Death threats and police escorts – an ousted ex-leader has revealed what it’s really like heading up Oldham council.

The election curse afflicting the borough’s leaders struck again last week, with Amanda Chadderton becoming the third Labour boss in three years to be unseated.

She came fourth in Royton South in the local elections, 21 votes short of third place which would have secured her one of the three seats for the ward in the chamber.

Ms Chadderton polled 923 votes, compared to first place winner and political newcomer, independent Maggie Hurley with 1,039.

The former councillor, who was first elected in 2011 aged 25, took up the role of leader in May last year, after previous incumbent Arooj Shah also lost her seat. Ms Shah had taken over from Sean Fielding, who was defeated in the 2021 local elections.

The borough’s first openly gay leader, Ms Chadderton said the discourse in Oldham – especially on social media – had become ‘toxic’, especially during the election campaign.

Ms Chadderton said: “It was always going to be difficult, and I knew that. We are an outlier that we’ve lost three leaders in three years, and there’s absolutely no denying that.

“I’m very personally resilient and I try not to get sucked into it, but the reality is, I have death threats, my house is double alarmed, I carry a police alarm. The police have had to follow me home so no one else follows me home.”

It was the first election to take place following the assurance review into child sexual exploitation (CSE) in the borough which was published last summer.

The review was damning of failures by both police and council to protect vulnerable young people from abuse in the years 2011 to 2014, and in a specific case dating back to 2005.

However, the review team found no evidence of a widespread cover-up of sexual exploitation in the borough.

Campaigning in key wards this year – including Royton South – focused on the issue of grooming and sexual exploitation of children.

Ms Chadderton said: “Over the course of this election, there was just leaflet after leaflet put out calling me a groomer, calling me a paedo protector and they have absolutely nothing policy-wise to say, and the only thing they talk about is CSE and that I’m hiding grooming gangs.

“It’s a conspiracy theory. We had a report that said in black and white there was no cover-up.

“But the problem is in Oldham it’s become so toxic over the past few years and that is the reason that I’m the third leader that has lost, and why we do lose seats.

“Of course it’s difficult to counteract because some of it is a conspiracy theory, then they play on dog-whistle politics, some of it is overtly racist and I’ve seen that in previous years. It’s a kind of politics that appeals to the lowest common denominator.”

On whether she would consider standing again, following the example of previous leader Arooj Shah who was elected as councillor in St Mary’s ward this time round, Ms Chadderton is undecided.

“For now, I’ll probably get my life back. I’ll be happy not to be harassed on the internet non-stop,” she said.

“I’ll be happy to be able to go to the pub and not to scan the pub thinking ‘is there someone in here who doesn’t like me’, or is something going to happen.

“I’ll get time back with my daughter. And I’ll see in 12 months time. It’s hard work, and it’s hard work in Oldham.

“I’ve absolutely loved being a councillor in Royton and being leader was my dream job.

"But being a councillor in Oldham and putting yourself up to that level of scrutiny comes at quite a large personal cost.

“But if I look back I don’t regret standing for leader. Politics is a popularity contest and it’s a rush when you win and it’s a lot less of a rush when you don’t win. But that’s the nature of the game.”

In terms of who takes over at the helm of the Labour group now, Ms Chadderton said there is question of ‘what does Oldham Labour group stand for, and how do we move away from the shadow of the past’.

“Because the group and the council have to move forward,” she added. “We cannot look backwards for the answer to that.”

The election on May 4 was the first all-out contest in the borough for nearly two decades where all 60 seats went to the ballot box.

In total Labour managed to secure 32 seats, but their majority has been slashed from five to just two, meaning the borough teeters on the verge of no overall control.

The make-up of the town hall is now 32 Labour members, 11 Conservatives, ten Liberal Democrats, three Failsworth Independent Party members and four independents.