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Blog: August 2011

This month: Stockholm syndrome best cure for turning 60; Sven will I meet you again...; Send them to Coventry; To infinity and beyond!

22 August 2011: Stockholm syndrome best cure for turning 60

A very brief post this week, as I've loads to do before Father Time claims me for his own, as I'm celebrating (!) my 60th birthday this week.

Plan for Change Mill Gate  

I've decided to commiserate by heading off on a cruise of the Baltic capitals, knowing I can leave the smooth running of the council in the safe hands of my deputy, Councillor John Smith. I may send a postcard, if I can force myself to cheer up a bit...

But before I go, I'll be chairing tonight's meeting of the Executive, which takes place at Radcliffe Civic Suite at 6pm. On the agenda will be the final report about our new Township Forums which are due to start in September. We've also got important items about a new community resettlement service and affordable housing in the borough. Please come along and ask questions.

I want to thank all those people who visited our stand in the Millgate to make their choices as part of the Plan for Change consultation process. This week you can go along to libraries and children's centres across the borough and make your choices and let you voice be heard. A full list of venues can be found on our Plan for Change web pages.

15 August 2011: Sven will I meet you again...!

Hello, fellow Bury FC fans! As I (sort of) predicted in last week's blog, the mighty Shakers dumped Coventry out of the League Cup. And we've been drawn at home in the second round against Leicester City, which gives me a chance to say "hej" to their manager Sven Goran Eriksson, and wishing him a successful run in the league instead.

Hubris it may be, but I'm feeling good about Bury right now. On Friday I was showing the leader of Tameside Council round the new town centre: or, as they say in the trade, taking him on the Red Carpet Route. Tameside is rated as a Beacon council for its achievements, but no one's so perfect that they can't come to Bury to see how well we do things here. The Rock, Bury in Bloom, the market etc - at this rate, to misquote the line from the movie Jaws, we're going to need a bigger carpet.

Choices launch

The big news of the last week, of course, has been the riots and looting in Manchester and beyond. I'm sure that all Bury people are as disgusted and angry about what's happened as I have been, and want the toughest action possible taken against these criminals (for that is exactly what they are). Although this violent crime wave has not blighted our borough, I can assure you that the council has been working constantly with our partners in the police and other agencies to make sure we are prepared to deal with any disturbances that may occur. I'm also going to spell it out for anyone who hasn't got the message yet - we will do whatever we can to make sure that anyone from Bury who takes part in such criminal acts feels the full force of justice - and I warn you that if you are one of our tenants, you are running the risk of being evicted.

May I remind everyone that our Plan for Change is now out for consultation, and we're holding a range of events across the borough this week. If you want to meet me to discuss it, I'll be in the Mill Gate centre on Wednesday from 11am to 2pm. Come along and tell me what you think.

Also - the next meeting of the council's Executive is next Monday (22 August) at Radcliffe Civic Suite, so please come along and listen to the debates and ask questions.

Congratulations are due to our staff and community volunteers for a superb result in making sure all 12 of Bury's main parks retained the prestigious Green Flag award. This is one of the highest rates in the country, and something we can all be proud of.

Our young people also deserve praise for another excellent set of results at Key Stage 2, which were once more higher than the national average. This puts our youngsters on the right road to a successful future, and they can head off to what we used to call "big school" with confidence. I hope the same pattern of success is repeated in the upcoming A-Level and GCSE results, which are due out this week and next.

Finally, on a sad note, I went to the funeral of Peter Heath on Friday. Many of you will remember Peter, who was manager of the Elizabethan Suite for many of his 30-plus years with the council. He was a real "people person", an excellent manager and a lovely guy, for whom nothing was too much trouble. The thousands of people who attended functions over the years at the Elizabethan Suite will testify to that

8 August 2011: Send them to Coventry!

Ah yes, the roar of the greasepaint and the smell of the crowd. The curtain has come up on the new football season, and Bury FC got off to a great start on Saturday with a well-earned away draw at promotion favourites Huddersfield.

The Shakers have another big game tomorrow night (Tuesday), playing host to Coventry in the first round of the League Cup. Let's all get down to Gigg Lane and get behind the team! (I'm pictured with the squad, but I think my registration papers have got lost in the post...)

blog: Shakers

My meetings this week include a serious talk with the bosses of Pennine Acute Trust, when I'll be asking them about their plans for Fairfield Hospital, an issue that I know concerns many of you. And I'll be showing the leader of Tameside Council around The Rock development, just to show how well we do things in Bury.

Today, as I promised, we've launched a massive public consultation on our Plan for Change. The council faces big challenges in the coming years, not least of which is the need to find savings of £18 million. This Plan looks at how we can best work together to meet those challenges, but let me make it quite clear that it is not a charter for privatisation.

We've already started consulting with our staff, and the first public meeting is on Wednesday (10 August) at the Adult Care Services new Connect and Direct offices on Manchester Road, Bury from 1-5pm.

We've put a whole range of information about the Plan for Change on our website..

Also there is an invitation to you to tell us your views about the new Township Forums we are planning to launch in September - again, please take the time to make your views known before consultation closes on Wednesday. A report will be going to the next meeting of the Executive on 22 August.

1 August 2011: To infinity and beyond!

One of the big secrets in the last budget was our plans to defeat the evil Emperor Zurg. Alas, the cat is now out of the bag, following my visit to Ainsworth Village Day on Saturday - as you can see from the picture, when none other than Buzz Lightyear accosted me with an update.

Our joint mission is actually to defeat the evil Emperor Waste, something Buzz takes a great interest in, as anyone who has watched Toy Story 3 will know. In the movie, all these wonderful toys are thrown into a tip, the intergalactic equivalent of landfill. Thankfully they managed to escape, and ended up in a good home.

Buzz Lightyear and Mike Connolly at Ainsworth Village Day

And this brings me on to the oversized bins at Bury Bridge (bear with me - my friends in the English department say this is an extended metaphor). Some people wonder what they're doing there. Well, it's good that people are noticing them (that's the idea), because we need raise awareness with the public to help us by taking action now to deal with our increasing challenging waste disposal problems.

In Bury, we're sending more waste to landfill per household than anywhere else in Greater Manchester. We have the second lowest recycling rate, and recycle the least amount of paper and cardboard. Neither of these outcomes can we be proud of.

And as far as taxpayers' money is concerned, the figures are frightening. We are currently spending £14 million on collection, disposal and landfill charges, and this will rise to £21 million in three years' time - that's £250 per household - if we don't do something urgent and drastic to reverse this situation. As a resident of Bury, I know what I want my council tax spending on, and it's not burying rubbish in the ground. This affects everyone and for more details, go to our recycling web pages.

On a wider note, we've drawn up a "Plan for Change" to look at how we operate in future, faced as we are with having to find huge budget savings. We'll be announcing details of public consultation on this very soon, but it's important that our employees are briefed first, so on Thursday I'll be attending the first of a series of engagement meetings with them to explain the financial challenges we are facing and how our plans are likely to affect them and how they will be involved in the process over the coming months.

And next week, I'll be meeting leaders of Pennine Acute Trust, when I'll be asking them what their plans are for Fairfield Hospital.

In the meantime, please help our environment and our budget by getting into the recycling habit. Buzz wants us to, and that's good enough for me.

In your area

Position of Bury in the North West
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