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Executive Leader Cllr Brenda Warrington

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Councillor Brenda Warrington, Executive Leader of Tameside Council

Archive for January 2020

Mayor’s Question Time Comes to Tameside

Friday, 31 January 2020

It’s now been over five years since the formation of the Greater Manchester Combined Authority (GMCA), which is made up of the Mayor of Greater Manchester and the ten council leaders in the region. The GMCA took control of a number of powers through the devolution agreements signed with the government in 2014. Some of these powers, most notably health, transport and policing, were topics of discussion this week as we welcomed the Mayor of Greater Manchester, Andy Burnham, to Guardsman Tony Downes House in Droylsden when Tameside hosted the regular Mayor’s Question Time.
 

For an hour and a half, the Mayor gave his views on a number of issues that residents have told us matter to them in Tameside and Greater Manchester. One of the best discussions on the night was on the future of Greater Manchester’s Transport Strategy, most notably the £1.5 billion programme of investment in the Bee Network. Although complete delivery is expected to take around 10 years, once complete it will give our city-region the largest walking and cycling network in the UK by quite some distance. In a report released this month, the GMCA has estimated that the completed Bee Network could increase journeys on foot or by bike by 2.5m a day, cut some journey times by 50% and save the NHS £6.73 billion by improving people’s health. The benefits for our shared environment, especially around improving our air quality, are likely to be even greater still.

As exciting as all this is, residents at the Question Time event quite rightly made it clear that there are some transport improvements they’d like to see here and now. Questions were raised on the possibility of bringing back Droylsden railway station, and a number of people asked about the future of rail and bus services across Greater Manchester. The Mayor pointed out, as I did in my blog last week, that there remains a huge and unjustifiable funding gap in transport infrastructure between the North of England and London. A welcome development that was announced by the government the day after the Question Time event was that Northern Rail are to be stripped of their franchise, bringing the line back into public control, on 1st March 2020. The results from the recent consultation about introducing a London-style system of public control of Greater Manchester’s buses should also be available soon and will feed out into our aspiration for transport in our city region. A network run for passengers and not profit, where you can get a tram from Ashton to Manchester and then get back by bus on a single ticket, is closer now than it has ever been.

Of course the conversation wasn’t limited to just transport and the environment. I was delighted that the Mayor, while answering a question about Greater Manchester’s pioneering health and social integration, highlighted Tameside as the borough that has gone the furthest so far in making it a reality. Another topic that emerged as a topic of discussion on the night was homelessness. Through the “A Bed Every Night” scheme we’ve done our bit to help support 1,165 formerly homeless people in Greater Manchester into long-term accommodation, and the great work of our own Homelessness service has reduced the number of rough sleepers in Tameside from 36 to 2 in the space of a year. In response to a question about policing, the Mayor also laid out the work being done to reduce knife attacks and other serious crimes in the city region.

 

I’ve said before that I see 2020 as a year of delivery in Tameside, but it’s clear from what the Mayor said yesterday that this year will be an exciting time for Greater Manchester as well. My thanks to Andy Burnham for bringing the Mayor’s Question Time back to Tameside. It was a pleasure to host him, and rest assured that we will be working closely together to make a real difference to the borough and the city region.
 

Posted by: Executive Leader


Another Broken Promise for the North

Friday, 24 January 2020


Stop me if you’ve heard this before. A politician in London, with great fanfare, promises some kind of transport investment in the North of England. Nothing happens for a while, and then all of a sudden the promised funding is either scaled back or cancelled altogether. Meanwhile, similar projects in London that deliver much less return for much more money are signed off without so much as a murmur.

We’ve seen it before over the years; and it looks like we could be seeing it again in 2020 with High Speed 2.

High Speed 2, or HS2 for short, was first proposed over ten years ago as the British answer to the Japanese bullet trains or the French TGV, a scratch-built state-of-the-art rail network that could accommodate up to 85 million passengers a year on trains reaching speeds of almost 300 kilometres per hour. The initial plan called for the network to be built in two separate stages. Phase One would link up London and Birmingham, while Phase Two would extend out to Manchester and Leeds from Birmingham, creating a “Y”-shaped route across the length of England.

Once complete, it would cut in half the travel times out of London to three of our great cities. The impact of the Phase 2 line from Birmingham to Manchester and Leeds in particular is expected to be nothing short of transformative. According to figures from the Northern Powerhouse Independent Review, by 2050 HS2 could create up to 171,000 new jobs across the region, including 60,000 in Greater Manchester, 50,000 in Leeds, 37,000 in Crewe and 24,000 in Liverpool, boosting our economy by tens of billions of pounds.

