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Executive Leader Cllr Brenda Warrington

Leader's Blog  

Councillor Brenda Warrington, Executive Leader of Tameside Council

Archive for September 2019

Ending the Scourge of Homelessness in Tameside

Friday, 20 September 2019

It’s no secret that we are currently in the middle of a homelessness crisis. Since 2010, almost every statistic we have has shown an inexorable and worrying rise. We’re at the point now where it’s estimated that, according to the latest figures by the Office for National Statistics, up to 50 people died on the streets of Greater Manchester in 2017 alone.

But while rough sleeping, and the dangers that come with it, is the most visible and tragic symptom of homelessness, it’s just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the human misery and waste of potential that occurs when people are forced to go without a roof over the head. Many people who become homeless may never end up on the street, or appear on any official figures. They instead live on the sofas of family and friends, in squats or in other temporary, insecure or unsuitable accommodation. These “hidden homeless” mean that the actual number of people who are homeless is, in some way, shape or form, probably far higher than the official figures suggest.

There are several reasons for this increase in homelessness, ranging from personal issues like domestic abuse and relationship breakdown, to structural issues since as ten years of austerity and the rollout of Universal Credit. However, one factor that most people agree contributes to the homelessness crisis is far simpler. There simply aren’t enough homes available.

The obvious solution is for the government to build more homes, or (even better) to give local authorities the funding and power to encourage development in their own areas. That’s something we absolutely need to start, but it doesn’t do much for the people who need our help right here and now. Despite the housing shortage we face, there remain a large number of homes in England that have nobody living in them. In Tameside our figures show that there are more empty homes in the borough than there are families in temporary accommodation.

That is nothing short of a moral and economic scandal. There is absolutely no justification for homes standing empty, often for years at a time, in the middle of a homelessness crisis. Many of these empty homes are also in a state of disrepair that blights communities, contributes to decline and, when they appear in groups, has the potential to turn once-desirable areas into places that people would rather avoid.


Over 90% of these empty homes are owned privately, and we’ve committed ourselves to bringing as many of them back into productive use as possible. Working closely with one of our housing association partners, Ashton Pioneer Homes, we offer a successful scheme known as “Lease and Repair”. Owners taking part in the scheme enter into a six-year long lease agreement with Ashton Pioneer Homes, who will then renovate the property, pay the council tax, provide management and maintenance services and find a tenant. Ashton Pioneer Homes receives a management fee, the Council get an empty home put back onto the market, and the home owner benefits from a steady rental income and a potentially huge rise in the value of their property through repair work.  

Even at this early stage Lease and Repair is showing real potential, with a number of tenants and owners praising the scheme for its ease of use and quality of the renovated accommodation. Now we’re raising awareness by hosting an “Empty Homes Drop-In” session at Ashton Pioneer Homes on Margaret Street in Ashton on Wednesday 25th September. Between 2-8pm our trained housing officers will be on hand to explain the process and what we can do to help you bring your empty property back into use.

Whichever way you look at it, the housing numbers as they stand at the moment just don’t add up. Making better use of empty homes in Tameside has the potential to be a quick and easy win that will help us end the scourge of homelessness for good.


Posted by: Executive Leader

Get Ready for the Tour of Britain

Thursday, 12 September 2019

Mont Ventoux, Alpe d’Huez, Passo dello Stelvio. These are some of the most iconic cycling courses in Europe. Maybe in a few years, we’ll be able to put Werneth Low in that esteemed company as well.

That’s because the Tour of Britain, the UKs most prestigious cycling competition, is coming to Tameside. The eight day event will see some of the world’s most decorated cyclists compete on a number of courses across the UK. However, the final stage will take place right here in Manchester on Saturday 14th September. Starting in Altrincham and finishing in the heart of Manchester city centre in Deansgate, the 166km route will pass through Tameside around midday, working its way through Queen’s Trees at Werneth Low Road at around 12.10pm, Stalybridge at 12.20pm, Millbrook Village at 12.28pm before leaving Tameside via Greenfield at 12.35pm (all times are approximate).

This is a golden opportunity to showcase Tameside, so we want as many people as possible – residents, community groups, schools and businesses – to turn up to attend and celebrate the events. We’re also asking home and business owners living on the route to come up with ways to decorate it with hanging baskets, planters, painted bicycles and buntings. Some of the best examples have been publicised on the Council’s social media accounts, including this bicycle wheel made in Gee Cross and this bunting created by the pupils of Millbrook Primary in Stalybridge. It’s not too late to get involved if you want to help show the world what our borough has to offer.


