Vulnerable people will pay the price for government underfunding of adult social care

stackCABINET has now approved our budget proposals for 2017/18 and these go to Full Council on March 1.

That will mark the end of another very difficult budget process in which we’ve had to take out £15m of funding for that financial year as a result of Government cuts.

Like most other councils we have, regrettably, included a proposed 3.99 per cent rise in Council Tax – although this is less than the 4.99 per cent rise most are introducing.

This is made up of a 1.99 per cent increase for Oldham Council services and an additional two per cent levy that Government say they are “allowing” councils to raise to help support under-funded adult social care services.

This means an increase of just below £5 per month for a Band D property and you can find out more about the measures we’ve taken to balance the budget proposals this time here.

It’s important to note that we withdrew some options as a result of our consultation with the public – including the proposed closure of the Link Centre and introducing charges for residents’ car parking permits.

This all means, however, that we’ve also had to propose taking £5.483m from our reserves this time.

As an administration we’ve always prided ourselves on our financial prudence and we know that this is not a sustainable policy to adopt in the medium-term.

Your reserves are there for a ‘rainy day’ – like dealing with major civil emergencies – but, sadly, that’s exactly where we are right now with the funding of adult social care.

Depressed elderly woman sitting at the tableThose services are by far our largest cost and they will continue to suffer unless this Chancellor listens to what everyone is now telling him – that social care is in crisis now. That it is a national issue that should be funded from the taxes he raises nationally. And that it is simply unfair to force councils to plug that gap by adding 2 per cent to Council Tax.

This inevitably means that poorer areas like ours are able to raise less in this way than richer ones like Surrey. Hence we have been forced to take money out of reserves this time.

Already this month the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services has called for emergency government funding of £1bn for 2017-18 just to stabilise a care market it believes to be on the edge of collapse.

The Local Government Association has also warned that the severe underfunding is putting councils in peril of not being able to provide the help that older and disabled people need with basic tasks – and it is also impacting on frontline NHS services.

It also can’t be right that councils do not appear to be treated equally by Government…

You may recall that Tory-run Surrey Council announced it was planning a local referendum on a proposed 15 per cent rise in Council Tax, blaming cuts and the demand for their services, including adult social care.

Suddenly, however, it dropped the plans and the council instead then voted through a 4.99 per cent increase thanks, it seems, to a so-called ‘sweetheart’ funding deal with Government.

That is just the latest slap in the face to councils like ours. And it comes after we’ve been forced to plug their adult social care funding shortfall by imposing a tax on our residents based on local property values – rather than on the basis of need.

poundcoins2Unless the government address this inequity sooner rather than later ultimately this will lead to the level of service people get being decided by where they live.

Postcode lotteries should never be how our society looks after its most vulnerable people – that’s simply unacceptable.

Mr Hammond needs to start listening, and listening now!

Finally this week, you may have seen media coverage about allegations of a Trojan Horse plot in an Oldham primary school.

I am unable to add to what has already been publicly said by Oldham Council at this stage. However, I am assured that we have acted properly and responsibly in fully investigating these serious claims, which it was right and proper to do.

You can view our full press statement on those matters here

Jean

Happy New Year for 2017…

oldham-leader-25-1-16-5277I’D LIKE to take this opportunity to wish all residents across our borough a Happy New Year.
 
This has been my first year as Oldham Council Leader. It has flown by at a rapid pace and it will be hard to forget 2016 for many reasons.
 
I would probably choose the Old Town Hall opening event in October as my personal highlight.
 
That spectacular show produced some iconic images and fantastic memories. Best of all, it showcased our ambitions for Oldham.
 
Raising the bar as the boldest outdoor event that we’ve ever put on in the town centre, it was brilliant to see and hear the excited reaction of families – especially young children – and made it a remarkable experience.
 
The opening of the ODEON cinema and restaurants – and the other businesses emerging and blossoming in our Independent Quarter – are clear signs of the transformation that’s now underway in Oldham. 
 
These aren’t just physical symbols of regeneration either. They are bringing new jobs, footfall and visitors and they are contributing towards the family-friendly environment we have needed for so long. 
 
There is also more to come.
 
coliseum-move-pr-shot-daily-issuesWe’ve recently been able to complete funding packages for our new Arts and Heritage Centre and the new Coliseum Theatre that are going to link up with Gallery Oldham and our Library to make a fantastic Cultural Quarter. 

