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Pencil Brook Culvert Repairs – construction starts Sept 18 for 12 weeks

Click on this link for details Pencil Brook Newsletter_v3

Drop in on the 25th July 2018 at Shaw Lifelong Learning Centre, 6 High St, Shaw, Oldham OL2 8RQ at 17.30 – 19.00 to discuss the work to Pencil Brook culvert


The Environment Agency carried out an inspection of three culverts on Pencil Brook – Pencil Brook culvert, Smallbrook Road culvert and Railway culvert in 2016. These identified numerous defects that could lead to the collapse of the culvert. If the culvert was to collapse approximately 142 residential properties and the railway line would be at a very significant risk of flooding.

The Environment Agency commissioned consultants to design a repair scheme in 2017. A Business Case was prepared and was recently approved to spend £1.4m to complete the necessary repair works.

Oldham Council

Your local councillors (Diane Williamson, Dave Murphy, Julia Turner, Chris Gloster, Howard Sykes and Hazel Gloster) are delighted that the culvert work is being completed and although we know there may be inconvenience for residents during the work, we hope it will alleviate the flood risk in the area in the future. Your councillors will be available at the drop in.

Access / Temporary closures

While there will be footpath closures and restrictions to traffic, we endeavour to keep these to a minimum.

Valley Rise, Wooded Area

Much of the repair work is in Valley Rise wooded area running into Lower Valley Rise up to the school. Access is required into the woodland for heavy plant to install a new lining system to the badly damaged pipes. Trimming and removal of trees will be necessary but this will be kept to a minimum. The extent of this work has been reviewed with the Oldham Council Tree Officer. It will be necessary to restrict access through the woods for a few weeks while this work is completed for safety reasons. It will also be necessary to over pump the flows while the new lining systems are installed. Pump hoses will cross roads with ramps for periods.

Smallbrook Road Area

 The short culvert crossing Smallbrook Road is blocked with silt and needs cleaning and some repairs. It will be necessary to close the car park next to the bowling green while this work is carried out.

Railway View Area

 The car park will also be used for the Railway culvert works. United Utilities are supporting us in allowing the project team to utilise their using their combined sewer network for “over pumping”. This allows us to “dry up” the culvert in order to make the repairs. It also reduces the over-land disruption to the local area. It will be necessary to dig down to the culvert in three locations to complete repairs.


•           Engagement session in Shaw Lifelong Learning Centre – 25th July

•           The logistics and the planning for construction work – July and August.

•           Construction work will follow in September 2018 for 12 weeks.

Volunteers are invited to help halt the progress of Himalayan balsam, an invasive plant on Crompton Moor, and in Crompton Hall Saturday 14 July

The pink-flowered non-native species smothers riverside/stream habitats; harms native plants, and leaves banks bare and subject to erosion when it dies down.

It has to be pulled up or ‘bashed’ before seed pods explode and spread.

Himalayan balsam was introduced to the UK for ornamental gardens but spread into the wild.

If you can spare a couple of hours to help, we will be meeting in….

Brushes Clough car park, on Crompton Moor at 10:30 am on Saturday the 14th of July 2018

For further information please contact: Marian Herod, Secretary, Friends of Crompton Moor,     Tel: 07792 156295


My two allowed questions at tonight’s Council meeting 11-12 July – a gateway unfit for a prince, an unwanted old mongrel, and school places or rather the lack of them

Q1 Leader Question – a gateway unfit for a prince and an unwanted old mongrel

Mr Mayor, the new Leader has talked about his plans to revise the Masterplan for the Oldham Town Centre.  I am sure everyone in this chamber, myself included, will look forward to seeing the revised proposals.

But first let me raise with the Leader tonight the issue of outstanding developments on two other town centre sites – that of Prince’s Gate and of Hotel Future.

The Council’s website still proclaims Prince’s Gate is “one of the most ambitious redevelopments for our town centre since the 1980’s”.  Former Leader Jim McMahon called it “a game-changer for the new Oldham.”

Version 1 of this Royally-named scheme was due to open in 2017, but it collapsed when the flagship retailer Marks and Spencers pulled out despite a £9million plus sweetener to fit out their new store and a promise of rent free occupancy for six months.

