Having served the people of Rochdale over the last seven years as Member of Parliament I think I’ve got a good view of what people’s priorities are and what we need to concentrate on to make our town great again. I also have an idea what regional, national and international issues Rochdale people want me to concentrate on.
All this said, I also want to use this as an opportunity to hear more from you about what you expect of your next Member of Parliament. Please do share your thoughts and ideas by contacting me.
This Rochdale Manifesto sets out my key priorities and the commitments I make were you to re-elect me as your MP. Thanks for considering this and I hope you find it of interest.
Accountable & accessible
My constituency office is open five days a week, 10am to 5pm, and only closes on Bank Holidays – I believe I’m one of the most accessible MPs in the country. This will remain and I will continue to hold my weekly surgery so that you can always come and meet with me.
I will also continue to live in Rochdale, work in Rochdale and bring my children up in Rochdale.
The issues you raise with me will be the questions I highlight and shape the speeches I make in Parliament. I will be Rochdale’s MP, not Jeremy Corbyn’s or Theresa May’s MP.
I have the energy and enthusiasm to work hard for Rochdale. I see Parliament as a place for Rochdale to have its voice heard. It is a special privilege for me to represent you, not a staging post for party political ambition. I will continue to be a strong voice for our town.
Challenging not cosy
Some politicians have hung around for years by keeping their heads down and refusing to call out failure. They have mastered the art of turning a blind eye when it suits them. As you know, I’m not one of those politicians. I’ve put my head above the parapet on a range of issues and I’ve suffered some of the consequences.
When the Rochdale grooming scandal broke, in the face of opposition from other MPs and Rochdale councillors, I challenged the Asian community to face up to what was going on in their community. I pressed the police to make more arrests, which they’ve now done, and I ensured failing senior council officers were held to account. When the next issue breaks I will do the same again.
I called out Cyril Smith and Lord Janner as child abusers when other politicians wouldn’t. I have met and supported dozens of people who were abused and it took its toll on me. But I would do it again for the sake of all the vulnerable people involved.
Whatever issues are thrown up in Rochdale, whatever the next controversy is, I promise to challenge those at fault and hold people to account.
A thriving Lancashire town
We all have pride in our town and we celebrate its successes, whether it’s helping establish the Co-op movement, its amazing contribution to the arts and music over the years, or, more recently, our success at Spotland for the Hornets and Rochdale AFC.
But it can’t be denied that the fabric of our town has steadily declined over the last 50 years. Some previous politicians at the council and in Parliament have not served our town well. Things had all become too cosy and matey.
Rebuilding Rochdale back in to a thriving Lancashire town won’t happen overnight, but we have been making progress since I was elected in 2010. And I make you this promise now, where councillors and council officers are getting it wrong I will say it how it is, there won’t be any cosy relationships between councillors and the MP, like there would be if others were elected. I will challenge the council and other public services to deliver a town we can be proud of once again.
Since I became your MP in 2010 we’ve seen our town centre steadily improve, the river has been re-opened, and we’ve filled many of the empty shops using a business rates scheme that I proposed. We now have free parking which encourages people into our town and we’re seeing large businesses locate to Rochdale, whether it’s Tetrosyl at Newgate House or JD Sports at Kingsway Business Park. Indeed, unemployment has steadily reduced but it is still too high, so I promise to continue my work with local businesses, both large and small to get as close to full employment as we possibly can.
There is still more to be done, the council need to return a proper market to our town, not some poor excuse as we’ve currently got. And we need the proposed retail and leisure development, known as Riverside, to be started at as little risk to council tax payers as possible. Our grade two listed Town Hall has been neglected for far too long and the council has failed to look after it. I raised my concerns about our Town Hall just months ago with the Prime Minister and fully renovating this jewel in our town will be a key priority for me.
But we must also remember Littleborough, Wardle, Milnrow and Newhey. These have centres too which serve their communities well. They also need care and attention, they will remain a priority for me.
Then there is our place in Greater Manchester. With a regionally directly elected mayor, in Andy Burnham, and a Greater Manchester Combined Authority, we have to make sure Rochdale is heard amongst the other nine local authorities in the conurbation. I will speak up for our town and ensure we get our fair share.
