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We're in the process of updating our manifesto, and before it's finalised, we'll be posting our thoughts on key issues for the community on the manifesto page, and we always welcome additional feedback.
The Rochdale Liberal Democrats Team
Rochdale Lib Dem Leader Andy Kelly has claimed that the failure of First Manchester bus drivers to collect data properly directly led to the axing of the 182 daytime bus service. He was speaking to Transport for Greater Manchester bosses at a summit meeting at Rochdale Town Hall. The meeting was held to discuss public transport issues in The Pennines and was called after residents were in uproar over the axing of the 182 daylight bus service. This left patients, staff and visitors to the Royal Oldham Hospital without a direct bus service to the Royal Oldham Hospital.
Now Councillor Kelly has called for First Buses to reinstate the service, collate passenger numbers properly and then review the service in three months' time. He also called for the service to receive a subsidy based on social need. Andy has called for the Pennine Acute Hospitals NHS Trust to throw their behind reinstating what he calls a "vital service". Some 1,487 residents have now backed the campaign; 587 online and 900 physically signing paper petitions that have been in shops and community buildings in Firgrove, Milnrow and Newhey.
Andy said: "It's no exaggeration to say that public transport is the number one issue on doorsteps in Firgrove, Milnrow and Newhey. People are quite rightly shocked that a vital service that ensures a direct route to the Royal Oldham Hospital can be axed without any proper consultation. I have met with the Commercial Director of First Buses and he readily admits that drivers didn't collect all the data on passengers. It's this very data that was used to justify the stopping all 182 services in the daytime. That is not acceptable and I made these points to Greater Manchester transport bosses. I also said that they need to work with First Buses and the Pennine Acute Hospitals NHS Trust to reinstate a direct service."
Also raised at the meeting were the unreliability of bus services in the Pennines, including the 182 failing to turn up, the 451/462 not fulfilling the routes, and on occasion not turning up at all, the scheduling of the 451 service in the morning (currently the service runs at 9.30am from Newhey when pensioner bus passes are invalid and the next bus isn't for 2 hours) and the ongoing local concern that there is still no bus service between Milnrow and Littleborough.
Local campaigner Dave Bamford, who launched and financed the petition said: "More and more people are having their say on the state of public transport in the Pennines. I am pleased that Transport for Greater Manchester are taking an interest - we need to ensure that our voice is heard as one. I would encourage everybody to have their say on public transport. Every response will be forwarded to transport as we make our case to get a fair deal for The Pennines. Please see https://www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/PGQKXWF."
Leader of Rochdale Liberal Democrats, Councillor Andy Kelly has welcomed Sir Eric Pickles' report into electoral fraud. Mr Pickles, in his role as the Government's Anti-Corruption Champion has issued a number of recommendations in a far reaching report into cheating at the ballot box. His report, presented to new Prime Minister Teresa May, was commissioned by David Cameron and comes as reports of electoral fraud are at an all-time high.
Councillor Kelly, the local Lib Dem Parliamentary Candidate, said: "This report into widespread cheating in elections is welcome. I would encourage the new Prime Minister to take on board very real concerns that could be seen to subvert democracy. I especially support the need for voters to produce personal identification when voting. This is something I have supported for years and would give the public more confidence in our voting system and thus elected representatives. I also fully support the call to time limit postal votes. Currently any application for a postal vote is permanent and is open to systematic, widespread abuse. Extending the prinicipal of a 'secret' postal vote is something desperately needed. Here in Rochdale, there have been many allegations of intimidation of postal voters and indeed postal staff."
It was in in 2011, when Rochdale hit the headlines for electoral malpractice. The council received a number of reports of large groups of people attempting to pressure people into handing over incomplete postal votes. The allegations involved 6 electoral wards and the police were forced to step in after residents reported up to 20 people at a time turning up to their house demanding they hand over their postal votes. In the same year, dozens of postal votes were rejected. Up to 10% of postal votes were rejected in the Milkstone and Deeplish and Central Rochdale Wards alone.
Councillor Kelly said: "Since the Labour Party introduced postal voting on demand, allegations and indeed convictions have gone through the roof. There needs to be a root and branch reform of voting as a whole. Just to restore faith into what I believe is a rotten system. Every election in this Borough is marred by allegations of personalisation, postal vote fraud and intimidation. If Eric Pickles' recommendations are accepted it will be a step forward for democracy, often called into question in this Borough. I now call for the Conservative and Labour Party Leaders in this Borough to publicly back my call."
Sir Eric made more than 50 recommendations in his review. This included forcing voters to present identification at polling stations and banning activists from handling postal ballot papers.
Simon Danczuk's political rival Lib Dem Andy Kelly has labelled Rochdale MP Simon Danczuk "a hooligan" and claims that he needs to "go now for his own sake [and] the safety of others". Councillor Kelly, local Lib Dem Parliamentary Candidate, was speaking as reports emerged that Danczuk spent the night in police cells in Spain after another altercation with ex-wife and employee Karen Danczuk. A national newspaper reported that Mrs Danczuk was left "bloodied and bruised' by the altercation. It is not known whether Danczuk, who was described by Spanish neighbours as "extremely drunk" is still in police custody. He is set to face court next week.
