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Executive Leader Cllr Brenda Warrington

Leader's Blog  

Councillor Brenda Warrington, Executive Leader of Tameside Council

Archive for November 2020

Spending Review 2020: A Missed Opportunity

Friday, 27 November 2020

On Wednesday afternoon the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Rishi Sunak, delivered the government’s Spending Review to the House of Commons. Unlike the Budget, where the biggest financial decisions in areas such as taxation are made, the purpose of a Spending Review is to focus specifically on the budgets and priorities of government departments. Typically these look at spending over a three to five year period, but due to the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic most of the conclusions of the 2020 Spending Review will apply for the next financial year only.

The forecasts from the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR), the government body that monitors the public finances, make for sobering reading. The OBR predicts that GDP will fall by 11.3% this year, the biggest decline in three hundred years, and that it is unlikely that the economy will return to its pre-coronavirus size until the end of 2022 at least. With recent news of progress on a vaccine there finally seems to be light at the end of the tunnel of this terrible pandemic. However, it is now clear that the coronavirus also has inflicted incredible long-term damage on our economy and society.

In this context I appreciate that some hard decisions have to be made. We are still assessing the full implications of the Spending Review for Tameside, but from our first look I believe that the government has taken the wrong course on many issues. I’m glad that NHS medical staff such as doctors and nurses will receive a pay increase this year, but this still means that many of the other key workers we have so depended on in the pandemic, including carers, teachers and police officers, will be “rewarded” for their tireless efforts with a pay freeze next year.

I’m also deeply worried that, with economic forecasts predicting that unemployment could rise by over a million people next year, the Chancellor said nothing to dispel the rumours that Universal Credit payments will be cut in April. This would amount of £1,040 a year being taken from people on low and middle-income at a time when they need it the most. It’s not just morally abhorrent, it’s bad economics too, and I urge the Chancellor to do the right thing and make it clear that this will not become a reality.

The announcement of a £4 billion “Levelling Up” fund to encourage more investment outside of London and the South East also leaves me with some concerns. While the possibility of more money to fix our unbalanced economy should be a cause for celebration, the fact remains that we’ve been here many times before. Once again, councils in the North such as Tameside are being asked to bring their begging bowl and ask the government directly for money, as opposed to being given the power and funding to make our own decisions based on what we know needs done in our local area. There are also serious questions about how the funding will be allocated. The National Audit Office have already expressed their concern about the handing out of billions of pounds of public money for coronavirus-related contracts to people and organisations with close links to key figures in the government. I sincerely hope that any Levelling Up funding will be given to those areas who actually need it most.  

I’ve made it clear that when this terrible pandemic is finally put behind us, the priority must be to build back better. Not just from coronavirus itself, but from a decade of austerity that left many people and local authorities on a cliff-edge even before the pandemic hit. That will not be achieved by betraying our public sector workers and low-paid employees, nor will left behind parts of the country be able to reach their potential if they're forced to fight each other for an inadequate pot of funding.  The coronavirus pandemic may be an unprecedented natural crisis, but a failure to rebuild will be a crisis delivered straight from the corridors of power.


Posted by: Executive Leader

Have Your Say in the Budget Conversation

Thursday, 19 November 2020

Over the past few weeks I have said that when this terrible pandemic is finally put behind us, we cannot go back to the way things were before. The simple fact is that, for too many people in Tameside, Greater Manchester and Britain as a whole, hardship and struggle did not begin with coronavirus. They need and deserve more than going back to normal.
To that end we have launched, or in the process of launching, a large variety of consultations on what we expect to be the key areas of work to build back better after coronavirus. These include projects taking place on a Greater Manchester level such as protecting our environment, fighting against air pollution, and improving the quality of taxis and private hire vehicles, and schemes unique to Tameside such as developing our transport infrastructure and making sure that every resident feels safe from crime and anti-social behaviour.
However, none of these ambitions will become a reality unless they are built on the foundations of a sustainable and responsible approach to our finances. Every year the Tameside and Glossop Strategic Commission, the joint organisation which brings together Tameside Council and the Tameside and Glossop Clinical Commissioning Group, spends over £974 million on the key services that our residents depend on. These range from £51 million on collecting bins and maintaining roads, to £40 million for mental health support and £87 million for adult social care.
This means that it is more important than ever that we ask what matters to you when it comes to our services and finances. That’s why we’ve launched our Budget Conversation, which can be accessed on our website here. Anybody who lives, work or has some other interest in Tameside and Glossop is encouraged to join the conversation and have their say on what you think our spending priorities should be for the next financial year, and if you have any ideas or suggestions for how we might deliver services better, save money or raise revenue.
Contrary to what many people believe, the vast majority of the money that funds these services does not come from council tax. In fact, money from council tax makes up only 17% of our total budget. The rest comes from a large variety of direct government grants and payments.
Like every local authority, we are legally required to set a balanced budget every year. This involves taking into account a huge number of considerations, including what is required from us legally, what we expect demand from our residents to look like, and whether we can adopt new ways of doing things to improve service quality and financial sustainability.

