NHS Covid 19 testing in Shaw an apology

Unfortunately the Mobile Coronavirus Testing Unit was not able to visit Shaw on Tuesday.

This was due to a clerical error by the national agency responsible for arranging the temporary mobile unit at short notice.

However it will be in place today (Wednesday) and Thursday at the Marketplace/Westway car park

It is available for booking on the national portal (https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/coronavirus-covid-19/testing-and-tracing/get-a-test-to-check-if-you-have-coronavirus/ ) or by calling 111.

We know a number of residents have been unable so far to book a test locally and we would like to apologise to them for this.

Local Liberal Democrat Councillor Howard Sykes has already asked if it can stay longer and also if it can come again. As of now still no response on either matter – will keep people posted as best I can.

National track and trace appears to be a bit of a shambles to me.

Liberal Democrat Leader calls for police to get tougher on Covid-19

Councillor Howard Sykes MBE, Leader of the Opposition and Leader of the Liberal Democrat Group on Oldham Council, has written to the Metropolitan Mayor of Greater Manchester, Mr Andy Burnham, asking him to ‘get tougher to tackle the spike in Covid-19’ with a greater police presence on our streets and on our trams.

Councillor Sykes is, like many of his constituents, getting increasingly annoyed and frustrated at seeing the actions of a ‘selfish few’, who are ‘frequently and flagrantly’ flouting the regulations on social distancing and the requirement to wear face coverings on public transport and in shops and takeaways.

Commenting Councillor Sykes said:  “Individuals acting in this manner are endangering themselves and others around them and may well be aiding the transmission of this deadly illness.  We need to everyone to understand that compliance with the regulations is not only a legal requirement, but also necessary to get this disease under control.  We have had education and most people have understood, but a reckless minority are ignoring the law and now is the time when we need enforcement.  I have asked Mayor Burnham to get tough and ensure we have an effective and active police presence in our communities and on public transport to punish those offenders who will not comply.”

The wording of the letter to the Mayor Andy Burnham, sent 31 July, is as follows:

To the Metropolitan Mayor of Greater Manchester, Mr Andy Burnham

Dear Mayor Burnham,

Re: Enforcement of Covid 19 regulations

I am writing to you in connection with yesterday’s announcement by Health Secretary Matt Hancock MP that new restrictions will be imposed throughout Greater Manchester from today making it illegal for people who do not live together to meet in a private home or garden. 

My concern relates to how these restrictions and other regulations will be legally enforced by officers of the Greater Manchester Police.

The situation regarding enforcement was poor before the recent announcements.

I receive regular complaints from travellers and shoppers that previously-imposed government requirements that anyone travelling by public transport or visiting a shop or take-away wear a face covering are frequently and flagrantly flouted by a very small but significant minority, seemingly without penalty.

The actions of this selfish few not only annoy, and frustrate, the majority of law-abiding residents of Oldham Borough who adhere to the regulations, but they also represent a clear and present danger in public health terms, fostering the likelihood of increased transmission which would, if unchecked, lead to the eventual imposition of a full local lockdown.

The law provides for punishment for such transgressions.  Concerned members of the public, Council officers, shop workers, and drivers and guards on public transport may seek to challenge or check this behaviour, but they cannot impose the force of law and inevitably police officers never seem to be present.

Sometimes an appropriate ‘quiet word’ from a uniformed officer or PCSO could be all it takes.

I believe it is now time for some enforcement so I would like to ask you about your plans to impose a greater police presence on public transport and in our communities as an immediate priority to get tough on these offenders?  The time for a softly, softly approach has gone, we now need to get tougher if we are to really tackle this spike in Covid 19 and avoid further deaths – it really is that simple.

Yours Sincerely,

Howard Sykes

Mobile testing in Shaw – update

People have had problem making books for the above.

To be fair this in the National test and trace system and the way it is set up.

I have raised this with the Council (Director of Public Health) and below is the latest information.

Thank you for highlighting the problems that residents have been having with booking tests on the government portal and calling 119 today.

I followed this up with Department of Health and Social Care and have been told that demand for testing in both Oldham and Rochdale has been very high today, and therefore all available testing slots have been taken up.

One of the challenges with the national booking portal is that once all slots are booked at a site, it is no longer listed on the portal until more slots become available.

This means that anyone looking for a test, including those answering calls to 119 won’t be able to see that the site exists. We have raised this issue with the team previously and I will do so again to see if we can get some changes made to both the way information is presented on the site and the script used by call handlers.

I will also ask for some additional wording to be adding to our local communications to highlight that if the site isn’t listed this is because slots are fully booked.

Unfortunately the mobile testing unit, such as will be in Shaw, isn’t able to accept walk ups, so residents will need to book in order to access testing.

However, more slots should be available for booking tomorrow once the Wednesday and Thursday time slots are released.

I will be following this up with the national team tomorrow to try to get some changes made to the booking portal and 119 script for the future.

Planning rule changes mean more substandard housing

Changes to permitted development announced by the Government mean that far more substandard houses are likely to be built in the UK over the next few years. 

Sam Al-Hamdani, the shadow cabinet member for Housing and Homelessness on Oldham Council said: “We cannot abandon housing standards for the sake of getting these extra houses. The Conservative Government is rushing through rules that are going to create a new generation of slums. And the places that are most going to be affected are the places which are already struggling to get new housing – such as Oldham.

On the same day that the changes were rushed through, a damning report investigating the results of the previous changes to permitted development showed that only 21% of houses created using permitted development would meet the national standard for space, compared to 73.4% of those created using planning permission.

According to the report, there were flats being built under the permitted development rules where the entire dwelling measured 4m x 4m – only slightly larger than a Vauxhall Zafira. 

