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Andrew has blogged about being a councillor since he was first elected. Below are the older entries.
Click on the link above for the newer blogs.
This blog is an insight into the work of a Councillor. Deliberately, it does not refer to the assistance provided to constituents nor does it raise major issues on which Andrew may have to vote - as giving publicity to his views could preclude him from voting under the Councillors' Code of Conduct.
The views expressed are Andrew's personal views.
14 February 2011 - Winter gritting
I spoke with the Head of Manor House school today and hopefully, between us, we'll get more of Langdale Way gritted when it is icy or snowy. Subject to finalising the arrangements - which lies in the hands of CWaC officers - I'm hoping to assist the school in getting salt supplies and a spreader using the discretionary community grants budget I manage. They will be able to grit the approaches to the school if the arrangements are approved.
I see this as a continuation of the Lakes Estate experiment - which I'd like to see extended throughout Frodsham & Helsby if we can. Whether the experiment continues will depend on others' decisions - principally to do with funding.
In the same vein I received a letter today from a local resident who doesn't live on the Lakes Estate praising the efforts being made to improve winter maintenance in Frodsham. It is nice to be appreciated!
14 February 2011 - Budget Scrutiny
We've budget scrutiny later this week so I've spent part of the afternoon preparing for the meeting - highlighting with officers those issues that need a closer look in advance of our budget setting Council meeting.
11 February 2011 - Adult Safeguarding - meeting Geoffrey Appleton
CWaC has appointed a new Chairman of our Adult Safeguarding Board - Geoffrey Appleton. I met him for lunch and discussed a range of issues concerning safeguarding.
10 February 2011 - Meeting Parish Council representatives - Sandstone Inn Broxton
Following on from O&S's review of Town & Parish Councils I travelled to the Sandstone Inn at Broxton to discuss the draft report with parish councillors from that area who had particular concerns. It was a very lively and interesting meeting! We didn't agree about everything - but we did agree that CWaC was on the right lines in trying to support and help parish councils do more.
9 February 2011 - CWaC Executive
I attended the Executive to hear discussions on the budget ahead of O&S considering it next week and Council deciding the budget the following week. I listened very intently to the representations made on behalf of Connexions and invited those lobbying the Executive to attend O&S next week when we will look closely at the funding of our youth services.
8 February 2011 - Forestry Consultation
Given the widespread public concern regarding DEFRAs consultation on our Forests I have asked that CWaC's response to the consultation be brought before the O&S Committee so we can be sure we are reflecting the public's concerns.
I find it somewhat ironic that the Forestry Commission is considered to be some great champion of public rights and biodiversity. Yes Delamere Forest is a jewel in the crown for us - but how many of us know that the right to cycle or ride a horse in the forest can be withdrawn by the Commission at any time. The Commission chose a few years ago, very deliberately, to safeguard walking rights of way only. The Commission also manages other forests in Cheshire where there is no public access at all.
I want to see all of us locally having a greater say in the management of Delamere Forest and ensuring that all of us have the continuing right to enjoy the forest in any reasonable non-destructive way. Personally I would be happy for the government to keep the Forestry Commission in its ownership/management role. However now that we are discussing our forests I want to see all of us have a much greater right of access and use to those forests used by us for recreation irrespective of who owns or manages them.
7 February 2011 - Town & Parish Council - CWaC Overview & Scrutiny Report
This was my first attempt to consider the responses from the Town & Parish Councils to the O&S report looking to make their lives easier and seek to enhance their work. I have to say the vast majority of all the responses have been very favourable so far although not everyone gets my sense of humour!
4 February 2011 - Delamere Forrest Community Meeting
Delamere Community Centre was packed - standing room only. The community debated the government's consultation on the future of our forrests. The community was united in opposition. The overwhelming consensus was opposed to any sell off, or indeed transfer to any charity. There was a well articulated fear that we would all have charity fatigue - bearing in mind the transfer of British Waterways to a charity shortly.
Stephen O'Brien MP addressed the meeting and fielded many questions.
I spoke almost at the end of the meeting and invited the community to lobby CW&C just as much as their MPs and respond to the consultation. Whilst we may not want any change at all - we do need a plan B. I encouraged everyone to lobby the Council on 24 February and 24 March our next planned meetings.
4 February 2011 - Scrutiny workshop
Day 2 of our training. I took an executive decision and pulled a few strings behind the scenes and made sure the training was much more focused.
All in all a much better experience - positive progress on what Scrutiny going forward could look like.
4 February 2011 - Liverpool Airport Consultative Committee
This was the Annual meeting of the Consultative Committee. We debated the constitution briefly and I asked the Committee to invite Helsby Parish Council and Frodsham Town Council to send representatives. This was unanimously approved.
The airport has a new expert on radar and he explained in high level terms how Peel Energy would have to install for the airport a second 'Primary Radar' so the speckling and dead zone effects likely caused by the windfarm on the existing Primary Radar could be overcome. He estimated the cost of installing this second Primary Radar and the associated electronics would be of the order of £3-6million. He questioned whether this would be economically viable for a windfarm of only 20 turbines.
The airport confirmed their continuing objection to the proposal - however they also indicated that they would withdraw their objection if the issues with the radar were resolved.
We also had an interesting talk on how air traffic control will be modernised and made more flexible. The geek in me enjoyed it!
3 February 2011 - Scrutiny Workshop
What is scrutiny all about? What do we want out of scrutiny? How should CWaC organise itself to be effective in scrutiny? Well we started on our collective journey looking for answers. Where matters stand I think we ended up posing more questions rather than finding answers.
I was on my best behaviour - although I have to confess that was a struggle - as the facilitator's style and my learning style were at polar opposites.
It was 'worse than awful.'
2 February 2011 - Love Frodsham
I attended Love Frodsham tonight and listened to their reports and plans. It is such a shame we don't see more effective working between LF, FTC and CWaC. I'm trying to encourage more effective working.
31 January 2011 - Granada Reports
So who is Gary Barlow? Well it appears that one local Cllr doesn't know. I was asked to go on Granada Reports and comment about it - as I do know who Gary Barlow is and happen to have Take That's latest album 'Progress'! In the piece that was broadcast you see the moment they've told me who it is that didn't know and I laugh!
All light hearted stuff.
Incidentally I support any ideas that put Frodsham on the map and will attract visitors!
29 January 2011 - Potholes
We've decided in CWaC to spend another £3m on resurfacing roads on top of the usual £5m figure. We've also committed to putting an additional £4.5m into road improvements for next year.
We know this work is paying off - as according to http://www.fillthathole.org.uk/league-table we are 3rd nationally with a 99% record of filling in reported potholes.
Look out for more resurfacing around Frodsham in the next few weeks!
29 January 2011 - Winter Gritting, Frodsham
Well after loads of discussions and consultations with people I have put together as a draft my report to be presented to FTC at our next meeting in February. I just have one more meeting with CWaC highway officials to verify what I'm suggesting is do-able.
However with FTC deciding to reduce its precept by £2.77 per year per Band D property- which has the knock on effect of removing £10,000 of revenue from the Council will I be able to persuade FTC to fund it the extra gritting?
28 January 2011 - Radio Merseyside
I was aksed at short notice if I was prepared to go on Radio Merseyside - I chatted with Roger Phillips and callers for around 40 minutes discussing local government and the government's cuts. I emphasised that the priority had to be delivering services to the most vulnerable in our community and that I didn't mind how those services were delivered providing it was done the most efficient way possible.
I raised issues about the inefficiencies in government budgeting and the usual practice in government and local government in spending unspent portions of budgets in the run up to the end of the municipal year on 31 March. I also covered authorities working together in delivering services. CWaC is in discussions with Warrington, Halton, Wirral and Shropshire to see where we can work together to deliver services efficiently.
One of the callers, Barbara was a spritely old citizen who boldly stated that she didn't want help and assistance from anyone. It was very humbling to hear this spirited lady defending her independence. I asked her to promise me that she would ask for help if she needed it.
We also discussed the provision of care and the government inspired round of reappraisals of care needs and how services were ostensibly being moved from 'Rolls Royce' to 'adequate.' I indicated that assuming the assessments were being done fairly and needs were being properly identified then this process would tend to show an almost criminal wasting of public money in the past!
27 January 2011 - CWaC - Overview & Scrutiny Committee
We had a full agenda tonight considering the recent Ofsted report, more evidence in our farms review and further consideration of Equality and Diversity assessments. A decent quality debate (you can watch it if you want to!). This sort of evening sees us at our best working collaboratively discussing difficult and potentially divisive issues. Perhaps this sort of approach should be compulsory viewing for FTC?
26 January 2011 - Ince Park Community Forum
These are always awkward difficult meetings with the local representatives continually challenging Peel and Covanta over their proposals and making sure they fully realise the opposition of the local community to what will be foisted upon us all courtesy of the former Labour Government's Secretary of State decisions. A resident had raised her concerns with me regarding these proposals and I tabled her question at the meeting - look out for the answer on the Ince Community Forum Website.
I have ensured that the forthcoming newsletter from Peel will get delivered in Frodsham in addition to the closer communities such as Helsby, Dunham-on-the-Hill, Ince and Elton etc.
24 January 2011 - FTC Council meeting
Oh, dear - I thought it couldn't get any worse and then it did. It was very clear last night that more than one Councillor was struggling. If ever you needed evidence that we need wholesale changes in this Council and its make-up just witnessing the Mayor accusing me of electioneering would have convinced you.
After I presented an update on the winter gritting initiative the Mayor linked that with my initiative to bring defibrilators to Frodsham - and suggested that I was electioneering. On being challenged that such an accusation gave the impression that it was a slur - he confirmed that was his intention.
The Code of Conduct for Councillors requires all Councillors to treat each other with respect. I wonder whether the Code was breached by this accusation and accordingly I have asked the Town Clerk to remind all members of their obligations. Even though we have elections in May, and we only have a handful of meetings left I do think this sort of conduct brings FTC into disrepute - more importantly it is entirely unnecessary and is exactly why so many people are turned off politics and local democracy.
The irony of the situation was not lost on me however. I am only one of two Conservatives on FTC - and have been able to get some of my initiatives through because I am prepared to work with everyone regardless of party. One of the Labour Councillors approached me last night after the meeting and indicated that he thought my ideas on winter gritting were good - and they were something he wanted to explore to take forward. I confirmed I was very happy to work with him and see something implemented for the benefit of the people of Frodsham - after all our residents don't care what colour your politics is providing you are genuinely trying to improve things for everyone.
I do have a confession though. I have been electioneering. I have been electioneering since I was first elected in 2007 if electioneering really means seeking to produce a record of representation and achievement that I am pleased to defend. If I seek re-election it won't be on the basis of last minute stunts - rather on a record of hard work and seeking to change and improve things for everyone.
Oh and if you look at this blog you'll see that I have been reporting back on what I have been doing ever since I was elected in 2007.
21 January 2011 - Meeting with CWaC Chief Executive
My usual 6 weekly meeting with the Chief Exec.
19 January 2011 - CWaC - Fostering Panel
18 January 2011 - reflecting on FTC
FTC's meeting last night was fractious with some Councillors it seemed struggling to keep their tempers and others seeking to reign in overtly political pronouncements or judgments. Some appeared to be looking for plots or skulduggery which I couldn't see. The sad thing for me is that this miasma lets down Frodsham. In my view far too many FTC Councillors (ie the majority) simply don't get it. They don't get the new reality of the world with need for everyone to pull together and ensure that every penny of money we have available to the local community from whatever source is used to best effect to support the community.
Some of the Councillors seem set against doing anything which they feel should be carried out by Cheshire West and Chester Council. This may be part of their ideology. The problem is that 'silo mentality' doesn't fit where we are now and it certainly won't help to maximise FTC's influence.
On a number of occasions recently members of the public have complained to me about just how bad they think FTC is. Last night some Councillors suggested to me that we should seek a merger with Helsby Parish Council - perhaps as a way of expressing their frustration with the present 'mortmain' approach! Personally I'm not suggesting we go that far - although closer working with our neighbouring parish councils would make sense and could no doubt save money and yield better services.
The issue of personal interests arose last night and whether CW&C Cllrs should declare their representative role on CW&C at FTC meetings. To quote from the model code of practice -
'You have a personal interest in any business of your authority where it relates to or is
likely to affect:
a) An interest that you must register.
b) An interest that is not on your register, but where the well-being or financial position
of you, members of your family, or people with whom you have a close association,
is likely to be affected by the business of your authority more than it would affect
the majority of:
• inhabitants of the ward or electoral division affected by the decision
(in the case of authorities with electoral divisions or wards)
• inhabitants of the Assembly constituency affected by the decision
(in the case of the Greater London Authority)
• inhabitants of the authority’s area (in all other cases)'
Helpfully the Clerk confirmed to me that he shared my view on the interpretation of the Code.
The bit under (b) doesn't apply but I do have to register that I am a Cllr on CW&C. However the issue last night turned on the question of whether anything FTC did last night related to or was likely to affect CW&C. When reflecting on the issue at the meeting I did point out that nothing that FTC did in relation to setting its own budgets related to CW&C. FTC is as all parish councils are idependent of the principal Council for the area. In many ways I wish that FTC would seek to work in partnership where the issue of such relationships and interests would arise.
17 January 2011 - Frodsham Town Council Budget Setting meeting
Oh dear. This was not FTC's finest hour in my view. I hope it also signals the beginning of the end of the old way of doing things. This budget setting meeting revealed just how out of control and kilter FTC has been. Lynn Riley and I have been arguing for years that the budget setting process had to be improved. We were consistently ignored. Effectively FTC raised significant sums of money in the past and simply kept hold of it.
Now next municipal year is likely to be tough for many local groups and organisations. It is likely, in my view, that the demands on FTC will be greater than ever before. The opportunities for FTC will also be greater than ever before to try and make a real difference for the community. In this context I proposed that FTC, like Helsby Parish Council had done last week, simply hold the precept at the same figure raised last year. This coupled with the efficiency savings being found would mean that FTC would have some leeway in being able to do more next year. This could include, for example, supporting additional winter maintenance, supporting the Youth Association, supporting services for older people... you name it there could be a whole raft of community groups needing that additional support and FTC could take a lead in doing it. However in order to do this FTC would have to show leadership and vision something that, in my view has been in short supply in recent years.
Unfortunately I was not able to persuade the entire Council. We split 6:4 on many votes with the 6 supporting the contention that the precept be cut by 7.89%.
This means FTC will seek to raise £114,704 from local Council Tax payers as opposed to the £124,530 raised last year. Now I don't know yet what this reduction will mean in relation to the Council Tax to be raised per household as that calculation depends on the number of liable households. Last year a Frodsham Council Tax payer in Band D paid £33 in Council Tax to FTC for the entire year. I'm not sure any household will notice the few pounds difference in the Council tax that this decision to reduce the precept will make - however I am clear that by forgoing around £10,000 of available revenue FTC is limiting its opportunities to intervene and help where it may be needed most next year.
Of course it would be nice if FTC actually bothered to consult the residents in what it seeks to do - hopefully this will be the last budget put together without asking the community what it wants. Frankly I will be glad to see the end of this Council when the elections come in May 2011. FTC so desperately needs new blood, new vision and new ideas.
Do you know - in the medium term financial strategy - the only growth item identified at this stage for the next 4 years was for the errection of a Town Council notice board! This was the case until I proposed and succeeded in having the plan amended specifically to allow for FTC to add additional items to the list.
Is it any wonder so many people in Frodsham are so heartedly sick of this FTC if this is the extent of the vision?
When thinking about the Council Tax do remember that the Council Tax we pay is made up of several elements. The biggest portion being for CW&C where the present band D Council Tax is £1,465.55 for the year. In addition one has to add the police authority, fire authority and parish council council tax element which, typically is the smallest element.
10 January 2011 - Helsby Parish Council
Its always a pleasure to attend an HPC meeting. The Councillors seem to share a common purpose and it is very evident that 'they get it'. They recognise what they can do for their community and seek to discover opportunities to further Helsby's interests. I have a lot of time for them and what they seek to do. Given my other commitments this meeting was probably my last attending an HPC meeting as one of their CW&C Councillors. I thanked them for making me welcome and commended their efforts. They thanked me for my support.
We discussed winter maintenance - HPC grasped immediately the possiblity of doing more for their community.
HPC decided to hold their precept request at £90,000 for the fourth year running. HPC's Council Tax is one of the highest of all the parish Councils in Cheshire West and Chester at around £42 per band D property.
6 January 2011 - Community Forum - Helsby Community Centre
This was a lively meeting at a full Community Centre. We covered many things including winter gritting, the Health Centre and had updates from the police and fire service. At popular request the next meeting is scheduled for the middle of March.
5 January 2011 - Education PDB
We discussed how the Children's Centres/Surestart Centres could be run going forward when the public sector cuts really start to bite. There was cross party support for these centres and for ensuring individual communities are given a greater say in how they are run. There is no 'one-size-fits-all' model as clearly the urban areas, and especially the deprived urban areas need a different provision from the rural or semi-rural areas. I raised the issue of Parish Councils being more involved in the running of their local centres.
1 January 2011 - Happy New Year
25 December 2010 - Happy Christmas
22 December 2010 - CW&C - trial delivery of sand and salt to Lakes Estate
Wow - its working and those who have received the bags broadly think this is a great idea! Its all about trust and empowerment!
21 December 2010 - CW&C meetings (1) Homelessness Service (2) Gritting
(1) this was an update I had requested on the homelessness service and in particular protecting lone workers;
(2) a much desired meeting discussing winter gritting with officers. I have got them to agree to distributing sand and salt in bags to the Lakes Estate on a trial basis whilst other flexible responses are worked out.
I spent an interesting afternoon trudging through the snow looking for volunteers living near road junctions on the Lakes Estate to receive these 15kg bags of sand and salt.
20 December 2010 - CW&C meeting - O&S White Papers
A cross party meeting discussing handling government white papers.
16 December 2010 - tel call John Stephens - Director of Children's Services
I had a long conversation with John covering Safeguarding and the Osted report into CW&C's children's services. We were in significant agreement about the way forward!
16 December 2010 - apology given unable to attend CW&C Council meeting
15 December 2010 - Fostering Panel
14 December 2010 - tel discussion with CW&C Chief Executive
Normally Steve Robinson and I meet every 6 weeks or so to discuss how matters are progressing. Today we spoke by phone.
I raised many things including:
- winter gritting
- O&S Farms review
- Safeguarding of vulnerable adults and children and the need for an overarching policy
- Training for officers in O&S
13 December 2010 - FTC Full Council meeting and party
A shorter FTC meeting. The meeting followed the government's announcements for local authority grants and spending for the future. I reported on the government's announcements. This encouraged Cllr Brian Lloyd (Lab) to observe that CW&C had done well when compared with say Liverpool City Council who are reported to have 'lost more' than anyone else. I pointed out, in repost, that Cheshire and CW&C never had the money in the first place to have had cut, and, for example in the last year alone the money given in grant to educate our children was £3.5million less than the average northwest Council would have received.
9 December 2010 - CW&C Overview & Scrutiny Committee Farms Review
A day of meetings. First with some representative tenant farmers and then later in the day with officers discussing the policy options for the future. The meeting is on CW&C's website as it was webcast if you want to know more.
6 December 2010 - CW&C meeting discussing the future for Castle Park
Some interesting proposals seeking to attract organisations to base themselves at Castle Park house. We'll know more about what can be done in January.
2 December 2010 - Love Frodsham Meeting
I attended Love Frodsham to discuss winter gritting and other things.
1 December 2010 - CW&C Standards Committee
I attended the Committee and stressed the importance of the Council having a strong over-arching Safeguarding policy to protect vulnerable adults and children. I argued strongly for a concerted approach covering Cllrs and officers and for the Constitution of the Council to enshrine supporting provisions. I also explained the weaknesses in the CRB system and why we would be far better concentrating on proper protective safeguarding arrangements rather than being fixated with CRB returns. The majority of the Committee was with me and has requested further work on this subject.
[Note - interestingly I received several emails of thanks following my interventions on this matter.]
29 November 2010 - Meeting Leader
I had my regular meeting with CW&C Leader Mike Jones.
26 & 27 November - Enchanted Park and Frodsham Christmas parade
Gosh it was cold on both of these evenings. A fantastic turn out on the Friday night for switching on the lights. I thought the Enchanted Park event was brilliant - shame it was so freezing!
22 November 2010 - FTC Council Meeting
We had a presentation from Chris Cook who is in charge of Leisure provision at CW&C emphasising the investments being made by CW&C locally.
When the meeting proper started I raised the play builder scheme proposal with the police. Those officers in attendance were unaware of the proposals notwithstanding what I had been told previously!
I raised the possibility of FTC getting involved in winter maintenance - in other words gritting etc. Not for the first time I was underwhelmed by the majority of Cllrs response. Some believed that FTC should not get involved at all.
We have to face it Frodsham is a hilly community. It is hard to think of any road that isn't on some sort of slope. Whilst CW&C can keep the principal routes open it will inevitably take time for them to get round to the secondary roads where most of us live.
At least I was allowed to research whether FTC could get involved. The timing of this is important as FTC will be setting its budgets soon and if we are to set monies aside for next year for this purpose those decisions will have to be made by early January.
22 November 2010 - Play facilities in Frodsham - meeting CW&C
There is money in this years budget for a play scheme in Frodsham - the favoured proposal is to create a playground next to the skate park at Ship Street. The proposed scheme is out for public consultation and is designed to favour younger children and younger girls in particular. I raised the issue of anti-social behaviour and received assurances that this is not believed to be a problem. Seemingly all the local agencies inlcuding the police are in favour of the scheme.
19 November 2010 - Radio Merseyside and the windfarm
I chatted briefly on air just after 7am with Tony Snell of Radio Merseyside regarding the 'controversial windfarm proposal.' Having listened and participated in the discussions last night I put the opposition position. I've been gently amused by Radio Merseyside carrying my comments on its hourly newsbulletins. My gruff 7am voice doesn't sound like me!
Now anyone who relies on the alarm on an iphone will tell you that Apple didn't cope well with the transition from BST to GMT. The alarms are an hour out. My 7am alarm on my iphone is presently set for 6am and goes off at 7am which is fine. I knew Radio Merseyside wanted to talk to me at 7am so I set my alarm for 5:40am - only for the alarm to go off at 5:40am not the expected 6:40 as I'd assumed aaagh!!! You try staying awake for an hour at that time so you don't oversleep! The things we do...
18 November 2010 - CW&C Half Year Figures and projected out-turn
A swift dash from Chester to Ellesmere Port and a chance to undertand the present budget position of CW&C. Well, on a headline basis we are doing well. We are projecting, overall, a budget overspend of around £1.5 million and expect notwithstanding this to contribute an additional £3.3 million to our reserves this year. This suggests we are reasonably in control of our revenue budget which is of the order of £225 million.
Compared to many Councils and many other places this is a good position to be in.
Drilling down more deeply into the figures reveals we have challenges and are still managing the transition that reorganisation brought us.
I epxressed incredulity regarding a mis-budgeting over 3500 homes in Chester that had not been factored into the costs of the waste collection contract. I pointed out that we know exactly how many houses we have as we collect Council Tax from every one of them and therefore a mistake in budgeting of that order could have been avoided. Seemingly we also discovered many additional street lights not recorded previously and this has given rise to increased energy costs which also, had not been budgeted for.
The idea that the old County did not know how many street lights it had is, regretably, not that surprising given what we are discovering about the way in which the old County seems to have done things.
If there is one silver lining - we budgeted some £5.5 million on the basis that there were things yet to discover - like this!
18 November 2010 - Windfarm Planning Application
Along with Cllrs Ford and Ingram I spoke at the Strategic Planning Board meeting expressing opposition to the windfarm proposals. There were several speakers opposing the windfarm and only two, one of which was Peel that spoke in favour. Mr Young from RAW (residents against the windfarm) highlighted what he saw as 14 substantive grounds for objecting to it. I spoke last so was able to adopt everything that had been said before and drawn the Frodsham Town Design Statement (FTDS) to the attention of the Committee. This design statement was approved by CW&C in July 2010 after 7 years of preparation.
The FTDS divides Frodsham into 11 distinct areas. With regard to 10 of these 11 areas policies have been devised that seek to preserve the open aspect and views which we all enjoy in Frodsham over towards Helsby and the Mersey Estuary - which clearly would be threatened by the windfarm proposal.
As I pointed out, why create a policy and then, at the first major planning application throw it all away.
The planning board voted to support the officers' recommendation to oppose the windfarm application by 11 votes to 0 with one abstention.
Over the Peel and the Secretary of State now. If they persist with the application - then it is public inquiry time.
14 November 2010 - Remembrance Sunday
I was honoured to lay a wreath at the war memorial for Graham Evans MP and to see Cllr Ingram lay a wreath on behalf of Cheshire West & Chester Council and our Councillors.
Later in the day I had a fascinating discussion with the Royal British Legion and offered to help in whatever way I could with regard to their efforts.
11 November 2010 - CW&C Overview & Scrutiny
I presented a report on Town & Parish Councils and the steps we as CW&C could take with these Local Councils to strengthen them and to make them more effective and efficient. We had a lively debate on the issue, finalised our draft report for formal consultation with the Councils and others.
We started to hear evidence on the 'County Farms' too.
8 November 2010 - CW&C meeting with Chief Executive
We discussed training for members on Scrutiny.
