Rochdale hustings: would-be MPs answer your questions on leaving the EU, education, housing and homelessness, greenbelt land and asylum seekers

Date published: 11 December 2019

Update 12.11pm 12 December - Ms Shah's additional responses have now been added.

All five parliamentary candidates fighting for the Rochdale seat in the upcoming general election have issued responses to the questions submitted for the cancelled Rochdale hustings on Tuesday (10 December).

Green Party candidate Sarah Croke, Brexit Party candidate Chris Green, Liberal Democrat candidate Andy Kelly, Labour candidate Tony Lloyd, and Conservative candidate Atifa Shah, answered questions submitted in advance by members of the public to the organisers, Save Our Villages (Newhey & Milnrow) Protect the Greenbelt.

The order in which the candidates’ responses appear below has been drawn at random by Rochdale Online - responses to two questions are yet to received from Ms Shah and will be added once received.


Addressing the housing crisis


The candidates on the housing crisis and social and affordable new homes

Atifa Shah: The conservatives are on the side of people who aspire to own their own home. We’ve boosted supply by almost a million and a half homes since 2010 by making it easier for councils and developers to build and are helping families get on the ladder by cutting stamp duty, investing in help to buy and introducing models of shared ownership. We’ve increased the affordable homes programme by £2billion and there is now £9.1billion available to 2021 which will provide at least 25,000 new affordable homes. Having a Conservative MP will give Rochdale the best chance to utilise these schemes and ensure every person in Rochdale is aware of the help that is available nationally.

I’ve been working on addressing homelessness on a regional level for the last 6 months, and I believe that we need a joined up holistic approach to tackling homelessness, providing more than just services such as shelters and soup kitchens. We need to provide a home style environment with security, food, rehabilitation and skills development on site. So that every person can truly be reintegrated back into society with confidence and skills they need to make a life for themselves.

Sarah Croke: The Green Party would allocate funding for council home creation based on the needs of each area.  We would encourage local authorities to prioritise developments in small estates and local to where Green New Deal jobs will be created, cutting down on travel and pollution.

We would introduce rent controls on private tenancies, end no-fault evictions and make it easier to set up community led housing initiatives, for example in Houses of Multiple Occupancy.

Our Green New Deal will empower councils to bring empty homes back into use and create a total of 100,000 new council homes for social rent, a year.

Andy Kelly: As part of the Greater Manchester Lib Dem leaders ’team, I have been working on a proposal to help first time buyers onto the housing ladder by offering a 5% matched deposit scheme that would be interest free. Although the detail needs to be worked out, this would involve using GM money to match half the required deposit (eg 5% + 5%) for first time buyers across Greater Manchester. Although the scheme would be interest free, the borrower would pay back the same % of the house value when they move on or at the end of the loan term. As I said, there’s detail to work out but it would firmly throw support and belief behind young people and their security.

Legislation needs to be passed to stop the imbalance of law in favour of property developers. Throughout the planning and building permission of new housing, developers have the upper hand through land banking, altering site applications, reducing social housing quotas and pulling out of section 106 funding. If all that is confusing, you’re in the majority, but put simply, developers need to provide a higher amount of affordable housing, and money for communities and be held to account should they not. I would happily take this to parliament to be passed as law.

Also, there needs to be more scrutiny from both the Council and the MPs office as to what exactly is going on at Rochdale Boroughwide Housing. As the organisation that manage the former council housing stock. There is not enough being replaced or let alone expanded. That said the Council could develop their role as a social housing provider too. There is nothing stopping the authority buying houses, converting buildings or (as in the press this week) buying a large unused residential centre and making it into apartments?)

The number of both needs to be reviewed in light of Brexit, population change and protection of the greenbelt, but if we are going to do it properly across Greater Manchester then MPs and Local Authorities need to work together to provide a blend of social, affordable and executive housing across all areas and not simply compete for the big homes in the Greenbelt.

Tony Lloyd: This is one of the really important items for all. Too many people are badly housed in Britain, it’s a shocking figure 125,000 children are living in temporary accommodation in this rich country of ours. We’ve got to do better and that means building the new homes that people need.

At the end of our first Parliament, Labour wants to have built a million new homes; it’s a tall task and one we’ve got to make work. We need housing of different types: we need to give access to younger people or first-time buyers, access to affordable homes for purchase, so we’ll make sure government’s help to buy will be targeted on first-time buyers who are looking for affordable homes, not at the top end.

We need more acceptable social rents, social landlords and council tenancies, where the new homes can be provided for people who have to rent. Labour would want to give councils power to take over empty homes, because they’re a drain on our system.

Getting housing right is a challenge in a decent society; no-one should be without an adequate home. In Rochdale, we have some way to go.

