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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.

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8 September 2014: When Mike met Sally   

As a keen sportsman, but cursed with two left feet (and two left arms, come to that), I'm always in awe of those who get to the very top of their tree.

So I was delighted to meet Sally Gunnell OBE, Olympic gold medallist and athletics legend, when she came to Bury last week to support the I Will If You Will sports pilot we're running. We're pictured here, and more details of the programme are here: I will if you will

Mike with Sally Gunnell

As you know, the council has been proposing a number of changes to its services recently, some of which have attracted a great deal of interest. Changes to the waste collection service, for instance. This matter is going to be debated at full council on Wednesday (10 September), starting at 7pm at the town hall, prompted by the number of people who signed a petition about the new regime.  You can read the agenda here Council agenda 10 September 2014 and why not tune in live and watch the debate as it happens? Local company Digital Tree now live stream these meetings, and you can watch here: Digital Tree - Bury Council meeting - live stream / last meeting

Our local economy is of huge importance to everyone in Bury, and I'm continuing to visit as many firms as I can. I've recently been to Home Survey Reports Ltd, who are based in Frecheville Court, Bury. I'm pictured here with Gary Cleary, and you can read more about the company here: Home Surveys Ltd

Mike and Gary Cleary of Home Surveys Ltd

I also enjoyed a trip to Pilot Mill, which Baum Trading have taken over and turned into a new trading shop. It's an excellent addition to the borough and I'm glad that a productive use is being found for this landmark building. Later this week I'm going to CCM Motorcycles.

In the meantime, you might like to know that a new exhibition has been installed at Bury Sculpture Centre, and is now open to the public. This one has an 'East meets West' theme, and is a collaboration between artists from the UK and China. It links in with the Manchester Asia Triennial, a major cultural event in this region: details here: Manchester Asia Triennial

On Thursday, I'll be joining the mayor to meet those good people of Bury Blind Society, who have recently been presented with the Queen's Award for Voluntary Service. It's a superb achievement, and you can read more here about it:  Bury Blind Society news

I'm chairing the Greater Manchester Police and Crime Commission steering group later this week, and then it's the Made in Bury business awards sponsors dinner. It's at the drill hall, and I'm having to dig out the old penguin suit again. Details of the awards are here: Made in Bury Awards

1 September 2014: All in week's work

Last week's blog was pretty serious, and I'm afraid that the heavy duty stuff continues to dominate.

I had the pleasure of launching the Greater Manchester Alcohol Strategy on Friday. Now, many of us like a drink, and nobody wants to be lectured by politicians on the subject. But this strategy is very much focused on alcohol abuse, which is becoming a major problem for families in every part of our community. There are things we can do to raise awareness and provide people with help, which is what we hope to achieve here. I'm pictured at the launch, and you can read the strategy here: Greater Manchester Alcohol Strategy

Mike at the launch of the alcohol strategy

Disasters, floods, terrorism and riots - just some of the topics covered during my briefing session on Civil Contingencies. I'm now the spokesman on such matters for Greater Manchester, and it came as a surprise, after all these years in public service, to find myself having to be security vetted for this briefing. Which just goes to show how important these matters are.

Another important subject we're covering tomorrow is female genital mutilation, an illegal and horrific act which is taking place across this country and which must be tackled. I'm highlighting the issue to the media at Bury Town Hall, in the company of Tony Lloyd, Police and Crime Commissioner for the region.

I'll be at the council's cabinet meeting on Wednesday. As ever, there are major issues to be discussed, and I know that some of you have concerns about them. The meeting starts at 6pm at the town hall, and you can read the agenda here: Cabinet agenda - 3 September 2014

Later this week I'll be making business visits to Ethical Educational Enterprises Ltd in Bury, and then to Pilot Mill, to see the new trading shop of Baum Trading. The company has recently taken over this Bury landmark building, formerly home to Antler, which is good news for Bury and our economy. I wish them every success.

Mike with the new apprentices

On a happy note, today I'm welcoming the latest batch of apprentices who have joined the council. Nine of them in total, who will be working in various parts of the organisation. I wish them the very best as they start on their careers. We're pictured here. For more details about our Backing Young Bury project, click here: Backing Young Bury

Finally, it's off to the Bridgewater Hall, where I will be inducted onto the board as the new AGMA rep. They've told me to report to the artists' entrance, which I'm thrilled about. I might bring a violin-shaped case just to look the part.

27 August 2014:  If it wasn't for your Wellys....

Apologies for misquoting Billy Connolly in the headline, but I've just been to the official opening of the Welly in Manchester Road, Bury. And what an amazing place it is!

The bowling green and pavilion have been transformed by Bury Employment Support and Training (Bury EST) into a new community hub, cafe and training centre for disabled and disadvantaged people.  They've worked tirelessly with customers and volunteers to create these new facilities which should make the park more attractive and well used, and a real focal point for local people to meet. The building itself has been put together with  recycled materials, and I can report that they do a mean bacon butty. I'll making more detours to the Welly cafe on my way to the town hall in the morning - why not pay the centre a visit?

On to more serious matters, and it doesn't get more serious than the Serious Crime Division. With my 'crime commissar' hat on, I was given a tour of their top secret headquarters recently, and it's real heavy duty stuff. Strictly on a 'need to know' basis. I'm delighted that after so many years I am now deemed sufficiently important to need to know about such things.

