I’M STRUCK by the scale and range of important policy announcements either underway or pending here at present.
One of those is our new Oldham Mortgage scheme which got quite a few responses last week on this blog.
Before tackling specific points raised it’s important to note that some submitted comments weren’t published on here.
To be clear, I take personal responsibility for deciding what is published, and what is not.
Posts are filtered – they don’t automatically just appear for obvious reasons – and there can be a gap of a day or two between me checking them, so please be patient and bear with me.
It’s also important I clarify again that this blog’s function is not a battleground for party political pointscoring. I’m writing here purely as Oldham Council Leader. I’m not allowed to do that, nor do I think it would help.
I’m also not daft enough not to expect criticism, but I do just ask that it is constructive, not party political, and isn’t slanderous or offensive.
There’s plenty of discussion boards available where people can knock the town or swap conspiratorial theories about politicians of all creeds, but I’ve always maintained that’s not the purpose of this site.
Its intention – like my first-ever video blog this week about the budget – at http://www.oldham.gov.uk/budget_speech – is to try and make decision-making more transparent.
On the Oldham Mortgage itself, I first want to explain this is very different from the Government’s own scheme – which is specifically to help people to buy new build homes.
Secondly, some people said we should instead use this money to pay for more social housing.
We’re already on-site now with the delivery of 1,200 such properties, and a further 28 – at the former North House site – were also approved at Monday’s Cabinet meeting.
But we need a range of proposals here because the housing market is very complex and there are several different issues and problems to tackle.
Social housing is just one part of that jigsaw. Everyone’s circumstances are different and there’s no simple ‘one size fits all’ answer that gets the market moving again. We must look across the whole picture to find the right mix of solutions.
I sensed that some comments submitted on here probably came from a standpoint that basically thinks Oldham Council should restrict its activity to just emptying bins and clearing litter.
But I think that is wrong.
Your Council needs to fulfil a civic leadership role that helps bring partners, businesses and residents together to act for the greater good. If it doesn’t, then who would fulfil that function?
If you look at the agreement we’ve signed with Dransfield Properties this week – in plans to regenerate Royton District Centre – you can hopefully see what I mean.
We’re working with Dransfield to aspire to improve the area and facilities for everyone.
Royton’s a good place to live but the poor quality precinct has let that community down and we have to resolve it. It is simply not fit for a modern town centre.
We’re not rolling over here for a supermarket to just ‘take over’ the centre. Instead, we’re working together with Dransfield to try and deliver a Royton that has a town hall which is a fitting community hub and a thriving market that is the jewel in the crown of a re-invigorated precinct.
Similarly, we’re working alongside the Manchester Hoteliers Association and Oldham College to provide job and training prospects at a new Hotel and Conference centre: facilities the town centre can be proud of.
That is what Oldham Council is really about – not just emptying bins.
We’re about trying to help get the local economy moving, building a better place to live in, providing housing schemes and assistance, and helping to improve job prospects and facilities.
In some respects we’re clearly behind other places and need to catch up fast.
The speed and scale of our announcements this year may surprise some, but it’s clear we need a major spurt of activity.
Sitting back and doing nothing just isn’t an option for me. It’s not why I’m here.
But equally – to waste time continually talking the place down and knocking it – isn’t why I’m here either.
Thanks for listening,