Executive Leader Cllr Brenda Warrington

Leader's Blog  
  

Councillor Brenda Warrington, Executive Leader of Tameside Council

Archive for July 2018

A New Way to Move in Tameside

Thursday, 26 July 2018


It has now been over a year since the first-ever elections for the Mayor of Greater Manchester, held as part of the transformative and wide-ranging devolution agenda. We're beginning to see how devolution, the ten local authorities working together with the Greater Manchester Combined Authority (GMCA) and the elected Mayor, is making a real difference to the city we all call home. From the good work undertaken to date by the Stalybridge Town Centre Challenge team, to holding the government to account for the appalling service and conditions on Northern railways, we’ve shown we now have a platform to map out Greater Manchester’s future in a new and powerful way.

There’s no other area where we want to make our mark more than in improving cycling and walking in our city, and with the help of Mayor Andy Burnham and former Olympic cyclist Chris Boardman, we are beginning to do just that. This week the GMCA, of which I am one of the Vice Chairs, will greenlight 15 new routes for cycling and walking. These projects, which will be funded by the Mayor’s Cycling and Walking Challenge Fund, will be but the first wave of investment in a masterplan to revolutionise the way people move around our city.

Across Greater Manchester, the program of work will deliver around 60 new or upgraded crossings and junctions, and 15 miles of new walking and cycling routes. This will include six miles of “Dutch-style” cycling lines, which will be entirely separate from cars and other motor traffic. Every local authority in Greater Manchester, from Bolton to Wigan, Salford to Stockport, will benefit from at least one project.

For Tameside’s part, we have submitted a proposed package of improvements throughout the borough, including the creation of “filtered” neighbourhoods where foot traffic is prioritised over cars, upgrades to traffic free routes and segregated facilities for bikes on major roads. The total cost is estimated at around £500,000, and work is due to start by the end of the year. All parts of the proposed plan, from the most ambitious of cycle lanes to a tweaking of some road markings, will be required to meet tough requirements on quality and design before it is signed off. If are we going to do this, we’re going to do it properly.

As is appropriate, the entire network of cycling and walking routes has been named the “Beelines” – after the worker bee that has come to represent Manchester and its industrial heritage. Once completed, it will be the largest joined-up system of walking and cycling routes in the UK, opening up every part of Greater Manchester to those who want to leave the car at home. And let’s be clear, reducing the amount of cars on our roads is absolutely part of the plan. Around 25 million car journeys of less than a mile are made per year in Greater Manchester. Air pollution, of which car exhausts are perhaps the major component, costs Greater Manchester approximately £1 billion and leads to the premature death of 40,000 people a year in Britain annually. The only way to begin to cut that down is by  showing that cycling and walking is not only encouraged, but that we have also made efforts to ensure that it is as convenient and as safe an option as possible.

The first draft of the Beelines plan can be found on the Mapping GM website here: https://mappinggm.org.uk/beelines/. The Transport for Greater Manchester website also has individual maps showing what they will mean for each local authority: https://tfgm.com/made-to-move/maps-of-the-proposals. All residents are invited to comment on the proposals before the end of September, which will be used to inform the second draft of the map to be published later in the year. The path to a whole new way of moving around Greater Manchester begins here.

 

Posted by: Executive Leader


Whatever Happened to Social Mobility?

Thursday, 19 July 2018

What do you think when you hear the words “social mobility”? For some people, it might be nothing more than a phrase they hear politicians and academics come out with every so often. However, I’d argue that making sure that we protect and advance social mobility is one of the most important tasks that we face. There is not a parent in the world who doesn’t want a better life for their children than they had themselves, and any government worth its salt makes helping its citizens get on in life its highest policy priority. Which is why it is an absolute scandal that in modern Britain social mobility has not just stalled, it has actually started going backwards.

The facts, as presented by the government’s own Social Mobility Commission, are depressingly clear. 5 in 6 of the five million people (a majority of which are women) in Britain trapped in low paid employment in 2006 are still there over a decade later. Only 6% of doctors, 12% of chief executives and 12% of journalists working today are from working-class backgrounds. Home ownership, often seen as one of the clearest signs of social mobility, has fallen by 17% in the last decade among people younger than middle aged. In education, the income of your parents has a greater influence on how well you do than your ethnicity or your gender. For too many people, being successful in Britain today isn’t about what you know or how hard you work, but about who you know and where you were born.