 

Or, at least, that was what they told us the plan was. We now know that a leaked review of HS2 has advised the government to postpone Phase 2 of the project for at least six months. We’ve been here too many times to not read the writing on the wall, that “postponed” very quickly turns into “cancelled”.

And HS2 is just the tip of the iceberg. Who can forget the ongoing fiasco with Northern Rail, which finally saw the franchise stripped from the operator after one out of every two trains failed to arrive at their destination on time this winter? Why are we still waiting for the Trans Pennine line between Manchester and Leeds to be electrified, an absolutely essential first step to combining the economic power of the North’s biggest cities? Even the recent consultation on bringing Greater Manchester’s bus services back into public control, as welcome as it is, only grants us similar powers to what London has enjoyed for decades.

An IPPR report in summer of last year reported that transport investment per head in London was £3,636 compared to £1,247 for the entire North of England. Add it all up and that’s a funding disparity of almost £66 billion. It’s true, as the critics often say, that transport investment will not by itself address the imbalance between London and the rest of the country. But it’s also true that any serious attempt to give the North its fair share must have turbocharging our region’s infrastructure at its heart. Successful completion of HS2 in its entirety is an indispensable element of that work.

The Mayor of Greater Manchester Andy Burnham, professional bodies like the Civil Engineer’s Contractors Association and the Rail Industry Association, and major business leaders in the region all agree. Cancelling HS2 at this stage would not only be a scandalous betrayal. It would send the message that, when push comes to shove, the best the North can expect is crumbs from the table. Tameside, Greater Manchester and the North deserves better, and over the next few months I’ll be joining with other leaders across the region to make sure that our case is heard. 

 

Posted by: Executive Leader


Around the Towns in 2020

Thursday, 16 January 2020

I wrote in last week’s blog that I want 2020 to be a year of investment for Tameside; in our economy and shared future. The heart of Tameside is, and always will be, our towns, so it’s for that reason that I want to go in-depth on the highlights of our big plans for them in 2020.
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Ashton

Work to redevelop Ashton’s bus station into a modern transport interchange is well underway. When it opens its doors in the summer, it will bring a state-of-the-art transport hub into the heart of Tameside. Not just buses, but trams, bikes and taxis as well. The building itself will also contain accessible toilets and enhanced passenger safety measures, including CCTV. When complete it will attract people and business into the borough, and connect up residents to jobs, leisure and learning within Tameside, in Greater Manchester and beyond.

 

Following the completion of Tameside One, we’re also now in a position to begin much-needed renovation on the historic Ashton Town Hall. Funding of £270,000 has been agreed, with the first step being a comprehensive survey to establish what needs to be done to make the building fit for purpose in the 21st century while preserving its unique heritage. 

Denton

Due to open in the spring, the Tameside Wellness Centre will be the jewel in the crown of our multi-year, £20 million investment in our leisure services. Built on brownfield land on the former Oldham Batteries and located just off Lance Corporal Andrew Breeze Way in the heart of Denton, the Centre will offer a wide range of leisure, community and wellbeing facilities. Not just an 8-lane, 24-metre swimming pool and a 10-pin bowling alley, but a learner pool, children’s play zone, spa area and fitness suite with disabled access and dementia-friendly design throughout.

 

Droylsden
2020 will bring a wave of regeneration and development into the centre of Droylsden. The shopping arcade, which dates bring to the 1970s, is due to be given a facelift. The first stage will see owners New Era Properties invest £100,000 to convert two of the units into 4,000 square feet of new retail and restaurant space.

Hyde

We remain committed to the construction of 2,350 new homes in the Godley Green Garden Village. At the end of last year we agreed to draw down £10m from the Government’s Housing Infrastructure Fund to deliver the project’s opening phases, including infrastructure work. While actual housebuilding is not expected to begin until 2021, our timeline calls for a developer to be picked in May 2020, with an outline planning application for the whole site to follow in November. 30% of all the homes delivered under the scheme will be designated for affordable tenures.

In September 2019 we beat 24 other local authorities to win £100,000 to fund the development of a master plan for Hyde Town Centre, using young professional thinking and already-existing public assets to build the foundations for going out to seek further investment to create a sustainable, accessible and community service-rich centre.

