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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17 July 2017: It's all about the youth, you know
Sound the cliche alarm - today's young people are tomorrow's future. Apologies, but things only become clichés because they're true. And I certainly make no apologies for the work we're doing with young people, both in Bury and across Greater Manchester.
I had the great pleasure of attending an event in Manchester last week, organised by Youth Focus, to discuss the great ideas for a Youth Combined Authority, as announced by Andy Burnham, the Mayor of Greater Manchester. Andy wants this authority to effectively advise him on how policies for the whole region affect young people, which ties in with the work I'm doing as the mayor's lead on young people in GM (and with my Bury Life Chances Commission). It was also good to see Bury's Member of Youth Parliament, Numair Khalid, there, along with representatives of the council.
Linking with this, today we host a #YouthStandTogether meeting at the Elizabethan Suite in Bury. The important thing is that it's not just about having meetings and talking, it's about how young people can genuinely take part in practical actions and positively influence society; about how we turn ambitions into reality, and the support that Andy Burnham's people can give to make this happen.
Talking about Numair - he goes to Parrenthorn High school, and I've got some news about that. There will be a report going to the cabinet next week proposing that the school is expanded to cater for the huge demand for places. I'll have more on that if the proposal is agreed, but it's good news for Bury to know that our schools continue to be so popular and turn out students of the calibre of Numair.
3 July 2017: Normal service resumes
Hello everyone, and welcome back to my blog. Yes, it has been a while! The reason I've not been posting recently is due to rules about using council facilities in the run-up to elections, a period often referred to as purdah. Initially I was meant to be offline only for the GM Mayoral poll, but then the PM called a snap General election and that kept us all off the airwaves for even longer.
Elections aside, there has been no shortage of events since my last blog, and sadly too many of them have been tragedies that have shocked and dismayed us all. Our hearts went out to the families of those killed and injured in the terrorist attacks in Manchester and London, and I offer my deepest sympathies to all those affected.
And then, there was the dreadful Grenfell Tower fire in London. As the inquiries begin in the aftermath, I want to assure residents that, in Bury, the council does not own or manage any properties that are classified as high-rise, and the aluminium composite style of cladding used at Grenfell has not been used on any of our housing. No one can be complacent, however, and we recognise the risks that fire can create in any accommodation. On behalf of the council, Six Town Housing carry out annual fire risk inspections, and we continually invest in improvements to reduce the risk of fire.
You may have read that the new GM mayor Andy Burnham has appointed me as part of his leadership team to lead on a huge range of issues which affect young people. I'm delighted to have this portfolio, which will complement the work I've been doing in setting up the Bury Life Chances Commission. And congratulations to my cabinet colleague Tamoor Tariq, who is the new chair of the GM police and crime panel. It looks like Bury is punching well above its weight, and has a top table seat in these important matters.
My congratulations also go to Rainbow Cosmetics in Whitefield who have just won a Queen's Award for Enterprise (International Trade), which is a tremendous achievement. You can find out more about the company at Rainbow cosmetics.
Congratulations also to the Reverend Dave Thomson, C of E vicar in Ainsworth, following his appointment as the Borough Dean for the whole of Bury. I went to his licensing ceremony along with the mayor Dorothy Gunther (we're all pictured here).
I must also say 'well done' to our own staff. Our planners were shortlisted for a national award after dealing with 100% of applications on time, and our Reablement service has just been given the second top 'good' rating by the Care Quality Commission.
I'm pleased that we've been able to keep open four libraries, rather than three, following a comprehensive review of the service. It means that, wherever you live in the borough, there will be a library within a reasonable distance of your home. We will continue to work with local groups to examine the possibilities of keeping other buildings open, whether as libraries or as community venues. I accept that closing libraries is controversial, but the sad fact of life is that 'austerity' isn't just a political concept, it has real and unavoidable consequences on services that councils provide. It's a disgrace that 'austerity' seems to affect some parts of the UK more than others, yes?
Can I urge you to attend one of two meetings this month (11 July at the Derby High School, or 25 July at the Longfield Suite, Prestwich) called The Pitch, when you can vote for which community groups should be awarded up to £1,000 for local projects? All the details are at The Bury Directory - The Pitch.
