Executive Leader Cllr Brenda Warrington

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Councillor Brenda Warrington, Executive Leader of Tameside Council

Archive for November 2018

Harnessing the Power of Pension Funds

Friday, 30 November 2018


As many of you may already know, as well as being the Executive Leader of Tameside Council I am also the Chair of the Greater Manchester Pension Fund (GMPF). Administered by the council, the GMPF is the largest public sector pension fund in the country, with an asset pool of £24 billion and a membership base of 370,000 people from 560 separate employers.

In my role as Chair, it was my pleasure to be in attendance on a remarkable day for Manchester on 15th November, as we celebrated the topping out of Deansgate Square. Based in the southern edge of the city centre, the development consists of four skyscrapers, one of which now stands as not only the tallest building in Manchester, but the tallest building in the country outside of London. But Deansgate Square is much more than an attempt to out-do the Beetham Tower. Once complete it will provide first-class accommodation and amenities in the very heart of Manchester, and will serve as a catalyst for the regeneration of an area of the city that has lain derelict for years.

This is the point where you might be asking “What does the Pension Fund have to do with a building in Manchester?” The GMPF has supported the construction of Deansgate Square through a £30 million loan facility via its property investment fund, the Greater Manchester Property Venture Fund. Since its establishment in 1990, the GMPVF has developed more than 1 million square feet of commercial buildings within the Greater Manchester region. Our portfolio includes the former Colgate Palmolive factory in Salford, an industrial park in Rochdale and the BBC site on Oxford Road in the city centre. We are also a partner with the Manchester Airport Group and the Beijing Construction and Engineering Group in the development of the £800 million Airport City project. Working in partnership with local authorities, the Pension Fund also set up Matrix Homes, whose innovative development programme has led to the successful construction of 240 high-quality family homes across five sites in Manchester, with more to come in the future.

Tameside itself has also benefitted from significant investment by the GMPF. The base of operations for the fund is the state-of-the-art Guardsman Tony Downes House in Droylsden, and many of the buildings and infrastructure made possible by the fund’s work, whether they’re in the borough or further afield, provide direct benefits, employment opportunities and life improvements to many of our residents.  We’re also looking at options for developing the Fund’s plots of land in Stalybridge, bringing further housing and business opportunities to one of our towns.

All of these investments have been guided by the Pension Fund’s twin aims; providing a commercial return that will allow us to continue to meet our obligations to our members, and supporting the redevelopment and regeneration of our local area. We’re interested in doing well, but in our view doing good is just as important.

Pension Funds are in a unique position to make this a reality, as our financial strength means that we can deliver the firepower necessary to make significant developments happen. We’re also an investor for the long term. Whereas governments or private companies may be wary of investments that may not provide a quick return, these are absolutely ideal for us given the nature of a pension fund’s obligations to its members. Finally, and I truly believe that this is the most important reason; we are embedded within our local communities. Providing our members with comfort and dignity in their retirement and investing in things that make their lives better is at the very heart of who we should be as a pension fund.

When looking at it that way you can see the true significance of the ceremony at Deansgate Square. As impressive as it was, it is but one piece of the GMPF’s wider ambition for Greater Manchester. It’s an ambition of a city region of opportunity for all, a city region of world-class infrastructure and productivity, a city region that is the best place in the UK, if not the world, to live and work. Rest assured that the Greater Manchester Pension Fund and all those who work there will continue to do what needs to be done to make that ambition a reality.

 

Posted by: Executive Leader


We Shine Brighter Together

Tuesday, 20 November 2018

“We shine brighter together”. It’s a true statement at all times, but at this time of year it takes on a special significance in Tameside as we begin our programme of Christmas events. Last Saturday saw the festivities kick off in Stalybridge and Droylsden, as their respective town squares played host to light switch ons and a variety of food, drink and entertainment. There was an added poignancy to the event in Droylsden, as a plaque was set up honouring my predecessor, Kieran Quinn, who sadly passed away last Christmas.

The show continues this weekend, as Dukinfield, Micklehurst, Ashton and Mossley hold their own celebrations. This will be followed by Hattersley, Hollingworth and Hyde on the first weekend of December. The highlight, as it always is every year, will be the famous Tameside Lantern Parade. This year it will take place in Denton on 8th December, taking a route through Victoria Park and providing the star attraction of a weekend of activities being held on the Civic Square. Schools, community groups and residents across Tameside are already hard at work with professional artists to create the gorgeous sculptures and costumes that will form the centrepieces of the event.

If that wasn’t enough, our Markets will be getting in on the action as well. On 24th November Ashton Market will be the epicentre of a spectacular town centre-wide event, featuring festive community stalls, family activities including a “12 Days of Christmas” treasure hunt and a dazzling display of lights and decorations. Every weekend afterwards, all the way up to the last weekend before Christmas Day itself, Ashton and Hyde markets will be putting on their own festive markets and special events. There are even rumours going round that Santa himself will be making an appearance.

