Garth Harkness

Liberal Democrat Councillor for Saddleworth North Ward on Oldham Council Learn more

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Liberal Democrats Find More Cash to Make Oldham Cleaner, Greener, Healthier and More Musical

by Garth Harkness on 23 February, 2020

The Liberal Democrat Group on Oldham Council will be presenting their alternate budget proposals to next week’s Performance and Value for Money Committee (4 February 2020). The review falls three weeks prior to the Liberal Democrat Amendment being considered by the Full Council (26 February).

In their budget proposals for the coming financial year (2020/21), the Liberal Democrat Group on Oldham Council has found significant sums to invest in front-line services over the next five years by finding a further £1.888 million over two years in savings at the Civic Centre. 

The Liberal Democrats would utilise the £1.621m of revenue savings from the coming financial year to:

  • Provide £750,000 on developing a business case for three new health centres for Shaw, Saddleworth and Chadderton;
  • Make £671,000 available to tackle environmental crime, such as fly-tipping and dog-fouling, to improve road signs and to support the creation of Lorry Watch and Community Speed-watch schemes, improving highway safety;
  • Reverse the Labour Administration cut to district budgets from last year to make £120,000 more available to Ward Councillors to spend on local priorities;
  • Reverse the Labour Administration’s cuts from last year amounting to £15,000 to Parish Council budgets, keeping more money for localities;
  • Invest £50,000 to pay for food clubs to provide nutritious, healthy meals for the children of low-income families struggling with finances during school holidays;
  • Create a special fund of £15,000 to pay for the Saddleworth Band Contest. This is a world-renowned annual event, which attracts competing brass bands and tourists to the Borough from far and wide.

The Liberal Democrats would also refocus the Council’s capital programme on new priorities:

  • Investing £18 million over five financial years in local health care, treble the sum proposed by the Labour Administration, to build three new health centres for Shaw, Saddleworth and Chadderton, instead of Labour’s one. Construction on the first, a replacement Crompton Health Centre, would start next year, rather than in four years’ time as Labour proposes;
  • Investing £6.5 million over five years in a specific remediation fund to decontaminate brownfield sites which were once the location of factories and mills. These can then be used as sites on which to build the new homes that this Borough needs, instead of concreting over our irreplaceable Green Belt;
  • Investing £6.5 million more over five years to make Oldham a greener borough and to help the Council realise its ambition of becoming carbon neutral by 2025;
  • Creating a specific £500,000 fund dedicated to restoring pedestrian footways;

The Deputy Leader of the Opposition and of the Liberal Democrat Group, Councillor Chris Gloster, who is Shadow Cabinet Member for Finance said: “Our proposals are visionary. The Liberal Democrats would build three new health centres, including a desperately needed replacement health centre in Shaw; save our previous Green Belt from development; put Oldham at the forefront in tackling climate change; make improvements in signage and pedestrian footpaths to make our streets safer for drivers and pedestrians; and keep more money in the budgets of local Councillors and Parish Councils to help provide responsive services for the people and communities that they serve. We are also committed to creating special funds to support two priorities which are close to our hearts – providing money to set up school holiday clubs to feed our Borough’s neediest children and funding our world-renowned annual Saddleworth Band Contest.”

“We have found the money to do this by proposing some common-sense savings at the Civic Centre – better control by managers of staff recruitment and retention,  reduced spending on media and communications, removing car allowances from staff who drive 100 miles or less in a year on Council business, and cutting sky-high spending on air travel.”

Councillor Gloster added: “The Liberal Democrats also welcome the Boundary Commission review of the number of Councillors and ward boundaries. We have been asking for a review of Councillor numbers since at least 2012 as we believe this may lead to further savings should our proposals for a reduction from 60 Councillors to 40 come to fruition.”

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