4 November 2010 - Windfarm Community Benefit Fund discussions
Well, who would believe it Peel have changed their tone and are not now overtly hostile to the group they asked to form to discuss the potential community benefit fund they may provide if they get permission for the Windfarm. However they won't tell us how much they'd give us if they got permission - so we decided to adjourn our deliberations until after 18 November and the strategic planning committee's decision which, if they object to the proposal, will precipitate a public inquiry.
With those deliberations so close we decided not to attempt to make progress today and will reconvene after the 18 November.
None of us involved in the community benefit fund support the windfarm proposal.
31 October 2010 - Frodsham Life
Unfortunately I missed FTC meeting through holiday. I was very interested and not a little troubled by the suggestion in Frodsham Life that FTC got its budget badly wrong last year. Seemingly FTC is considerably underspent!
24 October 2010 - Radio Merseyside Debate 8am
Well I was meant to be on holiday today - off to Center Parcs with my entire family - however I was invited into the Radio Merseyside studio again to continue the debate started last week, then into my office for work - so much for starting the holiday!
21 October 2010 - Meeting with CW&C Chief Executive
19 October 2010 - CW&C Education Policy Development Board
A strangely formal internal meeting considering the policy issues behind children's centres and what CW&C could do with them. How do you measure their success - and what do you do about the fact that Cheshire County Council doesn't appear to have kept any performance data on the ones they launched in 2006.
A fascinating piece of work is there to be done.
17 October 2010 - Radio Merseyside Debate 8am
The things we do! A 5:45am start so I could be sure of being in the studio for 8am in Liverpool. I have to say my heart was pounding when I heard the 7am headlines about a CW&C Cllr not being sympathetic to Liverpool City Council's cuts - it turned out it was our Leader Cllr Mike Jones commenting on the loss of the area based grants that all local authorities have lost since the Coalition Government came to power. CW&C (and our predecessors) only ever got the bare minimum from the previous government and so we lost less when to these additional monies were withdrawn. However it is worth pointing out that, for example we received £3.3 million less than the average NW Council to educate our children. Anyway back to the debate.
When I was asked to go on I was told I would be speaking both as a Cllr and a businessman - however when I got there the brief had changed - as I was now to debate with a Trade Unionist and a 'Business Leader' and was asked to 'defend the cuts.'
Fortunately I had done my homework and so I was able to answer the questions confidently. However there were a few difficult questions which, were simply unanswerable in the form they were put without either sounding heartless or appearing to be a pratt or worse! Anyway all the feedback I've heard suggests I did a good job - but who knows!
14 October 2010 - Cheshire West & Chester - Full Council
Not our finest hour! Lots of things came together to conspire to make this meeting more of an ordeal than was necessary. To be fair some of our meetings have been somewhat insipid and thus it was right to innovate - but too much innovation all at once coupled with a dawning reality that our selections/elections are around the corner led to more bedlam than desirable. And we had a very important decision to take regarding waste disposal.
The simplest of matters derailed us - the asking of questions by members to the executive. I have to confess I use the power, and like using it - others are realising its worth too. However no matter the length of the question I seek to put in its written form - whenever I deliver it in the chamber I try to be short and succinct. Unfortunately not everyone is like me in this regard and I have to say it is my Conservative colleagues on the Executive who are the worst offenders. When asked a question - a succinct answer is all that is called for - not the oral edition of War and Peace written by a committee of officers and delivered sometimes in a less than convincing style.
I think we should use PMQs or questions to ministers as the model. If the Prime Minister can answer 20 questions or more in half an hour so should our Executive.
So of the 4 questions I tabled only 1 got answered on the night and worse still I didn't get the chance to pose my questions live in the Chamber.
The questions I wanted to put orally (and they would have been put in short order without the fully referenced materials I often quote in the written question submitted at least 48 hours prior were)
To Cllr Short - Executive Member for Leisure and Recreation:
Many of us in Frodsham were happy to celebrate the recent opening of Castle Park after its extensive renovation. Unfortunately it would appear that the arrangements for the celebration of the opening were not planned or executed with the care and attention that was perhaps needed. For example the Mayor of Frodsham explained at the most recent Town Council meeting that he had not been invited, then belatedly received a personal invitation but one containing a hand written note suggesting his invite was personal and not in his capacity of Mayor. Similarly the residents of Frodsham all received invitations - but little was done on the day to interact with the crowd that had gathered. I'm sure no slight was intended to the Mayor of Frodsham, to the Town Council, or even to the people of Frodsham but a less than helpful impression has been created. Unfortunately this incident and the decision to cut back on discretionary funding of the Frodsham Christmas Festival is being used by potentially politically motivated detractors of this Council to suggest that this Council does not give Frodsham a fair crack of the whip.
Could Cllr Short please consider whether an apology is in order with regard to what appears to have been the poorly planned opening, and as needs be make such an apology? And secondly can Cllr Short dispell any myths arising concerning this Council's continued investment in Frodsham in particular associated with his Leisure Services?
To Cllr Lynn Riley - Executive Member for Communities etc
I have the pleasure of being this Council’s representative from Frodsham & Helsby on the steering group charged with the task of negotiating the Community Benefit Fund with Peel Energy for the windfarm that company plans to erect on Frodsham Marshes.
It is Peel Energy that has offered this Community Benefit Fund as is standard now in windfarm applications. The provision of such a fund lies outside the scope of the planning application presently before the Council for consultation.
The steering group, which in addition to ward Councillors from this Council, includes the local Town and Parish Councils from Frodsham, Helsby, Elton, Dunham-on-the-Hill and others wrote to Peel Energy recently asking for more details of their future intentions regarding this offered fund only to receive what I personally describe as one of the most dismissive arrogant replies I have ever seen from a business to a community.
Such is the offence that the steering group has taken with Peel’s reply that that group is presently contemplating a reply to Peel in the following terms:
‘The group has instructed me to express their frustration and extreme disappointment with your response – both in its tone and content. It is important that you appreciate that many in the group considered the tone of your letter and your failure to commence a meaningful dialogue indicative of the contempt they believe Peel has for the local communities potentially affected by your proposal. Many expressed the view that such a response demonstrates that Peel is not interested in being a good neighbour or entering into a meaningful dialogue with the communities regarding the community benefit fund that you have already promised to provide on the assumption that permission is granted and turbines installed.
I have pointed out to the group that strident exchanges of correspondence or indeed ‘megaphone diplomacy’ between Peel and the communities may not ultimately get anyone anywhere. And so on that basis and notwithstanding the feelings and the impression your correspondence has created the group remains willing to have a constructive dialogue with Peel – but for this to happen both sides have to be willing to have a dialogue. I therefore look to you to revisit your last letter and provide the reasonable information that was requested which the group sees as critical to the CBF process.’
Could Cllr Riley please use her influence and good offices to encourage Peel Energy to change its present apparent bad-neighbour stance and could she also please ensure that this steering group has sufficient Council provided expertise and resources so that the group is able properly to deal with this presently dismissive business.
Question to Cllr Herbert Manley - but to be answered by the Leader in his absence:
On Monday afternoon I came across a man bleeding from a headwound lying on the ground on our car park at the Civic Centre in Ellesmere Port. Without going into too much detail it transpired that the man was one of our 'homeless' and had probably had a fit whilst waiting for one of our officers. I dialled 999 and requested an ambulance for the man at 16:07. Whilst keeping him under observation I met one of our homelessness outreach team who was clearly intending to meet him. I explained that I had called an ambulance, that the man clearly had a head wound, was incoherent and was evidently still bleeding.
Bearing in mind the proximity of the Ellesmere Port Ambulance Station to the Civic Centre car park both the officer and I were somewhat horrified that by 16:29 no ambulance had arrived. The officer offered to take the man in her car to the Countess of Chester Hospital. I called North West Ambulance and cancelled the ambulance.
I am grateful that the officer reported back to me on Monday night that 'they are keeping him in hospital overnight and putting 5 stitches in his head. I'm just heading home now to clean up the mess.'
I checked with the officer whether this Council routinely issues our outreach workers with first aid kits. She replied 'no.'
I am concerned by this, and I presume the absence of personal protective equipment so as to ensure that she and her colleagues can remain safe from any risks associated with 'body fluids.'
Could the Leader please pass on my personal thanks and commendation to our homelessness team for the excellent work they do and the compassion they show and could he also reassure me that we have up to date, effective and crucially suitable and sufficient risk assessments in place properly identifying the very evident risks this incident demonstrates (inclduing lone worker issues) and that consideration will be given to issuing personal protective equipment and first aid kits to our outreach workers.
I can't blog about the details of the waste contract nor what motions were put to the Council - but when the matter does 'go public' as it will in due course I will comment further.
13 October 2010 - Cheshire West & Chester - Overview and Scrutiny
So what should an Equality & Diversity Risk Assessment look like? Well we got to see 3 and pondered whether they had been sufficiently moderated against each other. The E&DRAs didn't highlight transport issues or hard to reach communities as we expected either. The meeting is webcast - the first from HQ - unfortunately the sound quality isn't great - but I've asked for it to be amplified.
13 October 2010 - Fostering Panel
A fascinating meeting with lots of twists and turns - and some moral outrage over 'excessive zeal' on safeguarding.
12 October 2010 - Frodsham Branch Conservative Party Hustings
No rest for the wicked - an evening to demonstrate to my colleagues whether I'm worth keeping as the Conservative Party candidate for the next elections.
12 October 2010 - Overview & Scrutiny Prep meeting
12 October 2010 - Meeting Chris Cook - Leisure Services
I raised FTC's concerns re Lesiure provision within Frodsham and other issues arising from Castle Park etc. Chris listened and I hope there will be some action soon!
11 October 2010 - Conservative Caucus
7 October 2010 - Friends of Frodsham Fields
I was only able to make the end of this meeting given the community benefit fund meeting I had to attend before hand.
First, well done to the committee who raised around £36,000 - a significant sum, but not enough to buy the land. Those who contributed to the fund will get their money back, less a small amount deducted to pay for the incidental expenses.
It was impressive to see over 100 people in the hall. It was also humbling to be thanked for my efforts too.
7 October 2010 - Windfarm Community Benefit Fund steering group
None of us like being on this body but it has to be done and it is without prejudice to Peel's planning application or my and other Councillors rejection of Peel's windfarm proposals. It is now commonplace that any windfarm developer will offer a community benefit fund for the community affected by the scheme.
The fund has to be negotiated - but only becomes payable as and when and if planning permission is granted and the turbines constructed.
However, of course, to have negotiations you have to have two sides that are willing to talk. Peel has achieved the near impossible - bringing complete unity to this disparate group of Councillors and Councils. Peel's most recent correspondence may well suggest they are not willing to negotiate seriously as they have refused to provide even the most basic information such as their first offer for the amount of money they will place into the fund.
Knowing the likely size of the fund is important as it will inform the decisions that would need to be made regarding its administration.
Incidentally I am trying to get Peel to recognise that offering the standard £2,500 per installed megawatt would be hopelessly inadequate here. Just compare say a similar windfarm in rural Wales with few people living close by and here. In the rural Wales position the size of the fund per capita of the people living close by would be significant. In our case we could only be talking pence per person per year.
1 October 2010 - Chester Chronicle on Incineration
Whilst it is always nice to be quoted in the press - on this occasion the Chester Chronicle perhaps truncated my comments a little too much. Having received an email from the reporter Paul Mannion asking for my comments on the news that Merseyside and Halton are either going to send their waste to Ince or Wilton (Middlesbrough) for burning this is the entirety of my reply not all of which made it into the 'Chron':
My reaction -
This is a complex matter which provokes understandible concern.
My starting point on this is that we are seeing a monumental failure of government policy and in particular policy failure by the last Labour Government, who, incidentally we have to thank specifically for the planning permissions granted for the incinerators both at Ince and, of course at Ineos. I think situations like this would have been greatly helped if there was government policy indicating that waste should be dealt with within the county in which it arose. It would also take the pressure of residents living close to the chemical industry as it is those sites, whether in Runcorn, Wilton (in Teeside) or indeed in and around Northwich which seem to be attracting most interest from those anxious to build waste incinerators or waste burning power stations.
Leaving aside the very understandible concerns of local residents who may live close to one or more of these incinerators and who, like me, will be praying that the Environment Agency's regulation of them is effective and that the technology is as clean as is claimed just think for a moment of the environmental madness of shipping one county's waste from one side of the country to another. Hardly sustainable or environmentally friendly. Think about the costs both in terms of CO2 and the money for transporting the waste. Think about the madness of shipping Halton's waste away from Halton even though a waste burining facility is to be built there.
Whilst I'm very happy to celebrate the benefits that the chemical and fuel industries have brought Cheshire West & Chester in the past I am less happy about the prospect that Cheshire West & Chester could become a centre for incinerators.
I'm very troubled about the planning system and what it appears it is about to serve up for those of us living on the Mersey estuary.
If these various incinerators are built we will see the skyline change. I gather that the chimney heights for the stacks at Ince are likely to be in excess of 80m high, and at Ineos around 100m high... and then just think about the possibility of those 125m high wind turbines and all of this so close to the flight path for Liverpool airport.
28 September 2010 - Langdale Way/Townfield Lane fields - the auction
Plot 1 went for £54,500; Plot 2 for £59,500 and Plot 3 for £20,500
The Friends of Frodsham Fields I'm told had raised a significant amount of money - but were effectively priced out of the game.
27 September 2010 - Frodsham Town Council
Congratulations to all the winners and those who were placed in FTC's garden awards.
When I was growing up I was taught that 'empty vessels make the most noise.' We had a full agenda and we were asked not to speak unless we had to, or repeat what others had said. The meeting lasted for 3 hours - and I didn't say anything at all for the first hour...
I worry how we rush the important stuff and babble needlessly over trivia.
... and then we had the 'lets bash CW&C' interlude. I'm not going to defend the indefensible with CW&C but I do think the Council is light years ahead of the old County and Vale Royal and heaps more efficient. The mistakes it makes tend to be matters of poor communication. One Cllr pointedly noted that he felt Frodsham was losing out compared to other CW&C locations perhaps conveniently forgetting the close on £5m spent at Castle Park.
Are we seeing some Cllrs position themselves for their selection battles bearing in mind we have elections in 2011?
Please, please, please let us have elections for FTC next May - not 16 candidates for 16 positions as we had last time. We desperately need fresh blood here.
23 September 2010 - CW&C Overview & Scrutiny - Winsford
Finally we are live web-cast and the recording of the meeting is readily available through the CW&C website or on my 'videos' page! The meeting was a bit of naval gazing about the future of scrutiny in CW&C. We seem to have a cross party consensus on the way forward.
... and we are going to look at the future of CW&C's 'County Farms'
22 September 2010 - Ince Incinerator(s) Community Forum - Peel Energy
We had a presentation about the newly proposed biomass energy plant for the Ince site (in other words a second 'incinerator'). The 'biomass' to be burned is in essence wood scraps from the packaging and construction industry in the north-west. If permission is granted the building will be up to 42m high with a chimney stack around 85m - and there will be 36 lorry movements per day to feed and service it. In comparative terms the stacks at Stanlow are around 100m tall, the proposed windfarm will give us 20 x 125m high towers, and then there is the Rocksavage incinertor 'around the corner' which apparently will also have around 100m high chimney.
Peel Energy had prepared a consultation form which they wanted this ostensibly independent forum to post on its website. I have to say it was a well crafted consultation form - but I objected vehemently to the consultation form appearing on or being linked to by the forum. Lets see if you think I was right to object? Here is a precised version of the questions:
Q1 The UK has legally binding targets seeking to reduce CO2 emissions by at least 80% by 2050 by using energy efficient, low carbon technologhies such as biomass. Do you agree with the target?
Q2 Are you aware we are heading for an energy gap between demand and supply and therefore more investment is needed in low-carbon energy infrastructure?
Q3 Do you agree with regionally sourced biomass as a source for renewable energy generation?
Guess what Q4 - do you broadly support the proposals for Ince Biomass Energy Plant!
I described the form as following a questioning format one would expect from a 'cheap barrister.'
I strongly oppose any consultation exercise that suggests what the right answer is and I'm certainly not going to give my personal approval to these techniques.
22 September 2010 - Castle Park Trust
There's been a tree survey done and 4 of the trees in the park are near the end of their natural life. Unfortunately 3 of the trees are very prominent - the large beech trees behind the house. The 4th tree has already had to be tackled - but fortunately it was by the railway embankment close to the new pedestrian entrance on the A56 - so its loss isn't too great. The other 3 trees are apparently moribund and we agreed for one of them to be taken down immediately and for the other 2 to be pruned with a view to taking them down shortly. I do wonder how we can have all this work done in the park, all these experts commenting on the trees and then for other experts to come along and say that 3 of our most prominent trees are at deaths door.
I was pleased to see FTC's representative Cllr Hinkins making some telling contributions to the wedding debate we also had. I strongly support FTC being more prominent in the park, even perhaps having a base in Castle Park house - but FTC has to 'grow up' and live up to what it can be - rather than a pale shadow of what we want and need.
19 September 2010 - Castle Park - Weddings
I met the father of a bride who had been married recently at Castle Park. The day had passed off well - but there were a number of issues he wanted drawn to the Council's attention. He'd struggled to get anyone to listen to him - so he turned to the Councillors. I've passed on his suggestions to the Castle Park Trust.
15 September 2010 - CW&C Town and Parish Council Seminar, Tarvin
To delegate or not to delegate? How many Councils does it take to organise street cleansing?
OK this is a legacy problem spawned from the differing treatment of street cleansing in the former 3 districts - and in particular between the fully parished old Vale Royal with what appears to have been pretty good street cleansing carried out by that former Council and the old partially parished Chester City district that seems to have decided in 1974 that amenity street cleansing out in the sticks should be carried out, if at all by the Parish Council. Statutory street cleaning for highway safety was presummably carried out by the old Chester City Council in any event - but what did that amount to?
So, CW&C has launched for the first time its street cleansing specification for the entire Borough. It is based on best practice from before which means, largely the old Vale Royal arrangements. So what should the Parishes do with their street cleaning arrangements where CW&C would seem set to carry out the cleaning from April 2011?
And then there is the rub that from around April 2012 CW&C looks set to offer greater flexibility to the Parishes in terms of what cleansing can be carried out - should the parishes be able to take over the entirety of the cleansing in their area for a share of the relevant budget?
We had a good discussion on this and many other issues.
I find it frustrating that the long requested Domesday book has not yet been made available. I think we need to see comparative data for each of the 97 Parishes so people can compare the Council Tax charged in their localities with the services delivered by their parishes. I wonder what the tables will show - who is providing better value for money?
15 September 2010 - CW&C, BW kayak Trail
This was a meeting with officers from CW&C and British Waterways discussing the Kayak trail. On the whole it was a positive meeting with the officers agreeing to look again at proper portage points (easy places to get in and out) for Frodsham - such as by the Sutton Weaver swing bridge. We had an interesting debate about the so-called 'expertise' required to paddle what CW&C and BW describe as a 'moderate trail'. I take the view that that most people should be able to do a moderate trail - on the assumption they know one end of a canoe or kayak from the other. On that basis people of my basic level of fitness and athleticism should be encouraged to use the trail - and therefore the infrastructure should support that - and not having to get into your kayak with a 6 feet drop from the bank.
It was clear to me that those devising the trail need to look more closely at the northern end of it. We have outstanding scenary and more children and adults need to be encouraged to explore.
12 September 2010 - being proud and humbled.
"Hi there, Well what a result. I thought we would be lucky if 20 people turn up. I had to pinch myself that over 200 came. Thanks for your other surprise Graham Evans appearing. You are full of surprises. Lets hope things go for the better from now on. Anyway I have to say a great big THANK YOU for all your hard work. Who said councillors dont work quickly and for the good of the community. You certainly do." Frodsham Resident
11 September 2010 - Frodsham Downhill Run
Another fantastic event showing Frodsham at its best. I've no idea where I finished, but I did finish! I surprised myself - so much so that the photograph my wife took of me 'powering-down' Fluin Lane is now the banner to the web-site!
Note - I do now 76th 11 mins 22 seconds - but my legs are protesting now!
10 September 2010 - Langdale Way/Townfield Lane fields
There were around 200 people at the meeting at Five Crosses Methodist Hall on Friday night. The community decided it wanted to see if it could raise the money to buy the fields and has established a group to mastermind the fund raising and dealing with the agents, the auction and whatever else may come their way. I'll given them what help I can. If you want to know more go to Campaigns & Issues page.
10 September 2010 - Graham Evans MP Surgery, Fluin Lane Community Centre
I attended Graham Evans' surgery at the community centre ... both he and I are pursuing a number of issues.
9 September 2010 - Community Benefit Fund discussion group - Windfarm
This discussion group of CW&C and Town & Parish Council representatives has the unenviable task of considering how to deal with Peel Energy's offer of a community benefit fund if they secure planning permission for their windfarm scheme. We have no choice whether to participate in these discussions or not. However this does not prevent any of us continuting to oppose the scheme (which I do and will continue to do). Don't forget if the scheme gets planning permission it will be the government that makes the decision - not CW&C Cllrs... and if that happens, notwithstanding my best efforts I want the communities to have the biggest pot possible.
Getting all the parish Councils to agree on a way forward could be tricky - but we are trying our best.
9 September 2010 - Will to Work Workshop
I missed the opening of the workshop on the 8th - but the team kindly gave me a personal tour today. They're very pleased with the move to the old High School site alongside the Leisure Centre and I'm delighted to have played a part in getting them relocated...
... and now to get the Leisure Centre open longer hours
5 September 2010 - Kayak Trail - Pontoon opening at Runcorn Rowing Club
A wonderful event celebrating many things including the rediscovery of a challenge plate between the Mersey and Runcorn Rowing clubs. British Waterways has installed a pontoon at the club, at the end of the Kayak trail to serve the trail and the rowing and canoe clubs. Cllr Alan McKie and I attended the event and learnt much from our discussions with the clubs' members and BW. Hopefully the links we made will lead to other improvements upstream along the Kayak Trail - such as a Dutton Locks! If you want a laugh see the video of Cllr McKie and I paddling from Acton Bridge to Frodsham on the Videos page.
3 September 2010 Langdale Way/Townfield Lane Fields residents meeting
We agreed to distribute a letter around 1000 homes on the eastern side of Frodsham and encourage the community to attend a public meeting next Friday. Let's see what happens.
30 August 2010 - Kayak Trail Acton Bridge to Frodsham
Click here to see a short video of my trip with Cllr Alan McKie. If we could do it - so could you!
26 August 2010 - CW&C Scrutiny Chapter
We discussed the Centre for Public Scrutiny's report looking at our scrutiny function and are committed on a cross-party basis to take our Scrutiny function to the next level.
26 August 2010 - Meeting Pam Bradley - Head of Communications CW&C
A chance meeting leaving both of us enthused. I've given CW&C permission to link to this web-site and all the media I've produced and I've got consent from them to make links in the opposite direction too.
26 August 2010 - Formal re-commissioning of Castle Park
Overall the refurbishment of Castle Park has been a triumph - shame that some of the gloss has been spoilt by less than brilliant communication, delays and snags.
I've sent a couple of 'straight talking' emails asking for answers.
25 August 2010 - Ince Park Community Forum
I found myself chairing this meeting somewhat unexpectedly. Senior representatives from Covanta (now a co-owner with Peel) of the Ince Park and from Peel attended the meeting. The Community Forum's website is now up and running - www.inceparkcommunityforum.org . They - Peel have done a reasonable job so far - however I have asked for several improvements for the site to make it more useful and relevant for the community.
I also pressed Peel and Covanta to make more information available in a readily digestible form too. To be fair to Covanta - they got the point immediately - for Peel perhaps more effort is needed for them to 'get it too'.
24 August 2010 - O&S Review with Labour and Lib Dem Leaders
A useful cross party discussion about the future of Scrutiny in CW&C. Everyone is buying in to make the process more effective. I was personally grateful that the Labour and Lib Dem Leaders were supportive of what we've done so far and what we are trying to do. I was also heartened by the personal support they have expressed for what I'm trying to achieve. There was unanimity that we need more Cllrs to engage in the process.
19 August 2010 - community meeting - see Campaigns & Issues
13 August 2010 - community meeting see Campaigns & Issues
13 August 2010 - meeting with Chief Executive
11 August 2010 - Fostering Panel
9 August 2010 - Helsby Parish Council
An excellent presentation from NW Ambulance on defibrilators. Looks like HPC will be joiing FTC and CW&C in assisting NW Ambulance in having public access defibrilators in our community.
9 August 2010 - Town & Parish Council Review
9 August 2010 - Children Centres
I attended the excellent sure start centre at Weaver Vale Primary School and discussed how we can improve the uptake of the services offered.
Why are only half of our children aged 0-4 from the most deprived families attending the centre? Why are only around 40% of children attending in any event.
Holiday 24 July - 8 August
22 July 2010 - CW&C Council
The meeting was webcast - and you can view the highlights. I posed several questions drawn from the Health Profiles data for CW&C. They are worth watching. You can find the webcast here. When the screen opens click on 'Index Points' and scroll down to item 18 - if you click on item 18 you'll jump to the first question I posed on educational attainment. I ask other questions including a question on the support services for our looked after children.
21 July 2010 - Audit Commission review of Housing Benefit
I was asked to speak with the Audit Commission regarding the benefits service.
