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Leader's Blog

Hello and welcome to my blog! I'm Councillor Mike Connolly and I am the Leader of the Bury Council. Take a look at my latest blog entry to find out more about what I have been doing to help and support local residents.

Councillor Mike Connolly

On this blog I will provide a timely update on my work as Leader, this will include my work with other councils across Greater Manchester as part of AGMA and also details about how we are facing some of the financial challenges ahead.

If you would like to make a comment for consideration on the blog please use the link below.

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6 July 2015: I won't boycott Yorkshire just yet

As a good Lancastrian lad, it takes a tremendous amount of effort to head over to Yorkshire and even more to come back with a glowing report of the place.

But it's true - I thoroughly enjoyed my time in Haworth the other day; so much, in fact, that I even had my shorts on. I'm just sorry I missed their recent ukulele festival.

Bury Hospice Party in the Park

Back on home turf, and great time was had by all at the Bury Hospice Party in the Park. You can tell by this picture, where I'm meeting a couple of pink ladies.

Whitefield and Unsworth Township Forum meets today (Tuesday 7 July) - why not come along and play a part in local democracy? The meeting starts at 6.30pm at Whitefield Methodist Church.

You're also invited to the council's cabinet meeting on Wednesday (6pm, Bury Town Hall) where, among other things, we'll be discussing important matters such as social care modernisation, services for young people with disabilities, and grants to support carers to remain in paid work. You can read the agenda here: Cabinet meeting 8 July 2015

More serious business arrives later this week when leaders across Greater Manchester will be discussing civil contingencies. I'm taking the lead for this, now that I'm chairing the region-wide police and crime panel.

Marvin Nash, Nationwide Interiors

I enjoyed a recent visit to Nationwide Interiors, who are based in Wellington Street in Bury. Business is vitally important to the success of our borough. I'm pictured with company director Marvin Nash (picture here), and you can read more about the company here: Nationwide Joinery

Our future also depends on schools, and I'm especially looking forward to judging the East Ward's Got Talent contest at the Bury primary school where I'm chair of governors. They're already calling me the next Simon Cowell, which I'm not convinced is a compliment.

The week finishes on a lighter note, with the Bradley Bowling Competition on Friday at the Welly community cafe. Why not come down to Manchester Road Park and join in? And on Sunday, it's the Rainbow March through Bury town centre in support of tolerance and equality - all the details are here: My News Desk - Walking rainbow campaign

22 June 2015: Bands on the run 

Went to Bury Bandemonium on Saturday, and it was great to see so many brass bands playing in the town centre. A big 'thank you' to event organiser Andy Taylor, and here's a picture of the GM Police Band in Kay Gardens.

Bury Bandemonium - GMP Band

On Wednesday (24 June) the council meets to grant Freedom of the Borough to three of our community stalwarts - Mick Jelley, Lt Col Eric Davidson and Yvonne Moore. All thoroughly deserve the award, which is the highest civic honour that we can bestow. Why not tune in live and watch the ceremony? Digital Tree will be streaming the meeting from 7pm at this link: Digital Tree - Bury Council meeting - live stream / last meeting

Today I'm at the funeral of Jacqui Young, a community activist and stalwart for many years, and the sister of former council leader Colin Jones. My deepest sympathies go to all her family and friends.

Later this week I'm having my regular meeting with Job Centre Plus, and on Thursday it gives me great pleasure to be at the first turf-cutting of the new Elton High School building, which is a long-awaited and important moment in the school's history. Then I'll be at East Ward Primary where I'm chairing a governors meeting, and on Friday we've got AGMA in Oldham, which will be addressed by the new interim mayor for Greater Manchester, Tony Lloyd.

Onto next week, and we'll be deciding who will be the next permanent chief executive of the council. This will be voted on by the full council when it meets on Wednesday (1 July). Again, it's being streamed live, so tune in again to Digital Tree at: Digital Tree - Bury Council meeting - live stream / last meeting

Mike and Tamoor Tariq

And finally, a light-hearted moment from a recent visit I made to the new Pilot Mill retail outlet with Cllr Tamoor Tariq. There's a gym upstairs, so Tamoor thought he'd get the boxing gloves on and give me a whack. Lots of people have wanted to do that over the years, but really - I'd only just made him deputy cabinet member for health and well-being. Ungrateful young pup!