My latest business visit took me to Paul Williams Funeral Directors - heavens, this blog is getting very serious indeed - and it was a pleasure to meet them. We're pictured here, and you can read more about the company at: Paul Williams Funerals

Mike with Paul Williams

I'll be visiting the Jinnah Centre in Bury later this week, when they hold a celebration event marking both Eid and Pakistan Independence Day.

More serious matters arrive on Friday, when I will be launching the Greater Manchester Alcohol Strategy with council leaders and partners from across the region. I don't want to sound like a killjoy, but alcohol abuse is something that has huge effects on society as a whole. The cost alone is enormous: £1.2 billion a year across  Greater Manchester.

Councils, the police and health services need to team up to tackle the causes and effects of alcohol abuse: looking at using licensing powers, protecting victims of domestic abuse, and using education to reduce levels of drinking generally. You can read the alcohol strategy here: Greater Manchester Alcohol Strategy

I want to congratulate all our students, both at A and GCSE level, who have recently received their results. The students, staff and parents, of course, have coped admirably with all the changes to the exam system  and to their credit achieved outstanding results. For students staying in the FE sector, good luck with your next challenge. For those students moving into the world of work and looking for an apprenticeship, check out the Employment Gateway, located in the Mill Gate Centre, at: Employment Gateway

I'll finish by thanking my partner for taking me to the Hearth of the Ram for my birthday (and paying for it). It's one of my favourite places, where the food and service are always excellent. Perhaps it's just as well this celebration took place before I launch the alcohol strategy....

18 August 2014: Bury my heart at wounded Leeds

Like any proud family member would, I'm delighted to announce that my eldest godson Liam has got the A-levels he needed and has been accepted by Leeds University to read economics. Not very far away, Leeds, so I fully expect him to pop home every weekend to get his washing done and ask 'Uncle Mike' for a sub. Students won't have changed much since I were a lad.

Back to Bury matters, and I promise you I was doing my best to impress the judges from the Academy of Urbanism when they visited our fair borough last week. We could be in line for another award, folks, so fingers crossed.

Again, to improve our town centre, I'm today meeting partners on the Purple Flag board. This isn't something they wave during a Grand Prix, but a prestigious acknowledgement that our night-time economy is thriving and welcoming.

Tomorrow, I'm making my latest business visit to Paul Williams Funeral Directors in Whitefield. Normally when someone gets out the inch tape I assume I'm being measured up for a new suit. On this occasion, I'm hoping Mr Williams keeps his tape in the drawer.

As proof that I'm not yet ready for the wooden overcoat, I'll come clean and mention that I'm celebrating my 63rd birthday on Bank Holiday Monday. Yes, just 63. I'd invite you to have some cake, but my partner says you won't get near it for the heat from the candles.

On Thursday I'm joining my fellow ward councillors to meet residents in Fairfield, who have ongoing concerns about parking problems near the hospital. And I'll soon be going on a guided tour of the Greater Manchester Police headquarters, now that I have these new responsibilities as the region's head of crime (if that's the right word for it).

Finally, a big congratulations to Albert Matthews Butchers, who are based on Bury Market. They have just won recognition in this year's Great Taste Awards, when experts blind-taste food from across the country. Read more about them here: Albert Matthews butchers

12 August 2014: So wise so young, they say

Mike's godson Liam with his 18th birthday cake

Just enjoyed a jolly weekend down in Stratford, where my eldest godson Liam was celebrating his 18th birthday. Much fun was had by all, even if it did take five hours to get back thanks to the M6 resembling a massive car park. Here's a picture of the lad himself and, judging by the cake, we should really call him the Bard of Stretford.  Apologies to fans of all other clubs.

Say it softly, but Bury could be in line for yet another award. Today I'm meeting a team of judges from the Academy of Urbanism, who are taking a grand tour of our borough. We've been shortlisted for their Great Town Award Programme, where we're up against the likes of Beverley and Aberystwyth. No contest says I, as a Bury lad born and bred.

Mike with Cuckoo bar/cafe owner Dave Rigby

It's always great to see local businesses start up and thrive, so it was a pleasure to visit Cuckoo, a new bar/cafe in Bury New Road, Prestwich. I'm pictured here with owner Dave Rigby, and you can follow them on Facebook at Facebook - Cuckoo Prestwich  There's a nice write-up of the company in the Manchester Evening News at Manchester Evening News - Cuckoo article

Mike with Scott Quigg and Steve Hilton

Meanwhile, I've meeting the stars again. I just popped in to Best in Bury Foods at their warehouse in Freetown, and who should be stocking up also but Scott Quigg, Bury's own world champion boxer. I'm not sure if he needs to eat all that protein for his next fight, or whether - like in the Rocky movies - he's using the meat as a punchbag, but it was great to see him. I'm pictured with Scott and Steve Hilton from Best in Bury Foods, and council chief executive Mike Kelly. You can read more about this excellent local company at: Best in Bury Foods  And you can keep up to date with Scott at Scott Quigg

29 July 2014: And I drive on the footplate....

They say that boys never grow up, and when it comes to trains that's certainly true. Highlight of my week comes on Thursday - I've been invited to the Metrolink control room, and I can't wait. Imagine all the fun I'll have, making sure your trams run on time! They might even let me make the occasional passenger announcement. Just don't blame me for any breakdowns.

