Independent voices to examine the future of Oldham's economy

Date published: 08 October 2021

A new independent review board has been formed to explore options for improving Oldham's economy.

The Economic Review Board has been created to examine how to drive forward the borough's economy, create new jobs and attract people to live and work in the town.

They will also consider how to tackle the challenges Oldham faces in areas such as education, skills, and health.

The board, chaired by Principal and Chief Executive of Oldham College, Alun Francis, met for the first time yesterday.

Cllr Arooj Shah, Leader of Oldham Council, said: "I am ambitious for Oldham and am determined to make our town an even better place in which to live and work. But I am also well aware of the issues we face, and know that the Council alone does not have all the answers.

"That's why I've set up this new Oldham Economic Review Board; an independent group of experts in their respective fields, who will contribute their incredible knowledge and skills and explore what we can do to ensure Oldham succeeds.

"In Alun Francis, the Board has a truly excellent Chair who is passionate about Oldham and who I am confident can drive this important project forward. I look forward to seeing their work as it progresses, and using their recommendations to inform important decisions the Council makes."

The Board is made up of an independent panel comprising of academics, experts and senior leaders in their fields, some from Oldham and some from wider afield.

Oldham College has formed a partnership with the University of Manchester to support the work, and the Board will be inviting national and local experts, as well as local businesses, to give evidence on regeneration, skills, business development and restoring civic pride.

It will produce a short, practical report, with recommendations on how to improve employment and wealth creation in Oldham, including how the town can gain greater benefits from its role within Greater Manchester.

Oldham College Principal and Chief Executive Alun Francis

Alun Francis, Principal and Chief Executive of Oldham College and Chair of the Oldham Economic Review Board, said: “The idea of having this review has come from the new Council Leader and it is a very good decision. We will review the progress Oldham is making and make practical recommendations about what can be done to improve it.

“I am very pleased to Chair the Board, and am grateful to the Board members and witnesses who are supporting this project. We are inviting views from the best people in these fields, as well as from local businesses.

“The Board is independent and has been given the freedom to be challenging about what can be improved and how. So we are determined to do this, in a constructive way."

Oldham’s economy was historically built upon manufacturing, chiefly within textiles and mechanical engineering. Like many other towns across the North, since the decline of these industries, the town has become more reliant on public sector employment, as well as on relatively low-skilled and low-wage enterprise.

Oldham currently has five areas within the borough which are among the top 1% of the nation’s most deprived areas.  The majority of these areas are centred in and around the town centre

This Board is comprised of academics, experts and senior leaders in the subject matters being discussed:

  • Rubbi Bhogal Wood – Wild and Form Digital Ltd
  • Andy Westwood – Vice Dean, Social Responsibility, University of Manchester
  • Richard Jones – Chair in Materials Physics and Innovation Policy, University of Manchester
  • Clive Memmott – Chief Executive, Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce
  • Emma Barton – Director of Economy, Oldham Council
  • Donna McLaughlin – Northern Care Alliance
  • John Wrathmell – Director of Research, Strategy and Economy, Greater Manchester Combined Authority
  • Adnan Yousaf – Chamber Business Centre
  • Cath Green – Housing consultant, former CEO of First Choice Homes
  • Bilal Rahman – Business person, owner of ibreathe and KickSonic
  • Laura Windsor Welsh – Oldham Action Together
  • Alan Harding – Chief Economic Advisor, Greater Manchester Combined Authority

For more information on the Oldham Economic Review Board, visit

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