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Sunday, 30 November 2008

Participatory budgeting

A concept that's gaining traction in local government, and is seen in a very similar vein to the development of the 3rd sector, is participatory budgeting. (Although that link is a distraction - they're not connected at all).

Basically this means the tax payer gets to decide how to spend some of the Council's cash. Hazel Blears has recently announced some more schemes and is hoping to have every area involved in the system by 2012.

The reason for doing this is to give people more power and involve them more in the process of spending money. It will make us more democratic.


We already have a way of getting members of the public decide how to spend the cash. Bascially, we all get to vote for the person that does it. They're called Councillors.

They get a few perks on the way....free parking at the Town Hall, the occassional luke-warm buffet at a training session, and lots of grief from the public and Vic Barlow. They are normal members of the public who have been nominated to make these decisions. It is open - anyone can give it a go, and you can get rid of people you think are doing a bad job by voting them out.

That is democratic. Having unelected, unaccountable people deciding how to spend my council tax is not. That's just corruption in the making.

Now you may argue that there is a disconnection between politicians and their constituents. This is the case in some wards (I hope it's not in mine, I'm certainly trying really hard to ensure it isn't). When this occurs that is the fault of the Councillor - but importantly it's the job of the public to fix it. By booting that person out next time around and getting someone better. And if there's no-one better on the ballot then you should have a go yourself.

Democracy can work and does work, and we don't need gimmicks like this to make us more "democratic" - we just need a bit more interaction between councillors and the public, a bit more discussion about politics in everyday life, and a bit more tough love for politicians when they're not doing what we want them to do.

Saturday, 29 November 2008


We need to standardise taxes & charges across the new council - and this is always going to throw stories up in the press. It's a contentious issue.

To make matters worse, the recent plans to keep a shared library system with the West means charges in this area need to be in line with theirs, which makes the process even more difficult.

So this is a pre warning of what we'll all be complaining about in the next 12 months.

We've seen evidence which suggests that the parking task group are going to introduce parking charges in Congleton, and I'm sure that there's going to be riots over this.

(Quite right as well - we should have free parking everywhere).

Not all charges will be standardised from day 1, but here are some others in Leisure from a recent council report which need looking at:

* Headline swimming charges are significantly cheaper in Macclesfield when compared to the other two local authority areas;
* Grass football pitches are significantly more expensive within the Congleton (sic) compared with Crewe & Nantwich and Macclesfield;
* Crewe & Nantwich is the only area that offers free entry to children under 5 years whereas the other two areas allow free entry for Children under 3;
* Crewe offers a junior discount for children under 17 years whereas the other two local authority areas offer discounts for those under 16 years;
* Congleton allows free use of leisure facilities by members of the armed forces;
* Crewe offers free swimming for people with a registered disability.

Friday, 28 November 2008

Childrens Trust

Having been as disgusted as everyone else at the news of what happened to Baby P, I surged into action to make sure that similar failings in the Children's Services department couldn't allow such a thing to happen in Cheshire East.

Sadly, you come to the rapid realisation that we can never stop such a thing from happening again. We can't prevent evil, repulsive people like this from becoming parents - all we can do is try and prevent them from doing harm to their children once they have them.

But this is easier said than done. We can't go around whipping kiddies away from everyone who we don't like to look of. We have to strike a balance.

It's clear that they weren't getting this balance right in the case of Baby P, but no one was in the position to point out this failure and correct the matter. It seems that one of the reasons for this was that the council officer who was responsible for running this department was also responsible for ensuring they were doing things right.

So I was pleased to find that the implementation board for our new Cheshire East Children's trust has been tasked to consider: "how those who monitor performance will be separated from those who are responsible for delivery".

A very simple line which will prevent failings like those described occurring in Cheshire East.

Thursday, 27 November 2008

School Stuff

I'm a governor at Ivy Bank primary school - and this means that on top of loads of council papers I also get sent lots of guff about schools.

Most of it is guff of the highest quality, but I'm afraid that Cheshire let me down this week.

In the magazine they send to governors we got urged to setup parent forums or councils where they can come to discuss issues.

