Business as usual as Masterplan marches on

ballot-box-3THIS WILL be my final blog before the Local Elections that will be taking place on Thursday, May 3.

During this pre-election period – known in Local Government circles as Purdah – strict publicity rules mean you’ll hear less formally from me now until all the votes are counted up.

My role as Oldham Council Leader continues during that time and the usual packed schedule of meetings and decisions does not stop.

Sadly this week, we’ve lost another colleague following the passing of my fellow Hollinwood ward councillor, Brian Ames, last weekend.

Incredibly, Brian’s time at Oldham Council stretches right back to its inception as a local authority in 1974 which is a proud and lengthy record of public service.

My sincerest condolences go to his wife, Teresa, and all of Brian’s family and friends at this time.

Ames_B___1_If you knew Brian, you can pay your tributes in special Books of Condolence at Failsworth Town Hall and Oldham Civic Centre (Rochdale Road reception) during normal working hours – or do it online here.

As I say, it’s business as usual behind the scenes until May 3 and during that time we’ll continue to forge ahead on discussions around the Oldham Town Centre Masterplan.

I’ll be chairing Cabinet next Monday evening when we consider a report seeking approval to formally launch our search for a development partner on that scheme in summer. This is to secure a partner to work alongside us on the transformation of the town over a 10-15 year period.

This issue has been my clear priority in the past year and I want to reiterate again just why it is so important.

We’ve made some great strides in recent times in Oldham – like the development of the Old Town Hall, Parliament Square, and progress on a new Heritage and Arts Centre, and Coliseum Theatre.

But what we’re talking about with this Masterplan is way bigger than that. This is an actual strategic vision designed to build on the great assets this borough already has and make sure it prospers in the future.

We cannot stand still as a place and – in spite of funding cuts from Central Government – I am determined we will not.

This Masterplan sets out a clear roadmap for what we want Oldham to be in the next 10 to 15 years, and how we will achieve that.

This isn’t some think-tank’s dreamy vision of the future, it’s rooted in all our aspirations. It is about leadership of the place and that’s we really need now.

Successful town centres in 2018 aren’t what they were 15 years ago: an almost random stack of shops anchored by the likes of Woolworths, British Home Stores and HMV. That has all changed. Society has changed. Habits have changed – and our needs have changed.

Just think of recent headlines from retailers and eateries everywhere like Toys R Us, New Look, Maplin, Prezzo, Jamie Oliver and Chimichanga.

Retail has a future in town centres, for certain, but it’s no longer the ‘be all and end all’ of the full mix that a place needs to be thriving.

Town_Centre_Master_Plan_HP_Rotator_RESIZETown centres like ours are crying out for a new approach that stops them being left behind and the Masterplan is all about tackling this: delivering regeneration, renewal and a clear purpose. This is about Oldham being a place thriving round the clock and – crucially – isn’t totally dependent on the unlikely prospect of retail of shopping habits remaining stable.

This is about Oldham offering an experience as a destination with, for example, a better Tommyfield Market environment and offer rooted in the 21st Century. And this is about Oldham being a place where more people choose to live and work – and therefore help that economy to thrive every day and night.

Without this Masterplan we’d simply be managing decline and dealing reactively with the terrible future fallout from all that. We cannot let that happen.

Some people still talk about the possibilities of building ‘new towns’ like Milton Keynes for future growth, but I believe the way to go is to reinvigorate our existing ones first. They have identity and they can be fixed.

JeanStrettonWith this Masterplan we can change Oldham’s story and its destiny, that’s what I am committed to do here.

See you in May!

Jean

Ageing Well Oldham |

Nu Facebook header template 2018WE’RE launching Ageing Well Oldham this week – a great new initiative to improve the lives of residents over the age of 50.

This is an increasingly important agenda because our population is ageing.

It’s good news that people are living longer than before, but it also creates challenges that need a strategic approach.

Part of that, of course, is the need to improve overall health across Oldham, which we are addressing through measures like the integration of our health and social care into a Local Care Organisation in April.

But this demographic change is also going to have profound impacts on costs, demand, and the sustainability of future health budgets.

Ageing Well Oldham is part of our response to these issues and has very clear aims.

We want to improve the lives of people aged over 50 so they can continue to contribute to – and benefit from – economic growth, and can also enjoy a good quality of life and be able to contribute to society.

It’s about us tackling barriers like social isolation, improving health services, encouraging more active participation in communities and creating better wellbeing opportunities.

We’re coordinating this work across Greater Manchester as part of our vision to make it the first age-friendly city region in the country.

This is a pledge to be a place that ensures it hears and represents the voices of the older population and makes decisions that take their needs and experiences into full account.

Working with partners we’ve now set up the Greater Manchester Ageing Hub to provide that strategic response to an older population.

Barriers can prevent older people from being active in their communities and having a good quality of life but, of course, many people wouldn’t necessarily recognise these until they experience them in later life.

