What Are Rochdale's 'Alpha- Councillors' Up To?
by Andrew Wastling
I READ with total incredulity that Council Tax payers in Rochdale will from 1 April be paying more on our Council Tax bills than people in Manchester.
This news stunned even those friends & neighbours of mine tempered on the hammer & anvil of local council stupidity by serial antics from Rochdale Council over the years.
After all only last year Manchester was voted the best place to live in the UK beating even London which was ranked ten places lower. Rochdale as we know was not.
The Global Liveability Survey compiled by the Economist Intelligence Unit scored 140 cities worldwide out of 100 in the areas of health care, education, stability, culture and environment and infrastructure. Manchester scored 88.8 out of a 100 and was ranked the 43rd best city in the world to live in.
I am not sure where exactly Rochdale ranked in 'the 140 best cities to live in worldwide' but it must with some certainty have been much higher than Manchester to warrant this years 4.99% increase in Rochdale's Council Tax? Anything less would be Daylight Robbery .
I just wonder what Rochdale folk , (who pay more in all Council Tax Bands A - H than Manchester residents), get for our money from Rochdale Council that people in Manchester, (who pay less in all Council Tax Bands A - H than we), do not get for their money from Manchester City Council?
I can only assume that word must have spread that we have a dedicated, specialist SAS standard trained cohort of 'Alpha-Councillors' invested here in the very heart of our community who have selflessly put Rochdale firmly on the local government map. So proactive have past councils been that their list of triumphs is both exhaustive & colourful .
A toxic asbestos site - once the worlds largest asbestos factory - has been allowed to crumble into lethal ruin with no regard for the long term safety of the towns residents for decades' Surely merits the considerable extra money we all pay as tax payers just on it's own?
Councillors who switch party without any due regard to political principle or the voters. Party's that rise & sink without tangible trace except for the extra expenses claimed as a separate political entity in the Council - incidentally does anyone know what happened to the much heralded but quickly demised Rochdale First from 2014 they showed some initial promise ? Personally I think that for entertainment value alone this episode of local government shenanigans was worth an entire 1 % increase of itself ?
We have seen a £250 Million regeneration programme that has prioritised a £50 Million 'Norman Keep' - AKA ' No.1 Riverside '- ( almost flooded before the ink on the hastily signed insurance policy for the building was signed !), above scandalous levels of poor housing, lack of opportunity, local child poverty, and generational social exclusion, employment & skills gap. Long promised retail developments few locals will be able afford to shop have taken precedence over community cohesion by Councillors that have all but ignored near 1930's levels of poverty & shoddy , damp rented housing, unfit in some cases for human habitation , the ingrained and widely denied second & third generation unemployment in some wards.
It's not just the shocking recent history though is it that calls into question the probity and transparency of local politics in this town. All the kids on the Working class state I grew up on knew from an early age not to take sweets from a certain local politician in the 1970's so how our local adult councillors at the time remained unaware of the rumours remains beyond most rational people. Especially when we had the benefit then of Rochdale Alternative Press to keep us informed about 'Fat Man's' activities. From that edition onwards it was clear that there was something rotten to the very core of local Rochdale politics and that a culture of historic denial or best just sweep it under the carpet - like the asbestos at Healy Dell - where hopefully it'll all just be forgotten about in time?
Its not just the skeletons still rattling in their closet from the 1970's that need concern us still - nearly half a century later - true to local form we still see new closets being crammed full by a political class at several steps removed from the majority of local Rochdale folk yet again. he attempt to criminalise the homeless, beggars and under 18-year-olds is only the most recent example of other notorious examples of the total and complete failure of local authorities to protect those they had a clear & obvious duty of care for. This is an example of a mind set and dysfunctional internal narrative that posits that we - the Council - are beyond reproach , forever above accountability ,investigation and always without blame. In fact it is the victims of our successive failures of governance & policies who are at fault never us.
It's precisely this kind of insidious non-thinking culture that allows some of our more delusional or remote local decision makers still think they are once again unaccountable & above independent public scrutiny and natural justice.
The much heralded Kingsway Business Park was allowed to house a company so notorious for shoddy employment standards & practices that the DWP no longer allows adverts for the company to be carried on the Universal Jobs match site. Despite their near Victorian abuse of worker rights we have a nominally Labour Council recently reward this companies attacks on local working peoples employment rights by allow this Dickensian throwback to: 'extend their European headquarters at Kingsway Business Park by 600,000 square feet to a total floor space of 2m square feet.'
It's clear that : '£100,000 in planning fee income' buys a lot of acquiescence from our 'Alpha-Councillors ' who silence merely masks their complicity and tacit collaboration in the systematic abuse of local workers statutory rights exposed so graphically in last years C4 undercover report that should have come as no surprise since as long ago as 2013 concerns had been raised publicly about this new millennium workhouse.
This single handed attempt to undermine workers rights would also possibly warrant the 34%/51% expenses increase for Councillors - especially one would have though those councillors who are trade union members. It's just this kind of co-worker solidarity we have grown accustomed to from our 'Alpha-Councillors '. Long may our brothers & sisters in the Town Hall continue to stand with us in the struggle - lets make the 'birthplace of cooperation' proud shall we comrades?
We best not forget from our list the disgraceful levels of Department of Work Pensions (DWP) sanctions have been imposed on vulnerable local claimants for weeks on end without so much as a whimper of protest from local Red Tory Councillors who continue feed their faces on £9.95 a head tax payer subsidised buffets whist simultaneously imposing a further £39 MILLION of Blue Tory austerity on local public services. Indeed these quislings and complicit facilitators of central government cuts to northern communities & front-line services remain resolutely in denial about local malnutrition rates, spiralling debt and food bank voucher use across the Townships.
We have seen also a disgraceful attempt to ride rough-shod over the human rights of people with learning disabilities & their desperately worried families & support workers by a shambolic, barley competent consultation process on a proposed re-modelling of Adult Social Care that looked as if it had been compiled on the back of a fag packet. We have seen the Council widely ridiculed for its crass 'swearing ban ' across the media from Russia Today to the Telegraph for its ill conceived Public Space Protection Order that is so we are told hoped to be extended to schools gates. Though quite who will pay for this is still open to debate since when the Council proposed schools pay for their own school Crossing patrols in December 2016 they were told that: '30 out of 63 schools were not prepared fund crossing patrols'. As with the Adult Social Care remodelling proposals after a public outcry this nonsense was also rather hastily quashed.
As to proposals to store hazardous waste near a residential area in Castleton one can't help but wondering whether our 'Alpha-Councillors' are engaged in some kind of subtle social engineering experiment to ascertain how many toxic or hazardous industrial sites can be crammed into a five mile square inhabited area without producing genetic mutations among the local population - not too many more we suspect !
Once the news that Rochdale is a 'Social Utopia' governed by an elite of 'Alpha -Councillors' extolling True Labour values & principles to the down trodden, huddled masses and their fame spreads far and wide across Greater Manchester we should expect an imminent exodus of aspirational Mancunians re-locating to Rochdale? Thousands of fleeing 'Economic & cultural migrants ' fellow workers & citizens eager to avail themselves immediately of Rochdale Councils superbly run public services , our fabulous public facilities , our renowned global cultural identity and international status that we will now all be able to expect as a right in return for our increased council tax bills?
As the great Dario Fo once said of comedy & the essential satire of politicians:
'At the root of everything I write is tragedy.'