And we continue to work up amended plans for the Prince’s Gate at Oldham Mumps development, which we will share as soon as we can. 
 
Our borough can’t be immune, however, from the impacts of the dramatic events we’ve seen at national and international levels in 2016.
 
Old assumptions and orders have been challenged: I can still barely believe I’m now writing in a pre-Brexit and Planet Trump era.
 
Oxford Dictionaries have named “post-truth” – which means ignoring objective facts and taking emotional decisions –  as their Word of the Year for 2016. 
 
My word for 2017 is going to be ‘fairness’. That’s because, as a place and a council, it seems to be the overriding issue on so many levels.
 
gmca-black-logo-expandedFair Growth, for example, is a key part of my new brief at the GM Combined Authority and I am leading on this agenda to make sure more of our residents share in the benefits of prosperity – not just selected parts of the south and centre of the region.
 
Oldham also needs fairness on many other levels to give our people the best chance to compete and prosper.
 
The cuts in Government funding have hit us disproportionately hard in recent years and that continues – not least with the decision to stop funding adult social care from central government budgets and hand the responsibility over to cash-strapped councils and Council Taxpayers.
 
Answers to the questions about how we are going to be funded in future when Government withdraws our core grant in 2020 – and in a way that genuinely reflects the level of need here – are also going to be vital. 

And there are other issues about our access to infrastructure and opportunities – like a direct tram link to Manchester Piccadilly, HS2 and beyond – where we will be fighting Oldham’s corner at a regional and national level in 2017.
 
The past year has seen the continuation of much unseen work that has such a positive impact on so many lives – and gives our residents a fairer chance in life.
 
hubI’m thinking of campaigns like Warm Homes Oldham, which has lifted more than 1,300 people out of fuel poverty, and our Early Help scheme, which is supporting people and families to get self-help and the skills needed to tackle their long term issues in better ways.
 
We’ve also made good progress on implementing the Oldham Education and Skills Commission’s recommendations, created thousands of new employment opportunities through Get Oldham Working, attracted more important new private investment, and begun building many of the new homes – and range of housing choice – we need as a borough.
 
In all those things, and others, our aim is to make Oldham a place where everyone can reach their potential and enjoy good quality districts, homes, transport links and life opportunities.
 
We’ll be spelling out those new priorities and our programme for the rest of this decade in the first part of 2017. None of us, however, can predict with full confidence what lies ahead.
 
At a time when the world feels as though it has been turned on its head, one undeniable truth is the value of strong public services – as shown by the response from the council and partners to the recent Maple Mill fire, or November’s flooding. 

Those services remain vital to communities and we will continue to defend them – and invest in our future –  as the next budget challenges get underway.
 
I’ve been inspired by some great local people this year.

jeannicNicola White, our Olympic gold medallist, has already made more than 60 appearances since the Rio games to inspire local schoolchildren, and she is just one high-profile example of hundreds of people who are ‘putting something back’ into our communities.
 
We still also have that great Oldham sense of humour to fall back on – as you showed in our ‘Name a Gritter’ competition that proved so popular it ended up being endorsed on the X Factor by Nicole ‘Saltslinger’ herself.
 
And another constant, which I’ve seen in countless examples this year, is the fact that Oldham only succeeds when we all pull together in the same direction. 
 
Only by all of us making our own contributions to shared aspirations and goals, can we build a better borough together.  
 
That was true in 2016 – and it remains more vital than ever for 2017 and beyond. 
 
Happy New Year!

The balancing act: Budgets, services and aspirations

Old Town Hall, Oldham, September 7, 2016
LABOUR OF LOVE: Around 200 contractors are on-site at the Old Town Hall daily putting finishing touches to the flagship development 

I’M PREPARING to deliver my first ever Annual Report to Full Council as I write – and it’s been a very busy few days.

Firstly, I know many of you are hoping for an update on the opening of the Old Town Hall, so here’s where we stand right now…

I chaired a meeting with the regeneration team here at the Civic Centre last week where we discussed this matter at length and I’m continuing to personally monitor progress on the development.

You can’t see them from outside, but there are currently more than 200 contractors working daily inside the Old Town Hall right now – drilling, preserving, painting and finishing off what has been a mammoth task and a labour of love for many craftspeople.

But the issue here isn’t just about progress on the old Grade II-listed building itself, it’s also about us being confident that the improvements we’re making to the surrounding environment and highways, and especially the new public space at Parliament Square, will also be ready.

