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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24 March 2020: Unprecedented times
Hello everyone, and I hope you are all keeping well at this time - and following the latest advice on self-isolating and reducing social contact.
These are unprecedented times, but one thing we know is that national crises always bring out the best in people.
Let me reassure you that we at the council are doing everything we can. We have a range of emergency plans in place to deal with situations like this, and we are working every day at the highest level with our partners in the health service and the 'blue lights' to tackle this at strategic and local level.
Cabinet members are in daily contact with me and senior officers to ensure we can look after those who need help the most, and councillors of all parties have put aside their political differences to work for the greater good.
I want to say a huge thanks to the brave and dedicated NHS staff who are putting their health at risk by looking after us. This is why it's so important to follow the Prime Minister's advice and stay at home to stop the virus spreading and putting even greater strain on our health professionals.
We had already taken measures to reduce social contact by asking all staff who can work from home to do so, and they will be redeployed where necessary to keep our priority services operating.
We also closed our libraries, civic venues and leisure centres as we divert all our resources towards protecting the most vulnerable, such as children and adults who need social care.
And although we have made some changes to the garden (brown) bin collections, we are doing this to focus on maintaining collections of non-recyclable bins.
The latest isolation measures mean that our local economy is coming under tremendous strain, with many residents faced with losing their jobs or a substantial part of their income. We are playing our part in ensuring that businesses get the help and financial support announced by the Government, from rate relief to grants and wage subsidies. Go to our Bury Means Business website for more details.
The current lockdown restrictions may seem draconian, but all the experts tell us that the crisis is set to deepen over the next few weeks. That's why we will continue to work hand in hand with the NHS and community groups to ensure those most at risk will be shielded from the greatest risk.
The poet John Donne wrote that no man is an island, and it's at times like this we realise the importance of community.
We can already see large numbers of people volunteering to do whatever they can to keep their communities safe, and are reminded of just how many charitable and voluntary groups that provide help in Bury all year round.
Today, we're formally launching our new Community Hubs to focus and co-ordinate all this herculean effort. These will be based at five locations across the borough, bringing together health and social care staff with people from the community. We will be actively seeking out those in our borough who we think need help the most, such as those who have been notified they are at higher risk because of their age or medical history, to get the most appropriate support to them. You can read all about this here: My News Desk - New Community Hubs to co-ordinate help to most vulnerable during Covid-19.
An important thing to remember is the effect that isolation can have on a person's mental health and physical wellbeing, especially among the elderly or infirm who may already suffer from loneliness or depression. We all need to be there for them now, whether through talking on the phone or connecting through online forums, or even a wave at the window: the human recognition is so important.
Talking about community spirit: let me just mention Simon Toft, franchisee of the McDonald's branches in Whitefield, Radcliffe and Pilsworth. He rang me to say they had to close, but said they had lots of fresh milk, eggs and salad ingredients which they would like to go to a good cause. I gladly accepted his offer, and we will be distributing this to elderly residential homes in the borough. Well played, Simon.
The coronavirus pandemic may be new, but we can fight it by using some very old-fashioned methods. Washing your hands and keeping your distance to prevent transmission of illness, while shielding the most vulnerable and supporting our neighbours. And we will get through it, together.
For all the medical advice around Covid-19, go to NHS - Coronavirus.
3 March 2020: Message of reassurance - Coronavirus (COVID-19)
Three residents from Bury have now tested positive for Coronavirus (COVID-19). The first Bury case was confirmed on 1 March 2020 after returning from Italy. Following their return to the UK this individual self-isolated and is now being cared for as a matter of precaution at one of the national specialist NHS infection centres.
As a result of contact tracing, we know that the two new Bury cases announced today are known contacts of the previously confirmed case from Bury.
The news of cases in Bury may be unsettling and we understand many people may be feeling worried. It's important that we remain level headed about the virus and that you know what's being done to keep everyone safe.
