Accessibility Statement
Executive Leader Cllr Brenda Warrington

Leader's Blog  
  

Councillor Brenda Warrington, Executive Leader of Tameside Council

Archive for February 2022

Securing Tameside's Future at Full Council

Friday, 25 February 2022

On Tuesday in Dukinfield Town Hall we held the annual meeting of Full Council to debate and approve the Budget for the next financial year.
 

We cannot hide from the formidable challenges that we face. Tameside Council, along with every other local authority, is still having to bear the consequences of over twelve years of austerity. This has been exacerbated by the impact of the coronavirus pandemic and the looming cost of living crisis, which have reduced many of our income sources while also increasing the demand for services. Since by law we are required to set a balanced budget, for 2022/23 we have identified £8 million of new savings. This means we need to find ways to remodel and redesign services to provide better outcomes at a lower cost, particularly in areas such as Adult and Children’s Services which are both vital to many of our most vulnerable residents and also major areas of expenditure.

Even after taking this into account, we are left with a shortfall of £3 million that must be filled with an increase in general council tax of 1.99% and a 1% increase in the ring-fenced Adult Social Care precept.

This is not a decision that we have taken lightly, and I know that a Budget that contains both further cuts and tax rises is not going to be welcomed by many residents. I will continue, alongside the Leaders of local authorities of all political stripes across the country, to make the case to the government that strong-arming us into ever-increasing council tax rises to pay for vital services cut to the bone by austerity is neither fair nor sustainable. The long-delayed Fair Funding Review is due to be published sometime this year, and I sincerely hope that our concerns have been listened to and the necessary action is taken. The alternative is a crisis in local authority funding which will be as catastrophic as it was avoidable.

Despite these difficult circumstances, our ambition for Tameside remains undiminished. We are committed to using the financial and political powers we have at our disposal to drive real investment and growth in many of our town centres. This includes, but is not limited to, the Stalybridge Town of Culture, the establishment of a Mayoral Development Zone in Ashton-under-Lyne, and a number of infrastructure improvements in and around Hyde. In addition, our Community Safety officers are continuing their partnership with the Greater Manchester Police and Fire and Rescue Service to ensure that everyone in Tameside can live free from the spectres of crime, hate and abuse.

 

I also took the opportunity to highlight the plight of our carers. Despite the essential work they have carried out over the course of pandemic, many of them remain overworked, underpaid and disregarded. This can no longer be accepted, and I want Tameside Council to become part of the solution by seeking full Living Wage Foundation accreditation – both in principle and in practice – with all possible haste.

The meeting also discussed a number of other issues that will have major implications for Tameside in 2022 and beyond.

Updates were provided on important developments taking place at a regional and national level. We have received notification that the implementation of the Clean Air Zone has been paused to further assess the impact of the coronavirus pandemic and global supply chain challenges. While the government is still requiring us to act, I am glad that they have accepted the need for more time to develop a comprehensive and effective approach to protecting our shared environment. However, I continue to harbour concerns about their commitment to Levelling Up and tackling the cost of living crisis, particularly in regards to whether schemes such as the council tax rebate and energy bill payments are the best way to get money to those who need support the most during these unprecedented times.

 

Following on from the news last month that HS2 construction works could lead to the suspension of the Metrolink service to Ashton-under-Lyne for several years, official notice was given that an Extraordinary General Meeting of the Council will be held in March to discuss the matter and provide a formal response.

A motion was also forwarded by Councillor Shibley Alam and passed unanimously expressing our concern about the proposal by the DVSA to close the Driving Test Centre in Hyde. This is a short-sighted move that will significantly increase the backlog in neighbouring test centres, and may even shut many residents from poorer backgrounds out of being able to learn to drive altogether. Both the Chief Executive and I will write personally to the DVSA urging them to reconsider their decision.

During the course of the meeting we heard further discussions about the Godley Green Garden Village. My position remains clear. Our plan is the best way to both meet the housing targets imposed upon us by the government while also building a sustainable community with high-quality homes and the infrastructure required to support them. I am angry at the approach that the government has taken in presenting us with a problem and then condemning us at a local level when we offer a solution, and I will provide a more detailed blog on the matter soon.

I pledge to keep seizing every available opportunity to make a real difference to the lives of our residents, just as I promise to never cease speaking out for different, better way to allow local authorities to begin to undo the damage caused by austerity. While this Budget has required a number of difficult decisions to be made, I am confident that it will provide a foundation for us to continue our proud record of delivery for Tameside.

 

Posted by: Executive Leader


Statement from the Leader on Ukraine

Friday, 25 February 2022

Like me, I am sure you are appalled by the events unfolding in Ukraine. To see an independent, sovereign and democratic country invaded in such a way is truly shocking and something we thought we wouldn’t see again on the continent of Europe. Information coming through from Ukraine is limited at the moment but it seems a full scale invasion is underway. History tells us that will come with considerable human tragedy. Innocent civilians will be injured and tragically many killed. Whole communities will be displaced. I fear we will start to see a refugee crisis as people attempt to flee the conflict.
 
