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 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.
5 November 2018: Small acts of unforgetting
Remembrance Sunday is always an emotional occasion, and this week's commemoration will be more poignant than usual.
This year marks the centenary of the Armistice which halted the fighting in the First World War, a conflict which at the time was supposed to be the war to end all wars. The hindsight afforded by one hundred years tells us that we must continue to struggle to defend the values of liberty, tolerance and respect that underpin our country.
Bury, along with towns across the land, suffered losses which spanned generations. As the spiritual home of the Fusiliers, the ill-fated campaign at Gallipoli affected every family, and is etched on our collective memory.
So it gives me great pleasure to mention the culmination of a magnificent project run by Bury Archives, who have spent four years assembling a vast digital archive of records relating to local soldiers who fought in the Great War. To be launched in the new year, this will contain more than 30,000 pieces of information - photographs, obituaries, newspaper articles, wartime letters and even recipes. This will be a phenomenal resource for historians for a long time to come.
Before then, can I draw your attention to an exhibition currently running at Bury Art Museum. Called 'Small Acts of Unforgetting', it features photographs taken around the borough of locations where local soldiers lived, reminding us that no fewer than 588 Bury soldiers died in just the first 17 months of the war. Artist Paul Cliff will be at the museum on Friday (9 November) to talk about the project - why not go along and meet him? You can read all about this at My News Desk - Small Acts of Unforgetting - Armistice event at Bury Art Museum.
Onto happier matters, and it seems that Bury is leaps and bounds ahead of any other district in Greater Manchester when it comes to new companies being launched. A new study revealed we are the 'most entrepreneurial' area in Greater Manchester, beating Manchester to top the Red Flag Alert Start-up Index.
The rate of new business start-ups is phenomenal for a borough of our size. It is yet more evidence of the amazing talent we have. The accolade is based on the highest rate of firms launched last year. According to analysis by Manchester-based business intelligence service Red Flag Alert, 5,644 start-ups were launched in 2017. With a population of 189,628 this works out as 29 per 1,000 people, a rate twice as many as its nearest rival Manchester.
The #BuryMeansBusiness initiative is clearly having an impact with people who want to start their own company and shows that we are being recognised as the pro-business borough of the city-region. This confidence in Bury as an entrepreneurial hub is visible, with multi-million-pound investments such as the CSF car showroom opening near the town centre.
The very real impact of #BuryMeanBusiness is reflected in the 2017-18 Manufacturing & Services Parliamentary Review. Out of 11 case studies in the review, our borough makes up a whopping three of the best practice examples highlighted in the review: an extraordinary accolade given our relative size. Featured in the review are MelbaSwintex and Rakem, both based in Bury, as well as West & Senior based in Radcliffe.
You can read more about this in my monthly Bury Times column - go to Bury Times - Leaders message: Bury is leading the way with new business.
21 September 2018
It's no surprise to Bury residents that there's a lot going on in this borough which makes it such a great place to live.
What's just as important is that large numbers of people from elsewhere are discovering this too, and heading to Bury at a fair rate of knots.
This is doubly heartening; not only because we're happy to welcome visitors and show them what we have to offer, but also because it is increasingly important to our economic wellbeing. Experts say tourism and leisure is worth hundreds of millions of pounds to Bury, and supports thousands of jobs.
It's easy to see why Bury is attractive - here are just a few examples of recent and upcoming events that are proving hugely popular both home and wider afield.
Take our Victoria Wood exhibition, which has just opened at Bury Art Museum. This is a real treasure trove for fans of Bury's most famous 'daughter', boasting artefacts from her illustrious career, and going right back to her childhood days. Millions loved Victoria, and this is certain to become one of the most visited shows the gallery has ever put on.
Thousands more have just enjoyed the Head for the Hills festival at Ramsbottom Cricket Ground, headlined by the Boomtown Rats. This is an excellent (and truly family friendly) festival which appeals to both locals and visitors, and is now a firm fixture in the Bury calendar.
Hundreds managed to combine fun with fitness on Sunday by taking part in the third annual Asda Foundation Bury 10k run. Covering a route through the town centre and onto Radcliffe and back, it supports the Jane Tomlinson Appeal, Bury Hospice, Early Break and Women's Housing Action Group. The shorter Arena Group Family Fun Run gave families a chance to participate and help the partner charity Forget Me Not children's hospice.
Bury has already played host this month to thousands who came to ride on the iconic Flying Scotsman at the East Lancs Railway.
And we've just had the Bury Black Pudding Throwing Championships in Ramsbottom, which was won by a man from the West Midlands. Apparently he's been coming here to compete for five years, and they reckon their black puddings are better than ours. What I say is: we need to get in training for next year's tournament!
Treating perfectly good Bury black puddings with such disdain will be blasphemy to some. But there's good news: three of our restaurants have just been listed in the nation's official Good Food Guide - Ramsbottom eateries Levanter and Baratxuri, plus One Eighty Eight in Whitefield.
Offering visitors and locals good food is also a major reason why the revamped Radcliffe Market hall is doing so well. Have you been to their Friday food nights? They are fabulous evenings, and are really bringing in the crowds.
Let's not forget Bury Market. We all know it's won countless accolades for being a great market, but now it's being recognised nationally for its green credentials. It has just won a Green Apple environmental award for its environmental policies, such as being energy efficient and promoting recycling. The market will be presented with its award in November at Westminster Palace (very grand) and may be chosen to represent the country in the international Green World Awards competition next year.
Here's another date for your diary - the very first Bury Pride autumn benefit is held at the Elizabethan Suite on 28 September. The Pride walks have become a fixture in the local calendar, and this 'black tie' dinner and night of entertainment, featuring Pop Idol's Michelle McManus, is sure to follow suit.
