When I returned as Leader of Oldham Council in May, I made clear the aspirations I have for my hometown - aspirations I know are shared by so many of you who live and work here.
When I listen to residents, talk with community groups, and consult with local businesses, I know those same aspirations are shared across the whole borough.
Young people and their parents tell me they want the best opportunities to fulfil their potential. Families and community groups want clean streets, well-lit and safe neighbourhoods, and green spaces and parks to play. And local businesses want a skilled workforce to fill jobs, well designed thriving town centres to trade in, and good digital and physical infrastructure to connect Oldham with the region, the nation, and the World.
These shared aspirations are where the Council is focusing its energy – protecting and providing the quality core services Oldhamers deserve; improving the quality of life for all residents; and encouraging new investment, growth, and job creation across the borough.
Our shared ambition is to build a better Oldham where more people want to live, work and raise their families.
But residents also told me, they didn’t just want big ideas and plans – they wanted to see action. They wanted us to get to work straight away, that’s why I'm so proud that in my first 100 days in office, we've already started to deliver.
We've teamed up with award-winning developer Muse, led by a born and bred Oldhamer, who are now working with us to deliver a ‘once-in-a-generation transformation’ of our town centre, with up to 2,000 new homes.
This partnership will not only bring thousands of new homes, jobs and attractive green public spaces for Oldhamers to enjoy, it will also make our borough a more attractive and enjoyable place for you to shop, eat, drink, and spend your leisure time.
Work has recently been completed to make the town centre greener and more accessible too, with the summer opening of the new Hilton Square, while the redevelopment of Spindles and a new home for Tommyfield Market is quickly moving forward. Residents can see the progress being made live on our online stream.
Oldhamers tell me they are proud of our town’s history too, so significant buildings in the borough are also being brought into new uses with work ongoing at the Old Library and Royton Town Hall to create new community spaces for people to use and enjoy.
And my pledge to safeguard the future of theatre here in Oldham is also being realised - in just the last few days, a planning application has been submitted for the new £24m Oldham Coliseum theatre, and we're working closely with the new Coliseum board members and other cultural organisations in Oldham, every step of the way.
With a new town centre underway, acting as a beacon for the new Oldham we are creating, we are building a bright future, so I am determined to support our children and young people to give them the skills and best prospects to grow and prosper here in Oldham.
That's why I'm delighted our plans for Eton Star Oldham – a new free sixth form college – have also recently been approved by the Department for Education. This new opportunity in further education will open incredible academic choices to enable every child, wherever they live and whatever their background, to fulfil their potential.
We also recently unveiled a brand-new library, science block and sports pavilion, funded by the council, at North Chadderton, and we opened the first of our five Family Hubs across the borough which will provide parents and children of all ages with access to even more support, including an online one-stop shop for all services.
As well as the built environment, cleaner and greener neighbourhoods are important to us all.
That's why it’s been great to re-energise the work I had originally started with the council’s Don’t Trash Oldham campaign and move it to the next phase.
Many of you have told me about the amazing work the council is already doing to keep our borough clean as we crackdown on those guilty of fly-tipping and littering, and you are playing your part too, taking our recycling rates higher by 10% - the fourth highest improvement in the country.
Plenty of work is being done at the local level too. Across the borough, work is underway to plant a minimum of 1,000 new trees to increase Oldham’s overall tree cover and the council is working with community groups to transform our neighbourhoods, making improvements to local parks, like the bigger and better play area recently installed in Daisy Nook Country Park.
Everyone is impacted by the cost-of-living crisis and while we wait for a different and better approach from the central Government, we're proud to have been there for people who need us - such as when we stepped in to safeguard the future of a residential care home in Chadderton after it went into administration. Our efforts not only saved the jobs of more than 200 front-line carers and nurses but also prevented vulnerable residents with complex needs from being relocated outside the borough and away from their families.
There’s plenty to be excited about and feel proud of in our town, and we are delighted to be putting Oldham back on the map with big events such as the Tour of Britain and the borough’s half marathon returning after several years away - occasions which will attract new visitors to our borough and showcase Oldham at its best.
So, while much has been achieved over the last 100 days, I'm most excited about our future plans and look forward to getting on with the job and delivering for you over the months and years to come.
Councillor Arooj Shah
Leader of Oldham Council