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Three Questions I asked the Leader of Oldham Council on Wednesday 12th December

Politics and Adopters / Foster Carers

I hope the Leader will agree with me that the most important single thing a child who is adopted or fostered needs is to be placed with caring and loving parents?

What assurance can the Leader provide that a situation would not arise in our Borough like that which occurred recently in Rotherham where foster parents who were members of the UK Independence Party, a legal political party, had the children in their care removed from them by overzealous council officials, who judged them to be unfit parents because of their political views?

Police Parade

Will the Leader join me in condemning the proposed change in local Police procedure that will require Police Community Support Officers (PCSO’s) to parade before duty at Oldham Police Station prior to deployment to their assigned beat?

This change will mean that officers will have less time on the beat to actually detect crime, apprehend criminals and help the public as they will have to travel between central Oldham and our outlying districts and communities, rather than simply reporting for duty on their beat at the start of a shift.

Does the Leader agree that this unnecessary reduction in service to the public will be particularly acute where officers are travelling (via bike or foot) to more distant locations of the borough, such as East Crompton, Lees and the villages of Saddleworth?

Free Parking and Metrolink

Can the Leader explain to the people of Oldham Borough how it benefits the town’s retail economy to offer three hours free parking on Saturdays on car parks located near to Mumps so shoppers can leap on a tram and use Metrolink to do their shopping in Manchester?

And isn’t this situation all the more farcical when a two-for-one Metrolink ticket offer enables twice the number of shoppers to take twice the money away from Oldham’s shopkeepers?

When will we see a two-for-one Metrolink ticket offer to bring Manchester shoppers to our borough to experience our warm Oldham welcome and everything else we have to offer visitors?

Trams to start running to Shaw and Crompton on Sunday 16th December – and not before time states Sykes

Local Lib Dem Shaw Councillor Howard Sykes has welcomed the news that at long last trams will run to Shaw from Sunday December 16th.

“We have waited a number of years for this day and this has to be a welcome Christmas present for local residents and potential users,” stated Cllr Sykes. “Along with my colleagues we have been pushing for the line to open before the New Year for some time now.”

“The scheme is best part of a year behind schedule and I had hoped some of the potential parking issues (park and ride sites) could be resolved in this time, however I and my colleagues will continue to work on these.”

“Former users of the rail line have been very patient and have had to put alternative travel arrangements in place for more than three years, he added. “Hopefully it will not be too long until we also get connected via the tram to Rochdale.”

“Hopefully some the decisions we made and lobbied for years ago about the Shaw stop will now come to fruition – like making sure the tram stop was on the opposite side of Beal Lane from where the old station platform was – as this should help with traffic issues on Beal Lane. People will recall when the rail line was in use this was a nightmare at peak times and log jammed the whole of Shaw up at times.”

“Some of us did wonder if this day would ever arrive! It is enough to restore your faith in Santa!” He claimed. “And we can all go and put our reindeer and sled away now!”

SHAW BLAST UPDATE – DECEMBER 2012

Over recent weeks, we have been putting insurance companies under pressure to agree the repair works to individual properties and this has resulted in works starting to quite a few houses and some owners moving back in. However, some owners have still to provide the necessary estimates, which is holding up progress. In the meantime, we have maintained tight security on site to reduce the likelihood of homes being broken into.

Oldham Distress Fund

All money donated to the Oldham Distress Fund will be used to directly benefit residents affected.

A full list of donations made to date can be found at www.oldham.gov.uk

To date £300,000 has been donated. Around £230,000 of this has already been committed to affected residents. Applications to the distress fund, continue to be approved by Trustees and paid quickly to ensure repairs can be made.

So far the fund has successfully helped 91 households to cope with the impact of the explosion and we have received a lot of positive feedback on how the situation was handled.

Demolition/site update

Numbers 1, 3, 5, 7, 9, 11 and13 Buckley St. have been demolished. They were either dangerous and unsafe or beyond reasonable repair. Some of the owners of these homes have now settled with their insurers and moved to other areas. We wish them well in their new homes.

