Fury as Council refuse to accept pay rise petition

Rochdale Liberal Democrats have spoken of their fury after Rochdale Council refused to accept their petition against the controversial councillor’s pay rise. 1,615 people have so far signed the petition so far but the Council have chosen to accept a petition on their website signed by just 41 residents.

Robert McLean, who left the Conservatives and joined the Liberal Democrats over this and other issues said, “To say that I am furious is an understatement. People are angry that at a time when there are cuts to our most vulnerable – they are thinking about themselves. This is one of the biggest online petitions that Rochdale has ever seen. For the Council to refuse to acknowledge it is disgraceful. They claim to be a listening council – their refusal to listen flies in the face of that. People will be furious and I really don’t blame them.”

A petition was set up on the Council’s website in December. Due to it being over complicated, it has only been supported by 41 residents. It takes 15 steps to sign it and has been labelled a ‘bureaucratic nightmare’ by residents. In contrast, it only takes 30 seconds to sign the Liberal Democrat one signed by 1615 people. Despite the fact that the Council’s website states that, “Petitions must be signed by at least 50 people” – the Council have decided to use their ‘discretion’ and only acknowledge the much smaller petition.

Campaigner Greg Couzens, who has campaigned tirelessly to promote the 38 Degree petition said, “You can just see it now – Richard Farnell will stand up at the Council and state that only a handful of people have signed the ‘official’ petition. To not accept a petition that has proved so popular is arrogant, ignorant and ultimately self defeating. This is yet another example of this Labour Council just railroading decisions aided and abetted by the Conservatives. It seems to me that democracy is dead in this Borough. It is shameful!”

In an email to Lib Dem Leader Councillor Andy Kelly, the Council said, “We have already accepted a Petition which is the same or substantially the same as the 38 Degrees Petition, therefore on this occasion we are unable to accept this one. I have no discretion under the rules to make an exception. However, it is open to you to raise this at a Full Council meeting and invite a change or a review of the current rules.”

Councillor Andy Kelly said, “I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – this Council are not interested in the views of local people. This is confirmation of that. I have made my feelings loud and clear to council officers. It seems they have been been bullied into hiding behind a technicality to avoid facing question. Councillor Irene Davidson and I have received dozens of messages of support since we took a stand against our greedy Labour and Conservative colleagues. Instead of being silenced, we will be stepping up our Campaign and I would encourage residents to keep signing so our voice is deafening. I am determined that people’s voices will be heard. The Council have known about our plans to submit this petition since December. They have deliberately left it late to inform us of their barmy decision.”

Rob McLean finished, “Quite a few Councillors have now replied to emails that I have co-ordinated from residents on this issue. We will be releasing some of the more shocking lies being told by Labour and the Conservatives in clumsy attempts to justify this decision. If the Council think this will shut up the opposition – they’ve got another thing coming. We need to send a clear message to this cosy Labour / Conservative Coalition that they need to listen.”

You can sign the petition here.