View more tweets

Cllr Sykes welcomes Creation of Institute to Recognise Turing

Cllr Sykes welcomes Creation of Institute to Recognise Turing

The Leader of the Opposition and the Liberal Democrat Group on Oldham Council, Councillor Howard Sykes, welcomed the recent announcement in the Budget 2014 that a new national Alan Turing Institute will be launched with a £42M fund to help make the UK a world leader in big data research.

Cllr Sykes recently wrote to the Minister of Justice, fellow Liberal Democrat Simon Hughes, supporting the Government’s recent decision to issue a posthumous pardon to the late Doctor Alan Turing, who was prosecuted for ‘gross indecency’ in 1952.

Cllr Sykes said: “This ‘offence’, now abolished, condemned homosexual men for being in consensual relationships and led Dr Turing being subjected to state-endorsed ‘chemical castration’, a disgusting punishment that represented a practice more akin to those of Nazi Germany, and that ultimately contributed to his suicide”.

“This was all the more shocking when you consider that Dr Turing was instrumental in helping Britain to withstand the onslaught of Nazi Germany by leading code-breaking efforts at Bletchley Park during the Second World War”.

“It is recognised that Dr Turing’s efforts in cracking the enemy’s Enigma code and other codes saved many thousands of British lives and those of our allies, and shortened the war by months, if not years. After the war, and before being persecuted for his sexuality, Dr Turing also contributed massively to the development of modern computing”.

“So it is only fitting that a new institute that will bring together expertise in tackling problems requiring huge computational power will be named after this renowned mathematician, code-breaker and computer pioneer”.

The Treasury has announced that the institute may be a brand-new facility or based within an existing university, and that its funding will come from the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, which is headed up the Liberal Democrat Secretary of State Dr Vince Cable.

There is already a Turing Institute at Glasgow University, and an Alan Turing Institute in the Netherlands, as well as an Alan Turing building at the Manchester Institute for Mathematical Sciences.

Compulsory Purchase Orders to take possession of long-term empty homes

The Minster of Housing,
The Rt. Hon Kris Hopkins MP,
The Department of Communities and Local Government,
Eland House, Bressenden Pl, London SW1E 5DU

Stephen Williams MP
The Under Secretary of State
The Rt. Hon. Stephen Williams MP
The Department of Communities and Local Government,
Eland House, Bressenden Pl, London SW1E 5DU

21 March 2014

Dear Sir

I am writing to you on behalf of the Liberal Democrat opposition group on Oldham Council to support the call by the Local Government Association that the Government make the necessary legislative changes to enable Councils to be able to more easily use Compulsory Purchase Orders to take possession of long-term empty homes.

According to government statistics there are over 700,000 empty properties in England alone. About a third of these have been empty for six months or more. Bringing them back into use would account for around two and a half years of new build homes at the current rate of housing completions.

Councils currently face overly complex and expensive CPO procedures, and can take up to 18 months to complete.

Consequently, the most recent figures from 2011 show that only 90 CPOs were used by Councils in a year to acquire properties that have lain empty for a decade or more.

The Local Government Association (LGA), which represents 373 councils in England and Wales, wishes to see changes to enable Councils to use CPO powers more effectively.

In particular that the Government remove the requirement for Councils to seek permission from the Secretary of State to use CPOs and to pay compensation on long-term empty properties (currently 7.5% of the property value, up to £75,000) and enable them to formally share costs and liabilities with a third party.

These proposals would enable Councils to be able to acquire neglected properties faster, refurbish them and once inhabitable let them on a time-limited lease to a needy family.

Local authorities could then recoup their investment through rental income over the set time period, and even acquire nomination rights, returning the properties back to their owners at the end of the lease.

I would be glad to hear the response of the Government, to the LGA’s proposals.

Yours faithfully

Howard Sykes

The Rt. Hon. Dan Rogerson MP
Parliament Under Secretary of State for
Forestry, Department for Environment,
Food & Rural Affairs
Nobel House, 17 Smith Square
London SW1P 3JR

18 March 2014

Dear Sir

March 21st is now celebrated by the United Nations as the International Day of Forests and Trees.

At this most opportune time, I am writing to you on behalf of the Oldham Liberal Democrats to ask for your support in ensuring that the Government takes the necessary action to protect Britain’s ancient woodlands.

Ancient woodlands now cover only two per cent of the land mass of the UK. They are much loved and much enjoyed by our citizens, yet contrary to popular belief, they are not fully protected.

More than 400 of our ancient woods are under threat right now from new railway lines, road widening schemes, and planning applications for campsites, car parks and even golf courses.

The Woodland Trust has recently identified a set of proposals to help save what remains and they have made a direct appeal for Government action to the Prime Minister.

