England’s rotten boroughs

Senior Rochdale councillor Farooq Ahmed deciding £52m cuts for local residents, with the help of a "menthol" cigarette...

Senior Rochdale councillor Farooq Ahmed deciding £52m cuts for local residents, with the help of a "menthol" cigarette...

Councils across England are struggling with the consequences of the financial crisis, deciding how and where to implement cutbacks that can devastate the lives of some of the poorest English families, including the elderly and disabled.

In the Lancashire town of Rochdale – scene of recent racial disturbances – the senior councillor in charge of such decisions, designated “cabinet member for finance” dealing with £52 million of cuts this month, is Cllr Farooq Ahmed.

Cllr Ahmed was suspended from this position – and from the Labour Party – in January, after a video was leaked by factional rivals, showing him apparently smoking cannabis at Manchester Airport.


Simon Danczuk MP, said to be behind the "smear campaign" against Labour colleague Farooq Ahmed, seen here in Bangladesh meeting the former Bangladeshi Prime Minister

He claimed that he was being smeared by Labour colleagues, including Rochdale’s MP Simon Danczuk.  This reflects long-running ethnic and personal rivalries within Rochdale Labour Party.  Before Mr Danczuk’s election to Parliament in 2010 there were allegations that he had employed dirty tricks to win the Labour nomination ahead of local Muslim and Manchester councillor Afzal Khan.  Mr Danczuk claimed he had received death threats.

Long-suffering Rochdale residents will no doubt be relieved to hear that Cllr Ahmed was cleared by an internal Labour Party inquiry, which chose to believe his account that he had actually been smoking an entirely legal menthol cigarette.

Perhaps herbal cigarettes all round will help Labour politicians in Rochdale concentrate on providing services to residents!

Meanwhile in the neighbouring town of Bury, the former Conservative council leader and his gay partner (a fellow Tory councillor) have been arrested as part of a long running corruption inquiry.

Cllr Bob Bibby and Cllr Jim Taylor were arrested in a dawn raid by Greater Manchester Police on their home in Bacup.  They have been bailed until April, but have both stood down temporarily from the Conservative Party to spare their colleagues further embarrassment during the forthcoming election campaign.


Former Bury council leader Bob Bibby and fellow councillor Jim Taylor were arrested this month as part of a long-running corruption investigation by Greater Manchester Police.

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