Executive Leader Cllr Brenda Warrington

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Councillor Brenda Warrington, Executive Leader of Tameside Council

Archive for March 2018

Pre-Election Period

Monday, 26 March 2018

Today marks the beginning of the pre-election period for this year’s local elections on 3 May 2018. As you would expect, I will be out campaigning hard and listening to residents’ concerns in Tameside up to the day of the election itself.

Clearly there are regulations on local government publicity, including what is posted on council websites, and these are of particular relevance during periods of heightened sensitivity such as before an election. So with this in mind I have decided to pause my weekly blog over the election period.

 

Posted by: Executive Leader


Up for the Stalybridge Town Centre Challenge

Friday, 23 March 2018


At the start of this week I had the pleasure of welcoming the Mayor of Greater Manchester, Andy Burnham, to Tameside for the first stakeholder event of the Stalybridge Town Centre Challenge. Set up at the end of last year, the Town Centre Challenge is an ambitious plan to kick start growth in a number of urban centres across Greater Manchester. Along with Stalybridge, the towns of Farnworth, Leigh, Prestwich, Stretford, Swinton and Stockport have also thrown their hats into the ring. With representatives from the construction industry, property sector and local businesses and charities also in attendance, the event was a discussion on how best to take advantage of this golden opportunity for one of our towns.  

As a city region, we’re no strangers to regeneration projects over the decades. Throw somebody from the Manchester of the 1970s into the Manchester of the 2010s and I’m not sure how much of it they’d actually recognise. What will make the Town Centre Challenge different from anything that has come before is in the scale and the nature of the regeneration that we want to see happen. So many towns working on the same project at the same time will allow us to share learning and best practice. It is this, along with the powers devolved to Greater Manchester back in 2014, which will allow us to create and deliver a bespoke model for the regeneration of Stalybridge that will work with, not against, the town’s heritage, businesses and residents.

At Monday’s event a number of leading lights from the property and construction sectors, most notably Ian Simpson of architects SimpsonHaugh, and Caroline Baker of commercial real estate agents Cushman and Wakefield, led us through the vision for Stalybridge and provided first-hand experience and insight on issues like planning, financial viability, conservation and inclusivity. We know that Stalybridge has all the raw materials needed to be a great place to live – an excellent location for people commuting to either Manchester or the major cities of Yorkshire, canal and river frontage and easy access to some spectacular countryside. Our mission now is to work with councillors, the Combined Authority, housing associations, town centre businesses and community groups to create a town centre with retail and leisure opportunities that make people want to live there, and housing developments priced at a rate that allows them to do just that.

During my introduction to the event also I emphasised the importance of pulling out all the stops in getting the views of young people during the planning stages of the Town Centre Challenge. Greater Manchester has one of the youngest populations in the country, but far too often we hear that too many of them feel like strangers in their own city, left behind by low-paying jobs, spiralling rents and a sense that their concerns are neither being listened to nor acted upon. The Town Centre Challenge is not just a chance to drive regeneration and investment; it is also a chance to start rebalancing the scales in favour of the future.

Across the country, local authorities are becoming increasingly active in shaping, and in some cases directly participating in, their local property markets. We’ve already backed up our words with action in Stalybridge, working with companies like New Charter and Urban Splash to drive development in places like Summers Quay and Longlands Mill.  The Town Centre Challenge recognises these efforts and gives us the tools we need to take it to the next level. I’m truly excited at the potential in Stalybridge, and I’d like to extend my sincere thanks to all those on Monday who helped us take the first step of turning that potential into reality.

 

Posted by: Executive Leader


Improving Private Renting in Tameside

Wednesday, 14 March 2018


Housing in Britain has changed immeasurably over the past few decades. Thirty years ago, the house you lived in was more likely than not to have been bought outright with a mortgage or rented through a registered social landlord. Nowadays, a third means of access to housing has been added; renting privately through a landlord or company.

