The people behind Manchester’s troubled Co-op Live arena could learn something from Whitworth’s swimming pool, a local councillor has claimed.

The new £365m venue, sited in the city’s Etihad Campus, has been plagued by delays and cancelled gigs since its planned opening date of April 23. A show by Peter Kay was due to open the arena, but this has been delayed several times due to ‘technical issues’ and ongoing building work.

Michael Royds, a Community First councillor elected to Rossendale Council, has compared the Manchester venue’s problems with Whitworth Leisure Centre’s phased reopening since being transferred to the community. Speaking at Rossendale Council’s election count, he said: “I think the way Whitworth pool’s reopening is being handled is correct. They’re not opening it too early. I think the Co-op Live arena people in Manchester could learn from Whitworth.”

And Janet Whitehead, a former independent Rossendale councillor who missed-out on being re-elected this time, said community work around saving Whitworth Leisure Centre was key in the local elections.

Also speaking before the results were know, she said:  “Whitworth Leisure Centre with its swimming pool was a massive issue for the community. I think work to save it has reinforced Whitworth’s community spirit. It was good that we sealed a deal with Rossendale Council last year for its transfer to Whitworth, through a community interest company and Whitworth Town Council.

“We’ve now got a load of volunteers with things including cleaning and reception roles. There is yoga, pilates and a running club. We’re making improvements and rebuilding membership. When the pool reopens again later this year it will be a massive moment. Hopefully the summer.”

She added: “I first fought for Whitworth Leisure Centre 25 years ago, when ownership changes happened with CLAW [the Community Leisure Association of Whitworth]. I never thought we’d be fighting for it again. But we did and we’ve secured it again. Two or three generations have been involved with Whitworth Leisure Centre. It’s a massive part of local life.

“The swimming pool is a really important asset. Two hundred kids use it for lessons. ”

Other election topics included the impact of Rossendale Council ward boundary changes on towns, villages and political parties; the reduced number of borough councillors and the recent decision to hold borough elections just once every four years.

Janet Whitehead added: “Whitworth has dropped from having four to three Rossendale councillors. In the campaign, people talked about council ward boundary review [recommended by a national body]. They were concerned that Shawforth was going to be taken out of the Whitworth ward. In the end, it remained.”

Community First Coun Alan Neal was re-elected for Whitworth, along with Michael Royds, and Conservative Scott Smith.

Coun Neal, also speaking before results were known, said: “This is my 25th election. I’ve had 11 for Rossendale Council, 10 for Whitworth Town Council,  three for the county and on European election. Michael Royds has stood for Community First too. He’s a really hard-working guy and he’ll be great.”

Dayne Powell was previously a Community First councillor for Whitworth but did not stand this time.

Coun Neal said he had some concerns around postal votes, saying there is no letter box at Pendle Council’s offices in Bacup for postal votes.  He had also heard reports about Post Office delays possibly impacting on postal votes.


Elsewhere, Samantha Harrison was elected for Labour at Longholme. Speaking before as vote counting took place, she said: “I’m feeling excited and a bit nervous. But pretty confident too.

“I got involved with politics through the USDAW shop workers’ trade union. I was a union representative for over ten years and I’m still quite active. I was recently at an USDAW conference which Labour leader Keir Starmer was at too.

“I spoke about lowering the voting age to 16. I strongly believe we need young people in politics and trade unions for the future. Also people’s rights are being watered-down. We need out rights as citizens more than  ever.

“But I don’t come from a political family. Without the trade union, I would not be standing here today. It has given me training, education and confidence.”


Rossendale Council’s chief executive Rob Huntington welcomed the four-year cycle and the ‘buzz ‘of election counts. Supporters of four-year elections. agreed by the majority of Rossendale councillors recently, say it will bring long-term certainty for planning, end disruption with annual elections and  save money.

Mr Huntington said: “It’s a big change with all-out elections and a reduction in councillors. But it’s a real opportunity. I’ve worked at other councils with all-out elections such as St Helens, where we moved to four-year terms.”

Looking at the candidates and vote counting, he added: “This is the heart of what we do.  If it wasn’t down to local democracy and officers, what would the role of local government be? Today is about councillors, a leader and a cabinet. There’s a nice buzz.

“Local elections give a flavour of what might happen at a UK general election. But there are lots of factors. This time, Rossendale voters were asked to vote for three councillors rather than just one. So that might have impacted on what they put on their ballot papers?”