Liberal Democrats slam Oldham Council’s inadequate Special Educational Needs Provision

Oldham Liberal Democrats have slammed the decline in standards for students with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities in the borough.

A recent assessment has rated Oldham Council “inadequate” for its provision of students with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities with students having to wait much longer than other areas for assessments for Education, Health and Care Plans.

Liberal Democrat Councillor Garth Harkness, Shadow Cabinet Member for Employment and Skills and an Autism Spectrum Disorder lead teacher at a Manchester school said:

“We have had a long standing problem in Oldham in providing the best start for our young people.  As someone who works in specialist Autism Spectrum Disorder provision myself and works closely with the Local Authority in Manchester on Special Educational Needs and Disabilities I know how important it is to provide the right support to our young people.

“In Oldham we are not doing that and it is unacceptable.  This has clearly been a problem for some time yet nobody has acted on it

“We have spent a fortune on the Oldham Education Commission but this Council has let the most vulnerable young people down in ensuring a satisfactory provision for children with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities.”

The Leader of the Opposition and of the Liberal Democrat Group on Oldham Council, Councillor Howard Sykes MBE has been very concerned for some time at the steady decline in educational performance at many of Oldham’s schools since the change in Administration in 2011.  Councillor Sykes said:

“We have spent a fortune on setting up the Oldham Education Commission yet we are bottom of the class for students getting the education place of their choice and we are providing an inadequate service at the Council for students with Special Educational Needs.

“As an opposition group we have been raising our concerns for quite some time.

“Young people with conditions like Autism, Dyslexia, learning difficulties or physical difficulties can often achieve great things if we provide the right support and bring down the barriers.  Sadly, too often in Oldham this is not happening.  Enough is enough – Oldham Council needs to have a hard look at itself and get these issues addressed.”

As always we are willing to work with the Labour Administration if they genuinely want to work with us in achieving this laudable objective.”

Notes

Question Cllr Garth Harkness gave notice of for Oldham council meeting on 8th November 2017 but was not called to ask:

I read with alarm in the press that the service provided by Oldham Council for children with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities is inadequate.

Bright Futures in Saddleworth, a specialist Autism provider, had to crowdfund for tribunals because the Council did not provide the support that was required.

We have had a long standing problem in Oldham in providing the best start for our young people.

And as someone who works in specialist Autism Spectrum Disorder provision myself, and works closely with the Local Authority in Manchester on provision for children with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities, I know how important it is that we provide the right support to these young people.

Despite the Oldham Education Commission, this Council has let the most vulnerable of our young people down in failing to ensure there is satisfactory provision for children with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities. What plan does this Administration have to address this issue?

I for one will be happy to offer my support in order that we may work together to ensure we get the best outcome for every one of our Borough’s young people.

Garth Harkness, Liberal Democrat Councillor Saddleworth North Ward, Shadow Cabinet Member for Employment and Skill

Liberal Democrat Leader seeks Answers on Link Centre Future

The Leader of the Opposition and Liberal Democrat Group Leader on Oldham Council, Councillor Howard Sykes MBE, has written to Councillor Jenny Harrison, Cabinet Member for Social Care and Safeguarding, to request answers to some burning questions about the future of the Link Centre.

Councillor Sykes explained:  “Twelve months ago, in November 2016, I asked the Leader Councillor Jean Stretton at full Council whether she would consider making the Link Centre an independent living centre run by disabled people for disabled people, as exists in Glasgow.

“After almost twelve months of prevarication, during which the groups of disabled people using the Link Centre were living with an uncertain future, the Cabinet decided recently to offer these user groups use of the ground floor only, denying them use of the purpose-built, adapted accommodation on the upper floors; this will now instead be used for office space for health agencies.

“I am disappointed that the idea of an independent living centre now appears to be off the Council’s agenda, but I do want to ensure that disabled people, carers and the groups that have previously used the Link Centre continue to have a guaranteed future there with the maximum possible use of the ground floor space that remains affordable and accessible, and a say in how their space is refurnished and used.

“I have written to Councillor Harrison with these burning questions in the hope that her reply will bring the answers and the reassurance that the disabled people and groups using the Link Centre deserve.”

