"I'm really sorry, but I need to put my hand in your pocket, again!"
Whilst most of Britain will enjoy a council tax freeze from April, we here in Tameside are once again being ‘shafted’ by Kieran Quinn and his gang after he announced that in two months our bills will go up by a cynical 1.9%! - Significantly just a fraction below the 2% needed to avoid a local referendum on the decision!

Any authority proposing an excessive increase in council tax must hold a local referendum and obtain a ‘yes’ vote before implementing the increase.

Now its being put to us that ‘this is only a small increase’ but let’s not forget that the council saw fit to further increase the burden on households by 1.9% last year too! And despite the fact that the council claimed that ‘they didn't benefit from that increase’ it still made a dent in the pockets of hard pressed families.

This latest increase now means that the council have circumvented; either by good luck or design, the need to call a local referendum to push this 3.8% increase, ostensibly spread over two years, through. Which in case of an E Band house represents an increase of £98.80 per annum. - Not an insignificant amount!

Just to remind you, the Government guidelines state that: For the 2014-15 financial year, the ‘principles of excessiveness’ stated that all local authorities, Police and Crime Commissioners and fire and rescue authorities could not raise council tax by more than 2% without a referendum.

Of course with many other Local Authorities taking up the Governments offer of a significant grant, the problem persists that our Labour-controlled Tameside Authority has consistently refused to take up the government’s offer of a nil increase council tax; preferring instead to put a further squeeze on constituents and casting the entire blame on their political opponents.

It’s all part of a game! Unfortunately, we are stuck in the middle of it.

Unlike with the utilities companies who raise their tariffs, we can, and do, switch supplier. Unfortunately, with ‘council tax’ we cannot pay to another authority, but we can vote them out!

If this council would stop playing political football at every opportunity and start to really cut out the waste and nonsense and communicate better than merely issuing diktats, who knows, people might not mind paying a little more tax to have decent services – because let’s face it, too many of the council cuts have resulted in critical things being stopped. 

My rubbish isn't collected often enough, so the bins in our area regularly overflow, which results in constant fly-tipping which takes several days to clear up. The pavements are broken and we currently have more pot holes than were encountered on the Western front!

Next time you see a councillor, ask them how it is that in other parts of the country, some Local Authorities are even reducing their Council Tax bills, - probably because they’re not constantly wasting their budgets on pointless schemes like putting sump splitting mountainous speed humps, and the introduction of more 20mph zones for minor roads throughout the borough, or relying on volunteers. 



Cllr John Taylor, AKA The Day-Glo- Kid 
In this world of ‘austerity’; at a time when the councillors tell us they are trying to do more with less and with the countdown to the elections well under way, we are hearing from a growing host of local career councillors, in particular those who may suspect that serious efforts to unseat them are gaining pace, on how the cuts to their budgets have prompted reductions in services and how they have had to amend their budgets, change systems and close all sorts of front line services in order to keep the wheels on the wagon.

In fact, so desperate were these councillors that they latched on to a (LGA) Local Government Association scheme, and introduced a ‘budget simulator’ in order to help them justify service changes by claiming ‘that’s what the voters wanted!’ – but more on that subject to follow.

One of the most prominent and vociferous voices in the current blame game, has been that of council ‘poster boy’ Cllr John Taylor, who is regularly seen, adorned in his best day-glow bib and tucker, elbowing his way to prominence in every photo-op he can find, to tell us about Ashton Market, especially the Christmas Market.

We could use this for a 'SPOT THE SHOPPER' competition!
Now least we all forget, not knowing whether the market would be the hoped for success or the farce it turned out to be, instead of dipping their toes in the water, those who must be obeyed, dismissed outright the sensible idea hiring the Christmas log cabins for a little over £7000, instead they allotted £69,500 of the annual budget to build the pseudo German cabins which became the mainstay of the themed market.

The council tried to justify this rash expenditure by saying that the money would be spread over 10 years and therefore would be money well spent. (No mention of maintenance costs, transportation or storage, nor any extra for ‘running the event or advertising and promotion!) Thus committing  themselves to 10 years of extra expenditure!

The problem is that although the Christmas Market may look pretty, for two years now, since its inception, the Christmas Market has been a financial disaster with very few people actually spending any money there.

