Agenda item

Questions to Leader and Cabinet

(time limit 30 minutes)


Councillor Sykes, Leader of the Liberal Democrat Group


Question 1: Cost of Living Crisis

The cost-of-living crisis is leaving may families across the borough of Oldham facing real hardship and in terms of free school meals the government has effectively reduced the Council’s budget by £212,000, in real terms. No child, in this Borough should go hungry – if a child is hungry how can they be expected to study? What is Oldham Council going to do to plug this funding gap in its free school meals budget, which has been brought about because of cuts that have been imposed by the Conservative Government. Wil the Leader of the Council write to the new Secretary of State for Education calling on him to reverse the cuts.


Councillor Chadderton replied that she shared agreed with everything that Councillor Sykes had said and that it was disgusting that residents of the Borough were faced with the choice of heating and eating.


Question 2: Transport

Councillor Sykes stated that he welcomed the revised plans for a non-charging Clean Air Zone in Greater Manchester, though this was subject to government approval. A key aim of a Clean Air Zone should be the encouragement of the use of electric vehicles although the current infrastructure to support this was not adequate, as there was not enough charging points in the Borough or across the wider Greater Manchester Region. Also more needed to be done to encourage the use of public transport and to remove the uncertainty that currently existed some bus routes in the Borough that were facing either a reduced service or removal.


The Leader of the Council replied that the Mayor and the other Council Leaders across Greater Manchester had made it clear that they were opposed to any sort of charges for a Clean Air Zone. Oldham Council was presently making bids to external funding sources that would assist in the roll-out of electric vehicle usage and that the Greater Manchester Mayor, Andy Burnham, had committed to the roll-out and greater use of electric powered buses.



Councillor Lancaster Deputy Leader of the Conservative Group


Question 1: Whit Friday Events in Saddleworth

Whilst it was encouraging to see the Leader of the Council enjoying the traditional Whit Friday event in Saddleworth earlier in the year, the long-term future of this occasion is in some doubt. Whit Friday brings in much needed tourism revenue to the Saddleworth area and is greatly enjoyable by local residents and by those attending from beyond the borough’s boundaries. There is presently a funding shortfall of the Whit Friday event of £11,000 that has to be found by the nine Saddleworth and Lees Ward Councillors. A previous Leader of the Council had committed to finding the £11,000 funding shortfall.


Councillor Chadderton replied that she did indeed enjoy the Whit Friday event but was unaware of the funding commitment made by a previous Leader of the Council. Councillor Chadderton did however undertake to investigate this matter further and encouraged Councillor Lancaster to forward to her, any relevant information that he may have regarding this issue.


Question 2: Openness and Transparency

Councillor Lancaster stated that the Council had for some time been treating the residents of the Borough with indifference, denial and occasional hostility. To emphasise his point he cited examples of videos of Council meetings being removed from the website, only to be quickly reinstated, short fallings in the Council’s dealings with victims of child sexual exploitation and rising crime levels without holding the Mayor of Greater Manchester to account. He asked who was making decisions in Oldham and if it was the case that the Leader ‘was in office but not in power?’


Councillor Chadderton replied denying Councillor Lancaster’s question.


Councillor Hobin, Leader of the Failsworth Independent Party

The minutes of Council meetings should be an accurate and record of their proceedings and he expressed his concerns that this was not currently the case, referencing remarks thereon that Councillors Hindle and Wilkinson had made earlier in the meeting. Councillor Hobin also expressed concerns at the limited number of people in the public gallery that were viewing this meeting and how they had been allowed in in ‘bits and pieces’ meaning some members of the public had missed most of the first hour of the meeting. He asked who has issued the ‘ASBO’s’ banning some members of the public from attending certain Council buildings, adding that some of those who had received an ‘ASBO’ did not deserve to do so.


Councillor Chadderton replied that the issue of the Council minutes had been dealt with earlier in the meeting. Regarding the ‘ASBI’s’, a small number of people had been banned from attending Council and civic buildings for the specific reasons that were outlined on the letters that each of the individuals would have received. Those people, that have been the subject of an ‘ASBI’ did have the right to appeal the decision.


