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My two allowed questions at tonight’s Oldham Council meeting -12 September – Green Belt (GMSF) and Trams

Q1 Leader Question – Greater Manchester Spatial Framework – decision for Oldham Borough should be taken by all Councillors

 Mr Mayor, my first question tonight relates to a future decision which will be one of the most momentous in its impact on many of our Borough’s residents over the next two plus decades.

Namely the Greater Manchester Spatial Framework (GMSF) – the adoption of a 20-year housing and industrial land use development plan for Greater Manchester.

The revised proposals have been some time coming, but I understand that they will now be available for so called public consultation in October.

I also understand that a decision has recently been made by the ten Labour Council leaders and the Mayor of Greater Manchester who have decided that the ultimate decision to adopt, or not to adopt the final plans, will rest solely with them.

There will be NO requirement to bring the plan to a full meeting of each of the ten Councils for debate and a full vote on formal adoption by all councillors.

This is a complete reversal of democracy.

Members will recall that many of our residents were outraged when the initial plans to build thousands of new homes on Green Belt land in Shaw, Crompton, Saddleworth, Royton and Chadderton were first unveiled.

Liberal Democrat colleagues, I and members from the seats opposite, joined them in opposing the proposals when responding to the consultation or attending demonstrations in Tandle Hill Country Park and in Albert Square.

Mr Mayor, public sentiment is still the same across Greater Manchester – NO to building new homes on our Green Belt and YES to local Councillors as the people’s representatives ultimately making the decision where new homes are built.

Ward members are elected to lead, but also to represent the constituents and the communities we serve.  How can we do this if we are denied the final vote on the plan?

If we get this wrong, it will represent a disaster for our communities and for our Green Belt.  Yet the ten Labour Council Leaders and GM Mayor are saying ‘leave it to us, we know what is best for you’.

It is simply not right that such an important decision can be taken by so few people.

It is certainly not what I and many others envisaged but perhaps it is a sign of things to come with so called devolution to Greater Manchester.

Mr Mayor, I would like to ask the Leader tonight, whether despite this backroom deal, he will still be doing the honourable thing by bringing the final plan back to a meeting of the full Council for debate and adoption.

Q2 Leader Question – Call for Conductors on Metrolink Trams

 Mr Mayor, my second question raises another issue that concerns a great many residents in our Borough, their safety when they use Metrolink.

Regrettably we have seen many disturbing instances of crime and anti-social behaviour on the Rochdale – Oldham line, several very violent over recent months and unfortunately the line has the highest number of incidents across the Network.

I welcome the recent actions of Metrolink staff, Police and our Council’s Youth Engagement Officers in tackling this blight, and the news that thirteen offenders have been arrested during the first two weeks of this operation is good news.

The operation may be called Infinity, but the resources are not and it will at some point come to an end.

Some time ago Oldham Liberal Democrats revealed shocking figures that one in eight Metrolink passengers are fare-dodgers, or to put it another way 12% of all journeys are not paid for.

There are 40 million tram journeys a year so fare-dodging is estimated to cost Metrolink about £9 million in lost revenue.

Oldham Liberal Democrats have also flatly opposed Labour plans (supported by the Conservatives) to put up fares for honest Metrolink passengers by an inflation-busting 19% by 2020 when one in eight passengers travel free.

Rather than hammering the honest passenger, transport bosses need to focus on tackling fare evasion.  12% non-payment is a disgrace.

Conductors on trams would help tackle this issue and should pay for its self, whilst making the honest traveling public feel safe.  It would also drive the fair dodgers and those causing anti-social behaviour off the trams.

Other tram services in the UK have on-board staff on every service, such as the Sheffield Super Tram and on the Wolverhampton – Birmingham line.

Not only does a conductor provide passengers with reassurance that there is always someone at hand should they need assistance in an emergency, but that person can also give passengers advice about services, stops and fares and help them to board and alight.

So for my second question tonight, Mr Mayor, I would like to ask the Leader if he would be willing to join me in calling upon Metrolink operators to introduce conductors on a trial basis on the Rochdale – Oldham line?

We can improve safety, tackle fare evasion and increase revenue for Metrolink – a triple win – and I do not know why we are not doing it already.

Countryside Volunteer Rangers Crompton Moor 16 September 18

As there was no event on the last Sunday of last month, I thought you would be raring to go for an additional event this coming Sunday, the 16th which I hope you can attend, carrying out fence repairs on the moor.

The current weather forecast is a light rain showers and a moderate breeze, likely high / low of 16º/11º and 13 mph winds so ensure you have your favourite hot & or cold liquids, the appropriate clothing, footwear and a packed lunch if you are up for the day.

Meantime, if you have any issues that you may wish to discuss prior to Sunday, please do not hesitate to email (on either address) or text / phone me on 07961107860.

For those of you that have not already done so, please could you let me know if you intend to join us on the day, so that I can make the appropriate plan of work, and to ensure the correct material and or tools are available on the day.

