Oldham’s new council leader will be the first Muslim woman in the north of England to take on the top job at a local authority.

Councillor Arooj Shah was last night elected as leader of the borough’s majority Labour group after previous incumbent Sean Fielding was defeated by an independent party at Thursday’s local elections.

Labour lost four of their councillors to opposing candidates in a disappointing result for the party but remains in control of the council, holding 40 out of 60 seats.

It means that Coun Shah will be confirmed as the new council leader at the annual general meeting of the council on May 19.

Coun Shah, who represents the Chadderton South ward, had served alongside Mr Fielding as deputy leader since 2018 and held the newly created cabinet role for Covid-19 recovery.

She has previously spoken out about being subjected to misogyny and a campaign of abuse during her time in politics.

As leader she has pledged to clean up Oldham’s streets and take the battle to fly-tippers, as well as support the borough’s recovery from the pandemic and economic bounce-back.

She said: “I am truly honoured to have been chosen to lead Oldham council at a time of such importance for our borough.

“My priorities are simple – Oldham should be a place that we’re proud to call home, where we support one another, and where everyone can get on and live a good life.

“That starts with cleaner streets. My first action will be to spend more money on our street cleaning team and take stronger action against those who blight our streets with fly tipping and litter.

“Residents across Oldham should see that the council has the same pride in the town that local people feel, and that we’ll go hard after anyone who doesn’t show that same respect.”

Coun Shah added that they needed a ‘clear plan’ for how Oldham would recover from the pandemic in a way that would support all residents.

“Covid hasn’t affected all places equally, and Oldham has particularly suffered because of our high levels of deprivation,” she said.

“So I’ll be bringing forward a Covid recovery strategy and a strategy for equalities.

“Oldham residents need to know that, whether you’re a young person worrying about your future, someone struggling to find work or get by on low pay, or an older person who is lonely or unwell, we’re on your side and the council is here to help you.”

Coun Shah has lived all her life in Glodwick, one of the country’s poorest wards, after her parents moved to the UK from Pakistan to work in the local textile industry in 1968.

Becoming a councillor for the first time in 2012, she was named ‘Young Councillor of the Year’ in 2013, alongside fellow Oldham councillors Amanda Chadderton and Sean Fielding, by the Local Government Information Unit.

She will become the first Muslim woman in the north of England to hold the role as council leader.

“As a council we need to reconnect with our residents and businesses,” Coun Shah said.

“My commitment is to lead a council that is really listening to the concerns of local people, and that helps businesses across the borough to flourish.

“We’ll make sure the reopening of our town centres is a time of celebration, and develop networks of businesses in all our town and district centres so that they have the support they need to create great jobs and rebuild Oldham’s reputation as a place of pioneering industry.

“It’s a huge privilege to be leader of Oldham council. I intend to continue the great work already planned to transform our economy and stand ready to put my shoulder to the wheel alongside colleagues, council staff and, most importantly, local people to take Oldham where we want it to go.”