Letter from Parliament - Paul Rowen MP

August 7, 2008 12:00 AM

Paul Rowen MP - Putting Rochdale FIRST!I recently carried out a survey of local residents' views and one of the things I asked them to list was the top three priorities/issues that concerned them. Unsurprisingly the top three issues were Crime, Health and the Environment. When I look at some of the issues I've been dealing with, either through meetings, my mail bag or in conversation with residents, I find the same issues cropping up.

So, for example, last week I had a meeting with the residents and allotment holders of Kellet Street and the Environment Agency about dealing with the flooding in this area - another example of the effects of climate change. I was pleased that the Environment Agency agreed to carry out some work to try and alleviate this flooding.

Gully cleaning is an important but seldom reported action that Councils can do to prevent some of the worse effects of flooding. In recent years Rochdale Council, under all political parties, has cut back on gully cleaning to the extent that they were only cleaned if there was a problem. I was therefore very pleased when Councillor Wera Hobhouse proposed that every gully in the borough was cleaned. I went out with a team on Monday. To date in just three months they have cleaned 14,000 of the 45,000 gullies in the borough, an impressive feat. Our 'gully challenge' to clean every one in a year is well on track.

Figures released recently by the Justice department showed that far too many crimes now involve the use of a knife. I was therefore very pleased when I met Chief Superintendent Peter Mason recently that he agreed to a knife amnesty as part of the lead up to the Rochdale Peace Parade on 22 September. John Farrington and his team have done an excellent job running this over the last three years.

I was shocked at the CCTV footage that showed a group of drunks attacking an innocent man in our town centre and I fully support the views of our new Police Chief Peter Fahy who has argued against the drink fuelled culture that causes people to behave as they do. We need, in my view, to review our "liberalised" licensing laws. I did not support them when they were introduced and I'm afraid events like this attack only reinforce my concerns. Thankfully the CCTV cameras in the town centre allowed the culprits to be caught. I was pleased to introduce them when Leader of this Council and am delighted that they have brought justice on the perpetrators of this terrible crime.

Post Offices are an integral part of our communities and that was brought home to me very forcibly on Monday when I spent the morning working with Jay Patel and Leanne Wild in Buersil Post Office. It was incredibly busy with scores of local people using the Post Office to collect their pensions and benefits and pay their bills. With seven Post Offices threatened with closure in Rochdale it will be a travesty if any of them are closed. We shall find out next week what the Post Office's decision is.

I was delighted last week to receive a letter from Bill Rammell MP, the Higher Education Minister, informing me that the Government had approved the establishment of our new Six Form College. Together with the new facilities at Hopwood Hall College it will mean that our young people will have the best further education facilities in the North West. I'd particularly like to thank Derek O'Toole, the Principal of Hopwood Hall College, whose agreement to share the College site means the Six Form College will be sited in the town centre. I would also like to praise Councillor Irene Davidson, the Portfolio Holder for Education, and Terry Piggott, the Director of Education, for their input alongside Sir Peter Ogden, whose Trust will contribute £1,000,000 for state of the art science facilities.

The College this week has been playing host to the Unite Young Person's Community Event which I visited on Thursday. Hundreds of young people have been taking part in what is now an annual event. Also on Thursday I visited Barton Aerodrome where Adrian Matthews was taking a group of sick young people up in his Tiger Moth. He runs a charity "Tigers for Kids" that takes sick children up in his plane. It is very moving to see the excitement on the kids' faces.

Last Friday I visited the Back Door Project at the Broadwater Centre which is very ably run by Carol Moore and David Hoyle. They provide a venue for young bands to play and for other young people to listen. It is an example of the many excellent community projects that there are in Rochdale.