It’s important that we have a date that will enable the maximum number of spectators to enjoy the public opening events and get in and out of the area safely and quickly: so please just bear with me just a little while longer for that announcement.

On Friday, I caught the early train down to London to take my place on the Local Government Association’s City Regions Board for the first time.

That might not mean much to you, but it’s crucially important that as key partners in Greater Manchester devolution we are at the centre on this issue, ensuring we get the best deal for our region, and for Oldham.

jeannic
GOLDEN GIRL: Nicola White

That appointment meant I couldn’t be at Oldham Leisure Centre for the homecoming event for Nicola White, our Olympic Gold medallist, but I’m happy to report that I made it back in time to meet and talk to Nicola at a celebration at the Oldham Event Centre later that night.

This evening it will be my absolute pleasure to introduce an agenda item which (subject to approval!) will see her nominated for the title of ‘Freewoman of the Borough’.

Nicola is our first Gold medal winner since Henry Taylor in 1908. Her achievement is historic and it’s only right we mark that by bestowing upon her the highest honour that we can as a council.

When I deliver my Annual Report at that same meeting tonight (more about that in next week’s blog) I’ll be setting out the progress we’ve made in the past year and what our clear priorities are for the borough looking ahead.

This is an administration that is ambitious for Oldham – for its people, for its businesses and for the local economy – but that continues to be hampered by reductions in Government funding and these amount to a further £20 million next year.

Getting that balance right between delivering good services, defending vulnerable residents and giving people the new opportunities and facilities they deserve is an incredibly hard challenge.

That’s why we launched our budget consultation yesterday on a series of proposals to help us balance those priorities – and the books.

This will be the eighth consecutive year when we’ve been hit by a significant fall in our funding and we don’t have a monopoly on the answers or bright ideas.

We’re facing some incredibly tough decisions, so we need your input and views more than ever before.

Much of the proposed budget reductions could come from changing internal processes and how we deliver services and share resources in ever-closer partnership with other equally hard-pressed public bodies. Examples of that are our work with the NHS and Oldham Clinical Commissioning Group on social care, health and children’s services – and with neighbouring councils on some back office functions.

Inevitably, however, after eight years of cuts it is increasingly difficult to absorb these without directly having some impact on residents.

The more contentious ones include proposals to close the Link Centre on Union Street, reduce top-up funding to Parish Councils, introducing a charge to cover the cost of producing residents’ parking permits and more rigorously enforcing fines to drivers who ignore bus lane restrictions.

I don’t believe any member of Oldham Council, regardless of their politics, sought office to take decisions like these, but we simply have no choice and must balance the budget.

Please take a few minutes to tell us what you think about these proposals – and give us your own ideas – at the online consultation at www.oldham.gov.uk/budget

budget
Your feedback about possible alternative savings, or steps we could take to mitigate the impact of these proposals, would be particularly welcome.

It’s a harsh fact that when this latest budget process is complete we’ll have lost £212m from budget savings requirements and the Government’s funding reductions since 2009.

That is a huge hit to our income and resources. And it is not a burden which is being shared proportionately across the country.

That’s why – as I will explain in my Annual Report this evening – it’s more vital than ever that Oldham Council continues to provide the civic leadership and direction needed to make this a better borough by working with you to get results.

If you don’t want to wait until next week’s blog to see my Annual Report, you can watch it live on our website here from 6.05pm tonight (Wednesday, September 7).

A video replay will also be posted online separately by the end of the week and I will post that link on here when it is available.

Jean

Behind the headlines: The truth about deprivation in Oldham

BBC HEADLINEIT HURT like hell to see news stories labelling Oldham as the ‘most deprived town’ in England this week.

As a proud resident and Council Leader, that’s one of the ‘top five’ headlines you never want to read.

My instinct was to defend the area because, hand on heart, I genuinely don’t believe Oldham is the most deprived town – and I don’t say that with my head in the sand either.

Many shocked people got in touch asking me how this survey could have reached that conclusion, so I did some fact-finding…

It turns out the Office for National Statistics (ONS) looked at one part of our borough – focussing just on centrally-located wards near Oldham town centre.

Big districts like Royton, Shaw, Failsworth, Chadderton and Saddleworth (just named one of the best places to live in the UK) weren’t included, which explains a lot.

The part of Oldham surveyed was those wards we historically know to have socio-economic problems, like Alexandra, Coldhurst, St Mary’s, Waterhead and Werneth. They’ve long been our areas of highest deprivation and we’ve never denied that.

