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Budget Letter to the Chancellor calling for £10k Income Tax Threshold

Howard Sykes, Leader of the Liberal Democrat Group in Oldham, has signed a letter calling on the Chancellor to introduce a threshold of £10,000 in earnings before deduction of income tax. The letter, endorsed by the leaders of Liberal Democrat Groups across the country, says,

“Dear Chancellor,
“We lead Liberal Democrat council groups across the country and are calling on you to listen to the Lib Dem call to raise the income tax threshold to £10,000 faster than originally planned.”
“Giving working people on lower incomes more support has to be a top priority. This will mean over two and a half million low wage earners across the country will not have to pay any income tax at all – and other lower earners will still get a substantial tax cut.”
“As councillors from across the country, we see and talk to these people every week. They are people like the working mum whose salary has not increased in recent years and is struggling with rising bills or the young person in his first job who is struggling to make ends meet, worried about unexpected bills and repairs.”
“We have heard many times about the need to make tough choices in these difficult times. One choice the government should make is to ensure the wealthy pay their fair share and speed up the plan for the burden to be lifted on the poorest.
This also means that if there is ever any reduction in the 50p top rate of income tax then new taxes that target the rich must be introduced so the wealthy pay their share.”

Howard said, “We shall see later today as to whether George Osbourne has listened to our argument, but make no mistake, we shall continue to make it because we believe it is the right thing to do for the people who trust us to represent them.”

Leisure Review – Worst Kept Secret Out in the Open

On 30th January 2012, the Labour administration finally went public on the new swimming pool/leisure facility to replace the current Crompton and Royton facilities. Despite the massive chorus of opposition from over 700 Shaw and Crompton residents, the sham consultation by Labour concluded that the facility was to be built in Royton at the expense of Shaw.

Howard and the Liberal Democrat Group responded by calling in the decision to examine it further. The “call-in” asked Overview and Scrutiny to examine consultation flaws; why Cabinet made its controversial decision of 30th January 2012 to build the replacement Pool in Royton and, very importantly, why the huge number of responses from Shaw and Crompton were completely and utterly ignored.

Scrutiny of the decision took place on 1st March 2012 in the Civic Centre and was nothing short of chaotic. There were no protocols in place for the conduct of the meeting (a set of rules were hastily acquired from Rochdale MBC), inconsistent advice given by Council Officers, people in attendance who were not required and members of the Scrutiny Panel were being denied opportunities to question witnesses in order to properly scrutinise the evidence supporting the decision.

But the story doesn’t end there – barely three weeks after the swimming pool decision, and despite the call to examine the decision further, the Labour administration announce an agreement with a developer for a replacement Royton Precinct, which includes provision of a Leisure/swimming pool complex!

A chain of events which bear all the classic hallmarks of Labour deceit, dressed up as consultation. It seems the cries of ‘done deal’ and ‘sham’ were indeed accurate. Howard, Leader of the Liberal Democrat Group on Oldham Council said, “Labour’s contempt firstly and most importantly for the people of Shaw and the democratic process is self- evident. I can honestly feel satisfied that this shambles would never happen under a Liberal Democrat administration.”

Third Time Lucky? – Removal of Queen Street Misleading Highways Signs

Howard and the sign which has been misleading the public in Shaw
Howard Sykes has championed the removal of misleading and ineffective roadsigns from Queen Street, Shaw weeks after completion of the roadworks.
Councillor Sykes in a letter dated 29th February 2012 to the Council’s chief officer for highways said,”I did hope that my pleas for efficient signage removal had finally got through to the respective officers, contractors and partners, however, the residents of Shaw have continued to be let down time and time again and I for one have lost patience with having to keep reminding you to remove information signs when works have been completed.”
This is the third episode in nine months where Shaw residents have faced the inconvenience of out of date signs being left on the highway, the two earlier occurances being in relation to “humps” and a separate occurance concerning the roundabout on Beal Lane, in which signs were left for three months.
The Council responded on 12th March to reaffirm their commitment to the safety of the public and the resolution of quality work to the highways which means the timely removal of signage. Howard said, “If any Shaw resident spots a stray roadsign in their neighbourhood and gets in touch with me, I shall be very happy to take the matter forward with the Council on their behalf.” Got a stray sign? Leave a comment or report a prob

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:

http://decisionrecording.oldham.gov.uk/Published/C00000132/M00000146/AI00005429/$OppositionBudgetACitizendrivenBudget.docA.ps.pdf

