Agenda item

Public Questions

(time limit 30 Minutes)


1.    Question submitted by Matthew Smith

‘In the last local election, I didn't vote for anyone, as I've been extremely disappointed in the way parties have behaved in council meetings and also lost all trust in local councillors for a number of reasons. I decided to watch the last council meeting (July) in the hope that, with a new leader, things may have changed. How wrong could I be?


I would like to say how disappointing it was to see the mayor lose complete control of the meeting and councillors behaving worse than school children. We had Councillor Steve Bashford using the lords' name in vain and then shouting out in reply 'I use any one I want' when challenged. There would be uproar if other religious figures had been mentioned in the same way, yet this was totally ignored by the mayor, who seemed more upset over Councillor Barnes' not sitting down. I do not condone Councillor Barnes' behaviour in refusing to sit down either. I was also shocked to hear Councillor Phythian describe the suggestion of a government-appointed enquiry as a waste of money, despite the comments of victims; total disregard for the victims. The chamber should be ashamed of themselves. Labour's stubbornness around a government-appointed enquiry is clearly an issue which won’t go away, as there appears to be a growing demand for one. Therefore, is there no way the Oldham public could be consulted on this to determine whether it is something we want? The reason around cost shouldn’t never be used, like Councillor Phythian tried. This council has and continues to waste hundreds of thousands of pounds on vanity projects or just clear wastage, so maybe if cost is such an issue then may be look into this?  In addition, what do you intend to do regarding the behaviour of your colleagues in the Labour party in how they conducted themselves in the chamber, like Councillor Bashford's comments? By saying nothing, you're condoning this behaviour. And finally, as leader do you intend to have any meetings with other party leaders to tone down this bad behaviour from your own party and that of other parties?’


Councillor Chadderton, Leader of the Council and Cabinet Member for Housing and Regeneration replied as follows: ‘I’m glad you raised this issue. Behaviour at the last two Council meetings, from a small number of those in the public gallery and – disappointingly – a number of elected members, has been reprehensible.


The taxpayers of Oldham have a right to expect Council business to be carried out safely, fairly, and in accordance with the law. The Council has taken swift action following the last full Council meeting, setting out clearly what we expect from all those attending our meetings, and telling a small number of those who caused the worst disruption – including throwing missiles, unplugging equipment and tampering with fire alarms – that they are banned from our public meetings for a period of time.


You also mention a public enquiry into CSE in Oldham – which I understand was ruled out by Government yesterday.


We have already had an independent review, from the very best people in the business. These are the people the Government have appointed to review responses to CSE in other authorities – and they have already spent more than two and a half years examining thousands of pieces of evidence here in Oldham.


I have never ruled out a further enquiry into CSE in Oldham. But what I have been clear on is that we must focus on the survivors of the CSE and listening to what they want.


That’s why we are working with Keeping Our Girls Safe (KOGS) to create an independent victim support advisory group, to ensure the voice of local survivors shapes our work. That’s why we’re providing funding for independent – fully independent – legal advice so survivors can get the legal support they need. And that’s why we’ve set up a cross-party group with councillors from all parties to provide direction and scrutiny as we further improve our safeguarding services.


Finally, I have already spoken to elected members from all parties about the horrendous behaviour at the last Council meeting, and asked that we work together, as representatives of the people of Oldham, to give people the fair, informed and respectful representation they deserve.


Thank you’.


2.    Question from Hannah Roberts

The Local Plan, together with Places for Everyone when approved and any completed Neighbourhood Plans, will help to shape housing, infrastructure and the local economy for the next 10 years. When finalised, the Local Plan will also be a material consideration in any decisions made on individual Planning Application and will have a big impact of the lives of many Oldham residents. The Issues and Options consulted on last year also contained ground-breaking proposals for making a Green Oldham and helping us to get to net zero. Can the Leader of the Council confirm both the timetable for consultation on the draft Local Plan and how that consultation process will be carried out so that as many residents as possible are aware of what will be in the Local Plan and have the chance to state their views?