Stalybridge

All eyes in Stalybridge in 2019 were focused on the Mayor’s Town Centre Challenge, and in 2020 we expect some of the proposals that have been created over the past 12 months to come into fruition. A number of resident-led proposals are being considered including the creation of a transport interchange, bringing the Civic Hall back into use as a food and drink market, and the development of two sites on Castle Street and Stalybridge West to develop homes, offices, and retail and leisure space. A comprehensive review of the town’s public realm will also consider how cycling and walking infrastructure can be harnessed to improve the pedestrian experience. Our ambition is nothing less than to see Stalybridge join the likes of Saddleworth and Hebden Bridge as a unique and thriving Pennine town.

Longdendale

Last week our planning committee gave the green light to the construction of 61 new affordable homes in Hattersley on the site of the former Hattersley District Centre and Tameside Court tower block. Both developments are being led by social housing provider Onward Homes, with funding assistance provided by Homes England.

Mossley

Mossley is making a name for itself as a cultural centre. Global Grooves, the internationally-renowned company behind our famous Lantern Parades, have started work on “The Vale”. Once complete, it will serve as their “Northern Carnival Centre of Excellence”, bringing people from all over the world to the town. The housing development at Woodend Mill has also begun to deliver new homes on the edge of the town centre.

 

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Further news and updates for all of these projects, along with other plans for the future, will be released over the course of the year. With your support, we’re working to transform Tameside, setting an example for others to follow, securing our prosperity, and creating a borough fit to thrive in the 2020s.

 

Posted by: Executive Leader


Full Speed Ahead for Full Fibre

Friday, 10 January 2020

Welcome to my first blog of the 2020s. Before I begin, I’d like to take the chance to wish you all a happy, healthy and successful New Year.

Despite a tumultuous 2019 for the country as a whole, it proved to be a year of progress and achievement here in Tameside. I’m happy to say that as soon as the Christmas decorations were put away we’ve been working hard to build on the solid foundations of the last twelve months.

 

The next part of that journey began on Tuesday, when I attended a meeting of the Greater Manchester Combined Authority (GMCA) that finalised the details of how we intend to roll out full-fibre broadband across the city region.

Unlike traditional broadband connections, where part or all of the line from local telephone exchanges still uses old copper wire, full-fibre transmits data by pulses of light through fibre and plastic cables. This results in a much, much faster internet connection; while a good copper wire can transmit up to 66 megabits per second of data, full-fibre averages 1,000 megabits per second with the potential for more. To put that into perspective, an hour-long mp4 video of around 1 gigabyte (1024 megabytes) would take just over a second to download over full-fibre compared to 15.5 seconds using a copper line.

While this would benefit individual households hungry for more data due to the rise of streaming services, smart devices and video calls, it would have an absolutely transformative impact on businesses.

The vast majority of businesses, regardless of their size, now depend on the internet for some or all of their income. Faster and more reliable connections mean an increase in productivity by allowing employees and business owners to do the same amount of work in less time. It improves work-life balance and air pollution by making remote connections and working from home an option for more people. Even the process of building the necessary infrastructure and connections will create opportunities for jobs and training. At the moment Britain lags badly behind other European countries, with only 8% of the country connected by full-fibre. Closing that gap, according to Ofcom, could add up to £87.6 billion to our GDP in five years.

The deal agreed at the GMCA on Tuesday will give Greater Manchester the best high-speed internet coverage of any city-region in the UK, but Tameside is already ahead of the game. Since February 2018, the Tameside Digital Infrastructure Cooperative (TDIC) has allowed internet providers, public and private consumers and investors to come together to make the best use of the fibre connections that already exist in Tameside. Our partners already include Tameside Hospital, both of our sixth form colleges, Virgin Media, the Mid Counties Cooperative and the Jigsaw Group.

 

Even at this early stage we can point to a number of successes that were only possible by our commitment to leveraging our fibre infrastructure. The Ashton Old Baths, now fast approaching its second anniversary, has preserved our local history while looking to the future by providing offices and incubators for high-tech businesses. The Hospital and our Community Response Service have developed the award-winning Digital Health approach, which has reduced the demand on our A&E services, supported our care homes and allowed elderly and vulnerable residents to live in dignity and comfort. Looking at the longer term, we’ve helped to set up a number of events such as CoderDojos and Tameside Hacks to guarantee that all our young people have the chance to learn digital and computer skills from an early age in a fun and relaxed environment.

This new deal agreed by the GMCA will allow us to both expand on what we’ve built in Tameside, and link up with the other great work that’s be done in the other local authorities that make up our city region. It’s my hope that this will be the first of many blogs I’ll be able to write this year about how we’re investing in our towns, our economy and our shared future.

 

Posted by: Executive Leader


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