Agenda item

Public Questions

(time limit 30 Minutes)


1.    Question submitted by Jeffrey Smith

These old council street litter bins I've asked council coordinators councillors etc to get one for my community to help reduce litter as it’s a spot where fly tipping and litter is rife, so I was wondering if I could acquire one for my area Royton Hall Walk Royton as the area would benefit a litter bin, most are going to be scrapped anyway, I also run Oldham Wombles community litter picking group so please consider me for a single bin. if I ever acquired one would be kept clean and not over-flowing so no complaints.


Councillor Chadderton Leader of the Council replied, thank you for your question, Mr Smith - I understand you have been in direct discussion with officers on this matter, who have confirmed that we are unable to provide a Council branded bin directly to you as there is liability involved for which you are not covered.

I am aware that the location for the bin is owned by the Guinness Housing Association and we’re keen to work in partnership with them to support the work you are doing in the area. 

 I would like to take this opportunity to thank you personally for all the work that you do to assist us in keeping our streets and open spaces clear of litter. Hope more of the community can get involved when Don’t Trash Oldham comes to your area again.


2.    Question submitted by Hannah Roberts

The former Dog and Partridge pub on Middleton Road in Royton has been under development for some time. I know that the developer has had to reapply for planning permission to change the scheme because the building was in such a poor structural state which caused some delay. I also know that the Council has previously taken action to ensure that the site is cleaned up and the building is made secure. I can see though that the site is again covered in rubbish and the building is no longer sealed up. Work also seems to have stopped. Can the Council take any action to make the owner keep the site clear and to ensure that it is secured against trespassers? And does the Council have any information about the timetable for the building work?


Councillor Chadderton Leader of the Council replied thank you for your question – I am aware that we have written to the landowner advising them to secure the site and recommended that they resume construction to resolve the challenges with maintaining the site. 

If no positive actions are taken by the landowner, then the Council will investigate whether enforcement action would be appropriate under section 215 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990.

The Council does not have a current position from the landowner on the timetable for the building work – however we will continue to chase updates.


3.    Question submitted by Mick Harwood

Can I have an update on the work on Royton Town Hall and Library, is there space for the local community to use and is work on schedule and has the opening date been confirmed? 


Councillor Chadderton, Leader of the Council, replied, thank you for your question Mr. Harwood. The Victorian styled Royton Town Hall and Library buildings are planned to undergo major alterations and refurbishment works to ensure these buildings of local heritage importance are retained and improved. 

The project includes various improvements for the benefit of the local community including a refurbished library and bring the Town Hall Meeting Room back in to use for the Community, Voluntary and Faith sectors. 

We have already completed some work on the Town Hall building including demolition of the rear extension and the necessary repairs to the clock tower, clock faces and mechanisms.

We are currently within the procurement phase of a contractor for further works and will be able to advise on completion of all the works in due course.


4.    Question submitted by Shazia Aktar

It is good to see that the Get Oldham Working Jobs Fair is being held again this September. Please can we have an update at the next council meeting of how many employers, job seekers and students attended? It would also be good to know how many people find a job, an apprenticeship or new career as a result.


Councillor Akhtar, Cabinet Member for Employment and Enterprise, replied thank you for your question. I can confirm that attendance comprised - 61 employers and 1,143 members of the public. The opportunities available at the event included - 678 Jobs, 152 apprenticeships and 120 Work experience / Volunteering positions.

 Officers are currently tracking the outcomes of the Jobs Fair with employers, but at this time, we know that 60 attendees have found employment, and there are many interviews scheduled for the coming week/s now half term has passed. 

Case Study - NHS Professionals feedback: 

We spoke to over 100 candidates on the day and have applications from over 60 prospective candidates for our bank and flexible positions across Care, Estates and Facilities, Domestics and Clerical to work within our client Northern Care Alliance. 

A great success story from the day was meeting Catherine, an experienced Catering Assistant. Catherine sent us her CV whilst chatting with our Consultant Alex, Alex sent her CV immediately to the Catering Manager at Royal Oldham Hospital and an interview was confirmed within the hour. After a second interview today, Monday, Catherine has now been offered a full-time position within the department to start on Monday 3rd October. This offers Catherine flexibility, a long-term contract and has provided the NHS with a fantastic member of staff within a very short-staffed team.  – She started yesterday.


5.    Question submitted by Andrew Holt

Given the looming energy crisis and the broader issue of climate change, what plans do the Council have for sustainability across the borough?


