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Executive Leader Cllr Brenda Warrington

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Councillor Brenda Warrington, Executive Leader of Tameside Council

Archive for December 2020

After a Year of Uncertainty, a Year of Renewal

Tuesday, 22 December 2020



On behalf of Tameside Council I would like to take the opportunity to wish you all, as much as possible in the current circumstances, a Happy Christmas and a Joyful New Year.

It’s fair to say that 2020 has been as far from run-of-the-mill as you could get. This time last year as we were all preparing to celebrate Christmas, none of us could have possibly anticipated what was in store for us in the months ahead. By the end of March, the country was put into lockdown and our entire way of life had been rendered unrecognisable. Nine months on there are reasons to be optimistic that the coronavirus vaccine, when fully rolled out, may help us take the steps to safely move into a post-pandemic world. However at the same time the news of the emergence of a more-contagious variant of the virus in the South East of England, combined with even stricter lockdown restrictions and a curtailing of the previously announced Christmas easing measures, shows that we are unfortunately not out of the woods yet. So please, whatever you choose to do (or not do) over the Christmas period, make sure you take the necessary steps to protect yourself and those around you at this critical time for our country.

Despite the uncertainties and difficulties we all faced this year, one constant light in the darkness has been the way our communities have rallied together. It shone through as residents from every possible background and profession gave up their own time to organise and deliver emergency food, medicine and other supplies to those most in need. It shone through as our incredible key workers in the NHS not only left no stone unturned to provide medical help to people with severe coronavirus symptoms, but as I write this are now going above and beyond to roll out the new vaccine as quickly and effectively as possible. It shone through in the council officers who have gone to work every day to do the unglamorous but vital jobs like collecting bins and helping the elderly and vulnerable live in dignity and comfort in their own homes. If there is one good thing to have come from this pandemic, it is that we now know the true power of our communities in the face of adversity. Whatever the next year brings, we know that we will never stop fighting for the place that we all call home.

 

I think it’s important to note as well that, despite the coronavirus pandemic dominating the year, in 2020 we bore witness to progress for Tameside in a number of other ways. Just before the lockdown began we celebrated the completion of the Denton Wellness Centre, the crown jewel of our long-running £20 million investment in leisure facilities in Tameside. While the events of the past nine months have meant that we’ve not gotten as much use out of it as we would’ve liked, I have no doubt that it will play a vital role after the pandemic to help residents take control of their own health. Later in the summer we also welcomed the opening of the Ashton-under-Lyne Interchange, which even now is supporting our commitments to unlock greater economic prosperity, increase employment opportunities and transform learning and skills by revolutionising our local transport infrastructure. It was also a year of achievement for our public services, as a number of organisations including Tameside Council, Tameside & Glossop NHS Clinical Commissioning Group and the Greater Manchester Pension Fund were either shortlisted for or won no less than 37 regional and national awards. Despite the difficult circumstances we’re all facing, we have continued to deliver for our residents and service users. 

My thanks go out to everybody who has rallied around this year to support Tameside in its time of need. Please do what you can to enjoy yourself and stay safe over the Christmas holidays, and when we return I hope it will not be too long before we can finally be reunited with our friends, families and colleagues. After a year of crisis and uncertainty in 2020, let’s make 2021 a year of renewal as we begin to build back better.

Posted by: Executive Leader


A New Breakthrough Against Coronavirus

Friday, 18 December 2020

I’m delighted to be able to start this week’s blog with some excellent news about our struggle against the coronavirus pandemic.

On Wednesday morning the first Tameside residents began to receive doses of the new vaccine. Since supplies are still limited, we have focused as per advice from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation on those who are the most vulnerable to severe complications from the virus. Two of the first in line were Mary, 80, from Dukinfield and Brian, 84, from Hyde. Both praised our NHS and key workers and said that receiving the vaccine will make them more confident in going out and starting to live their lives again.

 

We now intend to roll out the vaccine to the very elderly, frontline health and social care workers and those with underlying health conditions, and I promise that we will keep you updated on how that process is going every step of the way. That being said, even with our incredible health and social care staff working as hard as they can to get the vaccine out as quickly as possible, in the here and now we still need to continue protecting ourselves and those around us.

