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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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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:  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.

28 March 2014: It's a marathon, not a sprint

Don't get me wrong, I like sport. It's just that sport doesn't particularly like me.

This preamble is necessary before I tell you that I'll be at the Greater Manchester Marathon next Sunday. No, I'm certainly not taking part in it. I shall watch in warm comfort from the VIP enclosure, doing nothing more strenuous than lifting a cup of tea to my lips. That's what the organisers have told me, anyway.

Mike and Baroness Newlove

I was delighted to meet Baroness Newlove, who came to see the success of our pioneering BEAPS initiative, which aims to help communities tackle alcohol-related problems in Bury East. We're pictured here.

The council's staff do a tremendous job, and I'm looking forward to shortlisting nominations for our annual STAR awards. This is where we pay tribute to those who have 'gone the extra mile' in providing exceptional public service, as nominated by you. I'm also visiting our homeless team to thank them for the great work they do.

My latest school visit took me to St Paul's CE Primary School, where I'm pictured with head teacher Mrs J. Morris and pupils. I'll be meeting an older group of young people when I attend the council's youth cabinet next week.

Mike at St Paul's Primary School

There's the full council meeting on Wednesday (2 April), which starts at 7pm in Bury Town Hall. If you can't come along, why not tune in and watch the debates? It's thanks to local company Digital Tree, who live stream the meetings. The link is here: Digital Tree - Bury Council meeting - live stream / last meeting

It was a pleasure to meet representatives from various religions when the Mayor recently held a faith breakfast. Personally, I always have faith in breakfast, and it was an invitation I couldn't refuse. I'm pictured here with Adrian Nottingham (from Mustard Tree), the Reverend Dave Thomson (the mayor's chaplain), the Mayor, and Bishop Christopher.

Mike at the faith breakfast

Finally, I'll be meeting representatives of Sport England on Friday to discuss our ongoing I Will If You Will campaign to encourage more women and girls to take up sport. Luckily I'm not in this target group, so I get out of taking exercise. But that doesn't mean you can get away with it. More details of how you can get involved are here: I will if you will

24 March 2014: Yes folks, recycling can be fun

Had a great time in Radcliffe at the weekend. No, not at Radcliffe Boro - rumours that I was involved in the crowd trouble must be discarded as the product of a malicious mind.

Mike at Radcliffe recycling day

I speak of the family recycling fun day, held at Radcliffe Hall Primary School and in nearby Close Park. Face painting, treasure hunts, prizes - all good stuff, and a good way to get across the serious message that we urgently need to increase the amount we recycle and reduce waste. If we can get today's young people on our side, that's the best way of sorting tomorrow's problems. Here's a lovely picture of me, taken at the annual meeting of Bury Council . Only joking - of me with Captain Recycle and the rest of the gang at the trash fashion show.

Just when you wait ages for a bishop, three turn up at once. My latest meeting is tomorrow with the Bishop of Manchester, who is coming to Bury to address a tackling poverty conference. And then on Saturday I'll be meeting the new Chief Rabbi, Ephraim Mirvis, at Bury Hebrew Congregation. We get all the big stars in Bury, you know.

I've been getting round more of our schools to see the excellent work they do in giving our young people a bright future, and this week I'll be heading to Holy Trinity and St Thomas's. But here's a nice picture of my recent visit to St John with St Marks primary, with head teacher Mrs J. Moore and pupils Arooj and Anisha. Mike at St John with St Mark's Primary

The economy and regeneration are two of our top priorities, and I'm looking forward to my latest meeting with Ramsbottom Business Group later this week. I'm also going to see Phil Coppell Ltd, a double glazing, roofing and conservatory company in Cemetery Road, Radcliffe; and some new social housing in Bolton Road, Bury created with Six Town Housing on the site of the former Elton Square.