Homelessness has been one of the real scars on our society in recent years. It never used to be so rife in this country and we’ve got to work to eradicate this.

This means providing shelter, but it often has more complicated routes like substance abuse, mental health. We have to make sure we have provisions for these services that can help those begin to change their own lifestyles and give them a chance at a different way of life.

Chris Green: This is defined in our contract with the people. We prefer to use the title contract rather than manifesto because manifesto has now become known as a load of promises that will not or were ever intended to be carried out, a contract holds people accountable.

In order to reduce housing cost we would simplify planning consents for brownfield sites, change the funding model to make it easier for councils to borrow from central government to build council/starter houses and allow more flexibility in the number of affordable homes within a development scheme.

These points are linked with the reduction in the cost of living plans that can be implemented when Brexit is complete, eg we can set our own levels of VAT without interference from EU, reduce the cost of goods and services by opening up new markets , reduce import tariffs set by EU for purchases outside EU and zero rate tariffs on certain foods, footwear and clothing. This to name but a few.

Rules and regulations are set to stop unscrupulous landlords, but are obviously not being monitored or implemented correctly, we would tighten up these rules and have monitoring committees to ensure the following of the regulations is done correctly.


Exams (stock image)

The candidates on schools and education

Chris Green: This is down to mass uncontrolled immigration. We will invest in our services with the monthly billions we won’t have to pay the EU and reducing our overseas aid payments.

These have been a contention for many years, why should we be giving aid to countries that have nuclear weapons, have good industry and good resources. We all want the best for our children; we intend to provide it.

Atifa Shah: We’re lifting per pupil education to £4,000 for primary schools and providing £780 million more for children with special needs and disabilities. We are also investing £10million in national behaviour hubs, tackling challenging behaviour from its root. I’m personally very keen to get as much of the £400 million in education for 16-19 year olds for Rochdale, to ensure our young people have the skills they need for well paid jobs, and the modern economy. Far too many young people are getting well paid jobs and education elsewhere and leaving Rochdale and far too many young people think it’s not even possible for them to get well paid jobs.

Tony Lloyd: Every school in Rochdale has got less money in real terms in this coming year than it had in 2015. This is simply not acceptable; this means we are cheating young people of their future.

What’s galling is that in some other parts of the country, that’s not the case. A town like Rochdale with more social need suffers more harshly through these cuts than areas that are more advantaged. Labour’s commitment has got to put more money towards our education system; we know we’ve got to do more in terms of schooling, and we’ve got to pick up on investment in early years’ education.

Our FE college, again, has been underfunded and that’s simply not fair. We can’t have this higher education divide. In the end, Labour’s commitment to get rid of these student fees is really important. Many young people tell me they are put off, or worried, about going to university because of debt when they leave.

We can change all that, but we’ve got to make the money available to invest in our schools, early years and nurseries, and higher education.

Sarah Croke: Education should be about nurturing potential and inspiring a love of learning. All children should have the opportunity to learn where their unique talents lie, which includes having the chance to experience arts, music, drama and sports. We will increase funding by at least £4 billion per year; aim to reduce class sizes to under 20 in the long term; strengthen the link between schools and communities; restore arts and music education in all state schools; and encourage schools to participate in regional and national sporting events.

Andy Kelly: Our manifesto commits to recruiting 20k new teachers, which will obviously require funding. However, it must go further than that. I believe that teachers should teach and we can go a long way towards supporting good quality teaching through freeing up teacher administration and focussing on classroom teaching. Now, anyone who knows me, will know how much my life has been shaped by theatre and music, in fact had I not taken up music at the age of 11, I doubt I would have has the confidence to do what I do today. As such, I cannot highlight enough the LD policy to extend the school curriculum beyond the traditional class subjects. We also want to introduce a curriculum for life which includes financial literacy, environmental awareness, first aid, mental health education, RSE that covers LGBT+ relationships and consent. And we should protect the availability of arts and creative subjects




The candidates on policing

Tony Lloyd: When I was Police and Crime Commissioner, I chaired the national all-party body for PCCs throughout England and Wales, and there was a common consensus that we could work together on issues around policing numbers. I would be very happy to get back to that view, but that only works if there is commitment for police resources, skills and investment in the policing service and community structures. Policing can’t work in isolation; it works with other services like adult social care, children’s services and the health service.

We need to integrate our police as part of our public service offer and that means proper funding for the services that help the police do the job we want them do to keep us safe in our homes and communities.

Chris Green: We have pledged more funding for policing the streets, bring back the bobby on the beat, funding for all through the police system we need to keep our streets safe which would include more severe punishments, and far less reduced sentences. Severe crimes would have no reduction in sentence, life would be life.

