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.

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

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 calls for Council to “get on” with Living Wage Accreditation

In National Living Wage week (Monday 6 to Friday 10 November), the Leader of the Opposition and Liberal Democrat Group Leader, Councillor Howard Sykes, MBE, has written to Deputy Leader, Councillor Abdul Jabbar, MBE, asking why Oldham Council is not yet an accredited Living Wage employer.

Councillor Sykes explained: “In March 2016, Council passed a resolution brought by the Liberal Democrat Group that we seek accreditation as a National Living Wage employer.  I am proud that the National Living Wage was first introduced in April 2015, again as a result of a Liberal Democrat motion to Council, and five hundred and fifty of our employees received a pay rise as a result.”

“We need to guarantee that we will reward our employees fairly and properly by making the commitment to pay them at least the National Living Wage every year.  By becoming accredited we are making that guarantee.”

The Living Wage Foundation, which manages the accreditation scheme and sets the National Living Wage, has reported that over 1,000 new employers have gained accreditation in the last year, with 5,300 employers now accredited in total.

A recent survey of Living Wage employers conducted by Cardiff Business School found that 93% reported they had benefited from accreditation; 86% reported that Living Wage accreditation had enhanced their reputation; over half reported improvements to both recruitment and retention; and 78%, of large employers reported increases in staff motivation.

Councillor Sykes added: “Accreditation is good for our business and good for our staff. Other employers in Oldham town centre, such as Action Together, Santander, Lloyds Bank and the Co-op Bank, have recognised this and have become accredited employers, so why not Oldham Council?”

“In National Living Wage Week 2017, isn’t it about time for the Council to get on and make this commitment?”

The email to Councillor Abdul Jabbar MBE reads:

From: Howard Sykes
Sent: 07 November 2017 11:14
To: Cllr A Jabbar
Cc: (A) Kay Gibson (kay.gibson@oldham.gov.uk)
Subject: National Living Wage week

Councillor Abdul Jabbar, Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for Finance

Dear Abdul,

I am sure you are aware that this week is National Living Wage week.

I am sure that you will also recall that Council passed a resolution in March 2016 sponsored by the Liberal Democrat Group that Oldham Council became an accredited Living Wage employer.

However I have looked recently on the National Living Wage Campaign website and am disappointed to see that Oldham Council is not yet listed as an accredited employer.

I am sure that, like me, you want to see our employees fairly rewarded in their demanding jobs and paying the National Living Wage represents a big step in demonstrating we value their contribution to our Borough.

I hope therefore that this Administration remains as committed, as ever the Opposition does, to seeking accreditation for the Council as a Living Wage employer?

I can only assume that this is an oversight so please could you tell me when I might expect to see the Council listed as an accredited Living Wage employer?

Best wishes.

Howard

The Liberal Democrat motion to Oldham Council in March 2016 read: Becoming an Accredited Living Wage Employer

 Council notes that the Living Wage Foundation:

  • Exists to recognise and celebrate the leadership shown by living wage employers in raising the living standards of workers.
  • Establishes two Living Wage rates every year for employees outside and inside London.
  • Has over 1,800 employers accredited with them, with over 1,000 having registered as payers of the National Living Wage in the past year.
  • Permits accredited employers to proudly display the Living Wage Employer Mark.

Council further notes that:

  • Oldham Council first resolved to become a National Living Wage employer as a result of a motion brought to full Council in December 2013
  • The National Living Wage was introduced as the minimum pay scale for all staff in April 2015.
  • As a result five hundred and forty staff had a pay increase.
  • In his annual statement to September Council the Leader of the Council rightly highlighted the fact that this was a commendable achievement.

However despite this achievement, Oldham Council is not currently Living Wage accredited and therefore has not yet received the Living Wage Employer Mark.

Council therefore resolves to ask the Chief Executive to:

  • Seek accreditation with the Living Wage Foundation and
  • Ensure that the Living Wage Employer Mark is proudly displayed on appropriate pages within the Council’s website and in appropriate printed materials.

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

Work With Us To Improve Life On Crompton Moor

Your Shaw Councillors have been working closely with volunteer groups to improve Crompton Moor over many years, but are sometimes hindered by anti-social behaviour.

This ranges from people going up to the moor to camp, light fires, use drugs/alcohol.  With this in mid, we have been working over the past twelve months to activate new powers to enable Oldham Council and Police to take action when people damage and mis-use the moor.

These new powers are activated using a Public Space Protection Order.

What will the Public Space Protection Order (PSPO) do?

Agencies have raised concerns, echoed by the local community regarding the behaviour of some individuals using Crompton Moor who are setting fires, littering, injuring wild life, allowing dogs to run wild and causing damage to plant life.  There have also been a number of incidents which are Anti-Social in nature including verbal abuse and threats to legitimate users of the Moor.

Local Councils now have the power to put in place Public Space Protection Orders (PSPO) to help manage such issues and we completed the first round of consultation earlier this year.

Why are we consulting again?

The PSPO then went to a panel at the Council who made a number of small but significant recommendations primarily regarding dogs during the nesting season.

