Friday, 16 July 2010

ROY OLDHAM - LAID TO REST, AN OBITUARY!

It was announced on Thursday in the Manchester Evening News (MEN) that Roy Oldham, the former leader of Tameside Metropolitan Borough Council in Greater Manchester, died in Tameside General Hospital on Wednesday 14 July after a prolonged battle against cancer.

Mr Oldham, aged 76, was until earlier this year the longest serving council leader in the country. A former engineer who once worked for British Nuclear Fuels, he was elected as a Labour candidate to Longdendale Urban District Council in 1965 and became the leader of Tameside Council in 1980. In 2000 he was given a CBE for services to local government.

Two years ago he was diagnosed with bladder cancer. In 2008 his wife Margaret (also a Tameside councillor) died, and in May, of this year, both his sister and brother-in-law were killed in a car crash. Earlier this year, after having led the council for three decades, he was voted out by Labour party members and was succeeded by Councillor Kieran Quinn, from Droylsden.

Following his death on Wednesday, eulogies from Labour hacks and other cronies, have been pouring in extolling the virtues of this former town hall Burgomeister. Lord Pendry told the MEN, "He was a great politician, perhaps the best I have known." David Heyes, the MP for Ashton-under-Lyne, told the paper: "Roy was a colossus on the Tameside political scene for more than a generation." As the MEN reported, even on his death-bed, councillor Oldham, expressed concern for his constituents in Longdendale and his hope that they would get the Longdendale By-pass that he had 'fought for' for so long. Pass the handkerchief!

Listening to these eulogies, one would never guess that not so very long ago, the M.E.N. had once dubbed Tameside Council, the 'Laughing-Stock Council.' The council's transfer of all its elderly peoples homes in 1990 to an arms-length company called Tameside Enterprises Limited (TEL), turned out to be one unmitigated disaster. In 1993, it was discovered that the company had run up millions of pounds in debt. The company Secretary at the time, Paul Stonier, the then husband of councillor Shirley Stonier (the then chair of Tameside social services) explained that this was because elderly people in the homes, were not dying fast enough. It was discovered that he and others had also been awarding themselves huge pay rises. It also came to light that the assistant company secretary in charge of finance at the time, councillor Simon Walker, (who now runs Tameside Radio) had no financial qualifications whatsoever, but had nevertheless been given a reference for the job by Roy Oldham. The Radio 4 presenter of 'Face the Facts', John Waite, who investigated TEL, said that it was story of "High office and low politics,of jobs for the boys, and bills for the taxpayer." As a consequence of this fiasco, hundreds of care workers employed by TEL, had their wages slashed and when Roy Oldham was asked how he felt about the pay cuts, he callously remarked, that the care workers should consider themselves lucky to have a job.

Roy Oldham was a man who brooked no opposition. He could be ruthless, nasty,devious, and was a past master in the exercise of power and control. He would, on occasions, announce in full council that certain members of the political opposition were in arrears with their council tax, much to their shame and embarrassment. Those councillors who trod on his toes, would find that their expenses claims had been trawled through and on one occasion, a Labour councillor found himself in the Crown Court, convicted for fraud and deception. He was not what you would call a charismatic leader: his oratorical skills were feeble. It was said that he took elocution lessons from Rocky Balboa aka Sylvester Stalone. He was one of the highest paid councillors in Greater Manchester and as the leader of Tameside Council, there were moves to increase his salary in line with the earnings of MP`s. It was once said that when his late wife Margaret was on the council, over a thousand pounds a week was going into the Oldham household in councillors allowances and expenses. His recent death also means that he has been robbed of the Knighthood that he much coveted.

A Green Party friend of mine, told me that the Tameside Green`s once wrote to Roy Oldham challenging him to a debate about green issues in the area. Roy Oldham`s response was to say: "When you are a power to be reckoned with, then, and only then, will I give you a forum." This is what Roy Oldham fully understood, the workings of power. He was the ultimate machine like politician, a town hall bureaucrat to boot.

5 comments:

Robin Thornber said...

"He would, on occasions, announce in full council that certain members of the political opposition were in arrears with their council tax, much to their shame and embarrassment. Those councillors who trod on his toes, would find that their expenses claims had been trawled through and on one occasion, a Labour councillor found himself in the Crown Court, convicted for fraud and deception."

That seems to me no bad thing.

NV said...

Is that the best that can be said of him then?

I think the inference of the article is clear: he tolerated corruption and carelessness on behalf of others and used it to his advantage when it suited him.

bammy said...

I well remember Roy at the Council a meeting in the 1990s, when he offered the disputing careworkers a deal he thought they wouldn't refuse. It was then that all hell broke loose as the careworkers launched into song and a former victimised Unison representative, John Pearson, was escourted off the premises of the Town Hall. It was a day to remember as the council leader, Roy Oldham, squirmed in his seat and the council Chamber was in uproar.

dpat47 said...

It`s no bad thing at all Mr. Thornber. But I think you are missing the point. Some could fiddle their expenses and wouldn`t be prosecuted - they were allowed to sin. Only those who trod on his toes, were at risk.

bammy said...

So Caesar is dead! What now of Brutus?