This private rented sector has increased, and is continuing to increase, dramatically. Last year it was estimated that 1 in 5 households in Britain were in private rented accommodation, and that figure is expected to increase to 1 in 4 by 2021. Here in Tameside, the proportion of households in the private rented sector has increased from 9.8% in 2006 to 14.3% in 2016; below the average for the UK, but still a significant increase of 45.9%. Even if the measures desperately needed to boost housebuilding nationwide are delivered, one basic fact will not change; the private rented sector is here to stay.

In many ways the laws and regulations around the private rented sector have not yet caught up with this reality. Let’s be clear from the start that the majority of private landlords are responsible. However, as always, there are a minority who see the business of putting a roof over people’s heads as a chance to line their own pockets, ignoring their own responsibilities and the welfare of their tenants and communities in the process. The essentially unregulated nature of the private rented sector means that it is incredibly hard for the police and local authorities to identify and take action against these rogue landlords. Shockingly, there is not even a legal requirement to make sure that homes in the private rented sector are fit for human habitation.

This needs to change. Housing is not just a place to live. Housing is the building block of sustainable communities, and a vital factor in making sure that people can live healthily and happily. More than that, there’s a simple moral argument. In one of the largest economies in the world, nobody should face the spectre of homelessness or an existence in overpriced, overcrowded, unsafe housing.

I intend for Tameside to take action now. That’s why, at the Full Council meeting at the end of last month, I called for the creation of a publically accessible and comprehensive register of landlords in the borough.

Such a register would be an invaluable tool in protecting the reputation of good landlords, the welfare of tenants and the ability of the council and police to take swift and meaningful action against the minority of rogues who let the entire sector down. Similar schemes have already been set up by the devolved governments of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, along with almost 70 councils in England. Newham Council in London, the first local authority to launch their own licensing scheme, have successfully brought forward 1,225 prosecutions, served 2,834 notices requiring properties to be made safe, and banned 28 criminal landlords outright. To put things into perspective, that’s more than every other London council put together over the same time period.     

It is my firm belief that this is an idea whose time is long overdue. A well-operated registration scheme is in the best interests of private landlords, their tenants and our local communities. Over the next few months, we will consult closely with landlords, tenants, charities, businesses, the police and other stakeholders to work out what such a registry would look like, and how it can be best implemented within Tameside. Expect to see more news on how we’re progressing in the very near future.  
 

 

Posted by: Executive Leader


A Celebration of Women Everywhere

Friday, 09 March 2018


This Thursday was International Woman’s Day, a worldwide annual event that celebrates woman’s achievements – both social and political – while drawing attention to the work that still needs to be done to promote gender equality at home and abroad. This year’s International Woman’s Day is particularly significant, as it also marks the centenary of the right to vote being granted to women in Britain for the first time. As part of our local celebrations, I had the pleasure of joining the Civic Mayor and Angela Rayner MP in addressing a crowd at Ashton Town Hall about Tameside’s historical connection with the woman’s suffrage movement.

And what a connection it is. If you mention the suffragettes the names that usually come up are the likes of Emmeline Pankhurst and Emily Davison. However, many of the other leading lights of the Women’s Social and Political Union (the political organisation set up by Pankhurst to campaign for woman’s suffrage) and associated suffragette groups can trace their history right back to the towns and villages that would later become Tameside and its surrounding areas.

Five minutes away from Ashton Market Square is Elizabeth Street, where Hannah Mitchell, a renowned socialist and suffragette, made her home for almost a decade. After the passage of the 1918 Representation of the People Act, she was duly elected as a member of Manchester City Council and, later, as a local magistrate. Originally a member of the Women’s Political and Social Union, she later became active in the Women’s Freedom League, whose policies went beyond securing the vote for women to securing social and economic equality as well.

