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Friday, 29 August 2008

Losing on Facebook

I had a bit of a chortle a few weeks back when the Macc Express were biggin' up Graham Evans as the Councillor on Facebook.

I couldn't be bothered to tell them that not only was I on there first, but I had more friends.

I'm now devastated to find out that Graham has overtaken me on the friends count.

Whatever shall I do?

Still...I don't think he's been on the Macclesfield Forum yet, so I'm definitely winning there.

Listening to "The One", and thinking about the Weston Playing fields

"Fathers must take more responsibility to provide love and guidance to their Children"
The words above, uttered by Barack Obama, summed up for me everything that is right and wrong about what we perceive to be the problems in society today.

There is definitely a problem that some families do not provide the correct environment in which to raise a child. It is true to say that some do not understand that their responsibility stretches far beyond conception. I completely believe that there's only so much that the state can do about this. I also believe that the more the state tries to do, the less some parents do. Cameron said a while back:
"I don't think responsibility is something we can impose on people. It's within us all, and the more you try and do things for people, the less responsible they become."
However it's all too easy to blame it on the parents - and specifically the Fathers. One of the defining moments when growing up is the day that you realise your parents have never been on a training course, and they don't know the answer to everything. Some pick it up better than others, and what the state should do is support them in their learning in different ways.

This isn't the same as doing it for them - which is the current trend in central government. Teach a man to fish, and all that.

Christine Davies, Minister of the Calvary Church on the Weston made a very good point when we were discussing the Weston playing fields yesterday. She stressed that we need to create a space that encourages families to use it together. Not just somewhere the kids can go after school, but somewhere where families can convene on a Saturday morning and enjoy being with each other.

I've no doubt that she's right about that. What I'm not too sure about is how we go about it.

Thursday, 28 August 2008

Checking the Flowerpot Junction for Lines

It's getting a bit daft now. All I'm after is a few white lines on the road, where they were supposed to be in the first place, and it almost seems an impossibility.

Work on the junction was completed in February, but we didn't get our right turn lane.

So I chase up Highways in April to find out what went wrong. They promised me lines in two to three months. I thought that seemed a bit slow considering they were supposed to be done in February, but understood the reasoning that they wanted to ensure any plans were safe.

When I checked at the end of June I was told it would now be early August. Now I'm being told it will be the end of August / beginning of September - but will definitely be done at the same time as the lines outside the College.

Last night I'm driving down Park Lane and I see the chappie painting lines outside the college. So I hop out the car to see if he's doing the flowerpot after.

Surprise, surprise, he doesn't know a thing about it.

If this goes on for much longer then I'll be up there with a tin of gloss....

Wednesday, 27 August 2008

Being Happy

They said we had no culture, but what did they know?

Now the truth is out....Macclesfield is the 5th most cheerful place to live in the uk according to the BBC: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/health/7584321.stm

But then we knew that anyway, didn't we?!

Tuesday, 26 August 2008

Watching kids TV

Due to having my niece up for the weekend I've been spending slightly longer than normal in front of the TV.

This was then followed by a trip to see "Lazytown Live" in Manchester.

If you've not seen Lazytown, then all you need to know is that it mainly consist of Venga boys style irritatingly infectious europop like this:

Regrettably, I still can't get that song out of my head.

As kids TV goes it's not that bad. I do worry that a lot of TV is baseless, and Lazytown tries terribly hard to get good messages across. The hero of the show is a sports enthusiast and the kids are always doing good in a desperate attempt to ensure Lazytown is never lazy.

Monday, 25 August 2008

Eating curry for Charity

Honestly, this is the best thing ever.

The Lajawaab Restaurant in Macclesfield, which I can highly recommend, is holding a curry night on Wednesday in aid of the East Cheshire Hospice.

We're having what they call a 5 course meal (and I would call a three course meal, because coffee and rice don't really count) - and 75% of the meal price will be donated to the Hospice.

Guilt free food. Fantastic.

This is definitely the most fun sedentary way to support the Hospice. If you're feeling a bit more active, then don't forget to register for the midnight walk:


Wednesday, 20 August 2008

Attending openings (again)

Today I attended the opening of Crewe Connexions "The Hub".

It was foolish of me to assume that this would be a quiet, drab affair. I was greeted by the rhythmic sounds of some of Crewe's finest musicians - so loudly in fact that I couldn't manage to tell the reception party who I was.

There were a couple of other Cheshire East Councillors and Officers present, by not as many as I had expected. This only adds weight to the argument that the council doesn't take Children seriously - which is a shame because it's complete rubbish. The Hub itself is a testament to the work put in by the Councillors and Officers of the previous authority - and sends a strong message as to the level of committment we must have to maintain the status quo, let alone make improvements to childrens services.

I met a lot of interesting people and learnt about some fascinating projects. These ranged from football in Poland and residential weekends to counselling and support for those with substance abuse problems. The latter I found particularly moving.

And I had an imprint of my hand taken which I'm told will be displayed on the wall. I was rather worried that this was part of the national ID card scheme and a cheeky way to get my fingerprints...

Monday, 18 August 2008

Thinking about the Funday

All pretty typical stuff.

The British organise an outdoor event. Thousands arrive. Rain starts. Rain doesn't stop.

A few weeks back I went to see Jools Holland at Arley Hall. It rained then as well, although not quite as much as it did on Saturday.

But what's really typical is that it didn't dampen anyone's enthusiasm. Once you're wet, you're wet - if you see what I mean - and you can get on with having fun.