We'd like to reassure people that the risk to the general public remains low and the majority of cases are mild. Bury Council is working with health colleagues to do everything we can to contain the virus and ensure the people of Bury are protected.
Public Health England is leading on control measures and they will be contacting any individuals who may have a slight chance of being affected. These people will be given advice on what to do if they are concerned. This tried and tested method will ensure that any risk to them is minimised and the wider public is protected.
We are monitoring the situation closely and following all the advice from Public Health England. You can read this information for yourself at NHS - Coronavirus latest advice. As the situation develops, we'll be keeping you informed about what it means for Bury. You can check the latest local information at Updates and advice.
We all want to look after our own health and wellbeing, and the health of the people we care about. That's why we're asking everyone to take simple, common-sense steps to prevent the spread of the virus. Good hygiene is the best prevention you can take to protect yourself and your family, by washing your hands regularly and thoroughly. If you cough or sneeze, cover your mouth and nose with a tissue, throw it away and wash your hands.
If you have recently been to one of the affected countries and are feeling unwell, you should phone the NHS 111 helpline for further advice straight away - please don't go to your Doctor's surgery. There's lots of advice from the NHS on how people can protect themselves at NHS - Coronavirus latest advice.
Thank you to our dedicated health and care professionals at Bury Council and the NHS who are working to ensure that our borough can continue to work as usual. We'd also like to offer our best wishes to the people affected.
27 February 2020: Budget gets the green light
Hello everyone. Last night we set our budget for the coming financial year 2020/21, and I can say without fear of contradiction that it's the greenest budget this council has ever set.
We agreed a huge range of initiatives - with funding to match - to help us tackle the climate emergency and encourage all our citizens to play their part in making Bury carbon neutral.
Just some of our proposals are:
- £500,000 to fund a 2-year tree planting programme, which would be able to plant about 5,000 semi-mature trees and 10,000 tree whips across the borough.
- £600,000 to create a Community Climate Capital Fund. This will provide local community groups the much-needed one off funding for projects linked with carbon neutrality, renewable energy and biodiversity.
- £240,000 to support the new "Green Township Forums" that were proposed in the Climate Emergency motion. These forums will provide the space, and now the resource, for residents, elected members, community groups, schools and businesses to work together on local green initiatives. The council will also fund a "Citizens Assembly" on Climate Change.
- A £5.5 million investment in an LED streetlight rollout. Not only will this save the council money on energy costs, it will contribute to reducing the council's carbon footprint even further than they already have, down by over 40% in the last 10 years.
- £10 million on replacing the council's fleet of vehicles with clean air compliant technology.
Other plans include funding for more electric vehicle charging points, a new electric vehicle trial programme aimed at local businesses, money to buy and use a glyphosate alternative in tackling weeds across the borough, the introduction of a dedicated cycling and walking officer to produce ambitious new schemes as part of the Beelines initiative, and a green spaces officer to support the community in delivering local green schemes.
Our budget contains a lot more which will look after the most vulnerable people in our society - and, yes, which means an increase in the council tax.
For all the details of our budget and the green measures we are taking, go to My News Desk - Budget pledge to address the Climate Emergency.
On non-budgetary matters, it was a great pleasure to visit the Fusilier Museum this week to see an exhibition called "We were there too". This tells the story of the many thousands of British Jews who signed up at the outbreak of the First World War to fight for King and country.
It features photographs, records, accounts and other contemporary artefacts to explore the lives and experiences of soldiers and civilians, with particular emphasis on those with connections to the Fusiliers and the wider Bury borough. Did you know there was a special battalion in the Fusiliers called the Judeans?
It reminds us that people of all religions, colours and races make up our British society, and that they are all ready to make the ultimate sacrifice to protect our freedoms.
I'm pictured at the exhibition with the Mayor of Bury, Cllr Trevor Holt. For lots more information on this fascinating show, see this article in the Bury Times: Bury Times - Jewish history We Were There Too exhibition coming to Fusilier Museum
12 February 2020: Heating up, cooling down
Hello everyone, and what a week it's been, especially on the weather front.
