My name is Rishi Shori and I was elected Leader of Bury Council in 2016. It is an honour and a privilege to serve the town in which I was born and raised.
I want Bury to be one of the best boroughs in Britain in which to live, work, and study.
My five main priorities:
- Increase the supply of affordable housing
- Make Bury the business / entrepreneurial capital of the North West
- Improve our educational and training offer
- Tackle the steep health inequalities that exist within Bury and improve the population's health and wellbeing
- Protect and promote our local environment.
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14 February 2017: Making sure that opportunity knocks
Giving our young people a chance to show their talents and realise their potential has to be a top priority for all of us.
That's why I was delighted that the council helped with the recent student elections to the UK Youth Parliament. It's very encouraging to see so many teenagers wanting to get involved in their communities and playing their part in democracy, raising issues at a national level.
As it turned out, it was a clean sweep for Prestwich. Numair Khalid of Parrenthorn High school was elected as Bury's MYP, and his two deputies will be Viktoria Ouomble from St Monica's and Bethanie Mortenson from Prestwich Arts College. My congratulations and best wishes to all of them. I'm pictured here with the three of them, plus council chief executive Mike Owen and the mayor, Cllr Mike Connolly.
On a similar topic, I want to flag up the fact that the Bury Life Chances Commission, which I set up last year, will be making its first report in March. We need to ensure that the needs of young people, education providers and businesses all link up, and I'm looking forward to seeing what commission chair Philip Collins comes up with.
Of course, young people can only truly achieve if there is a level playing field, where everyone has the opportunity to fulfil their potential. That's one of the many reasons why I was glad to join partners in the police and outside agencies during national Hate Crime Awareness Week. Everyone deserves respect, tolerance and the right to get on with their lives free from harassment or discrimination. I'm pictured with partners, and my thanks go to all five of the Bury organisations who won money from the Police and Crime Commissioner's office to promote these messages in our community: more details of that are here: My News Desk - Bury groups win police commissioner funds to tackle hate crime.
31 January 2017: Innovate, educate, inform
Already 2017 looks like being a challenging year, so it's good to know that many local companies are poised to meet those challenges.
It was fascinating to visit Datum Monitoring Services, who are based at Heap Bridge (I'm pictured with council chief executive Mike Owen and Rory O'Rourke from Datum). The device we are holding is an invaluable aid for building control teams; it attaches to the wall of an unsafe building you are working to repair, and lets you know of any sudden changes to the fabric of the structure. Intrigued? You can read more about Datum here: Datum Monitoring.
I also enjoyed visits to one of our most well-known companies, Tetrosyl, and also to plastics manufacturing company Thumb's Up in Dumers Lane (for more details, see BPF - Thumb's Up). We really do have some world class technology firms in Bury who are at the cutting edge.
Bringing together business, skills and education was my aim when I set up the Bury Life Chances Commission, and I am delighted that chair Philip Collins will publish his first report in March.
Amid the usual winter gloom, there are lots of good news stories in Bury right now. For instance, we've just started work on a £2 million refurbishment of Killelea House, which will enable people coming out of hospital to readjust and re-learn daily living skills so that they can live independently again and not have to be readmitted to hospital or go into residential care.
Our famous Bury Market has won yet another accolade - TripAdvisor say it's #1 for shopping in Greater Manchester, out of 147 attractions including the likes of the Trafford Centre, which is a mighty achievement.
Prestwich residents can play a part in local decision making at a special meeting held next Monday (6 February) at the Longfield Centre, starting at 6pm. No fewer than 14 local groups have applied for funding raised through the Parklife concerts, and you will vote to decide who gets the money. For all the details, see My News Desk - Prestwich needs your vote for Parklife funding.
I'll also take a minute to congratulate ourselves on our recent citation from Stonewall, who have placed Bury Council at number 51 in their Top 100 Employers list for the work we do to promote equality.