Insurers are still considering the future of some the remaining properties. If they decide that more demolitions will take place, the insurance company will inform the home owner.

Any further demolitions will be organised by the insurance company who will appoint their own contractors.

What will happen to the cleared site?

The site freeholder is waiting to see what happens with the remaining homes. Once that situation is clear, we will engage with him to share his views with residents on his plans for the site.

Round the clock security remains on site. We are reviewing the need this security as some residents are moving back and we need to make the site more accessible.

COUNCIL MOTION CONDEMNS LABOUR FOR OPPOSING PROPOSAL IN LORDS TO HELP OLDHAM’S POOREST

At today’s full Council meeting (12th December), Leader of the Opposition and Lib Dem Group, Councillor Howard Sykes, will propose a motion expressing Oldham Council’s disappointment that the Labour Party in the House of Lords opposed a cross party proposal that would have helped protect Oldham’s poorest citizens from cuts to Council Tax Benefit.

Every council is now required to agree its own local Council Tax Benefit scheme by 31st January 2013. However local authorities are allowed a lot of local flexibility within the law.

The cross party proposal was to change the law to allow local councils (if they wished) to reduce the Single Person’s Discount from 25 to 20%, for non-pensioners.

In Oldham, this measure would have generated £970,000 of extra income per year.

“Local authorities should have regard to the most vulnerable in their area when drawing up their scheme,” stated Councillor Howard Sykes. “It is right for local councils to take account of the local circumstances in their communities and to draw up a scheme that they believe is appropriate for them”.

“Oldham’s Liberal Democrats would have liked the opportunity to have proposed this measure for approval as part of our alternative local Council Tax Benefit scheme,” stated Cllr Lynne Thompson. “In hard times, this would have freed up almost £1 million to reduce the Council Tax bills of the poorest households in the Borough.”

“By opposing this measure in the Lords, and so bringing about its defeat, Labour has inflicted greater financial hardship on those local citizens who are least able to bear it,” said Councillor Sykes.

“Hopefully Labour locally in Oldham will join us in condemning this move and put the interests of citizens of this Borough first and politics second (something they are quick to accuse the Lib Dems of not doing) and back our motion. We shall see what they do over this key local issue and if their rhetoric on such issues is just that!”

Copy of Motion

“This Council expresses its objection to the cuts made in the Council Tax Support Scheme and reiterates its intention to attempt to protect those low-income households in Oldham who would be most affected.

Council welcomes all-party initiatives by the Local Government Association (LGA) which have succeeded in improving certain elements of the scheme, including securing a transitional grant, which in Oldham’s case amounts to £461,000.

This Council also notes that one of the measures proposed by the LGA to allow Councils to be more flexible was a proposal to reduce the single person discount for non-pensioner households from 25% to 20%.

In Oldham Borough, it is estimated that this could have made an additional £970,000 a year available to help less well-off households.

This proposal was supported by the LGA Conservative, Labour, Liberal Democrat and Independent Groups. An amendment to introduce it was moved in the House of Lords on 23rd October.

This Council notes with disappointment that the Labour party in Parliament issued a three-line whip instructing its members in the Lords to oppose it, ensuring that it was defeated. Council believes this was an action of political opportunism driven by the belief that without lower income families feeling the pain, Labour would not get any electoral gain.

Council notes that the only Labour Member of the House of Lords with the courage to stand by his principles, defy the whip and support the amendment was the Leader of Wigan Council and Chair of both the Association of Greater Manchester Authorities and Greater Manchester Combined Authority, Lord Smith of Leigh.

Council resolves to instruct the Chief Executive to:

• Write to Lord Smith to congratulate him on his principled stand in supporting the less well-off in Greater Manchester;

• Write to the Local Government Association expressing the Council’s support for the proposal and to urge all parties on the LGA to continue to press Government and the Opposition on this matter.

Proposed: Cllr Howard Sykes
Seconded: Cllr Lynne Thompson

Shaw Site Update – copy of info distrbuted to local residents last week

November 2012

Dear Resident,

We thought it would be useful to bring you the latest update on the Buckley Street site.

