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Time to clamp down on parking offenders says councillor Sykes

Oldham’s Liberal Democrat Leader and Shaw representative, councillor Howard Sykes MBE has called on Oldham Council to clamp down on persistent parking offenders. 

Councillor Sykes said, “Pavement parking and inconsiderate, or illegal parking is a real nuisance in our communities, especially in our town centres.  I am calling on Oldham Council to get tough on repeat offenders – just as other councils have done.  The only way we are going to change things is by showing people that there are consequences for being a nuisance to other people on our roads and pavements.”

The Department for Transport defines a persistent offender as someone with three or more Penalty Charge Notices (PCNs).  Councillor Sykes is calling for Oldham Council to seize vehicles of persistent offenders until a release fee has been paid. 

Councillor Sykes has written to Oldham Council’s Executive Director for Place and Economic Growth Emma Barton, calling on Oldham to formally adopt these additional powers.

Councillor Sykes said, “This is about getting the basics right.  The biggest problem for Oldham Council is they are toothless when it comes to actually pursuing offenders.  For people to stop persistently breaking the rules, there must be serious consequences.  If we took the step of seizing the vehicles of those who regularly offend – just as other councils like Plymouth have done – we could drastically reduce nuisance parking.  Using these powers will be warmly welcomed by law abiding citizens who park responsibility.”  

Oldham Council urged to act against fly-tipping

Oldham’s Liberal Democrat Leader and Shaw representative, councillor Howard Sykes MBE has urged Oldham Council to think outside the box when it comes to tackling Fly-tipping.  In a letter to council bosses, Sykes has called for the council to apply for grant funding from the government; and highlighted three strategies that have shown good results elsewhere in the country.

Councillor Sykes said, “Fly-tipping is a crime which harms our natural world, blights communities and costs council taxpayers thousands to clean up and councils time and staff resources.  If there is extra funding available from the government Oldham must be sure to apply for that funding.  The councils that deal with Fly-tipping best are the ones who have multiple schemes in place to prevent and prosecute offenders.”

The Liberal Democrat Leader’s letter highlights increased use of CCTV, compulsory education courses for repeat offenders and even artificial intelligence as measures that Oldham could adopt.

Councillor Sykes said, “Councils across the country dealt with 1.13 million fly-tipping incidents in 2020/21, up by 16% from 2019/20.  The Liberal Democrat group put forward proposals aimed at tackling fly-tipping in our budget amendment earlier this year, but the Labour chose to vote them down.”

“Fly-tipping is an act of environmental crime and it blights our environment.  Tackling things like this in a robust way should be entry level stuff for any administration.  We need to see Oldham council getting the basics right not taking a soft approach as they have been doing.”

Failure to investigate crimes highlight again GMP’s inadequacies

Greater Manchester Police closed 141,010 cases last year without even identifying a suspect, new analysis by the Liberal Democrats has revealed.

The party’s analysis of new Home Office figures found that of the 360,099 offences committed between April 2021 and March 2022 39.16% were not investigated.

Liberal Democrat Councillor Sam Al-Hamdani said: “These awful figures show criminals are getting away with victimising people on an industrial scale. The Conservative party love to talk tough on crime, but they can’t even get the basics right.

“And on Andy Burnham’s watch, GMP has remained stubbornly in special measures, has been cited repeatedly for failing victims of domestic abuse, and failed to engage in the recent review into child sex exploitation in Oldham.

“That is just part of the reason why we have written to the Home Secretary asking for a public inquiry into Greater Manchester Police, or any of the other types of investigations available to them.

“The sad facts are that there have too many people in Oldham been failed, but that this is not confined to Oldham, as the previous investigations into Operation Augusta and into the horrible abuse committed in Rochdale have also shown.”

The Liberal Democrats have called for increased funding for dedicated community officers, with sufficient resources to ensure more crimes can be properly investigated, as well as asking the Government to conduct a public inquiry.

Councillor Al-Hamdani continued: “Time and again, I feel sorry for the officers, many of whom I talk to on a regular basis, who are really committed to their jobs, to the communities in which they live, and to catching criminals.