Sarah Croke: We want to tackle the underlying causes of crime, focussing on the prevention of crime, with community-based policing alongside investment in education and employment. We will also invest in youth centres, to turn at-risk young people away from crime.

We definitely support cross party working, in all areas.

Andy Kelly: I would be keen to explore setting up cross service teams to work specifically to deal with missing persons (e.g., social worker, youth worker, PCSO etc) for each GMP area-simply to get more police on the streets.

The Lib Dems wants to invest £1b to put new officers on the beat and £500,000 into youth services to let them learn outside the classroom and into the wider world keep them away from dangers. I read a statistic which says police spend 20% of their time investigating crime. It’s about reshaping police as well as funding more.

Atifa Shah: We need a new approach to tackling crime in Rochdale, we have failed our elderly, we have failed our young people and we have failed our children. The Conservatives have and are continuing to strengthen sentencing and introducing powers officers need to keep our streets safe. We need to send a clear message to a criminals and as your MP I will speak up for any victims and work with the police and council to ensure we are addressing crime and preventing it.




On Brexit

Andy Kelly: I voted remain in the referendum. I’m still of the opinion that the best deal we could hope to have with the EU is to remain a member.

I think we are better in Europe. I think we can trade better. Now we know what the Brexit deal is looking like, we realise just about every economic forecast is going to leave every single person between £1 and £2,000 worse off.

For me it will signal the end of the United Kingdom; it’s going to reduce young people’s abilities to study, work and move around Europe.

There’s questions which haven’t been asked yet. There’s two million retired people living on the continent who won’t have their civil rights the same as they would in the UK; are they going to come home, are we going to send people back who support our NHS back to Europe at the same time?

It’s the best deal to stay in the Union and I’m sorry if you don’t agree with that.

Chris Green: Rochdale I will follow the democratic vote of you all approx. 60% voted out. I will make sure it is carried out. Vote for Brexit if you are one of the 60%. The Tories cannot win in Rochdale, their vote never changes. We are a party of left, right and middle who know right from wrong. It is wrong to ignore your constituency, vote against them and downright ignore them.

If you don’t want the same old nothing and you want change, vote Brexit both now and in council elections in May for reform, democracy and a Rochdale voice.

Atifa Shah: My stance on this is very clear, we voted to leave, we must leave. The opportunities to leave far outweigh the nervousness of “what might/could happen”. This election is about driving real change for our country or more of the same old politicians arguing. We must choose from a the certainty of a government majority or a hung parliament and more years of delay and dithering. If the majority of people who voted to leave, come out and vote Conservatives, we will have a vote to leave in Parliament, therefore a vote for anyone else is a vote to remain.

Sarah Croke: We are a proudly pro-European party. Where the country sits currently is broken and divisive. We think that people should be given the opportunity to a People’s Vote as a way to move forward and come together in mutual respect.

Tony Lloyd: I think we’ve got to now take this question back to the people of this country. Brexit’s been such a long and drawn out saga; what we’ve got to do is put a proper alternative to the people of Britain.

Many people who want to remain will want this to be an option on any second referendum, but we’ve got to make sure there is a credible Brexit offer, a jobs first Brexit. I’m genuinely worried a crash-out Brexit could be disastrous for Britain. Let’s take this back to the public and make sure we’ve got a choice for the public that’s a positive choice, whether they choose Brexit or remain.


A practice nurse and patient during consultation (stock image)


On improving social care provision and other public services like the NHS

Atifa Shah: The Conservatives have been running our NHS for 44 of its 71 years, and by keeping our economy strong, we’ve been able to support our NHS since 2010. But because of the Brexit deadlock it recently hasn’t had the attention it deserves.

That’s why we need to get Brexit done and get on with bringing the change people voted for. Including giving the NHS its biggest cash boost in history, and making sure this funding gets to your local hospital and GPs. I’m really excited about the conservatives plans to join forces with housing services, charities and employment services to give personalised, holistic, mental health care and advice. I’ll be drawing on my own experience to ensure that we can have a local cross party review on our social care services and advocate for our fair share with the Government to bring real change to Rochdale. 

Sarah Croke: We are proposing to invest an extra £4.5 billion a year to fund councils to provide free social care to over 65s who need support in their own homes. This replicates a successful model that has been implemented in Scotland since 2001.

Increases in social care funding and support will go a long way to reducing the health inequalities. I would also work closely with the new Primary Care Networks to see what additional support or services they can provide.

Tony Lloyd: Health and social care is a major challenge; it’s one of the reasons why Labour has said we’ve got to do something much more dramatic in the past. We’ve got to provide the social care component, and make sure we are raising standards in our services. The turnover of staff is enormous. Many caring people work to look after our elderly, but in the end we can do better.

