Seven Years of Political Change
Posted By: Wera Hobhouse
Date Posted: 14/12/2010
Seven years ago, Rochdale Council was run by Labour. Six years ago, it was an all-party run Council with a Liberal Democrat leader, 5 years ago, it was run by a Labour / Conservative coalition, 4 years ago by the Liberal Democrats on their own, and for the last few months it has been a Liberal Democrat / Conservative coalition.
The decision of eight Liberal Democrat Councillors to go independent over the last three weeks has changed the balance again, and we now have a Council where the Labour party is again the largest party, but without an overall majority. The convention is that the Leader of the Labour Party now becomes the Leader of the Council. Will this make any difference to the man in the street?
The majority opinion about our Council is that it is mediocre. You will find surprising agreement across all political parties that the real problem is that councillors and the communities that they represent are continually undermined and disempowered by a Officer-run council that always seeks to draw all decisions to the centre and make behind closed doors decisions.
So when the Council changes control again, the faces will change, but the decisions probably won’t. The big change will come when ALL political parties in the borough come together on a shared agenda to give more power back to the people through devolution and townships. This has been a core Liberal Democrat agenda for the last few years, and it has been a big success across Lib Dem run Rochdale and Pennine Townships with Area Forums and across Labour run Heywood and Labour run Middleton.
This devolution agenda is under threat. From none other than the newly independent Councillor Greg Couzens and his new political party of independents. Councillor Couzens, while still a Liberal Democrat, had proposed that the devolved money to Townships is scrapped, and all decisions are taken centrally. It’s a silver lining for communities of the borough that Cllr Couzens will shortly be removed from his position of Cabinet Member for Finance. His record on the Springfield Park Golf Driving Range, on Ding Quarry or on safe development at TBA has been abject. Time after time, he has undermined communities, preferring instead the cosy decision making of the Town Hall.
We’ve had 7 years of political change, but whatever party is in power, the only change that really is needed in this borough is the change from an Officer-run Council to a Council run for and by the communities that pay for it.
It may be some way off, but I hope that we the Liberal Democrats will now rebuild from opposition, come back more rooted in our communities, and be ready to give power back to the people when we win again.
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