Rubbish news is just great!

vfm-59I WANT to talk rubbish news this week – and I don’t mean the ‘fake news’ we’re all hearing so much about at the moment…

As you know, Oldham Council started its new waste collection arrangements in October.

The changes were designed to cut the amount of waste being sent to landfill and to promote more recycling across the borough.

This working pattern is now well-established as the norm and our first set of figures has just landed.

I wanted to share these and also take the opportunity to say thank you to people for ‘doing your bit’ – because this success is down to the effort of residents.

Changes to kerbside collection arrangements are never easy.

It’s the one service that every single household relies upon, so we worked very hard on explaining why we were doing this and how the changes would affect everyone.

tidyoldhamThe first comparable set of data shows that our household recycling rate has gone up significantly.

Comparing the third quarter of 2016 with the same period in 2015 we can see that the amount of household waste being recycled has gone up from 36.8 per cent to 43.6 per cent.

Given current trends we now expect this year’s overall recycling rate to average out somewhere between 45 and 47 per cent, which is really good progress – and it’s all down to you.

The public response to the changes – ordering extra blue, brown and green bins, for example – shows you’ve been recycling more and doing it smarter.

This really matters because our future has to be about less waste and more recycling. The costs to us of disposing of grey bin waste is hundreds of pounds per tonne, whereas we actually get a small income for each tonne that we recycle.

Since announcing that changes were on the way in July, we’ve sent out more than 25,000 recycling bins to local residents. Previously around 15,000 bins were requested over a 12-month period.

We’ve also had more than 1,700 applications for extra grey bins, compared with the 300 we would usually get.

These are requests from households with extra waste that they cannot recycle: such as where more than five people are living in one home, for example, or a household has two or more children in nappies.  Where households can demonstrate a genuine need for an additional bin for waste that cannot be recycled, we will provide an additional bin.

All the information you need about your household waste – including what you can and cannot recycle, and tips to manage your rubbish – can be found on our website here.

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Some predicted the adoption of the new collection system would mean a significant rise in fly tipping.

But the fly tipping we all see in local media is not what responsible households dispose of in the bins provided.

I’m pretty sure that the mattresses, the fridges and the sofas that are reported as fly tipped across Oldham would never have fitted into the grey bin anyway(!). The trade waste that gets dumped is also something we are working hard to address.

I understand the misery and blight this kind of dumping causes to lives and communities and you may have seen our latest batch of prosecutions on this last week: all in incidents that happened before the new collection arrangements started.

We’ll be continuing with a ‘zero tolerance’ stance on this kind of behaviour and there’ll be more prosecutions to come, for which we make no apologies.

It’s not Oldham Council that dumps this waste, but it does fall to us to clean it up – and at a cost of almost £1m a year to you, the local taxpayer.  That is £1m that could be spent providing services to residents instead of cleaning up after people who do not respect our neighbourhoods.

It’s your neighbour – be that a home or business nearby – or somebody who has come into your area that dumps the stuff. And that is why we need your help.

If you see anyone fly tipping or dumping waste like this, then please do your bit and let us know using the online form here or by calling 0161 770 2244.

illuminate

Finally, I must take this chance to urge you not to miss out on a fantastic arts festival that we’re hosting in Oldham town centre on Friday this week.

‘Illuminate’ is a family friendly event that will feature carnival performances, a river of illuminated paper lanterns, an illuminated vintage bus, a new youth dance piece, LED electronics workshops by Hack Oldham and much, much more.

Attractions and workshops will be taking place at Oldham Parish Church, Parliament Square and Gallery Oldham from 5pm to 9pm that evening.

giantWe’re also bringing back, by popular demand, the Oldham Giant from the Old Town Hall opening ceremony last year (pictured right) and there will be some amazing 3D projections from Illuminos.

This is the first time we’ve ever held a late-night arts festival in the town centre.

It is going to be spectacular, so read more about it here and, please, help us spread the word amongst your friends and family.

Jean

Independent Quarter: As one door closes…

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NEW TENANT: The Tooth Place is bringing the Old Mess House back to life

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.

tooth2This 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.

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AMBASSADOR: Mick Harwood of Scoots, Suits and Boots

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.

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LINK CENTRE: The facility will remain open but with a new operating model

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.

Jean

Inclusive growth – what it is and why it matters

JeanStrettonTHE ‘INCLUSIVE Growth’ agenda is going to be absolutely central to my work as Council Leader.

