Integrating health and social care – What really matters

asburnhamUSEIT WAS great to welcome Andy Burnham, Mayor of Greater Manchester, to Oldham this week.

He came to hear Oldham Council, the Oldham Clinical Commissioning Group and other partners explaining what we’re doing to integrate our health and social care work into one system.

Now I know this stuff does not sound immediately exciting – and it doesn’t make big media headlines – but it’s vitally important, so bear with me…

I know a lot of the health sector can seem inaccessible to the public and filled with confusing acronyms and jargon, which I will avoid here.

The key point about this integration work is simple: it’s all about the quality and effectiveness of the result for the patient.

When we need to access care we probably don’t care who’s responsible for providing the service, or who controls the budget. Why would we?

What matters is the right help being there for us at the right time in the right place, and that it is effective.

Success will mean better prevention and health outcomes for patients – and hence reduced costs and less strain on the public purse, enabling more money to be available to invest in the health of our population.

 

greater-manchester-devolutionThat’s why we are all focussed on this work. This integration of health and social care is a great opportunity from devolution – and its ‘win win’ for all if we get it right.

Like all members of the GM City Region, Oldham now has a Locality Plan under which all partners are working together to transform our social and health care system into a new model that breaks down the old silos at every level.

This is also about aligning care to wider public services like education, skills, work and housing to create a system that is financially balanced and sustainable.

One great example of this is housing where Oldham Council, Oldham CCG and the Oldham Housing Investment Partnership broke the mould in coming together to fund Warm Homes Oldham in 2013.

This scheme offers measures like installing insulation and more efficient boilers, assistance with tariff switching, accessing benefits, using heating systems better and clearing debt with energy companies.

The health problems associated with badly heated homes are those usually suffered by older people and associated with cold weather, like strokes, and conditions affecting children, like asthma. But there are also mental health issues linked to social isolation caused by a reluctance to invite friends and family into a cold home.

warmhomesoldhamWarm Homes Oldham has now lifted more than 4,000 local people out of fuel poverty, eradicating many health problems and producing significant savings on reduced hospital admissions and mental health.

Andy Burnham expressed his concern to us that the link between housing and health outcomes appears to have been under-recognised elsewhere. He was suitably impressed with this scheme and wants to come back to learn more about a scheme he says is just one showing how Oldham is “moving further and faster” than many others on integration.

Another area of clear agreement was our focus on what’s known as social prescribing; an approach where local health practitioners are encouraged to go beyond the simple default of prescribing pills to address problems.

Often when people present to their GP, nurses or other primary care professionals, their problems are more complex and deeper-seated than simply the immediate ailment…

It means, for example, a patient could be encouraged to join a local exercise class or group to address both weight and health issues at the same time as allowing them to make more social connections. This approach can be much more effective for the person, addressing their social, emotional and practical needs, and can also have the added benefit of reducing the use of NHS services.

Andy’s visit was inspiring and the huge collective commitment to get this agenda right in Oldham – with a new system focussed on the person and the place, rather than ‘one size fits all’ – was self-evident.

A couple more important things to mention this week…

Firstly, we have now announced dates and venues for the public consultation on our Oldham Town Centre Masterplan. We’re taking this across the borough in a mini-roadshow where you can view the proposals, then ask questions and submit comments. Please do #yourbit and find your local ‘drop in’ session here.

strictly-kershaws-2017_Facebook_and_webAnd finally I’m just two more practice sessions away from my dancing debut at Strictly Kershaw’s on Friday, October 20.

It’s been great fun to do this but the serious side is that Dr Kershaw’s Hospice needs to raise a staggering £8,000 daily to keep providing their invaluable services for free.

Many thanks to friends and colleagues who have already made donations – and for those who would still like to do so, please visit my JustGiving page and sponsor my dancing efforts here.

Jean 

Trash talk #1PieceofRubbish

I RARELY use the word ‘hate’ – but I make an exception when it comes to street litter.

I hate how litter looks. I hate how it smells and, worst of all, I hate what it says about the place to anyone living there or visiting it.

Whether it’s cigarette butts, empty cans or bottles, carrier bags, chewing gum or fast food cartons, it’s all anti-social.

