in terms of things like sick pay, holiday pay, the minimum wage and pensions. If this increase in self-employment is here to stay, and I think it is, then reforming our laws and regulations to make sure that nobody risks falling in between the cracks is an urgent priority.

Our economy and society is changing in ways and at a pace that none of us could have foreseen. It falls to government, at all levels, to keep pace with those changes and make sure that no one is left behind. There is undoubtedly more that needs to be done, but by ensuring that the few are held responsible for their actions and defending the many from exploitation, we have taken a few steps towards building the better and fairer Britain that we all want to see.

Posted by: Kieran Quinn

A Wake-Up Call on Decent Housing

Friday, 21 October 2016

A Wake-Up Call on Decent Housing

Britain has a housing crisis. That isn’t the first time I’ve said that or something similar on this blog, and unfortunately it almost certainly won’t be the last time either. Much of the debate about this housing crisis is often tied up in homelessness or the lack of houses being built, and while they are incredibly important issues, focusing on them exclusively risks losing sight of a wider, deeper problem. Much in the same way that many of those in poverty are also in work, many of those who suffer the consequences of Britain’s housing crisis have a roof over their head.

It’s a problem that has been laid bare by Shelter. Just in time for their 50th birthday, the national housing charity has released a report on what they term the “Living Home Standard”. Working with market research company Ipsos Mori, Shelter have used discussion groups, surveys and workshop to ask the British public, the men and women on the street, what matters to them when it comes to owning and renting a home. The result is a fair but comprehensive set of 39 criteria that must be met in order to provide an acceptable home that secure the occupant’s well-being, broken down into five categories; affordability, decent conditions, space, stability and a good neighbourhood.

Now the bad news. By Shelter’s estimates, 43% of people in Britain do not live in a home that meets those standards. Of those 43%, just over a quarter failed on affordability, almost a fifth failed to meet the standard for decent conditions (including pests, dampness and safety hazards) and one out of every ten renters were struggling on insecure, short-term tenancies that allowed them no room to plan for the future. Think about that for a moment. If 43% of people in Britain couldn’t get enough food, or if the unemployment or poverty rate was 43%, there would be an uproar and rightly so. Yet we still continue to allow so many people in Britain to be failed when it comes to one of the most basic of needs, the need for decent housing.

It’s not just the numbers as well. The report brings together harrowing stories about just what it means to those 43% living in substandard accommodation. From the single mother with two children living in a one-bedroom flat, to the woman whose house was so riddled with mould that the furniture literally fell apart around her, and the man who couldn’t afford to buy a birthday present for his son after the month’s rent had gone out. They have all paid the price for our country’s negligence in making sure that housing is available for those who need it. There may be someone close to you in a similar situation, or perhaps you yourself are in that situation. Don’t you think there has to be a better way?

In Tameside, we think there is. That’s why we’re working with private landlords on the issues that matter to them and to tenants. That’s why we’re doing our bit to help build the 250,000 homes a year we know need to be built just to keep up with demand nationwide. That’s why we’ll continue to bang the drum for rental contracts that give security and flexibility to both landlords and tenants. Although the statistics and the stories paint a dark picture indeed, I believe that real and positive change is possible if we work together and leave no stone unturned in pursuit of our goals. The alternative is more of the same, and that is not something that any of us should live with or accept.

Posted by: Kieran Quinn

Does Domestic Abuse Sit Right With You?

Wednesday, 19 October 2016

Does Domestic Abuse Sit Right With You?

Some readers of this blog may think that’s it’s not for organisations like the Council to involve ourselves with family matters – it’s none of our business, right? On some issues that view would be very wide of the mark. One such matter is that of domestic abuse.

Domestic abuse within relationships has such a profound impact on so many areas of life and wider society that tackling it is arguably everybody’s business. That’s why Tameside Council has joined the office of the Police and Crime Commissioner and Greater Manchester Police in launching a ground breaking campaign, ‘Sitting Right with You’.

For readers still sceptical about whether this is truly an issue that warrants the spending of precious Council resources, some figures; one in three women and one in six men experience some form of domestic abuse. This isn’t necessarily physical violence but can include controlling what somebody wears, their money, where they go and who they talk to. The witnessing of domestic abuse by children is also considered a form of child abuse, affecting a child’s social and emotional development.

The ‘Sitting Right with You’ campaign a yellow sofa accompanied by challenging messages. These hope to get people to think differently about what domestic abuse is and encouraging victims to take that first step and ask for help. Messages such as ‘he checks my phone all the time’, ‘she has control over my bank accounts’, and ‘I can go out with friends when he says it’s ok’, encourage people to think differently about what makes a healthy relationship.

To support the campaign the Council have compiled a case study of a local woman who herself was a victim of domestic abuse. Reading the truly harrowing account of the abuse she suffered over a number of years you may be wondering why she didn’t seek help sooner. That would underestimate how difficult it is for victims of domestic abuse to come forward, something that this campaign hopes to make easier.

