Male violence towards women – are we taking it seriously enough?

crime_scene_tapeYOU WILL have seen in recent weeks that the news has been awash with allegations of sexual misconduct and inappropriate behaviour.
 
In most of these news stories the high profile of the alleged perpetrators – and in some cases, of the victims – has tended be the focus.

Whilst that is understandable to an extent, there is also a danger that the personalities involved become a distraction from the wider horror of what we are actually talking about here: an abuse of power that can go to even deeper and darker levels of control and violence.
 
I was pondering this at the meeting of the Greater Manchester Combined Authority (GMCA) last Friday where all GM leaders and their deputies showed support for The White Ribbon Campaign, which is a part of a global movement to put a stop to male violence against women and girls. 

GMCAThis year part of that campaign has been to look for male role models to take a stand and act on behaviours that can ultimately become something far worse. It makes a simple pledge to “
Never commit, excuse or stay silent about male violence towards women.”
 

The hope is that by recognizing and standing up against any form of gender-based violence against women we can effect a shift in attitude that helps prevent all kinds of violence against women and helps to reduce the escalation of such behaviours in abusive relationships to the point where women are killed.

 
When a woman is killed by an abusive partner or former partner it is often reported and seen as being an isolated incident. But unfortunately that couldn’t be further from the truth.

I did some research into the issue of male violence against women. What I found was truly shocking.

The most recent statistics I could find – by The Femicide Census – cites a total of 936 women killed by men in England and Wales over a six-year period from 2009 to 2015.
 
Horrifically – and at least one aspect that TV dramas do tend to get right – most of these deaths, 598 women or 64 per cent, are at the hands of current or ex-partners and a further 75 deaths, 8 per cent, are by their sons.
 
That makes for chilling reading.
 
What’s deeply worrying though is that many of the killings in this report actually have a lot in common.
 
The report points out that “too many of them followed a similar pattern of violence and were premeditated. Many were committed in similar settings, similar weapons were used, and similar relationships existed between the perpetrators and the victims.”

The report also found women are at the most significant risk of deadly violence after separating from an abusive partner. Around three-quarters of women killed at the hands of their ex-partner or former spouse died within 12 months of that separation.
I’m also concerned not enough is being done to support victims. 

Women’s Aid, a charity, last week obtained data it says shows that around 200 women and children fleeing 
domestic abuse are turned away from refuges every day in England. They warn that the government plans to place councils like ourselves in charge of funding for emergency accommodation will only intensify the pressures and push things towards breaking point.

Women talk to other women about these issues.  But not enough men are talking about this with their friends, colleagues and staff. 
white-ribbon
Surely the time has come now for a new level of commitment across the board. We need to ensure domestic violence victims get the full support they need from police, refuges and local councils – and that we also have a culture where it is the norm for anyone and everyone to speak up against sexual and domestic violence. If you wish to sign the pledge you can do so here.
 

Whilst the White Ribbon Campaign – which started on November 25 and lasts for 16 days – focuses on male violence against women, it is equally important to note that domestic violence can also be perpetrated by women against men and in same-sex relationships.I

f you are an Oldham resident and are affected by any of these issues you can find out more about the local help available here on the Oldham Council website. 

Jean

Budget Day looming large… 

oldham-leader-25-1-16-5277IT’S AN important few weeks for Oldham Council – and all local authorities nationwide.

We’re now in the final stages of agreeing how to balance the books for the next financial year here and we must bridge a £24.8million funding gap.

This has been our toughest budget process to date because we’re way beyond looking for easy cuts – they’ve all long gone – and are literally now being squeezed down to the pips.

Like all council leaders I’ll have a keen eye on the Chancellor, Phillip Hammond, when delivers his latest budget to Parliament next Wednesday (November 22).

This will, he has stated, set out the Government’s thinking “on how to keep the economy strong and resilient and fair – an economy that works for everyone.”

They’re fine words, but will that be what he deliver in practice? I’m very clear about what I want for Oldham Council…

As I said in my Annual Statement at Full Council last week, the landscape for Oldham remains a challenging one.

As a place, we are facing unprecedented uncertainties as a result of several complex inter-playing factors including Brexit, the future of local government funding, Welfare Reform, Business Rates, Adults and Childrens’ Social Care funding, and many more.

We’ve now spent several years since 2010 under a regime of so-called economic ‘austerity’; a phrase I dislike to hear because it is a benign term for a regime that is actually having savage consequences for so many people across our communities.

It became the dominant fiscal ideology in Westminster after the Greek financial crisis and weaponised the dangers of ‘deficits’ and ‘debts’ to attack the welfare state and justify punitive measures like increased cuts in benefits.

Government seems to have ditched concerns about things like unemployment and the viability of public services, including the NHS and has focussed instead on an obsession with massive spending cuts.