Can you help to give a teenager a loving home? Our fostering team has launched a new campaign to recruit more people and families who can make all the difference. For more information, visit Adopt and Foster - Bury or call 0800 955 5311.
I said 2017 would be challenging, and I know there has been a great deal of concern around issues ranging from our libraries review, the Greater Manchester Spatial Framework, and the NHS plans to close local Walk-in Centres. While I cannot wave a magic wand and make these problems go away - not when public services are being forced to make such massive cuts in their budgets - I will say that I share your concerns, and will always do what's best for Bury in what are the most difficult circumstances.
Finally, let's be honest: how many of us wanted to join the fire 'brigade' when we were younger? I got the chance to relive that moment when I visited the fire service's new training facility in Bury (I'm pictured with the crews here). A great day out, and another example of how Bury is continuing to lead the way.
19 December 2016: Trump, Brexit and me
It's fair to say that 2016 has been a momentous year. Who could have predicted Brexit, Donald Trump, Leicester City - and me becoming leader of the council?
I don't know about the rest of them, but it's been busy for me, since I had the honour of becoming one of the youngest council leaders in Greater Manchester in May.
As it's the last blog of the year, indulge me by letting me list some of the highlights of 2016 that sum up some of the qualities that make Bury such a great place to live, study and work in.
The first big issue for me since taking on the leadership was fracking. There are strong views on both sides, but I am glad that we took the lead and decided to ban fracking on council-owned land. I felt that there were too many concerns about the environment and people's health that had yet to be answered.
Bury has always enjoyed a good reputation for its schools, and it's important in today's world that education, skills and the needs of business and the economy are matched up more than ever. I'm proud of setting up the Bury Life Chances Commission, chaired by Times columnist Philip Collins, to work on these aims. By the way: congratulations to our young people who have just scored GCSE results above the national average, and 'thank you' to the schools and their staff.
Building a strong local economy is vital, and I want to say a big thanks to Debi and Phil Fellone who organised the recent Made In Bury Business Awards. We have a huge wealth of talent here in Bury, some of them global names, and we must do all we can to help them flourish.
Another awards ceremony I want to mention is the Pride of Bury, organised by Dawn Fidler and the Joshua Wilson Brain Tumour Charity. It shows how many kind-hearted and generous people are in Bury, working all year round to improve the lives and bring hope to others.
Talking about our community - wasn't it fantastic to see so many taking part in the town's first 10k Race for All? I may have been as far back as the St John Ambulance, but I'm delighted that this is set to become an annual event. Another great annual event in Bury now is the Walking Rainbow, to celebrate and promote equality and tolerance.
Community and business have joined together in Radcliffe. The local Business Group has funded special Remembrance tree lights, which will be permanently installed in the piazza. The lights are dedicated to the men and women of Radcliffe who have given their lives in the service of our country. It was a pleasure to meet them and veterans at the weekend dedication event.
On a sad note, we said goodbye to one of our own in Victoria Wood. I'm very happy that we will be helping to ensure that a memorial statue is to be installed here.
The year ends with yet more serious news; the fact that we will have to cut our budget by another £32 million over the next three years. I won't pretend that this will be easy, and it will have major repercussions for the way services are delivered in Bury. Please take time to read our proposals and give us your comments - the consultation closes on 31 January 2016. What I do know is that we're strong, resilient people, and we will adapt and survive.
On that relatively cheery note, I'd like to wish you all a Merry Christmas and a Happy Hanukkah, and hope that the festive season brings you everything you wish for.
12 December 2016: Too much monkey (suit) business
It was a pleasure to be a guest speaker at the Made In Bury Business Awards. This glittering occasion is now a regular fixture in the calendar, rightly celebrating the many achievements of our local companies and the huge contribution that they make to our economy and employment. My congratulations go to every one of them.
It also meant I had to dig out the old dinner jacket, so I thought I would strike a sufficiently grand pose, as you can see in this picture. And I hadn't even won anything! If you'd like to see the full gallery of pictures from the ceremony, see Made in Bury - Business awards gallery.
