The new Mayor of Oldham has outlined his plan to improve the lives of residents battling the cost-of-living crisis while criticising social media 'toxicity'.

Councillor Zahid Chauhan was announced as the new Mayor of Oldham today (Wednesday, May 24) and has penned a letter to Oldhamers and has already made changes to some traditions - including replacing prayers before official council meetings.

His letter read: "Dear Oldham residents, I am truly honoured and delighted to, this year, be taking on the role as the Mayor of Oldham - a role which plays such an important part in bringing our borough and its people closer together."

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As Oldham's "official ambassador", he also said he looks forward to meeting residents over the course of the next 12 months and raise the profile "of our great town".

But Cllr Chauhan, who also practices as a local GP, said it is "devastating" to see "so much hate and toxicity" shared online.

He continued: "There are so many stories and people who we need to shout about and recognise in Oldham, and I am eager to share all of this wonderful positivity with you over the coming months, as well as playing my part in forging new links with different sectors which will improve the needs of us all. 

"Oldham is such a loving and generous community, and anyone who knows the real Oldham will tell you it is a place where we all do our best to support and look after one another."

The mayor promised he would highlight the "true qualities" of Oldham which he hopes will restore "people's pride" in the borough.

He then announced he would be changing the traditional approach to the mayor's charity fundraising by launching a new cause, called 'Truly Wished'.

The initiative will see funds distributed to people in the borough by making their "wishes come true".

He explained: "Sadly, we all know of someone who has experienced hardship, or deserves the chance to experience something special in their life – especially now with the cost-of-living crisis. 

"That is why in the coming weeks, through ‘Truly Wished’, I will be inviting you all to nominate someone in Oldham who you think deserves to have their wishes granted."

All wishes up to a maximum value of £500 will be eligible for consideration and the final decisions will be made by the Mayoral Committee.

Each nomination must explain why the person was nominated, what their wish would be and how it would make a difference to that person's life.

An example could include someone who has raised a large amount for charity, a person who is really struggling and is deserving of a "long overdue pick-me-up" or someone who cares for the needs of others before their own.

The Mayor himself is kickstarting the fund by donating his full Mayoral allowance of £16,495 while local businesses and fundraisers can also donate to the cause.

"So together, let’s do something special for someone we know and let’s help to make their wish come true.  

"Hope to see you all soon", he concluded.

The Mayor Making ceremony too place earlier today in the Council Chamber where proceedings were scaled down.

Budget savings agreed in March 2023 meant that the formal dinner would be replaced by afternoon tea and would be sourced from local suppliers.

In another exchange to some Mayoral traditions, councillor Chauhan has also decided to replace prayers before official council meetings with inspirational stories and poems about Oldham.

"I would much rather use the time before official meetings, not for me, but as a platform to remind everyone of our many inspiring local achievements and to strengthen our civic pride", he said on the change.

On Sunday, May 28, there will also be a procession through Oldham town centre where the Mayor will be officially invested as honourary church warden for his year of Office.

The Mayor will lead the procession before attending a civic service at Oldham Parish at 10.30am.

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