Swinson secures govt commitment on parental pay transparency

 

Jo Swinson, Deputy Leader of the Liberal Democrats

Commenting on the Government announcement that it will consult on greater transparency on parental pay, Jo Swinson, Deputy Leader of the Liberal Democrats, said:

“I am delighted that the Government will be consulting on putting my parental pay transparency bill into law.

“This is a simple regulatory change with great benefits for employers, employees and job applicants.

Over £870,000 to be spent on Balderstone Park

Date published: 26 September 2018 Rochdale online18

Over £870,000 has been approved for improving sports facilities at Balderstone Park.

Funds totalling £872,932 were approved by by Rochdale Council cabinet on Tuesday (25 September).

The money will be used to create new sports pitches and associated changing and community facilities at the park, plus upgrading open space between Rhodes Crescent and Mornington Road.

£30,000 of the funds will also upgrade the right of way from Broad Lane to Hurst Meadow.

The funding has been received by the council from a developer (known as section 106 money) following the grant of planning permission for housing development on land at Broad Lane (Ginnell Farm and Dean Farm) and the former Balderstone School on Queen Victoria Street.

Planning permission has been granted for the creation of football pitches and the extension of Balderstone Library to provide changing rooms, toilets and a club room to provide the facilities essential to the outdoor facilities.

Rochdale to host Freedom Parade for the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers 50th anniversary

 

The Royal Regiment of Fusiliers 50th Anniversary

Rochdale online Date published: 24 April 2018

The Royal Regiment of Fusiliers will exercise its freedom with special parades through Bury, Rochdale and Salford during this years Gallipoli weekend to commemorate its 50 year anniversary.

The Rochdale and Salford parades will take place on Saturday 28 April whilst Bury will host on Sunday 29 April following a service at Bury Parish Church.

It is anticipated that over 400 people will take part in the parades over the two days with serving Fusiliers from both First and Fifth Fusiliers taking part as well as Cadets and Veterans also.

Civic guests and dignatories from each local authority area will join Colonel of the Regiment, General Paul Nanson MBE when taking the salute in each local authority district.

The first parade will take place in Rochdale at 11.15am on Saturday 28 April. The parade will form up on Yorkshire Street and follow a short route back to the Town Hall where a reception for invited guests will take place.

Colonel James Denny, Regimental Secretary for the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers said: “2018 is a very special year for the Regiment so we wanted to mark our 50th anniversary with a series of events that everybody could get involved with. The Freedom parades in Bury, Rochdale and Salford will enable members from the wider Fusilier family and the general public to come out in force and join in our special, anniversary celebrations.”

The Royal Regiment of Fusiliers, known as ‘The Fusiliers’, is an English infantry regiment in the British Army, formed from four historic Fusilier regiments in 1968. Since then, the Fusiliers have seen service across the world in Northern Ireland, Cyprus, the Balkans, the first and second Gulf Wars and Afghanistan. The regiment has two battalions and both adapt readily to challenging scenarios.

The actual anniversary for the formation of the regiment was 23 April when a special thanksgiving service took place at the Regimental Headquarters in the Tower of London.

H Samuel closing – Alcock asks, is Council Spending Town Centre money in right place?

Rochdale Exchange Shopping Centre

 

Rochdale online Date published: 20 April 2018

The H Samuel store in Rochdale, Exchange Shopping Centre will be closing on 12 May 2018.

A spokesperson said: “We continually re-assess our portfolio of stores on a store by store basis, particularly when individual store leases come up for renewal.

“This particular closure bears no reflection upon the future plans of the Signet business estate overall within the UK.

“We are sorry to be leaving Rochdale, however we do have an H Samuel store twenty minutes away in Oldham.”

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£80 MILLION TOWN CENTRE

The Labour run council in Rochdale is spending £80 million of your tax payers money on a new shopping centre and other facilities. The £80 million will be paid back over the next 35 years. Do you think this is a good investment or should the money be spent on helping the Wheatsheaf and Exchange shopping centres to fill the many empty shops and also filling the many empty shops in the town centre?
Text YES or NO to 07722 472 716 with your name or email Mark with your ideas at: [email protected]

FRACK FREE Kirkholt, Balderstone and Rochdale

Date published: 20 December 2018 – Rochdale Online

 

An anti-fracking campaign has been launched by local Liberal Democrats.

