Hotel Future or Hotel Failure?
When you consider Hotel Future is to be located adjacent to Oldham’s ill-conceived monstrous seventies style civic centre, even the appellation becomes condescending. This is a project to empower self-serving council elites with an income source, cheap facilities and the illusion of investment in the people of Oldham. Identifying the hospitality sector as one of the growth industries demonstrates how adept politicians are at being economical with the truth, that truth being that it also has the highest levels of minimum & low wage employees of any industry sector. Be under no illusion that all political organisations whose core voters are identifiable migrant communities or those who by choice, culture or circumstances live out a life as the socially deprived & poorly educated; have no desire to see these core voters achieve social and educational equality with themselves. Detouring from the main topic for a moment, I note how Labour Member of Parliament Debbie Abrahams has recently been championing the plight of the boroughs child poverty in the wake of the ‘bedroom tax’ and the implementation of council tax benefit reductions. She clearly considers 16,814 Oldham homes with occupants of working age receiving council tax benefit to be acceptable but would never consider suggesting to constituents that they have fewer children if their circumstances or lifestyle choices dictate they live a life constantly supported by benefits. Neither, for fear of public outcry, would she or any other local politician champion the childless adult in such a way as to defend their right to benefits. Politicians have made being a mum or dad into a profession not a lifestyle choice and many people now subscribe to this ideal of ‘I am entitled to’ or ‘my child deserves’. I am not attacking parents or the desire to have children I am attacking the language that politicians use to ensure that their core voters and circumstances of poverty self-perpetuate under their policies in their primary constituencies. Oldham politicians should not constantly encourage people to vote for their party on the promise of you have the children we will allocate the benefits whilst Oldham council is expected to cut adult social care services by 7.6% and the sports and leisure budget by over a fifth in 2013-2014 amongst many other service reductions.
Back to the Future, Hotel Future, a new £40m luxury hotel and convention centre which is also to be the first national hospitality training academy in the UK and will train up to 100 apprentices each year and be built on the location of the current civic centre car park. A new era of burgeoning prosperity for Oldham apparently will arise from a new hotel and conferencing venue operated by the Manchester Hoteliers Association that in my opinion uses trainees from all over the country as a cheap labour source in what is the lowest paid industry sector in the UK. This will all be conducted under the guise of wonderful modern apprenticeships, which display a striking resemblance to early nineteen eighties YTS schemes. This facility does not provide any services, employment nor training opportunities specifically for the Oldham population and neither does it guarantee construction jobs for local firms or people. The construction of Hotel Future will serve as a magnet to more economic migration something Oldham, a town that already competes in national competitions as a city because of population size, can ill afford to encourage. Hotel Future may be the first national academy but is not as implied an original idea, if you peruse the list of supporters you will find one of the names listed is the Edge Foundation. The Edge Foundation operates The Edge Hotel School offering degree courses, accredited by the University of Essex, within a commercial hotel environment; this sounds strikingly familiar yet its higher levels of education and a more palatable title already communicate something distinct from Hotel Future. In their own words “The grade 2* listed building at Wivenhoe House has undergone an extensive refurbishment to provide 16 period suites and a signature restaurant. An additional 24 bedrooms have been provided by a new Garden Wing which also houses a bar and brasserie together with wedding and conference facilities”. To eradicate any confusion as to why a foundation would offer support to a potential rival all you need to do is consider what they offer “world class education and training to the future leaders of the hospitality industry based in a sustainable commercial hotel”. Now it becomes clear The Edge Hotel trains the industry leaders of tomorrow and Hotel Future with the support of Oldham Council does what Oldham does best, offer low-level academic training in the menial low paid employment sectors and the status quo for this borough is maintained. Oldham council is in the process of turning the impressive old grade 2* listed town hall building into a cinema and family entertainment complex which will be funded solely by prudential borrowing by the council estimated at over £20m. Rather than saddling the town with years of debt surely this building would have made a better more impressive location for Hotel Future and would have cost the taxpayers nothing.
