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Executive Leader Cllr Brenda Warrington

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Councillor Brenda Warrington, Executive Leader of Tameside Council

Archive for January 2021

Our Children's Future Must Not Become a Victim of Coronavirus

Thursday, 28 January 2021

I want to start my blog today with some great news about the progress of the vaccine rollout in Tameside. Our latest figures show that almost 30,000 people have received their first dose of the Covid-19 vaccine across Tameside and Glossop. This includes approximately 90% of our over-80s priority group and all adult care home staff and residents. We also expect that, if vaccine supplies continue to be delivered to us smoothly, we will have given all housebound over-70s their first jab by the end of the month. I am immensely proud of the tireless efforts of our key workers and council officers as they continue to protect our communities and save lives across the borough.
 

As I’ve said in this blog previously, as we begin to move into the next stage of the pandemic and the vaccination process we need to start giving serious thought to how we build back better and fairer. For understandable reasons, much of the attention during the past ten months has been focused on protecting the elderly and vulnerable in society from the worst consequences of the virus, including severe illness and death. However it is now clear that this pandemic will have a dreadful impact on the future of our young people as well. In the past couple of weeks some very concerning new research has been released to show exactly what this means.

The first alarm bell is from the Office for National Statistics, whose latest figures on employment show that young people between the ages of 25-34 have been made redundant at a rate of 16.2 per 1,000. This is higher than the average across all age groups of 14.2 and a five-fold increase since this time last year. The pandemic has also disproportionately hit sectors such as hospitality and leisure where more young people are likely to be employed. Even if those young people who are made redundant find new jobs the damage may already have been done, as we know from bitter experience that youth unemployment has a significant “scarring effect” that can lead to lower pay and more unemployment for decades afterwards. 

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the coronavirus pandemic has also had a significant and worrying impact on young people’s mental health as well. For the past 12 years The Prince’s Trust has run the Youth Index, an annual survey of the happiness and confidence of young people aged 16-25. This year’s Youth Index has returned the worst results in its history, with some of the headlines being that 50% of young people reported that their mental health has worsened since the beginning of the pandemic, and 25% admitted that they felt “unable to cope with life”. 56% of those surveyed also said that they “always or often feel anxious”, and 38% are “dreading the year ahead”.

There are a number of actions that I believe we can take right now to address this grim new reality. In Tameside we have invested heavily over the past few years in education and skills through the Vision Tameside project, giving young people the resources and facilities they need to help them make the best possible start in life. We also run a variety of mental health services through The Hive, our mental health and wellbeing hub, as well as partner organisations such as Tameside, Oldham and Glossop Mind. But we need to see action at a national level as well. This would include the immediate dropping of plans to cut Universal Credit by £20 a week, preventing young people who have been made redundant during the pandemic falling into outright destitution. I would also like to see more ambition to transform the Kickstart Scheme, which was established to help employers create job placements for young people, into a full-blown jobs guarantee that provides high quality employment and training, providing those who need it the most with a real living wage and genuine prospects for career advancement. 

The warning signs are clear. If serious and decisive action isn’t taken now the impact of coronavirus on young people will last for far longer, and may be even more damaging, than the pandemic itself. It is not an exaggeration to say that we run the risk of shattering the future of an entire generation. Our children deserve better, and it’s down to us to make sure it happens.

 

Posted by: Executive Leader


Protect Yourself and Others from Flooding

Thursday, 21 January 2021

A number of flood warnings were declared by the Met Office for Yorkshire and the Humber, the North West, East Midlands and Eastern England this week as experts predicted that Storm Christoph would bring widespread flooding, gales and snow to the UK. The Tame Valley, including parts of Mossley, Stalybridge and Ashton, was thought to be at particular risk – with the River Tame in danger of overflowing and large surface water run off expected, which could cause significant damage to property.

Residents in areas in danger of flooding were informed and urged to do what they could to prepare, including taking food, water, pets, furniture, and vulnerable and sentimental items upstairs as well as moving cars to higher ground. They were also asked to check on elderly and vulnerable neighbours to ensure that they were alerted to the situation.

