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Leader's Blog

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

Councillor Mike Connolly

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

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

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24 March 2015: Hope springs eternal

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

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

Mike with market traders

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

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

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

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

16 March 2015: Zero tolerance - of zero tolerance

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

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

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

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

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

Mike with Scott Richardson of Bury Lions

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

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

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

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

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

Mike visits Complete Driveway Designs

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

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

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

Mike on Commonwealth Day

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

17 February 2015: Purple reign, purple reign

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

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

Mike at Purple Flag awards

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

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

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

Mike with police chief Chris Sykes

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

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

9 February 2015: Car trouble, oh yeah

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

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

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

Mike with Scott Richardson

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

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

2 February 2015: How much???

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

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

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

Mike with Jonathan Rose, MD of Tier 1

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

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

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

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

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

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

26 January 2015: Our man in Havana

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

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

Mike in Cuba

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

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

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

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

12 January 2015:  Batting for Bury

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

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

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

Mike with Rob Isherwood and council chief executive Mike Kelly  

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

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

6 January 2015: To everything there is a season

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

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

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

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

Mike with Mike Kelly

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

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

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