This must now come to an end. It has not delivered. It was not necessary at the time and what our economy needs now is the prioritisation of investment, stimulus and inclusive growth.

What we need from the Chancellor – and the Local Government Finance Settlement that follows in December – is a dose of reality and a clear plan.

If he is really serious about Government delivering “for everyone” then he cannot ignore the obvious fact that local government must be fairly and adequately funded and given the powers to help to deliver those outcomes.

Depressed elderly woman sitting at the table

I’m going to be particularly interested in what Mr Hammond says about social care.

The Local Government Association recently calculated than an extra  £1.3 billion is needed from the Treasury just to plug funding gaps in this area of local government funding over the next financial year.

And here’s a frightening thought. By 2020 almost 60p in every £1 people pay in Council Tax may have to be spent caring for children and adults. With a population in which people are living longer than ever before, there’s a very clear challenge to both sustainability and the dignity we give our most vulnerable residents.

Social care isn’t the only area of concern either. What measures will the Government bring forward to tackle the housing crisis or address how we help young people to achieve their ambitions without saddling themselves with huge debt?

There is also the massive unresolved question of how local government is to be financed in future.

By 2020 this sector will have lost 75 pence out of every £1 it got from the Revenue Support Grant in 2015 and almost half of all councils will no longer get any of this core central government funding by 2019/20.

The Government previously said it was committed to letting local authorities keep all of their business rates income by 2020, yet even that is now in doubt after the Local Government Finance Bill failed to re-appear in the Queen’s Speech after the General Election.

There’s now a real fear and lack of clarity about our future funding and I know it’s something that keeps colleagues awake at night.

ABDULMBEAt Oldham Council finance is the portfolio of my Deputy Leader, Abdul Jabbar, and it is an unenviable task.

I was delighted to see him receive his MBE at Buckingham Palace this week because anyone handling that kind burden must be worthy of a medal!

Seriously though, Abdul has been a great ward member, community leader and Cabinet Member for around a quarter of a century – and he is a great ambassador for Oldham.

His persistent and patient approach has helped to steer our finances through some very choppy waters in recent years and we’re all delighted to see that recognised with this honour.

Finally this week, I want to pay tribute to all those Royal British Legion personnel, local volunteers and residents who helped to make Remembrance Sunday such a poignant occasion.

I attended the service in Oldham town centre. The weather conditions were perfect – if a tad chilly(!) – and it was heartening to be part of such a huge crowd stretching across Parliament Square and down High Street all paying their respects to those who have made the ultimate sacrifice.

Thank you all.

Jean

Remembrance in Oldham | We will honour them

FCOUNCIL2I’M PREPARING to deliver my Annual Report to Full Council as I write this week’s blog.

One of the themes running through my speech tonight is about supporting and developing thriving communities across our borough. So, what does that mean?

Essentially, it’s about Oldham being a place where being a part of society – and societal action – really means something.

We want people and communities to be coming together to share local agendas, tackle problems, and make the most out of their opportunities and assets as a place.

We also want them to have civic pride about where they live – and one part of that is having great free family events, which is something I believe we do well in Oldham.

The Big Bang Bonfire last week, as an example, was attended by a record crowd and – six years after we brought it back and changed its focus and venue – it’s been a huge success.

Despite our ongoing budget challenge we’ve added further free events to the annual calendar this year including OldhamLIVE, Illuminate and this year’s YourOldham festival.

These complement the range of other great family occasions already on offer.

Our Christmas shopping events began with last week’s Reindeer Parade (now in its 20th year) and there’s also the likes of the live@thelibrary and Bookmark Festivals, which have all been attended by big numbers in 2017.

Oldham War MemorialBut one thing I am particularly proud of that we do well in Oldham – working alongside a range of partners, including the local branches of the Royal British Legion – is our annual Remembrance Sunday events and related activities.

This Sunday at 11am thousands of people will fall silent at district services across the borough to remember the fallen who made the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom, peace and security. You can find all the details of these local events here.

Residents, uniformed services and representatives of all organisations are invited and encouraged to attend these events and I’d also ask people to again support the RBL’s annual campaign and wear a poppy with pride.

We are now into the third year of commemorative events to mark the centenary years of World War I (1914-18) and there has been a huge effort undertaken to mark this locally. This has been led on our side by Councillor Cath Ball, who is our Deputy Cabinet Member for Neighbourhoods and Cooperatives with special responsibility for WWI and Remembrance, and has done an enormous amount of work behind the scenes on this.

The Oldham Council website has an on-line roll honour here which contains many names of borough residents who have lost their lives serving their country from WWI onwards.

WalteRMillsThere is also going to be a very special event taking place on Monday, December 11 at Oldham Parish Church at 11am.

