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Executive Leader Cllr Brenda Warrington

Leader's Blog  

Councillor Brenda Warrington, Executive Leader of Tameside Council

Archive for February 2020

A Budget That Delivers for Tameside

Friday, 28 February 2020

The familiar surroundings of Guardsman Tony Downes House in Droylsden were the setting for the unveiling of the council’s Budget for 2020-21 on Tuesday night, my third as Executive Leader of the Council and the first since the General Election back in December.

There is no doubt in my mind that 2019 will be looked back upon as a year where many of the seeds of investment and development we’ve planted began to bear fruit. This year, with help from our new Budget, we will build on those strong foundations to usher in a year of delivering a transformation of Tameside as we know it.

However, we know that we can only do that from the solid footing of sustainable finances. Money from council tax makes up just 18% of our spending, with the majority of the rest coming directly from the government. Since 2010, this government funding has been slashed in a blatant passing of the buck for responsibility for some of our most vital services. A decade of this austerity is not something that goes away overnight. Over the past six years we have had to save £160 million to set legally-required balanced budgets, and we expect that further savings will need to be found to allow us to continue setting a legal Budget in future years.

In order to protect our finances and make good on our promises to invest in services and infrastructure, the Budget calls for an increase in council tax of 3.99%, which includes a 2% increase in the precept for adult social care. For a Band A property, which comprises the majority of our housing stock, this translates into an increase of £39.09 per year or 75p per week. This will provide an extra £3.7 million to turbo-charge our plans for Tameside’s future. Increases in Greater Manchester levies, which we collect but have no control over, will also add 43p a week to a Band A council tax bill.

This is not a decision that we have taken lightly. In the months leading up to the release of the Budget we launched our second joint Budget Conversation, giving members of the public the chance to give us their views on how they would like us to spend and save money. One of the results of this Conversation is that we have also made the decision that our residents should not be expected to shoulder the financial burden we face alone. After close scrutiny to ensure that it does not negatively affect our financial stability going forward, this Budget authorises the release of £12.4 million from our reserves. Since we cannot, and will not, use reserves to support day-to-day spending, this money will be used on a number of “invest to save” and “invest to grow” projects in vital services; including Children’s Services, Adult Social Care, Economic Development, and Operations and Neighbourhoods.


The meeting of Full Council also heard motions highlighting our commitment to protecting the environment, including the declaration of a climate emergency. From the fires blazing in Australia to the floodwaters right here in Britain, it is clear that we are entering uncharted territory in terms of extreme weather. There is already a lot of essential work taking place in Tameside to ensure that we play a vital role in reducing our carbon footprint. To name just a few; the Council has planted a large number of trees, introduced the use of compostable bags in the Market Hall, rolled out the Refill Scheme to reduce plastic waste, and increased the energy efficiency of our buildings and vehicles. The Greater Manchester Pension Fund also continues to be the largest direct local government pension investor in renewable energy and energy efficiency. But it has become clear that, despite this good work, we need to demand much more from the government and ourselves in dealing with the climate emergency, the greatest challenge of our generation. The second motion called upon Highways England to help us tackle the scourge of air pollution by reducing vehicle emissions on its road and motorway networks as a matter of urgency.  

I am confident that our new Budget balances all the priorities that we have identified for the next financial year. In every way, it is a Budget of delivery and of investing to grow. It takes strong but sustainable action to close the savings gap imposed upon us. It takes the fight to the climate emergency. It not just protects, but improves, our most vital services. And it lays the foundations to truly secure a bright future for Tameside.


Posted by: Executive Leader

High Hopes for Stalybridge

Friday, 21 February 2020

After a year of preparation and consultation, I’m delighted to announce that the Stalybridge Town Centre Challenge is coming to fruition. Launched by the Mayor of Greater Manchester, Andy Burnham, the Town Centre Challenge is an ambitious scheme to regenerate towns across the city region by helping them raise their profile and attract investment.

As part of this, we’ve recently learnt that we have been successful in applying for up to £1.27 million of funding from Historic England’s High Street Heritage Action Zone initiative, a national scheme to champion and revive historically significant high streets across the country. At the meeting of Executive Cabinet on 12th February, the Council has formally agreed to match any funding that we receive from this. This means that a combined total of up to £2.54 million of investment could soon be made available for Stalybridge, giving us the means to turn many of our plans into practical action. 

