Oldham Labour Group Friday Briefing (10/07/2015)

Weekly Leader’s Blog


Emergency Budget: Impact on Oldham

THE CHANCELLOR is delivering the Government’s ‘Emergency Budget’ in Parliament today.

It feels a little odd that George Osborne feels the need to change the previous budget, which he had also set, but what is certain is that it won’t be good news for many people.

EMERGENCY BUDGET: The famous red box is likely to reveal an estimated £12bn in welfare reform cuts in the years aheadThe budget detail is likely to include further welfare reform changes which won’t just hit those of our residents who are most in need, but will also have a big impact on our overstretched public, voluntary and community sector partners.

With that in mind I invited three important players in our area – Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB), Oldham Foodbank and our own Welfare Advice Service – to guest blog this week about their experiences and the impact of welfare reform already in our borough…


Citizens Advice Bureau

“Citizens Advice has been an integral part of Oldham communities for more than 75 years and in the last month alone we’ve helped more than 900 residents with 1,600 enquiries.

Welfare reforms are having a large impact on families and are generating the majority of issues.

Debt and housing problems also account for a high proportion of our work. Benefit sanctions, Universal Credit and delays in processing claims and appeals are having severe knock-on effects for families such as not having any food to eat, falling behind with rent payments and potentially being homeless.

In total last year we helped 9,000 people and increased income in Oldham by £4,443,572 and rescheduled or wrote off £5,200,000 of debt.

People are often in a high state of stress and desperation by the time they seek our help – and we have seen a definite increase in those suffering from mental health issues as a result of their problems.

We work closely with a number of partner agencies such as the Food Bank, First Choice Homes, Age UK and the Welfare Rights service to ensure the best possible remedies that look to alleviate the longer-term issues as well as short term need.

We also work hard to raise awareness of current and future issues in order to prevent or at least minimise impact. We campaign to change laws and policies and their application where we realise they are unfair. Recently this has resulted in changes in the regulations for pay-day lenders and greater scrutiny of how sanctions are applied to job seekers. Since April we’ve been working with Channel 4, providing evidence of our experience with Universal Credit and had our work praised by Oldham MP Debbie Abrahams.

There are always new issues arising for us to concentrate on. The prevalence of scams in the wake of pension law changes is becoming increasingly concerning and is now a national awareness campaign.

If you have an issue that is likely to get worse if you continue to leave it, please contact us. We can be reached on our Adviceline on 03444889622, or you can access our advice and self-help tools on our website oldhamcab.org.uk where you can also find details of our many drop-in surgeries that are available across Oldham in community locations and most libraries. You can also phone our Adviceline service from the Council’s Freephone access points in libraries and Access Oldham at the Civic Centre.”

oldhamfoodbankOldham Foodbank

“Last year saw yet another increase in the use of Oldham Foodbank. We provided food for 3,716 adults and 1,620 children (Whilst the majority of people only access the Foodbank once, this figure does include people who may have needed our help on more than one occasion).

The people who use the Foodbank are from every ward across the borough. The major reason for people needing the service is because of benefit changes and delays – few people realise that a new claim for the new Universal Credit takes five weeks before the first payment is made(!).

We also have families who struggle to make ends meet during school holidays and to this end we work with other groups providing holiday meals.

In addition to providing food and some essential toiletries, we also signpost clients to other agencies who may be able to help solve problems in the longer-term. For example, we are shortly starting a basic course to help people learn to eat healthily and cook simple dishes from scratch.

We continue to be grateful for the support from across the community, individuals, schools, faith groups and the local supermarkets.

For more information, please see our website: http://oldham.foodbank.org.uk/

Welfare Advice Service

“Oldham Council’s Welfare Advice Team was initially established in 2011. The team of four works primarily to support vulnerable residents with welfare rights advice to reduce poverty and improve wellbeing.

The Welfare Reform Act 2012 brought many challenges for our residents including the introduction of Universal Credit, the benefit cap, the size criteria (restricting the amount of benefit to be claimed if there is a spare room) and Local Welfare Provision.

Additional reforms were also made to Employment Support Allowance, Disability Living Allowance and the delivery of the Council Tax Reduction Scheme.

In the last 12 months we have helped more than 1,100 residents. We have provided benefits advice, helped to fill in forms, submitted appeals and also represented them at tribunals. This support saw £2.3m brought into the borough’s economy in 2014/15 either through an increase in benefits for clients supported by the service or through backdated and one-off payments.

And it isn’t just the financial benefit that the service is concerned with – improving health and wellbeing is also an important part of our work.

Having worries about money can be particularly detrimental to someone’s mental health and not having enough money to feed a family or buy healthier foods can have a similarly devastating effect on physical health. No matter what the client’s needs we will do all we can to ensure that they are treated fairly.

It is widely expected that further welfare reforms will take place over the next parliamentary period and we will again be ready again to help ensure that people are supported to receive the benefits that they are entitled to.

You can contact the Welfare Rights Service on 0161 770 6655 to make a referral

Or follow this link to go to the online form


Thanks for listening,




News from Oldham Council


Oldham Education and Skills Commission: Schools stronger when we work Together.

Plans for a new and revolutionary school led system to raise education standards for all local children were launched today (June 25).

The recommendation is the first to be revealed by the Oldham Education and Skills Commission (OESC), which is chaired by former Education Secretary, Estelle Morris.

Launched last summer, the independent commission was tasked with developing a shared, ambitious vision for our children that will result in a step change in their education.

Its final report will be published in September but this first recommendation – to be outlined in a keynote speech today by Estelle Morris to headteachers at the Oldham Schools Alliance (OSA) summer conference – will lay down clear foundations for the future.

The schools led system would be a new type of partnership based upon sharing responsibility equally between the council, schools and the community. We would take on collective responsibility for driving up aspirations and achieving better outcomes for young people by setting and achieving ambitious targets for improvements.

Oldham has a number of excellent schools, but there is also too much underperformance. The Commission believes that headteachers are best placed to understand how to drive up standards and that this can be best achieved if schools work together. But they cannot do this alone so the Commission is recommending the commissioning of a new independent body to make the collaboration a success.

Estelle Morris believes all local schools and staff – from head, teacher, practitioner and governor – can each make a vital contribution to wider and sustainable education success.



New Chadderton FC lease agreed

An historic move has been made for Chadderton Football Club after an agreement was reached with Oldham Council to secure a new 35-year lease on their current home.

The local authority has been working hard with the club to make this happen as it believes the club plays an important role in the community and will continue to do so.

The club, based at the Broadway Stadium, say this deal has brought stability and security – as well as an opportunity to progress its numerous squads and support the community.Chadderton FC lease

Chadderton FC, which historically had former England captain David Platt, former Crystal Palace and Leeds United player John Pemberton and even Take That’s Mark Owen famously donning the red shirt, will hope this new agreement can attract future stars to the North West Counties club which has been in the area since 1946.

Councillor Barbara Brownridge, Cabinet Member for Neighbourhoods and Cooperatives, said: “We know the important role that sporting clubs play in our communities around the borough and Chadderton FC are fantastic ambassadors for its own area and neighbouring districts.

“This lease gives the hard working volunteers, staff, fans and players peace of mind as they build towards a successful future. The council is determined to help them, and other clubs where possible, realise their ambitions. We wish the club, which has been an integral part of Chadderton for almost 70 years, all the best with this long-standing agreement.”


Bloom and Grow is revving up for success

This year’s Bloom and Grow centrepiece has been unveiled – and it is already being ‘hailed’ as a success.

The borough is revving up to retain our Best City* in North West in Bloom title and we hope the trophy will be traveling home with us for the sixth year in a row.Bloom and Grow 2015

This year the route the judges will follow when making their final decisions starts at Alexandra Park where they will meet representatives from Age Concern, Wheels for All, The Growing Hub and Medlock Bridge Anglers before making their way up to Union Street to see representatives of First Choice Homes in their headquarters.

They’ll then take in the Boot and Beanstalk display on Emmott Way and Gallery Oldham before travelling up to Huddersfield Road, viewing Waterhead War Memorial and Waterhead growing hub followed by Stoneleigh Park and the Secret Garden.

Then it’s back to the town centre where they will visit Mahdlo, meet children from Holy Cross School before finally judging the winner of the schools’ Bloom and Grow banner competition.

As usual our entry into the competition aims to showcase the best the borough has to offer.

We’ve gone for a theme that shows how the local authority, residents, businesses and stakeholders are working together and driving change.

In keeping with this theme, the WOW display bed in the town centre includes an iconic Hackney cab – enhanced with fake grass – and a traditional red phone box.

If you look carefully you’ll be able to see the display contains images of the town centre’s past, present and future.

The bed will stay on show throughout the summer after which it will be reused elsewhere in the town.


News from Westminster

Hunt’s hospital visit ‘broke code’

MP Angela Rayner accused health secretary Jeremy Hunt of being “a thief in the night” when he failed to tell her he was visiting Tameside General Hospital.

