Oldham Labour Group Friday Briefing (05/06/2015)

Oldham Labour Group Friday Briefing (05/06/2015)

As this is our first blog post after the election, we would like to congratulate all of our elected and reelected Labour councillors and candidates across Oldham. Though we made great local gains on Labour held majorities locally, the national result was heartbreaking for our party and our activists, but most of all for our residents, who now more than ever need a Labour national government to achieve the fairness they want and the change they needed.

We will continue to fight for the fair deal Oldham deserves – the fight for #Election2020 starts here.

Again, WELL DONE to all of our elected and reelected Councillors and candidates! Access the full results here.

WEEKLY LEADERS BLOG

INTERIM MAYOR FOR GREATER MANCHESTER: TONY LLOYD ELECTED

APPOINTMENT: Tony Lloyd is the new Interim Mayor of Greater Manchester

YOU MAY have already heard that the leaders of Greater Manchester’s ten councils met last week to appoint an Interim Mayor.

It was a long and involved process and I believe genuine efforts were made to try and be as open as possible in making what is an appointment for a temporary position, rather than an election by public vote of a full-time Mayor.

I have put on record before that I believe more time should have been allowed by government for there to be an early public debate about this new role and devolution from Whitehall to Greater Manchester.

But I do strongly believe that the case is compelling and that the opportunity to be the masters of our own destiny is far better than us being told what to do by civil servants in London.

Oldham’s voters haven’t been exposed to a referendum on whether or not they support the idea of a directly elected Mayor.

Some people who are against the idea of elected mayors wrongly say that “Greater Manchester rejected a mayor” but they are, of course, referring only to the City of Manchester and some other boroughs. The truth is that there hasn’t been a vote across the whole of Greater Manchester on the introduction of a GM Mayor.

This does also pose a big question for the rest of the country.

It can’t be acceptable for the Chancellor to say that the ‘old way of doing things is broken’ and then only allow a new system for some parts of the country.

Even in areas where city or county deals have been struck there is little logic in the packages being offered – a result of the closed deal making which has been the hallmark of devolution under this Government.

But I’m also a pragmatist.

I’d sooner have a directly elected mayor agreed through a negotiated package of devolution without a public referendum than just refuse the new powers. The offer on the table is significant and it shouldn’t be underestimated.

It is likely there will be limited room for the Interim Mayor to really get things going because, understandably, the public and other elected councillors will want to see who comes forward for the elected position. With an engaging debate and election period to come – including a good spread and calibre of candidates across all parties and interests – that could help to build public support and accountability.

But there is also a real job to do now – and it is vital that we get it right.

NEWS FROM OLDHAM COUNCIL

Oldham Council supports national first for local families

The country’s first high street weekly payment store for new household goods run by a social business has opened in Oldham’s Tommyfield Market.Our House opening at Tommyfield Market

It has been created by FRC Group, a not-for-profit business, working in partnership with Oldham Council.

Our House is a completely new type of high street store, a weekly payment store offering a great range of new household furniture, appliances and electrical items, with all the brands customers want and at the lowest cost.

The weekly prices at Our House are up to 50% cheaper than other high street Rent to Own stores, offering huge savings and with no late fees. There are also no hidden charges or unnecessary extra costs – no expensive service package and the insurance is truly optional.

Donald Stark, Our House Managing Director, explained: “At Our House we want our customers to spend less money and we are here to help them to save as much as we can. Our House has no expensive service package that you must take out and our insurance really is optional.

“Because we are a social business with no shareholders, and also a charity, our top aim is to offer the best value for our customers, not to make profits for ourselves, so we have kept our prices as low as we can and will continue to work hard to drive them down even further.” (READ MORE)

Community group gets boost from council

Oldham Council has helped secure the long-term future of a Chadderton residents’ club by transferring ownership of its premises to the community group.

The local authority has granted St George’s Square over-60s Club a lease of 30 years, which means it can now fundraise and pursue grants safe in the knowledge they have a long term occupancy.

Councillor Jim McMahon, Leader of Oldham Council, said: “We’re delighted that we’ve been able to work closely with members of the community in Chadderton in a way that benefits the club and residents.

“Previously the club only had a short term lease so they could only apply to small funding pots. Now they have a long term lease funding organisations can see they are going to be around for years to come so they could be more open to committing resources and money.

“This is a good solution that we hope might inspire other groups who feel they could run a plot of land or building.

“The transferal of assets to community ownership gives residents a greater say and stake in their areas whilst also enabling us to use resources more efficiently and reduce the cost to Council taxpayers.” (READ MORE)

New Cabinet line-up for Oldham Council

Oldham Council has appointed a new-look Cabinet to lead the Borough in 2015/6.

The top team includes changes to portfolios, roles and responsibilities – plus important moves to reflect the importance of devolution to the Greater Manchester region – and was approved at Annual Council today (May 20).

Councillors Jim McMahon and Jean Stretton will continue as Leader and Deputy Leader of the Council respectively.