The Trust’s proposals include designating ancient woods as Sites of Special Scientific Interest; reviewing relevant planning guidance; and addressing the failings of the National Planning Policy Framework.

Oldham Liberal Democrats are happy to endorse the Trust’s proposals and I hope that you will too.

I look forward to hearing back from you as to how this Government intends to ensure the survival of one of our nation’s most precious and historic resources, so that our future generations can continue to enjoy them as a natural wonder.

Yours faithfully

Howard Sykes

Copy of my letter to Oldham Council Chief Executive about Free Parking

Ms Carolyn Wilkins
Chief Executive
Oldham Council
Room 313, Level 3,
Civic Centre
Oldham OL1 1UL

Re: Free Weekend Parking – Oldham Civic Centre Car Park and other Town Centre Car Parks

The above free parking offer is a very welcome boast to the Town Centre.

However, it has come to my attention from a number of complaints from residents and those visiting the town centre from further afield that there appears to be inadequate signage indicating that although parking is free, the signs do not reflect clearly enough that a parking ticket still needs to be obtained and correctly displayed in their vehicles.

I have to say on personal inspection, if I was not familiar with the offer/policy it would be quite easy to think you just parked up and had no need to obtain a ticket.

This lack of clarity is resulting in the issuing of parking penalty fines and several people who have received such fines state that despite contesting the ticket they are still fined and it leaves them with a very negative view of Oldham and a number say they will not be coming into Oldham town centre again.

People read the large text on the entrance to the car park that states “Free Parking” etc.

The text advising to obtain a parking ticket is not prominent enough to be noticed, being within an orange banner with white text. Nor are there any other advisory signs within the car park to prompt people further.

I am sure you will agree we do not want any shoppers leaving Oldham Town Centre with such a negative perception and in fact the free parking offer for some is providing just the opposite effect it was designed to.

Therefore could I urge you to instruct officers to carry out a review of the current signage in order that it is improved so people taking up the free parking offer do not end up with a parking fine and never visiting us again?

I look forward to your response and as always if you have any queries or any points need clarification do not hesitate to contact me.

EU Legal Action over UK air pollution “no surprise” says Councillor Sykes

“News that the EU Commission intends to take legal action against the UK over poor air quality does not surprise me”, said Cllr Howard Sykes, Leader of the Opposition and the Liberal Democrat Group on Oldham Council.

At February’s Council Meeting, Cllr Sykes asked the Leader of the Council, Councillor Jim McMahon, to endorse a proposal that they send a joint letter to the Environment. Secretary Owen Paterson MP, calling on the Government to abandon any plans to remove the legal obligation of local authorities to monitor air quality.

The Committee on Medical Effects of Air Pollutants estimates that up to 29.000 deaths in the UK per year are attributable to poor air quality and that the World Health Organisation has recently classified outdoor air pollution as carcinogenic to humans.

The EU says that levels of nitrogen dioxide (NO2) are “excessive” in many British cities. This gas, which in the main is produced by diesel cars and trucks, can inflame the lining of the lungs and lead to major respiratory illnesses and premature deaths. It is of particular concern to people living in big cities near roadways and those suffering with asthma.

Cllr Sykes added: “Certainly in Shaw, Liberal Democrat ward members, being conscious of the ongoing impact of diesel fumes from the many HGVs that pass through our town en-route to and from local distribution centres, have campaigned long and hard for the installation of a station to monitor air quality. This campaign was recently rewarded when such a station was installed on Crompton Way.

Regrettably the UK has failed to comply with the European Union’s air pollution directive, which came into force in 2008. Britain was supposed to meet EU limits by 2010, but the government admits that Greater Manchester won’t achieve this standard until 2020.

The UK has been at risk of legal action from Europe ever since a Supreme Court ruling last year that the government was in breach of its obligations to reduce air pollution.
The legal process could ultimately end in the European Court of Justice where the UK would face huge fines if found in breach of the directive.

So the Government now needs to take drastic action to cut levels – especially as half of new cars that are sold are diesel-engined”.

One other option is to cut speed limits. At February’s Council, the Liberal Democrats proposed a motion to reduce the default speed limit on minor residential roads to 20 mph. This has been referred by Council for consideration by the Overview and Scrutiny Board.

The proposer of the motion, Deputy Leader of the Opposition Cllr John McCann added: “As well as reducing deaths and injuries, there is evidence from Germany that a reduction in speed limits can reduce NO2 by 10-15% on heavily polluted roads, so this is all the more reason for doing this”.

