22/12/2014

KIERAN QUINN SUGGESTS IT’S TIME TO TAKE STOCK…

"People, it's time to take stock - vote me out!"
In his latest blog, our intrepid leader suggests that as the year ends, it’s often a time to take stock of everything that has happened and work out what you want for the future.

He goes on to say, ‘Sometimes that can be as simple as an individual deciding to kick a bad habit.’ And here he speaks nearer the truth than he thinks, because that is exactly what our years of Labour’s domination of Tameside council has become, - a very bad habit!

Undeterred, he expands his message by telling us that ‘Here in the council we’ll be thinking about how we can make life better for our residents next year.’

Now here I believe I can help him.


Resign! 

...And take all the other unqualified hangers-on who currently benefit from Tameside’s system of political patronage, and whose ‘special responsibility allowances’ continue to escalate whilst they close, and reduce ‘politically advantageous’ public services.

17/12/2014

BIG WHEELS KEEP ON TURNING…



Big Wheels may well keep on turning, but at Ashton’s Christmas Market, it appears to have come to a grinding halt!

Cllr John Taylor, deputy leader of Tameside Council, who claims total responsibility for this financial fiasco, continues to tell us: “That many ‘thousands’ of people from all across Tameside have been out to support the festivities and that the atmosphere and community spirit has been wonderful and how sure he is that thousands more people will be visiting to ‘shop’ and ‘enjoy everything’ the Christmas market has to offer over the coming days.”

However, the photographic evidence tells a different story. 

These photographs were taken at midday on the 16th December and show an un-manned ‘Big Wheel’ - the only person on the plastic Ice-rink was the chap running it! There were also many ‘Closed’ Chalets and those that were open; mainly purveying large ‘German style Sausages’ - no one was buying!

Yes, councillor, shoppers may well come and look, but the problem with speculating 

£69,500 building 30 ‘wooden chalets, and committing the taxpayer to a 10 year project when one could have conducted a ‘market test’ by hiring them for a little over £7000, - you might have discovered a little-noticed characteristic of Christmas markets, in that no-one ever buys anything.

However, by total contrast, the indoor market was heaving!

There were large queues at the Pie stall, the Christmas Gift Shop, the Booze stall, the Cheese stalls, the Delicatessens and the Jewellers and Cafes, so it would seem that the dismay generated by the Christmas market is not due to it not being visited, but to the sort of stuff it is selling!


That seasonal attack of terrifying flashing trinkets, overpriced wire jewellery, boxes of strange looking tomato-scented soap, miniature pottery animals, candied fruit - and thousands of other things for which no-one anywhere; let alone in Tameside, will ever have the slightest use; all this from 30 jerry-built sheds, is a total failure!

At last, as these photograph show, this theory of ‘The Emperor’s got no clothes’, appears to have finally dawned on the local populous and common sense has finally triumphed over the egregious outbreak of ‘Christmas Cabin Fever’ in favour of those places which sell produce that people actually want!

As we end this year, let us hope that as we approach the Christmas of 2015, the ‘brains trust’ who occupies the palatial portals of the Town Hall, will put an end to the way this festive financial disaster is organised.

As it stands it would be a kindness if some of our ‘local council heroes’ could take time off from their BBC TV appearances and sweep all the sheds, the mulled wine, hand-crafted seasonal toys (‘made in China’), the scented soap-for-a-dope and the inevitable Bratwurst and Mulled wine; in short – the whole sorry event, including councillor Taylor's next brain-child, into their appropriately colour coded bin wagons, thus cutting out the middlemen.

Now you may think this musing is just the jaundiced view of typical generalised seasonal misanthropy, but I assure you it’s not! 

I embrace with gusto Christmas and almost everything which goes with it: baubles, knitwear, family, trees, children, carols, Buck Fizz at 11am and turkey with all the trimmings sometime later.

What I can’t abide is the shear waste of money, deceptive council speak and seeing a potential success, done badly!

Merry Christmas!


08/12/2014

OH SO PREDICTABLE

Last week, after commenting on the letter allegedly written by CllR Taylor, I predicted that this week, the prolific penster would confine his words to the relatively safe subject of ‘local history’

Unsurprisingly, I was right! He treated us to a walk down memory lane (Penny Meadow) to where the Ashton Fair once stood during wakes week and meandered on from the Big Wheel to take in the ‘Bobs’ at Belle Vue

He then then segued from Belle Vue to the current Christmas Market where he hopes we’ll enjoy the ‘fast food’ and ‘mulled wine’ before trying out their ‘not so big wheel’

He’s nothing if not predictable.

However, with local decisions now in the hands a small cabal of ‘career councillors’ you really don’t need a crystal ball to predict the boroughs further demise.


We can only hope that there is sufficient time to inform the electorate in time to avoid repeating the mistakes of re-electing these people in 2015!

30/11/2014

THEY WALK AMONG US!

John Taylor appears to have developed a kind of sincerity beyond normal bounds, being that he is able to put his name to a premise in which he does not agree and then agrees with what he reads!

