Prestwich councillor Eamonn O’Brien was elected the new leader of Bury Council at today’s (Wed 20 May) annual meeting.
He has taken over the top job from Cllr David Jones, who although stepping down as leader remains in the cabinet with responsibility leading on Emergency Planning to provide continuity on the response to coronavirus.
Cllr O’Brien has represented St Mary’s ward in Prestwich since 2014 and has been cabinet member for finance and housing since 2017.
He said: “It is a great honour to become leader of the council in the borough where I was born, educated and have lived all my life.
“This is a time of great challenge. Coronavirus has changed all our lives – in our neighbourhoods, our public services, and in our business community.
“I want to thank all our frontline staff, trade unions, carers, NHS staff and the hundreds of volunteers whose heroic efforts have kept vital services going and looked after our people and families.
“This crisis has also shone a brighter light on deprivation and on those who need support. If we can mobilise the public sector, businesses, volunteers and faith communities to tackle the coronavirus, we should aim to keep that spirit alive in tackling deprivation and poverty and protecting the most vulnerable.”
Cllr O’Brien, a single man aged 28, works at the head office of a national charity managing the office administration.He was educated at St Monica’s RC High School in Prestwich and Holy Cross College in Bury, going on to gain a BA (History and Politics) and MA (History) from University of Manchester, and setting up the country’s first student-led food bank in central Manchester.
He added: “As we recover from the peak of the virus and the lockdown is eased, I know that many are worried about the future and how we will cope – especially businesses and those whose jobs are at risk.
“My first job is to outline how we will build a better future, and stay ambitious for our borough despite these tough times.
“Key to this is progressing regeneration projects in our town centres – especially Radcliffe and Prestwich – but also making sure every township and neighbourhood can benefit from the recovery, including our town plan for Ramsbottom.
“And in doing this, we’ll tackle a different crisis – the climate crisis- putting green principles at the heart of our recovery.”
Cllr O’Brien added: “I won’t underestimate the financial effects this pandemic has had on the council’s finances. We are already forecasting a potential funding gap of £21 million, which means the Government will need to stick by their promise to fully meet the costs of tackling Covid-19, otherwise we risk holding back the recovery and having to cut the frontline services we are currently celebrating.
“I look forward to working with all our partners to take the borough through these uncertain times and ensure Bury is an even better place for all its residents and businesses in the months and years to come.”
Cllr O’Brien will be supported by a new deputy leader, Cllr Tamoor Tariq.
Cllr Tariq has represented Redvales ward since 2010 and has served on the council’s cabinet for four years, where he previously had responsibility for communities, and for children’s services for the past year.
Cllr Tariq said: “We are in unprecedented times and we must evaluate what this means for the council’s services and our borough. We must lead the Covid-19 recovery to rebuild our town and ensure we are prepared to meet the challenges ahead.”
The new cabinet members and their portfolios
Cllr Eamonn O’Brien – Leader & Finance and Growth
Cllr Tamoor Tariq – Deputy Leader & Children, Young People and Skills
Cllr Andrea Simpson – First Deputy & Health and Wellbeing
Cllr Alan Quinn – Environment and Climate Change
Cllr David Jones – Communities and Emergency Planning
Cllr Lucy Smith – Transport and Infrastructure
Cllr Jane Black – Cultural Economy
Cllr Tahir Rafiq – Corporate Affairs and HR
Cllr Clare Cummins – Housing Services