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Executive Leader Cllr Brenda Warrington

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Councillor Brenda Warrington, Executive Leader of Tameside Council

Archive for March 2021

Staying the Course Against Coronavirus

Wednesday, 24 March 2021

Yesterday marked a year since the beginning of the first coronavirus lockdown. As part of a National Day of Reflection, Dukinfield Town Hall was floodlit in yellow to symbolise our shared grief for those who have tragically lost their lives to this terrible pandemic.
 

In the midst of this sombre occasion however, there is a bright spark of optimism. Our vaccination rollout has now seen nearly 100,000 residents protected with a first dose. My thanks go out to everybody involved in the programme for their tremendous work in getting these life-saving medicines delivered to residents as quickly as possible.

In recent days there has been some concern about the Astra-Zeneca vaccine increasing the risk of blood clots. While 17 million people in the UK and Europe have now received the AstraZeneca vaccine, only 37 have developed cases of blood clots afterwards. NHS research has also shown that there is no difference in the rate of blood clots between people who have had the vaccine compared to those who have not. If you are contacted by the NHS to book your vaccination appointment, please ignore the scaremongering and get the jab you need to protect yourself and those around you. While we know that there are some side effects from the vaccination, they are mostly mild and can be treated quickly with painkillers, such as paracetamol, if necessary.

It’s especially important that the vaccination programme continues because it is starting to have a real impact on our ability to lift some of the toughest lockdown restrictions. Last Wednesday the government announced that the 3.8 million people in England who are considered to be “clinically extremely vulnerable” to coronavirus will no longer have to shield after 1 April. While those on the shielded list will be able to follow the national restrictions alongside the rest of the population from this time, they are still advised to take extra precautions including strict adherence to social distancing and limiting their social contact.

I know that, after the past twelve months of lockdown and social restrictions, we’re all looking forward to the possibility of things starting to reopen, but we must be mindful of the fact that the virus is still with us. Tameside’s rate of infection has fallen consistently in recent weeks, but this rate of decrease is now starting to flatten out. Because of this, it is more important than ever that we stick to the rules and work together to protect our communities. This includes not mixing households, continuing to wash hands, wear face masks and practicing social distancing, and getting tested if you have symptoms, or if you don’t have symptoms but cannot work from home, or if you’re in a household with a child attending school or a teacher. Council teams are also on call to help with workplace outbreaks and carry out spot checks at supermarkets and retailers, while police are continuing to deal with serious violations of social distancing such house parties and other indoor gatherings.

I’m particularly grateful to many of our local businesses for supporting our “Do The Right Thing” campaign to highlight our coronavirus safety messages. You can also do your bit to get the word out to your friends, families and communities that we’re not out of the woods yet. The worst case scenario if we allow infection rates to rise unchecked is that Tameside may be left behind under local restrictions while the rest of the country opens up again, which is the last thing that any of us wants. 

 

I know that the past year has been incredibly difficult for everybody, but lives and livelihoods are still at stake. The more we keep looking after ourselves and others, the sooner we will be able to return to a more normal life. Let’s work together and give it one last push.

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NOTE: As the pre-election period - for the local and GM mayoral elections on 6 May 2021 - begins on Monday this will be my last weekly blog until after the election. Thank you for reading and see you in a few weeks.

 

Posted by: Executive Leader


City, Town, Country, Connected

Tuesday, 16 March 2021


It’s no secret to anybody that Britain is currently in the grip of a housing crisis. Estimates have put the number of new homes needed to satisfy demand in England alone at up to 345,000 a year, but in 2019/20 our total housing stock nationally only increased by around 244,000.

This shortage in supply, combined with an increased demand from a growing population, has resulted in a sustained and serious impact on the cost of buying a house. Data from the Land Registry shows that in 1990 the average UK house price was £57,726 compared to an average household income of £20,448. 30 years later, the average housing price has skyrocketed to £237,834, far outstripping the relatively paltry average household income of £37,100.

The government has committed itself to a target of building 300,000 homes a year by the mid-2020s. To make this happen, they have passed down targets for the number of houses that local authorities such as ourselves are required to build in our area. While we have no control over the number of homes we are required to build, we do – if we have a plan to meet the target – have influence over how and where these are delivered.  A plan is important, as it gives us greater control over the quality and density of new housing, and ensures that the necessary supporting infrastructure will be provided.