Once again, as we are subjected the weekly bafflingly ridiculous political propaganda from the pen of Cllr John Taylor, (or whoever it is who ghosts his letters) it is becoming increasingly obvious that whoever it is who creates this literal 'jibber-jabber' has convinced himself that he is a man confidently adorned in the finest raiment’s of reason, but when analysed, we find that he is barely able to dress himself!

This week, the focus of his one-sided observations fell on the NHS and the dreaded ‘threat’ of ‘privatisation’ - a debate which I predict will become more to the fore as we near the next General Election.

Now it may have passed the intrepid Labour councillor by, or maybe he purely chose to not mention it, but the irrefutable fact is; from its inception when Aneurin Bevan opened the first National Health hospital in Manchester, the private sector played a large role in the setting up of the NHS, and has done so ever since!

The irony here is that although all political parties have remained wedded to the principal of ‘free at the point of use’ the Labour party decided from the very beginning to depend entirely on the private sector for the crucial supply of drugs, medicines and other essential medical supplies. To this day the NHS would collapse if not for the large pharmaceutical and medical supplies companies on which it depends for everything from headache pills to x-ray equipment, hi-tech' screening devices and MRI scanners, to everyday bandages and bedpans.

John Taylor also missed out reminding us that it was none other than the Labour government who did in fact break their own promise of ‘free at the point of need’ by introducing ‘prescription charges’ which admittedly have subsequently been accepted by all governments ever since as a modification to the main ‘free’ principle.

Then of course we have our local GPs who from the creation of the NHS have remained ‘private sector businesses’ - who earn much of their living from NHS contract payments. This is why many of our local GPs are able to perform private sector work in their surgeries, charge for offering holiday and travel advice, vaccinations, private consultations, work for legal cases and the like, all for very attractive fees and charges. Let’s also not forget that most GPs arrange their own properties, finance their own practises and hire their own staff. Some also run their own dispensing service to earn additional revenue.

Although the Conservatives did open certain NHS services to private sector contractors, to look after cleaning, provide the meals and some of the other ‘hotel style’ services, likewise whilst in office Labour argued that good quality care free at the point of use, could be done more quickly and more cheaply and better by buying in service from the private sector and paying for it with NHS funds for patients in order to relieve shortages of capacity in particular specialities and to reduce the waiting lists.

I'd like to bet that most of us know someone whose had surgery on the NHS at The Alex' or another 'BUPA' style hospital, who say, 'they were treated like Kings!'

I therefore treat the councillor’s diatribe to make a political issue out of a Tory ‘threat’ for further privatisation with total contempt; unless of course John Taylor is saying that the Labour party, under Red Ed’ will be announcing step-change policies in their pre-election manifesto, were Labour; who employed and actively encouraged the extensive use of the private sector when last in power, would now want to nationalise General Practitioners and drug companies should they ever to get back into office.

As far as I can see, there is absolutely no threat from any political party to the idea that the NHS should not be free at the point of need to those who want it. Which is, in effect, all people want to know! And despite his continual political scaremongering, to the contrary, I suspect Cllr Taylor and his political masters in London know it too!

Another point to consider when listening to Cllr Taylor’s criticism of the private sector, is why, considering his apparent principled stance against anything ‘private’, the councillor of which he is a major policy maker, has not offered to resign over the councils increasing practice of handing out lucrative contracts for once council run services to private companies? A practice that even his own Trade Union brothers in UNISON criticise.

Maybe he could start by justifying the average monthly spend of over £6million with INSPIREDSPACES TAMESIDE LIMITED?

Perhaps he could also justify the £900,000 that was over-paid by Tameside Council to Meridian Healthcare in 2011, for care home beds that were never used! Or the millions awarded to Carillion for facilities Management and housekeeping services, not to mention the hundreds of £millions his council has signed away in PFI contracts?

Of course we will not get an answer to all this, but I predict that next week’s ‘Letter from Ducky’ will revert to his default dialogue on ‘local history’!



28/11/2014

TAMESIDE THE HOME OF THE WORST CHRISTMAS TREES IN THE COUNTRY

'We're facing unprecedented cuts yer know, and money doesn't grow on trees!"
So now its official, Tameside council is the meanest council in the land!

Not content with portraying the entire borough as a rat infested, food poisoning, fly tipping road to perdition by allowing the BBC to film a second series of sensationalist twaddle featuring the worst parts of our towns by repeatedly focusing their ‘Call the Council’ cameras on cockroach infestations and squalid conditions; Bosses at Tameside council have now gone one better by being named on the National television News and in the country’s daily papers as "the worst in Britain" after planting pathetic excuses for ‘Christmas Trees’ in two of our most picturesque and historical villages!

Just as the name Ebenezer Scrooge has become synonymous with miserliness, greed, grumpiness… Tameside’s Labour run council has become synonymous with avariciousness.

When confronted by the nations cameras, a spokesman for Tameside Council said: “The recently planted ‘living’ Christmas trees at Micklehurst and Mottram are sustainable and therefore designed to provide a tree for the many years to come for the local community.

He then jumped on that tired old hobby-horse and set to blaming the planting of the tiny twigs by announcing “the council are facing huge cuts to their budgets’ therefore we are continually under pressure to find more innovative ways of working!”

