NEARLY two weeks on from election day, Oldham’s new councillors are settling into their new duties and responsibilities as the new civic year begins.
Disappointingly, the turnout for this year’s local elections in Oldham was around 33 per cent.
Whilst this was in line with other areas in Greater Manchester politicians and Council officers need to work much harder to get people involved in their local area so that election day becomes more relevant and they feel their vote will make a difference in their area.
Reconnecting with Oldham residents was the Council’s focus over the last twelve months and this will continue throughout the year ahead.
At next week’s Council meeting we’ll be approving plans to change the constitution – making it easier for residents to get involved in decision-making at both a district and borough level.
Over the last year all Councillors have been given the opportunity to take part in training and development to support them to lead in their local areas. One of the proposed changes will give all elected members who took part in this training increased local decision-making and budget powers.
We’ll also introduce a system of community call in – the first authority in the country to do so.
This will mean local residents can ‘call in’ executive decisions made by local District Partnerships by submitting a petition with 100 signatures – this covers anything from the location of traffic calming measures to how local budgets are spent.
Over the past few months we’ve been piloting the streaming of Council meetings live on our website and via the Oldham Advertiser’s website. We’ve also been taking questions to Cabinet submitted through email, Facebook and Twitter. This has been a huge success with nearly 1,000 people watching across the three streamed meetings and more than five times as many questions submitted to Cabinet by residents.
Next week we’ll make these changes to Full Council more permanent with all future meetings being streamed live. This idea is attracting interest from outside the Borough with visits from other AGMA authorities keen to follow suit.
Next Wednesday is also the Council’s Mayor Making Ceremony, where this year’s Mayor, Councillor Olwen Chadderton will take over from Richard Knowles.
Councillor Knowles has been a fantastic ambassador for Oldham – helping to raise the profile of the Borough, managing Council meetings, hosting all civic duties and, last but not least, raising a considerable amount for the Mayor’s Charities Promobility, Barnardos Oldham and Dr Kershaws. I’d like to thank him for all his hard work during what has been a very difficult year.
I’d also like to welcome Councillor Chadderton to her new role. As Deputy Mayor last year Olwen did a wonderful job of chairing our new ‘live’ Council meetings and carrying out duties on behalf of Councillor Knowles during his illness.
In addition we’ll also be appointing the Borough’s new deputy Mayor – Councillor John Hudson, who I’m sure will add some humour to proceedings.
Finally, I’d like to mention last week’s Civic Memorial service for Councillor Barbara Dawson who sadly passed away recently.
It was fitting that Barbara’s memorial service last Monday was held in the newly refurbished Failsworth Town Hall – a building she fought tirelessly to have reopened and renovated for the local community.
In recognition of this and all the hard work she did on behalf of the people of Failsworth, a resolution will be put to the Failsworth and Hollinwood District Partnership to rename the function suite at the Town Hall in her honour – a lasting and fitting tribute to a valued, respected and much loved advocate for our area.
Thanks for listening,