The email sent to Councillor Harrison.

From: Howard Sykes
Sent: 08 November 2017 14:24
To: Cllr J Harrison
Cc: (A) Kay Gibson (kay.gibson@oldham.gov.uk)
Subject: Link Centre

Dear Cllr Harrison,

Following the recent decision by Cabinet and the resultant media coverage, I would like to ask you some questions relating to the future of the Link Centre.

Cabinet has recently agreed to a modified proposal that health agencies be located to the upper floors of the building and that existing service user groups be confined to the use of the ground floor.

This proposal appears to offer some prospect that the Link Centre retains something of its unique offer catering for the needs of this Borough’s more vulnerable residents, but it appears to fall way short of what I asked the Leader for in the Council Chamber last November.

I am sure you will recall that I asked the Leader if the Council could look to transfer ownership of the building to a charitable trust in order that it be run as an independent living centre.

Such a facility exists in Glasgow – it is a centre run by disabled people for disabled people with paid staff with their own personal lived-experience of disability – so why not here?

Sadly this now seems unlikely with the ground floor proposal approved by Cabinet seemingly the only one on the table, so I would like to ask for clarification of number of questions about it.

I would therefore be grateful if you could please tell me:

  1. Whether service user groups will be able to collectively manage this space in their own right?
  2. Will the centre be open at the times and on the days that these groups want to use it?
  3. What evaluation has been made with these groups to determine that the size and configuration of this space is appropriate for their needs?
  4. How much money will be made available by the Council to refurbish and reequip the ground floor, and will groups have a say in how this is spent?
  5. Is there any proposal to reopen the cafe – an aspiration that many service users wished to see in the consultation – perhaps as a not-for-profit, surplus food operation run by disabled people?
  6. And finally what guarantees have been or can be given to these groups that their access to this space will remain affordable to them and that it will be for the long-term?

I am sure you will agree that the disabled and vulnerable people who use the Link Centre are an especially deserving group and that they have lived with uncertainty as to its future for a very long time – I think they deserve answers and I hope therefore that you will be able to give answers to my questions.

Many thanks in anticipation.

Best wishes.

Councillor Howard Sykes MBE

Liberal Democrats seek Better Testing and Treatment for HIV Sufferers

In advance of National HIV Testing Week (which starts 18 November), Liberal Democrat Councillor Chris Gloster, Shadow Cabinet Member for Health and Well-being, is seeking a commitment from Oldham Council and the NHS to improve the testing and treatment of HIV sufferers and those at risk of acquiring the condition.

Councillor Gloster has written to the Chair of the Health and Well-being Board, Councillor Susan Dearden, with a ‘wish list’ which – if it is adopted by the Council and its health partners – will help reduce the incidence of infection and lead to the earlier diagnosis and treatment of the condition.

Explaining, Councillor Gloster said: “Not so many years ago, HIV would often inexorably lead to full-blown Aids, which in turn was a death sentence. Now with the effective treatments that are available, people with HIV can lead normal lives and will not pass on the virus to anyone else. But the key to this is early diagnosis and early treatment.”

“Fortunately, Oldham does not have a high rate of HIV with 1.35 persons diagnosed with the condition in every 1,000 of the population, but worryingly we do have a high incidence of late diagnosis in 42.9% of cases. This is not good and we need to do something to tackle it. My ‘wish list’ represents the key aspirations of the World Health Organisation, the sexual health charity The Terrance Higgins Trust, and NICE for the better testing and treatment for people at risk of or living with this condition.”

Councillor Gloster is asking the Council to support the national campaigns of the Terrance Higgins Trust; introduce HIV testing in GP’s surgeries; and promote access to Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) treatment to those at high risk of HIV infection in the borough.

He would also like the new Mayor of Greater Manchester, Andy Burnham, to adopt these measures as part of a campaign across the city region so that people at risk of HIV infection or living with the condition can expect high standards of care wherever they live in Greater Manchester.

The Liberal Democrats are also asking for a commitment to involving HIV patients, their partners and carers in the transformation process.

Councillor Gloster explains: “All too often medical interventions are made to the patient and not with the patient. I believe that we should work, as a Council and as the NHS, to conduct a review of current services in our borough with patients, partners and carers, and with local LGBT groups and health charities and watchdogs.”