He then tried to justify their ‘innovative way of working, by saying, “By providing living trees as a one-off cost, the trees can be re-used year-on-year without the additional costs attached to erecting and taking down a new tree every Christmas.” 

(Strange he didn't mention the on-going costs involved to set-up and remove the festive lights used to decorate the said tree! Or in fact that the very same ‘one-off costs’ could have been achieved with far better results, if their collective innovative minds had hit on the idea of purchasing display sized, artificial trees!)

Obviously not one who subscribes to the theory of ‘ if you find yourself in a hole, stop digging!’ he went on to explain to the assembled news crews, “Because they are recently planted they are small, but will obviously grow into Christmas trees the whole community can enjoy.”

It might grow if its not dragged away by a rat!
However, the Douglas fir claims a medium rate of growth; between 13 and 24 inches in height annually. Which means, should they not die of shame or fall subject to the thousands of vehicles that pour toxic exhaust fumes over them on a daily basis, it will take 10-12 years before the villagers of Mottram and Micklehurst can have a traditional Christmas tree to be proud of!

Last week we read how Ashton’s Christmas Market will be a spectacular celebration of the season and will including a lantern parade and fireworks, 30 traditional wooden cabin stalls, a bar, ferris wheel, family entertainment, special events and much more.

With the usual last word going to the poster boy for what passes for financial acumen within Tameside Council; Deputy Executive Leader Cllr John Taylor, (who is also responsible for what's left of the boroughs markets), said: “This event is a community celebration for the whole of Tameside to enjoy while also boosting the local economy by encouraging shoppers from both within the borough and beyond. I would encourage everyone to come along and soak up the wonderful, festive atmosphere while enjoying the entertainment and activities and supporting local businesses.”

Well, that's as maybe, but it would seem by the ‘generous gift of a couple of veritable twigs’ from the council to the villages of Micklehurst and Mottram, the councils Christmas spirit ground to a screaming halt on the border of Ashton.


If I may offer a word of advice for our smug career councillors; Christmas time is a time that is supposed to bring joy and generosity to otherwise mundane times. If you could all try a little harder to find ways to harness that attitude toward all the people of the borough (not just Ashton) you’ll be better men for it.

21/11/2014

THE TWO FACES OF TAMESIDE COUNCIL

One of the greatest eye-openers one experiences when observing the antics of Tameside council, is the many ironies it throws up!

Watching a re-run of that BBC/Tameside Council’s relentless propaganda campaign ‘Call the Council’ where the resounding echo of the narrators dogmatic monologue precedes every other paragraph, drumming in the message of how our ‘heroic council workers; full of self-congratulatory spin, are toiling tirelessly to protect an ever grateful populous from Rats, Cockroaches, Fleas, rouge Taxi Drivers, the many Fast Food Joints who are breaching hygiene regulations and the odd Hairdresser who was allegedly knocking out a few ‘iffy’ handbags and the councils culling of pigeons, proves my point.


'There's only one winner, here!' 

It was the episode where this big brute of a man, sorry, ‘local hero’, was demonstrating how he despatches captured pigeons using a pair of electricians wire strippers (a method of culling which I’m sure is not one of those approved by the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) or,as those recommended in the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981.

Tameside love Pigeons!
However, on the same day that we were subjected to this televised attack on the Town Centre's pigeon population, our gallant Leader, Cllr Kieran Quinn was pictured in the local press proudly presenting a plaque to Tameside’s finest pigeon racers – an event which is in fact financially sponsored by Tameside council!

So, on the one hand our council is paying a man to murder as many pigeons as he can catch whilst on the other they are giving money and presenting trophies to pigeon fanciers, who actually breed them!


…You can’t make it up! 

10/11/2014

IT IS LIKE GIVING MACHINE GUNS TO MONKEYS!

"Just give us the money!"
Tameside council Leader, Kieran Quinn; writing of his support for the devolution of powers from Westminster to Greater Manchester, left me with mixed feelings.

For those who may have missed it, the agreement signed by the 10 Greater Manchester leaders and the Chancellor marks the start of an historical shift of devolved power and resources from Central Government, to the regions.

Now this shift in power from Whitehall to our Town Halls may well help to create more jobs, deliver more homes and improve our transport networks, but one must remember in whose hands all this extra power and money is to be placed.

Currently, the combined authorities’ agreement amounts to around an additional £1 billion. But, as Cllr Quinn puts it, “The ultimate prize as far as he and the other Greater Manchester leaders are concerned is to take responsibility of the annual budget of a £22 billion budget of public expenditure in the city region.”

In his ‘Executive Leaders’ blog,(http://www.tameside.gov.uk/blog/leader/) he opened with a pretty innumerate start when he told us that he had been arguing the case for devolution (with successive governments) for some 30 years  However, and to illustrate my point, I find his statement rather worrying and confusing!

According to the councils own website, Cllr Quinn has only been a council member since 1994. Therefore he’s either got his sums wrong, (again) or he was calling for the devolution of political power in 1984, some 10 years before becoming a Tameside councillor and presumably employed as a humble postman; which begs another question, given his apparent penchant to up every figure he quotes by a factor of 10; just how he managed to get the post to the right addresses and perhaps more importantly how effective he must be currently as both chair of Greater Manchester Pension Fund, and the Local Authority Pension Fund Forum?

