Blackburn with Darwen HIVE business network’s chairman and business development director of Star Tissue UK Khalid Saifullah, 40, explains why he is voting for Labour’s candidate in Blackburn Kate Hollern on Thursday...


JUST like Blackburn, this article is going to be transformational as I am going to go against the general habit of talking things down.

Instead, I am going to celebrate the town’s achievements and congratulate the people who contributed to its success as I believe Blackburn is the best place to live and do business. Here’s why.


As I walk and drive through my town every day, I see the iconic Capita building at the end of Preston New Road, the new Health Centre, a world class Blackburn College, the incredibly well designed new Leisure Centre, the new fire station, and then go over our new landmark, the Wainwright Bridge.

I look at how Blackburn has been transformed in the past 15 years. I have had the privilege of working in most towns in the North West and I have not seen this scale of investment and development matched in any other town. Look at neighbouring Preston with all their grand plans of city development, talk of new bus stations and shopping centres — all of which have fallen through.

We truly have a lot to be proud of.

We are a town that is leading in innovation, energy, culture, manufacturing and creativity.

A town that has a strong pool of young talent and connectivity to all major road networks.

We are fortunate to have world class health and education facilities with the building of the new Blackburn Royal Hospital and the Building Schools for the Future programme.

So why do we constantly talk the town down?

Of course, we recognize that there is much more to do but we must celebrate our achievements and be proud of the town and only then can we raise the aspirations of the people living in it.

We have a local Council that is well-focused, having just launched a prosperity plan for 2020, with business leading the way which will further enhance the town’s status as the economic powerhouse of Lancashire.

This year, one of the greatest contributors to Blackburn’s success is stepping down as MP after 36 years of service.

Jack Straw has been one of the best constituency MPs in the country. He has held five walk-in surgeries a month for most of the time that he has been the town’s MP and he continued to hold these surgeries all the time that he was the Home Secretary and the Foreign Secretary.

His commitment to Blackburn has been so high that he often flew back from foreign countries to arrive just in time to meet the residents who had turned up to see him at his surgery.

At these surgeries, he has kept himself informed of the many challenges that have faced Blackburn over the years and has helped address these by bringing funding and investment into the area and speaking up for the issues affecting residents in the town.

During the years of the Labour governments, he kept Blackburn in the forefront of government spending — the new Royal Blackburn Hospital, the Wainwright Bridge, the M65 road link, the University Centre are all tributes to Jack’s work.

And, since returning to the back-benches, he has continued to campaign for the town — he has successfully argued for the upgrade of the rail-track to Manchester and has led a campaign to end insurance rackets that were penalising the residents of BB1.

He has directly helped thousands of Blackburn people in various ways.

Local people won’t forget that.

As time moves on after his retirement, Jack will be remembered by fair-minded people in the town as a man who cared deeply about the town and about the residents of the town.

Kate Hollern, who first became the Leader of the Council in 2004, has been at the forefront of these developments and worked closely with Jack, with her deputy, Cllr Mohammed Khan, and her executives.

Over the years. she has led the developments in Blackburn, established strong working relationships with key government departments to continue fighting for a fairer deal for the North and ensured that the borough continues to give unrivalled support and encouragement to local businesses.

Kate is tough, down-to-earth, a single mum who brought two children up single-handedly whilst working at Newman’s Slippers.

Her talent, experience, and ability has been recognised nationally, including by Conservative Ministers.

Kate’s lived in the borough for 38 years.

I know that she really does understand residents’ and businesses’ concerns alike.

She has navigated the borough through one of the worst financial climates since the war, where more money has been removed from our area than almost any other in the country.

She’s never moaned, never washed her hands of her responsibilities. She’s worked tirelessly to protect key services, whilst encouraging residents and voluntary groups to fill the gaps wherever they can Kate’s built strong relationships with local business, all focused on building a vibrant and prosperous Blackburn that creates a fairer society with opportunities for all.

I am confident Kate will make a brilliant successor to Jack Straw. She will be a great MP and a strong voice in Westminster.

Work in Blackburn has not finished. There are many challenges ahead but there are still significant levels of investment in the pipeline with around £200m being invested in key areas such as the Blackburn town centre, with around £100m on site now.

The new Student Village is still growing with Blackburn College investing over £65m.

The Cathedral Quarter investment of £30m is gathering pace with the new 60-bed Premier Inn hotel and 30,000 square feet of office space. One of the country’s biggest property companies, Legal and General, has just shown its confidence in the Borough through its record investment in the Cathedral Quarter.

Business confidence overall is at a record high, meaning more businesses investing and creating jobs in the local borough.

So, let’s talk up the town, enjoy the world class facilities it offers in health, education and recreation, be proud that we are home to Blackburn Rovers (one of a handful of teams to have won the Premiership), boast about the household names we have in the borough — Graham and Brown, Crown, and Perspex and welcome new businesses locating and investing in the area.

Yes, there are challenges - some forced on us through aggressive government cuts disproportionately targeting the North whilst some are unique to the Borough’s location and demographics, but with strong leadership and the right partnerships, we can continue to transform Blackburn with Darwen. Blackburn’s motto is ARTE ET LABORE ‘by skill and hard work’.

So let’s all embrace this motto and continue to build Blackburn as the economic and cultural centre of Lancashire.