Local MP Angela has demanded a public apology from Mr Hunt saying he broke the Ministerial Code of Conduct by not notifying her in advance of his trip to the hospital on June 26.

She claims he did it to avoid her challenging him about the crisis facing the NHS under his government.

Mrs Rayner says she still hasn’t had any communication from the minister, and is demanding that he apologises to the Commons.

“If I had been notified of his visit, I would have made sure he heard both from patients and staff, not hand-picked officials, about the pressures Government policy is piling on our NHS. But it seems he just didn’t want to know about the very real issues.”

Meacher warns cuts will fuel poverty

OLDHAM MP Michael Meacher has warned that pushing ahead with £12 billion of welfare cuts will increase child poverty to one in four.

Tomorrow Chancellor George Osborne will set out how he will cut the enormous sum, which has led to experts fearing poverty levels will soar.

The Oldham West and Royton MP said: “Child poverty tripled under Thatcher from one in nine children to one in three, but then fell by 800,000 under Labour after 1997. This continued initially under Cameron but that easing of the child poverty stigma has now come firmly to an end as a result of the housing benefit cap, the bedroom tax and the one per cent cap on benefit increases.”

It is now forecast, particularly if the new round of £12bn cuts is launched in the budget, that child poverty will have increased by a third to one in four by 2020.

Mr Meacher said: “I am deeply concerned that any more cuts will increase child poverty and will result in having to go without basics as their parents struggle against austerity cuts. Families are already struggling, we know this from the huge increase in food banks and this will make it even worse.”


Tory attack ‘will hit most vulnerable’

OLDHAM’S Labour MPs have hit out at yesterday’s Budget, describing it as “hitting the most vulnerable” and a “nasty Tory attack”.

Debbie Abrahams, MP for Oldham East and Saddleworth, argued the Budget should have included measures to strengthen the economy – but not at the expense of people on low incomes being made worse off.

While she welcomed the national living wage, she said it doesn’t balance the cuts made to child tax credits.

“The deficit needs to be paid down, but there are better ways of doing it than hitting people who are working hard, and the most vulnerable.

“While we shift from a fragile, low-pay economy, we need to protect those on low incomes while supporting employers to introduce the living wage in all sectors as early as possible.”

Fellow Failsworth Labour MP Angela Rayner criticised the Budget as a “nasty Tory attack on families in low paid jobs.”

The MP for Failsworth said: “It means thousands of my constituents with more than two children who rely on working tax credits will be worse off.”

News from the LGA

Cllr David Sparks OBE gave his outgoing speech at the LGA conference after serving as Chair of the LGA. His speech can be read here.

Cllr Alice Perry will serve on a Labour Party established taskforce to look into what went wrong during the recent general election and what lessons can be learned for the future. The taskforce will be chaired by Margaret Beckett MP. Alice is asking for input from councillors via aliceperryuk@gmail.com.

Cllr Nick Forbes has said the country could soon have another ‘public health epidemic’ on its hands over legal highs.

Labour councillors on four West of England councils say they will fight any plans for a “metro mayor”.

Cheshire West and Chester have reintroduced free transport for children with special needs.

Councillor Warren Morgan is determined to clean up the mess inherited in Brighton and Hove and is trialling solar powered compressor bins.

Wigan are installing security equipment aimed at preventing anti-social behaviour at a park.

Cllr Clare Reynolds (Tameside) has written about Labour’s devolution plans.

Cllr Simon Henig comments on why the north-east fears devolution won’t help.

Lancashire County Council has rejected a planning application for fracking.



News from the District Executives


Working Together For A Better Neighbourhood

Chadderton South councillor Graham Shuttleworth accepted an invitation from Chadderton neighbourhood PC Craig Dickinson to join him and colleague PCSO Matthew Birch at the inaugural two-hour police surgery which was held at the Whitegate Inn on Monday (6 July).

Cllr Shuttleworth commented: “I was very pleased to be invited to join the officers at their surgery and it was especially pleasing to see how many residents turned up at this first meeting. One or two came along not necessarily to raise any issues but for a chat, which itself took them in the direction of being provided with safety information, while others had concerns that they wished to raise.

“After what was a slow start there must have been at least a dozen residents who attended, which was a great response for this first attempt, and I am sure that as the word gets out that more will come.

“The surgery will be held the first Monday of each month and I certainly look forward to seeing how this is received as we progress.”



Stanley Road CPS Garden Party

The Mayor & Mayoress were provided with a private viewing of the Stanley Road CPS Garden Party on Monday after a greeting at the school gates by members of the school gardening club. One enthusiastic pupil, not faxed by the attendance of the distinguished guests, quickly explained how they had already enjoyed the benefits of the school grown potatoes and pointed out the peppers, strawberries and other home-grown items that they would harvest at a later date.

Cllr Graham Shuttleworth, who was also invited to the day, said: “Elected members have funded a number of items for school use and pupils and teaching staff have clearly reaped the benefits very quickly.

“To add to their delight half-a-dozen floral hanging baskets were delivered on Friday, much to the surprise but delight of staff, and these now adorn the footpath that the Mayor and Mayoress took to the garden party.”


Oldham Labour Group Friday Briefing (26/06/2015)

Oldham Labour Group Friday Briefing (26/06/2015)

Weekly Leader’s Blog


Let’s not waste this opportunity….

blogPictureRecently I spent a morning with the waste collection team at our Moorhey Street depot. Our waste and recycling crews have a tough job and I’m grateful they could spare some time to talk me through how the service operates and the challenges the borough faces in collecting and disposing of our waste.

The team deliver what is probably our most high- profile service – used by every resident and many of our businesses. Every day our team of 28 bin trucks collect around 40,000 bins from across the borough – heading out before most of us are awake and whatever the weather.

The UK as a whole generates around 200 million tonnes of waste every year. The majority is sent for landfill.

In Oldham each household produces around a tonne of waste every year with 40 per cent being recycled. This is a figure we are always looking to improve on.

Over the last few years we’ve worked hard to reduce the amount of waste we produce as it costs us £290 per tonne to send for disposal – money that could be used to fund services elsewhere in the borough.

The team talked me through their ‘changing behaviours’ work – where they work with residents in neighbourhoods to improve how local people use the service (putting bins out correctly and recycling where they can) and to take action where residents dump waste or routinely put waste in the wrong bins (which costs us more as the waste has to go for disposal.

Since this work began in August 2013 we’ve seen some great results, such as:

• 11,882 households have been informed action will be taken if they do not dispose of their waste responsibly
• 3,560 people spoken to and educated regarding their waste disposal and its impacts.
• 2,000 more recycling bins delivered.
• 1,281 more Fixed Penalties served for littering and dumping.
• 66 prosecutions for fly tipping and dumping (i.e. more serious cases or where people have not paid their fines).

Overall this has led to a 10 per cent increase in recycling in targeted areas and a significant decrease in fly tipping too.

(Read More)

News From Oldham Council

Oldham Education and Skills Commission: Schools stronger when we work together

Plans for a new and revolutionary school led system to raise education standards for all local children were launched today (June 25).

The recommendation is the first to be revealed by the Oldham Education and Skills Commission (OESC), which is chaired by former Education Secretary, Estelle Morris.

Launched last summer, the independent commission was tasked with developing a shared, ambitious vision for our children that will result in a step change in their education.

Its final report will be published in September but this first recommendation – to be outlined in a keynote speech today by Estelle Morris to headteachers at the Oldham Schools Alliance (OSA) summer conference – will lay down clear foundations for the future.

The schools led system would be a new type of partnership based upon sharing responsibility equally between the council, schools and the community. We would take on collective responsibility for driving up aspirations and achieving better outcomes for young people by setting and achieving ambitious targets for improvements.

Oldham has a number of excellent schools, but there is also too much underperformance. The Commission believes that headteachers are best placed to understand how to drive up standards and that this can be best achieved if schools work together. But they cannot do this alone so the Commission is recommending the commissioning of a new independent body to make the collaboration a success.

Estelle Morris believes all local schools and staff – from head, teacher, practitioner and governor – can each make a vital contribution to wider and sustainable education success.

“This would see a fundamental change for the responsibility for education across Oldham – and it’s the start of a crucial journey,” she said.

“This plan is about all schools coming together regardless of age-group, governance, sponsorship or denomination, or whether you are an academy, local authority-maintained or free school.

“We’re saying that what really matters here is that shared vision for every child to reach their full potential. What also really matters is that if you’re an educator in Oldham you’re now saying that you have a responsibility for the education of every local child – not just those you are directly responsible for day to day.

“How we all fulfil that challenge is by working together on genuinely equal merit and in a new culture of collaboration where each school shares data, accepts and offers best practice, where targets and progress are shared, where all learn and improve together – and where children reap the benefits.

“It’s about agreeing what our ambitions for all young people are and then saying:‘What are WE all going to do to improve this?’”.

The new body would agree shared values and collaborative working arrangements –including a new borough-wide approach to data management and information – and would also agree new guarantees of education standards for students, parents, teachers and leaders.