“It is sad that they are being let down by an underfunded system, and where no-one is being held to account for organisational failings that are hampering their ability to investigate so many crimes.

“We need an honest discussion of what has gone wrong, and how we get to a place where it can’t happen again.”

NHS Dentist staffing crisis as almost 1,000 walk away across England last year

Oldham’s Liberal Democrat Leader councillor Howard Sykes MBE has warned of an increasing crisis brewing in NHS Dentistry.

“I have constituents who already cannot get registered with an NHS dentist,” stated councillor Sykes.  “As more dentists leave the NHS this is just going to make matter worse.”

Data acquired by the Liberal Democrats has revealed a growing dentist staffing crisis as almost 1,000 dental practitioners have walked away from the NHS in the past twelve months, citing years of chronic underfunding made worse by the pressures of the pandemic.

Official figures show there were 23,733 dental practitioners in 2021 – 951 fewer than the previous year, leaving more patients struggling to get the dental care they need. 

The information was published in response to a Parliamentary Question by the Liberal Democrat Leader Ed Davey. The party is calling for urgent action to ensure people can get the treatment they need. 

In local Integrated Care System area, which covers Oldham, the number of dentists has dropped by 32 in the past year.

Councillor Sykes said, “The lack of NHS dentists nationally and locally is a real crisis for people.  Any loss of NHS Dentistry would be a disaster for people in our communities.  Residents are concerned about their elderly parents and their children.  It’s not just the fear that you won’t be able to get emergency care.  Without readily available appointments, people are storing up problems without having them looked at.”  

“Oldham’s dental heath is not good to start with this will just make matters worse.  Poor teeth can be very painful and is totally avoidable with correct care and regular dental check-ups,” he added.

“Funding for NHS dentistry has been neglected by the Government for years, and we are now seeing the damaging results for both the public and dental professionals.  So often it is the people who need these services the most, such as the elderly, those who live in remote areas and school children, who are the first to lose them because of government cuts.  The Conservatives talk about protecting the NHS but leaving so many people without access to a dentist shows just how little they really value the nation’s health.” 

The data is from Ed Davey’s Parliamentary Question, and the Minister’s response, which can be viewed here.

Written questions and answers – Written questions, answers and statements – UK Parliament

Liberal Democrats welcome U-turn allowing dogs onto trams for a trial period

Pet dogs will be allowed on Greater Manchester trams during a three-month trial, with a two dog per passenger rule.

Oldham’s Liberal Democrat Leader councillor Howard Sykes MBE said, “It’s common sense to allow dogs on trams so I’m glad that Transport for Greater Manchester have finally listened.  You can take a dog on a bus or a train with no problem.  This trial should be made permanent.  We want to see more people encouraged to use public transport so moves like this are very welcome.”

Councillor Sykes’s Liberal Democrat group have previously called for pets to be allowed to travel but the move was blocked by Labour and Conservative councillors (see link below) in November 2015.

Councillor Sykes said, “Hopefully this initial trial period results in something more permanent and responsible dog owners can continue to enjoy the benefits of the tram network.”

Oldham Liberal Democrats call for dogs on trams trial

Transport for Greater Manchester (TfGM) Labour and Conservative councillors join up to block Lib Dem proposal to allow a trial for dogs on trams | Howard Sykes (mycouncillor.org.uk)

Liberal Democrats write to Home Secretary demanding public inquiry into CSE failings

Oldham’s Liberal Democrat Leader councillor Howard Sykes MBE has written to the Home Secretary – Priti Patel – calling on her to open an independent public inquiry into child sex exploitation in Oldham and Greater Manchester.

In his letter to the Home Secretary, councillor Sykes said, “I hope you will use your position to show people in Oldham that failure to protect children can never be accepted in our public institutions.  It is only through meticulously investigating these failings that we can have true accountability and begin to earn back the trust of the people of Oldham.”

The issue of child sex has dominated Oldham council meetings since the report was published, leading to heated council meetings.  But so far Labour have blocked calls in council meetings to call for an inquiry.

