'Come and see for yourself' Council leader invites Gove to Oldham

Date published: 05 October 2021

Oldham Council leader Arooj Shah has invited Levelling Up minister Michael Gove to Oldham to 'better understand' the borough, following comments he made at the Conservative Party conference in Manchester.

Mr Gove told the conference that he wanted to understand which towns around Manchester are succeeding and why.  He used  Oldham as an example of poor economic growth and pointed to issues such as crime, education, and the quality of public spaces.

Cllr Shah has now invited Mr Gove to come to Oldham in person and see for himself how the borough is "building back after the pandemic."

She said: "We're only a tram ride away from Manchester, so it couldn't be easier for Mr Gove to jump on the Metrolink and come and see Oldham for himself. It's disheartening to see such a senior minister falling back on outdated stereotypes as to what he thinks Oldham is like, without at least spending some time here first to understand our challenges.

"If he's genuinely interested in seeing what public spaces in Oldham are like, I'd be more than happy to take him to Parliament Square; show him the plans for our new town centre park; and get his views on our proposals for the Spindles.

"If he really cares about people's levels of pride in the borough, I'd love to show him the fantastic work that went on here during the pandemic and is continuing today, with people from all communities pulling together for the greater good. And if he wants to talk about community tensions, then I couldn't be prouder than to take him to Oldham College, where young people from all our communities will tell him just how far we've come in the last two decades.

"I'd also be very pleased to ask Mr Gove's views on how Government can support the all-new Oldham Economic Review Board, which meets for the first time this week. The group is tasked with building the profile of Oldham nationally, and making our borough a place of increasing interest in terms of “levelling up” - something that surely should be top of his agenda."

Oldham's new Economic Review Board meets for the first time on Thursday, with the remit of exploring the challenges Oldham has after, in common with many former industrial towns, losing its original economic purpose.

The Board, which includes commissioners from the public and private sectors, as well as from areas including education, healthcare and independent businesses, aims to grow employment and business opportunities for people who already live in Oldham, as well as attracting more people to live and visit here.

It will focus on key priorities such as town centre regeneration, business support, and increasing skill levels in the borough.

The Chronicle has asked the office of the Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities if he intends to accept the invitation, but as yet, have not received a comment.

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