Liberal Democrat Leader welcomes summer offer from Company Shop

Councillor Howard Sykes MBE, Leader of the Opposition and Leader of the Liberal Democrat Group on Oldham Council has given a warm welcome to a recent announcement from Company Shop that families in receipt of free school meal vouchers can receive a £15 weekly top-up voucher and also take advantage of the discount prices they offer over summer, but he advises they act quickly to get in before the deadline.

Councillor Sykes said:  “Company Shop sells a wide range of surplus grocery and household products to its members at discounted prices.  It does this by working in collaboration with manufacturers and retailers from the industry.  This benefits members with stretched personal budgets to provide for their families and it ensures that perfectly good food and household items do not end up in landfill”.

Company Shop is currently offering families in receipt of free school meal vouchers an amazing offer, and Councillor Sykes wants everyone who is eligible to know about it:  “If you receive free school meal vouchers Company Shop will match them with another £15 voucher to give you £30 to spend on groceries and household products each week over the summer.  This represents a real lifeline for our hard-pressed families, especially at this time when many people in Oldham have been made recently unemployed or face redundancy”.

The promotion is open to non-members, as well as to members, of Company Shop and the free weekly £15 voucher can be claimed by anyone calling into the local store with proof that they are receiving government funded school meal vouchers.

Councillor Sykes urges everyone who can benefit to act quickly as there is a deadline to register by the end of trading hours on Saturday 1 August:  “As with all good things this must come to an end so please get down to the store as soon as you can, and do share the good news with friends, family members and neighbours who are also eligible.”

The nearest Company Shop is located at Stakehill Industrial Estate, Touchet Hall Road, Middleton M24 2SJ. Tel. 0161 655 6600. Opening hours are 8am to 8pm Monday to Friday, 8am to 6pm Saturday and 10am to 4 pm Sunday. 

Details of the free £15 voucher offer can be found at:£15voucher

Liberal Democrats baffled at Labour Refusal to Stop Clothing Waste and Oppose Modern Slavery

Liberal Democrat councillors Diane Williamson and Garth Harkness were left baffled when Labour councillors voted against their motion at the full meeting of Oldham Council on Wednesday 15th July 2020.

Councillor Harkness’s and Williamson’s motion asked Oldham Council to work with representatives from the clothing manufacturers and retailers; the trades unions in these sectors; and campaign groups to develop a strategy to end clothing waste, meet clothing need and tackle the exploitation of garment workers in this Borough.

Councillor Williamson said:  “Across the country there are schemes where people donate clothing and the third sector and local authorities then direct people, who are in need, to these places so that they can get clothing for a special occasion, as well as job interviews.  People are given vouchers and some organisations put a price on items so that anyone can come in and perhaps buy items and all funds go back into the scheme.”

Councillor Garth Harkness said:  “The Oldham Liberal Democrat Group has previously proposed motions to take action on food poverty, fuel poverty, water poverty, and period poverty.  Now we are turning our spotlight on clothing poverty.

“We have only in the last week seen Boohoo involved in claims of exploitation and unsafe working practices.  This follows a Sunday Times report claiming workers at a Leicester factory were paid £3.50 an hour, while being offered no protection from coronavirus.

“In November 2019, a survey on the Greater Manchester textile and garment industry that included 182 companies operating across the region, also found evidence that workers were being paid as little as £3-4 an hour.”

No Labour councillors or Conservative councillors decided to speak on the motion. All Labour councillors voted against the motion. One Conservative voted for the motion, one against and two did not vote.

Councillor Diane Williamson said:

“The Labour administration did not even deem it to be worthy of someone to explain why they would not support this motion; I would take on any comments about what was in the motion, but there was deafening silence and they voted against it. 

So why are they voting against tackling sweatshops, supporting low-paid workers and setting up an organisation to support those in need?”