(Read More)

New Youth Mayor sworn in

Teenager Saskia Edwards Korolczuk has been sworn in as the new Youth Mayor of Oldham.

The 18-year-old officially took on the role at the Youth Mayor-making ceremony on Wednesday, June 24 in the Council Chambers.

Saskia is from Springhead and is currently studying for her A-levels at Oldham Hulme Grammar School.

Once she has completed her exams she plans to take a gap year to concentrate on her youth mayor role.

After this she will hopefully take her place at university to study music and theatre.

Since being elected onto Oldham Youth Council four years ago Saskia has been passionate about giving young people a voice and engaging them in politically.

During her time as a youth councillor Saskia has been involved in as many aspects of Youth Council life as possible, this includes work on the priority campaign “I love Me”, which aims to promote resilience and positive mental health and well-being in young people.

She has also sat on the Co-operative Oldham Fund Panel and, more recently, was a member of the British Youth Council’s 2015 Select Committee.

(Read More)



“Fulla” praise for new “Olympic” Royton Leisure Centre

An Olympic legacy pool at Royton’s new £8 million sports centre, obtained by Oldham Council as part of a deal with Sport England, has been welcomed by GB swimmer Jessica Fullalove.

The Royton starlet, who competed in the 2014 Commonwealth Games and won three silver medals at last year’s Youth OlympicJim McMahon, Oldham Council Leader and Jessica Fullalove, GB swimmer and Royton resident (pictured front), are pictured inside the new Royton Leisure Centre.s, was impressed when she swapped her swimming cap for a hard hat when visiting the site of the new leisure facility – set to open later this year.

Joined by Jim McMahon, Oldham Council Leader, both took a close look at the Byron Street redevelopment.

As part of the Olympic Facilities Legacy Fund the new centre was awarded a pool tank and a grant of £134,000 from Sport England to support the pool’s installation.

The new pool is the same design as one of the Olympic training pools.

Jim McMahon, Oldham Council Leader, said:“The opening of this wonderful facility is just around the corner and this funding from Sport England is giving Royton a lasting Olympic legacy for the area – a commitment we made when we announced the new leisure centres for Royton and Oldham.

“The centre will not only be a great place where parents can bring their children to swim –it will also be a place where swimmers, like Jessica, can come and train in an environment suited to top competitors.

“Our team have been working hard with Sport England to make sure we have state-of-the-art facility residents and future generations will be proud of.”

Jessica, aged 18, said: “As a swimmer and a local resident it was amazing to be shown around the centre which will be great for Royton and the surrounding areas.

“I’m thrilled that Royton will get an Olympic legacy pool and I hope it will inspire more people to swim when it opens.”

Charles Johnston, Sport England’s Property Director, said: “Legacy pools have the potential to benefit thousands of people and we know that creating top-class sporting facilities will help provide a good sporting experience.

“The new pool, similar to ones used at the Olympics, will ensure that the local community have the chance to enjoy swimming in such an inspiration facility, and will help to create a lifelong sporting habit.”

As well as the new six-lane pool with spectator seating, the new centre boasts an 80-station fitness gym, two exercise/dance studios, 60-space car park and a new separate learner pool.

Working in partnership with Oldham Council, the site is being constructed by Willmott Dixon and once open, Oldham Community Leisure will run the facility.

News from Westminster


Cuts hit low paid hardest

Date published: 19 June 2015

OLDHAM MP Michael Meacher fears Government plans to slash the welfare budget will hit low paid workers the hardest and force more people out of work.

The Oldham West and Royton MP believes tax credits and disability benefits will be targeted in the £12 billion cull to be announced in next month’s Budget.

Mr Meacher said: “As Government regards pension benefits as out of bounds, the welfare cuts will be mainly concentrated on tax credits and disability benefits. But this will have perverse results.

“Reducing the value of tax credits may well make it no longer economically worthwhile for people on the lowest paid margins to work.”

People claiming out of work benefits is at a 35-year low, and there is not a culture of welfare dependency as the Tories claim, he added.

“There has been significant gain by providing financial support for working households but this is in danger of being eradicated if Government gets its way and victimises those on in-work benefits.”


Call to end food waste

Date published: 19 June 2015

Michael Meacher is demanding the Government acts on supermarkets wasting food.

He wants surplus and close-dated food to be given to food banks and charities.

The Oldham West and Royton MP said large amounts of waste are unjustifiable, given a desperate need for food.

He said: “More and more people are turning to food banks and more than 5,300 emergency food parcels for three days were handed out in Oldham last year. This is at the same time as supermarkets are throwing away vast amounts of food.”

Mr Meacher is among a group in Westminster urging government to act. He wants legislation to ban supermarkets from throwing away food approaching its best-before dates.

Legislation was recently enacted in France to make supermarkets hand over food taht would otherwise have been destroyed, even though perfectly edible.


Meacher: Tory favouritism is insulting

Reporter: Richard Hooton
Date online: 26 June 2015

A GOVERNMENT minister has refused to explain why Oldham has faced more cuts than Tory areas.

Oldham West and Royton MP Michael Meacher said this year alone, Oldham has had a 4.3 per cent cut in its spending power – while Oxfordshire is seeing an increase.

He said: “This is the most blatant politically partisan favouritism of Tory areas.”

Speaking in a Westminster Hall debate on local finances, Mr Meacher added: “Oldham is having to take a £200million cut by 2017. In the current year it is having its spending power cut by 4.3 per cent, whereas Oxfordshire, which happens to contain the Prime Minister’s constituency, has an increase of 1.3 per cent – and Cheshire East Council, which contains the Chancellor’s constituency, is having a 1.5 per cent increase.”

Other MPs from across the area demanded answers during the 30-minute debate led by Ashton Labour MP Angela Raynor, whose constituency covers Failsworth.

Local government minister Marcus Jones said despite challenges “most local authorities have coped well,” and that coping with the regional transfer of powers is “one of the most exciting agendas in local government at the moment.”

Oldham has faced the second highest cut across Greater Manchester. Mr Meacher added: “The non-answers from the minister show he has no idea about the difficulties our area faces.

“I do not think my constituents who are visiting food banks, are out of work, paying the bedroom tax and seeing services cut by these austerity measures imposed by the Tories will describe any of it as exciting — it is insulting.”


News From Districts


A ground-breaking parenting course – created by Action For Children, Oldham Council and Oldham Athletic Community Trust – is set to kick off in the borough.

Parents on the Ball is an innovative 20-week programme which aims to help mums, dads and carers gain new parenting skills and confidence, as well as promote better family health and fitness.

Leading children’s charity, Action for Children, will run the majority of the sessions from Oldham Athletic’s SportsDirect.com Park and also reach out to young people to help them gain the confidence and skills they will need to get on in the world.

The sessions take place ever Wednesday from June 24.Parents on the ball

Around a dozen parents from Chadderton have already signed up to the course.

Some sessions will be held at Chadderton Hall Park and Chadderton Wellbeing Centre.

Helen McKee, director of children services at Action for Children, said: “We believe that sports clubs are very much at the heart of the community, contributing to the well-being and self-esteem of millions of young people and parents across the UK.

“We’re proud to partner with Oldham Athletic Community Trust and Oldham Council to further our vision to improve the lives of young people and families in the region. We look forward to developing this innovative partnership in the forthcoming months.”

Councillor Graham Shuttleworth, Chair of Chadderton District Executive, said: “Members and staff within the Chadderton District team, along with support from public health, have been working hard with our partners to provide a fun and beneficial programme for families in the local community.

“Parents will have a chance to learn alongside their children over a range of interactive sessions. We hope this joint-working programme will make a big difference to these families and bring them closer together.”

Martin Vose, Oldham Athletic Community Trust Community Manager, said: “We’re really pleased to be an integral part this course which will be able to make a real, tangible difference to both the parents and their children.

“Using the power of football we will be able to have a direct and positive impact on the present circumstances of these families and their futures.”

Oldham Labour Group Friday Briefing (19/06/2015)

Oldham Labour Group Friday Briefing (19/06/2015)


Weekly Leaders Blog

The Independent Quarter: Unleashing creativity

HACKSPACE: Oldham's new ghjghhghjghj

FIRSTLY, I’d like to thank the many residents, business and council staff who sent me such kind messages after the Queen’s Birthday Honours list came out last Friday night.

It’s extremely humbling to have been awarded an OBE in amongst the great and good across the country, and you can read my initial reaction here.

On Saturday afternoon it was straight back to business when I attended the opening of a new community enterprise called Hack Oldham in the town centre.

Before getting there I had in my mind the idea that I was going to see a team of busy IT enthusiasts working in a cool, imaginative space: a little like a mini ‘Sharp Project’, I suppose.

I certainly wasn’t expecting what I then discovered and it had much more of an effect on me than perhaps the organisers would have imagined.

Firstly, there are plenty of IT hobbyists, entrepreneurs and creative people around, but what was impressive to see here was the application of technology to everyday problems.

