Countryside Volunteer Rangers Crompton Moor – Sunday 30 December

Last one of the year, another volunteering Sunday to help you lose those Christmas calories (!), so I hope you can join me in completing the drainage maintenance on the access road, as the maintenance carried out so far is working a treat.

The weather forecast for Sunday is light cloud and a gentle breeze, likely temperature of 9º/10º and 7 mph winds so ensure you have your favourite hot & or cold liquids, warm clothing, appropriate footwear and a packed lunch if you are up for the day – it may feel colder than it really is i.e. 8º.

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.

I look forward to seeing you in the Crompton Moor Car Park from 10.30 onwards 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) , (E)

Refuse/recycling calendars latest 13/12/18

Refuse/recycling calendars latest 13/12/18

Many, many thanks to the hundreds of people who have emailed me to let me know you; like me; have not received a refuse/recycling calendar for December 2018 and beyond.

What is now crystal clear is that thousands of people have not had one, but a lucky few have.

I am asking Oldham Council as a matter urgency to make sure they are delivered as soon as possible – as of yet I have no further details to share – but will continue to pursue.

Once again many thanks to all those who emailed me about this matter – much appreciated.

If you download R4GM from the App Store or Google Play it will let people know what day and which bins to put out for collection.

My two allowed questions at tonight’s Oldham Council meeting – 12 December 2018 – Who decides on the GMSF Plan and Coping with Brexit

Q1 Oldham Council Leaders Questions – Who decides on the GMSF Plan?

Mr Mayor, my first question to the Leader tonight returns to a subject that I asked him about in September – who will be responsible for taking the decision in this Council whether to adopt the final proposals for the Greater Manchester Spatial Framework.

I make no apology for asking this question again as circumstances seem to have changed on this issue since we last spoke in this Chamber about it.

On 1 October 2018, the Mayor of Greater Manchester and the ten Council leaders who are the Greater Manchester Combined Authority issued a media release which stated categorically that:

Leaders also commit to ensuring that the formal draft plan is put before each Council to ensure real democratic debate and scrutiny.

The draft Greater Manchester Spatial Framework must be approved by each and every local council next summer.

 The Mayor and Leaders have today made clear that regardless of the requirements, they are committed to ensuring that the formal draft Plan is put before each Council to ensure real democratic engagement, debate and scrutiny.

 Local ward councillors will have their say on this plan

 Throughout this process we have always committed to taking the GMSF through local councils.

On 30 November 2018, the Greater Manchester Combined Authority issued a further statement which stated categorically that:

  “Before we go out to consultation for a second time (in the summer of 2019) the revised Greater Manchester Spatial Framework will be taken to all the local authorities and councils within the city-region for discussion, debate and ultimately sign-off.”

As I read these two statements, they would appear to imply that all Greater Manchester local authority leaders, including yourself, have agreed to bring the draft GMSF plan before a full meeting of their local Council for scrutiny and debate and for ward members to vote on whether their local Council chooses to adopt the plan?

This appears to be a contrary position to the one that you outlined in your response to my question on the matter at the September meeting of full Council.  Here you indicated that you as Leader would make the final decision.

Please can I ask the Leader of the Council to clarify the current position as he sees it?

Q2 Oldham Council Leaders Questions – Coping with Brexit

Mr Mayor, for my second question to the Leader tonight I would like to turn to Brexit, more specifically the serious threat a No-Deal Brexit will pose.

The last Council presented a report which stated that: “It is looking increasingly likely that a ‘no-deal’ Brexit is the most likely outcome…”

This would result in a downturn in economic productivity and growth in our region as the EU accounts for almost sixty percent of our export market.

The cost of imported raw materials and components are already increasing, in part because of the falling value of the pound.  This will also impact on employment and on wage rates which will be devastating as Oldham working families are already amongst the poorest in the UK.

But this is NOT the worst of it.  Former Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab admitted the Government was preparing to stockpile food.

Health Secretary Matthew Hancock admitted discussions on building up NHS reserves of vaccinations, blood products and medical supplies had been held.

But it is impossible to stockpile advance supplies of fresh food, as by their nature they are perishable, and many patients rely of medicines with a short shelf-life.

Essentials will therefore have to be flown into the UK at great expense, while stuff rots at our ports which become gigantic truck parks with no drivers to drive them!