Playing to our strengths
Rochdale Sixth Form College is one of the best in the country and Hopwood Hall College stands out as one of the best in the region. They will continue to receive my support, but we must also ensure they get the funding from central government that they deserve. I will press Ministers to support these institutions and also those providing apprenticeships across our town.
Our schools have steadily improved their performance in recent years which is critical to Rochdale becoming increasingly successful. There has been a real threat to the funding of our schools from the last Conservative Government, this is something I will oppose vigorously if re-elected.
Good quality pre-school provision ensures our children are better prepared for school and will get better grades as they move through education. We have some excellent nurseries, the council has managed to retain Sure Start provision and there are lots of childminders caring for our young ones. This must continue but I do believe more could be done by the local authority to better coordinate provision and ensure it is more joined up. This is something I will press for.
The Pioneers Museum, Touchstones, the Coach House in Littleborough, Hollingworth Lake, Ellen Road Steam Museum are just a few of the attractions, arts venues and heritage sites which make Rochdale the great place that it is. And they combine with our sporting clubs, music venues and religious groups to make Rochdale a rich, diverse and cohesive community.
But we don’t always make the most of this rich tapestry. The council needs to do more to ensure our town is known for its arts, heritage and culture, rather than the grooming scandal that it failed to prevent. I will challenge the council to promote our town and its townships in a much more positive light.
Health and well being
The last Labour Government decided services should be reduced at Rochdale Infirmary then a Coalition Government of the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats took Accident & Emergency and maternity services away.
The urgent care centre that we now have works well but there is still much spare capacity on the Infirmary site. This should be developed further to include more community health services, and also to bring some maternity services back to Rochdale. I am supporting a local campaign to improve maternity provision in our town.
Rochdale suffers from a disproportionate number of people suffering from mental health issues. Poor housing and poverty often contribute to this, but it will also be because a disproportionate number of people have been placed here who have a variety of problems.
Over the years we’ve had a lot of homeless provision compared to surrounding towns, which has subsequently seen us take more people in. We have had a large number of alcohol and drug treatment services and a lot of children’s homes. On top of this, we’ve taken in far too many asylum seekers – more than any other town in the United Kingdom.
A lot of this has got to stop. It’s not fair that Rochdalians carry this burden and it is putting unfair pressure on mental health services.
Both young and older people will also remain a priority for me.
Rochdale Youth Service do an excellent job working with young people but their funding has been cut time and again. I will champion their cause at a local, regional and national level.
Older people’s services also warrant attention. The Conservative Government’s initial manifesto proposals to take people’s homes away to pay for long term care is simply not acceptable. I will fight to ensure social care for our older people is second to none and does not cost the family home.
We have seen some transport improvements across Rochdale in the time I’ve been Member of Parliament. The tram network has reached in to the town centre and particularly serves Kingsway Business Park, Milnrow and Newhey. We now have an additional platform at Rochdale train station, which has also been improved, with additional parking, and capacity on the Calder Valley line has increased.
However, trains stop too infrequently at both Littleborough and Smithybridge and there are still too few carriages at rush hour – changes in this regard will be something I concentrate on.
The bus network does not serve our area well enough either. I campaigned within Parliament for Greater Manchester to be able to take back regulation of the buses and we now need to see that happen so we can have more public minded routes, not just those that turn a large profit.
The motorway network that runs through our constituency is currently being upgraded and should provide us with a smoother journey when it is complete. More locally relevant is the need for yet more investment in filling potholes and road repairs. Rochdale Council Highways Department also needs radical reform, the major junction changes they made at Town Head and at Oldham Road/Kingsway have been hopeless, cost millions and disrupted all our lives. They have ensured the only entry in to Rochdale town centre from the top of Drake Street is via School Lane, a steep cobbled street – not exactly 21st century highways thinking. Their ability to ‘get it right first time’ is almost impossible.
Staying with drivers, there has previously and more recently been talk amongst Labour politicians of introducing a congestion charge for in and around Manchester, similar to what they have in London. This is something I would be totally opposed to.