One only need examine the current council’s track record under the leadership of Cllr Quinn, who seems to have developed an aptitude for struggling with figures and dates, to see various examples where they have wasted millions of pounds of our money on ridiculous vanity schemes. So the very idea of letting these people get their greasy mitts on billions of pounds, should make every taxpayer in Tameside quake with trepidation.

Bronze statues of Banana's,
Christmas Market selling Banana's
A new Town Hall made of Banana's
A Banana Republic...
Tameside, totally Banana's
Just imagine a proportion of £22 billion in the hands of our current crop of career councillors, who less than 30% of the population of Tameside have put in office; and say, hand on heart that you’d trust them to reach into our pockets and use our money in the manner we would find acceptable.

Power in the hands of those who have never had power or responsibilities in their lives often develops into despotism when the leaders conclude that they, and only they, know what’s best for their constituents. There is no longer - we want to hear your views, no more give and take; there is only a follow orders mentality.


It is like giving machine guns to monkeys! 

07/11/2014

CYNICALLY SPEAKING…

"I was up for knocking it down!"
John Taylor has a cunning way of staying in the news. 

Last week, the career councillor who already pens a ‘weekly column’ in the local press leapt out of our television sets, suitably dressed in his best tee-shirt, as the first councillor to be featured on the BBC’s ‘Call the Council’ – that’s the show where dedicated, heroic, committed council officers, tirelessly engage in a never-ending battle against, Rats, Mice, Wasps, Pigeons, Fly Tippers, Litter-Bugs, Dog fouling, Smokers, Noisy Neighbours, Fast-food outlets and unfit for purpose Taxi Drivers; bare their souls on camera in a seemingly inexhaustible series of programs where these dedicated front-line council staff endeavour to supply the BBC with perfect eye fodder for satire.

Now I don’t know if there is any truth in the rumour, but word has it that based on his albeit brief screen test, John Taylor is being considered as a prime candidate for a major part in the political remake of ‘Honey, I shrunk the Kids’

Renamed ‘Honey I shrunk the Assets’ The plot this time see ex-market trader Taylor, who inexplicably finds himself in the roll of the Deputy Leader of Tameside council. 

Disaster strikes when an out of depth Taylor is given the total responsibility for Markets and accidentally blows his entire budget on building a number of 'wooden huts' for his pet experiment to create a viable Christmas Market, and, despite countless letters of decent and advice from those who know, the deputy Leader goes ahead regardless and in doing so, shrinks the council’s entire annual budget to the size of a weekly big-shop in Aldi.

On a serious note, another piece of news that emerged this week, that on the face of it may appear rather trivial, however when one looks at it from a holistic point of view, the decision to ‘cut town centre parking costs to £1.00. is of historical significance, because it shows that contrary to popular belief councillors’ not only 'listen' but also actually posses the ability act on public opinion.

It might also signify the possibility that certain career councillors might be considering delivering a long called for return for a high street shopping revival which could benefit both local retailers and thousands of Tameside families for years to come.

Time and time again the Labour councillors have promised the people of Tameside they would listen to them. Well, they may well have listened, but until now, they’ve chosen to ignore the voters requests and ploughed ahead with their own long list of vanity projects and unwanted policies.

Could it now be that common sense is beginning to dawn on our elected few?
Could we really be on the cusp of a breakout of logic; where councillors’ looking at the use of public assets like parks and the disposal of iconic civic buildings, first listen to the people before their party?

Could it be that at long last councillors’ are realising that they do not actually own Tameside?

I believe that the towns that make up Tameside are owned by the people who live in them and it is those people, that have, in the short term, given councillors’ a little bit of their power to do their best on their behalf.

So, when it comes to things like parks; libraries and other precious buildings and other community assets much loved by local people, a councillors’ role should be that of a Trustee; - a guardian for the future, whose first and only job is to protect the boroughs assets, improve the facilities and ensure they are passed down the years for future generations.

For too long now, throughout this Labour council’s near 40 years in office, the people of Tameside have faced and had to accept actions by consecutive Labour politicians as they dispose of the people’s assets and diminish the viability of our towns.

Pragmatism and not petty point-scoring politics is needed. After all, much of what councils do should be apolitical. Getting the bins emptied or looking after our green spaces should be done on a consensual and not a political basis.

Forget the political arm waving stuff and grandstanding, there should be rational discussion from people who listen to and respect each other and who genuinely want to achieve great things for all our towns, not just Ashton!


22/10/2014

ARE THEY DROWNING, OR WAVING?

When the going gets tough and the way ahead calls for judgements from council bosses; many of whom are obviously operating beyond the level of their ability; naturally it’s not surprising that councillors and managers, fearing the limited depth of their capabilities could possibly put their lucrative income in jeopardy, will look to set-up a fall-guy; - someone to blame when it all goes disastrously wrong.