Councillor Chadderton, Leader of the Council and Cabinet Member for Housing and Regeneration replied as follows: ‘thank you for your question. An updated Local Development Scheme, which includes the timetable for preparing a new Local Plan for Oldham, will be considered later this month and, if approved, published on the Council’s website shortly after.  When the draft Local Plan is published for public consultation, all residents of the borough, and any other interested parties, will be able to view and comment on the various proposed policies.  How to do this, and any other details of how to engage in the public consultation, will be publicised closer to the time of the actual consultation.’


3.    Question from Stephen Ingram

Inconsiderate parking outside schools is a problem across the Borough. Other Local Authorities in Greater Manchester have implemented trials of "school streets" to combat this. This is where cars are prohibited from accessing the streets that schools are on to improve safety for children during pick up and drop off times. Are there any plans to trial any such schemes in Oldham?


Councillor Mohon Ali, Cabinet Member for Education and Skills replied as follows: ‘thank you for your question. Parking outside schools is a national problem and something we have been reviewing following the escalation of concerns from both schools, parents and our local communities. Oldham will be trialling a School Streets programme with a number of schools across the borough. In November, the Council will be consulting the schools involved, parents, pupils, residents and local businesses to gain their views on the proposed schemes. All of the schemes will be implemented using an Experimental Traffic Regulation Order which means that ongoing consultation and engagement will be taking place to measure the effectiveness of the schemes and if they can be improved in any way.’


4.    Question from Alison Shore

‘The failure of the government to reduce our reliance on natural gas for energy has left people in Oldham vulnerable to the volatility of the price of natural gas. This has already seen energy prices rise by around £600 per year for the average household when the price cap was last reviewed in April. One estimate suggests that there could be a further increase of £1200 for the average household when the cap is reviewed again in October.


Other local authorities around the country are proposing "warm banks" - warm places for people to go during the winter to reduce how much energy is used keeping their homes warm. Does Oldham have any plans for "warm banks" in the Borough?’


Councillor Jabbar, Deputy Leader of the Council and Cabinet Member for Finance and Low Carbon replied as follows: ‘thank you for your question - as a Council, we are committed to ensuring that support is available to help Oldhamers get through the coming winter months. We are looking at a range of different measures that we can take to meet this challenge, including setting up warm banks for people to access, and will be releasing our plans soon.’


5.    Question from David Barter

‘Government has made money available to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions of public sector buildings as part of the "Public Sector Decarbonisation Scheme" (PSDS). £1.425 billion has reportedly been made available as part of the third phase of the scheme, with more having been awarded in previous phases.


Has Oldham Council benefitted from previous phases of the PSDS and if so, what has this money been spent on and what are the estimated Carbon emission reductions from any investment that has taken place? Does Oldham Council intend to submit a bid to phase 3b of the scheme, for which applications were intended to open this month (September)?’


Councillor Jabbar, Deputy Leader of the Council and Cabinet Member for Finance and Low Carbon replied as follows: ‘thank you for your question -  I can confirm that the Council has benefited from previous rounds of the Public Sector Decarbonisation Scheme, securing around £290K in round 1 (via a direct application to Salix) for Air Source Heat Pumps at Alexandra Park Depot, and around £100K for a project to upgrade the lighting at Oldham Leisure Centre to LED lighting (via a GMCA consortium bid). 


The estimated carbon emissions reduction from these two projects is 30.47tCO2/annum for Alexandra Park Eco-Centre and 15.94tCO2/annum for Oldham Leisure Centre.


The Council does intend to submit an application to the latest bidding round for this fund when it opens later this month – details of the application are still under development’.


6.    Question from Brian Kelly

Daycare provision has been closing across Oldham including Stepping Stones Nursery in Uppermill and Hillside Nursery in Sholver. We know that good quality nursery education is important for children to get off to a good start and how difficult it is for them to catch up once they fall behind. Can the Cabinet Member for Children tell us how many other day nurseries and childminders have had to close in the past two years and what the impact is on communities like Sholver and Derker in St James Ward? What can the Council do to support day care provision and to encourage every family to use the free early education offer for two-to-four-year-olds?’


