New council leader sets out post-pandemic plan for recovery | Oldham Council
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Arooj Shah
Arooj Shah, Oldham Council Leader
Published: Tuesday, 22nd June 2021

Oldham's Covid Recovery Strategy agreed at council Leader Arooj Shah's first Cabinet meeting last night.

  • Strategy sets out ambitions in six areas - driving equality; investing in quality housing; championing a green recovery; creating and protecting jobs and supporting businesses; prioritising education, skills and early years and promoting health and wellbeing, including protecting the most vulnerable
  • Will now form the focus for the council's work over the next 18 months

AN ambitious plan for building a more prosperous and inclusive Oldham in the wake of the Coronavirus pandemic was agreed last night.

Oldham Council's Covid Recovery Strategy was given the go-ahead by new council Leader Arooj Shah and her Cabinet, in what was her first Cabinet committee meeting as Leader. 

Cllr Shah was appointed the country's first Cabinet Member for Covid-19 Recovery in May 2020, and became Leader of the council last month. As well as being Leader, she has retained the portfolio for Covid-19 Recovery, as part of her wider responsibilities for economic and social reform.

Cllr Shah said: "Now that this strategy has been agreed by Cabinet, we can collectively get on with the job of building an even better Oldham, for the benefit of all our communities.

"I know this last year has been a tough one, and that Covid-19 has hit Oldham hard. Many of us have lost loved ones, and seen others seriously ill or with long-term complications from Coronavirus. We also know that the pandemic has hit some of our areas and some of our communities much harder than others, due to underlying inequalities in health, in income and in opportunities.

"When I became the first Cabinet Member for Covid Recovery, I had no idea that a full year later we would still be in the midst of the pandemic, but also facing the need to deal with the very real long-term impacts the pandemic has had on people’s physical and mental health, their finances, local jobs and businesses, and education. That's why this strategy is about acting quickly to do exactly that."

The new strategy sets out ambitions in six areas - driving equality; investing in quality housing; championing a green recovery; creating and protecting jobs and supporting businesses; prioritising education, skills and early years and promoting health and wellbeing, including protecting the most vulnerable.

To inform the strategy and ensure the needs of Oldhamers were at its heart, the council carried out a public consultation with residents in February and March this year.

More than 600 people responded to the online survey, while focus groups were also held with groups including parents of school aged children, black and minority ethnic residents (who were under-represented in the survey), and business owners.

The consultation found that the real-life impacts of Coronavirus were stark. A huge 83% of residents said they continue to be worried by Covid-19, while 84% had been affected by social isolation and 77% felt their mental health had been affected. This rose to 81% among informal carers and 89% among parents of school-aged children.

Ninety five per cent of parents were worried about the impact of the pandemic on their children's education; while 65 per cent said their physical health had been affected; 54% told us their work or employment situation had been directly
affected and 63% of people had been forced to isolate, rising to 77% among parents of school-aged children.

In the consultation, we asked local people what we should focus on to make sure we boosted the recovery of the borough. Overwhelmingly, respondents said that the number one priority should be to prioritise those most in need, while creating safe and decent homes and providing easy access to parks and green spaces were also important.

The new strategy sets out the council's aims and ambitions for addressing these priorities beyond the current pandemic; split into the six different key areas for focus. These are:

  • Driving equality. We will tackle inequality and discrimination head on; informing our recovery planning through lived experience
  • Investing in quality housing. We will improve housing quality, while bringing forward significant investment in new and affordable homes
  • Championing a green recovery. We will use the pandemic as an opportunity to stimulate a green recovery that accelerates our ambitions around reducing the borough’s carbon footprint and protecting our green spaces
  • Creating and protecting jobs and supporting businesses. We will continue to create good jobs for our residents, while supporting local businesses to restart and recover from the effects of the pandemic
  • Prioritising education and skills. We will work with schools and colleges to support children and young people to catch up and succeed in learning. We will also prioritise training for adults who have been made redundant, helping them retrain and secure employment
  • Promoting health and wellbeing and supporting the most vulnerable. We will continue to promote and improve the health and wellbeing of our communities, contain the spread of the virus, and target action to protect our most vulnerable.

Cllr Shah added: "While we are still responding to the very real challenges of managing a pandemic, we are now also focusing on delivering the key things needed to give Oldham the best chance to recover as quickly as possible.

"That's why the strategy agreed last night is so important, not just for us as a council but for all our communities across the borough."

Oldham's Covid Recovery Strategy will now be formally agreed at the next Full Council meeting, to be held on 14 July.

Read the full document online here.

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