Most people and businesses take pride in our community, living and operating here without making any mess, but some do not.

I often wonder what it is that makes a person feel it’s okay to just drop something from their hands, to not be bothered to keep hold of rubbish for just a few seconds more, and there’s a lot of research around the psychology of this.

People probably do it because they simply don’t feel responsible for public areas, like streets and parks and they often do it away from their own ‘patch’ – so that their mess simply becomes “someone else’s problem”.

Some people also litter because they believe or know that someone – a local street cleaner or even a good-hearted neighbour – will get it sorted out.

The big problem, of course, is that it you’re in an area where there’s already lots of visible litter, then the temptation to do the same is too much for some.

We know that’s true because if you’re somewhere that looks pristine and litter-free we know you’re far less likely to toss unwanted items to the kerb for sheer fear of embarrassment.

There’s some fantastic work being done around what can be done to tackle littering.

Some looks at how we can ‘nudge’ people to change their behaviour and it’s getting some interesting results.

Hubbub, a charity that creates environmental campaigns with a difference, is one good example.

They set up on a busy London street and tested a whole raft of things to see how it affected littering behaviour. They used ‘voting bins’ for cigarette butts, for example, or chalked around chewing gum litter highlighting the cost of removing each piece (£1.50 as it happens) and had some very encouraging results.

RUTHWe’re looking at ideas like this too and are also throwing our weight behind another campaign thanks to a very persistent and inspiring local lady.

Ruth Major (pictured, right) is retired but is certainly not a person to rest on her laurels.

She has been an ‘anti-littering’ activist for a long time and posts updates as ‘Rubbish Ruth’s Rambles’ on Social Media.

Wherever she goes – and believe me, she seems to get everywhere up and and down the country – Ruth encourages people to join a national campaign asking each resident to pick up at least one piece of rubbish a day.

Just think about that.

The population of Oldham is more than 230,000 people so if each resident did that each day it could make a huge difference.

To get things started this month we’re running a #1PieceofRubbish competition on Twitter.

1pr screen shot

Anyone who picks up a piece of litter in Oldham and follows the entry guidelines will be entered into a prize draw and the winner gets a three-month premium all-inclusive membership to Oldham Community Leisure (OCL). You can read all the details here

There’s no limit on how many times you can enter this competition because we want everyone to pick up as many pieces of rubbish as possible.

This campaign isn’t finishing at the end of October either – we’re committed to #1PieceofRubbish for the long haul.

If, like me, you love where you live then you’ll hate litter too – please get involved and do #yourbit.

Jean

Keep dancing…

strictly-kershaws-2017_Facebook_and_webIT WAS certainly up there as one of the most unexpected phone calls I’ve received since becoming Council Leader.
 
In April I took a call fully expecting to be asked whether I had PPI, a car accident that wasn’t my fault or be told about a new pothole in my ward. Instead it was an invitation I really hadn’t expected.
 
It was Dr Kershaw’s Hospice calling to ask if I’d consider taking part in their Strictly Kershaw’s annual dancing competition. 
Ordinarily I would probably have politely declined given my busy schedule – not to mention my two left feet – but their timing was important.

The call came during the week of the funeral of our Royton councillor colleague, Tony Larkin, who I knew had been in Dr Kershaw’s Hospice during his final weeks.

It felt right to take part in something that raises funds to support the fantastic work of the Hospice. I know there are so many families across our borough who are grateful for the incredible work done by their staff for adults with life-limiting illnesses.

In the back of my mind too I remembered how, as a young girl, my Mum had sent me to Bardsley Dance School and – to be honest – I’d hated it!

But I said “Yes” and committed to 12 weeks of practice every Thursday night up until the actual  event on October 20.  


Jean GM Moving pledge (2)And in July I put my dancing venture forward as my pledge to the Greater Manchester (GM) Moving campaign, which aims to get everyone active and secure the greatest improvement in the health, wealth and wellbeing of the region’s 2.8m residents by 2021. 
 
I turned up for my first practice sessions a bit apprehensive but actually, whilst I’m no Ginger Rogers, I really am enjoying it.

