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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.
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.
Keep your comments coming!
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.
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:
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.
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.
16 December 2014: And it's Merry Christmas from him...
If there's one group of people who probably hate Christmas, it's got to be the nation's postal workers. I paid a visit to the local Royal Mail sorting office, and it was absolutely heaving with cards and parcels. Spare a thought for the posties who, laden down like pack horses, are trudging through all weathers to bring us our festive goodies.
I'm delighted to be attending the re-opening of Elmhurst and Woodbury tomorrow (Wed), which provide short-stay social services to the community. The facility has just been refurbished to the tune of £1.6 million, which will help it offer the highest quality services to Bury residents. Why not come along and have a look, between 1pm and 2pm?
The council's cabinet holds its final meeting of 2014 tomorrow, and there's a lot to talk about, especially plans to build a temporary swimming pool in Radcliffe. You're welcome to attend the meeting, which starts at 6pm in the town hall, and ask questions.
Christmas rears its head on Thursday, starting with lunch at the Elms Community Centre in Whitefield for the over-60s. That, I'm a little bit peeved to admit, now includes me. It's always a great event, though, and I'm looking forward to the bingo. We take no prisoners, you know.
Then on Thursday night, it's off to Bury Parish Church for the traditional carols and lessons service, organised by the council and Greater Manchester Police who will be playing the music. It always sets me right up for Christmas, and you're all invited. The service starts at 7.30pm.
That's just about it for Christmas, except next week when I and some senior officers at the council take our PAs out for lunch. It's the least they deserve, after putting up with us all year.
Finally, can I urge you to consider becoming a Snow Angel? This is a new initiative, encouraging people to look after their elderly neighbours over winter and help them to keep safe and warm in their houses. You can find all the details here: Become a Snow Angel - Take the pledge
This is my last blog before the new year, so I wish you Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, or a great Winter Solstice. Whatever your beliefs, have a great time. As the late, great comedian Dave Allen always concluded - may your God go with you.
8 December 2014: It's beginning to feel a lot like... you know
As it's now December, we can safely mention the C-word without being accused of crass commercialism. So it's wall to wall Christmas events for me this week.
But first, festive cheer was overflowing at the Mayor of Bury's annual Civic Ball in Prestwich. The aim was to raise money for her charities - Grace's Place children's hospice and the North West Air Ambulance service - and it was a great event. Many thanks to all those who came along and contributed to such worthy causes. I'm pictured here with 'my girls' at our table.
Tomorrow I'm heading to the Christmas Bingo event at the Sunnybank centre for people with learning disabilities, and then to St Hilda's Primary School in Prestwich to see my god children Louie and Ruby star in their Christmas show. And on Wednesday it's off to the Topping Fold over-50s Christmas lunch, which is always a great event.
A break in the jollities takes place on Wednesday night, when the full council holds its last meeting of 2014. It starts at 7pm at the town hall, and as usual there will be lots to discuss. Why not tune in live and watch the debate, courtesy of our friends at Digital Tree UK? You can watch the meeting live here: Digital Tree - Bury Council meeting - live stream / last meeting
I hope you all had a fantastic time on Saturday when I officially re-opened Radcliffe Market Hall following a near £1 million refurbishment. It was a superb family day of entertainment, including the switch-on of the Radcliffe Christmas lights. We have many more plans to regenerate the town centre, which I will certainly keep you all in touch with.
It's back to Christmas on Thursday when I'll be watching the Reception and Year 1 youngsters at East Ward Primary School, where I'm chair of governors, put on their Christmas show. After my quarterly meeting with JobCentre Plus, I'll be at the Greater Manchester Police Christmas carol concert at Manchester Cathedral. By then I should have managed to put up my office Christmas tree. I've got one of those pop-up things, which is designed to save time and stress. I'll let you know next week how I get on.
2 December 2014: ...when you're the driver of a train
The sooner we have Devo Manc the better. I've just had to go to London again, this time for the Local Government Association's Safe and Stronger Community Board. It's all very serious stuff, but to be honest I don't like the capital. As a Bury man born and bred, it's always a relief when I get back.