Mike at Bury Hospice opening

We all know about the fantastic work done by Bury Hospice, and how much local people got behind the project to open a new hospice building in East Bury. So it was a huge pleasure to attend the formal opening; they are truly marvellous and dedicated people. I'm pictured with the Mayor, chief executive Jacqui Comber, and council chief executive Mike Kelly.

17 March 2014: TOWIB - the new reality show

I've decided to become the borough's new head of tourism, after my strenuous attempts to give my friends from Essex a good time at the weekend. The only way is Bury, as far as I'm concerned.

Up they came from Dagenham, and you know what? They loved Bury. We went to Bury Market, where I forced them to buy some black pudding, and enjoyed afternoon tea at Leckenby's, plus a visit to the Fusilier Museum and a curry at the Forts of India in Whitefield. Then it was on the East Lancashire Railway, up to Ramsbottom (which they loved) and a great meal at the Hearth of the Ram, plus some proper real ale courtesy of Phoenix Brewery. The beer had a head on it, and it was cold. Let's hope they take the message back down south. In the words of Mr Schwarzenegger, they'll be back.

Back to work, and I'm at the Manchester Growth company board tomorrow, where we'll be discussing plans to promote economic development across Greater Manchester.

I've been making lots of visits to our local schools: this time I'm pictured at Higher Lane Primary in Whitefield, with head teacher Ms C. McLachlan and pupils Toby, Bradley, Maisy and Myra. Mike at Higher Lane Primary School

And the pace doesn't slacken - later this week I'll be going to Radcliffe Hall, Tottington, East Ward - where I'll be chairing the governors meeting - and to my old alma mater, St Marie's. It's changed a bit since I went there, let me tell you.

On Wednesday I'll be at the Bury East Township Forum, which takes place at the New Kershaw Centre starting at 7pm. Why not come along and ask questions during the usual open forum? The agenda is here: Bury East Township Forum

My most recent business visit was to Diane Berry Kitchens, based in Bury New Road, Prestwich, and I was most impressed: they've recently come fourth in a national competition. More details about the company are here: Diane Berry KitchensMike with Diane Berry

The Mayor is holding a prayer breakfast on Thursday, designed to bring together people of all different faiths in Bury. And I'll be at Bury FC on Thursday to give a speech to a conference that aims to tackle alcohol abuse and anti-social behaviour in Bury East.

As if prayers are not enough, I'm meeting a brace of bishops on Friday; to be precise, the bishops of Bolton and Salford, at the official opening of Bury Hospice.

And on Sunday, I'm back at Radcliffe Hall to help judge a community recycling event. It's my partner's birthday that day, but it's far more important to get the borough recycling than have birthday parties, yes? Just don't tell my partner that, or the only way will be trouble.

10 March 2014: Steal me awhile from mine own company

Yes, I've been at the Shakespeare again. This time it was in the company of the young actors from Holy Cross College, who presented A Midsummer Night's Dream at The Met last week. And a fantastic show it was - well done to every one of them.

Slightly less fantastic was the goal-less derby match against Rochdale on Friday. Not a classic, and the pitch left a lot to be desired. And, not for the first time, we proved unable to beat ten men. Still, at least my counterpart in Rochdale, Colin Lambert, doesn't have the bragging rights any more. Frankly, the best moment was when the Shakers fans started taunting their opposition with "You're just a small town in Heywood". Mike with chief executive Mike Kelly at skills event

A huge thanks to everyone who put together the Backing Young Bury skills and training event in the Elizabethan Suite. It's vital that we give our young people a chance to get on in life and fulfil their potential, and hopefully this will prove a good start for some of them. I didn't go as far as the mayor, who had a go at milking a 'cow' at the event, but it was a hugely enjoyable day. I'll be meeting some of our existing BYB trainees on their work placements with the council. I'm pictured with council chief executive Mike Kelly.

On the schools front, I enjoyed meeting the deputy head teacher, Mrs Eccles, at St Mary's Primary School in Radcliffe. We're pictured here: Mike with Mrs Eccles, head of St Mary's in Radcliffe

Later this week I'll be visiting loads more schools - St Mary's in Prestwich, Park View, St John with St Mark's, Higher Lane, St Paul's, and ending up at East Ward on Friday where the youngsters are having a special Champion Writers' Assembly.