It comes as no surprise therefore, that Tameside Council bosses, appear to be up to their old tricks again. This time they are attempting to plant the seeds of discontent into the minds of Tameside residents by shifting some of the blame for the councils future budgetary cutting decisions onto totally unqualified members of the public who have been beguiled by Cllr Quinn’s seemingly innocuous invitation on his 'blog' to attempt to ‘Balance the council’s books’

If you don’t know by now, the council wants to hear your views on how to manage the cuts to their budgets that have been imposed by the Government. In particular what you believe are the priority services where the remaining money should be spent.

To do this, they have developed a 'budget simulator' that allows you to try and balance the budget for yourself. 

As you remove money form a particular service using the sliders, notifications appear to give you an idea of what impact each change would have.

This practice is typical of career politicians who have lost the valuable perspective of the person on the street. Their long entrenchment playing ‘who can get on as many committees’ as possible, means they seem to have contracted a debilitating inability to think “radically” and come up with a bout of new ideas.

If you take the opportunity to access the ‘Budget Simulator’ you will find a section entitled: How we can bring money in. And it reads: We have a number of ways that we can generate money. Choose how you would like us to bring money in. It offers 3 options. Increase fees & charges by 5%. Release more land for business development and Increase the number of new homes being built.

Is that it? Are those 3 options the only opportunities these Council Bosses and 57 councillors can come up with collectively?

No mention of utilizing their assets and manpower (not selling them off) No creative ways of making profits. No cutting out the vast waste? (For instance: There’s a small park in Hollingworth, on the corner of Woolley Bridge Lane and Mottram Moor, whose ‘Christmas Lights’ have lit up the trees each evening from Christmas 2013!)

No mention of stopping spending money on cosmetics and vanity projects (Like the £2000 for two new trees to be planted outside Hyde Town Hall! – How is this a priority?)

And so it goes on with each section of the ‘Budget Simulator’ offering limited options of areas of expenditure/savings, as identified by ‘the council’ - which means anyone attempting to ‘balance the books’ purely using the options on offer will of course find it difficult, if not impossible. 

An outcome these council bosses want you to conclude to justify their political mantra.

Let us not forget that councillors and council bosses are bound by a Code of Conduct which requires them to act selflessly, objectively, within the law and to give assurance for the proper use of public funds and assets.

If they find that task too much for them, they should resign and allow someone more adept to fill the position.

I didn't do it, nobody saw me do it,
there's no way you can prove anything!
 
At last count, I believe that a couple of thousand people have attempted to ‘balance the council’s books’ – approx 0.9% - a small percentage of Tameside residents.

Once the consultation closes in mid-December 2014, we are told that the council will analyze the responses from the budget simulator will be taken into account when preparing the budget for 2015/16.

So, mark my words, next year, at the first signs of trouble over daft decisions that they may make, or a service that will be chopped, they will point to the public’s response gained from their ‘budget simulator’ and in an attempt to avoid any responsibility, blame the public, saying “Well …that is what you asked for!”

Where, oh where are the wise-thinking councillors with vision, common sense, forward planning and radical ideas?

I kid you not, Bart Simpson could run the council more efficiently than the people we have currently put in charge. 

And when you watch the colloquial soap-opera treatment of the second series of the BBC’s ‘Call The Council’ - Tameside must now be the laughing stock of the UK!

19/10/2014

SO, WHO SHOT THE DEPUTY?

John Taylor - Destined to become Deputy Sherriff
Way back in March, Tameside Council's Deputy Leader, John Taylor described his party’s venture into the Wythenshawe Ward; where they’ circled their political wagons’ in order to get their candidate Michael Kane elected, as a positive sign of them winning the next General Election.

Michael, you may recall was an ‘adviser’ to Tameside council’s leader Kieran Quinn, who'd previously worked for current Stalybridge and Hyde MP Jonathan Reynolds - as well as his predecessor,the  former Minister James Purnell.

You may also recall 'Deputy Taylor' telling us with self-advocating gusto how he and few of his posse had ridden boldly into unknown territory, with himself leading the hastily sworn- in canvassers’, as their Sherriff! Inferring that because of his added support, Michael Kane had walked the election with 13,261 votes, beating UKIP's John Bickley, with 4,301, into second place.

However, the vocal Deputy seems to have been ‘shot in the foot’ as he appears to have been silenced by the recent Rochdale result. Even though he once again headed into ‘unknown territory at the head of his political posse to help Liz McInnes tip the scales at 11,633 votes, they only managed it by a mere 617 votes with the same UKIP candidate John Bickley securing 11,016 votes!

So, no sign of bragging this time! In fact not a political peep from the usually spontaneous councillor spouting his simplistic beliefs. Instead, his letter this week was based on Historic Battles and fictitious TV Programmes of yesteryear!

It just goes to show how desperate these career councillors are to stop any serious debate that focuses on their actual use!


06/10/2014

PASS HIM THE ABACUS,AGAIN

Up until now I have resisted the invitation to get involved with the council’s budget consultation, but seeing that over 500 residents apparently have, I thought I’d take a look at Kieran Quinn’s “open and honest way to share the issues they face and the choices they must make!”

Taking the council leader at his word, I went immediately to the council’s website to read how residents are required to ‘balance the budget.’

