Football trumps democracy in downtrodden borough

Amanda Chadderton and Harry Catherall

Observing and commentating upon the inner workings of one of the most troubled local authorities in the country is perennially challenging, to say the least: Poor decision-making and fragmented communication comes, mostly, as standard, a remark that applies to both its political and paid officer leadership as Oldham Metropolitan Borough Council staggers from one self-inflicted crisis to the next (read more here).

In an area of the North West well recognised, nationally, over the deprivation inflicted upon its long-suffering taxpayers, tackling key issues such as child poverty, low quality housing and homelessness, not to mention keeping warm and having enough to eat, as energy and supermarket bills spiral out of control, should, one might very fairly say, be heavily prioritised.

But not in this famous old East Lancashire mill town, once amongst the most prosperous in the world: A football fixture, that may not, ultimately, even have the participants some might hope for, played out in a country where shocking human rights abuses and instinctive homophobia come as a daily standard, takes precedence over a long scheduled Full Council meeting.

According to the Agenda published on-line earlier this week, on 14th December, 2022, Oldham’s sixty councillors will meet in the Civic Centre at 2.30pm, instead of the regular, and much more convenient time, of 6pm. Not least for those with routine work commitments, carer responsibilities and others who have, quite reasonably, made arrangements around the meeting taking place in its usual time slot.

No reason has been announced publicly for the change, but very reliable sources say that the possibility that England may be involved in a World Cup semi-final match is sufficient cause for the disruption to the democratic process in Oldham. In any event, the bookmakers say that the chances of England progressing are not great, as an injury weakened France are still strong favourites to get past their quarter-final opponents.

The Council has been asked to provide a rationale for the decision – and a timeline that will assist the public (and media) in understanding how, when and who made the decision to change the start time of the meeting – and why soundings from such as the author of this article, Neil Wilby, whom routinely live blogs these gatherings, were not taken.

Page last updated Saturday 10th December, 2022 at 1410hrs

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Published by Neil Wilby

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

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