 

While the immediate danger appears to have passed, the Council is closely monitoring the situation and will provide advice and guidance should further measures become necessary. In the worst-case scenario that you have to leave your home for any reason, please be aware of the additional risks at this time. Most important is to avoid driving or walking through flood water, as 80% of flood deaths occur in vehicles and just six inches of fast flowing water can knock a fully-grown person over.

From the beginning of this week our teams have been hard at work inspecting high-risk flood areas and, where necessary, clearing gullies, drains and culvert screens. We also worked closely with the Environment Agency and other partners such as United Utilities to minimise the risk to people and property. My thanks go out to everybody involved in these efforts. We’ve shown that even though the coronavirus pandemic is dominating our thoughts and workloads, we are still capable of responding quickly and flexibly to other incidents as they emerge.

 

Unfortunately, this is by no means the first extreme weather event we’ve faced in Tameside in recent years. Back in 2018 the #BeastFromTheEast resulted in 57cm of snow and -11 degree temperatures in some parts of the country, along with the deaths of 17 people nationally, at a time of year when most of us are beginning to look forward to spring. And who could possibly forget later in that year when scorching temperatures set 2,000 acres, or 8 square kilometres, of moorland above Mossley and Stalybridge ablaze. The resulting fires could literally be seen from space at times, and firefighters and armed forces personnel worked night and day battling an environmental disaster that would not have looked out of place in Australia or California. Both the hottest and wettest days on record in England have happened within the past 2 years (38.7 degrees in July 2019, and 31.7mm of rain in October 2020), and the top 10 hottest years in the UK’s history have all occurred since 2002. Unless we take serious and organised action as a planet, there is a frighteningly real possibility that extreme weather incidents of some form will become both more commonplace and even more disastrous in the very near future.

Our website contains a variety of other links and information on what measures you can take to safeguard yourselves during any future flood here. To check the latest flood warnings you can also visit the gov.uk website here. I know that, between extreme weather and national lockdowns, this is not how any of us wanted to start 2021. But by using common sense and protecting ourselves and those around us, we've shown once again just how resilient Tameside and its residents truly are.

 
 

Posted by: Executive Leader


Taking Stock and Looking Forward at Full Council

Thursday, 14 January 2021

On Tuesday evening we held the first meeting of Full Council of 2021, an opportunity for us all to take stock and prepare for the work that awaits us in the year ahead.
 

As the transmission of coronavirus intensifies across the country, the public health experts have made it clear that we are in the middle of the most serious crisis we’ve faced since the beginning of the pandemic. Infection rates in Tameside and elsewhere are continuing to increase in a dramatic and sustained manner, and the latest analysis from NHS England shows that just under a third of the beds available to the entire health service are occupied by coronavirus-positive patients. This is 162% higher than even the worst days of the first wave back in mid-April.

We are under no illusion that the impact of repeated lockdowns on the livelihoods and mental health of many of our residents, as well as the education of our children, has been severe. It grieves me that after all that has happened over the past ten months, you are now being asked to do even more. But if we want to protect our hospitals, not just for those who have coronavirus but for people with other serious health conditions as well, we have no choice except to follow the new lockdown rules.

Regardless of what the next few months bring, I assure you that I will continue to be a strong voice for Tameside and our residents on the national stage by lobbying the government to do what must be done to ensure that nobody is left behind during this third national lockdown.

It doesn’t matter how strict the lockdown rules are if people are still forced to make the decision between following the law and going to work. The most important thing the government needs to do is make sure that everybody is given the financial support to be able to stay at home and keep food on the table.  That includes maintaining the £20 per week uplift to Universal Credit for those on low incomes and out of work, fixing the holes in existing income support schemes that have left millions of small business owners and self-employed excluded, and supporting those required to self-isolate by raising awareness of the £500 Test and Trace support grants, giving local authorities the resources to properly cover discretionary payments, and increasing statutory sick pay.

 

The meeting of Full Council also heard two motions about other significant issues that have arisen at this stage of the pandemic.