Councillor Jabbar, Deputy Leader of the Council and Cabinet Member for Finance and Low Carbon replied, thank you for your question Mr Holt. The Oldham Green New Deal Strategy was adopted in March 2020 and is available on the Council’s website.  This plan sets out the Council’s approach to energy for the borough which aims to secure large-scale inward investment in low carbon infrastructure for the borough to cut carbon emissions and stabilise energy bills.

A key initiative to achieve this is our ongoing work to develop an Oldham Green New Deal Delivery Partnership, building on key Greater Manchester level initiatives such as the GM Local Energy Market project.

We also aim to make sure that Oldham’s local Green Technology and Services supply chain companies are involved as much as possible in delivering low carbon infrastructure in the borough, bringing new opportunities for jobs and training opportunities in this growing sector.


6.    Question submitted by Larry Patrick

I am really pleased that Oldham's Labour Council has worked with the CCG to find a way to build a long-awaited new Health Centre in Shaw which will deliver modern health services for local residents and improve part of Shaw centre. Does the Council know what the timetable is for delivering the new Health Centre and when it will be open to patients?


Councillor Brownridge, Cabinet Member for Health and Social Care replied. thank you for your question, we are delighted that the residents of Shaw and Crompton are on track to have access to a modern and fit-for-purpose local healthcare facility.  Subject to planning approval and the completion of site purchase, preparatory work will begin early in January, with contractors on-site the following month. Handover of the building is scheduled for March 2024, with the new SHAW CROMPTON MEDICAL CENTRE opening to patients as soon as possible after that. The Council is working closely with the NHS to support and facilitate this much needed project, which is currently on plan with no delays envisaged.


7.    Question submitted by Dawn Stewart

It has been well publicised in the press that a vote by Conservative MPs has allowed vast quantities of raw sewage to be pumped into Britain's rivers and onto Britain's beaches. Has the council itself incurred any costs of clean up and if so, will it be seeking to reclaim these costs from the profiteering privatised water companies?


Councillor Chadderton, Leader of the Council, replied thank you for your question regarding sewage contamination of the Country’s rivers and beaches. I can confirm that Oldham Council has not incurred any costs relating to actions required within the borough. The Environment Agency will take action and ensure compliance for any matters relating to contamination of rivers and seas.


8.    Question submitted by Syed Maruf Ali

What is the NEET figure for Oldham? Which Wards have the highest and lowest number of NEETS?What help and support are available to help young people get into education, employment or training?How many young people from Werneth Ward between 16 to 25 are NEET? Can you please break this down by age, gender and ethnicity?


Councillor Ali, Cabinet Member for Education and Skills replied that the current NEET rate for Oldham (September 2022) is 2.12%.  This covers Year 12 and Year 13 and as per our statutory duty to report to the DfE.

The most recent comparator data available by ward is June 2022. At that point, Hollinwood had the highest number of young people who were NEET, and Saddleworth West and Lees had the lowest.

The council commissions a trusted and skilled partner, Positive Steps, to work with our young people to provide support, advice and career guidance during their participation age (Year 12 and 13). They offer appointments to Year 12 and 13 NEET young people in person, over the phone or online. 

Positive Steps also hold drop-in sessions every week, working with various other providers and Connect to Your Future mentors to ensure those young people have access to more intensive mentoring support where necessary.

In addition, ‘Connect to your Future’ provides engagement, mentoring and transition support, utilising Positive Steps to deliver support for 15 – 18-year-olds and Ingeous for the 19+ age group.

Northern Roots continues empowering young people and connects them with growth opportunities in the green sector.

Get Oldham Working (GOW) Youth continues to develop, initially supporting Care Leavers to become EET via the Youth Hub model.

GOW Working Wardrobe supports young people to access interview clothing to alleviate some of the barriers to employment.

Oldham Council has committed to 20 apprenticeships across council services to support young people to achieve qualifications, work experience and establish careers.

We have introduced a NEET survey, directed at young people to understand better the barriers to engagement.

We have also introduced a padlet (an online platform that houses posts from multiple sources all in one place) showing opportunities for engagement, education and training for young people.

Events have been targeted at School leavers over the summer with education, training and engagement providers to support with understanding the range of options available to them.

There are also a variety of pre-employment and engagement programmes available through providers such as Groundworks and the Princes Trust.

The most recent comparator data available by ward is June 2022.  The Oldham NEET rate was 3.9% (16–18-year-olds).  Of the 3.9%, twenty-one young people who were NEET resided in the Werneth ward.  This equates to 4.2% of the June NEET population.

Of the 9.1% Oldham Youth Unemployment (18 – 24-year-olds) population, 12% resided in the Werneth Ward.  

