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Executive Leader Cllr Brenda Warrington

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Councillor Brenda Warrington, Executive Leader of Tameside Council

Archive for March 2020

A Letter to the Chancellor of the Exchequer

Tuesday, 31 March 2020



Rt Hon Rishi Sunak MP
Chancellor of the Exchequer
HM Treasury
1 Horse Guards Road
London
SW1A 2HQ
 
Dear Chancellor
 
I am writing to express my concern about the support available for self-employed workers during the coronavirus pandemic.
 
In your announcements so far, you have rightly taken unprecedented steps to safeguard 80% of wages up to £2,500 per month for self-employed and PAYE workers during the current emergency. Major steps to protect business owners and private renters have also been welcome. However, I believe that there are some gaps that still need to be addressed as a matter of urgency.
 
According to official Labour Market Statistics, Tameside is home to almost 13,200 workers who are classed as self-employed. In the announcement on the introduction of the self-employed income support scheme it was confirmed that applicants will likely not receive their first payment until June, over two months away.  
 
As the situation stands at the moment, this means that many self-employed residents are continuing to face uncertainly over their finances and the prospect of a significant period with reduced income, or perhaps even no income at all. I know that as a council we have already had a large amount of requests for support from self-employed residents with paying their council tax or meeting bills and payments as they fall due. Worse still, there exists the possibility that some of these self-employed may feel compelled by sheer desperation to break the current guidelines on social distancing and continue working, thus running the risk of infection or passing infection on to others.
 
It is true that self-employed workers are now entitled to access Universal Credit in full. However, there are a number of issues with this benefit as it stands. In particular there has been no action to date on reducing or removing entirely the five week wait for payment. While this predates the coronavirus pandemic, it has become a more glaring hole in our welfare provision now that many more people will be relying on these payments to meet ends meet for several months.
 
The Prime Minister himself said at the beginning of this crisis that no UK citizen should be financially penalised for doing the right thing. I ask that he now makes good on this noble pledge.
 
Therefore, I must request that you take immediate action to further support self-employed workers during this interim period, including eliminating the five week wait for Universal Credit, making the Universal Credit payments themselves more generous and bringing forward the date for the opening of the self-employed income support scheme with all possible haste.
 
While I understand that these may be expensive measures, I believe that they are absolutely necessary to offer security to tens of thousands of self-employed in Tameside, not to mention the millions across the rest of the UK.
 
Tameside stands ready to do its part to fight the coronavirus pandemic. I trust that you will take the appropriate steps to provide leadership and support our vital self-employed workers in the days, weeks and perhaps even months ahead.

Yours sincerely,
 
Councillor Brenda Warrington
 
ENDS

 

Posted by: Executive Leader


Stay Safe. Stay At Home.

Thursday, 26 March 2020

It’s now been nearly two weeks since the World Health Organisation declared coronavirus a pandemic, and we are beginning to get a clearer idea of what exactly is required from us all to face down this crisis. 

By now you will have no doubt seen the recent announcement that schools have been closed. Exceptions have been made for children considered to be vulnerable, defined as those who have a social worker or are currently under an education, health and care (EHC) plan.  Children who have at least one parent or carer identified as a “key worker” will also continue to attend school to allow services vital to the country’s coronavirus responses to keep running. The complete list of “key workers” can be found here, and if your job is on the list then your workplace should be able to provide you with a letter of confirmation that can be shown to your children’s school. Despite the extraordinary circumstances all of the schools in Tameside have stepped up to the challenge, providing support and offering free school meals to all eligible pupils. My thanks go out to the school leaders, teachers, support staff, NHS workers and council officers who have gone above and beyond at this difficult time.

 

We have also seen the introduction of unprecedented measures to halt the spread of the virus. On Monday evening the most sweeping lockdown on travel and trade ever seen in Britain was announced. This included the closure of all non-essential retail stores and facilities, as well as limiting people’s ability to leave their homes except for shopping for basic necessities, exercise, medical need or travelling to and from work. While I’m pleased to say that most residents have abided by the lockdown restrictions, we have heard some disturbing reports that not all retail outlets and licensed premises have closed, and that some residents are continuing to go out in groups without good reason or are not staying more than 2 metres apart.

To clear up any doubt, this is absolutely unacceptable. These new rules might seem extreme but they have been put in place for a reason, and anybody who ignores them is putting themselves and others in serious danger. The council’s enforcement officers will not hesitate to take severe action against businesses violating lockdown rules, up to and including prosecution or termination of licenses. The police have also been given the powers to disperse groups of people or those they believe are outside without valid cause. It is so important that we follow the lockdown rules and any other advice and guidelines announced by Public Health England. The more we do so, the sooner all this will be over.

