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Co-operative spirit shines brightly across the borough

26 June 2020

This week saw the beginning of Co-operatives Fortnight and never has the pioneering spirit across our borough shone as brightly than in recent months. Throughout our towns and villages, in every street and neighbourhood, our communities have come together to help, support and care for the vulnerable and older people. It has been an unprecedented display of kindness and solidarity. I am truly grateful and thankful to everyone who has played their part. The theme of this year's Co-op fortnight is 'Keep-Cooperating', a value close to my heart, as a longstanding member of the Co-op party and passionate advocate of their values of togetherness, equality and fairness.

In line with that, a key strategic aim of the council is to make our borough a great place to grow up, get on and live well in. As the lockdown gradually eases and shops, pubs and businesses unlock their doors, I want our recovery to be based on our Co-operative principles. A recovery which builds on the wonderful work of recent months. It has seen people come together to achieve, empower residents to engage in volunteering, to do things for each other and to support each other whatever their background, religion or culture. That has always been our pioneering way and, as leader, I want to see that friendly, inclusive and co-operative spirit unlocked as we kick start the local economy and get our towns and villages open for business again. There is much to be optimistic about. Marks has already put the spark into our Riverside development, with River Island to open its door on 27 June 2020 and HM and Next to follow 2 July 2020. In a further boost, our £16 million revamp of Rochdale's Grade-I listed town hall will start later in the year.

Councillor Allen Brett at a market stall.

It's not just the major brands that have re-opened. As I travelled about this week, it was heartening to see shops, of all sizes, safely returning trading. The journey to recovery has begun to take shape. Our Number One Riverside building will shortly reopen, with the return of some council staff who have been working from home providing a welcome tonic for local trade. It's important to stress that the health and safety of people should, and will, remain the number one priority in our recovery policies, in line with government guidelines.

Finally, we cannot ignore the ongoing financial difficulties we face. When the Co-operative movement began in over 150 years ago, it did so to build a more equal, prosperous society. That is what I want for our borough. A pioneering and open approach meets that meets the different needs and aspirations of our diverse communities. But we cannot do it trapped in a financial straitjacket. Our extra expenditure to tackle the coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis has made the future very uncertain. I just hope the government listens in the coming weeks and months. They cannot walk by on the other side and see councils and their residents suffer.

I have been proud to lead the council and see the crisis handled, at a local level, so efficiently and effectively. We deserve to be thanked not just through warm words from the government, but with hard cash.  Just like the founding fathers of the Co-op movement, we are faced with a challenging future. We have the vision for a future, with the Rochdale vision of 2020 as important as the Co-operative values of 1844. A prosperous borough can grow, develop and change to provide people with opportunities and a better quality of life. That cannot happen unless we are given the resources to untap the potential that exists across our community. The government must play its part financially to ensure our greatest asset, our residents, are given the means to kick-start our economy. Our rich history can help us to create a prosperous future and build a better future for everyone. Please stay safe, stay healthy and let's keep Co-operating

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Councillor Allen Brett.
  

Councillor Allen Brett, Leader of the council and councillor for Milkstone and Deeplish.