Thursday, 5 June 2014

Last Night at Rochdale Town Hall

LAST night, I attended the full council meeting at Rochdale Town Hall, it only ran for about a quarter-of-an-hour or so before the Mayor making ceremony took place accompanied by drinks and refreshments.  As I left a young people's choir was about to start up to entertain the local dignities, leaving me feeling nervous given the history of the goings-on by the great and the good towards the young in Rochdale over the last few decades.  As I breathed in the cool fresh air outside, I worried about the plots and back-stabbing that might well be being hatched inside the great pseudo-Gothic interior, even as I pondered the nature of politics in the town.

There is now a new leader of the Council in the shape of Richard Farnell: Simon Danczuk M.P. for Rochdale, in a Parliamentary Letter from him on today's ROCHDALE ONLINE writes that 'we saw a surprise political twist this week in that the leader of the Council was replaced at the Labour Group AGM [in] what represents the most significant political change in Rochdale in the past four years, Colin Lambert was replaced by Richard Farnell after he failed to win sufficient support among fellow councillors.'

It may have been a surprise to Simon Danczuk but it wasn't to many others in Rochdale, with the political pundits flagging this result up for weeks.  But no sooner had Mr. Farnell been crowned than he was having to furiously deny knowledge of what went on in his previous term of office in the late 1980s and 1990s at Knowl View special school for boys, where there have been allegations that there ought to have been awareness of child abuse.  Mr. Farnell is adamant that the elected members, at that time, had no knowledge of the reports produced by health worker Phil Shepherd at that time.

Still the claims of a 'cover-up' persist, and the office of leadership could still yet prove to be a poisoned crown for Mr. Farnell.  Mr. Danczuk writes that 'Richard Farnell will have to hit the ground running'  and that he is 'hoping the new leader will be just the fillip the Council needs after it's endured a torrid time of late'.

Danczuk then turns to the perils facing Rochdale:
'Rochdale needs to make sure its children’s services department continues to undergo reform to ensure that standards are much higher. Child protection has to be a major priority in the Borough. We also need to make progress on town centre regeneration, decide what’s going to be done with the town hall, do everything possible to secure a safe future at the old T&N asbestos site, face up to historic child abuse, which has left a stain on our town, and decide the future of the market. There’s certainly a very busy "to do" list to be getting on with.'

In conclusion, he turns to Rochdale's great historical roots singing from the hymn sheet in the same way as Cyril Smith may have done in his day:  'Our town has a proud and rich history from John Bright to the Rochdale Pioneers and Gracie Fields' and that 'in fighting for a better future for our town, we should draw inspiration from this history.'

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