New Year Message from the Leader of Rochdale Council, Councillor Alan Taylor

Date published: 01 January 2008

Firstly, can I say Happy New Year and hope that you have all had a good Christmas.

I only came back on the Council in 2004 after not really being involved for nearly 20 years.  A long time spent as a councillor in my younger days can often be misconstrued as a life in politics.  Yes, my younger days were spent as a representative in this town.  Yes, my time as Sir Cyril Smith's Agent can be looked at as exciting and truly it was.  But the most exciting time by far is now.  

I am proud to be the leader of Rochdale.

As we move into 2008, we look forward to more exciting developments and improvements right across the Borough.   It’s been a delight to see ideas turned into reality during 2007, and much more of the hard work that has been going on locally over the last year will come to fruition in the coming months.

The rough and tumble of local politics is a great motivation for positive change. Yes, my time in politics goes back to the hard times working on a market in Manchester. Yes, my time in politics goes back to campaigning for positive change in the 1970's and 80’s for more Council Housing. Yes – more affordable and better housing and grants for people who own their own homes to bring them up to modern standards.  

I was elected as leader of the Liberal Democrats in 2005 and that was one of the proudest days of my life.  A chance to make a difference to so many people's lives!  That is now becoming a reality. This year we will start building the first Council Housing for a decade, and that gives me enormous pleasure. Rather than wait for the Government to act we have taken decisive steps led by Councillor Zulfiqar Ali, our Housing Cabinet Member.

2007 was the year that the Liberal Democrats hit the headlines – the year that we took overall control of our Council for the first time ever. We delivered the lowest Council Tax increase for a decade and are planning to go even further this year. Council Tax is the most unfair, indiscriminate tax we have, and we back the Liberal Democrat national campaign to scrap it. The least we can do is strive to keep it as low as possible.   

Another of my ambitions in 2007 was to move on the re-development of Rochdale Town Centre. Everyone has now had the opportunity to see and comment on the developers’ plans. Each had listened to previous consultations and changed their first proposals in the light of them. 

It was good to see the exhibition on Yorkshire Street and such a positive response from Rochdale people. 

I'm delighted to say that we have three excellent plans, and any one of them will really move us forward. 

This is coupled with the fact that by the end of this year, work on Metrolink will have started.  Metrolink will bring prosperity and regeneration to our town.  That is why I am backing the £1,200million Transport Innovation Fund Bid, which could bring over £3,000million to bring improvements in transport across Greater Manchester. We will know very soon how much the Government will offer.

It is quite clear that good, integrated public transport is the key to our renaissance.

In December, I was pleased to join Paul Rowen MP, opening the new 'Spine Road' at Kingsway Business Park. This was a clear sign of progress, a milestone that eases congestion in places like Milnrow, but also illustrates that the huge benefits for our town, courtesy of Kingsway Business Park, are just around the corner.  Now the road is open, I think you should go and see just how enormous this area actually is.   

I would also like to welcome the progress made on our new Six Form College. For too long our A-Level Students have travelled out of town for their education. This has become a personal crusade for Paul Rowen and I am delighted to see the significant progress that we have made over the last year.

Last year was a year of tough decisions.  I said recently that responsible civic leadership was all about making tough decisions that will benefit the majority. That is why we are looking to improve our adult care service.

We have already instigated a period of focused action, energy and attention on the Adult Care Service which started the day after the report was announced. The Cabinet Member for health and social care, Cllr Dale Mulgrew, will be overseeing action planning in regular meetings with the Executive Director and Head of Service. We will continue to do the right thing by moving this service forward.

I mentioned tough decisions and none has been tougher than the alternate weekly collection debate. I'll tell you the reason why we are having to move down this road. The Labour Government has tripled landfill taxes. This means if we don't take decisive action to improve this Council's appalling recycling record then your Council Tax would have rocketed. 

Politics is about cooperation and I acknowledge that we’ve greatly improved the way the alternate weekly collection works, listening to criticisms of the system, and we will continue to introduce measures to make it more suitable to the people that it serves, although I do remember that the original decision to go for alternate weekly collection was agreed by all three parties on the Council. Just like the modernisation of adult care, we have to acknowledge that Labour and the Conservatives started the ball rolling and like any responsible politicians we are saying 'yes, we'll continue the work, but make continual improvements to provide a service suited to the individual rather than a standard service for everyone.’ 

Last year was the year we introduced the 'People's Champion' - someone to 'champion' your complaints about the Council. We are the first Council in Britain to introduce such a post and I know this department will improve customer service across all levels. We will be publishing details shortly on how you can get in touch and make sure that your voice is heard.

The Council’s ‘Good Guy Firework Scheme’ in close cooperation between the Council, Police and Fire Brigade, saw another fall in firework nuisance. Now it is the lowest in Greater Manchester. In 2008 we will continue this reduction.

We will also focus on violent crime and alcohol related crime. There will be ‘weeks of action’ in the community across the Borough involving the Council and the Police, responding to local priorities and community concerns.    

2008 will see a start on leisure facilities in Rochdale Town Centre, Heywood Sports Village, Middleton Arena, Marland Golf Course, Furrow Sports Centre, Hollingworth Lake Water Activity Centre and the Littleborough Campus.  

Many new look Libraries will open, there will be a year long programme to ‘get Rochdale reading’.  

There will be double the number of disabled car parking spaces on our car parks by August.  

In the Spring, there will be a ‘big clean 2008’ which will be a spring clean across the Borough, involving community clean ups and litter picks involving local community groups and schools.     

And I could go on and on.  

One wish I do have which I can’t influence, although I do feel that the Council has helped the Club in many ways, is that Rochdale Football Club gain promotion in their Centenary Year.

I feel that as a Council we are on the crest of a wave - these are exciting times for our Borough.  I am pleased to lead this and would like to praise our excellent council workers.  They are the ones who work week in, week out to improve your lives and we are delighted that decisive steps in regeneration are taking place under the watch of the Liberal Democrats. 

We are not going to pretend that everything is perfect.  You have my assurance though that we strive to improve your lives.  I hope you back our continual campaign for positive change.

It is a privilege to continue to lead such a democratic council that engages with local people and gives them more of a say about changes going on, and the services being offered.  

I wish each and every person in the Borough and their families a very Happy New Year. Hopefully 2008 will bring continued success for us all.

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