Interview with the Leader of Rochdale Council

August 8, 2007 12:00 AM

In Rochdale Online's latest interview with the Leader of Rochdale Council, Councillor Alan Taylor talks about Rochdale's bid, as part of the Association of Greater Manchester Authority (AGMA), to the Government's Transport Innovation Fund, the Council's relationship with the local police force, the Council's desire to devolve power to the Townships and the subject that tops most political agendas at the moment, recycling, as well as giving his thoughts on the up-coming football season.

Councillor Taylor was part of the recent AGMA meeting which met to put in a bid to the Government's Transport Innovation Fund (TIF). Rochdale's Council leader spoke to Rochdale Online about what the bid means at this stage and what it could mean for the future of transport in Rochdale.

He said: "What the AGMA Executive were asked to do, was to agree that we put in a bid for £1,200 million, which was the total Transport Innovation Fund money. This was done quite quickly because the process only started in January so the point of the meeting was do we put a bid in or don't we bother? I've always been of the opinion that we need to put the bid in and see what we get back because we are asking for £1,200 million but in the long run there will be £3000 million spent on public transport in Greater Manchester and that would be wonderful.

"We've put the bid in, we now need to know if we've been successful with the bid and how successful we've been with the bid because even if the Government say we've got £500 million that really is an insult and the Government aren't serious about improving public transport. If that is the case I suspect that the AGMA authorities will say 'I'm sorry you're not really serious' because there isn't a Plan B.

"All the other things will fit into place once we know how much we will get. We do hope that we'll get £1,200 million, then we can start looking at what particular improvements can be made, like on the assurance that if we are successful the Metrolink into Rochdale Town Centre will be the first thing that will happen and it could be a seamless project, building to Rochdale Station and simply carrying on, there won't be a wait inbetween building the two.

"We need more details about better buses and 'tram-trains' through Littleborough and Mills Hill and the possibility of congestion charging because I understand that Gordon Brown's government is not as impressed with congestion charging as Tony Blair's was.

"The point was whether or not we put in a bid and I'm not going to turn my back on trying to get that sort of money for Rochdale."

On the Council's relationship with Rochdale's Police Force, Councillor Taylor said: "We are having meetings roughly every month with the police on a political level because the police have their own agenda and the government set them their own targets and we felt that if we were going to make a difference in the way Rochdale Council was perceived by the public, the thing that people are worried about is crime, or the thought of crime.

"Unfortunately the Council can't instruct the police to do things, the police are a seperate entity to the council but these meetings, I feel, have been very successful. The police in Rochdale are certainly listening now to public opinion and what the public feel is important."

The Council recently made clear its intentions to devolve power to the four Borough Townships. Councillor Taylor spoke about how this might work in practice and how the people could become involved in spending some of their own money.

He said: "We've given more power to townships than they have ever had but power is only useful if you send the money with it. Each township had one pound per head of population that the townships could spend on anything they wanted but the first thing we did in this year's budget was double that to two pounds.

"We've devolved more money from the highways budget from this year onwards. Townships also got a bonus through recycling this year, we got £300,000 back from the recycling target so that extra £300,000 was devolved.

"I hope that by devolving power through the townships and their area forums that we are putting power down to a more local level. I hope that the townships will use some of this money to give local groups or local meetings a budget that they can spend as they wish to, on things that they want to spend it on. It wouldn't be a massive budget, a few thousand pounds, but it would be money where local people can decide what they want to do with it.

"We'll keep doing that because I'm not frightened of giving that power to local people."

Recycling is top of most Rochdale politicians' agendas at the moment and a quick read of the Rochdale Online Councillor Diaries will clarify that fact! Councillor Taylor spoke about Rochdale's immediate recycling future and the Council's desire to get it right for everyone in the borough.

He said: "The report will come to the Township Committees in September about how we go forward with recycling in Rochdale. The report will include what we do now with Alternate Weekly Collections and what can be improved, it will also include going back to weekly collections and how we can improve that and it will also include the cost of all the different options.

"I've stopped the plan to roll out Alternate Weekly Collections in Middleton because it would be wrong to do that before we've looked at the whole thing.

"We've got to have systems that suit particular areas, not necessarily all of Rochdale or all of Heywood or all of Middleton. Whatever we do we've got to do it better than we're doing it now, because there is room for improvement and we've got to put the customer first. It will only work if people feel part of it. If the people are told and understand why you are doing it, how you are doing it, when you are doing it and what the options are they will pick it up and run with it and it will be a success."

The football season kicks off in earnest this weekend and Rochdale have high hopes going into the campaign, in this their Centenary year. Councillor Taylor is a Manchester City fan but always keeps an eye-out for Rochdale's results. He outlined what the Council's relationship was like with the football club.

He said: "I'm a Manchester City supporter but I always look out for Rochdale. Being a Manchester City supporter I completely understand what it's like to be a Rochdale supporter, I think there's an empathy between the two sets of supporters. I live in hope for Manchester City, I'll believe it when it happens!

"As far as Rochdale are concerned, I've made it my point to support the football club as much as I can because I see them as ambassadors to the town. Every Saturday during the football season Rochdale is on television and it's in every newspaper because of the football club and I'm supporting them to the full; that is why we offered them the freedom of the borough.

"They have struggled financially in the past but when you go to that ground it's a credit to everyone concerned, it's a wonderful ground and one that's worthy of Rochdale's forthcoming promotion!"