On then to Version 2, minus M&S or may be just an M&S Food Hall.  And now another Labour Council Leader, Councillor Jean Stretton, who was supposed to announce a new development partner for the site in the summer of 2017.  Some 12 months on, not a shout nor a sign – so perhaps we are onto Version 3, now we have yet another Labour Council Leader?

Mr Mayor, Prince’s Gate was supposed to deliver 700 jobs and £21 million a year to the local economy.  Instead it has so far cost the Council Tax payers of Oldham many millions in undisclosed abortive costs spent on marketing, planning and regeneration professionals as well as the costs of site assembly and clearance.

And what do we have to show for it – a very, very costly car park.  Truly then a gateway fit more for a Pauper than a Prince.

Let us next turn to another site – the ‘will it, won’t it go ahead’ hotel and conference centre on our doorstep, the development adjoining the Queen Elizabeth Hall, formerly known as Hotel Future.

Poor Hotel Future has become like an unwanted old mongrel when it was once a Crufts pedigree.

It was first a bespoke hotel training establishment offering courses in the hospitality industry, then it became a standard hotel from a standard hotel chain, then the plan was abandoned when the site, including the Queen Elizabeth Hall, was scheduled for demolition.

And now the new Leader is holding out the promise of refurbishing the QE Hall and perhaps putting the hotel back on site.

In any case, the joke has clearly been again at the expense of Oldham Council Tax payers.  It was revealed in a recent response to a Freedom of Information Act request that £418,670 has been spent on this project between 2011 and its abandonment in July 2017.

Here then is my final question.

Will the Leader please end the misery and tell us what development will be done, when it will be done and with whom it will be done on the Prince’s Gate and the Hotel Future sites?

Q2 – Council 11 July 2018 – Leader’s Question – School places or rather the lack of them

For my second question to the Leader tonight, Mr Mayor, I have to return to an issue I raised with his predecessor almost exactly one year ago today – namely the lack of availability of places for the children of our Borough in the schools of their choice.

I am sorry to have to tell you, Mr Mayor, colleagues, that one year on, the situation is now worse not better!

This year, in Oldham, 387 children missed out on a place at any of their preferred secondary schools.  Yes that is right ANY of their preferred schools.

That is one in nine Year 6 pupils or 10.9% to be exact.  Of those who got a place at one of their preferred secondary schools, only 73% got their first preference.  That compares badly with the national picture where 82% got a place at a first preference school.

Overall we were bottom of the class – the worst performing local authority in Greater Manchester – when it came to offering school places!

That’s almost 400 children (and their parents) failed by our system, not getting their first choice of secondary school, and not getting their second or third either.

And I regret that this is even worse than last year when I could report to Council that 8.9% of pupils did not secure a place to start at any of their preferred schools in September 2017.  That is 2% more than 12 months ago.

Mr Mayor, as I said last year, and I make no apology for saying it again, this situation is scandalous – we can do better, much better and we must do better, for the sake of our children and their educational future.

Because if we do not offer children a place at a secondary school that they want to go to how can we inspire them to strive to do their best in their final years of schooling.

I look forward to the Council meeting when I can ask the Leader a positive question about education in our Borough – I am sorry to say that with the current level of performance that I cannot see this as being at any point soon.

I am pleased that the replacement Royton and Crompton School is now beginning to be built in my part of the world, and that we also have a promised expansion at Crompton House School, albeit with the caveat that we in Shaw and Crompton are anxious to ensure that these places are first directed at local pupils.

However for colleagues in Saddleworth and the families they represent, the replacement school at the Diggle site still appears far off and uncertain, years behind schedule.

I would therefore like to ask the Leader what has been done to make more secondary school places available from this September; what is being done to get the Saddleworth School project back on track; and what can be done to ensure that the Crompton House expansion means first and foremost more places for local children?

Government Inaction on Fixed Odds Betting Terminals ‘a Blow’

The Oldham Liberal Democrat Group has hit out at Government inaction over reducing the maximum possible stake on Fixed Odds Betting Terminals to £2 per play.  Despite promises to introduce the changes as soon as possible, the government has now put back the changes to 2020.

Councillor Howard Sykes MBE, Leader of the Liberal Democrat Group and Leader of the Opposition, is proposing a motion tonight at week’s full Council meeting calling for more national and local action to tackle problem and underage gambling.