I'm talking to organiser Frank Shatliff today about how we can help make this year's Prestwich Carnival a triumph, and discussing all matters of local business at Diane Berry Kitchens. Then I'm meeting staff from JobCentre Plus, and ESOL students from our adult learning service.

The weekend brings a delegation from London - my friends, in fact. It's my job to show them the sights and sounds of Bury, from our famous Bury Market to the tourist attraction that is Ramsbottom, via the East Lancs Railway. This jaunt may involve the odd hostelry or two, and they'll get a shock - the beer here is cold, unlike that muck they serve down south. Lord, what fools these mortals be!

4 March 2014: I'm a council leader - get me out of here!

You know how they say bad luck comes in threes? It came to my mind when we headed on our holiday to the Canary Islands last week.

The trouble started immediately. Minutes after being picked up by our taxi at 6am, we had a puncture. Replacement quickly ordered, we made it to Manchester Airport just in time - well, almost. We got to the big roundabout, and the taxi's engine packed up, leaving me - in my finest Hawaiian shorts - to drag our luggage to departures.

Finally, on the plane, and up in the air. But alas - over the intercom comes the stewardess's voice: "Ladies and gentlemen, is there a doctor on board?" Turns out that a passenger had suffered a heart attack, and we had to land at Exeter for a two-hour wait on the runway as the poor fellow was rushed off to hospital.

Apart from that, the holiday was great. Everywhere I went, when people found out where I lived, people would say "Ah, Bury Market!"

Word has obviously got around. We thought we'd check out the competition by visiting the Grand Souk at Agadir, which I have to admit was the biggest market I've ever seen. But obviously not as good as ours, of course.

And then, our fourth bit of bad luck - Ian lost his camera just before we came back, and hundreds of pictures he'd taken. Still, I couldn't deprive you of a sunny holiday picture, could I? Our dining companions on the last night took this one. Mike and Ian in the Canary Islands

Back on home soil, and yesterday I was in London for the latest meeting of the Local Government Association's safer and stronger communities board. Don't know about you, but I'm not a fan of the capital, and always feel better on getting back to Bury.

Earlier today I met a class of youngsters from Elms Bank school, and we gave them a grand tour of the council building. Tomorrow I'm visiting St Mary's Primary in Radcliffe, and seeing the students of Holy Cross College in action at The Met when they perform A Midsummer Night's Dream. Later this week I'll be saying hello to staff and pupils at Yesoiday Hatorah school.

People of Rammy! Don't forget that there's a by-election in the ward on Thursday (6 March). Whatever your politics, it's vital that we take the chance to vote whenever we can - our ancestors fought (and some died) for this basic right. Polling stations are open from 7am to 10pm.

Finally, it's the big derby on Friday when the Shakers take on Rochdale at Gigg Lane. Let's all get along and get behind our team, yes? I'll be there with Colin Lambert, leader of Rochdale Council, and I'm desperately hoping that Bury win for once. He's had the bragging rights for too long.

24 February 2014: Every picture tells a story

It's not often I use Rod Stewart album titles as the headlines in my blog, but in this case it was hard to resist.

I had great pleasure in attending the opening of the Bury Photographic Society exhibition, which is now on at Bury Art Museum. I'm always amazed at the sheer amount of talent that local people have, and this show - which runs until 19 April is well worth visiting. It features 150 prints, plus more than 300 digitally projected images which are displayed on a TV monitor. The society has more than 60 members and meets at Fishpool Liberal Club every Thursday evening, For more details, visit their web site Bury Photographic Society Garry and Bev Hayes have kindly sent in a picture of me with the Mayoress and the award winners. Mike with Bury Photographic Society

