Oldham Metropolitan Borough Council

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Oldham Metropolitan Borough Council
Third of council elected three years out of four
Houses Unicameral
Term limits
Founded 1 April 1974
Joint committees
Greater Manchester Combined Authority
Greater Manchester Police and Crime Panel
Last election
2011 (one third of councillors)
2012 (one third of councillors)
2014 (one third of councillors)
Next election
2015 (one third of councillors)
2016 (one third of councillors)
2018 (one third of councillors)

Oldham Metropolitan Borough Council is the local authority of the Metropolitan Borough of Oldham in Greater Manchester, England. It is a metropolitan district council, one of ten in Greater Manchester and one of 36 in the metropolitan counties of England, and provides the majority of local government services in Oldham.It is composed of 60 councillors, three for each of the 20 electoral wards of the borough.

Currently the council is controlled by the Labour Party, led by Cllr Jim McMahon OBE[1]

Carolyn Wilkins became the local authority’s first-ever female chief executive, having been formally appointed to the post in summer 2014.[2]

Many, but not all, of the council’s staff are based at the Civic Centre in Oldham town centre.


Oldham Council is a metropolitan borough of Greater Manchester, England. The borough is named after its largest town, Oldham, but also includes the outlying towns of Chadderton, Failsworth, Royton and Shaw and Crompton, the village of Lees, and the parish of Saddleworth.

The borough was formed in 1974 as part of the provisions of the Local Government Act 1972. It is an amalgamation of the former County Borough of Oldham with the Chadderton, Crompton, Lees, Royton urban districts of Lancashire and the Saddleworth Urban District of the West Riding of Yorkshire.

For its first 12 years the borough had a two-tier system of local government: Oldham Council sharing power with the Greater Manchester County Council.

Since the Local Government Act 1985 Oldham Council has effectively been a unitary authority, serving as the sole executive, deliberative and legislative body responsible for local policy, setting council tax, and allocating budget in the district. The Metropolitan Borough of Oldham has two civil parishes and 20 electoral wards. The parish councils are involved in planning, management of town and parish centres, and promoting tourism. In 2001, 46,072 people lived in Oldham's two civil parishes—Saddleworth and Shaw and Crompton—20.9% of the borough's population. The rest of the borough is unparished.

Since 2011 Oldham is one of the ten member authorities of the Greater Manchester Combined Authority (GMCA) which is a top tier local authority with responsibility for Transport, Health, Housing and Economic matters. The membership of the Combined Authority is drawn from the Leaders or Executive Mayors of each of the ten councils.

In 2011 Oldham declared its ambition to become a Co-operative Council, which it describes as “one where citizens, partners and staff work together to improve the borough and create a confident and ambitious place...Put simply, becoming a co-operative borough is about everybody doing their bit and everybody benefitting.”[3]

An early progress report by the RSA thinktank in 2012 said Co-operative principles could help councils manage and reduce demand for services and create ‘a sustainable economic and social future’.[4]

Oldham leads the national Co-operative Councils Innovation Network – a group of local authorities who say they are committed to finding better ways of for, and with, their local communities.[5]

Oldham Youth Council, formed in 2006, now has constitutional power on Oldham Council – a national first. The Youth Council is democratically elected every two years via a borough-wide election run in schools, colleges and youth organisations.[6] The group now has its own section on the agenda of each meeting of Full Council at Oldham Council where it can raise and debate issues and hold councillors to account.[7]


The council can confer the title of Honorary Alderman of the Borough on persons who have, in the opinion of the council, rendered “eminent services” to it as a past member. Recipients to date are: Ralph Semple MBE, Ellen Brierley, Jack Armitage, George Edmond Lord, Sidney GW Jacobs, David Roger Jones, Christine Wheeler and Richard David Knowles.

The Freedom of the Borough is the highest honour the council can bestow. It is awarded rarely and dates back to the middle ages when freemen had commercial privileges and route into a position of power in a town or city. Associated with this is a ‘freedom of entry’ which the council can award to service units which have “rendered conspicuous service” and are closely associated with the borough. Freedom of entry grants the service unit the right, privilege and honour of marching through the streets of Oldham on ceremonial occasions with swords drawn, bayonets fixed, drums beating, bands playing and colours flying.

Recipients to date are: Dame Sarah Anne Lees, Dr Thomas Fawsitt, Alderman William Schofield, Charles Ward, Marjory Lees, Rt Hon Winston Leonard Spencer Churchill, Rt Hon JR Clynes, William E Freeman, James Bannon, Alderman Frank Tweedale, Thomas Driver, Alderman John Fletcher Waterhouse, the 41st (Oldham) Royal Tank Regiment TA, Sir William Turner Walton, Alice Amelia Kenyon, Charles Leslie Hale, Sir Frank lord, Dame Eva Turner, Arnold Tweedale OBE, 75 Engineer Regiment (Volunteers), Honorary Alderman Miss Ellen Brierley MBE, Norman Kelvin Stoller CBE and Michael Hugh Meacher MP.