15 June 2015: They seek him here....

It must be nice to be an international man of mystery - trotting round the globe, in all sections of society, and disappearing before the bill arrives.

Alas, my reputation must precede me. We were taking the rays in Benidorm the other week - not to mention a few tasters at the world's greatest gin and tonic bar - and took a trip on their tram system (a whole £1 for a ticket, folks) from nearby Altea (pictured).

Altea in Benidorm

Anyway, I thought I'd turn round to one chap who was talking on the tram. "Ee, that's a good Lancashire accent," I said to him, in my best 'hands across the water' mode. "All reet Mike," he answered in kind. "I'm from Radcliffe, and I know who you are!"

It's been said before, but it's true - wherever you go in this world, you will find someone from this fair borough of ours.

Back in sunny Bury, and it's Youth Cabinet tonight. This is an excellent initiative, encouraging our young people to get involved in democracy and bring their concerns to our attention. Later today I'm recording an interview with Tower FM for the upcoming Made in Bury Business Fair, which takes place on Thursday. This is a massive event, the biggest in the North West, and it's going to be awesome. Details here: Made in Bury - Business Fair

We're shortlisting for a new chief executive of the council tomorrow, and then I'm off to Dunelm Mill in Radcliffe for the official launch of their major newly refurbished store. This is great news for local jobs and services.

More shortlisting on Wednesday, this time for the council's STAR awards, where we formally thank our staff for 'going the extra mile' in providing public services.

We welcome Olympian athletes to the borough on Friday when they will officially open the new Radcliffe Leisure Centre. We promised we'd provide quality facilities when the existing centre was too badly damaged in a storm to re-open, and that's just what we've done. There's a big open day for all the family at the Spring Lane site on Saturday: details here: Radcliffe Leisure Centre

Also on Friday, I'm at Holy Cross College for their Daughters of the Cross celebration, and the weekend brings us Bury Bandemonium - you must come along, and hear all the brass bands playing across the town: Bury Bandemonium 2015) - and then Prestwich Carnival on Sunday. If I can make it to all these events without being recognised, I'll let you know. But somehow I doubt it.

8 June 2015: Beginning to see the (Northern) light

I was at the official opening of a new exhibition of Finnish art on Friday at Bury Art Museum. Apart from my good self, this was attended by a number of dignitaries including the Finnish ambassador to the UK, Pekka Huhtaniemi. It was a pleasure to meet him, even though my Finnish is a bit rusty (under-statement of the week). Why not go along and see the show? The details are here: Gallery feature exhibitions

Mike with the Finnish ambassador Pekka Huhtaniemi

It was also a pleasure to meet Peter Weidenbaum at the launch of the new Pilot Mill trading shop and to meet Denzel Hart of Warth Fold and Redvales sports club and see what a tremendous amount of work he does for sport in the community. We're pictured along with the Mayor and her consort, Cllr Stella Smith and her husband John, plus Cllrs Shaheena Haroon and Tamoor Tariq.

I've also been busy at East Ward Primary School, where I'm chair of governors, interviewing for an acting deputy head teacher.

Mike with Peter Weidenbaum at Pilot Mill

The council's cabinet meeting is on Wednesday (10 June), starting at 6pm in the town hall. You're very welcome to come, and there's lots to discuss: strategies for adult education, Burrs Country Park, fostering, planning and township forums. The agenda is here: Cabinet agenda 10 June 2015

This is the start of National Carers Week, and we're right to celebrate and thank all those who do so much good work looking after families and friends. It's fair to describe them as unsung heroes. We're holding a range of events in Bury, and you can find details of them by looking at the What's On section of the Bury Directory at: The Bury Directory

We're all proud of Bury in Bloom, and the phenomenal effort that residents and volunteers put into making the borough flourish. Did you know you can win prizes in two related competitions, one for gardeners and one for young people to design a poster? For more details, and to enter the competitions, click here: Bury in Bloom competitions

1 June 2015: Brassed off - but only a bit

Bah, humbug. After all the anticipation, I missed the band contest in Oldham on Friday for the first time in decades. What was I doing that was so important? I was helping to choose an interim mayor for Greater Manchester.