Like many parts of towns and cities or large urban conurbations, these areas of Oldham are still undergoing economic restructuring after the decline of manufacturing. It’s a legacy many places are still dealing with and we’ve not been sat here waiting for some report to point that out.

ONS-logoThis ONS survey is based on data from the 2011 Census, which is five years old. We’ve been on a dramatic journey since then.

In 2011 we had no Metrolink extension. All of our major regeneration plans and social regeneration initiatives that can make a real difference to deprivation were, at best, at initial planning stages.

Oldham Council and its partners recognised, however, that if we shirked the challenges, nobody else would come along and rescue us and, since then, we’ve been recognised nationally as having made major improvements.

Together we’ve worked incredibly hard to change Oldham’s story.

Get Oldham Working, for example, has created more than 3,700 new work-related opportunities for residents. Warm Homes Oldham has lifted more than 3,300 residents out of fuel poverty and we now have a range of partners committed to working together to improve school results through the Oldham Education and Skills Commission.

The ONS survey doesn’t recognise any of that. It comes from researchers interrogating spreadsheets rather than (perish the thought) actually coming to visit the place. And all of the place too – don’t redraw the boundaries of what those who actually live here recognise as Oldham(!).

One quick trip here would’ve confirmed the story for them that our renewal is real.

OTH2We’re attracting major new retailers and investment, including Marks & Spencer and a regional Audi dealership. We’ve created a blossoming Independent Quarter that will soon have a Digital Enterprise Hub, and only this week Nandos and Gourmet Burger Kitchen agreed to join ODEON in our flagship Old Town Hall cinema development.

We haven’t got everything right and there’s a long way to go in tackling some issues linked to deprivation. But we also know it can’t change overnight and the battle is hardly helped by slamming a town and publicly crushing its confidence.

There’s also many things you cannot measure on a spreadsheet. “Not everything that counts can be counted, and not everything that can be counted counts” and you’d struggle to tell partners like Voluntary Action Oldham, the Oldham Foodbank and charity workers that their outstanding work in those communities is somehow not relevant to the true picture.

That’s not to say, however, that statistics aren’t useful – so let’s look at those that explain how deprivation is being perpetuated in Oldham.

Since 2009, Government has reduced our funding by £192 million – more than 40 per cent. By 2017 we’ll have £2,015 less to spend on services per household.

british pound currency symbol made in 3d over a white backgroundOn top of that, the Welfare Reform Act of 2012 caused an estimated £90.1m loss to the borough and last year’s Welfare Reform and Work Bill will see a cumulative loss of another £58m over the next four years. These are huge amounts to take out of people’s pockets and the local economy.

Oldham is also not alone or unique in these challenges: we’re part of a bigger geographical club.

The ONS survey said that five of the ten most deprived towns and cities are from the North West, and those with the least deprived areas are mainly in the South East – and that shouldn’t be a surprise to any of us.

I’d be much less annoyed about this survey if I thought it was ultimately going to lead to action. I’d personally hand deliver it to the Chancellor myself if I thought he would use it to help Oldham, but he won’t, so I do question what the merit of it is.

Here in Oldham we know that only we can help ourselves by pushing forward with our regeneration plans, raising aspirations and creating new jobs, opportunities and homes. That work goes on.

And although Mr Obsorne claims that places like Oldham and our neighbours are all part of a ‘Northern Powerhouse’, the necessary funding to turn that rhetoric into reality is yet to materialise.

Believing in Oldham is not just about words, it is about deeds.


PollingStationFinally, this is my last blog before the local elections period officially starts and council publicity is restricted.

On Thursday, May 5 a third (20) of the total 60 council seats – one in each ward – is up for election.

I won’t use my blog to solicit support for any particular party or cause, but I would ask that you do please use your vote.

To check if you are registered to vote or find out more information, visit the Elections page on the Oldham Council website by clicking here.

I hope you all have a fantastic Easter Weekend and my blog will return in May.

Jean

Combatting cuts: Invest to grow

SPOTLIGHT: Explaining Oldham Council's 'Invest to Grow' strategy to the Financial Times this week at Gallery Oldham.
SPOTLIGHT: Explaining Oldham Council’s ‘Invest to Grow’ strategy to journalists from the Financial Times this week at Gallery Oldham.

IN LOCAL government circles the end of February always heralds the arrival of the ‘small’ tome that is the paperwork for your annual budget-setting meeting.

