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Executive Leader Cllr Brenda Warrington

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Councillor Brenda Warrington, Executive Leader of Tameside Council

Archive for July 2021

A new era for swimming in Hyde and Tameside

Thursday, 29 July 2021

A big splash has come to Tameside. Last Thursday I had the pleasure of officially celebrating the completion of the new state-of-the-art swimming pool at Active Hyde before it opened its doors to the public on 24 July.

The centrepiece of the new leisure facility, built on land at the rear of Active Hyde on Walker Lane, is the six-lane, 25 metre pool with accompanying amenities such as a dedicated changing village, poolside spectator seating and fully disabled-accessible facilities throughout. This includes a nationally registered Changing Place room with a hoist, shower bed and moveable sink available for both centre visitors and community use, as well as a poolside hoist, a disabled shower and toilet area and a unisex toilet block. The pool is also linked to the centre’s existing first floor fitness and thermal suites, and its energy supply will be provided by advanced solar panel technology that will save an estimated £40,000 every year on running costs.

Commissioned by the council and managed by Active Tameside, the charitable non-profit trust which runs our borough-wide leisure centres and wellbeing programmes, the pool and its new facilities will allow us to offer swimming lessons for up to 1,100 local children as well as support a full schedule of health and leisure activities such as lane and general swimming, Aqua Fit courses, local school use and club hire. It will also become the new permanent home of Tameside’s historic Dukinfield Marlins Amateur Swimming Club, which has currently been  operating a nomadic existence across pools in Active Tameside’s Ashton, Copley and Denton centres.

The project is part of our ongoing £20 million investment into our leisure offer, and follows up on the great success of the £15 million flagship Tameside Wellness Centre in Denton, which opened its doors in February of last year. The construction work on the pool itself was carried out by HH Smith & Sons – who have previously delivered on a number of successful building programmes in Tameside and beyond including Ashton Old Baths, Gorton Monastery and Manchester’s Museum of Science and Industry.

I know that some people are likely to question why we chose to make such a financial commitment even as we continue to deal with the coronavirus pandemic, but the benefits of the new pool, the Denton Wellness Centre and our other related projects are not just financial.

I’ve said this before, but it bears repeating here; if the benefits of exercise could be put into a drug, every person in the world would be lining up to receive it and every doctor would be falling over themselves to prescribe it. By putting the facilities in place to allow residents of all ages and abilities to get and stay active, we’re giving them the tools they need to take control of their own health. Every person that uses these leisure facilities is a person that may not have to end up visiting a GP or a hospital for an illness or condition, ensuring that they have a longer and better quality of life and saving the NHS valuable time and resources. It’s a win/win situation, and while it’s not often the kind of the benefit that you can track on a balance sheet the impact is undeniable nonetheless.

Our hard working staff at Active Tameside have also been working tirelessly over the past year and a half, even as our leisure facilities were closed due to lockdown, providing lessons and activities both online and offline to local children and families. They also operate important community services such as Fuel 4 Fun to help to tackle social inequalities and holiday hunger among young people and those with special educational needs and disabilities.

So if you get the chance, I would encourage you all to pay the new Hyde pool a visit, with the caveat that you continue to protect yourself and those around you from coronavirus. It is my hope that heath and leisure will continue to be recognised as an essential part of building back a better and fairer society.
 

Posted by: Executive Leader


Children's Services Improvement Journey

Friday, 23 July 2021

As many of you are aware, back in May Ofsted carried out a focused visit to Tameside’s children services. This was part of a wider investigation into how England’s social care system has delivered child-centred practice and care within the context of the coronavirus pandemic and the lockdown restrictions placed on our society. Ofsted’s final report was published on 25 June 2021, and I want to take the opportunity now to go into detail about what it means for children and families in Tameside.

The Ofsted report did find many examples of good practice within our children’s services, as well as evidence of clear and responsive decision making as part of our ongoing improvement plan. Particular praise was given to our support for foster carers, our creative arrangements to enable families to meet in appropriate community-based settings, and the strong communication between the local authority and school leaders during the coronavirus pandemic. However some of Ofsted’s conclusions, when combined with our own self-assessment, have made it clear that further improvements are required. An area of particular concern was ensuring that enough social workers are recruited and retained so they have the time and space to do the work they need to at the quality that we would wish. Other areas highlighted were access to enough placements to ensure children are able to live in places that best meet their needs, making sure that we have a better idea of what children themselves are experiencing, and improving management oversight to the work taking place on the frontlines.