The ten GM leaders were all there, and the voting went on for ever. Prudence prevents me from revealing what was discussed, but in the end we plumped for Tony Lloyd, which I was glad about because he was my choice. It's always good to be on the winning side.

Back on home turf, and it was a pleasure to visit The Derby High recently for the official opening of their new sports centre, a fantastic facility which I'm sure the youngsters will enjoy and make the most of. I'm pictured here, along with head teacher Alyson Byrne and her staff and pupils. Later this week I'll be at East Ward Primary, where I'm chair of governors.

Mike at Derby High new sports hall

Tomorrow I'll be meeting our Super 6 intake of young people who have recently joined the council under our Backing Young Bury project. I'm also looking forward to meeting Denzel Hart later this week to see all the good work that his Warth Fold and Redvales Community Sports Club does.

The closing date for a new permanent chief executive of Bury Council was on Friday. We'll be drawing up a long list on Wednesday, and a final decision will be made by full council on 1 July. Sorry, but if you want a list of runners and riders you'll have to ask Ladbrokes.

It's Bury East Township Forum on Thursday (4 June), and you're all welcome to come along and help play a part in improving our local community. The meeting starts at 7pm at the Metro Christian Centre in Parkhills Road. We'll be having 'round table' discussions on the Local Plan, and we're also looking for people - particularly young people - to sit on the forum's advisory board.

The success of local businesses is a major priority for this council, and I'm meeting Peter Weidenbaum on Friday at the relaunch of the Pilot Mill factory shop.

Let's end this week with a spot of culture - no brass bands, but a new exhibition of Finnish art at Bury Art Museum. The official opening is on Friday, and among the guests will be the Finnish ambassador to the United Kingdom, Pekka Huhtaniemi. I'm mixing in high places indeed - must remember to tell Tony Lloyd. The details of exhibition are here: Gallery feature exhibitions

26 May 2015: With my little stick of... fruit kebab

Highlight of my week, at least on the culinary front, came at Clarence Park at the grand finale of events to mark national Dementia Awareness Week. The speciality was a fruit kebab, and very nice - albeit uncomfortably healthy - it was too. It was a great event, with ukulele music galore making me think there was a George Formby revival taking place. I'm not quite sure what we're doing in this picture; perhaps I'd had one too many fruit kebabs.

Mike at Clarence Park during Dementia Awareness Week

On a serious note, I was shocked to hear of the death of Julie Higson, who served as a local councillor for years. My condolences to all her family and friends. I'll pay my respects at her funeral tomorrow at Radcliffe Crematorium.

I'm looking forward to meeting the Super 6, aka the latest batch of recruits we've taken on under our Backing Young Bury initiative. I'm sure they will make a great success of their time here. I've always said it - just give young people a chance, and they will show you how talented they are. You can read more about BYB here: Backing Young Bury

With my Greater Manchester cap on for asylum, I'm meeting the region-wide team tomorrow to talk about something that is an important concern for so many.

Later this week I'll be meeting Dawn Fidler, a remarkable and courageous woman who is also know as the mum of Super Josh. I'm also making a video to publicise the Made in Bury Business Fair that's coming up on 18 June at the Castle Armoury in Bury. More details here Made in Bury - Business Fair

Then on Friday it's the regular meeting of AGMA (Association of Greater Manchester Authorities) where representatives of the ten GM districts will appointing the new interim mayor of Greater Manchester. Later I'll be paying my annual pilgrimage to Oldham to see the Saddleworth Band Contest. I've not missed this for 25 years, and it's a fantastic event.

Mike and Natasha Franklin on IDAHOT Day

Concluding again on a culinary note, it was a pleasure help raise the rainbow flag outside Knowsley Place in Bury on IDAHOT Day (International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia). I had the job of judging the rainbow cakes, as you can see here, where I'm pictured with Natasha Franklin, chair of the council's LGBT group.

