Extraordinary Council meeting set to rubber stamp top officer appointment

Following an exclusive posted elsewhere on this website on 17th August, 2021 (read here), Oldham Metropolitan Borough Council sits this evening in an Extraordinary session, starting at 6pm, to consider a motion approving the appointment of Harry Catherall as interim chief executive.

The proposal to bring Harry out of semi-retirement was considered by the Council’s Appointments Committee at a meeting on 16th August, where a cross-party group voted unanimously in favour of a candidate, whom it was considered, was a clear choice on merit from a shortlist of three.

Another exclusive two days later (read here) clarified details of the process in the face of uninformed claims and criticism from a political activist based in neighbouring Tameside whose incessant commentary about Oldham appears to revolve around lurid tales of mobsters, gangsters, murder plots, Asian cartels, postal vote vote fraud and, most persistently, facilitation of Asian grooming gangs by police, council and partner agencies in exchange for block votes for the town’s Labour Group of elected representatives.

Mr Catherall’s appointment was, according to Raja Miah, the latest product of organised criminals roaming the corridors of the Civic Centre. His dissenting voice on those themes may well have contributed to his recent arrest on suspicions of racially aggravated public order and malicious communications offences. He denies wrongdoing, but is presently banned from Facebook, yet again, following another unattractive, substantially fact-free, on-line attack on the Council Leader, Arooj Shah and local MP, and former council leader, Jim McMahon.

Unfortunately, for Mr Miah life is rather more humdrum than his dramatic, but evidence-free, crime novel narrative might imply. Tonight’s Full Council meeting will consider just the single motion concerning and will be live-blogged below:

6pm Councillors enter the Chamber

6.01pm Mayor, Cllr Jenny Harrison opens the meeting. Suspension of Rule 6 moved and carried so that councillors can be closer to the Mayor and hear her speak. This is due to layout in the Queen Elizabeth Hall rather than the more acoustic-friendly Council chamber.

6.03pm Mayor: I have received apologies for absence from Councillors Riaz Ahmad, Ginny Alexander, Steve Bashforth, Marie Bashforth, Norman Briggs, Amanda Chadderton, Chris Gloster, Hazel Gloster, Brian Hobin, Neil Hindle, Javid Iqbal, Shaid Mushtaq, Kyle Phythian, Beth Sharp, Graham Sheldon, Ruji Sapna Surjan, Elaine Taylor, Mark Wilkinson, Steve Williams, Diane Williamson (20 in total).

6.03pm No declarations of interest.

6.04pm. Cllr Shah, at the invitation of the Mayor, is on her feet as proposer of the motion and she commends the appointment of Mr Catherall.

6.04pm. Seconded by Cllr Howard Sykes.

6.04pm Motion supported by Cllr Dave Arnott.

6.05pm No other Member wished to speak.

6.06pm Cllr Shah rose again to thank Members for turning out on what was, she said, a vital moment for the town in bringing about necessary changes following the departure of Dr Carolyn Wilkins. She again commended the choice of Mr Catherall to the Mayor and Members – and promised a positive outlook for the town as a result. “Harry shares my commitment to local people and first class public services”. She added: This appointment will give the Council a dedicated, experienced chief executive, working for the good of Oldham and its people. 

6.06pm Vote taken. Report and motion carried.

6.07pm Meeting closed.

Mr Catherall posted on Twitter shortly afterwards: “Delighted to announce that Oldham full Council have just confirmed my appointment as Chief Executive. Very excited and proud. Official start first thing tomorrow”.

It didn’t take long for the Raja Miah disciples to vent their spleen on Facebook: Mark Birchall, who stood in Medlock Vale as an unsuccessful candidate for the Proud of Oldham and Saddleworth Party (the POOS) said: ‘Translates into we’ve took the piss out of the taxpayer for 12 years because we don’t know what we are doing”. He had a short time earlier made a personal remark about Cllr Shah’s public speaking ability. This class of personalised abuse is a regrettably common feature of the social media output of those associated with the Miah-led POOS. 

A glaring example comes from Stephanie Dolan who says: ‘Who are these people, is that Joe ‘sniffer’ Biden and some Artificial Unintelligent Muppet looking for re – deployment , knowing full well Oldham Council don’t have a backbone and will pay out to anyone who says ‘Boo’ to them. Is she [Cllr Shah] actually a real person? Looks likes she’s been molded out of plasticine reminds me of Morph but scarier.”

Shahid Miah says: “All jokers and untrained people are in the Council.”

In another post so typical of the cess-pit that passes as the POOS Facebook page, Joe Gaffney made the bizarre suggestion that Mr Catherall ‘may have even given a “donation” to a local organisation to “curry” favour’. The disgraceful and defamatory imputation being that the new chief executive has bribed his way into high office with the mythical Asian cartels. 

Extraordinarily, Cllr Brian Hobin of the Failsworth Independent Party contributed into the same thread, albeit with a neutral post about his non-attendance, but saw nothing wrong with what had gone before. In spite of entering into an agreement with Cllr Shah last week to curb and condemn abuse against council Members and officials (read more here). But the need to keep in favour with Miah, and the attendant Rabble, is, apparently, just too irresistible.

Cllr Hobin says that neither he, nor the other two FIPs councillors were unable to attend the meeting because of prior family holiday commitments. There is no announcement to that effect on his Party Facebook page.

An independent observer might connect the holiday absence, of not only their three elected Members but the Party Chair, Kathleen Wilkinson, with Raja Miah’s latest Facebook ban, which began on Sunday 22nd August, 2021. 

The posts of Joe Gaffney and Shahid Miah have been removed from the POOS page since the publication of this article. The posts from Mark Birchall and Stephanie Dolan remain in-situ.


Page last updated: Thursday 26th August, 2021 at 0945 hours

Corrections: Please let me know if there is a mistake in this article. I will endeavour to correct it as soon as possible.

Picture credit:  Oldham Council

Right of reply: If you are mentioned in this article and disagree with it, please let me have your comments. Provided your response is not defamatory it will be added to the article.

© Neil Wilby 2015-2021. Unauthorised use, or reproduction, of the material contained in this article, without permission from the author, is strictly prohibited. Extracts from, and links to, the article (or blog) may be used, provided that credit is given to Neil Wilby Media, with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Published by Neil Wilby

Former Johnston Press area managing director. Justice campaigner. Freelance investigative journalist.

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