REGULAR readers of my blog will be aware that I’m currently away enjoying a family holiday during the Council recess.
However, I usually find it almost impossible at these times not to be keeping at least sporadically in touch with my office – and with the national news.
And as you would expect being the Leader of the Council means that although you may have time out of meetings, you are never truly ‘off’. Thankfully my family are supportive and excuse my phone being on call 24/7.
I have just arrived in London and watching the scenes of rioting and devastation on our TV screens in recent days here has been a shocking and sobering experience for everyone.
The perpetrators of these criminal acts must be brought to justice. That is something all communities can play a key role in as there should be no harbouring of – nor hiding place for – those involved in mindless looting and violence.
Longer-term the even more difficult challenge in the areas affected will be to rebuild: not in terms of just bricks and mortar, but also to heal wounds and restore trust and confidence on the streets.
It became clear with the huge police clampdown on Tuesday in London that things would either get significantly worse, or much calmer. Thankfully it was the latter in the capital, but with mindless violence again breaking out in other areas of the country.
I felt sick to the stomach to see Manchester, which recovered following the IRA bombing, being torn apart by its own people – as a Mancunian born and bred I have to admit feeling a real sense of anger. I felt Manchester Councillor Pat Karney made an excellent point when he said that these people were not “real Mancunians” – well said!
This is a constantly moving situation across the country, however to date – although there have been some minor incidents in the Borough – there is no evidence that these are anything more than bad behaviour which, although far from ideal, is not a civil disturbance by any stretch of the imagination.
We are working closely with the emergency services and with colleagues across Greater Manchester as you would expect. We are also giving support to town centre businesses and have plans in place should anything occur.
My message to anyone who wants to rip Oldham apart is simple. If you have so little faith in our Borough you are willing to destroy it, then there is no place here for you.
ON A MORE positive note, I had the privilege to attend Paul Scholes’ testimonial match at Old Trafford last Friday.
I was with a party of around 200 local young people who were enjoying a free night at the event as part of ‘One Future’: a project designed to ensure London 2012 leaves the Borough with a lasting legacy.
This is a joint scheme backed by Oldham Council plus leading figures from the private sector and well-known sporting and home-grown personalities. The tickets were given to a range of schools, individuals and organisations across the Borough who have shown dedication and commitment to their sporting pursuits at all ability levels.
The night proved to be a fantastic event and it was great to see our young people enjoying themselves watching – and being inspired by – the major sporting stars on show as Manchester United took on New York Cosmos.
In an era where football stars often hit the headlines for all the wrong reasons, Paul Scholes has been an absolute credit to this town. I sincerely hope this experience helps to further motivate and focus these youngsters on becoming the future stars and ambassadors of our Borough.
One Future will be championing more projects that will include the arts, sport, health and economy over the coming year, so watch this space and the http://www.oldham.gov.uk website for further updates.
LAST but not least this week I just wanted to take this opportunity to pass on my sincere congratulations to Oldham Council’s Finance team.
This is an area which is absolutely critical to what we do as a Local Authority and this week we became one of the first in the country to close off last year’s accounts.
Finance staff have worked incredibly hard in the past couple of years to improve the pace and accuracy of their reporting and this has now put them amongst the best nationwide.
We have full confidence in the data that they provide us with and that ultimately can help us make better-informed decisions that deliver value for money for you, the Council Taxpayer.
Sincere congratulations go to Steven Mair and all his team.
Thanks for listening,