Letter to the local press…

Putting Labour first and Oldham Borough second…

The Liberal Democrats on Oldham council reacted to the Labour’s spare room subsidy motion at the full council meeting on 17th July 2013 with suggestions to make the implementation fairer and to protect the most vulnerable in Oldham Borough.  It is with great regret that the Labour administration chose to vote against these measures that would help the most vulnerable in our society.

The size criteria sees the reduction in housing benefits for extra bedrooms, introduced by Labour in 2008 for the private sector, to be included in the social housing sector.   There has been no commitment for Labour to overturn this as indeed acknowledged by Labour council leader that they (Labour) would not reverse any of the cuts made by the coalition if they win the next general election.

The Liberal Democrat group recently published a 12-point plan to help support the most vulnerable in light of the changes and they have said that this principle should be applied to this motion. They would support the most vulnerable through the changes with the spare room subsidy.

There are some protected groups already such as some disabled groups, pensioners and armed forces personnel but we need to do more. An example is that  our 12-point plan the Lib Dems have urged Labour to actively take up, this will help those disabled people adversely effected by this.”
We could take practical steps such as Vetting and match up tenants who can property share or who wish to take in a lodger, or Ensure that under-occupiers have appropriate additional priority on the waiting list for a smaller more appropriate sized home for them.

Using the Discretionary Housing Payment when those outside the exemptions have a genuine case not to downsize and set up a hardship fund for vulnerable tenants like they do in Lib Dem controlled Stockport and be sympathetic to individual cases. We should also meet the financial shortfall whilst tenants look for an alternative smaller home.

The Liberal Democrat group agreed to the principle of a spare room subsidy but were critical of it’s implementation and this is why we have suggested practical steps. It is a pitty that Oldham’s Labour group pn mass chose to vote against such proposals, missing another chance to help the most vunerPutting Labour first and Oldham Borough second…

The Liberal Democrats on Oldham council reacted to the Labour’s spare room subsidy motion at the full council meeting on 17th July 2013 with suggestions to make the implementation fairer and to protect the most vulnerable in Oldham Borough.  It is with great regret that the Labour administration chose to vote against these measures that would help the most vulnerable in our society.

The size criteria sees the reduction in housing benefits for extra bedrooms, introduced by Labour in 2008 for the private sector, to be included in the social housing sector.   There has been no commitment for Labour to overturn this as indeed acknowledged by Labour council leader that they (Labour) would not reverse any of the cuts made by the coalition if they win the next general election.

The Liberal Democrat group recently published a 12-point plan to help support the most vulnerable in light of the changes and they have said that this principle should be applied to this motion. They would support the most vulnerable through the changes with the spare room subsidy.

There are some protected groups already such as some disabled groups, pensioners and armed forces personnel but we need to do more. An example is that  our 12-point plan the Lib Dems have urged Labour to actively take up, this will help those disabled people adversely effected by this.”
We could take practical steps such as Vetting and match up tenants who can property share or who wish to take in a lodger, or Ensure that under-occupiers have appropriate additional priority on the waiting list for a smaller more appropriate sized home for them.

Using the Discretionary Housing Payment when those outside the exemptions have a genuine case not to downsize and set up a hardship fund for vulnerable tenants like they do in Lib Dem controlled Stockport and be sympathetic to individual cases. We should also meet the financial shortfall whilst tenants look for an alternative smaller home.

The Liberal Democrat group agreed to the principle of a spare room subsidy but were critical of it’s implementation and this is why we have suggested practical steps. It is a pitty that Oldham’s Labour group pn mass chose to vote against such proposals, missing another chance to help the most vulnerable residents in Oldham. 

Another case of Labour first, Oldham and it’s residents second.

Cllr Mark Alcock
Shadow Cabinet Member for Business and Town Centres

HEAT WAVE Warning

Greater Manchester is experiencing heatwave conditions which mean you should take action to protect yourself, family, friends and neighbours from the possible health effects.

The Met Office has advised there is a 90 per cent probability of heatwave conditions between now and Saturday evening – and further hot weather is forecast.

The North West region has now been upgraded to Level 3 – Heatwave Action – for the first time in 2013.

Alan Higgins, Oldham’s Director of Public Health, said: “The hot weather looks set to continue and it’s important to remember that high temperatures can be dangerous – especially for people who may be vulnerable, such as older people, pregnant women, young children, and those with serious illnesses. “

“Public Health England has issued some simple advice to help people to keep safe and be aware of the risks.

“We are encouraging people to take note of these and also to please take a few minutes to check on your family and neighbours to ensure they have everything they need during this hot spell.”

Public Health England’s advice is to:

• Try to keep out of the sun between 11am and 3pm.

