Oldham Labour Group Friday Briefing (10/07/2015)

Weekly Leader’s Blog

 

Emergency Budget: Impact on Oldham

THE CHANCELLOR is delivering the Government’s ‘Emergency Budget’ in Parliament today.

It feels a little odd that George Osborne feels the need to change the previous budget, which he had also set, but what is certain is that it won’t be good news for many people.

EMERGENCY BUDGET: The famous red box is likely to reveal an estimated £12bn in welfare reform cuts in the years aheadThe budget detail is likely to include further welfare reform changes which won’t just hit those of our residents who are most in need, but will also have a big impact on our overstretched public, voluntary and community sector partners.

With that in mind I invited three important players in our area – Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB), Oldham Foodbank and our own Welfare Advice Service – to guest blog this week about their experiences and the impact of welfare reform already in our borough…

cabLOGO

Citizens Advice Bureau

“Citizens Advice has been an integral part of Oldham communities for more than 75 years and in the last month alone we’ve helped more than 900 residents with 1,600 enquiries.

Welfare reforms are having a large impact on families and are generating the majority of issues.

Debt and housing problems also account for a high proportion of our work. Benefit sanctions, Universal Credit and delays in processing claims and appeals are having severe knock-on effects for families such as not having any food to eat, falling behind with rent payments and potentially being homeless.

In total last year we helped 9,000 people and increased income in Oldham by £4,443,572 and rescheduled or wrote off £5,200,000 of debt.

People are often in a high state of stress and desperation by the time they seek our help – and we have seen a definite increase in those suffering from mental health issues as a result of their problems.

We work closely with a number of partner agencies such as the Food Bank, First Choice Homes, Age UK and the Welfare Rights service to ensure the best possible remedies that look to alleviate the longer-term issues as well as short term need.

We also work hard to raise awareness of current and future issues in order to prevent or at least minimise impact. We campaign to change laws and policies and their application where we realise they are unfair. Recently this has resulted in changes in the regulations for pay-day lenders and greater scrutiny of how sanctions are applied to job seekers. Since April we’ve been working with Channel 4, providing evidence of our experience with Universal Credit and had our work praised by Oldham MP Debbie Abrahams.

There are always new issues arising for us to concentrate on. The prevalence of scams in the wake of pension law changes is becoming increasingly concerning and is now a national awareness campaign.

If you have an issue that is likely to get worse if you continue to leave it, please contact us. We can be reached on our Adviceline on 03444889622, or you can access our advice and self-help tools on our website oldhamcab.org.uk where you can also find details of our many drop-in surgeries that are available across Oldham in community locations and most libraries. You can also phone our Adviceline service from the Council’s Freephone access points in libraries and Access Oldham at the Civic Centre.”


oldhamfoodbankOldham Foodbank

“Last year saw yet another increase in the use of Oldham Foodbank. We provided food for 3,716 adults and 1,620 children (Whilst the majority of people only access the Foodbank once, this figure does include people who may have needed our help on more than one occasion).

The people who use the Foodbank are from every ward across the borough. The major reason for people needing the service is because of benefit changes and delays – few people realise that a new claim for the new Universal Credit takes five weeks before the first payment is made(!).

We also have families who struggle to make ends meet during school holidays and to this end we work with other groups providing holiday meals.

In addition to providing food and some essential toiletries, we also signpost clients to other agencies who may be able to help solve problems in the longer-term. For example, we are shortly starting a basic course to help people learn to eat healthily and cook simple dishes from scratch.

We continue to be grateful for the support from across the community, individuals, schools, faith groups and the local supermarkets.

For more information, please see our website: http://oldham.foodbank.org.uk/

Welfare Advice Service

“Oldham Council’s Welfare Advice Team was initially established in 2011. The team of four works primarily to support vulnerable residents with welfare rights advice to reduce poverty and improve wellbeing.

The Welfare Reform Act 2012 brought many challenges for our residents including the introduction of Universal Credit, the benefit cap, the size criteria (restricting the amount of benefit to be claimed if there is a spare room) and Local Welfare Provision.

Additional reforms were also made to Employment Support Allowance, Disability Living Allowance and the delivery of the Council Tax Reduction Scheme.

In the last 12 months we have helped more than 1,100 residents. We have provided benefits advice, helped to fill in forms, submitted appeals and also represented them at tribunals. This support saw £2.3m brought into the borough’s economy in 2014/15 either through an increase in benefits for clients supported by the service or through backdated and one-off payments.

And it isn’t just the financial benefit that the service is concerned with – improving health and wellbeing is also an important part of our work.

Having worries about money can be particularly detrimental to someone’s mental health and not having enough money to feed a family or buy healthier foods can have a similarly devastating effect on physical health. No matter what the client’s needs we will do all we can to ensure that they are treated fairly.

