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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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 papers are at Budget 2017 to 2020 consultation, and 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. Please take part in the consultation and give us your views - you can read all the documents here: Budget 2017 to 2020 consultation.
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 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.
31 October 2016: Super Josh and super Bury
There's enough bad news in the world right now, so it's heartening to see so many good things happening in Bury.
I want to single out the Pride of Bury awards ceremony, which I had the honour of opening. Organised by Dawn Fidler and the Joshua Wilson Brain Tumour Charity, it was a superb occasion which makes us feel proud to be part of Bury and know that there are so many wonderful people in our borough who deserve recognition. I'm pictured with Michelle Delaney who, with her team, won the Our Community Hero award. For more pictures, and details of the award winners, visit their Facebook site at Facebook - The pride of Bury awards.
Meanwhile, Bury has won the Gold award in North West in Bloom for the 13th year in a row (and Radcliffe has again won a Silver Gilt). It's all down to the hard work of council teams and especially the huge band of local gardeners and community groups. Thanks to sponsorship from businesses, it's also practically cost-neutral. Bury will represent the region in the national awards next year.
I was also at the Homewatch conference at the Fusilier Museum recently, another example of how communities work together to keep us all safe, in the company of Bury Superintendent Rick Jackson.
There are a couple of campaigns running this week that I'd like to being to your attention. First, it's Big Energy Week, and we are among the ten Greater Manchester councils supporting a move by E.ON to help people to make energy savings by replacing their boiler. For more details, and to find out if you qualify for help, call the Freephone number 0800 508 8008.
The issue of Child Sexual Exploitation is also something we are urging the public to help us tackle, through the It's Not Okay project. Please get involved if you can - more details at Its not okay - Stop Child sexual exploitation.
Bury's heritage and tourism offer has again been to the fore, with the recent return of the famous Flying Scotsman. During its visit we opened the new East Lancashire Railway station at Burrs Country Park, which is the first major part of our 15-year strategy to improve the park and its facilities. I'm pictured with ELR board member Judith Kelly and the awesome Flying Scotsman.
Finally, great news for Radcliffe town centre. It's just been announced that supermarket giants Lidl are aiming to build one of their new flagship stores on the site of the former bus station. We've been working with them for a long time to encourage their investment into this area, which follows our previous refurbishments of Radcliffe town centre, including the new bus station and our investment into Radcliffe Market. Despite hard times, we have a lot to be proud of in our borough.
10 October 2016: Employment, skills and health
Did you know that 1 in 4 people in Bury of working age has a mental health difficulty?
Today is World Mental Health Day, and statistics like this show just how important it is to publicise the wide range of support services that are available to help people these days. There's loads of information and helpful contacts at The Bury Directory - World Mental Health Day.
Successful business is vital to this borough, and I recently had a meeting with Bury Chamber of Commerce about the council's priorities and the impact of Brexit. Can I also remind residents that we are hosting an Employment, Health and Skills event at Bury Town Hall next Wednesday (19 October), and you're welcome to drop in any time from 2pm to 7pm. More details are here: My News Desk - Huge range of opportunities at Employment, Health and Skills event.
Also vital to our borough is the strength of our communities, and it was a pleasure to attend the #LoveRadcliffe neighbourhood family fun day. I'm pictured with local resident Alice Gillard, who came along and had a great time, meeting many people and discovering the wide range of services and activities that are available to local people.
With an ageing population, and ever-rising demand on the NHS, it is crucial that we do all we can to look after ourselves and live a healthy life. Stopping smoking is the single biggest measure that smokers can take to improve their health so, on behalf of the council, I signed the local authority declaration on tobacco control. Our colleagues in the CCG did likewise, and I'm pictured here with Dr Kiran Patel, CCG chair and clinical lead; Stacey Arnold from Cancer Research UK; and Lesley Jones, Bury's director of public health. October brings Stoptober, the nationwide campaign to encourage smokers to quit, and professionals are there to help. You can contact your local Stop Smoking Team at Bury Lifestyle Service on 0161 253 7554 or by email at: email@example.com.
You'll have heard the news about fracking being allowed elsewhere in Lancashire. I'm very concerned that a council, as the local planning authority, can be over-ruled on matters of such importance. I'm also very glad that Bury Council took the decision to ban fracking on land it controls back in July.