Mike with Anita and Lee Thorne of Red Bank Cider

I was also looking forward to a recent business visit to Red Bank Cider in Bradley Fold, but as it took place at 10am, it was too early to enjoy the visit entirely, if you get my meaning. I'm not that decadent. I'm pictured here with Anita Thorne and Lee Thorne, and you can find out more about the company here: Facebook - Red Bank Cider

I also went to Brighter Blinds in Walshaw Road, and to prove it I'm pictured here with Rob Ashton and Olive Ashton. Brighter Blinds

Mike at Brighter Blinds

Tomorrow going to see Charisma Shades in Whitefield and to the All Mobility shop in Bury.

Look out - here comes the judge! I speak of those esteemed gentlemen and ladies from North West in Bloom, who are due to visit us tomorrow. As you know, Bury has hugely impressed them over recent years, and I'd like to thank all the volunteers, gardening groups, council staff and our sponsors who have worked so hard making the town look its best.

It was a pleasure to meet Dr Gillian Fairfield, the new chief executive of Pennine Acute Hospitals NHS Trust. Like councils, the NHS always seems to be going through a process of change and reorganisation, and it's vital that we keep in touch about those changes and how they will affect our communities.

Mike with Dr Gillian Fairfield and council CE Mike Kelly

This weekend sees the centrepiece of our commemorations of the 100th anniversary of the start of the First World War. A special service will be held at Bury Parish Church on Sunday morning at 11.30am, which will be broadcast live outside the church for those unable to get in. Before the service, there will be a parade of military and civilian volunteers, leaving Knowsley Street at 11am. Then on Monday, a vigil will be held at the church when the names of 2,100 local people who gave their lives during the conflict will be read out. It will undoubtedly be a very moving occasion, and one which residents of Bury will not forget. For more details of WW1 events in Bury, see here: Event - Bury WW1 related activities and events

21 July 2014: On a bicycle built for 14

I had great pleasure in seeing off the riders of Bury Tandem Club for Visually Impaired People, on their 220-mile ride from the Manchester Velodrome to Glasgow. Mike with members of the tandem club

I'd have enough trouble riding a bike to the end of my street, so it was a real privilege and honour to see them off on such a long journey. The club's Ben Colman emailed me to say they'd all got there safe and sound after a gruelling 22 hours in the saddle, and they only had three punctures, which is not bad going for seven tandems. He tells me that the highlights included cycling through the wooded dual carriageway around Kendal in a group, climbing Shap summit at 2am in thick cloud, and meeting the Commonwealth Games makers in Glasgow. Less good, apparently was the rain that started in Gretna and didn't stop until they were in their hotel. Well, that's Scotland for you (only joking!)

It was also wonderful meeting the Year 5 pupils at Chapelfield Primary School in Radcliffe, who invited me to come and talk about all matters relating to the town. And, as ever, I was happy to oblige. I'm pictured here with all the pupils.

Mike with Year 5 pupils of Chapelfield

Talking about Radcliffe - the council's cabinet has just approved a £2 million refurbishment programme for Radcliffe Hall/CE Methodist Primary, which will see large parts of the school rebuilt and replaced. That's great news for all the pupils who go there, as well as the staff and parents who quite naturally want their children to get the best possible start in life.

I'll be meeting representatives of the Fire Service later this week to discuss their new training facility being created in Bury, and also meeting Dr Gillian Fairfield, the new chief executive of Pennine Acute Hospitals NHS Trust. There's always lots to discuss when it comes to health matters.

Crime is on the agenda (so to speak) when I meet the Greater Manchester Police and Crime Commissioner: I'm taking on new responsibilities as the region's spokesman on crime, police and civil contingencies. And on Friday I'll be joining council leaders from across the region at our regular Association of Greater Manchester Authorities (Agma) meeting in Leigh.

I know that a lot of you have concerns about changes to the waste collection service in the borough. Can I ask you, though, to take a few minutes to look at the reasons why the council is proposing this, and also to look at the Questions and Answers page which is on the council's website here: Waste collection changes

Our local economy is, of course, vital and I'll making several visits to local companies this week, including Red Bank Cider in Bradley Fold and Brighter Blinds in Walshaw Road, both of whom were finalists in the last Bury Business Awards. It was a pleasure to visit the East Lancashire Railway recently and see all the good work that they do: I'm pictured here with Kate, Richard, Chris, Peter and Laura.

Mike at the East Lancs Railway

If you want to play a part in the decisions made in your community, why not come along to the latest round of Township Forum meetings? The next one is tonight (Monday 21 July), when Bury East forum meets at the Metro Christian Centre from 7pm. Then, Prestwich forum meets on Wednesday at the Longfield Suite. All these meetings have an open forum where you can raise any matters of concern relating to the council or its partners. For more details, see here: Township Forums

14 July 2014: It's nice to be wanted   

As a former teacher, I thoroughly enjoy going back to school to meet the staff and pupils. It'll be a pleasure to visit Chapelfield Primary School in Radcliffe today, to talk to Year 5 pupils. They wrote to me asking me all sorts of questions about Radcliffe, so I thought I'd go along and meet them in person to discuss it. They also said they loved my blog, which is very flattering. I'm sure they'll go far in this world.

