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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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19 November 2014: The very model of diplomacy

Highlight of my week was going on BBC Radio Humberside to talk up Bury's case for winning the Academy of Urbanism awards, which were being dished out that night in London.

I was up against the mayors of Aberystwyth and Beverley, but there was nothing civic about their contribution - they went at each other hammer and tongs. I, of course, was my quintessential diplomatic self, the very model of a modern major general. I told everyone how great Bury was, and even went so far as to suggest they may as well hand us the trophy right away. This was hubris of the highest order and, with the all the inevitability of Greek tragedy, nemesis followed that evening when Aberystwyth won. But it's still a great achievement to make the national Top 3.

Mike with Anthony Marshall

I enjoyed my recent business visit to Anthony Marshall Ltd, chartered accountants based in Tottington. I'm pictured here with owner Anthony Marshall, and you can read more about the firm here: Anthony Marshall Ltd

Meanwhile, back in Yorkshire. I've been in Harrogate this week for the national Police and Crime Commissioners conference, as I have the police and crime portfolio for Greater Manchester. We discussed all manner of how best to improve policing and tackle crime, and I had the pleasure of listening to home secretary Theresa May. Whatever our political differences, her speech was certainly better than the hotel I stayed in. I shall be making my feelings known on Trip Advisor, if not inviting that TV show Hotel Inspectors in to take a butcher's.

Tonight I'm at Bury West Township Forum, which starts at 7pm at Bolton Road Methodist Church. There's a lot to discuss, including huge proposed cuts in the council's budget for next year, consultation about our plans for children's centres, and an update on the shops at Mile Lane. All are welcome, and there's the usual open forum to have your say.

Mike at St Bernadette's Primary School

The theme of remembrance was very much at the fore when I visited St Bernadette's Primary School in Whitefield, as you can tell from the picture (I'm with Liz Watts, chair of governors, plus pupils Isabel and Daniel, and head teacher Simon Tonge). It's so important that today's generations learn about our history and how the events of the past have shaped what we are today.

On that topic, on Friday it's Youth Takeover Day at the town hall, when our local teenagers get a chance to sit in the council chamber and various offices and get a feel for how things work. I know what you're going to say, but don't say it. I'm in a good mood today.

10 November 2014: We will remember them

Remembrance Sunday is always the most poignant of occasions, and this year's service at Bury Parish Church was no exception. It never fails to move me, people of all ages joining together to remember the ultimate sacrifice made by our armed forces, especially as this year marks the 100th anniversary of the outbreak of the First World War. It's truly humbling to have the honour of laying a wreath at the memorial.

Mike laying wreath at cenotaph

I had the pleasure of meeting the Chancellor, George Osborne, at last week's announcement of Devo Manc. Without getting too political, I'm not a fan of everything he says, but this plan to give Greater Manchester much more control of its spending is one I wholeheartedly welcome. This is going to be transformational for GM, with powers over a range of matters, especially transport. I'm pictured with Mr Osborne and the leaders of the other GM councils, and you can read more about what devolution means for GM here. Devolution for Greater Manchester

Later this week I'll be leading a police and crime steering group, which is my portfolio across Greater Manchester. 

Mike with George Osborne and GM leaders

On Thursday, I'll be at Ramsbottom, Tottington and North Manor Township Forum to make a presentation about the council's budget for 2015/16. Make no mistake, these are serious times for local government, and we're looking at making cuts of nearly £16 million from our budget. That's on top of the many millions we have already cut in the last three years. We will no longer be able to do all the things that local people expect, or have got used to us doing. We've launched a public consultation on these plans, so please take a look at the proposals and give us your views: Budget 2015 / 16

My latest visit to local businesses took me to Nolan Redshaw (info here) and I'm pictured with Paul Nolan (director), Neil Higson (senior surveyor) and Mike Redshaw (director). You can read more about the company here: Nolan Redshaw

A big congratulations to our adoption team, who made the national Top 3 for their work in giving youngsters a bright new start in life. They got to meet Nicky Campbell, who is even more famous than me, at the award ceremony in London, and you can read more about this here: Adoption Team Award

Mike at Nolan Redshaw

Also, the Academy of Urbanism awards ceremony takes place on Friday, and Bury is up for the Great Town award. We're competing against Aberystwyth and Beverley, and at the risk of tweaking the nose of fate, I think it's obvious who should win. I'm from Bury, after all.

