Newsletter, December 2020
A brief summary of what’s in our December 2020 newsletter..
As we near the end of this strange and difficult year, we bring you news on a wide range of issues that are ‘works in progress’ at SPC as well as the annual reminders of how you, your family, friends and neighbours can stay safe and warm as winter comes to Saddleworth. We say a fond but sad farewell to a former Chairman’s lady who passed away recently and look forward to next Christmas when, hopefully, we can hold our annual Christmas lights competition again.
Ensuring we work as efficiently & effectively as possible on your behalf
Here at Saddleworth Parish Council, we’re busy reviewing our working practices and committees to ensure that everything is working in the most efficient and effective way. At our last council meeting, we agreed to run a task and finish group to look at all our committee structures, as well as our Standing Orders ahead of our next Annual General Meeting.
It’s a bit of an understatement to say that 2020 has been an unusual year. The Coronavirus has meant that, for the first time ever, remote council and committee meetings have had to become the norm.
However we’ve been aware that, for some people, this had made SPC less accessible so our review will consider whether any lessons can be learned, while making sure that everyone can access the Council properly.
Parish Council Chair Barbara Beeley said: “We are always aware that we are spending money raised from the community, for the benefit of the community. We review our spending on a rolling basis, but it is also important to make sure that the whole way the Council works promotes effective working practice.”
We will be running the group over the next few months, looking at practice at other Parish Councils to see if there are approaches that we can learn from.
Cllr Beeley added: “There have been changes to the way that the district works with the Borough Council, and as we have joint committees, it seems an appropriate time to make sure we’re working in the best way that we can.”
One piece of good news is that, despite the coronavirus, we’ve been able to minimize our expenditure over the year very effectively.
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Parish Council queries missing green belt locations
Last month we talked about the Greater Manchester spatial framework (GMSF): a plan which identifies how land across Greater Manchester will be used in the years up to 2037, including land for homes, employment space and infrastructure in order to boost economic growth and cater for a growing population.
We reported how we had written to Oldham Borough Council to query the disappearance of three sites which were due to be made green belt from the latest version of Greater Manchester Spatial Framework, after the most recent delays to the plan.
Three sites, at Dacres, Stoneswood and Wall Hill, had been marked to receive the increased protection in version two of the plan, one aspect which the Parish Council had strongly supported.
At time of writing, the third iteration was on hold, following challenges in Stockport and Salford.
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Farewell to Chairman’s Lady Di
Last month we received the sad news that Di Heffernan, the wife of former Parish Council Chair, and Oldham Borough Mayor Derek Heffernan, passed away. She will be sadly missed by all who knew her.
She was a passionate supporter of Derek’s work, doing a huge amount to support local charities and the community, running flea markets and jumble sales to raise funds as Chairman’s Lady – they really were a team.
Our sincere condolences go out to Derek and the family.
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Supporting our police
The police are the backbone of any community so we were disturbed to hear that, in the first three months of lockdown, there had been an increase in the volume of the number of assaults on police officers and that over 88% of police officers have been assaulted during their careers.
Over the summer there has unfortunately been a growing cultural movement seeking to undermine, de-legitimise and unfairly criticise police officers and the work that they do. Assaults against police offers are all too common and, during the pandemic, there have been numerous reports of individuals, who claim to have had the coronavirus, coughing and spitting on officers.
The police diligently enforce the law, tackle crime and ensure order in our society, all whilst facing great danger. The recent tragic death of Sgt. Matt Ratana and the attack on Greater Manchester Police PCs Joanna and Jack Wilber closer to home in September of last year serve to show the challenges, and sacrifices, of serving on ‘the thin blue line’.