You may have heard that the council has now set its budget for the coming year. You may also have heard that the council has frozen its share of the council tax take, which I'm sure residents will be pleased about. Members also agreed to spend an extra £12 million on our council tenants and £500,000 on improving the main A56 through Prestwich Village, and I hope this is widely welcomed. You can read the full budget reports here Bury Council meeting or, for a summary, here. Budget summary

Meanwhile, I've been continuing to visit as many of our local schools as possible. My recent trip was to Christ Church Primary in Ainsworth, and here I am pictured with head teacher Dave Gerrard and pupils (from left) Katy, Jayden, Ben, Ruby, Jack, and Olivia. Mike at Christ Church Ainsworth

17 February 2014: Big day for my birthday girl

When it comes to your own birthday, the only time you really enjoy it is when you're a kid. There's not much fun to be had in ticking off the years once the winter plumage has set in. But you can still have a great time by holding a party for the young ones you love.

We took my grand-daughter Amber out for a grown-up meal for her seventh birthday, and had a fantastic time. She was very well behaved too, especially for a child who received a pile of presents to dwarf Mount Everest. Not like the old days, when you got half an orange and a peanut. But it's nice to spoil them every now and then. Here's a nice picture of me with the birthday girl.

Mike with Amber

The collective talents of Bury Photographic Society are currently on show at Bury Art Museum. I went to the official opening at the weekend, and very impressive it is too. Why not pop in and have a look?

Today I'm signing a Domestic Violence Pledge on behalf of the council, along with the Mayor and Tony Lloyd, Police and Crime Commissioner for Greater Manchester. We must do all we can to tackle this dreadful crime which blights communities and ruins so many people's lives. Help is available: call freephone 0808 2000 247.

My latest business visit took me to GJ Plastics in Radcliffe. I'm pictured with managing director Graham Croston, and you can find out more about the company's work here: GJ Plastics

Mike with Graham Croston, MD of GJ Plastics

On Wednesday, the council will set the budget and the council tax for 2014/15. You're very welcome to come along and hear the debates (the meeting starts at 7pm in the town hall chamber), or why not tune in live and watch it? The link is here: Digital Tree - Bury Council meeting - live stream / last meeting

It's a sad day tomorrow when I attend the funeral of my next door neighbour Gwen Turner. We've lived side by side for the last 54 years, which really makes you think just how quickly time flies by.

Let's end on a happier note, and my recent visit to St Joseph and St Bede's Primary School. I'm pictured with head teacher Mrs Liz Connolly (no relation) and pupils (from left) Billy, Charlotte, Callum, Remi and Devonne. I hope they enjoy every birthday they've got coming up.

Mike at St Joseph's and St Bede's Primary School

10 February 2014: Best days of your life

As the French say: the more things change, the more they stay the same. Well, they say it in the French, of course. And if I keep going back to school, I might just learn how to say it too.

That's a round about way of saying how much I'm enjoying visiting our local schools, meeting the staff and the pupils. Some things have changed beyond belief - the technology, the dinners, my ability to fit into the chairs - but others, thankfully, are very much the same: the enthusiasm, the desire to learn and have fun, and hope for the future. My last two visits have been to Ribble Drive in Whitefield, and to St Andrew's in Ramsbottom: I'm pictured with head teacher Damien Marsh and Hanna, Declan and Stanley. Mike with St Andrew's head Damien Marsh and Hanna, Declan and Stanley

Later this week I'm heading to Our Lady of Lourdes, Greenhill and Christ Church Ainsworth primary schools, and also to Peel Brow and St Joseph and St Bede's. At this rate I'll be re-sitting my GCSEs (or O-levels, for older readers).

I had a fascinating business visit to BEP Surface Technologies Ltd, precision and cutting edge engineering company in Eton Hill Road, Radcliffe. What an amazing place that is: see their web site here.  BEP Surface Technologies Ltd I'm pictured with managing director Andrew McClusky. I'll be back nearby to see G J Plastics later this week. Mike with Andrew McClusky, MD of BEP Surface Technologies Ltd

Today I'm meeting the chief executive of Manchester Economic Solutions to see what more we can to create jobs, and later this week it's youth cabinet and a meeting with MP Ivan Lewis and members of the local charity Hurdles.