I'm not very keen on this idea to begin with, because we've got a good system already. We have PTA's, Govenors, and a good Head Teacher will always be available for a chat (I know that the one at Ivy Bank is).

But what angered me even more was being told that we would "Need to think about the impact of culture and...holding women-only meetings".


The way I see things, the only places that should be women only are the ladies lav's and the changing room at Ann Summers. I call that discrimination and I think it's wrong.

Wednesday, 26 November 2008


Often we complain that politicians are too distanced from the real world - and this has been specifically proved by the treasury over the cut in VAT.

They have failed to understand that companies fall into two specific categories, and they set their prices in different ways.

Companies like mine, who sell to other companies that reclaim VAT, price before VAT and then add VAT on. VAT is just a distraction, it doesn't affect what I earn or my client pays.

However companies who sell to consumers price after VAT. They pick an amount they think you'll pay, and stick that on the label. Once you've bought it they work out the VAT fraction, and send that bit to the tax man.

That's why prices are always round numbers (or nearly if some didn't knock the penny off to make it look cheaper).

For example, I've just looked up a Tefal Iron in a well known department store and it's £29. So you're paying £24.69 + VAT.

This is the basic point the chancellor has missed.

Will this Iron now be sold at £28.39? Of course not.

In the majority of cases, the change will be pocketed by the vendor and the customer will see no difference. This means that there will be no stimulus to the economy - but I suppose that leaves us in the same position we were before, right?

Wrong - because the treasury has less income. So we'll have to pay more tax to make up for that.

The end result is the government gets the same, the shops get more, and we get less.

And then it'll be even worse in 2011 when Labour plan to put VAT up to 18.5%. More here

Tax Payers Alliance

Just found this interesting post on the always interesting tax payers alliance website.

It makes a very important point that the setting of Policy should be done by the Councillors - and not by officers.

However, it's worth noting that Councillors are not full time employees of the council (in fact they're not technically employed at all - which is why we get an allowance and not a salary) - and don't always have the time to research policy in minute detail.

So it seems there is a requirement for this position - but perhaps it should form part of Member Services (ie, it's a resource for Councillors to develop policy and not for Officers to develop policy) and should report directly into the leader.

I've written to him to suggest this.

Tuesday, 25 November 2008

Tesco...Part 4

This might be the last one about Tescos.

Can't promise anything though.

Have you noticed that they're going to knock down the old Tesco's to build a new one? It's going to take 12 months apparently.

They "may consider" building a temporary store somewhere. Which is nice of them. But only may...not definitely will.

At the same time they're doing this, we may be seeing the development of the town centre - which will involve closing the car parks near the other Tesco's to build shops on them. So that shop will be very difficult to access.

So assuming that they don't build a temporary store - we'll be looking at having 12 months with less than 50% of the shopping capacity we have now.

Trust me. You want to start stocking up on tins now.

Monday, 24 November 2008

Phone calls

Was catching up on my Macclesfield Express reading, and was yet again blown away by Barlow and his complaints about the new council phone system.

I'd been keeping a low profile about this, but the sharp witted of you will know that I work with Call Centres. To be specific, I tell people when is the right and wrong time to use these kinds of systems...so I'm really in the thick of it.

But if I'm honest, I find it a pretty easy job to do. It's a carrot and a stick kind of thing. It you push people into using a rubbish system then they're going to get upset about it. If you provide a system that's quicker, more reliable and with more functionality than speaking to a live agent, it will be very popular.

This wasn't a decision I pushed for, but I did discuss it with David a few months back and I think it's a good idea. It's all in the design and implementation of these things. As long as MBC get that bit right then it should be a success.

Barlow may complain about the (one off) setup costs, but he has failed to understand the enormous (daily) cost of handling phone calls to the council. If people choose to use this system rather than a live agent the savings to the council will be many, many times the original investment.

And unlike Journalists, when we save money we don't spend it on the Christmas party. We use it to reduce council tax.

Sunday, 23 November 2008

Tesco...Part 3

So when it comes to the actual Tesco's development in Macclesfield (as opposed to the roundabout) I can't honestly say that I'm that up in arms about it.

