Rochdale Council is planning to increase Council Tax in 2013-14 by 3.5 per cent. It is refusing to let residents decide in a local referendum if they approve or disapprove of this rise. As I wrote last week, Rochdale is not the only Greater Manchester authority to act in this way and we are holding a protest in Manchester City Centre on 16 February to oppose these rises.
It was revealed earlier this month that Rochdale Council has paid the Town Centre Management Company over £700,000 on the past three years. Tens of thousands of this money has been paid to so-called celebrities for their services. One example is a payment made to celebrity chef, Levi Roots. He managed to turn up late, give a short speech, and was paid £7,000 plus expenses for his trouble. With all this cash being spent, you would think there would be some noticeable improvements in the town centre. Not so. Here is what one local trader thinks:
Can anyone say that Rochdale town centre is any better for this huge amount of money being spent? In fact, it is worse now than it has ever been. The events bring at best a very short-lived increase in footfall to a minority of businesses, and we are 'sold' the events on this basis, however, lots of businesses find takings drop and some of the events actually bring direct competitors to take away revenue, such as the Christmas market.
The payments to celebrities are scandalous. It is an ego boost for Town Centre Management and certain members of the Council and is indefensible given they are cutting essential services and raising council tax by so much.
This is the only recent example of waste either. New council offices have been built at a cost of £50 million. Even though the building hasn't been officially opened, the lights are switched on every night, increasing the council's electricity bill. And talking of lights, one of the new light fittings in the main entrance to the building cost over £16,000. As you will see in this picture, it consists of five tubes - £3,250 a tube! Hardly essential spending.
Please make a special effort to join us if you can at our protest on Saturday 16 February. If you are on Facebook, you can register to attend by clicking on this link. If you use Twitter, send me a tweet. If you prefer, you can contact me by e-mail.
What: Greater Manchester Council Tax Protest
When: 12.00 noon, Saturday 16th February
Where: Albert Square, Manchester (Outside Manchester Town Hall)