However, on reading the opening politically loaded paragraphs, which bang on about Government imposed cuts, it tells us again that Tameside Council will have £38m less to spend on services for local residents and businesses, on top of £104m that the council has had to cut from its budgets from previous years.

I find it interesting that the council never fails to remind us how they rely heavily on money from the Government. ‘The Council Tax we collect only pays for one third of the services we provide, they say, ‘The rest comes from the Government.’ (Which of course ultimately comes from us in taxes!)

They also can’t resist telling us that they have limited choices in how they cut spending and save or raise money. This is nonsense and is usually a prelude to the unveiling of some half-baked scheme designed to relieve us of ever greater sums of our money, usually without any form of explanation as to why they need so much of it or to account for its use. (The £291,000 they spent on Ashton’s Christmas Market springs to mind)

There is no accountability. Just look at the expenditure sheet for the month of August. 

Out of the £7.237million total invoices paid out. Perhaps someone could explain what exactly are we getting for the £3.722million paid to Inspired Spaces?

Has anyone tried to re-negotiate these long term PPI leases? – If not, why not? And if so, what savings are being made?

Then there’s the question of ‘The Hub’ at Hattersley. Why has the rent risen from £108,707 per annum, subject to the terms of the original lease, to a new figure of £226,510 per annum? - Which means that the council are now committed to paying over £6.795 million spread over the remainder of the 30 year lease instead of £3.261 million? – Whose bright idea was that? Have heads rolled? – I suspect not!

Have you noticed that whenever our career councillors warn us of the consequences of a lower budget they always provide examples of the effects of lower spending on essential services and describe any loss of revenue from the taxpayer as being a ‘cost’ to the council?  Notice also how they never provide examples where essential services are unaffected? Nor, you will find, is there ever any word in the local press telling us how their pet projects (Ashton Market) are being scaled back instead of core services?

They seem to have forgotten that providing basic services are the very reason local authorities exist.

The notion of living within their means is alien to them. You see, their priorities are always put before our priorities.

We should also not ignore how council income has increased substantially through the ever growing list of charges and fees which residents have to pay for services that we already pay taxes to provide.  Councils not only get their central government grant and collect council tax from residents; they also make a fortune in charges that far exceed the cost of administration they were supposedly designed to cover. (Parking Fines for instance)  

The total amount that councils take from residents over the course of a year far exceeds the council tax demand we receive each year.

And while we’re on the subject of council tax, let’s not forget what happened last year.

A year with no local elections. A year when our caring council totally ignored the Local Audit and Accountability Bill which required those councils who intended to increase their council tax bill over 2%, were required to hold a council tax referendum; saying that having to seek our democratic consent to increase our council tax, was ‘unneeded’ and justified their decision by putting the blame on rising in precepts.

Has anyone thought to ask why we are asked to pay an ever increasing policing precept to the council, yet all we get are restricted-power PCSOs to make up for a shortage of real police on our streets.

Contrast that with this year, with local elections held in June. We had sitting councillors trying to get re-elected prattling on about ‘democracy’ and ‘listening to the wishes of the people’.

In other words, the council should be allowed to demand what and when it likes and to hell with what residents think.

All this ‘pseudo consultation exercise’ proves to me is that second rate councils do not attract high flyers and thinkers. If this collection of overpaid ‘council officers and authoritarian jobsworths’ cannot collectively devise ways to balance the books by utilising their assets and creating extra revenue without initiating ‘dubious fines and extra charges for misdemeanour's, whilst haemorrhaging huge sums of money through poor business acumen, then it proves that in Tameside Town Hall all constructive initiatives, free thought and common sense, is not only frowned upon, but is now being actively discouraged.


And when it all goes wrong; well they can then turn round and say, well, we consulted them and that’s what the residents wanted!

03/10/2014

NOW THEY'VE TAKEN THE ‘P’

In the middle of February 2013, we were told by a certain career councillor that Stalybridge would soon be rid of its biggest eyesore, when they [the council] sold the site of the former Casablanca’s Health Club in Armentieres Square site to New Charter. 

We were told that later that same month the demolition work would begin on the site, which had stood derelict since being gutted by fire in 2005.

Some may remember the promising words of Cllr John Taylor, Deputy Leader of Tameside Council, who said: "These are great times for Stalybridge. We are finally going to see the end of a building that has spoiled the town centre for almost eight years.”

He went on to tell us that, “Empty buildings are not only a blight, they are a wasted asset, especially at a time when we have to work so much harder in pursuit of prosperity.”

He then went on to tell us that he looked forward to the new owners, New Charter, starting redevelopment very quickly and was pleased that they had chosen to use Tameside Council to carry out the demolition work!

As if we still hadn't got the message that New Charter were at last going to give Stalybridge a much needed facelift, he emphasised their community credentials by adding, “New owners New Charter have already proved themselves to be good neighbours, by acting so quickly and decisively to get rid of this eyesore – and now there is a real opportunity to breathe new life into this canal side area of the town; and finished his piece by claiming credit for the much needed redevelopment by saying, “Members of the town team, including myself, are at the heart of an on-going drive to ensure Stalybridge is an attractive place to live, to shop and to visit!”

Now what has prompted this look back in time you may ask.

