Surface water Buckstones Road

A number of people have been in contact regarding the surface water on Buckstones Road, Shaw (above and below 300 Buckstones Road).

I have pursued the matter with the Highways Department and I have the following to report.

Highways have been on site a few days ago and opened up the channel behind the kerb line and cleared all gullies.

There is an issue lower down with water coming off private land that Main Drainage Department is dealing with but does not appear to be the main reason for the current surface water in this area.

The opened channel is now capturing any water coming from the embankment before it reaches the highway.

The Drainage Section are due to start their investigation on the 16 November.

My two allowed questions at tonight’s Council meeting – Princes Gate and Sexual Harassment and Inappropriate Behaviour

When will this Game – Changer; get Game – Changing?

Mr Mayor, my first question tonight concerns the latest developments or lack of them at Princes Gate.  When plans for this site at Oldham Mumps were first unveiled in November 2014, former Council Leader Jim McMahon described them as a “game-changer for the new Oldham”.

Now we are three years on and we have yet to hear the details of who will replace Marks and Spencer as the flagship retailer on this gateway site.  Embarrassingly there are still many graphics in the town centre and elsewhere on display showing Marks and Spencer at the heart of this development.

This saga seems to be lasting as long as Game of Thrones – but it is not so captivating, bloody or exciting.  Businesses in the area, local residents and many others want and need to know what is happening – the silence is deafening.

Earlier this year we were promised an announcement in the near future and that was five months ago.

Has a commercial deal has been struck?

Did Cabinet approve a deal for Princess Gate in June?

So why such a long delay in making an announcement?

Now five months on from the Cabinet meeting earlier this year and still no news.

I am sure lots of people in our Borough will be keen to hear what is going on and what the plan is?

It is long overdue some “game-changing” on this site started to happen would the Leader of the Council agree.

 Q2 – Sexual Harassment and inappropriate behaviour

Mr Mayor, for my second question tonight I would like to turn to another issue that is currently of great public interest and concern.

I am sure that colleagues in this chamber will have been as unsettled as I was to hear news of seemingly widespread instances of sexual harassment in Parliament.

Such reprehensible behaviour will bring Parliament further into disrepute; something we as Councillors should very much regret as this will also further undermine the electorate’s overall faith in the functioning of any aspect of British democracy – including that of local government.

Prime Minister Theresa May has indicated that she will be instituting a new code of conduct in Parliament and we must hope that this will help address the issue.

But Mr Mayor, tonight I would like to ask the Leader for reassurance that here at Oldham Council we are one step ahead of the crowd in having robust and exemplar policies regarding sexual harassment in place.

Policies that enable and encourage those amongst our staff, or indeed our elected officials, who suffer this indignity to report such incidents.

That we have a support network in place for victims.

All such reports will be rigorously investigated.

Offenders will be swiftly disciplined.

But we also provide protection from malicious allegations.

Apparently in Parliament an idea is being explored that staff will be able to report concerns to an external, independent body.

I would suggest to the Leader that perhaps to make our own procedures even more robust this might be worthy of consideration?

But above all, Mr Mayor, I would like the Leader tonight to strongly affirm that we at Oldham Council have a policy of zero tolerance for such behaviour, whether it is by an employee, senior officer, contractor, partner or councillor.

Liberal Democrat Leader requests Update on Impact of Brexit for Oldham Borough

The Leader of the Opposition and of the Oldham Liberal Democrat Group, Councillor Howard Sykes MBE, has written to the Leader of the Council, Councillor Jean Stretton, requesting an update be brought to the next Council (Wednesday 8 November) for the consideration of Councillors.

Councillor Sykes explained: “I first wrote to the Council Leader at the time of the referendum requesting an impact assessment and this was kindly circulated to elected members.  A further report then followed in December 2016, but this was almost twelve months ago and a lot of water has gone under the Brexit Bridge since then so an update is now in my view urgently needed.”

Councillor Sykes is particularly concerned to see what the impact of the United Kingdom leaving the European Union without an agreed ‘deal’ might mean for the citizens and economy of Oldham.

