Accessibility Toolbar Accessibility Statement
Executive Leader Cllr Brenda Warrington

Leader's Blog  
  

Councillor Brenda Warrington, Executive Leader of Tameside Council

Archive for October 2020

No child will go hungry at half term in Tameside

Tuesday, 27 October 2020

If a child is going hungry because the family aren’t able to afford food, then surely it is the duty of others to step in and help if they can. That is self-evident at any time, but perhaps more so at the moment when families are subject to increased financial pressures due to the impact of Covid-19 on jobs and incomes.
 
Prior to the onset of Covid-19 successive governments have supported the principle of Free School Meals for families on low incomes. That is to be welcomed. As was the commitment by the current government to provide free school meals over the school holidays this summer. They rightly recognised the pressures families are under, the need to do something extra to help, and to ensure children didn’t go hungry.

 
So what has changed? The situation regarding Covid-19? No. Sadly, the virus is still with us and the impact on families is considerably greater now we have moved into Tier 3 restrictions. The government’s policy towards Free School Meals? Yes. Unfortunately, and inexplicably, the government have refused to provide the same support over this half term break as they did over the summer holidays. Despite calls from all quarters – including some of their own MPs – that this continued support is vital, the government have refused to provide a national scheme. To me it flies in the face of common sense and basic decency. The campaign led so inspirationally by Marcus Rashford has shown there is overwhelming support in the country for an end to food poverty for children.
 
When it became clear last week the government weren’t going to help I decided we had to step in. I couldn’t stand by and do nothing. At the weekend I made the commitment to a half term free school meal voucher scheme for children in Tameside. I’m pleased to say my colleagues moved quickly and set up a local scheme within days.
 
Launched this week the scheme provides a £15 supermarket voucher from Tesco or Asda for any child attending a Tameside school who is eligible for income based free school meals. Applying for the voucher is simple. Parents or carers just need to go onto the Tameside Council website (at www.tameside.gov.uk/voucher) and complete a form with a few key details. They will then be contacted to confirm whether the application has been successful, following some appropriate record checks to ensure the support is going to the right people. A voucher from either Tesco or Asda will then be e-mailed to the parent or carer. If parents or carers are unsure about filling in the form or don’t have access to the internet they can contact the Early Help Access Team on 0161 342 4260 to talk through the process.
 
Likewise, if families need any other urgent support they can contact the team on the number above. There is also information on wider help available for children and families on our website at www.tameside.gov.uk/earlyhelp/neighbourhoods

 
 


Posted by: Executive Leader


Talking About Taxis in Greater Manchester

Tuesday, 20 October 2020

A couple of weeks ago on my blog I shared how we want to get our residents views on protecting our shared environment through the Greater Manchester Clean Air Consultation. Close on its heels follows our consultation on Minimum Standards for Licensed Vehicles across the city region.
 

Every year across Greater Manchester, millions of trips are made in taxis and other private hire vehicles. We estimate that there are around 2,000 taxis and 14,000 other vehicles in total operating across all ten of the Greater Manchester local authorities. The vast majority of activity by these licensed vehicles takes place with no problems whatsoever, however after listening closely to members of the trade, public and regulators we believe that it can still be run better. These include addressing concerns about “out of town” private vehicles operating outside the area in which they are licensed, inconsistent standards across each local authority area, and older licensed vehicles contributing to air pollution.

By putting in place a city region-wide licensing regime, we will build a trade that is fit for purpose in Greater Manchester in the 21st century. Not only will this give residents confidence that if they get in a taxi in Manchester or Oldham they will be receiving exactly the same service as if they got into a taxi in Salford or Tameside, it will also help to clean up our air and contribute to our wider vision of a improved and integrated transport system across Greater Manchester.

Our draft Minimum Licensing Standard place a number of new duties on people and organisations involved in the private hire trade.

For drivers, this will include fulfilling a number of checks around criminal records, medical examinations, local knowledge, English language and driving training.

Vehicles will be required to abide by minimal standards of age, emissions, safety and accessibility for disabled people, as well as adopting a Greater Manchester-wide colour (black for taxis/Hackney cabs and white for private hire vehicles) and livery of a common design with the individual council logo incorporated.

 

Operators must conduct basic criminal background checks for their staff, follow more stringent requirements in terms of keeping booking records, and take more responsibility for the conduct of their drivers.

Last but not least, local authorities such as ourselves will commit to a common set of licensing fees and enforcement approaches, giving drivers and operators of taxi and private hire vehicles certainty about what is expected from them no matter where in Greater Manchester they work.

In the longer term the Minimum Licensing Standard also propose a step-by-step pathway to work with taxi and private hire drivers and operators to reduce harmful emissions from the entire sector. We’re putting together a generous package of support, including £20 million of funding from the government, with the goal of making every taxi or private hire vehicle in Greater Manchester zero emission by the end of the decade. 