Councillor Andy Kelly, also the local Leader of Rochdale Liberal Democrats said: "Danczuk is a hooligan and needs to go now for his own sake. Everybody knows that he is not fit to be our MP. This is another step too far in a political career slowly coming to an end. I am dealing with female constituents who are frightened to give their own MP their personal details after he sent lurid, drunken texts to a young 17 year old old and had sex with another on his office desk. I've no idea what they'll be thinking now? What makes this case even more appalling is that Karen Danczuk is a Parliamentary employee. I've never known a case of MP's attacking their own Parliamentary Staff! I believe he needs to go for safety of others."
His arrest comes after a European tour courtesy of the Bangladeshi National Party (BNP) - where he took in Switzerland, Miland, Venice, Vatican City and Rome - before travelling onto Alicante. Where he stayed in what he affectionately calls "the Spanish Gaff!" Danczuk and Councillor Kelly have been involved in a war of words for months. Kelly's office reported Danczuk when he over claimed on expenses and had to pay back £11,000. Danczuk could yet face action over that as a Met Police decision is imminent. Danczuk was also labelled a 'narcissist' by Kelly and labelled an "embarrassment to the town" and a "danger to women". Danczuk's office last week wrote to a local newspaper with an extraordinary personal attack on their Lib Dem rival for questioning whether Danczuk was a right and proper person to represent the town.
Andy Kelly finished: "We've spent months gearing up for a by-election and that now looks inevitable. We will be setting out how we will be different and offer our town a desperately needed positive alternative. Whilst Danczuk remains an 'Independent' and is still suspended from the Labour Party, the local Labour Party remain stupidly loyal to him. They refuse to condemn any of his antics despite repeated requests to do. The latest example being when Danczuk 'tweeted' a 'joke' about gun crime just weeks after the death of Labour MP Jo Cox."
Rochdale's Lib Dem Leader Councillor Andy Kelly has called for the Government to confirm its commitment to the Northern Powerhouse. He was speaking after new Prime Minister Teresa May's new committee on the economy and industrial strategy met for the first time. They indicated that the focus may change from a 'Northern Powerhouse' to a broader distribution of the economy away from London and South East. Rumours persist that this could be the end of the project in its current form; a move that Councillor Kelly claims would be a "...disaster for Rochdale".
Councillor Andy Kelly, Rochdale Lib Dem Prospective Parliamentary Candidate said: "Everyone knows that a Northern Powerhouse would have revolutionalised places like Rochdale. Rochdale would have been at the heart of this and this is an opportunity we simply cannot miss. George Osborne made it a key plank of the Conservative General Campaign and my feeling is that we need to do everything possible to ensure it is delivered."
Councillor Kelly cited a recent report of the Joseph Roundtree Foundation that named Rochdale as the "...most declining place in Britain". He claimed that the inclusion of Rochdale at the top of the list along with towns like Burnley, Bolton and Blackburn made the case for the Northern Powerhouse impossible to ignore.
He said: "It's clear that the north continues to loses out to places down south - we need to do something about it. That means investing in our region. I accept that other regions are in favour of a broader distribution of the economy. Everyone wants to look after their own patch. I would argue that we need to use the Northern Powerhouse as an example of delivering real results and investment. If we are successful, who says that anywhere in Britain can't follow. Plans for a Northern Powerhouse are far too advanced to give up now. It's too important for places like Rochdale. The reason Joseph Roundtree Foundation Report that named many northern areas as the 'most declining in Britain' should be even more reason to deliver this ambitious project."
Councillor Kelly also called for the leaders of all 10 Greater Manchester Authorities to unite and send a clear message that we won't accept anything other than the Conservatives keeping promises made at the last General Election. He said that they should go as far as opposing the forthcoming Greater Manchester Mayoral Election. He said: "If the Government cannot guarantee the Northern Powerhouse then we should remove the support for an elected Mayor for Greater Manchester. At the end of the day, that was part of the deal with George Osborne. By pulling support for a Mayoral Election that nobody asked for - we can send a clear, cross party message to the Government that we won't accept second best."
Rochdale Lib Dem Leader Councillor Andy Kelly has joined forces with local transport campaigners to launch a consultation on the future of public transport in the Pennines. He was speaking after meeting with the Commercial Director of First Buses to discuss the removal of the 182 daytime service. Lib Dems claim that this has had a devastating impact for local people - especially those who rely on it to get to the Royal Oldham Hospital. 562 local people have signed an online petition with hundreds more signing paper copies.
Now Councillor Kelly has launched a campaign to get the 182 service restored in some form. He said: "We've been overwhelmed by the response from local people. It's clear that people have huge concerns about the lack of public transport in the Pennines. The loss of the 182 daytime services has hit local people particularly hard. I am had a very positive meeting with First Buses and it's clear they are prepared to listen. I spoke of my disappointment over unreliable bus services, my concern that drivers weren't collecting information properly and the need to establish the 182 route as a route of social need.
"We want to know what people in The Pennines think. I have written to hundreds of local people with a series of proposals. These include the restoration of a service to the Royal Oldham during the day from Firgrove, Milnrow and Newhey, more reliable services and an end to buses that simply do not turn up, a review of timetables so that people with passes can use them when they need to and to ensure that First Buses ensure that drivers collect data on passengers more efficiently. It is my view that more people have been using the 182 service than transport bosses think - that's why it is important that drivers properly collate passenger numbers."
Kitt Budd, a transport campaigner from Firgrove, said: "Since we launched our petition, hundreds of people have been in touch. They were especially concerned about the lack of consultation about key changes to important local routes. That's why we have launched our own consultation - people pay money through their taxes to ensure routes our buses subsidised. There is a compelling for Transport for Greater Manchester to work with First Buses to restart the 182 daytime services that so many people rely on."