I WAS in the Independent Quarter last week to welcome our latest new tenants to the area.
The Tooth Place has just moved into the Old Mess House building on Yorkshire Street after this local business had got too big for their previous home on Rhodes Street.
I took a tour of the practice, managed by Dr Amjad Chaudhary, and could not fail to be impressed with what they have had done to the place.
There’s been extensive refurbishment internally and to the exterior of the building. It has all taken around 18 months and it has scrubbed up incredibly well.
The design and layout meant that finding a new tenant for this building would always be problematic but it works really well for their four new dental surgeries – and with another yet to come that will mean extra capacity for more local patients.
This is just another great sign of renewal in the area. We’ve removed the historic issues of anti-social behaviour at this premises dating back to the ‘Wild West’ days and revived it for a new use in a way that completely respects the heritage of the building.
It’s also another great example of the Co-operative ethos combining investment from Oldham Council to initially purchase the building with a local business prepared to take a personal stake in its future and invest their livelihood.
I also took the chance to call into Scoots, Suits and Boots to see Mick Harwood while on Yorkshire Street.
He was the first-ever recipient of an Independent Quarter grant and – along with his wife Jo – blazed a trail for others to follow.
Sadly, Mick recently took the decision to close his shop but he is going to continue trading online – at least for the time being – at www.scootssuitsandboots.com
We all wish him the very best with his new plans but he’s been such a hit in the area with shoppers and other traders that we simply didn’t want the partnership to end.
Mick has been a great ambassador for everything we are trying to do in the IQ and popular with shoppers and traders alike.
His innovation has ranged from putting an eye-catching installation in his shop window, to organising vintage markets attracting people from as far afield as Wrexham on scooters, to launching his own record store….
That’s why I am pleased to report that he has accepted an invitation to become a voluntary mentor for future independent businesses opening in the town.
Mick is the certainly the right man for that job and we’re delighted to be able to keep his passion and knowledge on-board for others to benefit from in future.
Finally this week an update on the future of the Link Centre.
Budget-making is never easy. It’s something few of us enjoy in any walk of life and for local authorities like ours it has been an ever-increasing nightmare for the past eight years.
More than £200m has been taken from our funding since 2009 and an impact on public services is unavoidable.
I wish it were different but the harsh reality is that – other than statutory services which Government requires us to provide – practically nothing can be exempt from consideration as we try to find huge savings.
The Link Centre offers a large number of services, support groups and signposting facilities for residents with a disability, carers and others with additional needs, but it has also had low footfall for a period of time and it was right to consider the options.
When the option to close it first came onto the agenda we knew it would inevitably cause concern, and I’d like to thank everyone who took part in the public consultation on this.
It has now been decided that the centre will remain open, but with the caveat that it will have a different operating model to help find the necessary savings.
It was obvious from the consultation that there is still a need for the Link Centre in Oldham. You shared your views, concerns and suggestions and we listened to them.
The best way forward is for communities to take control of the services provided and for the centre to be run in a different way that makes it more financially viable. To that end we intend to allow a third sector organisation to run the building and let space.
What’s important is that it means our residents will still be able to access and develop the services that they want to see at the centre.