He added: “Although this initially seemed an unlikely outcome, recent statements by senior Conservative Government ministers and the slow progress of talks have made me more fearful that not only may this happen, but that it is increasingly likely.”

Councillor Sykes has specifically asked the Council Leader for information about the likely impact of Brexit on:

  • Oldham’s social care workforce
  • The loss of the structural investment funding that was previously secured for the Borough from the European Union; this is estimated to be £8.4 billion per annum across the whole of the United Kingdom
  • The loss of a formal means of consulting local government which is currently made available by the EU through the Committee of the Regions

He explained: “A significant number of social care workers within the UK have come to our country from other European countries to carry out this necessary and demanding role.  The vast majority of these employees work diligently, patiently and sensitively to ensure that the needs of our elderly and disabled residents are met.”

“My worry is that such workers will perceive the UK as becoming a less inclusive and more hostile environment as Brexit approaches, with requirements for them to register with the authorities to continue to work and – I regret – reports of abuse and on occasion assaults being carried out on EU citizens in increasing numbers.”

“In such an environment, I, for one, would not blame them for wishing to return home but this would result in a situation where there may be insufficient British citizens to fill these vacancies. How then can we ensure that the needs of our most vulnerable people continue to be met?”

“I have asked the Council Leader to advise me how many of the employees in Oldham’s social care workforce are from EU nations, so that we can begin to plan to meet any recruitment shortfalls.”

Councillor Sykes is also concerned about the loss of EU grants to a deprived Borough like Oldham.

He said: “Although, in the referendum, there was a lot of talk about how much EU membership was supposedly costing the United Kingdom taxpayer, there was little discussion about how much was returned to the UK by the European Union in grants. Approximately £8.4 billion per annum came back to this country as structural funding; much of it to the more economically and socially deprived areas, of which Oldham is unfortunately one.”

“I have asked the Leader to identify how much Oldham will lose in structural development funds after Brexit takes effect. We have a lot of regeneration projects going on in our Borough, and my concern is that some of these may not be able to be delivered without EU funding.”

The third area of concern that Councillor Sykes has is the loss of influence that local government will have in government decision making after Brexit.

“At present, local government is formally consulted by the European Union on its proposals via a formal mechanism, the Committee of the Regions. There currently appear to be no proposals by the UK government to replace these arrangements after Brexit. I have asked the Leader and Chief Executive if they were join me in lobbying UK government to agree to replace these consultation arrangements after Brexit takes place.  As Leader of the Liberal Democrat Group on the Local Government Association I am also myself able to put pressure to bear on Ministers in the corridors of power.”

The text of the email from Councillor Sykes to Councillor Stretton

From: Howard Sykes
Sent: 26 October 2017 17:19
To: Cllr J Stretton
Cc: Carolyn Wilkins; Paul.Entwistle@oldham.gov.uk; (A) Kay Gibson (kay.gibson@oldham.gov.uk)
Subject: Re-evaluating the Impact of Brexit on Oldham Council and our Economy

Did mean to raise this at group leaders early this week.

Dear Jean,

Re-evaluating the Impact of Brexit on Oldham Council and our Economy

In advance of Council, I wanted to write to you to request an update in the next Green Book (or at the latest for the December meeting) on the likely impact of Brexit.

Our last update was in December last year, and I would particularly like to receive an update of the impact on our economy of the worst-case scenario – where the United Kingdom exits the European Union without an agreed deal.

Although this initially seemed an unlikely outcome, recent statements by senior Conservative Government ministers and the slow progress of talks have made me more fearful that not only may this happen, but that it is increasingly likely.

I am particularly concerned about the impact of Brexit on local government in three regards:

–      The impact on our social care workforce

–      The loss of £8.4 billion in structural investment funding

–      The loss of a formal means of consulting local government which is currently made available by the EU through the Committee of the Regions

So I would like to raise three specific questions with you that relate to these:

–      What percentage of the social care workforce in Oldham are EU citizens?