What I mean by that it is that it’s vital we ensure that Greater Manchester devolution isn’t just delivering for core areas around Manchester city centre, but also for all our towns and districts.

The importance of that – as if we needed reminding – was highlighted again when the All-Party Group of Social Inclusion met in Parliament on Monday.

The group warned that Britain is becoming more ethnically segregated – with widening “cracks in our communities” because lessons haven’t been learned.

Their deliberations coincided with the unhappy anniversary of it being 15 years since the Oldham riots and I was, as you can imagine, asked to give my thoughts by several media sources.

Those scenes on our streets in 2001 were ones none of us will forget. Since then they’ve remained at the forefront of all our minds in everything we do to improve the prospects of our people, business and places.

I welcomed the fact that these issues were being discussed in the context of being matters for Britain as a nation this week. It’s important to do that rather than treating those disturbances as somehow being a defining and unique feature of Oldham.

Rising immigration has produced a national debate that is primarily focussed on numbers and sensational headlines; risking a response where communities blame each other and heightening the appeal of simplistic ‘Donald Trump’ solutions.

I want to talk about Oldham’s experiences since 2001 – and where we go next on this agenda.

Much hard work has been done by Oldham Council and partners across all sectors to provide stronger civic leadership here that can tackle the problems that can lead to communities living “parallel lives”.

We’ve made significant investments in landmark regeneration schemes designed to boost Oldham’s confidence, make it family-friendly, improve residents’ prospects and spark the local economy by attracting major inward investment deals to helping small independent traders.

There’s also been significant investment in housing, work to reduce the segregation of students from different ethnic backgrounds in schools, plus the Oldham Education and Skills Commission, which is striving to improve standards and encourage schools to work better together to raise them across the borough.

We’re not complacent but we’ve seen success in several areas. There’s less hate crime happening, for example, and the far right has still never had a single candidate elected here. Our neighbourhood teams working closely within communities also find that people much more prepared to acknowledge and discuss difficult issues.

But seeing these issues simply through the prism of race is too narrow a focus that offers few solutions.

Drill deeper and you can see that social integration and economic inclusion and prosperity go hand in hand, which is why I’m concentrating on three key areas for Oldham.

wordpress-gmcaFirstly, as a partner in Greater Manchester devolution, I’ve made the ‘inclusive growth’ agenda my top concern.

New research from the independent Inclusive Growth Analysis Unit (run by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation and University of Manchester) rightly challenges the ‘Northern Powerhouse’ to ensure the proceeds of growth are shared by all people and places in their regions.

Looking at key indicators like income, living costs, labour market exclusion, employment and human capital we can see that while Manchester city centre and Salford have seen growth in their prosperity, the GM region overall sits in the bottom half of the index for inclusion. That has to change or devolution will fail – and communities will divide.

Secondly, we must not lose sight of the importance of our key services. We cannot forget or underestimate the impact these targeted interventions can have in changing peoples’ lives. Initiatives like Get Oldham Working and Warm Homes Oldham have helped thousands of people into employment and out of fuel poverty – key interventions which can make a huge difference. Delivering them won’t be getting any easier, however, as the Government continues to slash our funding and offer measures like business rate redistribution, which won’t mitigate long-term risks to councils like ours. Westminster can and must do better.

And thirdly, I believe more should be done to include women in the GM devolution agenda and in finding solutions to these challenges.

We’ve underplayed the contribution women can make and haven’t engaged them well in this process so far: the devolution deal photocall was a very telling image filled entirely with men in suits. That matters for reasons of justice, legitimacy and efficiency.

I’m the first female leader of Oldham Council and it’s one that has strong cabinet and ward member representation of women. But I’m also now the only female leader in GM and I will push for that voice to be heard better in policy-making and helping to tackle entrenched divisions and inequalities.

As a Co-operative Council we work hard with partners in every area and sector of our borough. All of us recognise that we have our own roles to play in tackling deep-seated social, economic and cultural forces that can drive our communities apart.

We share those challenges with many other places and cannot ever ignore them.

What’s important about Oldham though is not that we had a riot – London and Manchester had them much more recently, remember – but that we have a plan, a partnership and the determination to tackle these issues head on.

