Arooj Shah

Cooperatives & Inclusion

Arooj leads Oldham Council and Greater Manchester Combined Authority's lead for Cooperatives & Inclusion.

Arooj has lived all her life in the Oldham borough and became Leader of Oldham Council in May 2021 – the first Muslim woman to hold such a role in the North of England. She has portfolio responsibility for Economic and Social Reform. Her priorities for Oldham include:

  • cleaning up its streets and tackling fly-tipping
  • delivering the Council’s transformational regeneration plan for town centres based on principles of equality and shared prosperity
  • building a stronger relationship with residents, creating a council that is responsive to local priorities

Within her portfolio she has responsibility for reducing inequality and tackling poverty, Community Wealth Building, transport, community cohesion and the overall borough strategy. This portfolio allows her to utilise her passion for tackling inequalities and championing social justice for all of Oldham’s communities.

Prior to becoming Leader, Arooj served as Deputy Leader and was the Cabinet Member responsible for leading Oldham’s response to, and recovery from, the Covid pandemic. 

Arooj’s parents migrated from Pakistan in 1968 to work in the local textile industry. She is one of seven siblings and went on to study Politics and International Relations at The DeMontfort University in Leicester.

She was first elected as a ward councillor for St Mary’s in 2012 and selected as Cabinet Member for Performance and Corporate Governance with responsibility for key campaigns and communications.  

Arooj led the local authority’s pioneering Energy Switching campaign which became the most successful single-authority scheme of its type in the country and was later rolled out across Greater Manchester. A collective bargaining initiative, this saw 8,726 households signing up and making an average saving of £171 per year – putting around £1.4 million back into resident’s pockets.

In 2013, Arooj was named ‘Young Cllr of the Year’, alongside fellow Oldham councillors Amanda Chadderton and Sean Fielding, by the Local Government Information Unit. 

She entered politics to give people strength and confidence in what they do so that they feel able to speak up and have a voice. She has also worked hard encouraging local groups in schemes designed to take control of their communities and make them better places to live. 

Arooj was praised for speaking out about harassment and intimidation she had suffered as an Asian female councillor before she was re-elected in the Chadderton South ward in May 2018.