The workshop setting wasn’t a clinical laboratory. It was a proper old school workshop complete with wooden benches, power tools and things were being made.

WORKSHOP: Hackspace is a proper old school workshop buzzing with ideas and energy. And old world met new world as in the next room a row of 3D printers were busy creating a scale topographic model of Oldham!

I was really inspired by the creativity in that little workshop and the fact that here is a new community space, run by the community, and for the community.

During the opening event – not, of course, a standard ribbon cutting, but bolt cutters and a chain across a workshop door – I put the case across not for them just to make stuff, but to change the world.

We’ve innovated here and done it before and there’s no reason why the next world changing invention couldn’t come from Oldham once again.

But I also started to ponder something else that day. Are we (Oldham Council) ready for a new town centre community?




News from Oldham Council


Royal honour for Oldham Council Leader, Jim McMahon

Councillor Jim McMahon has been made an OBE (Officer of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire) in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List.

Cllr Jim McMahonThe Council Leader – who says he is “overwhelmed” – has been appointed an OBE for his services to the community in Oldham.

The 34-year-old, who was born in nearby Miles Platting and educated in Middleton, moved to the borough in search of a property to make a family home in 2001.

He still lives in that same Failsworth home with his partner, Charlene, and says it was fatherhood – he has two sons, Jack aged 13, and Harry, aged six – that first made him look critically at the area and get involved in local issues as he pondered the future.

In May 2003 he was elected to serve Failsworth East and after working hard as a grassroots councillor to improve local landmarks like Failsworth Pole, the War Memorial and Westminster Gardens, he was chosen as Labour group leader within five years.

He became Oldham Council Leader in 2011 – at the time the youngest in the country – and set to work on plans to “change the Oldham story” and put the borough back on the national map with a range of innovative physical and social regeneration projects and fairness campaigns for residents.

In February 2014, he was named ‘Council Leader of the Year’ at the Councillor Achievement Awards hosted by the Local Government Information Unit (LGiU).

Cllr McMahon is now also leader of the Local Government Association (LGA) Labour Group representing more than 6,000 councillors nationwide. This includes a place on the political cabinet and the National Executive Committee (NEC).


Oldham Council is backing Armed Forces Day on Saturday, June 27

To mark the occasion more than 60 businesses in Oldham Town Centre have followed our lead and are offering some great discounts to those currently serving Queen and country, as well as reservists.

Among those who have signed up are Skidmore Cycles, 35 to 37 Union Street; and Simpson’s Jewellers, 35 to 37 High Street, which are offering 10 per cent off all purchases.

Zutti Co, 81 to 83 Yorkshire Street, is chipping in and giving a 10 per cent discount, while Salon 7, Queen Street are knocking 25 per cent off.

All businesses that are part of the scheme will display a sticker in their windows from now on.

If you are a member of the armed forces (Army, Royal Nay and RAF) all you have to do to take advantage of the discount offers is show a valid you military ID card when you make a purchase. The discount only applies to the card holder. If you are a business owner and would like to get involved in the initiative you can sign up.

For more information, and a full list of all the businesses involved and the discounts that are on offer please log onto http://www.oldham.gov.uk/info/200254/armed_forces_personnel_support




Oldham is sew good at helping residents into textiles career

Oldham Council is working closely with partners to boost employment opportunities in an industry made famous by the borough.

The local authority’s Get Oldham Working team is supporting two specialist organisations who are promoting textiles jobs and apprenticeships to local people.Sewing Academy student Sinead Ingham (pictured right) with Beverley Whittaker (course leader) and Councillor Shoab Akhtar, Oldham Council’s Cabinet Member for Education and Skills.

Oldham College’s Sewing Academy and the Alliance Project’s “Textile Teashops” are both looking to recreate the region’s reputation as a powerhouse in the industry.

The academy boasts an impressive success rate with around 80-85 per cent of its students going on to apprenticeships or paid employment in the textile industry.

One of its latest students, Sinead Ingham, had never even used a sewing machine before she enrolled on the course. Now the mother-of-one from Royton is a dab hand working as an apprentice for Oldham manufacturer Trans-Web.

Sinead said: “I’m probably like many new mothers – I did struggle to get back into work after taking care of my baby.

“I wanted to get into the textiles industry years ago but there were not many opportunities locally. I then discovered the sewing academy and it has given me the confidence to build up my skills and helped me in my new role which I’m enjoying.”

Sinead, aged 24, is now a Level 3 Apprentice Sewing Machinist with Trans-Web, who specialise in the design and manufacture of textile lifting slings, height safety equipment and lashing systems. She works at the firm four days a week and goes back to the academy one day-a-week to develop new skills.

The academy is holding a Recruitment Open Day on Tuesday, June 23 (11am) at the Rochdale Road-based college, specifically for unemployed residents claiming benefits who want to learn a new skill for employment in the textile industry.

This will be a four-week course where you will learn to use a variety of machinery and produce a portfolio of sample work as well as sewing your own items.

Beverley Whittaker, course leader, said: “One of the advantages of this retraining opportunity is that unemployed learners can continue to claim benefits whilst gaining new skills at the academy and come out of it with a qualification and possibly employment.

“The courses we offer mean we can take people with no previous experience of sewing at all and give them enough skills to be able to go into the industry at a basic level. The experience then comes from working on the job.

“It’s great to see the trainee come to the academy with a lack of confidence, like Sinead, and by the end of the six weeks they are all really enjoying the course and are like different people.

“The Get Oldham Working team have been a big support in helping to promote our offer, find students and inform businesses within the industry.”

The Greater Manchester textiles industry currently employs 11,300 people, generating £650 million for the local economy. This is set to rise and textiles employers estimate the creation of 400 new jobs each year over the next decade, including 150 sewing machinist vacancies per year.





News from Westminster


Commons vow by new Ashton MP Angela Rayner who was told she’d amount to nothing.

I’ll tell it as it is, says town’s first female MP for 180 years who became pregnant aged 16 , lived on a council estate and worked as a carer.

A new Greater Manchester MP – who was told she would ‘amount to nothing’ after falling pregnant at 16 – has vowed to do things ‘in her own little northern way’ in her maiden speech to Parliament.

Former high-flying union boss Angela Rayner is Ashton-under-Lyne’s first female MP in more than 180 years.

In her first speech to the House of Commons, she promised her constituents she would ‘always tell it how it is’ after giving people a glimpse into her life as a pregnant teenager living on a council estate and a grafting care worker.

The mother-of-three, who juggled child care with low-paid shift work in earlier life, said she knew what it was like to be left counting the pennies.

‘A care-worker becoming an MP; that’s real aspiration for you. Perhaps too, I’m the only member of the house, who at age 16, and pregnant, was told in no uncertain terms, I’d never amount to anything. If only they could see me now’

The constituency had an unbroken line of male MPs since 1832. But after Mrs Rayner was picked from an all-women shortlist, Ashton-under-Lyne now has its first female representative in Westminster. Mrs Rayner, formerly Unison’s most senior elected official in the north west, has urged her party to push ‘real people with real life experience’ to bring ‘common sense’ back to Parliament.




Government ‘just doesn’t get it’

OLDHAM MP Debbie Abrahams used her first parliamentary appearance since the election to highlight the plight of two local women.

During the Queen’s Speech debate, Mrs Abrahams, MP for Oldham East and Saddleworth, spoke about Amanda, a woman with breast cancer who is being hounded by the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP)

She said: “The Government just doesn’t get a fundamental point. Any good and successful business knows its biggest asset is its people.

“People should be valued. But instead of supporting, enabling and investing in people, their skills, health and wellbeing, the Government’s approach is to demonise people on social security.

“Amanda’s story is a case in point. In her mid-50s now, she worked as a teacher but about two and a half years ago she was diagnosed with breast cancer. As she went through her treatment she became more and more poorly and took time off work. On top of all this she was then made redundant.

“She applied for, and was granted, contribution based Employment and Support Allowance (ESA). Months later she was also able to take her teacher’s pension.

“Last December, she received a letter from the DWP informing her that she was being investigated for fraud because she had not notified them that she was now receiving a pension.



MPs back charities’ campaign

OLDHAM’S MPs have called for carers to be given more support.

Following Carers Week, which ended on Sunday, the Labour politicians highlighted the strains suffered by those looking after others.

Oldham East and Saddleworth MP Debbie Abrahams said: “There are 6.5 million people in the UK who care for a partner, relative or friend, of whom 11,076 are in the Oldham East and Saddleworth constituency.

“Without the right help and support, caring can have a devastating impact. Carers can quickly become isolated, with their physical and emotional health, work and finances all hit hard.

“I know from providing respite care for my mother how difficult caring for a loved one can be, as well as also being extremely rewarding.”

The six charities behind Carers Week 2015 — Carers UK, Age UK, Carers Trust, Independent Age, Macmillan Cancer Support and the MS Society — are calling on individuals, organisations and services to take action to improve the lives of carers by building carer-friendly communities. Full-time carers are twice as likely to be in bad health compared to non-carers, 54 per cent struggle to pay household bills and 60 per cent struggle to maintain friendships.