Well, flicking through the usual letters page of this week’s Reporter, I happened across a long letter again penned by one Cllr John Taylor.

In it he paints a idyllic picture of his recent Sunday morning activity in Stalybridge.

He tells us, “It was so nice to see one of the local cafés open early on Sunday morning. It’s a nice café situated near the canal.”

Now could that be the same café that not only offers their patrons a ‘nice view of the canal’ but also offers those customers who prefer to take their large mochas al fresco, a splendid view of the 19 month old demolition site, which stands surrounded by a wooden fence gaudily painted in New Charter's corporate colours, as a brazen testament to what the council call a quick and decisive irradiation of an eyesore, and what New Charter presumably call a very quick redevelopment!

Nineteen months ago; as demolition took place, at least the good people of Stalybridge could still visit ‘The Millpond’ where they could still get a pint of JW Lees and a posh overpriced butty, But now that too has been boarded up, presumably never to sell an exorbitantly priced pie and a pint ever again.

Reading on we were then subjected to a few more words of wisdom from that doyen of business acumen, Herr Taylor, who, determined to give us the benefit of his vast experience of fiscal endeavour together with his unique skill and long experience in the field of stating the bleeding obvious, he let us in to a secret. “No matter how much money gets spent, if we don’t use our small businesses then they won’t survive!”

"Hey, I didn't vote for him!"
Could this be the same Cllr John Taylor, Deputy Leader of Tameside council who are currently submitting plans to further populate the outskirts of Hyde town centre with another retail park consisting of ‘branches of National retailers’ who will threaten the livelihoods of every small business in both Hyde and Stalybridge?

So folks, here we must leave him sitting outside this café looking across to the hills, surrounded by Canadian Geese with the late summer sun shining down on him!

...and some people actually voted for him!

20/09/2014

CARRY ON - CURTAINS UP

TO THE HIPPODROME
THERE’S NO SHOW WITHOUT PUNCH, they say. But on Tameside council it’s more a matter of there being no show without Deputy John Taylor.

Not content with appearing in neighbouring towns ‘riding in’ in front of his political posse, we learn from reading this week’s Tameside Reporter, that Tameside’s Deputy Leader, John Taylor, having put on his breastplate, chainmail chausses and houndskull bascinet, has exponentially increased his portfolio of responsibility by assuming the role of a knight in shining armour; and after six and a half years of council officers besieging the building and presiding over the gradual deterioration the Grade2 - 110 year old premises, has now gone rushing to aid the restoration of Ashton's delapidated Hippodrome theatre.

Laudable, you might think, but when we scratch the surface of this apparent late crusade of rescue, it leaves one or two questions regarding the council’s financial acumen in serious doubt.

The iconic theatre was closed on 30th March 2008 with the Tameside Open Brass Bands Championships on the stage. Since that date,this veritable Templar of  tells us that it cost £2900 per week to keep the boarded-up theatre rotting away on Old Street.

"MORE TEA, VICAR?"
Wholly in line with his self deprecating modesty and humble dedication to the principle of public service, Cllr John Taylor, went on to announce that he has decided, along with Robin Monk, that the best option is to try to “reopen the Hippodrome, as a live theatre” as he now beleives “It will be a great asset to Tameside!”

So, what he is actually saying is that it has taken him and the rest of the ‘Tameside Brains Trust’, six and a half years to realise it might be better to have a live, workable, active theatre in the town to attract paying audiences from both within and outside the borough, than to play host to a rat infested, derelict building!

Then of course is his admission of the costs; which, if the councillor’s statement is to be believed; at £2900 per week, means to date the council have paid out £980,200 of taxpayers’ money, with no return!

Turning to page three, we find another article, this time penned by Cllr Kieran Quinn, who amongst other things tells us that “We spend taxpayers money and that’s a responsibility we take very seriously!” and “we’re doing everything we can to reduce costs!”

Really? - Well they certainly spend serious amounts of taxpayers’ money! 

This latest revelation that the allegedly 'cash-strapped' council can spend just short of a £1million to keep a valuable community asset boarded-up, really is a scandal …but this of course is Tameside, where proper scrutiny remains a wish, not a reality.

On a personal note, I wish 'The Hippodrome Company' every success in wrestling the ownership of this classical theatre away from the destructive philistines who purport to be guardians of the arts, and trust that they have total success in their quest to breath new life into what was, and could be again, one of our communities greatest assets.


24/08/2014

ANOTHER POTTY STATEMENT

Month after month, I wait with baited breath to see whether our esteemed leader has at last reached the point where he presents us with a credible money saving idea! And month after month, his blog disappoints!

This month (August) he reveals the personal frustration he has with the fact that he cannot put used ‘yoghurt pots’ in his ‘green bin’ for recycling! This issue is troubling the Tameside leader so much, that he tells us he is raising this with the new chair of Greater Manchester Waste, Cllr Catherine Piddington, who also happens to be a Tameside councillor.

Now, presumably this on-going problem with our executive leaders used yogurt pots; which obviously is causing the Quinn family many sleepless nights, is based on the fact that yoghurt pots are made of a different kind of plastic called polystyrene and the false belief that polystyrene cannot be recycled.