–      How much structural impact funding will be lost to Oldham and what will be the impact?

–      Assuming Brexit happens, will you and the Chief Executive join me in lobbying government to ensure that post-Brexit, the government will give local councils a formal consultative role?  I will of course also do my best through the Local Government Association to pursue this agenda.

Many thanks for your attention to these matters

Best wishes.

Howard

Councillor Howard Sykes MBE, Leader of the Opposition.  Leader of the Liberal Democrat Group Oldham Council.  Member for Shaw Ward.  Member for South Ward Shaw & Crompton Parish Council.  Office: Room 343, Level 3, Civic Centre, West Street, Oldham OL1 1UL.  T: 0161 770 4016  F: 0161 770 4026  E: howard.sykes@oldham.gov.uk  W: http://howardsykes.mycouncillor.org.uk Twitter: @Howard_Sykes  Facebook: /Councillor Howard Sykes  Home: 5 Ballard Way, Shaw, Oldham OL2 8DU

Save our Choking Seas, says Liberal Democrat Group Leader

The Leader of the Opposition and of the Oldham Liberal Democrat Group, Councillor Howard Sykes MBE, has written to the Secretary of State for the Environment, the Rt. Hon. Michael Gove MP supporting a government proposal to introduce a deposit scheme on drinks bottles and cans to encourage returns and so boost recycling.

The Environment Secretary is consulting Councils and environmental groups on the proposals in advance of the possible introduction of such a deposit scheme, whereby consumers deposit empty bottles and cans to ‘reverse’ vending machines located in community venues in order to receive payment of their deposit back.  The consultation ends on 30 October.

Councillor Sykes explained:  “Our beaches, rivers and estuaries are being choked by plastic bottles, cans and food packaging senselessly discarded by inconsiderate consumers.  Our oceans are being slowly suffocated by plastic pollution.  It is not only birds, animals and plant life that suffer though, it is also mankind; for this blight reduces our quality of life and our enjoyment of the natural world.”

“Generally the Oldham Liberal Democrat Council Group, of which I am Leader, would be lambasting the Secretary of State for some proposal of his with which we strongly disagree, but on this occasion, I am pleased to say we have been able to write to him with our full support for this proposal, and to express our hope that such a scheme will be introduced soon.”

In Britain only 57% of plastic bottles are recycled.  In Denmark which has a returns scheme it is 90%.

Responding to the disparity in the figures, Councillor Sykes described such a scheme as: “Sensible, practical and efficient, and long overdue.  It is not though as if this is a new idea even in Britain.  I am old enough to remember wagons carrying loads of Ben Shaws’ soft drinks around my community for sale door to door and me taking empties out to the van as a kid to collect the money my parents had paid on the bottles as a deposit.”

Councillor Sykes’ letter to the Secretary of State reads:

Sent: 30 October 2017 12:50
To: Michael.gove.mp@parliament.uk; Correspondence.section@defra.gsi.gov.uk
Cc: Howard Sykes
Subject: Letter to Michael Gove MP, Secretary of State for the Environment – Bottle Deposit Scheme
Sensitivity: Confidential

Dear Secretary of State,

I am writing to you with reference to the current government consultation on the proposal to introduce a deposit return scheme for drinks bottles and cans in an attempt to boost recycling (closing date 30 October 2017).

I wish to express to you the complete support of the Oldham Liberal Democrat Council Group for such a proposal; a proposal that is long overdue and that has been proven to work in other countries.

Minister, I am sure that you are aware of the many horrifying photographs that are available on-line of our beaches, rivers and estuaries choked with discarded plastic bottles and other detritus, often other forms of food packaging.  This has a massive negative impact on our wildlife and on our natural environment.  It is not only birds, animals and vegetation that suffers from the suffocation of this unwarranted and unnecessary pollution, but mankind ultimately does too; for this blight has a deleterious impact on the quality of our lives and our enjoyment of the natural world.

It is scandalous that in Britain only 57% of plastic bottles sold in the UK were collected for recycling, when in countries such as Denmark this figure is almost 90%.

