"What has our town centre and Rochdale Lib Dems got in common?"
"Neither have Principles"
Who says Rochdale doesn't have a sense of humour? Or irony? "Rochdale is booming" say the faded signs next the rubbled bombsites on Drake Street. Our once proud main street is strewn with cans, kebab wrappers and tumbleweed.
Even the Rochdale Obscurer is closing its office and moving to Manchester.
Will the last one to leave Rochdale please turn the light out.
Some say the rot set in when Cyril Smith was keen to demolish our proud Lancashire town's centre to make for the Brave New World of the 1970's. Quite a few civil engineering companies did very well out of building concrete flats, offices and a souless shopping centre. Even Cyril happened to get at least one cash payout - for being unfortunate enough to have the foresight (or tip off?) buy a shop in a clearance area.
As empty shops and empty offices in our town centre are reaching record level, those geniuses at Rochdale Council and the Rochdale Development Agency have a plan. A £250 million "Town Centre Regeneration" of... more shops. Also included in the scheme (written on the back of a brown envelope?) is a £70 million PFI office block, partially paid for by demolishing old council offices and other fire sales of civic silver.
Private Eye has reported that the bus station will be moved 12 metres to create a £12 million "Transport Interchange" for a metrolink that isn't coming to Rochdale Town Centre.
The public 'consultation' for this quarter of a billion pound scheme was so good, it now has to be run again.
There have been a flurry of defensive press releases from RMBC, RDA and "Impact Partnership" about all the "good news" happening in Rochdale.
However, locals are having none of it. There's a saying in Rochdale: if it looks like shite, smells like shite then chances are -its shite.
But will the people of Rochdale ever find out the full truth about what is going on?
Apparently there is a secret report that confirms that the wheels are falling off Rochdale's regerenation projects. There is talk of cash injections needed to keep these failing projects going. There is also talk of large amounts of cash already paid out for the purchase of town centre properties within the regeneration area. The area that hasn't been properly consulted on.
Shades of Cyril's past shenanighans? Secret deals with businessmen with ransom strips? Profitable property speculation? Secret party political donations greasing the wheels of Rochdale development before they spectacularly fall off?
Word on the street is that Chief Executive Roger Ellis had "gone ballistic" about criticism of the town centre redevelopment. The secret report papers are to be kept secret- by hook or by crook. Anyone leaking infomation will be 'dealt with' most severely. The Chief Executive is most insistent. But morale is rock bottom with RMBC and Impact Partnership staff that have just had their wages decimated by a pay and grade review.
So there we have it. Rochdale- a town that has been 'Rogered'.
Secret council reports. Secret property deals for a town centre development...with no Prinicples.