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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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1 September 2015: Many years from now

Mike enjoying an ice cream

Back in the heady days of Beatlemania, their song When I'm 64 sounded odd to a young shaver like me.

Firstly, its pre-war swing was a real anomaly on an album of full-blown psychedelia (Sgt Pepper's). And secondly, to a teenager it sounded impossibly far-fetched, as if it would never happen. Pete Townshend must have felt the same, when writing My Generation.

Alack and alas, time has moved on with unremitting alacrity, and I must concede the inevitable - yes, I am now 64. Ou sont les neiges d'antan, I cried? Will people still need me, or feed me?

It was an inauspicious birthday celebration. Off we went to Buxton - I'm pictured here enjoying an ice cream - but the hotel wasn't up to much, and the show at the opera house was so bad we left at the interval. Paul McCartney never mentioned this.

Back on home ground, and I'm looking forward to a big Devo-Manc meeting tomorrow with Government minister Mark Francois and Baroness Susan Williams. I hope they bring their cheque book. Then I'll be having a sneak preview of the council's new website, which should make life easier for all residents who contact us online.

Also tomorrow (2 September), the council's cabinet meets at 6pm in the town hall. We'll have a variety of items to discuss - you can read the agenda here: Cabinet meeting agenda - Wednesday 2 September 2015

Then on Thursday (3 September), we'll be paying tribute to the Merchant Navy by raising the 'Red Duster' outside Knowsley Place in recognition of all they have done for this country (and continue to do) in both war and peace time.

Music enters the equation at the end of the week; firstly at Police HQ at the Chief Constable's concert, and then at Manchester Cathedral where they will be installing three new canons. One of them's called Connolly, but no relation. I'm wondering if their first name is Vera, Chuck or Dave...

17 August 2015: The luck of the Irish

I'll be taking my lucky shamrock to York on Wednesday for the first day of the big EBOR meeting. Just to boost the luck of the Irish, I'll also be taking former Bury councillors John and Siobhan Costello, plus a group from the Lord Raglan.

I love going to the races, and I've already got my spies seeking out top tips. And at least I can console myself with the thought that I picked a couple of winners last year, which is two more than the Costellos did. Don't worry folks, I'm not spending the council's reserves on this!

On somewhat more serious matters, this week the council will be examining tenders submitted for the ongoing regeneration of Radcliffe town centre. I'm also meeting Pastor Paul Schofield from the Metro Church in Parkhills Road, and Dr Jillian Fairfield from Pennine Acute Trust.

Councillor Connolly at the Best of Bury

It was a pleasure to attend the Best of Bury barbecue recently at Walmersley Golf Club. The council sponsored this networking event, which was a huge success. I'm pictured here, minus (I'm sad to say) any food.

Finally, I have to admit to a spot of 'wires crossed' last Friday. As the Greater Manchester spokesman for crime and disorder, I got the tram all the way to police HQ in Manchester to meet deputy commissioner Jim Battle. Unfortunately, this was at the same time that Jim was pulling up his car outside Bury Town Hall for the meeting. In the interests of detente, I'm putting the blame firmly on him. Let's just hope it doesn't happen next month when the new Chief Constable for Greater Manchester is appointed.

3 August 2015: Bury means business

The economy in Bury is absolutely vital to our borough, so it's only right that we put as much effort as we can into supporting local businesses.

This week is taken up with several events on a business theme. Firstly, I'm visiting Tetrosyl, for many years one of our main employers, along with our new chief executive Mike Owen.

Then later, I'll be joining the Mayor at the official opening of a new dentist's surgery on The Rock. Just so you don't forget the name, it's called The Dentist on The Rock. Apparently there's champagne on offer. Wonder if I can get a quick check-up while I'm there?

And on Thursday night I'll be at Walmersley Golf Club for a barbecue organised by the Best of Bury, our partners in the region's largest businesse fair. The council is a sponsor of this event, which will benefit the Joshua Wilson fund, and we'll be launching our new Bury Means Business brochure.

On other matters, today I'm meeting Tony Lloyd, the interim Mayor of Greater Manchester, to discuss health and social care in Bury. As you may know, we will be transferred major responsibilities under Devo Manc for these areas, so it's vital that we get it right and the needs of local people are put first.

On Thursday the judges from Britain in Bloom are in town - not to be confused with North West in Bloom. Let's hope for even greater success and, as I've said before, our achievements in this field are thanks to the many volunteers, keen gardeners and  and businesses that who help make Bury the attractive place that it is.

Finally, on Sunday it's the annual Party in the Park in my home area of Openshaw Park, off Rochdale Road in Bury. It's a great family occasion, and you're all invited, whatever the weather.

27 July 2015: Scrum down on The Rock tomorrow

I love those big sporting occasions, as long as it's not me who's playing. So I'll be there tomorrow (Tuesday) when the William Webb Ellis trophy,  aka the rugby World Cup, comes to town.