The panel have asked us to consult again as they have recommended we include a clause regarding dogs on leads during the nesting season to protect our nesting birds.

We have also become aware of issues around nitrous oxide usage and psychoactive substances by young people, which have also now been incorporated into the order.

How can you get involved?

You can tell us your views about the order by taking part in the consultation in any of the ways below:

At Crompton Library from Monday 16 October 2017.

On line at:

https://www.oldham.gov.uk/info/200321/crime_and_safety/1720/public_spaces_protection_orders_-_proposed

There will also be volunteers out on the Moor from the Friends of Crompton Moor Group and the Volunteer Countryside Rangers, talking to people about the PSPO, so if you are a moor user – why not keep your eyes open and have a chat if you are approached!

Liberal Democrat Leader calls for Council to sign Ethical Care Charter

The Leader of the Opposition and Liberal Democrat Group Leader on Oldham Council, Councillor Howard Sykes MBE, has written to Councillor Barbara Brownridge, the Cabinet member with responsibility for social care calling on Oldham Council to sign the Ethical Care Charter championed by the trades union UNISON.

Councillor Sykes explains: “I was pleased when, in January 2014, Oldham Council adopted a new ethical care policy in the purchasing and delivery of social care in our Borough.  There were many things in it that were very positive, such as no fifteen minute visits and a service ethos that revolves around the needs and wishes of the person receiving care.“

“However the Charter has still higher standards and I would like to see this Council sign up to them – not only so those receiving care in our Borough can be even more sure of receiving the best care possible, but also to make sure that this care is being delivered by well-motivated staff receiving good pay and with excellent working conditions.”

In his email, Councillor Sykes highlighted where the current policy was not quite up to the standards sought in the Charter:

“Care providers appear not to be specifically committed to paying their staff the National Living Wage as opposed to the Oldham Living Wage.  This is despite the fact that in n December 2013, the Oldham Liberal Democrats sponsored a motion that was supported by all Councillors where Council agreed to seek the National Living Wage for the staff of contractors, arms-length organisations and agencies engaged in contracts with the Council.”

“Nor do care providers appear to be required to reimburse homecare workers for travel and the other expenses associated with their employment (for example, mobile phone charges), nor to ensure that they are offered membership of an occupational sick pay scheme or enjoy the opportunity to meet co-workers to share experiences.”

“I have asked Cllr Brownridge to revise the Council’s Ethical Care Approach to ensure that it reflects the remaining aspirations in the UNISON Charter and then to sign it, joining thirty other Councils across the UK which have done so.”

“After all, don’t we all want the best care for our loved ones, delivered by staff who are properly rewarded for the vital work that they do?”

Copy email below

From: Howard Sykes
Sent: 27 September 2017 15:26
To: Cllr B Brownridge
Cc: (A) Kay Gibson (kay.gibson@oldham.gov.uk)
Subject: Ethical Care Approach to the Procurement and Delivery of Domiciliary Care

Dear Cllr Brownridge,

As you will be aware, in January 2014, Oldham Council’s Cabinet adopted a new Ethical Care Approach to the Procurement and Delivery of Domiciliary Care.

The new approach was approved to take effect from 7 February 2014 for a period of three years, with an option to renew for two years.

I have recently become aware of the Ethical Care Charter championed by the trades union UNISON (savecarenow.org.uk/ethical-care-charter).

Having compared the two documents, I was pleased to see that the approach adopted by this Council in 2014 reflected many of the aspirations outlined on this document for the procurement of domiciliary care, but not all.

Particularly in relation to the treatment of employees:

Providers appear not to be specifically committed to paying their staff the National Living Wage as opposed to the Oldham Living Wage.

This despite the fact that in December 2013 full Council supported a Liberal Democrat sponsored motion to pay our own staff the National Living Wage at the earliest possible time, to commit itself to “Seeking the same wage rate for the staff of contractors, arms-length organisations and agencies engaged in contracts with the Council.”

Although providers have to pay for travel time, they appear not to be bound to reimburse homecare workers for travel expenses and the other necessary expenses associated with their employment (for example, mobile phone charges).

In addition, the Charter wants all homecare workers to be covered by an occupational sick pay scheme to “ensure staff do not feel pressurised to work when they are ill” and to have the opportunity to meet with co-workers to limit isolation and promote best practice. There appears to be mention of either of these in the Ethical Care Approach.

As the Council’s Ethical Care Approach appears not to have come back to Cabinet for renewed approval, nor be listed as Approved under Delegated Decisions, I would suggest that this would be opportune time to look to revise the Ethical Care Approach to ensure that it reflects the remaining aspirations in the UNISON Charter?

There would then surely be no impediment to this Administration joining the thirty other Councils across the UK which has signed the Charter?

Such an action would be provide further reassurance to residents that this Council is fully committed to delivering excellent homecare services and to the exemplary treatment of homecare workers.

I shall look forward to receiving your reply.

As always happy to discuss if you wish.

Best wishes.

Howard