Later this week I'll be at St Paul's Primary in Bury for their 1900 celebrations. Then it's off to see Year 6 pupils at East Ward Primary, accompanied by local councillor Tamoor Tariq, to talk about ambition and achievement. I'll be telling them that if I, a humble lad from East Bury, can become leader of the council, then so can they.

Mike at Microbiological Solutions Ltd

I'm also heading to various local businesses, from the East Lancs Railway to Lone Worker Solutions, from CCM Motorcycles to Leckenby's Tea Rooms. It was fascinating to visit Microbiological Solutions Ltd, who are specialists in all aspects of the microbiological testing of cosmetics, toiletries, personal care and household products. I'm pictured with Angela and Mark, plus my work shadow Dan Isherwood, and you can find out more about the company at Microbiological Solutions Ltd

The council's cabinet meets on Wednesday (16 July), starting at 6pm in the town hall. There's a lot to discuss, not least proposed changes to the waste collection service. You can read the agenda and reports here:  Cabinet agenda and minutes - 16 July 2014

I've been given a new job as Greater Manchester's spokesman for police, crime and civil contingencies, and as part of that I'll be chairing the Collaboration and Integration Panel of the Fire Authority this week.

Mike and Wayne Elphick of Lex Business Equipment

Another local company I've been to see is Lex Business Equipment, based in Radcliffe. The company was set up in 1980 by Wayne Elphick (who I'm pictured with) and is a wholly family-owned and run company. More details here: Lex Business Equipment

And finally, I'll be at the Manchester Velodrome on Friday, seeing off members of Bury Tandem Club for Visually Impaired People. They're setting off on a 220-mile fundraiser, cycling from Manchester to Glasgow in less than 24 hours. It's a big challenge, and I wish them the very best of British. For more details, and how you can sponsor them, look here: Bury Tandem Club

7 July 2014: Car trouble, oh yeah

Glad to see that the weather in good old Bury is picking up. It was certainly nice down in sunny Cornwall, where I  enjoyed a brief sojourn in St Ives. Off we went, on the coach with the old dears (OK, that includes me), and had loads of cream teas and pasties.

And then it's back home, and a sad day in the Connolly household tomorrow. My trusty and faithful old car is being towed away ignominiously to the scrap yard. I was driving back from Blackpool the other week, and some driver smacked me in the derriere. Initially we thought it was just a dent in the bumper, but alas - the whole boot had caved in, and it's unsafe to drive. I shall shed a tear, quietly.

Mike at Rocknine

Doing rather better than my old banger are some thriving companies in Bury. I've been to visit Rocknine, a marketing and communications company. I'm pictured with graphic designer Steven Cavanagh and creative director Craig Duerden, and you can find out more about the company here: Rocknine

The full council meets on Wednesday (9 July), and there's lots to debate as usual. If you can tear yourself away from the World Cup semi-final, why not watch the meeting live, thanks to our friends at Digital Tree UK who are streaming the meeting? Tune in here: Digital Tree - Bury Council meeting - live stream / last meeting

Back to business, and a fascinating visit to John Caunt, based in Summerseat, who produce equipment for detecting radiation for the nuclear industry. If I start clicking at council on Wednesday, you'll know why. I'm pictured with Oliver Caunt, Ivona Swillo (funnily enough, her mother Marie works in the council's cemetery office). More details about the firm are here: John Caunt

Mike at John Caunt

It seems an appropriate time to flag up the upcoming Bury Business Awards. The deadline for nominations has just been extended to 21 July: for more details, see here:  Made in Bury business awards

Later this week I'll be welcoming new arrivals to the council at our snazzily named Corporate Induction meeting. Not my idea of snazzy, but there you go. And on Friday I'll be at East Ward Primary School for their summer fair.

On Sunday I'll be taking part in the Walking Rainbow.  This will meet at the town hall at 12.30pm and, via The Rock, finish at Kay Gardens where there will be music, speeches, information stands and activities. Why not come along and join us? It's important to take a stand against prejudice and intolerance.

Mike signs Equal Access to Learning agreement

Finally, it gave me great pleasure to sign the Equal Access to Learning agreement, which aims to help the council's staff improve their skills and ultimately their service to residents. I'm pictured with Steve Morton, branch secretary of Unison; the council's chief executive Mike Kelly; and Councillor Trevor Holt.

23 June 2014: Kits, cats, sacks, wives - and Alice

You know how much I like brass bands, so I thoroughly enjoyed Bury Bandemonium at the weekend. So did lots of you - here I am pictured with Alice. Whaddya mean, who the heck is Alice? Everyone knows Alice. Even young Dan, who's workshadowing me, knows who Alice is. You'll see her at every major carnival and event across the borough - she's a real stalwart of the community. The world needs more Alices, says I.

Mike with Alice

We can only have such wonderful community events, however, if everyone feels at home and safe. So this afternoon, I'm going to a meeting of the Purple Flag group. Sounds like a Marxist revolutionary outfit, but it's actually a group of pub landlords, council officials and others who want Bury to be awarded a  Purple Flag for the quality of its night-time economy. It's chaired by the Rector of Bury, Dr John Findon, so we're confident of success.

