Strictly just great fun!

skershawsI REALLY didn’t know what to expect when I first agreed to take part in Strictly Kershaw’s dance fundraising event – but now I’m so glad that I did it.

Last Friday night was an experience that left me breathless but buzzing and I’m so pleased now that I that stepped outside my comfort zone and took up the challenge.

Part of what made it such a memorable night was the incredible effort that had been put into making this a success by the Hospice’s organisers and volunteers.

The QE Hall looked simply fabulous – with all the glitz and glamour you could hope for – and, best of all, it was absolutely packed.

Having been drawn to go on and perform first I will admit to having had some initial butterflies, but these were quickly forgotten once the music began.

From that point on you have to focus incredibly hard to keep yourself co-ordinated and be in the right place at just the right time.

What helped everyone taking part was that the crowd were so enthusiastic and they whipped up an atmosphere that inspired us all.

Looking back it was, for me, quite a risky thing to agree to take part in this. Too few of us step out of our comfort zone like that very often and I really hadn’t enjoyed my previous brief flirtations with dancing.

Now, however, I certainly understand the great pleasure that dancing gives to so many people. It’s not just a great physical challenge but also helps you forget a bad day, to put things into perspective – and you also get to meet some simply fantastic people.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone at Dr Kershaw’s, Madd for Dance in Shaw, my dance partner Marco Maestro, and and all those who have helped me on this journey.

And we also mustn’t forget the incredible people who keep Dr Kershaw’s going all year round, plus all those who sponsored me (which you can still do!) here.

Boundary-Commission-EnglandMoving onto other matters now and I was disappointed to see the latest version of the proposed Boundary Commission for England (BCE) changes that was published last week…

This is its third and final consultation on proposed new Parliamentary constituencies as part of a move to reduce the number of MPs from 650 to 600.

We made representations last year to the BCE on their initial proposals to create two Parliamentary constituencies within the borough boundaries.

There were clear flaws in those proposals which, in particular, ignored important long-standing local associations and identities.

This new version does at least no longer propose to split the two Royton wards into different constituencies – as was initially put forward – and also now keeps the Saddleworth wards together.

However, I  do not view these plans as a good deal for Oldham because they are still breaking up the direct links with local authority boundaries, which is very important.

We will be putting our concerns forward again to the Boundary Commission and urging the public to do the same before the final December 11 deadline. You can do this by visiting the BCE website here.

BIGBANG2017Finally this week a reminder that with the end of British Summertime upon us this weekend, and with the nights drawing in, it’s almost time again for the Big Bang bonfire at Oldham Edge.

I will be talking more about this in my blog next week, but for now please mark Thursday, November 2 (5pm onwards) in your diary for this fantastic free event.

You can also visit our webpage here to see everything we’ve got planned to make this a ‘Feast of Fire’ – and our biggest and best event yet.

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

Deaths in public service: Loss and hope

flaghalfmastTHE DEATHS of people in public service – known to us or not – always serve as a shock reminder of our own mortality.

Last Wednesday afternoon, whilst preparing for Full Council, I was alerted to news of the terrorist attack underway in Westminster.

Like many others I watched the horrific scene unfold as four innocent people were killed and many injured after a lone attacker drove his car at pedestrians and then into railings outside the Houses of Parliament.

The heroic actions of unarmed PC Keith Palmer, who bravely fought to stop the man entering the Palace of Westminster, touched us all.

As Full Council began at 6pm with a minute’s silence, the facts were becoming clearer. I was able to report that all three of the borough’s MPs were safe, but the atmosphere remained one of great shock and solemnity.

It soon emerged that PC Palmer’s selfless example was not an isolated act. Witnesses told how police and other emergency responders ran towards danger at the scene while directing the public in the other direction – and there were heart-warming stories of folk stopping to help those lying in distress.

PC Palmer’s efforts to protect the public were rightly highlighted, but his sacrifice also makes everyone feel uneasy and vulnerable.

It reminds us all of humanity: that no matter how healthy, professional and well-trained we are, our ultimate fate can be incredibly random.

Larkin TIn very different circumstances, Oldham Council has sadly also lost two highly-dedicated public servants – one elected member, and one senior officer – in recent days.

Councillor Tony Larkin had been known to be seriously ill for some time but that doesn’t make his departure any less sad.

A staunch and campaigning trade unionist, Tony was originally from Manchester but he took Royton to his heart and local people did the same: re-electing him to serve to them several times since 1996.

He was incredibly passionate about where he lived and, believe me, Tony never passed up an opportunity to lobby for a local cause on his residents’ behalf.

He was also a great listener and a man who saw representing people as a very serious public duty.

I know how difficult this time must be right now for his wife Penny, their three children and their family and friends. My heart goes out to them all.

CSUTTONIn contrast, the loss of Carrie Sutton, Oldham Council’s director of Education and Early Years last weekend, was completely out of the blue and has stunned everyone.

Carrie joined us in August 2015 and impressed many people, myself included, from day one.

Honest, passionate and no-nonsense in the pursuit of the right outcome, I knew almost instantly that she was someone I was going to enjoy working with.

Carrie had such determination and drive and worked tirelessly with partners like school heads and governors to improve young people’s prospects.

And she will be equally fondly remembered here for her personality as well as her work ethic. My sincere condolences go to her family and anyone fortunate enough to have known her.

At a time when we’re repeatedly told that people trust their public institutions and personnel less than ever before, examples of good public service like these – their values and  behaviours – shine light on the best path towards us regaining that trust.

Jean