Council Leader: Christmas interview

December 24, 2007 12:00 AM

Council Leader Councillor Alan Taylor in a Christmas interview with Rochdale Online reporter Jan Harwood answers questions on the Transport Innovation Fund bid, overcrowded trains, the Town Centre regeneration plans, increases in council service charges and explains what has impressed him most of the council's activities this year.

Why do you think Bury backed out of the transport innovation fund bid and what effect does this have on the bid overall?

I'm very disappointed that Bury backed out. In the summer the Greater Manchester authorities agreed to put in a bid and we are now waiting for a response from Government, nothing has changed since the summer for Bury to back out now.

I am not prepared to turn my back on the opportunity to get this funding and now it's up to the Government. They might not be prepared to meet our aspirations but at least we tried. It is important that we improve public transport at a price that people can afford.

Nothing has changed for Bury to change what they did in the summer. If they can tell me the reason I might try and understand but nothing has changed.

In the short term is there anything you can do about the trains into Manchester, which are always packed at peak times?

We need to work with the Passenger Transport Authority and look at lengthening platforms and accessing Government funds for extra carriages on trains. It is clear that more people are using trains to Manchester, which is why we need the tram system as they are more accessible and run more frequently. Trams can run on the existing track through Heywood and Castleton, along the line to Littleborough, Smithy Bridge and Mills Hill so in essence there would not be a lot of change.

What do you make of the Town Centre regeneration proposals?

I'm very very impressed with the revised proposals They all take into account what the public told us earlier this year. Now we need to have a full consultation and get a reaction to their more detailed proposals. We must listen to the locals and create a commercial yet exciting place for people to shop and relax in.

People can now see from the plans what a large area is going to be redeveloped. I have been told by all three developers that the reaction at the exhibitions was very encouraging. From the consultation ideas you realise how much Rochdale means to the people who live here and it is important that that is reflected in our new town centre.

Two of the proposals have large supermarkets planned - do we really need these?

What Rochdale town centre really lacks now is in the food industry. We need more high quality food outlets in the town centre than a standard supermarket would provide. The quality of the shops is a very important part of the new development but it is just as important for people to know that they are in Rochdale. We have to be able to stand on New Baillie Street and know that we are in Rochdale. We need small shops and big shops and the three developers feel like that is the way forward.

Critics of the development have now seen the exhibition and they seem to have shut up, which is a good sign. We will soon have chosen one of the developments and they will then bring back more plans and we will see what is happening.

Can you justify an increase in charges on services such as bereavement?

There have not been many changes in charges but the suggestion for some of the increases in charges was 75% because of new government suggestions about burials and crematoria under European directives. I think it means they are saying we need to replace crematoria in the borough but we need to keep the public cost to a minimum.

People don't need more obstacles when they lose a life in the family. The government did reduce the initial costs and hopefully we can further reduce the costs to the public. There are serious problems with crematoriums and the whole service throughout the country so think upgrading it could cost millions to everyone in Britain.

Of Council activities this year what has impressed you the most?

It has to be the Kingsway development. The opening of the new road a couple of weeks ago enabled people to see how wonderful it will be and how big. It was only when I saw it a few months ago that I realised how enormous it was. Anyone who has time should drive down Isaac Newton Way and have a look. We are talking about the single largest area that will be the future of this town and further afield.