Not that this will be the end of the cycling festivities in Tameside next weekend. The day after the Tour of Britain wraps up in Manchester, Stalybridge will host the first ever Tameside Bicycle Festival. Whether you’re a seasoned pedal-head or you’re just beginning to think about whether cycling might be an option for you, you’re welcome to Armentieres Square between 11am and 3pm on Sunday.  Visitors can have a go at an obstacle course, see some wheel art, and get hint and tips about cycling from a panel of invited experts. We hope that it will build on the enthusiasm created by the Tour of Britain to get more people to choose two wheels over four. 

But our work to promote cycling in Tameside is going much further than one weekend in September. At the end of last year we announced plans for the construction of 81 miles of new cycling and walking routes in Tameside as part of the ambitious Greater Manchester-wide “Bee Network” project. That’s been followed up at the beginning of summer with further plans on top of the currently existing schemes, including a 60 metre bridge near the Ashton West tram stop, high-quality paths across and along the A6043 Wellington Road/Albion Way corridor, and new cycling and pedestrian routes into and through the town centre. Construction on the Bee Network is expected to begin in spring next year, and once complete it will consist of 1,800 miles of new and upgraded routes and crossings, by far the largest system of its kind in the country. At the end of last month we also celebrated the opening up of a new access ramp to the canal towpath in Guide Bridge, Audenshaw, making it easier for residents to enjoy traffic-free transport into Tameside and Manchester.

These projects and many more will all bring us closer to the goal of making walking and cycling, instead of driving, the natural choice for moving around in Tameside and Greater Manchester. We’re bringing together the interest created by the Tour of Britain and the Tameside Bicycle Festival, with the infrastructure to help turn that interest into practical action. The benefits for our health in terms of increasing physical activity and reducing air pollution will be astonishing. Let’s enjoy this weekend, and then let’s get to work.


Posted by: Executive Leader


Monday, 02 September 2019

The 1979 Monty Python film “The Life of Brian” has perhaps the most famous joke in British film history. As the characters plot their overthrow of the Roman occupation, one asks “What have the Romans ever done for us?” After a long discussion, they agree that apart from better sanitation, medicine, education, irrigation, public health, roads, a freshwater system, baths and public order, the Romans haven’t done anything for them.

It’s a scene that I often think about when people ask about the Council and the services we provide. While most people know that we handle things like roads, bin collections and libraries, we actually do so, so much more as well. Council-run care services look after the welfare of 700 children and allow 3,000 older people in Tameside to live at home in dignity and comfort. Council-run education services and campaigns like Tameside Loves Reading and Tameside ACE gives people of all ages the chance to learn and expand their horizons.
Council-run food safety inspectors guarantee the safety and hygiene of over 1,500 premises. Council-run infrastructure projects like our dark fibre network and the Denton Wellness Centre are delivering real improvements to prosperity and health. Whitehall might run the country, but it’s the town hall that has the biggest impact on our daily lives.

This is the context when I talk about the unprecedented damage that a decade of austerity had wreaked upon our society and economy. Funding in Tameside for the kind of local services I described above has been cut in half since 2010, and we predict a further £8 billion of cuts will be required nationally by 2025. £70 million of that will hit Tameside Council and our local NHS Clinical Commissioning Group. But those numbers, as grim as they are, do not fully illustrate the true cost. It’s not just measured in the sticking plasters that we’ve had to put over gaps in our services; potholes being filled in instead of the whole road being repaired, the children’s centre being forced to reduce its hours, and the residents not getting all of the support they really need. It’s also measured in the loss of ambition for our country. Our towns and cities are capable of so much more, and they deserve to be given the faith and funding from the power-that-be to make it happen.

That’s why I am throwing our support behind the “Councils Can” campaign. Organised by the Local Government Association, the national voice of local government, we are calling for a new relationship between councils and Westminster. In the short term, that means putting an end to austerity by giving us the long-term and sustainable funding we need. This could happen as early as Thursday when the government releases its Spending Review, which sets the budgets of all Whitehall departments. The amount of money we’re talking about here will run into the tens of billions, but with that councils like Tameside could build new homes, secure our children’s future, improve our resident’s health and jobs, and create places where people want to live. But we need to start thinking bigger as well. British councils are the most powerless form of local government in the developed world. The second part of the “Councils Can” campaign makes the case for devolution in England that, at the very least, matches the powers given to the Scottish government. This would give us the money and power we need to turbo-charge devolution in Greater Manchester, and give communities across the country with no existing devolution agreement the power to finally be able to make their own decisions.

So, whenever anybody asks me now “What have councils ever done for us?” I say “A lot of things, and we could do even more if we had the chance”. Whatever happens over the next few months, the chances are the Britain that emerges is going to look very different. I’m supporting “Councils Can” because I want places like Tameside to be given the tools to make sure change happens for the better, for all of us. 


Posted by: Executive Leader

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