We were given a reminder of this yesterday as it was confirmed that Greater Manchester would remain in Tier 3 of coronavirus restrictions. I know this is disappointing for many people. However, the latest data from the Department of Health and Social Care suggests that while infection rates in Greater Manchester have fallen considerably, they may now be plateauing or even increasing slightly. With a week to go until Christmas and the possibility of a spike in cases due to people moving around for the holidays, I accept that it may be best to err on the side of caution for the moment.

That being said I still believe that much of the financial support offered by the government, especially for businesses and the self-employed, remains woefully inadequate. This is particularly true in Greater Manchester since we have been under relatively more severe coronavirus restrictions than the rest of the country for a far longer period of time. I also believe that we must look at increasing the help available for people who have been told to self-isolate, as many have reported that the £500 payment currently available is insufficient to prevent financial hardship. There are concerns as well that parents on low incomes whose children have been asked to self-isolate are not eligible for payments as the criteria currently stands. This has been addressed in Scotland and Wales by their devolved governments, but no such change has been made in England so far. Forcing people to choose between following the law and putting food on the table will only undermine our ability to control the spread of coronavirus at this most critical time.

 

The weeks running up to and immediately after Christmas are when I normally also ask residents to keep an eye on neighbours or relatives who may be elderly and vulnerable, and this year is no different. While coronavirus is unquestionably the gravest public health challenge we face at the moment, cold and loneliness can bring their own dangers too. Something as simple as a socially-distanced knock on the door or a phone call to check that they are okay could make all the difference.

While we still have some way to go until we can all put this terrible pandemic behind us, I am confident when I say that it’s now possible to see the light at the end of the tunnel. Despite the sacrifices we have all had to make over the past nine months, we have proven beyond any doubt the resilience of Tameside and our communities. I know that it is this resilience that will carry us to the end of the pandemic, and drive us to build back a better future for all of us.   

 

Posted by: Executive Leader


Christmas Celebrations and Charity in Tameside

Thursday, 10 December 2020

As we enter the final weeks of 2020 it has unfortunately become clear that, because of the coronavirus pandemic and ongoing local restrictions, our usual Christmas celebrations will not be taking place in Tameside this year. But while we may not be able to gather together, we’re still making a special effort to spread some festive cheer.

One of the highlights of our Christmas events has always been the light switch-ons in all our towns, which culminates with the famous Lantern Parade. In its place for this year, our Cultural Services have put together a magical celebration of music, dancing and crafts based on the 12 Days of Christmas. Every town has been given its own theme, and once every day from 1st December videos have been posted on the council’s Facebook and YouTube channels highlighting the creativity of Tameside’s residents.

So far we’ve seen the primary school children of Hyde and Hattersley help with the creation of a “Partridge in a Pear Tree” art installation, and what happened when we invited residents in Dukinfield to make their own crochet French Hens. More than 600 people have gotten involved with the project, and the finishing touches will be added by putting a tree with lights in every town and the illumination of some of most prominent civic buildings.  

Carol singing is perhaps the most loved Christmas tradition around the world, which is why the Tameside Music Service has also worked closely with our community engagement team and local charity The Sylvia Swiffin Trust to organise the Big Christmas Sing. The event aims to invite residents to listen and sing along to a carol concert recorded by our talented local schoolchildren and students. I hope it will give us all the opportunity to spread some seasonal cheer while continuing to protect ourselves and others. The Big Christmas Sing will be broadcast on Tameside Radio at 103.6FM on Sunday 13 December at 3pm, and song sheets have been distributed throughout the borough, particularly to those in hospitals, care homes and others who may feel especially isolated.

 

As always during the Christmas period, our thoughts should turn to those who are less fortunate than us. In 2020 this has become more important than ever. So many in Tameside and the UK as a whole continue to suffer the consequences of the terrible coronavirus pandemic, whether directly because of ill health or indirectly through the grave economic fallout.

There is still time to donate to Action Together’s annual Tameside Toy Appeal, which brings Christmas gifts and magic to local children and young people living in poverty. An incredible 2,000 toys have been donated so far, and if you want to contribute before the deadline tomorrow you can do so by either sending money through our JustGiving page, or by dropping off new and unused toys and gifts at any of our children’s centre, the ASDA in Ashton or one of the community drop-off points, the locations of which can be found here.