Two expectant retailers, confined to solitary confinement 

But of course, being a man renowned for being economical with facts and selective with derogative details (unless they’re someone else’s) Cllr Taylor won’t tell you about the ‘extra’ money the council has, and will continue to spend, to try to put a shiny spin on this continuing festive folly.

If one visits - www.tameside.gov/transparency just take a look at the paid invoice list and you will see that a firm called New Images received two payments in December,  one was for £44,257.30 for ‘public entertainment’ and the other was for £34,726.60 also for ‘public entertainment’ now considering the time of year, one can only assume one was for the Ashton Christmas Market parade and stage events and the other perhaps the Pride of Tameside awards.

 Whatever it was for, when one considers the ‘cuts’ and all the excuses given by ‘our councillors’ as to why there’s no money to spend, another £78.983.90 is an awful lot of money for public entertainment.

If you have never visited the council’s website and studied the payments section, where the council are required by law to publish anything spent over £500, I strongly suggest you do.

It’s a sure fire way to discover just were our money is being spent, ostensibly for our benefit!

Now, if this current council gets its way and if the people of Tameside don’t wake up and get these ’gravy trainers’ off the council where they continue to recklessly spend our money, we can look to another 8 years of similar undisclosed amounts being thrown at trying to breathe new life into the long dead cadaver of Ashton’s Christmas Market, which at the current rate would be around £640,000.

No caption needed. ...The picture says it all!

Another interesting payment that you may also find of significance is a payment of £2,062, to a company called Leisure Skate Ltd, which one can only assume was for the ice rink.

Although I seem to remember, being told the ‘Ice Rink’ was sponsored?

Over to you Cllr Taylor, the taxpayers await your explanations.



One of the first tasks that research students who may be thinking of enrolling on the Radical Honesty degree course at the soon to be relocated further education faculty, (Known as Ashton College) should be to apply for funding to investigate just how far Tameside councillors can actually ‘stretch the truth’ before it finally dawns on ‘the great and good’ that they are being constantly subjected to a stream of concentrated BS, by a cabal of career councillors, who have a propensity to exaggerate their accomplishments, make false excuses for monumental failings and evade uncomfortable questions!

The shenanigans revealed in the article relating to Ashton’s Market, is a case in point.

It is not what has been written in this case, it’s what has been left out!

When one reads the article, one could be forgiven for thinking this award ‘Britain’s Favourite Market’ is a prestigious one-off award. But it isn’t. It’s was just one of thirteen awards given out annually to members of the National Association of British Market Authorities, (NABMA) and costs our council over £1000 per year for the privilege.

In other words, NABMA is an organisation that represents Local Authorities; so in simple terms this is a group of Councils who take turns at patting other Councils on the back until they’ve all got a ‘glass plaque’ to brag about and then presumably they’ll start again. (For proof, look at previous year’s results)

When one reads the article, it also suggests by implication that Ashton Market attracted over 100,000 votes. However, when one checks the figures, the figure of over 100,000 was for the total of votes cast for ALL the categories.

When one looks at the NABMA web site, and compare the results, with the council press release, one will see the significant difference.

The 2015 results for the Great British Market Awards were as follows:

Best Food Market – Leicester Market Food Hall
Best Large Community/Parish Market – Sandbach Charter Market

Best Small Community/Parish Market – Myddleton Road Market

Best Small Indoor Market – Pontefract & Stockport Market Hall

Best Large Indoor Market – Swansea Indoor Market

Best Small Outdoor Market – Kingston Ancient Market

Best Large Outdoor Market – Keswick Market

Best Small Speciality Market – Oswestry Christmas Live

Best Large Speciality Market – Belfast for their Christmas Market that took the top award in the Large Speciality Market category in the Great British Market Awards 2015.

The judges paid tribute to the success of the market and the influence and impact it has had in terms of socio economic, tourism and education in the city during the last decade.

Best Love Your Local Market Event – Haverhill Youth Market & Stockton High Street Market

Best Market Attraction – Bury Market is officially Britain’s Best Market Attraction. 
That was the decision of the judging panel in the Great British Market Awards 2015. The market attracts numerous awards every year for its innovation, quality and vast number of coach visitors.

