My name is David Jones and I was elected leader of Bury Council in July 2019.
I've represented Unsworth ward as a councillor since 2012 and, before that, I served for more than 20 years as an inspector with Greater Manchester Police.
In this blog, I will try to keep you up to date with the main issues facing Bury and what we're doing to tackle the many challenges ahead.
It's a great honour and a privilege to be chosen to lead this council. I'm determined to play my part in continuing to ensure that Bury is a great place in which to live, work and study.
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18 December 2019: That was the year that was.
Hello everyone, and you'll be glad to know I'm not asking you to vote for anything. We've had five elections in Bury this year (the General, the European, the council, and two by-elections), so I think we're all polled out by now.
Regardless of the results, it's very much business as usual for the council. We've faced a lot of challenges this year and there will be more to come in 2020, both financially and in the increasing demand for services to the most vulnerable in our community.
I'll have more news in the New Year about ongoing plans to regenerate our borough and bring ever closer the council and NHS to provide a more joined-up service to residents.
But for now it's Christmas, and let's have some good news.
Today (Wednesday 18 December) Bury was chosen to be the very first Greater Manchester Town of Culture. It was a huge pleasure to be at the official launch, which was held at the Fusilier Museum in the company of Griff Rhys Jones and GM Mayor Andy Burnham. (We're pictured in front of the Victoria Wood statue).
It's no time for false modesty, and I feel it's overdue recognition for the borough which brought you Danny Boyle, Elbow, Victoria Wood, Celia Birtwell and a host of others past and present. There will be a busy programme of arts activity next year to accompany our new-found status, which will foster local talent and help put Bury on the wider cultural map. You can read all about it here: My News Desk - Get happy: Bury secures prestigious Greater Manchester Town of Culture accolade.
Christmas is also a time for staying local and looking after your nearest and dearest. As a councillor for Unsworth, it was a great pleasure to serve Christmas lunch to the pupils at Sunny Bank Primary School, where I am chair of governors. I'll also be popping into the Elms Community Centre tomorrow for a mince pie or two, and attending the evening carol service at Bury Parish Church.
As the Greater Manchester spokesman on young people, I enjoyed attending an event at Old Trafford this week to celebrate the success of Our Pass, the mayor's project to give free bus travel to teenagers. This scheme will make it easier for them to get to college, stay in training or secure employment, something we can all agree on.
Sadly, Christmas can be a lonely and difficult time for many people. May I urge you to keep an eye out for your neighbours, especially those who are elderly or vulnerable, and see if they need anything?
I want to say a particular thanks to those people who will not be on holiday over the festive period - from social care workers to NHS staff and the emergency services - who keep us all safe and well.
Have a merry Christmas, a good New Year, a happy Hannukah - the best of Bury to you all.
5 November 2019: Giving our young people the help they deserve
There are few things which matter as much as giving our young people the best possible start to their adult life. As chair of the Greater Manchester Care Leavers Trust Board, I was privileged to help do exactly that, at a special conference during National Care Leavers Week.
It was a pleasure to address the GMCA conference, along with GM mayor Andy Burnham and professionals from many walks of life, all dedicated to improving the support we can give to care leavers in our conurbation.
Crucial to our plans has been listening to care leavers themselves. Our collective ambition is to enable care leavers to be supported to live independently; have improved access to education, employment and training; have stability in their lives and feel safe and secure; receive improved access to health support; and achieve financial stability.
Our concrete proposals include giving care leavers a number of guarantees: free bus travel for those aged 18 to 21; no care leavers ever being made intentionally homeless; care leavers having priority in the health economy; being able to access consistent education, employment and training; and a mentor being available to any care leaver who wants one.
This is all about making a real difference, and I am honoured to play my role in this. I'm pictured with Andy Burnham signing a pledge to bring this about.
Flu season is once more upon us, and so I gritted my teeth and headed to my local pharmacy in Unsworth for my flu jab. Can I urge all of you to do the same? Real flu is not a minor inconvenience - it can be a killer, especially for the most vulnerable groups in society. Let's get vaccinated and prevent the misery that this serious illness can cause.
Finally, please take care tonight if you're celebrating Guy Fawkes night. Our colleagues in the police and fire service have been running public awareness campaigns about the potential risks, and their messages are well worth heeding. Go to an organised fireworks exhibition if you can, but above all, keep children well away from fireworks, keep your pets indoors, don't return to a lit firework, and just take care.