We are unable to report any further in relation to age, gender and ethnicity. 


9.    Question submitted by the Sholver Travel Futures Group

We are a group of residents who are concerned about safe, more direct pedestrian and cycle access down Bullcote Lane, particularly for pupils of Royton and Crompton School. Will the Council put forward a scheme which separates walkers and cyclists from cars in the next round of Mayor’s Challenge Fund bidding?


Councillor Chadderton, Leader of the Council, replied thank you for submitting this question - we are currently using the Greater Manchester Mayor’s Challenge ‘Capability’ Funding to identify gaps in our walking and cycling network to inform a delivery pipeline to improve access for walking, cycling and wheeling in Oldham.

We have applied for additional funding to review Active Travel and Road Safety requirements around our schools. The outcomes of these studies, plus requests like yours are used to prioritise locations and develop schemes that we put forward in the next round of funding bids.


10.Question submitted by Norma Taylor

The Tories cost of living crisis is having a terrible effect on many Oldham households and businesses. It’s not just the cost of petrol, gas and electricity, but also food and many other goods. Inflation must be affecting our Council’s budget too. Could the Cabinet member for Finance explain what is happening and how the Council is dealing with it?


Councillor Jabbar, Deputy Leader of the Council and Cabinet Member for Finance and Low Cabinet, replied. thank you for your question, we know how tough things are for many of our residents right now, and sadly it looks as if things could get even harder this winter, especially as the cost of many household essentials continues to rise.

To help those who need it most, we have invested more than £3 million to provide funding for energy, food and childcare, as well as extending the range of existing support available such as the Citizens’ Advice service and community engagement teams, who go door-to-door checking on people’s welfare and helping them access the support they are entitled to.

We are opening ‘warm banks’ in every District, open to anyone who needs a warm, inviting space through the colder months. We are working with local partners to identify local spaces that can provide warm spaces free of charge for residents. These includes our libraries and local community centres.

We are also providing an additional £1.95m of food vouchers to households in receipt of free school meals during the October, Christmas, February and Easter holidays, easing the financial burden that many parents are facing.

When it comes to the Council’s budget, it’s clearly a very challenging time. We have faced over a decade of austerity, responded to a pandemic and are now doing everything we can to help during the cost-of-living crisis. However, we are responding to this challenge proactively, delivering a wide-ranging transformation plan to improve our residents experience of council services, reduce demand and drive long-term efficiencies.


11.Question submitted by Pete Grubb

In view of increasing fuel costs, and the need to improve health by encouraging exercise could the leader of the council indicate what plans are in place to provide safe and contiguous cycle routes and secure cycle storage at schools, shopping areas, council workplaces and public transport interchanges?


Councillor Chadderton, Leader of the Council, replied, thank you for your question.  We are currently finalising a new Transport Strategy, which sets out actions to increase access to key destinations across the borough and promote Active Travel (walking, cycling and the use of public transport).

This will significantly help contribute to improving the health of our residents and communities.

To date, we have successfully bid for funding via Transport for Greater Manchester to connect the gaps in our walking and cycling routes.  We are also working with developers to contribute to highways improvements.

As we develop our new Local Plan we are also including parking guidance to ensure all developments and transport interchanges include safe and secure cycle parking for residents, business use and visitors.


12.Question submitted by Ceridwen Short

I understand that the reason the Council could not go ahead with the Wrigley Head Solar Farm was because the income generated by the sale of electricity was too low to make it cost effective. Given the extraordinary hike in unit cost of electricity since this decision was made, is it being looked at again as the cost-benefit ratio must now be more favourable?

Using solar panels to produce electricity must also be better than carbon-based options like fracking or extracting more gas from the North Sea.


Councillor Jabbar, Deputy Leader of the Council and Cabinet Member for Finance and Low Carbon, replied, thank you for your question. The Wrigley Head Solar Farm project is currently under review following the rises in energy prices – and with fossil fuels becoming more difficult, risky and costly to produce as the easy-to-access reserves become depleted. 

Low carbon energy generation options such as solar panels are not only a relatively cleaner way of generating the energy we need, they provide secure, local supplies and are also one of the cheapest ways of generating energy.


13.Question submitted by Hayley Wood

We write to you as Oldham Foster Carer’s Working Group, we are a group of foster carers who’s aim it is to be bring improvements to the lives of Oldham local authority foster carers and their children & young people.

Sadly, the group are finding themselves having to follow this route to get our elected leaders to listen to our plight and to take seriously our concerns with regards to the Cost of Living & Energy Crisis and the ongoing pressure and effects it is having on carers and the children in their care.