It is widely expected that further welfare reforms will take place over the next parliamentary period and we will again be ready again to help ensure that people are supported to receive the benefits that they are entitled to.

You can contact the Welfare Rights Service on 0161 770 6655 to make a referral

Or follow this link to go to the online form

https://www.oldham.gov.uk/forms/form/227/en/welfare_rights_service_referral_form

Thanks for listening,

Jim

 

 

News from Oldham Council

 

Oldham Education and Skills Commission: Schools stronger when we work Together.

Plans for a new and revolutionary school led system to raise education standards for all local children were launched today (June 25).

The recommendation is the first to be revealed by the Oldham Education and Skills Commission (OESC), which is chaired by former Education Secretary, Estelle Morris.

Launched last summer, the independent commission was tasked with developing a shared, ambitious vision for our children that will result in a step change in their education.

Its final report will be published in September but this first recommendation – to be outlined in a keynote speech today by Estelle Morris to headteachers at the Oldham Schools Alliance (OSA) summer conference – will lay down clear foundations for the future.

The schools led system would be a new type of partnership based upon sharing responsibility equally between the council, schools and the community. We would take on collective responsibility for driving up aspirations and achieving better outcomes for young people by setting and achieving ambitious targets for improvements.

Oldham has a number of excellent schools, but there is also too much underperformance. The Commission believes that headteachers are best placed to understand how to drive up standards and that this can be best achieved if schools work together. But they cannot do this alone so the Commission is recommending the commissioning of a new independent body to make the collaboration a success.

Estelle Morris believes all local schools and staff – from head, teacher, practitioner and governor – can each make a vital contribution to wider and sustainable education success.

(READ MORE)

 

New Chadderton FC lease agreed

An historic move has been made for Chadderton Football Club after an agreement was reached with Oldham Council to secure a new 35-year lease on their current home.

The local authority has been working hard with the club to make this happen as it believes the club plays an important role in the community and will continue to do so.

The club, based at the Broadway Stadium, say this deal has brought stability and security – as well as an opportunity to progress its numerous squads and support the community.Chadderton FC lease

Chadderton FC, which historically had former England captain David Platt, former Crystal Palace and Leeds United player John Pemberton and even Take That’s Mark Owen famously donning the red shirt, will hope this new agreement can attract future stars to the North West Counties club which has been in the area since 1946.

Councillor Barbara Brownridge, Cabinet Member for Neighbourhoods and Cooperatives, said: “We know the important role that sporting clubs play in our communities around the borough and Chadderton FC are fantastic ambassadors for its own area and neighbouring districts.

“This lease gives the hard working volunteers, staff, fans and players peace of mind as they build towards a successful future. The council is determined to help them, and other clubs where possible, realise their ambitions. We wish the club, which has been an integral part of Chadderton for almost 70 years, all the best with this long-standing agreement.”

(READ MORE)

Bloom and Grow is revving up for success

This year’s Bloom and Grow centrepiece has been unveiled – and it is already being ‘hailed’ as a success.

The borough is revving up to retain our Best City* in North West in Bloom title and we hope the trophy will be traveling home with us for the sixth year in a row.Bloom and Grow 2015

This year the route the judges will follow when making their final decisions starts at Alexandra Park where they will meet representatives from Age Concern, Wheels for All, The Growing Hub and Medlock Bridge Anglers before making their way up to Union Street to see representatives of First Choice Homes in their headquarters.

They’ll then take in the Boot and Beanstalk display on Emmott Way and Gallery Oldham before travelling up to Huddersfield Road, viewing Waterhead War Memorial and Waterhead growing hub followed by Stoneleigh Park and the Secret Garden.

Then it’s back to the town centre where they will visit Mahdlo, meet children from Holy Cross School before finally judging the winner of the schools’ Bloom and Grow banner competition.

As usual our entry into the competition aims to showcase the best the borough has to offer.

We’ve gone for a theme that shows how the local authority, residents, businesses and stakeholders are working together and driving change.

In keeping with this theme, the WOW display bed in the town centre includes an iconic Hackney cab – enhanced with fake grass – and a traditional red phone box.

If you look carefully you’ll be able to see the display contains images of the town centre’s past, present and future.

The bed will stay on show throughout the summer after which it will be reused elsewhere in the town.

(READ MORE)

News from Westminster

Hunt’s hospital visit ‘broke code’

MP Angela Rayner accused health secretary Jeremy Hunt of being “a thief in the night” when he failed to tell her he was visiting Tameside General Hospital.

Local MP Angela has demanded a public apology from Mr Hunt saying he broke the Ministerial Code of Conduct by not notifying her in advance of his trip to the hospital on June 26.

She claims he did it to avoid her challenging him about the crisis facing the NHS under his government.

Mrs Rayner says she still hasn’t had any communication from the minister, and is demanding that he apologises to the Commons.