And why is there this disparity?  Because Denmark, and other nations with a high level of recycling, operate deposit-marked bottles and cans schemes, whereby these items can be returned by consumers to reverse vending machines and thereby receive the return of their deposit. Sensible, practical and efficient.

Local government will also be a beneficiary of such a scheme. A recent report by Zero Waste Scotland identified that a deposit return system could save Scottish local authorities £13 million annually on litter and waste costs. Minister, I would suggest that this is money that would be far better spent on supporting our hard-pressed, essential local services, such as home care for the elderly.

The world’s biggest soft drinks manufacturer, Coca-Cola, produces 110 billion single-use plastic bottles a year, according to research by Greenpeace.  When this is compounded by the output of the many other myriad drinks and food manufacturers this represents a massive problem, and it is all our problem – for bottles and cans discarded on land find their way to our oceans and are transported around the world.

In the past, marooned sailors would write a message, place it in a bottle and cast the bottle into the sea in the hope of rescue.  Now, Minister, it is the sea that hopes for rescue, rescue from the blight that is plastic pollution, and our message on every bottle and can should be ‘recycle me’.

The Oldham Liberal Democrat Council Group urges you to introduce this scheme as soon as possible.

Yours Sincerely,

Councillor Howard Sykes MBE, Leader of the Opposition.  Leader of the Liberal Democrat Group Oldham Council.  Member for Shaw Ward.  Member for South Ward Shaw & Crompton Parish Council.  Office: Room 343, Level 3, Civic Centre, West Street, Oldham OL1 1UL.  T: 0161 770 4016  F: 0161 770 4026  E: howard.sykes@oldham.gov.uk  W: http://howardsykes.mycouncillor.org.uk Twitter: @Howard_Sykes  Facebook: /Councillor Howard Sykes  Home: 5 Ballard Way, Shaw, Oldham OL2 8DU

Liberal Democrat Leader’s Disappointment at Community Shop Veto

The Leader of the Opposition and Liberal Democrat Group Leader on Oldham Council, Councillor Howard Sykes MBE, has expressed his disappointment that the Council’s Overview and Scrutiny Board will be recommending that the Community Shop model be abandoned as one means to address food poverty in Oldham Borough.

Councillor Sykes explained: “I first contacted Community Shop almost three years ago in December 2014 suggesting that Oldham might be a location for a future store.  I had just read about their operation in Barnsley and about the opening of a second shop in Lambeth, and knew that they were keen to expand to other areas in need. Unfortunately Oldham is just such an area.”

Community Shop is a retail outlet with a difference.  It has registered members who are in receipt of means-tested benefits.  As members they are able to buy ‘surplus food’ supplied by commercial retail supermarkets and manufacturers at significantly discounted prices, and they are also able to participate in training and job search activity to help them find employment.

The Shop also has a social side being a meeting point for members, many of whom would otherwise be socially isolated.  Each shop has a café that sells quality, low cost food prepared on the premises, and a chef that even teaches members how to cook.

In February 2015, Councillor Sykes was able to tour the Community Shop in Barnsley and he was very impressed by his visit.  “The shop was appointed to a very high standard, with an upstairs café and office space,” stated Councillor Sykes.  “It was clearly offering access to quality food alongside access to training and job search support.  The model was geared towards meeting the members’ immediate need for good quality healthy and cheap food with a means to help them in the long-term become more financially independent through employment.”

“I could see right away that this could be another mechanism to help Get Oldham Working, so it is a pity that after over two and a half years of officer reports going backwards and forwards, a recommendation has been made not to proceed,” he added.

OCS Volunteer Ranger Event Sunday 29 October 2017 Crompton Moor

Last Sunday of the month is upon us again, so if you can spare some more of your valuable time this Sunday, 29 October 2017, it would be appreciated.

This month’s tasks will comprise of some green finger activity to the car park area, and repairs to the rear car park steps.

The current weather forecast is Light Cloud, likely high/low of 11º/6º 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 text/phone me on 07961107860; to ensure we have the right amount of materials & tools, please could you let me know if you intend to join us on the day.