 

That being said, we’ve also heard about some incredible examples of our communities coming together, carrying out the little acts of kindness that are helping to raise spirits and make things a little more bearable for everybody. I’m thinking especially about the pupils at Silver Springs Academy in Stalybridge, who gave an impromptu singing performance for elderly residents self-isolating in the flats across the road from the school. Singing classics like “Something Inside So Strong”, “True Colours”, “Sing” and “Rather Be”, the heart-warming recital made it to the pages of the Manchester Evening News and showed that our young people are leading the way in keeping positive and thinking of others.

If you have any other examples of residents going above and beyond in the face of the coronavirus pandemic, please let us know. Sharing stories such as these is a really good way to keep everyone’s spirits up in this most unusual and challenging of times. I promise to keep you updated as more information on the fight against coronavirus becomes available. In the meantime please stay at home, follow all the necessary measures and, while not putting yourself or anybody else at risk, help others where you can. Thank you.

 

Posted by: Executive Leader


Coronavirus Update: Supporting Services and Communities

Thursday, 19 March 2020



If it wasn’t clear before, it is now. The coronavirus pandemic is the gravest challenge we have faced as a country in peacetime in living memory, a challenge that will require all of us to help each other and work together over the coming months. To that end, I want to take the opportunity to explain what exactly the council and our partners in the NHS and local communities are doing to ensure that vital services and support remain available. 

In certain cases this means that we will have to deliver them in a different way, especially when they involve face-to-face contact. As of midnight, we have closed a number of our public buildings, including libraries, museums and galleries, Local Studies and archives, Adult Community Education and Dukinfield Crematorium (public counter). However, where possible we will be encouraging residents to access certain parts of these services online. This also means that a number of customer services in these buildings will transfer from walk-in access to telephone and online. This includes customer services, welfare rights and debt advice, housing advice and taxi licensing.

These are steps that we would have preferred to have avoided if at all possible. However, our duty to protect the public, to redeploy our workforce to where it will do the most good, and to follow government guidance has to take precedence. We’re working very hard to put additional support in place for those who may find themselves vulnerable as a result of these changes and the current advice around social isolation.

 

The Council and local NHS Clinical Commissioning Groups are working closely with our communities to design a response to coronavirus, creating local solutions for the specific local issues that the pandemic has raised. Thanks to our efforts to integrate health and social health in Tameside and Glossop, we are in a very strong position to combine our efforts to best support residents and businesses. As well the redeployment of staff that I mentioned previously, we will also be looking at putting in measures to protect the homes of residents affected by coronavirus. For our care providers, whose essential efforts and expertise are required now more than ever, we will ensure that they do not have to choose between their wage, their health or the health of those that they support. We will also work with partners in the community and private sector to safeguard access to food for our residents, especially those who are unwell, self-isolating or caring for others. We will support children and parents through the current period of school closures. Last, but by absolutely no means least, we will use every resource we possess to encourage and mobilise the huge community spirit which exists here in Tameside.

And make no mistake; it is that community spirit that will get us through this crisis. Many groups have reached out to offer their support, and we already have a robust network of voluntary and charity organisations, faith groups, and tenants and residents associations with the connections and the experience to get things done. We are working closely with all of them to support communities to help each other and themselves.

I also cannot stress enough that we need to continue listening to the advice that is being regularly given out by the Council, NHS and Public Health England. For many of us this will be the most difficult period we’ve faced in our lives, and the pace at which the coronavirus is spreading means that things can, and have, changed on a day-by-day basis. We will come out of the other side of this by thinking of each other with every action, and seeking to protect our neighbours as much as we seek to protect ourselves.

For further information on the local response to the coronavirus, local services and public health advice please visit our website at www.tameside.gov.uk/coronavirus or call 0161 342 8355.

Posted by: Executive Leader


Statement on Coronavirus in Tameside

Wednesday, 11 March 2020

As I’m sure many of you are aware, a case of coronavirus in Tameside was confirmed over the weekend. We are currently following the careful procedures put in place by Public Health England (PHE) to contain the virus and prevent it from spreading. This includes the use of tried and tested methods such as rapid tracing, monitoring and (if necessary) isolation of people who may have come into contact with the virus.
 