The priority now is to build on the good work that already exists to make the changes needed to support children and families across Tameside. We have already committed to seven Sustainability Projects, much of which has been completely or at least partially delivered. This will now be complemented with a 16 point rapid improvement plan including, but not limited to, recruiting more social workers and advisors, establishing new monitoring and commissioning functions, and enhancing quality and performance. These efforts will be supported by the investment of an additional £461,000 in the service this year, and a further £504,000 in 2022.

This then, is the local context. But we know as well that none of the work of councils like ours takes place in a vacuum. There are a number of clear and concerning national trends that must be taken into consideration. The erosion of our social safety net due to a decade of austerity has put significant pressure on children and families, many of whom end up coming to us for support. This is likely to be exacerbated by the proposed removal of the £20 uplift to Universal Credit payments that was put in place during the pandemic. Local authorities have also not been given the funding they require to deal with this demand. Research from the Local Government Association last month shows that the number of Section 47 enquiries, the official name for investigations carried out when a child is believed to be at risk of harm, increased from 89,300 in 2010 to 201,000 in 2020 – a rise of 125%. This means that despite councils increasing their budgets for children’s services by £1.1 billion in the past two years, more than 8 in 10 recorded overspends in this area in 2019/20. There exists also a number of concerns about the quality of placements, use of unregulated accommodation and excessive profit-making of private providers, particular those backed by private equity.

There is much work ahead of us, but I believe that by committing to doing what we can locally and lobbying for change where we think it is required nationally, a better future for Tameside’s children and families is within our reach. This is the highest priority that we face as a Council, and we now have the resources and personnel in place to leave no stone unturned in our efforts.
 

Posted by: Executive Leader


Staying Safe as Restrictions Lift

Friday, 16 July 2021

Monday 19th July will mark the end of most legal coronavirus restrictions in England.



The list of changes is extensive, but the major points include the end of limits on how many people can meet socially, face masks no longer being required by law, and the removal of the 1 metre social distancing rule except for specific cases such as hospitals. Nightclubs will be permitted to reopen and pubs and restaurants will be allowed to move away from table service only. There will also be no limits on attendance at weddings, funerals, concerts, theatres, sporting events, communal worship or care home visits. If you’re travelling abroad, you will no longer have to quarantine for 10 days after returning from a country on the government’s amber list.

Further loosening of measures, including the lifting of most coronavirus restrictions in schools and easing the rules around who has to self-isolate if they come into contact with somebody who tests positive, are also likely to come into effect in the middle of August.

I know that so much has been asked of you over the past eighteen months; to put your regular lives on hold, to stay apart from friends and loved ones, and to be constantly alert as to how your actions might affect the chances of you or those around you being infected. The only consolation I can offer is that these sacrifices have now started to bear fruit.

But, as positive as this occasion is, I must also sound a note of caution. The worst may be over, but the long shadow of the pandemic remains with us still. Infections in Tameside this week increased to 496.3 cases per 100,000 of the population, the highest rate for several months. This has been driven by the recent spread of the Delta variant, which is estimated to be 40-80% more transmissible than the previously dominant strains of the virus. Rates of infection, hospitalisation and, sadly, deaths are expected to rise further as our society and economy begins to reopen. However, the good news is that the link between infection and severe illness or death appears to have been significantly reduced, and the vaccine rollout locally continues to progress well. The most important thing we can do now is continue to apply common sense to minimise risk of infection, including being responsible about socialising and taking precautions such as regular hand washing and wearing masks on public transport and in indoor public spaces even if it is no longer a legal obligation.  

If you have not had your second vaccination yet, I urge you to seek it out as soon as you are permitted to. We are currently supporting a number of pop-up centres and drop-ins where residents can receive their vaccinations without an appointment or ID required, and testing sites are still open so that we stay on top of tracking and tracing new cases in the borough. Information about vaccination sites is available on our website here, and testing facilities can be found here. Please remember as well that even if you’re fully vaccinated it is still possible for you to carry the virus and spread it to other people.

 

A number of changes are also being put in place to public facing council services such as libraries, markets, museums and art galleries to ensure that people can use them as normally and safely as circumstances allow from Monday. The complete list can be found on our website here. We are asking all visitors to protect themselves, our staff and each other by continuing to wash their hands, wear face masks and socially distance where possible in these settings. This will help us significantly in minimising any future disruption and keeping important public services running.