“We need services that people will not be afraid to access when they need them and so it is better to design services that are based on the first-hand, lived experience of the people that use them, their partners and carers, and the groups that represent them.  Isn’t that the co-operative model that Oldham Council aspires to?”

The letter reads:

23 October 2017

Dear Councillor Dearden,

I am writing to you in advance of National HIV Testing Week, which starts on Saturday 18 November, about the testing of at-risk individuals in the borough and the treatment and support of residents with this condition.

Undiagnosed, or late diagnosed, HIV infection puts individuals at risk of preventable illness and death, disproportionally contributes to onward transmission and is an unnecessary burden of cost to the NHS. Unfortunately, one in seven people living with HIV do not know that they have it, which means that they cannot benefit from the early treatment which can allow them to lead a normal life and be sure that they do not pass the virus onto anyone else.

Fortunately, Oldham does not have a high rate of HIV with 1.35 persons diagnosed with the condition in every 1,000 of the population, but worryingly we do have a high incidence of late diagnosis in 42.9% of cases.

As part of the borough’s Health and Social Care Strategy, I would like to ask the Health and Well-being Board to:

  • Support and promote two core campaigns of the Terrance Higgins Trust ‘It Starts with Me’ and ‘National HIV Testing Week’.
  • Support the establishment and promotion of HIV testing services in GPs’ surgeries and other Primary Care services in the borough.
  • National HIV testing guidance, that of the national body NICE and advice from the Terrance Higgins Trust recommends testing be made available in Primary Care settings, especially in GPs’ surgeries.
  • Support and promote the take-up of, and access to, Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) treatment available to those at high risk of HIVinfection in this borough.  PrEP is a medication that can be taken before possible exposure to HIV. Studies including PRoUD and IPERGAY have demonstrated significant protective benefit from taking PrEP both routinely and “on demand”.

The World Health Organisation recommends that PrEP be made available to those at high risk and NHS England is currently running a three year national trial with the PrEP drug Truvada among high-risk patients, including patients in Greater Manchester.

  • Conduct a review of the current services available to patients living with HIV in this borough and their carers to identify how these services and the patient/carer experience can be improved.

Such a review I would suggest needs to be in consultation with patients/carers and relevant bodies (such as local LGBT+ groups, the Terrance Higgins Trust, the George House Trust and Healthwatch Oldham).

  • Make representations to the Mayor of Greater Manchester, Mr. Andy Burnham, asking him to conduct a review of HIV testing and treatment services across the city region to ensure that they mirror our aspirations in this borough and to identify how best the devolved health and social care budget can be used to support them across the city region.

I do hope that the Health and Well-being Board will be able to take these ideas on board as they will reduce the number of people living with HIV, improve the lives of those who do and ultimately save the NHS money.

Yours sincerely

COUNCILLOR CHRIS GLOSTER

Liberal Democrat Councillor for Shaw Ward, Shadow Cabinet Member for Health and Wellbeing, Email: chris.gloster@oldham.gov.uk

Liberal Democrat Call for Action to Combat Acid Attacks

Liberal Democrat Shadow Cabinet Member for Housing, Transport and Planning Councillor Dave Murphy is proposing a motion to the next meeting of full Council (Wednesday 8 November) proposing Oldham Council establish a voluntary scheme asking local retailers not to sell acid and other corrosive substances to under-age customers to help reduce the likelihood of attacks.

Councillor Murphy is very concerned about the increase in such attacks elsewhere in the UK, especially in London, and does not want to see these horrendous attacks in Oldham:

“Tragically the evidence suggests that attacks are on the up, with victims often being horribly disfigured and traumatised for life as a result. The Liberal Democrats support government proposals to introduce new legislation to create new offences for carrying acid or corrosive substances in a public place and in situations where retailers make sales of these substances to under-age customers. However, this will take time and in the meanwhile we would like to see the Council taking action.”