I have a fantastic, patient dance partner and he and his real partner have been taking me through the choreography for my two dances. These are the Cha Cha Cha and a lesser-known dance called the Bachata.  I have to say some of the choreography is a bit racy and they are already talking fishnets and feathers for my outfits!

 
I’ve certainly felt fitter for doing it and it’s good sometimes to have something that you need to really concentrate on (because otherwise you might fall over!) and take just a couple of hours off from being Council Leader.    
 
So this has been great fun to do so far and – on the night –  I promise nothing other than 100 per cent effort and to provide some entertainment for the crowd  And I hope that however well (or not so well!) I have improved by then, people will remember the serious side to this is about raising funds for Dr Kershaw’s.

The Hospice needs to raise a staggering £8,000 daily to keep providing their invaluable services for free. They rely on public generosity and that’s why I hope some of you reading this will take the time to visit my JustGiving page and sponsor my dancing efforts here.  

 
Even better, if you want to attend the Strictly Kershaw’s event itself, it takes place at the QE Hall on October 20. You can book tickets and find out more about it here.
 
While we’re on the subject of a Royton institution this week I want to set the record straight on our plans for the library building, which we recently announced.
 
You can read all about them here but essentially the plan is to move the library into the ground floor of the Royton Town Hall buildings as part of a £2 million investment to improve the facilities. We’re then seeking a tenant to give the old library building a modern use to breathe new life into the district. 
 
Contrary to media and Social Media comments since then, I want to be crystal clear about what we are doing.  
 
Firstly, this isn’t the closure of the library service. It is simply relocating it – and into what will be a modern community venue with new facilities, meeting rooms and office space set within the historic Town Hall building. It will have better access for everyone and improved connectivity between the library, health centre and leisure centre facilities. This is an investment in the future, not a cut in service. 
 
Secondly, we have no plans to sell the old library building. We know it’s important to many Roytonians and have been very clear that we are seeking a tenant with a sympathetic view to its heritage who can offer something new to the district that can benefit everyone. 

And with that off my chest it’s back to work now and – tomorrow night – a little more Cha Cha Cha…

Jean 

shoes

Oldham LIVE and kicking

CLINTOLIVEEVEN the worst kind of weather couldn’t stop the first-ever Oldham LIVE event being a big success.

Heavy showers on Saturday morning and afternoon were an untimely frustration but Oldhamers are – as we know – a hardy lot.

Families and young children took to their deck chairs undeterred to brave the elements and enjoy a pirate-themed show led by CBeebies’ Gemma Hunt sprinkled with magic, puppetry and plenty of laughs.

By the time the live music began at 6pm the skies had finally cleared and it was great to see Parliament Square, its restaurants and outdoor spaces, all filling up with brisk and happy trade.

The live music was, as expected, excellent – and there was something for all tastes and ages.

There were great Oldham welcomes home to Kelly Llorenna and Clint Boon, who clearly enjoyed themselves. Stooshe bounced onto stage and put great ‘girl power’ into the line-up while Nathan Moore (pictured below) is such a natural entertainer that he’d have probably have stayed on-stage for hours if we’d let him.

nmooreolive

By the time The Farm brought the event to a close around 10pm, Parliament Square was rocking in delight and it was a fantastic sight.

This is exactly what this new public space was designed to be: somewhere people can enjoy something to eat or drink and the kind of high-quality entertainment you might not normally expect in Oldham. And it was all free.

Now that we’ve tested our detailed event safety and management plan for this new venue, the hard work has been done.

We’re confident Parliament Square is an ideal setting for this kind of event and – as I promised the crowds on Saturday night – Oldham LIVE will certainly be back next year.

What was best about it all, for me, was just seeing so many smiling faces with volunteers, spectators and strangers dancing together, and all in a family friendly atmosphere that lasted the whole day.

I spoke afterwards with Paul, the manager at Molino’s, to check the impact on town centre businesses, and he seemed delighted.

Many customers appeared to be first-time visitors to the Old Town Hall and were more than pleasantly surprised by what they found, so there should be some positive repeat business for town centre premises to come.

But this is not the end of the transformation of Oldham – it’s just the start – and you can play a part in making it even better.

