'The town has a bad name now... I want someone that cares'

Rochdale town centre
Rochdale town centre -Credit:Sean Hansford | Manchester Evening News

People in Rochdale have made their voices loud and clear ahead of the local elections next month - saying they want politicians they can trust who get the basics right.

A whirlwind by-election in February, labelled 'a circus' by many, saw George Galloway announced as the new MP for Rochdale.

Although a win for the Workers Party leader was seen as a longshot by many at the beginning of the campaign, it ended up being inevitable after Labour’s candidate Azhar Ali and favourite had his endorsement removed by the party after he made 'deeply offensive' comments about Israel.

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The debate around the Gaza conflict as well as barbs between political parties has taken its toll on voters - who said the good name of Rochdale was dragged through the mud.

Retired Denise Brennan told the Local Democracy Reporting Service: "I'm not impressed by people like George Galloway not from Rochdale coming in and stirring things up. There is a bad feeling around politics now.

Sandra Mottershade and Denise Brennan after their tour of the newly refurbished Rochdale Town Hall
Sandra Mottershade and Denise Brennan after their tour of the newly refurbished Rochdale Town Hall -Credit:LDRS

"Rochdale has a really bad name now. You used to have a councillor that could come in and get things sorted.

"Now you have to fight for everything, carers, support everything. I always have to ring around.

"I want someone that cares, we want someone that can make things easier for us."

Denise and her friend Sandra Mottershade had been for a tour around the newly refurbished Rochdale Town Hall and got caught up in a debate around politics. Both said they were unimpressed.

"Before you voted for the councillor you knew and he knew you and what needed doing," Sandra said. "Nothing gets done now, the councillors used to be middle men for us, but that has changed.

"We have a craft group every week, but two of us can't get there because of transport infrastructure. Rochdale is spread out, so transport is a big issue.

"I want someone that cares. The last time we had an election, we never had one candidate that came round to knock on the door or a leaflet through the door in Smallbridge."

Tram stop in Rochdale town centre
Tram stop in Rochdale town centre -Credit:LDRS

A lot of people who spoke to the LDRS, such as Dale Lloyd and Dannii Bagshaw ,said they never vote because they have been put off - or don’t see the point, believing nothing will change.

Others, such as Hassan Ajmi, believe the local elections are not as important as the general election.

Hassan said he feels his vote in the locals is pointless because Labour have such a dominance over the chamber he knows they will get in no matter what.

One young couple believes councillors can have an impact if they focus their efforts. Housing, homelessness and children's services - in particular SEND services - are a key issue, according to Danny Okeeffe and Kirsty Reynolds.

Danny Okeeffe and Kirsty Reynolds
Danny Okeeffe and Kirsty Reynolds -Credit:LDRS

Out for a stroll with their little boy, they told the LDRS voting is tough 'because they don't offer what locals need'.

Danny said the by-election has turned people off politics. Kirsty added: "I don't think [Galloway] cares about the borough.

"I don't remember him talking about the local issues, just Gaza. More stuff for children and the youth, Surestart has little funding, housing is a problem, even with benefits people are struggling because of prices of food and bills."

Danny added: "If we went into the benefit scheme, we wouldn't survive. We're grateful to have what we have, as there are always people worse off than you.

"I was homeless for two years. Having somewhere with a roof over your head and food in your belly is a luxury."

Baille Street, Rochdale
Baille Street, Rochdale -Credit:LDRS

A couple sat in the new high street of Rochdale town centre, outside M&S, were positive about what the council has done, and made it clear where their votes were going. Alan Martin and his wife Patricia live in Milnrow and considered themselves to be more pragmatic about their expectations of the council.

The pair agreed the town hall gets the basics right. Alan said: "In the past, quite a lot needed to be done, potholes in the road etc, they seem to be going the right way. Local politicians just need to stick to local issues.

"We've had regular contact with councillors, if there is anything going on they come to the house. Everything has been pretty good.

"We know things need doing, but you’ve got to be practical as they have no money."

Patricia and Alan Martin
Patricia and Alan Martin -Credit:LDRS

Patricia added: "We'd like to see some more road humps and better road safety. I think they've done well, Labour. This town is very clean. Other places are full of rubbish.

"On local issues, they've done really well. You can see where your council tax goes."

Over in Middleton town centre, the question on many people's lips is what the council is going to do about community safety and when investment will reach towns outside the civic centre. Several residents bemoaned the number of anti-social behaviour incidents.

Middleton town centre
Middleton town centre -Credit:LDRS

Many called for increased police patrols. A couple, originally from Moston, moved to Middleton some years ago. They said there is good and bad in the area, and focus needs to go on sorting out the bad.

Richard Turkington, out with his wife Margaret, said: "Reading between the lines, there is a bit of friction in the area, politically.

"We always vote. The youth are rolling around in the area on bikes and antisocial behaviour is a problem. Need a bigger police presence.

"I think councillors also need to be more engaged and open about what needs to be done. There is more focus on Rochdale and not elsewhere in other towns.

"Some people are really cheesed off because the current area forums are not open to questions. The open forums are not working like they are supposed to, the questions you submit don’t get the answers."

Richard and Margaret Turkington, out in Middleton
Richard and Margaret Turkington, out in Middleton -Credit:LDRS

Market worker Carl Connachan said he doesn't vote anymore, citing false promises over Brexit as a tipping point.

Dave Walker, sat on a bench in Middleton shopping centre, said: "Labour out - they have done nothing for Middleton. Independents should be brought in.

"We need more police on the street as young kids don't respect older people. No one goes into Middleton now, there's security on the door at McDonald's.

Middleton centre
Middleton centre -Credit:LDRS

"With Labour. it's all ifs and buts all the time. My dad is 100, he looks out the window and says it's not Middleton anymore. It's changed beyond recognition."

Glynice Oldham is an avid Labour supporter, saying they have done a good job for the area, crediting Coun Dylan Williams with work well done.

She said: "I know who I'm going to vote for. We have a young lad where we come from who has got so much done, Dylan cannot have done more.

"I'm not normally a Labour voter, but I've seen him get things done. Middleton is not too interesting, not a lot of investment. That Warwick Mill is an eyesore.

Warwick Mill in Middleton
Warwick Mill in Middleton -Credit:Middleton Guardian

"We want some pizazz and something to put us on the map. I always vote and make a point of it. It all matters, no good moaning about things if you don’t vote.

"I think George Galloway is a chancer who likes stirring things. I think it’s good to put the council on notice but not be as divisive as him."

Voters will go to polls on May 2 to make their final decision on who their next councillor will be for the next four years as well as their next Greater Manchester mayor.