Lib Dem campaigns officer for Balderstone and Kirkholt, Mark Alcock, and the party launched the campaign – FRACK FREE Kirkholt, Balderstone and Rochdale – after becoming aware a Petroleum Exploration and Development Licence had been granted.

Hydraulic fracturing – or fracking – is a process used to extract gas locked in rock formations thousands of metres below the Earth’s surface.

A mixture of chemicals, sand and water is injected deep underground at high pressure to fracture the rocks and release shale gas: this can happen anywhere in the licence area.

The controversial process has been linked to earthquakes, groundwater pollution, and gas and chemical leaks, amongst other detrimental effects, such as the wells used blighting the environment.

 

Licence 269 (shown in green) allows the exploration of shale gas (blue)
Licence 269 (shown in green) allows the exploration of shale gas (blue)

 

A Petroleum Exploration and Development Licence (PEDL) to explore the ‘SD81’ block of land under Whitworth, Norden, Heywood, Castleton and the majority of Rochdale, including Balderstone and Kirkholt,) was granted in September 2016.

PEDLs grant exclusivity to the licence owner – oil and gas exploration & production company Hutton Energy PLC Ltd, and their equity holders, Coronation (Oil and Gas) Ltd – to allow them to explore and extract hydrocarbons (including shale gas, shown in blue on the map) until 2049.

The licence itself does not grant automatic permission for investigative operations.

Planning permission and environmental permits must be given before any drilling, fracking or production can take place.

Mr Alcock said: “We can’t let the government and the fracking industry just walk into our area and start fracking with all the issues that causes.

“I have real concerns that fracking will have detrimental effects, but I’ve been accused of being a ‘nimby’ for opposing fracking in our area.”

He added: “Shale gas is neither needed nor wanted. The UK government’s commitment to go all out for shale gas and impose this on the people of Kirkholt, Balderstone and Rochdale is wrong and particularly to impose the risks on the people in our area, is nothing short of crazy.

“I believe that local people fighting fracking have well-founded concerns for our health and our local environment, based on evidence from countries like the US and Australia.

“The French and Bulgarian Governments and the US state of Vermont have banned it, the National Trust has a presumption against it on National Trust land, and the United Nations Environment Program says even if fracking is done properly, it may cause unavoidable environmental impacts.”

Leader of the Lib Dems, Councillor Andy Kelly has fully backed the local campaign, saying: “It’s just wrong that fracking is being imposed on our area without the public having a say in it.”

John Searle, Director of Economy at Rochdale Borough Council said: “In common with other Greater Manchester Councils, policy regarding the determination of planning applications for mineral or other exploration is set out within the Greater Manchester Minerals Plan and is not contained within the council’s own development plan.

“To date there have been no planning applications submitted for the purposes of fracking or exploratory drilling within the borough.

“However, any planning applications would be advertised widely and would be dealt with in accordance with relevant local and national planning policies applicable at that time.”

Councillor Kelly is also to ask the leader of Rochdale Borough Council, Allen Brett, what he thinks of a report that Greater Manchester Pension Fund (GMPF) is investing £1 billion in fracking and fossil fuel companies.

The GMPF is the UK’s biggest local authority pension fund and has over £1.2 billion directly invested in fossil fuel companies that engage in fracking, coal mining and oil and gas extraction.

The Fund’s annual report showed that they invested in Schlumberger Holdings, the company drilling for shale gas on behalf of Cuadrilla in Lancashire.

Councillor Kelly added: “I think this is unethical as the council should not be investing in these controversial industries: this could also put the council in conflict if it was to oppose any fracking applications that come forward for our area.

“You can’t be investing in fracking and opposing it at the same time.”

At Cuadrilla’s site on the Fylde coast, where fracking for shale started for the first time in seven years on 15 October, reports of over 30 earth tremors measuring up to 1.1 on the Richter scale occurred within the first 14 days.

On 11 December, nine tremors were detected at the same site within 90 minutes, with the largest tremor measuring a magnitude of 1.5, the largest detected at the site since monitoring began, according to the BGS database.

