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Rochdale Tories in meltdown as Councillors defect

March 8, 2005 5:16 PM

The Conservative Campaign in Rochdale is in tatters as 2 of their Councillors have quit the party and joined the Liberal Democrats. Cllrs. Wera and William Hobhouse have cited their concerns about the former TBA site as their primary reason for defecting.

In a joint statement, the Councillors who represent the Norden and Bamford Wards said, "We are doing this because of our concerns and involvement in the safe development of the former Turner Brother's Asbestos site. It becomes increasingly clear that while everyone says they want safe development, only the Liberal Democrats are serious about making it happen. Only Paul Rowen and his colleagues are prepared to tackle the complex problems of Rochdale's asbestos legacy. Of the Party Leaders, only Paul Rowen has come publicly forward, and has spoken out for safe development."

Leader of Rochdale Liberal Democrats, Cllr. Paul Rowen, said:

"We obviously welcome the decision of Cllrs. William and Wera Hobhouse. We are working hard to find a safe, sensible solution to the huge problems at the former Turner Brother's site.

"Since becoming the biggest group on Rochdale Council we have been working hard with the Save Spodden Valley and Friends of Healey Dell pressure groups and the community to try and find solutions to the problems at the TBA site. I am delighted that William and Wera will be joining our fight."

The news will come as a body blow to the Conservative Party, having seen their former Colne Valley Parliamentary Candidate - Amanda Harland defect to the Lib Dems recently too. The political make up of Rochdale Council is now 27 Lib Dems, 24 Labour and 9 Conservative Councillors.

Cllrs. William and Wera Hobhouse's statement in full;

"We have resigned from the Conservative Group, and will be applying to join the Liberal Democrat Group.

"We are doing this because of our concerns and involvement in the safe development of the former Turner Brothers Asbestos site. This development will probably be the most important health issue for the people of Rochdale for the next 5 years. If it goes wrong, people will die. We are not prepared to keep quiet. We believe that the health and safety of the people of Rochdale comes before party loyalty.

"It becomes increasingly clear that while everyone says they want safe development, only the Liberal Democrats are serious about making it happen. Only Paul Rowen and his colleagues are prepared to tackle the complex problems of Rochdale's asbestos legacy. Of the Party Leaders, only Paul Rowen has come publicly forward, and has spoken out for safe development.

"Within the Conservative group, we have lost the argument for realizing safe development. Cllr Ashley Dearnley, as Cabinet Member for Environment, could have played a decisive role in promoting safe development; but he has never supported our campaign for complete openness and transparency of the development process.

"Norden and Bamford wards have been Conservative for decades. Our decision to move to the Liberal Democrats may be a risk. However, we feel we can only realise our commitment and responsibilities as Councillors within the Liberal Democrat group."