OUR PASSION for Oldham and drive to improve the town has been a feature of the majority of my blogs.
I make no apologies for that because I think it’s important that we’re all focused on the job in hand.
Last year we launched 30 pledges for a fairer Oldham in a two-year manifesto.
Once the election was over with, the votes counted and the battered black ballot boxes all stacked up, we went straight on to delivering those promises.
The pledges we set out weren’t just about being re-elected. There are plenty of politicians who believe getting elected is an end in itself, but I am clear that this simply gives you the means to start improving your town.
A vision and ideas are meaningless, however, if you haven’t got a plan for delivering it, so I should start by offering my thanks to staff at Oldham Council and our partners.
Together we’ve brought together our shared ambition in the Oldham Plan and it’s meant that, even in very difficult financial times, we have made serious progress.
Very little, of course, could also be achieved without the support of YOU, the people of the borough: many of whom have agreed that simply managing our town’s decline isn’t the future we want for the next generation.
We’ve demanded better and I hope the following review gives confidence to all that, even when times feel hopeless, we can find hope. Even when we are scared of believing for fear of being let down, we can find the strength to believe. And even when there is so much to distract us we find the wisdom to keep focused on the job in hand.
- Supported new independent traders on Yorkshire Street with a £1m boost. We’ve already seen 14 new businesses benefit from this and our support to existing business and we’re on track to create 100 new jobs with this project, as well as regenerating the high street;
- Invested in supporting businesses on Shaw and Lees high streets and have now extended the grants scheme to the Failsworth A62 corridor;
- Invested £2m in road repairs to enable us to introduce a 24-hour repair promise for main roads;
- Extended free town centre parking beyond 2014 and will continue to do so into next year;
- Worked with neighbours to extend Metrolink to Manchester Airport so that in future you can make a simple change at Cornbrook and then journey on to the rest of the world;
- And signed contracts to bring M&S and other national retailers to Oldham – with more to come.
- Invested in new leisure centres in Oldham and Royton as well as upgrading facilities across the borough;
- Got busy onsite to deliver your flagship ODEON cinema and restaurants in the Old Town Hall, which will soon be a destination to be proud of;
- Brought forward key employment sites by working with development partners to secure new jobs, the most significant being at Foxdenton and Hollinwood Junction, both of which are essential for our long term economic success. And we’ve also worked to bring other sites and facilities back into use including the former BAE Systems factory on Greengate;
- Invested in new primary and secondary school facilities including a special school for children with Autism at Hollinwood Academy. This has ranged from completely new buildings to catching up on important maintenance and upgrades so our young people have the best facilities we can afford;
- And we’ve invested in redeveloping Royton Town Centre with the announcement of a new supermarket which will compliment work to Royton Town Hall and the precinct.
We also wanted Oldham to be a ‘Working Borough’ and so we…
- Set out to create 2,015 job opportunities by the end of 2015 – and have already smashed that target. That work won’t stop until we not only get people into jobs, but also support them into better-paid and more secure employment. We’ve also helped 70 new businesses get up and running;
- Supported the expansion of the Primary Engineer and Junior University schemes working in primary schools to inspire our young people;
- Supported new Enterprise Hubs in every secondary school, encouraging the next generation of entrepreneurs. Young people are benefiting from programmes organised by Young Enterprise, and through the involvement of businesses like Jaguar Land Rover, NatWest, Bank of New York and O2;
- Are on target to deliver our Youth Guarantee for every school leaver by Autumn 2015, which means every young person will have an offer of further education, apprenticeships, a job or support to set up their own business.
- And are on course to introduce the Oldham Scholarship to help young people go to University.
- Leading the way on fairness with the Fair Employment Charter tackling low pay and zero hours contracts. Already 25 local employers have signed up and we’re gaining more all the time;
- Giving housing priority to those who in work, volunteering or caring because you tell us it matters to support those who are contributing to make Oldham a better place;
- Introducing the National Living Wage to all council workers by April 2015 and are working hard to make sure our contractors do the same;
- Continuing to invest in Youth Council support and facilities to give our young people a voice in the future borough they will inherit;
- On track to open a high street shop to take on expensive weekly payment stores, offering affordable and fair choice to local people;
- And we’re on track to introduce a Green Dividend to fund new allotments and tree planting projects to communities who work together to create a better Oldham.
We want Oldham to have ‘Safe, Strong and Sustainable Communities’ so we have:
- Invested in new Neighbourhood Patrol Vehicles with the Police and Fire services, so we’ll save money and you get to see enforcement taking place;
- Worked to bring together Police and Fire service staff into your local District Town Hall to provide closer team working and better services to the public;
- Invested in 10 new street cleaners and environmental enforcement officers to tackle enviro-crime;
- Introducing Private Landlord Licensing and employing four new enforcement officers to tackle poor quality housing;
- Expanding housing self-build and community build schemes and have been selected as one of only 11 towns in the country to lead on this;
- Invested in new home adaptations for those with limited mobility;
- Invested in new Extra Care housing for older people to live independently;
- And we’re rewarding high quality care homes and tackle poor performing care homes.
To say so much progress has been made amidst cuts of more than £141 million in the past five years – and your Council Tax has been frozen for the second year running – is nothing short of remarkable.
And as we approach the elections on May 7 candidates will no doubt soon be actively seeking your vote.
I won’t use this blog to ask you to vote for any particular political party, but I would like to ask that you do please use your vote, because it does matter.
When any candidates come knocking at your door, my simple advice would be to ask them what they will do to make Oldham a better place.
Regardless of party affiliation, I think we all want a council chamber that is firmly focussed on delivering a better borough.
You deserve nothing less.
Thanks for listening,