Parties squabble over Heywood rail link proposal
Date published: 30 October 2008
Rochdale's Labour Party has hit back at Liberal Democrat claims that they are supporting the Transport Innovation Fund bid by welcoming plans to re-open the East Lancs Railway link through Heywood station, which became part of the transport improvement proposals this week.
The Labour group say that they have long since backed hopes to re-open the East Lancs rail link through Heywood to Manchester and that the re-opening of the railway through Heywood should take place anyway, without the threat of a congestion charge.
The Lib Dems had assumed that the Labour party had made a u-turn on their views on the TIF bid by backing the moves to re-open the rail line, claiming that it was 'excellent news for Heywood'. Labour leader Councillor Colin Lambert and Heywood and Middleton MP Jim Dobbin both welcomed the news when it was announced earlier this week.
Meanwhile, the Lib Dems believe that the proposed re-opening of the rail link has only come about thanks to their campaigning.
Council Leader Alan Taylor said: “I welcome the fact that transport bosses have listened to my ultimatum. The proposed heavy rail link will make a huge difference and regenerate Heywood by dramatically improving their transport links. It is clear though that if it wasn’t for the Liberal Democrats, this wouldn’t have been possible.
"At no time in the TIF process has the Labour Party in Heywood tried to argue for these improvements.
"That said, I welcome the fact that this news has been greeted with open arms by Jim Dobbin and Colin Lambert. I can only assume that they now support the TIF Bid.
"I would like to ask them whether, in the light of the deal the Liberal Democrats have done for the people of Heywood, will they now support the TIF Bid? Failure to do so will result in Heywood losing this once in a lifetime opportunity!”
Mr Dobbin and Councillor Lambert deny that they have made a u-turn and countered that the Lib Dems were simply jumping on the bandwagon. They argue that they had been campaigning for the rail link before Councillor Taylor was re-elected onto Rochdale Council.
In a joint statement the two Labour party members said: "The only back tracking has come from Councillors Taylor and [Heywood Councillor, Peter] Rush. In [Councillor] Taylor's letter to Sir Howard Bernstein, he had to admit the link had been missed out of the bid and he had to beg to get it included.
"We have had enough waffle and U-Turns from Councillor Taylor, he is the one who signed the petition against the TIF then went back to Rochdale and persuaded his whole party to vote for the Tif Bid without any guarantees.
"This is typical Lib Dem sitting on the fence, facing first one way then the other. There should be a congestion charge on their number of U Turns, which are the cause of more confusion and misdirection than anything else.
"The rail link is nothing short of what the people of Heywood deserve without any threat of congestion charging.”
Heywood Councillor Peter Rush said: “I have been arguing for months for this positive move and I am pleased to see Councillor Taylor’s pressure pay off. What is clear is that working behind the scenes and arguing for a better deal from the TIF bid has resulted in this becoming a reality.
"While Labour have opposed it from day one, we have stuck in and if people vote ‘yes’ in December this will become a reality.
"I know that Labour failed Heywood by their blind opposition but they now have a chance to put that right. It is vital that they now clarify their position in the light of this latest news. Jim and Colin have consistently said that Heywood will ‘get nothing from the TIF Bid’. They now look a little silly in their backtracking.”
The Labour men hit back, saying: "Instead of Councillor Rush saying that has been arguing for months he should admit that it was his mistake to vote with his LibDems in Rochdale, without negotiating this link as part of the TIF Bid. What guarantees has he obtained that this link will happen? The answer is none."
The Lib Dems have returned fire by saying that the Labour group in Heywood are contradicting themselves by welcoming the re-opening the rail link but still not supporting the Transport Innovation Fund bid, considering that the rail line through Heywood to Manchester will not re-open without TIF money.
A Lib Dem Spokesperson said: "The Labour statement is an amazing example of spin and manipulation. Let me make it quite clear that at no time have Labour argued for the heavy rail link to be included in the TIF proposals. This has been done by Alan Taylor and Peter Rush.
"Yet again, the Heywood Labour Party has refused to commit to the TIF Bid. This is despite this being the condition that has made this discussion possible. By failing to commit, they are trying to play the ball, the man and the referee. They can’t be all things to all people and they need to commit.
"They have again shown a fundamental misunderstanding of the TIF process, a Labour Government initiative. They claim that they have been campaigning for years on this. Well this is a sign of failure. Mr Dobbin has been MP for over 15 years, been leader of our Council and not delivered this. He is sitting on the fence as he is trying to play residents in Middleton and Heywood against each other.
"If [Mr] Dobbin, [Councillor] Lambert et al vote no, they are voting against £25,000,000 of investment in Heywood. I don’t think that Heywood folk will thank them for that.”
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