Ageing Well Oldham aims to help on several levels: assisting people to further their careers, to get help with business funding and to improve their health and wellbeing.

Each Thursday we will hold sessions at Werneth Lifelong Learning Centre (below) where people over 50 can get free access to things that can really make a difference to their lives, including employment advice and information from our Get Oldham Working team, Job Centre Plus and Learn Direct staff.

Werneth LLLThe sessions can also help people to identify skills or capabilities they need to help them get to the next step on their chosen career path through our Career Advancement Service. There will also be advice for those who want a new challenge and are looking for a change in direction as to how they could embark on a new and different career.

While it may surprise you to hear this, the over-50s are also a powerhouse of new businesses. Some are also drawn to the idea of enjoying a second career, often in something they always wanted to do with their lives, and find they have more spare time than before to achieve this.

The growth in UK self-employment since 2000 has been very much driven by this group.

At Ageing Well Oldham people will be able to get information about potential funding and grants from Give it a Go, the Greater Manchester Growth Hub and other agencies.

You can also get free advice and support from our Oldham Community Leisure staff who will point you in the right direction to stay healthy, take up a new activity, get in shape and meet other people in classes and schemes in your area.

The sessions are taking place every Thursday from 9.30am to 2.30pm (from Thursday, March 22 onwards).

Ageing Well Oldham 2Each day consists of three different focusses: Health and wellbeing sessions from 9.30am to 10.30am; employability-related workshops from 10.15am to Noon; and enterprise development support from 12.30pm to 2.30pm.

This agenda is all about us working better together to tackle social, economic and health inequalities in later life – something we all have a vested interest in to create a truly inclusive economy.

Please have a think about whether you – or a family member or friend – could benefit from Ageing Well Oldham and find more information at the website here.

Jean

Go away winter…

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RESILIENCE helps us all to get through a typical Oldham winter – and this year we’ve needed it even more than usual.

Winter has been a particularly cruel season this time round with unusually prolonged spells of frost and frequent snowfall all culminating in last week’s big freeze. Let’s hope that is the worst of it out of the way!

The visits of Storm Emma and the Beast From The East brought together an extreme cocktail of freezing temperatures, heavy snowfall and high winds that made hibernation look an appealing option by last Thursday morning.

It feels like it has been winter forever now and, to put it in to some context, I wanted to share with you the efforts our gritting and highways team have been putting in to battle what the elements have been throwing at the borough.

IMG_0606By last Saturday morning our gritter drivers had clocked up 77,287 road miles – or 124,381 kilometres – since October.

They’d also put in around 15,000 tractor miles, done 148 separate treatment shifts on local roads and spread 6,280 tonnes of salt.

The response last week from all our staff, partners and residents was fantastic and inspiring yet again.

Gritting shifts continued round the clock from last Sunday onwards. Roads were ploughed, snow blowers deployed and fallen trees removed as the disruption deepened.

Council staff and employees of MioCare, which is responsible for delivering social care in Oldham, literally waded their way through snow drifts to visit elderly and vulnerable people in some of the remotest locations we have – not missing one single appointment. Others rang thousands of residents checking on their wellbeing, food and medicine stocks and heating.

Partners also came to the fore. Oldham Mountain Rescue Team, for example, helped us ensure that a 94-year-old lady was safe and warm in her isolated Strinesdale home surrounded by snow drifts.

Oldham Fire Station opened their facilities as a rest centre for motorists stranded around the local road network after the M62 became impassable. And local tractor drivers and residents came out in their droves to offer help and food to people trapped in and around the Saddleworth villages.

IMG_0610 (002)The clean-up operation is now underway – and there is plenty to do.

Our facility at Access Oldham suffered wind damage but it is now back and fully operational.  Unfortunately, Gallery Oldham suffered from flooding and remains closed for now. To get the latest updates on any of our services or buildings please go to www.oldham.gov.uk/winter

We also have a backlog of bin collections to catch up on, grit bins to refill and – of course – we know the latest freeze inevitably means dozens more potholes will be appearing on our roads.

Just last month we announced a £6.2 million investment to bring many of our highways back up to scratch. I want to stress again that that work is ongoing and it is in addition to our regular pothole repairs, where we need your help.

We’ve repaired more than 4,441 potholes in the last twelve months but with 856 kilometres of roads to look after we simply don’t have the resource to spot them all. That’s why I am again asking people to please do #yourbit and report any potholes that you see using our online form here

If the pothole poses an immediate and serious threat to safety, then please call 0161 770 4325.

I want to say thank you once again to everyone who helped make the latest Oldham response to extreme weather so effective.

Thank you to local residents and business for your patience too, and the many kind comments and words of appreciation that our staff received.

The spirit that was shown and the snow heroes who came to the fore are a true credit to the borough.

I, for one, am now desperately hoping that was winter’s last hurrah for 2017/8 and am counting down the days until British Summer Time officially begins (Sunday, March 25) and brings a glorious extra hour of daylight to warm our spirits.

Jean

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