Alternative Budget Proposal to Council for 2012/13

Howard Sykes, leader of the Liberal Democrats in Oldham, last night made an alternative budget proposal to Oldham Council. In a no nonsense proposal to the full meeting of Council he said, “Budgets should be about doing what is best for the Borough and its citizens. We have called our Alternative Budget a ‘Citizens Driven Budget’, because it’s just that – a budget driven by our citizens.”

Howard continued, “We have listened to residents and stakeholders and addressed the issues that fill our postbag and e-mail inboxes; those things the public tell us matter to them most – especially litter/cleanliness, fly-tipping, anti social behaviour and potholes.”

“We therefore present our plans for the Borough, which will include additional investment in:

• A new swimming pool/gym/fitness complex.

• A pothole repair summer blitz programme and the speed up of the local roads repair programme.

• A litter enforcement pilot – not just to address littering and dumping problems, but to look at prevention through education and bringing about cultural change.

• Increasing the number of street cleaning operatives by up to a further eight.

• Additional enforcement officers – not only overturning the cut planned by Labour, but strengthening the enforcement team with a further seven officers.

• Keeping the Central Library and Gallery open on a Sunday.

• Additional support for community operated Community centres.

• Additional youth provision in areas of low provision and/or high levels of anti social behaviour.”

“Clearly the opportunities for investment now available in 2012 didn’t exist in 2008 when the Liberal Democrats inherited a Council on the verge of special measures.The situation was desperate and action needed fast – we put in place an action plan to turn the Council around, get the budget under control, pay off debt and enable the Council to look to the future with optimism. The Liberal Democrats delivered on that plan and within three years Oldham Council was officially financially sound and receiving “industry” recognition – twice in succession were finalists for Most Improved Council of the Year in 2010 and 2011.”

“But, despite those successes and a record of competent financial management which continues in our Alternative Budget before you tonight, I fully expect Labour to deliver the usual lecture on how the budgets are very similar in percentage terms etc. For the record, in 2009 Labour couldn’t be bothered with an Alternative budget and when they finally produced them in 2010 and 2011, more than 98% of their plans mirrored ours – the difference being achieved only by riskier savings targets.”

“Already in less than year, there are clear signs that Labour are back to their bad old ways, they are on a borrowing spree which will see future generations pick up the tab for overwhelming and crippling Council debt! We have dirtier streets, important performance targets being missed and, only last week, Oldham emerged as the 6th unhappiest town in the Country.”

Howard concluded by saying, “I urge all my councillor colleagues to put aside tribal politics, do what is best for our Borough and support the Alternative Budget.”

The proposal was defeated by the Council’s Labour majority, but was supported by Conservative Councillors Hulme and Martin, the other three Tory councillors (Hudson, Sheldon and Barker) voted with Labour.

Got a view? Have your say by leaving a reply on this webpage.

Lib Dem Alternative Budget 2012/13 Final Proposals Published

“The thinking behind the Liberal Democrats’ alternative budget could not be more straightforward”, says their leader, Howard Sykes. “The public have told us again and again what they want from the council: ‘Forget the gimmicks and get the basics right.’ We’ve listened and delivered it.”

The alternative budget, entitled “A Citizen Led Budget” proposes investment in repairing roads and cleaning up the borough – the top two priorities by a substantial margin in the council’s public consultation and the top two from the Lib Dems’ own extensive surveys.

The other big consultation – the Leisure Review – also meets with a positive answer. The Lib Dem budget identifies money to replace both Royton and Crompton pools – there or elsewhere. “It is the will, not the money, which is lacking”, says Howard.

“It must have been the biggest response and most decisive result of any consultation in the borough’s history. Labour was not open about its intentions and was deaf to democracy. We will put that right.”

Lynne Thompson, Liberal Democrat Finance Spokesperson, describes the proposals for the roads. “It has become citizens’ number one concern yet Labour ignores it”, she says. “It is obvious that spending the winter filling huge potholes is ineffective. Much better and cheaper to fill the new ones before they can become craters. The Lib Dems propose a ‘summer pothole blitz’. A quarter of a million pounds invested would save not just a fortune but the public’s bent wheels and fraying nerves.”

“We were also struck by the pent-up need in the local resurfacing schemes councillors put forward. We propose a large one-off cash injection to clear the most dangerous borough-wide.”

Eight extra street cleaners, backed up by two neighbourhood enforcement officers, would make an immediate difference to street cleanliness. A new enforcement pilot project would see six more officers detecting culprits, trying out new techniques of deterrence and targeting dog fouling. With £2m a year spent clearing rubbish, they would pay for themselves.

Community Payback stays. The public likes to see people make amends; the work is useful; and it reduces reoffending.

Youth services get a boost, with the emphasis on filling gaps and diverting young people at risk of antisocial behaviour. Go!Oldham’s success proves it works.

