THIS WEEK sees the Civic Appreciation Award given to former Groundwork Chief Executive Cliff Ellison. Cliff worked here in Oldham for over five years but has a wealth of experience in the public and voluntary sector and can take great credit for working in some very challenging areas with some equally challenging individuals who others had written off.
During my time as a council-nominated Director of the charity I saw firsthand the real difference that can be made with the right people constantly looking for new ways to change places and change lives as the charity proudly display as their motto.
One such project in St. Marys worked with a cohort of 100 young people to try and break the cycle of youth offending. Over two years Groundwork worked intensively with those young people to understand the pressures and drivers for crime and anti-social behaviour and the results spoke for themselves.
Of the 100 young people who passed through the programme 76% went on to live life without reoffending – a truly great result not just for them, but for the whole community.
Cliff brought great financial and managerial discipline to Groundwork with a firm view that although they were a charity, they had to be financially sound to deliver the activity on the ground and make such a difference.
Groundwork was also one of the very few organisations where as Leader of the Opposition I worked alongside Howard Sykes as Council Leader. Many commented on how, although we had clear differences in our political beliefs we worked for the good of Oldham and put politics to one side. When you look around the country I think Oldham is lucky as, despite what the public may think when reading the local press and council reports, members from all sides of the political divide work for the good of Oldham.
Also this week you may have seen the news in the local press that the lease the council has at Acorn Business Centre is due to end and that the council is giving notice to tenants to vacate the premises.
As part of our review of premises we are looking closely at a range of leased buildings and, where possible, terminating the lease in favour of occupying council-owned facilities. We have to ensure best value for money on all of our property and in this case the cost of the lease and investment needed in the site is not covered by the income from tenants.
This does not mean that we won’t support the businesses based there – we will. We are, as always, keen to support businesses and I am confident that the vast majority will be accommodated elsewhere.
Getting the balance right between revenue spend and supporting local businesses is sometimes difficult but where we have empty council-owned buildings we should look to fill those before paying out for additional buildings on lease.
Last Monday we welcomed Police and Crime Commissioner Tony Lloyd to Oldham during his ‘round the world tour’ or around Greater Manchester to be more accurate. It is early days for the newly created role but I know Tony is really keen to continue the good work of neighbourhood policing and work closely with the council for the good of Oldham.
Thanks for listening