The borough's artistic talents are on show at Bury Art Museum, courtesy of Bury Photographic Society's annual exhibition. Looking forward to that.

And finally, my grand-daughter Amber celebrates her seventh birthday at the weekend. I'm taking her for a proper grown-up meal at The Swan in Dobcross. That's one thing that's definitely changed since my school days - kids really do grow up quicker today.

3 February 2014: You can keep your hat on

It never fails to move me when our young people take part in the annual Holocaust Memorial Day, and so it was last week when they got together at Radcliffe Civic Suite to commemorate that and other human tragedies. It's vital that future generations remember these dreadful events, and learn from them. Well done to all concerned.

The Shakers enjoyed a good win at the weekend against Wycombe Wanderers, but it was a real game of two halves (Brian). We played well in the first half, but were hanging on a bit towards the end. The stress was relieved when a chap sitting near to me kept having his hat blown off. Let's hope the team's form continues when they meet Oxford United tomorrow.

Can I invite residents living in Bury East to come along to tomorrow's meeting of the local Township Forum? It starts at 7pm at St Paul's Primary School, and you can read the agenda here: Bury East Township Forum

Again, the council's cabinet meets on Wednesday, from 6pm at Elms Community Centre in Whitefield at 6pm. The agenda is here: Cabinet

More good news for local projects. I went to St Mary's Court in Prestwich, for the launch of a new housing scheme we've been working in partnership with St Vincent's Housing Association with. I've also been to Elmhurst short-term stay home in Whitefield, which has recently undergone refurbishment.

You may know about our "I Will If You Will" pilot project to encourage more girls and women to take up sport. The latest initiative is the opening of a new mobile swimming pool at Broad Oak High School, and I'll be taking my cossie along. Absolutely no pictures of that, I can promise you.

On Thursday, I'll be making my latest school visits to St Andrew's Primary in Ramsbottom and Ribble Drive Primary in Whitefield. I'm also having my regular meeting with Rob Isherwood from Bury Chamber of Commerce.

Our Backing Young Bury project goes from strength to strength, giving young people the chance to get training, work experience and apprenticeships. I'm meeting the latest batch of recruits on Friday. Again, the potential and abilities of our young people are beyond question - all they need is a chance to show what they can do. For more details of the scheme, click here: Backing Young Bury

27 January 2014: For all the tea in China

My week got off to a sad one today, when I attended the funeral at St Joseph's of Mabel Kiernan, one of my constituents who I've known since I was a little boy. You always popped in to Mabel's when you were in the vicinity, and you always knew she had the kettle on. She'll be greatly missed.

As a former teacher, it's always a pleasure to visit our local schools - and at this rate, I'll have been to every one in the borough. My latest trips have been to St Hilda's in Prestwich, where I'm pictured with assistant head Mrs Natasha Loraine and pupils Zuzanna and Alexander, and also at St Andrew's Radcliffe, meeting head teacher Mrs Pippa Jackson-Maitland

Mike at St Hilda's

Tonight, I'll be at the Holocaust Memorial event at Radcliffe Civic Suite where our young people will take part in recalling some of the most terrible events in history. We must never forget the Holocaust and the many other genocides. On a related subject, it's vital that we continue to tackle all forms of persecution and discrimination, so it's well done to the council for being chosen as the best in the North West by campaigning group Stonewall for its measures to champion equality at work, and well done to our LGBT team for winning an award.

Mike at St Andrew's

The full council meets on Wednesday at the town hall, starting at 7pm. If you can't come along and hear the debates in person, why not tune in and watch it online? Just click here. Digital Tree - Bury Council meeting - live stream / last meeting

Later this week, I'll be at St Mary's Court in Prestwich where a new housing scheme is being developed in partnership with St Vincent's Housing Association.

