My name is Rishi Shori and I was elected Leader of Bury Council in 2016. It is an honour and a privilege to serve the town in which I was born and raised.
I want Bury to be one of the best boroughs in Britain in which to live, work, and study.
My five main priorities:
- Increase the supply of affordable housing
- Make Bury the business / entrepreneurial capital of the North West
- Improve our educational and training offer
- Tackle the steep health inequalities that exist within Bury and improve the population's health and wellbeing
- Protect and promote our local environment.
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2 March 2018: Looking after our most needy
You may by now have read about the budget that the council set last week and the level of council tax.
Frankly, I'm thoroughly fed up with these relentless years of austerity, in which our Government grant is slashed while demand for services from our most vulnerable people inexorably goes up.
Despite our annual struggle to square the circle, we're still putting our most needy people at the heart of what we do. We've ring-fenced some of the council tax rise to protect children's services, prevent homelessness and get young people ready for the world of work.
We're also devolving more power - and £600,000 - to local communities to give them more say in how their neighbourhoods are run. We are determined to continue to regenerate our town centres, help people afford a home, and ensure we get our fair share of health and social care funding which has been devolved at Greater Manchester level. Oh, and we're also bringing forward more money to spend on potholes. You can read more about our plans in my latest column in the Bury Times: Bury Times - Building the best for Bury
Make no mistake, there are still many good news stories here in Bury. Take the reopening of Killelea intermediate care facility, which has been transformed with a £2.1 million renovation. This is a fantastic development which will be hugely popular with residents, helping to keep them out of hospital and get them back to fitness. I'm pictured here at the reopening along with the Mayor, and you can read more about the new Killelea at My News Desk - Our new choices for living well facility at Killelea House.
There's also been the official opening of the new Lidl store in Radcliffe, another piece in the jigsaw which is turning round the town centre. And later this month I'm launching a new Radcliffe Regeneration Task Force to ensure that these improvements continue, in partnership with local people and businesses.
It's not all serious stuff, though. I recently paid a visit to Stay N Play Doggy Daycare to see their plans to encourage responsible dog ownership by working with children in the local community. I'm pictured with Millet - one of my very best selfies, don't you think? You can find out more about the company here: Stay N Play Doggy Daycare.
2 February 2018: The devil makes work for idle hands
It's been a busy few weeks, and the pace is not letting up.
You may have read about our plans, with Homes England, to create 400-plus new homes on the former East Lancs Paper Mill site. This is a major project which will benefit many families who until now have been unable to get onto the housing ladder - and what's more, it's on brownfield land, which is always our first priority when house building. It will also continue the regeneration of Radcliffe, another of our top priorities. You can have your say on the plans - take part in the consultation here: WYG - Consultations - East Lancs Paper Mill.
Speaking of Radcliffe, we have just agreed to bring in an independent operator to run Radcliffe Market Hall. Times have changed, and they will bring lots of new ideas on how best to bring more people into the town centre and enjoy a new-look market with food and drink, plus entertainment and community uses, to the fore.
We're also taking action to get the Kay Street Bridge in Summerseat fully re-opened, following the damage caused by the Boxing Day floods of 2015. We've agreed to use Compulsory Purchase powers, if necessary, to buy land from private owners which we need to carry out the work.
I'd like to invite you all to a public open day at Killelea House in Bury on Wednesday (7 Feb). Our new intermediate care facility is re-opening following a £2.1 million refurbishment, another major investment which will bring benefits to our most needy people for many years to come. You can read more about it here: My News Desk - Come and see the new £2.1 million "Choices for Living Well facility" at Killelea House.
Other matters: it was an honour to attend the Holocaust memorial service in Prestwich last week. This annual remembrance is always very emotional, and reminds us why we must work tirelessly to ensure that such dreadful episodes in our history must never be repeated. Well done to all the young people from our schools and colleges who made it such a moving occasion. I'm pictured at the event with deputy council leader Andrea Simpson, Bury South MP Ivan Lewis, the mayor Cllr Dorothy Gunther, and the council's interim chief executive Pat Jones-Greenhalgh.
I'm also very pleased that the council has moved up ten places to be Number 41 in Stonewall's list of the country's top 'equal' employers, the third best council in the land. And many congratulations to one of our staff, Natasha Franklin, who they chose as their National Lesbian Role Model of the Year for all the work she does on LGBT issues.
We've just made some changes to our new online car parking permits, after some people said they did not have internet access. I'm pleased to say that we've amended the system, and we will allow them to continue using their traditional paper permits. We do listen, you know.