11 May 2015: It's good to be back with you again - isn't it, Ronnie?

Hello everyone, and I'm delighted to be back with you again following the elections. You don't get rid of me that easily, you know.

Actually, may I just say a big 'thank you' to the voters of East Ward for your vote of confidence in re-electing me for another four-year period (and by a substantial majority too, may I say). As a Bury man born and bred, it's a great honour to be a councillor in my home town. I'll do everything I can to represent all residents, regardless of your politics.

Back in the council chamber, we're electing a new Mayor of Bury for the 2015/16 year. The meeting is next Wednesday (20 May), and the person being proposed as our new 'first citizen' is Councillor Stella Smith. It's being streamed, so why not tune in live and watch it at Digital Tree - Bury Council meeting - live stream / last meeting

I'm looking forward to IDAHO Day next Monday (18 May), the international campaign against homophobia. The main reason I'm looking forward to it, though, is because I'm judging the cake competition. It may be a serious matter, but we can still have fun, and the thought of all these rainbow-coloured cakes is making my mouth water.

Two candidates have declared their interest in becoming the interim mayor of Greater Manchester, and they'll be presenting their case to Bury councillors at the town hall this Friday (15 May). Again, why not tune in live and see what questions we ask them and how they answer them? It starts at 2.30pm, and you can watch it via AGMA - Mayoral candidates live stream

Finally, it gives me great pleasure to cut the first sod at the Fire Service's new training complex at Daisyfield next Monday (18 May). This will be a super centre which will provide firefighters from across the country with the expert training that we all rely on them for. Lives, literally, are at stake.

24 March 2015: Hope springs eternal

Times may be tough, but we're continuing to invest in Bury and make the very most of the many attractions our fair borough has to offer.

Take Bury Market, for instance. Yet again, this 'jewel in the crown' has won the Market of the Year award, a thoroughly deserved accolade. My thanks go to the market team and all the traders for their work in making the market such a tourist draw. We've also done our bit by creating a coach drop-off point on the market, which should make it even easier for shoppers. I'm pictured celebrating the award with the traders.

Mike with market traders

On a similar topic, we've recently launched the Visit Bury website, which has details of all the important venues and events taking place in Bury. There are many good things happening in Bury, and we want to world to know about it. You can view the Visit Bury website here: Visit Bury

It gave me great pleasure to sign the Declaration of Hope last week, along with local faith leaders. Mutual respect, understanding and tolerance are the ways we can overcome our problems, not through racism, bigotry or fundamentalism.

Young people know this more than anyone, which is why I love going back to school. I'm at a meeting of the East Ward Primary School governors alter this week, and I'm visiting St Luke's Primary to meet Melanie Michael, their new head teacher. I'm proud of our schools in Bury - in fact, we all are. Times may be tough indeed, but we should always give our children the best possible start in life.

Next Wednesday (1 April) is the last full council meeting of the municipal year. It starts at 7pm at Bury Town Hall, and you're very welcome to come along. Alternatively, why not tune in and watch it live? The link is here: Digital Tree - Bury Council meeting - live stream / last meeting

16 March 2015: Zero tolerance - of zero tolerance

In the vast scheme of things, this planet is a minuscule pebble on a million-mile beach, and our lives are even smaller. So why do some people feel compelled to waste their precious few breaths on the promotion of racism and bigotry?

Sorry to get this deep in a blog, but it's why I am delighted to be joining colleagues and faith leaders tomorrow to sign a Declaration of Hope. This will demonstrate our commitment to tackling intolerance, especially, given recent events, involving anti-Semitism and Islamophobia. Hatred of whole communities is not the answer to the very real problems that do exist.

On the subject of reaching out to people, I've spent a few days in Middlesbrough (ho ho). We in local government carry our 'peer reviews' on each other to make sure we're up to date with the latest best practice, and I've been there to help review their social care services.

