I’D LIKE to wish all our residents a very happy New Year.
With 2012 upon us this seems a fitting time to take stock – and look ahead.
Despite the national economic picture, the New Year does promise some exciting new opportunities and positive experiences.
Thinking out loud, these include Metrolink getting up and running in our Borough; the opening of Mahdlo, our new town centre youth club, and some inspirational new Academy facilities; work commencing on hundreds of new or refurbished homes from the Gateways to Oldham project; the Olympic torch visiting town; Oldham representing the region in Britain in Bloom; and Oldham Athletic possibly visiting Wembley in the JPT Final.
But I do fully recognise how tough 2011 has been.
Economic austerity has hit every sector of society – and every area of activity – from household budgets to jobs prospects and service delivery.
These challenges will affect us for a generation and a new approach is needed.
None of us – residents, public sector and business alike – can afford to continue doing things the way we always have. So what’s the alternative?
Our ambition is to become a Co-operative Borough and the idea behind that is simple.
It’s about everybody doing their bit for Oldham – and all benefit.
It is the International Year of Co-operatives in 2012 and we want to use traditional values of that movement – fairness, openness and responsibility – to drive this change.
It starts with Oldham Council leading by example: ‘doing our bit’ by being more directly accountable to you and delivering better value for money services.
That is already happening across the whole range of our activity.
The Audit Commission has just recognised our financial arrangements as the best nationwide – giving you confidence we are prudent with your money – and our performance in key areas like children’s services, fostering and adults services, is now up there with the best.
Crucially in 2012 you’ll see us striving to end the ‘ivory tower’ approach that says ‘we know best’.
You’ll see new district town halls with staff based back in the heart of your communities: listening and responding better to your doorstep service needs.
You’ll see District Partnerships with more budget control and the ability to bid for ‘big ticket’ projects that properly reflect your aspirations.
You’ll see Council staff using leave to ‘put something back’ by assisting community groups and projects with specialist skills.
And you’ll also see us reviewing all our investments to ensure we only now deal with ethical institutions that share our vision to work in the public interest and treat you with respect – starting with bringing our bailiff service back ‘in house’.
Historically, many residents have shrugged shoulders and left it to “someone else” to sort things out in their area – whether that was a need to tackle local flytipping or litter, for example, to check on an elderly neighbour, or to speak up about community safety.
But I believe we can create a more confident and enterprising community if everyone here is contributing ‘their bit’ to making Oldham a great place to live and work.
For that to happen we need local residents to engage better with us.
We need you to think about taking more responsibility for your areas, telling us about problems, offering solutions, helping to shape services, and contributing some of your own time and energy.
Be in no doubt that we have serious work and challenges to face in the months and years that lie ahead, but I promise that Oldham Council will be listening harder than ever before in 2012.
There are some historic bridges to rebuild and lessons for us to learn – but there are also some fantastic opportunities to seize.
This is traditionally a time to reflect on the changes we all want or need to make. So what could be more positive for your neighbours and community than a New Year’s Resolution to ‘do your bit’ in 2012?
* Please note my next Leader’s Blog will be posted on Wednesday, January 11