At a special meeting of the Greater Manchester Combined Authority on Wednesday 24th June 2020, Oldham Council Leader Sean Fielding set out in stark terms the budget crisis facing Oldham and called on government to trust local authorities to “get on with what we need to do.”
After Secretary of State Robert Jenrick MP wrote to councils saying “I said that I would ensure you had the resources you needed to do the job, and I meant it”, local finance chiefs have revealed that in fact the council has been underfunded to the tune of nearly £21 million this year following efforts to tackle the COVID-19 pandemic, with further cuts of up to £50 million needed next year.
This led Cllr Fielding to call on the government to stop centralising powers and money, instead supporting local decision makers to work with communities to build back better.
He said: “This isn’t about calling on the government to give us money so we can relax. This is about empowering us to deliver for our communities in the future. We’ve got a track record of doing this in Greater Manchester. We didn’t have a PPE shortage in the way other parts of the country did because of the expertise of people here locally responding to local demand.”
Earlier in the year a group of councillors and local authority officers from around the country visited Oldham to review the working of our council. They reported that the council has “a deep understanding of the needs of its residents” and that it has “developed exciting proposals for the place.” The review team highlighted that the council has a “sense of pride, ambition, commitment and dedication to Oldham.”
Cllr Fielding said: “The government needs to trust us, fund us properly, and give us the flexibility and the freedom that we need because we know what’s best for our communities. If our funding is reduced further it will be catastrophic for the people of Greater Manchester.”