My first duty is one to give thanks. Thanks to all of you for attending this event. Thanks to those of you who organised it, those who arranged the room and for those of you who provided the refreshments. My second one is to congratulate those who had a wedding on Saturday. Not only a couple called Meghan and Harry who were married in Windsor but also a couple called Phillipa and Jim who celebrated their wedding in this building. Permit me to offer of very best wishes to both happy couples.

Following a vacancy on the council a co-opted member has been appointed. Liberal Democrat Sam Al-Hamdani is offered a warm welcome to The Parish Council.

Seven years ago I took my place in this esteemed chamber when first elected as a Parish Councillor; three years ago I was again elected. Over the past seven years the Parish Council has experienced many changes; one that is extremely important is that representation is now spread across a mix of groups – Conservatives, Independents, Labour and Liberal Democrats. The change offers different views and opinions, adding to the richness of discussion and debate and balances representation in Saddleworth. But it’s pleasing to note that party politics do not feature in the council. In my book at this level of UK’s governing authority there should be no room for party politics; we first and foremost represent all the people who elected us, not just those of political colour who voted us in. The total focus of our councillors is, and must continue to be, the stewardship of Saddleworth on behalf of all residents irrespective of party colouring.

I’m a “comer-in”. I came to live here after serving for 33 years in the Royal Air Force. After that I worked in the civil aerospace industry and finally as a university lecturer. While I’ve lived here for 30 years it will take many more years, if ever, to qualify as a “Saddleworthian”. However, I can claim some smarties points – those of you who were born here, you had no say in the matter about living here; Lesley and I did, we chose to do so, and we are very thankful that we made that decision.

What makes Saddleworth so special? Its rugged hills, open spaces and stunning views. The diverse nature of 13 communities, each with their own identity. The variety of cultural events, particularly the Whit Friday walks, the band contests, the Rush Cart ceremony, Yanks weekend and Yorkshire Day. Also, its level of voluntary effort (more on that in a moment). But above all the pride that people have in saying they live in Saddleworth. My wife is a Yorkshire lass and the White Rose is prominent in a window in the porch of our house. I’m well aware that many Saddleworth residents have allegiance to the white rose, while others honour the red one. Yes, the War of the Roses continues but in the form of good-humoured arm wrestling, sharp wit and repartee. It adds to the character of this wonderful place.

Let me move on to a sombre note. Sadly, there are some people, both in Oldham and Saddleworth who would like to do away with the Parish Council. However, dissolution of the Council would impinge heavily on the well-being of the Saddleworth community. Without the Parish Council’s involvement, who would look after our cemetery? The Satellite Centre wouldn’t be in use as it is now, Dawson’s Field in Scouthead would have been sold (We have Councillor Barbara Beeley to thank for her efforts in stopping the sale), we wouldn’t have allotments in Uppermill, we wouldn’t have a Community Toilet scheme in Saddleworth, we wouldn’t have a Parish Caretaker and we would have lost ownership of land opposite the Three Crowns in Scouthead. Who would concern themselves with Saddleworth’s heritage and conservation?  These are just examples of Parish Council involvement; there are many more. With regard to Dawson’s field an application to transfer its ownership to the Parish Council has recently been submitted. Also, as a Parish we would not be represented in numerous events that take place in Saddleworth, all organised by volunteer effort.

Let me to talk about volunteer effort. Saddleworth residents enjoy a considerable number of activities influenced by the Parish Council. Apart from a handful of employees, the Parish Council relies extensively on volunteers to support our community; the councillors are all volunteers and receive no payment, not even petrol money; let me stress they would want any recompense. The chairman’s charity committee is made up totally of volunteers as are heads of clubs that use this building.

A couple of years ago I analysed the social value and impact of volunteering influenced by the Parish Council. Using government figures, guidelines and formulae the calculated value of volunteering effort comes to over £7 million.

Consider how many activities and needs would go unanswered in Saddleworth without the contribution of volunteers. Furthermore, consider the cost that would have to be incurred if the services had to be ”bought in”. If these volunteer activities were curtailed the social well- being of the community would deteriorate. To those who seek to do away with our Parish Council I say think again or come up with the funding for the work that we influence. To the volunteers I offer a very big thank you; without your efforts Saddleworth would suffer.

Moving onto a happier note. Our community associations are flourishing. Each village in Saddleworth now has a community group that contributes to its local well-being. If I listed everything that they achieved, we would be here all night. Some groups have existed for a long time, others were formed over the past few years following initiatives on the part of our councillors.

A recent important and welcome contribution to the Parish Council is the Saddleworth Youth Council; the brainchild of Parish Councillors Jamie Curley and Katrina Roman.  Saddleworth’s future belongs to the young so it is important to get their views and ideas as to what they want to see developed in the community. To the Youth Council I say, “Welcome aboard”.

We face pressures from the Greater Manchester via Oldham Council to release land for housing and business premises. An important task on our part is developing the Neighbourhood Plan for Saddleworth, to enable us to have a large say in our future. We must ensure that all infrastructure issues, such as a balanced mix of housing, healthcare, care for the elderly, education, youth services, traffic, parking, public transport and the environment are addressed effectively. We need employment opportunities in Saddleworth to reduce the need to travel elsewhere to work, thus reducing high levels of traffic and vehicle emissions. To achieve this, we must enhance our dialogue with Oldham’s councillors and council officers. While isolation is not an option, neither is having to blindly accept decisions made by organisations outside of Saddleworth. We have already started joint informal discussions about development of an important site. I’m pleased to say that Oldham Council initiated the joint approach which led to meetings attended by Borough and Parish councillors together with council officers from different departments such as business development and transport. We must partner Oldham, the authority that administers us; in turn Oldham must partner us – hence the need for dialogue. As a start let’s invite Shaun Fielding, Oldham Council’s new leader to meet us; let’s hear what he seeks of Saddleworth, let him hear what we seek of Oldham. Our involvement with the District Partnership is essential. Let’s talk with our Member of Parliament. Also, we must not forget that a large part of Saddleworth lies in the Peak Park; communication with that authority is also essential. Of course, the ultimate in communication effort must be with the residents of Saddleworth.

In keeping with the tradition of our council charity fundraising events will form an important part of this year in office. My boss, Lesley, has started to develop and plan fundraising events. Total focus will be to distribute funds raised to organisations within Saddleworth, many of which have been and will continue to be recipients. Members of the charity committee will also be invited to nominate charities. One charity not seen is associated with something I experienced a couple of weeks ago. Helping with a school project I learnt of a pupil who is afraid to go to school; not as to what will happen at school, but what might happen at home while at school. The pupil’s Mum is ill, and the all-day worry is that on returning home the young person might find that Mum is no longer part of that individual’s life. I floated this experience on Facebook and was overwhelmed with the supportive response and tales of similar sad experiences suffered by other youngsters. The discovery hit me for six and so I want to find a local charity that will help young people cope with such concerns.

With all these issues in mind, I am conscious of the responsibility of this office and I am proud to bear it. I thank my fellow councillors for giving me the opportunity to do so.



Pin It on Pinterest

Share This