This has been a long and tough journey, and even if the hardest part is over it appears that we still have some way left to travel. But I want to thank you for your commitment so far, and if we continue to take steps to protect ourselves and others, we will soon be in a place where we can finally put this terrible pandemic behind us once and for all.

Posted by: Executive Leader


Building a Healthy and Happy Tameside

Friday, 09 July 2021

The release of the Marmot Report, which I’ve discussed in a previous blog entry here, has driven home the importance of putting health and wellbeing first as we begin to emerge from the coronavirus pandemic. This week, I want to do something a bit different and lay out in detail some of the projects and schemes that are taking place across Tameside and Glossop to challenge health inequalities and improve quality of life for all our residents.

Drop-In Vaccinations and Testing

 

Over the past month and a half, a coronavirus “vaccine van” has been making its way across Tameside and Glossop to give residents the opportunity to get vaccinated. The van has been targeting areas with the lowest rates of vaccine take-up to date, and its next stops will be Masjid E Hamzah, Katherine Street, Ashton, today from 9am-4pm, and Villemomble Square in Droyslden from 10am-3pm on Saturday.

A number of local vaccination hubs have also been set up at the British Gas site on Stockport Road in Hattersley, Denton Festival Hall, Oxford Park Sports Centre in Ashton, the George Lawton Hall in Mossley, and Glossop Cricket and Bowling Club. The dates and times that they’re open can be found at www.tameside.gov.uk/covidvaccine.

A team of friendly volunteers and professionals will be on hand at all the vaccination venues to support people through the process and ease any concerns. No appointment or ID is required, and both first and second vaccinations are available.

Please also remember that testing yourself for coronavirus, even if you have no symptoms, is more important than ever. This will reduce as far as possible the risk of the virus spreading and new variants emerging as the final lockdown measures are lifted, as well as relieving pressure on our NHS and GPs so they are free to deal with the backlog of treatment that has built up during the pandemic. Free lateral flow tests are available online, at local pharmacies and libraries, or at a number of other locations across the borough. Visit our website here for further information, including exact addresses and opening times.

Covid Ambassador Scheme

 

Since 21 April 2021, 20 “Covid Ambassadors” employed directly by the Council have played a key role in helping residents and businesses to comply with social distancing and other coronavirus guidelines. This has included carrying out spot checks at areas of high footfall such as town centres and school gates, as well as distributing material explaining the latest information on measures, testing and vaccination. Many of our Covid Ambassadors had difficulties finding employment before the pandemic, and although the role itself is temporary they have used their experience to successfully move on to longer-term work and training positions. I want to thank them for their hard work and wish them every success in the future.

Car Park Lung Health Checks
 
Smoking is still one of the unhealthiest voluntary activities you can partake in. As part of a national pilot, Tameside & Glossop has been chosen along with 23 other places to run the Targeted Lung Health Check (TLCH) programme. The service is open to all current or former smokers between 55 to 75 years old, and aims to improve diagnosis of lung cancer at the earliest possible stage. A mobile CT scanner will be taken to accessible locations across Tameside & Glossop to provide those determined by GPs to be at high risk with a lung health check. Since the survival rate for lung cancer increases significantly the sooner it is caught, it’s estimated this it could give up to 400 people a fighting chance to beat the illness. The service will also be able to provide stop smoking advice to those who want it.

4C Community Centre Opens

 

Health and wellbeing isn’t only about GP visits and health checks. Helping residents to live happy and fulfilled lives is just as important. The 4C Community Centre, located on the grounds of Christ Church between Oldham Road and Taunton Road in Ashton, will be a thriving and high spec space to provide local people with a variety of health and social opportunities. The facilities on offer include bookable meeting rooms and a café, and the building itself incorporates both new and tried-and-tested technologies to reduce its environmental impact. It’s our hope that it will join the very successful Grafton Centre in Hyde and the Together Centre in Dukinfield as a shining example of community-led hubs, designed by local residents for local residents.

These are just some of the ways in which we’re helping Tameside & Glossop recover from the coronavirus pandemic, and I hope to be able to update you on more such projects as they come to fruition. Big money items might make headlines, but it is local initiatives like these that will make communities. 