The emerging nine borough Joint Development Plan ‘Places of Everyone’ and our plan for Godley Green specifically are key to housing developments that are about building communities and not just making profit. Failure to have a plan will put Tameside at the mercy of planning appeals and uncontrolled development based on what works for developers and not local people. While the temptation would be to just build enough to achieve our targets and be done with it, I believe that we should be bolder. That’s why we’ve chosen to make housebuilding an essential part of our overall inclusive growth strategy, combining new homes with investment in better jobs and green public transport.

 

Our development of a Garden Village in Godley Green is essential to making this vision a reality. Once complete, this will deliver 25% of the council’s housing target through the construction of over 2,000 high quality homes. This will include properties to buy and to rent at affordable rents, promoting liveability over profit and encouraging diverse neighbourhoods of young and old, single people and families, and independent and supported living. It is also our intention that all housing will be carbon neutral, digitally connected and enjoy easy access to diverse green space.
 
Wider infrastructure in the new Godley Green Garden Village will be provided by GPs surgeries, schools, transport and two multi-purpose community centres providing a wide variety of other amenities. The location of the development, with easy access to the Peak District, Manchester and Stockport, also allows for the construction of extensive and efficient cycling and other public transport infrastructure. This will also provide economic benefits to Hyde and Hattersley as Godley Green residents visit and spend within these neighbouring towns.

But our ambitions for Godley Green do not stop there, as we intend for nothing less than making the development a national exemplar for others to follow. We’re not just building houses, we’re building communities in the truest sense. Local people will be able to have a say on the running of the development, and wherever possible we will choose to protect and enhance the area’s natural environment.

It is in that spirit that we are in close contact with residents and stakeholders about the progress of the development. We are currently holding engagement sessions on the masterplan for the site prior to submitting for planning permission, and this consultation and discussion will continue over the entire 15 year lifespan of the project. A new website has also been created here, to provide a one-stop shop for any updates and opportunities for you to get involved.

 

I truly believe that the Godley Green Garden Village is a once in a lifetime chance to do something really bold and different with housing in our borough. We can, and I believe we will, prove that there need not be a choice between preserving our environment on one hand and driving economic growth on the other. Over the next few years I look forward to updating you all on the progress of the development, as well as our other plans to build fairer, better and greener in Tameside.
 

Posted by: Executive Leader


Striving for Equality on International Women's Day 2021

Monday, 08 March 2021

As Leader of Tameside Council and the Greater Manchester Combined Authority Lead for Equalities, I would like to wish you all a Happy International Women’s Day.

Since it was first celebrated in New York in 1909, International Women’s Day has become a global event to recognise the achievements of women across the world, and an opportunity to consider the social, economic and political challenges that women continue to struggle against. We’ve come a long way from the days when the Suffragettes faced arrest and persecution in the UK for demanding the vote and other basic human rights, but modern campaigns against sexual assault, the gender pay gap and other systematic and unjustifiable inequalities shows that the struggle for full equality is not over yet.

The theme of this year’s International Women’s Day is “women in leadership”. I don’t think it’s hubris to say that, when it comes to the women taking charge and making decisions, I’d put Tameside up against anywhere else in the world today. I’ve always said that I’m proud to be the first woman ever to be elected to the office of Leader of Tameside Council, but I am just one of many women who have risen to positions of leadership within the borough.

 

Over the past year our Director of Public Health, Jeanelle De Gruchy, has been standing side-by-side with Karen James, the Chief Executive of Tameside Hospital, and Jessica Williams, CCG Director for Commissioning and Vaccine Rollout Lead, on the front lines of our local response to coronavirus. The Civic Mayor of Tameside, Cllr Janet Cooper, has worked with local campaigner and pub owner Pauline Town in our local communities on the “We Shall Overcome” campaign to support our homeless and vulnerable in this incredibly difficult time. Jackie Moores, the Principal at Tameside College, also holds an essential role in making sure our young people get the skills and education they need to get on in life.

That being said, it’s important to remember that not every woman can be, or wants to be, the next Chief Executive or Leader of the Council. But all woman play their part in society no matter what they do, and no woman should feel like they’re held down in Tameside or Greater Manchester because of their gender.