School visits this week will take me to St Stephen's, Whitefield, and Holy Trinity primary schools. But in the meantime, I had a great time when I went to St Michael's RC primary. I'm pictured with Leah, Luke, Mason, and head teacher Mr Duffin.

Mike at St Michael's Primary

I've got a number of visits to local businesses to make this week, including Ramsbottom Dental Surgery and Microbiological Solutions, and it was great to go to Faith in Nature and meet Joy Parkinson. We're pictured here, and more details about the company are here:Faith in Nature

Mike with Joy Parkinson of Faith in Nature

Then on Thursday I'll be opening the Mind, Body, Spirit and Reflection Conference at the Elizabethan Suite in Bury, where professionals will be working with young people.

This week also takes me to the regular Agma meeting - and I may have some news to announce afterwards (he says invitingly) - and attending the Best of Bury golf match - not to play, of course, but to award the prizes and indulge in some tater pie.

And then it's off for a few days to St Ives, and, you never know,  I might meet a man with seven wives. Until the advent of the internet, I was unaware just how many legitimate answers there could be to the puzzle posed in that old rhyme. Look it up, and tell me what answer makes most sense to you.

17 June 2014: All brass and no muck

It's not often you get collared by a bunch of lovely ladies called Boobs and Brass, but here I am again - this time at the Saddleworth competition, with the aforesaid ladies who were raising money to combat breast cancer.

Mike with the Boobs and Brass ladies

Actually, I almost never made it. The train from Victoria went past the stop, and the driver had to get out, walk to the other end of the train and take us back into the station. But I love the annual competition, and a good time was had by all.

We all want good policing in Bury, so it was good to meet Chris Sykes, Territorial Commander for Bury and Rochdale, and discuss a variety of concerns. I'm pictured here with Chris and the council's chief executive Mike Kelly, plus Dan Isherwood, a politics student at Leeds University who is shadowing me for three weeks. Must remember to check if he's signed the Official Secrets Act. Mike with Chris Sykes, Dan Isherwood and Mike Kelly

Me and Dan are in for a busy week. We've already been to Manchester together to meet the Mayor of Greater Vancouver, without creating a diplomatic incident. Later this week we'll be presenting the Adult Learner of the Year awards at Bury FC, and attending a business breakfast at the Red Hall with members of the Business Growth Hub.

I'll also be at East Ward Primary School, sitting in with the head teacher on what they call 'lesson observation'. May I just reassure the poor teacher that it'll be nothing like Ofsted.

A big congratulations to everyone involved in organising the recent Bury, Radcliffe and Prestwich Carnivals, which were a huge success. Here's a picture of me coming out of the NAAFI tent in Prestwich, where they do a very good, er, cup of tea.

Mike at Prestwich Carnival NAAFI

I've also got several visits to local businesses this week, and it was a pleasure to recently visit Brytannic Finance. I'm pictured with managing director Daniel Payne, and you can find out more about the company here:Brytannic Finance

Mike and Daniel Payne of Brytannic Finance

Time for a spot of art, and I'm looking forward to going to Bury College to meet their first year art students. I'll be helping to choose the paintings they have done to go on display in the town hall over the summer, and any resident is free to drop in and view their work in what we call the People's Place.

Then I'll be joining our new Mayor of Bury, Councillor Michelle Wiseman, when she opens an exhibition at Prestwich Library about the town and the Great War.

We end where we started, with brass bands. It's Bury Bandemonium on Saturday, with loads of music events taking place across the town centre. I can't promise boobs at this one, but there will be plenty of brass - all the details are here: Event - Bandemonium 2014

6 June 2014: The carnival is only just starting

The good old British weather appears not to know this, but it's carnival time. And I'm not talking about that samba of football that is the World Cup.

You wait all year for a good party, and then (like the buses) three turn up together. This weekend it's both Radcliffe Carnival and Bury Carnival, and as a party animal I plan on going to both. Not content with that, I'll be at Prestwich Carnival next weekend too. We'll need all the fun we can get before England open their campaign against Italy.

In the meantime, I've been getting round local businesses, who are so important to our economic well-being. Here, I'm pictured meeting Vicky Kay of Barista.Mike with Vicky Kay of Barista

Monday, I'm having my very own stalker. Dan Isherwood, a politics student at Leeds University, is shadowing me for three weeks. He'd better not be writing a blog about it, or he's for the Chiltern Hundreds.

Back to school, and I'm looking forward to visiting St Joseph's Primary in Ramsbottom. I'm also to be the guest of honour at the morning assembly of St Mary's in Hawkshaw.

Talking of saints, I'll be getting my necessary dose of grace when I attend a service at Bircle Parish Church held by the Bishop of Manchester, the Right Reverend David Walker. And I'm also meeting police territorial commander Chris Sykes, who I'm sure is very saintly.

Our staff do a tremendous job, so on Thursday we're having the council's STAR awards, at which we formally thank individual employees and teams for 'going the extra mile' and providing top-quality services to the public, a job that gets ever more difficult given the huge financial cuts that the authority is making. Good luck to all the nominees.