CONSULTPOSTER

This week we’re launching a public consultation exercise on our masterplan proposals for the town centre of the future.

If you get time on Friday or Saturday this week I would urge you to visit the Egyptian Room at the Old Town Hall, next door to Nando’s. This is a glorious setting that the public have been unable to visit for several years and we’re now opening it up, in all its refurbished glory, to let you see it and have your say on our future plans at the same time.

This town centre masterplan is the biggest forward planning exercise we’ve ever had for Oldham and it’s vitally important.

It looks at how we can create a town centre that works better and is aspirational for everyone – for residents of all generations, public sector partners and businesses/traders of all sizes. Its purpose is to provide new homes, 55,000 square metres of new and refurbished office, leisure and retail space – set to bring economic activity worth an additional £50 million each year to the Oldham economy.

We have our budget challenges, as you know, but I’m determined that we will not make the mistake of standing still.

This is a great opportunity for us all to decide the kind of place we want Oldham to be – and then get a clear plan in place to achieve it. The opening times for this event are:

Friday, September 15 – 10am to 5pm

Saturday, September 16 – 10am to 3pm

Anyone can attend, admire the Egyptian Room, view the proposals, submit comments and speak to officers and members.

We’ve all got a stake in Oldham town centre so please do #yourbit and drop in to help us to get these plans right. If you can’t make it, we’ll also be holding a series of consultation ‘drop in’ sessions across every district before the end of 2017, with details to be announced soon.

After all that music this week, I’ll be turning my attention to all things dancing in next week’s blog. No, seriously.

Bet that’s got you intrigued…

Jean

OldhamLIVE – Music to your ears

IMG_2251IT’S HARD to believe that it’s now almost a year since we confirmed the opening date for the newly-restored Old Town Hall.

It had been the most-keenly anticipated civic development for generations and the sense of joy when the doors opened on October 21 last year – with a grand public event showcasing the Oldham Giant, acrobats, musicians and local talent – was something I’ll never forget.

Since then the development has grabbed so many accolades that we realised there was one very clear flaw in our original designs – the lack of a trophy cabinet.

To date in 2017 the Old Town Hall has won nine awards from a range of prestigious players who know a thing or two about buildings, including the Royal Chartered Institute of Surveyors and the Royal Institute of British Architects.

It’s also been shortlisted for the British Construction Industry Awards ‘Building Project of the Year’, the Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce ‘Building of the Year’ and the Local Authority Building Control Awards which are all taking place later this year.

I’m not the kind of person who would ever obsess about chasing ‘gongs’ but this impressive haul of awards and nominations shows that we must have got something right.

The renovation of the Old Town Hall wasn’t just about the rebirth of a unique and iconic building, important though that was. It was part of our bigger vision to give the town centre a new focal point and a place where people from all communities – and new visitors – could enjoy leisure time in a pleasant and modern environment.

Parliament Square and Town Hall 30That’s why we built Parliament Square adjacent to it providing a high-quality public space that we also knew would be an exciting new events space of the calibre and size that Oldham has never had before.

It has already hosted some fantastic events to date – like Illuminate and Oldham Pride – and is fast growing in its popularity as a destination in its own right but we were also acutely aware of a gap in Oldham’s entertainment offer which simply had to be addressed.

As a place we have got some fantastic local live music venues and events but – certainly before the recent Cotton Clouds Festival in Greenfield – you usually had to at least hop on a tram to Manchester to be entertained by established acts.

That is all set to change in nine days when Parliament Square hosts OldhamLIVE on Saturday September 9.

We’ve worked alongside Revolution96.2 on these plans and it was clear from our very first meeting that we had a shared ambition to deliver something really special.

The musical line-up includes headliners The Farm, Stooshe, Kelly Llorena, a Clint Boon DJ set and Nathan from Brother Beyond. If you’ve not yet seen the event details – which includes pirate themed fun for the kids in the afternoon – then visit www.oldham.gov.uk/oldhamlive for full details.

Oldham_Live_Web_BannerIn the coming days I can reveal that we’ll be adding a couple more exciting names to that bill, and releasing a detailed site map with all the essential information you’ll need to plan ahead for a great day out.