Finally, the full council meets on Wednesday, starting at 7pm at the town hall. Among other things, we'll be debating plans to implement a deposit return scheme for bottles and cans, which would make us possibly the first in England to do so. You can watch the meeting live at New Digital Tree Media - Bury Council meeting - live stream / last meeting.
24 March 2017: Strength through unity
The dreadful events in London this week remind us how lucky we are to live in a society which, unlike many others in the world, is largely peaceful, democratic and tolerant. The attack also reminds us that we must stand together against those who seek to divide us and destroy our way of life. On behalf of the council, I offer my deepest sympathies to the families of those who died, and pray that those injured recover fully.
I'm pleased to announce that the council is sponsoring the Made in Bury Business Academy, following its 12-month pilot. This is aimed at supporting new businesses start-ups, and we must do all we can to encourage local entrepreneurship. I'm pictured at the launch with those who completed the first course. For more details, and how to join, go to: My News Desk - Funding Support for Bury's new start up businesses
On a related topic; Philip Collins, who I asked to head the Bury Life Chances Commission, is reporting back with his first findings on Monday. I'm looking forward to hearing his thoughts, as it's vital for future generations to link together the needs of education, skills, training and business.
Today I was at the opening of the new Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service's training facility in Bury. Again, it demonstrates the necessity of investing today to get results tomorrow.
That's another reason why we've been behind the new £8.5 million extra care scheme at the former Haworth Close site, which will provide affordable and specialist accommodation for the over-55s. If you want to know more about this, and to see a picture of me with the world's largest spade, go to: My News Desk - Work begins on £8.5 million extra care scheme
Meanwhile, congratulations to the six local groups who won funding for community projects in Bury East and Radcliffe following a public vote. Details here: My News Desk - Community groups win £5000 of funding
Today is the official announcement of the election for a Mayor of Greater Manchester, which will be held on 4 May. Also on the 4 May is a by-election for Bury Council, in Besses ward in Whitefield, following the recent resignation due to ill health of Alan Matthews. Alan was the longest serving councillor in Bury, having represented his constituents for 38 years, and he was also Mayor of Bury in 1989/90. My best very wishes to him in his political retirement.
Are you registered to vote? It's a quick and easy process. You can visit Gov.uk - Register to vote to download a registration form, and you will just need your date of birth and national insurance number. If you need to update your details, for example if you have moved house or changed surname through marriage, you can contact Bury's elections team: Elections and electoral registration
Due to rules around publicity in the run-up to elections, this will be my last blog until after the polls have closed on 4 May. Whatever your politics, please vote.
13 March 2017: Good things come...
Credit where it's due - we are to receive an extra £7 million for adult social care over the next three years. It won't eliminate the funding gap in social care, given the ever increasing demands on the service, but I'm glad the Government has listened to our pleas. Proves that some things are worth fighting for, even if it can seem a losing battle.
There's more good news, I'm happy to report. I was delighted to attend the opening of a new community pharmacy in the Besses area, called Jhoots. I'm pictured here with the mayor, Cllr Mike Connolly, and pharmacy manager Taskeel Khan.
And onto Ramsbottom Chocolate Festival. Contrary to some reports, the council is fully behind this festival, which goes from strength to strength. On one level, that's been the problem - so many people enjoy going there that is causes problems with overcrowding. But we're working with the organisers and look forward to seeing another hugely popular event this year.
I want to say a big 'well done' to one of our employees, Lucy Morris. National lobbying group Stonewall have chosen her as their North West Ally of the Year, in recognition of all the work she does to promote equality and opportunities. My congratulations go to Lucy and fellow members of our organisational development team.
Two more congrats: firstly, to Woodbank Primary School, who have just received an excellent Ofsted report; and also to the organisers of the first new artisan market in Prestwich, which was a huge success. More, please!
Finally, I want to mention a couple of things that I announced in the council's budget recently. We'll soon be drawing up plans to spend an extra £10 million on the borough's roads, which I know will be warmly welcomed by residents. We're also putting an extra £100,000 into tackling fly-tipping, caused by irresponsible people who don't care whose neighbourhood they blight. Remember, we will take action against perpetrators where we have evidence, so if you do have information, please report it at Report fly tipping.
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.