Cllr Arooj Shah, deputy leader and portfolio holder for Social Justice and Communities, this week brought together representatives from across Oldham’s communities with national experts to develop a new community cohesion strategy.
Focused on the strengths of our borough, and the collective efforts we make to resist extremism and disharmony, the event included speakers from the Ministry of Housing and Social Justice, the Oldham Interfaith Forum, the Centre for Local Economic Strategies, and Stop Hate UK among others.
Opening the event, Cllr Shah said:
“Oldham’s biggest strengths are the diversity of our community, and the commitment our people continue to show to making this a brilliant place to live.
“Throughout my political career, and particularly since taking on the social justice and communities portfolio, I have been focused on how we can bring people closer together. And days like today have never been more important.
“Nationally, we’re living through times of real tension. We’re asked to classify ourselves according to whether we’re young or old, whether we were born here or elsewhere, whether we voted leave or remain.
“We’re told that people in other groups are less deserving, that they don’t care, or don’t try, that they’re wrong.
“And Oldham isn’t immune to this. Life is hard for a lot of people in our borough. Poverty, and the impacts of austerity, mean far too many people are struggling day to day to get by. It would be no surprise if people were angry and were looking out for themselves first.
“The work of the council and the people in this room should, in my view, be focused on taking those frustrations and channelling them towards solutions – building our borough up together, not in competition with one another.
“Because, despite what people like Tommy Robinson may think, Oldham isn’t a hateful place. When I walk through Oldham town centre, I see children from different backgrounds playing on the swings together, I see people shopping, socialising and getting on with their lives. Around our borough I see community groups putting on activities and events, I see good neighbours where you can still borrow a cup of sugar as well as real efforts to help new arrivals find their feet.
“People in Oldham have always been doers – we’ve never been afraid to get our hands dirty. The tensions we see, and the challenges we face, are best tackled together.
“I hope today will be a great start to building a shared vision for our community. There is already fantastic work going on bringing people from different backgrounds together. I know that the people of Oldham will step forward to play their part if we can provide the platform.”