Crompton Pool:Sustaining the Pressure Over Closure Threat

Cllr Howard sykes campaigns with local residents to keep Crompton Pool open

Howard Sykes and Liberal Democrat colleagues are maintaining the pressure on the Labour administration over the issue of Crompton Pool. Following the public consultation Howard is maitaining that the widest possible range of options are considered for the Crompton Pool replacement which, in addition to possible sites at Royton Town Centre and Royton and Crompton School, will now include Shaw Town Centre and any other potential suitable sites that are readily accessible within Shaw or Royton.
Speaking at a recent Council meeting, Howard said, “It should be fully recognised that a new permanent leisure/pool facility in Shaw would not only be viable and cost effective but help retain the integrity and vibrancy of the town.” He also asked for clarification that neither Royton nor Crompton pools will close before a new facility comes on stream.
Additionally, Howard has asked that any decision taken regarding the leisure provision in the Borough between May 2011 and February 2012 be made transparent saying, “It is important for the people of Shaw, Crompton and Royton that any decisions taken on this important issue are done so in a completely transparent way that allows residents to understand and have their say about any proposed changes. I believe this is the right way to do business with local residents.” Got a comment? Contact Howard directly via his contact page.

Shaw and Crompton Holocaust Memorial Day Service 2012

Cllr Howard Sykes speaking at the memorial service on Friday 27th January 2012

SPEAK UP SPEAK OUT
Shaw and Crompton Holocaust Memorial Day Service 2012

John Dillon: Introduction:
I would like to welcome you all here this morning to Shaw and Crompton’s 8th Holocaust Memorial Day. It is intended that this will be a short memorial and ceremonial stones will be laid as a gesture at the end of the proceedings.
Once again we are gathered here to commemorate Holocaust Day to remind ourselves of the horrors mankind commits to his fellow man not just in the past but still happening today, such as the events in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The theme for this year is Speak Up Speak Out

Mike Dodd

Richard Dimbleby Describes Belsen

‘I have just returned from the Belsen Concentration Camp, where for two hours I drove slowly about the place in a jeep with the chief doctor of second army. I had waited a day before going to the camp so that I could be absolutely sure of the facts now available. I find it hard to describe adequately the horrible things that I have seen and heard, but here, unadorned are the facts. There are 40,000 men, women and children in the camp: German and half a dozen other nationalities, thousands of them Jews. Of this total of 40,000 – 4,250 are acutely ill or dying of virulent disease. Typhus, typhoid, diphtheria, dysentery, pneumonia and child-birth fever are rife. 25,600, three quarters of them women, are either ill from lack of food, or are actually dying of starvation. In the last few months alone, 30,000 prisoners have been killed off or allowed to die. Those are the simple, horrible facts of Belsen. But horrible as they are they can convey little or nothing in themselves. I wish with all my heart that everyone fighting in this war and above all those whose duty it is to direct the war from Britain and America could have come with me through the barbed wire fence that leads to the inner compound of the camp.
Royton and Crompton Pupils

Rev. Harry Edwards

Luke 4. 14 – 21
The Beginning of the Galilean Ministry
Then Jesus, filled with the power of the Spirit, returned to Galilee, and a report about him spread through all the surrounding country. He began to teach in their synagogues and was praised by everyone.
The Rejection of Jesus at Nazareth
When he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, he went to the synagogue on the Sabbath day, as was his custom. He stood up to read, and scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written:
‘The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me
to bring good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim release to
the captives
and recovery of sight to the blind
to let the oppressed go free.
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour.’
And he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant, and sat down. The eyes of all in the
synagogue were fixed on him. Then he began to say to them, ‘Today this scripture has been
fulfilled in your hearing.’

John Hall Chairman Shaw and Crompton Parish Council
First they came for the Jews: by Pastor Martin Niemoller:

First they came for the communists, and I did not speak out because I was not a communist.

Then they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out because I was not a socialist.

Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out because I was not a trade unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me, and there was no one left to speak out for me.

***********************************
John Dillon Never Shall I Forget – Elie Wiesel
Never shall I forget that night, the first night in camp, that turned my life into one long night seven times sealed.
Never shall I forget that smoke.
Never shall I forget the small faces of the children whose bodies I saw transformed into smoke under a silent sky.
Never shall I forget those flames that consumed my faith for ever.
Never shall I forget the nocturnal silence that deprived me for all eternity of the desire to live.
Never shall I forget those moments that murdered my God and my soul and turned my dreams to ashes.
Never shall I forget those things, even were I condemned to live
as long as God Himself..