This is a pilot event and we are keen to gauge the public appetite for this type of offering. It’s also the first time we’ve used Parliament Square for something quite so big and a great team of Oldham Council volunteers will be there working hard to make sure everything goes smoothly.

Best of all, the event is entirely free and – if it’s a success – we have some exciting ideas for what we might do next with OldhamLIVE.

So what’s ‘your bit’? All we ask is that you come along, enjoy yourselves, help to spread the word and also give our local economy a real boost. .

Please don’t miss the chance to enjoy some fantastic acts and entertainment. The only thing I cannot guarantee is the weather, so fingers crossed!

Jean

Northern Powerhouse: Not the end of the line…

Diggle Village looking from Clough ReservoirGOOD public transport is vital in ensuring that everyone can fulfil their potential in life.

As the lead member for Inclusive Growth at the Greater Manchester Combined Authority (GMCA) I know how important this is to peoples’ prospects and opportunities.

Public transport has an absolutely key role in promoting social inclusion by enabling people from the widest possible range of groups – including jobseekers, low income families, young people, disabled people and older people – to work, learn and be economically active.

So, if we’re truly committed to sharing the benefits of prosperity more widely – not just within Greater Manchester, but across the country as a whole – good public transport is essential to tackling issues for people who feel ‘left behind’.

Sorting that out requires investment, of course. And above all, it requires fair investment.

That’s why last week’s announcement that the Government has ditched its pledge to electrify the Manchester to Leeds rail line was so disappointing.

In 2015, the Department for Transport had said electrification of the whole link going through Manchester, Leeds and York would be complete by 2022. This, we were assured, demonstrated the Government’s commitment to the Northern Powerhouse and it was also in their election manifesto published less than a couple of months ago.

Yet today we now find ourselves once again stranded at the platform…

This is the second time the pledge has been backtracked upon – a pause for ‘review’ was undone last time – and Greater Manchester isn’t the only place to suffer from these announcements by Chris Grayling, the Transport Secretary.  He’s also scrapped electrification of the routes between Cardiff and Swansea, Windermere and Oxenholme in the Lake District, and between Kettering, Nottingham and Sheffield.

On Monday this was then followed by news that the Government will be spending billions more on Crossrail 2 – running as far north as Broxbourne in Hertfordshire and as far south as Epsom in Surrey, passing through central London.

That pledge was not in the Government’s election manifesto and is a massive slap in the face to the North and other regions.

In principle I’ve got no issue with South East commuters getting investment in their rail services; far from it.  But it’s also very clear that different parts of the country are not being treated equally or fairly in this.

Data from Statista, using HM Treasury figures, shows that spending per head of population on transport infrastructure is £2,595.68 in London. That is 26 times more than the £99.19 spent per person in the North West.

That wouldn’t be so bad if our rail connections were already good but, frankly, we all know they are ‘state of the ark’.

Many residents will be very familiar with the substandard state of trans Pennine services with overcrowded carriages, vintage rolling stock and regular delays or cancellations. Journey times haven’t improved for decades – although fares have risen substantially – and don’t even dare to dream that you might be able to enjoy Wi-Fi access…

Making these announcements after Parliament went into summer recess all feels, shall we say, at least a tad convenient for Mr Grayling. But if he really thinks this will all be forgotten when they return to business after the party conference season, he is very much mistaken.

Andy Burnham has made clear the universal disgust at this decision across GM – and, rest assured, we’re all prepared to fight long and hard to get this decision overturned once again. This is not the end of the line on this story.

JEANHOLLINWOOD

On a more positive note this week, I wanted to mention great news for Hollinwood.

On Monday I went to meet Neal Biddle, development director of Langtree, at Hollinwood Junction where we have signed a development agreement that could create up to 760 new jobs with leisure, retail, employment and housing.

This is a significant milestone and it hasn’t been easy to get here.

It started when I wrote to the National Grid asking them to talk to us about the redundant gas holder that has become such a blight on the area and blocking development.

They were planning to leave it there until 2023 at the earliest but we’ve reached agreement and can now get on with demolition to start regenerating this key gateway site.

Interest from potential occupiers is high and Langtree expect to be able to announce a first deal before the end of summer, so watch this space.

