UPDATE SMALLBROOK ROAD, SHAW CLOSED MONDAY 19 NOVEMBER FOR 5 DAYS (9:30AM – 3:30PM) FOR RE-SURFACING

This was originally planned for the w/c 22 October.

The Oldham Borough Council hereby gives Notice that no person shall cause any vehicle to proceed in that part of Smallbrook Road, Shaw from its junction with Milnrow Road to its junction with St Joseph’s Close.

The restrictions are required to facilitate carriageway resurfacing and will be in force between the hours of 9.30 am and 3.30 pm for a period of 5 days from the date of this notice or until the works are completed, whichever is the lesser period

The alternative route for vehicles affected by the restriction shall be via Smallbrook Road, Duchess Street, Fraser Street, Rochdale Road, Crompton Way and Milnrow Road, in both directions.

Bus stop information see link: Bus stop info Smallbrook Road closurer

For further information please contact Matt McGreal on 0161 770 1955

My two allowed questions at tonight’s Oldham Council meeting – 7 November 2018 – Tommyfield Market and challenge to build some council houses

Q1 Leaders Question – Giving Certainty to Tommyfield Traders

Mr Mayor my first question tonight concerns people living with great uncertainty; they are nervous about their future; or indeed if they have a future; and a Leader who is promising a plan that will deliver a ‘New Jerusalem’…

But in this case I am not talking about the people of the United Kingdom, Theresa May and Brexit, but rather the traders of Tommyfield Market, our new Council Leader, and the revised (yet again) Oldham Town Centre Masterplan.

We all know that the Leader tore up the old £350 million masterplan – not good enough said he; it ‘falls far short of what is required to give a compelling vision for Oldham.’

I am sure the traders at Tommyfield were at that time grateful that he described the market as ‘much-loved’ and ‘a significant feature of Oldham town centre…in need of investment.’

It must have filled them with hope for the future.

But since that time the same traders have been living with more uncertainty, made worse by the fact that the new revised, better-than-the-old-one masterplan is now not scheduled to be unveiled until at least March 2020.

Yes not March 2019, but March 2020 – in at least 18 months-time. 

Most citizens of this Borough will wonder why it will take so long and why urgency is not put into the process!

With our recent experience of town centre regeneration projects falling behind schedule or just failing to happen; think Hotel Futures and Princes Gate.

Traders are right to ask questions and they deserve some answers.

At present traders report that when their leases are up for renewal they are being offered new agreements in which they could be given as little as three months’ notice to quit.

Many of these traders have been in the market for decades, with a loyal customer base to match, and one – Levers – has its own blue plaque celebrating Oldham as being the historic home of fish and chips!

So how can it be right that they can be out on their ear in only 12 weeks?  I ask you is this any way to treat traders who were recently described as ‘much loved’!

Giving them so little notice means they have no incentive to invest in their business or premises.  Some say that in any case a three month notice period makes their business now practically worthless.

It causes difficulties with recruiting and keeping staff and impacts on the well-being of the owners and their families let alone their pockets!

So I would like to ask the Leader tonight if he will rethink the Council’s offer to the traders.

Will he do the right thing and agree to requests that they be at least granted five-year automatically renewable leases as a way to guarantee them some future for their businesses and staff?

Will he promise traders that they will be consulted regularly as stakeholders as plans for the new market hall (or not) develop and be offered spaces in or around the new market hall which meet their needs and on terms that are affordable to them?

Q2 Leaders Questions – Can We Build It?  Yes We Can!

Mr Mayor, for my second question to the Leader tonight I would like to look at another important issue – the shortage of social and rented housing in our Borough.

In Oldham, we have a huge housing waiting list.  We have a particular shortage of larger houses, as these are the homes most frequently lost due to sales under the misguided policy of Right to Buy.

We are also desperately short of homes that are built to meet the needs of disabled people or future proofed for an ageing population.

I know that the Leader will join me in welcoming the announcement by the Prime Minister that, for once, represents good news for this Borough – the lifting of the borrowing cap which has prevented Councils from investing in much needed social and affordable housing.

Following pressure from many voices speaking common sense, including those of myself and my fellow group leaders in the cross-party Local Government Association, the cap on the Housing Revenue Account is finally being abolished.

In their hey-day, councils were building four in every 10 of the nation’s homes – we will now need to see a Council house building revival to build affordable and social housing if we are to meet the shortfall in new homes that we will need in the future.

Decent homes improve health and well-being, educational performance and many, many other factors other than just a decent roof over people’s head.

We need to get on with it now – with more haste than it took this Administration to recently adopt the idea of establishing an arms-length housing development company that the Liberal Democrat Group first suggested three years ago.

The children’s TV character, Bob the Builder, famously said: ‘Can we build it?  Yes we can!’

Mr Mayor, I would like to ask the Leader tonight if he is going to adopt Bob’s mantra by ensuring the Council works with our social housing partners and supportive housing developers to quickly rise to this challenge and build the affordable homes that we so desperately need as soon as possible.

