Executive Leader Cllr Brenda Warrington

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Councillor Brenda Warrington, Executive Leader of Tameside Council

Archive for January 2019

We Need A Real Fair Funding Review

Thursday, 24 January 2019


The start of this week saw the release of the government’s consultation on the latest Fair Funding Review. Once finalised, this review will be important in determining how much funding councils such as Tameside receive in 2020-21. In the past, many of these consultations and reviews have only really been followed by people working within politics or local government. However, for a couple of very good reasons, I’d argue that this particular Fair Funding Review is one that anybody who is interested in the future of our vital services should take a serious look at.

The first reason is, despite what the Prime Minister and Chancellor tell you, that the age of austerity is very much alive and well in local government. Council funding has been cut by over half since 2010; where once we had £1 to spend on services 9 years ago, we now have 40p instead. The latest research from the Local Government Association (which, let’s not forget, contains representatives from every political party in local government) estimates that, even if you include the resources announced in the Autumn Budget and the Local Government Finance Settlement, the funding gap in local government for 2019-20 remains at over £3 billion.

Here in Tameside, we estimate that a further £70 million cuts over 5 years will be needed to balance the books for the council and the Clinical Commissioning Group, and getting your views on what we need to prioritise is one of the reasons why we launched our Budget Consultation at the end of last year (Incidentally, if you haven’t given us your views on the Budget Consultation yet, you can still do so until 29th January on the website here). Despite this dire financial situation, the Fair Funding Review contains no increases in overall funding for local government.

We know as well that none of these cuts have fallen equally. Indeed, they have fallen disproportionately on the most deprived and vulnerable parts of the country. The government’s own figures on overall service spend since 2010 show that cuts to metropolitan councils like Tameside have led to a 25% reduction in service spend, while the same cuts at shire and county councils have resulted in a comparatively light service spend reduction of 13.2%.  Making the difficult decision to increase council tax also does little for more deprived councils, as a 1% increase in a metropolitan council like Newcastle would raise around £1 million a year compared to the £13 million that the same 1% increase would raise in a shire council like Surrey.

You’d think this level of financial inequality would demand serious action; however this is where the Fair Funding Review goes from just another piece of austerity to something much worse. Hidden in its small print is the recommendation that the increased costs of poverty and deprivation should no longer be considered when it comes to allocating funding, and that greater weighting should be given to population and rurality instead. In plain English, this means that hundreds of millions of pounds of funding would be snatched away from councils like Tameside and given to leafy shire councils in the South and Midlands.

I don’t have a problem with the principle of shire councils receiving more money, because there isn’t a single local authority in the land that hasn’t struggled under austerity to a greater or lesser extent. However I do have a problem, a very serious problem indeed, with making some of the most deprived areas of the country even more deprived in doing so. At the time where some argue that our country has never been so divided, the government is forcing the gap between the “have” and the “have nots” even wider. The price, as always, will end up being paid by the people who depend upon the services provided by local government the most.

The only lasting solution remains the same as it’s always been, the age of the austerity must be ended once and for all. To steal a line from one of our local MPs Andrew Gwynne, we need a bigger cake instead of trying to cut a shrinking one different ways. A completely new local government funding formula, based on a realistic look at what every council needs instead of what is politically convenient for Downing Street, is needed now more than ever. Wait any longer and it may end up being too late.

 

Posted by: Executive Leader


Have Your Say on Our Future

Thursday, 17 January 2019

If there has been one constant in local government over the past decade, it is that things change. Whether it’s because we need to introduce new legislation or regulations handed down to us from Whitehall, or because we’ve had further cuts imposed upon us by the government, or simply because there’s a better and more efficient way of doing things, we are always finding new ways to deliver vital services and invest in our shared future.

That’s why I want to take the opportunity to highlight the fact that there are currently two consultations open that will allow you to have your say not just on the future of Tameside, but the future of Greater Manchester as well.

 

The first is the consultation on the revised Greater Manchester Spatial Framework, also known as Greater Manchester’s Plan for Homes, Jobs and the Environment. As I discussed in my blog last week, the Spatial Framework is a single plan for the development of land for housing and employment that covers all ten local authorities in our city region. This will allow us to deliver the homes and businesses that our residents need at pace and scale, while also ensuring that they are built where we want them to be built. Tameside has identified three major sites for the Framework; Ashton Moss West, Godley Green Garden Village and South of Hyde. Together, these will provide the land for around 2,790 homes and 175,000 square metres of high-quality employment floor space. It is true that some of this land is currently designated as Green Belt; however after listening carefully to our resident’s concerns we have reduced the allocation of Green Belt land significantly from the previous draft of the Framework. We have also returned seventeen other sites back into the Green Belt, and introduced additional protections for all of our remaining Green Belt land.  

