I’M BACK at the Civic Centre this week and already it feels like I haven’t been away more than ten minutes.
As Council Leader I am, of course, never completely off-duty and do have to deal with and oversee some matters remotely during the recess period.
Nonetheless I used the break as an opportunity to spend quality time with my family in Ireland and that ‘head space’ from the day-to-day hurly burly of work is one that I always greatly appreciate.
Much has been happening since I last updated the blog – and plenty of it was positive.
The Borough’s GCSE and A-Level results were released last month and made for good reading.
In GCSEs around 91 per cent of pupils at our schools got five more grades A*-C, which was a significant improvement on last year.
It was also the 12th year that attainment had risen – bucking a national trend which saw the first falls in many years.
In terms of A-Levels, we also saw an improvement on our A* to B pass rate and the overall pass rate from A*-E was more than 98 per cent.
We cannot be complacent about this improvement though and we’re looking at these results to identify any trends that need addressing in the future.
These results are the product of many years of hard work and dedication by these students to get the best possible launch pad for the future.
I congratulate them for their achievements but it’s also important to highlight the support and endeavours of teachers, tutors, school support staff and parents – all deserve credit for this.
There was also good news for Oldham town centre with the announcement that British Home Stores has signed a 15-year lease on the huge unit vacated earlier this year in Spindles by JJB Sports.
I’ve already noticed people measuring up on-site and beginning to start fitting out the store which should open before Christmas.
Not only is the attraction of a flagship retailer like BHS a great sign of confidence in Oldham, it will also have a positive knock-on effect for the local economy and I’m aware their announcement has already prompted other new interest in the town centre.
We hope this momentum will continue and – as part of that – I will be attending the British Council of Shopping Centres conference in Liverpool next week.
Our presence there, which will include a speech from Charlie Parker, Chief Executive, is all part of our push to spread the word and get business to see Oldham differently.
Face-to-face contact is vital in that work and I’m looking forward to meeting retailers, explaining our vision and showing them what we have to offer.
Over the summer months our TV screens have, of course, been dominated by the London Olympics and Paralympics.
I’m not an obsessive fan of sports but I think it was hard for almost anyone in Britain not to get swept up by the much-needed ‘feelgood factor’ from these events.
The games got people watching all manner of sports that they would perhaps not normally be remotely interested in and that – hopefully – should provide a positive and lasting legacy in terms of getting people off their couches and into more regular sport and exercise.
I must also congratulate those local people who competed. Nicola White has rightly grabbed many headlines for her Hockey bronze medal, but all who took part did themselves proud as ambassadors for our Borough.
The games were also a fantastic showcase for British culture and tourism: even if I do still maintain more could have been done to use venues outside of London, such as the National Cycling Centre in Manchester.
Finally it would be wrong for me not to make mention of the sad recent death of Councillor Glenys Butterworth.
I cut my break short so that I could return to attend and speak at her funeral and was so glad I was able to do this.
Glenys’ funeral service was very moving with lots of tributes being paid by people there from the Trade Unions movement that she made such a huge contribution to throughout her life.
She will be sorely missed by family and friends and all who knew her – especially those Failsworth West constituents whom she represented with her trademark determination to succeed.
There will be a celebration of Glenys’ civic life at Failsworth Town Hall on September 12 at 1.15pm and anyone who knew her can attend.
I am certain there will be an excellent turnout and not a dry eye in the room.
Thanks for listening,