In short, have we got a plan in place, have we got sites ready to build on and will we see diggers on the ground very soon?

Liberal Democrats seek renewed action on pot-hole danger roads

The Liberal Democrat Group on Oldham Council have tabled a motion for discussion at the next full meeting (7 November 18) of the Council calling for greater action in tackling damaged road surfaces that represent a danger to motorists, cyclists and pedestrians.  This is part of an ongoing Liberal Democrat campaign to raise the dangers of poor road surfaces with the current Labour Administration and to call for a change in policy so damage can be repaired if it is dangerous.

The Deputy Leader of the Liberal Democrat Group, Councillor Chris Gloster, is proposing the motion: “This issue is of great concern to Liberal Democrat Councillors on Oldham Council.  My Shaw colleague, Group Leader Councillor Howard Sykes, has written to the Council Deputy Leader about this and my Crompton colleague, Councillor Dave Murphy, raised it as a question at last Council.  We are just not satisfied by the lack of action so have decided to bring our proposals for proper debate at full Council.  Put simply, we want the Council to be able to repair any road surface that is dangerous, not just those roads where surface erosion is at least forty millimetres deep.  At the moment the Council just says no if the holes are less than 40mm.”

Government guidance issued to all local authorities in November 2016 states that Councils must ‘investigate’ instances where road surfaces have been eroded by at least 40mm, but there is no legal requirement placed upon Councils even then to repair them promptly.  In Oldham, the current Labour Administration policy is to only consider potholes deeper than 40mm to be eligible for repair.  By way of constant, the threshold for the repair of pavements is lower at 25mm.

Councillor Gloster explained why this is problematic: “One practical issue is that many roads in my own district of Shaw and Crompton do not even have a top surface that is 40mm thick; they can be worn away to the cobbles and present a real danger to cyclists and motorists, but as the ‘threshold’ can never be reached no action is taken.  This cannot be fair or right.”

The Liberal Democrats want the Council to ensure that any road surface that becomes hazardous can be repaired.  Councillor Gloster added:  “I fully appreciate roads will still have to be prioritised and not all will be able to be repaired with the resources the council has, but we should look to address the danger that any worn road surface represents to the public, and not simply operate to some arbitrary ‘threshold’.”

The motion is being seconded by Councillor Gloster’s colleague, Saddleworth Liberal Democrat Councillor Garth Harkness, who said: “Another issue addressed in our motion is the lack of real finance made available to local government from central government for road repairs.  This present government talks a lot about the additional resources given from time-to-time to local authorities to tackle the backlog, but this is never enough and it is always too late.”

“The Local Government Association, which represents Councils of all political persuasions across the country, has estimated that there is a £9 billion backlog of repairs on Britain’s roads.  We want the government to give local authorities some of the Road Fuel Duty that is raised so we can get on with the job of making our roads fit-for-purpose.”

Notes motion reads: Oldham Council 7 November 2018 – Notice of Opposition Business – Motion 2 – Tackling Dangerous Potholes

This Council notes that:

  • Residents are greatly concerned by the unsatisfactory state of highways and the prevalence of dangerous potholes in our Borough
  • Elected members are aware of these are high-level public concerns because of the many complaints they receive from their constituents on these matters.
  • Poor road surfaces and footpaths also harm the reputation of Oldham Council and the Borough, and can lessen the appeal of coming into the borough by these routes.
  • The guidance issued to all local authorities by the Department of Transport in October 2016 required Councils to ‘investigate’ any potholes or instances of road surface erosion of at least 40mm depth, but did not necessarily require them to repair it.
  • The threshold fails to take account of circumstances in which the top surface of a road is less than 40mm in the first instance, which can lead to this surface becoming completely eroded and dangerous to pedestrians, cyclists and motorists, yet ineligible for repair by a local authority under the Department of Transport guidance.
  • The threshold for the repair of public footpaths is much lower at 25mm.
  • The Local Government Association has estimated that there is a £9 billion national backlog of repairs to potholes and damaged road surfaces.

This Council reaffirms its commitment to:

  • Ensure that any pothole or eroded surface, whatever the level of damage, which poses a danger to pedestrians, cyclists and motorists is repaired as quickly as possible
  • Fight for greater resources from Government to tackle the road repair backlog.

Council therefore resolves to:

  • Repair any pothole or eroded road surface within the Borough that represents a danger to members of the public, regardless of whether the arbitrary threshold of 40mm is met
  • Ask the Chief Executive to write to the Secretary of State for Transport:
  • Supporting the call of the Local Government Association that a significant portion of the Road Fuel Duty raised by the UK Government be allocated to local authorities to enable them to tackle the estimated £9 billion backlog
  • Requesting the guidance issued to local authorities be revised to place an emphasis upon the prompt repair of any pothole or road surface representing a danger to the public.