Talking about business, it's a source of great pride that so many firms in Bury are leading the way across the world. I'm thinking of companies such as MSL in Ramsbottom, who are world leaders in microbiological testing of personal care and household cleansing products, and precision engineers BEP Surface Technologies Ltd in Radcliffe. I enjoyed visiting Polyflor which straddles the border of Whitefield and Radcliffe , who lead the way in commercial floor coverings. I'm pictured with Greg Mulholland on the factory floor. These are just the type of businesses I want to keep in Bury and attract more of same. They are high quality businesses offering high quality well paid jobs to local people.
Just to bring you up to date on a few council matters. Members agreed last week to urge the Government to introduce a 9pm watershed on alcohol advertising, which we think would be a positive step in ensuring the health of future generations. You can read the full motion here: Notice of motion - Council meeting, Wednesday 30 November (Item 10.).
Also, we have just launched a public consultation on our proposed three-year budget for 2017-20. The bad news is that austerity is set to continue, and we're looking at making further cuts of £32 million over that period.
Another topic which has attracted a lot of attention is the Greater Manchester Spatial Framework, in which all ten GM authorities have to draw up plans on how to meet future population and industry needs. We've decided to hold a second public meeting about this for residents to see the plans and ask questions, which will be next Monday (19 December) at the Elizabethan Suite at Bury Town Hall. If you want to read the plans and make your comments, go to the Greater Manchester Combined Authority - Greater Manchester Spatial Framework web site.
On a cheerier note, I enjoyed visiting the Bury Active Women's Centre to present certificates. I'm pictured with some of the recipients. It's not all doom and gloom, you know.
23 November 2016: Taking care of business
As you know, it's a priority of mine and the council's to ensure that Bury has a healthy economy and that we do all we can to promote business and entrepreneurship.
Can I firstly point your attention to a national initiative called Small Biz Saturday, which takes place on Saturday 3 December? Small companies make up a major part of the business world, and vital to the local economy: Small business Saturday.
In the meantime, it was a pleasure to speak at the Business Growth Hub meeting at the Fusilier Museum recently. A number of firms were there, including Molygran from Radcliffe, who are specialists in custom polystyrene solutions. I took the opportunity to outline the work we are doing to support businesses through upskilling the local workforce, through such initiatives as the Bury Life Chances Commission that I set up. You can read more about Molygran here: Molygran.
The efforts of the local community are also vital, and I enjoyed meeting members of Springs Housing Association and walking around the estate to see the good work that they do. I'm pictured here with (from left) Janet and Roy Frost of the Springs Tenants Management Committee (Roy is the chair); Ray Wallis, director of the Springs; and councillors Judith Kelly and Shaheena Haroon.
Domestic violence affects both men and women and is a blight on our society. I give my wholehearted support to the latest project through the Police and Crime Commissioner's office to tackle this menace. Their 'yellow sofa' came to the Mill Gate at the weekend to publicise this, and I'm pictured with fellow councillors and workers. More about the campaign here: GMPCC news - Domestic abuse - does that sit right with you?
Today's young people are tomorrow's leaders. It was fun to take part in Takeover Day, welcoming members of Bury Youth Board to the town hall (pictured here) and answering a raft of questions about who I am, what the job entails, and what work the council does on behalf of our many citizens. I hope I got the answers all right!
The health and wellbeing of our community is another key priority for us, and I'd like to draw your attention to a couple of campaigns the health service and partners are running. Firstly, on antibiotics, and the need not to take them for viral conditions such as the common cold. Taking these drugs on the wrong occasion means that they will cease to work against diseases that we need them for, which will be one of the biggest threats to life that we know.
Also, our colleagues have also launched a campaign on ways we can keep well this winter, which is especially important for elderly and vulnerable people. Details are here: GMHSC - Health and Social Care.
