YESTERDAY was a special day as we reopened the doors of the Old Town Hall to the public for the first time since its closure in 1995.
No one can disagree that the Old Town Hall has become a symbol of civic neglect and I can understand the frustration that so many people have with the lack of progress on this building.
Since gaining control of Oldham Council in 2011 we have set about the challenge of dealing with a number of ‘historical sores’ in the Borough – those longstanding issues which rightly or wrongly consistently wind people up.
Having a building which has the potential to be a civic jewel like this carries a huge responsibility.
Whatever is to become of it in the future we must act now to find a viable modern day use – and not an indefinite drain on the Council Taxpayer.
These proposals seek to create a family entertainment facility that would include a cinema and a host of restaurants.
They have the potential not just to save an old building from an increasingly uncertain future but also to give Oldham a cinema – the lack of which has been a running sore for many years since the closure of the Hollinwood Roxy.
For several days in the run-up to this consultation event I heard from many different people who said they were pleased to see that progress is being made.
For many who attended the consultation event this was also a great opportunity to see the Egyptian Room which – for a whole generation – has been off limits to the public.
We must now fine tune these plans to take into account the wishes of local people and to ensure that this facility has the best possible chance of success.
What I have seen shining throughout all of this process is that despite the often vocal minority of naysayers, Oldhamers are passionate about our Borough and want to see it succeed.
Onto other matters now as this week is, of course, the Diamond Jubilee weekend – with two extra Bank Holidays to enjoy (and hopefully some more sunshine).
A wide range of community events have been organised across the Borough, so if you want to find out about any taking place in your area then take a moment to visit the information we have gathered together on the Oldham Council website at : http://www.oldham.gov.uk/diamond_jubilee
Finally, last week saw some emotional scenes as we held the Annual Council meeting.
This traditionally provides a chance to say farewell to retiring or defeated Ward Members, and in particular – of course – many loving tributes were paid to former Failsworth East Councillor Barbara Dawson, who recently passed away.
Barbara was a true community champion in every sense and a great friend to myself and my family.
For many of us here being a Councillor is a vocation.
But what often goes unnoticed is not just the sacrifice made by those in public office, but also those family members in the background who give such great support and also give up a large part of that person’s time to their community.
I have been fortunate so far in my political life in that I have not been subject to many personal attacks or insults but – after reading one such letter in the local press last week – it brought it home to me that, regardless of how hard you try, sniping from the sidelines is simply a hobby and cynical entertainment for some.
What absolutely none of us can lose sight of is that for Oldham to succeed we must pull together.
And if you aren’t part of the solution, then perhaps you are part of the problem…
Thanks for listening,