Smallbrook Road, Shaw – reason for delay to works and mess up with signage

These are the responses I have had from Oldham Council.

Reason for the delay

“Initially a permit to work was requested for Monday 22nd October, however this permit was refused due to utility work in the area.  As a result the works were then permitted to start immediately following the utility works.  As such the works are starting on Monday 19th November.”

Reason for the mess up on signage on 22 October

“I have now received a response from the Councils parking enforcement provider, NSL, regarding the signing and coning issues relating to the above.  It would appear the error has occurred due to a plan of the affected area not being forwarded with the signing and coning request; the instructions stated Smallbrook Road, which NSL understood to be the full length.  Woodend was also treated as the mapping system used to identify the extent of Smallbrook Road showed Woodend as Smallbrook Road.  As soon as NSL were made aware of the date change for the re-surfacing work the signs and cones were removed.

Any further instructions for this type of work will be accompanied by a location plan to avoid any confusion and to ensure this problem does not arise in the future.

Apologies for any upset this error has caused to the residents.”

Councillor Howard Sykes is still waiting for details about how the bus services will work and be accessed on the 19 November and will post information when and if he gets it.

Chancellor promises end of austerity, but no end to Oldham Council funding cuts

The Leader of the Opposition and of the Liberal Democrat Group, Councillor Howard Sykes MBE, has welcomed the promise by the Chancellor of the Exchequer in today’s Budget that ‘austerity is coming to an end’ and his recognition that local authorities have ‘significantly contributed’ towards the UK Government in addressing austerity, albeit through being forced to accept swingeing general cuts to their funding.

Councillor Sykes has also welcomed the promised extra funding to tackle potholes across the country and for new services to help those in mental health crisis, contemplating suicide, or living with infirmity or disabilities; however the Chancellor was short on detail when it came to rolling back the massive funding cuts that local authorities have faced since 2010.

“Some of this so called funding will not happen for a couple of years so is very much a promise of jam tomorrow,” stated Councillor Sykes.  “Also all bets are off budget wise if Brexit negotiations do not go well.”

He added:  “It is easy to promise an end to austerity, but the ‘hard working British public’ that Mr Hammond spoke so warmly of rely on the council services that have been cut to the bone, and in some cases just stopped providing them under this Conservative Government.”

“Our green spaces, cemeteries, parks and alike will continue to look even more unloved.  Streets will be dirtier, basic maintenance stopped in places our libraries and community centres some time ago.”

“The Chancellor failed to pull out a ‘promised rabbit’ for local government and other public services like police and fire.  He talked a lot about councils gaining ‘greater control’ over finances by allowing them to retain business rates and by lifting the housing cap, but the rate support grant that councils rely upon is being phased out by 2020.  For us, austerity does not seem to be coming to an end anytime soon in fact it just took a turn for the worse in our Borough.”

First Bus timetable changes from 28 October 2018

From Sunday 28 October, First Bus will be making changes to the timetables of some of their services.

The following services will be affected by the changes: V1, 2, 24, 33, 42, 58, 59, 93, 97/98, 100, 135, 163, 180, 181/182, 350, 409, 415, 425, 582 and X39.

Unfortunately service 42 will be withdrawn (East Didsbury – Manchester route only), but for customers wanting to travel between Withington and Manchester our 41 service will provide an alternative.

Please make sure you check their new timetables before you travel.  See link below.

https://www.firstgroup.com/greater-manchester/news-and-service-updates/planned-changes/service-changes-sunday-28-october

Liberal Democrat Leader welcomes extra funding to help tackle Winter Health Crisis

Councillor Howard Sykes MBE, Leader of the Liberal Democrat Group and Leader of the Opposition, has welcomed the recent announcement by the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, Matt Hancock MP, that over £1 million in extra money will be provided to Oldham this winter to help patients get home quicker from hospital after medical treatment and improve care that might prevent them being admitted to hospital in the first place.  Mr Hancock recently announced that Oldham will be receiving £1,122,354 in extra winter funding.

Commenting Councillor Sykes said:  “Any extra funding from government to help support adult social care at the time of year when there is the greatest demand must be welcomed.  I am sure patients would much rather have more support to be discharged so they can recover in the comfort of their own homes than spending any more time in hospital than is necessary.  This investment will also help save the NHS money as this so-called ‘bed blocking’ represents a big drain on spending that could be better spent on treating more patients.”

Councillor Sykes did however add a cautionary note:  “I have to say though that the Minister does only get ‘one cheer’ from me rather than the ‘three cheers’ he would if this money had been allocated or notice given as part of the budget settlement last autumn.  That would have given both the Council and the Hospital the maximum amount of time to plan how best to use this money.  Late notice and the element of stop/start is not the best way of getting maximum value; making this cash go as far as possible; and helping as many people as possible.”

The letter from Mr Hancock: 20181017_ASC winter care letter_FINAL