Latest on getting Dunwood Park Tennis Courts and MUGA operational again

Dunwood park Tennis courts

As many people will be aware these works have not been completed in the timescale planned.  I and other local councillors have been working behind the scenes to get this area usuable by our young people.

Undocumented services and drains under the area that had to be dealt with have led to the delay.

I am pleased to now report we have got a solution that gets them open for this weekend but will require a closure later in the year to correctly finish the works, details below.

The new Box culvert has now been installed and the old tennis courts surface removed and replaced with a new Binder /surface to specification for applications of multi – use Games areas (MUGAs)

The reinstatement to the boundary wall is continuing this week and will be completed by Friday 28/07/2017.

The painting and lining markings in accordance with ( LTA standard Courts) should not be completed until 6-8 weeks after the new surface has been laid, to allow the gases and fats from the bitumen to disperse and ensure good adhesion of the paint.

As an interim measure the courts will be marked out on Thursday 27th July 2017 (Weather permitting), these line will be sacrificial and re-painted after the school holidays and the 6-8 weeks have expired.

Liberal Democrat Leader disappointed Local Plan Consultation held over Summer Holidays

The Leader of the Opposition and of the Liberal Democrat Group on Oldham Council, Councillor Howard Sykes MBE, has expressed his disappointment that Council officers have chosen to conduct a public consultation on the Oldham Local Plan during the school holidays.

The consultation started on 10 July and ends of 21 August.

Details of the local plan can be found at https://www.oldham.gov.uk/info/200585/local_plan

Responses can be submitted online at http://oldham-consult.limehouse.co.uk/portal/oc/planning/spi or emailed to spi@oldham.gov.uk or returned by post to

Strategic Planning and Information, Economy, Skills and Neighbourhoods, Room 310, Level 3, Civic Centre, West Street, Oldham OL1 1UH.

Councillor Sykes said: “The Oldham Local Plan may sound a dry document, but it is in fact the document that will underpin the delivery of new homes and new businesses in our Borough for years to come, and more importantly it will be the key document that will determine what happens locally under the Greater Manchester Spatial Framework.”

“Many residents of this Borough, particularly in Shaw, Crompton, Royton and Chadderton, are up in arms about the implications of the Greater Manchester Spatial Framework and they have held rallies at Tandle Hill Country Park and outside Manchester Town Hall in Albert Square to let it be known that they are opposed to development on our precious Green Belt.”

“Given the strength of local feeling, it is unacceptable to conduct a public consultation on an issue of such importance in the school holidays.  Many residents will be taking families away with them on holiday.  Responding to this consultation by the 21 August may be far from their minds, but if they feel strongly that they want to save their green belt I would urge them to take time to do so.”

Councillor Sykes and his Liberal Democrat colleagues in Shaw and Crompton remain vehemently opposed to plans to build almost 3,000 new homes in the two wards on surrounding Green Belt and other green land:

“Local residents are rightly up in arms, fearing that not only will the current plan mean that their precious Green Belt will be lost forever under a carpet of concrete, but also that the existing medical, school and leisure infrastructure, which is already severely stretched, will be completely swamped with the extra demand.”

The Liberal Democrats have a clear aspiration for future housing development in Greater Manchester.  Councillor Sykes explained: “Development should be on brownfield sites first, particularly sites with outstanding planning permission, coupled with mill and factory conversions to housing and a drive to bring existing empty homes back into occupancy, whenever this is practicable.  This view will form the basis of our response to the consultation.”

My two allowed questions at tonight’s council meeting – The Grenfell Tower Fire and the Lack of School Places

Oldham Council 12 July 2017 – Leader’s Question 1 – The Grenfell Tower Fire

Mr Mayor, I am sure that every member in this Chamber will have been as horrified as I was to see the images of the devastating fire at Grenfell Tower and the impact that it had on both the building, the tower’s residents and its’ neighbours.

The latest estimate is that there will be at least eighty lives lost; many residents are still missing; and the survivors of the blaze remain traumatised; coping with injuries and missing loved ones; without any possessions and with no certainty about their future housing circumstances.

Mr Mayor, it would be remiss of me at this point not to condemn the woeful response of this Government to the needs of the fire’s victims and the shameful absence of Prime Minister; Theresa May in the aftermath of this enormous tragedy.  Strong and stable – I think not.

I have a stark message for the Prime Minister – it is your job to lead the nation in times like this and on this occasion you failed miserably.

It would also be true to say, in my opinion, that the local council for the area; Kensington and Chelsea; was an embarrassment to all involved in local government.

Both the Officer and Political Leadership of that council has failed their residents big time!

I am pleased to say this is in stark contrast to Oldham Council when we have had to face emergencies such as Maple Mill and the tragic gas blast in Shaw.

On a more positive note, it was however a tremendous relief to learn, following enquiries made by my Liberal Democrat colleague; Councillor Chris Gloster; that none of the tower blocks in this Borough have been clad with any inflammable material as Grenfell appears to have been.

