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Tributes paid to former council leader, Richard Farnell

20 August 2021

Portrait of Richard Farnell.

Tributes have been paid to the former Rochdale Borough Council leader Richard Farnell, who has died aged 62.

First elected to the council in 1980, Richard was leader of the council in 2 spells, 1986–1992 and 2014–2017.

Councillor Neil Emmott, leader of the council, said: "This is a very sad day for me personally and professionally. I first met Richard in the 1980s when I was cutting my teeth politically. Over the subsequent 4 decades, I was proud to be a friend and colleague. He was always a source of support, inspiration and advice to me.

"Richard was an innovative thinker, instrumental in driving forward real change. He leaves behind a legacy of improvements that will stand the test of time. He always recognised the need for major regeneration projects, to create jobs and investment, helping the borough to grow in both his spells as leader.

"He also had a keen eye for delivering good quality public services, the bread and butter issues that matter most to our residents. If you look around the borough today and see our high quality parks, clean streets, award winning services, flourishing town centres and major regeneration projects, they all form part of Richard's legacy and vision. My thoughts are with his family and friends at this difficult time."

Tony Lloyd, Member of Parliament for Rochdale, said: "Richard was an unashamed Rochdalian who fought for the people of Rochdale over his years in politics. I've come across many who have been grateful for both the time and the care he put in to fight their corner. At this time of Richard's passing, we remember the real contribution that he wanted to make, and that he did make, for the people of the town, the borough, and beyond."

Councillor Ashley Dearnley, leader of the council's Conservative group, said: "My sympathies are with Richard's family and friends. It's a very untimely death. We worked closely together over 4 decades and I was always struck by his passion for civic pride. He wanted our towns, villages and streets to look good, not just for the people of the borough, but also to showcase our achievements to other local authorities. Richard delivered on his promises, ensuring our streets were cleaned, graffiti removed, parks looked after. It was little wonder we won so many awards and that for me is Richard's lasting legacy."

Councillor Aasim Rashid, Mayor of Rochdale, said: "Richard was always a great friend and comrade, someone I respected greatly and a fantastic community worker who knew how to deliver high quality services for our residents. He will be greatly missed. My thoughts and sympathies are extended to Richard's family and friends at this difficult time."

Former council leader Allen Brett said: "This is extremely sad news and a very emotional and difficult day for me. We went back a long way and worked closely together over many years. Richard was always a visionary leader, radical thinker and a man who led our borough with great energy and drive, ensuring we never stood still. He was always someone with a keen eye for innovative ideas and he is someone who will be greatly missed."

Council chief executive Steve Rumbelow said: "I would like to extend my sympathy to Richard's family and those close to him at this very unexpected and sad news. Richard was the leader when I was appointed and we worked closely to deliver many of the borough's transformational regeneration projects. He was passionate about the borough, about delivering good quality public services for our residents and driving forward vital projects. From day one I was struck about how proud he was of the place he grew up and lived in. He always saw the big picture and had a tenacious ambition to move the borough forward. The Rochdale of today and tomorrow will benefit from his legacy."