Further up the road in Saddleworth was the birthplace of Annie Kenney, the only working-class woman to ascend to the top of the suffragette movement. From the age of 10 she worked in a local cotton mill, and bore the scars of that hard life when one of her fingers was ripped off in an industrial accident. We also know as well from research that many of the leading figures of the Women’s Social and Political Union, including Christabel Pankhurst, Emmeline’s eldest daughter, delivered speeches and attended rallies on multiple occasions in Ashton under Lyne and other parts of the borough.

But the history of Tameside’s women, inspiring and fascinating though it is, is only one part of the story. The other part is asking what it all means for Tameside’s women today?

There can be absolutely no doubt that we’ve come a long, long way since the days of the suffragettes. The Representation of the People Act 1918 finally gave votes to women for the first time, albeit only to women over 30 who owned property. It took another ten years for women to receive equal voting rights to men. Today, 99 years after Nancy Astor became the first woman to sit in Parliament, that same building now hosts 208 female MPs. More than there has ever been, but still less than half the number of male MPs. Despite the progress made, the fight for gender equality continues both in Britain and elsewhere in the world.

But that fight is now about so much more than Parliamentary representation. It covers everything from #MeToo shining a light on the prevalence of sexual violence and harassment against women; to the work undertaken by charities and the United Nations to end the practice of female genital mutilation; to the challenging of sexism in both television and print media.

Women in Britain in the 21st century may no longer face arrest for the crime of asserting their basic rights, but that doesn’t make the fight any less important, nor the victories any less significant. On this International Women’s Day, let us therefore commemorate not just the heroes and achievements of the past, but look forward to the heroes and achievements that will come in the future.

The work is not yet done, but the resolve of women everywhere has never been greater.

 

 

Posted by: Executive Leader


Taming the #BeastFromTheEast

Friday, 02 March 2018


The month of March is traditionally considered to be the beginning of spring, but you’d never guess it at the moment. Whether you want to call it #BeastFromTheEast, “Storm Emma” or anything else, one thing that’s beyond dispute is that the current weather is some of the absolute worst we’ve seen in recent memory.
It’s at times like this where local government services and workers are put to the ultimate test, but I’m happy to report that so far they’ve passed with flying colours. Here’s a list of just some of the things that they’ve done for Tameside over the past week.

When it snows, the first thing that everybody thinks is “Where’s the gritters?”. Usually, in an average winter we’d expect to do around 55 grit treatments for Tameside’s roads. This winter we’re at over 90 and counting. All in all, in those treatments we’ve used almost 5,000 tonnes of salt on over 22,000 kilometres of road – the equivalent of the distance from here to Singapore and back again. Whilst the priority has been to keep main roads and emergency service routes open, our highways service has also been out in the day gritting other routes by hand and ploughing roadways that would have otherwise been impassable. Having seen first-hand how seriously they take their work in the most difficult of conditions, I want to take the chance to extend my sincere thanks and appreciation to them. 

As well as keeping our roads and highways open, there are a variety of other services the council provides that absolutely cannot be stopped, regardless of what the weather’s like outside. We’ve been supporting vital frontline services like our Integrated Urgent Care Teams and Community Response Service to continue to make call outs, particularly through providing 4x4 vehicles for some of their more remote visits.

We’re also seeing the value of some of our other innovations in health and social care, especially the Digital Health Service. Based at Tameside Hospital, the service uses Skype to connect 40 registered care homes and the Community Response Service to a registered healthcare professional. Care home workers or Community Response officers can use the Skype link to get in touch for expert, one-on-one advice about any health incidents. Often this allows them to be dealt with without the need for a journey to hospital – reducing pressures on these services and keeping residents in the safety and comfort of their own homes. As you can imagine, that’s more important than ever given the current weather.

Two other services that have also kept going despite the difficulties over the past week are our Homelessness and Bereavement services. Our cold weather protocols for rough sleepers automatically kick in when the temperature outside drops below freezing. As part of that, we’ve been working closely with Greystones, Tameside Housing Advice, the police, Shelter and other support services and partners to make sure that the most vulnerable in our society have a warm and safe place to stay the night. Our Bereavement service has also pulled out all the stops to make sure that not a single funeral has had to be cancelled, postponed or delayed despite the snow, wind and freezing temperatures.