Make a note also of the first Prestwich Arts Festival, which takes place on 29 and 30 September, bringing a wide range of attractions to the village. It's no wonder that Prestwich is recording some of the highest house prices in the country.
Regular highlights - from the Ramsbottom Chocolate Festival to Festwich - show how successful Bury is in providing a range of wonderful occasions that can be enjoyed by residents and visitors of all ages.
We're playing our part too. We've signed a memorandum of understanding with the University of Bolton, a visionary plan to develop state-of-the-art infrastructure in Bury for education and economic regeneration. One of the areas this will focus on in tourism and leisure in today's digital age, and I'm really looking forward to our partnership bearing fruit in the years to come.
All this demonstrates that, in Bury, we're building on our remarkable heritage while focusing on the future. When everyone works together, we can make our borough flourish; for those of us lucky enough to live here, and for the many who will want to.
PS: Huge congratulations to Bury cyclist Simon Yates, who has triumphed in the Vuelta Espana, a magnificent achievement. His success means that British riders have won all of this year's major tournaments. Another good reason to feel proud of Bury!
28 August 2018: Plenty to enjoy in our green and pleasant land
We live in an increasingly digital age, yet the physical environment that surrounds us still shapes who we are.
And in Bury, we are privileged to live and work in a fantastic place. From vast swathes of countryside such as Burrs Country Park, to the Irwell Sculpture Trail - the largest public arts scheme in the North West - and the distinctive Bury town centre cultural quarter, we live in a beautiful borough.
Part of what makes our borough special are its trees. By looking after our woods, we become a more resilient and sustainable place.
We are working in partnership with the Forestry Commission to consider the future management of some additional woodland areas, including Philips Park, Outwood trail and Prestwich Clough. The project aims to create a vast urban forest, 50 per cent bigger than Heaton Park, on a par with New York's Central Park.
Of course, being happy where you live goes beyond green spaces. With the majority of people now living and working in urban areas, the great outdoors can only go some way to enhancing our wellbeing. We need to ensure that our town centres are flourishing places where people want to spend time.
Multi-million pound plans to transform the heart of Prestwich are one step nearer reality following a 'summit meeting' of the main partners alongside Mayor Andy Burnham and myself earlier this month. The vision is Prestwich Village - a modern and lively centre with a focus on living, creativity, shopping and enjoying life. Early design concepts include a hotel, restaurant, shops, a food hall and a number of apartments. A key element is the provision of community facilities to serve the local population. It is envisaged that this hub will provide healthcare, leisure, a library and community space meeting space.
Ramsbottom is another town in our borough which is booming. I was delighted to support the Best of British Retail Awards bid for the town, alongside local business leaders. This would be another feather in the cap of the town, which recently featured in a Guardian article: 'Let's move to Ramsbottom: the town is a delight'.
Better public transport is critical to our environment, not just in terms of future-proofing for the next generation, but creating a lifestyle where local people have the means to walk and cycle. We have filled 1,000 more potholes so far this year. The real difference we can make though, is to encourage alternatives to car travel.
We actually have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to revolutionise the way we all get around. Beelines is an ambitious plan to give people a real choice in how they travel; easing congestion, improving health and creating better places to live.
I'm delighted that we have a first stage allocation of £2.6 million for new or improved road crossings and £1.2 million for improved cycle parking at Metrolink stations. The first Bury scheme includes 16 new and upgraded crossings and junctions, costing in the region of £2.6 million.
The second stage would see new cycle parking provision, including highly visible and accessible locations at Metro stops, with lighting and CCTV.
Renewable energy continues to soar in the UK and Bury is no exception. The world's first grid-scale liquid air energy storage (LAES) plant was launched in Bury in June. The plant is located on project partner, recycling and renewable energy company Viridor's landfill gas generation site. LAES technology makes use of a freely available resource, the air, which is stored as a liquid and then converted back to a gas, involving an expansion process that releases stored energy, and this drives a turbine to generate electricity.
This technology can scale to hundreds of Megawatts in line with the energy demand of urban areas the size of small towns up to large cities. This means that LAES plants could easily store enough clean electricity generated by a local wind farm to power a town like Bury (around 100,000 homes) for many days, not just a few hours. In addition to energy storage the plant also converts waste heat to power using heat from the onsite landfill gas engines.
Long-duration energy storage is critical to enable the broader deployment of renewable energy; overcome the intermittency of solar and wind energy; help smooth peaks and troughs in demand; and provide the UK with a stable and secure source of homegrown energy.
Places are also about communities, local identity and social cohesion. This month I launched 'A Shared Future' alongside the Mayor and Deputy Mayor Bev Hughes. In this Social Cohesion Report, our Greater Manchester collective response to the Manchester Arena attack, we advocate for a whole-society approach to gathering information and tackling extremism.
It is clear that the nature of terrorism has changed and cities need to face up to the consequences of that. It is no longer the case that acts of terror are likely to perpetrated by known terror organisations. Now, it can be individuals or small, localised groups who plan and carry out these atrocities. In return, this development requires a new, more localised response. We are stronger when we work together as a community.
In Bury, we are very well placed to support each other as a community. We may be small, but we pack a punch! And our size can be advantageous in sustaining a strong community spirit. We are the friendliest place in Greater Manchester, with dementia and autism-friendly spaces. This focus on 'locality' or place is also at the heart of health and social care integration. People value local joined-up health and care services, where they live.
Bury is a place to be proud of. I love getting out and about in our wonderful borough, so please invite me to your events, especially those that celebrate Bury as a great place to live, work and play.