May I offer my congratulations to the new Mayor of Bury, Councillor Michelle Wiseman, who was elected on Tuesday. The meeting was filmed, and you can watch the ceremony here: Digital Tree - Bury Council meeting - live stream / last meeting

Back to my business visits, and a trip to Physiotherapy and Occupational Solutions in Bury, where I met Susan Pattison, practice principal. Mike with Susan Pattison

More details about the company here: Neurological Physiotherapy - Physiotherapy and Occupational Solutions

But finally, a confession. I'm leaving our fair borough for an evening next Whit Friday - to whit, the Saddleworth brass band competition. I've got my passport, and will be asking the Rt Rev Walker for absolution.

2 June 2014: All a tremulous heart requires

We know how to party in East Ward. I speak of the Topping Fold Big Lunch, to which I was invited at the weekend. Loads of fun for all the family, and a chance for me to let my hair down and carnival. Here I am pictured with one of the entertainers, who is not only a stilt-walker but a fire-eater. At least, I think she was on stilts. As they say in football, it's just like watching Brazil.

Mike at Topping Fold Big Lunch

Huge congratulations to All Saints CE Primary in Whitefield, who have just won the North West regional heat in the Government's national Pupil Premium School of the Year awards. This is in recognition of how well they spent grant money on helping disadvantaged pupils close the gap with their more fortunate peers. They'll now be going down to London to take part in the national finals, and I wish them the very best of luck.

I enjoyed my latest business visit to Radcliffe-based company Japanese Knotweed Solutions, I'm pictured with Mike Clough, managing director, and more details about the company are here: Japanese Knotwood Solutions

Mike with Mike Clough of Japanese Knotweed Solutions

It'll be a huge pleasure to meet again the pupils from Unsworth Primary's school council today. Our recent meeting at the school went so well that we invited them to come in to the town hall and see the debating chamber, as well as meet the mayor. You're never too young to get involved in the democratic process - and there might be free biscuits and orange juice on offer too.

Tomorrow it's off to Manchester for the regular meeting of the Economic Solutions Board, then back to Bury for tiaras and trumpets at the annual council meeting, when we elect a new Mayor of Bury for the 2014/15 municipal year. If you're a fashionista, it's always a good occasion for hats. Why not tune in live and watch the hats (sorry, the meeting)? We're streaming the event live, courtesy of local company Digital Tree UK, at Digital Tree - Bury Council meeting - live stream / last meeting

At night we're doing our bit for charity by attending the Bury Curry Club dinner at the India Lounge in Ramsbottom, raising money for Bury Hospice. We'll need it after the mock council meeting earlier, where new members get a feel of what goes on and which standing orders they can legitimately quote. I'm planning on sitting there and looking pretty.

I also visited Woodcocks, Haworth and Nuttall solicitors in Bury, where I'm pictured with Michael Shroot and Dave McCann, plus council chief executive Mike Kelly. More details about the company are here: Woodcocks Haworth and Nuttall Solicitors

Staff training is an important part of what councils offer, and I'm glad to be a Bradley Fold later this week to launch the Equal Access Policy on Learning, in partnership with the trade union Unison.

Mike with Michael Shroot and Dave McCann (WHN Solicitors)

There's more heart-warming news for Friday, at The Village Hotel in Bury, at an event to raise money for the charity set up in the name of Annabelle Griffin. This five-year-old Bury girl suffers from Vascular Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome (VEDS), a rare genetic condition. I'll be there as a guest of Chief Superintendent Karen Lee. More details about Annabelle and the charity are here: Annabelle's Challenge

27 May 2014: Feets don't fail me now

As The Smiths might once have sung: I was happy in the haze of election hour, but heaven knows my feet are killing me now.

Although I wasn't up for election myself, I - like many others -  was exercising muscles I never even knew existed, pounding the pavements to persuade people to vote in last week's local and European elections. Yes, I can hear your sympathies at this distance. But seriously, it's important that we exercise the democratic rights that our forefathers (and foremothers, for that matter) fought and sometimes died for. Check out the footage from Bury's first ever live screening of the count: Digital Tree - Election Results - Live 

Mike with Liam Gately of Platinum Home Care

I never cease to be amazed at the number of businesses in our borough, who provide a huge variety of services. I went to see Radcliffe domiciliary care provider Platinum Home Care, and I'm pictured here with chief executive Liam Gately. More details about the company are here: Platinum Home Care

The council is due to elect a new Mayor of Bury next Tuesday. If all goes to plan it will be Whitefield councillor Michelle Wiseman who will take over the chains of office from Cllr Sharon Briggs. We'll be live streaming the event, thanks to our friends at Bury company Digital Tree UK. Why not tune in live and watch the ceremony? The annual council meeting is at 2pm, and the 'mayor making' ceremony is at 4pm.

I've also been to Brand Idol, a printing company in Holcombe Brook. I'm pictured meeting Helen Smith and Simon Naylor, and you read more about them here: Brand Idol

Mike with Helen Smith and Simon Naylor of Brand Idol

Tomorrow, it's 'new member induction' at the town hall, when we welcome the five new councillors who were elected last week. The event sounds rather sinister.