Councillor Moores, Cabinet Member for Children’s Services replied as follows: ‘between March 2020 and the end of June this year we have seen the closure of 57 early years settings across Oldham. The breakdown includes 4-day nurseries, 2 playgroups and 42 childminders. The remainder are holiday schemes and out of school clubs.


However, over the same period we have seen new provision starting up, which means little change to the net supply of early years places across the borough:


Period Number of registered providers Breakdown

March 2020   239     154 x childminders

85 group settings

June 2022     240     154 childminders

86 settings


The closure of one day nursery and 3 childminders in St James ward has contributed to the most recent childcare sufficiency rating for the ward (Spring term 2022) showing a RAG rating of red for 2-year-old places. This means a shortage of places if all eligible children were to access their free entitlement within the ward where they live.


There is no current evidence of unmet need. This can be explained by the fact that some cross-ward boundary movement is common.


The RAG rating for 3 and 4 year olds places is green.


The Council is working pro-actively with partners delivering front-line services, to raise awareness of the free early education entitlements and to support parents through the eligibility-checking process.


Most recent comparative data from the DfE (published June 2022) shows uptake of the 2-year-old entitlement in Oldham in the January Early Years census at 72% was the same as the national average and slightly ahead of statistical neighbours (71%)


For 3 and 4 year olds, Oldham recorded 95% uptake compared to 92% nationally and a 93% average among statistical neighbour LA’s.’


7.    Question from Megan Birchall

‘Oldham Council has previously announced a project to harness latent heat from mineshafts in the Borough to use to heat buildings in Oldham Town Centre via a District Heat Network. In March 2022 it was reported that the project had been awarded £160,000 from the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy for feasibility works.


Can Councillors confirm the status of this project?”


Councillor Jabbar, Deputy Leader of the Council and Cabinet Member for Finance and Low Carbon, replied as follows: ‘thank you for your question – I can confirm that the Council is in the process of appointing external technical and project management consultants to develop the Outline Business Case for the project. Once appointed it is expected that this work will take around 12 months to complete. The Council continues to be in regular discussions with the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy around the potential for additional capital grant funding from the Green Heat Network Fund to help develop the project.


8.    Question from Dion Linton:

What can be done to stop pubs, family homes and shops being converted into HMOs?


Councillor Chadderton, Leader of the Council and Cabinet Member for Housing and Regeneration replied as follows: ‘Planning permission is not needed to convert buildings into a House of Multiple Occupation for up to 6 people: all larger properties require a full planning application to be considered.  The Council are exploring whether there is the evidence to justify removing such permitted development rights, so that we have visibility on all HMO proposals, but it is not something encouraged under national planning policy.’


9.    Question from Josh Charters

There's been another big reorganisation in the NHS with the creation of the Greater Manchester Integrated Care Partnership replacing the CCGs across Greater Manchester including Oldham's.


CCGs were set up by the Coalition's Lansley reforms so it is interesting the Government doesn't think this worked and has carried out yet another reorganisation.


Can the Cabinet Member for Health and Social Care explain how the new structure will work, who represents Oldham and tell us if she thinks this will help reduce health inequalities and improve delivery of NHS services.


Would she agree with me that the NHS is not safe in the hands of this Government?’


Councillor Brownridge, Cabinet Member for Health and Social care replied as follows: ‘Integrated care systems (ICSs) are partnerships of health and care organisations that come together to plan and deliver joined-up services and to improve the health of people who live and work in their area.


Following several years of locally-led development, and based on the recommendations of NHS England and NHS Improvement, the government set out plans to put ICSs on a statutory footing. They exist to achieve four aims:


           improve outcomes in population health and healthcare

           tackle inequalities in outcomes, experience and access

           enhance productivity and value for money

           help the NHS support broader social and economic development.


All relevant clinical commissioning group (CCG) functions and duties transferred to the ICS NHS body on 1 July 2022 when they were established, along with all CCG assets and liabilities, including their commissioning responsibilities and contracts.


Under the Health & Care Bill, a statutory ICS will be led by two related entities operating at system level – an ‘ICS NHS body’ and an ‘ICS health and care partnership’ – together, these are referred to as the ICS.