Storm Ciara shows just what can happen when huge amounts of rain fall in a very short time, and unfortunately it looks like we're due a visit from Storm Dennis this coming weekend.
The important thing is that we did not have a repeat of the suffering caused in the Boxing Day floods of 2015.
A major reason for that was the success of the first phase of the Radcliffe and Redvales flood defences, a £40 million project led by the Environment Agency. Fewer than 20 houses were evacuated this time, compared to more than 700 during Storm Eva. Even more of our residents will be protected when the next phases of the flood defences are completed.
I'd like to thank the tremendous efforts by council staff and all those in our partner agencies for their work, and especially from the community who volunteered to help in whatever way they could.
I was at the rest centre at Castle and spoke to residents who had had to leave their homes temporarily, and everyone was in good spirits. It takes extreme events like this to remind us just how resilient we are in Bury.
Such extreme weather, though, is becoming ever more frequent and one day could well be the norm. Without getting too 'political', this is why it's so important to take action now to tackle climate change and stop our planet heating up. And we can all do something, however small. What's that phrase again? Think global, act local.
Another topic I'd like to mention concerning our community spirit is the week of activities just held to tackle Hate Crime. We'd like to think that racial or religious prejudices were something from a bygone era, but even in our enlightened 21st century some people are determined to foster bigotry and create division. We must be equally determined to shine the spotlight on this and bring about harmony instead of fear and distrust. We're all human, on the one small planet.
27 January 2020: Standing together
It was a great honour to attend our annual Holocaust Memorial Event at the Longfield Suite in Prestwich.
This year's theme was Standing Together, and came on the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau and also the 25th anniversary of the genocide in Bosnia.
It was very moving to hear the powerful and heroic stories of those who suffered persecution during the Second World War yet stood up to Nazi tyranny at great risk to themselves.
They reminded me that each one of us has the power to stand up to hatred and bigotry, and contribute to making the world a safer and more tolerant place.
I signed the Statement of Commitment, based on the principles of the 2000 Stockholm declaration, which outlines the need to remember the Holocaust, make future generations aware of it, to recognise the sacrifice of those that risked their lives to save others and to pledge to promote education and research about the Holocaust and other genocides.
As you have probably heard, we've been given the honour of being the first Greater Manchester Town of Culture - and we're drawing up a packed programme of events to celebrate our year.
A packed audience at The Met was given a taste of what will be coming up over the next 12 months, and many thanks to those who gave performances - poet Steven P. Taylor, Bury Choral Society, Bury Footlights, actor Steve Gibson and Bury Music Service. I'm pictured at the launch with the Mayor and Mayoress of Bury, Councillor Trevor Holt and his wife Evelyn; Victoria Robinson, CEO of The Met; and Lynne Ridsdale, deputy chief executive of Bury Council.
One of the flagship elements of the Town of Culture plan is a focus on Happiness. This will build on the legacy of Victoria Wood, with a mixture of special commissions and a talent development scheme in which Bury residents will be mentored by industry professionals, and then perform at a Happy festival in May and a Proms event in the summer in conjunction with the Halle.
We've also secured the neon lights which adorned Media City in Salford Quays from the BBC's Front Row show. They feature the words "Happy" and "Wonder", chosen by Victoria Wood and Danny Boyle respectively, and these signs will now be installed in the borough. Where would you like them to go?
Co-incidentally, we have also won Purple Flag status for the fifth year in a row. Like the Green flag for parks and Blue Flag for beaches, this prestigious national accolade is in recognition of our evening and night-time economy. We're working with our partners in business and the police to make Bury a friendly and safe place in which to have a night out, and our Town of Culture status will surely boost that.
Sometimes we forget all the good things we have in Bury, and it's about time we celebrated them. In the immortal words of Victoria Wood herself - let's do it!
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.
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.
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.