The consultation on the Framework, run by the Greater Manchester Combined Authority, can be found on their website here and will remain open until 18th March. All responses will be looked at, and based on what you’ve told us, further revisions may be considered before the final plan is released next year.

 

The second consultation, which I talked about in my blog at the end of last year, is our annual Budget Consultation. This year’s is particularly significant as it is the first time we are running the consultation for both the Council and the local health Clinical Commissioning Group. Unfortunately, despite this big change there are some things that have remained the same. Funding from the government has been cut in half since 2010, and we predict that a further £70 million of savings will be required over the next five years. That reduced funding needs a cover a huge variety of council and health services, ranging from bin collections to care for the elderly to the provision of GP surgeries. We want to hear from you about which services we should prioritise, and whether you have any ideas on how we can deliver them more efficiently, either by saving money or raising revenue.

The Budget Consultation is on the Big Conversation webpages and will run until 29th January. Your replies and opinions will be an important factor in finalising our plans for the Budget, which is due to be agreed at the end of the February.

I truly believe that such consultations, talking with our residents to get their views, are not just a “nice to have”. They are vital to making sure that we can go forward with confidence. It’s not enough to make changes, we must also make sure that we either bring our residents along with us or, at the very least, make sure you understand why we’ve made the choices that we’ve made.

With your help, together, will we not only face the significant challenges this year will bring, but we will also embrace the significant opportunities that await us. So make sure that you have your say.  

 

Posted by: Executive Leader


A Bright Future for Greater Manchester

Friday, 11 January 2019


The New Year is traditionally seen as a time for change and to become better than you were before. For some people that might mean deciding to drink less or go to the gym more.  For the Mayor of Greater Manchester Andy Burnham and the ten Leaders of the Greater Manchester Combined Authority, including myself, it meant coming together at Westminster House in Manchester on Monday to take a big step towards securing the future of our city region for the next two decades and beyond.

The meeting saw the launch of the Revised Draft of the Greater Manchester Spatial Framework. The purpose of the Framework is simple; it aims to set out where exactly in Greater Manchester we would allow the development of land for housing and employment to take place. A single Framework for all ten boroughs in Greater Manchester means that we can begin to work at the scale and pace needed to deliver the homes and jobs that our residents need and deserve. Perhaps as importantly, it gives us the solid footing we need to say “No” to developers who may want to build in places where we would rather they did not.   Every council has identified land for the Framework, including some sites that are currently designated as part of the Green Belt. This does not mean that we have been deaf to our resident’s concerns; as well as prioritising the use of brownfield sites and town centre redevelopments the Framework also introduces significant protections for our remaining green spaces. Furthermore, it reaffirms our opposition to fracking in any part of Greater Manchester.

Hand in hand with creating homes and jobs goes making sure that the infrastructure is there to support the additional businesses and residents this will attract to our city region. One of the most important parts of this necessary infrastructure is transport. The difference a world-class transport network, especially public transport, will make to supporting economic growth, improving our resident’s quality of life and protecting the environment cannot be overstated. In particular, our ambition by 2040 is to have at least half of all journeys in Greater Manchester made by public transport, walking or cycling. To help make this a reality, our Transport Strategy commits to delivering a number of improvements across the city region over the next five years. Tameside will receive a share of this, with a significant addition being the construction of the new Interchange in Ashton as a transport hub for the entire borough.   

We also discussed Greater Manchester being recognised as the UK’s first age-friendly city.  In the past eighteen months, we’ve secured funding to help older people become more physically and socially active, held the city region-wide Festival of Ageing and worked with Transport for Greater Manchester to launch the “Please Offer me a Seat” campaign to help residents with disabilities, injuries or hidden conditions to feel more comfortable on public transport. Despite that, there’s still plenty more to do, and as the Lead for Age Friendly Greater Manchester and Equalities I intend to build on these successes, for example by improving the quality of our care homes and making our town centres more attractive places for older people to live.

I was also delighted to see the Youth GM Combined Authority in attendance, especially Jacob and Emily, the Youth members for Tameside who spoke so powerfully at the Green Summit at the end of last year. I know they were particularly interested in our early proposals to provide free “Opportunity Passes” to 16-18 olds in Greater Manchester for free bus travel and reduced entry to a number of sporting, cultural and leisure venues.

The final reports for all these plans and more will be discussed in depth in a further meeting of the Greater Manchester Combined Authority. After this we will put the Revised Draft of the Greater Manchester Spatial Framework out to public consultation, and I encourage you all to make your views known when the time comes.

I truly believe that these proposals will set us on the right course to fully unlock the potential of our city region and make big differences to the lives of all our residents. The future for Greater Manchester looks bright, so let’s take the step into that bright future together.

 

Posted by: Executive Leader


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