28 October 2014: Don't sit under that apple tree...

I've been getting back to nature recently, and to my great surprise found I actually enjoyed it.

Those good people at Prestwich Incredible Edible organised a family day to plant apple trees in Philips Park, and I had a great time joining them. I'm pictured here with some of the young helpers, and Mark Lockwood from Incredible Edible.

Mike planting apple tree in Philips Park

Slightly less successful, on a personal level, was my trip to St Paul's Primary School for their sponsored sing. I'd promised to remain silent, but was cajoled into murdering a few Beatles classics. I suspect next year's invitation has already been lost in the post.

It's good to see local businesses thriving, and that's what I can report after a visit to Pulse Flexible Packaging Ltd in Bury, a leading UK firm dealing with the food and beverage industry. I'm pictured with managing director Mike Collins, and you can read more about the company here:  Pulse Flexible Packaging Ltd

Mike with Mike Collins, MD of Pulse Flexible Packaging Ltd

As you know, the council has faced a series of huge financial challenges in recent years. Next year promises to be no different, and we are already looking at how we can make cuts, balance the books and protect jobs and services. We'll soon be launching a public consultation about this, and asking all residents to have their say. Before that, it's only right that our staff are made aware of the proposals first, so please stay tuned. These are serious times for local government, and the council will not look the same in the future.

22 October 2014: Not an Aran sweater in sight

Who knew that Bury would become the folk music capital of the country? It certainly seems that way. The town is now the regular host of the English International Folk Expo, which is being run through The Met.

There were gigs taking place across the town at the weekend, and we hosted a reception for many of the artists and delegates at the town hall on Friday, where I had the great pleasure of meeting Tom Robinson. We went to see him play The Met the following day, and also the very wonderful Brighouse and Rastrick Band.

We all know how important it is to look after our young people, and also help them to look after themselves, so it was pleasure to visit the Derby and Tottington High Schools as part of the Be Safe Be Cool project. This involves a range of partners who make children aware of the dangers of drugs, alcohol, sexual exploitation and many other potential risks. Students from Bury College also perform a play to help get the message across.

We're all geared up for the Made in Bury Business Awards, an I've been involved in the judging process - but you'll have to wait, 'cos my lips are sealed. I will, though, say it was a hard task - we've lots to be proud of.

Mike with Peter and Chanie Ravenscroft of Pure Sites Ltd

Talking of businesses, I recently went to Pure Sites Ltd, who operate their own web hosting and cloud consultancy business from home. I'm pictured with Peter and Chanie Ravenscroft, and you can read more about them here: Pure Sites Ltd

It's full council tonight (Wednesday 22 October) at the town hall, and it's a packed agenda, with debates scheduled about the bins and about fostering. You can tune in live and watch the meeting as it happens, courtesy of our friends at Bury-based company Digital Tree UK. It starts at 7pm: Digital Tree - Bury Council meeting - live stream / last meeting

Tomorrow I'm heading for St Paul's Primary School for their charity sing, although I won't spoil it by join in; and at night I'll be at the latest meeting of the youth cabinet.

And on Sunday, the venue is Philips Park, where I'll be planting an apple tree. It's all part of an Apple Day, organised by Prestwich Incredible Edible.

29 September 2014: Mais ou sont les neiges d'antan?

Everyone knows I've bags of energy, but nothing makes you feel your age more than when you meet the latest recruits to the council. We've just taken on our latest batch of two apprentices and six trainees,  under our Backing Young Bury project. I remember when I was that young. As Francois Villon's ballad has it, where are the snows of yesteryear?

We're pictured here, plus council chief executive Mike Kelly, and I was delighted to meet them. As I've always said (not surprisingly, being a former teacher), all our young people need is a break and a chance to show what they can do. I'm sure they'll gain a lot of experience and skills during their time with us. You can read more about Backing Young Bury here. Backing Young Bury

Mike with new apprentices and trainees

You may have heard about the Greater Manchester Alcohol Strategy, which I'm taking the lead on. I'm looking forward to meeting Norman Baker MP, the minister for crime prevention, who is coming to hear about it tomorrow. We welcome his support, and if he's got any money going spare we'll have that too.

