Lancaster is symbol of civic pride and innovation

Lancaster Bomber
THE ICONIC LANCASTER: In Oldham, during the Second World War, there were 29,000 people employed building Lancasters, including night shifts and sub-contractors across the town.

THE SEVENTIETH anniversary of the Lancaster Bombers’ daring Dambuster Raid has rightly given focus to the fight to win the Second World War – and also to our Borough.

The Oldham Chronicle last week featured the tales of two heroic Oldhamers: Bill Howarth, who survived the operation and later died aged 68, and Donald Hopkinson, who lost his life during the return leg aged just 22.

Many men and women from our district worked on the production of the Lancaster at BAE Systems. Their work demonstrated the scale and quality of our engineering skills – and the drive to produce the best.

Although the Lancaster is now in the history books and the former BAE Systems site has been vacated – and soon to be home to the next generation of engineers under the ownership of NOV MonoPumps – it is still at least remembered by name at the former BAE Systems sports and social club at the Lancaster Club.

That building is now under Oldham Council ownership occupying the grade II-listed Failsworth Lodge off Broadway, which was built in 1770 as a hunting lodge for Captain Birch.

Interestingly another claim to fame here is that the lodge subsequently became a private school and was attended by a young Robert Peel, whose father was a wealthy cotton mill owner. He, of course, went on to become Prime Minister of this country twice and was also the founder of the Metropolitan Police. Anyway ,I digress…

I haven’t lost sight of my own ambition to see the Lancaster Bomber remembered here in our Borough:  ideally in Chadderton.

Although siting a replica of it somewhere might be some time off, if it happens at all, we have started with a small gesture now by featuring the Lancaster on the boundary signs into Chadderton.

These signs are only a token, but I hope people will drive by and take a sense of pride from them. Perhaps our up-and-coming generations might look up and say ‘Well I never knew that’ or even ask ‘What’s a Lancaster Bomber?’ and go to find out for themselves.

The Lancaster gives us a place in the history books that we can be proud of. We are an industrious, productive and imaginative Borough made up of seven distinct townships each with its own identity and own claims to fame.

We recently launched our consultation with the public on how we might best recognise our place in history in Oldham town centre through the Borough Life magazine and online here.

You can have your say on which category you feel would best represent our history.

You will notice that we have included a broad range of categories to give choice, but we haven’t given an option to say ‘no’. Why? The reason is simple.

The ‘no’ campaign has won hands down for decades. It’s time we stopped hiding our history and put it on show for the next generations to see and, more importantly, to learn from and respect a Borough which once led the world in many fields.

Finally, following the stunning £1 million donation from Norman Stoller to kick-start the Oldham Enterprise Trust we’re now putting the finishing touches to the programme to involve and support young people into business, self-employment and maybe even devising the next world-changing invention.

Watch this space for more details soon: including how you can get involved.

Clearly though, not everyone will want to go into business for themselves, so I want to make a plea to all who read this blog. Please tell every young person you know about the Apprenticeship App available at

This shows that there are currently more than 600 vacancies across Greater Manchester in a range of careers and industries.

Interestingly for every Oldham vacancy the average number of applicants is just over 10 per job.

When you compare that with low-paid and low-skilled jobs elsewhere attracting many hundreds of applicants, I see no reason why a young person wouldn’t jump at the chance to set out on a new career.

As someone who started my working life as an apprentice I can say with absolute confidence that it is life-changing when the right employer gets together with a young person and moulds them into a rounded and productive employee.

Thanks for listening,


One idea: One million reasons to be upbeat

Get Oldham Working
INSPIRATIONAL:  Norman Stoller CBE donated £1 million at the launch of Get Oldham Working to support and develop opportunities for youth employment and entrepreneurs.

THIS IS a very important year as Oldham Council joins forces with partners across the public, private and voluntary sectors to ‘Get Oldham Working’.

The aim of this new campaign is create 2,015 employment opportunities by 2015 and to deliver our flagship ‘Youth Guarantee’ which will see every young person who wants to move on in life given an offer of a job, training, further education or supported into self-employment.

As part of our push to become a ‘Cooperative Borough’ we recognise that this cannot just be an Oldham Council project. It has to be an ambition that is shared by the whole Borough with everyone ‘doing their bit’.

Last Friday night’s ‘One Oldham Business Awards’ was attended by around 500 people and was the ideal opportunity for us to launch Get Oldham Working.

This event is the best of its kind in Greater Manchester and that’s testament to the hard work of the Business Awards Steering Group who give up their time to organise everything so brilliantly, plus all those people who nominate, sponsor and attend.

I explained to the audience at the Queen Elizabeth Hall that our town is regenerating at a rapid pace. At a time when many others are simply managing decline, we are leading growth.

No one project in itself will regenerate our town, of course, but the sheer scale of our ambition should not be underestimated.

However, there are challenges. Chiefly, we have a large number of young people leaving school with little hope of going on to further education or employment.

We must be conscious that the difference between development and regeneration is that you are not simply building a shiny new building: you also need to take care of the social and community side too.

We need to get Oldham working: to take us off the top of the Greater Manchester unemployment list and give a ‘hand up’ to the more than 8,000 local people currently out of work.

That challenge is significant – so the response must be equally substantial.

We can’t wait for someone to sort this out for us. We can’t sit here in hope that the UK economy will pick up and Oldham then simply gets a share. If we do that, we will fail again.

When the last boom came, Oldham flagged. Much money went into the public sector without creating the environment for growth so that – when the tough times did come – we simply weren’t able to withstand the force of the blow.

We’ve embarked here upon what I believe is the most ambitious town centre investment plan in the region. It will create jobs and breed confidence, but we need to do more to Get Oldham Working.

No one organisation, sector or approach can do this, so we need to marshal all the resources available.

It simply won’t do for us to stand by and see another generation cast aside, forgotten or left without hope or ambition. Our young people are our future. This isn’t just a nice thing to do – it’s essential for the long-term future of our borough.

By 2015 to Get Oldham Working we will have in place the Oldham Youth Guarantee. That will mean no young person will leave school at 18 without the guarantee of a job, education, apprenticeship or support towards self-employment.

We want to show young people that Oldham is town which believes in you – a town which once led the  world and hasn’t lost that spirit of enterprise.

We want to say to every young person – if you’re willing to roll your sleeves up and get on in life you will have the full support of your town behind you.

Now that’s a big ambition – unique in fact – and the first in the country. But it is possible. We can do it if we pool resources and everybody does their bit.
I asked firms at the One Oldham Business Awards to give us momentum and start by pledging their support to Get Oldham Working.

That can be a range of things. Businesses can, for example, help by taking on an apprenticeship with funding support for just £2,000 a year. They can also create a job, or commit to supporting local suppliers and producers.

I told them that our ambition for Oldham is big, and urged them to think big too.

I have already outlined these plans to one of our town’s biggest supporters – Mr Norman Stoller CBE, a Freeman of our Borough.

On Friday night he shared his vision for young people in Oldham to be the best that they can – and agreed to kick-start our plans with a staggering donation.

Norman has pledged £1 million of his hard-earned money from the Stoller Charitable Trust to support our next generation of entrepreneurs in Oldham over the next four years.

It was an astonishing gesture from an inspirational man.

From the bottom of my heart I wish to thank him again – not just for his donation, but for his belief in our town.

We can do this together – and don’t let anyone say that we can’t!

I would ask all local businesses to please visit our website and add their pledge to the campaign via this link Get Oldham Working – Pledge Card 

Thanks for listening,