Addressing the tremors, a spokesperson for Cuadrilla said: “This occurred after hydraulic fracturing had finished for the day. According to recent research by the University of Liverpool, the impact [of the 1.5 tremor] would be like dropping a melon.

“Micro seismic events such as these result in tiny movements that are way below anything that would be felt at surface, much less cause any harm or damage. Without the sophisticated monitoring in place at Cuadrilla, they would not be detected.”

Cuadrilla paused and continued to monitor micro seismicity for at least the next 18 hours, in line with regulations. Well integrity was checked and verified.

Hutton Energy and the Greater Manchester Pensions Fund have been contacted for comment.

Voters reminded to speak up if they suspect fraud

Watch out for electoral fraud

Independent charity Crimestoppers and the Electoral Commission are urging the public to protect their right to vote by reporting any cases of electoral fraud.

The campaign asks people to tell Crimestoppers if they suspect or have information on someone breaking electoral law. This includes cases of:

  • Personation (people pretending to be someone else in order to vote / at the polling station)
  • Bribery (offer of money or other inducements to vote in a particular way)
  • Intimidation (influencing a voter through the use of threats)
  • More than one person using a polling booth at the same time

During 2017, police forces across the UK investigated 336 electoral fraud allegations. Of these, 104 alleged cases related to voting offences and 36 to registration offences.

Of these, there was one prosecution and conviction for personation. Two suspects accepted police cautions regarding personation when voting by post, and four suspects accepted cautions for registration offences.

The ‘Your vote is yours alone’ campaign materials depict different types of electoral fraud offences taking place in a polling station or in someone’s home as they complete their postal vote. They are designed to empower voters to protect their vote and report any concerns about possible fraud to Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111, or via our anonymous online form which can be found at crimestoppers-uk.org.

In addition, local authorities have been provided with resources – including videos, posters and a leaflet – which they can use in their local areas.

Mark Hallas, Chief Executive of the charity Crimestoppers, said: “Whilst electoral fraud is quite rare, it’s important for us all to be aware, lookout for it and work together to stop people from jeopardising our tradition of fair and free elections.

“Last year, as a charity, over 400,000 people trusted us to pass on their information about all sorts of crimes – safe in the knowledge that they remain 100% anonymous. Always.

”With elections on the horizon, we are asking people who – for whatever reason may not wish to speak to the police – to contact us on 0800 555 111 or via our anonymous online form at crimestoppers-uk.org. Once you hang up the phone, or click send, you’re done.”

Crimestoppers and the Electoral Commission have been working together since the 2015 general election when they first joined forces to raise public awareness and encourage people to speak up about their electoral fraud suspicions or concerns.

Craig Westwood, Director of Communications and Research at the Electoral Commission, said: “Electoral fraud is a serious crime, and the cautions and convictions handed down in the last year show that the police take reports seriously. No one should feel pressured to vote a certain way whether at the poll station on 3 May or by post. Our campaign seeks to empower voters to protect their vote; anyone who suspects fraud should contact Crimestoppers as soon as possible.”

Electoral fraud can be reported anonymously to Crimestoppers through the charity’s 0800 555 111 number or its anonymous online form at crimestoppers-uk.org

Members of the public can also report to their local police by calling 101 or they can speak to their local council’s Returning Officer.

Lawyer calls for Rochdale Council’s “toxic” political leadership to be overhauled

Rochdale online 16th April 2018

Solicitor Richard Scorer, who represented victims at the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA), has called for Rochdale Council’s “toxic” political leadership to be overhauled so that the town can move on from its child abuse scandal.

He praised the work of Gail Hopper, the council’s director of children’s services, but claimed Labour had allowed Rochdale’s political leaders to act in a “dysfunctional bubble” and any improvements are being undermined by the council’s political leadership.

Councillor Richard Farnell, who resigned as leader of the council, has been accused of lying under oath about his knowledge of child abuse at the now-closed Knowl View school. He has been suspended by Labour amid a possible police investigation into perjury, although he denies lying to the IICSA.

Councillor Farnell had not responded to an invitation to comment at the time of publication.

