Cllr Jim McMahon – Oldham’s deal for community resilience, jobs and growth

jim_mcmahonBy Cllr Jim McMahon
Leader of Oldham Council and Leader of the LGA Labour Group

A few weeks ago the Co-operative Councils Innovation Network launched their first report “Unlocking our wealth: A Cooperative Deal for Community Resilience, Jobs and Growth.” Setting out three principles of a new deal with citizens, government and business, the report outlines how cooperative working can make our communities stronger by improving access to jobs and economic opportunities.

The principles relate to a new deal:

  • With citizens – that treats everyone as an individual
  • With business – based on genuine partnership
  • With government – based on local freedom to innovate

Improving economic opportunities is something that I have been passionate about since day one as Leader of Oldham Council. The best way to help people out of poverty, debt and helplessness is to get them into quality employment work where they are earning, positively engaged and feel a building sense of self –esteem and self-worth.

As a Leader of Place, it is essential that councils use their position to work with businesses to create jobs, traineeships, and work experience placements as well as work together to ensure that the offer is right from early years education through to secondary and onto further education, even adult skills and lifelong learning.  Also vitally important are the relationships between schools and employers, ensuring young people develop work related skills that meet employer needs.

As a local authority Oldham has, through the CCIN and other channels been at the forefront of lobbying to government and political parties to give places more freedom over how they solve their economic problems – because every place is different: if the problems we have in Oldham are the same as those in Buckinghamshire, I’ll eat my hat!

In Oldham we have countless numbers of real-life examples of people who have benefitted from the local approach. As I write this we have just smashed our target of creating 2,015 work-related opportunities by the end of 2015 – and to date have created 2,169.  We have done this through our Get Oldham Working scheme which provides a unique package of support for people seeking work, including links to vacancies, education and job skills providers, Work Clubs and apprenticeships.

We have also established Oldham Education and Skills Commission, chaired by Baroness Estelle Morris, with the aim of transforming learning outcomes, aligning the education and skills offer with the economy and enabling more co-operative working between partners so that education becomes everyone’s business. The Commission is due to report later this year.

Other Oldham-born initiatives that are getting traction include:

  • The Enterprise Fund is a partnership between Oldham Business Leadership Group and the Business Growth Hub, delivering practical funding help and expert business support to new start-ups and existing businesses that want to grow. The funding has been provided by the Stoller Foundation which is headed by Norman Stoller an Oldham-born entrepreneur himself.
  • Enterprise Hubs in secondary schools where pupils get experience of running a business or help with their business ideas;
  • Warehouse to Wheels is an initiative to skill up warehouse workers to become drivers which gives them access to increased earnings and a career ladder.

There is still more to come. We have already pledged to introduce a Youth Guarantee for all school leavers and introduce an Oldham Scholarship enabling students to go on to Further Education.

In Oldham we will continue to fight to give our residents sustainable job opportunities, that are fair and help them live better lives. Working together in new ways, schools, students, local businesses and external partners are joining up to help students gain the confidence to be the best they can be.  They then have the best possible chance of being successful as well as aspirational advocates for Oldham.

Cllr Jim McMahon is Leader of Oldham Council and Leader of the LGA Labour Group. Follow him on Twitter at: @cllrjimmcmahon