THIS week sees the start of my ‘around the Borough’ tour visiting each of our secondary schools to speak to students about the future of our town.
I know from previous sessions held at Oldham College and the Regional Science Centre that students have some mixed views about growing up in Oldham – and there is a real need to empower our young people to see that future of our Borough is firmly in their hands.
The first session is being held today at Failsworth School with Year 10 and 11 students.
My message will be simple – believe in yourself and if you have fire in your belly you can achieve all that you want.
We want to help you succeed and – just as importantly – Oldham can and should be the home of opportunity for those who work hard.
We will also show young people some of the highlights of our regeneration activity, which it is important that they see.
I am delighted to also be joined on this visit by the Youth Mayor, Josh Payne, who can give a great perspective from the next generation growing up in Oldham.
We have just had an incredibly busy week…
The first mention has to go to our ‘Fare’s Fair’ campaign – our work to deliver more affordable bus travel for residents across the Borough.
This is a major block to accessing jobs for many people, although it’s reasonable to say that when we started this campaign we weren’t overwhelmed with support, so instead we met directly with First Bus.
I have to say that I was impressed by their approach. They get what we are trying to do in Oldham and expressed a wish to work alongside us.
The end result – announced last week – is a whopping 28 per cent reduction across the weekly ticket going from £18 to £13 a week. And there will be further discounts for Credit Union members (more on that next month).
We’re also now working to support students in higher and further education here with other discounts. So it’s a big ‘well done’ to First Bus – and to Councillor Sean Fielding who led this campaign – for making a real difference.
Last Wednesday saw the latest meeting of Full Council with many questions again coming from the public and ward councillors about local issues.
Since our webstreaming of these meetings began in October 2011 the interest in them has clearly increased.
I must admit to being somewhat surprised (and slightly taken aback) at the number of people who mention either watching the live stream or hearing it through Oldham Community Radio (OCR) and the interaction via Twitter and Facebook also really adds a whole new dimension to it.
OCR also rightly pointed out, in a question to that meeting, that they have been broadcasting the Full Council meetings for some time now – and a good job they do too. (Having now given them that unashamed plug, I’m assured my future place on their Desert Island Discs slot is now secure).
I also delivered my second ‘Annual Report’ on the Borough at Full Council and recorded a summary to camera afterwards, which you can view online now here: http://www.oldham.gov.uk/boroughreport As I say, this was filmed immediately after a near four-hour meeting: hence my blurry eyes!
Last Friday evening I then attended a party fundraiser which raised more than £500 for Dr Kershaws Hospice.
Many people have come into contact with the hospice, of course, and I know it is dear to so many people.
My own recent experience was in visiting my friend, Barbara Dawson, in her final days. The staff and volunteers down there do make a huge difference to families at what is an extremely difficult time and their efforts are greatly appreciated.
On Saturday I attended the traditional Reindeer Parade through Oldham town centre. With the free car parking offer now in operation the place was jam packed with traffic queues for all the right reasons – volume of traffic, not simply traffic cones.
It was great to see people getting behind the town centre and local businesses in this way and we must continue doing that to ensure they have a strong Christmas trading period after enduring the traffic chaos caused by Metrolink works.
The week ended with a pause for reflection as Remembrance Sunday services took place across the Borough.
This year I opted to attend the Oldham service for the very first time. Previously I had been the organiser of the Failsworth Remembrance Sunday service after fighting alongside local residents to upgrade the cenotaph.
It felt odd not to be in Failsworth after so many years, but it’s also right as Council Leader that I alternate my attendance between the Failsworth and Oldham ceremonies – both are very poignant and touching events.
Thanks for listening,