To protect and serve

Flag flying at half mast outside the Civic Centre in Oldham.
NEVER FORGET: The Civic Flag flies at half-mast in memory of Fiona Bone and Nicola Hughes who were killed in Tameside last month

THE TRAGIC shooting of two police officers in Hattersley has brought home to the public the everyday danger faced by officers of the law working hard to protect and serve.

As the funerals take place this week it would be remiss for me not to pay tribute to PCs Fiona Bone and Nicola Hughes, a resident of Diggle.

I know from speaking to rank and file officers locally in recent days that this has had a huge impact on the force.

The deaths of two friends in service not only brings its own sense of loss but also heightens the fear from their own family members that their loved ones – however well trained, organised and professional – may find themselves involved in such a random incident with such horrendous consequences.

We work with Greater Manchester Police on a daily basis and have a very positive relationship with them.

Last weekend we liaised closely as Oldham played host to a protest from the combined Ex-Forces group in the town centre.

Whilst this passed off peacefully, I do find it slightly ironic that a group of people from all over the country feel they can come to a town and tell us how we should live as a community.

Do we have issues here? Yes. We know that more than anyone. But do they have the answers? No!

We all know that the Borough as a whole community needs to do more to pull together.

It can be all too easy in times of economic hardship to look at your neighbour to blame, but that just isn’t the answer.

It wasn’t anyone in Oldham who created the economic crisis, but it is fair to say we are feeling it more than many other areas.

The answer to bringing the community together for me is about giving everyone a sense of hope, optimism and a sense that they have a stake in a better future.

That would be hard enough in the best of times, but it feels like a mountain today.

However, it’s vitally important that we do not lose sight of where we are going as a Borough, despite them gloom that some would like to focus upon.

That includes:

– Planning permission secured for our new cinema and restaurant facility in the Old Town Hall;
– An excellent site secured for our new town centre leisure centre (an announcement is imminent on this);
– Metrolink taking shape through the town centre – and, yes, I do know the roadworks are terrible(!);
– Hotel Future on the way providing the first national hospitality training academy with 120 new jobs and up to 100 apprenticeships;
– Monopumps moving to the old BAE site at Chadderton, potentially bringing up to 1,000 jobs and already taking on Oldham apprenticeships;
– New secondary schools open providing first-class education facilities for our young people;
– The work underway to build around 2,000 new homes and creating mixed communities of social rent, shared equity and owner occupiers;
– Our first homeowner getting the keys to the house of their dreams thanks to our local authority mortgage scheme;
– The opening of Mahdlo, our new state-of-the art youth centre;
– A campaigning Council leading the way on energy – reducing your bills by potentially over £300 a year through our new collective buying scheme and ‘Get Toasty’ insulation offer.

There is plenty of great work underway – and a lot more to come.  As a Council and a Borough we are fighting for jobs and for our future: and we need to pull together.

Thanks for listening,

Jim

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