15 July 2010 - Community Forum for Frodsham & Helsby and Weaver - Overton Scout Hut
A lively meeting largely attended by people from Frodsham & Helsby who indicated informally that they would like a separate Community Forum not including Weaver ward.
Topics included speeding, flytipping and separate meetings on Manley Road highway signage and worries regarding potential incursions into the green belt.
14 July 2010 - Town & Parish Council Review Chester Town Hall
We were in 'receiving information' mode and heard from many of the Local Councils regarding what they saw as potential unfairness in the provision of services. Why in some areas is a particular service, or service standard provided by CW&C and in others by the Parish Council? Things are more complicated than this given CW&C area working and the fact that some areas are not parished.
And this is before one realises that it is impossible in an area like CW&C to have the same provision of service everywhere - and in any event there isn't the need for equal services everywhere.
After all you don't need to sweep Fluin Lane with the frequency you might sweep Eastgate Street in Chester.
14 July 2010 - Fostering Panel
Some very worrying cases. Two matters were of such concern to me that I felt compelled to raise them directly with senior officers of the Council who have arranged for an independent investigation to take place looking into the circumstances.
The impression I have in one case is that a child's position was made materially worse because the Council did not react more swiftly.
12 July 2010 - Cheshire & Wirral Mental Health Partnership, Macclesfield
A long trip to Macclesfield for little reward. We had few papers provided in advance. Quite disgracefully we had additional non-urgent reports, again containing little information dumped on us on the day. This is simply not good enough. What is the NHS scared of - transparency...?
9 July 2010 - Liverpool Airport Consultative Committee
The inefficiency of this committee and its sub-committee and the unwillingness to change is quite astonishing. I am not in favour of meeting for meetings sake, or having to meet when there is little or no business to transact. But I am a lone wolf crying in the wilderness.
8 July 2010 - CW&C Education PDB, Chester
Hmmm - disappointing evidence suggesting that the performance of our schools is not as good as it should be. It very much looks like the old County Council wasn't focused on educational attainment in our part of Cheshire. How otherwise do you account for us being 9th out of 11 similar Councils in Educational attainment?
7 July 2010 - Criminal Justice Consultative Board - Winsford Police Station
A fascinating meeting - but why oh why are the meetings so badly attended and with me as the only politician?
6 July 2010 - O&S Planning Meeting and ICT review
Our first meeting to discuss ICT in CW&C. Is the shared service really working for us?
28 June 2010 FTC - First Aid Group; FTC Council
We are making good progress on the defibrilator scheme - hopefully we will be able to get all our 'duck in a row soon.'
28 June 2010 - Helsby Sports & Social Club
This was a meeting at HQ in Chester where CW&C and the club were able to come to an agreement as to the way forward. Consensus is always preferrable. Watch this space.
24 June 2010 - Overview & Scrutiny Committee CW&C
Who watches the watchers? We were being scrutinsied by the Centre for Public Scrutiny today. It is important that we consider what improvements we need to make to the scrutiny process. We also co-opted 2 young people to join O&S going forward.
17June 2010 - Peel Windfarm - Community Benefit Fund
This was our second meeting. Peel offered £1,500 - £2,000 per built MW of power assuming of course, permission and construction.
I pointed out that this was there first offer and that it was inadequate. This could amount to around £120,000 per year for the communities over 25 years. I also suggested that each of us go back to our respective Councils and determine the basis on which each community was prepared to go forward.
We have no choice whether we want to have these meetings or not. Meeting Peel in these circumstances does not aid their planning application; it is one of the duties of an elected representative.
16 June 2010 Castle Park Trust Executive
The park restoration is late. We have the prospect of the old play area being closed ahead of the new one being open - in the summer too! The bowling club are unhappy with the pavillion given its combined cafe use.
We went to have a look at the pavillion - I can see their problem.
15 June 2010 - Briefing on Adult Services
15 June 2010 - Briefing on Helsby Sports and Social Club
14 June 2010 - Training on Equality and Diversity Assessments
Very poor training.
9 June 2010 - Townfield Lane Fields - Local Meeting
9 June 2010 - Fostering Panel
I had to escalate a case to the Director of Children's Services. Some very concerning circumstances.
7 June 2010 - Overview and Scrutiny Call-In on Business rates
This meeting was conducted in 'Part B' given the details of two business that were discussed.
27 May 2010 - CW&C Annual Council Meeting
26 May 2010 - report of illegal incursions into green belt
I was away working in Middlesbrough and was phoned by a local resident who had strong reports of an planned illegal incursion. I notified the relevant senior officers who patrolled the area. A good swift response.
17 May 2010 - Peel Wind Farm Community Benefit Fund
We have to discuss this on a 'without prejudice' basis. If the windfarm gets planning permission and gets built Peel will establish a Communitiy Benefit Fund. This meeting established the need for a steering group to consider how such a fund could be negotiated and if agreed etc run.
13 May 2010 - Lord Mayor Making
12 May 2010 - Fostering Panel
12 May 2010 - Election Review
The senior Council staff were responsible for organising the elections for 4 of the MPs whose constitencies lie in the Borough. There were a number of complaints. This was my opportunity to highlight what went wrong. That said none of the issues would have affected the results.
10 May 2010 - Frodsham Town Council AGM
Congratulations Cllr Brian Lloyd our new Mayor.
But not happy that a cabal of Labour Cllrs decided who the Deputy Mayor will be without discussing it with the rest of us. That's hardly democracy!
10 May 2010 - Waste Briefing
Should we spend nearly £1 billion over 25 years to dispose of all Cheshire's waste? These are astonishing sums of money and all based on a false market created by landfill tax and the EU's agenda of incineration?
7 May 2010 - General Election Weaver Vale Count - Northwich Memorial Hall 5:15am
Graham Evans won! Fantastic much hard work has paid off!
6 May 2010 - General Election - Frodsham Committee Rooom
I ran the Conservatives Frodsham Committee room. It was an absolute pleasure talking to people during the day. Virtually eveyone I spoke to wished us and Graham luck - there clearly is a mood for change here!
9 April 2010 - Liverpool Airport Consultative Committee
Well the airport is objecting to the windfarm - at least until they get their radar upgraded to cope with it!
30 March 2010 - O&S Planning and meeting with the Chief Executive
I had words about the Tarvin meeting - and planned for the first meeting of the new financial year.
30 March 2010 - Sutton Weaver Swing Bridge - Meeting with British Waterways Board
Councillors from CW&C and from the Parish and Town Councils met with officers from British Waterways Board and CW&C Highways Department to consider the state of the bridge. A telling line - 'the paint treatment is coming to the end of its useful life!'
We learnt that the problems with the bridge arise because the plates that support the road surface are moving. In turn modifications made to the bridge in the 1970s to allow for heavier lorries reduced the depth of the tarmac.
Well enough for the problems - we are told that BWB has given the bridge increased priority - lets hope the money is forthcoming to allow for the upgrading being planned.
24 March 2010 - Ince Recovery Park Forum
A meeting with Peel discussing their Ince scheme. The minutes of these meetings are to be published - and these meetings are private so I'll leave my comments to what you read in the minutes. I certainly want everyone to know everything that is being discussed.
22 March 2010 - Frodsham Town Council
The Windfarm proposal was debated. Interestingly a few notable Cllrs were absent. As a Council we debated the proposal and listened to representations from the community. Having listened carefully and studied the proposal the Council voted 7:3 to oppose the windfarm. This was a named vote so a formal record of how each Councillor voted was made. I opposed the scheme. I also asked for our Town Clerk - who happens to be a planning officer - to produce a detailed report summarising our objections.
18 March 2010 - Overview & Scrutiny Committee Tarvin
Hmmm not a good meeting. Too many sketchy reports and not enough preparation by officers. I will be having words about this.
17 March 2010 - Castle Park Trust Executive Committee
We're making progress with remodelling the park - but problems loom over the use of Castle Park House.
12 March 2010 FTC - Windfarm Public Meeting - Fluin Lane Community Centre
I am proud, honoured and humbled being a Cllr for Frodsham & Helsby. The Fluin Lane community centre was full for the public meeting convened by Frodsham Town Council to discuss Peel's windfarm proposals. I think 90%+ of those in the hall were opposed to the windfarm proposals but we were capable and did debate the proposals together, the pros, the antis with respect - if you ignore the minor heckling and barracking!
I was very disappointed, and indeed quite angry that Peel didn't have the guts to show up. I am fed up that they only seek to engage with the community on their terms. They are going to have to learn that this community does not accept that they can dictate the agenda to us.
Members of the public have until 12 April to write to the Department of Energy and Climate (DEC) change with their comments on the proposal. CW&C have 4 months to give their considered response. This will be given by the Strategic Planning Committee. If CW&C objects then a public inquiry will have to be held if Peel seek to persist in their application. FTC have until 12 April to reply and will be debating the windfarm at their next meeing on 22 March 2010.
I spoke at the public meeing and encouraged everyone to write in to DEC, to Peel and to use the rights to speak at Council meetings, such as CW&C and FTC so no-one can be left in any doubt about the strength of local feeling.
I pointed out that Peel had got their permission for their Ince Incinerator in the teeth of virtually total local opposition and none of our communities got any planning gain or community benefit. I made the point that this time we have to have a plan B. The scheme in my view, and on present information is far too big and in the wrong place. If not withstaning our views the government through its unelected and unaccountable quango grants permission I will do my level best to get the greatest amount of community benefit we can but I'd rather not be in that position at all.
On a gently funny note - one of my daughters was in the audience and heard me speak. She and her friends told me I was the best speaker! Now that from my family is high praise indeed! At least I wasn't overtly embarrassing!
25 February 2010 CW&C - Council - Setting the Council Tax - Webcast
We've set the budget and Council Tax for the next Municipal Year. For CW&C it will mean a less than inflation rise of 2.5%. That means we still have one of the lowest Council Taxes in the country.
I have to say it is a remarkable achievement for CW&C to have produced a unified coherent budget from the three legacy district Councils and half the County Council. However if you dig deeper you find that it is even more remarkable because we haven't had a reasonable settlement from the Government. For our second successive year we have received less than the average settlement whether you compare us with the rest of England, the North West or other unitaries. If we'd have received a fair settlement over the last 2 years we'd have had £2.3m more and perhaps no Council Tax rise would have been required this time. If you look specifically at Education grants we are £3.3m adrift of what other north west education authorities have received for their children.
Parts of our Borough, and indeed parts of Frodsham & Helsby have poor educational attainment. The ONS defined Lower Level Super Output Area Frodsham L1 - which is some 1500 households in the north of Frodsham - has particularly poor attainment with only 27% of pupils getting 5 or more A-C levels at GCSE. It is these areas that inevitably need more resources. It is for their sake, and indeed for all our children, I think we should be demanding our share of the missing £3.3m.
I'm also delighted to point out that other parts of Frodsham & Helsby - have very high levels of edcuational attainment with as many as 92% of pupils achieving 5 or more A-C levels at GCSE. This is all set against a Cheshire average of 56% by the way.
We experimented with web-casting this Council meeting - all 4:40 hours. Go to Cheshire West and Chester's website www.cheshirewestandchester.gov.uk and follow the links there. Fortunately the meeting is indexed so you can dip in and out of it. If you want "entertainment" search for Cllr Gareth Anderson!
22 February 2010 - FTC - Council Meeting
A swift one, for once!
22 February 2010 - CW&C Overview & Scrutiny Call-in preparation meeting
All the members of the Labour Group have called in Cllr Ritchie's decision that the Council itself will not put in a bid to win the new unified waste contract for the entire Borough that will be let to take effect in 2012-13.
I have convened an informal meeting to plan the ambit of the call-in. However in spite of requesting the participation of the Labour Group they have refused to assist.
The call-in notice does not even state which decision is being called-in! Its substantive content is simply:
"Notice of Call In of Executive Decision:
- Lack of consultation
- Inadequate understanding about the differences on the combined contract
- On what basis is the specification being established"
I convened the informal meeting in an attempt to clarify what was meant by the notice so that we could arrange for the debate we have to have to be conducted swiftly and effectively. I'm not clear whom the Labour group are saying should have been consulted with etc etc. I offered to help them perfect their notice - but no, they suspected a trap. Very well. There are none so blind as those that will not see!
11 February 2010 - CW&C Budget Scrutiny - Overview & Scrutiny
This was an interesting meeting where we looked in detail at the proposed budget and were able to consider it in more detail and without the yah-booh politics we can associate with the Council Chamber. We decided to look in more detail at the Government Grants we receive as it appears we are being consistently short changed by the government.
10 February 2010 - CW&C - Fostering Panel
10 February 2010 - Helsby High School - Yr 11 Citizenship
I was on a panel receiving the third degree from a class of Year 11s. I must have done ok as none of my children comdemned me afterwards!
9 February 2010 - Frdsham Youth Association
I called into the Youth Association and listened to one of the youth workers explain the work going on and what CW&C can do to help. This was part of my preparation for being questioned by HHS children tomorrow.
6 February 2010 - Peel Energy - trip to Scout Moor
Peel Energy laid on a trip to see their 26 wind turbines sited on Scout Moor. This is England's largest on-shore wind farm - in terms of the number of turbines in a single location. They are planning some 20 or 21 turbines for Frodsham - where the masts will be 20m taller than those we saw today.
The visual impact at Frodsham is likely to be significantly greater as the Frodsham site is effectively flat and close to sea level as opposed to the varying heights of Scout Moor some 1500-1600' above sea level.
Somewhat unfortunately today the weather conditions were still with banks of fog. The wind turbines were barely moving.
I emphasised to Peel once again that, as a community we expect Peel to talk to us, to engage with us properly and that does mean that they can't always control the agenda.
4 February 2010 CW&C - Will to Work Workshops, Frodsham
I was invited to see the Will to Work Workshops in action. They do great things with people recovering from a range of conditions that mean they struggle to work. They've asked for help in finding bigger premises. I've sent out some feelers. Hopefully we can do something. Incidentally any ideas - please let me know!
3 February 2010 CW&C Peel Holdings - Ince Incinerator Community Forum
Peel emailed me their draft revised constitution for comment - I've started to suggest further amendments to it - aimed at strengthening its independence.
3 February 2010 CW&C Fostering Panel - prep
Spent 2 hours reading the papers. Heart rending work.
2 February 2010 - CW&C visit to Lancashire County Council
A cross-party group of us went to Lancashire County Council to see their public-i web-casting system. It was and is very impressive how easily they can web-cast their meetings enabling anyone with an internet connection and a pc to watch and in some cases particiapte in public meetings. We are working to run a test at our budget setting Council meeting later this month. This has got to be good for democracy, will reduce ya-boo politics and will make Cllrs more accountable.
28 January 2010 - Peel Energy
A thank you for the meeting call from Anthony Hatton coupled with a debate about the Chester Chronicle coverage of Peel declining to meet FTC... Is the penny dropping that we want to see action, not just words, and that we don't want them to control the agenda... Mr Hatton told me that he will be raising these issues at the Peel Board meeting next week with Mr Whittaker himself...
27 January 2010 - Peel Energy
After dashing from one Peel meeting I went to another. Cllrs Les Ford, Mark Ingram, Alan McKie and I all met Anthony Hatton of Peel. This folllowed on from my email to Peel last weekend and the telephone discussion on Tuesday. All 4 of us left Mr Hatton in no doubt at all that we expected Peel to engage fully with the community and fully with CW&C and the various Parish & Town Councils. He said Peel had tried to do this. Whatever the efforts made and whatever the reasons no effective dialogue had been created.
I rammed home the point that Peel should seek to be less controlling of the agenda - that they will have to let people have their say, whether positive, negative or indifferent if they are in any way to address the poor perception of their organisation amongst the locals.
I think Peel are somewhat taken aback that their normally slick publicity machine has come off the rails hereabouts. Welcome to Frodsham & Helsby boys - the questioning, challenging northern Cheshire territories!
27 January 2010 - Ince Waste Recovery Park - aka Ince Incinerator
For my sins I've been appointed as the CW&C Frodsham & Helsby representative on the Community Forum established by Peel for their waste recovery park at Ince. I've just been sent the Constitution approved by CW&C as planning authority. I went ballistic! The draft constitution, in my view, was a one sided document drafted by Peel establishing a private forum of elected representatives where they could, potentially have closed down debate on things they didn't like. Don't Peel get it, and indeed I'm pretty miffed that the planning officials didn't have the wit to discuss things with the ward Cllrs first before approving it, that the local community doesn't trust Peel at all. I'm not prepared to give my name to forum with Peel which does not permit us to raise everything and where Peel don't commit in writing to be open, honest and transparent with us.
I signalled my profound concerns in advance of the meeting, and to be fair to the Peel officials there they have given a commitment to redraft the constitution. I left the 3 Peel officials in attendance in no doubt at all that I expected them to be open, honest and transparent and specifically to allow us to raise health concerns which played a significant part of the planning inquiry considering this incinerator scheme in the first place.
They may have got their planning permissions on appeal - but they'll need to be much more appealing to the local community if they are to be good neighbours with us!
26 January 2010 - Peel Energy
I had a tetchy conversation with a senior representative from Peel Energy in response to my email - he wants to meet me swiftly. We have provisionally arranged to meet up on 27 January. For such a large, erstwhile sophisticated organisation they don't seem to have grasped just what an independent lot we are around here and how we demand our right to have our say... they also seem to have struggled to pick up the phone or send emails to Cllrs. Its not like any of my contact details are state secrets!
25 January 2010 Frodsham Town Council - Full Council
FTC can be like the Vicar of Dibley, but without the humour. I understand why some Cllrs want to be heard... it would help me and I suspect others, and speed the agenda along if they thought carefully about what needed to be said, rather than just filling time! I guess some reading this will call be a hypocrite ... so be it!
We had a valuable debate on Peel Energy and it is interesting that some FTC Cllrs are "open minded" about the scheme, others strongly against. I read out my email to Peel Energy so everyone could see, clearly on the record that I am doing my best to bring Peel to the table to engage with everyone. I've had several people thanking me and congratulating me for saying and emailing what many others were clearly thinking.
Some of us are to go to Scout Moor courtesy of Peel Energy to see one of their other windfarms "up close and personal on 6 February 2010.
24 January 2010 - Email to Peel Energy
I'm getting very hacked off with Peel. I respect their right to seek to maximise their assets providing it is done reasonably, lawfully and ideally being sensitive to the feelings of the local community. I have already told them, that I, in common with everyone else around here faces the prospect of waking up in the morning, looking outside to the west and seeing their incinerator, straight ahead and seeing their windfarm and listening to and seeing aircraft heading for their airport! For such an extensive landowner and operator they do not seem that bothered about engaging with the local community - I've just had notice that they are refusing to attend a public meeting organised by Frodsham Town Council and I have heard suggestions that they are seeking to establish a forum largely made up of those who are sympathetic to their proposals.
Clearly they are entitled to do what they want and with whom ... but then all of us around here are also entitled to let them know exactly what we think too! I know Peel are amongst us for the long haul. I want them to be good neighbours, I want them to think of working with us, rather than in spite of us. I've sent an email to Peel in quite strong terms expressing these sentiments.
18 January 2010 - Meeting Chief Executive CW&C
I meet Steve Robinson regularly - its very useful to exchange thoughts and views every 6 weeks or so. It gives us both an opportunity to explore current issues or bounce ideas of each other. Whilst walking the dog yesterday it suddenly struck me that getting public access defibrilators in all CW&C buildings (within reason etc) would be a rapid way of increasing coverage in our Borough. I raised it with Steve - and I raised the suggestion that we could ask all funded Care Homes to provide/house a public access defibrilator too. We'd certainly make a huge difference if we did!
These ideas will take time to mature and develop...
15 January 2010 - Liverpool Airport Noise Monitoring sub-committee
The level of noise complaints is falling. Not all are airport related!
14 January 2010 - CW&C Overview & Scrutiny Meeting - Verdin High School, Winsford
A very productive meeting in an absolutely freezing school hall. We heard presentations from Children's Services and Adult Social Care detailing how the management is seeking to come to grips with and shape the services going forward. It was good to see that the managers are seeking out meaningful data even if the story told demonstrates the need for change.
We heard from the Leader over a number of topics including how well we were managing with the cold snap. Opposition Cllrs praised CW&C; Halton BC and Warrington BC's have publically thanked CW&C helping them out with grit.
The government's action in taking over salt supplies is hitting us as is their requirement to cut back gritting to 50% of what we would have otherwise done. We are being creative and finding ways of applying white salt and sand as a means of doing more than just road gritting.
We know things haven't been perfect in CW&C but clearly they have been so much better than in other authority areas.
Great to get confirmation from Cllr Short and the Leisure team that they will meet with Helsby High School over Leisure facillities.
11 January 2010 - FTC - Budget setting meeting
I wasn't able to attend - but I am pleased to see they have kept the £5,000 budget heading for first aid and public access defibrilators.
8 January 2010 - Town & Parish Council Review - prep work
7 January 2010 - Frodsham & Helsby and Weaver Community Forum
A very cold evening at Helsby's community centre - with pretty poor presentations on the Local Development Framework and Local Transport Plan. I've raised this issue with the Chief Executive. CW&C must do better than this with its presentations.
7 January 2010 - Snow
Raised lots of concerns with Council officers re gritting and school opening. The Government took over grit supplies on 6 January so we're not free to do what we want. This is outrageous as CW&C has reasonable amounts of grit left. Why are we having to pay for others' incompetence.
6 January 2010 - Snow
And then it snowed. I was not impressed with the less than effective communications emerging from some schools and the Council in the morning. A few well placed emails from me encouraged better communications later.
What about the gritting - well I walked around the area noting problems. My discussions with the officers were very revealing. The Council thinks grit from the grit bins is being stolen. The grit bin in Langdale Way was filled twice in the day and was empty by the afternoon. I saw a chap with a bucket leave the bin empty handed ...
I've asked the Council to provide my Overview & Scrutiny Committee with a resiliance report. How well are we doing?
5 January 2010 - Planning Board A - planning decision Frodsham Medical Centre
Great news - planning consent has been granted for the medical centre - lets hope it gets built! I have had discussions with the developer and the planninge department beforehand and asked that a planning condition be imposed requiring access by pedestrians and cyclists be maintained through the site 24/7 next to Alvanley Terrace - part of building a cycle network in Frodsham. Everyone agreed - and I asked the Planning Board to impose such a condition and they agreed too.
I also asked for a public access defibrilator to be sited at the Medcial Centre and available for use 24/7 too. Again the developer agreed and confirmed that the PCT and the GPs had agreed too. A note to this effect is to be placed on the planning consent.
And then the snow came. It took me 3 hours to get home from Chester!
25 December 2009 - Happy Christmas!
17 December 2009 - CW&C Full Council - Winsford
A largely uneventful meeting - but with some excellent contributions from members of the public.
15 December 2009 - Castle Park Project Board and Trust Meeting
I was incredulous - CW&C haven't sealed a contract that is currently being carried into effect for what appears to be internal reasons. I pointed out at these meetings that this was bringing in unnecessary uncertainty into the arrangements. I will raise this with the Borough Solicitor - seriously underwhelmed.
14 December 2009 - Frodsham Town Council
A meeting kept mercifully shorter by the presentation afterwards. I have to say FTC is trying to become more efficient ... but...
14 December 2009 - Helsby Parish Council
I reported on the HSSC position and on defibrilators - inviting HPC to work with FTC. I also took part in discussions on the wind farm.
9 December 2009 - Fostering Panel
Another heavy agenda - still pressing to have these meetings made more efficient and for discussions to consider broader issues such as the running of the service.
8 December 2009 - Pre-budget briefing and Chief Exec discussions
I was given a briefing by the Leader, the Chief Executive and Director of Resources about what our budget for next year is likely to contain.
In my following meeting with the Chief Exec I again raised the 3 December meeting and my intense disquiet.
7 December 2009 - Director of Children's Services & Exec Member
I raised the debacle of the O&S meeting and set out my blueprint for transforming the situation. I pointed out it should be the officers with the ideas - not me!
3 December 2009 O&S Catholic High School Ellesmere Port
All about engagement for young people except there were only 3 present. This meeting had been planned for months by my Vice Chairman and the Scrutiny Team - but it seems by few others. Having heard what some may describe as platitudinous nonesense I expressed my frustrations in very straight forward terms to the Council officers and their colleagues from Connexions. I expect far more than was evident tonight. Many members came up to me after the meeting to express there frustrations and annoyance at the way in which the officers had not prepared properly for the meeting.
I'm going to take this further.
2 December 2009 - HSSC Planning Meeting
A very productive meeting with a planning officer. I was able to tease out the real issues. Planning permission will be granted for the sports club but there is much to do with green belt issues and, of course the development agreement. The need to have effective project management was spelled out and agreed.
30 November 2009 - Cheshire & Wirral Mental Health Partnership Scrutiny - Crewe Town Hall
An all afternoon meeting. We had the Strategic Health Authority, Wirral PCT, Western Cheshire PCT, Central & Eastern Cheshire PCT and the Mental Health Partnership all present for scrutiny. So bearing in mind the financial troubles of Central & Eastern Cheshire PCT I would have expected my Eastern colleagues to take the lead - they didn't so I did. In fact I dominated the questioning for most of the 2 hours. I got C&EC PCT to agree not to reduce the funding to the mental health partnership by a further £0.5m without their agreement.