Over recent weeks, we have been putting insurance companies under pressure to agree the repair works to individual properties and this has resulted in works starting to quite a few houses and some owners moving back in.

However, some owners have still to provide the necessary estimates which is holding up progress. In the meantime, we have maintained tight security on site to reduce the likelihood of homes being broken into.

Oldham Distress Fund
All money donated to the Oldham Distress Fund will be used to directly benefit residents affected.

A full list of donations made to date can be found at www.oldham.gov.uk To date just over £300,000 has been donated. £220,000 of this has already been committed to affected residents.

Applications to the distress fund, continue to be approved by Trustees and paid quickly to ensure repairs can be made. So far the fund has successfully helped 91 households to cope with the impact of the explosion and we have received a lot of positive feedback on how the situation was handled.

Demolition/site update
As you know numbers 1-13 Buckley St. have been demolished. They were either dangerous and unsafe, or beyond reasonable repair. Some of the owners of these homes have now settled with their insurers and moved to other areas.

We wish them well in their new homes. Insurers are still considering the future of some the remaining properties. If they decide that more demolitions will take place, the insurance company will inform the home owner. Any further demolitions will be organised by the insurance company who will appoint their own contractors.

What will happen to the cleared site?
The person who owns the freehold to the site is waiting to see what happens with the remaining homes, i.e. 15-21 Buckley Street. Once that situation is clear, we will encourage him to share his views with residents on his plans for the site.

Round the clock security remains on site, however we are reviewing the need for security as some residents are on the verge of moving back and we need to make the site more accessible.

Advice and Support
Residents affected by the explosion in Shaw can access help in the following ways:
• To apply to the Oldham Distress Fund call 0161 770 7770 or download the application form from www.oldham.gov.uk
• For Housing advice call 0161 770 5113 or email onepoint@fcho.co.uk
• For access to the site call 0161 770 2222 or email first.response2@oldham.gov.uk
• For any other enquiries call 0161 770 1680. Or email carol.watterson@oldham.gov.uk

SHAW & CROMPTON PARISH COUNCIL – ANNUAL REPORT

SHAW & CROMPTON PARISH COUNCIL
Council Offices, 23 High Street, Shaw, Oldham OL2 8RF
Tel: 01706 847590 e-mail: clerk.shawcrompc@btconnect.com

ANNUAL REPORT
The Parish Council met ten times during the civic year 2011-12 (monthly except August and April). In addition to its routine business, the Council:
• Opposed the closure of Beal Hey Recycling Centre
• Opposed the closure of Crompton Pool
• Requested that a bus stop be moved in Market Street, Shaw
• Received presentations on: Old Osram site, Refuge Street, Shaw; Laurel Bank Day Centre; a housing insulation scheme;

Much of the work of the Council is carried out by its Committees and Sub-Committees. The Planning and Finance & General Purposes Committees normally meet every month and the six sub-committees each meet between four and ten times during the year. All meetings are open to the public.

Planning
Oldham Metropolitan Borough Council (OMBC) has a duty to consult the Parish Council on planning applications within Shaw and Crompton. Residents are able to make representation to the Parish Council; public participation is encouraged as views from people living and working in the area are important to the decision making process. The Parish Council Planning Committee makes a recommendation to OMBC who make the final decision.

The Parish Council Planning Committee considered 106 applications during the year of which 19 were recommended for refusal.

Community Events
The Communications & Promotions Sub-Committee is responsible for organising activities and events, many of which have become regular features of the town’s life. These include the Family Weekend and Vehicle Rally, held in summer each year, and which was its usual success in 2011. This year the Family Weekend will be held on Saturday & Sunday 23 & 24 June 2012, and planning is already well advanced.

Other events arranged by the Sub-Committee were: Parish Council Chairman’s Civic Service; Civic Reception; Crompton Circuit walk; Lancashire Day proclamation; Christmas Charity Market; Schools’ Christmas Music Festival; Spring Charity Market. Hanging baskets were placed along High Street, Market Street, and parts of Milnrow Road and Crompton Way; a decorated Christmas Tree was placed at Wren’s Nest, where the lights were switched on at the end of November.

