Oldham Council belatedly reveal local election candidates

Screenshot 2023-04-04 at 17.09.21

Whenever someone uses the age old phrase ‘Couldn’t run a p*ss-up in a brewery’ the mind, these days, turns almost automatically to Oldham Metropolitan Borough Council‘s senior executive team. Where simple, basic standards of performance, or the requisite ethical and professional standards to guide them, appear almost completely absent.

The latest farrago to draw criticism is the their handling of the forthcoming local elections in the Borough and, specifically, the erratic and unannounced posting of the Notice of Election on 24th March, 2023 and late posting of the much anticipated list of election agents and candidates which was scheduled by the Returning Officer, Harry Catherall, whom is, by default, also the Council’s chief executive, to be released at 4pm today (4th April, 2023).

The 4pm deadline appeared in an Election Timetable published on the Council’s website on 23rd March, 2023. Many candidates, agents, activists (and journalists), not just in Oldham, await the revelations with keen anticipation. Some with their own deadlines to meet or other commitments arranged specifically around prompt delivery of that information.

In any well run organisation, that had any regard for anyone other than preservation of their own highly paid cartel, if there was a unexpected or unavoidable delay then a notice would be posted on the appropriate web pages to inform those waiting, explain briefly why and to give an estimate as to when the subject information would be posted. Or, even a prompt reply to an email sent by a journalist at 4.10pm?

Simple enough? One would think so. But there we are, the Council ‘s self-serving EMT will play their familiar ‘avoid blame’ game, cover for one another and try to deflect responsibility elsewhere. Or, more likely, just ignore any criticism, however well-founded, and hope those frustrated and disappointed at being let down, yet again, just fade away.

But this latest issue won’t go away quite so easily in that there is a suspicion that candidates have been admitted onto the ballot papers after the 4pm deadline, a matter that the Electoral Commission, in the public interest, are being invited to assess. It is utterly pointless for any other person to attempt to complain to OMBC as it would be dealt with by a Monitoring Officer who is, essentially, inefficient and incompetent and one, on past evidence, that struggles with applicable law in his dual role of Borough Solicitor (read more here).

The Notice of Election Agents was eventually published at 5.45pm and can be viewed at this weblink:

This year sees an ‘all-out’ election following recent Boundary Commission changes across the Borough. The last time the entire Borough Council was up for election was in 2004.

Twenty wards will see a poll for three seats in each,: Alexandra (9 candidates), Chadderton Central (12 candidates), Chadderton North (9 candidadtes), Chadderton South (9 candidates), Coldhurst (17 candidates), Crompton (10 candidates), Failsworth East (7 candidates), Failsworth West (9 candidates), Hollinwood (10 candidates), Medlock Vale (10 candidates), Royton North (12 candidates), Royton South (11 candidates), Saddleworth North (11 candidates), Saddleworth South (9 candidates), Saddleworth West and Lees (12 candidates), Shaw (11 candidates), St James’ (10 candidates), St Mary’s (10 candidates), Waterhead (11 candidates), Werneth (9 candidates). Total: 208.

Those topping the poll will serve on the Council for four years before re-election, second in the poll will serve for three years, third in the poll will face re-election next year. 2025 is a fallow year when no election will take place. As is 2029.

175 candidates stood in the 2004 all-outs, an astonishing total of 208 are nominated this year. One ward, Coldhurst has seventeen candidates battling for three seats, including eight independent candidates. The same ward grabs the headlines as it features two candidates with exactly the same name: Abdul Malik. One a Labour Party councillor and the other standing as an independent. Almost as remarkably, a Liberal Democratic candidate named Malik Abdul is standing for election in Werneth.

These are the candidate and political party highlights that jump off the pages of the Notice:

The Labour Party (with a total of 57 candidates) and the Liberal Democrats (with a total of 49 candidates) field at least one candidate in all 20 wards. The Conservative Party (with a total of 50 candidates), whom did not contest three wards in 2022, are missing in only ward this time around (Royton South, where they have deliberately absented themselves to assist the independent candidates in attempting to dislodge three sitting Labour candidates). There are 36 independent candidates, an unprecedented number in living memory (compares with just 6 in 2004 ‘all-out’) some of whom are campaigning under banners such as ‘Coldhurst Independent Party’ and ‘Royton Independents’ which may cause confusion to voters on ballot papers and at the polling stations.