However, in truth all plastics can be recycled; the only restrictions are to do with having the right facilities and the infra-structure in place. So when one considers the fact the GMWDA is purported to be England’s largest Waste Disposal Authority which claims to provide a world class environmentally sustainable solution for Greater Manchester’s waste; and who, five years ago entered into a £631million - 25 year contract with Viridor Laing (Greater Manchester) Limited (VLGM), one could be forgiven for assuming that he, as the executive leader of an authority member, would be expected to have been aware of the fact that extrusion machinery has now been developed to produce products from mixed plastics, including polystyrene, that was once thought impossible.

SEED POTS
On the other hand, if the executive leader has written his monthly piece based on ignorance of modern waste recycling methods, he might still have stretched his thoughts to another form of recycling; that of using the empty pots for alternative uses. (Re-using)

For instance yoghurt pots and other plastic containers of all sizes and descriptions can be used for a variety of uses in the greenhouse and garden. They pots make ideal seed pots, bird feeders and even to deal with insect pest control.

BIRD FEEDERS
They can also be usefully employed in schools and playgroups for making a variety of artistic items, in addition to crayon, paint and chalk holders and other crafts.
TAMESIDE COUNCILLORS

However, the most ironic statement in this month’s blog was his statement:

“We have to stop literally wasting money, so as a bit of a reminder I have asked that stickers be placed on ‘£andfill’ bins to point this out.”

So, he intends to waste taxpayers’ money, printing and distributing tens of thousands of stickers to stick on our bins to remind us to stop wasting money!


Brilliant! …I can’t wait for next month’s epistle!

13/08/2014

BEWARE - ANOTHER COUNCILLOR WEARING BLINKERS!

According to a snippet in this week’s Tameside Advertiser it would seem that Town Hall Chiefs, led by the indefatigable Cllr Peter Robinson (New Chair of the Councils Enforcement Co-ordination Panel) will be working with the police to apply Rule 218 of the Highway Code regarding parking on pavements!

In his opening gambit he declares, “Offenders could be fined or prevented from parking by the introduction of ‘high kerbs’ or ‘bollards’ in some of the boroughs hot spots!”

Now this is again very confusing because recently the government has set about encouraging local authorities to take responsibility for parking away from the police. This is known as decriminalisation because parking offences are civil, rather than criminal!

Even the Department for Transport is reluctant to create a new law. It has stated that: “There is currently no national legislation banning the parking of all vehicles on the pavement, due to the wide range of circumstances and locations where pavement parking occurs.

Now, admittedly Vehicles parked on pavements can create a hazard:

They can be a hazard to pedestrians by causing an obstruction that may result in them having to step off the pavement into the roadway, thus putting them in danger.

Vehicles parked on pavements obviously restrict the width of the pavement and makes life difficult for someone with a pushchair or wheelchair to pass safely - again this person may have to enter the roadway to avoid the obstruction.

It also causes damage to the pavement - broken flags, potholes, etc. and creates serious problems for blind, disabled and older people.

In every town in the land there are some very inconsiderate drivers who only think of their own convenience and disregard other people problems, but some drivers have problems too. Many of Tameside’s town’s have very narrow streets (not to mention the villages) and pretty narrow roads and when there is parking on both sides, the space that is left can be minimal.
                                                                                                                                                                  Ask anyone who has had their wing mirrors, costing in excess of £100, knocked off can make one want to put the wheels just on the pavement to try and minimize damage. Also, so many large vans making deliveries to shops and private houses just increase the problem.

However, instead of imposing even more restrictions on visitors and much needed shoppers, it would have been better if he had set his mind to find ways to accommodate increasing numbers to our towns, by announcing innovative plans; like the building of an iconic Car Towers similar to those in German cities; introduce night time only deliveries to our towns, in order to take large vehicles off our crowded daytime streets or introduce workable borough wide Park & Ride systems; design one way traffic management schemes to allow adequate on street parking, or introduce hundreds of bike racks to send out a message that non-motorised traffic is valued just as highly as motor vehicles.

…. And whilst he’s got thinking hat on, require new house builders to design properties with off road parking for at least two vehicles each; then I’d have been impressed, but predictably, no!

His first and only thought is to fine the motorist and gather in more money from what are classed as legitimate actions for the council to waste on vanity projects like turning Hyde Market into a desert!

However, before the dogged councillor gives the ‘green light’ to the boroughs overzealous Traffic Wardens to go merrily writing up parking tickets; purely as a way to screw more revenue from motorists, who are, after all only taking the councils advice and attempting to ‘shop locally’ it might be a good idea for the Town Hall Chiefs, the councillors and the happy-snappy ticket Wardens to watch, a few episodes of “Call the Council” and pay close attention the some of their own council heroes parking on the boroughs pavements

They will see people like Brian Whelan, Phil Rodgers and Bev Hursthouse who have all been featured on our television screens, flagrantly parking with two wheels on the pavements.


So, until the intrepid councillor and his crew publicly slaps a £100 parking fine on these everyday heroes, we must all consider ourselves temporally immune to this latest example of ‘highway robbery’ – Unless, of course there is one rule for them and another one for us?