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Oldham MBC lambasted by report

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Oldham MBC is still communicating poorly with local people more than seven years after race riots, an Audit Commission report has found.

A highly critical corporate assessment published last week concluded the council was “not clear enough about the differences in quality of life between groups and localities in the borough”, and “does not take enough account of local people’s views when planning and delivering services”.

The assessment also slammed the council for poor financial planning; being slow to introduce modern systems; and not doing enough to tackle growing health inequalities.

Council leader Howard Sykes (Lib Dem) accepted the report’s findings, admitting it was a “full and frank account of the performance of the council since the last assessment”.

Riots between white and Asian youths raged for three days in the summer of 2001, culminating in the firebombing of the Asian deputy mayor’s family home.

An independent review chaired by former civil servant David Ritchie that year urged the authority to question “every single policy recommendation coming to the council” as to how it will “improve the understanding of diversity and community relations within the town”.

It also suggested the council considered introducing an elected mayor to strengthen leadership.

Last week’s report claimed that while the council has worked hard to address threats to cohesion in the borough, “its formal plans are not explicit about local communities’ sense of place and identity”.

Furthermore, the council fails to report publicly on how it is responding to the diverse needs of different communities, which contributes to local people’s sense that the council does not listen, it said.

The council recently completed a shake-up of its senior management team following the appointment of former English Partnerships investment director Charlie Parker as chief executive last summer.

Carolyn Wilkins joins from Rossendale Borough Council as assistant chief executive while Emma Alexander moves from Trafford MBC to become corporate director for customer and corporate services. Both start in April.

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