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Crompton Way Zebra Crossing

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Your Lib Dem Team for Shaw is pleased to report that at long last, after years of calls for action from your local councilors, Oldham Council has now promised to improve the Crompton Way Zebra crossing.

This follows the tragic death of Annalise Holt, 12, after a collision with a van on December 17. The investigation by Greater Manchester Police into this incident remains ongoing.

The lighting has already been upgraded with ‘halo’ LED lighting.

“We will continue working with Oldham Council, local residents and crossing campaigners like Danny Sheppard,” said Councillor Howard Sykes.

You can view the four different redesign proposals for the crossing on display boards at Crompton Library on Farrow Street East, and Asda on Greenfield Lane.

They can also be viewed online at www.oldham.gov.uk/shawcrossing

Comments and concerns can be provided on feedback forms at the sites where the boards are displayed.

Residents can also submit their views via email to: shaw.crossing@oldham.gov.uk

“I would urge everybody to have a look at these proposals and make sure you have your say,” stated Councillor Howard Sykes. “All comments need submitting by the end of April.”

It is expected that the final design will be presented to the Shaw and Crompton District Executive on June 24 for final approval.

My three allowed questions as Leader of the Opposition to the Leader of the Council – Council 2 April 2014

1) More Jobs Please

Get Oldham Working is now one year on – a cornerstone policy of this Council with the ambitious target to create 2,015 work-related opportunities by 2015.

I am pleased to say that Get Oldham Working is also seemingly an ambition of the Government too as over the past year a revitalised economy has led to unemployment dropping in Oldham by 3,375 people, or over 40% amongst Oldham residents aged over 25 and by a staggering 60% amongst those even younger.

The Oldham Liberal Democrats support both this Council’s initiative and that of the Government’s; we on this side of the chamber also want to see a prosperous and economically active borough with as many residents in work as is possible.
But I digress.
My question, which I ask with a sense of disappointment, relates to this Council’s Get Oldham Working initiative, not this Government’s.

Whilst some elements of Get Oldham Working are on track, one is most definitely not.

Within the targets for the initiative is one to create 1,100 new jobs over a three year period for the people of this borough, yet as of 28th February of this year only 90 residents had found work through Get Oldham Working against a project target at that point of 222 – around 40% of the target.

Does the Leader agree that this is a disappointing performance given the prominence and resources allocated to the initiative?

And, can he outline how he and his Cabinet colleagues intend to get this element – the most important one of this initiative – I would suggest – back on track, as we all want more jobs please?

2) Stopping Betting Shop Proliferation

Will the Leader join me in supporting a proposal to check the ever increasing number of betting shops?

The proliferation and concentration of betting shops is contributing to both the decline of our high streets and to social decline, being linked to gambling addiction and crime.

England’s poorest spend £13 billion a year on the gambling machines in these shops according to a study published by the Campaign for Fairer Gambling.

63 cross-party led local authorities have submitted a proposal under the provisions of the new Sustainable Communities Act for the Government to create a separate planning use class for betting shops so that councils have new powers to address the problem.

Creating a separate planning use class is also now, I am pleased to say, Liberal Democrat Party policy.

Will the Leader therefore join me in writing to the Secretary of State, Eric Pickles, requesting that he agrees to create a separate planning use class for betting shops?

3) Tackling Street Lighting Shortcomings

My final question relates to the continued unsatisfactory performance by EON of the PFI street lighting contract.

Colleagues from both sides of this Chamber have repeatedly lambasted the company for its failure to adhere to agreed contractual standards and operational procedures and the inadequacy of its consultation with residents and elected Members.

All too often I and my Shaw colleagues are placed in the position where we are obliged to assume some responsibility for delivering elements of the contract – particularly around resident consultation, satisfaction and complaints – that properly fall within the remit of EON.

This company has consistently failed to respond to correspondence within agreed timescales or attend on-site meetings at the agreed hour and has ridden roughshod over the property rights of homeowners – one resident recently complained to me about EON employees entering her property without permission in order to carry out work and as a consequence causing damage to her garden and property.

I am sure that we all want to see new street lighting columns and I recognise that this investment will over time bring better and more efficient illumination of our communities, footpaths and roadways, but the shortcomings of the primary contractor now need to be robustly addressed by this Council.

Will the Leader therefore agree to meet with me, the Leader of the Conservative Group and Senior Officers as a matter of urgency to agree a strategy to ensure that EON complies with its legal obligations and meets the requirements of this contract?

And if Eon continues fail to deliver can we give some very active consideration to termination – after all our citizens deserve better!

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.