I'll be at the Serious Crime HQ in Manchester - the location is secret, folks - for a briefing, with my Greater Manchester crime and police hat on. And then it's the launch of The Bury Directory, a new publication with information on a huge range of services and events in Bury. For all the details, see The Bury Directory

Later I'll be joining students at Bury College who, with Barclays Bank, are doing a 'prepare for work' project, and then it's off to East Ward Primary School (where I'm chair of governors) to shortlist for a new head teacher.

Mike with Scott Richardson of Bury Lions

On Wednesday I'm meeting Gilllian Fairfield, the new chief executive of Pennine Acute, and I'll also be speaking to Glen Thomas, the chief executive of Bury FC, and members of the Halle board.

If you live in East Bury, you're all invited to attend Wednesday's (18 March) meeting of Bury East Township Forum. It  starts at 7pm  at Redvales Children's Centre, and the agenda is here: Bury East Township Forum 18 March 2015

Finally, it was a pleasure to recognise all the good work that the Lions organisations do in local communities. I'm pictured here, with council chief executive Mike Kelly, meeting Bury Lions president Scott Richardson and raising the Lions flag outside Knowsley Place.

10 March 2015: Went to a wedding, and met a lifesaver  

When you're from Bury, there's never a dull day. I went to a friend's wedding in Newark at the weekend, expecting just the usual happy day out and the picturesque sights of this part of Nottinghamshire. But two events brought me straight back home.

Mike visits Complete Driveway Designs

Firstly, I met a relative of the happy couple who thought my accent was fantastic. It turns out that she used to live in 'a place north of Manchester' which, of course, turned out to be Bury. And then I got chatting to a fascinating fellow from Leeds, who turned out to be the paramedic who climbed onstage in Manchester and saved the life of Ted Robbins from Phoenix Nights. It truly is a small world.

Back on home soil, and I enjoyed meeting local business Complete Driveway Designs, based in Ramsbottom. I'm pictured here with Tim Bergin, MD; Benjamin Foley, project manager; Wayne Quinton, MD; and council chief executive Mike Kelly. You can find out more about the company here: Complete Driveway Designs

A huge round of applause to the students of Holy Cross College. I went to see their recent show Chicago, and it was absolute fabulous. These young people have a bright future ahead of them, no doubt.

Mike on Commonwealth Day

We've also been marking Commonwealth Day, which you can see from this photo, by flying the flag outside Knowsley Place. I'm pictured with chief executive Mike Kelly, deputy council leader Rishi Shori, and the Mayor of Bury, Councillor Michelle Wiseman.

17 February 2015: Purple reign, purple reign

Great news - we've become the only town centre in Greater Manchester to win coveted Purple Flag status and one of only a handful in the North West.

Purple Flag is similar to the Green Flag for parks and Blue Flag for beaches, and aims to raise the standard and broaden the appeal of town and city centres between 6pm and 6am.

Mike at Purple Flag awards

We were assessed on a huge range of criteria: from cleanliness and safety to the range of attractions and events, showing we have a high quality environment and strong partnership working with local pubs, restaurants, entertainment operators and the police.

It's further evidence of how much work and investment has gone into making the town centre a thriving place to be. I'm pictured here at the awards ceremony with (far left and right) Richard Guiney and Carmen Cronin from Purple Flag, plus Bury licensing chair Cllr David Jones and council staff Liz Gillan and Andrew Johnson.

At the weekend I'll be at the opening of the Bury Photographic Society exhibition at Bury Art Museum, and I always look forward to that as it's a fantastic show. Why not drop in and have a look at some of the great work they do?

Mike with police chief Chris Sykes

I've also been meeting divisional police commander Chris Sykes, who I'm pictured with here, along with divisional superintendent Karan Lee and council chief executive Mike Kelly. This was followed by meeting police and crime commissioner Tony Lloyd when he came to Bury to talk about the force's budget.

The council will be setting the budget for 2015/16, and the level of council tax, when it meets next Wednesday (25 Feb) at 7pm. Why not tune in and watch it live, courtesy of our friends at Digital Tree UK who will be streaming the meeting? You can watch it here: Digital Tree - Bury Council meeting - live stream / last meeting

9 February 2015: Car trouble, oh yeah

Someone's got it in for my wallet these days. My new glasses have turned out to be more complicated than we thought, and it's going to cost me the thick end of £500.