I would like to reassure the people of our borough that the risk to individuals remains low. PHE have been contacting those who have been in close contact with the resident and will advise any individuals or workplaces on what the next steps will be. If you have not been contacted by Public Health England, please be assured that you do not need to take any action at this time other than following the general advice at www.nhs.uk/coronavirus
 
I want to stress that the great majority of people will experience the virus as a mild-to-moderate flu-like illness. But we still need to protect ourselves and our community - particularly older people and those with pre-existing health conditions. Simple but effective measures like washing your hands (especially once you arrive at work or home, after using public transport and before you prepare or eat food) or catching your coughs and sneezes in a tissue, can make a world of difference in preventing the spread of the virus.
 
If you think you might have coronavirus, you've been to a country or area with a high risk of coronavirus, or you've been in close contact with someone with coronavirus, please don’t go to your GP, pharmacist or hospital as you could pass the infection on to others. Please use the NHS 111 online coronavirus service www.111.nhs.uk/covid-19 or ring NHS 111 to speak to someone.
 
The spread of the virus could have many implications on both our health and pressures on our local services, so unnecessary panic and fake news is not something we want to add to that mix. With that in mind it is really important that we all do our bit to spread official and accurate information to our communities. I would ask that we all support this by only sharing messages from the social media feeds and the websites of Tameside Council and PHE, who will be updating on any developments in the coming weeks.
 
If we follow the advice of the experts, take sensible precautions and look after ourselves and others, I am confident that we will get through the current situation.

 

Posted by: Executive Leader


Welcome to the Wellness Centre

Thursday, 05 March 2020


After a year of construction, the Denton Wellness Centre has opened its doors. In celebration, we joined together last weekend with members of the public and those involved in the Centre’s creation for a fantastic opening ceremony, featuring performances from Tameside Music Service, a tour of the facility, speeches and plaque unveilings.

What’s especially pleasing is that this day has come earlier than we expected. Thanks to the outstanding progress made by everybody involved in the construction and fitting out of the Denton Wellness Centre, including Network Space, Willmott-Dixon and Pozzoni Architecture, our residents will be able to benefit from the wonderful facilities on offer ahead of schedule. Built on brownfield land in the heart of Denton, the state-of-the-art centre includes an eight-lane, 25 metre, competition swimming pool with room for 150 spectators and a learner pool; a spa area including sauna, steam and relaxation facilities; a fitness suite; and a ten-pin bowling alley. The Wellness Centre is also the jewel in the crown on our multi-year, £20 million investment in Tameside’s health and leisure estate, a programme that has previously brought us the Sky High Adventure Centre in Droylsden, the iTrain facility in Dukinfield, Total Adrenaline in Longdendale, and after some unforeseen and unavoidable delays, the beginning of the construction of Hyde Pool.

This programme of investment has been the result of the realisation that we needed to think differently about how we provide and market our leisure facilities. All of the facilities we’ve opened have presented their own unique and commercial offer, allowing us to push against the tide of austerity to provide better services on a more financially sustainable footing.

In that vein, our vision for the Denton Wellness Centre is about creating a welcoming space for everybody, including people from outside Tameside, and those who might not see themselves ever walking into a leisure centre. As well as the usual health and exercise facilities, the building also contains meeting rooms, free Wi-Fi, a children’s soft play area and multi-use studio spaces. The traditional foyer has been replaced with a “social interaction zone” that can be used to both host events such as history talk or music sessions, or as a relaxation and reading area. Even the roof has been put to good use, as we’ve transformed it into a sensory garden and open air meeting area. We’ve also worked closely with our contractors and residents to ensure that disabled-friendly, dementia-friendly and autism-friendly design has been used throughout the building.  

 

But I think it’s really important to say as well that the benefits of the Denton Wellness Centre go far, far beyond the financial return. The building also has incredible potential to encourage a healthy living revolution among our residents.

I’ve heard it said often that if exercise were 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. The father of modern medicine, the Greek Hippocrates, described exercise as “the best medicine”. He was right then and he’s still right now. Our own studies in Tameside show that significantly increasing our levels of activity could prevent 1,344 new diabetes cases, 60 new breast cancer cases, 21 new colorectal cancer cases and 73 new incidences of coronary heart disease a year. The impact that this could have, not just in terms of the quality of life of our residents but the money that could be saved in health and social care as well, cannot be underestimated.

The Denton Wellness Centre is therefore not just the crown jewel of our leisure investment, but the standard bearer for encouraging active and healthy living. By bringing together leisure and social activities, we’re putting into our residents’ hands the tools they need to live longer and happier lives. We have an absolutely exceptional facility on our hands, and I am confident it will make a huge and lasting difference. A healthier and better Tameside is within our grasp.

 

Posted by: Executive Leader


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