Carers cannot continue to care for the children and young people to statutory requirements without adequate resources that are needed to meet them. Whilst the 4% uplift which was applied to the child’s allowance earlier this year & the £250 one off payment was welcome it does not meet the extra cost to what is needed to carry out our roles and to give the young people in our care the experiences they should be having.

It is a sad fact that carers are now having to make decisions resulting in children missing out on activities, day trips etc as carers simply do not have the funds to allow them to do them, carers are also now using their savings to enable them to live and to subsidise the shortfall they are experiencing due to the inadequate funds they are being given to them to carry out their roles.

We feel we need to remind the Council that you are the Corporate Parent and it is your duty to ensure that we are given enough to care for the children you are responsible for, no foster carer should be out of pocket in the fostering role yet all foster carers are out of pocket and no concern or regard is being shown by either the Council or the Fostering Service.

Mention should also be given to the foster-carers skills payments review which is currently taking place, it is very disappointing that this review has not been completed as yet and carer’s are being fobbed off with non sensical answers which only serve to insult our intelligence.

The local authority needs to start looking after existing carers or their recruitment programme is a waste of time as we are unwilling to recommend anyone to foster for Oldham under the present conditions plus carers are tired of not being listened to and leave.

Oldham Foster Carer Working Group with respect ask that the Council act now to ensure that the children and young people and their carers have what they need to meet the national minimum standards set out by the DfE.

We need extra finances to meet our obligations and we need it is a matter of urgency.


Councillor Moores, Cabinet Member for Children and Young People replied, thank you for your question. For information, please note that payments to carers are divided into 2 categories as follows

Fostering allowances: These are paid to cover the daily costs of caring for a child or Young Person and other payments made to cover costs they incur.

Skills based payments: These are fee payments, paid to carers recognising their skills, experiences in caring for children and young people based on their assessment.

Fostering allowances (weekly rates) in light of the cost of living crisis were agreed and paid to Foster Carers 1st April 2022 above National minimum standards by the Government as set out below:

We reviewed our financial support to foster carers due to this increased financial pressure and enable our Looked After Children and Young People to have their basic needs met and have continued opportunities to experience activities within the community.

Supplementary payments were also raised to the same rates as above from 1st April 2022

Birthday allowances – equivalent of one weeks fostering allowance at new rate

Festival allowances -equivalent of one weeks fostering allowance at new rate

Holiday allowance -equivalent of 2 weeks fostering allowance at new rate.

In addition, mileage was increased to 45p per mile from 1st April 2022.

We also provided a £250 payment for each fostering household to support with an increase in energy costs, we agreed to review again in October 22 but due to the financial support offered by the Government to households we have agreed to review a further energy payment early next year when we have further details from the Government on support packages.

We worked with identified foster carers by the forum in increasing the basic allowance package for furniture starter kit- includes, beds, cots, prams, baby monitors etc dependant on the needs. We agreed the increases suggested by the foster carers and implemented early this year.

There is discretionary arrangements for educational field trips, spectacles, passports and school photographs

In addition to we continue to support allowances with an initial clothing payment at the discretion of the Team Manager and HOS of up to the following amounts within the first 6 months of a child Looked After and up to £175 to assist towards the purchase of a school uniform. 

Skills Payment: We at OMBCare committed to reviewing the skills payment which we said would be reviewed in the Autumn, we have agreed at the forum that we would present our initial ideas in a special meeting on 30th November for consultation with those who would want to attend.

It is likely that a finalised version of the plans will not be submitted to DMT until early next year so there will be some delay.

The issue for foster carers are that they require an uplift on skills payments, as a Local Authority we would want to link training and skills with rewards/incentives for carers who are able to provide stability for complex, harder to place children and young people.

In addition to the fostering allowances skills paid per child

Group 1 – (carers with no relevant skills and experience and less than 6 months fostering/relevant experience do not get a skills payment

Group 2 – basic allowance plus £79.38 per week skills payment per child (more than 6 months experience and agreed to attend core training)

Group 3 – basic allowance plus £158.76 per week skills payment per child

Group 4 - basic allowance plus £237.23 per week skills payment per child

Group 5 - basic allowance plus £340.76 per week skills payment per child (e.g meet criteria for group 4 and able to support most complex children and young people)

If you, for example, are a carer with one child aged 10 and one aged 4 as a group 3 carer - weekly income is £626.40.


14.Question submitted by Simon Wynn

Does Oldham Council have any financial involvement in the recent purchase of boundary park by the new owners of Oldham Athletic? and by financial involvement I mean have you provided a loan? Or become joint owners of Boundary Park?