This Council, in fully supporting our brave police officers, resolves to write to Chief Constable, Ian Hopkins and the Home Secretary regarding the following:
- To acknowledge with concern and robustly reject any efforts made to undermine, de-legitimise and unfairly criticise police officers and the work that they do
- To applaud the public service of our police, particularly our local teams in Saddleworth and the wider Borough of Oldham
- To strongly state our appreciation of the police for their willingness to take on unique challenges and pressures, and potentially shoulder great sacrifice, for the benefit of all citizens
- To join with the Police Federation in welcoming HM Government’s announcement of an increase in the maximum prison sentence for assaulting a police officer from twelve months to two years.
As the representative body for the people of Saddleworth SPC has complete trust and confidence in our Police Service. This is a message that we are keen to promote wherever possible from here, in our monthly newsletter, to social media and local press.
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Survey for the Saddleworth’s Neighbourhood Plan – the results
Last month we reported on how the first phase of consultation on Saddleworth’s Neighbourhood Plan had been completed, and how we were taking up residents’ concerns with the Home Office and the Communities Minister, as well the Greater Manchester Combined Authorities and Oldham Borough Council.
While the initial consultation was aimed at getting community feedback to inform the Neighbourhood Plan, a considerable number of responses raised concerns that need to inform political decisions at other levels.
For instance, out of 225 responses on community safety, 139 requested more police – a response that needs flagging up at a local and national level. Another example is how residents appeared to be split on the issue of broadband: out of 80 responses over 40 thought reception was good whereas 30 thought it wasn’t good enough.
One issue that’s come out of this survey is a need to ensure that the people of Saddleworth know the Parish Councillors are listening, despite the problems that 2020 has handed us.
Even though we may not be visibly present, SPC is as committed as ever to working on your behalf. We are listening and we can be contacted by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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We are still looking for Fairtrade volunteers!
Fairtrade products are rapidly growing in popularity as retailers and customers choose to support better prices, decent working conditions, local sustainability and fair terms of trade for farmers and workers in the developing world.
We want to see as many local retailers, hospitality outlets and workplaces as possible stocking Fairtrade products. Many already do, but there is room for improvement!
This is why we’re setting up a local steering group to encourage more local restaurants, pubs, bars, hotels, B&Bs, sandwich shops, cafes, coffee shops, workplaces, convenience stores and newsagents to stock Fairtrade products – and we are seeking volunteers to help make this happen.
If you’d like to find out more about being a Fairtrade volunteer in our community and help to change farmers’ and workers’ lives, please contact Councillor Richard Darlington by email email@example.com. Or email SPC at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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We wish you a safe Christmas and New Year…
The Coronavirus has meant that 2020 has been a difficult year for everyone. Things were bad enough in the summer months and now we’re already well into winter.
We all know that winter can hit Saddleworth hard. What was pretty countryside by summer can become treacherous in adverse weather conditions, especially up on the moors. As anyone in Saddleworth knows all too well, our local weather can change dramatically at the drop of a hat. Hazardous Arctic-like conditions can suddenly appear when only a few miles away things are much milder.
It’s not just walkers, cyclists and climbers that can find themselves in trouble, motorists can get stranded on our moorland roads. Sometimes, even ordinary folk at home can find themselves in need of assistance when travel is impossible.
Oldham Mountain Rescue
Despite the Coronavirus, the Oldham Mountain Rescue Team are on constant standby 24/7/365 – even on Christmas Day. The following is a summary of what OMRT suggest can help you to stay safe this Christmas season. We think it’s worth repeating.
What to do in an emergency
If you’re out and about this winter, whether walking, climbing or driving, it makes sense to be prepared by wearing suitable clothing and carrying the right equipment. Those at home or caring for the elderly and vulnerable should ensure they have sufficient fuel and food plus candles and torches to see them through a lengthy power cut. But in an absolute emergency OMRT is here to transport patients to and from remote houses (sometimes not so remote!) and to transport equipment and necessities where needed.
Visit their website for more information: http://omrt.org/
So that’s about it for our 2020 newsletter. All that remains is to wish everyone a safe and peaceful Christmas, and a happier New Year from everyone at Saddleworth Parish Council.
Let’s hope that next Christmas we can hold our annual Christmas lights competition, something we’ve really missed this year.