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Sunday, 28 September 2008

Travelling to conference

Off to B'ham for the party conference.

Never been to one of these before, and not really being an overtly party political person I'm not too sure what I'm going to make of it.

However, the info I've had regarding the agenda and the fringe has really got me excited. There's a lot of discussions about things that really matter, with people who know what they're talking about. Could turn out to be the best few days ever.

I'm going to try and blog from the conference but I can't promise anything - don't know what Internet connectivity will be like.

Friday, 26 September 2008

Worrying about the attack of the Clones

"First" is a publication sent to councillors on a weekly basis by the Local Government Association. I quite like it as it's a good way to learn about what other councillors are up to.

This week there's a story headed "Parties responsible for candidate clones" - with the content berating all parties for the fact that the majority of councillors are male, white and over-55.

Apparently this is the fault of the parties, and the problem is with the selection process. I think this is quite far from the truth. The idea suggests that the selection process should concern itself with getting different kinds of people to stand as councillors, and this is not right.

The selection process should exist to vet and approve those who come forward - and from my experience there is nothing in this process that discourages or prevents many different groups of people from getting involved.

The idea that we should chase people and encourage them to get involved to broaden the demographic of our candidates is daft. We need proactive, confident people to be councillors - not someone that's not that keen to do the job and easily persuaded or steam rollered into doing things.

Thursday, 25 September 2008

The Cheshire Endowment

Taken from details received from CCA:

Cheshire Community Action (CCA) have won a contract to raise over £650,000 within the next two and a half years. If they are successful in reaching this target, the office of the third sector will match them pound for pound, giving them a total fund of £1.3 million.

A charitable endowment works by creating a capital pot which is invested wisely to generate a good income through interest. This interest is then distributed as grants to the voluntary and community sector in Cheshire.

If you would like to know more about the scheme, including if you would like to donate then:
Call: 01244 323 604
email: alison.roylance@cheshireaction.org.uk
web: www.thecheshireendowment.org.uk

Wednesday, 24 September 2008

Warming globally

Top marks to the 'Express for keeping the discussion going when many others have failed.

The truth behind global warming is less than clear, and the attempts by many to stop discussion on the issue only retards and restricts our knowledge & ability to deal with the issue.

Lindy Brett of East Cheshire Green Party, who I'm sure means well, is dangerously misinformed. "Over 90% of scientists think it is caused by Human Activity" she says.

She's wrong. There's varying reports out there, but most surveys of climate scientists give a figure of between 50 and 75% that believe it is caused by human activity.

I certainly agree that this a majority, but it's not what I would call "overwhelming". If I told you that you had 75% chance of making it across the road safely, I don't think you'd chance your arm and cross.

Tuesday, 23 September 2008

Thinking of ideas for the Weston Playing Fields

Trying to put some ideas onto paper for the Weston Playing Fields.

I know that there's a lot demand for somewhere the kids can ride their bikes (either a BMX track or perhaps something more freeform), somewhere to play football when the grounds wet, and some kind of shelter.

There's a lot of talk about having a place families can use, and there's a clear need for an areas for juniors to play (filling the gap assuming we have BMX/Shelter for seniors, and the under 5-s area by the community centre).

If you've got any ideas, please let me know.

Monday, 22 September 2008

Third Sector Assembly

I know we shouldn't be trying to keep up with the Jones', but I do get a bit worried about the apparent progress that West Cheshire are making.

I now read that they already have a Third Sector Assembly in place - something which I believe is one of the most central cogs in a local government that involves and is run by all.

I'm off to find out when we're getting ours...

Sunday, 21 September 2008

Hopping on the bus

Councillor Sandy Bentley has been working quite hard recently trying to find a way to get better bus services for the Weston.

So I was interested to get a briefing from Cheshire Community Action which states that 64% of people said transport/bus services were the most essential for the community.

Please contact Sandy if you feel strongly about better bus services and would like to help.

Saturday, 20 September 2008

Llistening to rumours and old wives tales

From this article: The internet needs a way to help people separate rumour from real science.

