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Executive Leader Cllr Brenda Warrington

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Councillor Brenda Warrington, Executive Leader of Tameside Council

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


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