This means you’re finally nearing the end of a process stretching back several months and characterised by many hours of head scratching and heart searching.

Cabinet agreed our final proposals for 2015/6 on Monday and these now go forward to the annual budget-setting Full Council meeting on Wednesday, February 25 (6pm onwards) which – as ever – you can watch online via the Oldham Council website.

The dominant factor in this task for the past six years now has been balancing books in the face of significant funding reductions and rising demand – and that means there is no sense of relief as we look ahead.

I’m sorry to say this will be the same challenge next year – and in future years – which really makes you pause for thought where this may all end up.

We’ve already seen £141million removed from Oldham Council’s budget in the past five years which is equivalent to £1,566 less per household. With an extra £60m in savings to be made by 2017 that will bring the total reduction to £201m – that’s £2,232 less to spend per household.

As a local authority we’ve suffered more than most here in Oldham and I’m clear the cuts cannot carry on.

BudgetInfog1

This is not about a principled view about deficit reduction – or continuing the blame game – the issues are now about basic public service management.

Soon there simply won’t be enough money to deliver the services that are there to respond to community demand. And when I say that I’m not just talking about the things that people ‘want’, I’m talking about things that society genuinely ‘needs’.

Public sector spending has already borne the brunt of government reductions and – with the NHS and schools being protected in terms of future funding – huge pressure is again likely to fall on local government.

And even as I write there’s yet more evidence as to how widespread concerns about this are becoming.

The Independent Commission on Local Government Finance – whose members are economists, business, finance and public service experts – says today that councils are on a ‘cliff-edge’ which means everyday services “may not be there much longer” and that “urgent devolution of powers, funding and taxes” is needed.

This comes just days after the House of Commons’ own Public Accounts Committee (PAC) published some stark findings about the financial sustainability of local authorities like ours.

They found that local services are becoming unviable and the reductions to funding are hitting the poorest areas the hardest.

The PAC report says the Department for Communities and Local Government is simply not prepared for the impact of shunting cost pressures onto other services, like the NHS, and is failing to take responsibility for the very real threats to the validity of some statutory services. And this is not a political viewpoint by the way: the PAC membership is cross-party.

The question for Oldham Council is what are we going to do about this?

How can we find the funding needed to meet our legal responsibilities and provide the services you will need in future years?

Firstly, despite the financial pressures, we know that asking local households to stump up more money isn’t realistic. Many residents are facing similar budget issues and we can’t ignore that, which is why we’re proposing to freeze the amount of Council Tax you pay for our services over the next year.

Secondly, we are trying to transform the council’s ‘fiscal base’. That basically means we need to change the sources of where our future income comes from.

We do at least have an enviable record of managing our finances here in Oldham and much work has already been ongoing to address this fiscal challenge.

Essentially we know it means us needing to work even harder and faster to make Oldham a better place to live, work and do business. It makes our regeneration programme – projects like the Old Town Hall cinema, the new Prince’s Gate at Oldham Mumps, the Independent Quarter, and new housing schemes across the borough – even more vital.

Schemes like this will not only help to attract new money and jobs but will also support the delivery of your local services in the future by increasing the amount of business rates and council tax we will collect.  BudgetInfog2

Our work also includes a whole host of other measures across all our activity like our social value framework – designed to ensure we maximise the benefit to the local economy of every penny we spend – plus work to rewire services, examine different delivery models, and early intervention and preventative work to reduce demand for services.

When you’re on the verge of a financial tipping point like this you know even more challenging times lie ahead. Difficult decisions cannot – and must not – be avoided and we are often left as ‘arbiters in chief’ of a ‘Catch 22’ situation.

Nonetheless we are determined to stick to our core pledge to the people of Oldham.

We will not simply accept decline for the borough and just focus on implementing reduced budgets that we know will inevitably adversely affect communities.

Only by investing in growth do we know we can give ourselves a fighting chance of bringing in new income and opportunities that will give us hope for the future.

Let’s be very clear though that this approach is no silver bullet.

It won’t address the very real problems that are still hurtling down the track at local authorities unless fair funding is provided in the future.

So whichever party – or parties – form the next government after the General Election on May 7, my message to them all will be the same: this needs sorting.

Thanks for listening,

Jim

Steadying the ship: Full steam ahead

Charlie Parker
CHIEF EXECUTIVE: Charlie Parker will leave “big shoes to fill” when he leaves Oldham for Westminster City Council early in 2014

FOLLOWING the news that Charlie Parker is to become the new Chief Executive at Westminster Council there has inevitably been speculation about who might come in to fill those big shoes.

