Last year was a dramatic one for the UK. We’ve seen two prime ministers, two Brexit deals, two Liberal Democrat leaders, and we’re now looking for a new leader of the Labour Party.
In Oldham 2019 was a year of real progress in the face of significant challenges. In 2020 your Labour council will continue with our strategy of investing in education, important services such as street cleaning and roads and our economy to keep Oldham moving forward in the face of mounting government cuts, but we’ll only succeed working well with you and our partners.
As a borough we’ve got a huge amount to be proud of. My number one priority has been making sure all our young people have a great start and the chance to attend a brilliant school, and we’re seeing the results. Our investments mean capacity is increasing at our best schools, and more and more are getting good and outstanding Ofsted ratings – including every school since the start of the academic year! Our support for children in pre-school means Oldham has the biggest improvement in the North West for early years development, and exam grades at all levels are on the rise.
To ensure we’re getting the basics right, in the last eighteen months we’ve invested an additional £12m in road resurfacing, and brought in a new team of street cleaners which has seen Keep Britain Tidy score us 4 out of 5 for cleanliness. We’ve also kept up the investment in town centre flowerbeds which saw Oldham named Best City by North West in Bloom for the 10th year straight.
Like many places, Oldham’s economy has been hit hard by changing shopping practices and the impacts of the government’s ongoing austerity agenda. Despite that we’ve seen places like Royton and Uppermill go from strength to strength, and it was great to announce earlier this year the plans for a new supermarket and hotel at Oldham Mumps.
I was delighted to confirm a range of new projects funded through our £500,000 Local Improvement Fund, including a grant scheme for shops in Royton, a road safety scheme in Denshaw, and some wonderful new green space in Coldhurst. The new year is going to see the announcements come thick and fast. Expect to hear more about the Coliseum, Tommyfield Market and housing in Oldham town centre soon.
Housing will be a key issue for us in the year ahead. Too many people are homeless or struggling to find a place that’s right for them, so getting houses built is really important. If we can do it in town centres to protect our green space so much the better, although it’s tough without the funding that was withdrawn by the government.
The climate emergency makes protecting green space vital, and I’m really excited about Northern Roots which will be putting Oldham on the green map in 2020. We’ve also committed to making Oldham Council carbon neutral by 2025.
2020 promises to be another uncertain year nationally, so we have to make sure we’re putting Oldham residents first. Having become a Living Wage employer in 2019, this year we’ll be pushing others to follow the council’s lead, and boosting the local economy further by spending more of the council’s money with local firms.
I wish you and all of our residents all the best for a happy, healthy and successful year ahead. At the council Labour will be fighting hard to make sure you, your colleagues and friends have every opportunity to make it a fantastic year. Oldham is a wonderful place, and I look forward to working with you to make it even better.
Cllr Sean Fielding
Leader, Oldham Council