Mrs Abrahams added: “Carers make a valuable contribution to society and they need support to carry on the work they do.”

Oldham West and Royton MP Michael Meacher said too often carers are forgotten and more must be done to protect their health and finances.

Mr Meacher said: “Carers do an amazing and often unrecognised job. Government must work with care organisations to give carers the support they deserve and desperately need. It is unfair to expect these dedicated people to be forced into debt and financial hardship.”



News from the LGA


Labour’s newly-elected Mayor of Tower Hamlets, John Biggs has called for borough to ‘move forwards’.

The Queen’s Birthday Honours list has seen a number of Labour councillors rewarded for their service to Local Government and their community. Cllr Jim McMahon (Oldham) and Cllr Claire Kober (Haringey) received an OBE. Cllr Judi Billing (North Herts), Cllr Lucy Hovvels (Durham) and Cllr Elaine Woodburn (Copeland) received an MBE.

37 Barking and Dagenham tower blocks are set for fuel bill savings.

Cllr Alice Perry has written in Labourlist about how we can’t ignore the unjust practice of blacklisting.

Reading’s new home care framework has gone live fulfilling their pledge to implement the UNISION ethical Care charter including living wage.

Cllr Stephen Cowan has accused house builders of “taking the mickey” by not living up to affordable housing requirements.

Ealing will consider changes to bin collections to make recycling easier and save money.

Cllr Simon Henig has said the issue over whether the North East should have a directly-elected metro Mayor is not a matter that individual council or business leaders should determine and the views of the public should be sought.

David Jamieson PCC has argued if it’s good enough for London and Manchester to have a directly elected Mayor, why not Birmingham too?

Labour Core City Leader, Cllr Gordon Matheson (Glasgow) has announced his intention to stand for Deputy Leader of Scottish Labour. –

See more at: http://lgalabour.local.gov.uk/home/-/journal_content/56/330956/7338418/ARTICLE#sthash.JFsetG6S.dpuf




Oldham Labour Group Friday Briefing (12/06/2015)

Oldham Labour Group Friday Briefing (12/06/2015)


A National First For Oldham Families

IT’S BEEN a long time coming but finally there is an ethical alternative weekly payment store – a national first – and it’s right here in Oldham.

What you won’t know is that this hasn’t just happened by chance: and nor was it ever going to.

The idea started as we looked forward from our two flagship fairness campaigns – Fair Energy and Fare’s Fare (Bus Fares): which made a real OUR HOUSE: The country's first high street weekly store for new houshold goods at the lowest cost - in Oldham. difference to the lives of thousands of residents.

When we asked local people what other things affected them and the financial wellbeing of their families they told us that access to affordable credit and being trapped in cycles of debt and penalty fees were huge issues.

So we set out on a very different route to the traditional method of just creating a leaflet advising local people on managing their finances (okay, we did do that as well!).

Instead we were more realistic and accepted that, for some people, paying for goods on a weekly basis was right for their needs. And providing they could afford the repayments then there isn’t anything instinctively wrong with that.

But we were also looking here at a market which isn’t regulated anywhere near as hard as it should be and one which, for too many people, is expensive and could trap them into a cycle of debt they may never get out of.

OPEN FOR BUSINESS: At the launch of Our House with Carolyn Wilkins, Chief Executive, Oldham Council, and store staff

That has all now led to the opening of Our House in Oldham – and I’ve invited them along to ‘guest blog’ this week and explain exactly what this new store is offering…

“We are delighted to announce the opening of the country’s first high street weekly payment store for new household goods run by a social business in the centre of Oldham.

Our House Oldham, now open on Albion Street, outside Tommyfield Market, has been created by FRC Group, a not-for-profit business, working in partnership with Oldham Council.



New Hackspace opens in Independent Quarter

A group of creative and technology-minded individuals certainly aren’t ‘hacked off’ with Oldham Council after we helped them find premises in the Independent Quarter.

Hack Oldham – whose members of all ages and backgrounds meet to do interesting things – has moved into premises at 4/6 Hardcastle Street, just off Yorkshire Street.

The new hackspace features: training facilities, a meeting space, 3D printing facilities, an electronics laboratory and wood shop.

The group aim to use the new facility as an area where people can work together to bring their ideas to fruition, to help start businesses and create new products.

Councillor Jim McMahon, Leader of Oldham Council, wins the 'Leader of the Year' award at the LgIU C'llr AwardsWhatever your interest, be it technical, crafts or otherwise there is a good chance you will find someone to work with at Hack Oldham.

The space is operated as a non-profit and is entirely funded by members and donations from the general public.

The council’s Town Team has worked with the group for the last six months and found them the space from a private landlord.

Councillor Jim McMahon, Leader of Oldham Council, said: “I’m pleased to welcome Hack Oldham to the Independent Quarter and that we were able to help them with the move.

“Their new base will allow not only let the group members to meet and share ideas but also as it grows in size more creative and technical savvy people will be coming into the town centre – exactly what we need if the borough is to progress.

“We’ve already worked with Hack Oldham on a number of projects, such as Museums at Night in Gallery Oldham and hopefully this partnership will continue in the future.”


Adoption Support Fund – extra help for adopters

Are you an adoptive family living in Oldham? If so, you may be able to access the Adoption Support Fund for additional help.

Backed by central government, the new fund is dedicated to helping adoptive families who are in need of extra support to access specialist therapeutic services.Harrison,Jenny,Councillor,Labour,Alexandra

Services such as behavioural therapy, play and music therapy, and family support sessions can help adoptive children come to terms with their difficulties – giving them the confidence to build strong relationships with their new family.

Councillor Jenny Harrison, Cabinet Member for Social Care and Safeguarding, said: “Oldham has long recognised that adoption is a lifelong process and that some adoptive families may need extra help from time to time.

“We already offer all our adopters a range of support services and we welcome the introduction of the Adoption Support Fund so that more adoptive families can benefit fromspecialist therapeutic services.

“The Adoption Support Fund should also reassure people thinking of adopting that there is lots of help available and that we are here to help them throughout their adoption journey.”

If you wish to access the fund you will need to request an assessment of your needs from the adoption agency responsible for your child, within three years of the Adoption Order.

Thereafter it is the responsibility of the local authority adoption agency where you live.

They will then make an assessment to check that you meet the criteria for accessing the fund and identify with you the most appropriate services that will best meet your needs. The adoption agency will then make an application to the fund on your behalf.

For more information call 0161 770 6605 or visit www.oldham.gov.uk/adoption

Gallery Oldham: Giant Flowers are Bedding In!

Inflatable giant flowers are taking over Gallery Oldham!

Botanical InvasionThe colourful visitors are exotic species of plant life that make up the Botanical Invasion exhibition.

Visual artists Spacecadets Air Design have designed the sculptures to inspire families to interact in a fun and playful way.

Councillor Barbara Brownridge, Cabinet member for Neighbourhoods and Co-operatives, said: “We are pleased to welcome this exhibition to Gallery Oldham and the giant flowers will bring a lot of colour.

“With work well underway on Bloom and Grow the borough really has flower power this summer.”

Jamima Latimer and Louise Miller, the people behind Spacecadets, have been creating inflatable art and helping to transform landscapes for more than a decade.

The exhibition will be launched on June 20 with an afternoon of family fun from 12 noon until 4pm.

It will include giant ladybirds, storytelling, craft activities for children and a tour of our Season’s Best exhibition. And it’s all free.

To coincide with the exhibition there will be a host of activities taking part throughout ther summer holidays.

For more information log onto to www.galleryoldham.org.uk

If this exhibition makes you want to draw some weird and amazing plants of your own then you can ask a grown-up to send them to us @GalleryOldham or on our Facebook/Instagram pages


Meacher in Tory Budget rethink plea

Date published: 05 June 2015

THE Government must look at ways to tackle the deficit other than slashing another £12billion from the wwelfare budget, says Oldham MP Michael Meacher.

Chancellor George Osborne will deliver his first all-Tory Budget next month and set out how benefits will be hit.

But Mr Meacher claims alternatives to welfare cuts are available – if the Government would listen.

“Enforcing £12bn of welfare cuts is draconian and callous and is a means of making the poor subsidise the rich,” he said. “There are other ways to cut back that could make a huge contribution to paying down the deficit.”

Why Labour lost

Re-elected Oldham East and Saddleworth MP Debbie Abrahams analyses Labour’s General election defeat

MY key belief is that the electorate did not reject a progressive political agenda, but that Labour’s message of how we would achieve a fairer Britain for all did not resonate.

It is important that this is recognised and that in the coming weeks and months, Labour presents an agenda that is a force for social justice and is the voice of progressive politics.Debbie Abrahams MP: “WE must continue to be the party of the many not just a privileged few”

Firstly, we failed to win the argument on the economy. On a regular basis I was told that the global financial crisis was down to Labour not mending the economic roof while the sun shone. All the evidence shows that this is not true.