 

We’re also supporting Active Tameside’s “The Great Christmas Takeaway” campaign, which has set out to make sure that nobody in the borough goes without a meal in the run-up to Christmas Day. Options include chicken curry and rice, mince and vegetable hotpot, and vegetarian or vegan pasta, and families with children will also be given a Christmas selection box. All meals will be freshly prepared and delivered cold in microwavable containers for hygiene reasons, and deliveries will be made from 21-23 December by Active Tameside’s volunteering staff members.  The deadline for applications is 18 December, so please make sure you go onto Active Tameside’s website here to make sure you don’t miss out. 

There’s absolutely no doubt that 2020 has been the most difficult year that many of us have ever faced. So much of what we have took for granted has been thrown into turmoil and uncertainty, but amidst all of this we’ve taken hope from the resilience and solidarity shown by our key workers and communities. Let’s work together one last time this year to make sure that nobody, whoever or wherever they are, feels left behind in Tameside this Christmas.

 

Posted by: Executive Leader


Stay Safe from Coronavirus This Winter

Wednesday, 02 December 2020

Now that we have come to the end of the second national lockdown, Tameside (along with the rest of Greater Manchester) has been placed in the highest tier of local coronavirus restrictions.
 

The complete list of rules can be found here, but the key points include; you must not meet socially indoors or in most outdoor places with anybody you do not live with or who is not in your support bubble. Hospitality settings such as bars, pubs, cafes and restaurants will remain closed, although they will be allowed to continue sales through takeaways, click-and-collect- drive-through or delivery services. The guidance also encourages people to avoid travelling to other parts of the country unless absolutely necessary, and that everyone who can work from home should do so.

The current decisions on tiers will be reviewed every two weeks, which means that the earliest Tameside and Greater Manchester will be able to move out of Tier 3 restrictions is 16 December. Our infection rate as of 25 November was 249.4 cases per 100,000, a significant fall of 37% from our rate last week. A number of areas in Greater Manchester, such as Stockport and Trafford, are also below the England average for infection rates. I therefore agree with the Mayor of Greater Manchester Andy Burnham that we have a very strong case to move out of Tier 3 at the earliest opportunity, and we will be lobbying the government to make the right decision. I hope they listen to us with more consideration and respect than they did the last time we stood up for our city region.   

 

From 23 – 27 December there will also be further guidance introduced to allow families from across the UK to meet over Christmas. This will allow people from up to three separate households to come together as a “bubble” that can meet indoors and stay overnight. You can only be in one bubble and the people in this bubble cannot be changed, but you are allowed to travel between different parts of the UK to meet up with each other. Tameside has had to follow some of the tightest restrictions for a longer period than most, and I know that being able to see some family for Christmas will be so important to many people who have suffered from loneliness and isolation over the past few months. That being said, I must remind people that the coronavirus pandemic is still with us, and to continue acting sensibly and taking the necessary precautions to have an enjoyable and safe Christmas.

My views on tiered lockdown measures remain unchanged. I still believe that, instead of a heavy-handed, top-down approach, the government should work closely with councils and Directors of Public Health to build a response based on sound local knowledge. I also continue to have significant concerns about the support available for individuals and businesses, many of whom have suffered terribly through the pandemic and are unfortunately likely to face more hardship before this is over. The current situation sees Tier 3 areas receive the same support as those in Tiers 1 and 2, and the £1.1 billion of Additional Restrictions Grant funding is based on a formula of £20 per head of population rather than the number of affected firms in an area – a decision which leaves urban areas such as Greater Manchester where businesses are densely packed together significantly worse off. We have also yet to hear the details about what the announced rollout of mass testing will look like in practice, and whether it will give areas such as Tameside a roadmap out of lockdown entirely.

With the announcement of progress being made on a number of vaccines, I hope that we may be finally reaching the beginning of the end of this terrible pandemic. However, even the best possible scenario shows that we will be living with the coronavirus for many months to come. Now more than ever, we need to do what we must to protect ourselves and others, and we need the right support from the government to help make it happen.

 

Posted by: Executive Leader


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