This is my last blog before the Oldham Council recess period, but it will return on August 23.

Until then, please get out and enjoy the summer weather with your family and friends and have a great time.

Jean

How the Co-operative Council works: #ourbit #yourbit #result

#ourbit #yourbit #result graphicI HAVE the pleasure of speaking at Staff Conference today where we’ll be looking at the progress made in the past year – and looking ahead to the future.

Part of that will inevitably be about the Town Centre Masterplan which was approved by Cabinet last week.

But equally important is some of the work that we’ve been doing internally to look at our Co-operative Council model and test that it remains fit for purpose.

We are now six years into our journey so it was an appropriate time to take stock, step back from the day-to-day work and challenge ourselves to look at what is working, and what is not. It has proved a useful exercise.

OURBIT3The Co-operative Council model remains entirely valid for us and there’s no question of that being abandoned.

When people elsewhere ask me what makes Oldham different, I tell them that it is great people – and the way we do things together.

I explain that our approach starts with us all recognising our shared problems or ambitions. Then we all sit down together to look at what each of us needs to do in order to get a better result that benefits the borough.

We have many examples of where this has produced some fantastic results but – looking at the model – we also came to realise that for some people the language doesn’t work or ‘land’ as easily as it needs to.

It is not obvious, for example, to a newcomer to the borough what we mean by being a Co-operative Council in practice.

That’s why we’re going to be explaining co-operative working in a different way from now: one that we think is simpler, self-explanatory and works across all kinds of audiences and platforms.

Whatever we are doing – from delivering everyday services to improving people’s lives or helping the private sector to grow our local economy – there’s a simple formula that explains how we do it, and what is required of each participant.

It is #ourbit #yourbit #result

To explain:

#ourbit is what Oldham Council is doing or contributing to help improve something

#yourbit is how local people, businesses and partners are helping to make change happen

And the #result is how we are all benefiting from working together.

OURBIT2

Here’s a simple high-level example of that in action – Get Oldham Working.

GOWLOGO#ourbit was to come up with a plan in 2013 to try and create new employment-related opportunities for local residents; attempting to link them better and smarter to businesses.

#yourbit was the local firms who have come forward with hundreds of offers of new jobs, apprenticeships and work placements – and the residents who stepped up seeking advice and assistance.

The #result is that by the end of last month a fantastic total of 6,264 new opportunities have now been created for local people. Business and people have been matched together by our free recruitment service that also removes both the stress and costs of recruitment for all sides.

That also means many families’ bottom lines and their prospects have been improved – and that means new money and spend injected into our local economy; increasing the confidence of residents and business alike. Everyone is benefiting.

At the end of the day, being a Co-operative Council is about an informal contract which needs lots of different people and partners across the borough to muck in. This new way of explaining how it works – and what is in the terms and conditions – works in a much simpler way.

We’re also using this new approach with all our staff to get them to look honestly at the service they are providing and be able to ask the right questions about it, and test whether it is truly co-operative, or if something is wrong.

OURBIT4You will see plenty of examples of this new approach in the latest edition of Borough Life (pictured, right) which starts hitting doorsteps next week.

The simple aim is to make it easier for people to understand how they can play their part in making things better – and that has to be a good thing for everyone.

Jean

Digital future shines bright for Oldham 

EXTERIORYOU MAY have read this week about an important new report outlining a masterplan for the future of Oldham town centre to 2035.

That will go before Cabinet next Monday (July 10) and – following that decision – I will blog about it next week.

What I will say now, however, is that the importance of having a plan for our future is more vital than ever and I saw that first-hand last week at the opening of Oldham’s new digital hub in what was the Wahoo bar on Yorkshire Street. 

This completes a dramatic transformation for a period building that had fallen into ruin and been empty for several years until the council bought it and refurbished it to attract new tenants.

FURNITUREBYLAURENJust a couple of weeks earlier ‘Furniture by Lauren’ also began trading next door at 46/48 Yorkshire Street in what was once known as the Kiss Bar.