• If you have to go out in the heat, wear sunscreen, walk in the shade and wear a hat.

• Wear light, loose-fitting cotton clothing.

• Avoid physical exertion.

• Drink lots of cold drinks and avoid excess alcohol, caffeine and hot drinks.

• Eat cold foods, especially salads and fruit with high water content.

• To cool yourself down, take a cool shower or bath, sprinkle water over the skin or clothing, or keep a damp cloth on the back of your neck.

• Never leave anyone in a closed, parked vehicle, especially infants, young children or animals

People at risk:

Look out for others, especially vulnerable groups such as:

• Older people, especially older women and those over 75.

• Babies and young children.

• People with serious mental health problems.

• People on certain medication.

• People with a serious chronic condition, particularly breathing or heart problems.

• People who already have a high temperature from an infection.

• People who misuse alcohol or take illicit drugs.

• People with mobility problems.

People who are physically active, like manual workers and sportsmen and women.

Dr Ian Wilkinson, NHS Oldham Clinical Commissioning Group’s Chief Clinical Officer, added: ““During very hot weather, pregnant women and people with chronic illnesses, including cardiovascular, respiratory, renal conditions, diabetes, may also experience particular discomfort and should stay out of the direct heat wherever possible. It’s also advisable to keep any medicines below 25 °C or in the refrigerator.

“The key message for healthy individuals is to follow public health messages on how to enjoy the sun safely by staying cool, drinking lots of cold fluids and checking on those you know are at risk.”

“The key message for healthy individuals is to follow public health messages on how to enjoy the sun safely by staying cool, drinking lots of cold fluids and checking on those you know are at risk.”

This is the month of Ramadan and many members of the Muslim community are fasting during daylight hours.

Dehydration is a common and serious risk during hot weather and it’s important to balance food and drink intake between fasts and especially to drink enough water.

If you start to feel unwell, disorientated or confused, or collapse or faint, our advice is to stop fasting and have a drink of water or other fluid.

This is especially important for older adults, those with poorly-controlled medical conditions such as low/high blood pressure, diabetes and those who are receiving dialysis treatment.

The Muslim Council of Britain has confirmed that breaking fast in such conditions is allowable under Islamic law. Also, make sure to check on others in the community who may be at greater risk and keep an eye on children to ensure they are having a safe and healthy Ramadan.

Beal Lane, Shaw-Temporary Road Closure, commencing Mon July 22nd 2013 for 2 weeks

Temporary road closure to part of Beal Lane (Jubilee Street to Metro Crossing).

This is due to road and footway resurfacing/reconstruction.

Below are the details of when road is closed:

7am – 7pm, Mon – Fri and Sun if required.
5am – 8pm, Sat.

Pedestrian access along Beal Lane and to the Metrolink station will be maintained at all times.

Delivery access to be maintained to distribution centres at all times except for the Saturday closures.

Alternative Route: Beal Lane/Grains Road/Hillside Avenue/Buckstones Road/Milnrow Road/Crompton Way/Rochdale Road/Beal Lane, in both directions.

Please note the dates / times of the closure at Beal Lane as it will not be closed for the entire two week duration of work. The two Saturday closure dates have been agreed in advance with the distribution centres, who have arranged that no deliveries will take place during the agreed hours of working.

It has been arranged that deliveries to the distribution centres will be able to get through the closure along Beal Lane from Shaw Town Centre during the weekday closures; this in effect means that it will not be necessary for HGV delivery vehicles to use the diversion route at any time.

All other vehicles will use the diversion route.

If you have any questions regarding the work please direct them to Nigel Molden at [email protected] or 0161 770 1952

ROAD CLOSURES SHAW & CROMPTON FAMILY WEEKEND – June 22 AND 23 8.00AM – 6.00PM

As usual Market Street will be closed for the above event; the diversion route will be Beal Lane, East Way and then Greenfield Lane/High Street.

Different to previous years the fun fair will be located on the Kershaw Street Car Park and NOT the Market Car Park (Westway). The 3 hour parking limit on this and other car parks will be suspend for the above event.

Temporary traffic signals between Smallbrook Road and Bridge Street

temp traffic lightsThe temporary signals will be employed between Smallbrook Road and Bridge Street commencing Monday 20 May for four weeks, Monday to Friday off-peak only (9.30am – 3.30pm) and are required as part of the carriageway resurfacing works.

Also, it will be necessary at the end of the work to put in place a full road closure. I am urgently seeking details about this and as soon as I have any will post them on my web site.