Responding to the disappointing news, Councillor Sykes said: “This is a real blow. Problem gambling is a blight on the lives of the individuals affected, and those of their loved ones.  For many, the problem starts with Fixed Odds Betting Terminals where players got hooked on repeatedly gambling, often large sums, without fully realising the financial trouble that they are stoking up for themselves.”

“Despite promises to tackle this by introducing a maximum £2 stake, this government has kowtowed to the gambling industry and put back the changes to 2020.  We need action on this now, not in two-year’s time!  As Leader of the Liberal Democrat Group on the Local Government Association, I shall be adding my voice to those of colleagues in my own party and others that this change is urgently needed.”

Liberal Democrats seek Action to Tackle Problem Gambling

The Oldham Liberal Democrat Group is sponsoring a motion at this week’s full meeting of Oldham Council (11 July) seeking local action and more money from central Government to tackle problem and underage gambling.

The proposer of the motion is Councillor Howard Sykes MBE, Group Leader and Leader of the Opposition on Oldham Council, who said: “Problem gambling is a blight on the lives of the individuals affected, and those of their loved ones.  For most, gambling is an occasional ‘flutter’ on the outcome of a sports match or at the races, or a small weekly outlay on the National Lottery; it is a recreational activity pursued for fun but in the hope of a big win.  But for a minority, gambling has become a real problem, an addiction that becomes obsessive and costly with victims losing hundreds or thousands of pounds every week.  It drains household finances, impacts on physical and mental health, and results in criminal activity, substance misuse, and family and marriage breakups; like loan sharks, problem gambling is a curse on the poorest and most vulnerable in our society.”

Councillor Sykes and his Liberal Democrat colleague, Councillor Chris Gloster, who is seconding the motion, are particularly concerned at the rise in online gambling as this is carried out away from licensed premises and so participants have no supervision when they play.  Increasingly this is leading to more vulnerable gamblers getting into more serious debt and in more young people taking up gambling, as internet access is improving, particularly on smart phones, this is likely to become an even bigger problem in future years.

Councillor Sykes added: “In our motion, we are calling upon the Gambling Commission, which is responsible for regulating the industry, to implement further measures to reduce problem gambling, discourage young people from becoming addicted to gambling, and to support gamblers with an addiction.  We also want the Council and its partners to work with the charity Gamble Aware to ensure that we are following the ‘best practice’ in this Borough, and to take the charity’s Gambling Toolkit into our schools and colleges to help inform our young people about the dangers of gambling.  Lastly we are calling on Government to provide Councils and local health authorities with more money to help us support individuals with a gambling addiction as these services are currently woefully inadequately funded.”

Motion – Tackling ‘Problem’ and Underage Gambling

 Council notes that:

  • The UK has the largest regulated online gambling market in the world, generating approximately £4.7 billion in gross gambling yield per annum.
  • The Gambling Commission is responsible for regulating this market.
  • There are an estimated 7 million on-line gambling accounts, with almost one in five gamblers now playing on-line.
  • This trend is moving upwards as more people possess smart phones and internet connectivity speeds continue to improve.
  • The Gambling Commission estimates that on-line gambling will generate 50% of all gross gambling yield by the end of the decade, up from 34%.
  • Most people who gamble do so for enjoyment and without developing a ‘problem’; however, according to GambleAware, there are an estimated 430,000 ‘problem’ gamblers. Typically ‘problem’ gamblers stake more money than they can afford and become addicted to the activity. Consequently they often suffer higher levels of physical and mental illness, debt problems, relationship and family breakdowns, substance misuse and criminality.
  • It is estimated that the cost to the public purse of supporting ‘problem’ gamblers could be up to £1.2 billion per annum, yet, according to GambleAware, only 2% are receiving treatment.
  • As on-line gambling is out of sight, carried out away from licensed premises where trained staff can intervene, it is anticipated that there will become more ‘problem’ gamblers and more young people gambling.
  • Despite their public health duties, Councils are not classed as ‘responsible authorities’ for addressing ‘problem’ gambling under the Gambling Act of 2005.

Council believes that:

  • With the rise of on-line gambling, further action needs to be taken by the Government, by the Gambling Commission and by the gambling industry to ensure that vulnerable persons, such as ‘problem’ gamblers and young people gambling, are provided with additional safeguards.
  • Local health authorities should be provided with adequate additional funding by central government to provide treatment to ‘problem’ gamblers
  • Local authorities should be regarded as ‘responsible authorities’ in supporting ‘problem’ gamblers and young people gambling, given their public health duties and adequate additional funding should be made available from central government for them to do so.
  • Schools, colleges and youth centres can also play a big part in educating young people about gambling.