This funding cut imperils the perceived financial stability of the mental health partnership.
27 November 2009 - more prep for Scrutiny with Mental Health Partnership
27 November 2009 - private meeting with Chester resident
I met with a representative of the Handbridge Resident's Association.
23 November 2009 - FTC Full Council
We had Rob Hussey present on public access defibrilators and the help on offer and what we need to do. This was the public version of the private meeting we had on 16 November.
A typical FTC meeting followed.
20 November 2009 - Scrutiny Chapter with the Leader and the Deputy Leader
A very useful clear the air meeting. I asked for and secured agreement to add an extra Labour member to the Corporate Panel - it will distort the political proportionality - but in a defensible way as it aids the opposition. I've put a marker down to expand the O&S Panels next year.
20 November 2009 - prep meeting in advance of Cheshire & Wirral Mental Health Partnership Scrutiny.
I'm no expert on NHS funding but I'm very concerned about the implications of an £18m hole in Cheshire Central & Eastern PCTs funding. This PCT commissions services for 1/4 of CW&C population - everyone with a GP to the east of the river Weaver. They are seeking a unilateral cut in the mental health service provision provided by the Mental Health Partnership. So will we end up with different provision in CW&C?
18 November 2009 - Windfarm Consultation for Councillors
This was a private meeting (at Peel Holding's insistance I understand) for CW&C Councillors and Councillors from Frodsham, Helsby and Elton Town & Parish Councils.
Peel were given a polite but challenging encounter.
Up until I challenged them with regard to providing community benefit there has been no offers from them - at all. I have to say I am underwhelmed by Peels failure to engage with the community - and from what I hear and see with my own eyes elsewhere this it typical of that organisation.
Interestingly their PR advisors read my blog!
I don't think anyone spoke in favour of their proposal and many of us were critical ofthe way in which Peel seem set to make the scheme so large that it has to be decided nationally and not locally. It doesn't take a genious to see why.
16 November 2009 - FTC First Aid
Rob Hussey from North West Ambulance came to offer support to our/my iniative to get public access defibrilators in Frodsham and hopefully Helsby and wider afield. He outlined what NWA can offer and what we need to do. For us it boils down to securing the funding to acquire the defibrilators and helping finding sites. NWA will help with training and support.
I spoke with Les & Mark - between the 3 of us we'll provide £3,000 funding from our discretionary monies if needed. It looks like we need 3 or 4 for Frodsham.
13 November 2009 - Scrutiny Chapter
A good meeting discussing the O&S processes and how we can improve them. We discussed 10 letters of challenge and complaint received from one chap.
5 November 2009 - Overview & Scrutiny Committee - questioning the Chief Executive
We tried something different tonight - the Committee worked in 2s and 3s and on a cross party basis to question the Chief Executive on progress to date. It also meant that as Chairman I could let the meeting flow. Members had done some preparation - which was evident. A good meeting - but I was left pondering if we could have been more searching and diligent in our probing.
29 October 2009 - Sale of County Hall
I learnt that the transaction I certified as being urgent completed at 11pm at night - in other words with only an hour left of the authority I'd given!
28 October 2009 -Sale of County Hall - certifying urgent transaction
I've been asked for the first time to certify that a transaction is urgent and can therefore be carried out on the authority of the Chief Executive alone. It would have to be the sale of County Hall! I insisted that the officers brief me in writing over night and I read the relevant constitutional provisions very carefully.
I was satisfied that the reasons given to me did mean that the transaction described was urgent - I therefore certified my approval for it to proceed on the Chief Executive's authority - but insisted it take place within the next 24 hours - after all if it is urgent - its urgent. If it isn't urgent the transaction can be approved through the normal means!
27 October 2009 - Overview & Scrutiny Committee - Winter Maintenance Call-in
This was a call-in signed by all 14 members of the Labour Group. I am delighted to say that after having discussed and debated the issues the O&S Committee were unanimous in their recommendations that the HIghways Department should carry out a thorough going review of winter gritting once this gritting season is over. We are looking for greater flexibility than was demonstrated by the County Council in the past.
27 October 2009 - discussions with director of Adult Social Care
So his department have had 3 attempts at producing a satisfactory report following O&S in September - this was a planning meeting seeking to spell out what we're after. I spelt out the importance of demonstrating open and fair investigations - and not jumping to conclusions.
24 October 2009 - Helsby Sports & Social Club - 9am Saturday morning
A very necessary meeting with officers, Helsby PC and HSSC members trying to thrash out where we are. This development needs active project management. I have to say I am underwhelmed with the way in which CW&C and before them VR handled this. Hopefully things will change now. I had to do some cross examination to get to the bottom of things!
23 October 2009 - preparation meeting for Scrutiny and meeting with Chief Exec
Its all about prep! A mere 24 point agenda in my discussion with the Scrutiny Manager and then a chat with the Chief Exec.
14 October 2009 - Local Council Event - Life Style Centre Winsford
This is the second event CW&C has held with Town & Parish Councils. We really want a partnership relationship with them and for them to be confident and capable of doing so much more. These events help - but you do realise how much there is to do.
14 October 2009 - Fostering Panel and discussions with Chief Officer responsible for Children's Services
I had a full and frank discussion with the lead officer for Children's Services - it was refreshing to find someone who "spoke the same language" as me - and who appears committed to re-shape these important services so they continue to remain fit for purpose.
The Fostering Panel was overloaded - following the Ofsted inspection there is a sudden burst of activity. Whilst I admire the sudden desire to improve I would have liked to have been consulted first and I would also liked to have seen more effecient discussions.
13 October 2009 - Conservative Caucus
13 October 2009 - Discussions re Labour Group call-in of winter maintenance
The more call-ins we have at O&S the clearer it is to me that preparation is the key to effective scrutiny by all concerned - including setting and agreeing the parameters of the debates. The process has to be demonstrably open, fair and transparent.
9 October 2009 - Briefing meeing prior to Town & Parish Council seminar
8 October 2009 - Overview & Scrutiny Committee - Helsby Community Centre
A lively O&S Committee meeting at Helsby Community Centre - we tackled many issues including the sale of County Hall, buying the HQ building in Chester, Area Working, Complaints handling and more besides.
8 October 2009 - Cheshire & Wirral Mental Health Partnership Scrutiny
The partnership has a major problem Cheshire East & Central PCT is cutting their funding mid year to the mental health partnership. Mental health beds are to be closed in Macclesfield as a consequence - this risks affecting us in the West and our neighbours in Wirral. I struggle with this scrutiny committee - many of my colleagues seem to make position statements rather than asking questions. So I threw the gauntlet down - if it is true that Cheshire East & Central PCT is responsible for imperilling mental health provision in Cheshire West & Chester, Cheshire East & Wirral through their budget problems that we need them to be scrutinised directly.
The Committee unanimously agreed and so we are set to have all our local PCTs around the table explaining to us what their position is and how the excellent mental health services in our vicinity can be protected.
7 October 2009 - Briefing on Proposed Wind Farm for Frodsham Marshes
Peel Energy is proposing errecting 21 wind turbines on Frodsham Marshes. Each turbine will stand 125m tall to the highest tip of its turbine blades. The size of the proposal is such that CW&C cannot consider any planning application - it will be determined by the government's national planning infrastructure board. My hunch is that irrespective of what any of us think locally permission will be granted as it would appear to accord with government policy.
I am determined that each of us locally will get our say on this proposal.
30 September 2009 - Castle Park Executive Trust
The conservatory is finished - great!
28 September 2009 - Frodsham Town Council - Full Council
It was Cllr Brian Lloyd that first likened FTC to Dibley's Parish Council in the "Vicar of Dibley" in my ear shot. At least their absurdity was and remains amusing! FTC passed a resolution that could be interpreted as criticising a Cllr for telling tales to the press rather than raising them internally. I have to say freedom of speech and freedom of the press comes very high up on my list of fundamental rights. If a Cllr wants to portray him or herself as a hero or a fool in the press so be it - respond in kind if needs be - don't complain about the press reporting generated or the failure to raise things through "the proper channels." Some Cllrs work alone - respect it and move on.
23 September 2009 - Extaordinary Council Meeting CW&C
We debated Voluntary Redundancies - which somehow Labour twisted to the consideration of compulsory redundanices, the lamentable state of Ellesmere Port Council Housing stock - a legacy of the old Labour run Ellesmere Port & Neston Council and the sale of County Hall. It was an unedifying meeting - more heat than light. We were there until gone 23:00 hrs.
23 September 2009 - meeting Red Lion Bowling Club
18 September 2009 - meeting Helsby High School Head teacher
18 September 2009 Liverpool Airport Nosie Monitoring Sub Committee
What it says on the tin! I posed lots of questions about noise and noise monitoring and those who complain. I also raised other Peel Holdings developments.
16 September 2009 CW&C Area Meeting Weaverham
A fractious meeting in Weaverham where Frodsham Forward's transformation into a "talking shop" was raised. An interesting discussion about highways and reporting problems followed. Surely we can do better than this?
15 September 2009 - CW&C - Helsby Sports & Social Club - meeting CW&C's consultants
10 September 2009 O&S Committee at Extra Care Housing Ellesmere Port
Wow - a great meeting loads of questions from the floor and challenging the officers over the vital task of Vulnerable Adult and Children's safeguarding.
9 September 2009 - CW&C Fostering Panel
So Ofsted are in inspecting ...
I learn there are serious attempts to improve the payments systems for Foster Parents
3 September 2009 - CW&C and Helsby Sports and Social Club
putting our points over to the officers and the importance of bringing the community in on what is proposed
1 September 2009 - CW&C - O&S Preparation
28 August 2009 - meeting with Chief Executive and then Director of Children's Services
10 August 2009 - meeting with Chief Whip and Leader of the Council
A plea to improve communications.
5 August 2009 CW&C - Helsby Sports & Social Club discussions
The 3 ward Cllrs with Chris Cook discussing HSSC and how to bring it about - and what the constraints and challenges are. I am so glad I took the precaution of making sure I was thoroughly briefed beforehand.
30 July 2009 CW&C Scrutiny Chapter
A very useful meeting of CW&C Scrutiny Committee and Panel Chairman making sure our work is co-ordinated.
28 July 2009 Castle Park Project Board
Its good to see that the work on Castle Park's restoration has started.
27 July 2009 FTC - Full Council
Am I in a parallel universe? Is it just me or could FTC be more relevant? Why did most FTC Cllrs vote against being open over our budget setting?
23 July 2009 CW&C Full Council - Winsford
A fractious evening - not the most edifying spectacle of loca democracy.
21 July 2009 CW&C Education & Children Policy Development Board
An interesting brainstorming session considering what future schools could look like for CW&C...
16 July 2009 - O&S Winsford Life Style Centre
An excellent meeting in Winsford - slightly spoilt by less than brilliant acoustics. We heard from the Winsford school children - they were very impressive. In one of the most humbling moments a young lad came up to me part way through the meeting and said it was the most brilliant meeting he had evey been in - we were listening to them. We've set up a review of the relationships between Town & Parish Councils and CW&C. I do hope Chalc - can co-ordinate their 92 local Councils within CW&C.
15 July 2009 - CW&C planning meeting for O&S
13 July 2009 - Helsby Parish Council
I attended HPC as a visiting CW&C Cllr. I am impressed with the way in which HPC carries out its business. Others could learrn from them.
9 July 2009 - FTC Working Groups
Finally we are talking. I've proposed that we seek to have a dialogue with the people of Frodsham about FTC's budget and providing greater information to the people about what we do and have to spend. Incidentally FTC's budget is only about £130,000 a year - but is it spent effectively and do the people of Frodsham know how it is spent?
8 July 2009 - Fostering Panel
I learnt about delays in making payments to Foster Parents was a known problem for many years under CCC - I am applying pressure to sort this problem out once and for all. I've also asked that CW&C recognise the long service of many of our Foster Parents - not for the first time either!
24 June 2009 - planning meeting for O&S
Aiming for a celebration of Winsfordian life!
22 June 2009 FTC - Full Council
Some Cllrs love to talk. I wish some of them wouldn't! The meetings would be over much quicker with no loss of efficacy!
18 June 2009 CW&C Overview & Scrutiny Committee - County Hall, Chester
A very busy evening. The children from Frodsham College were brilliant in their presentation and their engagement in the debate. The Committee resolved to recommend unanimously that no one should be disadvantaged by the former County Council's decision to close the school.
We considered many other issues - some of which have proved controvertial within the Council even though we were unanimous in everything we did!
18 June 2009 Cheshire & Wirral Mental Health Partnership
This was the briefing meeting we should have had a month ago. Fascinating and rewarding being briefed on their vital work and being shown around the new Bowmere facility at Countess of Chester Hospital.
12 June 2009 CW&C O&S - decision to bring the Frodsham Children transport issue to the Overview & Scrutiny Committee for 18 June.
Having thought long and hard on the issue overnight and spoken both with Cllr Harada and Dr John Stephens I decided the decision made regarding the transport had to be reviewed. A very busy weekend ensued sorting out arrangements.
11 June 2009 - CW&C Community Forum Frodsham, Helsby & Weaver
Our first community forum. Heard from Frodsham College children about there transport issues and whether the promises supposedly made by the old County Council. An interesting meeting also considering the medical centre development.
11 June 2009 Castle Park Trust
An update on progress on the restoration of the park and consideration of the Annual Reports.
10 June 2009 CW&C Fostering Panel
Hard, but rewarding work.
3 June 2009 Scrutiny planning meeting
Another meeting planning O&S work
3 June 2009 Criminal Justice Board Consultation Board
Well for a practising lawyer I have to say this was my first time in Chester Crown Court. It was an interesting meeting - especially as Cheshire East sent a junior officer and CW&C sent me!
It was reassuring to here the good work being done in Cheshire regarding domestic violence and retorative justice.
26 May 2009 - FTC Why are we here working group and Full Council
It is good that we are beginning to debate how FTC could make a bigger impact on people's lives in Frodsham.
Unfortunately the Full Council meeting was poorly attended by Cllrs. We considered many things of importance including where Frodsham's western boundary should be. Should it be the River Weaver, or the Weaver Navigation? Most people think of Frodsham as starting from the swing bridge - so why isn't that our boundary? Its probably an accident of history!
The Council also considered the CW&C ward boundary review and supported as its first of 4 options multi member wards - keeping our existing close relationship with Helsby. This is my preference too!
26 May 2009 - CW&C Scrutiny Meeting Ellesmere Port
I missed the monthly Overview & Scrutiny Committee Meeting following a family bereavement. This was a meeting with my Vice Chairman to discuss what happened at the meeting. Much food for thought!
14 May 2009 CW&C Full Council
I presented the Scrutiny Committee's annual report to Council. It was a relatively short meeting with less of a substantive nature on the agenda.
17 April 2009 CW&C Scrutiny - informal meeting
Laying more foundations for a busy year.
15 April 2009 - CW&C Scrutiny - informal meeting
A fascinating informal meeting seeking to lay the foundations for our work in the next year.
15 April 2009 - CW&C Fostering Panel
Hard valuable and interesting work - but OMG - how bureaucratic!
2 April 2009 - Cheshire West & Chester Council
Fully fledged and Borough status granted to us by Her Majesty but meetings that reinforce the view that we need to do more to revitalise local democracy!
1 April 2009 - Welcome to Cheshire West & Chester Council
1 April 2009 - FTC First Aid and Charity working groups
Interesting meetings and significant consensus - now that is a rarity!
26 March 2009 - Vale Royal Borough Council - the final meeting
Many people - not just politicians or officers are sad that Vale Royal Borough is passing into history. By general consensus it was a well loved and respected Council. According to the audit commission it was an excellent council - and by the sounds of things it may well have been the best district Council in England at the time it was abolished.
The final meeting was a good humoured affair - but the "post-show" party worried me.
I've no idea who authorised the junketing that followed - but I was embarrassed. We had a spectacular firework display - shame was it appears that the public weren't told or invited. We then had a most fantastic gala dinner evening with literally the best food I have ever tasted. And all this freely provided on the Council Tax.
I spoke with the Leader of the Council and he assured me that what was done, was done without asking the Cllrs for approval. Not very clever really.
23 March 2009 - Frodsham Town Council
We do need to do something to enliven this Council and make its deliberations more relevant to the people of Frodsham.
19 March 2009 - Vale Royal Council
This was our last real substantive Council meeting of VR. The decision has been made to honour Cllrs who have achieved 20 years or more service for VR since the Council was created in 1974. I have no qualms about honouring long service - but I do believe by solely honouring long service we are missing a trick. There are many Cllrs who have made an outstanding contribution to VR who may have had less than 20 years service. It is a matter of regret to me that the Council was not able to honour them.
7 March 2009 - Campaign day in Frodsham
We had a compaign day in Frodsham with many of the CW&C Conservaitve Cllrs and supporters campaigining in Frodsham. I've said it before and I'll say it again - actually talking to people and being genuinely interested in what they have to say is what any representative should be about. We were made very welcome.
5 March 2009 - Cheshire West & Chester Scrutiny Preparation
I chatted through the plans for Scrutiny in Cheshire West & Chester with Penny the newly appointed Scrutiny officer. I have high hopes - and a demanding schedule!
5 March 2009 - Vale Royal Borough Council Community Scrutiny
The final meeting of this committee. Done in 20 minutes!
4 March 2009 - Castle Park Executive Trust
The last meeting of the Executive in its old guise - and we had a near full turn out. Watch out for the publicity photograhs!
26 February 2009 - Cheshire West & Chester Council meeting
We set the Council Tax today in line with the proposals debated before the Scrutiny Committee earlier in the week. It was interesting to watch the posturing and posing - although it is tiresome after 30 seconds of amusing repartee.
We had a massive agenda and each of us had encyclopedic volumes of paper to plough through. Far from ideal!
23 February 2009 - Frodsham Town Council - Council meeting
A routine meeting... I missed my caucus meeting to attend it as I believe it is important to attend such meetings. In recent days I have been in contact with Cheshire County Council regarding local highway improvements. Its maddening that the now approved Ellis Lane - Pear Tree Close pavement which was to be installed by the end of April has been put back - and we don't have a date for it to be installed yet!
23 February 2009 - Cheshire West & Chester Budget Scrutiny
An interesting time with Cllr Les Ford debating the proposed budget. Thank goodness for reorganisation. The recession has seen Vale Royal not receive £700,000 in planning fees that had been expected. This is around 10% of the Council Tax revenue. If VR was setting its budgets for 2009-10 that Council would have struggled to keep within the 5% tax rise considered acceptable by the government and would almost certainly have had to cut services.
As it is the proposed budget limits the Council tax rise to 1.66% on average over all of Cheshire West - although those of us in Vale Royal will see a 3% rise as our Council Tax was the lowest.
The more I see of the budget figures the clearer it is that we can be very proud of Vale Royal's efficient and effective stewardship. Certainly questions can be asked about the performance of Chester City and Ellesmere Port & Neston!
18 February 2009 - West Cheshire College
I met with Sara Mogel the principal of the College. I was very impressed by the work of the College and hope that CW&C and the College can develop really close relationships going forward.
Sara Mogel got me thinking about vocational training in Frodsham & Helsby.
10 February 2009 - Cheshre West & Chester Governance Committee
I attended the Governance Committee to talk to a proposed amendment to the Council's constitution I put before the Scrutiny Committee on 9 February. The independence of Scrutiny is important - and thus if any Chairman of the main Scrutiny Committee or any of the proposed scrutiny panels resigns or is dismissed from office it is important, in my view that he or she has the opportunity to make a statement to full Council explaining the situation.
The Governance Committee accepted the proposal and is to consider whether this right should be given to all Chairmen who resign or are dismissed from office to make a personal statement at Council.
Parliament follows this procedure and I believe it is sensible that Cheshire West & Chester does the same.
9 February 2009 - Cheshire West & Chester Scrutiny Committee
We had decided as a committee at our January meeting that we wished to hear from the Chief Executive about Adult and Children's Services - in particular the arrangements that will be put in place for safeguarding the vulnerable. Given the sensitive nature of the subject matter we held part of the meeting in private session. We will return to this subject with the Chief Executive and his colleagues later in the year.
5 February 2009 - Cheshire West & Chester Waste Briefing
This was a confidential briefing about the plans for Cheshire's waste disposal going forward. An interesting and challenging subject!
3 February 2009 - Electoral Commission Boundary Review for Cheshire West & Chester
Well we are going to have a boundary review for the new Council. The fundamental aims are that each voters vote should count the same and that the ward boundaries should be set to reflect natural communities. We are all going to get an opportunity to comment on what we want for the Council as a whole, and, of course for Frodsham & Helsby.
Like many Councillors if I stand for election in 2011 I will have faced 3 successive elections in 2007, 2008 and 2011 all on different boundaries! The EU gets fed up with the UK for the number of times we change our electoral boundaries!
28 January 2009 - Castle Park Project Board
It was good to see progress being maintained on the redevelopment of the Park!
26 January 2009 - Frodsham Town Council
We listened to an excellent presentation from the Habitats and Hillforts project team prior to our meeting. Go to www.habitatsandhillforts.co.uk if you want more information! The rest of the meeting ...
23 January 2009 - Frodsham & Helsby policing
Frodsham police invited Graham Evans, Mark Ingram and I to go out on patrol with them this Friday night! I have to say, without exaggeration, I was deeply impressed by everything I heard and saw. Policing by consent and with the support of the vast majority of the population is what we all hope for and wish for. All of us who live here value the strong sense of community. Sensitive policing offering support for all, and when the occasion demands firm and fair treatment for those for whom encouragements and prods to behave are insufficient is what we need and is what we are getting.
Those out enjoying themselves were good humoured, although some were rowdy with minor misbehaviour. The police handled the situation with humour, fairness and informal restorative justice.
We can be rightly proud of our community bobbies and the way they help keep all of us safe.
15 January 2009 - Vale Royal Executive - G&T issues
Today was the Vale Royal Executive when decisions were taken on where and whether Vale Royal will seek to establish further provision for sites for Gypsies and Travellers within the Borough. The Executive decided not to take the Ship Street site any further.
I have to say this situation is something of a mess of the Government's making. Everyone is entitled to have somewhere to live. The government has produced criteria stating that new G&T sites must be within certain distances of local amenities such as schools, shops and GP surgeries. That's fine in urban areas - but I struggle with the fairness of such requirements in rural areas when many people live further away from such provision than the government criteria.
We should all be equal in my view!
The Executive are taking forward a site in Winsford for further consideration.
14 January 2009 - Cheshire West & Chester Scrutiny Committee
Another marathon session for the Scrutiny Committee - we met from 6:30pm to gone 9pm. This was a public forum style meeting allowing members of the public and Cllrs the opportunity to question the Leader of the Council and 2 other members of the Executive. The public seemed to enjoy the meetings and since the meeting I have received notes of thanks and congratulations regarding the way in which the meeting was held and the information that was discussed.
We can always improve these meetings and the way we do things - and hopefully so we will!
9 January 2009 - Cheshire West & Chester Environment PDB
We debated many things including just how quickly we can harmonise differing waste management arrangements. Some things just cannot be changed over night!
1 January 2009
Happy New Year
20 December 2008 - Christmas card delivery
It was a horrible day for delivering cards throughout the ward - constant rain. I was soaked - but it was worth it!
Delivering in conditions like this makes you realise what a great job the postmen and women do - and the dangers that lie en route to the doorstep.
I fell over, cut my knee and jarred my spine - the dangers of moss on stone and wet conditions! Don't feel sorry for me - I don't!
18 December 2008 - Cheshire wet & Chester Council
Well work commitments had me in Leicester at 3pm. I didn't get away until 4:40 - then it was the mad dash to Ellesmere Port for the Council meeting which started at 6:30!
I had a 20 mile tail back on the M6 to contend with and so had to go cross country via Crewe, Chester and the A500 and A51! I arrived late at 7:10 - having missed the only excitement of the night - a named vote.
The meeting finished at around 8:15 - not bad for a 33 item agenda. What it does show you is the lack of debating!
I was quiet - both because I arrived late, and because I am a great believer in not speaking for speaking's sake - which some Cllrs do. Funny thing - many Cllrs came up to me later and remarked on my silence! I'll make up for it next time then!
17 December 2008 - House of Commons - Parliamentary Scrutiny Workshop
CW&C sent me on a course to see how Parliamentary Scrutiny works. This was a fascinating day looking into the workings of Parliamentary Select Committees and drawing parallels for local authorities. I've long thought we should model CW&C scrutiny on what Parliament does.
I came back full of ideas!
15 December 2008 - Cheshire West & Chester Constitution and Political Structures
This was a joint meeting between the Governance and Scrutiny Committees considering the structures for Scrutiny once CW&C becomes fully fledged in April.
So much to do. So much that could be done - so little resource with which to do it - and far too poor an understanding about what Scrutiny is and why it is so important.
8 December 2008 - Frodsham Town Council - Full Council meeting
This was a short meeting followed by our Christmas party where awards are handed out to local businesses. The main item of note was a discussion regarding the waste recycling centre at the Station car park. A planning application has been submitted by Cheshire County Council seeking temporary planning permission for the facility to continue at the station for a further 5 years. The problem is this site, which we all accept is well below modern standards, has had the benefit of temporary planning permissions for the last 19 years. When does temporary become permanent?
