A long time in politics…

DEAL: Shaking hands on our new agreement with Chris Hamilton, Roughyeds' Chairman

THEY say a week is a long time in politics and that sentiment is ringing loud and clear as I try to catch up on everything that’s happened during the Council recess.

Whilst away I’ve been kept in touch with major developments, of course, but there’s a huge amount of work ongoing behind-the-scenes across the whole range of Council business at present and I’m conscious this will be an extremely busy period as autumn approaches.

On the subject of hard work, I firstly want to congratulate all those students across the Borough who got their A-Level results last Thursday.

It looks very much like this was the 11th consecutive year that our exam results have improved and it’s disappointing that national media was again full of people quick to use statistics like that to knock the value of these exams.

It’s a crying shame – and downright churlish, actually – to be knocking all the hard work that has been put in, not just by these young people but also their teachers, school support staff and parents, to get those grades.

Hundreds of other local students are now also set to get their GCSE results on Thursday and I’d like to take this opportunity to wish them all the very best of luck.

Back at my desk on Monday it was straight into meetings – and a very important one with Chris Hamilton, Chairman of the Roughyeds.

In a case not dissimilar to Oldham Athletic, this club has been battling against the odds to secure a permanent base in the Borough for nigh on 14 years.

We’ve had an agreement in place for some time for them to become tenants at the Whitebank Stadium but had to wait some time for a very complex land deal to be negotiated on the site.

I’m delighted to say that work is now complete. Chris and I had a very positive meeting and we’re now able to sign an agreement in the coming days which will confirm their tenure and enable them to finally plan ahead with confidence.

Our Borough is a Rugby League hotbed with the Roughyeds and local amateur clubs having produced an impressive conveyor belt of some of the sport’s brightest talents.

I sincerely hope this enables them to now start making the long-term plans needed that will one day return this club to a level that befits its dazzling history.

Onto other matters now and – in the coming weeks and months – work will be gathering serious pace on devolving power, influence and budgets down to your neighbourhoods.

On arriving in this role I promised it was a top priority for this administration to invest more – and do it smarter – in your local areas. That means handing back increased power to new town halls that are better responsive to residents’ aspirations, and also offer stronger and more visible civic leadership.

You will soon be seeing physical action on this front with – for example – the opening of the newly-refurbished Failsworth Town Hall in the middle of next month, but what is also key to this agenda is the next round of District Partnership meetings in September.

As part of our Emergency Budget we made improvements to DP budgets to cut red tape and allow them to bid for funding for much larger-scale projects than was previously possible.

I’d urge all residents reading this to have a think about what is a top priority where you live. Councillors certainly don’t have a monopoly on good ideas, so please attend the meetings or contact your local members with your thoughts. This is Council Taxpayers’ money being spent in your district and your voice should be heard as loudly as everyone else.

I want to end today by saying something about our heritage as a Borough.

I believe Oldham Council is spreading itself too thinly and trying to do too much on increasingly limited resources.

There are some fantastic buildings around but if our local heritage is to genuinely have a sustainable future then we need to cut the number of properties that we are maintaining as a Local Authority.

The former Town Hall has got to the state that it has, for example, because it is one of about 200 that the Council owns and maintains.

Of that huge estate it is also one of about 60 buildings that are vacant and costing us lots of money to keep safe, monitor and secure. That money could be much better spent on safeguarding frontline services.

It’s my belief that each district now needs to look at this issue and start identifying which one or two key buildings it has that are genuinely iconic. We should then prioritise the funding to ensured these are maintained properly to make them genuine ‘jewels in the crown’ for their area and a source of civic pride.

With the budget challenges that we are likely to face over the next generation, the idea of us keeping an estate with hundreds of properties – many being under-used or lying vacant – can no longer be justified.

Thanks for listening,

Jim

4 thoughts on “A long time in politics…

  1. Amongst a plethora of hot potatoes, smouldering away in the embers of public concern and exasperation, is that old familiar – Oldham’s much-neglected heritage. Reading your comments upon this most contentious of topics – pragmatic resolve running right though – one can’t help but reflect upon the sheer incompetence and political inaction (bordering on the apathetic) that has characterised the efforts of a succession of administrations in the safeguarding of these much loved and irreplaceable edifices.