Finally, the latest meeting of the full council takes place next Wednesday (30 November), and no doubt there will be a huge range of things to discuss and debate. The meeting starts at 7pm and you're very welcome to attend and ask questions. If you'd rather watch it live, the meeting is streamed at New Digital Tree Media - Bury Council meeting - live stream / last meeting.
7 November 2016: What's bin did and what's bin hid
You may have seen coverage in the national media over the last week about bins in Bury.
I went out with two of our environmental health officers (Danielle and Melanie, pictured here with me) to take a look at the work they do. I was disappointed, to say the least, at some of the fly-tipping that is going on. And it's nothing to do with three-weekly bin collections - this is people who dump mattresses, furniture and fridges in the street. You can't put those in your bin even if we emptied it every day of the week. (Here I'm pictured with a mattress).
To my shock, someone had actually dumped a whole van. Yes, a Mercedes van, in Albion Street. The back was packed full of old carpet, and they'd taken out the engine, kindly leaving us the rest. And it's no joke, because it's our taxes that have to pay to clear this up.
It's not the council which is dropping litter and fly-tipping; it is irresponsible people who don't care about their neighbourhood (or, more likely, your neighbourhood, because they don't want to soil their own doorstep). We will take action against these people where we can, but we do need your help in spotting and reporting them so we have the evidence we need.
As far as 'regular' waste is concerned, it was also concerning that some people were leaving out bags of drinks cans and plastic bottles. All of this can be recycled, so there's no need to leave this next to the grey bin - put it in the blue bin. Many of you are doing just that - our recycling rate is now at a record high, which is saving around £1 million a year in waste disposal costs.
This matters. We've had £65 million in cuts from the Government in the last six years, and there's another £32 million to come. In just four years, in 2020, we will receive no money whatsoever from the Government, meaning all our expenditure has to be raised from the council tax and business rates.
We want to spend what money we have on things like protecting vulnerable children and looking after our frail elderly citizens. Did you know that 40% of your council tax goes on social care like this? Less than 10% goes on bins and litter. (And before anyone asks; no, the £1 million savings doesn't go on Bury in Bloom - thanks to business sponsorship and the work of volunteer groups, this is practically cost neutral).
Bin collections will always be controversial, but we must reduce our waste and target our resources on those who most need our care. We do provide advice and help to people who may have difficulties disposing of their waste properly. The council does offer a bulky waste removal service, and people with large families can request an extra bin. Recycling may be a considered a nuisance by some, but it's absolutely vital if other services are to be maintained. All our info about bins, including weekly email reminders, is here: Rubbish and recycling.
Onto other matters, and the Met Office has just issued its first yellow warning of the winter, for snow tomorrow. All the details of our winter service, including gritting routes, are here: About our Winter Service.
Can I appeal to motorists to take extra care when driving in bad weather? We're supporting a national campaign by the road safety charity Brake, and you can too by taking their pledge: for more details see Road Safety Week.
Meanwhile, the council has been awarded Disabled Confident Employer Leader status by the Government. We want to ensure that everyone is given a fair chance in life, and not just when it comes to getting a job. I would urge other employers in Bury to have a look at this scheme and see if they can follow suit: details are here: Gov.uk - Disability Confident: how to sign up to the employer scheme.
Also helping to ensure people get the best start in life is the Bury Life Chances Commission. It wants to hear your views on how we can ensure that education, skills and the needs of business and employment can be tailored for the future. The Commission is inviting everyone to share their views at its next public meeting, which is next Wednesday (16 November) in Bury Town Hall. More details are here: My News Desk - Give us your views on improving people’s skills and job prospects.
Finally, I'm delighted that the council, its partners and local businesses have joined together to launch the Safe Places scheme. The first of its kind in the North West, this is expected to be particularly beneficial for residents who consider themselves vulnerable due to a learning disability, autism, Asperger's, dementia, physical disability or age. Again, this is what the council should be about - looking after our vulnerable people. You can read more about this scheme here: My News Desk - Safe place to protect vulnerable residents in Bury.