Jean Stretton

Leader of Oldham Council

Oldham Council: Priorities for the year ahead

ANNCOUNCIL
NEW YEAR, NEW MAYOR: Councillor Derek Heffernan takes his place on the dias in the Council Chamber for the first time as Mayor of Oldham.

TODAY WAS our Annual Council meeting which is a great opportunity to reflect on the past year and look ahead to the future.

Our new Cabinet line-up for 2016/7 was approved as part of the usual order of business.

That means myself and Abdul Jabbar will continue as Council Leader and Deputy Leader and – amongst the other main changes – sees the return of Amanda Chadderton and new portfolio areas for Shoab Akhtar and Fida Hussain.

You can read all about the full line-up and those new roles and responsibilities here: http://bit.ly/1Xmq1aD

As part of the tradition of Annual Council I also spoke this afternoon to explain this administration’s priorities as we enter a ‘fallow’ period with no local elections scheduled until May 2018.

To give you a summary of what I said, I reflected on the fact that it is now five years since we became a Cooperative Council.

I believe that approach has delivered – and will continue to do so – for the borough.

We remain committed to that approach in order to deliver our key priorities.

Put simply, those are to improve the prospects of all our people, all of our business communities and the whole of the borough.

It means doing all that we can as a council – alongside partners – to attract new investment, jobs, skills, economic growth and homes for our residents.

A good example of how that co-operative approach works – where everyone does their bit, and everyone benefits – is the Independent Quarter.

This is flourishing thanks to the £600,000 we’ve already granted to existing and new independent businesses.

We now have 27 new independent firms trading in that area who have created more than 150 new jobs and invested £1m of their own money. We expect a further nine companies with another 50 jobs to come during this year.

There’s also been improvements to 40 buildings and 35 more are set to complete in 2016. And this area – which many people had stopped visiting because of too many takeaways, cheap booze offers and vacant run-down units – is now home to some fantastic new restaurants, traders, professional services and even social enterprises.

Tackling areas of deprivation and helping people who are both in and out of work is also a key priority.

Get Oldham Working has been a great pathway into employment for more than 2,550 people but we know too many residents are in low-paid and low skilled jobs with little job security. That has to change.

We must prioritise giving those people new opportunities to get better skills and make progress in their careers that earn more money for their families. That will not only push local wages higher but it will also create mobility in the labour market and encourage more new people into work.

And we are fully committed to implementing the findings of the Oldham Education and Skills Commission report. A new Education Partnership Leader is to be appointed soon and good progress is already being made.

Around 63 per cent of our children now attend ‘good’ or ‘outstanding’ schools, which is a big improvement in a short space of time.

We must also focus on playing a proactive role in the Greater Manchester devolution agenda.

I want us to be a positive partner in that project while also trying to strike the best deal for our residents and businesses. I see no contradiction in that stance because devolution will only truly work if everyone sees and shares the benefits.

It makes sense for all GM authorities to work together. We share similar challenges and interests in getting better results in health and social care, nurturing business growth and equipping residents with the skills and life chances they deserve.

But we also must ensure that devolution doesn’t just deliver for core areas around Manchester city centre. We need a strong settlement for our towns and districts too. We need inclusive growth.

My final – but very important – priority is to continue to focus on getting your basic services right.

There’s no point me moaning that we have to find another £67m in savings over the next two years. We just have to get on with it.

We have to respond and innovate and work harder than ever to protect your essential local services. And we will.

Finally this week, I must mention the ‘Mayor making’ ceremony which took place earlier today in the Council Chamber.

I was delighted to join all members in unanimously selecting Councillor Derek Heffernan, who has been a ward member for Saddleworth since 1995, as our new first citizen.

Derek is held in high regard across all parties for his dedication to public service and unstinting work for local organisations.

He and his wife, Di, will be splendid ambassadors for Oldham and both deserve this very special honour.

We also gave thanks to the departing Mayor, Ateeque Ur-Rheman and his Mayoress, Yasmin Toor.

They have been one of the busiest duos ever to hold that office and made a really big impact across the borough – especially in our schools.

Their excellent year finished with a Zip Wire event last weekend which raised more than £17,000 for local good causes. That is, I believe, a record total raised by a Mayoral event in one day.

I know lots of people have enjoyed meeting them and have sent in many letters of thanks and appreciation.

On behalf of them, the borough and the council, I would like to thank Ateeque and Yasmin for their fantastic efforts.

Jean

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