8 October 2019: Believe and achieve
I'm delighted to report that work is racing ahead on the £40 million flood defences for Radcliffe and Redvales. This is great news for local residents, hundreds of whom endured months of misery following the Boxing Day floods of 2015.
It was a pleasure to meet our partners from the Environment Agency at Close Park, where the latest section of the works - alone costing £9m - are being carried out (I'm pictured here with Peter Costello from the Environment Agency) causing as little disruption as possible.
Thriving business is vital for Bury's future and, following judging for the upcoming Made In Bury Business Awards, I can say that our commercial sector is in rude health. I was amazed at the quality of entries, from companies of all sizes, who have shown belief in and commitment to Bury. The winners will be announced at an awards ceremony next month.
On the subject of future success, can I urge you to take part in the Big Conversation we're having about how we want Bury to look by 2030? Our prosperity is very much a team effort, with the public a crucial partner, and we need to know what your priorities are - and what you could do to help us all get there. Consultation closes on 13 October - have your say here: One Community Bury - Bury 2030 survey
As the Greater Manchester lead for young people, a quick mention for two groups: our care leavers and those in care, whose hard work and dedication has been rewarded at the Believe and Achieve awards My News Desk - Bury’s young people win awards; and also to the artistic talents of the START group, whose work is now on show at Bury Art Gallery (until Saturday 12 Oct). My News Desk - Mayor put in the picture by members of mental health support group
Can I also appeal to the region's young people to sign up to the Greater Manchester Youth Combined Authority and play a key role in setting the city-region's priorities. All the details and nomination forms are at Greater Manchester Combined Authority - Youth combined authority . The deadline for applications is 4 November.
Finally, I attended a special meeting of the GMCA yesterday which agreed to launch a major consultation about bus transport across the conurbation. We've all got views about the buses, to put it mildly, so now's our chance! The opinions of all road users will be welcome, so have your say when the consultation starts next Monday.
20 September: Help shape the future - join our Big Conversation
Hello everyone. We need your help - and it's important. What would the perfect Bury look like in 2030 for you and your family? What could, and would, you do to help achieve this?
These are the big questions we're asking residents, business and community groups in our 'Big Conversation', aimed at influencing ambitious proposals for jobs, health, education and the environment for the next decade and beyond.
Whether it's the local economy, environment or neighbourhoods, we all have a role to play in making Bury the best it can be, for ourselves and for future generations.
Please take a few minutes to complete our survey, which you can find here: One Community Bury - Bury 2030 survey.
On a sadder note, you may have heard that one of our councillors, Susan Nuttall, passed away recently. Susan was a hard-working and well-respected member for Church ward, and will be sorely missed. I attended her funeral last week at St Anne's Church in Tottington and offered the council's deepest sympathies to her husband David and her family and friends.
A big congratulations to everyone who took part in the Asda Foundation Bury 10k run on Sunday. This is now a firm fixture in Bury's calendar, and you can already sign up for next year's race at Bury 10k 2020 register. A particular 'well done' to Radcliffe Athletics Club, whose women (Fiona Lynch, Jenny Yates and Katie Percival) took all three podium places. (pictured here with the Mayor, Councillor Trevor Holt).
In fact, the borough was buzzing last weekend, when thousands came out to support the riders race through Ramsbottom in the Tour of Britain. Events like this help to make Bury a great place in which to live: and, on a related subject, we're about to seek renewal of our Purple Flag status, recognising the quality of the town's nightlife.
Finally, I wish all members of our Jewish community a happy Rosh Hashanah when the New Year celebrations begin on 29 September.
18 July 2019: A privilege and an honour
Hello everyone. I'm Councillor David Jones, the new leader of Bury Council, and this is my first blog in my new role.
Before I introduce myself, let me pay tribute to my predecessor Rishi Shori, who is leaving us for pastures new (or Birmingham, if you prefer) for all the work he has done as leader in the past three years.
It's a great honour and a privilege to be chosen to lead this council, and I'm looking forward to playing my part in continuing to ensure that Bury is a great place in which to live, work and study.
I've represented Unsworth ward since 2012, and was chair of the council's licensing committee for six years. Before being elected I worked for the council as head of the Community Safety Team between 2006 and 2010.
Before then I served with Greater Manchester Police, where I was an inspector for more than 20 years before retiring as the officer in charge at Whitefield Police Station.
This experience in working with partners and team-building will be crucial to Bury's success: whether we're working with the NHS to create joined-up health and social care, with businesses to bring prosperity to the borough, and with education providers to ensure our young people have the right skills to set them up for life.