Cllr McMahon will lead the new ‘Economy and Enterprise’ portfolio which includes dealing with the City Region agenda, regeneration, enterprise and business support, capital projects and investments, corporate property/assets, Oldham Town Centre and markets, tourism and external relations.

A key change sees Cllr Stretton now taking on a new Health and Wellbeing brief with responsibility for Public Health and improvement – and crucially leading for Oldham on the devolution of significant new health powers and a £6bn budget to the Greater Manchester Combined Authority.

The line-up also sees Cllr Arooj Shah brought into Cabinet as the new portfolio holder for Performance and Corporate Governance with responsibility for important areas like customer service, communications and performance monitoring.

Jim McMahon, Oldham Council Leader, said: “This new Cabinet sees some important but vital changes as we enter a period that will offer many great challenges – but also good opportunities – to Oldham.”

“This team has a great mix of experience, talent, gender and ideas and will continue to lead on our key priorities for the borough like regeneration, job creation, supporting communities to prosper and improving health outcomes for all.

“In the next 12 months we know we will undoubtedly face further significant pressures on our budget: a challenge which we will again not shrink from. But we are also at an important stage where we will start to see delivery on key regeneration projects like the cinema and restaurants at the Old Town Hall, Parliament Square and the new Oldham Sports Centre.

“We’ve also taken a conscious decision to make Health and Wellbeing a portfolio in its own right given the significance of the new powers and budget that have been devolved to Greater Manchester. We intend to play a full part in these discussions and to maximise the benefits to Oldham residents.” (READ MORE)

Oldham Council breaks own financial speed and accuracy benchmarks

Oldham Council – the fastest public body to close its final accounts last year – has again beaten its own benchmark-setting yardstick in this field.

Final Accounts for 2014/5 were approved last night (May 19) at the Audit Committee: seven days faster than last year when the local authority was hailed as the quickest local government body to publish its accounts in half a century.Jabbar,Abdul,councillor,Labour,Coldhurst

Draft accounts were given to external auditors this time on April 14, the fastest in the country, and again three days faster than last year.

The key focus in preparing the accounts, however, is not speed – it is their quality and accuracy that is absolutely essential to future financial planning and prudence for the organisation and taxpayers.

In their report Grant Thornton, external auditors, said “the draft accounts and working papers were of a high quality” and that “the prompt production of the draft financial statements enabled the members of the Audit Committee sufficient time to review the statements and ask challenging and pertinent questions” and “finance staff responded promptly to all audit queries, in line with agreed protocols, contributing to the prompt completion of the audit”.

Crucially, the auditors’ ‘value for money’ assessment also gave Oldham Council its best-ever rating with every aspect assessed as ‘Green’ including – for the first time – borrowing.

That means Oldham Council is now in its strongest-ever position in all aspects of demonstrating proper arrangements are in place to ensure financial resilience and in challenging how to achieve best economy, efficiency and effectiveness. (READ MORE)

LGA LABOUR NEWS (READ MORE)

LOCAL

South Tynside Council is to open a new multi-million pound community facility. Hebburn Central includes leisure facilities, library, learning centre and cafe, as well as meeting rooms, a customer service centre and an outdoor multi-use games area.

Newly elected, Brighton and Hove Councillor Tom Bewick writes about why the Greens were beaten back in Brighton. – See more at: http://lgalabour.local.gov.uk/home/-/journal_content/56/330956/7317889/ARTICLE#sthash.vosLYGSL.dpuf

NATIONAL

The former head of the civil service will this week denounce the government’s flagship plan to extend the “right to buy” to 1.3 million housing association tenants, saying it is wrong in principle and practice and will not address the urgent need to build more affordable homes.

A new Housing Bill will give housing association tenants who wish to buy their homes an equal discount to those received by council tenants in the biggest extension of the Right-to-Buy scheme since the 1980s. (£)

A Cities and Local Government Devolution Bill will devolve powers over housing, transport, planning and policing to cities willing to take on an elected “metro mayor”.

Directly elected mayors could be imposed on combined authorities even if one of the member councils is opposed to the idea, under proposals set out in Cities and Local Government Devolution Bill. (£)

The Queen opened the new Parliament and set out the first Conservative legislative programme for 20 years.

The outlawing of legal highs could see a blanket ban on new substances and up to seven years’ imprisonment for anyone caught dealing them, after the Government introduced legislation in the Queen’s Speech.

George Osborne is seeking to cut the budgets of most government departments this year by an extra 5 per cent. (£)

Tens of thousands of children face being plunged into poverty by government plans to lower the household benefit cap, leaked advice to ministers shows.

More than 1.6 million hospital “bed days” were lost in the year to March because patients could not be transferred into the community.

Keep Britain Tidy has said litter louts should get bigger fines as a deterrent to help clean up streets and also wants £1,000 on the spot fines for fly-tippers.

A Tory council which switches off street lights in the middle of the night has been urged to review the controversial money-cutting measure after a young woman pedestrian was killed by a car. – See more at: http://lgalabour.local.gov.uk/home/-/journal_content/56/330956/7317889/ARTICLE#sthash.vosLYGSL.dpuf

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