Finally, it's back to Gigg Lane on Saturday for the visit of Wycombe Wanderers. Hope to see you there. Shame Mabel isn't making the tea, though.

20 January 2014: Going for a Burton - not

The Shakers' renaissance is well under way, if Saturday's game against Burton Albion is anything to go by. The team played well, and probably deserved to win. Let's hope they can keep it going at Accrington next week and get clear of the relegation zone.

Actually, I came close to winning at the match too. Someone sitting right next to me won the Golden Gamble. (It's the first time I've ever met a winner of the Golden Gamble at Gigg). Deputy council leader John Smith - rather cruelly, I think - pointed out that I was in the loo when the tickets came round. So near, and yet so far. Oh well; instead, I had the honour of presenting the Man of the Match award to Craig Jones, with the Mayoress Mrs Shirley Rabbitt.

Mike with Craig Jones and Shirley Rabbitt

I'm heading down to London again on Wednesday to meet Sir Michael Heller, who owns a lot of property in Radcliffe. We want to talk to him about how we can work together to improve the town centre, building on existing plans to refurbish the market and several other schemes. And on Friday, I'll have be having my usual liaison meeting with the borough's MPs, David Nuttall and Ivan Lewis.

It's always a pleasure to visit our local schools, and I enjoyed all of our visits last week. Here's a nice picture of me at Holcombe Brook primary with head teacher Gill Evans along with pupils Isobel, Katie and Jacob. Later this week I'm going to Our Lady Of Grace in Prestwich.

Mike at Holcombe Brook primary school

Let me draw your attention to the latest energy auction that Bury and the other Greater Manchester councils have just launched. This could save residents hundreds of pounds a year on their fuel bills - all the details are here: Better energy deals

14 January 2014: Glad to be back in Bury

Went to London yesterday for the Local Government Association's safer communities board. That's when we work on national policies such as environmental health, licensing, and trading standards, plus the police and fire, to help make our communities safer. As it says on the tin, basically.

But to be honest I'm not a huge fan of the capital. It's a cliché because it's true - too many people are constantly bumping into you or simply walking right past you without so much as a 'by your leave'. I'm always glad to get back on the train to little old Bury.

Can I just say a big 'thank you' to the many colleagues and friends who sent me cards and sympathies following the death of my brother? The church was packed for the funeral, and it was a fitting way to say our final goodbyes.

Business success is always a priority of mine, and it was a pleasure to make my regular visit to 02, the borough's largest private employer, last week to hear of good progress being made to consolidate employment on the site. I'm pictured here with Bob Buiaroski, Ian Hayhoe and Alan Evans.

 Mike with Bob Buiaroski, Ian Hayhoe and Alan Evans of 02

On Thursday I have the honour of speaking to members of Ramsbottom Business Group at the Old Mill.

Tomorrow I'll be meeting Tony Lloyd, Police and Crime Commissioner for Greater Manchester. As usual, I'll be arguing for Bury to get a bigger slice of the cake. Just because Bury's a nice place doesn't mean we don't need coppers.

Education is another of my main priorities, and I'm doing my best to get around our local schools and talk to the staff and children there. I'll be visiting no fewer than five primaries this week - Greenmount, Guardian Angels, Hazlehurst, Holcombe Brook and Sunny Bank. It's like an election campaign - although I'll probably be long gone by the time they get a chance to vote.

Today I've been at my first HEN do. Now before anyone says anything, HEN stands for Housing Employment and New opportunities and is the council's latest initiative to help homeless people into jobs and training.

Mike at HEN project

And on Saturday, it's back to Fortress Gigg (I wish) for the council sponsored game against Burton Albion. We were making something of a revival until Saturday's unfortunate defeat away at Chesterfield.