Graphs courtesy of The Guardian. Link: https://www.theguardian.com/news/datablog/2012/may/22/social-mobility-data-charts

Entire books have been written on the reasons, and the possible solutions, for this crisis in social mobility. But I want to focus on education. Here, as the case in many examples of the deterioration of our public services since 2010, austerity must bear a large share of the blame. Despite the government’s claims that school funding has increased, the Institute for Fiscal Studies recently concluded that between 2009-10 and 2017-18 the money spent per pupil in England fell by 8%. Nor have those cuts fallen equally, as sixth form funding (25% cut) and local authority support (55%) has been particularly hard hit. Even that pales in comparison to the decimation of funding for adult education. To give just one example, the Open University, a world-class vehicle for social mobility for almost half a century, has been forced to lay off staff and shut down courses after £100 million worth of cuts were forced upon it in a single year. Locally-run further and adult education courses have also fared scarcely better.

But austerity is not the only part of the story here. The other baleful influence has been the government’s drive to cut out any role for the public sector in education. It is this “private always good, public always bad” mind-set that has led to the government favouring academy sponsors over local authorities as the main drivers of school improvement, despite the government’s own figures saying that local authority-maintained schools have a far superior record of turning around underperformance. It has also led to expensive and damaging mistakes like the privatisation of Learn Direct. Sold to Lloyd’s Bank in 2011, the company continued to pay its owners and managers tens of millions of pounds in dividends despite facing a catastrophic decline in graduation rates, a damning Ofsted report and a formal investigation by the House of Commons Public Accounts Committee. That’s not to say there can be no role for the private sector in education and skills, but it must be awarded on the basis of delivery, not ideology.

This is an area that local government must be allowed to have its say again. All we require is for the government to provide us with funding and freedom instead of austerity and mistrust. I know that we have the skills, the knowledge and the desire to once again transform education into what it can and should be: an engine of social mobility for people of all ages and backgrounds. 

 

Posted by: Executive Leader


Austerity Is A Choice We Can No Longer Afford

Thursday, 12 July 2018


The end of June marked the unhappy anniversary of the age of austerity, ushered in by the coalition’s Emergency Budget in 2010. Since then, the entire public sector has faced a running battle to keep vital services running on the face of wave after wave of cuts. It is a tribute to the ingenuity and capability of local authorities up and down the country that most have been able to continue delivering for their residents despite the unprecedented and worsening financial conditions. However, 2018 seems to have marked the point where the damage wrought by austerity has become impossible to dismiss.

It seems like not a day has gone by where another local authority has been forced to announce that it is facing an uphill battle to meet its financial obligations. Most notably, in January Northamptonshire County Council become the first council in two decades to effectively declare bankruptcy via the issuing of a Section 114 notice. Local Conservative MPs, instead of acknowledging their own complicity in pushing austerity, chose to line up and criticise the council and its management.

Since then, the alarm bells have started ringing in other local authorities at a slow but steady pace. Surrey Council, one of the richest local authorities in one of the richest parts of the country, is facing a funding gap of £105 million. East Sussex Council, another affluent part of the country, declared this month that it would only be able to run the most basic of services in a few years unless extra funding was provided. In Westminster, the Home of Commons Public Accounts Committee accused the government of having no idea whether the current funding framework for local government was sustainable or not, and that their complacency around the issue “beggared belief”. It should be clear now that this isn’t a case of a few badly-managed councils. This is a deep and systemic problem that will drag down everybody unless serious action is taken.

Of course, most of you don’t need me to tell you about the damage of austerity. You’ve already seen it with your own eyes. You’ve seen it in unaffordable housing. You’ve seen in schools that haven’t been given the resources they need to teach your children. You’ve seen it in the chronic underinvestment in infrastructure here in the North. But there is nowhere that it can be seen clearer than in health and social care. Every single penny raised in council tax in England last financial year is still £500 million less than councils spent in adult and children’s care alone over the same period. It’s estimated by AgeUK that up to 1 in 7 older people in England now have access to no kind of social care or support at all. That’s not just a moral outrage; it’s a crisis unfolding before our very eyes. The government’s announcement of an extra £6 billion of investment in the NHS, however welcome it may be, will mean very little if patients cannot be released from hospitals, or are forced into hospitals unnecessarily, because there is nobody in the adult social care system to look after them at home.