I was devastated to hear the news that this may be the last year for the event. Considering the size and scale of the organisation, it doesn't cause much impact on the surrounding area. It's an event that Macclesfield, and Cheshire, should be proud of.

For that reason I'll be doing everything I can in the new Cheshire East Council to ensure that this event, and similar ones in neighboring boroughs, continue uninterrupted.

Sunday, 17 August 2008

Accident near Kings School

Quite a bad accident near Kings school last night (Saturday) around midnight.

Not sure what happened, but surprised given that it's such a short stretch of road.

Saturday, 16 August 2008

Worrying about parking - part 2

The recent decriminalization of parking in Macclesfield (which sounds counter-intuitive as it has lead to more tickets) as angered some as they feel it's no longer possible to pop into the shops in town.

These people are the minority - the majority that I have spoken to are pleased with the new system. They are pleased that whilst they always parked where they should they saw a small number of lazy, inconsiderate people breaking the rules. Rules that are not put in place to make life difficult, but to keep traffic flowing and make life easier for all.

They are also pleased that there are now more places you can stop if you want to pop into the shops. Short term bays, many of which are free, which used to be full of people parking all day are now available for what they were designed for.

So in the next few years, the outlook for parking in Macclesfield is good.

But what about the medium and long term? I have been digesting the plans for the new town centre and was immediately concerned about the amount of parking available. The new development will be built over three existing car parks and the plans I was sent didn't show a significant number of car spaces. Fortunately, I have been told this was because I wasn't sent plans for all the levels of the car park. I will look forward to ensuring that we end up with more spaces in the new development - because if we want more shops to encourage more visitors, then we certainly need more space.

Cost is another thing that bothers me greatly. I have got confirmation from MBC that the new car park will be run by a private operator. This immediately struck fear into my heart as I thought of a NCP wannabe taking hold of Macclesfield Town centre and bleeding us dry with exorbitant charges. Fortunately again, I have been told I will be proved wrong. The contract and charges will be set the council (which by that point will by Cheshire East, and not MBC) - so we have a chance to do this right.

We should consider this carefully, and if we are serious about competing with the Trafford Centre, where parking is free, then we must offer similar prices.

Short term parking must be free.

There is not much argument in Macclesfield for getting people out of their cars and onto public transport. This is a very rural area and the population is greatly dispersed. It is not possible to have buses to serve every road of every ward - and those that do cannot offer fast, frequent services.

We must not provide a disincentive for visiting our new town centre. Even a small charge will keep people away, so lets have no charge at all.

But my last worry is the biggest of the lot. When you consider that we are building this huge project over three of the car parks in Macclesfield (which are often well used when you visit them) - where are we going to park whilst the development is taking place?

Friday, 15 August 2008

Worrying about parking - part 1

The motor car gave us freedom to travel where and when we wanted, but it's also given us the stress of having to find somewhere to leave our autos whenever we get to our destination. I've always thought that paying for parking was a difficult thing to deal with. It's a great way to promote the use of other transport methods, but it can be seen as just plain fraud when there's no other option.

I traveled recently to nearby Manchester Airport (which is about 100 metres outside the Authority of which I'm a member) to pick up my wife. I was disgusted to find that whilst you could drop passengers off free of charge, in order to collect someone you had to enter the short stay carpark. The cost to drive in and out of this car park (for I didn't even need to stop the engine) was £2. Considering that there's no other option, and public transport from the Airport to Macclesfield is poor, I considered this daylight robbery.

I was even more incensed when I asked a parking attendant why we now had to pay to collect passengers. I was told this was because of terrorism. I can certainly understand the desire to have a collection area aware from the terminal after what happened at Glasgow airport, but it doesn't justify charging for it.

At Geneva airport you must use the short stay car park to collect passengers. Here, they only charge you if you stay longer than a short period (I think it's 15 minutes). At Salt Lake City there is a carpark on the outskirts of the airport where you can wait in your car until your passengers are ready. There are large signs which display when the flights are collecting their luggage, so you can go and collect your friends and relatives. The system works perfectly.

Poor services with shameless money making under a guise of national security is nothing but a national embarrassment.

The lie is so transparent the staff of the airport must surely be embarrassed, but the management is prepared to continue it in order to justify an additional unofficial tax on passengers.

They'll be charging for chairs in the departure lounge next.

£2 is not a significant amount of money, but it's the concept of paying that can be a disincentive. Even when a car park is cheap it is still a barrier from visiting somewhere. This has crystalised some important concepts in my mind for Macclesfield Town centre.

To be continued...

Visiting the resource centre on Warwick Road

Twice in two days in fact.

Thursday saw the opening of the new resource centre on Warwick Road which has been developed by Cheshire Peaks and Plains and their contractor, Rok. I was delighted to be invited to this, and it was great to see a huge cross section of people - from Councillors and council staff to tenants and residents both young and old.

This will be an excellent facility. It's not a very large premises, but provides computer facilities and a well equipped kitchen as well as a meeting space. The intention is that it will be used by all sorts of community groups on the estate.

I'm hoping that we'll be able to hold some surgeries there in time.

And today I was back there again - this time for a meeting of the Weston and Ivy Community subgroup to try and push forward our ideas for more facilities on the Weston. We're now making some progress with the play area in front of the Library and we're turning our attention to the recreation ground. I can see that this one's going to be a little more tricky nut to crack.

It's just been pointed out to me, 8 months on, that the resource centre isn't on Warwick Road at all - it's on Gilchrist Ave. Sorry for the mixup...