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Executive Leader Cllr Brenda Warrington

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Councillor Brenda Warrington, Executive Leader of Tameside Council

Archive for December 2021

Have A Fun and Safe Christmas

Wednesday, 22 December 2021


On behalf of Tameside Council I would like to take the opportunity to wish you all a Happy Christmas and a Joyful New Year.

Unfortunately, it appears that this Christmas will take place in the shadow of the Omicron variant of coronavirus. Rising infection rates across the country means that the government has rolled out a number of new protective measures, and is not ruling out taking further action if the NHS is put under significant strain. As you celebrate the festive period with friends and family, please do everything you can to continue protecting yourselves and those around you.

That being said, thanks to your combined efforts and sacrifice we have come a long way from the dark days of full lockdowns at the beginning of the pandemic. On the 16 December, we celebrated the anniversary of the first coronavirus vaccine being used in Tameside and Glossop. In the year since, an army of health staff and volunteers have pulled out all the stops to deliver over 400,000 jabs, covering both first and second vaccinations and the latest wave of booster injections. This work included the setting up, almost overnight, of five major vaccine hubs in the borough as well as pop-up and walk-in clinics and mobile vaccination vans and buses. Complementing this were our health experts, Covid Ambassadors and Community Champions who did everything in their power to spread awareness and bust myths about vaccinations, and advise residents in how to make the right choices to keep themselves and other safe. Every single person involved, in whatever capacity, has done an incredible job and it is no exaggeration to say that their speed, efficiency and care has help to save hundreds of lives. Thank you too to everybody who has played their part by getting their jab, and for those who have not yet, please remember that it is never too late to get vaccinated.

 

But staying safe over the Christmas period doesn’t just involve protecting ourselves and others from coronavirus. During the winter months it becomes even more important to make sure that the vulnerable in our communities are living in safety and comfort. While still being aware of coronavirus guidance and restrictions, please keep an eye out on neighbours, family and friends who may be at risk. Even a quick phone call or arranging to get them some shopping could make all the difference.

In that vein, I would ask you to also keep in your thoughts the people for whom Christmas is just another day on the job. As well as our health and social care workers, a number of other amazing professionals including our police, fire and rescue services and armed forces will still be putting the work in to ensure that the vital services which we all depend on are kept ready and able to respond to any emergencies.

Looking beyond the pandemic to reflect on this year as a whole, I’m proud of what we have achieved in the face of very difficult circumstances. With our focus on Inclusive Growth we have set a strong platform for recovery and renewal in 2022, and many of our residents are already benefitting from the completion of projects such as Droylsden Library, Hyde Pool and the improved economic and cultural offer being delivered by our markets. Through the launch of the Tameside Poverty Truth Commission in November, we are also taking steps to ensure that our plans for improvement and growth make a real difference to the lives of those who need it the most. In the face of the coronavirus and the cost of living crisis, our communities have rallied and proven that our ambitions for the place we all call home burn as fiercely as ever.

My thanks go out to everybody this year who has held the pandemic at bay and made our moments of success possible. Let’s enjoy our Christmas holidays, and prepare to embark once again in 2022 on our mission to build a Tameside we can all be proud of.

 

Posted by: Executive Leader


Looking After Others This Christmas

Friday, 17 December 2021

Before I start this week’s blog, it gives me no pleasure to report that the fears about the new “Omicron” variant of coronavirus appear to have been well-founded. As of Friday last week infection rates were on the increase everywhere in Greater Manchester, including Tameside.

In response the government has passed a series of new measures to combat the spread of this new strain. Face coverings are now mandatory in all public indoor venues, with the exception of hospitality like restaurants and pubs, and you are advised to work from home if at all possible until further notice. In addition an NHS Covid Pass will now be required for entry into nightclubs or other large settings, using a negative lateral flow test or proof of full vaccination via the NHS Covid App. I know this is not the situation any of us wished to face so close to Christmas, but until we get to grips with this latest challenge, please wear your facemask, get your vaccinations, and do your best to protect yourself and those around you.

 

While for some of us the run-up to Christmas is a time to relax with friends and family and reflect on the year gone by, the unfortunate fact is that for an increasing number of people in Tameside and the wider country the reality at Christmas is one of hunger, poverty and want. The government has chosen to end a number of programmes that supported people through the pandemic, including the furlough scheme and the £20 uplift to Universal Credit. This has also been exacerbated by increases in fuel poverty, food insecurity and financial instability as a result of the new cost of living crisis. A number of organisations and charities, including the Childhood Trust and the Resolution Foundation, have already sounded the alarm that this winter is likely to be the hardest in decades for many individuals, children and families.

