Leader of the council's blog: Tuesday, 17 January 2023
Many challenges await us this year, locally and nationally, but through our ambitious borough-wide regeneration plans, investment in the community and innovative service delivery, I am optimistic that our borough will continue to grow and prosper. My priorities for 2023 are driving forward regeneration plans, ensuring residents continue to be supported with their cost of living, and continuing to provide good quality, value for money services.
The development of Middleton and Heywood town centres continues. In Middleton, we will drive forward the town centre masterplan, and continue to campaign for levelling up funds to boost the economy and keep our plans on track for improved transport connectivity, including a new tram link. It was extremely disappointing to learn that our levelling-up bids for the borough were turned down by the government. Once again, vital national funding, to help our regeneration plans, didn’t come the way of Middleton, Heywood and Rochdale. As council leader, I will go on stressing the importance of the government investing in northern communities like ours.
Last autumn, I was proud to officially open the Queen Elizabeth II Way link road in Heywood. The £25 million investment connects the M62 to Pilsworth Road, helping to boost the local economy, create new jobs and improve transport links for residents, businesses and visitors. Heywood’s town centre masterplan will be at the centre of further investment in the town over the coming months. We are also about to start our renovation of the Civic Centre, bringing it up to date and securing its future for years to come.
Middleton town centre.
Our £400 million investment in Rochdale is transforming the town centre. Much has already been achieved, such as the Riverside Retail and Leisure Scheme. There is still much to look forward to, including our transformative £60 million Upper Banks scheme, which will provide 242 new flats and a 146-room hotel. In addition, our visionary Rochdale Town Hall regeneration scheme is due for completion later in the year. This will transform the interior and exterior of our Grade I-listed jewel in the crown, including a new welcome gallery, exhibitions, event space and a beautifully designed paved outdoor area.
Our cost of living support package remains in place. This includes our food voucher scheme, which supports over 12,000 families during the school holidays; further assistance to reduce energy bills and maintain our warm space venues. We now have over 40 warm spaces in the borough, offering free hot and cold drinks, warm showers, water and a place for people to socialise and keep warm during the winter months. Our cost of living campaign – Helping Hand – will continue to help residents offset their cost of living and reduce the chance of our residents having to make a choice between heating and eating.
When I became leader of the council, just under 2 years ago, I promised high-quality value for money public services. Residents want their bins collected on time, local libraries thriving, good transport links maintained, roads repaired, potholes filled. Our haul of In Bloom awards, our sparkling parks, clean streets and attractive award-winning green spaces show we are delivering. Despite the failure at a national level to provide a long-term social care funding solution, our strong and resilient local health partnership continues to deliver high-quality services for older and vulnerable people, showing our caring side at its very best.
We have a lot to be proud about. We will continue to shine a light on our investment plans throughout 2023. It’s important to stay optimistic; to stand still is to go backwards, which is why our regeneration plans underline our commitment to making our borough an even better place to live, work and grow up in. A happy new year and best wishes for 2023 to you all.