Last, but absolutely not least, I want to pass on my gratitude to our residents as well. You’ve kept an eye on elderly or vulnerable neighbours. You’ve braved the elements to keep the borough ticking over. Together, you and our council workers have shown the absolute best of Tameside, and proven beyond doubt what can be done when we band together during a crisis. I’m absolutely positive that, if we will continue to work together and look out for each other, we will get through this period of unseasonal weather intact. Until then, be careful and stay safe.

 

Posted by: Executive Leader


A Budget for Unprecedented Times

Thursday, 01 March 2018


This Tuesday evening I delivered my first Budget Report as Executive Leader of Tameside Council. It would be fair to say that the circumstances we face while planning the Council’s financial priorities for the rest of the year have been more difficult than they’ve ever been.

Only a few weeks ago, the entire local government sector was rocked by the news that Northamptonshire Council became the first council in over two decades to issue a Section 114 notice, a legal term declaring that they are in serious risk of being unable to set a balanced budget this year. Since then we’ve also learnt that Suffolk Council is over £105 million in the red. Nationally, 8 out of 10 councils have said that they have serious concerns about their financial position. For years we have warned that government cuts would lead to a crisis in local government. The time for warning has passed; that crisis is now here. The collapse of Carillion has also had consequences that are currently being felt nationwide through the public and private sector, consequences that we having to deal with right here in Tameside.

In this context, at the Budget meeting the Full Council passed a council tax rise for this year of 2% for adult social care and 2.99% for all other council services. This will allow us to invest £5.6 million extra this year in council services, including £1.7 million reserved exclusively for adult social care. Once you add in Greater Manchester-level precepts for Fire and Rescue, Police and Mayor’s Office, the council tax rise translates into £1.12, £1.30 and £1.49 a week in total extra for properties in Band A, B and C respectively.

That £5.6 million might sound like a lot, but sadly it’s a drop in the ocean compared to £140 million in cuts since 2010. We know that many of our residents are struggling to make ends meet themselves, and asking them to put their hands in their pockets again is an option we would have liked to avoid if at all possible. But the simple fact is that, until the government changes course on austerity, there is simply no other option open to us to raise the funds we need to keep our vital services running.

This makes it more important than ever that we make residents feel like they are receiving the services they value. That’s why the Budget contains a series of investments in the universal services we provide as a council. We’ve ring-fenced £20 million over 4 years to maintain and improve our 750 mile long network of road and highways, quadrupling the current budget for this service. We’re continuing our £5 million project to replace every street light in Tameside with brighter, more energy-efficient and environmentally-friendly LED lighting. We’re recognising the importance of our parks and green spaces by spending £600,000 to renovate and upgrade 35 children’s play areas across the borough. But while universal services are important, we also recognise that councils have a responsibility to support those in need, because our communities are only ever as strong as their most vulnerable. We’ve made significant progress on children’s services, and now we’ve allocated a further £18 million to help us take the next steps in our improvement journey. A helping hand has also been extended to our young care leavers by making them exempt from council tax and increasing the personal allowance for those living independently for the first time. Despite the collapse of Carillion, we’re also finalising plans which will bring the Vision Tameside project to a successful conclusion. The young people of the borough deserve nothing less.  

But, let’s be clear, if we want to solve the crisis in local government funding, we need to look further than the borders of Tameside. A growing consensus in emerging, on all sides of the political spectrum, that we cannot go on like this. We need a national conversation about what a new system of local government funding, one that’s fair and workable for both councils and taxpayers, might look like. Nothing should be off the table, and I will make sure that Tameside adds its voice to the growing clamour to find a different, better way of doing things.

No matter what emerges from that, we must continue to deliver the services that our residents expect, need and depend upon. The Budget passed on Tuesday will help us strive to do just that. Now the hard work begins to turn it into action.

 

Posted by: Executive Leader


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