We had an excellent debate on the issue at FTC - with all of us, bar one Cllr, accepting the need for the site to continue in use. It is a shame the County Council and the planning inspectorate haven't got their act together to get us a better site locally.
1 December 2008 Cheshire Brine Subsidence Compensation Board
The Brine pumping industry has been an integral part of Cheshire's economy over hundreds of years. Wild pumping could, and has caused subsidence - and the Brine Subsidence Compensation Board deals with claims for compensation for such subsidence. The funds for the compensation scheme original came originally from the salt industry by way of a levy on production. However times have moved on. The brine pumping techniques now pose very little risk of subsidence. The levies set in the 1950s were not index linked - so have diminished in value - and now more money is raised through land searches as part of conveyancing transactions than comes from the levies.
The value and number of claims has diminished over the years and the Board's assets when compared with say the assets of the 2 unitary Councils we are about to get are very small. So is it time to start winding up the Board which administers the subsidence compensation claims and pays out compensation? This Board is made up of the brine pumpers and local Councillors.
This meeting was a discussion considering whether feelers should be put out to the government to put in train arrangements which could lead to the Board being wound up sometime in the future.
I don't want anyone to be troubled by this as this was simply us talking about possibilities - and there are no plans to wind it up, and in any event it couldn't be wound up without Parliamentary approval. In all likelihood if the Government did agree to the Board ultimately being wound up it would only be after evidence demonstrated that new subsidence was not arising in any significant way and that there were arrangements in place to meet forseeable future liabilities. This is a long way off I imagine.
These discussions appear to have been the first in 20 years considering whether the Board should look to have itself wound up so it was time for a review! Also the change in local government arrangements mean that the Board cannot remain constituted as Parliament ordained - so some changes authorised by Government are required in any event!
27 November 2008 Vale Royal Borough Council - Full Council meeting
This was the penultimate VRBC Council meeting. It was all done in less than an hour - which shows just how fast Vale Royal is already fading into the background.
25 November 2008 Western Cheshire PCT Consultation - Eaton
This was a very interesting gathering. The PCT is consulting on the shape of GP services and its central goals for the next year amongst other things. It was a shame that only 16 people turned out for the meeting! Interesting only 2 Cllrs from Cheshire West & Chester turned out, out of the 72 of us invited - I was one of them. There are 2 other meetings - I do hope they are better attended! How can people moan about services or complain about their lack of influence if they do not take up the opportunities to be involved?
24 November 2008 Frodsham Town Council - Full Council meeting
We have started the deliberations which will lead to budget setting and FTC's claim to a small element of the Council Tax. Three or four of us on the Council are unhappy with the approach seemingly being taken of determining spending requirements based on this year's expenditure and then varying it to reflect minor changes in circumstance. I would rather us approach the budget setting from an entirely different basis. First have a realistic appraisal of what FTC can and should do and deliver and then determine whether this can be delivered on the basis of FTC resources and a reasonable affordable Council Tax precept. If the Council Tax take would prove to be too high FTC should modify its asperations to meet what the reasonable level of Council Tax is or should be.
I've put a marker down that I for one will struggle to support any significant increase in the FTC burden imposed on our residents.
I've also finally got FTC to realise that the governance of the 3 Charitable Trusts it is responsible for needs root and branch review.
I can't let the day go by without commenting on the Chancellor's pre budget report - or should I say the full Budget delivered by the Chancellor. Never in human history has a government in borrowed so much mortgaging the future of so many. Labour's reckless spending is now being compounded with further reckless borrowing which we will all have to pay for, for generations to come.
22 November 2008 - FTC's over 70's lunch
This is a wonderful occasion - something that brings the community together, and something which FTC can be rightly proud of providing for a generation. We fed, watered and entertained around 210 pensioners and their carers.
I add my thanks and congratulations to all who helped to make the day so enjoyable and for those of us helping - so humbling.
3 November 2008 - Cheshire West & Chester - Scrutiny Committee Northwich Mem. Hall
This was a marathon session. In the afternoon I had an informal meeting discussing how we should organise planning committees and the scrutiny function going forward. I suggested a radical way of organising the planning committees - time will show whether the proposal is adopted.
Then there is Scrutiny. I have been mentioning to anyone that will listen that we have a problem and Scrutiny. The problem is a question of logistics and talent - and a recognition that Cllrs do not have a monopoly on wisdom. I've been pressing the need for CW&C to be prepared to co-opt non-Cllrs both to widen the talent available and to try and bring some real expertise an experience to our work when we become fully fledged post 1 April. Again as a concept this has seemingly been agreed.
So we had our second public session scutinising the Executive - and if you want to see it or listen to it - go to the Cheshire West web site where 30 mins of video highlights and the entire audio track are available! It was an interesting meeting - and gave a good opportunity for the public and Cllrs to ask questions. As one Cllr put it to me - "I've learnt far more in the last 2 hours than I have from countless Council meetings."
I think that means that it was effective scutiny!
27 October 2008 - FTC Council meeting
I do wonder sometimes whether FTC exists to provide talking therapies for some - if only I didn't have to spectate!
24 October 2008 - Cheshire West & Chester Environment Policy Development Board
I'm not sure this meeting achieved too much.
23 October 2008 - Cheshire West & Chester Shadow Council
A fascinating evening.
Should we seek Borough status for Cheshire West & Chester? The Conservatives say yes, Labour says yes - the Lib Dems abstained - seemingly to apply pressure in Cheshire West & Chester so they could receive allowances as a party. Trouble is with only 4 Councillors out of 72 will anyone notice?
Borough status is important to the extent that only Borough's have Mayors!
Now the issue of Mayors and Lord Mayors. I'm delighted to say that the solution I put forward has been adopted. One person to hold two posts - the Lord Mayorship of Chester and the Mayor of Cheshire West & Chester.
Its crazy we've ended up in this situation - blame the DCLG for their lack of forsight!
20 October 2008 - FTC Council Meeting
Well this was an extra meeting seeking to finish the business that was left undone in September. We got through the business rapidly in an hour - inlcuding the Council agreeing with my suggestion that we should do what we can to improve First Aid provision in Frodsham.
11 October 2008 - Canvassing in Northwich and comment on Brown's outrageous mismangement of the economy.
A group of us went canvassing in Northwich on Saturday. We were in territory you wouldn't readily associate with being conservative leaning - however we were very well received on the doorstep. Many were troubled by what they saw as insufficient policing and, of course the economy.
So what do we make of the Brown "solution" to the present economic turmoil?
First I note we know longer here the nonesense that Brown had abolished "boom and bust." We are so bust now!
Secondly I observe that as a country we now have a higher level of debt than we did after the second world war. The official figures for the national debt are around £650bn before this latest bail out which will take the figures spiraling upwards yet again. And these debt figures do not include large items such as PFI projects and National Rail's debts.
This government deliberately sought to give everyone a feel good factor by making money easily available by - the apparent growth in living standards was fuelled by easy credit. But now the credit has dried up and the bubble in asset prices such as the unsustainable property boom has popped with a vengence. The economic pain has only barely started to be felt.
Government borrowing is often characterised as deferred taxation - brace yourself for higher taxation and constrained government spending if we are to avoid Icelandic style bankruptcy in a few years time. It will either be that or a handy burst of inflation to devalue the burden of debt created.
Thirdly, and so far as I'm concerned what really troubles me. is that the government is throwing extraordinary billions in seeking to reinflate the collapsing bubble - that will only end in yet more tears with money disappearing into financial black holes.
2 October 2008 - Cheshire West & Chester Shadow Authority - Scrutiny Committee
Ellesmere Port Boat Museum
This scrutiny meeting was our first opportunity as a committee to question members of the Executive face to face. We had the pleasure of grilling the Leader Cllr Mike Jones and two of his executive colleagues Cllr Arthur Harada and Cllr Herbert Manley.
We want CW&C to be a very different type of Council - as open and accessible as we can realistically can be. So this pointed to the meeting being held away from Council buildings, the public being invited to question their politicians directly alongside the Commitee and the questioning by the public and the Scrutiny Committee being made accessible to all by web-cast and audio podcast.
You could think of its as a cross between Question Time and Prime Minister's Question Time! There were doubts expressed before hand as to whether a meeting in this style would work. Well I'm happy to say that afterwards everyone I spoke to and all members of the Committee and Executive supported what we'd done and the recording.
One of the Labour members of the Committee did not attend. I received a message that the Labour party was not sending a substitute as they did not support the video recording. Assuming the report I received was accurate it begs the question are the local Labour politicians scared of being seen doing their job?
The next Scrutiny Committee meeting in which we will question the Executive is being arranged now - it will almost certainly be in Northwich in early November.
1 October 2008 - Cheshire West & Chester Shadow Authority - Mayoral Scrutiny
I was double booked today. The Mayoral Scrutiny for CW&C and the area meeting for the Gypsy & Travellers site in Frodsham for Vale Royal. Fortunately my colleague Cllr Mark Ingram chaired the Vale Royal meeting and gave my apologies. I gather the meeting was told just how thorough a job was done at the Vale Royal Scrutiny meeeting.
The Mayoral Scrutiny at CW&C was cross party and we achieved consensus that we at least wish to see one Mayor for all of CW&C - effectively we are looking for Chester's historic Lord Mayorality to be enlarged in some guise to cover the entirety of Cheshire West. It remains to be seen whether this will be possible.
25 September 2008 - Vale Royal - Community Scrutiny and Council
We resumed the Community Scrutiny meeting and continued debating the Gypsy and Traveller site consultation process. The Committee ended up making several recommendations to the Executive about the way in which such exercise should be conducted in the future.
One of the most important issues so far as I am concerned is the way the Council deals with what are known as "hard to reach" groups. Taking what has happened in and around the Ship Street area as an example I am livid that the Council unintentionally gave the impression that responses to the consultation could only be given electronically over the internet and that not enough was done early enough to ensure that the real story was being portrayed - and not the sensational accounts provided in the press. I am also cross that no attempt was made to ensure that the most vulnerable in society did receive information in a way they could understand it.
Its through my lobbying and persuasion that Vale Royal did agree to and has started to write directly to the people most closely affected by the proposals. The Council had not even planned to hold exhibitions and events locally originally. It strikes me that the Council grossly underestimated the need to ensure people were properly informed early in the process. Belatedly it appears that this is now being addressed.
This process did not start well - it was not Vale Royal's finest hour. Hopefully through the detailed scrutinising we have done much to improve the transparency of the process. I've also persuaded the Council to perform a formal risk assessment on the risks of public consultation not being properly performed - the immense damage to the Council's reputation that can arise through such a process being mishandled is now all to self evident. Fail to plan - plan to fail!
The full Council meeting was a lively affair. Winsford toilets again and then the Chester Waste Contract issue. There is a suggestion that Vale Royal residents will be subsidising the weekly colllection now being arrangeed by Chester City Council which will, of course after 1 April 2009 fall to the new Cheshire West & Chester Council to run.
Close analysis of the Chester Contract reveals:
- it is cheaper than their existing arrangements - so this will produce savings from the budget;
- the new contract will produce much higher recycling rates than Chester's existing scheme - heading towards what is being achieved in Vale Royal;
- the people of Chester voted for this scheme and were actively consulted on it;
- it had to be let now, before Cheshire West & Chester came into existence - the legal issues are complex and letting a contract of this size under EU rules takes many months to progress;
- the Vale Royal and Ellesmere Port Neston schemes are different - and are up for renewal in 2012;
- The Conservative Vale Royal Councillors also on the Cheshire West & Chester Council lobbied hard and secured a break clause be inserted into the Chester City scheme to allow for a single system to be adopted by the new authority as soon as possible - in 2012;
I wish to see the best environmental and recycling performance from such a service providing it is pragmatic and affordable. Having looked very hard at this issue and studied the details closely, and having started from the premise that Chester should adopt a Vale Royal type collection service I have come to the view that what is to be adopted in Chester for the next 3 years is the most sensible and environmentally sound arrangement that could be achieved. This is an anomaly caused by the reorganisation of local government - and there will be others.
I enjoyed the political sparks and debate which have been absent from Vale Royal.
22 September 2008 - Frodsham Town Council - Council Meeting
Somethings FTC does well and many things FTC does very badly. We had the contrasts before us tonight. The good stuff. After an uncertain start FTC has, in my opinion conducted an excellent consultation on the Gypsy and Travellers Site proposal and is able to submit a representave view from Frodsham people to Vale Royal. I chose to abstain on the relevant votes on this issue so as to avoid any suggestion of pre-determination if I am called upon to vote at Vale Royal.
Now the bad stuff. Yet again we were overloaded with issues. This meeting finished with much business untouched. The Council does not seem able to distinguish between the important and the trivial. For example there was more spoken about the installation of plaques on seats for deceased former Councillors than there was about the Council's charitable trusts being under funded - and effectively bankrupt.
We rarely have tight votes at FTC but we did on Monday. A member of the public has submitted a number of concerns which he says need looking into. I don't know whether there is merit in what he says and the email exchanges run to 41 pages! I argued that these issues should be looked into - however we split 6:6 on the issue and the Mayor used her casting vote to reject that proposal. Unfortunately there is "history" with this individual and FTC. By its actions it strikes me that FTC has effectively said to this individual that we won't listen to anything you say. I don't think this is appropriate at all. FTC risks making a martyr and perhaps giving greater credence to the issues raised than they may merit. To my mind this approach is misguided and sends the wrong signals out.
18 September 2008 - Vale Royal Borough Council - Community Scrutiny
I was chairing this meeting. We started at 6:30pm and adjourned to return another day at 10:10pm. The full agenda included a full debate on the provision of public toilets in the Borough and in Winsford in particular. The Committee voted overwhelming to advise the Executive that a permanent solutions must be sought and something done, even if only temporarily to ensure proper provision by Christmas.
The Committee then considered the manner in which Val Royal has gone about the Gypsy and Traveller site consultation exercise. As the consultation process is ongoing this scrutiny exercise solely considered the manner of the consultation. I took the unusual step of allowing members of the public to take part in the scrutiny process and be directly involved in the debate.
We had only considered around half of the issues when we adjourned at 10:10pm and decided to reconvene in a weeks time.
15 September 2008
Apologies. I'm sorry as you can see it has been more than a month since I wrote this blog. I've been on holiday with my family to the Vendee in France. It was very relaxing and inspite of my intentions I took an enforced break from Council business. I managed to leave my computer's power lead at home - so no connectivity!
On my return Cheshire West & Chester Council had another Scrutiny Committee Call-in to deal with. The intensity of the debate seen in the Chester Waste Contract was missing this time!
Soon after this my family had to deal with an unexpected bereavement of a close relative of mine. I have only just returned from the funeral. I trust you'll all forgive me for my silence. I have been deeply touched by the condolences offered and the kindness shown to my family and to me.
7 August 2008 Cheshire West & Chester - Scrutiny Committee Call-In
Chester Waste Contract
This was the first test of our constitution and the call-in power. 7 Councillors can suspend a decision made by the Executive by submitting a call-in notice which then requires a full debate on the issue by the Scrutiny Committee. That Committee can chose to offer no advice or to send the matter back to the Executive with advice. The original decision can only be implemented after Scrutiny has either offered no advice - or if it has once the Executive has considered that advice.
We have had 3 call-in notices - but this waste contract for Chester is the most urgent from a commercial standpoint - so I have certified the special circumstances for convening the meeting on short notice.
Very few of us have had experience of any call-ins - so this was new territory for many of us and we had to feel our way through the procedures which were novel to all of us.
The debate lasted about 2 hours and gave the call-in members the opportunity they wanted to scrutinise the Executive's decision. As the meeting was held in private session I can't report the debate - other than to say Members left the meeting feeling that they had had their say.
At the end I was thanked for the way I had chaired the meeting - especially from the Labour party - as I said at the time - being thanked by the opposition can be very worrying! Joking aside I thought the call-in was an excellent exercise in democracy.
4 August 2008 Gypsy & Traveller Site Consultation (FTC & VR)
I've beeen pushing this issue very hard. I can't believe how poorly people are being treated. They are entitled to express their views and it is almost as if the local authorities wer conspiring to prevent it happening. An object lesson in breeding resentment. I'm to chair VR's Community Scrutiny Committee in September and have insisted that the manner in which the consultation exercise has been carried out is fully examined. This is on 16 September at Wyvern House Winsford - all welcome!
FTC has decided it wants a proper public debate. This was originally scheduled for 7 August - now put back to 8 August - which I can't attend. Can I trust FTC to represent all I have been doing fairly - time alone will tell!
31 July 2008 Cheshire West & Chester Shadow Council
A fascinating evening. I tabled 6 Questions for Council and assisted in drafting 2 more - I covered 8 out of the 9! The questions ranged over the Gypsy & Traveller site consultation exercise, environmentally sustainable practices by the new Council, proper support for all members whatever their backgrounds and whatever their other roles and responsibilities, principles for amalgamating our constituent council services and the role of Scrutiny.
I caused controversy by suggesting that members should only receive allowances for email and internet access and use if they actually use these services - we have a big issue regarding unnecessary paper based communications - think of the money that could be saved by proper use of email and the internet and the corresponding environmental benefits.
It got worse when I suggested that the County Council scheme which we are adopting on an interim basis positively encouraged the use of larger vehicles - you get 36% more by way of allowances if you use a car with an engine size of 1200cc or more than one under 999cc. I suggested that there should be only one mileage rate based on the small car figure. The Inland Revenue judges any mileage payment above 40ppm to involve a profit element - and tax it accordingly. Even the small car rate triggers this tax take.
Having stirred this controversy there appears to be increasing recognition that something needs to be done about it. Ironically a County Councillor told me that the County Scheme was improved when they dispensed with bands recompensing cars over 2000cc! With a 36% differential between the bottom and the top bands now -(999c-1200cc) what were they paying out for people driving Jags and Bentleys! To my mind this was wrong in principle and remains wrong in principle now.
The Members should set the example and take a lead in this area.
30 July 2008 Castle Park Executive Trust
A short meeting - I pushed for joined up thinking regarding cycle provision in Frodsham taking account of the lottery funding for the park and the redevelopment of the High School site.
30 July 2008 - Vale Royal Gypsy & Travellers Site consultation
I've tabled some searching questions of Vale Royal regarding the Gypsy & Travellers site consultation. If you wanted an object lesson in how not to perform on open and transparent consultation exercise this appears to be it.
29 July 2008 - Cheshire West & Chester Shadow Authority
I've tabled 6 questions for consideration by the Leader and Executive for Thursday night - watch this space!
28 July 2008 - Frodsham Town Council - Council Meeting
Not the happiest of meetings. I fear the worst side of local government emerged - with the apperance of putting procedure before people. FTC managed to become the object of criticism for the way in which the consultation exercise regarding the Gypsy & Travellers Site issues are being mishandled by Vale Royal. I had tabled the item on the agenda for full discussion - but it did not happen.
I also raised the provision of First Aid in Frodsham. I've just done a day long first aid course and was told that, for an adult, you have a 4% chance of being recovered if you collapse if one of the following 3 is missing - first aider, emergency services on the scene within 10-15 mins and a defibrilator. FTC has limited resources - but this is something we could take a lead on locally.
FTC has a tradition of naming trees or planting trees in commemoration of deceased Councillors. I'm hoping I'm not going to die anytime soon - but I've asked for a defibrilator rather than a tree!
24 July 2008 - Vale Royal - Full Council - Griffiths Park, Northwich Planning Applications
Vale Royal has changed its planning decision making processes to allow larger or more controvertial planning applications to be determined by the Full Council. The Griffiths Park scheme for 360+ houses and a retirement village came before us as a full Council. I do appreciate the highways concerns - but overwhelmingly this scheme to redevelop the site of a former ICI Chemical works is a good thing. The Council passed the scheme overwhelmingly.
I spoke on the application raising the importance of designing in sustainability in terms of environmental efficiencies in terms of materials used and to limit the energy needs. I also stressed the need to ensure effective waste minimisation arrangements for the intended householders and for effective re-use and recycling there. This was supported by the developer's representative and, if I read the meeting right, was adopted!
24 July 2008 - Vale Royal - Every Child Matters Panel
We had an excellent presentation from Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services - CAMHS. We learnt where the gaps in service existed and how CAMHS has in recent years been able to transform itself from a service with significant waiting list issues (would you wait 18 months for mental health services for a child?) to something much more effective now. I've left an open door for CAMHS at Cheshire West & Chester for them to raise anything that may need challenging or streamlining going forward.
23 July 2008 - Vale Royal Gypsy & Travellers Consultation
The Consultation exercise has started - and remains open between now and October 2008. If you are interested - please write into Vale Royal or use the Council's web site www.valeroyal.gov.uk to register your views.
18 July 2008 Cheshire West & Chester Environment Policy Development Board
Just occasionally local government frustrates me beyond measure. This was one of those days. This Policy Development Board has issues such as environment (with all the questions of waste management and disposal), highways, planning, building control etc within its purview. As a group of Cllrs there are 7 of us charged with developing policy. However the desire appeared to be more to allow existing arrangements to be carried forward with little thought. Cllr Lynn Riley and I challenged this "status quo" mentality. This meeting - at 2pm on a Friday afternoon is typical of many at CW&C which are not worker friendly. I have asked for there to be a serious investigation into allowing meetings to work supported by web-technologies. Let me and others stay at work and appear by video conference readily available through our Council computers and a broadband connection!
I must say I left this meeting fulminating!
17 July 2008 Frodsham Community Association
I've promised to help organise the bonfire event this year and act as liason with the Town Council. We met to discuss this - and agreed to meet again shortly. I provided FCA with the lates HSE guidance documents to assit in the process.
10 July 2008 - Cheshire West Performance & Capacity Scrutiny.
This is a small team of 3 of us charged with the task of looking into the P&C portion of Cheshire West & Chester. We met to plan how we should proceed. Whilst I've not checked - I suspect this is one of the few, if not the only panel or committee on CW&C with an opposition Chairman - and I invited it deliberately in my role as Chairman of Scrutiny! Start the way you mean to go on!
5 July 2008 - Frodsham Marshes
You either love, ignore or abuse the marshes. For many of us the marshes are a wonderful wilderness on our doorstep - fantastic for bird watching, cycling, some huntin' shootin' & fishin', flying model aircraft and the occasional walker. However these community activities are threatened by the selfish and the criminal. I cycle around the marshes regularly. Virtually on each occasion I come across flytipping. We even appear to have had an entire forest of leylandii dumped there recently. The marshes are under surveillance by CCTV and officers from Vale Royal and the Environment Agency so hopefully it won't be long before these selfish environmental criminals are caught.
The state of the highways is poor and deteriorating on the Marshes. I've flagged this up with the County Council - who, guess what, don't have enough money to carry out the necessary works. We may get something done.
People living near the marshes have complained to me about vehicle movements and noise at antisocial times like 4am. I've passed this matter on to the authorities too. I'm told we may get some signage discouraging the larger vehicles using the lanes - which are supposedly restricted by-ways - which means casual use by vehicles is not permitted although vehicle use is more common there than it should be!
4 July 2008 - Liverpool Airport Consultative Committee
I've been asked to take up Vale Royal's position on this Committee in the lead up to Vale Royal's abolition on 31 March 2009. This was my first of what may be no more than 3 meetings. It was an interesting experience. The airport officers presented a very positive case for the airport and explained how enhanced services for disabled passengers will be provided. It was disappointing, but I suppose expectd, to hear how the services will have to be policed and managed so as to deter those who might otherwise abuse them. The risk is, of course that those that might benefit may be put off seeking to use them. We all know of people who would rather be independent rather than ask for help.
The Committee presents data on complaints received. The data has to be presented with and without a vociferous complainer so as to attempt a balanced view on what is truly happening. The airport's activities do create noise - but is the noise an issue in the context of the M56 noise? I have asked the airport to provide more data to me on the noise contribution to our locale.
There is an interesting conundrum. Cheshire County Council presently provides the Secretariat for the Committee - the airport is, of course, in the Liverpool City Council area. Should this responsibility be taken on Cheshire West & Chester?
2 July 2008 Cheshire West & Chester - Scrutiny Committee
We've got the Scrutiny Committee underway. For my sins, or because I ask awkward questions I'm the Chairman. In our early days and no doubt whilst the Authority is in its shadow phase we will concentrate more on testing what the Executive is doing than examining things further afield. Well conducted scrutiny could potentially do much to demonstrate how worthwhile local government is. Personally I want as many people as possible from as many different backgrounds as possible to participate.
27 June 2008 Cheshire West & Chester - Logo Panel
We were presented with 5 designs of supposedly modern fresh ideas for the new Council. logo. Of the 5 - 4 could be described as nothing special - and the 5th was simply the best of an unispiring lot. Interestingly it was the big-wigs of the JIT* who set the brief for the designs which were rejected unanimously. The panel agreed with the need for something modern and effective - but also something which evokes our common Cheshire history. If you think of Cheshire - whether West or East or bits in between the common link for all of us is the ancient blue shield with the 3 wheat sheaves. We've suggested the panel comes back with fresh designs evoking our history. The wheat sheaves have been associated with Cheshire since the late 1100s - so we don't need to loose them after 900 years.
Our ancient county has a unique armorial heritage which does not need to be consigned to the dust bin of history just yet!
* JIT = Joint Implementation Team the leaders of the political parties from each of the constituent authorities that came together prior to the CWC elections. Many of them were not elected to CWC!