Sara & 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

Liberal Democrat Leader calls for Recognition of Peacemakers

The Leader of the Opposition and Liberal Democrat Group Leader on Oldham Council, Councillor Howard Sykes MBE, has written to the Assistant Cabinet Member responsible for First World Commemorations Councillor Cath Ball asking for her help to mark the contribution of Oldham’s peacemakers and peacekeepers.

Councillor Sykes explained: “2018 will mark two special anniversaries – the centenary of the Armistice ending the First World War and the 70 anniversary of the first United Nations peacekeeping mission.”

“Recent research by volunteers at the Oldham Historical Research Group has identified over 100 Oldham men in the First World War who refused military service because of their consciences,” he added.  “Although we have rightly commemorated the sacrifice of our armed forces personnel, I also think that we should recognise that these men also displayed great courage and endured sacrifices in making the difficult choice to be a conscientious objector and pacifist.”

“Veterans from Oldham must have also served in some of the United Nations peacekeeping missions that have taken place around the world since 1948.  Again I feel that it is important that we mark their important contribution to world peace as peacekeepers wearing the UN blue helmet,” stated Councillor Sykes.

In his email to Councillor Ball, Councillor Sykes has asked the Council to work with relevant groups to establish memorials to conscientious objectors, pacifists and peacekeepers from Oldham, and to hold commemorative services for them.

Councillor Sykes also asks for the Council to consider establishing a town centre peace trail and an exhibition in the new Oldham Museum.

He said: “Peace trails exist in Birmingham, Bradford, and Manchester with the locations of relevant events and places relating to peace-making, peace-keeping and social justice.  We already have a Pals Trail, now I would like to see a Peace Trail.  It would also be good to see a permanent display to Oldham’s peace movement within the new Oldham Museum.  Both would help to raise Oldham’s profile as a Borough working for peace, and, as this represents good news, let’s celebrate it.”

The email sent to Assistant Cabinet Member Cath Ball is below.

From: Howard Sykes
Sent: 20 October 2017 14:56
To: Cllr C Ball
Cc: (A) Kay Gibson (kay.gibson@oldham.gov.uk)
Subject: Remembering Peacemakers and Peacekeepers in Oldham

Councillor Cath Ball

Assistant Cabinet Member for World War One Centenary Commemorations

Dear Councillor Ball,

Remembering Peacemakers and Peacekeepers in Oldham

I believe that, as the first local authority in the UK to sign the Pledge to Peace, it is incumbent upon Oldham Council to recognise the contribution of those people and organisations in the Borough who have, past or present, been dedicated to the promotion of peace.

Specifically, in my view, it is important that we recognise that those Oldham people who chose, through personal conviction, to refuse military conscription and opposed war as conscientious objectors and pacifists also displayed courage and made sacrifices.

Recent research conducted by members of the Oldham Historical Research Group has identified over 100 Oldham men who refused military service in the First World War on grounds of conscience, at least one of whom died as a result of force feeding in prison.

I would also like us to recognise the service of members of the armed forces and police service from our borough who have participated in United Nations peacekeeping missions.

Around the world, two dates are commemorated that are relevant, both in May:

  • May 15 is recognised each year as International Conscientious Objectors’ Day.
  • May 29 is designated by the United Nations as UN Peacekeepers’ Day.

As you will be all too aware, 2018 represents a significant anniversary being the centenary of the end of the First World War, but it is also the 70th anniversary of the first UN peacekeeping mission.

At present, to the best of my knowledge, there are no memorials to conscientious objectors, pacifists or peacekeepers in Oldham, and no commemorative services specifically held on these days.

I would therefore like us to look at how we might work with relevant local and national peace organisations, as well as local branches of military charities and associations, and the United Nations Association UK to establish appropriate memorials to these individuals, and how we might begin to commemorate their contribution on the relevant dates from next year.

