Much to be done - McMahon

Date published: 02 June 2014

OLDHAM’S Labour group now holds the highest number of council seats since the borough was formed in 1974.

But leader Jim McMahon says there is still a lot of work to do to keep Oldham on the up.

The new council has Labour on 45 seats, the Liberal Democrats with 10, UKIP and the Conservatives on two apiece and one independent councillor.

And while Councillor McMahon was happy with Labour’s performance, he says there are lessons to be learned by all the parties.

UKIP gained their first two seats in Oldham as part of a predicted political “earthquake”.

Councillor McMahon said: “Much of the national campaign debate focused on the question of Europe and the economy and the need to provide more decent jobs, housing and opportunities. These, for me, remain the key issues that all mainstream parties must now address.

“The Government claimed credit for falls in unemployment but the evidence in Oldham highlighted a more worrying reality that simply cannot be ignored. Around a third of people here no longer claiming Job Seekers Allowance are not in work at all — they have simply been shifted on to Universal Credit.

“Of those who remain, the evidence suggests many are in low-paid, low-skilled employment with little job security. Nationally the number of zero-hour contracts has risen to more than 1.4 million. In Oldham the average weekly wage has fallen to £417 a week — down from £437 — as the cost of living continues to rise.

“The average working week in the UK is now just 32 hours with full-time employment reducing and more than 1.2 million people working fewer hours than they would want to. In Greater Manchester 22 per cent of workers are earning less than the living wage, which means they rely on top-up benefits just to cover the bills.

“But in 2014 we have a situation where people frustrated by standards of housing, education, public services and low wages are tempted to look to blame someone.

“A narrative about benefit culture in the national media has pitted poor people against poor people and, at the same time, some have sought to focus the anger of those trying to make ends meet against those people who are coming here to make a better life for themselves.

“On a local level I’m more determined than ever to continue the hard work underway to help our local communities define for themselves the future they aspire to.”