Gavin and Lauren Howarth from Royton run this small family business. It specialises in made-to-measure sofas but also sells a full range of accessories and just one peek through the window – or at their website – shows you the kind of elegance and style on offer. They’re yet another welcome addition to our Independent Quarter, so please pay them a visit…  

The opening of the digital hub – at 38-44 Yorkshire Street – was an inspiring event.

The aim of this venture is to help local entrepreneurs launch and expand technology businesses. 

On the upper floor is Wayra UK’s Open Future North office, which is the northern branch of their national support network for technology firms, backed by the worldwide O2/Telefonica Group. 

IMG_9488Ground floor is the new home to Hack Oldham (see above), our community-led ‘makerspace’ that has grown from humble beginnings to offer a great range of workshops and events to upskill residents.  

They’re also offering desk and workshop space on a daily, half-day or monthly basis plus training rooms in what is a great creative environment for people to network seven days a week – much better than working alone at home(!). 

I’m particularly pleased that Wayra chose to come to Oldham.  

As an administration we’re clear that we are ambitious for everyone, so to attract their investment is fantastic.

But what was just as exciting was to see Wayra launching their new Fair By Design scheme: an investment fund that already has £8million to deploy, and is looking to raise up to £20million.

Its objectives are inspiring. It will support up to seven start-ups a year to tackle the ‘poverty premium’, and that’s something that is very important to me.

It’s hard enough being ‘left behind’ in 2017 and being among the one in five people that are living in poverty.

But what’s even worse – and surely unjustified – is the ‘poverty premium’: the situation where people are actually paying more for everyday goods and services like energy, borrowing, transport, insurance and food than others who can more easily afford them. 

The Fair By Design scheme complements our own drive for Inclusive Growth so that everyone gets the chance to share the benefits of economic prosperity.

This week, I was confirmed as the Greater Manchester Combined Authority’s Lead on Fairness, Equality and Inclusion, so this is all very close to my heart.

To be tackling clear social injustice like this by supporting local tech companies to design solutions is something that can really put Oldham on the map.

WAYRA4The digital hub venture is also another important way in which we’re diversifying our offer to residents and businesses.

We have many talented individuals and our goal is to provide them with opportunities here, so that they don’t need to move elsewhere.

The Independent Quarter will be an ideal location for this. Once businesses grow out of the space provided by Wayra, they will get the chance to relocate nearby, ensuring they are still within easy distance and access to advice and that network of like-minded individuals.

Small to medium enterprises like these are vital to Oldham’s economy – remember that around 85 percent of Greater Manchester’s Gross Value Added (GVA), the total measure of the value of goods and services in the area, is generated by these companies.

Oldham’s offer to business has never been stronger. I’m confident that through Wayra and Hack Oldham we can truly become a digital force in Greater Manchester – and one for positive social change and mobility.

Jean

Reflections on a turbulent time

oldham-leader-25-1-16-5277THE LAST few weeks have been a turbulent time.

The calling of a snap General Election meant that I had to stop publishing my blog almost immediately due to publicity rules and – since then – things have been a whirlwind with a frantic schedule of door-knocking and supporting local candidates.
 
I’ve also been busy on Oldham Council business and you’ll see some of that work coming to fruition with positive announcements about plans for Oldham town centre and the Prince’s Gate scheme due in July. 
 
It’s undeniable, however, that we’re facing uncertainty at a national level.
 
The General Election has left us with a minority Conservative-led government and – even with the Democratic Unionist Party now alongside her in the voting lobbies – Theresa May will find things difficult.
 
Any controversial measures are unlikely to get through a Commons vote and the situation also means that any Conservative MPs wanting to ‘rock the boat’ could easily put themselves in a powerful position to obstruct government business.
 
What that all means for Oldham Council and local government remains uncertain.
 
Some commentators and politicians have predicted the election result means the age of austerity and funding cuts is now at an end, but only time will tell.
 
Last week’s watered-down Queen’s Speech also made no specific reference to many key issues facing local authorities.
 
Clarification about the future of council funding – or the original intention to have 100 per cent retention of business rates by 2020 – was glaring by its absence. And there are other questions, like what the government’s long-term and sustainable solution to the social care funding gap will be.
 
None of these will be helped by now having a minority government where solutions are likely to be a compromise, and the result of a painfully-paced bargaining process.
 
