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Executive Leader Cllr Brenda Warrington

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Councillor Brenda Warrington, Executive Leader of Tameside Council

Archive for October 2021

Tameside Deserves Better Than This Budget

Thursday, 28 October 2021



Yesterday afternoon the Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak announced the Budget Autumn for 2021. As I’ve written in this blog before, we stand at a critical point for Tameside and the country as a whole. The decisions made in this Budget would help to determine whether we emerged from the pandemic moving forward with a commitment to radical action and inclusive growth, or falling behind by repeating the mistakes of the austerity decade.

As always with the Budget, the devil is in the detail, and there may very well be things buried in the small print that will not become clear for some time. That being said, here’s my brief opinion of the three priorities the government needed to address and where they’ve fallen short:

1. Confronting the Cost of Living Crisis

 

 
It’s no secret that we’re entering a cost of living crisis unprecedented in recent history. The cumulative impact of inflation, disruption to supply chains and the cut to Universal Credit – the largest in the history of the welfare state – mean that many more families will soon be struggling to make ends meet.

While on first glance the Budget appears to tackle this by increasing the minimum wage and lowering the “taper rate” of Universal Credit (the amount of money that is taken away from claimants for every £1 they make from work) these pale when compared to the scale of the problem. The Resolution Foundation predicts that British households will be up to £1,000 worse off next year as a result of the cost of living crisis, meaning that even with the new rate a full-time worker on minimum wage will still be out of pocket by the time of the next Budget. On Universal Credit, the taper rate reduction only makes up for 33% of the income lost by working families as a result of the devastating cut announced last month, and it will do nothing at all for the millions of people looking to work or unable to work.

An immediate increase of the minimum wage to £10 an hour, and a root-and-branch review of the entire Universal Credit system, would have been the least needed to rise to the cost of living crisis. Anything else is too little, too late.

2. Taking the Fight to the Climate Challenge

 

As all eyes turns towards the UN Climate Change Conference, or COP26, in Glasgow next month, now would be the perfect opportunity to put Britain at the cutting-edge of the transition to the green economy. For all the supporters of austerity talk of the “unfairness” of passing down debt to future generations, the consequences for our children of not acting to prevent climate change will be apocalyptic. Furthermore, going green now will pay for itself through more jobs, higher productivity, lower energy bills and cleaner air.

This Budget should have recognised that taking the fight to the climate challenge is the only moral and financial choice, by investing hundreds of billions (at least) in green policies such as insulating homes, building the infrastructure to promote walking, cycling and public transport, and kick-starting renewable industries such as electric vehicles, hydrogen batteries and wind turbines. Instead, the most significant thing in the Budget in regards to green policy was how little it was mentioned at all. Many of the measures, most notably the slashing of taxes for domestic flights, will actively set us back in building the environmentally-sustainable country we, and the planet, desperately need. 

3. Investing in the North

 

To give credit where it is due, it should be noted that this Budget has provided funding for some projects in Tameside, including £20 million for the restoration of Ashton Town Hall and £50,000 to develop proposals for a new rail link between Ashton and Stockport.

But we cannot ignore the fact that Britain remains the most geographically unequal country in Europe. Local authorities across the country lost over £16 billion of funding during the austerity decade, and there is a direct link between higher cuts to health and social care in the North and increased death rates as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. Much of our remaining public spending – particularly in growth areas such as R&D and transport – remains overwhelmingly concentrated in London and the South-East. Ending this unfairness, or “levelling up” in the government’s words, is apparently one of their highest priorities.

But once again, when it comes to large-scale, transformative investment for the North this Budget speaks louder when it says nothing. There was no mention at all of HS2 Phase B, the proposed high speed rail route from Birmingham to Manchester and Leeds, nor anything about the Northern Powerhouse rail line from Liverpool to Hull via Bradford. Despite the new funding we’ve received, when you look at the big picture it seems like this is yet another Budget where Tameside, Greater Manchester and the whole North is forced to take crumbs from London’s table.

At a time where we needed unprecedented action to put more money into people’s pockets, protect our shared environment and unleash the potential of the North, this Budget promises more of the same. It is the Budget of a government unwilling or unable to deal with the challenges ahead, and I only hope that their inaction does not come back to haunt us all in the years to come.

Posted by: Executive Leader


Fighting Poverty and Rejecting Austerity

Friday, 22 October 2021

Last Sunday was International Day for the Eradication of Poverty, a time to recommit ourselves to ending persistent poverty wherever it may exist in the world. It is an issue that has become particularly significant since coronavirus spread across the globe. It’s estimated that the impact of the pandemic is likely to have pushed between 143 and 163 million people into poverty this year alone, the single worst setback in the fight against global poverty in the last three decades.
 

