At a Group meeting held on 8 May, the Oldham Borough Liberal Democrat Group appointed, unanimously and un-opposed, councillor Howard Sykes MBE as their Leader and councillor Chris Gloster as their Deputy Leader.
Councillor Howard Sykes said: “I am grateful once more to my colleagues for their unanimous support for my work as Group Leader and delighted that Chris will continue to serve as my Deputy. It was great to welcome newly elected councillor Mark Kenyon from Saddleworth West and Lees to the team, and to welcome Diane Williamson back for Crompton. I was also more than a little pleased to be re-elected myself. It was a shame that Garth Harkness will not be with us. After last Friday’s results, the Liberal Democrats retain eight councillors and I know that all eight of us will continue to try to make a difference.”
“Liberal Democrats will be the only real opposition party holding Labour to account on Oldham Council. We will work as a united team to offer common-sense solutions to the Borough’s problems and challenge the Labour Administration to cut waste and focus spending on the value-for-money services that the public wants,” added councillor Sykes.
“Labour is now at a crossroads. With just 20 of the 60 seats up for election six Labour councillors were defeated at the polls, including their Leader; several more had some close calls. Labour now must elect a new incumbent and it will be interesting to see who emerges as the winner from the contest. I sincerely hope that that person understands that the Labour needs to make a major course correction to focus on what really matters.”
Councillor Sykes set out the Liberal Democrats’ priorities for Oldham Council: “Council Tax payers hard-earned money should be spent on front-line services, such tackling fly-tipping and dog-fouling, repairing our roads and pavements, maintaining our much loved parks and green spaces, providing quality social care, and revitalising our district centres, not on civic centre bureaucracy or costly vanity projects, like £68 million on ‘Spendles’, that usually come in with massive cost overruns or frequently come to naught.”
“We also need to address the endemic levels of poverty, unemployment, educational underachievement and mental and physical ill-health that have festered for decades under Labour in our Borough, made worse by the COVID-19 pandemic, with a reinvigorated, innovative, multi-agency approach that gets residents out of poverty, skilled-up and into work.”
“We also need a new deal for our district centres, with new health centres for Shaw and Crompton, Saddleworth and Chadderton, an improved local retail and leisure offer, and local youth facilities, not just a single centre of excellence in Oldham. Last but not least, we need to forsake the Royton incinerator project and Mayor Andy Burnham’s Son of GMSF ‘Places for Everyone’ plan, and develop our own home-grown plan with a Brownfield ‘first and always’ strategy to save all of our Borough’s irreplaceable Green Belt and green spaces from housing development.”
“These are our priorities because they are the people’s priorities,” he added.