Agenda item

Questions to Leader and Cabinet

(time limit 30 minutes)


Councillor Sheldon, Leader of the Conservative Group


Question 1: Street Cleaning and Gulley Cleaning Services

Data from the Council’s Highways Service was no longer available for Members of the Council to view, including data for street cleaning and gulley cleaning services. Therefore clarification was sought regarding whether the Council’s cleaning teams were having difficulty attending parts of the Borough and because information was not being provided to Members they were unable to determine if the annual cleaning rotas were still being undertaken?


The Leader of the Council replied stating that she would investigate the issues raised by Councillor Sheldon and forward him a written answer thereon at the earliest opportunity.


Question 2: Town Square Redevelopment

Recent survey work of Oldham’s Town Square area had discovered the existence of a disused mine shaft, why was this not picked up during earlier surveyance work? What will be the cost to the Council to rectify the issues raised consequently? Who carried out the survey work? Who signed off the contract?


The Leader of the Council replied stating that she would investigate the issues raised by Councillor Sheldon and forward him a written answer thereon at the earliest opportunity.


Councillor Sykes, Leader of the Liberal Democrat Group


Question 1: Mumps Princess Gate

What impact has inflation had on the regeneration and other works being carried out at Mumps Princess Gate. It appears that no work is currently happening at this location, why is this the case? What will the impact of a 10% inflation rate on Oldham Council’s regeneration plans?


The Leader of the Council replied that the Council was dependent upon private contractors to help deliver regeneration projects. From time-to-time external factors have an affect over which the Council has no control, for instance a change of the business model by Marks and Spencer led to the closure of their Food Hall in the town. The Leader assured the meeting that the Council was in constant dialogue with developers and prospective developers.


Question 2: Schools

Schools across the Borough were facing severe challenges because of the Cost-of-Living crisis. Some schools were warning that they are close to running out of money. Therefore, what cost of living support will the Council be able to offer the Borough’s schools?


The Leader of the Council replied that she shared Councillor Sykes’ concerns in this regard. The Council was in constant dialogue with the Borough’s school’s but the funding issues were largely outside of the Council’s control.


Councillor Hobin, Leader of the Failsworth Independent Party

In terms of the Cost-of-Living how many enquiries had been received by specialist helplines? Will the Council agree to a freeze on Council Tax for the next two years?


The Leader of the Council replied that the Council would be unable to offer a freeze on Council Tax unless the government increased funding to local authorities. The Leader of the Council stated that the Council was working on a dashboard that would assist in determining the numbers of enquiries received.


Question from Councillor C. Phythian

Park house on Sandy Lane in Royton was due to be redeveloped into flats. Due to the developers going into liquidation this plan has not come into fruition. Subsequently the building has fallen into more disrepair and youths are constantly breaking in and causing problems for residents. Can the relevant cabinet member find out if the council can step in and compulsory purchase this fantastic historical building?


Councillor Chadderton, Leader of the Council replied, thank you for your question.  It is recognised how much impact buildings of this nature can have within local communities. The priority of the Council in the first instance is around facilitating a commercial development of the site coming forward and CPO action must be a last resort. We will therefore work flexibly with any interested party in order to facilitate the original plans coming to fruition.

In the meantime, we are taking a number of actions in respect of the poor condition of the building. This included: Officers within Environment Health working to ensure that the building is secure and safe. Legal Officers have formally written to the landowner clarifying their responsibility in respect of the property and formally requesting that they take all relevant action to ensure that the building remains secure and safe.


Question from Councillor Alyas

With hoardings going up across the town centre and residents starting to notice that work is underway on Creating a Better Place, can the relevant Cabinet Member provide an update on the Labour administration’s ambitious plans for the regeneration of Oldham Town Centre?


Councillor Chadderton, Leader of the Council replied, that it is great news that our residents recognise the progress in delivering our plans for a thriving town centre with various schemes moving from design into delivery, this is evidenced by the hoardings now visible at the Spindles as progress continues, but also the cranes and scaffolding at locations across the borough.

Regeneration plans are not just about investment in new and existing buildings, but it is about creating real and meaningful change for our residents and business within Oldham. Our ambitious plans for a thriving Town Centre will unlock millions of pounds worth of investment to create more than 2,000 new homes in Oldham town centre, 1,000 new jobs and 100 apprenticeship opportunities.  The Programme has already successfully secured millions of pounds of external funding including the Towns Fund, Future High Street Fund and we continue to seek out and apply for further funding opportunities to complement and reduce the demand on public funds.

There are too many projects in flight to provide you with a complete update this evening, but we are committed to delivery as there has been years of discussions and approvals, and our communities deserve the see the plans delivered and operational as soon as reasonably possible to ensure they have a thriving town centre, new homes to live and new opportunities for work.   We are equally conscious of ensuring our residents, local businesses and local communities benefit from the regeneration plans, and we are monitoring progress closely, ensuring value for money and social value is embedded in every project, with an annual progress report being discussed recently at the Overview and Scrutiny Committee.


Question from Councillor Harrison:

 I congratulate Oldham students who worked really hard in difficult circumstances to achieve their GCSE, BTEC, A and T Level results. However, does the Cabinet Member for Education and Skills agree with Labour's Shadow Education Minister that twelve years of Conservative Government have left a legacy of unequal outcomes that are holding back our kids and communities?