“If I had been notified of his visit, I would have made sure he heard both from patients and staff, not hand-picked officials, about the pressures Government policy is piling on our NHS. But it seems he just didn’t want to know about the very real issues.”
(READ MORE)

Meacher warns cuts will fuel poverty

OLDHAM MP Michael Meacher has warned that pushing ahead with £12 billion of welfare cuts will increase child poverty to one in four.

Tomorrow Chancellor George Osborne will set out how he will cut the enormous sum, which has led to experts fearing poverty levels will soar.

The Oldham West and Royton MP said: “Child poverty tripled under Thatcher from one in nine children to one in three, but then fell by 800,000 under Labour after 1997. This continued initially under Cameron but that easing of the child poverty stigma has now come firmly to an end as a result of the housing benefit cap, the bedroom tax and the one per cent cap on benefit increases.”

It is now forecast, particularly if the new round of £12bn cuts is launched in the budget, that child poverty will have increased by a third to one in four by 2020.

Mr Meacher said: “I am deeply concerned that any more cuts will increase child poverty and will result in having to go without basics as their parents struggle against austerity cuts. Families are already struggling, we know this from the huge increase in food banks and this will make it even worse.”

 

Tory attack ‘will hit most vulnerable’

OLDHAM’S Labour MPs have hit out at yesterday’s Budget, describing it as “hitting the most vulnerable” and a “nasty Tory attack”.

Debbie Abrahams, MP for Oldham East and Saddleworth, argued the Budget should have included measures to strengthen the economy – but not at the expense of people on low incomes being made worse off.

While she welcomed the national living wage, she said it doesn’t balance the cuts made to child tax credits.

“The deficit needs to be paid down, but there are better ways of doing it than hitting people who are working hard, and the most vulnerable.

“While we shift from a fragile, low-pay economy, we need to protect those on low incomes while supporting employers to introduce the living wage in all sectors as early as possible.”

Fellow Failsworth Labour MP Angela Rayner criticised the Budget as a “nasty Tory attack on families in low paid jobs.”

The MP for Failsworth said: “It means thousands of my constituents with more than two children who rely on working tax credits will be worse off.”

News from the LGA

Cllr David Sparks OBE gave his outgoing speech at the LGA conference after serving as Chair of the LGA. His speech can be read here.

Cllr Alice Perry will serve on a Labour Party established taskforce to look into what went wrong during the recent general election and what lessons can be learned for the future. The taskforce will be chaired by Margaret Beckett MP. Alice is asking for input from councillors via aliceperryuk@gmail.com.

Cllr Nick Forbes has said the country could soon have another ‘public health epidemic’ on its hands over legal highs.

Labour councillors on four West of England councils say they will fight any plans for a “metro mayor”.

Cheshire West and Chester have reintroduced free transport for children with special needs.

Councillor Warren Morgan is determined to clean up the mess inherited in Brighton and Hove and is trialling solar powered compressor bins.

Wigan are installing security equipment aimed at preventing anti-social behaviour at a park.

Cllr Clare Reynolds (Tameside) has written about Labour’s devolution plans.

Cllr Simon Henig comments on why the north-east fears devolution won’t help.

Lancashire County Council has rejected a planning application for fracking.

(FIND ARTICLES, LINKS AND MORE HERE)

 

News from the District Executives

 

Working Together For A Better Neighbourhood

Chadderton South councillor Graham Shuttleworth accepted an invitation from Chadderton neighbourhood PC Craig Dickinson to join him and colleague PCSO Matthew Birch at the inaugural two-hour police surgery which was held at the Whitegate Inn on Monday (6 July).

Cllr Shuttleworth commented: “I was very pleased to be invited to join the officers at their surgery and it was especially pleasing to see how many residents turned up at this first meeting. One or two came along not necessarily to raise any issues but for a chat, which itself took them in the direction of being provided with safety information, while others had concerns that they wished to raise.

“After what was a slow start there must have been at least a dozen residents who attended, which was a great response for this first attempt, and I am sure that as the word gets out that more will come.

“The surgery will be held the first Monday of each month and I certainly look forward to seeing how this is received as we progress.”

 

 

Stanley Road CPS Garden Party

The Mayor & Mayoress were provided with a private viewing of the Stanley Road CPS Garden Party on Monday after a greeting at the school gates by members of the school gardening club. One enthusiastic pupil, not faxed by the attendance of the distinguished guests, quickly explained how they had already enjoyed the benefits of the school grown potatoes and pointed out the peppers, strawberries and other home-grown items that they would harvest at a later date.

Cllr Graham Shuttleworth, who was also invited to the day, said: “Elected members have funded a number of items for school use and pupils and teaching staff have clearly reaped the benefits very quickly.

“To add to their delight half-a-dozen floral hanging baskets were delivered on Friday, much to the surprise but delight of staff, and these now adorn the footpath that the Mayor and Mayoress took to the garden party.”

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