Condolences to the family and loved ones of Mark E. Smith, visionary leader of The Fall, who recently passed away. Mark lived in Prestwich for much of his life, and cut a unique and highly influential figure in the world of music over the last four decades.
Finally, the environment is another of our top priorities, and I've got quite a bit to say about that in my latest monthly column in the Bury Times. You can read all about it, as newspaper vendors used to say, by clicking on the BT's website here: Bury Times - Looking after where we live.
6 December 2017: Praxis makes perfect
Before I get on to the council's business, I want to thank Steve and Sharon Goodman, who invited me to the launch of Liv's Trust at the Elizabethan Suite.
Steve is the step-grandad of Olivia Campbell-Hardy, who died in the Manchester Arena bombing, and Liv's Trust aims to remember her by providing support for under-25s who want to pursue a career in music and dance. The launch night was both emotional and heart-warming, and when Olivia's school friend performed to a recording of Olivia singing a Kate Bush song, there was not a dry eye in the house. I wish the family the very best with the trust.
One of our most important priorities is the health of the local economy. Judging by the turnout at the Made in Bury Business Awards, it would see that it is in rude health indeed. It was a pleasure to present the Outstanding Achievement award to Andrew Roberts of Pennine (we're pictured here with Pat Jones-Greenhalgh, the council's interim council chief executive, and Debi and Phil Fellone of The Best of Bury). A full list of all winners, highly commended and commended businesses can be found at Made in Bury - Business awards.
On a related subject, I had a very productive meeting recently with Vodaphone, who are looking to bring in improved connectivity for our local businesses and residents. Also important for the local economy and tourism is the success of Bury Market, which has just welcomed its 1,500 coach trip this year. I'm pictured presenting a bottle of champagne to coach driver Mark Higginbotham of East Yorkshire Coaches.
Looking after our environment is also a key council priority. There's good news here too. Once again, all 12 of our main parks have been awarded Green Flag status by Keep Britain Tidy. And, for the 14th year, Bury has won North West in Bloom - this is a tremendous achievement, and congratulations must go to the many local groups, volunteers and sponsors who work to ensure that our surroundings are welcoming and pleasant. We also won a silver gilt in the national In Bloom contest too, representing the region.
We're spending an extra £10 million looking after our road network, and more details of particular schemes will be announced in the new year. In the meantime, our crews were carrying out precautionary repairs on Longsight Road last week - and I had some fun getting behind the wheel of a roller. Not sure how much my presence contributed to the work, but it's indicative of our intention to invest where we can in areas which are important to our residents.
With winter now under way, can I draw your attention to the appeal by Porch Boxes for donations of food and drop-off facilities? This is a superb project, and one which I and my family have supported for many years. For more details, and how you can help, go to My News Desk - Bury council backs porch boxes appeal for donations and drop off points.
Safe and secure communities is another priority, and I urge everyone - especially men - to sign up to the global White Ribbon campaign and help bring an end to violence against women and girls. You can show your support in a number of ways - read more about our 16 Days of Action here: The Bury Directory - 16 days of action to end Violence Against Women and Girls
Finally, better communication with the public is also important. I'm delighted that the Bury Times are helping me to do that, by granting me a monthly column. I'll be addressing a range of issues in these columns, so don't be scared to give me your views - I'm sure you won't! Constructive comments and suggestions are even better! After all, the best way to build a better Bury is through teamwork. You can read my first column on the BT's website, here: Bury Times - Rishi Shori column: Building a better Bury it's down to team work.
6 October 2017: Power to the people
It was a nice surprise, to say the least, when such an august body as The Guardian named me among their 1,000 Most Powerful People in Britain (one of just 36 BME). I hadn't realised, but I'll take their word for it. It proves, if nothing else, that Bury is well and truly on the map. And as a Bury boy born and bred, that makes me proud. I celebrated by having a new picture done, featuring our famous East Lancs Railway (and tons of colour saturation). What do you think - Gone With The Wind?
Onto much more important matters, and - as the GMCA portfolio lead for young people and social cohesion - I was delighted to help launch the new Greater Manchester Youth Combined Authority last week. This will give young people across the region a real say in matters which affect them, and help to draw up policies that will improve their lives, such as on transport and apprenticeships. The forum will also drive forward recommendations made by the Bury Life Chances Commission, which I set up, to better ally the needs of education, skills and business. We're not hanging around - on Tuesday 24 October, the Elizabethan Suite in Bury Town Hall will host a GMCA conference on this, in partnership with Youth Focus North West, and we're expecting more than 100 young people to take part. This is big, positive news - and you can read more about it here: My News Desk - Young people have their say for the future
I was delighted that Bury Council agreed to call on the Government to help women born in the 1950s who have been badly hit by recent changes to their pensions. I hope ministers listen, and introduce proper transitional arrangements to ease the financial worries faced by literally millions of our citizens.