It’s for this reason that we’ve asked Tameside residents to support, if they can, a number of charity schemes to ensure that no family in the borough goes hungry or without a present this Christmas. The first of these is the Tameside Toy Appeal. Organised by local charity network Action Together, for the past several years they have worked tirelessly to gather and distribute age-appropriate toys for babies, children and young people aged 0-18 living in poverty across Tameside. Despite taking place during the height of the coronavirus pandemic, in 2020 the Tameside Toy Appeal and its army of volunteer donation elves and sleigh riders succeeded in collecting well over 10,000 toys, and I’ve got no reason to doubt that they’ll be able to break that record this year.

 

The other charity I want to highlight is The Bread and Butter Thing, an initiative that works in partnership with Tameside Council and local voluntary organisations to tackle poverty and reduce waste by distributing surplus food at a heavily reduced price. Anyone can sign up to become a member of The Bread and Butter Thing, and by paying £7.50 they will receive approximately £35 of store cupboard staples and fresh food, including fruit and vegetables. This means that, even on a tight budget, parents will be able to provide their families with a nutritious, varied and high-quality diet. From humble beginnings, and thanks to the dedication of over 300 volunteers, The Bread and Butter Thing has now expanded to open food hubs in Droylsden, Haughton Green, Stalybridge, Hattersley and Ashton-under-Lyne.
 
I’ve said before that the existence of high levels of poverty and large numbers of food banks in one of the richest economies in the world is nothing short of a national disgrace, and I look forward to the day when there will be no need for me to write a blog like this. Until then however, there are families in Tameside that need our support here and now. As we have done consistently over the past two years, let’s rally together to make sure that everybody has something to celebrate this Christmas.
 

Posted by: Executive Leader


Reflecting on 2021. Looking ahead to 2022.

Friday, 10 December 2021

This Tuesday we held the final meeting of Full Council for this year in Dukinfield Town Hall. As 2021 draws to a close, it gave us the opportunity to reflect on a momentous and eventful period for Tameside as well as look forward to what we want to achieve in 2022.

2021 began with us very much in the eye of the storm of the coronavirus pandemic. Our first priority was to roll out newly-developed vaccines to as many residents as possible as quickly as possible, while ensuring that we continued to all protect ourselves and those around us. Drawing together the expertise of our local public, private, voluntary and community organisations we developed a vaccination programme, including a “drive through” site in Hyde, which exceeded the Greater Manchester average for both first and second doses delivered and won a shortlisting at the prestigious LGC Awards. Over 250 residents also signed up to be Community Champions, with responsibilities to give accurate information to and receive feedback from our communities about social distancing measures, vaccinations and other areas of public health and safety.

This year was also when we committed wholeheartedly to a policy of Inclusive Growth for Tameside, with opportunities created for all and the benefits of prosperity fairly distributed to all. The single largest area where we’re striving to make this ambition a reality is in the Godley Green Garden Village, the outline planning permission for which is now available for public viewing and comment on our website here. However, this year also saw the completion of a number of other projects to drive inclusive growth in Tameside, including the relocation of Droyslden Library to Guardsman Tony Downes House, the opening of the state-of-the-art pool facility in Hyde, and the second phase of the Ashton Old Baths redevelopment. We also began efforts to revive our town centres economically and culturally through the introduction of regular events such as the Ashton Artisan Market, Stalybridge Street Feast and seasonal celebrations like the spectacular Winter Parade held in Hyde last month.

Our priorities for 2022 were laid out in detail at the meeting as well. Working closely with the Greater Manchester Combined Authority and other local authorities in the city region, we’ll move the green transport revolution forward by introducing the GM Clean Air Zone, continuing to invest and expand in the Bee Network of cycling and walking infrastructure, and taking back control of our bus services.  2022 will also see us deliver on the next phase of Inclusive Growth, with the biggest projects being the creation of a modern and tailored employment hub in the St Petersfield area of Ashton, the formal adoption of a Tameside-wide Housing Strategy, and investing up to £20 million in Ashton town centre, including the long-overdue restoration of the town hall. Side-by-side with these long term ambitions, we must also not lose sight of the obligation we have to make our resident’s lives better today. To this end, I intend for us to work closely with the new GMP Chief Constable, Stephen Watson to ensure that everybody in Tameside can live free from crime and abuse, as well as continue to listen to the recently established Tameside Poverty Truth Commission to understand and address the needs and concerns of those who live at the very margins of our communities.

