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TravelGuides – ‘Our town centres were dying long before the virus came’ | Greater Manchester

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TravelGuides – ‘Our town centres were dying long before the virus came’ | Greater Manchester

The pandemic’s devastating affect on Tameside, Greater Manchester, may not be seen from a stroll alongside Ashton-under-Lyne’s excessive avenue however, in Lee Walker’s opinion, the impact of a long time of underinvestment is beginning to present.

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When requested about the causes of well being and social inequality in Tameside, he gesticulates at the empty outlets round him.

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“Covid’s had an impact but our town centres were dying long before the virus came along,” says Walker, 42, supervisor of a bus and coach operator in Greater Manchester.

On the index of a number of deprivation – which ranks native authorities in England by varied elements together with well being outcomes, unemployment ranges and academic attainment – Tameside ranks twentieth most disadvantaged out of 151.

The borough has been onerous hit by the pandemic and in December held the undesirable file of the native authority with the highest proportion of Covid deaths in the UK. It is, due to this fact, precisely the form of place the authorities has in thoughts whereas pledging to handle inequalities and “build back better”.

Student nurse Grace Kenney in Ashton-under-Lyne.
Student nurse Grace Kenney in Ashton-under-Lyne. Photograph: Christopher Thomond/The Guardian

Walker diagnoses quite a few points going through the town, from littering to low police numbers however, fittingly for a bus driver, his primary bugbear is with native transport.

“[Greater] Manchester doesn’t have the worst transport system but the government has slashed budgets in recent years, and it is poorer areas like Droylsden and Denton which suffer,” he says. “I know Andy Burnham is trying to make public transport affordable for everyone but the system is underfunded.”

Grace Kenney, a pupil nurse from Oldham who not too long ago moved to Ashton, says: “Greater Manchester has a lot of poverty stricken areas and you can see it before your eyes.

“Homelessness and drugs are a big problem in the area, as is council clean-up … There’s litter and rubbish everywhere and it makes the area a much less attractive to place to live.”

Noting the authorities’s proposed 1% pay rise for nurses, in addition to her personal lack of monetary help throughout her course, Kenney says she is “not surprised” that recruiting healthcare employees has been an issue in the space.

While Kenney has simply moved in, married couple Rachel, 43, and Steven Perry, 62, are on their manner out – having determined to relocate to Portsmouth – the place they consider infrastructure is healthier and care providers extra extensively accessible.

“You can’t get a doctor’s appointment so I’m not surprised the death rate round here has been so high,” says Rachel.

Rachel and Stephen Perry in Ashton-under-Lyne
Rachel and Stephen Perry have determined to go away Ashton-under-Lyne for Portsmouth the place they consider providers are superior. Photograph: Christopher Thomond/The Guardian

Both are retired due to in poor health-well being and Steven typically wants to make use of a wheelchair after struggling extreme accidents throughout the Falklands battle whereas serving in the Royal Navy.

“What I want to see is a lot more money into places like this,” he mentioned. “The government lets these big cheese developers come in and they’ve not consulted people. The people who live here haven’t seen the benefit. As far as I’m concerned they’ve ruined Manchester.”

Ali Dumencibasi, proprietor of Hanson’s cafe, famed domestically for its fish, chips and peas, has helped run his household’s enterprise for over 25 years.

“There’s a general consensus that a lot of money is wasted in Ashton on pointless projects like the market,” he mentioned. “Instead of ripping it down it could have been significantly improved for a fraction of the price.

“Places like this undoubtedly need more investment but it’s not just Ashton – I’m always hearing from customers that things have got worse in Hyde and Oldham too.”

Labour MP Andrew Gwynne is aware of the space: he grew up in Tameside and now represents neighbouring Denton and Reddish, in addition to being chair of the Greater Manchester all-get together parliamentary group. He mentioned: “What we’ve seen over the last 11 years is the stripping out of social infrastructure and that has really clobbered a community like Tameside.

“Reducing funding to Tameside council has resulted in the stripping back of key public services, including intervention programmes like Sure Start, which were starting to make a real difference in Tameside.

“The pandemic has had a huge impact but there were already endemic problems. As a man, you’ll live 12 years longer in Denton West than in Denton South and that’s in a small geographic community like Denton; that isn’t right in any book and we have to tackle it.

“We urge government, and our local Tory MPs, to work with us to address inequality and truly build back better in Greater Manchester.”

TravelGuides – ‘Our town centres were dying long before the virus came’ | Greater Manchester

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