I look forward to seeing you in the Crompton Moor Car Park ~ 10.30 on Sunday. Thank you.

Kindest Regards – Edward John Fulton (aka Ed / Eddie). Countryside Volunteer Ranger, (Mob) 07961 107860 [Calls may be recorded], (Text) 07961 107860, (Fax)  01706 661813, (E)  edward@edwardjohnfulton.uk , (E) edward.fulton@btinternet.uk

Call to end period poverty by Oldham Liberal Democrats

At the next full meeting of Oldham Council (Wednesday 12 September), the Oldham Liberal Democrat Group will be proposing a motion to address Period Poverty. Councillor Diane Williamson will be proposing and Councillor Hazel Gloster will be seconding the motion.

Councillor Williamson said “it is scandalous that in a country with such wealth as Great Britain young girls should be in a position where they cannot afford sanitary protects and do not want to put pressure on their parents to purchase some, and then they resort to alternatives like using a soak.  It is not right that they feel stigmatised in school and bullied for their body performing its natural function”.

“I am really pleased that Scotland is tackling this by introducing free sanitary products in all education establishments. In Wales, they have invested £1m into introducing packs that are then given out to community groups, schools and foodbanks. This kind of provision needs to be rolled out across England too,” said Councillor Hazel Gloster

“Students who cannot afford sanitary products miss days from school.and consequently their education loses out.  We want all our young people to reach their full potential both inside and outside the classroom and this funding will help to ensure they are properly supported” said Councillor Diane Williamson

In addition to period poverty a punitive taxation policy is in place whereby female hygiene products are classed as a luxury product and VAT is levied on them.

“Come on – live in the real world! When is suffering pain every month and being hygienic a luxury?  It isn’t and should not be treated as such.  So, we need to be doing something about it.  That is why I am pleased to support this motion” said Councillor Williamson.

Motion – Period Poverty

This Council notes that:

A survey by Plan International UK found that 1 in 10 teenage girls had been unable to afford sanitary products;

  • 56% of teenage girls said they would rather be bullied at school than talk to their parents about periods;
  • This is particularly problematic for girls from low-income families who see their parents struggling to make ends meet and feel reluctant to ask them to add sanitary products to the weekly shop;
  • In many cases, as a result, they may lose a significant number of days of schooling;
  • Regrettably, even women in low-income employment are sometimes unable to afford such products when struggling to meet household bills and feed their families;
  • Ironically only female prisoners have a statutory right to access free sanitary products.

Council believes in a country as well-off as Britain ‘Period Poverty’ is a scandal that should be ended.

Council commends:

  • The Scottish Government for its commitment to tackle ‘Period Poverty’ by introducing free sanitary products in all educational establishments, and notes that Scotland was one of the first countries to pilot a scheme to young women and girls in need in Aberdeen;
  • The project recently established by the 21st Oldham Friezland Rangers and the charity Red Box whereby members of the public can donate sanitary products in branded boxes located in prominent places for re-distribution to students in need attending our local schools and colleges.

Council resolves to:

  • Ask the Overview and Scrutiny Board and Health and Well-being Board, working with relevant Cabinet Members, officers and partners, to explore with local secondary schools and colleges how sanitary products can be made available free to students in their establishments;
  • Ask the Chief Executive to write to the Secretary of State for Education and Chancellor asking the Government to scrap the VAT levied on female hygiene products as soon as is practicable and in the meantime to use the VAT collected on these products to fund the provision of free sanitary products for girls and women in need.

OLDHAM LIBERAL DEMOCRATS CALL FOR OLDHAM MARKETS TO BE ‘FUR FREE’

Liberal Democrat Councillors Julia Turner and Chris Gloster will be proposing a motion at the next full meeting of Oldham Council (Wednesday 12 September) calling on the Council to outlaw the sale of real fur from all markets in the Borough.

Councillor Turner, who is proposing the motion, said: “Regrettably customers often have no idea that they are buying products which contain real fur as they are often sold under the guise of ‘faux fur’. Real fur is sometimes used for trims on hats, gloves, and footwear, and pom-poms on hats and clothing. Although the UK banned domestic fur farming in 2000, it is still legal to sell products containing some types of real fur that have been imported. Imported fur can be very cheap, but it comes at a price of extreme cruelty to the animals it came from.”

“100 million animals every year are killed for fur. Much of the fur we import into our country comes from China, where there is practically no animal welfare legislation. It comes from animals raised in deplorable conditions and killed by gassing or anal electrocution. There have even been instances filmed of animals being skinned alive. Other animals are cruelly trapped in the wild by steel jawed leg-hold traps. Once caught, many go to great lengths to try to escape, often breaking teeth as they bite the steel trap, sometimes even chewing off their trapped limbs in their desperation.”