If you have any queries regarding the work please contact Nigel Molden at [email protected]

Emergency Contact & Telephone Number in the Event of Traffic Signal Failure: John Dunn: 07831 386470

Liberal Democrats outline 12-Point Plan to help disabled facing welfare reform in Oldham Borough

Last month, Oldham became a pilot area for a whole raft of sweeping reforms to welfare benefits introduced by the Government.

Welfare reform has led to several benefits being merged into one new Universal Credit claimed on-line, on the introduction of a new Local Council Tax Support Scheme, in a reduction in housing benefit for many in under-occupancy, and on the creation of Local Welfare Provision.

In Oldham, it is estimated that welfare reform will affect up to 17,000 citizens of ‘working age’ who depend wholly or in part on welfare benefits for their income; many of these residents will have a disability or a serious health condition.

Oldham Council will be a key player in the administration of welfare reform.

One of my fellow ward councillors, the Leader of the Opposition and of the Liberal Democrat Group, Councillor Howard Sykes has published a paper to Cabinet member for Finance, Councillor Abdul Jabbar, and senior Council officers outlining 12 practical measures that the Liberal Democrat Group believes the Labour Administration should adopt to mitigate the impact of welfare reform on one particularly vulnerable group – the disabled.

In issuing this document, Councillor Howard Sykes said:
“Disabled people are a particularly vulnerable group and amongst those most likely to be worst hit by welfare reform.
Liberal Democrats in Oldham would like to see disabled people exempted from many of the provisions of welfare reform, as pensioners have, and we will lobby Government to make this so .

However, whatever the rights and wrongs of welfare reform, the reality is that it is here to stay in one form or other as any Government in power will need to address the ever spiralling benefits bill.

One of my concerns is that, in the rush to prepare for the introduction of welfare reform, agencies and officers may have paid insufficient attention to the needs of the disabled.

Oldham is a pilot authority for welfare reform – by establishing best practice here we can set a standard for other authorities introducing welfare reform from October.

The Liberal Democrat Group has issued a policy paper to Councillor Jabbar, Cabinet Member for Finance, and the Labour Administration outlining 12 practical measures that the authority should adopt to support disabled people in our borough faced with welfare reform.
I hope that, after a period of reflection, we will have the opportunity to meet with them to discuss the document and identify how we can take these measures forward.

This bi-partisan approach is identical to that which we have taken as a party in supporting the Administration on a number of issues, most recently the campaign to combat loan sharks”.

A Summary of the Liberal Democrat 12-Point Plan follows.

Oldham Council can support disabled people faced by welfare reform:
1. By ensuring that those disabled social tenants who ‘under-occupy’ and who require overnight care from non-resident carers are granted an additional bedroom under the size criteria.

2. By awarding housing benefit for an extra bedroom for a disabled child unable to share.

3. By adopting a new Discretionary Housing Payment policy that provides for indefinite payments to make up rent shortfalls where social tenants with disabilities occupy ‘significantly adapted properties’.

4. By ensuring the DHP also meets rent shortfalls for disabled people requiring an extra room for medical equipment.

5. By exploring the creation of a Hardship Fund to support disabled people with rent shortfalls who are not able to access additional bedroom entitlement or the DHP.

6. By developing a support package for disabled people moving home.

7. By offering the 12-month instalment scheme for Council Tax as a default scheme to new payers.

8. By promoting the Disabled Band Reduction Scheme to those occupying adapted properties.

9. By promoting the Disabled Band Reduction Scheme to those who are ‘severely mentally impaired’ or their careers, support workers and family members.

10. By exploring the creation of a Hardship Fund to support disabled people with Council Tax arrears.

11. By arranging direct payments of rent and Council Tax for disabled and ‘vulnerable’ clients eligible for this facility.

12. By ensuring that Local Welfare Provision meets the needs of the disabled and vulnerable.

If anybody would like a copy of the full report please email me directly and I will send you a copy.

Struggling to pay your Council Tax?

Get payment advice at your local event
If you are worried about paying your Council Tax or struggling to make payments, don’t ignore the problem.

At your local drop-in session you can get advice and support, as well as discussing payment options that will help make it easier for you to manage your budget.

At the events we can help you to:

Set up a Council Tax direct debit.
We will help you fill in a form so that the payment is made each month directly from your bank account. Remember to bring your bank details with you.
Open a Council Tax Jam Jar Account with Oldham Credit Union.

A Jam Jar Account helps you to manage your budget and prioritise your spending. Opening an account will also give you access to fair loans and savings. To set up an account you will need to bring two forms of identification with you, which must include your name, address and signature.