Leader of the local Labour group, and current leader of Rochdale Council, Councillor Allen Brett, has not responded to an invitation to comment  at the time of publication

Rochdale responds to council leader’s threat

 

Councillor Alan Brett

Rochdale online 17th April 2018

Residents of the borough have responded to the threat made by the leader of the council, Councillor Allen Brett, to deprive an area of Rochdale of council money if Labour does not retain the seat at the forthcoming local election.

https://www.rochdaleonline.co.uk/news-features/2/news-headlines/118035/council-leader-accused-of-breaking-the-code-of-conduct-for-councillors

Milnrow and Newhey Councillor Irene Davidson said: “Well done Rochdale Online for releasing this and who ever recorded it, you deserve a medal. There are some hard-working councillors on Rochdale Council who do a lot for their wards and this town, but they go unnoticed due to things like this going on, we deserve better.”

Lawrence Glendinning said: “It’s disgusting. Isn’t this also essentially blackmail too?”

Liz Thirsk commented: “That’s him gone. At last. I have witnessed this approach to funding several times.

“Go to any township meeting and watch. If your ward is represented by a councillor not of their persuasion you are fighting a losing battle.”

“Get this ‘toxic’ lot out,” said Steve Mullington.

John Turner added: “That is a very serious misdemeanour. Firstly, Brett should be ashamed of himself. Secondly, his character puts him in the ‘wrong ‘un’ category and obviously not fit for any kind of office.”

Ian Parry noted: “I’m sure that over the years he has genuinely helped hundreds of people, but his political career is now in tatters because he was arrogant enough to believe he could do as he liked in the town… just like Farnell and Smith.”

David Clayton said: “This is very serious and perfectly illustrates the almost despotic way Labour is running our town. It undermines the whole concept of democracy.

“Well done Rochdale Online for getting hold of this and having the guts to publish. Now over to the people of Rochdale. Whichever way you vote nationally, let’s get rid of these. It is immoral and it is wrong.”

Scott Barker added: “I’d be interested to know what he said after the recording stopped about canvassing in Milnrow, I’m betting it was nothing good. Well done to the person who recorded it; you’ve done the town a service by exposing this.”

In the audio clip, understood to have been recorded at a local Labour Party meeting, Councillor Brett is explaining that £12million is to be spent on the borough’s roads and footpaths.

At the end of the two minute clip, Councillor Brett can be heard saying: “…the budget remains fixed at £12 million [inaudible]. I’ve been given an indicative list of where it’s likely to have [sic], but I’m not releasing it – because I’ll deny I’ve said this, and I’m very reluctant to say it even in this room –  if we don’t do [sic] successful in one ward, I might not spend any money in that ward. You can work that out, but I’ll deny I’ve said it; I will.

Murmurs of “Milnrow” can (just) be heard in the background from others in the room as Councillor Brett adds: “Because I’m not having, like I was canvassing yesterday, to be told in Milnrow…”

When asked to comment before knowing he had been recorded, the council leader said: “No it is not true and I do not respond to rumours.”

When asked if he wanted to change his position in light of the recording, Councillor Brett did not respond

Council leader accused of breaking the ‘Code of Conduct for Councillors’

Rochdale online 16th April 2018

Council leader Allen Brett has been accused of breaking the ‘Code of Conduct for Councillors’ after he was recorded threatening to deprive an area of Rochdale of council money if Labour does not retain the seat at the forthcoming local election.

In the audio clip, understood to have been recorded at a local Labour Party meeting, Councillor Brett is explaining that £12million is to be spent on the borough’s roads and footpaths.

https://www.rochdaleonline.co.uk/news-features/2/news-headlines/116412/pothole-campaigner-welcomes-extra-%C2%A312m-earmarked-for-repairs

At the end of the two minute clip, Councillor Brett can be heard saying: “…the budget remains fixed at £12 million [inaudible]. I’ve been given an indicative list of where it’s likely to have [sic], but I’m not releasing it – because I’ll deny I’ve said this, and I’m very reluctant to say it even in this room –  if we don’t do [sic] successful in one ward, I might not spend any money in that ward. You can work that out, but I’ll deny I’ve said it; I will.

Murmurs of “Milnrow” can (just) be heard in the background from others in the room as Councillor Brett adds: “Because I’m not having, like I was canvassing yesterday, to be told in Milnrow…”

When asked to comment before knowing he had been recorded, the council leader said: “No it is not true and I do not respond to rumours.”