26 June 2008 Vale Royal Borough Council - Full Council
I tabled a question on the issue of publicity regarding the Gypsy & Travellers site consultation. Both the Leader of the Council and the lead officer for the issue apologised over the way in which the news broke regarding the consultation exercise.
The Council meeting was notable for several hypocritical speeches from the Labour benches - for example the former Mayor of Frodsham and his colleagues speaking out against preserving a Mayorality for the Vale Royal portion of Cheshire West & Chester. The existing Lord Mayorality for Chester and the Mayors of Ellesmere Port & Neston and for Vale Royal will lapse without arrangements being made to preserve them. Chester wants to keep its Lord Mayor - and it is understood that the Lord Mayor of Chester's area won't be extended to Ellesmere Port & Vale Royal. So its either preserve the existing civic arrangements or have none. The Mayor of Vale Royal fulfills around 500 engagements a year in the Borough. So Labour were after denuding us of our civic pride and representations. Same old Labour and their habits of cultural vandalism.
Labour also winged about representing the people - however their record of attendance at Council meetings and committees is dwindling - perhaps to a greater extent than the other parties. This is something I will check.
25 June 2008 Weaver Vale Conservative Association
After such fantastic election results in May 2008 this was our first Executive meeting. We are modernising and preparing for having a Conservative MP whenever Gordon Brown decides to call the election. Watch out Mike Hall - we're after your job!
23 June 2008 - Frodsham Town Council Meeting
So is Frodsham Town Council a-political - or is it dominated by silent politics - or as I put it at the meeting the elephant in the room that no-one mentions? In 2007 we missed out on elections as there were only 16 candidates for 16 vacancies - however many if not the majority of the candidates have obvious political links - such as having stood for local elections on a party platform. This issue came to the fore as the Council co-opted 2 new members to fill vacancies. There were 3 candidates 2 who were acknowledged Labour party members, and my colleague Conservative Cllr on Vale Royal and Cheshire West & Chester Mark Ingram.
Notwithstanding protestations from Labour who claimed in the meeting that they were a-political at FTC they voted en bloc for the Labour candidates. I challenged them that if they were a-political they would co-opt Cllr Mark Ingram, as he, like me has the strongest electoral mandate having been elected in 2007 to Vale Royal and 2008 to Cheshire West & Chester.
You can see my press release about the "Alice in Wonderland" antics here.
22 June 2008 Vale Royal Borough Council - Gypsy & Travellers Site Consultation
I'm very concerned about the way in which news of this consultation exercise emerged - so much so that I've tabled this question to be answered at the Council meeting on Thursday.
Question to the Leader of the Council:
In relation to the recent decision to embark upon a public consultation exercise in relation to 4 potential Gypsy/Travellers Sites in the Borough -
what consideration and deliberation was given to the effect of the announcement of the anticipated decision upon:
(i) the landowners of those sites; and,
(ii) the neighbouring residents, business, and other establishments (including schools) to those sites
where none of them had been given any prior warning before the matter entered the public domain?
Notes to the question not forming part of the question but designed to assist those responding and anticipating my supplementary question:
I understand that no landowner/neighbouring resident/business to the Ship Street site in Frodsham (and potentially the other 3 sites) was contacted by the Council either before or after the decision was taken to embark upon the public consultation exercise. The news of the decision therefore reached the community and ultimately the landowners in a sporadic and unmanaged way allowing rumour and wrong information to circulate. I am aware of accounts of at least one landowner being accosted and accused by ill-informed locals of him having sold his land to the Gypsies/Travellers. He was dumbfounded by the news and was not in a position to provide any form or answer or explanation. There could have been a threat to his safety and/or public order as a consequence - bearing in mind that the placing of such a site in an existing settled community is likely to prove highly controversial and debates about such an issue will provoke expression of such controversy.
Linked to this is the question of the public consultation exercise itself. As I understand matters the nature of the exercise has not been finally determined, nor announcements made about how the community can express views to the Council. Again bearing in mind the controversial nature of such a decision and the predictable desire of the community to express its views straightway this would have been wise in my view as an unsatisfactory state of limbo has been created with the inevitable public unease. I am looking for assurances that proper consideration will be given to ensuring that everyone is properly informed about the consultation exercise directly by the Council itself and that those most immediately affected - such as the landowners and neighbours etc will receive direct written communication from the Council explaining the background to the consultation exercise, how they can express their views to the Council and not have to rely on newspaper reports or advertisements or the local rumour mill.
19 June 2008 - Cheshire West & Chester - waste management briefing
This was a fascinating briefing considering the waste collection and waste disposal options for the new Council. The importance of these services and the costs of providing them are staggering. It is good to see the some erious thought is being given to these questions at this early stage.
18 June 2008 - Vale Royal Borough Council - Area Meeeting
Mr Collins from Cheshire County Council briefed the meeting on the problems of our household waste collection site at the Station. This site has existed on a temporary planning permission which is due for renewal next year. The permission is "temporary" as it is accepted that the site is less than ideal - albeit extremely convenient for all of us locally. Mr Collins explained how the various attempts at finding a new site around Frodsham have foundered - principally because planning inspectors refuse to permit sites to be allocated for this purpose on the outskirts of Frodsham near the railway viaduct which lie in the green belt - even though they are "brownfield" sites. If the Frodsham site closes we will have to face trips to Ellesmere Port, Northwich or Halton to dispose of our waste. I think the time has come to have a very serious look at the green belt around Frodsham. Is the green belt unreasonably strangling us? Can elements of it be reviewed such as along the railway line on the north east side? I know there would be little support for relaxing the green belt between Frodsham & Helsby.
The meeting also received a briefing from Mr Ellison - Head of Planning from Vale Royal about the consultation exercise that is about to start regarding the Travellers sites in the Borough. Please see the Campaign page for more information.
3 June 2008 - Cheshire West & Chester political planning meeting
A fascinating meeting seeking to lay the foundations for the new Council - what should the Council's vision be? This is very challenging work - and a once in a generation opportunity to set up a new Council.
24 - 31 May 2008 Holiday
I needed this holiday - even though the weather was dreadful. Now holidays for me normally mean mobile phones and emails access. However we went to Pembrokeshire and found ourselves cut off from all modern inconveniences - we couldn't even get digital TV! Bliss! After all the stresses of electioneering being totally cut off was absolutely delightful!
22 May 2008 - Cheshire Brine Subsidence Board, CWC Scrutiny, Every Child Matters, Community Scruntiny
A typical day in local government - meetings from 9am to 9pm on a range of issues from land subsidence, to children's issues, setting up the planning for Cheshire West's scrutiny arrangements and then Community Scrutiny. A heavy hard but ultimately rewarding.
17 May 2008 - Campaigning in Crewe & Nantwich
As is evident from reading the press the Conservatives are putting a big push on to try and win the Crewe & Nantwich by-election. I went to help them today. It was humbling on several levels - ranging from the warmth of the welcome on the streets for the Conservatives, through to the sheer numbers of volunteers from all over the country who were helping out. It will be absolutely wonderful if we can overturn this 7500 majority for Labour which, of course would bode well for us here in Weaver Vale.
16 May 2008 - Ince Incinerator Inquiry
With my FTC hat on I gave evidence to the Inquiry with Cllr O'Neill and Cllr Cowper. We followed Mike Hall MP. As it turned out we were giving similar evidence - I didn't copy from him - did he copy from me? That said I was prepared to put the public health evidence I gave (which I had taken through scrutiny at Vale Royal Borough Council) in its proper context. Mike Hall MP, on the other hand put accross his views stridently but without qualification. His cross examination revealed how that he may have pushed the position beyond the tenable.
I think the 3 of us did a decent job at representing the Parish & Town Councils - certainly we put the oposition accross of the locals in a cogent and coherent fashion.
15 May 2008 - Cheshire West & Chester Shadow Authority
Our first formal meeting of the Shadow Authority - held at Chester Town Hall. I enjoy historic moments - and the Victorian splendour of Chester Town Hall was fantastic. I spoke at the inaugural meeting - however as it was on a Part B (ie an item in private) item I can't discuss it in public! We then had the typical group photograph - with the usual hilarity of how many Cllrs does it take to stand as a group. The answer (if you are a Lib Dem Cllr) is no matter how much you try you can't! To call in matters under the new constitution you have to have 7 Cllrs - a bit difficult for the 4 Lib Dems!
And talking of being a bit mean to the Lib Dems you couldn't make it up. The sign at the Town Hall pointing to the Lib Dem meeting room was swiftly followed by the sign to the gents ... they don't need much space obviously!
12 May 2008 - Cheshire West & Chester Conservative Caucus Meeting
Frodsham Town Council annual meeting
Perhaps the signs of things to come - I was double booked. Ideally I wanted to be at both FTC annual meeting to welcome our new Mayor Cllr Pammi Taylor and attend the first CWC Conservative party caucus meeting. I chose CWC over FTC - but I did get back to Frodsham for a celebratory diet coke with FTC!
The caucus meeting was interesting - but more of the upshot after Thursday's shadow Council meeting.
9 May 2008 - Cheshire West & Chester Council - training day
A day for the new Cllrs to get to know each other and begin the process of establishing a new Council that genuinely seeks to deliver quality services to its people. I do trust the turns out to be reality rather than hot air! Years ago I did my legal training at Chester City Council - 20 years on I met some of my old colleagues. But who had aged better... it was a toss up as to who had less hair and who had gained more weight!
8 May 2008 -Vale Royal Borough Council - Annual Council
Quite a sad day in many ways - the last Annual Council for Vale Royal. We had the usual civic ceremony and change of Mayor. Cllr Doug Shingler the retiring Mayor and Mayoress Pam have conducted themselves and represented Vale Royal with great dignity. In a quiet moment after the meeting I added my congratulations. Doug has been everything a Mayor should be. He will be a very hard act to follow.
On a very different note I heard reports of political insults being hurled in my direction for the first time. Of course it could be I have just been deaf and not picked them up over the past year. The reality however is almost certainly linked to the high profile role I took on in facing down rebels from the party. Ah well - what price loyalty? I've certainly learnt the value of a £25 subscription to the party for membership.
7 May 2008 - Frodsham Town Council - Annual Meeting
A good attendance by the press and public - but only 8 of the Cllrs attended. Cllr Lynn Riley and I had to dash from the Conservative Caucus meeting to the Community Centre. I arrived 20 mins late - but I felt it was important to be there - unlike many others such as both Cllr Lloyds, Cllr Greggs, Cllr Shearn and Cllr Pennington. I have no idea why the couldn't attend - but there is only one Annual meeting.
I hope and pray we can persuade others to join FTC.
7 May 2008 - Conservative caucus - Cheshire West & Chester Council
All 55 CW&C Conservative Councillors met at Castle Park tonight - and all of us attended! We've elected our new leader - Cllr Mike Jones who represents Broxton on the shadow authority. It was heartening to hear all of us speak with a common purpose and a desire to see CWC be the effective Council we all believe it needs to be to provide the services our electorate demands.
2 May 2008 - the count
Wow - we won. Well actually we didn't just win, we effectively cleared the board in Frodsham & Helsby, in the Vale Royal area and wonderfully for over the new Cheshire West & Chester area.
The result saw Les, Mark and I take around 2200 votes each (see the home page for the full result) with Cllr Brian Lloyd - our nearest opponent take around 1300 votes. All 3 of the Conservative candidates got elected. We won in Frodsham & Helsby with an increased turnout over 2007. We have won a landslide victory in the new Council - gaining 53 of 72 seats.
I'm knackered having been up at 5:30am to remove our signs from the A56.
1 May 2008 - election day
A hectic day meeting and greeting and encoraging people to vote. I'm happy to say that everything I heard on the campaign trail has been positive. I'm concerned that turnout may be down - but its hard to tell and you never know just how many postal votes there are! Fingers crossed. I'm glad we are not counting tonight - happy to go to bed not knowing what may happen!
26 April 2008 - on the campaign trail
A busy day campaigning and canvassing. It is both heartwarming and humbling on the doorstep with so many people wishing me and the party well in the forthcomming election. A group of us put up a large campaign poster on the A56 near the Netherton - and just at that moment a lady came by- stopped her car and asked for help. She'd kerbed her car and had torn a hole in a tyre. You could see the hole and hear the air escape!
Well what could a campaigning Councillor do - I dropped everything and changed her tyre for her. Naturally I encouraged her to vote appropriately. My persuasion was all in vain on two counts. First she lives in the adjacent ward of Weaver. Second she had already voted by post! Good news though - she has voted Conservative and told me she and her husband would never vote Labour again.
I looked in on FTC's cemetery. We have an item on FTC's agenda on Monday to do with the regualtions.
24 April 2008 - Vale Royal Borough Council - Full Council
An interesting meeting. We had the external auditors reporting to us on the Council's performance. It was a pleasure to listen to an auditor praise the Conservative controlled Council's stewardship and financial management. The auditor pointed out the Vale Royal is amongst the best run Councils in the country.
This was the last Council meeting of this municipal year - the penultimate year of Vale Roya is drawing to a close. Many annual reports were presented - most were accepted on the nod. The only real debate came about the Scrutiny Board's report. This report is under the control of the opposition but is about the scrutiny work which is chaired by the Conservatives. There were complaints that the Scrutiny Board had not liased with the Scruntiny Committee Chairmen when producing the report. As opposition Councillors scrutiny is the most important thing for them to do on the Council - interesting isn't it - that they weren't able even to do this without questions being raised about how well they'd done it!
You may have seen press reports about the Weaverham Independents - former Conservative Cllrs who have left the party. It was interesting watching them spend their time talking to Labour Councillors... do they have no shame!
21 April 2008 - Vale Royal Borough Council - Employment Appeal
We reconvened the employment appeal and finally reached a verdict after having spent 14.5 hours in total on the matter. It was a very difficult case to deal with. When it was all over one of the Councillors who had been on the panel with me shook me by the hand and thanked me for the way I'd chaired the hearing. It was a nice gesture - and it is reassuring that your efforts at trying to be fair to all were appreciated.
17 April 2008 - Vale Royal Borough Council - Employment Appeal
Five Councillors spent more than 12 hours considering an appeal against dismissal - and we still haven't concluded our deliberations. We started at about 9:30am and adjourned at 10:00pm to reconvene on Tuesday next week. I was on the panel with Cllr Lloyd - we are candidates in Frodsham & Helsby. We consoled ourselves that neither of us could canvass!
16 April 2008 - Castle Park Executive
I'm increasingly surprised by the apparent denial of many that Vale Royal will be disappearing on 1 April 2009 - in local government terms this is a mere scintilla away. If we want to plan maximise local control over local assets now is the time to do it! Far too much gets deferred for later - and I'm troubled by short reports that barely scratch the surface. So we could act now to ensure the Top Field at Castle Park is properly protected - or we could trust to whatever the new political landscape will be going forward? Guess what happened!
12 April 2008 - Campaigning for the Cheshire West & Chester elections
The weather isn't the best for campaigning - so my best friends are my jacket, my gloves and my ipod!
6 April 2008 - Campaigning for the Cheshire West & Chester elections
With the nominations in the campaign is under way - I do enjoy walking the streets talking to people - and its great to see the support we have. We're going for a positive campaign - after all we have a great record in terms of stewardship of Vale Royal to demonstrate what a Conservative administration can do. Lets not forget the last budget at Vale Royal with its low Council tax rise, its balanced income and expenditure with a prudent level of resources was not opposed by either the Lib Dems or Labour - you see even they recognise we've got it right!
3 April 2008 Walking the streets of Frodsham
Guess what - I was walking the streets late at night and came across a drunk relieving himself in the street as if it was the normal thing to do! Why can't we have the mobile cleaning team that North Wales Police have - it would soon discourage this sort of thing!
26 March 2008 Weaver Vale Conservative Constituency Association
The fools - they've made me Chairman! The rise of the middle of the road Tory is at hand!
26 March 2008 - Vale Royal Borough Council - Every Child Matters
This was a fascinating meeting with Dave Snasdell from Cheshire police. We ranged over many things including young people and alcohol, CRB checks for Cllrs, and the crime statistics in Vale Royal. This latter debate highlighted the weaknesses in this government's fixation with targets - and in crime terms that means moving from crime numbers, to crime detection, sanctions and disposals. It was interesting to hear a debate where a police officer pondered whether we were needlessly criminalising some youngsters for a single one-off minor matter that will show up on their records for ever - just so a police force could show detections, sanctions and disposals. Certainly if Cheshire Police were acting in this way I would have something very strong to say about it.
If you are looking for clear blue water with Labour - how about we are strong on the economy and liberal socially - the opposite of Labour who are now reaping the effects of the credit bubble they caused as we all take a prolonged economic hangover - and the needless criminalisation and marginalisation of part of our society supposedly based on intiatives targetting the lawless few. Too many not bad ones are suffering at the moment and I'm not convinced we are tackling the thoroughly bad effectively enough.
25 March 2008 - FTC Full Council meeting
Do you some times feel you have had enough - you know fed up with manoeuvring or nodding winks by others simply trying to score political advantage because they are bereft of their own ideas and just want to steal others. I saw plenty of this sort of behaviour - and winking across the Council table tonight. I trust the electorate can distinguish between posturing politicians who are long on talk and short on action and those, like I try to be, someone who actually delivers.
I've been banging on about highway safety for ages and witnessed the Labour mob seek to claim it as their own. Well some facts for you - the Labour government has so cut Cheshire County Council's funds that they cannot even afford to repair the roads with structural defects. So if they are in this state no matter who bleats to the County for what they are unlikley to be able to deliver.
But - the Town Council does have highways powers of its own - which can be exercised with the consent of the County Council. So rather than join the bleating I've tabled a discussion on highway powers and what FTC can do for the April meeting. As a community we don't have to accept lowest-common denominator highways if we are prepared to pay for them and the County approve of what we want to do.
Time for action - not words!
20 March 208 - Review of Leisure provision for Frodsham and the surrounding area
Hints of what is to come with a meeting with VRBC & CCC officers with the local Cllrs discussing what we need locally by way of leisure provision going forward. It is good to have strategic meetings such as these from time to time - providing of course they achieve things and the officers seek to implement what is desired! I had to chase the officers regarding apparent commitments made to me regarding the layout of Castle Park - given last September. Its just as well I keep notes isn't it!
11 March 2008 - Crowmere Working Party - FTC's Charities
In my professional career as a lawyer I often come across businesses that have outgrown their administrative resources - very much akin to a teenager suddenly shooting upwards but still having the mind of a youngster. I do wonder whether FTC is in that position - has the Council expanded to a position where it is not able to support its own arrangements? As a small Town Council we have 3 charities, around 20 plots of land as well as all the other paraphanalia associated with a local authority. Our monthly meetings last around 3 hours and we end up rushing the more important parts on the agenda which include the charities.
The charities appear to be an historic legacy - the working party is looking at the issue and has established a broad consensus that we should simplify our arrangements - alleluia!
8 March 2008 - Pulmonary Hypertension - and the denial of drugs
Graham Evans our PPC and I met one of local residents who suffers from pulmonary hypertension. This life threatening, terminal condition that can affect anyone and at anytime of their lives. Drug treatment that can prolong life, and importantly can maintain a good quality of life is set to be denied NHS patients by NICE on the basis that it is not cost effective - the patients are all going to die. The first drug used to treat the condition once diagnosed is actually viagra! There must be something wrong with our government if it is prepared to pay for viagra to be prescribed to aid a nice-to-have but non-essential sex life as opposed to supporting life for the terminally ill. This is a typical accountancy trick from a bankrupt government that knows the cost of everything - but the value of nothing. If you want to learn more about the condition go to www.pha-uk.co.uk . Personally I consider this is a breach of covenant the government has made to the people. NHS - covering you from cradle to the grave - clearly not under Labour that will see treatment denied to those who need it most simply on the basis of cost.
6 March 2008 - Community Scrutiny Committee and Every Child Matters
At Every Child Matters we had an excellent meeting with the Youth Offending Team from mid-Cheshire. It was an honour and a privilege to hear from a committed team anxious to reduce offending amongst the young people of Vale Royal. We heard that the YOT cannot understand why 40% of young offenders in Cheshire come from Vale Royal! There is some suggestion that this may be a statistical problem to do with the reporting of offences being solved as opposed to suggesting that Vale Royal's youth are more criminal than elsewhere in Cheshire.
After such an enervating and uplifting meeting we had Cheshire Highways presenting. Perhaps they could never win - as all of us have a view about the state of the roads! I was horrified to learn the Labour government has cut the funding for Cheshire's roads by 11% and that the County does not have enough money even to repair structural failures in our roads, let alone the cosmetic damage. Much of what I heard truly annoyed me and reinforced my view that the County has become divorced from the local people and what they see as important. I raised safe routes for school children and the fact that virtually all of Frodsham's secondary school children will be going to Helsby High along the de-restricted speed limited A56 from September 2009. There does not appear to have been any planning for Frodsham school children. I have raised the Howey Lane / A56 / Carriage Drive / Netherton crossing and the need to do something. I was met with stoney silence about road improvements and a suggestion that not all of the children at Frodsham High School come from Frodsham... and that point was what exactly!!
What the meeting did not know at the start is that I am a former Highways Lawyer. I was not prepared to accept that casual suggestion made by the County's represntatives that everything was down to bad planning (ie Vale Royal's remit) when the County as Highway Authority signs agreements called s278 agreements with developers accepting the specification and standards for new roads.
If I get elected to the new Council I can see some interesting battles with highways. I do not accept their lowest common denominator approach to our roads. Apparently Fluin Lane is the second safest B Road in the County. Tell that to the local residents!
Community Scrutiny meeting was quiet after all this excitement - but we did have to shelve further digging into the lamentable state of cycling routes in Vale Royal - one of the first casualties of local government reorganisation.
5 March 2008 - Environment Scrutiny
We had a presentation from the Health Protection Agencies Dr Stewart. We looked at the death and disease rates for Vale Royal and the surrounding areas. Interesting stuff. By and large we are a reasonably healthy lot!
I've asked that Vale Royal give active consideration to formally registering areas of land within the Borough and its ownership as Commons or Village Greens where locals have been enjoying informal sport and recreation for at least 20 consecutive years. If that has happened public rights to use the land will have been created and the registration process will give recognition to those rights.
29 February 2008 - Helsby Community Centre Quiz Night
We had a fantastic evening's entertainment. Wonderful food, wonderful company and an entertaining quiz master - thanks Mae.
28 February 2008 - Vale Royal Borough Council - Full Council meeting
Setting the Council Tax. The budget meeting passed swiftly and with little opposition. The modest 3% rise in Council Tax was accepted by what seemed like everyone. Even Labour acknowledged how well the officially excellent Vale Royal is doing under Conservative stewardship: "Nobody doubts that the delivery of our services are very very good." Cllr Arthur Nield - Labour.
In many ways it is sad Vale Royal is to disappear - we are an excellent debt free Council - if only the same could be said of those authorities we are to merge with by 1 April 2009. Incidentally the Police Authority have put up their portion of the Council tax by 17%. They say they are unfairly treated by the Government and do not receive a sufficient grant to support their work - hence having to claim more from the Council tax payer to make up the difference. Why does Labour hate Cheshire so much - our schools are underfunded too for exactly the same reason.
25 February 2008 - Frodsham Town Council - Full Council meeting
We are getting a new, additional fire engine in Frodsham to serve alongside the existing equipment. Cheshire Fire Service made a presentation to the Town Council showing off their new midi-appliance. This very capable bit of kit uses the new Compressed Air Foam System - CAFS - or fighting fires. We saw very impressive video of a barn fire and a fire in a static van being totally extinguished in 20-30 seconds. This new kit will also mean that Frodsham fire station will be operational more of the time.
The Town Council meeting proper lasted nearly 3 hours. It was conducted in a good spirit - perhaps because there were only 7 of us there! We've set up a task group to look into what FTC really should be doing.
23 February 2008 - Selection of the Candidates for West Cheshire & Chester shadow
We've had the selection meeting to choose who will stand as the Conservative candidates for the Frodsham & Helsby ward for the new shadow authority. We had a good turn out of party members at the meeting - its always good to see the membership caring about who will represent the party going forward.
21 February 2008 - Vale Royal Borough Council - Every Child Matters
This was a very informative meeting centred around the principles of "Here by rights" - national policy which seeks to reform the mindset and policies of all public services and make them more relevant and aware of the needs of children and younger adults. Even though Vale Royal has only just over a year's worth of life left we are determined to keep up the good work in the hope that we will be able to influence the culture of the successor West Cheshire & Chester authority. I also had a very informative informal discussion wth members from other parties about the Northwich-Winsford axis in Vale Royal which does on occasion seem to exclude the "Northern Territories" of Frodsham and Helsby. The point was made to me that the delivery of good services in Frodsham, Helsby and elsewhere is dependant upon having good vocal local Cllrs who are prepared to challenge this axis. The implication being that we've not been well served in Frodsham for years - but then I knew that anyway! But it is reassuring to hear that articulated from opposition Cllrs who had no reason to flatter me!
Following a discussion about first time entrants into crime - I've asked for the crime figures for Frodsham North to be analysed in detail. As I've mentioned before I want to be sure that the data is not hiding a discreet intense problem.
Speaking as the only Vale Royal Cllr for Frodsham North who lives in Frodsham North my personal experience of crime on a daily basis in the ward makes me wonder whether the problems are very localised. If I'm right we owe it to all of our law abiding neighbours throughout the whole of Frodsham to do what we can to stop it.