Among my business visits this week are a trip to Japanese Knotweed Solutions in Radcliffe, and to Woodcocks, Haworth and Nuttall Solicitors in Bury. And then we have the joys of the regular Agma meeting, this time in Tameside, when the Greater Manchester council leaders all get together and argue the case for their home boroughs. Rest assured I'll be fighting for Bury all the way.

Mike with Cath Harrop of Carriages

Finally, a nice day out on Saturday awaits, when I'll be at the Topping Fold Big Lunch, held at the community centre from 1pm to 4pm. A wide range of entertainment is being provided - why not come along and join me? I'm keen to show off my new look, courtesy of my visit to Carriages hair and beauty salon at  the Bolholt. I'm pictured with owner Cath Harrop and the council's chief executive Mike Kelly. What do you mean, you can't tell the difference? Oh well, you can only work with what you've got. For more details of the company, look here:Carriages Hair and Beauty

19 May 2014: Your own private Idaho

Tackling prejudice and promoting tolerance can sometimes seem a never ending uphill struggle. But sometimes it's good to look back just a few years and see how much progress has been made.

Mike at flying of IDAHO flag

Take, for instance, IDAHO Day - International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia - when we raised the rainbow flag outside Knowsley Place. But why on 17 May in particular? Because, that was the date in 1992 - yes, 1992 - that homosexuality was removed from the International Classification of Diseases of the World Health Organisation.

In case you hadn't noticed, there's the small matter of the local and European elections on Thursday. If you haven't cast your postal vote already, can I urge you to get along to your local polling station on the day and make your mark? Whatever your politics, we need god turnouts in a democracy. The polls are open from 7am to 10pm. And you can tune in live for the results! For the first time, we're live streaming the results of the council elections when they're counted on Friday. Tune in from 11.30am at Digital Tree - Election Results - Live

A bit too young to vote are these Iwo young people (pictured), aka Finn and Holly, who are pupils at Hazelhurst Primary School in Ramsbottom. It was great to meet them recently, along with head teacher Mark Golding.

Mike at Hazlehurst Primary School

I'm continuing to get around our local businesses, and this week I'm heading to Platinum Care, a Radcliffe-based domiciliary care provider, and to Susan Pattison, a neurological physiotherapist in Bury.

Transport issues will be top of the agenda when I meet leaders at Rossendale Council, and I'm doing my bit for charity on Friday when a fund-raising event for Marie Curie Cancer Care is held at the Bolholt. I don't know what grub they're serving, but I hope it's meat from Alberts Butchers, based in the fish and meat hall on Bury Market. Yum yum. More about them here: Albert Matthews butchers

Mike at Albert Matthews butchers

There are loads of events taking place in Bury to mark Dementia Awareness Week (18-24 May). Why not go along and show your support? All the details can be found here:  

12 May 2014: Hair today, gone tomorrow

OK, let's get all the jokes out the way right now. I'm going to Carriages, a hair and beauty salon based at the Bolholt, later this week. I hope they can do more for me than I can for them - and, if so, I'll post a new picture of me on this blog. My partner hasn't stopped laughing.

At least the kids don't mind, and it was a great pleasure to visit Unsworth Primary School for their meeting of the school council. I'm pictured with head teacher Mrs Christine Reynolds and members of the council.

Mike at Unsworth Primary School

Today I'm meeting the Rector of Bury, Dr John Findon, to talk about a few of the events taking place in Bury this year to mark the 100th anniversary of the start of the First World War. This will centre on Bury Parish Church on the first weekend of August - more details nearer the time.

Don't tell the staff, but the mayor - and her compadres from across Greater Manchester - will be doing the 'grand tour' tomorrow. Civic chains will be clanking down the corridors of power. Honestly, it'll be like an invasion of Banquo's ghosts. I was planning on staying well out of it, but their worships have kindly invited me to lunch at the Fusilier Museum. It would be rude not to.

Back on the school visits, this time to Butterstile primary. I'm pictured here with Jack, Katie, and head teacher Miss Clare Salmon.

Mike at Butterstile Primary School

Businesses of all shapes and sizes are what keep our borough going, and I'm heading up to Holcombe Brook to see the good people at Brand Idol, who are a professional printing company. And I'll be back in time to see Albert Matthews butchers, in the Fish and Meat Hall on Bury Market, to pick up some pork pies for my East ward colleagues. I'm also in Manchester for a variety of meetings designed to boost the region's economy.

And on Friday, I'll be among those raising the flag on IDAHO (International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia) outside Knowsley Place.   

6 May 2014: Sacre bleu - or is it ooh la la?

As a former teacher, It's always a joy to visit our local schools and see how the youngsters are doing, as well as chat with the staff and about educational matters generally. Here's a nice picture of me at All Saints Primary in Stand, with Finlay, Kira, and head teacher Gail Branch.

Mike at All Saints Primary

But it's back on home turf that the fun begins. As chair of governors at East Ward Primary School, I'm always quick to boast of the school's achievements. And it seems the pupils are becoming more ingenious than ever, as I discovered on a recent visit.