I very much support the sanctions imposed on Russia by the British government so far, and I hope that more stringent sanctions will continue to be applied in the days to come to make the Russian government think again about their actions. I was pleased the Home Secretary made the right and swift decision to confirm that Ukrainians who are on work, study or visit visas in the United Kingdom will have their visas temporarily extended or be able to switch onto different visa routes. As a society we must re-double our efforts to support and make welcome our Ukrainian friends currently living in this country.
 
I want to express my solidarity with the people of Ukraine and the Ukrainian community in the United Kingdom. They must be so worried about their loved ones now stuck in the middle of this terrible conflict. Here in Tameside I offer our support to anyone of Ukrainian heritage who needs it. Please just come forward, contact the council and we will do whatever we can to help you.
 

Posted by: Executive Leader


Tameside's Metrolink Must Be Protected

Friday, 18 February 2022


Last month we received the troubling news that, as part of the development of the new High Speed Rail 2 (HS2) line from Crewe to Manchester, there is a very real possibility that the Metrolink service to Ashton-under-Lyne could be suspended. While the plan estimates that this would last up to two years, given the nature of such major infrastructure projects I suspect that it could actually end up being far longer than this.

How has this situation come about? As part of the latest plans introduced to Parliament, the current Metrolink stop underneath Manchester Piccadilly would be replaced by a new and enlarged station within the proposed HS2 hub. This would involve the creation of a temporary track and “turn back” at Piccadilly, severing the New Islington to Ashton-under-Lyne line from the rest of the Metrolink network until the works are completed and the new tracks are hooked up. All tram services on the line would be replaced by buses running between Piccadilly Gardens and Ashton-under-Lyne for the duration of the work.

I am angry and dismayed at these plans for a number of reasons. I’ve written in the past about the government and other national bodies going forward with plans without consulting with, or even notifying, the areas that will be affected. Unfortunately that has been the case here. Members and officers in Tameside Council - including myself - were not informed about what these plans would mean for the Metrolink until a week before they were introduced in Parliament.

The impact of the closure of the Ashton-under-Lyne line on Tameside is also likely to be catastrophic. Since it opened in the borough in 2013, the Metrolink route has delivered a staggering number of economic, social and environmental benefits. This includes a major reduction in carbon emissions by giving people the choice to leave their car at home, as well as linking commuters – particularly those in our more deprived communities - up to new opportunities for employment, further education and healthcare.

At a time where the regional inequalities in England have found themselves back at the top of the political agenda this, quite frankly, is a disgraceful way to run a major infrastructure project. Instead of power being devolved to local communities, we have been kept in the dark. Instead of Levelling Up, we face having a vital catalyst for economic investment and inclusive growth stripped away from us.

 

I have long been a supporter of HS2. I truly believe that, if swiftly and effectively rolled out, its impact in the North of England could be nothing short of transformative. But as it stands at the moment, Tameside seems to be in the position of enjoying no real benefit from HS2 while suffering all of the pain of its construction.

That’s why I’m supporting an amendment to the bill currently going through Parliament, tabled by local MP for Denton and Reddish Andrew Gwynne, calling for the Metrolink line between Ashton-under-Lyne and New Islington to be kept open during the construction period. While this will require the construction of a new depot at Ashton Moss and means that commuters will have to catch a tram at New Islington instead of Piccadilly, I believe that it is a compromise that balances the need to construct HS2 while keeping disruption of the Metrolink service to a minimum.

The government is currently running a consultation on the impact of HS2, and I would encourage all of you to visit their website here and have your say before it closes on 31 March. I will continue to work closely with Transport for Greater Manchester, HS2 Limited, the government and local residents and MPs to ensure that we get the best possible transport deal for Tameside as we look to build back better, fairer and greener.


 

Posted by: Executive Leader


Making "Levelling Up" A Reality

Friday, 11 February 2022

In my blog last month I wrote about how decades of neglect, exacerbated by the impact of austerity since 2010, have led to vast economic, social and political inequalities between the North and South of England. The data is stark and unmistakeable; a child born in the North today will benefit from fewer opportunities, earn less during their working life and, in all likelihood, die sooner than a child born a few hundred miles south.

Since then the government has released their much anticipated Levelling Up White Paper, explaining how they intend to address this historic challenge.

 

In the interest of fairness, I want to start with the things that I think the White Paper has gotten right. The first 120 pages or so lay out, in more detail than we’ve seen anywhere else, exactly what the inequality between North and South means in terms of how it affects people’s everyday lives, including productivity, wages and health. The White Paper also, correctly in my view, points out that it’s not just about money, as some of the best-off parts of the country still score very low in life satisfaction and the pride people feel in their towns and communities.

