Last week was extremely busy for a number of reasons, mainly being the week of Full Council and the preparation and organisation that goes into it (you would be forgiven for believing we make it up as we go along!).
It was the meeting where councillors were due to agree the joint chief executive and management team with neighbouring Rochdale Council. After weeks, and weeks, and what felt like a few more weeks, it became clear that we were not going to reach agreement and that the report would have to be taken off the agenda. Joint working with other councils is important to make savings and protect frontline services. I am confident we will work closely with Rochdale in the future, most recently entering into a joint street lighting project and despite the early set back we have built up excellent relationships with our friends across the border.
It was also the week that we presented our ‘Emergency Budget’ to council for approval. All plans in place for reversing car parking charges for disabled drivers, charges for residents’ permits and others were important to show we had taken account of what people were telling us. I am also delighted to have put the funding in place to reopen Limecroft Respite Centre, reintroduce the Junior University programme and invest in devolving services to neighbourhoods.
I hope you can see this is a sign of things to come.
One thing I have learnt is the pressure from the local media in printing every rumour, idea and suggestion as if it were ‘in the bag’. Oldham has had a lifetime of being promised things which have failed to materialise. I recently made the point to one of our local newspapers on the idea to relocate the Coliseum to the Old Library where my plea not to set it up to fail fell on deaf ears. No doubt having drafted the ‘Coliseum move failed’ story. (Question to self; it is normal to be so cynical so early on?). I accept that it was news worthy, but unless we begin to be measured in our approach and concentrate on delivery versus talk then how can we expect the people of Oldham to believe progress is being made?
Monday also saw our first ‘awayday’ out of the Civic Centre. The idea is that we meet in different surroundings and talk about progress, ideas and working together as councillors and officers in the leadership team. I was especially pleased that the host venue was the newly refurbished Failsworth Town Hall (OK, to be fair I did choose it). Not only was it a great venue it was also a very useful for the team to reflect on what has been a hectic few months, and to focus on the challenge ahead. Needless to say the ‘to do’ list got longer!
Borough will benefit from the Olympics
The 2012 London Olympics are now just one year away and last week I attended the launch of an exciting joint venture that aims to give the Borough a lasting legacy of these historic games.
The ‘One Future’ initiative will see Oldham Council team up with local private sector organisations to look at what can be done to ensure that residents benefit from this opportunity.
To many people the London Olympics can seem far away in both time and distance but it is not an exaggeration to say that this is a once in a generation opportunity and I believe that the partnership that is One Future will be of real benefit in securing opportunities from this legacy.
At the launch that took place at Gallery Oldham I was fortunate to meet members of the One Future Steering Group from both the private and public sectors. I was impressed at how many people are genuinely interested in improving opportunities for residents and making the borough a healthier and more creative place.
One Future is not just about the ‘suits’. Local ambassadors such as Paul Scholes, cycling champion Mandy Jones, hockey player Nicola White and actress Shobna Gulati are some of the home-grown talent that will be helping to support One Future and the borough as a place of opportunity and somewhere to live, work and visit.
Some people will, inevitably, scoff at these goals and be quick to bring up reasons why it can’t be done. In many cases nothing I say or do will make them change their minds. But to those people who are committed to taking advantage of opportunities I can pledge that between now and the Olympic flame being lit in London there is a lot to do here in Oldham.
You can watch a video of the launch on Youtube at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dzhFLHQdLUM
Thanks for listening