My two allowed questions at tonight’s (13 Sept) Oldham Council meeting – Payment of Invoices and Free Bulky Waste collections

Oldham Council 12 September 2017 – Leader’s Questions

Question 1 – Invoices

Mr Mayor, my first question relates to how this Council supports small businesses in this Borough.

I am sure the Leader is aware that in April of this year the Leader of her party announced that a Labour Government would ‘declare war on late payment’ to small businesses.

Speaking at an event organised by the Federation of Small Businesses, the Labour leader called it ‘a national scandal’ that big companies were withholding more than £26 billion from suppliers, forcing 50,000 of them out of business every year.

Local Labour MP Debbie Abrahams commented favourably on this.  She has been championing a similar local campaign ‘Be Fair – Pay on Time’.

She reported at the time that over 400 businesses in Oldham East and Saddleworth have said they are struggling to pay staff because of late payments and 66 went bust.

All very commendable – I am sure we all want to see a thriving small business sector in our country and especially in our Borough – and cash flow difficulties caused by late payment kills businesses.

So why is it that Debbie doesn’t seem to have publically taken Oldham Council to task?

For the average length of time this Labour Council takes to pay an invoice was 24 days in 2015 / 2016, when it was only 15 when the Liberal Democrats ran the Council, I was Leader.

Mr Corbyn also said that a Labour government would require any company bidding for a public sector contract to pay its own suppliers within 30 days and would look at introducing fines for persistent late payers.

This Council will have to be careful that the promised legislation doesn’t extend to penalising Councils who follow the same practice – for it is likely that Oldham would have to pay a hefty fine.

For in 2015/16, the number of invoices this Council paid after 30 days was 15,247, when it was only 8,051 under the Liberal Democrats.  And the current system does not even allow us to identify which invoices are delayed because of disputes and which because of inefficiency.

This Administration makes a great play of its deal with Oxygen Finance whereby suppliers can be paid in five days instead of 30 in return for paying an ‘Early Repayment Fee’, but why should businesses pay us money to receive the money that they are owed by us more quickly?

In my day, the Liberal Democrat Administration simply placed more emphasis on paying our suppliers, especially our local suppliers promptly.

So can I ask the Leader tonight what she will now do to ensure that this Council will ‘Be Fair to our small businesses and Pay on Time’?

Question 2 – Free Bulky Bobs Collection

Mr Mayor, for my second question I would like to turn to the issue of bulky waste collections.

I was glad to see that the Council is looking to re-tender for the bulky waste collection service.

I would like to reveal what appears to be a closely kept secret – that under the current contract delivered by Bulky Bobs some residents are still able to access a free bulky waste collection services.

I say closely kept secret – because even I did not know it until recently and I am sure that many members in this Chamber will not know of it either.

For a little known fact is that when charging was first introduced by the new Labour Administration in 2012 there was, in part due to the pressure and concerns the Liberal Democrats had, an acknowledgement that certain low income groups must still be able to access a limited free bulky waste collection service.

This was to ensure that they were not “disproportionately disadvantaged” by the charge for this service, as defined by the 2010 Equalities Act.

So any customers who are – I quote – “Any customers physically disabled, infirm due to old age, or pregnant are entitled to one free collection a year.”

Interestingly this proviso is not mentioned on the Council’s website or in any public papers for the recent Cabinet meeting at which it was agreed to re-tender the contract.

Nor can the information be found on the website of Bulky Bob or on Bulky Bob’s Facebook page.

So if you were one of these eligible “disadvantaged” customers, or a carer for them, you would not know the concession existed nor how to access it.

So, Mr Mayor, my second question to the Leader tonight is.

Can she confirm that this concession exists under the current contract and that it will be maintained under the new contract?

And can she also say how this concession will be publicised to eligible customers in future?

Liberal Democrat call for Action to End National Scandal of Homelessness

Crompton Liberal Democrat Councillor Diane Williamson will be proposing a motion to the next full meeting of Oldham Council (13 September) calling for Oldham Council to take action to help end rough sleeping and homelessness.