Question from Councillor Birch:

‘Could the Cabinet Member for Neighbourhoods please give an update on the 'Don't Trash Oldham' initiative and outline the next steps moving forward?’


Councillor Stretton Cabinet Member for Neighbourhoods replied : Officers have prepared a report which is to be presented to Cabinet on the 19th September which will explain in full our plans for the next phase of the successful Don’t Trash Oldham campaign.

Which has so far resulted in:-

           3,496 streets cleaned

           662 alleyways cleaned.

           284 tons of waste removed.

           381 fixed penalty notices issued, where evidence was discovered;

           44 individuals prosecuted at the Magistrates Courts resulting in fines and associated costs of £26,000 being awarded with a further 77 case files pending court consideration;

           62,000 conversations on the doorstep with residents highlighting the campaign.

Oldham is now a far cleaner place than when we started the campaign and we do not intend to rest on our laurels with more targeted interventions where people continue to flout the law, but also support given to those communities that do play their part to ensure the borough reflects what the majority of our residents expect.


Question from Councillor McLaren:

Can the relevant Cabinet Member please tell us how many households have received the Council Tax energy Rebate payments and whether there are any plans to help households in the future with the increasing cost of energy?’


Councillor Jabbar, Deputy Leader of the Council and Cabinet Member for Finance and Low Carbon replied The Council has issued payments of £150 to 87,846 households in Oldham.  Of these 58,140 were paid directly into bank accounts and 29,706 were issued using a voucher cashable at the Post Office.  Only 84.6% of the vouchers have been cashed and so those households who haven’t cashed the voucher will receive a refund to their Council Tax accounts of £150. 

In addition a further 21,559 Council Tax energy rebate discretionary payments have been made to households topped by funding from the Household Support Fund.  Of these, 7,639 have been paid directly into a bank account and 13,920 via a voucher cashable at the Post Office. 

The Council will provide extra support for households but the nature of that support will be shaped by the expected announcement from the New Prime Minister.


Question from Councillor Ibrahim:

I’ve had lots of casework regarding blocked gullies to the point where they have become waterlogged and have caused flooding into the highways.

This is also an issue across the borough as I know colleagues have had similar casework issues across the borough and we have all seen videos and photos of these cases on social media. Therefore can the relevant cabinet member please advise how often gullies are cleaned throughout the borough?


Councillor Stretton, Cabinet Member for Neighbourhoods replied that subject to access we aim to inspect all roadside gullies a minimum of once per year and in accordance with a scheduled programme.

By working to the scheduled programme the Council is able to work efficiently and ensure that every gully gets visited as quickly as possible.

If a blocked gully is putting a residents property at risk of flooding, please let us know and we will inspect and arrange for it to be cleared if necessary.


Question from Councillor Lancaster

This Meeting falls some two months prior to Remembrance, and I am sure many communities across the various towns and villages in our Borough are presently making plans for their own local acts of Remembrance. With that in mind, my Question concerns the Borough Council’s preparedness for Remembrance this year.

In the Civil Parish of Saddleworth, several hundred people gather at Pots & Pans every Remembrance Sunday to observe and participate in the service held there. The Pots & Pans war memorial, which is a Grade II Listed structure, is in a poor state, with the plaques on its sides particularly worse for wear and many names of fallen heroes now having faded away. With the centenary of the laying of the foundation stone being next May, it seems appropriate for restorative action to be taken in the very near future.

I understand from my Group colleague, Councillor. Dave Arnott, that in the Township of Royton, he too is working on a local war memorial issue.

Can the Administration please offer the Council’s resource to addressing these two specific cases, and also report on the Council’s work in preparing the Borough for Remembrance this year?


Councillor Stretton, Cabinet Member for Neighbourhoods replied that preparations for Remembrance Sunday are underway for the seven services throughout the Borough in conjunction with the Royal British Legion.

As far as the question over Pots and Pans the answer is as follows.

Officers are aware of the potential issues that have been brought to the council’s attention regarding the plaques and stonework at the Pots and Pans war memorial and with this in mind a specialist has been appointed. They will present them with an updated report to identify what needs to be done to ensure the long-term appearance, safety and features on such an iconic memorial in the Saddleworth District are met. Once the report has been completed, I have asked officers to bring this to my portfolio meeting to discuss in detail the cost, work requirements and any timescales for work to be undertaken.