One of my main priorities will be to narrow the gap between different parts of our borough. I've lived here a long time, and, like all of us, think of Bury as a relatively prosperous place. But it's surprising how much inequality there can be, especially around health and wellbeing. Residents in some areas are much more likely to live longer, have higher qualifications, and better jobs than people in other neighbourhoods. We need a Bury that works for everyone, and it's achievable, it can be done.
Education is another key area for me. You may have seen headlines about Bury falling down the league tables, and I'm determined to reinvigorate and support our schools to improve standards, in both attainment and progress made. All our young people need the best start in life, and learn the talents to prepare them for the world of work and make the most of their life chances.
Also significant is our environment. The council recently declared a climate emergency, and we already have plans to get rid of single-use plastics. I'm delighted that we have just won Green Flag status for our 12 main parks, for the tenth year running. This is a great achievement by our staff but also by the many local community groups and residents who play such an important role in making our borough bloom. Their input will be even more crucial in the years to come.
We also have much to do to support the major initiatives at Greater Manchester level - from clean air to public transport, housing and regeneration - as devolution gives us an unprecedented range of possibilities and challenges. I've now met the other district leaders, and I can promise you I will be fighting Bury's corner and keeping us at the top table.
There's a lot going on, and even more coming up, and I'm looking forward to the challenge.
Leader's blog entries from Rishi Shori, the previous leader of the Council
17 June 2019: Radcliffe leading the way in regeneration
I'd like to bring you up to date, firstly, with a number of developments in Radcliffe.
Work has just started on the Radcliffe and Redvales flood defence scheme, a £40 million project to protect residents and businesses from a repeat of the devastating Boxing Day floods of 2015. We are contributing £2m towards these vital measures, working with our partners in the Environment Agency.
We've also built affordable homes in Mayfair Gardens - the first directly developed council housing scheme in decades, with more to come at the former Radcliffe Times building.
Several initiatives are now under way to regenerate the town centre, such as the installation of seven new CCTV cameras in response to concerns raised by local businesses. And we're on the verge of awarding grants to a number of shopkeepers to help them improve their shop fronts. Much more is to come, so watch this space!
And you will be delighted to hear that, after years of hard work and recent fruitful discussions with the Department of Education, we will be submitting a formal proposal to bring a new secondary school to Radcliffe.
Despite continuing austerity, we've agreed to invest a further £16 million into our communities, which includes another £10 million on resurfacing our roads.
The council's biggest ever single investment, the extra care complex at Peachment Place, is now open and providing superb accommodation and care for our vulnerable residents.
In Prestwich, work is continuing on the redevelopment of the Longfield Centre with a bid being made to the Future High Streets Fund. In Bury, we've secured support from the Transforming Cities Fund to help redevelop the interchange and improve transport infrastructure.
And again, we're working with St Modwen on bringing skilled new jobs to the Chamberhall Business Park in Bury.
New buildings are easy to see - what is just as important is investment in people, helping them to be the best they can be by improving access to education, skills and training.
Our very first pre-employment programme for 14-16 year olds, called Work Ready for Life Chances, is now fully operational. This is aimed at pupils who may be struggling to engage in school or who face barriers and could be at risk of dropping out of learning. The pupils will be matched with an employer, have real work experience and hopefully move into employment, an apprenticeship or learning as they leave school.
We're also working in a strategic partnership with the University of Bolton to establish a substantive University presence in Bury. This University Centre of Excellence (UCoE) will be based in the town centre and will focus primarily on delivering degree programmes and apprenticeships in the areas of health, digital technologies and intelligent construction engineering. We are aiming to have the initial building site operational by the end of this year (2019).
In the long-term, the Bury UCoE aims to provide a wide range of higher education, research and enterprise programmes including undergraduate degrees, postgraduate and research degrees, degree apprenticeships, applied research projects and associate enterprise activities with industry.
It was a pleasure to be at the official unveiling of the statue to Victoria Wood, opposite Bury Library. It's in a great location to remember a truly iconic Bury entertainer - and if you pop into the library, you can see a framed letter from Victoria offering the library a refund for all the books she never returned on time!
On a less happy note, the financial situation at Bury FC, which has cast a huge cloud over an otherwise fantastic season which culminated in promotion. As reported in the local press, I have written to the club's chairman Steve Dale offering to help where we can, firstly with administering the club's payroll. All Shakers fans, and people from far wider, will be deeply troubled by the club's perilous position, and we all desperately hope for a satisfactory conclusion.