The school was having a French-themed day, which was fantastic - delicious food, models of the Eiffel Tower, and all that. To improve their language skills, the youngsters were invited to press a bright red button, which would emit a series of well-known French words and phrases. Well, now - one young lad quickly figured out how to record over these messages, and replaced those mellifluous Gallic words with a short and sweet phrase of decidedly Anglo-Saxon origin. We didn't know whether to laugh or cry, but I hope his French improves by the time he gets to his GCSEs. I'm back at the school later this week to talk to staff about their upcoming visit from Ofsted. Maybe we should just play them that message....

Mike with the Israeli deputy ambassador

On a much more diplomatic note, I had the pleasure of welcoming Eitan Na'eh, the Israeli deputy ambassador, to Bury this week. We're pictured here, along with council chief executive Mike Kelly and Doreen Gerson from the Israeli Information Centre.

There has been a lot of change recently in local policing, and I'm keen to find out what this means for Bury and how we can best work together to improve the well-being of our community, so I'm looking forward to meeting Superintendent Karen Lee this week.

I've also got a whole range of visits to schools and businesses coming up. I recently went to SRG Apparel in Whitefield, who supply fashionable clothes across the UK to companies like Next, River Island and export to 40 countries with their own brand 'Tokyo Laundry'. I'm pictured with managing director Mahesh Patel, and you can find out more about the company here: SRG Apparel

Mike at SRG Apparel

28 April 2014: To everything there is a (end of) season

As end of season games went, Saturday's match at Gigg Lane was a cracker. Not quite sure how the Shakers managed to let a 3-0 lead turn into a 4-4 draw, but it was great drama nonetheless. Credit must go to the many hundreds of Portsmouth fans who made the long journey north, and sang their hearts out from start to finish.

Today I've been at the Workers Memorial Day wreath laying ceremony, remembering those who have died at work over the years and ensuring that all is done to provide a safe working environment in the future.

I enjoyed a recent visit to Total Swimming, a local company who are playing a big part in our I Will If You Will initiative to encourage women and girls to become more active by supplying the mobile pool. I'm pictured with operations director Chris Cooper and director Steve Parry, and more details about the company are here: Total Swimming

Mike with Chris Cooper and Steve Parry of Total Swimming

Later today I'm meeting the Bury Christian Fellowship, which may provide me with the spiritual guidance needed for a later meeting with Marketing Manchester, before a trip to meet members of Ramsbottom Business Group.

There's lots of events taking place in Bury this year to mark the 100th anniversary of the start of the First World War, and I'll be discussing some of those tomorrow with Colonel Eric Davidson.

Schools visits this week take me to four primary schools across the borough: Hazlehurst, Butterstile, All Saints and Wesley Methodist. Then it's off to Salford on Wednesday for the Healthier Together project we're involved in with Bolton and Salford, and back to Bury for the launch of the Employment Gateway with the Mill Gate centre and Bury College.

Mike at Airmatic

A recent visit to Airmatic was fascinating. They specialise in ventilation, ducting and heat recovery systems, and I'm pictured with director Paul Haywood, operations director Darren Bayman and director Chris Taylor. Find out more here: Airmatic

Finally, on Friday, it's the official opening of the new Bury Sculpture Centre, which is also the opening of the latest international text art exhibition: details here: My news desk (Bury) - Bury Sculpture Centre

15 April 2014: Every 1's a winner at hot chocolate festival

Bang goes the diet again. I made the fatal mistake of going to the Ramsbottom Chocolate Festival at the weekend, and stuffed myself silly. Still, it was a fantastic event, as you can see in this picture of me enjoying a cup (or two) of finest Belgian hot chocolate.

Mike at Ramsbottom Chocolate Festival

It was both a pleasure and an education to attend the recent Bury Parents Forum at the town hall. You can find out more about them at Bury Parents Forum

Unfortunately, I had to go to London yesterday for the (deep breath) Local Government Association and Police and Crime Commissioners strategic partnership board. I have the honour of chairing this august body which, if nothing else, boasts the longest title of any committee I've been on.

Sticking with crime matters, I'm meeting Sir Peter Fahy, chief constable of Greater Manchester, tomorrow to talk about neighbourhood policing and how we can secure the best policing for Bury.

My latest visit to local businesses took me to Phil Coppell Ltd, who manufacture and install the Guardian Conservatory Roof: more details here:  Guardian Conservatory Roofs - Phil Coppell Ltd I'm pictured with Phil Coppell and director Kev Ashcroft. Mike at Phil Coppell Ltd

I'm also heading to Total Swimming in Bury, who have provided the mobile pool we're using as part of the I Will If You Will campaign to encourage local women and girls to take up sport. More details of the campaign here: I will if you will

Next Wednesday (23) we'll be hoisting the flag on St George's Day, and on Saturday (26) it's off to Gigg Lane for the council's last sponsored game against Portsmouth. It's been a season of much change, but the team has come along greatly in recent weeks and with new owners and sponsors looks to have a bright future.

I'm still getting around Bury's many schools to meet staff and pupils, and I enjoyed my latest visit to Park View primary. I'm pictured here with head teacher Mr D. Stephens and chair of governors Mr G. Rose. Mike at Park View primary

Make a diary note for Sunday 27 April. It's the annual Gallipoli service at Bury Parish Church, remembering those lost in that fateful military campaign back in 1915, when the Fusiliers famously won "six VCs before breakfast". We will remember them.

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