Statement of commitment: (ALL)
1. We recognise that the Holocaust shook the foundations of modern civilisation. Its unprecedented character and horror will always hold universal meaning.
2. We believe the Holocaust must have a permanent place in our nation’s collective memory. We honour the survivors still with us, and reaffirm our shared goals of mutual understanding and justice.
3. We must make sure that future generations understand the causes of the Holocaust and reflect upon its consequences. We vow to remember the victims of Nazi persecution and of all genocide.
4. We value the sacrifices of those who have risked their lives to protect or rescue victims, as a touchstone of the human capacity for good in the face of evil.
5. We recognise that humanity is still scarred by the belief that race, religion, disability or sexuality makes some people’s lives worth less than others’. Genocide, anti-Semitism, racism, xenophobia and discrimination still continue. We have a shared responsibility to fight these evils.
6. We pledge to strengthen our efforts to promote education and research about the Holocaust and other genocide. We will do our utmost to make sure that the lessons of such events are fully learnt.

7. We will continue to encourage Holocaust remembrance by holding an annual Shaw and Crompton Holocaust Memorial Day. We condemn the evils of prejudice, discrimination and racism. We value a free, tolerant, and democratic society.

************************************

Howard Sykes
There Is a Last Solitary Coach – David Vogel
There is a last, solitary coach about to leave.
Let us get in and go,
For it won’t wait.
I have seen young girls going softly
With sad faces
That looked ashamed and sorry
Like purple sunsets,
And chubby, pink children
Who went simply
Because they were called.
And I’ve seen men
Who stepped proud and straight through the world’s streets,
Whose large eyes went ranging
Far and wide,
They too got in calmly
And left.
And we are the last.
Day is declining.
The last, solitary coach is about to leave.
Let us too get in quietly
And go,
For it won’t wait.

All: HOPE FOR THE FUTURE:
Everyone has a right to be free,
Where there is no freedom for others,
There is no freedom for me.
Everyone has a right to be different,
Where there is no respect for difference,
There can be no respect for me.
There is HOPE for a safer future if I protect liberty,
If I RESPECT others,
Others will RESPECT me.

All: Rev Harry Edwards to lead: The Lords Prayer:

Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name.
Thy Kingdom come, thy will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our trespasses,
as we forgive those who trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom, the power and the glory for ever and ever.
Amen

An alternative to lighting candles is the placing of stones in a focal place, such as before the altar. Stones, rather than flowers, are traditionally placed on Jewish graves as a sign of remembrance; in parts of the world where stones are more readily found than flowers this is practical. The practice also echoes the accounts in Genesis of marking the grave of the patriarchs. Symbolically, a stone prayerfully placed provides the antithesis to a stone thrown in anger.

Minute’s silence:

All: We place these stones in memory of all people, each known to you by name, who perished as a result of human action. We lay them down as a sign of our determination to counter anger and hatred wherever we may find them, and of our commitment to live for the establishment of the kingdom of heaven on earth.

Lay stones:

Shaw Parking Situation – Council told to get finger out!

Howard Sykes has taken Council officers to task over the parking situation in Shaw. He said, “The parking situation in Shaw needs addressing as a matter of urgency. The local businesses in Shaw are suffering because spaces on the car parks are being clogged up with all day parking. Businesses in Shaw need all the help they can get especially in the current climate. We need to encourage both residents and visitors wishing to use the facilities in Shaw to have easy access to car parking provision and this will enhance the customer experience which can only be a good thing for the local economy.
“I speak to the owners of local businesses in Shaw and they tell me that people no longer just nip in to Shaw because they cannot find anywhere to park easily because people are parking up and leaving their vehicles all day in the car parks.
“I want to be able to provide my constituents with some answers regarding all of the above as I believe that they have waited long enough and deserve to know what exactly is going to happen in Shaw.”
In a reply at the end of December the Council said that they appreciated the frustrations of all concerned and that Royton District Parking Scheme being implemented in April 2012 would serve as a template for the revised scheme in Shaw.
Howard has responded saying,”Shaw residents can be certain that I and my colleagues will ensure that the scheme in Shaw will reflect the voices and needs of residents and businesses in Shaw.” Is this issue of concern to you? Have your voice heard by contacting Howard.

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.