    To state that we – the men, women and children of Oldham’s townships have been let down is something of a gross understatement. What has been particularly difficult to stomach, are the incessant excuses trotted out – year after year, decade after decade – as to why, yet again, nothing is being done to protect and preserve our rapidly diminishing and deteriorating public buildings.

    You write: “The former Town Hall has got to the state that it has, for example, because it is one of about 200 that the council owns and maintains.”

    The story of the former Town Hall, which reads like a rag to riches tale in reverse, is emblematic of the very problem under discussion. For somewhere in the region of thirty years (give or take) both the interior and exterior of this fine monument to 19th century civic pride, has been gradually deteriorating: I won’t even touch upon the fixtures and fittings that have mysteriously disappeared. That this vandalism by default occurred whilst so many members of the public were making their feelings heard – through the local press etc – in their hundreds and thousands demanding immediate action, is nothing less than a scandalous dereliction of duty

    Now I grant you that in recent years its long-term future has become more secure – in part effected by the unremitting pressure of a people increasingly scathing of the lax attitude of some of our local representatives, no longer willing to accept the lame-excuses of old. But let us be absolutely clear here; what victories exist are born of the tireless campaigning of the men and women of this Borough – the de facto guardians of Oldham’s crown jewels

  2. Markorollo

    I agree that the number of properties owned by the council needs to be cut (although i wouldnt like to see the better more historic buildings go, but some of the post war architecture of oldham could disintegrate in an intant and i wouldnt care, and i include the civic in that!!)

    Particularly as i am a fan, for want of a better term, of ‘one stop shops’ for different services, instead of having one thing here, another there, another over there, and you have to go all over the shop to use them, (particularly inconvenient for disabled people like me) it would be much better if a lot of services were based out of the same location, like a lot of services for disabled people are all based in the link centre on union street, although there could and should be more things going on there too(that place needs more investment) that is as long as the situation doesnt occur, as it has sometimes, with different organisations based in the same place ‘desk sharing’ because the property theyre based in just isnt big enough, that wouldnt work.

    I believe what Oldham, and other areas, needs is major investment in a large property that could be used to provide several services all from one place.and im not just talking about council services here, i have been forming an idea in my mind for something which would require a large property but i believe would be of major benefit to the town and the surrounding areas. I know the construction of such a building would cost a lot of money, but in the long run i believe the long term benefits would vastly outway the costs.

    just want to finish by saying i Didnt vote Labour in the last election, i was somewhat annoyed about what i saw as an attack on disabled people through the ESA welfare reform saga, (i voted Lib Dem, first time in 18 years i hadnt voted labour, not my best move as things have just got worse for disabled people under the libcons) but from what ive seen of our new council leader i have to say im impressed, as long as its not just words Jim!!.

  3. First of all Jim congratulations on becoming the new Leader of the Council. I think making your self accessible to the public is a very good thing. A large part of Oldham’s problem is the massive communication gap between the served and the servers no matter the political persuasion. Oldham has to lift itself into the 21st century and forget the past. Heritage is a wonderful thing if we have the financial resources to support it. Also the old Civic Hall has been empty for 20 years, why do we need to restore it. Flog it and move on. I think Oldham should be more concerned about the future and be bold.

    Everybody talks about establishing a town recognised for its educational attainments, but I don’t se why young high fliers would want to stay in a town when a Metro can whisk them away to Manchester. Big ideas are not just about money, they are having the mindset to think big and support bold initiatives.

    You need the trust of the public therefore you need to communicate to them in a less parochial fashion. Tell it as it is, and try and win them over. We are in a global economic world war, that not your fault but with all the young brains around how do we lift things up from the bottom to the top, not the other way around. Support democracy and get the public on your side. Less 6th Floor Civic Centre think tanks and policy issues like Oldham Beyond get down to street level and get people working together.

  4. Hi Jim

    Read the Oldham Chronicle article about your first 100 days. Congratulations for moving things forward so quickly. Your forthright manner will get the public behind you, especially as they will start to realise your energy is in trying to reenergise the town and deal with its future and that crosses all party lines.

    May I suggest that you consider a series of summits that actually bring your profile directly to the public. A lot of your official engagements are with lobbying organisations and business groups (and rightly so) but I really believe that the town would be more behind you if they got to know you in a more direct fashion.

    PS I am really relieved that you have scrapped the propaganda sheet that talked down to residents of Oldham. Tell it as it is and work together to find solutions, thats the only answer for Oldham.

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