As always, none of our Christmas events would be possible without the efforts and contributions of our communities and businesses. That includes our town teams who have used their knowledge and expertise to craft events that fit the tastes of their local area. It includes internationally-renowned arts organisation Global Grooves, who are based in Mossley and have worked closely with the Council’s Cultural Services on a Lantern Parade that reflects Denton’s unique history and heritage. Finally, and most importantly it all, it includes our residents who year-after-year show their support for our Christmas events and create the atmosphere that helps make them such a highlight on the borough’s cultural calendar.

Christmas is also a time where we should keep in mind those less fortunate than ourselves. In that spirit, the council is helping to co-ordinate donations for foodbanks and the annual Tameside 4 Good toy appeal. I stand by my belief that the existence of food banks in a country as rich as Britain is a scandal that should shame us all, but the sad fact is that many in Tameside and elsewhere now rely on them for basic necessities. We intend to make sure that no family in Tameside goes without a good meal and a present on Christmas Day, and we need your help to do it. Foodbank contributions can be dropped in to any library in Tameside before 30th November (although we can obviously accept donations after that date, we won’t be able to include them as part of the Christmas appeal) and we’ll be accepting toy donations for the Tameside 4 Good appeal up until 10th December. For more information on what we’re looking for in both appeals please visit the council’s website here.

So as we enter into the final weeks of 2018, let’s remember that the true strength in Tameside has always been, and always will be, the shared power of our communities. If we come together I truly believe we can use that power to make sure that Tameside’s Christmas is a time of joy and merriment for all.

 

Posted by: Executive Leader


A Call to Action for a Green Tameside

Friday, 16 November 2018

Imagine for one moment there was a killer on the loose in Greater Manchester. A killer responsible for deaths of 1,200 people every year, who went out of their way to prey on the most vulnerable, the old and the sick, and who has never been caught. Imagine the fear and the outrage we’d live with, and imagine what we’d do to make sure that they were brought to justice.  

We don’t need to imagine such a killer, because it already exists. The killer is the very air we breathe, and the question we all have to ask ourselves now is what do we do about it?

Part of the problem is that air pollution is very much a silent killer. Very few people die from breathing polluted air itself. They die from respiratory problems, cancers and heart or lung diseases brought about or worsened by breathing polluted air. The other part of the problem is that so many of the things responsible for air pollution are deeply embedded into the way we go about our modern lives. To give an example, one of the major elements of air pollution is nitrogen dioxide, which is largely caused by road traffic.

But air pollution is not the only environmental issue we face. It’s recently been revealed that micro plastics such the ones found in the River Tame in March have now been discovered in human waste for the first time, proving that plastic pollution may be widespread in our food chains. The UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has also reported that our window for keeping the global temperature rise below 1.5 degrees, and preventing the truly catastrophic repercussions this would entail, has now shrunk to less than a dozen years.

These aren’t things that we have the luxury of time to deal with; we need to take serious action here and now. This is one area where devolution in Greater Manchester is making a real difference. In March the Greater Manchester Green Summit was launched, bringing together everybody with an interest in protecting our shared environment.

That Green Summit, bringing the issues of sustainability and the environment to the forefront of the public debate, was a powerful call to action for us all. Last week, we took the next step by deciding how Tameside will answer that call. At the first ever Tameside Green Summit, held in Dukinfield Town Hall on Tuesday 6th November, we heard from a number of prominent experts and academics, including Kevin Anderson from Manchester University, Brian Deegan from Urban Design, representatives from IKEA and the Greater Manchester Environment Portfolio Lead, Cllr Alex Ganotis. I was also particularly impressed by the powerful round ups of the day from Emily and Jacob, two members of Tameside’s Youth Council. These were the voices of the next generation – the young people who would ultimately live with the consequences of what we do, or fail to do, to protect our environment and climate.  

With their guidance and inspiration, we came together to pledge, in our own ways, what we could all do in Tameside. Even the smallest pledges, if done by enough people over a long enough time, have the potential to build up to a massive collective difference in reducing Tameside’s carbon footprint.  As might be expected, clean air was a prominent theme, but we also saw pledges on everything from cycling to work, to planting more trees, to reducing our use of plastic, especially single-use plastics, wherever possible. The message we left people with was simple; do what you can, do it in the way that best fits for you, but do something.

I have no doubt that we will build on the success of the Tameside Green Summit. We know that we can’t solve everything immediately, but we have started laying the foundations and creating the relationships needed to take meaningful and effective action on protecting the environment, cleaning up our air and promoting healthy and sustainable living. The road to change is likely to be long and difficult, but last week has shown that we are all up for the challenge.  

 

Posted by: Executive Leader


Tameside Honours the Centenary of Remembrance

Tuesday, 13 November 2018

A hundred years ago last Sunday, 11th November, the guns of World War 1 fell silent for the last time, four years and 17 million deaths after they first opened fire. Those who emerged from the trenches on that fateful day knew that they had, against all the odds, survived through the most horrific conflict in human history to date. Whether they had endured the mustard gas of Ypres, the machine guns of the Somme or the mud of Passchendaele, they all swore “Never Again”.