Official figures show that over 4,000 people in England are sleeping rough on any one night and that over a quarter of a million people are in some form of homelessness. The figures for sleeping rough have increased by fifty percent in the last two years alone.

Councillor Williamson said: “It is a national disgrace that in a modern industrial economy and Britain is one of the world’s leading economies, rough sleeping and homelessness can exist in the twenty first century.”

Official figures also show that Greater Manchester is a city region with the fourth highest levels of homelessness.

“At full Council, I will be hoping for cross-party support to commit Oldham to do its bit to make rough sleeping and homelessness a thing of the past. We would like a report on the current situation in our borough and what is being doing, and can be done, to improve it.”

Councillor Williamson added: “The Oldham Liberal Democrats also endorse the campaign launched recently by the new Mayor of Greater Manchester Andy Burnham to tackle this issue head on as an urgent priority for all ten local authorities and partner organisations in our city region.”

Unfortunately a recent report for the homelessness charity Crisis has identified that rough sleeping and homelessness may rise by three quarters over the next decade.

In response, Councillor Williamson said: “This is why it is important that we also tackle this issue at a national level. Changes to housing benefit entitlement and delays in payments, wages not rising sufficiently to meet spiralling private sector rents, and the lack of affordable housing for rent has exacerbated this situation, and much of the blame must be placed at the feet of Conservative ministers who are so unconcerned because they are so out-of-touch with the day-to-day reality of those affected. We support the End Rough Sleeping Campaign, and call on our fellow Councillors and local Members of Parliament to also endorse this.”

The Council motion reads:

This Council notes:

The national scandal of homelessness, with official figures showing over 4,000 people sleeping rough on any one night, in England last year and over 250,000 people in some form of homelessness.

That figures for sleeping rough have increased by nearly 50% in the last two years.

That Greater Manchester has a particular homelessness problem, with Manchester having the fourth highest rates of rough sleeping in the country.

The charities, Crisis, Centrepoint, Homeless Link, Shelter and St Mungo’s have launched the End Rough Sleeping Campaign to call upon politicians of all parties to make a commitment to end rough sleeping and homelessness.

Working with our social housing and voluntary sector partners, Council reaffirms its commitment to ending rough sleeping and homelessness.

Council resolves to:

Adopt as policy the aspirations outlined in the End Rough Sleeping Campaign that in this borough:

  • no one is sleeping rough
  • no one is living in shelters, hostels or other emergency accommodation without a plan to move into suitable and settled housing within an agreed appropriate timescale
  • no one is homeless as a result of leaving the care system, prison or other state institution
  • everyone at immediate risk of homelessness gets the help they need to prevents it happening.

Ask the Chief Executive to write to the charities involved with the End Rough Sleeping Campaign to give the campaign this Council’s support and to ask the campaign to register the Council as a supporter.

Ask the Chief Executive to write to our three Members of Parliament, urging them to support action at a Government level, including:

  • Adequately funding local government and local health services enable them to properly undertake their duties to tackle homelessness and causes of homelessness
  • Ensuring that the benefits system is contributing to stopping homelessness, not causing it
  • Addressing issues in housing provision, including providing for longer and more stable private rental period
  • Support measures to tackle homelessness at a Greater Manchester level, including:
  • Supporting the Homelessness Action Network created by the Greater Manchester Mayor
  • Working together as ten boroughs, and using our devolved powers to collectively bring an end to homelessness as an urgent priority.
  • Ensuring that a revised Greater Manchester Spatial Framework, and the Oldham Local Plan, has appropriate and affordable housing as a core priority
  • Ensure that Oldham Council, and our social housing and voluntary sector partners, are doing everything we can to contribute to ending homelessness by asking the Leader to bring a report to Council outlining how our local services are working to end homelessness in the Borough.

FUNGI HUNT – SUNDAY 17th SEPTEMBER 2017, 10:00AM UNTIL 2:00 PM, MEET IN BRUSHES CLOUGH CAR PARK ON CROMPTON MOOR

(Nearest postcode: OL2 8LS / GRID Ref: SD 95110 10025).

170917 Fungal Hunt poster

The hunt will be led by the legend – Fungal Punk Dave—who travels the length and breadth of the UK to hunt for all that is Fungi.