Chadderton South

Cllr Robert Barnes was de-selected in Chadderton South after proving, in a one year tenure, to be one of the worst councillors to sit in Oldham civic chamber in living memory (read more here). He is believed to be still on police bail following an arrest last year and over an offence of which details cannot be revealed for legal reasons. There are ten candidates, in total, nominated, including a close friend of Cllr Barnes, ex-UKIPer, Warren Bates, an independent who switches to the Chadderton South ward after decades contesting his ‘home’ wards in Failsworth East and West, under a variety of party flags (read more here). The three Tory candidates who oppose him are likely to face some seriously awkward questions on the doorsteps in the ward. Two sitting Labour councillors, Chris Goodwin and Graham Shuttleworth are on the ballot paper this time around with Arooj Shah, now contesting her home ward of St Mary’s, replaced by Holly Harrison.


Montaz Ali Azad seeks re-election in his Coldhurst seat, aided by two other candidates under a new banner, the Coldhurst Independent Party. Two of his recent recent campaigns, standing as an independent since his ejection from Labour Party in 2018, have ended in controversy (read more here). He and current Deputy Leader of Oldham Council, Cllr Abdul Jabbar, face a very stern challenge from fifteen other candidates. Of all the wards, riven with South Asian politics and machinations, this is the one most likely to produce the highest turnout, the highest postal vote and a shock outcome.


Michele Stockton, mother of sitting Conservative Party councillor, Lewis Quigg, made a late switch from the Royton South slate to Crompton. But is unlikely to dislodge any of the three sitting LibDem councillors in that ward. Cllr Quigg, whom, for the moment at least, represents Royton North, is another Tory with a highly forgettable first year as an elected Member of Oldham Council to put behind him. His mum cannot have been happy at her son’s calamitous intervention in the debate over the £1 million investment in Boundary Park, home of Oldham Athletic FC (read more here) which may result in voters giving more than one Tory a red card in the local elections.

Failsworth East and West

The Failsworth Independent Party (FIP) has been ripped in two by a dramatic split which has seen Council Group Leader, Cllr Brian Hobin, take over as Chair and the ejection from the Party of former Chair, Kathleen Wilkinson, her husband Cllr Mark Wilkinson, and Cllr Sandra Ball. The latter two stand as, simply, independents. They are joined by a third candidate in Failsworth West, Alan Brady, where Cllr Hobin’s FIP will field one candidate against them, Jane Cashinella-Vaughan.

The Wilkinsons are not opposing Cllr Hobin and Cllrs Neil Hindle and Lucia Rea in Failsworth East. In the midst of that maelstrom, Pete Davis will seek to win back his seat in West for Labour. After losing last year, he has served the Borough in 2022/23 as one of the two Mayor’s Consorts (the other, long-serving Cllr Graham Shuttleworth, will be standing for re-election in Chadderton South). The Mayor, Cllr Elaine Garry, is retiring from her Failsworth West seat.


Following the sad passing of Jean Stretton last September, a by-election was held two months later. It produced a warning shot for Labour as, in a previously safe seat, Cllr Hannah Roberts, deposed in Royton North in May, 2022, scraped home by 79 votes (read more here). This is a target ward for the Conservatives and and even bigger shock may be on the cards this time around. There are high Tory hopes that Kamran Ghafoor, who stood in the last ‘all-out’ election as a Labour candidate will take one of the seats from Labour, who field two other sitting councillors, Cllrs Steve Williams and Kyle Phythian.

Medlock Vale

The Conservative Party has dropped the controversial Khazir Rehman (better known locally as Kaiser) after a humiliating defeat in the ward last year. His mind may also be focused on on other issues at present (read more here). Last year, there was a shock resignation in Medlock Vale just before the election. Sahr Abid resigned her seat resigned her seat as a Conservative Party councillor (read more here). In a remarkable turnaround, her uncle, Cllr Sajed Hussain (Labour) took her place in the civic centre after topping a two-seat poll.

Royton South

A new party, Royton Independents, will field three candidates in Royton South. All fresh to local politics but immediately adopting the controversial ‘cover-up of child abuse’ as one of their campaign strands. A request to their highest profile candidate, Darren Radcliffe, to provide evidence was blanked. As was a request to provide details of their press contact. The indies will face three sitting Labour councillors, including Council Leader, Cllr Amanda Chadderton. A smear campaign, both on-line and with a leaflet drop, has targeted the Leader over the past year in the same way that saw the two previous Leaders deposed in the past two elections (read more here). That is expected to continue right up to polling day. Another independent and ex-UKIPer, Anthony Prince, is also standing in the same ward, as he did last year. There are eleven candidates in total.

