The opening of the Old Town Hall last Friday was every bit as exciting as I had hoped it would be and I was honoured to carry out the official opening, alongside former council Leader, MP for Oldham West and Royton, Jim McMahon.
Hundreds of people made the special journey to Oldham town centre to witness the free show ‘On the Shoulders of Giants’ and were both entranced and delighted with the bravery of the aerial acrobats who helped to bring the story to life. The story epitomizes what we are about – a small girl who, when raised on the shoulders of a giant, finds that she can see much further – and that she can also see a brighter future for herself and her town.
Well I see a brighter future for our town and truly believe that this development marks a new era for Oldham.
I was heartened to see so many people at the event. So many of you gave up your Friday night to join us in celebrating this new start for Oldham town centre, so it just goes to show what a huge difference this development has already begun to make to our town.
As I said on the night, this is a game-changer for Oldham – and it really is just the start.
It was a fantastic weekend filled with live music, street performances and movie-themed entertainment. All I would ask now is that you continue to show your support and use this great new facility, take your family to visit the new Odeon cinema and use Parliament Square as a focal point for enjoying time with your friends and family – just make sure you tell everyone about it and encourage them to do the same. Take a look at what’s on at the cinema here www.odeon.co.uk/cinemas/oldham/222/
Work will continue over the next few weeks to progress the phased opening of the restaurants and I will continue to keep you updated on this as it happens.
Finally, as promised a fortnight ago, I’m going to explain the final two priorities that lie ahead for this administration.
Both are about health and wellbeing.
We will work hard to manage our budget so we can continue to provide care for all who need it – and for Oldham to be a caring place to live.
That’s not easy given the challenges we’re facing with our budget, falling income and rising demand, but it’s a commitment that remains: from our new Right Start service right up to helping people live independently in their homes or managed accommodation in later life.
That agenda is increasingly about reforming public services, delivering things in a different way with partners, and empowering individuals to help themselves.
The partnership model behind Warm Homes Oldham is a great example of that – as is the Early Help scheme which has redesigned and integrated services for people who need support with problems like drug and alcohol addictions, mental health issues, school attendance and behaviour, and housing.
A vital final priority for us is to support healthy lifestyles.
We’re actively helping residents and staff to be ‘Fit for Oldham’ – mentally and physically – and there are many aspects to that.
I think of our brilliant catering team who offer the healthiest school meals in the North West to give our children a great start are a perfect example of that.
We’ve also got fantastic parks and open spaces like Alexandra and Dunwood Parks to enjoy and get active – and we’re continuing to invest in others, like the new MUGA pitch at Coalshaw Green Park.
With partners and volunteers we also offer a wide range of help and activities, like the fantastic local Parkruns, and we now have a modern estate of leisure centres.
Through a host of other measures like growing hubs, fruit routes, allotments and schemes across the borough – like those at Lees, Alexandra Park and community projects like those with the Firwood and District Residents’ Association and the Fatima Womens’ Association – we’re widening access to healthy food, knowledge and fitness. And we’re doing all that from juniors upwards to help these become habits for the next generation.
The rationale is that this is ‘win win’ for everyone, if we get this right. It’s not just beneficial for those families taking part, it will also ultimately save the public sector money.
But it also needs your participation and – as I said at the outset of this series of blogs – I pledge that people who do their bit and contribute to this vision and priorities will benefit from them…
We can only build a better borough together.