Notes:

Lib Dem Motion to Council 5th February 2014

This Council notes that:

• speed limits on Britain’s residential roads are 60% higher than in Europe

• more than half of all road accident casualties occur on roads with 30mph limits

• reducing speed limits on residential roads has been found to reduce both the incidence of accidents and the numbers of fatalities and serious injuries that result

• new Department for Transport guidelines make it easier for local authorities to adopt a 20 mph default speed limit on residential roads

This Council therefore resolves to:

• Join the 20 other local authorities with over 11 million residents – including five Greater Manchester authorities – in seeking to implement a borough – wide 20 mph speed limit on residential roads (other than major roads) combined with a public information campaign

• Ask the Overview and Scrutiny Board to produce a report on the feasibility and timescale of introducing such a scheme, in consultation with the 20’s Plenty Campaign, for consideration by full Council at the earliest possible opportunity

Question from the Leader of the Opposition to the Council Leader, Council 5th February 2014

Monitoring Air Quality:

As one of the foremost cotton towns, with a continued legacy amongst our citizens of poor respiratory and cardio-vascular health, we must all recognise the importance of clean air to the well-being of the residents and wildlife of this borough.

Certainly in Shaw and Crompton, ward members, being conscious of the ongoing impact of diesel fumes from the many HGVs that pass through our ward, en-route to and from local distribution centres, have campaigned long and hard for the installation of a station to monitor air quality. This campaign was recently rewarded when such a station was installed on Crompton Way.

Councillors may be unaware that the Committee on Medical Effects of Air Pollutants estimates that up to 29.000 deaths in the UK per year are attributable to poor air quality and that the World Health Organisation has recently classified outdoor air pollution as carcinogenic to humans.

I was therefore recently concerned to hear of a suggestion by the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs that the legal obligation be removed from local authorities to monitor air quality.

I am sure that the Leader will want to join me in seeking to maintain our Council’s commitment to carrying out these checks, and to continue to participate in the work of the Greater Manchester Air Quality Network, so can I invite him to join me (and the other group leader on Oldham Council) in sending a joint letter to the Minister expressing our concern over this issue?

SHAW & CROMPTON DISTRICT MEETING and COMMUNITY FORUM

SHAW & CROMPTON DISTRICT MEETING and COMMUNITY FORUM

Tuesday 18th March 2014 6.00pm
Crompton Library, Farrow Street East, Shaw, OL2 8QY
Community Forum meeting which will start at the
rise of the District Exec (approx 6.15pm)

ALL WELCOME

Come along and talk to the Councillors and Officers Who work in and for your local area
(Police, Highways, Environmental Services, Housing Providers, Youth Service and more)

Working together we can address:
• Local Issues
• What you like about your area
• What is good about your area
• Matters we can assist you with
http://www.oldham.gov.uk/info/200608/meetings

A Valentine Day request – Pardons for Historic Convictions against Gay Men

Councillor Howard Sykes
5 Ballard Way
Shaw
Oldham
OL2 8DU

Please address all correspondence to:
Room 343, Level 3
Civic Centre
West Street
Oldham
OL1 1UL
E: howard.sykes@oldham.gov.uk
W: http://howardsykes.mycouncillor.org.uk
Twitter: @Howard_Sykes

The Rt. Hon. Simon Hughes MP
Minister of State for Justice
Ministry of Justice
102 Petty France
London
SW1H 9AJ

Date:​​14 February 2014

A Valentine Day request – Pardons for Historic Convictions against Gay Men

The Liberal Democrat Group on Oldham Council welcomes the recent granting of a posthumous royal pardon to renowned mathematician, computer pioneer and World War 2 code-breaker Alan Turing from a conviction for ‘gross indecency’ in 1952.

This ‘offence’, now abolished, condemned many homosexual men for being in consensual relationships and in Turing’s case led to state-endorsed ‘chemical castration’, a disgusting punishment based on the misapprehension that sexual preferences can be medically ‘treated’ and a practice more akin to those of Nazi Germany.

This pardon was granted on Christmas Eve last year under the Royal Prerogative of Mercy after a request from the Secretary of State for Justice who said that “Dr Alan Turing was an exceptional man with a brilliant mind”.

75,000 other gay men were just as unfairly persecuted, including acclaimed playwright Oscar Wilde. Some of these men are still alive and have consequently carried the stain of having a ‘criminal’ record as a sex offender.

In 2012 this Government passed the Protection of Freedoms Act, which allows those convicted of homosexual offences to apply to have their entire criminal records removed if their past conduct in fact no longer constitutes a ‘crime’.

The Liberal Democrat Group believes that all such individuals convicted, whether living or dead, should now be pardoned without the requirement for a personal application.

We therefore call upon you to announce in February – which is appropriately LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bi-Sexual and Trans-sexual) month – a commitment by this Government to introduce the necessary legislation to effect this change as soon as possible.

After all, such a commitment is only appropriate when as Liberal Democrats we have championed gay marriage and equal rights for same sex partners.

Yours sincerely

Howard Sykes