Finally, let me draw your attention to a sporting event on Saturday on The Rock. It's the latest I Will If You Will project, designed to encourage women and girls in Bury to take up sport and exercise. There will be loads of activities for people to try from 4pm to 6pm, and special guest star will be Georgia May Foote, aka Katy Armstrong from Corrie. Full details here: Georgia May Foote at The Rock

8 January 2014: Old highs, new lows

Hello everyone, and welcome to 2014. I hope you all had a great Christmas and New Year, and now we're back to the usual murky Lancashire weather. Time to dig out the holiday brochures, even for window shopping purposes.

Sadly, my new year didn't get off to a happy start. My brother Brian, who I've been visiting every week in Anglesey for some time, passed away this week. Aged 73, he lived in Bury until 1968 before moving to north Wales. Brian suffered from dementia and had various health problems, and in some ways it was a mercy when he went. But we will have lots of happy memories to treasure, especially at Christmas when the family , including his wife Sylvia and sons Brendan and Damian, were all there for what turned out to be the last time we would all be together. I want to thank everyone at the care home where he lived for looking after him so well, and for the support they have given the family.

Mike with brother Brian and family

Back to business, and I'm looking forward to making my regular visit to 02, the borough's largest private employer, tomorrow. On Thursday night, I'll be at Radcliffe Township Forum - 6pm start at the Civic Suite - to give a presentation on the council's latest budgetary position and the Plan for Change3. Please come along if you can, and ask questions. Then I'm off to London on Monday to the Safe and Stronger Communities Board.

Can I draw your attention to a couple of items that will help both you and our environment? Firstly, we have helped to set up an energy comparison site, which might help you to reduce your gas and electricity bills - the details are here. Better energy deals

And we could do with your help in recycling as much as we can. There's always loads of rubbish created over the festive period, from Christmas cards to trees and packaging. For more details on how to recycle, see here. Tis the season to recycle

Finally, my best wishes go to the Jewish community in Prestwich. Yesterday I had the pleasure of joining community leaders to officially welcome the opening of the new Eruv for North Manchester. I'm pictured here with Rabbi Berger and Mr Rodney Berkeley (and council chief executive Mike Kelly) receiving £10 as part of the 'technical' religious requirement for the completion of the Eruv, which takes in parts of Prestwich. The £10 has been donated to the Mayor's Charity Appeal.

Mike at opening of North Manchester Eruv

23 December 2013: Merry Christmas, one and all

Christmas wouldn't be complete without music and carols, so it was a delight to attend the service at Bury Parish Church on Thursday and watch the Fusilier Band. I had the honour of giving the fourth reading.

Mike giving reading at Bury Parish Church

And the festive spirit didn't end there. I went with the mayor to the Elms Christmas party, and what a belter that was. The food was cooked by people on the Community Payback scheme, with local PCSOs serving up the grub. And that was before the strangest game of bingo I've ever played.

I was pleased to attend the official opening of a new housing scheme at Hillside View in Ramsbottom, built in partnership with Six Town Housing and St Vincent's Housing Association.

Like many of you, we had our office party on Friday, with me and the deputy leader John Smith taking the staff for lunch. We might have a picture of that in the New Year, once we've all recovered.

I hope you have a great Christmas and New Year.

16 December 2013: Putting a spin on things

Christmas hasn't started well in the Connolly household. To whit, our dryer has packed up. So it was off to Bubbles laundrette on Chesham Road with a big bag of washing. Actually, it was fun - I'd forgotten how much gossip you hear when you're watching your laundry whizz round. Here I am - the ultimate fast spin doctor. Mike at the launderette

If only life was as much fun at Gigg Lane, or the JD Stadium as we must now call it. We were lucky to get out of the Northampton game with a point, and the New Year can only bring better things.

On Sunday, we took our grand-daughter to watch Frozen, which was fabulous. Disney always brings out the big kid in all of us.

Tonight we're all at standards training, and on Wednesday it's the final meeting this calendar year of the council's cabinet. It's held at Ramsbottom Civic Hall, starting at 6pm. Why not take a break from Christmas and come along? OK, fair enough. Have a butcher's at the agenda instead here. Cabinet agenda

Back on the estate, I'll be at the Topping Fold Carols around the Tree event on Wednesday. And on Thursday I'm going to the opening of new houses built at Hillside View in Ramsbottom, with Six Town Housing and St Vincent's Housing Association.