At a time like this, I am sure the Leader will want to reassure members of this Chamber; and more importantly the residents of our Borough’s tower blocks; and their friends and relatives; that all of the components of any type of external cladding system used in this Borough are safe.

Also that the evacuation procedures for tower blocks in Oldham have been thoroughly reviewed in recent days to ensure that they are up-to-date and follow best practice.

Mr Mayor, I would like to ask the Leader for this reassurance tonight and also for a brief summary of what the current advice to tenants and occupants of such tower blocks is in the event of a fire?

Also what is happening to other public buildings in the Borough that could possibly be clad with similar materials as used in Grenfell such as leisure facilities, education buildings and health service accommodation to name just three?

Council 12 July 2017 – Leader’s Question 2 – School Places

For my second question to the Leader tonight, Mr Mayor, I want to return to an issue that I have raised many times in this Chamber before – namely the education of our Borough’s children.

I was disappointed, and, in all honesty, sad, to read recently that once more Oldham was bottom of the class when it came to the number of our children who miss out on attending a secondary school of their choice.

And I am not just talking here about pupils (and their parents) not getting their first choice of school – I am talking here about them not getting their second or third choices either!

In this Borough almost 9 percent – to be exact 8.9 per cent – did not secure a place to start at ANY of their preferred schools in September, which is nearly 1 in 10 pupils or approximately 300 of them!

So now we have another mark of failure against our education system as according to the Department for Education, Oldham was the sixth worst performer in the country and the worst in the North West for school choices.

Compare this to the national figure – 3.6 percent – we are three times higher!  Three times as many denied the secondary place that they seek.

The Borough is also second worst in the region for the percentage of pupils being offered a place at their first preference school, 74.8 per cent compared to 83.5 per cent nationally.

Compare this to Rochdale where nearly 94 percent of pupils got their first preference school and only 1.5 percent of pupils in Rochdale did not get a place at one of their three preferred schools.

In Oldham our primary sector is not much better; 6 percent pupils or 181 children; failed to get a place in their first, second or third choice schools.

It is scandalous – we can do better, much better and we must do better, for the sake of our children and their educational future.

Because if we do not offer children a place at a secondary school that they want to go to we are hardly providing them with an inspiring start to help spur them on to do their level best in their final years of compulsory schooling.

I look forward to the Council meeting when I can ask the Leader a positive question about education in our Borough – but I am sorry to say that with the current level of performance that I cannot see this as being at any point soon.

Let’s hope that the new Saddleworth School, the new Royton and Crompton School and the expanded Crompton House School and Oasis Academy will be able to meet the educational expectations of all of our young people; but these are long-term and not immediate gains, and some of them are still far from certain.

So my second question to the Leader tonight is; what is being done now to ensure that every child in our Borough receives a secondary school place of their choice in the future?

Lib Dems motion calls to scrap domestic violence charges

The Oldham council Liberal Democrat group are proposing a motion at the full council meeting on Wednesday 12th July 20167 which will be calling on the council to join the campaign to scrap domestic violence charges.

Liberal Democrat Councillor for Saddleworth North, Garth Harkness who is proposing the motion said:

“It is traumatic enough for a domestic violence sufferer as it is. Some have gone to domestic violence centres with little. Recent legislation changes mean in order to access legal aid series in domestic violence cases, evidence from a GP letter is required. Reports of charges for GP letters have been around £75 but as much as £175 as it is outside the NHS contract. Having to find a fee for a GP letter is unreasonable and many victims will not have it. This is not acceptable. We need to support domestic violence sufferers not put up barriers”.

Seconder of the motion, Liberal Democrat Councillor, Julia Turner, Crompton said:

“Reports of domestic violence are on the increase. The government need to let innocent suffers of domestic abuse access legal aid support without the requirement to provide written evidence which will cost them money to obtain it they don’t have.. Whilst we push for the government to change the requirements we need to ask our local GPs not to charge for letters until the requirement is scrapped

“There were 1.3 million females and 600,000 males who were victims of domestic violence in 2014/15. On average 100 women and 30 men are killed every year from domestic violence. We need to support victims to get justice not hinder them”

Councillor Garth Harkness added “The council should support the campaign “Scrap the Fee” launched by Whythenshawe Safe Sports and Labour MP, Tom Watson. A stance for no fees for a letter to be used as evidence in domestic violence case is supported by many Police and Crime Commissioners across the country. They know that it has a significant impact in ensuring justice. It is time Oldham council join the campaign”

Motion Reads: Scrap the Domestic Violence Charge Fee

This Council:

  • Notes that in 2014 / 15 there were an estimated 1.3 million female victims and 600,000 male victims of domestic abuse and that, on average, 100 women and 30 men a year are killed in situations involving domestic abuse.
  • Remains totally committed to opposing domestic violence in all its forms, to supporting its victims, and to working for a society where all members of our community treat one another with compassion, kindness and respect.
  • Believes that Government should share these priorities and is therefore bitterly opposed to Conservative Government proposals requiring victims of domestic violence seeking legal aid to provide a prescribed piece of evidence to prove they have been subjected to abuse.
  • Notes that such evidence can include a letter from a General Practitioner for which some GPs charge a fee of up to £75, as this sits outside of the NHS contract.
  • Believes that it is totally unreasonable to expect the victims of domestic violence to pay such a fee; that many such victims will struggle to find the fee.