This year’s International Women’s Day is also being held just over a year since the first positive cases of coronavirus were identified in Greater Manchester. It’s for that reason that we’re taking the opportunity to remember and celebrate the contribution of women during the pandemic. Over 80% of the city region’s health and care workforce are women, and many have also taken on additional informal caring and teaching responsibilities over the past year. While the coronavirus appears to have killed more men than women to date, it is also true that women are suffering more of the economic consequences of the pandemic. Women are more likely to be on insecure and zero-hours contract, more likely to be employed in service sectors hit hardest by social distancing measures, and more likely to have lost their jobs or been furloughed. We’ve also seen a dramatic increase in incidents of domestic abuse over the course of lockdown, in which women have disproportionately been the victims.

 

I’ve said in the past that when this terrible pandemic finally comes to an end, we must reject the false comfort of going back to the ways things were before. After a once in a generation trauma comes a once in a generation chance to build back better, fairer and greener for all. Harnessing the skills and effort of women from all walks and positions of life will be absolutely indispensable in making that a reality. International Women’s Day reminds us how far we’ve come, but it also shows us how far we have left to go to create a truly equal world. 
 

Posted by: Executive Leader


The Wrong Budget at the Wrong Time

Friday, 05 March 2021

All eyes this week were on the House of Commons as the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Rishi Sunak, announced the latest national Budget. While Budget day is always a major event, this one was even more significant as it would give us the first indication asto whether the government was sincere in its commitment to build back better and fairer after coronavirus.
 

The announcement comes at a time when the economic impact of this once in a generation pandemic is beginning to be felt. The forecasts show that the UK economy will not return to its pre-coronavirus levels until 2022 at least. While annual growth is expected to rebound by 4% this year and 7.3% in 2022, this means that the economy will still be 3% smaller in 2026 than was predicted before coronavirus. More disturbing of all is the spectre of a new wave of unemployment. It’s estimated that 700,000 people in Britain have lost their jobs since the pandemic began, and the rate of unemployment is expected to increase to as high as 6.5% next year.

It is in this context that I believe that the Chancellor’s decision to cut Universal Credit by £20 a week in September is a grave error. As unemployment rises and the furlough scheme comes to an end, it is estimated that this change could plunge over half a million people, including 200,000 children, into poverty. Many of these are likely to be people who have worked most of their lives, and are now rewarded by the government pulling away the safety net at a time when it is needed most. The fact that the Chancellor has correctly elected to gradually phase out other elements of coronavirus support, including the furlough scheme, business funding and VAT reduction, makes this brutal and unnecessary cut all the more glaring.

The Leader of the Opposition also accurately pointed out that the Budget speech, which lasted over an hour, did not mention the funding of social care once. That phrase might sound like a cliché, but the consequences are real. Up and down the country, councils are starting to run out of money to meet their legal obligations for providing social care and other services. Since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic Croydon Council has declared bankruptcy, and four more were forced to borrow money to fund day-to-day spending. The government has not come close to repairing the damage inflicted by a decade of ideological austerity, and I regret to say that this Budget continues to do nothing to protect our local services, our NHS, or our elderly and vulnerable.

 

Worse still are the political games that the Budget appears to be playing with the little funding that they have offered. Back in the Spending Review at the end of the last year, the government announced a £1 billion Towns Fund and Levelling Up fund. We now know that out of the 45 towns selected to receive this money, 40 of them are in constituencies represented by Conservatives MPs. This includes the Chancellor’s own constituency in Richmond, which is already one of the richest in the North of England, as well as towns in the constituencies of four other government ministers, the Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick (Newark), the Welsh Secretary Simon Hart (Carmarthen West and South Pembrokeshire), the Scottish Secretary Alister Jack (Dumfries and Galloway) and Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis (Great Yarmouth). The National Audit Office has also found that almost £10.5 billion in contracts have been awarded by the government without a competitive tender process, leaving the British taxpayer vulnerable to cronyism, conflicts of interest and, although I hope this isn’t the case, outright corruption.

Put all this together and it’s clear thar this Budget is far from the radical and decisive action we need to emerge from the coronavirus pandemic. Instead it reinforces the fact that lavish money is available for those who know the right people in the government, while everybody else has to make do with crumbs. This is not the way that a first-world country should be run. We can, and we must, demand better.

 

Posted by: Executive Leader


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