 

Posted by: Executive Leader


Protecting Our Shared Environment

Friday, 02 July 2021

The Green Revolution in Greater Manchester is about to begin in earnest. Last week, at a meeting of the Greater Manchester Combined Authority (GMCA) the Leaders of all ten Greater Manchester authorities unanimously approved the final version of our Clean Air Plan. This is the culmination of our efforts, mandated by the government, to combat illegal levels of air pollution in the shortest time possible.

As I’ve said in the past, dirty air is one of the most significant public health challenges we face. Despite it being almost invisible to the naked eye, it’s believed to contribute to the deaths of 1,200 people every year in the city region. Much like how the coronavirus has been shown to be particularly dangerous to the elderly or those with pre-existing health conditions, breathing dirty air can often fatally exacerbate a number of problems such as asthma or a variety of other heart or lung diseases. All too often the main victims of this silent killer are exactly the same people for whom it is our duty to protect the most; the youngest, the oldest and the most deprived in our society.

The final Clean Air Plan acknowledges the importance of this, while also recognising that air pollution does not stop at the borders of Tameside, or Manchester, or Oldham, or Stockport. It is a challenge that must, and will, be dealt with collectively. The Plan endorses the creation of GM-wide Clean Air Zone (CAZ), specifically targeted at the roads in the city region with the highest levels of nitrogen oxide (NO2), an air pollutant mostly caused by vehicle exhausts. The full map can be found here. Despite what you may have heard, the CAZ is not a congestion charge. Only non-compliant vehicles, usually older and more polluting ones, will be subject to any charge, and we fully hope and expect that the amount of money raised from the CAZ will reduce to zero over time as road users adapt by modernising their vehicles.

I’m also delighted to announce that, after extensive lobbying from the Council and local residents, sections of the A628 and A57 will now be included in the charging scheme. Despite the dangerous levels of NO2 detected along the sections of these roads within the CAZ boundary, they were not initially included due to them being managed by Highways England. We felt strongly that leaving residents in Mottram and Hollingworth vulnerable in this way went against both the spirit and the letter of what we’re trying to achieve, and I’m grateful to the Council officers, working in partnership with the GMCA and Transport for Greater Manchester, who worked tirelessly to successfully make the case to correct this inconsistency. However, I am still disappointed that other roads managed by Highways England, especially motorways, have not been incorporated into the CAZ. It is my hope that, as the CAZ evolves, we will be able to look again at these arrangements.

 

A number of changes to the Clean Air Plan have also been made to reflect the feedback from respondents to our consultation last year, as well as to mitigate the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on smaller businesses. While charges to travel within the CAZ boundary are due to be phased in from May 2022, all hackney and private hire vehicles (PHV) licensed by a GM local authority will be exempt until 31 May 2023. This brings them into line with vans, minibuses, GM-registered coaches and wheelchair-accessible taxis that already benefitted from a similar exemption. Don’t forget that if you drive a private car, motorbike or moped you will not be subject to any charges at all, and you can also apply for an exemption if you drive certain historic vehicles, military vehicles, disabled passenger vehicles or emergency services. 

We’ve also secured up to £120 million in government funding to increase support for HGVs, coaches, vans, taxis and other private hire vehicles to modernise or replace their vehicles before the CAZ comes into effect. Vans can access up to £4,500 - £1,000 more than proposed in the first draft of the Plan, while GM hackney cabs can get up to £10,000. HGVs can also get up to £12,000 towards replacement, nearly three times more than was initially offered, and coaches are now eligible for £32,000. The application portal for these grants is due to open in November of this year, so please keep an eye out and we’ll update you as soon as possible.

But our Clean Air Plan, as important as it is, is only one part of the jigsaw that is protecting GM’s air and shared environment. We can announce as well that, as part of our commitment to delivering the Bee Network walking and cycling route, bike-share company Beryl has been selected to design, install and operate the largest 24/7 public cycle hire scheme in the country outside of London. Phase one of the scheme is set to include 1,500 bikes and e-bikes, available from over 200 new cycle hire docking stations across Manchester, Trafford and Salford. If it proves successful, we are also not ruling out extending it even further across the city region.

The GM Clean Air Plan is now due to be approved by the individual GM councils before coming into effect, and I am delighted to offer it my full support. The climate crisis may be global, and the solutions will be local. Just as Greater Manchester pioneered the Industrial Revolution 200 years ago, we’re showing that in the 21st century we’re serious about leading the way to a new, better and more sustainable way of life for us all. 

 

Posted by: Executive Leader


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