Councillor Sykes said, “We have had two council meetings since the Newsome and Ridgeway report was released and so far, we’ve had a lot of bluster and precious few answers.  Last week the Labour administration refused to back calls for an independent inquiry, so the Liberal Democrats are calling on the government to intervene.  Priti Patel must open a full and independent public inquiry into the failings of Oldham Council and Greater Manchester Police.” 

“The Newsome and Ridgeway report revealed serious failings on the part of Oldham Council and Greater Manchester Police.  Failings that have had devastating consequences for the victims of these horrendous crimes.  We need answers for those victims and to make sure nothing like this can ever happen again.”

Oldham Way night-time closures  – August 8, 9, 10 and 11 from 9pm until 6am

Oldham Way will be closed in both directions for four nights next month. The closures will be in place on August 8, 9, 10 and 11 from 9pm until 6am. To minimise disruption, the closure will be during the school holidays and also during off-peak hours.

Oldham Way will be closed in both directions between the Kings Road Bridge up to the junction of Prince Street/Oldham Way. Signposted diversions will be in place. Essential highways improvements are being carried out as part of the Southlink regeneration development.

Council and GMP – No Action Against CSE Failure Staff

Oldham Liberal Democrats have discovered that, despite Oldham Council’s and Greater Manchester Police’s assurances that processes to deal with Child Sexual Exploitation have changed extensively, they have also confirmed that no disciplinary actions have so far been taken with any staff still employed who took part in the failures described in the report. 

The recent Assurance Review into historic CSE in Oldham found that both GMP and Oldham Council had failed numerous children who were suffering horrific abuse. Twelve year old Sophie was sexually abused multiple times over multiple occasions and many of the incidents were known to GMP and Council staff who did not respond appropriately. 

Both GMP and Oldham Council have confirmed that, whilst many of the staff involved have either left or retired, no remaining staff have either been investigated or disciplined. GMP have confirmed that they are recruiting a new head of their Professional Services Branch who will investigate any potential misconduct, but that no investigations have taken place to date.

Mark Kenyon, Liberal Democrat councillor for Grotton, Springhead & Lees, said: “We’ve questioned Council & GMP further on their response to the Assurance report. We want to know that processes have changed. But we also want to know that, if there are any staff left who were involved in these failures, they are investigated and disciplinary action taken where appropriate.”

Mark Kenyon concluded: “I’m so disappointed – both Council and Andy Burnham should have been all over this. Responses to CSE are delivered by both processes and people. Whilst it looks like a lot of work is going on into changing processes, it’s wrong to ignore any people who were involved. I’m calling on both to GMP and the Council to investigate fully any remaining staff – I’m not sure how we’re all meant to have  confidence without this simple step.”

GMP ignore Council warning that DBS Checks no good

Oldham Liberal Democrats have discovered that despite Oldham Council warning Greater Manchester Police (GMP) in December 2018 that the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS check) wasn’t good enough for taxi licensing, the Council still haven’t had a promised response.

The recent Assurance Review into historic CSE in Oldham found that GMP initially ignored the Council’s concerns about the working of DBS checks for taxi licensing submitted in December 2018 but the new Chief Constable of GMP, Stephen Watson, had responded to the Council’s concerns set out in a letter in December 2018. The report did not detail when Stephen Watson replied or what his reply contained.

Mark Kenyon, Liberal Democrat councillor for Grotton, Springhead & Lees, said: “We’ve quizzed Council further and they’ve confirmed that whilst Stephen Watson was appointed as the new Chief Constable in May 2021, the Council only received a reply in October 2021. This promised a ‘review’ into the Council’s concerns about DBS checks and their suitability for taxi licensing and public safety.

“It’s now July 2022, and Council have revealed that GMP have still not been back in touch, let alone helped with the requirement for extra vetting.”

Fellow Liberal Democrat Councillor, Sam Al-Hamdani said: “It took the new Chief Constable five months to reply to a serious public safety concern from the Council. It’s now ten months since his promise to do a review and he’s still not contacted the Council. We’ve asked that the Mayor, the Chief Constable and the Council get their act together and sort this out. Talk is cheap. Actions have meaning. Andy Burnham and the new Chief Constable must deliver on this public safety priority”.