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Executive Leader Cllr Brenda Warrington

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Councillor Brenda Warrington, Executive Leader of Tameside Council

#CouncilsCan

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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