Finally, we must not forget cyclists and our canal network. Some cycle paths in Rochdale are a joke, lead nowhere, protect few people and make no sense. We need more meaningful paths which make it safe for bike riders and easier for those in vehicles. Regarding our canal, it must be maintained to a decent standard so that everyone, boat enthusiasts, walkers, runners, cyclists and walkers can enjoy it equally.
Where we live
I have successfully lobbied at a local and regional level to limit the number of new houses being proposed for our valuable green spaces and I have got the Government interested in helping come to a solution for the notorious Turner & Newall asbestos site in Spotland.
But we do need more housing for younger families so I believe we should have a brownfield (former industrial sites) first policy in Rochdale, with limited construction on green fields until the old factory and mill sites have been exhausted. And to ensure we retain a good proportion of social housing I will continue to oppose demolition of College Bank flats, the mass demolition of Falinge Estate and the limited demolition by Rochdale Boroughwide Housing elsewhere in the constituency.
Rochdale’s surrounding countryside and, indeed, our local parks, are something to be proud of and to shout about. It’s often forgotten that we have a rural aspect to our community and we should do more to celebrate and support our farmers; they are after all the custodians of the countryside. We also have a strong equestrian community which I will support. Though here is also the place to make it known that I am opposed to hunting and will continue to vote against its return. Indeed, I have always been strong on animal rights and will continue to be so.
When it comes to the environment then I’m firmly on the side of maximising alternative energy sources. In Rochdale we already have wind power being utilised, though there are questions about the de-commissioning costs when the turbines come to the end of their lives, something I’ve raised in Parliament. We also have some solar power projects, not least, the solar farm to the rear of Rochdale Leisure Centre, those on College Bank flats and those on a good number of housing association properties. This is a start but I believe we could become a truly green borough.
Combining our co-operative heritage with good practice from Scandinavian countries, like Denmark, I believe we should establish green co-ops where local residents own the power generation for their local communities. This reduces profits seeping out of our area and gets buy-in for new schemes from local people, a win-win green proposal.
When we talk about the environment we also want a clean and pleasant place in which to live. Sadly, Rochdale falls behind other towns and cities when it comes street tidiness. Some of the ‘in bloom’ flower and horticultural schemes have spruced up our areas, but graffiti, litter, dog fouling and nuisance neighbours are creating a negative environment. Rochdale needs to take a zero tolerance to this type of behaviour and aim to prosecute more people who make a mess, fly-tip and litter. The council also needs to improve their performance when it comes to keeping our Borough tidy – these are issues I will continue to prioritise.
Rochdale is an outward looking town which has welcomed many different communities and cultures over the years. We all live well together and celebrate and enjoy each other’s different ways of life. I support this and will continue to do so.
But we are also now carrying an unfair burden. Over 1,000 asylum seekers are being placed in our town by the Government. It is totally unacceptable. It puts far too much pressure on our public services and it is creating a bad atmosphere within our town. I have already raised this with the Prime Minister and I will continue to press for the number of asylum seekers to be dramatically reduced.
Nationally and internationally I will support the Government in exiting from the European Union. The Liberal Democrats’ idea of holding another referendum, when the public have already decided, is just ridiculous. We now need to get the best deal we can from the EU and ensure we do better trade with the rest of the world.
Safe and secure
The Rochdale grooming scandal showed how our town was let down by senior officers in Greater Manchester Police. They set a culture which prioritised car crime over the rape of girls and yet no officer has ever been disciplined. The Labour candidate in this General Election was the police and crime commissioner when police failings were made public. He was supposed to be scrutinising the police and holding them accountable and yet they got off the hook. It’s shocking that no one was ever held responsible.
In contrast, I pressed successfully for more arrests and for the perpetrators to be deported. I supported some of the victims and helped them in very difficult times. I will continue to call out poor policing and support vulnerable people who are being unfairly treated.
I will also campaign for more bobbies on the beat. Rochdale needs to retain community policing so that there is a strong presence across our town.
At this heightened time of tension, particularly with the recent Manchester bombing, I will also support anti-terror legislation which helps defend our people. And I won’t make excuses for the terrorists, like Labour have. I will call out these evil attacks for what they are, an attack on the way we want to live our lives.
From a national and international perspective I will support having a nuclear deterrent and ensuring we, as a country, spend a decent and