Tuesday, 7 January 2014

Rochdale Up For Sale?

Last Saturday's Rochdale Observer described it as 'Rochdale's sale of the century'; a council plan to sell off the town's family silver and dispose of property assets to plug up its debts.   Only Rochdale Town Hall is definately excluded from the sell-off to cover an expected £62 million funding shortfall over the coming three years.

The intention is to shrink and 'significantly reduce' the Council's £600 million property portfolio.  The threat emerged as councillors nodded through an 'Asset Strategy', which reveals the Council's 5,000 property interests that will be reviewed. 

Councillor Jacqui Beswick, cabinet member for this new grand plan, tried to explain the Council's thinking in household domestic terms by likening it to 'running a home' and having too much space - 'it just doesn't make sense,' she said:  it's all rather like the current government's attitude to the people living in council houses with a spare room and introducing the 'bedroom tax' to force them out of house and home. 

This thinking is very much what Dickens would have had in mind when he attacked the Utilitarians and the Manchester School of Economics in the 19th Century.  It is all a bit cold blooded and perhaps doesn't take account of the possible wider social and asthetic implications for the town.  If the Victorians were cruel, and calculating, and thoughtless about about the labouring masses, at least they left us workable drains, fine public buildings and architecture; it now looks like the contemporary politicians of Rochdale are about to deliver us a new brutalism and despite Ms. Beswick's guarantee that some buildings, such as the Grade-I listed town hall, will be saved from the property speculators, people will worry that there will be a further increase of vandalism committed against the general landscape of the town.

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