The popular Sunday opening of the central library and gallery would continue under Lib Dem proposals. A different clientele from weekdays includes families, full-time workers and students.

Labour’s plans to slow Housing and Council Tax benefit claims are axed as risky and unfair.

And how is it paid for?

The Lib Dems would squeeze the back office harder to boost services and it would not fritter away money on the gimmick projects we are sure to see over the coming months. Windfall reductions in transport and waste levies should be invested to reduce future costs, as should £1m provision kept ‘up the sleeve’ until final government confirmation that it was not needed.

The document can be access on Oldham Council’s website at:$

Oldham Road Chaos Addressed

Howard Sykes has demanded the issue of road chaos in Oldham be addressed in response to concerns expressed by local residents. In a letter to the Chief Executive of Oldham Council he says, “The current situation with regard to traffic congestion within the Borough as result of roadwork’s is becoming a major topic of concern amongst the residents of this Borough.
“Of course I recognise that the work related to Metrolink has been a significant factor in the problems related to the town centre, but you will be well aware that we as an administration took the implications of Metrolink very seriously and were constantly seeking improved signage, better communication with the public and of course improvements in the planning of road closures.
“But we have had a number of examples recently where the level of planning and communication with the public have fallen well short of the standards we would have expected and insisted upon – the perfect example being the current Ripponden Road resurfacing works.
“It is taking some people 50-60 minutes to do a simple three mile journey (or less) be it in the morning or in the evening. This cannot be right and the cost to our citizens and the business they work for must be enormous.
“The new labour administration undertook a review of the highways programme that the previous Lib Dem administration approved and, whilst that is their prerogative, the delays built into the system by the review has caused a major concertina effect.
“The whole situation as far as the public, the business community and the politicians is that there is a lack of direction and leadership and that things appear to be spiralling out of control.
“The public of this Borough are appealing in the strongest terms to me and my colleagues to take this by the scruff of the neck, bang some heads together and get the borough moving again.
Howard and the Liberal Democrats will continue to monitor the situation and to lobby for improvement on behalf of local residents and businesses.

Removal of Misleading Information Signs in Connection with Highway Works

     Date:       29 July 211

Ms Elaine McLean

Executive Director Economy, Places and Skills

Oldham Council

Dear Ms McLean

Re: Removal of Misleading Information Signs in Connection with Highway Works

Once again your officers, contractors and partners have failed with regard to the above signage. 

I wish I could say this is a one off but it is not.  Firstly we usually have a fight to get any information signs displayed about highway works and they certainly are never erected when the works commence, usually (if we are lucky), a few days later or some times weeks later.

To say I am very disappointed with having to advise officers from the top level in your Directorate to staff who are further down your team with respect to the above is a vast understatement and to do it repeatedly is tiresome to say the least!

I am fed up of seeing signs littered across the whole of our Borough “informing” citizens that roads are closed when in fact roads are fully operational and have been re-opened, in some instances, for at least one month.

A typical example of this is Grains Road, Shaw.  As of Friday 29 July 2011 several approach routes (and on the road itself) to Grains Road have yellow signs that advise that Grains Road will be closed due to roadwork’s for a period of two weeks (20 June – 3 July). 

Grains Road is in fact fully operational and has been since before 3 July and yet the signs have still not been removed!  The photograph attached gives clear evidence of what I am referring to. 

Next week it is 3 August, a full calendar month after the works have been completed and based upon past experience they will still be there if I had not had to intervene again and in fact do part of the job of whoever undertook this highway scheme.

With the unavoidable traffic congestions/delays that our citizens are trying to be patient with regarding various ‘roadwork’s’ in the Borough is it not surprising that they get angry when they are faced with incorrect diversion routes and signs – especially when these are compounded in one area!

For example, the diversion route which is currently in operation in Shaw to facilitate ‘Metrolink works’ – drivers are now travelling a diversion route to avoid Beal Lane but also think that Grains Road is closed – causing yet further havoc – which could be avoided! 

Does someone not “walk the route” following completion of such schemes and ensure that everything is in place and as it should be, signage included?  They clearly do not and if they do we need to send them for an eye test. 

People should take pride in their work – the really annoying thing is the scheme itself on Grains Road is a first class job – started on time and completed before expected and is welcomed by its many users – this is spoiled as so many such schemes are due to lack of attention to detail.

Surely it is not beyond the wit of man (or woman) to get this right and it would just make drivers less angry and more patient when faced with the diversions that are unavoidable.

I look forward to your reply with interest and more importantly what measures are going to be put in place to give the citizens of our Borough the confidence that our traffic signing is in fact correct. 

Also when there is next a scheme in my patch of Shaw and Crompton that it will not require three to four interventions by myself or my colleagues to get signage and other matters up and correct then removed in a timely manner when the scheme is complete.

 Yours sincerely – Howard Sykes