Council resolves to

  • Ask the Chief Executive to write to the Minister of Justice outlining this Council’s opposition to the imposition of a requirement for victims of domestic violence to produce letters or similar evidence of abuse to access legal aid and asking the Government to scrap this requirement.
  • Ask the Chief Executive to write to the Borough’s three Members of Parliament and the new Mayor of Greater Manchester asking them to support this position.
  • Ask the Health and Well-being Board and the Domestic Violence Partnership to contact local GPs asking them to make a commitment not to charge victims for letters until such time as this requirement is scrapped.
  • Register as a supporter of the ‘Scrap the Fee’ campaign established by Tom Watson MP and Wythenshawe Safe Spots.

Micro-plastics Pollution not a Micro Problem

The Leader of the Opposition and of the Liberal Democrat Group on Oldham Council, Councillor Howard Sykes MBE, has expressed his disappointment that Council officers have yet to formally respond to his call to reduce the pollution caused by the micro-plastics in road paint.

Last month, Councillor Sykes wrote to Helen Lockwood, the Council’s Executive Director Economy, Skills & Neighbourhoods drawing her attention to research late last year by the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology.

The Centre reported that Britain’s rivers and lakes are being polluted with micro-plastics from the paint used to lay out road markings.  Researchers looked at four sites in the Thames Valley.  In the most polluted site they found a significant proportion of pollution believed to have derived from plastic paint washed from road surfaces.

Commenting Councillor Sykes said: “I am aware that Councils are required to use British Standard road marking paint to adhere to strict road safety specifications, but I would like to be assured that we are doing what we can to reduce this pollution as it appears to have real potential to impact on aquatic life and habitats in this Borough.

“I know that the Local Government Association is considering this matter and we should be supporting their efforts to persuade Government and manufacturers to reduce the use of micro-plastics in such paint and develop safe alternatives so that our environment is not damaged in the interests of road safety.”

Poo Watch Letter sent to the Oldham Chronicle

Dear Sir,

Graham Wilcock (Letters June 13 – Lay Off Dog Walkers) is ‘barking up the wrong tree’ in thinking I have something personal against the responsible dog walkers who use High Crompton Park.

My issue is not with responsible dog walkers, and not specially with any dog walkers in High Crompton Park, rather it is with the IR-responsible dog walkers who fail to clear up after their dogs wherever this may be in the Borough.

I made no specific reference to High Crompton Park, in fact the reference was made by a Council senior officer.  So why he berates me for it I have no idea.

I should have thought that Mr. Wilcock with his stated concern for maintaining the reputation of responsible dog walkers would welcome my suggestion that the Council employ modern technology so that responsible dog walkers and other citizens can help it police dog fouling by reporting instances promptly and accurately.

It works in Worcester so why not here?

In that way, we can all enjoy cleaner parks without the threat posed to public health and the blight to public spaces caused by dog fouling.

If Mr. Wilcock wants to read exactly what I said it is on my website: https://howardsykes.mycouncillor.org.uk/ and it is crystal clear I do not mention High Crompton Park.

Yours sincerely

Councillor Howard Sykes MBE

Liberal Democrat Councillor

30 years of Shaw & Crompton Parish Council

Howard Sykes, MBE, Shaw & Crompton Parish Councillor, Oldham Councillor, Leader of Liberal Democrats, was presented with a certificate to mark the 30th years of Shaw & Crompton Parish Council.

Howard is the only one of the founder members of the Parish Council, formed in 1987, to still be on the Council today, and the certificate was presented to him at Crompton Library (21/06/17) by Parish Councillor Angie Farrell, who was Chairman from 2016-2017.

This was to coincide with the launch of the display at the Library, to mark the 30th Anniversary of the Parish Council.  It has lots of photographs and items covering the last 30 years.  It will be there for the next two weeks, until 5th July.

30 Years of Shaw and Crompton Parish Council

In April 1987 Shaw & Crompton Parish Council was formed.

30 years later, the 2016-2017 Chairman, Councillor Angie Farrell, decided to mark this event by having a display covering the last 30 years.

She asked her friends, former Chairmen and founder members of the Parish Council, Alan Griffiths (also a former Mayor of Oldham) and Brian Karran, to help her with this.

It was decided that the timing of the display would also coincide with the annual Family Weekend in June.

The items have been mainly provided by Alan and Brian, with additional material by former Chairmen, including Mike Hambley, Hazel Gloster and others, and give a fascinating picture of the early days of the Parish Council.

The display is in Crompton Library and will be there for the next two weeks, until Wednesday 5th July.