None of those people are with us now. Since the death of Florence Green in 2012, at the incredible age of 110, there are now no known living survivors of World War 1. The Remembrance of 2018 is not the remembrance of those who fought and lived that terrible war. It is the Remembrance of those for whom that carnage and slaughter is confined to chapters in a history book, or in stories passed down from grandparents or great grandparents. The torch has been passed, and it falls to us to remember their sacrifice and uphold their promise of “Never again”, because no one else is able to do it for us.

But we all know that, despite World War 1 being labelled “the war to end all wars”, conflict has remained a constant feature of human life over the century since. From World War 2 and the Korean War, to the modern day struggles in the Middle East, men and women continue to leave our shores and fight and die for their country. From 1945 to the present day, with the exception of 1968, at least one British soldier has died on active duty every year, a number of which have been from Tameside. Even if they didn’t fall in one of the World Wars, their loss remains as keenly felt, and the need to honour their memory remains as vital as ever.

In their name, Tameside came together last weekend to celebrate the centenary of remembrance, with every town and community holding their own parades and wreath-laying ceremonies. Accompanied by the Civic Mayor of Tameside, Councillor Denise Ward, I attended the parade that ran from the Denton Working Men’s Club to the war memorial in Victoria Park, where a solemn and moving service was held.

These weekend events were the climax of a wider programme of remembrance that has been taking place across Tameside since the beginning of the month. Over the course of eleven days, we’ve placed silhouettes of Tommies in the windows of Dukinfield and Denton Town Halls, encouraged children to look for hidden toy soldiers in Stalybridge, put on a “dance for victory” at Hyde Market ground and organised a film screening at the Local Studies and Archives Centre in Ashton about life on the Home Front. The centrepiece was a poignant parade of life-sized silent soldier statues, one each for every town in the borough, standing as silent witnesses to those who fought and sacrificed. 

My thanks go out to everybody who turned out to show their support, in particular those young people who will no doubt continue to carry the flame of remembrance long after we are gone. As we look back at last weekend, let us make sure that the spirit that brought us together continues to influence us all in the weeks, months and years ahead. We must uphold the promise of “Never Again” in both thought and action, honouring those men and women who fell, but also working for a peace and justice which will ensure that no one else has to suffer like they did on those battlefields of a century ago.

 

Posted by: Executive Leader


A Budget That Fails to Deliver

Thursday, 01 November 2018


 
On Monday afternoon, the Chancellor of the Exchequer delivered his Budget for the coming year. Standing in the dispatch box at the House of Commons, he declared that “the era of austerity is coming to an end”. After spending some time going over the facts and figures, my reply to him is now “Who are you kidding?”

Let’s put the rhetoric to one side for the moment and see where the numbers take us.

Since 2010, local government funding has been decimated to the tune of almost £16 billion. Where we had £1 to spend in 2010, we have only 40p to spend eight years later. We know as well that the government has already penned in a further £1.3 billion in cuts next year. When you put everything together, the Local Government Association has estimated that by 2025 councils in England will have £7.8 billion less than they need to operate at the level they’re at right now.

When you’re dealing with amounts of that scale, the sums of £650 million for adult social care or £84 million for children’s services announced in the Budget start looking a lot less impressive. At best, this Budget offers sticking plasters on years’ worth of gaping wounds. At worst, it threatens the ability of local government to keep running the vital services that millions of people up and down the country, particularly the elderly and vulnerable, depend upon.

It wasn’t just local government who spent the start of the week finding out that “the end of austerity” is a mirage.

The mental health funding crisis in our NHS is now so severe that some patients are being sent hundreds of miles away from home to access basic treatment. The government’s response in the Budget has been to try and pass off £2 billion as new money, when in actual fact it’s coming from previously announced NHS funding.

The government seems to think that all schools needed in the Budget was a one-off payment of £10,000 each for primary schools and £50,000 each for secondary schools to cover “little extras”. Yet we know that school buildings up and down the country are facing a maintenance backlog of £6.7 billion, and that a wholesale neglect of professional retention and development has meant that over half our teachers are considering leaving the sector entirely.    

Despite tinkering around the edges with Universal Credit, 75% of the cuts to working age benefits announced since 2015 remain. Even more alarming is the fact that the government seems to be intent in ploughing ahead with Universal Credit as a whole, despite the almost overwhelming evidence that the serious problems in its design and implementation remain unresolved.

The true cost of austerity can no longer be denied, even by a government that has spent eight long years wilfully ignoring the damage it wreaked. But actions always speak louder than words, and this is a Budget that has failed to do what needs to be done. If the government had really wanted to end austerity, they would have put the money in place to start reversing the cuts to public sector funding. If they really wanted to end austerity, they would have addressed the funding inequalities that have left some parts of the country flush with investment and other parts barely keeping their heads above water. If they really wanted to end austerity, they would have taken responsibility for the UK having the worst economic growth in the G20 nations and the slowest increase in wages since the Napoleonic Wars.

The government says that they are ending austerity, but all they’ve given us is more of the same. Every Tameside resident, every public sector organisation and worker, anybody who cares about the future of our country deserves better than what they were offered on Monday.

 

Posted by: Executive Leader


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