The subject of fracking was definitely not mentioned during the phone calls I listened to at our Whittaker Street offices in Radcliffe, where I visited staff in our Customer Contact Team, but it felt like everything else was! Well done to our staff for dealing with so many and varied enquiries, and doing their utmost to find solutions and give advice. I'm pictured here, looking amused at one particular call.
Later this week I'll be meeting delegates from the English Expo, the festival of folk music that is now a staple in the Bury music calendar. I'll also be meeting the shortlisted candidates for the Made in Bury Business Awards, and hoping to see the Flying Scotsman when it comes back to the ELR from 13 to 16 October.
There's a lot going on in this borough.
28 September 2016: Giving all our people a decent life chance
It was a pleasure to be at the launch of the new Bury Life Chances Commission last week, which aims to improve people's skills, job prospects and help businesses.
We want everyone - schools, colleges and companies - to work together so that people of all ages and abilities can maximise their potential and employment opportunities.
When I first became Leader of the Council I made improving people's life chances one of my main priorities, but it will take all of us to make it work; as such, I am delighted that the commission is being chaired by former Bury man Phil Collins, columnist at The Times newspaper, who gave a great speech at the launch last week at Bury College.
Also at the launch were Andy Burnham, candidate for Mayor of Greater Manchester, and Debi Fellone, entrepreneur and Bury business owner. (We're all pictured here).
We already have one of the most highly skilled populations in Greater Manchester. With devolution, we need to build on that to create new opportunities, not just in Bury but beyond, becoming a hub of highly skilled people which will benefit those across the whole of the conurbation and wider.
I'm looking forward to working with the commission as it hears Bury's views and to hearing its recommendations.
Taking about Debi Fellone - the shortlist has just been announced for the Made In Bury Business Awards, which will be held later this year, and I am one of the judges. To see the nominees, and for all the details of the awards, go to Made in Bury - Shortlist for 2016 "Made in Bury" business awards.
Finally, don't forget that it's the #LoveRadcliffe family fun day this Saturday (1 October) at Bolton Road Park, from 11am to 4pm. Everyone is invited, and there are loads of activities, including a 'Bake Off' competition. Plus, you could win £200 of shopping vouchers simply for telling us what you think! It'll be great fun; why not come along? More details are at My News Desk - Win £200 of shopping vouchers.
19 September 2016: Run for one, run for all
What a great day that was! I'm talking about yesterday's first 10K Run for All in Bury, in which around 1,500 people - including me, and a number of other council folk - took part.
This is destined to become an annual fixture in the local calendar, and go from strength to strength in the coming years. In fact, I can confirm that the race will take place in 2017, and you can already sign up to take part at Bury 2017 - Event description. Firstly, it encourages Bury people to get involved in sport and improve their health; secondly, it raises the profile of the town and brings in visitors from miles around; and, perhaps most importantly, it raises a great deal of money for charity.
I've included two pictures here: one of me finishing the race (just to prove I did it - and ignore the time, there must have been something wrong with the clock) and another with Peter James Robinson of Radcliffe Rotary Club (who was marshalling the race) and Dawn Fidler, who runs the magnificent 'Super Josh' charity (for more details, go to Josh Wilson and #SuperJoshCharity)
At council last week, we agreed a motion calling on the local CCG to withdraw proposals to close local walk-in centres in Bury and Prestwich. These proposals have caused a huge amount of concern and controversy. I am also writing to the Government asking them to give the CCG a fair funding deal so that such proposals do not have to be considered. All this demonstrates the immense pressure that the public sector is under, and the lack of funding to provide what residents regard as essential services. You can read the CCG's plans and have your say here: Bury CCG - News: Public asked to share views on urgent care.
I want to mention the new Bury Life Chances Commission, which takes place at Bury College on Wednesday (21 September). This was my idea to bring together experts in education and business to ensure that our young people improve their chances of gaining qualifications, learning new skills and securing the best employment that they can. I'll have more details next week.
Finally, can you do something incredible - foster a child? We're backing the regional #youcanfoster campaign to give young people a stable family home. Across England, around 52,000 children and young people are in foster placements, 9,000 of them in the North West. The aim of this campaign is to dispel some of the misconceptions about children in foster care and about who is eligible to foster, and attract more people to step forward and find out more. For more details, go to You Can Foster. More information about fostering and adoption can also be found on our Adopt and Foster - Bury web site.