Council Leader remains behind TIF bid despite Labour claims

Date published: 14 October 2008

The Leader of the Council has hit out at claims by the Rochdale Labour Group that he no longer has any confidence in the Transport Innovation Fund bid and that the Liberal Democrats are struggling to convince voters to throw their weight behind proposals for congestion charging in Greater Manchester.

The claims come ahead of Wednesday's full council meeting, in which Council Leader Councillor Alan Taylor will describe how he has sent a letter to the chief executive of Manchester City Council to seek reassurances that the Metrolink will run to Kingsway and that the East Lancs Railway will be opened up to run to Manchester via Heywood.

Councillor Taylor says in his report to Council: "I have written to Sir Howard Bernstein reminding him that we supported the bid in its initial stages, making particular reference to the East Lancs Railway and Metrolink stop on Kingsway. An extension of Metrolink down to Rochdale town centre is in itself a huge step forward, but it will mean little to the people of Middleton, Heywood and the Pennines. It is important that the people of the entire borough of Rochdale can see that we will get more from the TIF bid than this.”

Labour group leader Councillor Colin Lambert has treated this statement as an admission from Councillor Taylor that he believes the TIF bid would ‘mean little’ to the people of Middleton, Heywood and the Pennines and that the TIF bid is not a good deal for Rochdale as a whole.

Councillor Lambert said: “The Lib Dem leader wants the people of Rochdale to support the TIF bid but he’s struggling to mount a convincing argument for it himself. Rochdale is already going to get the Metrolink regardless of the TIF bid so I am not convinced that we need congestion charging.”

Councillor Lambert added that Councillor Taylor's letter showed he was now less confident in the TIF bid and that he is 'plagued by doubts'.

The Leader of the Council, who is currently not on speaking terms with Councillor Lambert since a dispute surrounding council tenant's water charges erupted last month, has dismissed Councillor Lambert's comments as 'complete and utter nonsense'.

Councillor Taylor said: "What my letter illustrates is that I am continually pushing to get the best deal for the people of this Borough. Within this and the dialogue we have, we have been able to negotiate much more for our Borough. I am absolutely committed to this once in a generation opportunity to get decades of cash for transport investment in one go.

"We have always been clear that we will use our support for this bid in order to negotiate the best deal for our Borough and that’s what I have done all along. I am still hopeful that our pressure will pay off and we get the best package possible.

"At no time have any Labour Councillors contacted me about their ideas of how our Borough should benefit. They have been blind in opposition, blind in opportunism and blind to the significant opportunity that this bid, worth £3,200 million throws up. What we have done is work quietly behind the scenes and their failure to do so may cost the people of this Borough."

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