The Minimum Licensing Standards consultation will run until midnight on the 3rd December 2020, so if you’re a driver, operator or user of taxis and private hire vehicles in Greater Manchester don’t forget to visit the website here and have your say. If you’re involved in the taxi or private hire trade we also want to hear about how the coronavirus pandemic has affected your business, especially how it may affect your ability to comply with any of the proposed standards. Unfortunately due to social distancing requirements we are unable to hold the usual drop-in and engagement sessions that usually support our consultations. However we’ve created a virtual space, open 24 hours a day, where you can view our plans. We’re also going to hold a number of online webinar events via Microsoft Teams where you can have your questions answered in more detail.

 

It’s an exciting team in Greater Manchester. Despite the continuing struggle against the coronavirus pandemic, we’re putting in place the plans we need to build back better and make our city region the best place in the country to grow up, get on and grow old. By telling us what matters to you, you too can be a part of creating our shared bright future. 
 

Posted by: Executive Leader


Local Knowledge is Needed to Fight Coronavirus

Wednesday, 14 October 2020

As you may be aware the Prime Minister has released details of a new system of tiered local lockdowns. These were supposedly intended to turn what had up to this point been a confusing and fragmented patchwork of local lockdown measures into something more organised and understandable, I am not convinced this has been the effect.

Under this system Greater Manchester, including Tameside, has been placed in Tier 2. This means that pubs, restaurants and takeaways can remain open but must shut at 10pm, and gyms, sport centres, hairdressers and cinemas will be also be able to carry on operating. The ban on having guests at home remains in place, but residents are now able to meet in private gardens as long as the “rule of six” is followed. Movement between tiers will be dependent on how rates of coronavirus progress, if rates reduce, moving down into Tier 1 would be possible (most of the Country is currently in Tier 1), if rates continue to rise, a move into Tier 3 may take place, this would bring with it the strictest restrictions and is currently only in effect in Liverpool.

I am clear that we need to take all necessary measures to reduce the spread. However, once again I have to say that I am frankly disappointed and appalled with how the new system has been rolled out.

From the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic I have insisted that any response should be built on local foundations. The reasons for this are self-evident; local leaders and Directors of Public Health know what is happening in their areas, therefore they are best placed to make recommendations and build trust with their communities for any measures that need to be taken. Unfortunately, as criticism of the government’s response to coronavirus has grown they become even more secretive and high-handed in their decision-making.

The announcement of the new tiered lockdown measures is a perfect case in point. Local Leaders in Greater Manchester were left to find out about the measures to be apply to their local areas (measures they would be expected to explain and enforce) via social media and the Manchester Evening News, with no direct contact until early in the evening, well after the national briefing. Many Greater Manchester MPs, including some from the neighbouring boroughs of Oldham and Stockport, only received an invite to a briefing with the Health Secretary less than 20 minutes before it was due to start. Lisa Nandy, the MP for Wigan, didn’t receive an invite at all because the government forgot that her constituency was part of Greater Manchester. How is it possible to build trust in what the government is doing when they seem to be lacking in even the most basic aspects of local knowledge and communication?

Any lockdown needs to protect both people and jobs, and at the moment we seem to be achieving neither. Our national test and trace system, the smooth functioning of which is essential for any kind of “new normal”, remains totally unfit for purpose. It was only last week that 16,000 records of coronavirus cases, many of which were in Greater Manchester, were lost due to a spreadsheet error. We also know that the new business support measures announced by the Chancellor are unlikely to be sufficient to prevent mass closures and unemployment in the event of an extended period of lockdown.

Local Leaders such as myself are not saying things like this for the sake of making the government’s life difficult. We are saying it because the current top-down, one-size-fits-all approach has been shown beyond any doubt to be a failure. A different approach is now required, an approach that puts local government, local experts and local people in the driver’s seat. We need more open discussion on infection rates and necessary restrictions between local and national government, we need a package of funding that lets us quickly and effectively manage economic shocks in our areas, and we urgently need control of test and trace infrastructure to be taken out of private control and into the hands of local Directors of Public Health.

I only hope that the government now has the courage to admit that they’ve got it wrong. The alternative is more uncertainty, more unemployment, more economic damage and, ultimately, more unnecessary deaths as we continue to fight this terrible pandemic. 


Posted by: Executive Leader


Have Your Say on Protecting Our Air

Friday, 09 October 2020


The coronavirus pandemic has thrown a spotlight on the importance of health in all its forms. While reducing the number of infections remains the highest priority at the moment, there are other areas that are vital to public health that should not be neglected. Last week I discussed the importance of those who are entitled to them continuing to receive their free flu vaccinations, and this week Greater Manchester has launched an eight week consultation on our Clean Air Plan.

The dangers of dirty air can sometimes be hidden, but they must be taken seriously. Air pollution is believed to contribute to the deaths of 1,200 people every year in Greater Manchester, often through exacerbating serious pre-existing conditions such as asthma or heart and lung diseases. The youngest, the oldest and the most deprived in our society are also more likely to fall victim to this silent killer. Across the whole of Europe, it is estimated that dirty air causes more deaths a year than tobacco smoking.