Can I draw your attention to a couple of important health campaigns: firstly, the national smoking cessation initiative Stoptober is now under way. Without sermonising, stopping smoking is the biggest single thing people can do to improve their health and wellbeing; but we all know it's not as easy as that. That's why, at Bury Lifestyle Service, we offer a tailored service to those determined to quit, with personal support and nicotine replacement products. You can contact them here: The Bury Directory - Bury Lifestyle Service
Secondly, Mental Health Awareness Week starts on 8 October. There's a lot of work still to be done on creating parity of physical and mental health, and there is a variety of events taking place in Bury to showcase the support and advice that is available. For more details, see: The Bury Directory - Mental Health Awareness Week 2017
Staying with the health (and enjoyment) agenda, well done to everyone who took part in the recent Asda 10k Run for All in Bury. This is now an important date in the Bury calendar, and next year's race is already in the diary. Yours truly ran the race again, and while (ahem) I didn't exactly trouble the scorers with my time, it was a pleasure to be part of it all. I'm pictured with interim council chief executive Pat Jones-Greenhalgh.
Recycling Week has just finished, and I encourage everyone to keep doing their bit to protect our environment by using their green, brown and blue bins. We all live here, after all. There's lots of advice on our website about how and what to recycle: About your bins
Finally, the health of the economy is also vital to our borough. It was a pleasure to welcome GM Mayor Andy Burnham to our latest Bury Means Business conference, which brought together local companies and educationalists to examine how we can match up-to-date skills and training to the changing needs of employers. That's a crucial priority for me, and will remain so, no matter how powerful The Guardian thinks I am.
In the meantime, Andy has launched a consultation about congestion: which affects both our health and our economy, not to mention driving us nuts. Why not give him your views? Transport for Greater Manchester - Let's talk - our plan to tackle congestion in Greater Manchester.
13 September 2017: Moving on up
As council leader, you'd expect me to fly the flag for this borough. I'm not going to disappoint - there is so much to celebrate here, as you will read below.
Firstly of all, I want to say 'well done' to our pupils and school staff for their results in the Key Stage 2 tests, in which we performed better than the regional and national averages. Bury has long enjoyed a reputation for quality education, giving our young people a solid foundation on which to fulfil their potential in whichever walk of life and career path they choose.
This applies to all our young people, which is why I was delighted to attend the launch of the Friendly Aware Bury scheme in which local businesses support people with autism and other hidden disabilities. Bury's historic Two Tubs pub has become the first to be accredited under the scheme, thanks to the tireless work of Jane Lord (who set up the Buddy's support group) and Two Tubs landlady Jacqui Gallagher, who employs people who go to Buddy's, and others helped to redesign the pub's beer garden. They are a real credit to Bury, and I hope that many other local companies will follow suit. It's good for business, and good for people with disabilities; a true win-win situation. I'm pictured at the launch with Jane and Jacqui.
Talking about business - Andy Burnham, Mayor of Greater Manchester, will join me as key speakers at the latest Bury Means Business event on Thursday 14 September. He'll be addressing local firms about how to put employers at the heart of the GM skills and education system. This is exactly what the borough, and its young people, need, so that our economy can thrive and people learn the right skills so they can improve their employment chances and prosper.
One of this borough's strengths is its diversity and the way in which we can all mix, regardless of background or upbringing. It was a pleasure to attend the annual Pakistani Independence Day and Eid Lunch at the Jinnah Centre, and in the same week to have a talk about social cohesion with Sharon Bannister, president of the Jewish Representative Council, at the Nicky Alliance Centre.
The latest full council meeting is tonight (Wednesday 13 September) at the town hall, starting at 7pm. You are very welcome to tune in and watch the debates at New Digital Tree Media - Bury Council meeting - live stream / last meeting.
Two great events for your diary this weekend: firstly, there's the Bury 10k race on Sunday (17 September), when we expect hundreds of people to take part. Not only is it an enjoyable day out, but it complements our aim of helping people to improve their health and wellbeing. It's not too late to take part, and remember that there will be road closures along the route.
And secondly, on a less energetic but more artistic side, there's the Head for the Hills music festival taking place in Ramsbottom over the weekend. These go from strength to strength each year, and a big turnout is expected for a wide range of bands including Beth Orton and The Stranglers.