The Oldham Liberal Democrats want the Council to become a signatory to the Fur Free Markets campaign of the animal welfare charity, Respect for Animals, the UK’s leading anti-fur organisation, and to work with the charity to ensure that no products containing real fur are sold at the borough’s markets.

Councillor Turner added: “I am sure that the vast majority of shoppers would be horrified to find they had accidentally purchased a real fur product knowing the abominable cruelty that these animals suffer. By working with the charity Respect for Animals, we can ensure that real fur products are banned in Oldham.”

The motion reads:

 This Council notes that:

  • The United Kingdom has outlawed the farming of animals for their fur on ethical grounds since 2000 and that the use of one of the most common traps used to catch animals for their fur has been illegal for many years.
  • Nonetheless fur products are imported from overseas nations, particularly China, where such bans do not operate and where there is virtually no animal welfare legislation in force.
  • Real fur comes from animals raised in deplorable conditions or trapped in the wild and killed inhumanely.
  • Regrettably these products are often found for sale on public markets in the UK and customers can inadvertently buy them thinking them to be made of imitation fur.

Accordingly Council resolves to:

  • Prohibit the sale of any product wholly or partially made with real animal fur on Council owned land and at Council run or Council leased markets. This ban to cover such items as fur coats, vintage fur, fur shawls, garments with fur trim, fur pompom hats, and fur accessories and trinkets.
  • Support the Fur Free Markets campaign of the animal welfare charity, Respect for Animals, the UK’s leading anti-fur organisation, by:
  • Becoming a signatory to the initiative.
  • Seeking the advice and assistance of the charity in the enforcement of this ban.

Eastway, Shaw – proposed passenger shelter now gets thumbs up!

As people may be aware the battle for a bus shelter on Eastway has been ongoing for some time now.

The requested was refused due to the narrow width of the pavement in this area.

See: 

Request for bus shelters on Eastway, Shaw – refused

However I am now very pleased to report that following negotiations with ASDA for the use of some of their land (Big thanks to ASDA) the shelter can now be accommodated .  Also a passenger count has been undertaken and the number of passengers boarding has met TfGM minimum criteria for a shelter.

The next step in the process is that the proposals are presented to TfGM’s Bus Networks and TfGM Services Committee in October for approval.

Hopefully works can start soon after that.

Petrol filling station – for Asda Supermarket, Greenfield Lane, Shaw, – appeal again refusal

FULL DETAILS ARE IN THE LINK BELOW ALONG WITH HOW PEOPLE CAN SUBMIT THEIR VIEWS ON THIS MATTER AND WHERE AND WHEN THE APPEAL WILL BE HELD, WHICH IS A PUBLIC MEETING ANYBODY CAN ATTEND.

ASDA planning appeal details

Shaw and Crompton Liberal Democrat Councillors are disappointed that Asda have proceeded to appeal their plans for a petrol filling station.

This is despite the recommendation of Council Highways Officers that this development is unsafe, and the strong objections of local residents in relation to traffic congestion as well as the concerns of residents living directly opposite the proposed site who’s right to a peaceful life will undoubtedly be disrupted by a petrol station literally on the doorstep of the terraced houses.

Royal Bank of Scotland to shut in Shaw

Commenting Shaw Liberal Democrat Councillor Chris Gloster stated.

The closure of the Roya‎l Bank of Scotland is yet another blow to Shaw Town Centre.  When RBS announced the closure of the Oldham Branch late last year, I wrote to the Chief Executive of RBS asking him to consider extending the opening times of the Shaw Branch which is currently operating on  a three day week,  especially in view of the imminent closure of Barclay’s Bank in Shaw.  They declined this request.

As it stands Shaw and Crompton will now have no main stream banking services whatsoever other than the Post Office.

It is a sad fact of life that town centre banking services are quickly becoming extinct due to the rise in popularity of Internet banking, convenient for some but highly inconvenient for ‎others, particularly businesses and people without access to  the Internet, most commonly the elderly and vulnerable..

Some people simply prefer not to use Internet banking so they are not at risk of increasingly clever Internet fraud.

As an RBS customer myself I am disappointed that after the Yorkshire Bank closed, they canvassed myself and other residents of Shaw and Crompton to open an account at their branch only for ‎them to shortly after reduce hours and now close.  The bank is always busy when open so there clearly is demand.

I think RBS have missed a golden opportunity here, all banks want customers, where better to build your client base when you are the only bank in town?

I will again write to RBS outlining my concerns and seek assurances that at a minimum, the RBS cash machine outside Tesco Express on Market Street ‎will be retained, and ascertain what plans they have for the machine currently located outside the Branch.

Green waste collections in Shaw & Crompton Friday 7 Sept – leave your bins/caddies out and they will be collected tomorrow – 8th Sept

I have been informed the Council have some small pockets of Garden/kitchen waste collections outstanding in the following areas:

  • The Rises
  • George Street Area

Residents are requested to leave the bins/caddies out and they will be collected first thing tomorrow morning ( Saturday).