Council welcomes:

  • The Government’s recent decision to reduce the maximum stake per play at Fixed Odds Betting Terminals to £2 in response to public concerns and those raised by politicians from all parties.
  • The Gambling Commission Review of March 2018 which recommends further safeguards for vulnerable customers gambling on-line (namely the age verification of customers, identifying customer gambling behaviour that is ‘problematic’ and interacting with them to address this, and making the terms and conditions of gambling services more transparent) and identifies issues awaiting review (particularly whether gambling on credit should be prohibited).

Council resolves to:

Ask the Chief Executive to write to:

  • The Gambling Commission to urge it to work as quickly as possible to implement the policy recommendations identified in Section 1.18 of the March 2018 Review, and to progress the areas of further work identified in Section 1.19 of the Review, particularly that relating to gambling on credit.
  • The Secretary of State for Local Government requesting the Minister recognise that local authorities should be regarded as ‘responsible authorities’ in addressing ‘problem’ or under-age gambling in their areas and provided with adequate additional government funding to enable them to do so.
  • The Secretary of State for Health requesting the Minister provide adequate additional funding to local health authorities to provide treatment to ‘problem’ gamblers.
  • The Secretary of State for Education requesting that education on the dangers of gambling be included within the national curriculum and that adequate government funding be provided to state schools to enable this to take place.
  • Ask the Chief Executive to send copies of these letters to our three local Members of Parliament and the Mayor of Greater Manchester and to seek their support for the Council’s position.
  • Ensure that information is displayed on the Council’s website to ‘signpost’ residents with a gambling ‘problem’ to the providers of relevant services, such as GambleAware and the National Gambling Helpline, to support them with their addiction.
  • Ensure that all schools, colleges and youth centres in the Borough are made aware of the Gambling Toolkit produced by GambleAware, which is available at
  • Ask the Overview and Scrutiny Board and Licensing Committee to consult with GambleAware and other relevant parties to ensure that this Council and its partner agencies are following best practice is raising public awareness of, and effectively addressing, ‘problem’ and under-age gambling in this Borough.
  • Ensure that the Council’s Gambling Policy reflects any recommendations that results from this work by the time of its renewal in January 2019.

Lib Dems call to address mental ill health in schools

Liberal Democrat Councillor for Saddleworth North Garth Harkness will be proposing a motion on Wednesday 11th July 2018 addressing issues around young people’s mental ill health. The motion will be seconded by Shadow cabinet member for education and Shaw Councillor, Hazel Gloster

Councillor Garth Harkness has been working with MIND to improve mental health understanding in Saddleworth along with financing mental health courses for residents in Saddleworth and young people of the Saddeworth youth committee to increase awareness, identify warning signs and promote self-resilience.

Councillor Garth Harkness said “I have been working on mental health in my own school around mental health strategy and policy. The problem is huge all staff need training, there needs to be mental health first aiders in schools with clear guidelines for staff and a designated mental health lead . Approximately 10% of 5-16 year-olds have a clinically diagnosed mental health disorder. A further 15% of 5-16 year-olds have problems that put them at risk of developing mental health problems.”

Shaw Councillor Hazel Gloster said “We need to ensure all schools promote resilience, mindfulness and positive mental health along with skills to manage social and emotional difficulties to be taught in the curriculum. The government have talked about mental health but they still don’t back it enough and kids don’t get enough help until it is way down the line. Early help is the key”

“Recent calls from government have called for more work to be done on supporting young people with mental health difficulties and also possibly include this in future inspection regimes.”

Councillor Garth Harkness added I welcome the work done by the Health and Wellbeing board and the employment of a mental health school advisor but I know waiting times for adults with mental health difficulties are bad enough but they are horrendous for children!  Schools need to be clear on where to signpost children to self-help and explore school councillors and in house help”

Wednesday 11th July 2018 – Notice of Opposition Business –

Motion  – Addressing Mental Ill-Health in Schools

This Council notes that:

In March 2016 the Department of Education produced advice for school staff titled ‘Mental Health and Behaviour in Schools’ this guidance identified that:

  1. Approximately 10% of 5-16 year-olds have a clinically diagnosed mental health disorder.
  2. A further 15% of 5-16 year-olds have problems that put them at risk of developing mental health problems.
  • Recent calls from government have called for more work to be done on supporting young people in schools with mental health difficulties and also possibly including this as an assessed component of future inspection regimes.