Councillor Ali, Cabinet Member for Education and Skills replied, first of all I want to say a massive well done for all the efforts made by young people undertaking GCSE, BTEC, A and T Level this year in Oldham.

The past few years have been incredibly tough on young people. Having to learn and take exams throughout the Covid pandemic made an already difficult time just that bit harder. I hope that all achieved what they needed to continue studies or take-up work-related opportunities.

This year 5000 Oldhamers took the first set of exams since the pandemic and then collected their GCSE, BTEC, A and T Level results from schools and colleges. GCSE and A-level grade rates improved across the board compared with the last exams in 2019. Results for Oldham’s children looked after, including those in foster and care homes, were positive, with many getting what they need to get to progress to college and university or begin apprenticeships and employment.

I’m incredibly proud of what our young people achieved in Oldham, especially under sometimes difficult circumstances.


Question from Councillor Murphy:

Ambulances queued outside, beds filling the corridors of A&E, staff running around and parking carnage - likened to a scene from a disaster film, but this is Oldham Royal Hospital A&E on a daily basis. 

I find it mind blowing that there are beds and privacy curtains in corridors; and staff waiting to walk past while nurses and doctors treat patients who have no privacy.  Yet this has become the norm. 

This is not a criticism of the staff who work extremely hard in very challenging circumstances.  It is easy to see why we love our NHS.

This is a criticism of the situation they find themselves in. Why are outside contractors being used to prop up the ambulance service by providing staff and ambulances?  Repairing the failure of primary care services must be the answer to relieving the pressures of A&E and the ambulance service.  Will the Leader and relevant Cabinet member commit to making services at Oldham Royal Hospital one of their top priorities, so things like curtains can remain on walls not on A&E corridors?


Councillor Brownridge, Cabinet member for Health and Social Care replied, that first and foremost, as Cabinet Member I am delighted that with our officers I have managed to secure an additional £1.9m investment to help improve our capacity during what is likely to be a very difficult winter for all parts of the health and care system. That funding is about to go into helping tackle some of the issues in our system to help keep patients flowing through our system. That will include some new service initiatives both in the A&E department and also within the care community outside of the hospital to help prevent people from needing to use A&E.

All that said, I think we all need to accept that this Government has shown its true colours when it comes to the NHS – they clap when it suits their PR image but in reality they are starving the service of the resources it needs. Not one single new GP out of the 6,000 promised by this Government has arrived in Oldham, as just one example of what I am talking about. Make no mistake this winter is going to be tough and challenging. It is busy now and it is not yet even cold. On top of a winter fuel crisis we have a health and care crisis of the Government’s own making. I want to thank now all those doctors and nurses for all their hard work now and in the future. And of course, this administration in Oldham will always fight for the NHS as long as the NHS needs us to fight for it. So yes, we will always see health and care as a priority – it’s just a shame that the Government cannot do the same.


Question from Councillor Sharp:

Following a recent consultation with residents in Westwood and Chadderton, it would appear development proposals have been withdrawn. It is my understanding that contracts are about to be signed for major development on sites in Derker, however, there has been no consultation, despite this being promised with residents in the wider community. Could the Leader please explain why there are consultations in some areas and not all – or is this once again an example of St James being neglected?


Councillor Chadderton, Leader of the Council replied, thank you for your question – consultation requirements come down to what is required by legislation or funding requirements as to whether a public consultation is necessary for any given proposal. However, in the case of the proposals to develop housing on brownfield sites in Derker, even though it is not required to have such consultation, the developer partner will be holding community engagement sessions on the proposals. It is not a case of the Council neglecting a ward when confirming arrangements to undertake public consultation events.


Question from Councillor Dean:

After two very challenging years young people received their exam results earlier this year, this is a particularly challenging time for our looked after children who will be considering their options including further education and employment. Could the Cabinet Member for children and young people please tell us what support and guidance is available to young people who are making decisions that will impact on their future lives?


Councillor Moores, Cabinet Member for Children and Young People replied, that statutory careers advice for all Children and Young People (CYP) is provided by schools and colleges. In addition, a wider partnership approach across education, CSC and wider agencies provides an enhanced offer for our CLA. 

Our Virtual School (VS) coordinates extra support and targeted activities for the young people in our care to assist them and those directly supporting them to make decisions that will impact on the rest of their lives. This is provided through dedicated Education Officers within the VS across the different education phases, including Post 16.

The VS deliver a range of and programmes to raise aspirations and participation, utilising information / data in Personal Education Plans (PEPs) with the young person’s voice, wishes and aspirations at the centre.

As our children and young people move from one phase of education to another, the programmes offered include visits to colleges, universities, work-based placements and wider engagement programmes, including through the Success 4 Life programme.

Virtual School and Post 16 Service provides education and careers updates and support with raising aspirations to all those working with children looked after and engages fully with colleagues from GMCA to coordinate the offer across the city region.

The council also commissions a dedicated Careers Advisor to work with our CLA to provide support, advice and career guidance during Years 12 and 13 and to support them if they become NEET, working closely with the virtual school and social workers.

In summary, we recognise that care experienced young people experience multiple disadvantages and therefore ensure that there are a variety of education, training, and personal development support options available from a wide range of agencies.