Sir Tim Berners-Lee: "The web has been used to spread disinformation"

That's how it works. Sometime people lie, sometimes people misunderstand, sometimes people have different views (neither of which are right or wrong). The medium in which these ideas and thoughts are transmitted is irrelevant - it could be face to face, on the web, or in a newspaper.

Global Warming is a fantastic example. We all got completely stuffed up by the IPCC who "inadvertently mislead" everyone with the Hockey Stick. If you don't know the full story: the basic piece of information which forms the argument for all man-made global warming arguments turned out to be based on a piece of software which produced the same "warming" graph regardless of what was fed into it.

That disinformation spread across the internet and across the whole world. Even now that the truth is starting to come out, there's is still a lot of disinformation - hundreds of tree-hugging-sandle-wearing-trots-loving-astro-turfing trolls trying to stop the truth from getting out in any way they can.

But that aside, we've always had old wives tales and part of the process of being a stable, adjusted adult is knowing how to rate information. You have to learn what to trust and what not to trust.

If you attempt to protect people from bad info, then you get into a situation where people trust things by default, and that will put us in a very bad place.

Friday, 19 September 2008

Visiting Farmers' Markets

Ok, that's a lie. It's more like thinking of visiting Farmers' markets. Or I would be if there were any in Macclesfield. I've found these so far...

Alderley Edge Festival Hall, 2nd Sunday of the month, 10am to 2pm.
Knutsford - Silk Mill Street - First Saturday of the month, 9am to 4pm.
Congleton - Bridgestones Centre - First and third Tuesdays of the month, 9am to 2pm.

Anyone know of any in Macc?

Thursday, 18 September 2008

surfing the web

Just come across this website, for all those that say there's nothing for the kids to do:


Run by Connexions and Cheshire County Council.

Wednesday, 17 September 2008

Dreading the not-so-fun-fair

I'm not 100% sure I've got the date right (was reading as I ran for the train) - but I think the infamous fun fair will be taking over the station carpark from 21st September.

Prepare to have nowhere to park and 16 year olds in tracksuits running amock.

And who said Macclesfield had no culture?

Call Centre Expo

Sounds exciting, doesn't it?!

For the last couple of days I've been at CC Expo as part of my day job - I give people help and advice on how to run their call centres, specifically the correct technology to select.

This reminded me of some stats I got from the CC Manager of MBC recently.

Presently, 58% of the council's customer contacts come by telephone - costing a few pounds each to serve. Contacts via the website are only about 15% and cost about 25 pence to serve.

Evidently, we'd like more people to use the web.

The moral of the story? If you want your council tax to go down, use the web instead of the phone!

Tuesday, 16 September 2008

Avoiding Tax

I'm sure that this idea from the Lib Dems will be of interest to all those Guardian readers.

Don't support the paper if you don't believe in what they're doing.

Monday, 15 September 2008

Getting angry at other Councillors

This is possibly the most remarkable thing I've ever read:

This chappie is a Councillor but lives in the states whilst he studies a PhD. Can you believe that? How could you possibly represent your ward whilst living thousands of miles away?

And how could you have the Audacity to continue banking your allowance?

This is the most extreme example I've seen of politicians who don't take the local aspect of their job seriously.

There seem to be a few of them in the commons, lets hope this (highly educated) fool doesn't end up there.

Sunday, 14 September 2008

reading reports from the Magistrates

I'm not really supposed to read this because it always disappointments me...

First up: Someone was fined £35 for drunk and disorderly.

£35? WTF?

If you think I need to say more on this, then this might be worth a read.

And then some chap admitted driving without insurance. He was fined £256....which he must have been well chuffed about because it's probably less than his insurance would have been in the first place.

If you fail to pay for a parking ticket of, lets say, £1 - you're likely to get hit with a fine of £60. About 60 times more than it would have cost you in a first place. This is certainly makes a compelling argument to pay for your ticket in the first place.

So, lets say that the average cost of insuring a car is £200. Perhaps a fine of around £12,000 would be more of a disincentive?

Friday, 12 September 2008


Not quite sure it'll be quite like 1.48 in the vid, but Red Watch will be holding a Charity car wash tomorrow (Sat 13th). 10am to 4pm I'm told.