A bit nearer home, we had several things to talk (and argue) about at the last AGMA meeting, and at GMP HQ. But these paled into insignificance compared to my journey back on the Metrolink. It was still morning, but on my tram we had an incident involving a dishevelled couple, an impromptu strip tease and what I believe to be strong drink. It would be imprudent of me to go into too much detail, but suffice to say it didn't directly involve me.
Much more inspiring was my visit to St Gabriel's High School this morning, when they held a Have A Go careers event. Great fun, and a sign of many good things to come. I'm pictured with the Mayor of Bury (and a new friend).
Tonight I've been invited to the Greater Manchester Tourism Awards, which I think we should win even if we haven't been nominated, and tomorrow it's back to London when a delegation from Merseyside and East Lancashire will be meeting the minister in charge of asylum, James Brokenshire.
You might have guessed by now that we're nearing Christmas, and I'm really looking forward to being on The Rock on Friday when they start their Land Train to take shoppers around the town centre. Like most boys I've never grown up, and I'll be insisting that they let me drive the train. I'll have a tantrum otherwise, I promise you.
You're all invited to the grand re-opening of Radcliffe Market Hall on Saturday (6 December), when I'll be cutting the ribbon at 2.30pm. We've just refurbished it at a cost of £800,000, and it's part of our ongoing efforts to regenerate the town centre, which includes future plans for a new bus station and retail-led development. Saturday is a big fun day for all the family, with prizes and entertainment and the switch-on of the Christmas lights at 4.30pm. See you there!
Then on Saturday night, it's time to dig out the monkey suit for the Mayor of Bury's grand charity ball at the Longfield Suite in Prestwich. It's all in aid of the mayor's chosen charities, Grace's Place children's hospice and the North West Air Ambulance Service. Ticket details - Email: Bury Council - Democratic Services.
24 November 2014: Made in Bury - the Best of Bury
I must start off this week with the Made in Bury Business Awards, and what an absolutely fabulous night that was. It's now the biggest business awards ceremony in Greater Manchester, and the night showed what a phenomenal wealth of talent we have in our borough. Enterprise is vital to grow our economy, provide jobs, and make Bury a wonderful place in which to live and work.
My thanks go to everyone involved, at the council and our partners thebestofbury, and also at Tower FM. You can read more about the awards night here: Made in Bury Business Awards 2014 - The Winners
It was Youth Takeover Day on Friday, when pupils from local schools came in and asked questions, And a lot of them, too. They started off all nice, asking me how I got into politics etc. Then they bombarded me with questions about children's centres and the bins. Honestly, it was the toughest political grilling I've had for a long time. Good on them - it bodes well for democracy in the future.
Today I've been meeting the Transport for Greater Manchester budget scrutiny committee, and tonight I'm at the Bury East Township Forum to talk about the council's budget cuts for next year. It starts at 7pm at the Mosses Centre, and all are welcome.
Tomorrow I'm being interviewed by Tower FM about the re-opening of Radcliffe Market Hall after a £1 million refurbishment, which shows how committed we are to improving the town centre in Radcliffe. Traders are moving in for businesses next Tuesday (2 December), and you're all invited to the official re-opening and family fun day on Saturday 6 December: details here: My News Desk - Radcliffe Market Hall
On the business front, I enjoyed meeting Brightside Brewing Company who are a new business located in Radcliffe. I'm pictured here with the owners Maxine and Neil Friedrich and you can find more details of the company here: Brightside Brewing Company
With my crime and policing hat on, I've been at GMP HQ to meet the Fit for the Future team, and I'm going back again to talk about the Police and Crime Commissioner's budget. I'll be fighting Bury's corner, don't you worry.
The council's cabinet meets on Wednesday, and you can come along to the meeting and ask questions if you wish. It's at 6pm at the town hall, and the agenda is here: Cabinet meeting 26 November 2014
This week concludes with a meeting of the Bury Rural Inequalities Forum on Thursday at Tottington Library, and then the Greater Manchester Combined Authority meeting on Friday.
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.
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.
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.
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. AGMA - Devolution for Greater Manchester
Later this week I'll be leading a police and crime steering group, which is my portfolio across Greater Manchester.
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: My News Desk - Adoption Team Award
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.
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