The borough will be honouring Victoria Cross recipient Walter Mills (PICTURED RIGHT) with a service to mark 100 years since his death at Red Dragon Crater, near Givenchy in France.

The 23-year-old – one of three Oldham recipients of the highest military honour awarded for valour “in the face of the enemy” – was on duty when a strong gas attack saw the trenches overwhelmed.

Despite being badly gassed, he stayed at his post and fought the attackers single-handedly, throwing grenades until reinforcements arrived

Whilst being carried away from the scene he sadly died from gas poisoning on 11 December 1917, but it was solely thanks to his efforts that the enemy was defeated and the line remained intact. He was awarded the VC posthumously.

It is stories like these that really bring alive the incredible human costs and heroicism shown in the service of our country.

That’s why it’s so vital that we continue to archive and preserve memories like this so that future generations can learn about them.

oldhamremebersThe Oldham Remembers website – which was created as part of the WWI centenary commemorations – is there to achieve just that.

This is being regularly updated with the stories of soldiers who fought in conflicts, plus images from our past. Please pay it a visit at www.oldhamremembers.org.uk

It may seem a long way off, but in 22 years we will be commemorating the start of the Second World War. The problem is that there will be literally nobody around left to tell their own tales by then, which is why we want to gather them now.

If you have information, stories or tales you wish to submit to this community effort then please contact us via email at oldhamremembers@oldham.gov.uk

Lest we forget.

Jean

The origins of The Big Bang

BIGBANG2017THE BIG Bang – our hugely-popular civic bonfire – is back in town at Oldham Edge on Thursday evening (November 2).

This is the sixth year we’ve put on this event and in that time it’s provided fantastic free entertainment and fun for thousands of local families.

But there’s also a very serious side to why we do it.

Reintroducing a civic bonfire and fireworks event in 2011 wasn’t just motivated by giving residents something to enjoy (great though that is!), but also by the incredible strain that the bonfire season puts on our blue light services.

There are literally countless examples of the harm that badly organised bonfires and the misuse of fireworks can lead to.

I still find it somewhat odd that for 25 days a year people can go out and buy something that can be so destructive and dangerous in the wrong hands.

There’s always genuine accidents, of course, but anti-social behaviour, illegal and badly planned bonfires and loutish behaviour with fireworks can have serious and devastating consequences.

MitzyPICAs a cat owner (see Mitzy, pictured right) and animal lover, I also know that you don’t need to be Dr Doolittle to understand how petrified many pets are at this time of year.

These are all key reasons why we hold The Big Bang. It is part of our co-ordinated approach with Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service (GMFRS) and partners on the annual Treacle campaign which aims to keep people safe from fires and injuries and nuisance.

The three-week Treacle period is the busiest time of the year for GMFRS. They responded to more than 2,000 incidents in that time last year which ranged from sheds burnt to the ground by wayward fireworks to cars being engulfed in flames by fireworks used inappropriately.

As part of Treacle there’s also now a Fireworks Amnesty which is encouraging people to give up or report dangerous fireworks.

Our firefighters are busy enough normally without this kind of extra strain – as are our A&E departments and police.

It also just makes common sense to attend The Big Bang.

Why bother spending your own money and taking risks with low-calibre fireworks in the back garden, when you can be dazzled by the best fireworks professionals in the UK setting off their high-grade ones in a stunning, totally safe and free display?

Fantastic Fireworks always perform our Oldham Edge display and they’re the UK’s double British Fireworks champions for many reasons. They never fail to deliver a dazzling show and they are at the leading edge of pyrotechnic innovation.

There’s lots more to enjoy at The Big Bang too. I know some people are tempted to just turn up for the fireworks later on, but you really will be missing out if you do.

After the site opens at 5pm you can enjoy a funfair with the kids and foodstalls before we get the stage show underway and light the bonfire at around 6pm.

FlameOz1We’ve got then Flame Oz headlining proceedings. They’ve now performed in more than 40 countries with an amazing ‘glow show’ of fire dancing and juggling that is breath-taking.

A new act this year is Raijin Storm who are ancient Japanese guardians that will be drumming thunderous rhythms with the audience in a brilliant interactive performance.

All this is hosted and MC’d by Elliot Eastwick from our event partners Revolution 96.2 and he will build things up until the final countdown when our prize-winner – a lucky schoolchild – pushes the button to start the fireworks display.

You can even park for nothing too as all Oldham Council-owned town centre car parks will again be free of charge from 3pm on the day.

To find out more, please visit the webpage at www.oldham.gov.uk/bonfire and plan your evening.

And finally – if you want any further information about the Treacle campaign and how to stay safe this autumn – please visit safe4autumn.com

Jean

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