Honouring our Spanish Civil War Dead
I was pleased to see that as part of Democracy Week an exhibition was staged in Gallery Oldham about the ten men from the Borough of Oldham who fought as part of the International Brigades against Fascism in the Spanish Civil War.
April 2014 will mark 75 years from the ending of the war – the tragedy for Spain is that the Fascists won, immersing the country in a stifling dictatorship that only ended in 1975.
Oldham has recently rightly honoured its dead from both World Wars with a refurbished war memorial.
It would therefore also seem appropriate to ensure that the men who served in this lesser known, but critical, conflict receive their due recognition.
In 1986 former Mayor Alwyn McConnell unveiled a memorial plaque to these unsung heroes in the Local Studies Centre.
Unfortunately this is now sadly languishing somewhere in the vaults – available for inspection only upon request to the curator.
Can I therefore ask the Leader if he will commit himself to ensuring that this plaque is placed on display in a prominent position in a town centre public building as was intended in time to mark the 75th anniversary of the ending of the war?
And can I also ask him to ensure that there will be a re-dedication ceremony to be held on a date agreed with the International Brigade Memorial Trust to which relatives, representatives from the Trust and veterans organisations, and local civic leaders can be invited?
Public Investment in Renewables
Climate change is of increasing concern to the public – as inhabitants of this Earth every one of us has a personal responsibility for ensuring we cause no harm to the planet – but as local leaders, elected members also have a collective responsibility for showing the way.
I was therefore very pleased to hear that the Association of Greater Manchester Authorities has set ambitious targets for reductions in carbon emissions for each of the ten authorities and that Cabinet has recently discussed how Oldham Council will contribute to these targets.
One way that other local authorities have done this is by supporting the development of local renewable electricity generation schemes, whether hydro, solar or wind, often in conjunction with a specialist commercial operator, and these schemes have been part-financed through a community share offer to the public.
Such schemes are revenue-raising as they provide a long-term income stream to the authority, but they also embody the co-operative agenda as local authorities and communities work together to achieve a common goal.
There are some factors in Oldham’s favour.
We have a track record with the establishment of a community-owned hydro scheme at Dovestones Reservoir, new Passivhaus carbon-neutral homes at St. Marys, and our electric-charging points.
We also have local expertise in this field – a splendid Regional Science Centre and The Oldham College Green Technology Centre.
So there is no reason why Oldham cannot be ambitious.
Can I therefore please ask the Leader if he will agree to convene a renewable energy think-tank – rather along the lines of the recent successful Feeding Oldham Event – with key partners and players, to identify future renewable energy projects for our borough?
Developing a Municipal Bond Market
Given the significant level of public investment proposed by this Council in the coming years, I am sure that the Leader and the Cabinet Member for Finance would welcome any opportunity to access cheaper money to finance infrastructure projects.
The Chairman of the Local Government Association, Sir Merrick Cockell, has recently stated that the revival of a municipal bond market would help local Government access finance at a lower cost than the Public Works Loan Board.
It was Sir Merrick’s view that this would also provide local Government with greater independence from central Government.
Sir Merrick has issued an invitation to Councils to participate as partners in a new agency to work up a practical proposition for municipal bonds and so far 18 Councils have expressed an interest in joining such an agency.
Given that this proposition could save our Borough’s hard pressed Council tax payers money from servicing reduced interest payments, can I ask the Leader and Cabinet Member for Finance to consider taking up Sir Merrick’s invitation, or can they inform Council that they have already done so?