The cup will be on display to all and sundry on The Rock, between 8am and 10am, near Costa Coffee and M&S. We're one of only four places in the North West to play host to the trophy, so it's quite an honour. I'm sure there will be lots of you there too.

On the rugby theme, you'll have seen our rugby post floral display at Heap Bridge. The judges from North West in Bloom were here last week, and they seemed very impressed with all the glorious scenes in Bury and Radcliffe. Fingers crossed, we'll find out later if we have continued our impressive run of success. Huge thanks to everyone, including volunteers, gardeners, business and council staff for their work. And also, for making sure that our main parks have all won Green Flag awards too.

Later this week I'll be getting grilled by the council's Overview and Scrutiny panel on our new corporate plan, and on Thursday I'll be speaking at the Greater Manchester Chamber's Action for Business event at The Village in Bury.

Finally, Prestwich Township Forum meets on Thursday (30 July). Why not go along, have your say and play a part in determining the priorities for your area?

20 July 2015: Better red than dead

It's not often I'm left with a red face, but that's exactly what I've been left with following a visit to Wales.

Nothing political, I was just watching Lancashire take on Glamorgan (and thrashing them too) at the cricket. Alas, the decision to leave the sun cream at home was sorely misguided, and a few hours sitting at the boundary at deep cover turned me into a lobster. I'm too embarrassed to post a picture here.

Tomorrow I'll be at the official opening of the new Farrars Cafe and Tea Room at Radcliffe Market. Launched by Upper Campfield Events, this is a fantastic new addition to the hall, which we recently refurbished at a cost close to £1 million. I'm sure it will prove extremely popular.

We'll have the judges here on Wednesday from North West in Bloom. Can Bury and Radcliffe win again? Many thanks to the many local gardeners and businesses who have supported our efforts.

On that subject, many of you will have noticed the rugby-themed floral displays and goalposts at Heap Bridge. This is to welcome the Webb Ellis Trophy - aka the Rugby World Cup - coming to Bury next Tuesday (28 July). Bury is one of only four places in the North West to host the trophy, so why not go along and see it, between 8am and 10am on The Rock (outside Costa Coffee, near M&S).

Look out for letters coming through the post this week asking residents to make sure they are on the Electoral Roll. With local elections next year, it's vital that we are all eligible to have our say in local democracy. Remember, the system has changed - these days every person has to make sure their details are correct. It's no longer the Victorian 'head of the household' who fills in the form for everyone.

Talking of local democracy, there are two Township Forums this week: Bury West meets tomorrow (Tuesday 21 July) at Bolton Road Methodist Church, starting at 7pm; and Radcliffe meets on Wednesday at the Civic Suite from 6pm. Why not make your voice heard?

13 July 2015: East is East (at my school, anyway)

Karen Young

As a former teacher, I know just how important it is that our children get the very best start in life at their local school.

So I want to pay heartfelt tribute to Karen Young, head teacher at East Ward Primary School where I'm chair of governors. Karen is leaving us in the summer, and she couldn't have chosen newer pastures - she's going to Qatar, to head up the primary division of a big new school.

Karen has done amazing work at East Ward, and I thank her with all my heart for everything she's done. We will miss her terribly, and she goes to Qatar for a new job (and a new life) with all our love and best wishes. We're pictured here at the school's recent Summer Fair.

At the risk of getting all emotional again, I must mention the Bette Midler concert at the Manchester Arena. When she sang Wind Beneath My Wings, I know that she was singing it to me, personally. Floods of tears. (Yes she was - I don't care how many other people were in the room. Bette was talking to me directly. She knows what it means to me. Me and Bette, we're like that.)

On a lightly less tearful note, it's Bury East Township Forum tonight (Monday 13 July), starting at 7pm at the Mosses Centre. Why not come along, listen to our plans for the area, and have your say during the Open Forum period?

Walking rainbow

The Walking Rainbow on Sunday was another great event, and it was fabulous to see so many people celebrating diversity, tolerance and equality. I'm pictured here with some of the walkers and the deputy mayor, Cllr Michelle Wiseman.

I'm now the Greater Manchester lead on asylum, so I'll be in Manchester tomorrow meeting the executive board. Then it's back to East Ward school for A Taste of East Ward, to try a selection of food from across the world. It's a hard job, you know.

Then later this week, I'll be waving the red rose of Lancashire by going to see them play cricket against Glamorgan in Colwyn Bay. The sacrifices you have to make to support your team, it's terrible. I'll be sharing the pain with former Bury councillors John and Siobhan Costello.

A final serious message: letters will be arriving on the doorstep very soon urging residents to make sure they are registered to vote. Please take a few minutes to check the details and make sure you are on the voters' roll in good time for any elections or referenda that are held next year.

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.

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.

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.

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).

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.

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.

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 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?

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.

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: My News Desk - 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.

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.

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.

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).

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.

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