Councillor Jabbar, Deputy Leader of the Council and Cabinet Member for Finance and Low Carbon, replied, that the Council had no financial involvement in the recent purchase of Boundary Park by the new owners of Oldham Athletic. The Council is not a joint owner of Boundary Park, nor does it have an outstanding loan with Oldham Athletic.


15.Question submitted by Jason Pape-Jones

I recently spent nearly two hours waiting on hold to get through to the Council Tax team, and it’s taken weeks to make progress with my issue. Can the council not do something to make it easier when residents have an issue with services?


Councillor Jabbar, Deputy Leader of the Council and Cabinet Member for Finance and Low Carbon, replied, thank you for your question. I am sorry that you had to wait such a long period to get through to the Council Tax team.  However, Council Tax is an area of understandably high demand. The average call length for Council Tax is 10 minutes, and the average wait time is 22 minutes.  At peak periods, unfortunately, this waiting time can increase.

Residents are able to manage their Council Tax account using “My Account” and are able to sign up using the links on the website. The Council is expanding digital self-serve options so that residents can access and request services at a time that suits them without having to wait in call queues.  Information about this is on our website.

The Council is looking to improve its performance in this area and I will work with the Director responsible for the Contact Centre in this regard.


16.Question submitted by Anita Lowe

During my attendance at one of the Big Conversation’ events held by Oldham Council at East Methodist Church, with the Chief Executive, Harry Catherall and the previous Council Leader, Arooj Shah, leading the event.

Ms Shah made a statement after questions were raised and I quote -: "we have a nice surprise for something happening at Mumps Princess Gate and have decided to divulge the news this evening, to confirm the agreement of a new build of a hotel and supermarket on the site at Mumps" 

The Chief Executive agreed and said it was great news for the area. Please can the Chief Executive confirm any further news regarding this information that was spoken at this meeting regarding the hotel and supermarket plans. As these plans go back to November 2018 when 60 million pounds was allocated for The Princess Gate Masterplan as stated in The Oldham Times by a local democracy reporter and by another previous council leader.

Of course, we observe the housing - development taking place nearby on the Oldham - by - pass - which in effect will no longer be a by-pass with traffic light restrictions for access to the development.

But my question for you is when is the Hotel and Supermarket ever going to appear? Or are these all-fake statements and false promises?


Councillor Chadderton, Leader of the Council, replied, thank you for your question Anita. The development plans at Mumps are not fake statements - the Council entered into a legal agreement in 2019, which would see a new supermarket and hotel built by the purchaser.

During the covid pandemic - the original planning and development timescales were delayed by the developer. However, the lack of progress is noted by the Council and is frustrating given the legal contract in place. However, the local economy is seeing unprecedented situations with the combination of effects from Brexit, the pandemic and the ongoing crisis in the Ukraine.

We can understand why our local communities are frustrated - we share that frustration and the Council are in continued dialogue with the developer to chase progress.


17.Question submitted by Mark Birchall

With the spectre of HMOs springing up at great pace in Oldham and some actually being two bedrooms small terraced being converted into 4-bedroom bedsits with no living accommodation. Residents are in fear of one turning up on their doorstep devaluing their property overnight and bringing the well documented issues along with them. Many families are in B&B awaiting a home how can this be allowed to happen in this borough, we are creating a looming problem with this rise. Interestingly you have been talking! about this for over a year as a council alongside our local MP Jim McMahon. Are these just platitudes you want residents to hear or are they actual discussions to implement something. It surprises me that Liverpool council in their wisdom only took two months from discussion to implementation to stop this problem, yourselves as the council along with our MP have been doing this for over a year. When will you actually do something is the answer, we are all waiting for?


Councillor Chadderton, Leader of the Council, replied, thank you for your question Mr Birchall. The Council do monitor HMOs, however there is no evidence that would justify the removal of permitted development rights for the conversion of a home to a 3-6 bed HMO through an Article 4 Direction. 

There has to be a cumulative impact which is proven to harm the local area – but this does not apply in any community in Oldham, and there is no evidence of an increase in upheld complaints against HMO properties or their occupiers as causing harm through their presence / actions to other residents.  All other HMO proposals already require planning permission.

The comparison to Liverpool is not appropriate, as the challenge with HMOs in parts of Liverpool is far greater due to the high demand for student HMOs coupled with non-student HMOs in certain areas of the city creating significant clusters of HMOs in those areas.  The number of HMOs being created in Oldham is far smaller and is not clustered in any particular area(s).


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 website, with written answers, in due course.

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