In terms of objectives, the White Paper is not short of ambition either, presenting 12 objectives in key areas that local leaders including myself have been highlighting for some time. This includes employment, investment, transport connectivity, internet access, education and skills, life expectancy and well-being.

However, no matter how impressive the analysis of where we are now and where we want to get to is, it has to be backed up by a roadmap on the practical and realistic steps we need to take to make “Levelling Up” a reality. It is in this most important of areas that I think the White Paper falls badly short.

 

The first stumbling block is a familiar one, that of money. Government departments and public services, including councils, are expected to deliver these ambitious goals using the budgets set out in the Spending Review last autumn. When you consider that balancing the council’s Budget for next year requires us to make an additional £7.6 million in cuts, and that over a decade of austerity has seen our total financial resources cut by £200 million and counting, the White Paper offers no help on how we are supposed to achieve much, much more with far, far less.

The second issue is that many of the key powers required to meet the “Levelling Up” objectives – such as tax policy, local government funding, schools and public health – remain firmly in the hands of ministers and civil servants in London. As well as being one of the most unequal countries in the developed world, England is also one of the most centralised in terms of decision-making. If we want Levelling Up to work, we need to change the relationship between Whitehall and town halls from one of master and supplicant to a partnership of equals, with power and funding given directly to those with the knowledge and motivation to make a real difference in their local areas.

The final area of concern is the timescales involved. Even the most successful examples of “Levelling Up” in other parts of the world, most notably in Germany as I’ve pointed out before in this blog, have taken decades to come to fruition. By contrast, the scope of the White Paper goes no further than 2030, with little information about how “Levelling Up” will be continued by a new generation of Prime Ministers, Mayors and Council Leaders. This is going to be a very long-term project, and we need very long-term thinking to match.

Without these ingredients the “Levelling Up” agenda, as welcome and feasible as I think it is, will remain a glorified wish list. And that would be a tragedy. Not just for the North, but for the entire country. I want “Levelling Up” to be a success, and I am committed to doing whatever it takes to make it happen in Tameside and Greater Manchester. I only wish that I got the sense from this White Paper that the government truly feels the same.

 

Posted by: Executive Leader


Making Changes to Our Bin Collections

Friday, 04 February 2022

As of 31st January, changes have been made to the way we do bin collections in Tameside in order to protect limited funds for vital services.
 

The main difference is the black bin for glass, plastic bottles and cans, and the blue bin for paper and cardboard, will now be collected every three weeks instead of every two weeks. Green landfill bins and brown food and garden waste bin collections will remain the same as they were previously, and the issuing of free compostable caddy liners, the pull out and return service for people with disabilities, and access to our local tips have also not been changed.

In addition, we have introduced a charge of £25.63 per bin for replacement or additional recycling bins. However, after feedback from concerned residents it has been decided that this charge will be waived under certain circumstances, including in situations where a bin has been damaged by one of our waste collection crews or a bin has been vandalised or damaged beyond use. Charges can also be waived for residents on low incomes or means-tested benefits, or where a household can prove that one bin will not give them sufficient capacity to dispose of their waste properly (for example, if they have a large family or specific medical needs).  

We know how important bin collections are to our residents, and this is not a decision that we have taken lightly. But we still face the consequences of over a decade of austerity, which has seen our budget cut by almost £200 million and counting. This grim financial situation has also been exacerbated over the last 2 years by the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, which has reduced the income we received through payments and charges, while simultaneously increasing the demand for services in areas such as social care.

Our Budget for 2022-23, which will be presented to Full Council at the end of this month, estimates that we need to make an additional £7 million in savings next financial year to keep our heads above water. Moving to blue and black bin collections every three weeks, which is the way that many other councils in Greater Manchester schedule their collections, will save us £370,000 a year, and introducing a charge for new bins will generate £190,000 a year. That’s over half a million a year every year that can be spent instead on vital services such as supporting and protecting vulnerable children and adults. 

 

We also took steps to make sure that these changes were not rolled out without extensive testing and consultation with our residents to make sure that they work in a real-world situation. At the end of last year we launched a pilot scheme of the changes in three areas in the borough; Haughton Green in Denton, Ridge Hill in Stalybridge, and central Hyde. These areas were picked to give as wide a variety of residents, accommodation types and waste disposal habits as possible to make sure we had a complete picture of how the changes would affect people. We also launched two separate consultations, one with households in the pilot areas and one with the public across Tameside, to ask their views and experiences of the changes. In total we received almost 3,000 responses, all of which were closely analysed and considered before we made any final decisions.

These changes are an opportunity for everybody to do their bit to make sure that, despite austerity and coronavirus, we can still provide effective and sustainable public services to our residents. Please look out for your new collection calendars, if you haven’t received them already, and thank you for your support and understanding as we continue to make difficult financial decisions for Tameside.

 

Posted by: Executive Leader