Best Wholesale Market – St James’s, Bradford

Britain’s Favourite Market – Ashton-Under-Lyne The voting public returned Ashton as Britain’s Favourite Market for the second year running.

*In total, over 100,000 votes were made in the competition as shoppers clicked on line to vote for their local markets!

Cllr Taylor with his Christmas Tea Pot Award
– All this of course down to the guidance of Cllr John Taylor, who, as if we may have forgotten, is responsible for Tameside’s Markets and keeper of the official Christmas Tea Pot Award!

Returning again to the council press release; again by inference, it tells us that the much-loved Ashton Market – has also won ‘Britain’s Greenest Market’ and Market Team of the Year’ accolades! And goes on to give mention ‘successfully hosting the spectacular Tameside Christmas Market for the past two years!’

What it doesn't say, is that both The Greenest Market and Market Team awards were given in previous years! It’s like repeatedly telling us that The Wanderers won the FA Cup at Wembley! – Yes, they did, in 1871!

And as for the ‘successful’ Christmas Market, well…. We all have opinions on what the council call successful, don’t we?

There was a time when there was no need to concoct a National Competition to spread the word about Ashton Market, every housewife in the North West knew it was one of the best!
What confuses me is why is it that these councillors in their press releases simply seem unable or unwilling to tell the public the facts. They always seem to twist or distort the particulars in order to convince gullible voters into supporting their agenda.

On picking up the weekly newspaper, the thing that normally gets me motivated to oppose something, is when I am told something that is either completely untrue; has had the facts manipulated, or it does not make sense.

That’s the point when I feel it’s incumbent upon me as a local blogger, to do a little research and attempt to present my readers with all the facts.

While I can accept that things won't always be seen by others as I view them, I cannot accept people making decisions without having all the facts. Not just those that our councillors want us to know about. And because investigative reporting is now a thing of the past; what has resulted; especially around electioneering time, what passes for news from the council has become a version of the children's card game "Cheat!”

If the public really wants more honest, trustworthy, truthful and candid councillors, why don’t they start voting for them?

Surely, even if you don’t want to know the truth, at least learn to spot the lies!



Whether from oversight or design, there has emerged a serious problem between Tameside Planners, local Hattersley & Mottram residents and their local ward councillors.

One may also find it somewhat ironic that also in the mix are last year’s winner of the PRIDE OF HYDE Business of the Year Award - Peak Valley Housing Association; who picked up the trophy for making a positive contribution in the local community, has now put forth plans that may endanger the livelihoods of many of Hyde’s traders.

This follows what passed as a Speakers Panel planning meeting in which Peak Valley Housing Association had proposed plans to build what they call a ‘District Centre’ when in reality the proposition as presented is for an out-of-town Retail Park. – Almost a mirror image of Crown Point North and The Snipe Retail Park.

This is taken from Peak Valley’s proposal for what they call a ‘District Centre’

It looks a lot like The Snipe Retail Park to me!

A Retail Park: (noun) a shopping area on the edge of a town or city, where there are several large National Retail stores and Branded outlets and parking for hundreds of vehicles.

For those who don’t know or refuse to acknowledge the difference

A District Centre: a prominent shopping parade or precinct, consisting of a variety of plots, suitable for a variety of local community uses located within a residential area, and close to local transport links.

The retail units typically offer: Doctors, Dentists, Chemists, Hairdressers, A Bank or Post Office, Veterinary Practice, Funeral Directors, Florists, Community Shop, CAB offices, a Solicitors, Confectioners Newsagents etc’ – all anchored by an appropriately sized food outlet.

Now your first thoughts might be another out-of-town Retail Park anchored by either a Lidl or Aldi and populated by 14-units containing National Retailers and parking for over 250 vehicles to be a good thing, but not if you care for the struggling businesses in Hyde’s Town Centre and all the independent shopkeepers who will probably close, making hundreds of local people redundant!

You only need witness the antics of certain councillors at these public meetings to confirm that image of local councillors as perfect mirrors of community opinion is one which leaves much to be desired.

There was also good reason to suspect that councillors frequently take little notice of community groups. 