On top of that, my car - which I've only had for six months - has been towed away for major repairs following a collision near the bottom of Walmersley Road. The police showed up and breathalysed us, which - being the responsible Czar for crime and police in Greater Manchester that I am - I passed. I'm now in a tiny courtesy car, not ideal for my frame.

Back to business, and I'll be heading for Dublin tomorrow night for the Purple Flag awards, which is where they reward towns who have a thriving and safe night-time economy. Fingers crossed we're in the frame.

Mike with Scott Richardson

The council's cabinet meets on Wednesday at 6pm, followed by the overview and scrutiny meeting at 7pm when we'll be closely analysing our financial situation. Both meetings are open to the public, and there is time for public questions too. The council as a whole will set next year's budget on 25 February.

On Friday I'll be at the official opening of Bury College Sports Centre, and having my regular liaison meeting with the borough's MPs. I've also been having productive meetings with Scott Richardson, president of Bury Lions Carnival Committee - we're pictured here, along with deputy president Malcolm Evans, council chief executive Mike Kelly and executive director of resources Mike Owen.

2 February 2015: How much???

Those of you with 20/20 vision don't know how lucky you are. I'm off to get an eye test and some new glasses today, but I've already had a heart attack looking at the prices. Hundreds of pounds, for a basic life essential. Not that I'm advocating a return to the old NHS 'one size fits all' days, when your choice was limited to brown or black frames. But it's still a dear do, getting glasses.

Anyway, you didn't have to look hard to see some real heroes in action when I went to the annual Bury divisional police awards at the Fusilier Museum. It was a proud occasion, recognising the commitment and  professionalism of our local constabulary.

Our local businesses are vital to the borough's economy, and I had the pleasure of visiting Tier 1 Recycling in Whitefield this afternoon. They recycle old computers for re-use. I'm pictured with managing director Jonathan Rose, and you can find out more about the company here:Tier 1 recycling

Mike with Jonathan Rose, MD of Tier 1

On a similar topic, tomorrow I'll be speaking at the Business Growth Hub Breakfast meeting at the town hall, all about ways in which we can help local companies to flourish. More details are here: Business Growth Hub - Events

Then it's off to the big city for a board meeting of the Halle. I'm not sure how I got this job. I must have left the meeting when they were dishing out these responsibilities, and come back to find I'd been appointed Cabinet Minister for Classical Music or something. It must be because I like Gilbert and Sullivan.

Hopefully I'll be back in time for the Bury East Township Forum, which starts at 7pm at St Paul's Primary School in Porritt Street. How to improve local health services is top of the agenda - why not come along and have your say? Bury East Township Forum 3 Feb 2015

Staying with Bury East, and I'll be visiting East Ward Primary School on Wednesday, where I'm chair of governors. It's a cracking school - well, I would say that - and I always look forward to going there.

Lord Bew is coming to town on Thursday as part of work being done by the Government's committee on standards in public life. I'll be speaking to him with my regional 'police and crime' hat on.

Then I'll be meeting Scott Richardson, chair of Bury Lions Carnival Committee, about their plans for this year's carnival, and discussing regular policing matters with Bury's 'top cop', Chief Superintendent Chris Sykes. Assuming I've recovered from my specs bill.

26 January 2015: Our man in Havana

Supporters of Bury FC will know about the Shakers fanzine Where Were You at The Shay?, named after a particularly low turnout at an away game. As I've recently been in Cuba, I thought I'd have my picture taken next to an equally famous landmark. I'm calling it Where Were You at the Che? (Boom, boom)

Back on home turf, not to mention a more democratic one, and it was a pleasure to meet adult students from Bury College who are doing a course which looks at how local government works. I was happy to give them a tour of the town hall and talk about our rights and responsibilities as citizens. They had some very good questions for me, too. I hope I was able to answer most of them satisfactorily.