I say flown, but this is of course assumes that the Government can obtain the necessary export permits, complete the necessary new bureaucracy and obtain the flight-certified aircraft to do the job.

Frankly this sounds like a scenario akin to the Berlin Airlift of 1948 rather than Great Britain in 2018.

Seventy years ago, the Western allies had to overcome the Communist Soviet military blockade of that city to prevail.

Here common-sense has yet to prevail against the bigotry, narrow-mindedness of Little Englanders and the swivel eyed loons determined to break faith with our European neighbours.

Mr Mayor, this is frightening stuff, made more so in a borough where we already have so many poor citizens reliant on emergency Food Bank supplies, a great many with chronic and long-term health conditions.

I am sorry to say that this is not the script of a post-Apocalyptic movie this is just weeks away.

The people in charge of this mess and our country; in the middle of the most important constitutional change since Henry 8 or Oliver Cromwell; now decide to have a leadership contest and oust the Prime Minister!

They have done more to damage our reputation in the world; and the Union that is the United Kingdom; at a single stroke than any event in modern history!

Words fail me.

Firstly please could the leader tell us what is being done by this Council, in conjunction with our partners in the Greater Manchester Combined Authority, to plan measures to mitigate for a possible No-deal Brexit?

Secondly would he be willing to join with me in sending a joint letter to the three Members of Parliament who represent our Borough asking them to support a second people’s referendum, with the option on the ballot paper to remain in the European Union and retain the many benefits accruing from membership, before any move by this Government to take our nation over the abyss into Brexit?

Liberal Democrat Plan to make Oldham Town and all District Centres Safer at Night

Liberal Democrat Councillors Hazel Gloster and Howard Sykes MBE will be proposing a motion at the next full meeting of Oldham Council (Wednesday 12 December) calling for the establishment of Safe Zones and for the ‘Ask Angela’ scheme to be adopted to help make Oldham town and district centres in the borough safer for night-time revellers.

Commenting Councillor Gloster said: “When the Liberal Democrats were in power, we tackled the anti-social issues that resulted from problem drinking in Oldham town centre, issues that attracted lots of unwanted media attention with Yorkshire Street being dubbed ‘the  Wild West’ and I am pleased to say that things are now a lot quieter.  However, people do sometimes have too much to drink or they can feel threatened late at night, and we should take action to ensure that young people and vulnerable people who get into difficulty are able to find help when they need it.”

The Liberal Democrats are calling for a Student Safe Spot / Zone scheme and an ‘Ask Angela’ scheme to be established in Oldham and in other district centres across the borough, as they are in other places with student populations such as Bradford and Manchester.

Councillor Gloster added: “Although ours is not a big university town, we do have the Oldham Sixth Form College, the Oldham College and University Campus Oldham in our town centre.  Safe Spots are designated venues where staff offer support to students who feel unwell or unsafe late at night by phoning for a taxi, a friend or the emergency services. These venues display a prominent sticker in their window and new students receive information about the scheme as part of their induction. In Bradford, there is also an arrangement with a local taxi firm to transport students home who find themselves without money, with the bill later being settled via the university authorities.”

“The Ask Angela scheme is operated nationwide in many pubs and clubs. Like Student Safe Spots, staff will swing into action to help when someone who feels vulnerable or threatened ‘asks for Angela’ at the bar. This scheme is primarily, though not exclusively, aimed at lone women, who may for instance meet someone new for a date and find they feel increasingly uncomfortable or unsafe and want to leave discreetly. Premises promoting the scheme display posters, which are usually placed in the toilets of those establishments to be discreet.”

Councillor Gloster concluded: “These ideas are common-sense suggestions that will help people feel safer when they go out for a drink or a meal in the evening. They complement other excellent initiatives, such as the Street Angels scheme. The Liberal Democrats would like to see the Council work with the licensed trade, the Police and our social partners to introduce these measures in our town centre and in our district centres, for example in Shaw, and I do hope that Council will support them.”

Improving Public Safety in Oldham’s Night time Economy

Council notes that:

  • In Bradford and Manchester local businesses and community groups have joined with local colleges and universities to establish Student Safe Spots / Zones; these are premises self-identifying as havens for students who are being followed, or are feeling vulnerable or unwell.

Staff at these venues offer assistance in booking taxis home; in contacting the emergency services if their assistance is required; or offer a temporary safe haven until a problem has passed. Venues signed up to the scheme receive a sticker to place prominently to advertise their involvement and a list and map of venues is published on line for students to access.