As reported in readers letters, during the recent planning committee meeting, councillors made derogatory statements about community opinion for which they had little evidence and disregarded community views on planning policy. In fact, one councillor was reported to have claimed that, only about 95% of the 280+ representations received were genuine (the first batch sent in reportedly being lost!) and suggested that many had been coerced by the community group!

Similarly it appears that some councillors' respect for local opinion is as questionable their concern for planning policy and enforcement.

To illustrate my point, 5 years ago, Tameside Council commissioned an update of the Tameside Retail Study.

The SWOT analysis of Hyde Town Centre was as follows:

Strengths • Strong convenience destination • Anchored by the Asda and Morrisons stores • Fairly strong comparison goods offer • Fairly strong retail service provision • Fairly strong financial and business service provision • Improving retailer ranking • Good accessibility • Good environmental quality • Indoor market

Weaknesses • Weak leisure services offer • High proportion of vacancies • Declining retailer requirements • Increasing yields • Limited evening economy • Lack of a commercial leisure operator • Poor comparison clothing offer

Opportunities • Attract a commercial leisure operator to help improve evening economy • Greater promotion of the centre • Diversification of the retail offer • Reinvestment in the shopping core • Improve pedestrian environment of market • Improve pedestrian links to train station

Threats • Limited opportunities for expansion • Improvement at other competing centres such as Ashton-under-Lyne and Crown Point North • Continued growth of online shopping • Downturn of economy may lead to increased vacancies in the town centre • Over dominance of Asda and Morrisons stores resulting in a lack of independent convenience providers.

So, having accepted this report, let’s look at what they have done during the last 5 years to turn Hyde’s fortunes’ around.

For instance, the report identified the lack of attractions to energise the ‘evening economy. Has the council opened the way for a Cinema Group? Bingo Hall? Bowling Ally? Or any other evening activities? - No!

It also clearly identified Crown Point North as being a major reason for the decline in existing outlets and the lack of investment from new businesses.

So, what do they do? 

They not only demolish the main shopping car park, they then destroy the outdoor market, at a cost of £1.3million, but allow a giant TESCO Extra to be built outside the town and now pass plans for yet another out-of-town Retail Park to further drain away Hyde’s lifeblood!

Typically retail parks host a range of nationally recognised chain stores, including furniture, clothes or footwear superstores, electrical stores, carpet and others - and the anchor tenant is usually a supermarket. Owing to their out-of-town sites, abundance of free parking and proximity to major roads, retail parks are often easier to reach than central shopping areas, and as a result town centres are less attractive to retailers, and future investment.

Currently in Hyde, there are a total of 359 car parking spaces to service visitors and shoppers to the entire town; - and they are chargeable!  

In this out-of-town development there will be 250 'free' vehicle spaces!

It's not news to our councillors that many British town centres can no longer compete with Retail Parks as functional shopping spaces. Presumably that’s why Tameside Council initiated and gave financial support to create ‘Town Teams’ whose firm objective is to regenerate the town centre, ostensibly by cementing investment and stopping the leakage of shoppers to these out of town retail parks?

So, which is it?

Do these councillors and planners wish to save or wipe out Tameside’s traditional towns?

Because on the one hand they tell us the town is dear to them when vying for our votes, whilst all the time they appear to doing everything in their power to make Hyde and the rest, a collection of empty ghost towns!

If any of our councillors who read this blog would like to tell us, just what is 'the plan' to revive Hyde, then please feel free to use my comments facility.

Just to remind you of the local community’s objections to the proposed plan, in essence the main disadvantages of an out-of-town shopping centre is that it will:

         Create more traffic, especially at weekends and bank holidays

         Town centres lose trade because people go to the out-of-town shopping centres.

         It’s harder for smaller shops and independent stores to be successful.

      May not be as accessible to some members of the community, eg the elderly.

However,should they revise the plan to construct a proper ‘District Centre’ for the people of Hattersley, Mottram and the near vicinities of Broadbottom, and Hollingworth, with suitably sized units to house Doctors, Dentists, Chemists, Hairdressers, a Bank, Veterinary Practice, Funeral Directors, Florists, Community Shop, CAB offices, a Solicitors, Confectioners Newsagents etc’ – all anchored by an appropriately sized food outlet, you will probably get unanimous approval!

The ball's in your court...