Councillor Garth Harkness said: “Of course, we do not always agree, and I have had motions that have not passed before. In this case I am genuinely baffled. I cannot understand why Labour councillors did not want to address poverty or modern slavery. They all chose to vote against this and not one decided to request to speak. That probably gives an indication of what they think about these important issues.”

Coronavirus Briefing – copy of information issued by Oldham Council earlier today

The numbers of people testing positive for coronavirus in Oldham has increased significantly over the last week.

We have seen 119 cases in the seven days to 25 July. By comparison the week ending 17 July saw just 26 positive cases.

This means a current rate 50.2 positive tests per 100,000 versus 10.2 per 100,000 the week before.

Coronavirus is circulating throughout the Borough with positive cases in all areas of Oldham, however:

  • We are seeing increasing numbers of younger people (those in their twenties and thirties) testing positive over the last seven days.
  • A significant proportion of recent cases involve multiple individuals testing positive within a household, showing that household spread is a real issue – especially in households with large families
  • A large number of recent cases were in our Pakistani and Bangladeshi communities (just over 65% of cases in the last seven days).
  • We’ve seen a small number of cases in care homes this week – the first for a number of weeks.

While this increase in cases locally is worrying it’s important to note that we are not yet seeing the numbers of cases that saw a local lockdown imposed elsewhere in the country. What we are seeking to do is act early to avoid the possibility of a future local lockdown.

Later today we will be announcing new local public health guidelines for residents and businesses.

These are intended to reduce the spread of the virus and avoid a local lockdown.

Updated guidance

From today people in Oldham must ensure they:

  • Do not make social visits to friends or family, or have visitors to their home
  • Do not visit friends or family in care homes or sheltered accommodation
  • Stick to social distancing guidelines, keeping two metres away from people not in their household or support bubble – meaning no hand shaking or hugging
  • Stay shielded for a further two weeks if they are on the shielding register

Businesses must ensure they:

  • Are doing all they can to protect employees and customers by encouraging social distancing, promoting wearing of masks where required and enabling good hygiene
  • Supporting NHS Test and Trace in containing the virus by gathering customer and visitor information

These local guidelines will remain in place for a period of two weeks and will be reviewed no later than Tuesday 11 August.

We know that effective testing is at the heart of tackling the spread of the virus. We are urging anyone who shows symptoms that may be coronavirus to book a test online.

We have good availability for testing at our sites at Southgate Street and home testing kits are available. We are working to increase the amount of testing available to Oldham residents by establishing new mobile and pop-up testing sites.


The Council are now publishing a weekly update on Covid-19 data at the following link –  

This information will be updated by Wednesday lunchtime each week and allows residents the chance to be aware of the latest picture.

This is part of the Council’s wider communications to ensure all key stakeholders have the latest information and can play their part in doing the following:

  • Staying at home as much as possible
  • Maintaining social distancing
  • Avoiding large gatherings
  • Washing hands regularly
  • Wearing a face cover on public transport and in other buildings such as shops, banks and supermarkets
  • Self-isolating if we, or someone in our household, develops COVID symptoms or if we have had close contact with someone who has tested positive
  • Booking a Coronavirus test if we have any symptoms.

Thank you once again for your support.

Third time lucky: Liberal Democrat Leader calls again for special Council meeting to discuss Labour’s green belt homes plan

The Leader of the Opposition and Leader of the Liberal Democrat Group on Oldham Council, Councillor Howard Sykes MBE, has written to the Leader of Oldham Council to ask once more for a special meeting of the full Council to be convened to consider a one-item agenda – the Greater Manchester Spatial Framework and its impact on the Oldham Borough.

Councillor Sykes first asked the Leader for such a meeting in the Full Council meeting in September 2018, and again in December of that year.  Council minutes have since recorded that the matter is ‘in progress’.  After almost two years of waiting for a meeting, Councillor Sykes’ patience has worn thin and he is concerned that time for further meaningful debate on the issue is fast running out.

