Oldham Liberal Democrat Leader asks ‘Why can’t we use Lower Housing Figure to Save Greenbelt?’

The Leader of the Opposition and the Liberal Democrat Group on Oldham Council, Councillor Howard Sykes MBE, has written to the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, James Brokenshire MP, to ask him whether it would in fact be permissible for the ten local authorities in Greater Manchester to use the lower figures for expected household growth published in 2016 to decide on the number of homes to be built in the conurbation under the Greater Manchester Spatial Framework.

Thousands of these new homes would be built on Green Belt sites in Crompton, Shaw, Royton and Chadderton.

Figures published by Mr Brokenshire’s own department in 2012 indicated that households in Greater Manchester would increase by 213,380 by 2035, or 18.75%, yet by contrast the more recent figures issued by the Office for National Statistics in 2016 offered a projection that the rise would only be 164,006, or 14.55%.  Amongst the ten local authorities in Greater Manchester, only Rochdale has a revised higher figure.

Councillor Sykes added: “Despite a massive difference of almost 50,000 households not requiring properties, the Conservative Government has continued to insist that the original figure stands, regardless of the adverse impact on our irreplaceable green belt. I have asked the Minister to confirm whether he is still of this view.  If we could adopt the lower figure we could save much of the Green Belt.”

For Oldham, there is an expected increase of 14,955 households, or 16.55%, predicted in the figure published in 2012, but only 12,368, or 13.81%, in the 2016 projections.

Councillor Sykes concluded: “That’s a difference of 2,587 properties less to build. Interesting that corresponds to almost all of the houses that the Greater Manchester Spatial Framework proposes be built by 2035 within Oldham on the Kingsway South, Beal Valley, Broadbent Moss, Cowlishaw and Hanging Chadder sites.  And if we were to increase the housing density on allocated brownfield sites in the town centre I am confident that we could make up the difference and save the Thornham Old Road site, and some others in the Borough too.”

Councillor Sykes concluded: “The Liberal Democrats in Shaw, Crompton and Saddleworth remain completely opposed to any encroachment of housing on Greenbelt and OPOL sites whilst brownfield sites remain available, but the Conservative Government has previously insisted that Greater Manchester Councils build more homes under the Greater Manchester Spatial Framework than the latest household growth figures indicate are required.”

The letter to James Brokenshire: James Brokenshire MP GMSF 19.02.19

More Oldham Children being failed: Liberal Democrat Leader disappointed at news of yet another poor school performance

The Leader of the Opposition and the Liberal Democrat Group on Oldham Council, Councillor Howard Sykes MBE, has expressed his disappointment and dismay on hearing news that another school in Oldham – the Oasis Academy Oldham – has failed the OFSTED test when it comes to performance.

Councillor Sykes said:  “Oldham Council and its educational partners have had years to turn around Oldham’s academic performance, but yet again we see another negative report of an Oldham school rated ‘inadequate’ and in need of ‘improvement’ in several key areas, including the quality of teaching, learning and assessment.”

“When the Oldham Education and Skills Commission Chair Baroness Estelle Morris stated on the publication of its long-awaited report in January 2016, ‘we are on the edge of being able to achieve great things here in Oldham’, her words did not contain the note of caution ‘but not yet’.  Three years on and we are still ‘not yet’”.

“Oldham’s Labour leaders have promised time and again that the report’s recommendations, and the work of the Partnership that was established to deliver them, would bring about a transformation in our educational attainment, but we have yet to see any real change.”

Councillor Sykes added:  “In 2013 Oasis was reported to be the most improved school in Greater Manchester, but now sadly we have seen a significant slippage in performance.  What is most saddening is that pupils have ‘underachieved significantly’, especially the most able pupils.”

“I can only hope that the school’s headteacher and staff team really will succeed in leaving ‘no stone unturned’ in a renewed effort to get back on track.  For this is yet another example of more of our children being failed by Oldham’s Labour run education system and we really must do better to be sure that our children’s futures will not be jeopardised.”

Countryside Volunteer Rangers Crompton Moor – Sunday 24 February

Hope you can join me this Sunday, our event being preparation of drainage to (a) the main pathway from the car park to the brook & (b) adjacent Whitesides.

The weather forecast for Sunday is sunny intervals and light winds, likely temperature of 9º/12º and 6 mph winds so ensure you have your favourite hot & or cold liquids, warm clothing, appropriate footwear and a packed lunch if you are up for the day – it may feel colder than it really is depending on where we are on the moor.

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.

For those of you that have not already done so, please could you let me know if you intend to join us on the day.

I look forward to seeing you in the Crompton Moor Car Park from 10.30 onwards 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

Oldham Liberal Democrat Leader delighted Turing finally recognised in public poll as Greatest Icon

The Leader of the Opposition and the Liberal Democrat Group on Oldham Council, Councillor Howard Sykes MBE, has expressed his delight that in the public vote held in connection with BBC Two Icons Series, Dr Alan Turing topped the poll as the greatest icon of the Twentieth Century.

Councillor Sykes said: “This is quite remarkable, especially when it is considered that Alan Turing was up against many other true greats, like Dr Martin Luther King and President Nelson Mandela.”

“Alan Turing was treated disgracefully by the British Government after his outstanding achievements in secret public service during the Second World War.  As a mathematician with a brilliant mind, Turing made a major contribution to the war effort in cracking the Enigma code used by the German military forces in their encrypted communications.  His efforts and those of his colleagues, women as well as men, at Bletchley Park were estimated to have shortened the war by many months and saved countless lives.  Yet after the war he was persecuted for his homosexuality, cast out from the scientific community, forced to undergo chemical castration, and finally in despair committed suicide.  His was a life ultimately wasted because of bigotry.”

On Christmas Eve 2013, Turing finally received a Royal Pardon for his crime after a concerted public campaign.  Councillor Sykes played his part by supporting the campaign and writing to the Minister of Justice over the matter.

Councillor Sykes added: “Alan Turing’s only ‘crime’, and it is no longer a ‘crime’, was choosing to love someone that society at the time disapproved of.  It is tragic he is not with us today as we now live in more enlightened times in which a majority in society accepts same-sex relationships.  This poll demonstrates that people today look beyond someone’s sexuality and judge a person’s value as a human being. Turing can truly be said to have been an outstanding human being – and it is all the better that he has finally received this national recognition during LGBT – Lesbian, Gay and Bi-sexual History – Month.”

Oldham Liberal Democrat Leader surprised at deficiencies in the collection of pothole data

The Leader of the Opposition and of the Liberal Democrat Group, Councillor Howard Sykes MBE, has been surprised to discover that Oldham Council officers do not record the number of potholes that are reported, nor the number of potholes that are repaired.

Councillor Sykes has written to Helen Lockwood, Deputy Chief Executive – People at Place at Oldham to ask why?

Commenting, Councillor Sykes said: “This information was disclosed in answer to a Freedom of Information request.  I am very surprised that we do not collect this data as surely we need it to determine how effective our road repair work is?”

“Last November (2018), the Oldham Liberal Democrat Group brought a motion to the Council meeting seeking a commitment to the Council to repair potholes posing a hazard to drivers, cyclists and pedestrians, including those of less than 40mm depth.  Although Labour watered this down to a more generic commitment, with no guarantee that these ‘surface erosion’ potholes would also be repaired, there was cross-party support that a pothole or eroded surface posing a public danger would be repaired as quickly as possible.”

“So how can we be sure that all hazardous potholes are promptly repaired when we record neither the number of potholes that are reported by the public, nor the number of potholes that are subsequently repaired? I am looking forward to receiving Ms. Lockwood’s reply.”