I'll be visiting another of our local businesses on Wednesday, a digital agency in Walmersley Road called Pure Sites Ltd.  The council's cabinet meets that night, and as usual we have many important things to discuss, including the future provision of some of our adult care services. The meeting starts at 6pm in the town hall, and is open to the public. You can read the agenda here. Cabinet meeting 1 October 2014

There's no lie-in for me on Thursday, when I join the dawn chorus at  6.30am and help our bin crews on their rounds. You will know by now that the new system of household waste collections starts in the second week of October, and everyone should by now have received their new collection calendars and details of what to put in each bin. It's vitally important to get the borough's recycling rate up - it not only makes financial sense but is beneficial to our environment. See our Q and A web link here: Waste collection changes

After my stint on the bins, I'll be joining the Mayor of Bury, Cllr Michelle Wiseman, at a multi-faith breakfast to bring together all members of our community. Then I'm going to the gym - not, you'll be dismayed to hear, to run off the bacon butty calories, but to meet another local business called We Do Fit Training. Then it's off to meet Arnold Wilcox-Wood, centre director of  The Rock, to talk about a range of matters, looking at how we can improve Bury both for local people and the many thousands who visit us each week. Finally I'll be at The Village for the Best of Bury Business Expo - you can see details of this year's awards here: Best in Bury

Talking of people who take more physical exercise than me, I'll be joining members of Bury Tandem Club for visually impaired cyclists who are celebrating their 30th anniversary on Friday: more details about the club are here: Bury Tandem Club 

Mike at Rose Court Care Home

Meanwhile, it was great to visit Rose Court Care Home in Radcliffe. They've recently benefitted from nearly £1 million of Government money to improve their dementia services. This is vital, as dementia is something that affects all families, and demand for services is sure to rise in coming years as society gets older. I'm pictured with the deputy mayor and mayoress, Cllr Sharon Briggs and Mrs Shirley Rabbitt, and centre manager Karen Davies.

22 September 2014: The People's Republic of Rammy

There's a certain party political conference just down the road, which I shall no doubt pop into, where (among many things) they will doubtless be discussing the case for devolution for Greater Manchester.

I, naturally, might go further than that, and demand independence for Bury. As a local man born and bred, I don't think that's an outrageous claim at all. Let's face it - residents in Ramsbottom long ago proclaimed themselves a people's republic. So my promise is actually very inclusive.

And there are a lot of good things happening in our fair borough, as my peers found out last week when I was away in sunny Warrington for a Local Government Association peer review challenge.

I enjoyed a recent business trip to CCM Motorcycles, who are making great strides to expand their business with their new GP-450 motorcycle. I'm pictured here with company head Austin Clews, in a scene I hope you will agree is reminiscent of the film Easy Rider. You can learn more about the company here: CCM Motorcycles

Mike with CCM Motorcycles boss Austin Clews

Keeping our young people safe is probably the most important job we can do, and I'm looking forward to meeting Gill Rigg, the independent chair of Bury Safeguarding Children Board, later today.

I'll be at East Ward Primary School tomorrow to meet the head teacher (I am chair of governors, so I'm allowed), and on Thursday it's off to Radcliffe for the Rose Court Nursing Home open day.

Residents of Bury West - don't forget that the local Township Forum meets on Wednesday (24 Sep), starting at 7pm at the Elton Centre. It's a busy agenda, including a presentation about the upcoming changes to the bin collections, so why not go along and have your say in the open forum?

Can I also urge everyone to make a date for Friday 10 October, when the fourth Bury Light Night takes place? It's always a great event, bringing a huge range of family friendly attractions to the town centre. You can download the programme of events here: Bury Light Night

The week concludes with the regular meeting of AGMA (Association of Greater Manchester Authorities) on Friday, this time held in Rochdale. Which is an opportune time to remind them that while Bury may not be independent yet, we are very much top of the league.

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: Asia Triennial Manchester - What's on

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.

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: AGMA - 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: AGMA - 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: Bury College - 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 punch bag, 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  And you can keep up to date with Scott at Scott Quigg

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