Finally it’s only fair to acknowledge that Greater Manchester Police have long tackled domestic abuse and worked to raise awareness of the help available to victims. Their Operation Scratch, a month of action aimed at finding people wanted for domestic abuse offences, educating people on coercive and controlling behaviour and encouraging people to come forward, led to the arrest of more than 700 people over four weeks. I am confident that this latest campaign will support their ongoing efforts and make a serious dent in the occurrence of domestic abuse across Greater Manchester.

The yellow sofa will be travelling around Greater Manchester over the next few weeks, encouraging local people to talk about domestic abuse and get help and support if they need it.

If you or someone you care about has been affected by domestic abuse, contact the Greater Manchester domestic abuse helpline on 0161 636 7525.

Posted by: Kieran Quinn

Life on the Line in Greater Manchester

Friday, 14 October 2016

Life on the Line in Greater Manchester

Often on this blog I provide readers with a lot of numbers and statistics about issues affecting Tameside, ranging from local events to national stories and everything in between. While I find data valuable for explaining and justifying the council’s views and decisions, I do appreciate that if it is presented with no context or explanation it can make things hard to digest and follow. That’s why using statistics and numbers presented in a way that everybody can relate to can be such a powerful tool for explaining some of the big issues we face in Tameside.

The University of Manchester have recently provided an excellent example of just this with their research of life expectancy and healthy life expectancy in Greater Manchester. The research combines data from the Office of National Statistics and the Index of Deprivation to map life expectancy (how long you can expect to live) and healthy life expectency (how long you can expect to live without serious health problems) to the city’s Metrolink stops.

It is information we should be paying attention to. In the last two centuries we have seen a massive increase in life expectancy across England and Wales. If you were born in 1851 you could expect to live for only 41 years on average, but 150 or so years later that figure has almost doubled to 79.5 years for men and 82.3 years for women. Access to clean food and water, better medical care and a decline in child mortality have all contributed to this, but that doesn’t mean that we can sit on our laurels. There remain serious inequalities between economically deprived areas and more prosperous areas when it comes to life expectancy. Men and women in Manchester aged 65 today can expect live a further 15.9 years and 18.8 years respectively, but in some of the richer parts of London those numbers go up to 21.6 years for men (Kensington and Chelsea) and 24.6 years for women (Camden).

There are significant differences even within Greater Manchester as well. If you’re female and live near the Sale, Whitefield or Milnrow Metrolink stops your life expectancy can be as high as 82 years. That drops to 73 if you live near to the Clayton Hall stop. Men in Timperley and Whitefield have the longest life expectancies at 78 years, but that plummets to 66 years for men in Rochdale Town Centre barely 26 miles away (To put it into perspective, that’s a year for every 7 minutes of transport time). Even within Tameside there is a 4 year gap in life expectancy between men in Audenshaw (73) and Ashton Moss (69), although that gap shrinks to a year amongst women (79 in Audenshaw and 78 in Ashton-under-Lyne).

Last year Greater Manchester became the first region in England to be handed control of £6 billion of health and social care spending from central government. Using these new powers to address the health inequalities in our region must rank as one of our highest priorities. We’ve recently received £23.2 million in transformation funding for our Care Together programme, and we’ll be making use good of that money to supercharge our ambitions to bring healthy life expectancy in our area up to at least the English average. If we’re going to achieve this we need to look beyond just the provision of health services and sanitation (important as that is) and into how factors like people’s jobs, the environment which they live in and their social interaction (or lack of) can affect their health for good or ill. Doing this is a challenge that nobody has attempted to meet on this scale before. I firmly believe that we are blazing a path that the rest of the country will soon be following, but I also know that we have only taken the first few steps on what will be a very long journey. Let’s face the tasks and make the changes we need to together.

Posted by: Kieran Quinn

Time for Parliament to Look North?

Wednesday, 12 October 2016

Time for Parliament to Look North?

Parliament is literally falling apart.

That’s not hyperbole, that’s the hard truth given to us by the Joint Committee on the Palace of Westminster, which was tasked by the government to consider the options for restoration and renewal of the historical home of British democracy. Their report, delivered last month, estimated that at least £4 billion would be required to bring the Palace up to modern standards and prevent “an impending crisis which we cannot responsibly ignore” such as a major fire or a succession of failures that could render the building completely unusable. Even if you discount that worst-case scenario, the argument can definitely be made that the building is no longer fit for purpose in its current state. The roof leaks, the limestone is crumbling away and the walls are stuffed full of asbestos. There aren’t enough toilets for women and disabled people, but there’s a 25-yard shooting range in the House of Lords basement.