The money has been earmarked for a range of projects which together have the potential to transform Stalybridge town centre into a modern and vibrant place to live, visit, shop and work. Some, such as our plan to offer grants for business owners to renovate and decorate their shops fronts, will have an immediate impact on the attractiveness and cleanliness of the area. Other schemes are more long-term, including consulting with Transport for Greater Manchester to level up the railway station and other transport links into and within the town. Neither are our ambitions limited to buildings.

As more shopping and retail takes place online, what a town like Stalybridge can offer in terms of culture and community becomes even more important in attracting residents and customers. That’s why we intend to significantly expand our culture offer through more town centre events such as the Lantern Parade and Cycling Festival, creating a heritage route from the railway station to Armentieres Square, and looking at what can be done to bring the Civic Hall back into productive use. Further details about these plans, along with a comprehensive vision and strategy for how we will fulfil them, were agreed at the Executive Cabinet meeting this month. You can read the report and plan on our website. 

None of this would have been possible without the supports, ideas and involvement of local residents. From October last year, we’ve been inviting people, both in person and online, to let us know their views and hopes for Stalybridge. From this we’ve identified a number of key themes that have been incorporated into our objectives and actions.

These include making the most of all the selling points of the town. Stalybridge has a truly exceptional history and heritage. Although it’s known mostly as an industrial town, there is clear evidence to suggest human settlement in the area since prehistoric times. Its geography, almost equidistant from the bright lights of Manchester city centre and the foothills of the Pennines, means it a convenient location for people who want both the urban and the rural within easy reach. The natural environment within the town; the canal, rivers and parks, also offer plenty of opportunities to make living in and coming to Stalybridge a unique experience. By bearing these in mind and working closely with residents and partners, we’ve been able to take a bespoke and “bottom up” approach to all the work we’ve done and will continue to do.

My thanks go out to everybody who has contributed to the Challenge so far. After all the talk, we’re now on the verge of being able to physically see things that will happen and benefit Stalybridge. I can’t wait to get started.


Posted by: Executive Leader

Building an Age-Friendly Tameside Together

Friday, 14 February 2020

Greater Manchester is getting older. By 2041, it is estimated that over seven hundred thousand people in GM – just under a quarter of the population – will be over the age of 65. If you’re 65 today, your chances of celebrating your 85th birthday and beyond are pretty good.

At face value, more people living for longer would seem to be a good thing. Yet all too often an aging population is presented as a problem to be solved. It sometimes seems like you can’t discuss it without adding words like “time bomb” or “perfect storm”. A greater proportion of older people, we’re told, will mean less tax income and greater pressure on services such as health, social care and benefits. This isn’t a view that we share in Greater Manchester. As the Lead for Age-Friendly and Equalities for the Combined Authority, I’ve long believed that it is well past time to change the way we think and talk about our aging population. Older people can, and do, make a vital contribution to our economy and society. That isn’t a narrative, it’s a fact.

Over the past four years we have made it our priority to make Greater Manchester the best place in the UK to grow old and be old. Working closely with organisations such as the GM Ageing Hub and the Centre for Aging Better we’ve focused on the practical changes that need to be made at a local level to improve the lives of older people.

This has led a number of big successes. With a £1 million investment from Sport England we set up GM Active Ageing, encouraging older people to develop and sustain an active and healthy lifestyle. We’ve created the GM Age Friendly Conference which has allowed us to bring a number of organisations from across the UK and beyond to our city region to share best practice and build new and strong partnerships. Perhaps most significantly, in 2018 Greater Manchester was recognised by the World Health Organisation as the UK’s first age-friendly city region.

That being said, if I was to be asked to name the thing we’ve done in Greater Manchester that has made the most difference to the lives of older people, I’d point to the creation of Age-Friendly Neighbourhoods. These are local areas that have put in place changes that allow older people to live there as independently as possible for as long as possible. Instead of a top-down or “one size fits all” approach, local communities are encouraged to develop solutions tailor-made to their own areas and contexts.