It is unfortunately no exaggeration to say that the financial challenges of this years’ budget are the most serious we have ever faced. We are still dealing with the consequences of over a decade of austerity, and on top of this the coronavirus pandemic has hit many of our sources of income such as sales, fees and charges while simultaneously increasing the demand for our services. This has almost doubled the amount of savings we expect to have to make next year to over £60 million.
If you want more information before you complete the Budget Conversation, we’ve put together a number of slides here explaining in further detail where our money comes from and where it is spent. We’re also going out through Zoom and Skype to community groups and partner organisations to give people the opportunity to share and discuss what matters to them to council officers in person, including a number of engagement sessions that are completely open to the public. One of these has already taken place, and a further two are due to be held on 25th November 6pm-7:30pm, and 8th December 2pm-3:30pm. You can sign up for either one of these public engagements using this quick and easy registration form.  
The Budget Conversation will run until 6th January 2021, after which all replies will be carefully analysed and used to inform our final decisions on next year’s Budget, which is due to be debated by Full Council in February. I cannot emphasise enough that there is no such thing as a stupid answer, and the more people who take part means the better the information we will have at our disposal to start building back better in Tameside and Glossop. So whatever matters to you, make sure that you have your say.


Posted by: Executive Leader

Paying Our Respects and Staying Safe

Wednesday, 11 November 2020

Remembrance Sunday is one of the most poignant and solemn dates on our national calendar, a chance for us all to pay our respects to the brave men and women who died in the First World War and all the conflicts that Britain has fought since.

However, due to the continuing struggle against the coronavirus pandemic and the reintroduction of national lockdown measures, it is with a heavy heart that we had to accept that this year’s celebrations would look somewhat different to what has taken place in the past. It was very uplifting to see many residents hold their own private moments of remembrance, and after close consultation with the Royal British Legion a number of very short ceremonies were also held on Sunday in Ashton, where the Civic Mayor laid a wreath on behalf of the borough, as well as in Denton and Stalybridge. None of these events featured more than six official guests, and apart from a bugler playing “The Last Post” there were none of the bands or processions that usually accompany the ceremonies. In these uncertain times, we felt that this was the best way for Tameside to pay our formal respects while also maintaining public health and safety.


That means we’ve had to come up with other ways to allow residents to pay their respects to the sacrifices made by Tameside past and present armed forces members.  Since the beginning of the month, our Local Studies and Archives team has been hard at work hosting an online “11 Days of Remembrance” programme, posting daily stories taken from the Manchester Regiment archives at 11am every day on their social media account. For people who want to create and display their own symbols of remembrance, a number of craft activity guides such as how to make a window poppy are also available from our website here. The council also floodlit Dukinfield Town Hall in red over Remembrance weekend, while our culture service has created and streamed an online video marking the contribution made by the borough’s servicemen and women.

For the 11th November itself, we joined a national campaign to ask residents to mark the traditional two minute silence from their doorsteps, in a similar way to how we so powerfully showed our pride and appreciation for our NHS workers back in the spring.

As well as the events on the day, we also looked at ways in which we can commemorate our fallen soldiers in a more permanent fashion. To that end, we’ve painted poppies on the roads in each of Tameside’s nine towns. These painted flowers, which are accompanied by the words “Lest We Forget”, will allow us all to pay our respects while also staying safe and adhering to government regulations to not attend gatherings during lockdown. To give just one example, Denton’s poppy has been painted on Lance Corporal Andrew Breeze Way, which was named in honour of the former Audenshaw School pupil who was killed in action in Afghanistan in 2010. He was one of many in Tameside who made the ultimate sacrifice in battlefields as far flung as France, Burma, Korea, Vietnam and Iraq.