THILLTWOSince my last blog there’s also been significant domestic news – most notably the series of appalling terrorist attacks and the Grenfell Tower fire.
 
The attacks at Manchester Arena, London Bridge and Finsbury Park have raised all kinds of issues about our security, foreign policy and policing.
 
I can’t ever recall so many shocking events in such a short period, but it has also been met with a magnificent public response.
 
Locally, it was heart-breaking to learn that two of the innocent victims of the Manchester attack – Alison Howe and Lisa Lees – were mums from Royton who had gone to pick their daughters up from that Ariana Grande concert.
 
This was an horrific attack on innocent people going about their everyday business –on our way of life – and the community response has been inspiring.
 
Royton town centre became home to huge floral tributes, lengthy queues to sign books of condolence and a very moving public vigil at Tandle Hill Park: all showing the very best in local community spirit.
 
POETFour weeks on, the support from people wanting to show they stand together with the families was apparent again at last Friday’s funerals and at the Picnic in the Park at Tandle Hill, which was a wonderful idea by the families.
 
Hundreds of local residents showed their respects and were entertained by stage performances from Tony Walsh (the Manchester Poet, pictured right), Clint Boon and local bands.

I want to thank all those people, firms, partners and council staff who worked so hard to make that event happen. Offers of help came in all shapes and forms ranging from the donation of 1,000 pies, pastries and pasties by Greggs, to volunteers spending hours to clear the park of litter afterwards. 
 
For those two families the hard work is only just beginning, but that display of support will hopefully at least have given them comfort that they are not alone.
 

Once again, I find myself in admiration of the human warmth, decency and kindness of our residents – and the courage of our amazing ‘blue light’ services.

Jean

General Election: Back to pounding the pavements…

PollingStationI’D ONLY just started writing this blog on Tuesday when I was informed that the Prime Minister was about to make an announcement.

There’s nothing unusual in that, but it’s not often that the PM addresses the country from the steps of Downing Street and predictions that this was going to be a significant development proved to be spot on.

As you will probably know, Parliament has now voted today to approve that a General Election will be held on Thursday, June 8.

This means that we will very quickly enter into a period known traditionally as ‘Purdah’ which enforces strict rules about publicity that must – rightly – be adhered to until after election day.

The timing of this all kicking in remains uncertain, but it means you will hear less formally from me in my role as Oldham Council Leader and this could be the last blog from me until after the votes have all been counted.

Although the timing of Theresa May’s announcement was somewhat unexpected, there had been speculation that it was in the offing for some time.

For political activists it all means full steam ahead for another round of pounding pavements, heavy wear on the shoe leather and lengthy day and night time door knocking.

My work as Council Leader will continue daily during this time but I will also genuinely enjoy the face to face engagement and the chance to discuss residents’ views about the issues affecting their lives in Oldham.

Until that General Election timetable is confirmed it’s very much business as usual, so I wanted to highlight that until April 30 we are taking part in and promoting national Adoption Fortnight.

Each year this campaign has a different focus and this time it is all about encouraging Oldham parents to come forward and create a “forever family” by adopting children from harder to place backgrounds.

These are older children, sibling groups, those from mixed heritage backgrounds and children with additional needs who typically wait much longer for adoption.

It is a huge decision to take to adopt but it can make such a massive and positive impact, not just to the child concerned, but also to the benefit of you and your family.

There are still a lot of myths and misconceptions about adoption – and particularly around who is eligible to do it – so it’s always best to get in touch with experts and people who have been through the process to learn all about the pros and cons.

You can find out more about adopting in Oldham on our website here and you can also get information about Adoption Fortnight events in the region at www.adoptnorthwest.co.uk

BOOMKARKSFinally, as mentioned last week, I just wanted to give you a quick reminder that our amazing Bookmark Festival starts on Friday.  You can have a look at all the events on offer – and book tickets – by visiting http://www.oldham.gov.uk/bookmark

And if it turns out that you don’t hear from me now until after the General Election then all I would ask is that you please take the time to get out and use your vote on June 8 – and in the GM Mayoral Election on May 4 . It’s the only way to ensure that your voice is heard.

Jean