We are currently in both uncertain and exciting times in Oldham.

Right now we’re on the verge of delivering successful regeneration that will lay the foundations for our recovery and prosperity for the next generation.

That might feel like an overstatement but I believe it – not least of all because not achieving it would be a failure too far.

But that ambition for the future is also being delivered in the context of unprecedented budget cuts to Oldham Council.

After the £150m we’ve already taken out we are now tasked with finding a further £60m in savings by the end of the financial year 2016/17.

To put that into perspective our total staffing budget is £96m with health and adult social care contracts following behind.

That means our room for manoeuvre is limited at a time when most members of the public don’t see or recognise the full range of services (more than 700) which local councils are delivering.

In fact, the services which people closely relate us to – such as waste collection, street cleaning and libraries – amount to a very small part of our budget. The vast majority is spent looking after people at risk of harm and abuse or those vulnerable people not able to fully take care of themselves.

At this time of enormous change here we needed to steady ‘the good ship Oldham’ and ensure that our 3,000 members of staff are supported through this period.

It’s worth remembering, after all, that more than 70 per cent of our workforce lives in Oldham – so they are also your friends and neighbours.

Our guiding principle in reacting to Charlie Parker’s departure – likely to be in or around mid-January – was to provide stability rather than rush into a lengthy and distracting recruitment process.

We have a great senior management team here who will continue to deliver for people in Oldham and, although Charlie is a big personality and a great public servant, the council isn’t just about one person at the top: it works because of everyone doing their bit.

The timetable that has been recommended to members will see a permanent appointment confirmed (subject to finding the right candidate) in Summer 2014.

CarolynWilkinsDuring the interim period Carolyn Wilkins, Deputy Chief Executive (pictured, right), will be stepping up as Interim Chief Executive and provide the management leadership for the council.

Clearly that sorts our internal business out, but we have also set out on an exciting journey to regenerate our town and we must not lose momentum.

That’s why I’m delighted that Sir Howard Bernstein has agreed to work alongside our Development Team to support our on-going commercial negotiations and give ongoing strategic guidance to those plans.

Sir Howard is a major player in regeneration and together with Sir Richard Leese is widely credited for rebuilding Manchester city centre following the IRA bombing.

This arrangement will be with Manchester City Council (MCC), not Sir Howard personally. We have agreed to pay MCC for his services in supporting our plans and are currently working through the detail of this.

The public will rightly want to know the cost and salary details for these arrangements and, although we’re still in discussions with MCC, I am in a position to confirm the other details around this interim period.

The salary for the Interim Chief Executive will be £154,143. This compares to the current Chief Executive’s salary of £177,364 which means a pro-rata saving of £23,221 on the post.

In addition the Deputy Chief Executive’s salary of £130,000 will be available during the interim period to provide additional support inside or outside the council or as a cash saving. We’re currently reviewing any knock on changes which may be required when Carolyn Wilkins ‘steps up’ and those will be confirmed at December’s Full Council when members will vote on the package.

During our discussions about senior officer salary levels we are always keen to ensure that the right balance is struck between paying the ‘market rate’ and also recognising that whatever is agreed meets public expectations.

On that basis it’s worth noting that the ratio of the highest to the lowest paid staff  applied here was within a range of 10:1 and 14:1: both are well under the Hutton Review recommendation of a 20:1 limit.

The salary for the Interim Chief Executive is therefore around 11:1 on that ratio. It sounds technical and I know it is still a big salary to all Oldhamers, so we neither expect nor seek praise for it.

This whole process did make me think back to a few years ago when the current Chief Executive’s salary was the topic of much debate.

I was door-knocking during an election and a voter began to challenge my allowance and expenses.

He believed that as Council Leader I was being paid circa £200,000 a year and raking in expenses – and I suspect he isn’t alone in that misunderstanding.

To put the record straight, the total allowance for the leader in Oldham is £41,170 and I also don’t claim expenses but instead ‘live within my means’.

Again that is not stated to seek either comment or praise because £41,170 is well paid. It is, however, way off that £200,000 mark that is often quoted back to me on the doorsteps.

On a final point there is still much important work for Charlie Parker to finalise before his departure from here.

In a future blog I will be reflecting in more depth on his five-year tenure here at Oldham Council.

Thanks for listening,

Jim