An archaeological survey of Crompton Moor was completed during Summer 2011. A 20 page newsletter – “The Parish Matters” – was distributed to every house in the Parish.

Environment
A major aspect of the Council’s work is in the field of environmental improvement. The Council thanks all those who give their time, expertise and effort to assist the Parish through working with the Environment Sub-Committee. One of the many areas that has been concentrated on is invasive species that are threatening the ecology of the local environment, buildings and infrastructure.

There has been considerable effort put into the maintenance of public footpaths and bridleways and the refurbishment/replacement of stiles, or their substitution by Kissing Gates, while attempting to establish new, or to re-establish old, public footpaths. The maintenance and clearance of public areas for the benefit of the community has been another main focus.

Grants
During the year the Council was able to make 10 grants, with a total value of £2,144. The grant scheme will continue during 2012/2013.

Premises
There has been a steady increase of third parties using the building, eg Friends of Dunwood Park. New premises for use as Council Offices were identified and a recommendation for purchase of the leasehold was approved by the Council.

Approval to borrow sufficient funds for the purchase was obtained from DCLG. Negotiations have taken place regarding the terms of the lease. It was agreed to update the software used on the Council Office’s PC.

Staffing & Pay
The Sub-Committee met on two occasions (October 2011 and January 2012). The main work of the sub-committee is to oversee the Clerk’s appraisal and other associated matters such as pay award, annual increments, pension provision, and the Sickness Contingency Fund.

Law and Order
The Council continues to have great concern for law and order issues, in particular the policing of the area and the town centre, and takes all opportunities to bring these matters to the attention of the responsible bodies.

The Council is represented on the Royton, Shaw and Crompton Area Action Team.

Citizens Advice Bureau
The Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB) is an established part of the township. Previously based at the Council Offices, the Shaw Outreach deals with a wide range of queries from many Shaw and Crompton residents.

The Parish Council is happy to continue to fund this valuable service, which means that residents can receive advice locally. The service has been re-located to Crompton Library and is available every Thursday (9.30am-12.30pm & 1.30-4.00pm); no appointment is necessary.

Conclusion
During the year, residents have made enquiries at the Council Offices about a variety of issues. Depending on their nature, these have been taken up with Oldham MBC, or referred to Parish or Metropolitan Borough councillors. Matters taken up on behalf of residents have included things such as planning issues, housing issues or roads.

The Council seeks to continue the development of a pattern of civic life to benefit the whole community, by fostering different types of activities. It does not have the resources to organise and run all the varied events and projects which make Shaw and Crompton into a thriving community. Its policy is to assist other organisations within the Parish as much as it can.

For instance, many local charities are able to raise money through having stalls at Charity Markets; a wide range of organisations benefit from the grants that the Council is able to make to them; a number of groups use the Council Offices for meetings in the evenings. Other groups requiring help are encouraged to ask and, where possible, the Council will try to assist.

Dr Ray Hughes
Clerk to the Council

Consider the best of Committees urges Sykes

The following motion was tabled and debated at the Oldham Council meeting on 7th November.

The Localism Act 2011 makes provision for Local Authorities, subject to certain conditions, to replace the Leader and Cabinet or Elected Mayor models and allow a return to the traditional Committee based Governance System.

Despite the Act being on the Statute Books for many months, to date, this Council has not been afforded an opportunity to consider options for a return to what was a well understood and respected decision making system.

This Council believes that in the interests of democracy, openness and transparency, members of this Council should ultimately be offered the prospect of debating and determining (in a free vote) whether it would wish to see a return to a traditional form of Committee based Governance.

This Council further believes that this matter would benefit from detailed consideration and examination by Overview and Scrutiny who, by reporting back to the Council meeting on 6th February 2013 would allow, should Council should so determine, the opportunity for implementation in the new Municipal year.

This Council therefore resolves that consideration of options for return to a Committee based Governance system for Oldham Council be referred to Overview and Scrutiny and that they be required to report back with recommendations to the 6th February 2013 Council meeting.

All Labour Councillors voted against this proposal and it was therefore defeated.