But even on the latest edition of the BBC’s “Andrew Marr Show” the Labour spokesperson was asked if previous overspending by Labour was the reason we lost.

For me, it was the hiatus during the 2010 leadership election that allowed this coalition Government narrative to take hold and which it then reinforced over the following five years. We must bear this in mind as we start a new leadership contest.


MP recruiting for summer school

A group of young volunteers is being recruited by Labour MP Debbie Abrahams for her second Get Oldham Working summer school.

Following the success of her inaugural summer school in 2014, Mrs Abrahams, MP for Oldham East and Saddleworth, is looking for people aged 18-24 to take part in the Working for Your Community Summer School, from July 20-31.

Mrs Abrahams said: “My idea behind the summer school is to help local young people develop their community action skills and gain useful experience by working on real community projects in Oldham.

“I also want to give them a behind-the-scenes look at how politics affects everyone’s daily life.

“Too many people say to me ‘politics has nothing to do with me’ or ‘I don’t vote because politics doesn’t affect me’.

“But politics affects almost every aspect of our lives. This is why I want to give local young people the chance to see the links between every day issues that affect us all and the role elected councillors and MPs play in addressing them.

“The group will also gain some real work experience about how to organise community-based campaigns with local organisations.”


Meacher: leader must be voice of people

THE future Labour leader must re-engage the hundreds of thousands of people who don’t bother to vote, Oldham MP Michael Meacher warns.

Rising numbers of voters are feeling disenfranchised and voiceless – and not just the nine per cent of voters who abandoned the main parties to vote for UKIP, according to the Oldham West and Royton MP.

“There were untold hundreds of thousands who felt alienated by current politics and refused to vote, yet were burdened by grievances they couldn’t offload,” he said.

Those who feel marginalised are forced to turn to social media to be heard, tweeting and posting about their situations as democracy is no longer listening to them, he added.

Issuing a stark warning to the Labour leader hopefuls, Mr Meacher added: “If Labour is to regain its role as their representative, it has a huge job ahead getting in touch with them, listening to them, and taking part actively and enthusiastically in whatever campaigns they feel will meet their needs.”


Cllr Jim McMahon and Cllr Claire Kober both spoke at the Fabian Summer Conference about achieving change locally.

Liverpool’s Mayor Joe Anderson has argued Labour’s councillors need to be at the heart of this leadership contest.

Cllr Claire Kober has said Labour must avoid complacency about victory in next year’s London mayoral race in an article for Progress.

Lord Jeremy Beecham has claimed Government is not pledging enough to protect local councils.

Newham Council has introduced the use of smartphones as the latest weapon in the battle against fly-tipping.

Cllr David Green is asking the people in Bradford are being asked if they would be happy for West Yorkshire to have an elected mayor, if it meant securing new powers for the region.

Manchester’s Police and Crime Commissioner and former Labour MP Tony Lloyd has been appointed as theinterim Mayor of Manchester.

Cllr Sue Woodward, leader of the Labour group in Lichfield and Burntwood, said she hopes more female councillors will get the chance to take senior roles at Lichfield District Council after the controlling Conservative group has just one woman on its eight person Cabinet.

Freshly re-elected Harlow Council leader Jon Clempner has put the fight to end part-night street lightingtop of his agenda for his second term at the helm.


Chadderton Big Lunch

The sun was out in Chadderton on Sunday (7 June) and so were some 200 or so residents, young and old, to enjoy the Big Lunch activities organised and run by Full Circle (CIC) along with other agencies, and it was free to all who took part.

Chadderton police were in attendance and youngsters took the opportunity to sound the vehicles sirens as well as donning a police hat before walking away with the odd goodie or two; OPAG did the face painting while Full Circle directors Becci West and Dawn Fox ran and timed the assault course.

The recently opened skate park was in full use and other stalls helped to present a wide variety of interest.

Cllr Dave Hibbert, while not chancing his luck either skating or on the assault course, said: “It’s great to see so many people coming out and using the park as well as seeing so many youngsters not only enjoying the sunshine but also the activities provided. It certainly helps to bring the community together and Full Circle are to be commended for putting this together.”

Chadderton Fruit & Veg

Chadderton District environmental Manager, Ian Monaghan, dug deep to support one of Chadderton’ s  children’s homes when staff sickness almost ruined the fruit and vegetables provided by The Chadderton District Executive in support of the Get Oldham Growing campaign. Cllr Graham Shuttleworth explains: “We had already agreed with the homes assistant manager, Di Chesters, to provide the home with their selected items, and we included in the package two sizeable vegetable planters.

“A call from Di outlined the unexpected problems that they faced and I turned to Ian and colleagues for support, and that arrived in the shape of Dave Halliwell and Tony Shirtcliffe (pictured), and they did a tremendous job on the day.”

At the end of the day the garden plots had potatoes planted, tomato plants outside as well as inside the greenhouse, onions, garlic and other such items to compliment the already growing varieties of fruit trees.

Di also sent thanks from herself and colleagues: “I want to say a huge big thank you to you and the two guys who worked so hard yesterday, I am so grateful for your help and support and sorry I missed you in the afternoon due to the training I was on.  I didn’t even get the opportunity to thank the guys for their hard work so would appreciate it if you could pass this on to them for me.”

Oldham Labour Group Friday Briefing (05/06/2015)

Oldham Labour Group Friday Briefing (05/06/2015)

As this is our first blog post after the election, we would like to congratulate all of our elected and reelected Labour councillors and candidates across Oldham. Though we made great local gains on Labour held majorities locally, the national result was heartbreaking for our party and our activists, but most of all for our residents, who now more than ever need a Labour national government to achieve the fairness they want and the change they needed.

We will continue to fight for the fair deal Oldham deserves – the fight for #Election2020 starts here.

Again, WELL DONE to all of our elected and reelected Councillors and candidates! Access the full results here.



APPOINTMENT: Tony Lloyd is the new Interim Mayor of Greater Manchester

YOU MAY have already heard that the leaders of Greater Manchester’s ten councils met last week to appoint an Interim Mayor.

It was a long and involved process and I believe genuine efforts were made to try and be as open as possible in making what is an appointment for a temporary position, rather than an election by public vote of a full-time Mayor.

I have put on record before that I believe more time should have been allowed by government for there to be an early public debate about this new role and devolution from Whitehall to Greater Manchester.

But I do strongly believe that the case is compelling and that the opportunity to be the masters of our own destiny is far better than us being told what to do by civil servants in London.

Oldham’s voters haven’t been exposed to a referendum on whether or not they support the idea of a directly elected Mayor.

Some people who are against the idea of elected mayors wrongly say that “Greater Manchester rejected a mayor” but they are, of course, referring only to the City of Manchester and some other boroughs. The truth is that there hasn’t been a vote across the whole of Greater Manchester on the introduction of a GM Mayor.

This does also pose a big question for the rest of the country.

It can’t be acceptable for the Chancellor to say that the ‘old way of doing things is broken’ and then only allow a new system for some parts of the country.

Even in areas where city or county deals have been struck there is little logic in the packages being offered – a result of the closed deal making which has been the hallmark of devolution under this Government.

But I’m also a pragmatist.

I’d sooner have a directly elected mayor agreed through a negotiated package of devolution without a public referendum than just refuse the new powers. The offer on the table is significant and it shouldn’t be underestimated.

It is likely there will be limited room for the Interim Mayor to really get things going because, understandably, the public and other elected councillors will want to see who comes forward for the elected position. With an engaging debate and election period to come – including a good spread and calibre of candidates across all parties and interests – that could help to build public support and accountability.

But there is also a real job to do now – and it is vital that we get it right.


Oldham Council supports national first for local families

The country’s first high street weekly payment store for new household goods run by a social business has opened in Oldham’s Tommyfield Market.Our House opening at Tommyfield Market

It has been created by FRC Group, a not-for-profit business, working in partnership with Oldham Council.

Our House is a completely new type of high street store, a weekly payment store offering a great range of new household furniture, appliances and electrical items, with all the brands customers want and at the lowest cost.

The weekly prices at Our House are up to 50% cheaper than other high street Rent to Own stores, offering huge savings and with no late fees. There are also no hidden charges or unnecessary extra costs – no expensive service package and the insurance is truly optional.

Donald Stark, Our House Managing Director, explained: “At Our House we want our customers to spend less money and we are here to help them to save as much as we can. Our House has no expensive service package that you must take out and our insurance really is optional.

“Because we are a social business with no shareholders, and also a charity, our top aim is to offer the best value for our customers, not to make profits for ourselves, so we have kept our prices as low as we can and will continue to work hard to drive them down even further.” (READ MORE)

Community group gets boost from council

Oldham Council has helped secure the long-term future of a Chadderton residents’ club by transferring ownership of its premises to the community group.

The local authority has granted St George’s Square over-60s Club a lease of 30 years, which means it can now fundraise and pursue grants safe in the knowledge they have a long term occupancy.