Tuesday evening also saw us discuss a motion, moved by Councillor Allison Gwynne, calling on United Utilities and the Environment Agency to account for their failure to prevent ongoing pollution of the River Tame. A recent article in The Times highlighted that the river suffers from the highest microplastic contamination in the world due to the discharge of raw sewage into the water. United Utilities have been identified as one of the most frequent and prolific offenders, and an underfunded Environment Agency has so far been ineffective in enforcing national laws and regulations against privatised water companies. This is not a situation that we are happy to let continue, and the motion compels the organisations responsible to take the lead in addressing it as an urgent priority.

While it seems inevitable that 2021 will be remembered as a year dominated by coronavirus, Tuesday’s meeting ended with us resolving to ensure that 2022 is remembered as a year of transformation. Not just transformation for the better, but transformation for every resident and community in Tameside. Through a relentless focus on fostering inclusive growth, building safe and welcoming communities, and making a difference in the climate crisis, we will pave the road towards a fairer, better and greener future.

Posted by: Executive Leader


Get Ready Now for the GM Clean Air Zone

Friday, 03 December 2021

As you may already be aware, the emergence of the new “Omicron” variant of coronavirus has led the government to announce the reintroduction of protective measures starting from this week.

Face masks are once again compulsory in shops and on public transport, with pupils, staff and visitors in education and childcare settings also strongly advised to wear them in communal areas. All contacts of suspected Omicron cases will be notified by NHS Test and Trace, and required to self-isolate for 10 days regardless of whether they have been vaccinated or not. In addition, anyone entering the UK will now have to take a PCR test within 48 hours of arrival and self-isolate until they return a negative result. Booster jabs, which were previously available for adults over 40, will also now be offered to all adults by the end of January and second vaccination doses rolled out to children aged 12-15.

 

I know this is not the situation any of us wished to face so close to Christmas, but there are concerns among scientists that this new Omicron variant has the potential to be both more infectious and less responsive to vaccines than anything we have encountered so far. Until we know exactly what we’re dealing with, please wear your facemask, get your vaccinations, and do your best to protect yourself and those around you.

This is not the only major piece health related news to come out this week. After a consultation last year and an official signing off by all ten Leaders of the Greater Manchester councils in the summer, the finalised GM Clean Air Plan will officially come into effect on 30 May 2022.

The details of the plan have been discussed previously on this blog, but to briefly recap; the Plan will create a GM-wide Clean Air Zone (CAZ) to reduce the level of nitrogen dioxide (NO2), an air pollutant emitted by vehicle exhausts, on our local roads to within the legal limit by 2024 at the very latest. Not only will this help us play our part in protecting our shared environment, it is estimated that it will prevent the premature deaths of at least 1,200 people a year in the city region.

However, unlike with similar schemes in other cities, the CAZ is not a congestion charge. Only the most polluting commercial vehicles on our most polluted roads will be required to pay, and as of last Tuesday a Financial Support Scheme is now available to help owners upgrade to more modern and less polluting alternatives. The process is simple. Once you visit the GM Clean Air website here you will be asked a series of simple questions that will help you find out if your vehicle is subject to the CAZ charge, whether you might be eligible for an exemption or funding support, and any other relevant information.

 

At the moment the Financial Support Scheme is only available to HGV owners, as these vehicles will be subject to charges as soon as the CAZ launches next year. Funding applications for any other vehicles that may be non-compliant, including licensed private hire vehicles and hackney carriages, coaches, minibuses and vans will launch at the end of January. Letters are also being delivered to registered owners of these vehicles to make them aware of their options and timescales.

In the meantime, we’re continuing to prepare for the launch of CAZ next year by installing cameras with automatic number plate recognition. 160 are already in place, with 850 due to be set up by the time the scheme goes live. New signage for the CAZ is also being introduced in our highways network, both in Greater Manchester and in neighbouring local authority areas.

With the support available to smaller businesses, charities and sole traders, I believe that we are striking the balance to ensure that nobody loses out while the CAZ takes the fight to the climate crisis. We may be facing a global problem, but the solutions are local. Let’s work together to make sure we are doing our part in Tameside and Greater Manchester.

 

Posted by: Executive Leader


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