It was roughly this time last month that we were out solidly in Chadderton, Royton and Oldham to campaign on behalf of our fantastic candidates standing in the local elections. Thanks to residents in those areas we saw all 11 seats secured by Labour. Voters were rewarded with instant change at Oldham Council. The Labour Group elected Councillor Sean Fielding as the new leader, with Councillor Arooj Shah joining Councillor Abdul Jabbar as deputy at the head of a new-look cabinet. I am confident they will make a fantastic team.
Our campaign to erect a statue of Annie Kenney, Oldham’s very own working class suffragette, continues to gather pace with fundraising efforts ratcheting up. How can you help make history? Well we now have a dedicated online shop selling all sorts of Annie Kenney products, from portraits to books. Proceeds will help to fund the statue, so why not take a look by visiting www.anniekenney.co.uk.
May was also a time for celebration, recognising our hard working local entrepreneurs at the Oldham Business Awards. We also recently celebrated our fantastic Oldham Youth Council receiving the Queens Award for Voluntary Service and to Mahdlo Youth Zone too!
At the end of May we welcomed Councillor Javid Iqbal as the new Mayor of Oldham. Our towns face many challenges, and deserve nothing but the best. I am confident our new Mayor will make an exceptional ambassador for us, here and further afield.
My work in Parliament is equally as important as in the constituency, as I represent our towns at the heart of decision making and democracy in our country. In May nothing typified this more than speaking in an urgent debate on the closure of Shop Direct, and meeting with a Government Minister to unpick what can be done to ensure works get the help they need. Along with my colleague Debbie Abrahams I will keep battling to ensure the Government properly recognises this issues.
We also witnessed a shocking catalogue of failures from train operator Northern Rail who introduced a new timetable which went so badly around 160 A DAY were cancelled. Residents in Oldham West and Royton rely on Mills Hill and New Moston stations and they are very frustrated by this failure.
I also attended an urgent debate in Parliament on the recent killings in Gaza. Like many I support the right of Israel to exist and to defend its borders. But with that right comes a responsibility too, and there is no doubt that the actions of the Israeli Defence Force seriously overstepped the line.
We are coming towards the end of Ramadan, which ends on the 14th of this month. Ramadan is a special time of year and I want to offer my best wishes to the Muslim community here in Oldham and beyond. This is a time of reflection, devotion and spirituality. It brings those of the Muslim faith and those not of Muslim faith together around many shared values that we all hold dear – values such as cherishing family, maintaining friendships and respect for our neighbours and local community. As many share Iftar old friendships are strengthened, new friendships started and families and their wider communities come together as one.
Finally, May was also a sad and reflective month, as we marked the one year anniversary of the attack on the Manchester Arena, which claimed the lives of 22 – mostly young – people, including two of our own from Royton. Ceremonies were held at Royton Town Hall and Tandle Hill to remember the lives of local mums Lisa Lees and Alison Howe. We will never forget them.
As we look forward further into June I will be working to support enterprise in Oldham and to monitor the refreshed Greater Manchester Spatial Framework. In Parliament we will continue to take part in votes holding the government to account through our Opposition Days and of course on the EU Withdrawal Bill. I look forward to updating you on this work in next month’s column!