Up until 2017, the six towns of Bury held regular public meetings called Township Forums. Today the Bury Independents party has committed to work to bring back Township Forums to the borough. The Unsworth & Whitefield Township Forum in particular was always well attended, with the meeting in January 2017 being attended by 42 residents, even though it was held in the middle of the day on a weekday.

Township forums were set up specifically so that local people could have a say on how their areas were run, and they were very successful in promoting the social, economic and environment well-being of each of the six towns. The forums were generally chaired by one of the ward councillors with the regular attendance from Unsworth & Whitefield elected ward councillors, plus an advisory group of local representatives from the business community, voluntary organisations, residents associations and community groups. Often Police and Community Together (PACT) meetings were combined with Township Forums but there was generally a strong and welcome Police attendance at the meetings.

One of the regular duties of the Township forum was to decide which local community groups should be awarded a share of the £56,000 that was available across the borough’s six towns. Community groups would come to the Township Forum and make their case for funding grants and this was an open and transparent process that worked well.

In 2015 Bury’s Labour-controlled council reduced the frequency of Township Forums to just four meeting a year and by the end of 2017 Bury Labour had completely abolished the Township Forums, with a promise to replace them with ‘virtual meetings’ that ultimately never appeared. This had the knock-on effect that decisions regarding funding for voluntary organisations and community groups was moved ‘behind closed doors’ and no longer transparent. It also had the consequence in a drop in funding applications, since the public forum that once existed was no longer available as a platform to showcase those group’s work in their neighbourhoods.

A promise of a new ‘digital engagement platform’ by the Labour-led council also never appeared following the demise of Township Forums.

Leader of Bury Independents and Unsworth local election candidate Steve Middleton said “Labour Councillors in control at the time stated that Township Forums were not very well attended, but this was simply not true in Unsworth and Whitefield. Suggesting that local people preferred making their views known online while simultaneously closing both Unsworth and Whitefield’s libraries, where internet access was available, demonstrated that Bury Labour have no interest in listening to the views of local residents.”

Steve added ‘At the moment it is quite difficult for local residents to have their views heard in public due to the lack of public meetings and, given the fact that Township Forums didn’t really cost the Council much, I think they should very much return. If elected to represent Unsworth on Thursday 2nd May, I’ll be bringing forward a motion to Council to re-instate Township Forums”


Bury Independents formed as a political party with the electoral commission on 13th December 2023.


Steve Middleton, Leader, steve.middleton@steve-middleton
Judi Sheppard, Deputy Leader, [email protected]