The first, presented by Councillor Ryan, addressed the government’s failure to live up to their promise to do “whatever it takes” to protect local authority finances during the pandemic. The recent Spending Review announced a £2.2 billion increase in our spending power, however it has since been revealed that £1.5 billion of this is assumed to come from local authorities increasing council tax by 5% - the maximum allowed before a local referendum must be called. Asking residents, many of whom have already been hard hit by the coronavirus pandemic and years of austerity, to put their hands in their pockets again is neither a fair nor sustainable answer to the financial problems imposed on us. 

The second motion, forwarded by Councillor Drennan, concerned the decision by the Department for Education to end the Union Learning Fund. Since 1998, this fund has helped over 200,000 workers a year into on-the-job training to improve their key skills and professional development. The coronavirus pandemic has changed many workplaces beyond recognition, and it makes no sense that such an established and successful programme is being cut at a time when retraining is needed more than ever.

I said last week that I felt that we may finally be able to see the light at the end of the tunnel of this terrible pandemic. I stand by that, but it is also clear that the road ahead will be longer and harder than we hoped. Let’s make sure that we all do our part to protect and support each other in the crucial months to come.

 

Posted by: Executive Leader


Let's Make 2021 A New Beginning

Friday, 08 January 2021

Welcome to my first blog of 2021. After the turmoil and uncertainty of last year, I hope everybody has had as good a break as possible given the circumstances, and is ready for what will undoubtedly be a very significant year for Tameside.
 

At the end of last year we heard the excellent news that the coronavirus vaccine developed by Pfizer was now in the process of being rolled out across Tameside and Britain as a whole. This will be supplemented by the Oxford University/AstraZeneca vaccine, which was approved in 30 December and is easier to store and transport than the Pfizer equivalent. So far in Tameside over 9,000 people in the top priority groups have now have received their first jab, and I’m happy to say that if we continue to receive an adequate supply of the vaccine from the government we are on course to have all of our most in-need residents protected by mid-February.
 
Unfortunately, as you are no doubt aware, over the Christmas period we’ve also seen the emergence of a far more infectious strain of coronavirus. This has forced the imposition of another national lockdown to reduce infection rates while the vaccine rollout is in progress. I know that this not the way that people wanted to begin the New Year, and my heart goes out to everyone – individuals, families and businesses – who have already experienced such a difficult year but are now being asked to make yet more sacrifices.

I am also unhappy that the government left it to literally the first day of the new term to announce the closure of schools. Time and again over the past nine months local communities have been kept in the dark or had the rug pulled out from under their feet by last minute U-turns, and this is yet another example of a situation that could have, and should have, been avoided.

As was the case in previous lockdowns, we know how important our services are to local residents. Where we have to close buildings to comply with lockdown restrictions and keep people safe, we are doing everything we can to deliver these service differently and provide safer alternatives. The complete list of service changes can be found on our website here, and we will keep this updated as the weeks go on. There are also lots of help available for anyone who is struggling either mentally or with accessing food or other types of support. Further information can be found here or you can call us on 0161 342 8355. 

 

I hope that the rollout of the vaccine means that we are beginning to glimpse the light at the end of the tunnel of this terrible pandemic. If we do as we must and stick to the rules while looking after ourselves and those around us, I know that better times for us all will be coming soon. At the moment, infection rates in Tameside are below both the England and Greater Manchester average, but we are very aware that we are seeing an exponential increase and we will be keeping the situation under close and constant review. 

Looking briefly beyond the coronavirus pandemic for the moment, there are a number of other projects taking place in 2021 that will help shape the future of Tameside. In March we will be supporting local residents to fill out the 2021 Census. A national survey of all the people and households in England and Wales which takes place every ten years, the Census is unique in that it gives us the most complete picture we have of what our country looks like. We will also be progressing a number of projects at the local and Greater Manchester level, including our annual Budget, our plans for investment across the entire borough, and the rollout and expansion of Tameside’s part of the Greater Manchester-wide “Bee Network” and other cycling and walking infrastructure. With this focus on inclusive growth and financial sustainability we hope to lay the foundations to build back better and fairer in 2021.

The past nine months have been among the most difficult and traumatic in living memory, and unfortunately it is clear that we will have to continue to be vigilant against coronavirus for a little while longer. But with your help I am confident that out of a year of crisis will spring a year of renewal. Let’s work together to make 2021 a new beginning for us all.

 

Posted by: Executive Leader


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