Council welcomes the:

  • Recent plan adopted by Oldham’s Health and Wellbeing Board to transform the borough’s Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) by employing additional staff to bring down waiting times to six weeks.
  • Employment of a specialist mental health school advisor.

Council believes that an aspiration to ensure positive mental health and well-being in the students and staff of all of our academies, colleges and schools should be a high priority, and that we should support them to each have:

  • an appropriate strategy in place
  • a designated Mental Health Lead to coordinate, and monitor, the delivery of that strategy
  • Mental health First Aiders in each academic year group to provide first-hand immediate support
  • Mental health Peer Mentors where appropriate
  • Access to mindfulness and similar programmes
  • Access to professional Counsellors in the secondary and tertiary sectors

The strategy of every educational establishment should focus on:

  • Promoting positive mental health in all students and staff
  • Training staff and peer mentors so they are aware of common mental health conditions; the signs of, and risk factors for, mental ill-health; how they might support students in crisis or otherwise in need; and the support services available to these students and their families
  • Promoting self-help strategies and online resources (such as those relating to personal resilience and mindfulness) to students and staff to enable them to better manage their own mental health

Council resolves to ask the Lead Cabinet Member(s) to work with the Health and Well-being Board to determine how these aspirations can be made a reality, and provide a report back to full Council on progress made within 12 months.

Proposed by.    Cllr Garth Harkness                          Seconded by .Cllr Hazel Gloster

Barrier gate at Shore Edge leading to Brushes Clough and Crompton Moor

Apologies for any inconvenience, but the barrier gate at Shore Edge will be closing anytime between 6pm and 7:30pm every evening until further notice.

This is just a temporary measure to help keep Crompton Moor safe from fire.

A lot of people are still going up in the evenings and lighting barbecues, and we hope this act will act as a deterrent whilst the ground is so dry up on the moor.

Please help keep the moorland safe from fire; by not lighting barbecues, campfires, and by taking great care when disposing of cigarette ends.

If anyone sees fire or smoke up on the moor, or anywhere else for that matter, please call the Fire Brigade on 999.   The nearest postcode for reference is OL2 8LS.

Liberal idea to establish NHS 70 Years Ago

On the week of the 70th anniversary of the National Health Service, the Leader of the Opposition and of the Liberal Democrat Group on Oldham Council, Councillor Howard Sykes MBE, asks Oldhamers to recognise that it was first a Liberal idea before it was implemented by the post-war Labour Government.

Councillor Sykes said: “On 5 July 1948, we marked the 70th anniversary of the National Health Service, probably Britain’s best-loved public institution.  Many of us are rightly proud that Britain led the way in establishing a universal, free-at-the-point-of-need health service following the Second World War.  Most of us have had good reason to be grateful that excellent medical care from dedicated staff has been available to us at some point in our lives, maybe even at the very start of our life, paid for through general taxation.  Despite being under threat from Conservative Government austerity cuts, the NHS is still respected and admired the world over as a model of healthcare to aspire to.”

Councillor Sykes added: “Although many admirers may see Aneurin Bevan, Attlee’s Labour Minister of Health, as the architect of the NHS, it was in fact the brainchild of Liberal economist and reformer William Beveridge.  Beveridge was commissioned by Churchill’s war-time Coalition Government to write a report about how the nation should be rebuilt after the tribulations of the Second World War.  In his report, published in 1942, he recommended the establishment of a comprehensive welfare state, including the need to establish a ‘National Health Service’.”

Councillor Sykes concluded: “At the end of the Second World War in Europe, all three major political parties, Conservative, Labour and Liberal, had commitments in their 1945 Election Manifestos to establish an NHS; all three would have done so, it just happened to be Labour that was put into power to do it.  So let us celebrate the 70th anniversary of the NHS with pride whatever our political allegiance, but also remember that it was a Liberal who came up with the idea of the NHS in the first place, and a Liberal who gave the service a name.”