He is backed by his Liberal Democrat colleague, Councillor Garth Harkness:

“In our motion, we are calling for the Council to establish a voluntary scheme in which local retailers agree not to sell acid and corrosive substances to young people. The National Police Chiefs’ Council identified in a survey that over one fifth of all attacks were carried out by offenders aged 18 or younger. This is one practical measure in advance of the legislation that the Liberal Democrats are proposing that could make a real difference in our Borough.” 

 The motion reads – Combatting Acid Attacks

 This Council notes, with great sadness, that:

  • There is growing evidence that the use of acid and other corrosive substances as a weapon in violent attacks is increasing.
  • Victims of these crimes are often left with life changing injuries as well as long-term psychological and emotional damage,

Data collected by the National Police Chiefs’ Council covering a six month period between November 2016 and April 2017 identified 408 attacks involving corrosive substances across 39 police forces. 21% of offenders were found to be 18 years or under.

Council welcomes:

  • The recognition by the British Government that the law is currently unsatisfactory as the products are legal for anyone to purchase, but shops are required to report suspicious sales.
  • The recent Home Office consultation on proposals to enact new legislation in which retailers will be committing a criminal offence if they sell products containing harmful corrosive substances in shops or on-line to persons under 18 and where a new offence will be created of possessing a corrosive substance in a public place.

Proposals by other Councils to roll out voluntary schemes urging shopkeepers not to support sales of corrosive products which contain acid or ammonia to under 21 year olds in advance of future legislation.

This Council resolves to:

  • Ask the Overview and Scrutiny Board, with the Trading Standards team and retailers’ associations, to examine the merits and practicalities of introducing such a voluntary scheme in this borough in advance of new legislation, and to report back their findings to full Council.
  • Ask the Chief Executive to write to the Borough’s three Members of Parliament and the Mayor of Greater Manchester to request they make representations to Government ministers supporting the urgent introduction of new legislation to regulate the sale of these substances and to outlaw under-age sales.

Proposed by Councillor Dave Murphy, Seconded by Councillor Garth Harkness

Horror of inflammable Halloween costumes must end, say Oldham Liberal Democrats

 

Shaw Liberal Democrat Councillor Chris Gloster is proposing a motion to the next meeting of full Council (Wednesday 8 November) calling on our local Members of Parliament to urge the government to introduce legislation making Halloween and party costumes fire-proof.

Councillor Gloster said: “Tragically three years ago the daughter of TV presenter Claudia Winkleman was badly injured when a spark lit a costume that she was wearing and her outfit went up in flames.  Party costumes are classed as toys rather than clothes, and standards for fire retardancy are lower than those for clothes.”

“Manufacturers and retailers are not required to make and sell only fire-proof ones.  This is madness. These costumes are worn by young people for fun and, the consequences of them catching fire are horrific.  We need to ensure that the law is changed to make it illegal to sell outfits that burn so easily.”

Councillor Gloster is backed in his motion by his party colleague, Crompton Councillor Julia Turner: “There are some safety standards and I would ask parents to look to buy outfits that meet the British nightwear flammability standard (BS5722 TEST 3).”

“We echo the call of the Association of Chief Fire Officers to make party costumes for children fireproof. It is just such a common sense idea that I am shocked that the government just does not get on with changing the law and so to help our children to continue to have fun whilst being safe.”

The motion reads – Halloween and Party Costumes

Council notes with grave concern that children’s Halloween and other seasonal / themed party costumes are classed in law as ‘toys’ and are not subject to the rigorous standards of fire retardancy required of other children’s clothing.

Tragically this leads to unnecessary deaths or injuries to children when these flammable items are exposed to heat.

Council notes that the British Retail Consortium has just introduced voluntary guidelines for manufacturers, to reduce the speed at which these costumes will burn, but these remain voluntary guidelines and regrettably they do not require manufacturers to make such costumes fire-proof.

Council welcomes the work done by officers of the Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service to raise public awareness of the risks and supports the aspiration of the Association of Chief Fire Officers that such costumes should be reclassified as ‘clothing’.

Council resolves to ask the Chief Executive to write to the relevant Government Minister and to the three MPs representing this Borough asking them to support the urgent introduction of the necessary legislation or regulations to bring this about to prevent any further needless deaths and injuries of this nature.

Proposed by Councillor Chris Gloster, Seconded by Councillor Julia Turner

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.