20 February 2008 - Vale Royal Borough Council - Area Meeting
This was a well attended meeting where we heard presentations from the PCT about plans for the health centre, infection control at the Countess of Chester Hospital and priorities for tackling crime and anti-social behaviour. Even though Cllrs were asked to stay quiet some still had to make interjections! Same old suspects too!
I'm beginning to lose count of the number of people who've been handing me the MP's invite to chat. It would have been nice if Uncle Mike had invited me personally. As the Cllr that has been raising issues of deprivation, unfairness and inequality that make some of our fellow citizens' lives more difficult I might have been able to assist him.
But then perhaps Uncle Mike is trying to bolster the under performing Labour Cllrs?
PS Does anyone want to stand for the Lib Dems... I hear they are struggling to find candidates! One cynical observer said to me they'd take anyone with a pulse! I think that's a might unfair. As the Town Council proves there are all too few people volunteering for local politics. We need to encourage everyone to participate - even the Lib Dems. Come on guys stand!
17 February 2008 - Chester Chronicle (Frodsham & Helsby edition)
Now I don't pretend to understand journalism or the timing of articles. There was a very interesting article picking up on my comments made at FTC on 18 January - reassuringly quoting the facts I had researched too - and picking up that the Labour Cllrs accept that I'm right that FTC needs to review what it does and why.
Now John Maddock, the Mayor of FTC believes whatever I may suggest will cost money. Nope, not necessarily.
By the way I'm intrigued by FTC's Marshlands project. I'd be interested to hear views about it.
16 February 2008 - for once a quiet week in poltics
Its been a quiet week with little Council buisness - everyone benefiting from half term perhaps? But it may just be the drawing of breath prior to the party selection processes for the new West Cheshire and Chester Council. We have the final selection round in Frodsham and Helsby next weekend.
There is something heart-warming about the amateurish way in which local politics operates - at least within the local Conservative Party. No-one is cracking a whip over us or requiring expected modes of behaviour - we are exepcted to know how to behave and what to do.
Some of my Labour party colleagues tell me things are so different there with control freakery taken to great heights. Woe betide you if you are not of the right gender or ethnicity to meet party quotas - irrespective of how good you are! There are dark mutterings of bussing in female candidates to outpoosts like Northwich where Labour men predominate unless, of course, some of the men volunteer for reassignement surgery perhaps?!
And then there are the written questions that Labour candidates reputedly have to answer as part of the selection process. One former local Labour party Chairman, who will remain nameless, told me that he was banned from taking part in selection meetings as he caustically suggested that those candidates who couldn't write coherent answers to the questions could draw a picture to explain themselves!
No one said democracy was perfect!
7 February 2008 - Vale Royal - Every Child Matters Panel
Only 2 Cllrs turned up. This panel has 4 permanent members and 3 other Cllrs are invited - so 2 out of 7 broadly sums up how some see this important panel. This scutiny panel has invited agencies such as the police and the County Council to engage with it. Likewise the panel has challenged Vale Royal's management to demonstrate how child sensitive its policies are. We are waiting for answers. Now in March the panel has to write a report setting out how well its work has gone. I have asked the officers to remind everyone that this report is to be written and I will state in it those who have not engaged. We have also given an invitation to the press to explain to us how they go about reporting young people. That will be an interesting meeting - if they turn up!
30 January 2008 - Castle Park Trust Executive Committee
A well attended meeting - demonstrating that those bodies that will survive local government reorganisation are still relevant and well attended. The relationship between Frodsham Town Council, Castle Park Trust and Vale Royal Borough Council was discussed under several items - including a request from FTC for the Top Field at Castle Park to be protected from the risk of future development to the same extent as the rest of Castle Park. The land was originally acquired for housing and remains outside the Trust. The Frodsham Conservative Cllrs were strongly in favour of tighter restrictions - such as considering whether the land should be given the status of a Village Green even if VRBC may be unwilling to transfer the land into the Castle Park Trust. I spoke strongly about putting in greater protection as the farce of FTC having previously sought to build on the Communinty Centre Top Field should remain as a warning to us all.
I pursuaded the Trust to assist FTC in putting a case together for more involvement in the Trust. This is a once in a generation chance to get FTC closer involvement. Lets hope FTC takes its chance!
28 January 2008 - Frodsham Town Council
Ah you can smell politics in the air. There's nothing like the whiff of an election to galvanise political action! Local Government Reorganisation means we have elections in May 2008 for the new West Cheshire Council - and you can enjoy the wonderful sight of what you thought were moribund semi-detached disinterested Cllrs now pretending that they are loyal party activists desparately trying to do anything to please!
Of course for all too many this "loyal salute of the party flag" is a sham as is their attempt to hoodwink the electorate that actually they have been doing something over the past months and years. I'm trying not to be a hypocritical Cllr by the way - but feel free to criticise.
In one of those wonderful twists, politics for the moment means the Town Council - not Vale Royal. Too many Cllrs there seem to have lost interest as that Council is to be wound up. With Labour taking a hammering in the media and elsewhere it is to the credit of the Labour Cllrs on FTC that they had a full attendance of all their number for the first time in, is it 4, 5 or 6 months? I say full attendance - one Cllr turned up for what seemed like 30 minutes. I didn't keep a record of the time so apologies in advance if in fact it was 32 minutes, or even 45!
However as Labour dominate FTC having one of their number regularly missing doesn't affect their dominance in any meaningful way.
FTC's agenda was full - in fact all too full as the meeting ran on to 10:20pm and not all business that was intended to be covered was in fact covered. To be fair to everyone the debates were conducted with speed and seemingly with little rancour. The politicking was very obvious with the Labour Cllrs who have put with my excoriating attacks on FTC's poor past administration agreeeing with virtually everything I said and what I have been seeking to have done in modernising and professionalising the Council. I suspect they are trying to narrow the scope for criticism when the elections arrive.
So as I've been pushing for - we are to have proper planning of events; risk assessments are accepted as being an integral part of that planning. I did point out that FTC had signed up to a risk management policy in 2005 and really it ought to be followed. There is an acceptance that FTC needs to review what it does and how it does it - well in advance of future budget setting and we are to have a full debate on this. This also means we could prioritise spending against what FTC sees as Frodsham's needs - now there's a scary first! There is an acceptance that FTC should, subject to detailed consideration, seek to play a fuller role in the management of Castle Park... and we agreed a set of rules to manage Crowmere Lake...!
23 January 2008 - Vale Royal Borough Council - Environment Scrutiny
I fear the effects of local government reorganisation are being felt already. With LGR as it is known in the jargon we are going to lose something between a half and two thirds of existing Cllrs of all parties. The turn out at last weeks Commnity Scrutiny was the poorest I've seen - with around half the members missing, There were only 6 members present tonight. I've heard on the grapevine that the Labour Group are going to struggle to get their people to turn out. OK as a Conservative getting an easy ride as the opposition doesn't care has its advantages - but it is a denial of democracy.
The Environment Committee agenda was largely those matters I had raised - very like the Community Scrutiny meeting last week. Again - fine for me but what are the other Cllrs doing?
18 January 2008 - Frodsham & Helsby Chronicle - Council Tax rates
The Frodsham & Helsby Chronicle ran a page 2 story on the comparative Council Tax rates to be charged by Frodsham Town Council and Helsby Parish Council. Cllr John Maddock's beaming face appeared together with an implicit suggestion that FTC was the model of financial rectitude and performance. The FTC budget had been produced apparently without any cuts to services! Of course the reality is without opposition such as mine FTC would have sought an 11% increase in its Council Tax - and arguably still not delivered much to the local people.
I don't pretend to be an expert on Helsby issues - but I do know their Parish Council seems more focused, better run, and was able to plan to give a £100,000 grant to aid local sports facilities. In contrast FTC can waste £40,000 on legal bills associated with Crowmere Lake.
Don't believe everything you read in the papers!
18 January 2008 - Fluin Lane - Frodsham & Helsby Chronicle
The Frodsham & Helsby Chronicle was as good as its word - giving due prominence to the deceased and celebrating his remarkable life and needless early death. I wished the piece about the residents wanting something done had discussed the issues in more depth. The published piece put things too simplistically and not entirely the way I expressed the position. Oh well - that's journalism for you!
17 January 2008 - Fluin Lane
Along with a group of residents I met a journalist and photographer from the Chester Chronicle. All of us in Frodsham are well used to differing opinions - however we all appear to agree - something needs to be done to modify driver behaviour along Fluin Lane.
17 January 2008 - Vale Royal Borough Council
I spent all day at VRBC Winsford. A Licensing Sub-Committee in the morning, an Every Child Matters panel in the afternoon and then the Community Scrutiny Committee in the evening. Only half the expected members turned up for this Scrutiny Committee which was looking at, amongst other things, the provision of support for Older People in Vale Royal. I do appreciate that turning up for every meeting is effectively impossible - but such poor attendance suggests some members aren't fulfilling their responsibilities to their electorate.
15 & 16 January 2008 - Press Interest
So our relatively high crime rate and area of deprivation wasn't appreciated or recognised. I had a long discussion with a journalist about this - and have even supplied them with the official statistics backing up what I said at FTC last night.
The journalists are also very interested in the tragic accident on Fluin Lane. I was askeded to be photographed on Fluin Lane. I agreed only on the basis that the lead story was to be about the accident and a tribute to the deceased. Also said I would only agree to be photographed with others - this story isn't about politics - this story is about an unnecessary tragedy and a road where speeding and dangerous driving is all too prevalent.
I've written to the Chief Constable and the Highways Authority asking for support for measures to be taken to modify the worst drving along Fluin Lane.
14 January 2008 - Frodsham Town Council - Budget Meeting
If Frodsham Town Council didn't exist would anyone care? I guess the majority of the people of Frodsham wouldn't even notice if it vanished. In its current form, I do wonder whether it has any point at all other than wasting our money. All this is a great shame because a Town Council with vision could really make a difference.
At the budget meeting I was horrified to see proposals to increase the budget by 11% - and this in a time when we are facing an economic slow down and money is tight for everyone. What I found even worse was that the desire to raise and spend more money was being proposed without any vision or plan for what FTC could do for Frodsham and its people.
Did you know that Frodsham North (the Vale Royal ward which includes confusingly the FTC wards of Frodsham North, West & East) ranks 4th in the list of Vale Royal wards in terms of crimes committed - and 8th when the crimes are ranked proportionately. Did you also know that we in Frodsham have an area which ranks in the 20% most deprived areas in England. There are 9 of such areas in Vale Royal as a whole - the 8th on the list is in Frodsham. FTC is a small Council it can do little by itself - but it can provide leadership and highlight issues and problems and campaign for greater support. Why is it that the Labour dominated FTC never even realised these were some of the problems staring us in the face? I do wonder whether any other Cllr ever bothers to read the statistics.
I raised all these issues at the Budget meeting to be told I had great ideas - but it was too late to do anything about it. This too is absolute nonesense. We can agree what money we want to raise - and then reallocate it. I want to see more support for the police - perhaps another PCSO - and more to be done to understand what the people of Frodsham want.
On the basis that FTC has no plan, no vision, no strategy I opposed the budget and suggested a standstill position - in other words no increase in FTC's contribution to the Council tax. In the year ending 30 March 2007 FTC will raise just under £115,000 from Frodsham Council tax payers. The proposals I opposed suggested this figure should rise to well over £130,000.
After much debate we finally settled on a budget that will bring in around £118,000 - in other words about a 2.5% increase. If I hadn't been there and created such a fuss I do wonder whether an 11% increase would have gone through on the nod.
Curiously John Maddock - the Mayor made a point of saying to me afterwards he had not voted on any budget suggestion at all.
13 January 2008 - Fatality on Fluin Lane
As many of you will already know there was a fatal accident on Fluin Lane today. An elderly man was killed crossing the road. Reputedly excessive speed was involved in what was a hit and run incident. The police report that a man has been arrested on suspicion of causing death by dangerous driving. In the immediate aftermath of the incident I spoke with some of my neighbours on Fluin Lane and the police. The police told me they call Fluin Lane "flying lane" so easy it is for them to catch speeding motorists. Each one of my neighbours had the same story as me - that on occasion when seeking to turn right into our driveways we have been overtaken by a motorist on the right hand side - a very dangerous manoeuvre.
Many people want to see traffic calming applied to Fluin Lane. If this is to happen it is likely that on-street parking will have to be restricted. The Highways Authority is likely to oppose such an idea given the restrictions elsewhere in Frodsham for HGVs. But this doesn't mean we shouldn't try.
11 January 2008 - Court of the University of Liverpool - Vale Royal
I attended the Court of Liverpool University as Vale Royal's representative. It was an interesting gathering of the body which represents the wide community which the University serves. Lord Owen - better known as Dr David Owen from his SDP days - is the Chancellor of the University. Whilst one couldn't pretend the processes were democratic the court does give the University an opportunity to report on it progress. As a graduate of the University I was honoured to be present.
11 January 2008 - saying "thank you."
As many of you know I cycle around Frodsham - often in the early morning as part of trying to maintain a modicum of fitness. If you see a 6'2" bloke on a muddy bike with little sense of style - its probably me en route! It is interesting what you get to see. This morning I happened upon one of Vale Royal's Smyle workers emptying one of the dog-mess bins. This has to be one of the worst jobs in the Council - so I stopped, introduced myself and simply said "thank-you" to him for what must be a thankless task. He was happy to talk and somewhat taking aback that someone cared about him and his job. He expressed the view that Frodsham seems to have more dogs than Winsford and Northwich - and that the dog-walkers are really good in Frodsham at using the dog-bins! He also suggested that the High School is a significant source of litter. I've mentioned his observation to the Chairman of Governors of the school and we're going to see whether there is a problem. We must always remember that there are many people using the school site and we mustn't assume the children are the source.
8 January 2008 - Frodsham Conservative Club
The Conservative Club has asked for my help. My response - I'll do what I can - and I'll try and round up my colleagues to help and assist too! I've paid my subs and am now a proud member of the club.
8 January 2008 - Vale Royal - Every Child Matters Panel
This was the first formal meeting of of the ECM Panel. We are working towards identifying issues where policy gets in the way of children's interests. We have asked the Council's management team to produce their favourite and their least favourite policies in terms of looking after young people's interests. We are going to subject others to this treatement too! Whilst this was our first formal meeting it was our 3rd meeting and our 4th will be on 17 January. We think we are the first panel to dispense with paper and rely on electronic copies of everything!
7 January 2008 - Vale Royal - Grievance Hearing
I had the unusual experience of sitting on a panel hearing an employment grievance. Judging a matter is more difficult than you might imagine. We had a knotty problem to resolve and it was interesting to be able to ask questions of those presenting the arguments and continually weigh up and reasses as the representations were made.
4 January 2008 - Air Quality
The Environment Scrutiny Panel looking into air quality met with Dr Alex Stewart of the Health Protection Agency. We discussed with him his August 2006 report and its implications for the local community. Dr Stewart provided some welcome reassurance and has agreed to look further into the data. He made some interesting comments regarding public health arrangements and the mentality of some professionals who seem unwilling to think outside their own narrow fields!
31 December 2007 - Frodsham Town Council Torch Light Procession
We had a wonderful evening. The weather was perfect and the evening went off without any noticeable hitches. And this was done with a risk assessment being in place and with a commitment to update the paperwork in the light of the experience! Many thanks to the police and St Johns Ambulance who helped us.
30 December 2007 - Air Quality
There's no point in having information if you don't do anything with it! I spoke with the Chairman of the RAIN group making sure they were aware of the published reports relating to health effects and perceived health effects in the local area. I've agreed to meet up with representatives of the group to discuss the matter further.
18 December 2007
Vale Royal Borough Council - Noise Issues
The noise from the M56 is constant in Frodsham. The government is late in publishing its noise study data for the Motorway network nationally as requied by the Environmental Noise Directive. Today they did publish noise data for 18 of the country's airports - including Liverpool airport. The statistics suggest that for us in Frodsham noise from the airport is not an issue. That is probably true - but we all do hear the throttle up for take-off on some occasions - but I don't think the noise levels are problematic. If anyone does - please tell me! More worryingly the published maps defined the nearby "agglomorations" - a wonderful EU definition seeking to define large concentrations of population - did not show Frodsham, or indeed any part of Runcorn or Widnes as being an agglomoration - where the Liverpool City Council and Ellesmere Port areas were shown. If you are a Runcorn resident where the noise contours show direct noise effects from the airport you might have something to say about the issue!
One of the next phases of the Environmental Noise Directive work is to consider noise sources within agglomorations. Are we not worthy of the same level of protection as a resident in Liverpool? I'm told the Motorway noise map is due out in February 2008 - we should expect great howls of protest nationally and locally then.
18 December 2007
Vale Royal Borough Council - The End?
The Government has announced that in our part of the world Vale Royal Borough Council along with Chester, Ellesmere Port and the County Councils are to be amalgamated from 1 May 2009 creating one authority - West Cheshire & Chester.
I do hope this doesn't mean 18 months of stasis whilst the new authority is created - but I fear it will. This is also an opportunity for the Town Council to demonstrate it is relevant and competent. It has to professionalise or face being marginalised.
In Cllr terms we are going to see something of a cull. Instead of our present 6 Borough Councillors and 1 County Councillor for Frodsham and Helsby the number will be cut to 3. In many ways this is a shame - as the present crop of Cllrs are, on the whole, a pretty good crop. At the very least 4 of us won't survive the transition - not that anyone has the right to survive it - the people will decide! We will have elections in May 2008 for the new authority.
17 December 2007
Vale Royal Borough Council - Every Child Matters
As Chairman of this panel I had encouraged my fellow Cllrs to join with me in being briefed before we attempt to pontificate. Now there's a novel concept Cllrs willing to listen and learn before opening their mouths! As long as I'm the Chairman of this panel this is the way we will proceed! I was gratified that my fellow Cllrs on the panel agreed with this approach and so in addition to the formal meetings of our committee we will hold informal briefing sessions too. I learnt lots of interesting details about Vale Royal - including the astonishing statistic that 40% of the Cheshire County Council area's entire youth offenders entering the criminal justice system for the first time are Vale Royal residents! Bearing in mind our neighbouring areas of Chester, Ellesmere Port, and Crewe & Nantwich (before we even think of Congleton and Macclesfield) I find this a deeply troubling figure. Not surprisingly we've asked the police to help us understand the issues from their perspective - before we think of where we go next!
Vale Royal Borough Council - Air Quality
As those of you reading this web-site will know I've been asking questions about our air quality. The Council's Environment Scrutiny Committee agreed at its last meeting to establish a panel to look at the information I had amassed to see whether scrutiny of this issue was called for. The panel unanimously agreed that the issue was worth looking into and we have put in train arrangements to speak with the Health Protection Agency in advance of the next Environment Scrutiny Committee in January - and as needs be at the Committee meeting itself.
12 December 2007
Vale Royal Borough Council - Scrutiny
We've started to look at the quality of services for the elderly in the Borough - we on the fact finding stage - lets se what's good, what's bad and what needs changing! I'd called for training for all Councillors on undertaking scrutiny - and a third of us were duly trained - obviously the other two-thirds know it all already - NOT!
11 December 2007
Frodsham Town Council - Full Council
This was a short turbulent meeting preceding a party and presentation ceremony following on from our Christmas Festival. I join with the Mayor's congratulations for the prize winners. Our present Mayor John Maddock is very good at what he does and it was appropriate for the Town Council to be seen to be recognising the efforts of our local businesses.
Back to the meeting - several people came up to me both before and after the Council meeting encouraging me to keep up my pressure for the Town Council to professionalise. Some of my fellow Cllrs think I'm going too far in insisting that we produce written risk assessments for the public events we organise. It is unfortunate that the arrogance of office allows these same Cllrs to think complying with health and safety law is optional. I pointed out that undertaking a suitable and sufficient risk assessment had been law since 1992 - and every public event organised since then where no risk assessment had been undertaken was a criminal offence. One Cllr proposed that the firework display not take place as he couldn't be sure it could be done safely - however this was done I suspect more to create mischief. An amendment was carried to organise the event and at last we seem to have a team committed to planning the event properly. I hope that is what happens.
I'm conent to dish it out - and where justified receive it - interestingly at least one of the FTC Cllrs is clearly rattled by my pressure to professionalise the Council and I'm told another is thinking of resigning. We can live in hope!
In the morning the Mayor and I met the firework display company and explored who is to be responsible for what on New Year's Eve.
5 December 2007
Vale Royal Borough Council - Scrutiny
This was a busy and productive day of meetings. I started off setting the ball rolling in trying to understand the mental health service provision in the Borough. The 2006 NHS figures suggest we have very poor provision here - is this true and if so, what does it mean? After an hour's discussion on this, an hour on Cycling and cycle path provision in the Borough. Again this was a question of finding out the base information and then seeing what we can do to improve things. Finally my first Every Child Matters meeting. I seem to have broken new ground with asking for briefing meetings before we set down to any formal work in this area. This innovation seems to be working well as we had a meaningful cross party discussion - perhaps the most productive meeting I've had at Vale Royal! Long may it continue.
29 November 2007
Vale Royal Borough Council - Full Council
A very busy day of campaigning and politicking! Cllr Lynn Riley and I were photographed at the Ship Street skate park with Vale Royal's street scene Smyle team who were about to remove the graffiti. We also heard of exciting plans to discourage those who cause the graffiti to be involved in its removal!
Later on we campaigned outside Overton Post Office collecting names for a petition to present to 10 Downing Street opposing the closure (see the campaigns page) with Graham Evans our prospective conservative MP for Weaver Vale. I was deeply impressed that virtually everyone using the Post Office signed our petiton. Gill Worrall the Post Mistress has been collecting her own petiton opposing the closure too. I arranged for her to present this to a full meeting of Vale Royal Borough Council. She made an excellent speech explaining defending her Post Office which I was happy to support. I was delighted to have organised this - actually showing that local government can be receptive to the people!
The Council meeting was a lively affair. In addition to supporting the retention of Overton PO I spoke on the need to examine carefully the legal position of a businessman selling alcohol from his van within the Borough, whilst supporting the Council's Licensing Policy. Prior to the meeting I attended a presentation on the exciting Baron's Quay development in Northwich. This was discussed in a private session of the Council. I spoke in that debate but can't say what I did - but it was, I believe a useful intervention!
Frodsham Town Council - Fireworks
Late in the evening I received a copy of the proposed contract for the New Year's Eve firework display. I've read it and commented on it. We've got lots to sort out. This sort of thing does annoy me as we've got the time pressure to sort this out which wouldn't have happended if it has been planned months ago.
What's best - signing up to a seriously defective document, praying that everything works ok or having the fireworks cancelled? I've made sure all the Town Councillors have seen my comments on the position. Lets see if anyone sorts this out.
26 November 2007
Frodsham Town Council - Town Council Meeting
This was a very long evening of contrasts.
We had a presentation from the Chief Executive West Cheshire PCT telling us about plans for a new health centre. The favoured site is now the Frodsham High School site. Apparently the funding is in place and the PCT is looking to see the new facility open by summer 2010. The Council passed a vote of thanks for the work I have done on Crowmere Lake - I submitted my 26 page and 14 appendicies report and we will be considering differing aspects of the work in the meetings to come. The Council approved in principle the creation of rules governing Crowmere and will aim to see them created at the January 2008 meeting.
We had fireworks about fireworks! The Town Council is planning a firework display on New Year's Eve and we were asked to approve a 3 year contract and contract price with the display company but no body could tell me the terms of the contract, the duration of the display and the amount of fireworks to be used. Frankly this was ridiculous.
We also had a discussion about the safety of this event and the Community Centre Firework display. I asked for and got the Town Council to agree that we should offer to assist the Community Centre in arranging its display. I've also asked for each of the Town Councillors to volunteer their help in assisting with the event. It is easy to criticise - harder to volunteer and assist. I've said I'll help and I challenge all the Councillors to do likewise!
I'm also anxious to ensure the Town Council has its house in order when arranging its displays. It is not as if 5 November and 31 December aren't predicatable dates. We don't need to be scrabbling about at the last minute when we have the whole year to plan!
I've been unhappy about the financial control and managment since joining the Council - and as an example of this we were asked to approve retrospectively the spending for the Over 70s party. Why couldn't this have been organised the other way round?
Expenditure commitments seemingly made years ago keep popping out of the woodwork without anyone knowing. In my view this has to change.
I asked the Town Council to establish a working group to decide whether the Town Council should offer to become a co-trustee of Castle Park. There was broad support for the idea - but we need to consider the detail.
25 November 2007
Frodsham Town Council - Crowmere Lake
Guess what? No members of the working group have replied with comments on the draft report.
24 November 2007
Frodsham Town Council - Bonfires
I had a long chat with one of the organisers of the Community Centre Bonfire and repeated my invitation to attend the Town Council on Monday 26 November when this matter will be discussed at my request. It appears the bonfire was the "biggest ever" and there is acceptance of the issues I raised. I repeated my complete support for the event and have offered my assistance in organising the next one. As a community we need more volunteers. It is easy to criticise - it takes more to stand up and be counted!
22 November 2007
Frodsham Town Council - Crowmere Lake
Well I've submitted my "magnum opus" on Crowmere Lake to the working group. This is a 23 page report with 12 appendicies. I've asked for responses from the group by Saturday with a view to publishing the report for the entire Town Council on Sunday. All the Town Councillors have had the main report in draft since July - and the portions added have come from the public consultations. So they've no excuses - that said I don't imagine many will bother to read it.
