Long-serving councillor recognised for years of service to Rossendale Valley

A long-serving Rossendale councillor who lost her borough seat in this year’s local elections has been made an honorary alderman for many years of service.

And the borough’s new mayor, deputy mayor and cabinet have been unveiled. Jackie Oakes, a Labour borough councillor for 14 years, was given the honorary alderman title at rossendale-council>Rossendale Council’s annual meeting.

Over the years, she has been the borough’s deputy council leader and mayor. She has been – and will remain – active in a host of projects including in Bacup, Whitewell Bottom and Stacksteads.

Despite losing her borough council seat, she remains a county councillor. Following a shake-up of borough ward boundaries and a reduction in the number of Rossendale councillors from 36 to 30, Jackie stood for re-election for Labour in the Whitewell and Stacksteads ward. But she was beaten by three Green Party councillors.

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She received the alderman title and gifts at Rossendale Council’s annual meeting on May 17. Labour Coun Alyson Barnes, the leader of Rossendale Council, paid tribute. saying: “Jackie has been and, I’m sure, will remain at the centre of her community. Her dedication to public service has been extraordinary.

“You’d be hard-pressed to find a harder-working councillor anywhere in the country. We’d like to thank Jackie for her tireless efforts and wish her the very best for the future.”

Speaking after, Jackie told the Local Democracy Reporting Service: “ I’ve been really proud to have been a borough councillor for Stacksteads for 14 years and I’m proud to receive this alderman title. Everything I’ve done has been with the community in mind.

“And I’m still involved with various activities, such as work on Bacup Carnival, Stacksteads Countryside Park and Whitewell Bottoms Community Centre.

“I first became a borough councillor through painting railings at Stacksteads Countryside Park. Christine Lamb, a councillor at the time, suggested I get involved with the political side of the community.

“I’d never been involved with politics but she convinced me to stand and I was elected in Stacksteads.”

  • Reflections

Asked about her reflections as a borough councillor, Jackie Oakes said: “The regeneration of the borough has been a focus for the Labour group at Rossendale Council over the years and Alyson Barnes has pushed it too.

“Good work has been done but regeneration projects can take a long time.

“Activity is going on at the Bacup end of the valley and work will be starting in Waterfoot soon with UK Shared Prosperity Fund.

“People sometimes think things will happen as soon as we get notification of the money.

“But it can take time, such as the Bacup market hall plan. People can sometimes be a bit cynical or impatient. But these schemes will happen.”

Jackie will still be involved with some Rossendale projects as a county councillor. Separately, she works part-time at Bacup Post Office and for a small firm in Bacup.

She is also doing some campaign work for Coun Andy MacNae, who will be Labour’s parliamentary candidate for Rossendale & Darwen in the next general election.

Speaking about not being elected at Whitewell and Stacksteads in this month’s borough elections, she said: “The Green Party previously had one councillor there and really targeted the ward.

“The wards were made bigger this year, the Greens were very efficient and they gained another two councillors.

“Overall, I was the only Labour councillor to lose my seat in Rossendale. It’s unfortunate that I fell by the wayside. I’ll miss being a borough councillor but I’m still a county councillor and connected with lots of things.

“But the other Rossendale Council election results were excellent for Labour. There are now 20 Labour councillors for the next four years.”

  • Mayor and Deputy Mayor

The new Mayor and Deputy Mayor of Rossendale were also unveiled. Judith Driver was nominated as mayor and Coun Annie McMahon as deputy.

Coun Driver said: “I am absolutely thrilled to take on the role of mayor and represent the borough that has been my home and workplace for my entire life. Having served as deputy mayor last year, I am even more excited to continue my journey of service.

“I look forward to working alongside our wonderful community and Annie, and represent Rossendale as a beautiful place to live.”

She has been a councillor for 14 years and sits on the licensing committee, governance working group and Bacup Community Partnership.

Coun McMahon added: “I am honoured by my nomination as deputy mayor and eager to begin this new chapter.

“Working alongside Judith, who has shown exceptional dedication to our community, I am confident we will achieve great things for Rossendale and I am looking forward to the year ahead.”

  • New Cabinet

Following the local elections, Labour remains the largest group at Rossendale Council and in political control.

Members of the new cabinet and their remits were announced at the annual meeting.

Alyson Barnes is council leader and lead member for economic development. Michelle Smith is the deputy leader and has a planning, licensing and enforcement remit.

Coun Andrew Walmsley is responsible for resources.

Liz McInnes has the communities, housing and health role. Adrian Lythgoe has the environment and corporate services remit.

Coun Barnes said: “Despite the tough economic circumstances affecting us all, we remain determined to work hard for the people of Rossendale.

“Our priorities remain clear – to ensure the prosperity and well-being of our all residents.”

Michelle Smith has represented Bacup as an Irwell ward councillor for nine years.

She said: “I am honoured to have been appointed as deputy leader and I’d like to echo Alyson in thanking Jackie Oakes for her years of service on the council.

“I am committed to working hard alongside Coun Barnes and the rest of the cabinet to serve our community and address the challenges we face.”