By any standard, protecting the air that we all breathe is one of the most urgent public health challenges outside of coronavirus that we face today, and it is an issue that I have taken seriously since I became Leader. We organised the first ever Tameside Green Summit, which brought together local residents, businesses and climate experts to talk about how we could help each other to commit to real action on protecting our shared environment. This led to a number of important steps including switching our corporate energy contract over to a green supplier, planting thousands of trees across the borough and committing to improving the energy-efficiency of council buildings whenever possible.

But dirty air is a problem that pays no heed to borders or boundaries. In Greater Manchester we know that it is not a Tameside challenge, nor a Salford challenge or a Trafford challenge, it is a challenge that needs to be faced together.
 
Despite our shared industrial past, the days of choking smog and industrial chimneys over the Greater Manchester skyline are long gone. In the 21st century the greatest danger is from emissions from vehicles, in particular nitrogen dioxide (NO2) and particulate matter that can get into the lungs.

The Clean Air Plan comes in two parts. The first is the creation of a Greater Manchester-wide Clean Air Zone, specifically targeted at the roads in the city region with the highest levels of NO2 pollution. The full map can be found here. From spring 2022 commercial vehicles will be required to pay a daily charge to travel on these roads, with failure to pay resulting in a Penalty Charge Notice (PCN) of £120.

 

The current proposed fees are, £7.50 for taxis and private hire vehicles, £60 for lorries, buses, coaches and other heavy vehicles, and from 2023 there will also be £10 charge for lighter vehicles such as van and minibuses.  Private cars, motorbikes and mopeds will not be subject to the charge, and exemptions will be issued for historic vehicles, military vehicles, disabled passenger vehicles and emergency services.

The second part of the plan is an unprecedented £150 million package of funding for residents and businesses. This money will cover financial help, either as a lump sum grant or contribution towards vehicle financing, to upgrade their commercial vehicles, taxis and buses before the Clean Air Zone is introduced. There will also be additional investment in electric vehicle infrastructure and a Hardship Fund for those who have been particularly affected by the changes. 

The consultation runs from now until 3rd December, and I would recommend that anybody who thinks that they will be affected by the proposals should let us know their views. An online version of the consultation can be found here. Once complete, all responses will be carefully analysed to create our final Clean Air Plan which will then be submitted to local councils and the government for approval. Help us make sure that your voice is heard as we work to protect our shared environment, now and for the future.

 

Posted by: Executive Leader


Protecting Yourself and Others this Winter

Monday, 05 October 2020

Last fortnight has seen the introduction of an important new tool in the fight against coronavirus. After months of delays the Covid-19 App has finally been released to the general public.
 

The app is available to everybody in the UK aged 16 and over, and also comes in multiple languages. When you come into close contact with somebody else that has also downloaded it, a low-energy Bluetooth signal is passed between each app that logs the amount of time you’ve spent with that person and exactly how far away you were from them. This means that if they later test positive for coronavirus, the app will be able to alert you even if you don’t know each other. It will then advise you to self-isolate, as well as give you the options to check your symptoms, book a free test if required and get the results of that test delivered straight to your phone.

The app is also designed to protect privacy by creating a random ID to guarantee the anonymity of individuals throughout the entire process. No personal information such as names, addresses or date of birth is held by the app or shared with the government and NHS, and it only needs the first half of a postcode to ensure that local clusters of infections can be logged. The Covid-19 App will allow us to identify and manage outbreaks in a way that we’ve never been able to until now, and it will only get more effective as more people download and use it.

As we reach the time of year where the days begin to get shorter and colder, it is even more important that those who are eligible to do so receive their annual free flu jab. While the coronavirus pandemic is obviously still continuing to dominate the headlines and people’s attention, it is easy to forget that the common flu still kills 11,000 people in England on average each year and hospitalises tens of thousands more. By getting your flu jab you will not only be protecting yourself, but you will also be protecting the NHS from unnecessary winter pressures as it continues to do incredible work in handling the worst cases of coronavirus. In order to protect people further, many areas in Tameside are finding new ways to make it easier to get the flu vaccine while maintaining social distancing. To give just one example, if you live in Hyde you can book an appointment to a “vaccination drive-thru” meaning you can get your jab while never leaving the car.

 

Those eligible for a free flu jab at this point in time are anybody aged 65 or over, pregnant women, people with health conditions such as asthma and kidney or heart disease, carers, frontline health and social care workers, those with a learning disability and anybody living in a household with somebody on the NHS shielded patient list. A number of children, including those over six months with long-term health condition, those aged 2-3 year olds, in primary school or aged 11 by 31 August 2020 are also able to get a free vaccination which can be administered by a nasal spray instead of an injection in many cases. While it has not been confirmed yet, it is also likely that later in the year the free flu jab will be expanded to cover anybody aged 50-65 with no long-term health conditions. If you think you’re entitled to a free flu vaccination, please contact your GP practice or ask a local pharmacist to see what the arrangements are for your area.

As coronavirus infection numbers across Tameside and Greater Manchester continue to rise, I would encourage you all to download the Covid-19 App and, if you are eligible, also get your free flu vaccination. Now more than ever, we need to make sure that as many people as possible stay well this winter.

 

Posted by: Executive Leader


These entries were filed under the Executive Leader's Blog. You can follow any responses to these entries through the RSS 2.0 feed.