Councillors suspended by RBH after attacking plans to demolish landmark tower blocks

Date published: 11 January 2022

Rochdale Boroughwide Housing (RBH) has suspended two councillors after the pair hit out at its plans to demolish four of Rochdale’s ‘Seven Sister’ tower blocks.

The housing association has removed councillors Danny Meredith and Sultan Ali from its representative body pending a formal investigation.

It comes after the pair tabled a motion at a recent council meeting calling on the mutual to ‘reconsider’ its proposal to drop the high rise flats.

It also urged the authority to ‘explore every available avenue’ to ‘retain much needed social homes’ in the town centre.

The motion noted there were 8,000 Rochdale residents on the waiting list for a home, while 300 homes ‘lie dormant’ as RBH prepares its demolition plans. 

“If RBH will not take appropriate action to remedy this situation then it is incumbent on this council to act in a manner that protects the interests of our residents,” the carried motion read.

RBH says a code of conduct applies to all of its representatives and ‘it would be inappropriate to comment any further on a specific complaint while the procedure is in progress’.


Councillor Danny Meredith
Councillor Danny Meredith


Councillor Meredith, portfolio holder for housing, says he feels RBH is trying to ‘gag’ him – and knew his stance before accepting him onto the representative body.

“I don’t know why they would accept me if they had an issue with that,” he said.

Councillor Meredith says he is not just standing up for College Bank residents, but the 8,000 families and individuals currently waiting for a home in Rochdale – including those being put up in B&Bs or resorting to ‘sofa surfing’.

“The reason I went on the representative body is to work with them on other things – but if they won’t accept any scrutiny, what’s the point?” he said.

“As a councillor, I’m elected by the people of Rochdale – Balderstone and Kirkholt – to represent their views. And one of the views people have got is there’s a complete lack of housing in the borough.”

Councillor Meredith adds that around a quarter of those on the waiting list are classed as ‘high priority’, while every week around 950 calls per week are received by RBH’s homeless and allocations team 

He continued: “We are in the midst of a housing crisis in Rochdale – one of the most deprived boroughs in the country. We have social housing stock and all they want to do is knock it down.”

Councillor Meredith says he wants to work with RBH on a range of issues from the climate emergency to community safety.

But he added: “I don’t believe we should be knocking down housing stock in the middle of a housing crisis – which I have made perfectly clear.”

RBH insists its plans will ensure a better ‘quality and mix’ of homes in the town centre area, to meet the ‘true housing need’.

And the mutual fired a warning shout across the bows even before Councillors Meredith and Ali’s motion was debated last month.

In an open letter, chief executive Gareth Swarbrick said it did ‘not add anything’ to a similar motion tabled in March 2020.

It read: “Until there is a viable, detailed plan from the council, the only impact of this motion will be to raise false hopes amongst residents about the council’s ability to change the position regarding the future of the blocks. 

“This is deeply unfair to residents.”


Councillor Sultan Ali
Councillor Sultan Ali 


Councillor Ali, a Central Rochdale ward councillor, says being a councillor and sitting on the representative body has thrown up a conflict of interest.

“But if you believe, as a councillor there is immorality going on and you don’t agree with it, you want to be an advocate for your constituents and residents of the borough.

“There’s conflict, it’s a balancing act and it’s very complicated.”

And he rejected Mr Swarbrick’s claim that he and Councillor Meredith are offering residents ‘false hope’.

“I honestly didn’t for one minute think that was building a case so strong that it would build up false hope,” he said.

“All I’m doing is lending them support in getting their message across, but it’s obviously not going down too well with RBH.”

The Local Democracy Reporting Service understands RBH will appoint a panel to carry out the investigation on 25 January.

Nick Statham, Local Democracy Reporter

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