Councillor Jim McMahon, Leader of Oldham Council, said: “We’re delighted that we’ve been able to work closely with members of the community in Chadderton in a way that benefits the club and residents.

“Previously the club only had a short term lease so they could only apply to small funding pots. Now they have a long term lease funding organisations can see they are going to be around for years to come so they could be more open to committing resources and money.

“This is a good solution that we hope might inspire other groups who feel they could run a plot of land or building.

“The transferal of assets to community ownership gives residents a greater say and stake in their areas whilst also enabling us to use resources more efficiently and reduce the cost to Council taxpayers.” (READ MORE)

New Cabinet line-up for Oldham Council

Oldham Council has appointed a new-look Cabinet to lead the Borough in 2015/6.

The top team includes changes to portfolios, roles and responsibilities – plus important moves to reflect the importance of devolution to the Greater Manchester region – and was approved at Annual Council today (May 20).

Councillors Jim McMahon and Jean Stretton will continue as Leader and Deputy Leader of the Council respectively.

Cllr McMahon will lead the new ‘Economy and Enterprise’ portfolio which includes dealing with the City Region agenda, regeneration, enterprise and business support, capital projects and investments, corporate property/assets, Oldham Town Centre and markets, tourism and external relations.

A key change sees Cllr Stretton now taking on a new Health and Wellbeing brief with responsibility for Public Health and improvement – and crucially leading for Oldham on the devolution of significant new health powers and a £6bn budget to the Greater Manchester Combined Authority.

The line-up also sees Cllr Arooj Shah brought into Cabinet as the new portfolio holder for Performance and Corporate Governance with responsibility for important areas like customer service, communications and performance monitoring.

Jim McMahon, Oldham Council Leader, said: “This new Cabinet sees some important but vital changes as we enter a period that will offer many great challenges – but also good opportunities – to Oldham.”

“This team has a great mix of experience, talent, gender and ideas and will continue to lead on our key priorities for the borough like regeneration, job creation, supporting communities to prosper and improving health outcomes for all.

“In the next 12 months we know we will undoubtedly face further significant pressures on our budget: a challenge which we will again not shrink from. But we are also at an important stage where we will start to see delivery on key regeneration projects like the cinema and restaurants at the Old Town Hall, Parliament Square and the new Oldham Sports Centre.

“We’ve also taken a conscious decision to make Health and Wellbeing a portfolio in its own right given the significance of the new powers and budget that have been devolved to Greater Manchester. We intend to play a full part in these discussions and to maximise the benefits to Oldham residents.” (READ MORE)

Oldham Council breaks own financial speed and accuracy benchmarks

Oldham Council – the fastest public body to close its final accounts last year – has again beaten its own benchmark-setting yardstick in this field.

Final Accounts for 2014/5 were approved last night (May 19) at the Audit Committee: seven days faster than last year when the local authority was hailed as the quickest local government body to publish its accounts in half a century.Jabbar,Abdul,councillor,Labour,Coldhurst

Draft accounts were given to external auditors this time on April 14, the fastest in the country, and again three days faster than last year.

The key focus in preparing the accounts, however, is not speed – it is their quality and accuracy that is absolutely essential to future financial planning and prudence for the organisation and taxpayers.

In their report Grant Thornton, external auditors, said “the draft accounts and working papers were of a high quality” and that “the prompt production of the draft financial statements enabled the members of the Audit Committee sufficient time to review the statements and ask challenging and pertinent questions” and “finance staff responded promptly to all audit queries, in line with agreed protocols, contributing to the prompt completion of the audit”.

Crucially, the auditors’ ‘value for money’ assessment also gave Oldham Council its best-ever rating with every aspect assessed as ‘Green’ including – for the first time – borrowing.

That means Oldham Council is now in its strongest-ever position in all aspects of demonstrating proper arrangements are in place to ensure financial resilience and in challenging how to achieve best economy, efficiency and effectiveness. (READ MORE)



South Tynside Council is to open a new multi-million pound community facility. Hebburn Central includes leisure facilities, library, learning centre and cafe, as well as meeting rooms, a customer service centre and an outdoor multi-use games area.

Newly elected, Brighton and Hove Councillor Tom Bewick writes about why the Greens were beaten back in Brighton. – See more at: http://lgalabour.local.gov.uk/home/-/journal_content/56/330956/7317889/ARTICLE#sthash.vosLYGSL.dpuf


The former head of the civil service will this week denounce the government’s flagship plan to extend the “right to buy” to 1.3 million housing association tenants, saying it is wrong in principle and practice and will not address the urgent need to build more affordable homes.

A new Housing Bill will give housing association tenants who wish to buy their homes an equal discount to those received by council tenants in the biggest extension of the Right-to-Buy scheme since the 1980s. (£)

A Cities and Local Government Devolution Bill will devolve powers over housing, transport, planning and policing to cities willing to take on an elected “metro mayor”.

Directly elected mayors could be imposed on combined authorities even if one of the member councils is opposed to the idea, under proposals set out in Cities and Local Government Devolution Bill. (£)

The Queen opened the new Parliament and set out the first Conservative legislative programme for 20 years.

The outlawing of legal highs could see a blanket ban on new substances and up to seven years’ imprisonment for anyone caught dealing them, after the Government introduced legislation in the Queen’s Speech.

George Osborne is seeking to cut the budgets of most government departments this year by an extra 5 per cent. (£)

Tens of thousands of children face being plunged into poverty by government plans to lower the household benefit cap, leaked advice to ministers shows.

More than 1.6 million hospital “bed days” were lost in the year to March because patients could not be transferred into the community.

Keep Britain Tidy has said litter louts should get bigger fines as a deterrent to help clean up streets and also wants £1,000 on the spot fines for fly-tippers.

A Tory council which switches off street lights in the middle of the night has been urged to review the controversial money-cutting measure after a young woman pedestrian was killed by a car. – See more at: http://lgalabour.local.gov.uk/home/-/journal_content/56/330956/7317889/ARTICLE#sthash.vosLYGSL.dpuf

Oldham Labour Group Friday Briefing (22/04/15)

*Election Countdown: 61 days to go!*

Weekly Leader’s Blog

Healthcare devolution: we all have a part to play

Last week saw a major step forward in the push for decisions to be made locally.

At the start of the week the news broke that plans to devolve decisions over healthcare in the region were imminent. And then on Friday came the ground-breaking announcement of plans to bring together health and social care budgets worth £6 billion.

This puts local people firmly in control of future health and care services that suit the region.

I am clear decisions made about services which effect people should be made by, or as close to that community as possible, and have democratic accountability.

We must now use the next 12 months during the ‘transitional stage’ to involve local people, health professionals and ALL councillors in the changes that will follow.

In many respects the changes all get obsessed about (governance) but most people don’t give much attention to them, they just want it to work. When they need social care or health treatment they rightly expect the system to work.

But there are too many stories of people falling through the gaps between services, departments and the complex number of organisations. Any sense that the NHS is ‘one’ today is very far from reality. It’s complicated and while in some cases that might be for good reason, for the public they just want a system that puts them first.

We all have our own ambitions for this and together with my own desire to see services formed around people, not institutions. I also want to see an equal relationship between the government, the public, NHS staff and other public services.

Success for me would be to see the hardworking employees who provide in home care for mainly older people treated with the same respect as those caring in hospitals. Decent wages and terms and conditions will mean they can be held by members of the public in the same respect and admiration as NHS staff (quite rightly) have earned.

(Read More.)



News from Oldham Council

Council leader hails £6bn health and social care deal for Greater Manchester

The Leader of Oldham Council has hailed today’s ground-breaking announcement of plans to bring together health and social care budgets worth £6 billion as “a major step forward” for Greater Manchester

The deal sees NHS England, 12 NHS Clinical Commissioning Groups, 15 NHS providers and the 10 local authorities, including Oldham Council, agreeing a framework for health and social care –with plans for joint decision-making on integrated care to support physical, mental and social wellbeing.

The Memorandum of Understanding, approved and countersigned today by the Chancellor and the Health Secretary, now puts local people firmly in control of deciding on health and care services that suit the region.

Jim McMahon, Oldham Council Leader, said:The first National Health Service hospital was opened right here in Greater Manchester in Trafford in 1948 – it is right that the NHS is coming home.”

(Read More.)



Join in ‘Clean & Grow’ in Failsworth

Oldham Council and Groundwork are encouraging Failsworth residents to take part in a day of action to prepare the ground for a new community growing space.

The ‘Clean & Grow’ event is part of ‘Get Oldham Growing’ and is open to people of all ages and activities.

The event takes place on Saturday, March 14 at 1gog1am onOldham Road, on land between Ash Street and Beech Street.

To help ready the area residents can come along and take part in a community litter-pick, bulb planting and path clearance.

Equipment and refreshments will be provided and you are advised to wear suitable outdoor clothing.

The day has been organised by Cheryl Brock, who has recently been appointed as a Growing Ambassador.

Growing Ambassadors are locals recruited to inspire more people to get active and engaged in community food growing and healthy eating.