The Liberal Democrat councillor for Saddleworth West and Lees continued: “At the last council meeting, I brought a motion to address exactly these issues – permitted development has resulted in cramped, ill-suited housing, some of which doesn’t even have windows in. It is ironic that while we were successful in getting that motion passed, the Government is doing even more to undermine housing standards in this country.

“There is a problem in the UK with a lack of housebuilding, and it does need addressing. This is not the way to do it – it will consign a new generation of people to being trapped in substandard accommodation.

“Our high streets will changes dramatically in the next few years, and residential use is going to be one of the main changes. We should be changing the rules to encourage great housing in our towns and cities – not throwing humane standards out of a non-existent window.” 

1. The report Quality standard of homes delivered through change of use permitted development rights is available from https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/quality-standard-of-homes-delivered-through-change-of-use-permitted-development-rights?utm_source=90808469-b077-4856-a053-e8216e2321bc&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=govuk-notifications&utm_content=immediate

New coronavirus temporary testing site in Shaw

Slight update on previously posted information.

A mobile temporary site at the Market Place/Westway car park will be available between Tuesday 4th – Thursday 6th August and offers ‘walk-through’ testing, so you don’t have to have a vehicle to access the site.

Anyone who suspects, or is concerned, they have coronavirus can go to the NHS booking website or call NHS 119 to book an appointment at the site which is open between 10-4pm

A face covering must be worn at all times by those attending the facility and they are also asked to observe social distancing guidelines while waiting.

The main symptoms of coronavirus are:

High temperature – this means you feel hot to touch on your chest or back (you do not need to measure your temperature)

New, continuous cough – this means coughing a lot for more than an hour, or 3 or more coughing episodes in 24 hours (if you usually have a cough, it may be worse than usual)

Loss or change to your sense of smell or taste – this means you’ve noticed you cannot smell or taste anything, or things smell or taste different to normal

Most people with coronavirus have at least one of these symptoms.

Results of the test will be sent to you within 24 hours and If positive, you will be provided with the appropriate advice to limit its spread.

Coronavirus testing in Shaw confirmed for Tuesday 4 – Thursday 6 August

This is something your local Liberal Democrat Councillors have been working on for some time.

I am pleased to report that a mobile testing unit will visit Shaw Tuesday – Thursday next week.

The unit will be on the Market Place/Westway car park. We have asked the team running the site if the unit can be located at the Rochdale Road end of the site if this is feasible within operational requirements.

Residents will be able to access testing by car, public transport or on foot, and tests can be booked via the gov.uk website or by calling 119.

The site will only become available for booking the day before, so the Council will make sure they do some promotion of the site from Monday onwards.

If this works well as a location for testing, then we can make further bookings for a mobile testing unit in this location.


Greater Manchester Liberal Democrats call foul on the Government’s snap Covid-19 announcements

Liberal Democrat Leaders from across Greater Manchester have heavily criticised last night’s shambolic announcement to impose social restrictions across the 10 Boroughs in the region in response to a rise in Covid-19 cases.

Councillor Howard Sykes MBE, Leader of the Opposition and Leader of the Liberal Democrat Group on Oldham Council, said:  “It would appear that the Johnson administration with its focus on the South-East doesn’t have a handle on what’s going on in the North.”

“As well as sending mixed messages encouraging people to use restaurants and pubs by offering them discounted meals next week, people are feeling scared by confusing messaging about not being able to meet in their own gardens, but a pub beer garden is ok.”

Councillor Sykes also has real concerns about the timing of the announcements: “There are also community cohesion issues here too.  Making this announcement the night before Eid has triggered a mis-targeted blame game, when in fact we should be working together to protect against this dreadful virus.”  

“The group with the highest infection rate is young people.  The Government would do better by providing local councils, like Oldham, with more funding for our local youth services.  We need more youth workers out on our streets and on our trams working to ensure that young people take the right precautions to ensure they keep themselves and their family members safe from infection, rather than this ‘sledgehammer to crack a nut’ approach.”

“Everyone needs to understand that if we are to beat coronavirus together and stay safe, we all need to wear a mask when required by law and when if it impossible to maintain social distancing, wash our hands more frequently and for longer, and continue to rigorous observe social distancing.”

Oldham has backlog of 120 requests for disabled parking spaces – and enough money for five this year

Local Liberal Democrat campaigner Mark Kenyon has discovered that Oldham Council’s budget for disabled parking spaces is only enough to provide five this year, even though the Council now has a backlog of 122 residents waiting, after none were provided last year.

He said: “Residents should be told what is going on when they are applying. At this rate, it would be over 20 years before the people currently on the list would get a parking space.

“The cost of getting a space put in is £3,000 per space. If it costs this much, a budget of £15,000 for the year really is a drop in the ocean. We either need to get them done for less, or get realistic about how much we would actually need to spent.”

The waiting list is only getting longer at the moment, with approval still needed for an updated policy on applications. 

Local councillor Sam Al-Hamdani said: “Budgets are tight, but there is a gulf between what is needed and how we are responding. There are always going to be more demands for money than resources, but when there is such a clear issue as this we need to talk to residents openly and clearly.

“It is no wonder that people get frustrated with our services when they disappear into a black hole of a waiting list like this. 

“National funding for councils has been cut severely, and these are the sort of services which are losing out because of it. But Oldham Council needs to tell disabled residents what is happening, and not let them think that they are in a waiting list to get a parking space, when it is not remotely realistic.”

Mark Kenyon continued: “This is not a good enough service for residents. We need a good dose of honesty and realism about this. This is a failure for the residents in our community who are most in need of our support.”