Commenting Councillor Sykes said:  “The Greater Manchester Spatial Framework will, aside from Coronavirus, have one of the greatest impact of any issue on Oldham and its people, and this impact will be felt for twenty – thirty years.  Under the current plans of Labour’s Greater Manchester Mayor and the Leaders of the ten Greater Manchester local authorities, thousands of new homes will be built across the Oldham Borough over two decades.”

“Many of the Borough’s residents were rightly up-in-arms about the proposals to build most of these new homes on our precious and irreplaceable Green Belt, and Oldham’s Liberal Democrat Councillors joined them on protest marches and by objecting strongly in writing in response to every consultation and by raising questions in Full Council.  I now feel it is time for Oldham’s Labour Administration to bring the latest proposals before the elected members who represent the people, and it must be at a one-item Council meeting as this is such an important issue there should be time for proper debate without the distraction of other business.”

The letter from Councillor Sykes to the Leader of Oldham Council, Councillor Sean Fielding, is shown below.

22 July 2020

Councillor Sean Fielding, Leader of Oldham Borough Council

Dear Sean Fielding,

Re:  Meeting to discuss Greater Manchester Spatial Framework

I am writing to you to follow up on my question to you at the full meeting of Oldham Council on 12th September 2018 requesting that a special meeting of the Council be convened with a one-off agenda item to discuss the Greater Manchester Spatial Framework.

In your response, you indicated that you were mindful to have an extraordinary meeting with this single item agenda and I would request that this be in addition to the agreed meeting cycle.

In ‘Update on Actions’ at last Council (page 133) there was a short note to say this was ‘in progress’ with Constitutional Services.

I hope that we are not being left behind, and I would appreciate it if you could give me an indication of when this meeting will be held?

Will it be in the current municipal year or in the 2021/22 Council meeting cycle?

Are there any provisional dates under consideration which you can share?

As always, happy to discuss before a formal response is sent.

Yours sincerely,

Howard Sykes

The question Councillor Sykes asked the Leader in Full Council on 12 September 2018 is shown below

Mr Mayor, my first question tonight relates to a future decision which will be one of the most momentous in its impact on many of our Borough’s residents over the next two plus decades.

Namely the Greater Manchester Spatial Framework (GMSF) – the adoption of a 20-year housing and industrial land use development plan for Greater Manchester.

The revised proposals have been some time coming, but I understand that they will now be available for so called public consultation in October.

I also understand that a decision has recently been made by the ten Labour Council leaders and the Mayor of Greater Manchester who have decided that the ultimate decision to adopt, or not to adopt the final plans, will rest solely with them. 

There will be NO requirement to bring the plan to a full meeting of each of the ten Councils for debate and a full vote on formal adoption by all councillors.

This is a complete reversal of democracy.

Members will recall that many of our residents were outraged when the initial plans to build thousands of new homes on Green Belt land in Shaw, Crompton, Saddleworth, Royton and Chadderton were first unveiled.

Liberal Democrat colleagues, I and members from the seats opposite, joined them in opposing the proposals when responding to the consultation or attending demonstrations in Tandle Hill Country Park and in Albert Square.

Mr Mayor, public sentiment is still the same across Greater Manchester – NO to building new homes on our Green Belt and YES to local Councillors as the people’s representatives ultimately making the decision where new homes are built.

Ward members are elected to lead, but also to represent the constituents and the communities we serve.  How can we do this if we are denied the final vote on the plan?

If we get this wrong, it will represent a disaster for our communities and for our Green Belt.  Yet the ten Labour Council Leaders and GM Mayor are saying ‘leave it to us, we know what is best for you’.

It is simply not right that such an important decision can be taken by so few people.

It is certainly not what I and many others envisaged but perhaps it is a sign of things to come with so called devolution to Greater Manchester.

Mr Mayor, I would like to ask the Leader tonight, whether despite this backroom deal, he will still be doing the honourable thing by bringing the final plan back to a meeting of the full Council for debate and adoption.