They provide a visible, ‘on the ground’ point of contact for the council’s ‘Get Oldham Growing’ programme.

(Read More.)



Solar flowers exhibition at Gallery Oldham

Gallery Oldham’s next exhibition features artwork powered by the sun.

Artist Alexandre Dang has displayed his dancing Solar Flowers around the world in recent years. They have become an iconic piece of artwork and showcase his commitment to renewable energy.

Dang was born in Strasbourg in 1973 and now lives and works in Brussels.

He is from a scientific background and uses solar energy to animate his kinetic art works whilst also raising awareness of the potential of environmentally friendly technologies.

His flowers have been displayed in art galleries, at festivals and also in public buildings such as the European Parliament.

Alexandre said: “For me flowers embody the beauty of nature.

“In my work, I have tried to give them a playful, a poetic and a funny dimension by giving them a movement of dance thanks to solar energy.

“In the morning the flowers start dancing, then at the end of the day, the movement slows down and they stop each night. In the presence of clouds, the light intensity decreases and the flowers slow down.

“Each flower moves its own way according to the light it receives.


(Read More.)



News from Westminster



MP: No case to close bank

OLDHAM MP Michael Meacher is demanding financial information from Royal Bank of Scotland bosses over its plans to close the Chadderton branch.

The Oldham West and Royton MP said he couldn’t see the case for closing the well-used branch, at the junction of Middleton Road and Featherstall Road.

He said: “I can’t understand why they want to close a branch which is always busy and where there are always queues. There is no financial case to close this branch.”

Bank representatives met Mr Meacher, ward councillors and local business men on Friday and confirmed the branch will close by March 18.

Mr Meacher is urging them to delay the decision for three months until they set out the reasons behind the closure.


MP’s bill supports disabled workers

LABOUR MP Debbie Abrahams is putting disabled rights into the national spotlight today by presenting a Ten Minute Rule Commons Bill that will require businesses to publish the number and proportion of disabled people they employ.

The Oldham East and Saddleworth MP said: “People with disabilities continue to face many barriers in accessing work. Many of these are cultural. My bill is a step towards helping address this prevailing culture. No one should feel they are unable to reach their best potential or that their hopes and dreams don’t matter.

(Read More.)


Hardship payment details withheld

THE Government has refused to release until after the General Election the number of local people receiving hardship payments because work benefits have been stopped.

Oldham West and Royton MP Michael Meacher asked the Department for Work and Pensions when the latest figures would be published, since the data he has been given is three years old. A parliamentary answer revealed the information would be released in May.

Mr Meacher said: “It is absolutely disgusting. I don’t think Government is allowed to not publish figures if they are requested by an MP – and I am certain they should not be setting a release date which will save them embarrassment.”

(Read More.)



News from the LGA


In an editorial for First Magazine, LGA Labour Group Leader Jim McMahon argues that local government has had enough of poor leadership and dysfunction from Westminster and Whitehall.

Writing on the launch of the Co-operative Councils Innovation Network Report of the Commission on Community resilience, Jobs and Growth, Cllr Lib Peck, Leader of Lambeth, wrote that local problems require local solutions.

Plymouth City Council has confirmed that it will pay every council employee the Living Wage.

Hackney Council has reported 1.7 million library visits in a year.

See more at: http://lgalabour.local.gov.uk/home/-/journal_content/56/330956/7060668/ARTICLE#sthash.f3nrvxDx.dpuf


Oldham Labour Group Friday Briefing (27/02/2015)

*Election Countdown: 69 days to go!*

Weekly Leaders Blog


Budget Council – Video Blog – 2015/6

Tonight Full Council meets to agree its budget for the financial year 2015/6. Members are set to approve plans that seek a 0% rise in the amount you pay for Oldham Council services.

This week I decided to record a video blog talking about the challenges we are all facing as we seek to make Oldham a better place to live, work and do business against the backdrop of reduced Government funding.

(See the Video and more here)



News From Oldham Council



Prince’s Gate at Oldham Mumps: Public consultation launched

Oldham Council is launching a public consultation on its proposals for the flagship Prince’s Gate at Oldham Mumps development.

Last November the local authority unveiled initial plans for this ‘gamechanger’ regeneration scheme which aims to transform the town centre’s eastern gateway with new shops, quality homes and jobs.M&S, Prince's Gate at Oldham Mumps

This phased development includes plans for up to 800 homes, including apartments, and around 700 car parking spaces overall.

A new retail development delivering around 150,000 sq ft of new space in a glazed scheme – including a 51,000 sq ft Marks & Spencer food and clothing store – is central to the plans.

This week the public is being invited to a special ‘drop in’ consultation event taking place near the Oldham Mumps Metrolink stop.

You can come along, view the proposals in a mini-exhibition, submit comments and quiz officers and the project design team.

This event is being held at 17-19 Mumps (next to Kava Coffee Shop), Oldham, OL1 3TL. It is open to the public on Friday, 27 February from 10am to 5pm, and on Saturday, 28 February from 10am to 4pm.

(Read More)



Supermarket chain Lidl set to bring store to Royton

Oldham Council and partners Dransfield Properties Limited are set to agree detailed terms with supermarket chain Lidl to build a food store in Royton.

Royton District Centre, RedevelopmentTonight, Cabinet (Monday, February 23) agreed to the sale of council-owned land – currently used as King Street car park – that would facilitate the construction of a new 25,000 sq ft supermarket on High Street with up to 100 short stay car parking spaces.

Well-known retailer Lidl is set to further challenge the established UK supermarket brands. It now has more than 600 stores around the UK and is set to submit a planning application for a new food store – which could bring up to 25 jobs to the area.

The local authority and Dransfield have been working hard to breathe new life into the district centre – which includes the redevelopment of the former Royton Assembly Hall and Albion Club sites.

Planning permission for a retail development was granted in May 2013 which sought to redevelop the former Assembly Hall site, along with a number of existing commercial units in the precinct and adjacent public car parks, into a supermarket and petrol filling station.

Strong interest was shown at the time and initial negotiations took place, but as a result of third party ownerships in the precinct area it has been extremely difficult for the council and Dransfield to progress the original redevelopment scheme.

Last October, the precinct was bought by new owners, Tristan Capital Partners, in a joint venture with Addington Capital.

They acquired the site from administrators and are now working with the local authority and its partners on the regeneration of the district centre. Brookwide Ltd, which was the major landowner of properties on Royton’s Market Square, went into administration earlier last year.

(Read More)



Bloom and Grow WOW bed moves to Dr Kershaw’s

The centrepiece of Oldham Council’s Gold-award winning Bloom and Grow entry has become a welcome fixture in the grounds of Dr Kershaw’s Hospice.

The Bloom and Grow team and the hospice’s voluntary gardening group have created a colourful flower bed using materials from the WOW bed which was in Oldham town centre.

This new feature will hopefully continue to bring a smile to the faces of residents – and supports our ethos of recycling and sustainability.

The installation of the giant balls of wool and knitting needles – which represent everything that knit our communities together – continues the council’s policy of each year’s Bloom and Grow entry leaving a lasting legacy.

In 2011 the ‘Underwater garden’ was relocated to Royton; the ‘Crown Garden’ from the Queen’s Jubilee year of 2012 took pride of place in George Square; and the  ‘Giant’s Garden’ moved to Westminster Gardens, Failsworth.

The giant wool balls also have added significance for Dr Kerhaw’s, as in 1984 volunteers made a hand-knitted hang glider which was flown at Dovestones quarry to help raise funds needed to open the facility.

Councillor Barbara Brownridge, Cabinet Member for Neighbourhoods and Co-operatives, said: “Each year the Bloom and Grow team works with residents, schools and, organisations and businesses to produce displays that we can all be proud of.

(Read More)



News from the LGA



In his Oldham leader’s blog, Jim McMahon argues that soon there simply won’t be enough money to deliver the services that are there to respond to community demand.

Liverpool Council has signed the Liverpool Housing Partnership agreement that will deliver 1,500 new homes and bring a further 1,000 back into use in the city.

City of York Council has agreed the contract to purchase 14 new flats for new council housing.

Coventry Council has installed new litter bins that crush rubbish and ‘speak’ to the council when full to save time and money as they need emptying less frequently.

Camden Cllr Theo Blackwell argues true decentralisation to cities means local taxation reform.

Milton Keynes Council Leader, Peter Marland argues devolution offers a historic opportunity to local people.

Plymouth Council Leader, Tudor Evans writes that local government is leading the economic fightback after the Director General of the CBI voiced concerns over devolution.

Brighton and Hove Cllr Emma Daniel has written about the mess the Green Party are making in the city and Labour’s alternative plans.

Eighteen Labour members and one SDLP member make up the new composition of full and alternate members of the Party of European Socialists (PES) UK delegation on the Committee of the Regions.

(Read More)



Other News


The Cooperative Councils Innovation Network has launched its report into cooperative localism today, find the report in the below links.

The report is now live on the RSA and CCIN websites and we also have a number of related blogs and articles: