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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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.
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.