I trust that this answers the question and reassures you that we do take the maintenance of our war memorials seriously to ensure that they do not fall into a state of disrepair.


Question from Councillor Al-Hamdani

Given the current increase in energy prices in the UK, how much is the additional cost to residents of heating their homes compared to the what the cost would be under the mine water heating scheme? How many residents in Oldham have been and will be affected by the failure to deliver the scheme? What impact would the scheme – which the Liberal Democrats first proposed in 2012 – have on the town's commitment to a zero-carbon future, and what economic benefits would it bring by placing the town at the forefront of this emerging technology?


Councillor Jabbar, Deputy Leader of the Council and Cabinet Member for Finance and Low Carbon replied that The Council is in the process of appointing consultants to prepare the Outline Business Case for the mine water district heat network scheme. This piece of work is expected to take around 12 months and will model both the costs of the scheme and the end prices to business and residential customers. As such, no information is available yet on how much the end users of the heat will pay.


As the Town Centre residential properties being modelled for connection to the mine water district heat network have not yet been built, no existing residents have been affected by the fact that the scheme has not yet been developed. It is expected that 2,000 new residential properties will be served by the proposed district heat network.

The heat network, once built, is expected to save around 2,639 tonnes of CO2 per annum. It is hoped that the OBC will confirm that residents and businesses connected to the heat network will benefit from relatively lower energy bills, supporting town centre jobs and providing affordable warmth.


Question from Councillor Goodwin:
What help is available to residents in relation to accessing the social security support they are entitled to and deserve?


Councillor Brownridge, Cabinet Member for Health and Social Care replied that help is available in a number of ways:

           Residents claiming Council Tax Reduction from the Council, are advised in their entitlement letters of any state benefits they have not yet claimed

           Residents calling into Access Oldham requiring assistance to claim state benefits (eg universal credit) and/or Council Tax Reduction are assisted in this by our Do It Online team

           Residents calling with regards to Council Tax or other debts or concerns, either through the Council Tax line or Helpline routes, are provided with advice and guidance as to what is available, and if appropriate, signposted to the Support and Inclusion team who can assist with claims

           The Council’s Welfare Rights team also assist residents in identifying potential entitlement to, and making claims to benefits and supporting appeals against refusals of claims for state benefits for residents requiring help

           The Council also supports the Citizens Advice organisation to provide benefit entitlement advice amongst other support.


Question from Councillor Steven Bashforth:

Work is now progressing well on the refurbishment of Royton Town Hall and mindful of its iconic and historic status; all through the process the Royton Labour Councillors have worked closely with the Royton Local History Society to ensure its original features have been retained and restored and that the works are of a very high quality so the building can be passed on for future generations of Royton. To further enhance Royton Town Hall’s standing and to give it the recognition it deserves, it now would be fitting to see this well-loved building given listed status. Would the relevant cabinet member help us in this by assigning officers to assist us in our application to Historic England?


Councillor Chadderton, Leader of the Council replied that We do not believe that the building fits the listed building criteria, so our suggestion is that Royton Town Hall is a key community asset and I am pleased that this is recognised within the context of our Place Based Programme. Officers have undertaken an initial high-level assessment of the building and unfortunately it is believed that the asset does not meet the national criteria for listed building status. However, I am pleased to confirm that over the coming weeks, officers will undertake a more formal assessment and the position of eligibility will be reviewed through the Corporate Property Board.


Question from Councillor Chris McManus

The Conservative Group’s Researcher had been asked to find out how much Council Tax had been generated in his Ward, Saddleworth South. This information he was advised was not available but apparently was in 2016. The Portfolio Holder was asked how much Council Tax was raised per Ward, per year and how much of that revenue that was raised was reinvested in the individual Ward and would the Council commit to publish this information on an annual basis?


Councillor Jabbar, Deputy Leader of the Council and Cabinet Member for Finance and Low Carbon replied that the collection of Council Tax in the Borough could not be recorded on a Ward by Ward basis and that it would be inappropriate to do so as it would not be an accurate reflection of the Council’s statutory financial responsibilities.