Join us, and be prepared to be educated and entertained by a most interesting teacher.
So far we have found 138 different species of Fungi on Crompton Moor.

Below are some examples of what you may find. Come along and help us to find more.

Sturdy shoes are recommended; dress appropriately for the weather; bring sun cream, and hand wipes should you wish to handle the fungi.

For further information please contact:
Marian Herod 07792 156295. email: marian.herod@btinternet.com
Please note:
 We are requesting a donation of £5.00 per person; to be paid on the day, to cover costs.
 This event is a hunt/survey, and not a forage. Some samples may need to be taken in order to fully identify by using a microscope.

Works at Holy Trinity Church, Shaw

The works are still ongoing due to a problem that the contractor encountered with the condition of the iron railings, which basically fell apart in places when they were detached from the stone pillars; requiring careful restoration off site by specialists before being signed off for reinstatement/ fitting.

The problem with the railings has been resolved and they will be reinstated by the end of September 2017.  Other works are progress as planned.

Commuters warned of two days of rail strike disruption 

Transport for Greater Manchester travel advice for Friday 1 and Monday 4 September – tfgm.com/industrial-action

Commuters, parents and school returners are being warned to plan ahead and expect disruption on Friday 1 and Monday 4 September as staff on Northern rail services hold two one-day strikes.

The strikes will run from 0001 to 2359 on each day.

Most Northern services are not expected to run and any that do operate, working to a revised timetable, will be extremely busy.

All public transport and Greater Manchester’s roads are expected to be busier, especially at peak morning and evening times, with key commuter routes forecast to face the most pressure as people affected by the strikes make alternative arrangements.

Monday 4 September is expected to be the most affected day as the majority of Greater Manchester schools return for the new academic year.

No rail services will operate between Manchester and Preston via Bolton as the line is currently closed due to a burst water main and a severely damaged bridge at Moses Gate. This is also causing local road disruption and bus and route diversions are in place.

Customers are advised to check the details of their journey at www.nationalrail.co.uk or by following @northernassist.

In addition the A6 through Stockport is currently closed for essential engineering and thus the surrounding road network is expected to be very busy. TfGM’s travel advice for the A6 closure is beta.tfgm.com/travel-updates/stockport-a6-bridge-works

Transport for Greater Manchester, which is helping to co-ordinate the region’s response, is urging people to plan ahead and consider carefully their travel arrangements.

It is working to support Northern’s own customer communications effort and has created a special travel information page on its website to help keep Greater Manchester commuters on the move: tfgm.com/industrial-action.

As well as working with other transport authorities across the North, TfGM has taken action locally to help people who have to travel on the days of the strike, including;

  • Ensuring as many Metrolink trams as possible will be in service
  • Deploying additional staff on Metrolink and at key bus stations to help commuters
  • Advising rail customers with monthly or greater season tickets that they can travel for free on Metrolink
  • Publicising various park and ride sites to allow customers to complete their journeys by different transport options
  • Working with bus and other train operators to maximise capacity across the network, particularly on the busiest commuter corridors
  • Enhanced monitoring at its network control centre so traffic flows can be optimised by altering signal timing
  • Working with local highway authorities to temporarily suspend roadworks where possible on the region’s main commuter routes

For detailed information about the Northern rail industrial action please visit www.northernrailway.co.uk/industrial-action

Let’s Talk – Crompton and Shaw- Exploring the best in growing older – 16 September 10.00am – 3.30pm, St Andrew’s Methodist Church, Trent Road, High Crompton, OL2 7QU

Come join a group of holistic therapists for an enjoyable exploration of active ageing.

We are sharing experiences of Emotional Freedom Technique; mindful practices; laughter therapy; and exploring the concept of a ‘Book of Life’.

This community initiative was started by Dr Susie Miles who wanted to create choices in her approaching older age.

Anyone aged 50 and over, who wants to get together in a relaxed setting with others to talk about the challenges and opportunities of the ageing process, is invited to join in.

There will be something for everyone and lunch will be provided.