Each ICS partnership is responsible for agreeing an integrated care strategy for improving health care, social care and public health across their whole population, using the best insights from data available, built bottom-up up from local assessments of needs and assets identified at place level and focusing on reducing inequalities and addressing the consequences of the pandemic for communities. The ICS partnership is expected to be established locally and jointly by the relevant local authorities and the ICS NHS body, evolving from existing arrangements and with mutual agreement on its terms of reference, membership, ways of operating and administration. Local authorities that provide social care services in the ICS area and NHS organisations must be included. Beyond this, members may be from health and wellbeing boards, other statutory organisations, VCSE sector partners, social care providers and organisations with a relevant wider interest such as employers, housing and education providers. The membership may change as the priorities of the partnership evolve.

By comparison, each ICS NHS body is the employer and recipient of the national allocation and as an example, is responsible for:

           Developing a plan to meet the health needs of the population

           Allocating resources to deliver the plan by deciding how its national allocation will be spent across the system.

           Establishing joint working arrangements with partners that embed collaboration as the basis for delivery of joint priorities.

           Arranging for the provision of health services in line with the allocated resources across the ICS footprint through a range of collaborative leadership activities, including: putting contracts and agreements in place to secure delivery of its plan by providers; convening and supporting providers to lead major service transformation programmes; and putting in place personalised care.

           Working alongside councils to invest in local community organisations and infrastructure and, through joint working between health, social care and other partners including police, education, housing, safeguarding partnerships, employment and welfare services, ensuring that the NHS plays a full part in social and economic development and environmental sustainability.


As part of these new arrangements, Oldham has established an Integrated Health and Care Partnership. This brings together all parts of the health service with local government and voluntary sector. The year ahead will be a transition year for the new arrangements to be bed in. The Oldham Integrated Care Partnership is led by a Chief Officer, Mike Barker, and overseen by a Board which is chaired by myself as the Cabinet Member and includes Chief Executives from the Council and local NHS providers including the Royal Oldham and Pennine Care.


And, yes I do agree our NHS is NOT safe in the hands of this Government.


Under their leadership:


           a record number of people are now waiting longer than at any time in the history of the NHS. And that was a fact prior to the start of the pandemic.

           Life expectancy is lessening – people are dying earlier.

           Hospitals are opening foodbanks to support their own staff.

           This Government promised 6,000 more GPs, there has not been a single additional GP given to Oldham


And before my opposition colleagues try to deflect attention away from this appalling track record, let me head some things off at the pass.


           Whilst we are seeing the development of a new GP facility in Shaw it is our Integrated Care Partnership that is making this happen – it was at one point at risk until our Integrated Care Partnership Chief Officer stepped in and he and I are both grateful for the support from local Ward Members including those from the Liberal Democrats.


           And, it is good we are seeing new building works to upgrade parts of the Royal Oldham but this is a long way short of what is needed. That pretty much confirms Rishi Sunak’s boast that he is proud to have taken money away from deprived urban areas in order to give it to wealthy Tory heartlands like Tunbridge Wells.


So, our NHS is NOT safe in the hands of this Tory Government. But under my leadership I am determined that we will continue to fight for it as long as that fight is needed.’


10.Question from Chris Morris

‘It is reported that Cllr Montaz Ali Azad had an outstanding liability of over £50,000 following his failed legal action against the council. Can the council confirm that this has been settled in full and the taxpayers of Oldham are not left out of pocket?’


Councillor Mushtaq, Cabinet Member for Corporate Services replied as follows: ‘I can confirm that Oldham Council Taxpayers are not out of pocket.  There is no financial liability outstanding to the Council.’


11.Question from Lynne Kovacs

‘Will the relevant Council Officer please clarify the Council’s involvement with Frank Rothwell:-

1. Confirm what contracts it has awarded to him or any firm associated with him over the last 5 year?

2. Clarify the Council’s role in The Mills, Hollinwood project and confirm what financial and in-kind support it has provided to this venture?


