Among the most notable changes in Greater Manchester in last week’s local elections was the almost total rejection of traditional parties in the town of Radcliffe.
In a general election for the city’s three wards, the hyperlocal Radcliffe First party won eight of the nine seats it fought for.
This increased their presence in Bury town hall from three to eight councillors, four behind the official Conservative opposition which has 12 seats.
Labour, who hold a strong majority on the council with 29 of the 51 members, lost all representation in Radcliffe, losing three seats to Radcliffe First, despite gains elsewhere in the borough.
The Tories also suffered losses at Radcliffe First, with the defeat of two Tory councilors at Radcliffe North and Ainsworth, including the group’s deputy leader Paul Cropper.
Looking at the reasons for this, the one message that keeps being repeated is that of a “city left behind” after decades of loss of vital services and a lack of domestic investment and development.
Radcliffe First adviser Mike Smith said the party’s overwhelming success was ‘far beyond all (their) expectations’ but was the result of ‘the reckless way Labor and the Tories looked at Radcliffe’ .
He said: “The feedback on the doorstep was positive across the board, but winning eight of nine was beyond all of our expectations.
“We expected to consolidate our position, but not on the scale we saw.”
As to the reasons given by voters for abandoning the main parties, he said: “Radcliffe lost its secondary schools, its civic centre, its recreation center and nearly lost its library.
“His town hall was sold for a pound and the high street was left to stagnate and deteriorate due to a chronic lack of investment.
“The investment that has been made includes street lamp banners, rusting planters and benches that are falling apart.
“The token investments made without any ongoing maintenance plans are symptomatic of how carelessly both groups have looked at Radcliffe.”
As for his party’s approach, he said: “People appreciated the time we took to talk to them.
“Most are politically aware and knew this should be fought on local issues and not national issues that Labor fought over.
“The roads, the potholes, the fly dumps and the regeneration of the town and the new school were the issues.
“The green belt was also key, many people used the area to exercise during lockdown and rekindled their love of the spaces.
‘The idea of building everywhere led to a sense of betrayal on the part of the Labor-led council over the mass urbanization plans.’
Cllr Smith said the party’s priorities would be to “consult, consult, consult”.
“Let’s make sure people have a say in regeneration plans,” he added.
“Let’s use the amazing community groups we have, Little Britain Anglers, Radcliffe Litter Pickers, Growing Together, Rotary.
“These groups listen to the field and know what is needed at the grassroots level.
“Spending budget money to fix roads and potholes.
“A secondary school that provides an exceptional education for our young people and a regeneration plan that works for the whole city.
Voters who backed Radcliffe First at the polls last week echoed many of those views.
Chris Mortimer, 53, from the Ainsworth Road area, is a once traditional Labor voter.
He said: “A lot of people feel like Radcliffe gets next to nothing compared to other areas here.
I wanted a more local voice on the board and I’m glad they were elected.
Jenny Newell, 33, of Coronation Road, said: ‘People are being fed the same old parties who promise a lot and deliver Radcliffe nothing.
Speaking shortly after the election results, Labor council leader Eamonn O’Brien said: ”In Radcliffe, where we lost seats, I think many voters have obviously lost faith in the traditional parties .
“We must redouble our commitment to the city and accelerate the regeneration of the city.”
He highlighted the success of the £20m leveling fund bid that the council was behind at the end of last year, which will be spent on the regeneration of the town.
What the proposed Radcliffe Hub will look like
In a post on social media the day after the election, Radcliffe Labor said: “We know we have a long way to go, we know that whatever the outcome of the election, we still have a lot of work to do to recover Labor supporters.
“The council is investing in the future of this city, and it’s a labor council that’s making that investment.
“It’s a labor council that helps kids eat decent meals at school, helps parents buy school uniforms for their kids, provides a brand new civic center and helps bring about positive change and confidence. in this community. ”
New Tory leader Cllr Russell Bernstein admitted his role had “failed to get our message across” to Radcliffe.
He said: “We believe we should have challenged and considered the impact of Radcliffe’s protest vote much more effectively and much earlier.
“It was too easy to allow Radcliffe First to be seen as a protest vote and therefore somehow not as political as the mainstream parties.
“As such, they have so far not been subjected to the same challenges as those thrown at all our other political adversaries.
“We have also failed to deliver our message about the financial investment that Radcliffe has received directly from this Conservative government in relation to the huge leveling funding and the new school that will be opened in the town in 2024.
“As a result, the city has lost an excellent councilor in the person of Paul Cropper.
“The Conservatives’ fight back will now begin, allowing us to challenge Radcliffe First much more effectively on what they are actually offering the people of Radcliffe.”