As part of that effort, we’re working with Greater Manchester Poverty Action (GMPA), a not-for-profit organisation bringing together the public, private, voluntary and community sectors, to launch a “Poverty Truth Commission” in Tameside. A new and innovative approach to social justice, the Poverty Truth Commission operates on the assumption the best decisions about how to eliminate poverty are made by getting the views of people who face the reality of poverty every day of their lives.

Following the formal launch event next month, the Poverty Truth Commission will get to work bringing decision-makers and vulnerable residents in Tameside together to share knowledge and explore what poverty actually looks like in the borough. It is my hope that, in time, this will help us to create realistic and effective plans to end the scourge of poverty locally.

Now more than ever, we need to start treating rising poverty as the national emergency that it is. We’re beginning to see glimpses of the damage that the pandemic, combined with government neglect, has wreaked upon our economy and society.

The first alarm bell has been sounded by the influential think-tank The Resolution Foundation, who have warned that British households will be £1,000 worse off next year. Much of this has been caused by the impact of the cost of living crisis, including higher energy bills as a result of surging wholesale gas and electricity prices and more expensive weekly shops due to inflation and continuing disruptions to supply chains.

While you can certainly argue how much the government is to blame for these, the fact remains that many households and businesses will also be affected by cuts to Universal Credit and increases to National Insurance, decisions that can be laid squarely at the feet of Downing Street.

That means that the Autumn Budget, due to be announced next week, will be pivotal in deciding what our national recovery from coronavirus looks like. If the government truly wants to build back better, fairer and greener, then they need to invest to make it happen. The alternative, which I fear they are more likely to choose, is returning to the false logic of austerity which has already done incredible damage to our country.

 

It’s no exaggeration to say that lives will hinge on this decision. Research from the University of York has shown that cuts to health and social care between 2010-15 meant that 57,550 more people died earlier than they would have had funding levels been maintained. Worst hit were urban areas in the North in England, including right here in Manchester, Liverpool, Leeds, Newcastle and Blackpool. Perhaps not coincidentally, these were some of the areas that also suffered the most during the coronavirus pandemic.

Poverty is not a natural consequence of life. It is created by the decisions of governments and societies, and it can be overcome if we choose to make different decisions. As we begin to rebuild from the past eighteen months, we must make it clear that there can no return to the dark days of austerity, and no return to the unfair and unsustainable status quo of the past.

On everything from housing and employment, to education and infrastructure, we need to demand that the government shows they are willing to make up for a year and half of time lost to the pandemic, and a decade lost to austerity before that. I fear that we will all end up paying the price if they are found wanting.  

 

Posted by: Executive Leader


Ending Hate and Gender Violence in Tameside

Friday, 15 October 2021

This week is National Hate Crime Awareness Week, and we stand together to send a simple but powerful message. A message that says regardless of your race, regardless of your religion or beliefs, regardless of your disability, sexuality, gender, or trans reassignment, you should be able to live in Tameside in safety and harmony.

Of course we know that, as much as we would wish it otherwise, the spectres of prejudice and bigotry remain with us. The latest Home Office data shows that while religious hate crimes have dropped for the second year running, there has been a marked increase in sexual orientation, disability, race and transgender-based incidents in the past twelve months. We only have to look back at this summer, and at the appalling abuse faced by Marcus Rashford and other young black English footballers, to see that hate crimes can and do occur.

The aim of our activities in Tameside for National Hate Crime Awareness Week were twofold; to make people aware of what hate crime looks like and, if they are a victim to or a witness of one, to encourage them to report it rather than look the other way. To that end, our refuse vehicles carried out their bin collection rounds with “Too Great for Hate” logos and a link to the Let’s End Hate Crime webpage on their sides. In Ashton Market an awareness stand was set up so members of the public could find out more about hate crime, discuss their own experiences and just say hello. Our community cohesion officers also proactively went around the borough to support various communities and groups, especially those that help people who are living with learning and physical disabilities.
 

If you think you, or somebody you know, has been a victim of hate crime, then please do not hesitate to report it by calling the police on 101 (or 999 if it’s an emergency), via the True Vision website here, or through the Let’s End Hate Crime website here. Don’t forget that hate crime can involve verbal and online abuse, physical attacks, criminal damage, and many other kinds of offences.