Also on Thursday, I'll be at Bury Parish Church for the big carol service, with music this year from the Fusilier Band. Then on Friday, me and the deputy council leader John Smith are taking our staff out for Christmas lunch. We're nice people, honestly. Mike's crib

Actually, Christmas is always nice at home. I've got out the crib (pictured) - my brother bought me this when I was just 7 years old, at my first communion, and I've kept it all these years. As I say, Christmas always brings out the big kid in you.

9 December 2013: Trying not to enjoy myself, honest

With all the inevitability of Greek tragedy, I've succumbed to Christmas. Firstly, it was a very festive occasion at the Mayor of Bury's Ball, which I'm sure will have raised loads of money for her worthy charities.

Before that, we enjoyed a great meal at the Topping Fold over-50s Christmas party - and to cap it off, I got to meet Santa (courtesy of Ramsbottom Rotary) at the town's festive artisan markets at the weekend. We're pictured here. He's the man in the red suit, in case you were wondering.Mike and Santa

Back to serious business, and it's the full meeting of the council on Wednesday (11 December), starting at 7pm in the council chamber. There's loads to discuss, and if you can't come along, why not tune in and watch the meeting live? Digital Tree - Bury Council meeting - live stream / last meeting

We all know how much energy bills are rising, but help is at hand. The ten Greater Manchester councils have set up a comparison web site, where you can see if you can find a cheaper deal for your gas and electricity. We'll be running another energy auction in the new year, but if you can't wait until then, why not look at this site? Better energy deals

This morning I was at the opening of Housing Connect and Direct, a new service based at the town hall for those who need help getting housing. I'm pictured with the mayor and our officers. For all manner of housing related enquiries, look here: Housing Mike at Housing Connect and Direct launch

And then it's back to Christmas on Friday, when I'll be queuing up for a go on the Land Train, on The Rock. I'm sure it will be huge hit with shoppers and their families: more details here: The Rock Bury

2 December 2013: 'till the pheasant plucker comes

As it turned out, the enthronement of the new Bishop of Manchester was wonderful. The hymn selection was excellent, so we all had a good sing. And my mate texted to say the rugby league world cup final was rubbish, so I didn't miss much there.

Another splendid chap I had the pleasure of meeting was Scott Quigg, Bury's world champion boxer, who dropped into the town hall for a spot of tea and stickies with the Mayor and me. He's a superb lad, and is really doing Bury proud and putting us on the sporting map. We're pictured here. Mike with Scott Quigg

I'll be meeting yet another splendid chap on Wednesday - Chief Superintendent Tim Forber, divisional police commander for Bury. PS: Have you noticed that this week's three splendid chaps are people who can either lock me up, knock my block off, or condemn me to eternal damnation? It's all about who you know, you know.

Now that December's arrived, we can mention the C-word, so I'm looking forward to the annual Topping Fold over-50s Christmas lunch on Wednesday. I qualify for admission on grounds of age, and because I Live on the estate. Assuming they let me go, I'll later be visiting Holy Trinity school. I'm also paying a visit to Fairfield Primary today, and to East Ward primary on Thursday.

On Friday, the Christmas fun continues at the Mayor of Bury's fund-raising civic ball, which this year is held at the Longfield Suite in Prestwich. It's time to dig out the dinner jacket and the dancing shoes, and do my best to raise money for her charities. Turkey stall

The Christmas festival at Prestwich this weekend was really good, with lots of entertainment and stalls. I liked one stall, a huge display of turkey and other birds, so much that I took a picture of it. I was reminded of a quaint old folk ditty, which relates the story of a pheasant plucker. But it's far too quaint to quote here. That's what the wonders of the internet are for!

In your area

Position of Bury in the North West
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