I would also like to explore with you the possibility of establishing a town centre peace trail, as exists in other places of peace such as Birmingham, Bradford, and Manchester, which would identify the locations of relevant events and places relating to peace-making, peace-keeping and social justice, and also a permanent display to the conscientious objectors, pacifists and peace campaigners of this borough within the new Oldham Museum, building particularly on the commendable research carried out by volunteers of the Oldham Historical Research Group.

Thank you for giving this matter your consideration.

I shall look forward to receiving your reply in due course, and would be happy to discuss further if you wish.

Best wishes.

Councillor Howard Sykes MBE, Leader of the Opposition.  Leader of the Liberal Democrat Group Oldham Council.  Member for Shaw Ward.  Member for South Ward Shaw & Crompton Parish Council.

Liberal Democrat Leader calls for Play Areas to go Smoke Free

The Leader of the Opposition and Liberal Democrat Group Leader on Oldham Council, Councillor Howard Sykes MBE, has written to the Leader of the Council, Councillor Jean Stretton, asking her to make play areas in Oldham smoke free.

Oldham Council has recently proposed that Parliament Square be made smoke-free. Whilst Councillor Sykes supports this, he is confident that Oldham Council can do so much more.

“Smoking is a public health emergency; it is a contributory factor in many of the deaths that occur in our Borough from cancer, heart disease and strokes, and it causes chronic ill-health amongst many of our residents,” stated Councillor Sykes.  “We should do all that we can to reduce tobacco consumption, and above all to reduce the exposure of non-smokers, especially children, to tobacco smoke.”

In his letter to the Council Leader, Councillor Sykes cites voluntary bans introduced in Basingstoke and Deane and in Norwich to prevent smoking in children’s play areas.

“Although such ‘bans’ are voluntary, they are intended to provide a further ‘nudge’ in behaviour to encourage smokers to refrain from smoking in areas where children may breathe their secondary smoke,” added Councillor Sykes.  “These bans had strong support from the public in consultations, and they have been successful in affecting behaviour change.”

“I therefore believe that they should be introduced in our play areas here and I have asked the Leader to consider consulting on and piloting several such schemes,” he said.

Councillor Sykes does however caution about excluding E-cigarettes from any ban.

“I think it should be clear that these bans apply equally to E-smokers as well as smokers; partially because it is often unclear where an E-cigarette in use is actually nicotine-free.”

The email sent to Council Leader Councillor Jean Stretton below.

From: Howard Sykes
Sent: 20 October 2017 14:34
To: Cllr J Stretton
Cc: (A) Kay Gibson (kay.gibson@oldham.gov.uk); Carolyn Wilkins
Subject: Smoke free areas

Dear Jean,

I note and support the recent proposals of Oldham Council to make Parliament Square smoke-free as a contribution to the Tobacco Free Greater Manchester Plan.

If we do this, I think it should be clear that it applies equally to E-smokers as well as smokers; partially because it is often unclear where an E-cigarette in use is actually nicotine-free

But I do think we can be more ambitious.

In other local authority areas, just two examples in Basingstoke and Deane and in Norwich, voluntary bans were introduced in play areas, following strong support for such measures in public consultation.  Although such ‘bans’ are voluntary, they are intended to provide a further ‘nudge’ in behaviour to encourage smokers to refrain from smoking in areas where children may breathe their secondary smoke.  In Norwich, the associated signage is paid for by the local CCG so, if we can get our health partners on board, there may be no actual installation cost to the Council.

I certainly think it is worth consulting on and piloting a few schemes in play areas across the Borough.

We should too ask our social housing providers to look to adopt this approach, as many outdoor play areas are managed by First Choice Homes and some by Great Places.

Lastly can review where our own staff can smoke in and around the Civic Centre and other Council buildings to ensure that smoking does not take place in areas shared with the public?

I look forward to receiving your reply and as always happy to discuss.

Best wishes.

Howard

Councillor Howard Sykes MBE, Leader of the Opposition, Leader of the Liberal Democrat Group Oldham Council, Member for Shaw Ward, Member for South Ward Shaw & Crompton Parish Council.