  • In Bradford, there also exists an agreement with local taxi businesses that students without money but presenting with a valid student ID badge will be offered carriage and the bill is then sent to the student for payment, via the relevant college and university authorities.
  • The ‘Ask for Angela’ scheme is operated nationwide in many pubs and clubs.

If a member of the public who feels vulnerable or threatened ‘Asks for Angela’ of the on-premises staff they know to take that person to a safer location and offer them assistance, such as calling a taxi, contacting friends or in certain circumstances ringing the police. Premises promoting the scheme display posters, which are usually placed in the toilets of those establishments to be discreet.

Council believes that establishing such schemes in our borough would help safeguard vulnerable people in our Borough, especially students and women enjoying our night time economy, and would complement the excellent work being done by the Oldham Street Angels.

Council therefore resolves to ask the Overview and Scrutiny Board to examine in conjunction with relevant partners, including the Oldham College, Oldham Sixth Form College, University Campus Oldham, schools with post-16 provision, licensed premises and public and private hire taxi businesses, the practicality of establishing such schemes as soon as possible in our town and district centres.

Proposed Councillor Hazel Gloster, Seconded Councillor Howard Sykes

Liberal Democrats call for Proper Funding for Public Health Services

At the next full meeting of Oldham Council (Wednesday 12 December), the Liberal Democrats will be proposing a motion calling on the Conservative Government to restore disastrous cuts made to public health.

The motion will be proposed by Councillor Chris Gloster and seconded by Councillor Garth Harkness.

In the 2015 Budget, the Chancellor announced a £200 million in-year cut to the Public Health Grant, followed by a further real-terms cut averaging 3.9% each year (until 2020/21) in the 2015 Spending Review.

These cuts are having a significant impact on public health services and functions. By way of example, research conducted by Action on Smoking and Health and Cancer Research UK shows that, following reductions to the Public Health Grant in 2015, 2016, and 2017, stop smoking services were cut in 39%, 59% and 50% of local authorities respectively year-on-year.  Now, 4 in 10 local authorities are not able to offer a stop smoking service for all smokers in their area.

Commenting Councillor Gloster said: “Oldham is a borough with a high incidence of poor health.  Many of our residents suffer from long-term health conditions and many others are at risk of developing such diseases as cardiovascular disease, liver disease, diabetes, CPD and cancer, often because of a poor diet or poor life style choices.  Taking funds away from prevention services that prevent ill health is a false economy. Smoking, obesity and alcohol account for 80,000, 30,000 and 7,000 early deaths each year respectively; and smoking remains the single biggest cause of preventable cancer.”

The Liberal Democrats want to see increased and sustained Government funding for public health to address health inequalities in deprived boroughs like Oldham, but the present Government is instead proposing to cut existing funding and make Councils rely on business rates

Councillor Gloster added: “The Government is looking to phase out the Public Health Grant by 2020/21 and to replace this with funding via business rates retention. This might work in a local authority area with low rates of long-term ill-health and a very vibrant local economy, but in an economically-deprived borough like Oldham it is unlikely to stack up and this will mean that poorly people will suffer as they will no longer have access to the vital health services that they need. We want to see Oldham Council support the Cancer Research UK campaign for the Public Health Grant to be restored.”

Sustainable Public Health Funding

Council notes that:

  • Around four in ten cancers are preventable, largely through avoidable risk factors, such as stopping smoking, keeping a healthy weight and cutting back on alcohol.

Smoking accounts for 80,000 early deaths every year and remains the largest preventable cause of cancer in the world. Additionally, obesity and alcohol account for 30,000 and 7,000 early deaths each year respectively. All three increase the risk of: cancer, diabetes, lung and heart conditions, poor mental health and create a subsequent burden on health and social care.

  • The public health grant funds vital services and functions largely delivered by local authorities to prevent ill health and reduce the burden placed upon the NHS and local authorities; for example, social care for smoking-related illnesses is estimated to cost local authorities £760 million per annum.
  • In 2018/19 and 2019/20 every local authority will have less to spend on public health than the year before.
  • The Government is looking to phase out the Public Health Grant by 2020/21 and to replace this with funding via business rates retention.

