The best of times, the worst of times

INVEST: Jim McMahon, Council Leader, explains the Borough’s ambitious plans at last week’s Invest in Oldham event at South Bank, London.

THE PAST week has been frantic as we try to strike the balance between pursuing an ambitious investment plan against the challenges posed by vastly reducing service budgets.

Our investment drive is gaining real momentum and the plans, which have taken well over a year to prepare, have now been presented to leading figures in investment fund management and developers.

The London launch of Invest in Oldham was a hugely important milestone in this work because it marked a point at which all those previously separate projects were brought together as a package.

If we want Oldham to be taken seriously as a Borough we need to show that we are serious about ourselves.

We need to show we are organised – and we need to be able to demonstrate that our Borough is a wise investment.

I was pleased with the event. As a result of it we now have a series of meetings with potential investors to discuss their involvement in important projects which will redefine Oldham, but we need to move quickly.

There are plenty of councils who – when faced with budget reductions – decided to reign back and became scared to move forward.

Given our ambition for Oldham and the urgent need to create jobs and restore civic pride, we know that we can not wait a decade or more for things to happen here.

Independent estimates are that if we continue to decline at the current rate our Borough will lose 6,000 jobs in this recession. It would then take until 2030 just to recover back to our 2008 position.

That cannot be allowed to happen unchallenged and so it is now – more than ever – that we need to invest to grow.

Our place in Greater Manchester and the unique relationships within the city region will boost our success. We’re also beginning to see a real maturity and focus on inward investment which can only help Oldham.

I know some people are cynical about whether our plans will deliver a better future but it is not my job to be held back by decisions of the past: it is my job to learn, listen and give focus to the task in hand.

All I ask is to be judged on my own merits or failure, and not on decisions that were made well before I became leader – and some even whilst I was still at school!

We should keep our heads up and focus as the alternative would be doing an utter disservice to our Borough.

After a positive event in London we returned back as the consultation process began on how we are to balance our books in response to cuts in our funding from Central Government.

More than £100million has already been cut in the past four years and the easier decisions made.

It is fair to say that the options get tougher and we are now forced to consider things we wouldn’t otherwise want to do.

Job losses will be unavoidable and for the many staff who work for Oldham Council – delivering over 700 services for 250,000 residents – these are difficult times. It is worth remembering that 70 per cent of our workforce lives in the Borough, so they could be your friends, family or neighbours.

We are holding roadshows and public meetings where you can have your say and I would strongly encourage residents and businesses to take part.

It’s been interesting to see some online comments which have talked about these cuts being made “because the council can’t manage it’s money”. This is complete nonsense.

These are the result of a series of cuts imposed on us from national government year on year.

The very fact that many people are yet to really feel the impact of these cuts is a credit to all our staff who have worked so hard to be dedicated public servants and deliver alternative solutions.

Oh, to be a Council Leader today!

Thanks for listening,

Jim

One thought on “The best of times, the worst of times

  1. Keith

    Good luck Jim looking ahead with a clear plan is what Oldham needs. It must focus on the young and education. As a parent seeing a dissabled child thrive in Mahdlo’s youth centre. Oldham can prove to the regions and nationally that this town has the ability to create projects that are up with the best.
    We have the habit of not getting positive messages out and the biggest job for Oldham is to create a joined up dynamic future for the present and next generation. Get closer to your community and help them deliver.

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