When asked if he wanted to change his position in light of the recording, Councillor Brett did not respond.

Audio Clip

After listening to the clip, leader of the Liberal Democrats, and Milnrow and Newhey ward councillor, Andy Kelly said: “That’s disgusting. I am absolutely appalled. How on earth can the council leader threaten the taxpayers of Milnrow and Newhey.

“He needs to step down as council leader and resign as a councillor; that is directly against the councillors’ code of conduct that council resources are not to be used as political gain.

Richard Farnell lied to Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse

 

Date published: 12 April 2018 by Rochdale online

Richard Farnell lied when giving evidence, a damning report publishing the findings of an inquiry into historic sex abuse in Rochdale has concluded.

Published on Thursday (12 April), the findings outline the result of a two-week inquiry last October, which was opened by the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA) into alleged abuse which took place in Rochdale at Cambridge House Hostel and Knowl View residential school, when Cyril Smith was a governor.

The Inquiry found that the leader of Rochdale Council from 1986 to 1992, Richard Farnell, lied to the Inquiry during his evidence. They preferred the evidence of former Labour Chief Whip Peter Joinson, who supported other evidence suggesting that Mr Farnell must have known at least in general about child sexual abuse at Knowl View.

https://www.rochdaleonline.co.uk/news-features/2/news-headlines/113516/rochdale-inquiry-council-leader-richard-farnell-subjected-to-grilling-by-qc-at-child-sexual-abuse-inquiry

https://www.rochdaleonline.co.uk/news-features/2/news-headlines/113533/rochdale-inquiry-labour-councillor-peter-joinson-says-council-leader-richard-farnell-not-telling-the-truth-about-knowl-view

The Inquiry report states: “It defies belief that Mr Farnell was unaware of the events involving Knowl View, especially given the Middleton cases. They also rejected the notion that Mr Farnell was not alerted by the then chair of education about a further potential risk to the reputation of the council, let alone its statutory duty of care towards abused children.

“Regarding Farnell’s final statements at the hearing, the Inquiry said it was shameful that he refused to accept any personal responsibility for the young lives blighted by what happened at Knowl View whilst he was leader. Instead, he blamed senior officials in education and social services council departments.

“The Inquiry also concluded that Paul Rowen, Farnell’s successor, bore considerable responsibility for the school As with Farnell, he was prepared to blame others without acknowledging his own failures of leadership. At best, he was insufficiently inquisitive about Knowl View, despite knowing about serious problems that persisted at the school; at worst, he turned a blind eye to these problems, and chose to give them low priority.

“The inquiry received letters of support for Farnell’s account and concluded they contained no relevance evidentially and were no more than opinion. The Inquiry had no hesitation in preferring the evidence of Mr Joinson over that of Mr Farnell, the former of whom came across as mild-mannered and meek, whereas the latter came across as bullish, self-opinionated and unyielding.”

Mr Farnell, who has been suspended from the Labour Party over the damning findings, said: “Failures by Rochdale Council, the police and other agencies in protecting children from abuse should never have happened”

https://www.rochdaleonline.co.uk/news-features/2/news-headlines/117935/former-leader-of-council-suspended-from-labour-party-over-damning-inquiry-findings.

He added: “The Inquiry covered events going back 60 years. For the period in which I was leader of Rochdale Council from 1986 to 1992, I am deeply sorry and I apologise to all those who suffered as a result of the grave mistakes made and the unacceptable failings of the Council in respect of the children being cared for at Knowl View.

“However, I am shocked at the findings of the Inquiry. I told the truth.

“There is clear evidence that I was not informed about Knowl View during my time as leader:

“The three most senior officers of the council responsible for informing and advising the Leader of the Council – the Chief Executive, the Director of Education and the Director of Social Services – all said in evidence they did not tell me about Knowl View.

“The Inquiry has examined 140,000 pages of documents relating to Knowl View. There is not one single letter, memo, report, council minute or briefing note addressed to me informing me about the events at Knowl View.

“A two-year police investigation found no evidence whatsoever that I was involved in a cover-up of events at Knowl View.

“I now need time to consider the report in full before commenting further.”