But, as always in situations like this, our success or failure in stamping out hate crime will be determined not by what we do for one week, but by what we do for the other 51 weeks of the years. As the first female Leader in Tameside Council’s history, and the Lead Member for Equalities in the Greater Manchester Combined Authority, I am determined to make our city region a welcoming and accepting place for all who live, work and visit here.

That’s why I’m delighted that, following extensive consultation over the summer, the Leaders of the Greater Manchester local authorities and the Mayor Andy Burnham have approved a comprehensive and ambitious strategy, brought forward by the Deputy Mayor Bev Hughes, to tackle gender-based violence in the city region. As the brutal and shocking murders of Sarah Everard and Sabina Nessa over the past few months have shown, we still live in a world where being in the wrong place at the wrong time can be fatal for many women and girls. And while these may be among the most extreme cases of gender violence, I would go as far to say that more women than not bear the trauma of harassment, physical or sexual assault and intimidation to some degree.

 

These crimes are often the results of gender biases and inequalities, both conscious and unconscious, which have developed over generations, and I’m not going to try and pretend that there’s any quick fix. But I truly believe the GM Gender-Based Violence Strategy will not only lay the foundations to protect women and girls. It will also allow us to educate the perpetrators of gender violence, most of whom are men and boys, and challenge the deep-seated attitudes that enable it in the first place.

Hate crime and gender violence remains a blight upon our society. We will only be able to eradicate them if we all take a look at ourselves and, together, resolve to make Tameside a place where the right to live without fear, violence, hostility or intimidation is defended by all of us. Let’s stand united and make it happen.  

 

Posted by: Executive Leader


Championing Inclusive Growth at Full Council

Friday, 08 October 2021

On Tuesday evening we held our regularly scheduled meeting of Full Council in the familiar surroundings of Dukinfield Town Hall. The event gave us the opportunity to begin discussing what we want life after the coronavirus pandemic to look like. 

The highlight was the announcement that the outline planning application for the Godley Green Garden Village was completed and formally submitted last week. Following validation by the Local Planning Authority – which should take place in around 2 weeks’ time – the content of the application will be made publically available for viewing and comment.

 

When I became Leader of Tameside Council, I pledged that one of my highest priorities would be to support genuinely Inclusive Growth at a local level. Housing is one of the most important elements to secure this. In crude monetary terms, it is usually the biggest spending item and source of debt for most families or individuals. But housing, and the areas in which people live, also has drastic implications for health, employment and education. While good housing is a vehicle to better life outcomes, bad housing is almost always a barrier to the same.

The Godley Green Garden Village will stand as an example for the whole country on how appropriate development can drive growth, opportunity and environmental sustainability. As well as over 2,000 new homes, a proportion of which will be ring-fenced for affordable rent or purchase, the construction process itself will deliver £25 million gross value added and 550 high-quality jobs a year for the next decade and a half. Once completed, the £9 million windfall from additional council tax, business rates and New Homes Bonus will also provide a much-needed funding boost to services across the borough.

The submission of the outline planning application is a significant step in turning our ambition for the Godley Green Garden Village into a reality. I’m confident that when people are able to see the application for themselves, many of them will end up agreeing with me on how the project will benefit all of Tameside.

 

The pandemic has made it clear that a policy of inclusive growth is required now more than ever. We’ve known for decades that the UK is among the most unequal developed countries, but coronavirus laid this injustice bare for all to see. During the first wave of the pandemic alone, in March to July last year, 12.4 more people per 100,000 died in the North than the rest of England from the virus, and an extra 57.7 more people per 100,000 died in the region due to all causes. Any recovery from the pandemic that takes us back to this inequitable status quo will not only be unsustainable, it will be unacceptable.

That’s why this week’s Full Council meeting also heard a motion, forwarded by Councillor Oliver Ryan, condemning the government’s handling of the recovery. Because of decisions such as cutting of Universal Credit, increasing National Insurance and refusing to take action (as many other countries have) on rising gas prices we are being dragged headfirst into a cost of living crisis the likes of which we haven’t seen in decades. As ever, it will be the youngest, the poorest and the most vulnerable that will suffer the worst. For all the government’s talk of levelling up, so far we instead seem to be heading back to the worst days of austerity.

The only way forward towards a better future is to reject the logic of no alternative, and deliver a new model of economic growth that not only creates opportunity for all, but distributes the benefits of prosperity fairly to all. It is an idea whose time has come, and it is an idea that, at Full Council this week, we have committed to as the way forward for Tameside.

 

Posted by: Executive Leader