14 November 2007
Vale Royal Borough Council - Environment Scrutiny Committee
The papers for this meeting suggested we would have an early finish - but as is often the way we debated for more than 2 hours! This was a personal issue for me as I was dealing with man-flu and I had not been to work. (I realise that only half of you will sympathise!)
The multi-award winning Smyle team presented on their Borough wide initiatives to reduce littering and other environmental crimes. They are doing a great job - and I noted with wry amusement how Labour locally had raised their performance as an issue at the last election. But then I for one do not expect Labour to identify excellence readily. Having added my congratulations to the list of well wishers I reported in local fly tipping an abandoned car on the marshes. I've asked for signage and covert surveillance to discourage fly-tipping. I'm told we'll get it in the new year.
I've asked for all members to be briefed on the Council's preparedness to deal with any avian-flu outbreak. I am aware that other areas are not prepared - so I want to know how we are fixed.
In August 2006 the Health Protection Agency produced what they called a Rapid Health Assessment looking at the state of health of people in Chester, Ellesmere Port, Halton and Vale Royal. The data raises many questions - especially if you are a Halton resident. I asked the committee to have a hard look at the data for Vale Royal to see if we have a need for more intense study. Even though as a Borough we are more affluent than the region's average - for some respiratory issues we have a poorer performance than average. They agreed to do this before our next meeting in January.
Can someone explain to me why no one else had identified the issue from the data - whether officer or Councillor?
At the meeting we had a presentation from a lady from Moulton who complained that banners advertising a local community event had been removed by some Council workers. Preliminary enquiries suggest it was the County Council that was responsible - ostensibly on the grounds of health and safety. Hmmm - am I surprised at high handed tactics from a remote authority? I lead the committee in asking Vale Royal to devise a policy which whilst properly tackling fly-posting permits local events to be advertised locally. We all want to encourage community events - and that means supporting reasonable, properly located adverts. The proposal was unanimously supported.
8 November 2007
Vale Royal Borough Council - Community Scrutiny Committee
I've been doing a lot of research recently and I came across some NHS published data for Vale Royal. In 2006 Vale Royal was indentified as performing significantly below the English average in the provision of services for older people in their own homes and also in the provision of mental health services. Most of these services are not provided through Vale Royal but I persuaded the Community Scrutiny Committee to establish panels to review this service provision. A senior member of the Labour party had poured scorn on this data and whether we should be interested in it. I'll know when we've looked at what underlies the data to know who was right.
In 2007 the NHS data for Vale Royal showed that our performance is significantly below the English average for road related injuries and deaths. Most functions to do with roads and highways are managed by the County Council - but we can prod them in the right direction! I've also got the Community Scrutiny Committee to look at the provision of cycling and cycle routes in the Borough. I'm sure most of us agree that cycling on routes away from cars and lorries is most sensible. In Frodsham we have some opportunities to develop a really good cycle network away from the main roads and I suspect the same is true elsewhere.
All of us in Frodsham are concerned I'm sure about pedestrian safety along Howey Lane - especially as many of the children attending Helsby High School use the road when going to and from the school. One of the side-effcts of Frodsham High School being closed is that the County Council will have to invest in safer routes to school for those children from Frodsham going to school in Helsby - and that means looking at Howey Lane and the A56. I've already started the ball rolling on this one.
The Community Scrutiny Committee had a very full agenda today - with many very important issues to discuss. So why, bearing in mind things like services for the elderly, mental health service provision and the like were we side tracked for 45 minutes about public toilets? Don't get me wrong - proper and effective provision is important. But I can express my support for that in 30 seconds and move on. Unfortunately too many of my colleagues wanted to spend their verbal pennies in Committee on this one!
5 November 2007
Engaging with Young Persons
Along with every other Councillor in England I was invited to attend training where young persons would highlight how to engage with them and empower them in local decision making. I congratulate everyone associated with the event - and it certainly made those of us who attended think hard. Bearing in mind that it is the County Council that is responsible for the majority of services delivered to young persons I was very disappointed to see that no-one from that authority attended. As I've been asked to chair the Every Child Matters scrutiny agenda in Vale Royal I saw this training as essential.
Castle Park Executive Project Board
Straight after the engagement with young persons training came the Project Board. We discussed the final tweaks to the scheme prior to the final plans being drawn up. Local children and young persons are going to be consulted (along with adults) about what they want to see in the new play area. We want to ensure there is a "wow" factor associated with it if possible! I've also asked for the plans to include cycle routes through the park, both north and south - so we can provide safe routes by-passing much of the A56 on one side and by-passing much, but unfortunately not all, of Howey Lane. There are also plans for a youth shelter too.
Now it is fair to say that the vast majority of the people in Frodsham support the plan for Castle Park - but not everyone agrees with it. After the Project Board meeting the Council officers held a meeting with objectors. I popped into that meeting right at the end and spoke with the officers about the concerns raised. I have asked the officers to send more detailed information to those with concerns seeking to provide what reassurance we can. The concern raised with me was the likelihood of noise disturbing residents on Park Lane arising from the new play area. Since these concerns were first raised the play area has been moved away from the rear boundary fences of the Park Lane properties and mounded landscaping which should reduce some of the noise. I want to ensure that this information is fully appreciated by those who could be affected by the decisions to be taken.
Air Quality Scrutiny
I had a lengthy meeting with Mr Adams from Vale Royal. We went through a lot of the academic work that has been done studying air quality in the borough and around the Mersey estuary. There is evidence showing that Helsby Hill produces its own micro-weather system. We suspect the same is probably true of Frodsham Hill too. At my request we are going to see increased monitoring for NOx pollution in Frodsham to see whether we have a problem. [NOx is the jargon for all the different oxides of nitrogen]
We are likely to discuss an action plan for work in due course.
2 November 2007
Bonfire night at the Community Centre
There are very few people in Frodsham who don't look forward with excitement and anticipation to the display at the Community Centre. I think my family can tot up over 120 attendances over the years! Few enough of us think about the time and effort that goes into preparing a great show. I give my heartfelt thanks and appreciation to everyone involved.
On the whole it was another good show. But there were one or two changes tonight that may not have been for the best. There were showground rides on the top field and many people mentioned to me they found them distracting when the firework display was on. Others have mentioned to me that they felt the overt commercialisation of the evening detracted from the excellent community spirit we are all used to.
My family and I walked down Fluin Lane around 7:20pm and the flames from the bonfire were visible over the Willows town houses. Burning embers were grounding on Fluin Lane - unfortunately just where many people were trying to cross the road. And then, once you'd paid and moved on the top field the heat from the bonfire was intense - particularly on the Willows side of the field. I think we were very unlucky with the weather - a warm ambient temperature of, according to the BBC weather forecast of 14°C and a 5mph wind from the west or north west - blowing the heat and flames towards the crowd congregating around the rides.
I know the intense heat from the bonfire only lasted around 10 minutes but I'd never known it so hot. You could tell the people found it hot too as the crowd stood well away from the barrier rope. Some people also mentioned the intense heat to me too. I asked a few questions on the night about the arrangements and I will ask a few more in the ensuing days. This is one of Frodsham's best and greatest traditions - I want to see it thrive - but I want to understand whether something was slightly awry tonight or not.
But leaving that aside - thanks again for a great show.
31 October 2007
Vale Royal Borough Council - Frodsham Area Meeting
I don't know whether it was because it was Halloween or because the agenda was unexciting - but there were very few residents in attendance. In fact we were in danger of having more Councillors the residents! It looks like we've got to change something to get these meetings right. Now Councillors are not meant to speak at these area meetings - however I was the only one of the Councillors that kept my mouth shut during the meeting!
After the area meeting I had a discussion with Mr Adams from Vale Royal. I've asked for the Council to scrutinise the air quality around the Frodsham area. We debated what information was available and what the perceptions are about whether there is a problem.
I made a commitment in my election manifesto to have the noise levels associated with the M56 considered too. Mr Adams and I debated this too and he seems set to do some chasing for me with Cheshire County Council and the Department of Transport.
29 October 2007
Vale Royal Borough Council - Scrutiny Chairs and Vice-Chairs meeting
I was asked to chair this meeting of the chairs and vice-chairs. Chairing a meeting of chairs sounds like a rendezvous in a furniture store or orchestrating the Chippendales. In reality it is like attempting to heard cats! On a more serious note it was interesting to hear about the plans to transform scrutiny and the important role we have in holding all public agencies to account, not just Vale Royal.
22 October 2007
Vale Royal Borough Council - Members Training & Development Working Group
This panel seeks to ensure that Councillors receive training to help them perform their roles. I had my twopenneth and, I believe, influenced the Councillors not to prevent newly elected from undertaking their full role from their election. Some Councillors wanted to prevent any Councillor without training from serving on say the planning committee. If this was carried into effect it would have created two classes of Councillor - those who could act as a Councillor in everything, and those that could not. That said I believe that Councillors should be trained. I do believe ultimately Councillors should be prevented from fulfilling all potential roles if they fail to avail themselves of the training on offer - but only after a proper opportunity to be trained has passed.
19 October 2007
Vale Royal Borough Council - I'm a Councillor get me out of here!
Six Councillors from Vale Royal have been subject to scrutiny from secondary school pupils from the Winsford and Northwich parts of the borough. For some reason neither Helsby nor Frodsham secondary schools took part although they were invited. We had to present manifestos, describe ourselves and answer questions from the young people. Every day a poll was to be taken and the Councillor who finished bottom would be evicted. However for reasons best known to the organisers 4 of us went into the final day.
In the end I finished second with 33% of the poll behind Cllr Burder from Northwich who got 42%. The others scored 17%, 8%. The 5th & 6th Councillors scored 0% each when evicted! I found the experience absolutely fascinating. I got some wonderful feedback - many of the children commented on how much they liked this web-site! Not bad for a Tory to do well with the youth from Northwich and Winsford! Incidentally if any of the young people who asked me questions want to get back in touch to put our ideas into action - please do. My contact details are easy to find!
15 & 16 October 2007
Frodsham Town Council - Crowmere Lake
Two interesting meetings - one with local residents, the other with the police feeling our way towards consensual solutions. We seem to be heading in the right direction. The police did wonder whether we have our priorities right. There are problems elsewhere in Frodsham. That said as the Town Council our remit is very narrow and we only bring in around £114k in Council tax a year. Lets not forget FTC has spent disproportionate sums on legal fees in relation to Crowmere and we need a disproportionate effort now to remedy, what Cllr Pennington has described as years of neglect by FTC - how right he is! We need this sorting once and for all so it can fade into the background again.
9 October 2007
Vale Royal Borough Council - Managing Contractors Task Group
We explored the Council's arrangements for managing contractors with 2 officers tonight. There is some really good work already being done in this area - but without being complacent. As in all these things one can always make suggestions for improvement. We've asked the officers to produce papers covering what they do and the room for improvement. A good, and from my stanpoint, a productive meeting.
3 October 2007
Frodsham Town Council - Finance & Administration Committee
I do worry about the Town Council's difficulties in delegating routine decisions to its officers. Whilst it is nice to know the Council is thinking of spending £60 on a digital camera - are we not missing the point if 6 Cllrs are sitting round the table discussing it? What next deciding whether to order paper clips? Am I threatening my work life balance for this?
Castle Park Trust Executive
An interesting meeting showing that the Trust is making a small surplus at the moment and helpfully it appears that all the units are let - full occupancy! However after I asked a few questions about carefully phrased sections in a report it appears that not enough thought has been given to the insurance position. If something goes wrong here we can forget surpluses straight away! We are to get a detailed report for the next meeting considering the issue. I've also asked for a fuller report on the Council's/Trusts legal powers to control misbehaviour in the park.
1 October 2007
Do you ever feel like you are an extra in "Night of the Living Dead"? I had that feeling today. Well it was either that or banging your head against a brick wall. You highlight errors, you suggest improvements and it is like everyone's gone deaf. Whilst I'm not arrogant enough to suggest I'm right and everyone else is wrong it is no wonder why local authorities or indeed any branch of government produces less than the best quality work. Sleepwalking, or perhaps better put, sleeping into mediocrity. If this experience was anything to go by few people care enough to try and improve things.
29 September 2007
Vale Royal Borough Council
I've been appointed Vice-Chairman of a committee that will scutinise children's affairs under the "Every Child Matters" iniative. I've asked to be fully briefed on the issues. It will be interesting to see what emerges as most direct services for young people come from the County Council and the NHS. However everything we do or have power to do will affect children - it will be interesting to question Council policy generally from this standpoint.
How much paperwork will come my way I wonder. I've asked for it in pdf format to spare the postman and the environment!
27 September 2007
Vale Royal Borough Council - Council Meeting
Interesting - I seem to have precipitated one of the few votes at the Council that divided the members on party lines. In many ways it was a technical matter but also raises queations of personal accountability. Councillors must keep the Council's confidential information confidential. If they don't they can be sanctioned and disciplined. They can breach that confidence in limited circumstances but would have to justify it and risk being sanctioned. It was proposed that a Councillor must use the internal whistle-blowing protocol in such circumstances. I argued successfully that making such a step mandatory went too far. A Councillor would risk being sanctioned for not using the whistleblowing protocol even where the disclosure was in the public interest. To my mind if a Councillor judges that he or she must go public they should not be automatically shackled to follow an internal procedure. Let us be free and accountable for the decisions we take.
Castle Park Project Meeting
We saw the plans for the bowling green pagoda and the restored conservatory. The pagoda looks great but I did raise ease of maintenance, security and the longevity of the materials. We want something that looks good both now and for the next 20 years at least. Can anyone thing of a use for the Conservatory when it is restored - everyone's struggling for ideas at the moment.
24 September 2007
Frodsham Town Council - Council Meeting
Well this meeting was interesting for several things. We had two Councillors perform impressions of "Vicar of Dibley Council meetings" and only one of them was trying to be funny! We also had a Cllr who has previously expressed a view that he wasn't interested in the governance of the Council actually recognise that maybe spending "6 month's expenditure with only 5 month's income" wasn't on. He went on to say "we always seem to be flying by the seat of our pants." Is the penny dropping at last? I'm still pressing for the Council's contingent liabilities to be stated - as this may show our financial position is worse. I'm unhappy sanctioning any expenditure without knowing whether it can be afforded...And then there was the repeated desire in some quarters to name trees after deceased Councillors. Sublime to the rediculous perhaps?
12 September 2007
Vale Royal - Environment Committee.
This was the first meeting I've had to miss - I sent my apologies and also persuaded my colleagues in advance to look into the quality of the air around Frodsham and Helsby. Why does the BBC weather forecast for Frodsham invariably refer to the pollution levels being high? When we know the answer to that question we can consider whether there are any consequences.
Incidentally I was at an award ceremony for my business in London hence the DJ photograph ... And the winner is.....
11 September 2007
Castle Park Project Team
A fascinating meeting of the team who will steer the application for Heritage Lottery Funds to invest in Castle Park. An impressive amount of work has been done and there are a number of tricky no-win decisions to make in due course.
I raised the issue of Cycle Paths both in the park and around Frodsham - we could do with some!
7 September 2007
I've been asked to do "I'm a Councillor get me out of here" with local schools. Not sure I can do an Aussie accent - but I'm game to try eating witchery grubs! I fear the local children may have worse in store for their politicians!
6 September 2007
Frodsham Town Council - Crowmere Lake
The idyll has been shattered. There are complaints about anti-social behaviour from campers. I'm looking into ways to strengthen the police's options when dealing with the charity's land and some practical measures to discourage camping.
5 September 2007
Vale Royal Borough Council - Performance & Quality Scrutiny Committee.
Aaagh given the M53 closure it took me 2 hours to get from my office to the Committee. I arrived 30 minutes late - but was still able to make a contribution. I took an active part in the debates relating to the new arrangements for scutiny and championing the community's concerns. I also made constructive suggestions to enhance the Council's Council Tax enforcement Code of Practice. To my mind this Code of Practice must temper efficient enforcement with sensitivity. The Council should, to my mind make sure that other agencies such as Social Services be informed if a family is not paying its Council Tax as there may well have other problems. Debt management advice should be made available, as should an offer to verify that all available benefits are being properly claimed. We must also make sure we that we treat people in desperate straights such as the terminally ill with humanity. None of this need hinder efficient enforcement - but shows we care about everyone. Not one Councillor disagreed with my suggestions. Vale Royal does collect Council Tax efficiently.
4 September 2007
Vale Royal Borough Council - Performance & Quality briefing
I was asked to attend the scrutiny committees briefing as the Chairman and Vice-Chairman cannot attend the committee. An interesting insight into the other parties' political priorities.
Frodsham Town Council - Crowmere Lake public consultation
An idyllic day - the last of the school holidays and a perfect opportunity to look in on Crowmere Lake. You couldn't have wished for a better experience. There was a young family fishing - I spoke with them and the mother indicated she liked bringing her children her as they felt safe. I met a man sailing his remote control boats - he described difficulties he had had previously - but how he and the fishermen could co-exist. I had my children kayaking on the Lake. I encouraged all I met to write in to the Town Council with their views of what the future should hold.
1 September 2007
Frodsham Town Council - Crowmere Lake public consultation.
Got to get the public consultation notices posted and distributed. However apparently I'm the only volunteer to get this done. Not that pleased by that. Got permission to post the notices around the Lake - how long do you give it before they are removed.
More indications of antisocial behaviour around the place
28 August 2007
Frodsham Town Council - Council Meeting
Only local government can grind so slowly or so haphazardly. In spite of the draft public consultation notice on Crowmere Lake having been provided to all Councillors it wasn't published in the Frodsham Post, and it will only be published in the next few days. Ah well what is a month in local government?
Strange how some Councillors are anxious to ensure benches and/or trees as monuments to deceased former Councillors. Craving immortality themselves? Remember me by a ducking stool at Crowmere - as long as I can specify who gets the early bath and when!
Holiday at last
1 August 2007
Frodsham Town Council - Crowmere Lake Working Party
An interesting debate about the future of the Lake. The Council needs to hear from the people of Frodsham. I proposed a public consulation with everyone invited to participate.
30 July 2007
Vale Royal Licensing Committee
The only substantial business is whether we should sanction an increase in hackney carriage fares. The officers don't appear to have analysed the effect of the swinging proposed increases on users, let alone the most deprived in society. I indicated I wanted that analysis undertaking before I was prepared to sanction any increase. Interesting not all the Labout lot agreed with me - some wanted to sanction the increase forthwith!
23 July 2007
Frodsham Town Council
Another lengthy session - same old issues. I wonder just how many Councillors will bother to read my 23 page and 10 appendicies paper on the Charities and Crowmere Lake - at least they have plenty of notice. This is an ongoing issue and needs careful consideration - but no-one seems to have understood the complexities of the situation and the risks the Council needs to manage Agggh.
20 July 2007
Frodsham Town Council - Crowmere Lake
I'm regretting agreeing to get stuck into this problem but if I don't do it I can't see anyone else doing it. The Council's papers are all over the show with loads missing, and the Charity stuff I have to read goes on for ever.
18 July 2007
Castle Park Trust Executive - and then Managing Contractors Group
Two meetings in two hours 13 miles apart and a business to run too - ahh the work life balance is in jeopardy!
11 July 2007
Frodsham Area Meeting
At last a meeting I can walk to in 2 minutes. All Councillors were told not to speak - but to allow the public their say. Some of my colleagues are obviously deaf and delight in regurgitating the obvious and pretending to sound wise. Perhaps they are better politicians - or may be that is why politicians get a bad name.
4 July 2007
FTC Finance and Administration Committee
I feel as if the needle has stuck - am I the only one concerned about getting things right such as insurances, our charities and our corporate governance? Oh and by the way spending the Council's money prudently?
28 June 2007
Meeting with VRBC Officer on Risk Management with Cllr Turnbull
This is the follow up to our P&Q challenges. The Council seemingly has a decent handle on risk management - certainly compared to many - but as both of us identified this wasn't what was presented to the Cllrs at P&Q!
Vale Royal Council Meeting
Full Council meeting - disappointing there wasn't more rough and tumble politics - but then the opposition hate each other more than they hate us. A joke courtesy of the Labour Group. A Conservative and a Liberal were seen walking along a pier by a group of Labourites. The question was which one to thow into the sea first. The answer - the Conservative - on the basis of business before pleasure! Nuff said!
25 June 2007
Frodsham Town Council
As every day passes I worry more and more that this Council is sleepwalking into trouble. No one seems to have grasped the fundamental importance of good governance and the importance of getting the procedures right.
25 June 2007
Castle Park Trust
Training on the trust. I'm glad to see the legal side appears to have been sorted out but many of my detailed questions only received vague answers. Learnt that HLF stands for Heritage Lottery Fund and that obtaining substantial grant monies is a marathon not a sprint.
Attended the stakeholder meeting and enquired whether there was data on the numbers and origins of the people using the park. I was surprised that the information was not immediately available.
13 June 2007
VRBC Environment Scutiny Committee
So we are there to scrutinise the environmental issues. Labour seems preoccupied by grass cutting. I raised the fundamental issues of wanting to know just how polluted the Borough actually is. Why does the BBC Weather forecast say Frodsham's pollution levels are high. It never moves from high. I want the quality of our land water and air scruntinising. I'll think about grass cutting somewhat later.
6 June 2007
VRBC Policy & Quality Committee
This is a scrutiny committee - we, who are not on the executive are there to challenge and question what they do. Sounds interesting. Hmmm the papers with the agenda are very short - and the information presented on risk management by the Council is so sparse as not to make sense or allow informed debate. Ahh an ally on the issue the Lib Dem Cllr Turnbull - it appears we are the only 2 with in depth knowledge of risk management. Why do some Councillors resent others having specialist knowledge - jealousy, resentment or their own inadequacy?
4 June 2007
VRBC Licensing Committee
OK something as expected - about time!
29 May 2007
Frodsham Town Council
Unhappy with quality of financial information presented to the Council - I can't tell just how solvent the Council is and whether the spending is authorised or justifed. The insurance arrangements seem all over the show - I've volunteered to help sort this out as well. I must confess I had anticipated others doing this sort of work. It looks like this sort of analysis hasn't ever been done before. This Council could be sleepwalking into disaster simply because it hasn't gripped the issues.
26 May 2007
FTC - I can't believe the amount of money seemingly wasted on Crowmere Lake. Is it really around 1/3rd of FTC's precept that has been spent - and this is before one considers all the problems associated with the antisocial behaviour. I've volunteered to read the legal files.
17 May 2007
Vale Royal Council meeting.
If I hear the expression "new Councillor" any more I will scream and no doubt will have to restrain myself from committing a random act of violence. The arrogance of the "old antideluvian Councillors" believing they are the sole keepers of wisdom is beyond me. Surely some of them realise that they are only in office at the whim of the electorate and maybe that same electorate wanted new blood?
16 May 2007
FTC Finance & Administration Committee
Hmmm - I can see this lot needing a lot of help to sort themselves out - some Councillors try hard and are effective, some Councillor try hard and aren't, some Councillors don't even try.
In the dog house - late to pick up my son as this meeting over ran.
15 May 2007
Ethics and Code of Conduct Training. The training was fair enough - however the provisions of the Code seem set to prevent a Councillor from representing the local people as opposed to anything else. This is Labour political correctness gone mad. I see John Precott's hand behind most of this nonesense - and the legacy of a few untrustworthy Councillors spoiling honest Councillor's honest work. How do explain this nonesense to the electorate that if you speak out on a matter you can't vote on it!
14 May 2007
Frodsham Town Council - my first meeting. The contrast with the Borough is extraordinary. There is little officer support and seemingly no-one with a firm appreciation of what FTC is there to achieve. I've volunteered for the Finance and Administration Committee as I'm determined to see value for money for the people of Frodsham.
14 May 2007
I'm sure the postman has, by now learnt and regretted my election. The amount of paper heading in my direction is absolutely rediculous. All of it could be sent by email - saving the planet and postage - and then I could hit the delete key for the rubbish without having to shred it. Horrified by the lack of attention to detail revealed in some Council reports -including an implicit suggestion that accidents to the Council workforce are all their fault - not their training or management. Hmmm perhaps some of the officers need to read the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974.
8 May 2007
Induction to Vale Royal BC. Everyone seems very welcoming - even the political oppostion. Hmmm looks like a change of Conservative leader is in the offing.
4 May 2007
What's better than winning your seat - the Conservatives winning outright control of the Council - albeit by a narrow margin of 1 - with 3 seats still outstanding.
4 May 2007
The election day count. I was humbled and completely flabbergasted to have come top of the poll and be elected to Vale Royal Borough Council. Given the political shennanigans of Labour both locally and nationally and the misleading impressions created by the opposition in their election literature I was delighted that more electors in Frodsham had seen through their nonesense and placed the two conservative candidates first and second. With Frodsham North being a 3 councillor ward the local Labour leader was elected in a distant third position. His grudging handshake at the count said it all. I have to say I was ecstatic for days on being elected to the Borough Council - I had aimed to give the other parties a run for their money - to win outright exceeded even my wildest dreams! I do wish the officers would call me Andrew - I'm not sure I recognise who this Cllr Dawson person is meant to be. I'm not one to stand on ceremony with others - respect has to be earned - I'm just Andrew and want to remain that!