Council believes that:

  • The impact of cuts to public health on our communities is becoming difficult to ignore.
  • It is vital that local authorities have enough funding to deliver the functions and services they need to provide. Deprived areas, like Oldham, suffer the worst health outcomes, so it is also vital that areas with the greatest need receive sufficient funding to meet their local challenges.
  • Taking funds away from prevention is a false economy. Without proper investment in public health services, people suffer, demand on local health services increases and the economy suffers. Poor public health costs local businesses heavily through sick days and lost productivity.
  • We must restore public health funding or our health and care system will remain locked in a ‘treatment’ approach, which is neither economically viable nor protects the health of residents.

Council resolves to:

  • Continue to support and fund public health initiatives to the best of our abilities – to prevent ill-health, reduce inequalities and support a health and social care system that is fit for the future.
  • Ask the Chief Executive to write to:
  • Cancer Research UK setting out this Council’s support for their call for increased and sustainable public health funding.
  • The Secretary of State for Health calling on the Government to deliver increased investment in public health and to support a sustainable health and social care system by taking a ‘prevention first’ approach.

Proposed by Councillor Chris Gloster. Seconded by Councillor Garth Harkness.

Liberal Democrats Opposed to Fast-Track Fracking

The Oldham Liberal Democrats are submitting a motion to the next full meeting of Oldham Council opposing Government changes to planning procedures on fracking matters.

Liberal Democrat Councillor Dave Murphy is proposing the motion and Councillor Derek Heffernan is seconding it.

Councillor Murphy explained: “The Conservative Government is quite simply trying to circumvent established local planning procedures because they know that fracking is simply not popular with either Councils or the public.  Recent fracking activities on the Fylde Coast have demonstrated that there are public health issues with fracking activities, such operations involve many vehicle movements, ground disturbances that have led to earth tremors, and the real danger that fracking could lead to the pollution of local water supplies. It is only right that where such operations are contemplated that local people and their elected Councillors are able to properly consider them under established planning procedures.”

He added: “And this is not simply about fracking.  There is a danger that the government could decide that other contentious planning issues, such as building new nuclear power plants or housing on the green belt, could be considered at national level, denying local people and local Councillors any say in what goes on in their area.  At the end of the day they are the people who have to live with the consequences.  This goes completely against the grain of localism, which is about divesting power to local communities, and it is fundamentally undemocratic, and this is why as Liberal Democrats we are opposed to these changes.”

Changes to the Planning System to Fast-track Fracking

 Council notes:

  • With concern that the government is proposing two major changes to the planning system as it applies to shale gas extraction (or fracking) by:
  • Granting automatic planning permission for exploratory drilling prior to fracking, using ‘permitted development’ rules. This would remove the need for companies to submit a planning application and so also reduce local democratic scrutiny.
  • Including shale gas production projects in the Nationally Significant Infrastructure Projects regime. This would take decision-making powers on shale gas production away from local councils and hand it to central government.
  • That wherever fracking has been proposed, it has been opposed by the public and local authorities because of real fears about noise, traffic, air pollution, the impact on the countryside, and the effects on climate change.
  • That the Cardiff Business School has produced a report that reveals that to replace 50% of the UK’s projected future gas imports for 2021-2035 would in the most likely scenario require around 6100 fracking wells to be built on well pads that could cover the area of 4900 football pitches. This would require the equivalent of drilling and fracking one well every day for fifteen years.

Council believes that:

  • The Government’s proposals completely contradict the principles of localism and set a dangerous precedent for planning authorities in denying them the right to determine certain types of planning applications locally and in denying members of the public and communities their say during the planning process.
  • ‘Permitted Development’ – the category of planning that the government wants to move shale gas exploration drilling into – which was designed for developments with a low environmental impact and is an inappropriate category for drilling which has such wide-reaching implications for local communities and climate change.
  • Bringing fracking applications under the Nationally Significant Infrastructure Projects regime will be harmful to local communities.
  • Local authorities and local people are best placed to continue to make decisions throughout the planning process on matters that affect their locality, including fracking.

Council therefore resolves to ask the Chief Executive to:

  • Write to the relevant government ministers outlining this Council’s objections to the proposed changes and requesting that fracking applications, or indeed on any other planning matter relating to our locality and its people, be determined locally.
  • Copy in our three local Members of Parliament and the Mayor of Greater Manchester and ask for their support on this issue.

Proposed Councillor Dave Murphy, Seconded Councillor Derek Heffernan.