Looking to the future – Oldham Economic Review Board publishes its findings

A NEW approach to creating jobs, bringing prosperity to the borough and helping all residents thrive with the best training and opportunities is set out in newly-published findings from the OERB.

Last September Cllr Arooj Shah, Leader of Oldham Council, commissioned the Principal of Oldham College, Alun Francis, to lead a completely independent review of Oldham’s economy.

He then brought together academics, experts and senior leaders in their fields to create the Oldham Economic Review Board. Having heard from businesses, academia and think tanks in a number of sessions held during the last six months, the Board have now made a series of recommendations covering support for small and growing businesses, improving access to skills and opportunities, and boosting local pride.

Their findings, captured in a new report, were officially launched at an event at Oldham’s George Street Chapel yesterday (Wednesday 23 March).

Cllr Shah said: “This is about action, not words. The Government talks about levelling up – but if we’re going to make this mantra a reality, we need to understand our distinct challenges, untap the huge potential we have, and bring together the brightest and best minds to determine our own future.

“That’s why I commissioned this review, to get world-class insight from independent experts, and set the groundwork that will enable us to plot the brighter economic future people from all our communities need and deserve.

“The next step will be to study the findings and recommendations closely, and then take quick and decisive action to fulfil those ambitions – making Oldham an even better place to live, work, and be educated, for the people who live here now and for generations to come.”

The Board is made up of an independent panel, some from Oldham and some from wider afield. Oldham College formed a partnership with the University of Manchester to support the work, and the Board invited national and local experts, as well as local businesses, to give evidence on themes such as regeneration, skills, business development and restoring pride in the borough.

Mr Francis said: “We explored every aspect of Oldham’s economy, and it’s clear we have massive potential. But we need to work together with a shared vision to make that potential a reality.

“We don’t pretend to have all the answers, but we do think we have set out the only viable approach. We need a clear long term set of aims and ambitions, which sets out where future employment and wealth can come from, in Oldham and in surrounding areas.

“This needs to be supported by measurable targets so that investments in all areas are working to the same goals.  And we have set out some practical ideas to improve business support and innovation, education and skills, civic pride and social fabric.

“Some of this is about Oldham putting its own house in order, but it is also about building more effective partnerships in Greater Manchester.  Oldham needs to work better with our neighbours, work harder to attract business from outside and take a more coordinated approach to growing our own.

“It’s not a quick fix, but unlike anywhere else, we now know how to do Levelling Up – and there are lots of people standing ready to get on and do it.”

Full information on the recommendations, the board sessions, and the executive summary of the final report is available on the OERB website here:

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