But as I always say, our commitment to Tameside’s armed forces has to go on for the other 364 days of the years as well. Since 2012 we’ve been proud members of the Armed Forces Covenant, and since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic we’ve worked closely to provide support to all our former and current servicemen and women, especially those that are vulnerable due to old age, mental health difficulties or being at risk of homelessness. 

Any members of the public who still wish to lay their own wreath are free to do so as long as they adhere to the national guidelines on social distancing. The borough has a number of smaller war memorials, away from town centres, which are ideal for personal ceremonies and reflection.

Let no one be in any doubt. Even as we fight the coronavirus pandemic, Tameside still remembers.


Posted by: Executive Leader

Laying the Foundations to Build Back Better

Friday, 06 November 2020

On Tuesday evening we held an online meeting of Full Council, one of several that take place every year. As we move towards a second national lockdown, it gave us a valuable opportunity to discuss what it means for Tameside and how we’ve laid the foundations to build back better when this terrible pandemic is finally put behind us.

Since the previous meeting of Full Council a number of teams in the local authority and our key partners have won national recognition in areas such as supporting our armed forces community, excellence in our customer services, investment in our markets, care and social care and human resources. A number of officers also took home awards for outstanding work in their field of expertise. Thanks to the efforts of these individuals and others like them we can say with confidence that, despite the incredibly challenging circumstances, we are still delivering for Tameside’s residents.

Through the coronavirus pandemic myself, the other nine local authority leaders and the Mayor of Greater Manchester have always put the health of our residents first. However, in the past few weeks we’ve seen that the government seems to think that residents and businesses in the North of England are worth less than those in the South. During the meeting of Full Council I reiterated my belief that the only road to an effective response to coronavirus is to build on solid local foundations, bringing councils and residents on board in a spirit of mutual trust and cooperation. We need a seat at the table, not crumbs from the table.

One of the most important issues discussed was the approval of the final draft of the Greater Manchester’s wide-ranging Plan for Homes, Jobs and the Environment, also known as the Greater Manchester Spatial Framework (GMSF). We have a legal duty from the government to build a certain number of houses to meet our needs, and the GMSF is the planning document that will help to make this happen in a way that is best for Tameside and our residents. But after the economic shock from coronavirus, it has become so much more than that. It is a key plank of our “building back better” strategy, paving the way to build high quality and affordable homes connected by environmentally sustainable transport links. Subject to approval by the other Greater Manchester local authorities the GMSF will now go out for an eight-week public consultation beginning on 1 December, and I intend to discuss it in far more detail on this blog at that point.


The meeting of Full Council also passed two motions about issues that will have a significant impact on Tameside. The first, presented by Councillor Leanne Feeley and seconded by Councillor Teresa Smith, called on the government to support Marcus Rashford’s campaign to end Child Food Poverty through a second vote in the House of Commons. In Tameside we committed to provide families entitled to free school meals with supermarket vouchers over the half-term holiday, and we will extend that support to the Christmas holidays if it becomes necessary. There is no reason for any child in this country to go hungry, and we call upon the government to do the right thing.

The second motion from Councillor George Newton drew attention to the proposal to extend the Bredbury Parkway Industrial Estate on the border between Tameside and Stockport, and adding our voice to objections made by local residents and politicians such as Andrew Gwynne MP and William Wragg MP. Our shared belief is that the development as it currently stands would have severe negative effects on the Tame Valley and our nature reserves at Hulme’s Woods, Hardy Woods and Haughton Dale., as well as contributing significantly to traffic issues and air pollution on the A6017 Stockport Road. The motion also appealed to the Secretary of State to delay planning permission, should it be passed by Stockport Council, until a full public enquiry on the scheme is launched. 

Make no mistake. This is a critical time for our country as a whole. At Full Council this week, we committed that we will never apologise for being a strong voice for Tameside. No matter what the next few months bring, we stand together to protect lives, secure livelihoods and build a better tomorrow. 


Posted by: Executive Leader

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