I mentioned austerity earlier, and there is no getting away from the fact that the council, together with NHS Bury Clinical Commissioning Group, have to find £25 million in savings. This is a huge challenge, as we strive to meet ever-rising demand for services with ever less money to do so.
There will be many changes ahead as we try to square this circle, and our communities will be asked to play their part in ensuring we succeed. As someone once said - we're all in this together.
17 January 2019: Plastic is not so fantastic!
We might be the smallest council in Greater Manchester, but that doesn't stop us taking the lead in important matters.
As anticipated in last week's Bury Times, we are on course to become one of the first boroughs in the country to go plastic-free.
The plans, approved by council last night (Wednesday 16 Jan), aim to create plastic-free community spaces in Bury's parks, libraries and community and leisure centres.
Community groups who share our ambitions will also be able to bid for a share of £20,000 from the council's social capital fund.
We're also asking our partners to join the cause and we will, where allowable, require that the requirement to be plastic-free be incorporated into our social value policy, to ensure our supply chain is plastic-free by 2026.
Of course, it would be completely impractical to ban plastic completely. So many products we use every day are made of plastic. What we have to focus on in the first instance are single-use plastics such as plastic bottles, drinks straws, bags - basically, products which there are already alternatives for.
As part of the PlasticFreeGM campaign, which has been launched by Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham, the GM Combined Authority has been in talks with United Utilities to bring a bottle refill scheme to Greater Manchester. This includes the installation of a number of water fountains across the conurbation.
As a result of this initiative, we will trial two public water fountains in Prestwich and Whitefield to encourage residents to refill their re-usable bottles instead of buying single-use plastic bottles. These fountains will be paid for by United Utilities.
We were the first council in England to debate the introduction of deposit return schemes, back in 2017, and this has now been taken up by the government in its English waste strategy document. So these things can, and will, be done.
While our plans for plastic are ambitious, they will have to be complemented by a range of other measures to improve and protect our environment.
You can read more about this in my monthly Bury Times column: Bury Times - Leader's column: Why plastic isn't fantastic any more
14 December 2018: Open for business
So that was 2018! It's certainly been a tumultuous year, and Bury has continued to labour under the weight of austerity. Whatever anyone says, folks, it's not over, and there will be many more challenges next year.
What is certain is that the success of our business sector will be crucial to the wellbeing of our borough. That's why I was delighted to see that Bury had been designated the 'most entrepreneurial area of Greater Manchester', beating the city itself to top the Red Flag Alert Start-up Index.
There was no mistaking the innovation and energy at the annual Made in Bury Business Awards, at which Rakem Ltd. won the Outstanding Achievement award. I had the pleasure of visiting this excellent company, and hearing about their future plans. I'm pictured here with group director Kevin Rafferty.
We have many success stories to tell about how business is thriving in Bury, and you can read more about this in my regular monthly Bury Times column: Bury Times - Leaders view: Dont let Brexit hide good things being done in Bury.
Jobs and investment will also feature heavily in the Greater Manchester Spatial Framework, which will go out to public consultation early in 2019. It is vital that we link together the issues of housing and economic regeneration to ensure that Bury remains a great place in which to live, work and study.
I can assure you that this council will continue with its 'brownfield first' policy when it comes to new developments. Some recent examples show how this can be done: our new extra care scheme at Peachment Place is coming to fruition (see full story here: My News Desk - Flagship extra care scheme ready to open in New Year), a planning application is imminent to build new houses on the former East Lancashire Paper Mill site, and new affordable housing is nearly ready at Mayfair Gardens - all on brownfield sites.
We'll be looking forward to building our relationship with the University of Bolton, to help provide education and training opportunities in Bury with a hi-tech focus; and to ever closer working with the NHS to bridge the gap between health and social care.
At Christmas, we're reminded of the important of community. So it was wonderful to meet members of Bury's newest community group - Goshen Community Association - who formed in September and will work to improve their area. We're pictured outside Peachment Place.
And there is no shortage of local organisations able and eager to help their fellow man and woman. Scores of groups have applied for a share of our new Social Capital Fund, and we'll be announcing the successful applicants in the new year.
Can I remind you that Christmas is a fantastic time to recycle? Think of all those drinks cans and bottles, which can go in the blue bin; all that cardboard packaging, in the green bin; all that leftover food - and there's always tons at Christmas - in the brown bin. For help on how to recycle over the festive period, go to About your bins.
And finally, can we spare a thought for those who are less fortunate than ourselves, for whom Christmas will hold little joy. Even small acts of kindness can make a big difference.
Whatever your faith, can I wish you all the very best over the Christmas and New Year period.