In Tameside Denton South, Mottram, Hyde Newton and Ashton Waterloo have already been recognised as Age-Friendly Communities, but last week we got the great news that they have now been joined by Denton North, Dane Bank, Droylsden and Dukinfield. All four areas have displayed fine examples of older people taking the lead in their own communities. In Dukinfield, the Together Centre on Birch Lane runs animal-rescue therapy sessions for local residents with dementia and other needs. St. Malcolm’s Church in Droylsden has become a “Place of Welcome” where anybody can come in and experience a warm, friendly community space. The Denton Park Social Bowling Club in Victoria Park provides a space for older people to socialise and be active, and Dane Bank has expanded its cultural options with a community choir and cinema in Denton West End Community Library. Representatives from all four of Tameside’s new Age-Friendly Neighbourhoods attended a formal event at the Museum of Science and Industry in Manchester to celebrate their success, showcase their work and learn from others.

The great work done in our Age-Friendly Neighbourhoods, both in Tameside and elsewhere in Greater Manchester, shows that we are giving thought to what kind of places we want our parents to grow old in, that we want ourselves to grow old in, and that we want our children to grow old in. Sooner or later this is an issue that is going to affect us all. An Age-Friendly Greater Manchester is in all our interests. Let’s keep working to make it happen.

Posted by: Executive Leader

Cleaning Up Our Air Inside and Outside

Friday, 07 February 2020

Every year in Greater Manchester, 1,200 people die because of exposure to dirty air. From chronic conditions like asthma, diabetes and obesity to more serious health issues such as cancers, strokes and heart or lung diseases, fighting air pollution and its consequences is one of the greatest public challenges that we face today. Over the past 18 months Tameside has taken the lead on facing that challenge, working with our partners within and outside the borough to clear up our air, reduce our carbon footprint and protect our shared environment.

Yet even with this pioneering and comprehensive work, there is still more that we need to do. A joint report released this week by the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, and the Royal College of Physicians looks beyond the current conversation about air pollution on our roads and streets and points out, quite rightly, that we need to look at air pollution in our homes, public buildings, schools and offices as well.  

Their research makes for sobering reading. The average child spends a greater proportion of their lives indoors than outside, but the air they breathe inside their homes can be up to five times more polluted than the air outside. While outdoor air pollution comes from things like car exhausts, industrial emissions and micro-plastics, sources of indoor pollution include damp and mould, tobacco smoke, chemicals from building materials and furnishings, aerosols sprays and cleaning products. What’s worse, many of the measures that we use to improve the environmental sustainability of our homes can inadvertently make the air even more polluted (For example: putting in more insulation can often keep pollutants inside the house by reducing ventilation). As is always the case this pollution does not affect everybody the same, poorer households are far more likely to be trapped in substandard accommodation, most of which have the kind of damp and under-ventilated environment that encourages the worst kind of indoor pollution.

While there are large numbers of laws that set minimum standards for outdoor air quality, (standards – it should be added – that the UK has fallen short of in recent years) there are no comparative laws that apply to ensuring clean air indoors. Where rules do exist, they are often a confusing and contradictory mix of building, workplace and product regulations. The report recommends that local authorities should take the lead in monitoring and enforcement of indoor air quality. To make this truly effective every building, be they commercial property or housing in the owner-occupied, social or private-rented sector, would need to be covered. This would be enforced by measures such as; setting legally binding performance standards for indoor air quality (covering issues like ventilation rate to maximum concentration levels for specific pollutants), indoor air quality tests for buildings immediately after their construction and at regular intervals during their lifetime, and creating a fund to support low income families to improve their own homes. I believe that this is something that we need to take a serious look at, and we should be arguing for government support and funding to help to make it happen.

The surge in action to protect the quality of our outdoor air in recent years has shown that, with the right levels of funding and political will, we can get a lot done in a relatively short amount of time. We’ve proven in Tameside through our Green Summits that we can rally together local authorities, charities, households, manufacturers and businesses to protect our shared environment. The time is right for us to take that progress further. Not just to make sure that we can breathe clean air wherever we are, but to do what we can in Tameside to save planet Earth for the next generation and beyond.


Posted by: Executive Leader

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