Mike in Cuba

I had a great meeting yesterday at the Jinnah Centre, meeting representatives of our Muslim community and talking about the terrible events in Paris recently. We mustn't allow extremists who carry out atrocities in the name of religion to foster prejudice against true believers who follow the path of peace. What happened in France had nothing to do with religion; it's murder, pure and simple.

Talking about faith, tolerance, and the need to remember and learn from the past, I'm proud to be at the borough's Holocaust Memorial Day event tomorrow (Tuesday) at Radcliffe Civic Suite. Young people, of all backgrounds, will be making music, giving readings, and hearing from survivors of the Holocaust and subsequent genocides, so that we do not forget the horrors that mankind can inflict on itself.  It's always a very moving experience.

On Wednesday it's the full meeting of the council. There will be lots to discuss, and there are two debates: one about lowering the voting age to 16, and the other about the appointment of a successor to the council's chief executive, who is stepping down in March. The meeting starts at 7pm and is open to the public. Now that we live stream these meetings, why not tune in and watch the debates as they happen? Digital Tree - Bury Council meeting - live stream / last meeting

Thursday I'm at the Fusilier Museum in Bury for the Greater Manchester Police divisional awards night. It's only right that we should be proud of our boys (and girls) in blue who do so much, often in dangerous circumstances, to keep our community safe.

12 January 2015:  Batting for Bury

You know me, I'm never one for an argument (cough). But I'm just about to have a telephone conference with local government minister Chris Hopkins, about the amount of funding we're getting from the Government.

Rest assured I'll have a few things to say about this, because it's no fun having to make another £16 million of cuts to council services, the services that the people of Bury need and rely on. As a Bury man born and bred, I can promise you I'll be doing all I can to get us a fairer deal.

In the meantime, I enjoyed my regular meeting with Rob Isherwood from Bury Chamber of Commerce. We discuss all manner of ways in which we can support local businesses, which are so vital to our economy. We're also looking forward to the next Made in Bury businesses awards which, if you remember, was a massive success last year and the biggest of its type in Greater Manchester. We're pictured here, with council chief executive Mike Kelly:

Mike with Rob Isherwood and council chief executive Mike Kelly  

I've also been discussing plans for tackling crime across the region, with my Police and Crime spokesman hat on.

On a personal note, I went to my brother's graveside in Anglesey at the weekend to mark the first anniversary of his death. These occasions are always sad, but the weather was so terrible and just added to the general gloom. I don't mind telling you I was glad the service was brief. I'm sure he's resting in peace.

6 January 2015: To everything there is a season

Hello everyone, and welcome to the new year. I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas and Hogmanay, surrounded by those you love. As usual we indulged far too much in our household over the festive period, and I'm sure some of you did too. Now we're back into the cold reality of 2015 - but at least the nights will now be getting longer.

I'll be getting back into the swing of things this week by meeting Rob Isherwood from the local Chamber of Trade, and discuss all manner of ways we can promote local enterprise which is so important to the success of the Bury economy and society as a whole. I'll also, with my Greater Manchester hat on, be chairing the region-wide Police and Crime steering group.

On a personal note, the week will end on sadly. Tomorrow is the first anniversary of my brother's death, so we're all travelling to Anglesey at the weekend for a family mass in memory of him.

You might like to know that I, and colleagues in my group, decided not to send Christmas cards but instead raised £250 and assembled food parcels for Porch Box, which provides invaluable help for some of the borough's neediest residents.

Mike with Mike Kelly

Finally, I want to bid a fond farewell to the council's chief executive Mike Kelly, who is stepping down shortly following his 65th birthday. Mike has never stopped working for 50 years, since leaving school to become an apprentice bricklayer and gradually rising up the ranks to become the council's most senior officer in 2011.  As you will have seen on this blog, Mike has accompanied me on countless visits to local business and 'movers and shakers' over the three-plus years I've been council leader, as part of his determination to improve Bury for all who live, work and study here.

Mike has been an outstanding public servant, successfully steering the council through a number of major financial and organisational challenges, while maintaining effective front-line services amid unprecedented budget cuts. I wish him the very best in his future plans.

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