Local election 2021: Labour retains hold on Rochdale Council as it wins back Balderstone and Kirkholt

Date published: 07 May 2021

Thursday's local election resulted in a good night for the Labour party, as it retained its significant majority on Rochdale Borough Council, and regained a seat in Balderstone and Kirkholt.

The biggest changes in Rochdale this year are the election of Labour’s Iram Faisal and Phil Massey to Spotland and Falinge, and Balderstone and Kirkholt, plus new Labour councillor Terrance Smith in East Middleton.

All three wards have been held by Labour for some time – with the exception of Richard Farnell becoming non-aligned in recent years – but the sitting councillors have now changed.

Councillor Iram – wife of fellow ward councillor Faisal Rana – replaces Councillor Wendy Cocks, who has won the West Heywood seat this year, in place of Peter Malcolm (Labour) who is stepping down, whereas Councillor Phil Massey – husband of the third Spotland councillor Rachel Massey – has replaced former leader of the council, Richard Farnell, who is also standing down.

Farnell, twice leader of the council, had held his seat since 2012, and stood down as leader of the council in 2017 after coming under pressure following his evidence to the Independent Inquiry into Child Abuse (IICSA).

He was suspended by Labour after the inquiry found he had ‘lied under oath’. Farnell quit the party in 2018, but had continued to serve as a ‘non-aligned’ councillor for Balderstone and Kirkholt.


Phil Massey - newly elected councillor in Balderstone & Kirkholt
Phil Massey - newly elected councillor in Balderstone & Kirkholt


Councillor Phil Massey said: “It’s been a very long campaign which started in October 2019.

“Obviously the last 15 months no-one could have predicted and the priority has been getting through the pandemic.

“We’ve worked hard and spoken to residents, supporting as many as possible and doing everything we can for the community.

“I’m proud to represent Balderstone and Kirkholt, as I am Rochdale. It’s a great community and there are lots of things on the horizon to be delivered, such as the CCTV for Balderstone Park, resurfacing roads and providing more facilities and activities for not just the younger generation, but also residents who have been more socially isolated.”


Iram Faisal - newly elected councillor in Spotland & Falinge
Iram Faisal - newly elected councillor in Spotland & Falinge


Councillor Iram said: “It’s amazing and I’m elated. It’s my first time as a councillor and I can’t thank everyone enough for the respect and trust for me to be their voice.

“Hopefully I’ll be a successful councillor and residents’ needs will grow and they will feel they can contact me. I plan on a 24-hour response from the minute someone calls or messages me.

“I would like to say a big thank you to my Spotland and Falinge team who worked tirelessly and Labour for giving me this opportunity.”

The Conservatives, the second largest local party with ten seats, will be pleased at holding their seats, although disappointed at not gaining any, given the political shakeup of the general election two years ago, which saw the Heywood & Middleton constituency’s first ever Conservative MP voted in.


Conservative leader, Councillor Ashley Dearnley was re-elected
Conservative leader, Councillor Ashley Dearnley was re-elected


Party leader Ashley Dearnley was happy with the results, noting he was “very pleased” that he held his ward, now serving in his 11th term as a councillor – the longest on Rochdale Borough Council.

He said: “It is disappointing we came so close to winning Littleborough Lakeside and Healey. We’ll double our efforts as the result is clearly within our grasp.

“We’ve got a young team doing lots of work, which is making a difference. We’ve increased our stronghold in central, which shows Labour they can’t rely on safe seats. We’ve turned a corner.”


Veteran councillor Jim Gartside was re-elected in Norden
Veteran councillor Jim Gartside was re-elected in Norden


Councillor Jim Gartside, who has served for 35 years as a councillor for Norden and tonight retained his seat, said: “I want to say thank you to the other candidates for a very fair campaign. I am honoured to be able to represent my ward yet again, and all its constituents.

“Thank you to my colleagues for staying up so late for the result.”