If you are open to different ways of thinking and learning new techniques, drop in for all or part of the day – and enjoy yourself.

Further information is available from Paul Oakley: Tel: 07554 868664

Free entrance.

Booking is essential for catering purposes either by phoning Paul or on Facebook: www.facebook.com/letstalkaboutageing

Liberal Democrats welcome for Green Burials in Shaw and Crompton

The Leader of the Opposition, the Liberal Democrat Group on Oldham Council and Shaw Councillor Howard Sykes MBE, has welcomed the recent adoption by Oldham Council of a proposal to provide land for green burials and celebration woodlands at Crompton Cemetery and High Crompton Park.

Commenting, Councillor Sykes said: “This is something that I and my Liberal Democrat colleagues in Crompton and Shaw have sought for many years.  Making land available for green burials and celebration woodlands means that those who seek a non-traditional, or non-religious funeral may be interred within the Borough, and allows their relatives to visit a local burial site or remembrance site that will remain beautiful for all time.”

The green burial scheme provides for interments at unspoiled locations that are not obviously burial sites, and where coffins or shrouds made from natural, sustainable materials are used.  There are no permanent memorials or gravestones in contrast to a conventional, regimented cemetery.

Celebration woodlands allow relatives to make donations for the planting and maintenance of trees in remembrance of a loved one.  Although no plaques or tributes are placed by individual trees, the living woodland is itself a collective, shared memorial to all of those who are remembered, and specific reference to individuals is made in a memorial book or tablet on the edge of the site.

There will also be a continued option for relatives to fund a specific tree linked to their loved one through the Life for a Life scheme.  Here cremated remains can be interred.

Councillor Sykes added: “These proposals enable a full range of options for local residents in Shaw and Crompton for traditional burials and cremations to less traditional but increasingly popular non-traditional.  The full range is now available for Shaw and Crompton citizens locally in our Borough that are personal, dignified and respectful, whilst creating sites of great natural beauty for everyone to enjoy.”

Full report: Celebration treesGreen Burials

Oldham Country Service Volunteer Ranger Event 27 August 2017

That time of the month again, so if you can spare some of your valuable time this Bank Holiday Sunday, 27 August 2017, it would be appreciated.

This month’s task is of a prevention nature; preventing motorcycle access to the moor and preventing the fencing to the car park access road from possibly collapsing! It will also take in some green finger activity?

The current weather forecast is 18C so please ensure you have enough 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 phone me on 07961107860; we will have a vehicle, materials & tools.

Given our task is in the vicinity of moving vehicles, please can you ensure you bring your Hi-Viz vest – if you do not have one, hopefully one can be provided.

Look forward to seeing you in the Crompton Moor Car Park 10.30 on Sunday.

Edward John Fulton (aka Ed/Eddie), Countryside Volunteer Ranger, (E)  edward@edwardjohnfulton.uk

Lib Dem Leader condemns Rail Fare Rip Off

The Leader of the Opposition and Liberal Democrat Group Leader on Oldham Council, Councillor Howard Sykes MBE, has condemned proposals to increase regulated rail fares by a further 3.6% from January 2018.

Councillor Sykes represents Oldham Council on the Transport for Greater Manchester committee.

The 3.6% fare increase is based on the Retail Prices Index inflation figure for July 2017 and is the maximum permitted, as well as the highest-increase for five years.

Councillor Sykes said: “This unwelcome news comes on top of recent announcements that Metrolink fares are likely to be hiked up significantly. At a time when workers are really feel the pinch, these fare increases may make travel for Oldham residents seeking work in other parts of Greater Manchester and beyond, unaffordable, and will discourage social mobility.”

Echoing the call of transport groups for the RPI measure to be scrapped, Councillor Sykes said: “Many workers have not had a pay increase for several years and a 3.6% rise is simply not affordable when utility and household bills are also being increased. This arbitrary measure should be scrapped and further price increases should be based upon real increases in wages and an improved performance by the railways.”

Councillor Sykes is also concerned about the impact this increase may have on our environment: “Price hikes discourage rail use and encourage passengers to get back in their cars increasing air pollution and traffic congestion – this is not good for us or for our planet.”