Councillor Jabbar, Deputy Leader of the Council and Cabinet Member for Finance and Low Carbon replied as follows: ‘the only current business with Mr Rothwell personally is that he is the Leader’s Business Ambassador, which is an unpaid position, to help champion economic recovery, business support and business networking opportunities for the benefit of local businesses. The Council were delighted to hear about the decision Mr Rothwell and his family made to buy Oldham Athletic Football Club, but this decision and transactional process had no Council involvement.


With regards to the specific questions –

i) The Council has no contracts with Mr Rothwell’s businesses, and over the last 5 years there has been a total of £7,144.40 paid to Manchester Cabins for itemised goods / services.

ii) The Council has no role or involvement with The Mills, Hollinswood and there has been no financial or in-kind support provided to this venture.’


12.Question from Tony Birchall

‘Will the council be continuing its plan to clean up alleyways in Oldham and will it take further enforcement action against landlords and businesses who undermine those efforts to keep our town clean by illegally dumping their waste across the borough?’


Councillor Stretton, Cabinet Member for Neighbourhoods relied as follows: ‘I can confirm that the Council is reviewing the success and next steps for the ‘Don’t Trash Oldham’ initiative and this will be reported and discussed at the Cabinet meeting on 19th September.  Enforcement Officers continue to investigate and take enforcement action on anyone who can be proven to have fly-tipped and I would like to repeat my request that all incidents of fly-tipping are reported to the Council.’


13.Question from Mahaira Afshaan

‘It is fantastic news that Oldham Council is taking action to protect historic buildings on Union Street. I am pleased that a compulsory purchase order for the Prudential Assurance Building has been issued and that the Old Library building will be brought back in to use for a range of purposes, including a space for community groups to meet.


There are several other grand historic buildings along the Union Street corridor which are disused including the old Masonic Hall and half of the Lyceum. Does the Council have any plans to try and bring these back in to use too?’


Councillor Chadderton, Leader of the Council and Cabinet Member for Housing and Regeneration replied as follows: ‘Union Street forms a key apart of the Oldham Town Centre Conservation Area. It is an area of special architectural and historic interest and is underpinned by the Conservation Management Plan which addresses key issues and challenges and, in turn, provides guidance and policy on how these can be addressed. These policies include the reuse of vacant heritage assets, design guidance, and potential avenues the Council can take in terms of enforcement and funding.


Officers are making progress with the private sector owner of the Masonic Hall to establish a way forward for its future use. The Lyceum is partly occupied at present by the Music Service and we looking into options to bring the remaining empty space back into use.  As result both the Masonic Hall and Lyceum formed part of the Council’s submission for the Levelling Up Fund.’


14.Question from Eesa Hussain

‘Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham has announced that single bus fares could be capped at £2 and day tickets £5 from September as part of fast-tracked plans to reform the fragmented bus network.


Currently TfGM's "get me there" mobile app only enables passengers to buy tickets for Metrolink. As part of the plans coming forward in September could bus tickets also be made available on this app so that passengers can pay for their travel before leaving the house and is there any threat to this welcome reform because of the renewed legal action being taken by the bus operator Rotala?’


Councillor Chadderton, Leader of the Council and Cabinet Member for Housing and Regeneration replied as follows: ‘I am pleased to advise that since you contacted us with your question, Rotala lost their court appeal, which was the last legal challenge standing in the way of the ambitious plans to franchise bus services across Greater Manchester.


Currently you can use the GetMeThere app to purchase adult ‘AnyBus & Tram’ combined tickets in advance (you need to touch-in using a smart reader at a tram stop, before using your smart card on a bus.) . You can also buy many types of saver tickets in advance that give you several journeys in a day, or season tickets on bus company websites like Arriva, Diamond First Bus or Stagecoach.


As buses get bought into public control then it would make sense that all GM bus tickets could also be made available to purchase in advance on the GetMehere app, and Oldham officers will liaise with TfGM to see how early this can be introduced as franchising is phased in.’


Several questions, submitted by members of the public, remained unanswered at the end of the allotted 30 minutes period for this matter. The Mayor advised that the unanswered questions would be published to the Council’s web site, with written answers, in due course.

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