Political makeup[edit]

Following elections in May 2015, the political composition of Oldham Council is: Labour 45, Liberal Democrat 10, Conservative 2, UKIP 2, Independent 1.

Coat of arms/motto[edit]

The borough’s coat of arms is based on the crest of the former Oldham County Borough and includes within it symbols to identify the other six districts that make up the Borough. These are the former urban districts of Chadderton, Crompton, Failsworth, Lees, Royton and Saddleworth.

The Shield is derived from the former arms of Oldham showing three white owls (a pun on “Owldham”) and three red rings giving the initial letter “0”.

Above it is the closed helm proper to Civic arms with its twisted crest-wreath and decorative mantling. Upon the wreath stands the Crest. The owl is shown on its rock rising from a gold circlet charged with the three red rings from the shield.

The two red griffins identify the other districts by the heraldry of their chief manorial families which are some of the most famous in history. They include the Chaddertons (connected with Chadderton, Failsworth, Crompton and Lees) and the Chethams (connected with Crompton). Both families are branches of the de Traffords whose red griffin is also seen at Eccles and elsewhere. As a necessary difference they wear collars with fluted edges like those in the arms of the Radcliffes (Oldham, Royton and Chadderton). On the collars are the three red “bendlets” on white, of the arms of the Byrons (Failsworth, Crompton and Royton).

From each collar hangs a white heptagon symbolic of the united seven authorities. On the left one is the black “mullet” of the Asshetons (Oldham and Chadderton) and on the right Saddleworth is represented by a black saddle in reference to the name of its derivation – a settlement on a saddle-shaped ridge.

The Oldham Council motto “Sapere Aude” means “dare to be wise” with the word “Aude” containing the syllable “Owd” of the local pronunciation of “Owdham” or “Owldham.”


Councillor Jim McMahon, Labour Party, has been leader of Oldham Council since local elections in May 2011.[8] He succeeded Councillor Howard Sykes MBE who had headed a Liberal Democrat administration since 2008. After failing to secure an overall majority in the May 2010 elections, the Liberal Democrat group had formed a joint administration with the Conservative Party from August 2010 onwards.

Previous council leaders are:

  • Joseph Tennyson Hilton OBE J.P 1974-6
  • Geoffrey Webb J.P 1076-78
  • Malcolm Forsyth Bamford J.P 1978-9
  • Geoffrey Webb J.P 1979-80
  • Joseph Tennyson Hilton OBE J.P 1980-85
  • John Bernard Battye 1985-2000
  • Richard David Knowles 2000-03
  • David Roger Jones 2003-08

Oldham Council introduced the office of Youth Mayor in 2009 when Mohammed Adil became the first-ever holder of the post. The post was the idea of – and is chosen by – members of the Oldham Youth Council.[9]

He has since been followed as Youth Mayor by:

  • Liam Turner 2010-11
  • Chantel Birtwistle 2011-12
  • Joshua Payne 2012-13
  • Emma O’Donnell 2013-4
  • Daisy Murphy 2014-15


Oldham Council has 20 electoral wards across its six districts of Chadderton, Failsworth and Hollinwood, Oldham, Royton, Shaw and Crompton, and Saddleworth and Lees.

These are:

  • Alexandra
  • Chadderton Central
  • Chadderton North
  • Chadderton South
  • Coldhurst
  • Crompton
  • Failsworth East
  • Failsworth West
  • Hollinwood
  • Medlock Vale
  • Royton North
  • Royton South
  • Saddleworth North
  • Saddleworth South
  • Saddleworth West and Lees
  • St James
  • St Mary’s
  • Shaw
  • Waterhead
  • Werneth

Notable recent achievements[edit]

  • Oldham’s ‘Bloom and Grow’ campaigns have seen it win the ‘Best City’ category four years running at the North West in Bloom competition up to 2013. It has also represented the region at the national Britain in Bloom in the same category and won the ‘Best City’ gong in 2012.[10]
  • Oldham was ‘Most Improved Council’ at the Local Government Chronicle awards in 2012.[11]
  • Councillor Jean Stretton was named ‘Community Champion of the Year’ and councillors Amanda Chadderton, Sean Fielding and Arooj Shah jointly won ‘Young Councillor of the Year’ awards in 2013.[12]
  • Council Leader, Jim McMahon was named ‘Leader of the Year’ at the C’llr Achievement Awards in February 2014.[13]
  • Oldham was ‘highly commended’ at the ‘LGC Council of the Year awards’ for the top prize in 2014.[14]

See also[edit]