In more general terms, we’ve got to change attitudes and invest more in professionalising the service and research that goes in to make life better for people. The generation which looked after us when we were young deserves our care and attention as they grown old and more vulnerable. That’s simple decent humanity.

Chris Green: When Brexit is complete the NHS throughout will be refunded and many additional staff employed to cover all types of illness or disease. We believe all our UK citizens are entitled to free treatment within reasonable distance from their homes. As I have previously stated stopping freebie treatment for visitors [ non UK citizens ] creates huge amounts of reserve money to fund our NHS. We can create our own rules and systems and not be told by EU what to do with OUR country. Many of the rarest condition drugs are hugely expensive as we all know. We quite often don’t have them available because of the abuse of our system by the EU citizens. This will stop if Brexit Party gets the votes.

Andy Kelly: We need a joined-up approach to health and social care. I would support an integrated care system between the NHS and social care to allow them to work in a more joined up way. This could mean specialised hospital services (rather than everything in every hospital). We need to establish a cross-party health and social care convention. *Also hope we don’t leave the EU!


The candidates on asylum

Sarah Croke: I think this is an issue worthy of serious consideration.

Chris Green: Each case should be individually looked at. We cannot have thousands of people coming each year, crossing many friendly borders just to get to UK for our wonderful services. Ensuring that they are genuine cases is our first priority and after that, then yes, all genuine ones could be considered.

Atifa Shah: There will always be a place in Britain for the those genuinely suffering and in fear of their lives. Ensuring we exit the EU and control our borders means that we can ensure genuine cases get the quality support that they deserve. 

Tony Lloyd: In a civilised country, we recognise the need to give shelter to those who are genuinely in fear of their lives and health for themselves and their family, that we give that kind of shelter and asylum. That’s right and proper. Many people have come to Britain on that basis who have benefitted from that and contributed to our society. If we are giving shelter to parents, it’s only right that that the whole family is together.

Andy Kelly: Regardless of the Brexit debate the UK has a responsibility as a major economic and developed world power to look after refugees and asylum seekers. Almost all of the asylum seekers and refugees I have met in Rochdale have been victims of their political beliefs, religion, sexuality or gender. All have been willing to work and start a new life. Ironically, this is something we could have managed better with our European neighbours. Yes I would definitely consider it.


Milnrow and Newhey 'Save our Greenbelt' campaigners


On building on the greenbelt

Chris Green: Use brownfield in preference to greenbelt by assisting in funding of brownfield plans in order to protect our greenbelt as much as possible. In the town centre development, we pledge to “invest in the high street”, protect our small businesses by reducing rates and taxes so they can compete with the mega onliners and bring community spirit back.

Atifa Shah: We need a fresh approach to planning in Rochdale, we’ve had far too many bad and no sense decisions made when it comes to town planning, I’ll be setting up a independent advisory committee with representatives from beacon towns and local residents to ensure that we can benefit from best practices and lessons learned when it comes to regenerating Rochdale. We need regeneration from the heart of Rochdale equipping our people and utilising our local community and its skills and linking up our culture, history, tourism and town centre. Cutting business rates will attract new business and encourage local businesses to consider reopening, as well as reopening our indoor market, a hub that many in Rochdale relied upon.

Tony Lloyd: It is important we have an agreed spatial framework because it prevents rogue developers. Obviously, we know there are pressures locally to build new homes, which I addressed earlier. But I want to see those new homes built in a way good for us all, which means recognising developing in a way that makes for green and pleasant developments.

We have to make sure we preserve the greenbelt, the lungs of Greater Manchester. It’s so important we don’t have a greenbelt first policy but one that says we have brownfield first. We have to make sure development is rolled out in a way which is consistent with protecting the greenbelt as far as we possibly can.

Andy Kelly: OK, so I’ve been on record for many years now that we should protect the greenbelt around Rochdale. But here’s a bullet point response: Scrap the GMSF - its not fit for purpose, Build on brownfield sites first, Convert old buildings, Change legislation to stop prioritising development and profit in favour of people, Work across GM to ensure social and affordable housing and not just have competing authorities building the “Big Houses”, Move industrial operations from villages (such as Milnrow) onto Kingsway (or equivalent) and redevelop them as housing.·I could go on...

Sarah Croke: I am committed to protecting our precious greenbelt. Once lost it can never be returned. Rochdale Green Party has long believed that local people could be given control over improving areas of decay and dereliction. I would love to work with the council on identifying these and engaging local people in taking this forward.


Details of the candidates standing for the Rochdale parliamentary seat can be found at:

Full details of each candidate standing for the Heywood & Middleton parliamentary seat can be found at: 

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