I'm very proud that the fire station is in my ward, and I'll be taking both cars down tomorrow to get them sparkling clean. I hope everyone does to, and that we can cause a right royal traffic jam on the Chester Road. Surely these lads deserve it?

Reading Barlow & Drinking

Could be a poor choice of title.

Vic was in classic form this week in the express.

I especially liked this piece about drunken louts. FTA:
"Macclesfield Borough Council should be proud. They approved every license changing the town centre into an oasis for binge drinkers"
I've said it before, and I'll no doubt say it again - this is part of the problem that we have with drinking. The proximity of a large number of establishments in the centre is a problem for three specific reasons. It encourages people to move on - which means finishing the drink that you may normally keep for another half an hour to buy another next door (evidentially good news for the landlords), it means that we have too many people in a small area, and it means that there is no community atmosphere within a particular establishment (something that would encourage people to behave better).

But I understand that MBC are limited in what they can refuse. As we have also seen with planning recently, central government has established a policy of "acceptance" with the committee having to come up with really good reasons to refuse. And if you do refuse a second roundabout, perhaps you end up with an appeal and court action.

Something which will be paid for by our council tax, and therefore is not ideal.

However there's a couple of problems with the picture that Barlow is trying to paint. It gives the impression that Macc town centre is a cocophany of identical plastic establishments all with the intention of piling 'em high and selling 'em cheap.

This isn't true.

We actually have quite a diverse range of establishments. You've got the Wetherspoons which is cheap and not particularly great (you know what you're getting with a 'spoons), through to places like Mezzaluna which are far more upmarket with a much more mature atmosphere. But then Mezzaluna don't serve any decent beer, so why not visit Jar Bar for a pint of Jeckles Gold with trendy decor, or go for the Prince of Wales if you want a pub that's more like.....well you know, a pub.

It's a town centre which, in the evening, is appealing to a large age range and a large demographic of drinker. Should we lose this just because a couple of louts can't behave?

Nope, we should just ensure that getting picked up for drunk and disorderly gets you a little more than a £50 fine (they probably spent more than that get leathered in the first place).

£500 would be more appropriate.

Thursday, 11 September 2008


The consultation went well - and was delighted that it was publicised by Silk FM and the Macc Express. James from CPP also hovered outside the school and reminded all the parents, so I'm truly confident that everyone on the estate had a chance to have their say.

The feedback was 99% positive and people were delighted with the plans. There were no negative responses, but the other 1% was the expected "it'll only get trashed" argument.

I dare say that at some point in many years to come it probably will - but as residents of Macclesfield West we shouldn't not improve our habitat lest that might happen.

It's a bit like refusing to wash your car in case it gets dirty again (more on car washing tomorrow).

And more to the point, we must take pride in these facilities once we have them and not allow anyone to damage them. We all live near the area and pass it on a daily basis, we can all keep an eye on it.

Many many thanks go out to James, the Guys at SilkFM, Karen from the Express, the staff at the Childrens Centre and especially Beth from Groundwork Cheshire for making all of this happen.

Wednesday, 10 September 2008

Listening to SilkFM

Thanks to Silk FM, who were kind enough to mention the consultation today.

Listen here:


Or go view the SilkFM website, click "news" and then "latest news bulletin"

We're at 2 minutes 30.

Listening to the BBC reports of the LHC

Quite frequently you'll get a reporter on the radio or telly that's obviously a bit out of depth with their content. This is very noticeable with political reporting when often they haven't understood one or both sides of the argument.

Why these people justify a salary is beyond me, but lets not dwell on that.

The reporting of the LHC at CERN this morning has had me in stitches. None of the reporters have the faintest idea what they're talking about. They just waffle on about how amazing it is. (Have no doubt - it is amazing. The construction project alone is a one of Mankinds best achievements, let alone the science.) For the last 24 hours up until 8.29 this morning Andrew Marr has been reporting that at 8.30 this morning the experiment will take place and we'll have the answers to everything.

It was very amusing to hear him at 8.30 this morning realise that getting protons round the first few KM's of the LHC is a long way from colliding particles. Analysing the subsequent data - which will probably take years still - is when we'll actually start to learn some things.

