Blog from the Leader: Round-up of the Year

Photo of Oldham Council Leader, Arooj Shah

Christmas is here – a time to come together with friends and family, reflect on the past year and look forward to 2024.

And what a year it has been. For me personally, I couldn’t have been more proud to have been re-appointed as Leader of Oldham Council in May. Returning to serve the people of my home town is the greatest of honours, and when I look back on the past six months, I’m incredibly proud of what we’ve already achieved, together.

Our new-look town centre is rapidly taking shape, with the revamp of Spindles to create a new market, events space and archives; the unveiling of plans for our new theatre and home for the Oldham Coliseum, the official opening of Hilton Square, a new green public space, and of course the huge announcement of our partnership with Muse, who will be creating 2,000 new homes of all types and sizes in the heart of our town centre.

Over the summer, we saw the unveiling of the Beever Family Hub; what is planned to be the first of seven brand new Family Hubs across the borough, bringing services and activities for families into much-improved buildings. Our young people are the future of our town and I’m really proud to say we are investing in them in so many ways. We’re also asking people across Oldham to tell us what you think of plans to revamp our services for families – don’t miss out on the opportunity to have your say, by filling in our consultation here.

From the opening of Kingfisher School’s hydrotherapy pool to discussing plans for the new Eton Star Oldham – there’s been many highlights this year. I was also really inspired to see the work taking place at two of our local boxing clubs, Team Greaves and NXT Gen ABC, a fantastic example of teamwork and inclusivity that we can all learn from. Getting out and about to meet our young people is always something I love to do, and earlier this month I was privileged to visit two primary schools in Royton, to hear about their great Ofsted results and talk to some of the pupils and teachers there about the great work they’re doing. I’m also so proud that our fantastic Youth Council continues to go from strength to strength. With such brilliant budding politicians in the making, I know the future of our borough will be safe in their hands.

This year we’ve also been busy getting back to basics; making our neighbourhoods safer, cleaner and greener. Our teams do a great job – whether that’s keeping our roads moving in winter; making our parks beautiful places to visit with well-kept flowerbeds; and planting new trees to be enjoyed for generations to come. I’m also proud that we’ve been shouting louder than ever about the fantastic countryside we have here in our borough, and showing people across the country the stunning landscapes that we have  – bringing in more tourists and putting ourselves firmly on the map for walking, cycling, climbing and more.

Housing has been another of my key priority areas that I set out when I became Leader. Everyone deserves a good quality place to call home, and while it’s great news that new houses are set to be built across our borough – with new developments announced in Chadderton and in Saddleworth just this week – it’s also crucial that we work to ensure all housing is up to standard. This is so important that, in the New Year, I’m going to be convening a housing round table event, bringing together partners from across the housing sector to, together, set out how we can ensure the best quality housing for all Oldhamers.

This year has also seen so much joy, and so many events where we’ve come together as Oldhamers to have fun and be proud of this fantastic borough. Whether for the Coronation, the Whit Friday band contests or the Tour of Britain, thousands of people turned out to celebrate together – and it was brilliant to be part of it. Autumn saw the return of the Oldham Half Marathon, bringing hundreds of runners to the town centre, over the hills of Saddleworth and back again. Whether they were running as part of a club, for fun or for charity, it was a fantastic effort from everyone and I’m so proud that this year’s race broke all previous records for the number of entries.  I look forward to 2024’s race being just as popular, and hopefully even bigger.

After Halloween comes Christmas and once again the town centre was packed out with thousands of people enjoying the Lights Switch-on show and fireworks. But there is one Oldhamer who is missing the big day with his family once again – our amazing Business Ambassador and Freeman of the Borough Frank Rothwell.

Frank, who is also Chairman of Oldham Athletic, is currently rowing 3,000 miles across the Atlantic on his own to raise money for Alzheimer’s Research UK. Having completed the race in 2021, raising over £1 million and becoming the oldest person to row solo across the Atlantic, he’s doing it again! 

Whether its embracing his role as the council’s business ambassador, bringing people together to make Oldham a better place to do business, or transforming the future of Oldham Athletic, his enthusiasm is endless. A local legend who we’re so lucky to call an Oldhamer. 

While we’re on legends, I have to give a special mention to Kevin Sinfield, who earlier this year was made a Freeman of the Borough. Kevin, who has undertaken the most mammoth of challenges for motor neurone disease charities in honour of his friend and teammate Rob Burrow, is an inspiration to us all, and demonstrates the very best of Oldham.

For this is a borough that is generous, kind and strong. Even in difficult times, our residents are thinking of others and doing what they can to help. Our annual Christmas Toy Appeal has been phenomenal with over 500 gifts donated to local children who otherwise might not get a present this year – just seeing them all in Boundary Park last week, ready to be donated to families in need, was overwhelming.

Thank you to all the businesses and people who supported the appeal – it just goes to show what a wonderful town Oldham is.

In a year filled with challenges and triumphs, I am humbled by the resilience and spirit of Oldhamers.

Together, we can build a future that reflects the essence of Oldham, a town that celebrates its past, embraces its present, and envisions a brighter, more inclusive tomorrow. Happy new year everyone, more exciting updates in 2024!

Councillor Arooj Shah

Leader of Oldham Council

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