It now becomes clear why the council insisted that the future prosperity of Oldham was dependant on the Metro link tram system coming to the borough and then within a couple of years after completion relocating the route. Clearly, the justification for dismantling an entire newly constructed section of tramline when an additional station opens in the town centre two years later has more to do with inter council agreements than sane policy. In recent times complaints from the people of Oldham have circulated the internet forums regarding the £3.5m allocated by Oldham Council for so-called public realm improvements around the Metrolink including:
• Public art installations and green areas along the route.
• A terraced seating area and a raised plaza on King Street.
• Pedestrianisation around the Oldham Central stop with York-Stone & granite kerbs giving easy access to Oldham’s (non-existent) retail core.
• New paving and new planters for the whole of Union Street.
Who does this spending benefit? Certainly not the dwindling shopkeepers of a beleaguered town centre that has suffered many years of constant major road works on all access routes into the town centre only to be told there is at least another two years to endure and survive. It is ironic that the general populous of a town who have been kept in their place by many decades of poor provision and low quality local policy and politicians are now expected to embrace sculptures of suffragette Annie Kenney when all they want is their traditional market restoring and no council tax increase. You can spruce the extremities all you like but locals know the vast majority of Union Street is neither a section of the retail centre nor an area that offers entertainment or social interaction services. The council have allocated all town centre improvement spending simply to enhance their own building’s on Union St, the educational campuses, the Hotel Future construction/civic centre & the new sports centre which will move to this area whilst whole sections of Yorkshire St already subject to vermin infestations & the real Town centre are left empty and decrepit. It was only back in 2009 that Oldham Council leader Jim McMahon the man who fronts all this frivolous spending stated “We have seen savage cuts to vital services, hundreds of staff made redundant and an increase in council tax. The thought of spending such a gross amount of money on refurbishment beggars belief. Most reasonable people will look at this and think Oldham Council is out of touch out of control and out to feather its own nest, while the rest of the borough crumbles”. He was talking about an estimated spending cost of £500,000 on council refurbishments which when compared to his recent foray into allocating public money seems quite reasonable. You have to conclude the Oldham public are not the concern of a council leader of some 21 months who continued working as Middleton town centre manager until Feb 2013 at which point Oldham had the fourth highest levels of empty shops in the UK. This was clearly demonstrated in the original council plans for the relocation of Oldham’s town centre sports facilities that are according to banners on the old town hall “Oldham’s Olympic Legacy”. The council received a public backlash and attempted to place blame on government cuts after plans were announced in 2012 for a new facility with a swimming pool 50% the size of the current one, no provision of a replacement diving pool and a sports hall also 50% of the size of the current one. Relocating the sports centre from its central location does little but free up a prime piece of town centre real estate the planned use of which has yet to be communicated to the public and place the new sports centre so it serves the metro link route and educational campuses. Turn on the Internet and take a look at Oldham town centre from satellite shots and street maps take a good look around Yorkshire Street and Union Street and the empty shops. Remember the Panorama documentary about Oldham’s presumed borough wide inherent culture of binge drinking fuelled violence from 2009 ‘The Truth About Happy Hour’? Over 90% of the town centre pubs and clubs have now gone along with all the revenue and jobs they directly and indirectly generated. Come visit our pound shops, bookies and instant loan shops or visit The Coliseum Theatre a council owned building that stands out like the proverbial sore thumb amongst the degradation of Yorkshire Street. Catch the futuristic tram to our town via the current Oldham Mump’s Metrolink station where thieves broke into eleven vehicles and set three on fire on February 24th 2013. Alternatively, I would recommend not visiting just browse online news articles about a whole string of violent assaults at this very same tram station all conducted without the aid of binge drinking establishments or the presence of security personnel.
Oldham’s Hotel future is a Trojan Horse that will arrive empty and leaves with the money, services, hopes and aspirations of the people who live here.
Source ONS 6th June 2013 Tourism Workers in the UK have the following characteristics • Workers in tourism have a younger age profile than those in non-tourism industries, particularly in the 16-29 age band which accounts for 39 per cent of workers in tourism, just over a million people. • 14 per cent of workers in tourism industries are from non-white ethnic groups compared to just under 10 per cent in other industries. • Nearly 14 per cent of workers in tourism are non-UK nationals, compared to just over 8 per cent in other industries. • 27 per cent of workers in tourism have a higher education qualification compared to 40 per cent in non tourism industries.
© chronic-oldham 2013