Saddleworth South

Helen Bishop, a Parish councillor who has stood as an independent for the past several years in Saddleworth South, will this year campaign under the Liberal Democrat flag. In an election year where there are likely to be a number of surprise results, she may provide one of them by denting the Tory stronghold. Cllr Max Woodvine looking vulnerable after another year of foot in mouth moments (read more here).

St James’

The three Conservative candidates include one who has been hidden from public view since this article was written (read more here). Jeremy Craig-Weston faces some serious questions now he is officially nominated and a chance to put the record straight. This ward is another ripe for surprises at the counting table on 5th May. Sitting councillor, Bethany Sharp, is joined by her younger brother, Jacob Sharp, on the Tory slate. They will, doubtless, hope that the political nous, and appetite for assiduous research, that constantly eludes his sister will show out more in her younger brother.

St Mary’s

Last year saw Arooj Shah heavily and grotesquely targeted in a ‘dehumanising, racist, misogynistic’ campaign that deposed her by just 92 votes in her previously safe Labour seat in Chadderton South (read more here). A resident of Glodwick all her life, she seeks re-election this year in her home ward of St Mary’s. Cllr Aftab Hussain, having previously been both a Liberal Democrat and Labour activist, will stand again as an independent in St Mary’s, alongside Aisha Kouser. Their campaign has already proved highly controversial (read more here). Cllr Hussain just missed out in the 2004 all-out election when standing as a Liberal Democrat in the Alexandra ward. They face seven other candidates and turnout in this ward is traditionally high.

Sitting councillors who featured successfully in the last ‘all-out’ election in 2004 are Cllrs Abdul Jabbar (Labour – Coldhurst), Peter Dean (Labour – Failsworth West), Steve Williams (Labour – Hollinwood), Steve Bashforth (Labour – Royton South), Howard Sykes (Liberal Democrat – Shaw), Fida Hussain (Labour – Werneth) and the legendary Cllr Riaz Ahmad (Labour – St Mary’s), who is retiring after over 30 years of public service (read more here).

Doorstep feedback, so far, strongly suggests that the cost of living crisis, and particularly energy bills, is the hot topic, rather than any particular local issue. Although, the closure of The Coliseum theatre (read more here) and a very recent £1 million investment in the town’s two iconic professional sports clubs, Oldham Athletic (The Latics) and Oldham RLFC (The Roughyeds) are bound to be raised by voters (read more here).

Identity cards for voters is expected to be an issue in getting the electorate to the polling booths, as this is the first election in Oldham history where such verification has been required by statute.

The last persons to be convicted of election fraud in the Borough were the aforementioned Cllr Montaz Ali Azad and Nashir Uddin, brother of Mohib Uddin, a former Liberal Democrat councillor. The Uddin name is on the Coldhurst slate this year seven times as either candidate (two) or proposer or seconder (five). Mohib, a prominent member of a group of axe-grinders and political malcontents known as The Rabble (or Raja’s Rabble) and a very close friend of their cult leader, unemployed, Tameside based conspiracy theorist, Raja Miah, is the proposer of one of the LibDem candidates Hamza Uddin. Mo, Montaz Ali, Miah and the de facto Rabble Leader, Gary Tarbuck, standing in Saddleworth South as a makeweight, are also very closely linked.

There are also elections taking place on 4th May for Saddleworth Parish and Shaw and Crompton Parish.

The election count will take place at the Civic Centre in Oldham on Friday, 5th May, 2023. The results, announced on stage in the Queen Elizabeth Hall by Returning Officer, Harry Catherall, are expected to be screened live on the Council’s YouTube channel.

This is a developing story and notice of updates will be posted on Twitter and Facebook.

Page last updated: Wednesday 5th April, 2023 at 1615 hours

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Picture credit: Oldham Council

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© Neil Wilby 2015-2022. Unauthorised use, or reproduction, of the material contained in this article, without permission from the author, is strictly prohibited. Extracts from, and links to, the article (or blog) may be used, provided that credit is given to Neil Wilby Media, with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Published by Neil Wilby

Former Johnston Press area managing director. Justice campaigner. Freelance investigative journalist.

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