Stephen Anstee, who replaces outgoing Bamford councillor Jane Warne, who is standing down, said: “I am over the moon. I’m absolutely delighted. We have seen an increase in the majority of votes and sent a really positive message to residents.

“Thank you to everyone who voted; I am really grateful. The hard work starts now.”


Stephen Anstee - newly elected councillor in Bamford
Stephen Anstee - newly elected councillor in Bamford


Long-standing Lib Dem councillor Irene Davidson will be thrilled to have retained her seat in Milnrow and Newhey, remaining alongside her fellow party members Andy Kelly and Dave Bamford, although the party will undoubtably feel some frustration after putting forward candidates in 18 wards.

Councillor Davidson said: “I’m absolutely over the moon given the amount of work we’ve put into the ward over the last five years. The residents have noticed and paid me back by voting me in back in. I adore the area so I’m really happy.”

Party leader Andy Kelly said: “We’ve seen superb improvements this year in Spotland and Falinge, Littleborough Lakeside, Milkstone and Deeplish, and Smallbridge and Firgrove, where we’ve worked very hard in those wards. We look forward to doing it again next year and thank everyone who voted Liberal Democrat.”

Leader of the council Allen Brett retained his Milkstone and Deeplish seat, saying: “I feel elated; Labour retained everything and gained back Balderstone and Kirkholt. Labour’s vote held up locally because people voted on local issues and because the council provides a service.

“We were the only Greater Manchester council at the height of the pandemic to continue emptying bins, and there are some policies I’m proud to be associated with, such as championing the Real Living Wage and the school holiday vouchers. Officers said it couldn’t be done, I pushed for it and they were done and being delivered within 48 hours.

“My only regret is increasing council tax, but I hope to be able to freeze it next year.”

He added his priorities going forward were “getting a grip on litter and fly-tipping” which blights “the same sites.”


Councillor John Hartley was re-elected with the smallest majority (99) in this year's election. Pictured with his Labour colleague in Littleborough Lakeside ward, Councillor Janet Emsley
Councillor John Hartley was re-elected with the smallest majority (99) in this year's election. Pictured with his Labour colleague in Littleborough Lakeside ward, Councillor Janet Emsley


Labour councillor John Hartley retained his Littleborough Lakeside seat by just 99 votes, but “feels great to be re-elected.”

He said: “It was very close but we’ve worked hard to get the vote out. I’m going to carry on doing what I always do. It feels good for the hard work to have paid off.

“It feels great to be re-elected and I’ll continue to serve the residents of Littleborough Lakeside.”


Councillor Wendy Cocks was elected in West Heywood
Councillor Wendy Cocks was elected in West Heywood


Former Spotland and Falinge councillor Wendy Cocks has been re-elected, this time in West Heywood. She said: “I am delighted to have been elected as the Labour and Co-operative councillor for West Heywood. I have met wonderful people in the ward – of which there are many.

“I am particularly looking forward to collaborating with all parts of the community and want to thank the Labour and Co-operative members who have helped me win this resounding victory.”


The local election count 2021 at Heywood Sports Village
The local election count 2021 at Heywood Sports Village


The Mayor of Rochdale, Councillor Billy Sheerin, retained his seat in Castleton. His agent, fellow ward councillor and deputy mayor Aasim Rashid said: “Thank you to the Castleton residents who have put their trust in us again. Labour party prove that we are always working for the working class.

“In the coming months we have plans for a greener, safer, brighter Castleton.”

Finally, Terrance Smith has become the new Labour councillor in East Middleton, replacing Malcolm Boriss, another councillor standing down. His wife, Sue, was re-elected tonight for the West Middleton seat.

He said: “What a fantastic night for Labour. What a fantastic team I've had backing me to represent the ward that gave me the privilege of their vote.”

The overall make-up of the council is now Labour (45), Conservative (10), Liberal Democrat (3), Independent (2).

This year's turnout for the local election has increased from 2019's 29.51% - the lowest figure in a decade - to 34.6%. 

The full results are available here: www.rochdaleonline.co.uk/news-features/elections/election-results/35

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