Knowing that the government has it wrong on waste

I'll issue a warning now - I think this is going to turn into a rant.

Iain Dale is complaining about too much Nanny State-ism, and he is of course right. None of us like being told what to do.

But the story that he is reporting is very concerning for other reasons - and it's to do with the way that we target waste.

In Cheshire East we are trying to remove as much biodegradable waste from landfill as possible. This is because it's what the government wants us to do - and the story by Dale reflects this from another angle.

But this seems crazy to me - and I think we're wrong.

The way we target waste is crackers. If you are worried that your hole in the ground is getting too full (as we all are) then you concern yourself with how much volume you put in, not how much weight. But this is all driven by LATS/Landfill Tax which is based on weight - and there's nothing we can do about that locally.

That's why MBC won't collect my plastic - because it's not dense enough to make a dent in the figures.

But this thing about biodegradable waste is more crackers still. It's utterly Jacobs Cream Crackers. Dig a hole and put as much plant waste in it as you want. It's not going to contaminate land, it's not going to end the world, and it isn't going to give of anymore CO2 than the plant absorbed whilst it was growing - which makes it carbon neutral.

Using large amounts of energy or draconian laws to recycle, reuse or reduce this kind of waste is pointless. Surely plastic, which is made from oil and is the only substance know by man to be full of more chemical nasties than turkey twizzlers, is the kind of stuff we want to reduce & recycle?

Tuesday, 9 September 2008

Visiting scouts

Just got back from visiting the 3rd Macclesfield Scouts.

Got to teach them some knots, which was great fun. Shame I didn't get to teach them all how to roll their scarves (or neckers - and I'm not getting into that argument) properly - most of them needed a bit of attention!

It's a good size group, and it's nice to see that scouting is still so popular.

Hoping people don't forget!

Don't forget - consultation on the playground tomorrow:


Monday, 8 September 2008

Worrying about the shops

The news of The Cheshire is a little concerning - and I'm really hoping that we don't end up with yet more empty buildings in the town centre.

But this is the thing that's worrying me....if we can't fill the shops now, why are we going to be able to fill them after the redevelopment?

I can understand an argument that perhaps a town centre reaches a "critical mass": when you've got a certain amount of shops all the other traders want to be in the same place. Perhaps Macc has dropped below this and the redevelopment will push us back above it.

But my concern is that the plans for the redevelopment haven't considered this, and just assume we'll fill them. If this is the case, then given the current commercial climate there is definitely cause for concern.

unsure about news...

It's a bit mixed this one.

Nationwide announce that it's going to "merge" (read: takeover?) Derbyshire and Cheshire building societies:


Good news on the basis that it means that the Cheshire isn't going to fold completely, but bad news both long and short term for jobs.

I can't see them keeping two branches in Macc, I can't see the brand surviving at all, and then there's the question of what will happen to the head office.

Sunday, 7 September 2008

Wondering if I'm the one that's mad?

So first of all I hear about the dog control orders being put in place by MBC. I've no real objection to these, although I think they're a waste of time. This is because they don't really give any powers that aren't available under present legislation - and we don't seem to be able to police those completely (eg, dog fouling) so why add to our workload?

Anyway...so I then read that one of the exclusion areas is the Weston playing fields...


...and I'm really disappointed about this. Whilst we have a serious problem with dogs fouling this area, it's the minority to blame and we need to work on them. Banning all dogs is just going to remove the last remaining users of this already under-used public space.

But then I check the map, and note that it's only the fenced off area at the back:

Which is tiny, and not used by anyone because it's fenced off and padlocked. So it's completely pointless.

It's pointless putting it before the council. It's pointless putting a public notice in the paper. It's pointless doing all the administration to get this one on the list, with the flashy map and everything else.

And if it's pointless - then it's a waste of our money.


Friday, 5 September 2008


Spotting this on the BBC this morning:


...and was delighted. I've been saying this for a few years now - that the attitude we have towards drinking is partially formed by the media. Quite often you hear a DJ tell us how they had a "big" night last night - and this is heard by many 16/17 year olds who then believe this is what they should do.

