COUNCIL leader Cllr Rishi Shori brings you his monthly column

Sick of the Brexit debate yet? Has there been anything else in the news these past few days?

One thing’s for sure — this topic has been one of the most divisive I can remember, and will, whichever way it works out, have huge ramifications for our country and here in Bury.

Whether you are a remainer or Brexiteer, I can assure you that we will do everything in our power to ensure that our local economy is as robust as possible.

For a start, Bury has just been revealed as the ‘most entrepreneurial’ area of Greater Manchester, beating the city to top the ‘Red Flag Alert Start-up Index’.

The rate of business start-ups is fantastic for a borough of our size, and is testament to the talent we have here and the success of the #BuryMeansBusiness initiative which was specifically referred to in the report.

Further evidence of the success can be evidenced in the 2017-18 Manufacturing and Services Parliamentary Review. Of the review’s 11 case studies, Bury’ has three of the best practice examples quoted!

Barclays has announced that Bury will be the first pilot area in its national ‘Building Thriving Local Economies’ programme.

Being selected is a tremendous honour for the borough and came about due to the framework created by Bury’s Commission on Life Chances with the support of its chair, Philip Collins.

The commission was launched two years ago in order to better align education, skills and employment, ensuring that schools, colleges and companies work together so that young people of all abilities can maximise their potential and job opportunities.

The commission will also look at helping adults to retrain and up-skill so that they are ‘employable for life’ in an era when the days of a life-long job are largely over.

Here’s a taste of what we’re doing:

• Completing the demolition of the former police HQ in Irwell Street, the first step in regenerating this key part of Bury’s town centre

• Working with Sladen to promote the redevelopment of the former cinema and bowling alley site at Pilsworth as a new mixed employment and retail scheme;

• Attracting Cranswick Continental Foods to open a 170,000 square foot food production facility and ancillary offices, creating 400 jobs in the borough, 250 of which are new jobs to the economy;

• A planning application being submitted for Phase 1 redevelopment of the Chamberhall site. This will kickstart this site, with interest from hi-tech manufacturing and research & development businesses potentially initially creating 400 jobs;

• Overseeing a £4 million investment in the refurbishment and reconfiguration of the Warth Business Park;

• Supporting housing associations to create 55 homes in 2017/18, most notably the 40 units on the former Radcliffe Civic Suite site provided by Great Places Housing Group;

• Bringing about new affordable housing such as the 60-unit extra care scheme at Peachment Place (the biggest single investment the council has made in housing) along with eight 2-bed shared ownership houses at Mayfair Gardens, Radcliffe, both due to complete shortly.

We’re also working on the redevelopment of the former East Lancashire Paper Mill in Radcliffe and at The Uplands in Whitefield, and progressing plans for the Longfield Centre in Prestwich.

The Greater Manchester Spatial Framework, to be published in January, will also outline where major employment sites will be located, such as the Northern Gateway.

One thing’s for sure – Bury is very much open for business.

But it’s not just about the economy. It’s about bringing together the key elements of housing, business, education and leisure that make our borough a great place in which to live, work and learn.

It’s about working more closely with our partners and the community, to create a truly joined-up health and social care system that takes care of us all.

It’s about the plans, unveiled this week, to build major new flood defences for Radcliffe and Redvales.

And it’s about creating the best future for our children, whether that be through education and our work with the University of Bolton, or environmental improvements such as tackling air pollution and making Greater Manchester carbon neutral.

Let’s acknowledge our unsung heroes – the thousands of carers who look after vulnerable residents, the volunteers who feed and shelter the homeless, those who plant trees or run breakfast clubs, those who will provide solace this Christmas to those who desperately need it. We will need all of these wonderful people, Brexit or no Brexit.

Finally, whatever your faith or belief, may I wish you all a peaceful, relaxing and enjoyable Christmas holiday period, and trust that we will all return in the New Year reinvigorated and ready to meet the challenges ahead of us.

And if you haven’t had your flu jab yet, go and get it now!