Make no mistake though, councils are not throwing their hands up and surrendering to fate. However difficult it may be we have found ways to deliver investment and improvement, and we’ll continue doing so whenever and however we can. At the same time, we have to acknowledge the reality that reversing eight years of austerity, and the damage it has caused, is a much bigger task than any one council can face alone. If we come together, I know that local government will be a powerful voice for saying that there is another, better way to protect vital services and the vulnerable in our communities.

 

Posted by: Executive Leader


Tameside Stands Together in Crisis

Wednesday, 04 July 2018


Since the beginning of last week, Tameside has been enduring the worst series of fires in living memory on the moors above Mossley and Stalybridge.

A comprehensive investigation of the damage wrought has yet to be carried out, but it is estimated that at least 2,000 acres, or 8 square kilometres, of moorland has been affected. At times, the fires were so widespread that NASA satellites were capable of picking the smoke out from orbit. If that wasn’t enough, in the days since a second fire has broken out between Winter Hill and Scout Road just outside Bolton. It is clear now, if it wasn’t before, that we are facing a natural disaster unlike anything we have ever seen before in this part of the UK.

It is at times like this that you see the true strength of individuals and communities, and I’m pleased to say that once again our emergency services, council staff and residents have proved beyond any doubt their resilience and bravery. Since the moors caught alight, firefighters from Greater Manchester, Yorkshire, the Midlands, Merseyside and elsewhere have been battling day and night to contain and control the situation. They have been supported throughout this by 100 army personnel from the 4th Battalion, Royal Regiment of Scotland, a Chinook helicopter and a number of other specialist organisations, including United Utilities, Public Health England and the Greater Manchester Police.

Officers here at Tameside Council have also played their part. One of the major obstacles in fighting a moorland fire is the sheer difficulty of the terrain, which makes getting the resources needed on site more difficult than it would usually be. We’ve provided 4x4 vehicles, driven by council staff, to help firefighters, officers and equipment get to areas that aren’t able to be accessed by fire engines. Other council officers are conducting daily and ongoing air quality assessments, communicating health advice and removing waste from the moorlands. Their willingness to go above and beyond the call of duty has been acknowledged by everybody involved in the firefighting efforts. At the same time, they have managed to continue providing as normal the everyday services that many of our residents depend on.

Our local residents, community groups and businesses have also rolled up their sleeves and helped out in any way they can. Following the evacuation of Calico Crescent in Carrbrook, many offered those who had to leave their homes places to stay. Many more brought refreshments and supplies, often paid for out of their own pocket, to those working on the moors. The strength of community spirit we have seen is nothing short of awe-inspiring, showing how the very best of Tameside emerges in the face of adversity.

It is a tribute to the combined efforts of all the services involved that the fires have so far been successfully tackled, with no loss of life or serious injury. But we also must look at the bigger picture. We do not yet know what caused the fires, although the police are currently investigating the possibility that they could have been started deliberately. However, they were undoubtedly exacerbated by a heatwave so intense that it has turned the acres of scrubland and vegetation into so much dry fuel and kindling. Since records began in 1910, the nine warmest years in British history have all occurred in the 2000s. We must be prepared for the possibility that, unless we start taking serious collective action as a planet, fires like we’ve seen over the past week will become increasingly commonplace.

That’s why I intend for Tameside to hold its own Green Summit by the end of this year. Modelled closely on the Greater Manchester event that took place in March, it will bring together experts, partners and residents to discuss how best to meet our environmental goals in Tameside. While I certainly don’t expect that we will turn the tide by ourselves, I expect us to do what we can locally to protect our environment for those living today and for future generations.

If you feel like you are at risk of being affected by the fires in either Tameside or Bolton, please consult the Public Health England advice here. Once again, my sincere thanks go out to everybody who has done their part to help us through the current situation. 

 

Posted by: Executive Leader


These entries were filed under the Executive Leader's Blog. You can follow any responses to these entries through the RSS 2.0 feed.