From the report

"...and a hangover as a marker of a good night out. "

It's spot on - and Radio 1 is undoubtedly the worst of the lot for promoting this.

Unless we address issues such as this, such what type of bars we license and where we allow them to be - we will never change the attitude and culture towards drinking. Increasing the price of alcohol of changing licensing hours will have no effect the amount we drink or how we behave after we have drunk it.

We have to be aware that it's not something we can change in a few months (it'll take years) but unless we start we'll never get there.

Wednesday, 3 September 2008

Consulting on playgrounds

If you live on the Weston, pay special attention now...

After years of hard work by many people, we are now in a position to push forward with plans for a under-5's play area outside the community centre on Earlsway.

The funding is (mostly) secure, and the plans are in good shape. The next step is for residents to give it the OK, and in order to do this we're holding a consultation session at the Children's Centre, Broken Cross School on 10th September between 3 & 5pm.

The plans will be on show and various people involved in the project will be on hand to answer any questions.

If you can't wait, a copy of the plans are here:

And some photos of proposed equipment here:

Hope to see you all there.

Looking at logos

Cabinet meeting is coming up, which means that I've got plenty to read through.

Whilst I'm delighted that the compact is up for discussion (more on this later) - I'm skipping straight to the fun bit.

The results of the consultation on the logo are in, and the winner is the wheatsheaf.

Which I'm delighted about. I didn't think I could stomach something that looked like Thames Water logo, or anything named "rising sun" (house of or otherwise).

Fortunately you all agreed - voting 54% for the 'sheaf, 35% for hills and 11% for the sun.

The proposal in front of cabinet is to adopt a slightly toned down version to reduce printing costs - which is a great idea. It still has all the impact of the original and I'm all for saving money.

Which is why I'm a bit confused how the consultation cost us £4000 - I would have gone out with a clipboard for half of that.

Driving up Park lane....yippee!

Got an email this afternoon from highways to say that Park lane was due to open again this afternoon.

Happy dayz.

The new junction at the college looks nice and smart - although I'll withhold judgement until we see how it handles rush hour traffic.

I'm still a touch confused though. I was told that my lines would be on the flowerpot before they re-opened park lane. I think someone was telling porkies.

Tuesday, 2 September 2008

Talking about the Manchester Congestion Charge

There's been a lot of talk about how people living on the outskirts of Manchester would be impacted by the ridiculous idea that is the congestion charge.

But there's not been much talk about how it impacts a place like Macclesfield - and this is a real shame.

Cinemacc aside, you really need to travel to Stockport of Didsbury if you want to go to the flicks. Most people go to Didsbury, because Parrswood's a nicer location than Stockport. However - under the proposals you'll need to ensure it's a later showing unless you want to get caught in the charge.

In a similar way we normally travel to Manchester to see something on the stage. It's a shame that there's not something on at Mads every night, but that's the way it is. If we want to go for a meal first then we'll need to pay the congestion charge. Get the train? Fair enough as long as you want to come home before last orders....

I've got a suspicion that I'll be returning to this.

Monday, 1 September 2008

Betjeman on the town centre redevelopment

From "Inexpensive Progress"
"Let no provincial High Street
Which might be your or my street
Look as it used to do,
But let the chain stores place here
Their miles of black glass facia
And traffic thunder through."
It's clear from reading some of Betjeman's work that he would rather we had no progress at all. I'm not to this extreme - but just think we should have progress at an acceptable cost. Too often there's a desire to have progress at any cost - something that's hinted at in the ironic title of this poem.

Macclesfield Town Centre definitely needs a boost - I don't argue with that. But every time I look at the elevation of the new development my eye is drawn to the large, square extension above the flashy ground floor that looks an awful lot to me like a large, concrete, car park.

Who knows. Perhaps the building will look delightful and be a beacon of architectural success in the modern age. But I bet it wont.

There are better ways to rejuvenate the town than this. We are situated on the west coast main line, at the foot of the peaks, and at the start of one of the most (in)famous roads in the country. We are in a perfect position to use tourism to generate wealth and prosperity in Macclesfield.

But we can't do that if we destroy our market town heritage in the name of "progress".