Acceptable documents are:

Rent book
Tenancy agreement
Mortgage letter or statement
Passport
Birth Certificate
Utility Bill, i.e. gas, water, electricity, telephone
Driving Licence
Union membership card
Work’s identity card
Wage slip
Bank card
Bus pass with photograph
Medical card

The two nearest events are taking place on:

Tuesday 7 May:
2pm – 5pm
Crompton Library
Farrow Street East, Shaw OL2 8QY

Wednesday 8 May:
9am – 12noon
Oldham Library
Greaves Street, Oldham OL1 1AL

If you are struggling to pay your Council Tax, don’t ignore the problem. Contact us urgently to discuss payment options T: 0161 770 6622 9am – 5pm Monday to Friday.

Visit: Access Oldham, Civic Centre, Oldham 8.40am and 5pm Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday 9.30am to 5pm Wednesday

Flooding at Woodend – up date meeting 24th April, 5-7pm Dunwood Park Community Building

As you are probably already aware, there is an on-going problem with flooding in the area and I am writing to let you know that I have been working with a variety of agencies to try to find a solution to this. In order to share this information with you, I would like to invite you to a “Drop in Session” as follows:

Date: Wednesday, 24 April 2013
Time: 5.00pm – 7.00pm
Venue: Dunwood Park Community Building

Please do pop along any time bewteen 5-7pm.

Officers from Highways & Engineering, Environmental Services, the District Team will be there to discuss these matters with you.

I hope you will be able to attend on the night to have your say.

Check on your Elderly Neighbours in this Cold Weather

The last few winters here in Shaw have been particularly cold, and while we all shiver and turn up the heating, we should also spare a thought for some of the more vulnerable members our neighbourhood here in Shaw – elderly people.

When it gets colder outside, it tends to spur us on to look out for those in need, and it’s really important to make sure that your elderly neighbours are OK when temperatures start to drop, especially those who are house-bound, or who may not have family to pay them regular visits. It’s estimated that more than a million elderly people will spend winter alone in the UK.

It’s particularly important to Look Out For Elderly Neighbours if you live in a rural neighbourhood where access to amenities, shops and services could be limited or cut off to those who find it hard to walk, or drive.

Loneliness can Kill
It’s not just the obvious things such as heating and food that people feel in need of when the weather becomes inclement. If elderly people rely on visits from friends, family or even services such as meals on wheels, bad weather can restrict the amount of company they get, and conditions may make it difficult or impossible for elderly neighbours to see anyone. So, if you know a neighbour lives alone, make a point of popping in and seeing if they need anything. You might find that they need a little company, and knowing that someone cares can really make all the difference. If they know you are nearby and can be called on in an emergency, it really can make a great deal of difference.

Who to Contact
Some elderly people resist help from neighbours, seeing them as ‘strangers’, or simply because they feel too proud to accept help. If this is the case and you have concerns about an elderly neighbour, don’t be afraid to contact your local social services team and ask for someone to visit. They may already have home help or a carer that calls in, and it’s always better to be safe than sorry. If you haven’t seen an elderly neighbour for a while and the weather has been bad, it doesn’t hurt to call round and make sure that everything is OK. Reporting any concerns may seem a little over the top, but in some cases could save someone’s life.

If you or someone you know needs support to keep warm this winter, you can contact the Oldham Keep Cosy Scheme.

The scheme is run in partnership with Age UK, but is open to anyone who is living in a cold home or struggling to pay their fuel bills (regardless of age and income levels).

People referred will receive a home assessment and small energy efficiency measures installed for free where needed.

They will also be offered:

Energy bill advice
Debt advice
Benefit check
Referrals for insulation and heating grants

Referrals for other preventative services where necessary e.g. fire alarms

Contact
Contact Age UK Oldham with neighbours name, address and details of the situation:

Phone: 0161 678 2033
Email: [email protected]

If you pay an elderly neighbour a visit and find them a little confused, or not their usual self, it could be that the cold is affecting them so call NHS Direct on 0845 46 47 for medical advice if necessary.

Ways to Help your Elderly Neighbours in Cold Weather
If you’re visiting an elderly neighbour and their house feels cold, make sure that they have a blanket or rug they can use to keep warm if they are frightened of using too much fuel. If not, try to encourage them to wear a dressing gown, or a ‘slanket’ style all-in-one to keep warm while they are sitting around the house.
Be a good neighbour and clear their paths. Many older people are very frightened about walking on icy pavements – after all, it’s hard enough for the younger generation. You could also ask if they have enough milk, bread and supplies to last them.

Make sure that they have adequate heating, and if necessary see if you can source or lend them a portable heater for when the weather is really cold.

Find out if they need regular medication, and if they have enough supplies to last a cold snap. Offer to pick up prescriptions if necessary, or make arrangements with a local pharmacy.