The preferred option of the Committee is to move Parliament out of Westminster for up to six years while repairs are made, with the Department of Health building in Whitehall and the Queen Elizabeth Conference Centre on the other side of Parliament Square suggested as alternative venues for the House of Commons and House of Lords respectively. Any move is unlikely to happen before 2020 at the very earliest, but I’d like to take the opportunity to suggest a different solution. Move the entire Parliament out of London and into Greater Manchester for the duration of the repairs, if not longer.

It’s no secret that in this country there is an economic gulf between the North and the South, with negative effects for both parts of the country. While people in the North are starved of investment and high-quality jobs, people in the South face appalling costs of living due to an overheated housing market. Moving Parliament to Greater Manchester would help address both of these issues. At a stroke, a vast area of central London would be open for redevelopment, thousands of new public and private sector jobs would be created in Greater Manchester and the wider North, and businesses and the government would have another reason to look beyond the M25 ring road when it comes to making their investment decisions.

Furthermore, we have clear evidence from both the public and private sector that such an arrangement can work. It’s estimated that the BBC’s move to Salford Quays boosted the UK’s economy by £277m a year and increased the volume of productions made in the North from 5% in 2010 to 30.6% by 2014. 70% of London’s tech SMEs, the companies that will power the economies of the future, have reported that they are struggling to grow or expand in the city due to the costs of living and doing businesses there. Last year HSBC moved its head office and 1,000 staff for its retail and business lending operations out of London to Birmingham, and Deutsche Bank’s expansion in the same city appears to have reaped rich rewards as well. Public or private, big or small, London is no longer seen as the place you have to be in. Why shouldn’t it be the same for the highest levels of government as well?

We’ve reached the point where just about everybody, no matter where they are in the political spectrum, agrees that our nation’s relentless focus on London as the centre of everything cannot be allowed to continue. Moving Parliament would be the boldest of bold statements, turning words into radical action. The economic rationale is clear. The opportunity has presented itself. All that is lacking is the political will to make it happen.

Posted by: Kieran Quinn

Solving the Productivity Puzzle

Friday, 07 October 2016

Solving the Productivity Puzzle
If you follow economic or financial news you might have heard the word “productivity” being thrown around quite a bit, usually in a negative sense. Newspapers and publications of every side of the political spectrum have had headlines about the UK’s productivity crisis, from The Guardian’s “Stunted Growth: The Mystery of the UK’s Productivity Crisis” in April this year to The Telegraph’s “Never Mind Benefits, the Problem is UK Productivity” the month before. Well, for once, the headlines are spot on. We do have a productivity crisis, and today I want to explain what that means and why we should be worried about it.

Put simply, productivity is a measure of how well an economy turns inputs such as labour and capital into outputs like revenue, products and services. A high level of productivity means that you can create more stuff with less work/investment, which translates into greater levels of profit for businesses, better wages for employees and higher growth for the economy as a whole. Of course, a low level of productivity causes the opposite.

Historically, UK productivity has typically grown at a steady rate of around 2% a year. Since the 2008 Financial Crisis it has flat lined entirely, to the extent that the latest figures from the Office for Budget Responsibility show an increase in productivity of only 0.1% in eight years. Our productivity now lacks so far behind the likes of France and Germany that workers in those countries can finish on Thursday afternoon what it would take an average British worker until Friday to do.

The picture looks even worse when you break it down to a city-by-city level. Only six of the UK’s 62 cities are more productive than the European average, and five of them are either London or satellites of London (Reading, Milton Keynes, Aldershot and Slough). The odd one out is oil-rich Aberdeen. 38 out of the 62 are not only below average, they’re in the bottom quarter of the table. Productivity in Manchester is 35% lower than in Hamburg, despite the two cities having very similar economies.

We’ve reached this point due to 30 years of economic, social and political decisions from Westminster that have benefitted London and the South East at the expense of the rest of the country, decisions that have been made “to us” instead of “with us”. We lag badly behind when it comes to developing skills and talents; more than ¾ of UK cities are below the European average when it comes to proportions of high-skilled residents. We need massive levels of investment in transport infrastructure outside London to both get goods and services to where they need to be and to increase the size of the pool of employees that businesses can recruit from. We need to encourage, by any means necessary, banks to lend money to the small and medium-sized businesses that could potentially create the next generation of innovative products and services. This is precisely why devolution is so important; it will give us the freedom (and indeed, the responsibility) to meet these challenges head on, delivering Greater Manchester solutions for Greater Manchester issues.

We’re already doing some of this in Tameside and Greater Manchester through skill-boosting projects such as Vision Tameside and infrastructure improvements like electrification of the North West railways, setting up superfast broadband and building the Tameside Interchange. But let’s not kid ourselves; more needs to be done. If we want to continue to be taken seriously as a major economic power outside of the EU, we need to solve Greater Manchester and Britain’s productivity puzzle sooner rather than later.

Posted by: Kieran Quinn

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