New shoes, new faces – and familiar challenges  

pollingIT’S ALWAYS something of a relief to get back to ‘business as usual’ once the local elections are finished.

As council leader the election period is an incredibly busy one spent supporting established and new candidates on doorsteps the length and breadth of the borough – and buying a new pair of shoes is often one of your first considerations afterwards(!).

I was generally pleased with the results last Thursday as this administration – having lost one seat and gained another, through Stephen Hewitt (in Saddleworth West and Lees) – remains in the same situation it was in before the polls opened.

However, that is also tempered with deep disappointment that Arooj Shah was not re-elected in the St Mary’s seat that she has served with distinction for four years. I firmly believe, however, that what doesn’t kill you simply makes you stronger, and she will be certainly be back in local politics soon.  

Without being in any way complacent I am taking the overall result as a general backing for the priorities and policies that we have been working hard on for you and your families.

OTH2Much of the regeneration programme we promised since 2011  is now delivered, or firmly underway, and the opening of the Old Town Hall (right) later this year will be a symbolic moment and a real boost for our town centre, residents and visitor economy.

Aside from next month’s EU referendum, of course, things are now getting back to normal and I am enjoying the chance to refocus and get on with planning what comes next for Oldham.

As I have previously said there will be more focus in the months and years ahead on social regeneration. These are schemes designed to invest in and help to improve local people’s prospects and lives.

It’s an agenda that includes work with our partners to implement the findings of the Oldham Education and Skills Commission report, for example, plus schemes that can help residents to lead healthier, happier and more fulfilling lives – and deliver the homes and community facilities they need.

There are also emerging opportunities for us from devolution to Greater Manchester: in particular on health, skills and transport  where we could have much more say over the public services and investments which affect all our communities.

I will be setting out this agenda more fully in the coming months and I promise that the focus of our work will stay true to our long-standing ambitions and vision for this borough.

As I write I’m currently drawing together my final thoughts on a new Cabinet, which will be revealed later today.

I am fortunate in having a strong talent pool to draw from within the group and the line-up will go before Annual Council for approval next Wednesday (May 18).

As a Cabinet we’ll also be turning our attentions quickly to the huge task of how to find a projected £37 million in savings we need to find from reduced budgets over the next two years…What did I say about it being ‘business as usual’ at Oldham Council?

Jean

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