I don't buy into the arguments about it being another nail in the coffin of competition. The expansion to the shop will be all about poor quality clothes and vacuum cleaners. It's going to be a problem for Currys and TG Hughes, but not anyone else.

Whilst I'm saddened by the demise of local butchers and greengrocers, this isn't going to be made worse by this store redevelopment. And it wasn't the fault of Tesco's in the first place.

Indulge me and I'll explain why.

I was sickened by a woman who was at the consultation at the same time as me. She started off by complaining that they're killing the local competition, and then went on to complain that they're not very good at keeping the shelves stocked.

What a hypocrite.

For her to know that the store is often badly stocked she must have shopped there on many occasions - so she is the exact reason that the other shops are closing.

All Tesco's can do it build a shop. We each chose whether to shop there or not. This hypocrite choses to shop there, but then moan about Tesco's in order to make herself feel better.*

We chose not. We don't and won't shop at Tesco's. Guarentee you won't see us in there.

But you won't catch us moaning about it either, because we don't need to make ourselves feel better.

How about you?

* It's a bit like people who live in nice houses in Bolly standing as socialist candidates for Macc West. If you know what I mean.

Saturday, 22 November 2008

Tesco...Part 2

Following on from yesterday - there's one thing about the new roundabout that really got me angry.

And I mean angry.

The chap at the consultation from Tesco's (if you went there you'll know which one - the one that was 12) - said that the roundabout was a good thing because it would slow down the fast traffic on the Silk Road.

That section of the Silk Road is derestricted dual carriageway. Therefore national speed limit applies - 70MPH.

That's what we have decided the speed limit should be, and as far as I am aware it is a very safe road.

Not content with pushing cheap, nasty food with poor welfare standards upon us - they now what to get involved with their own brand of road safety?

Friday, 21 November 2008

Should we be thankful?

News that 250 more jobs may go at AZ in Macclesfield is certainly disheartening.

But the story behind this is even worse. For every job lost at AZ, we will probably end up losing another job in Macc. It might be a hairdresser, a publican or a shopkeeper - but a lot of jobs in Macclesfield are supporting AZ workers, which makes the impact of these jobs losses even worse.

However I almost feel slightly thankful that the site is not being closed - as AZ have announced closures of 3 plants in Europe. Closure of our sites would take us decades to recover from.

This is one reason why we need to look at the development of Macclesfield, but with something other than a shopping centre. The shopping centre relies on a good economy, and for a lot of people to be employed locally by employers like AZ. We need a plan that works in all weather, not just when the sun is shining.

Tesco...Part 1

It's been another busy week.

As well as rushing all over the country trying to earn a living - I got the chance to give Tesco's a grilling at the Town Hall on Monday.

The first (annoying) thing is that they're cleverly keeping the two issues of the new store and the silk road roundabout separate when evidently they have no intention of building one without the other.

And as everyone knows, they've already been granted permission for the new roundabout - which is still a mystery to me. I'm investigating the planning process at the moment.

They claim that County Highways supported the idea - but what I understand County actually said is that a roundabout was better than a slip road on/off.

But it's still a crackers plan. As everyone who comes into Macc between 4pm and 6pm will know, there's usually traffic queuing half way to the Hulley road roundabout. This means that cars will end up sitting on the new roundabout in rush hour, preventing anyone from getting into or out of Tescos.

Not initially a big deal (if they're stupid enough to go there, etc.) but what will then happen is Traffic going away from Hibel Road on the Silk Road will get held up by this traffic queuing to turn right into Tescos on the new roundabout.

Stopping the other, previously fine, carriageway.

However - to balance all of these arguments, I see no choice if there are to be commercial units built on the Black Lane site. Although a new Tesco's would be fine with the present traffic arrangements, there is no way we could provide access to a new development on Black Lane without an additional junction.

And I doubt that there are many people that wouldn't like to see something useful happen with that site.

My only concern is that this access will be across Tesco's land - which as far as I am aware - they haven't yet consented to.

Thursday, 20 November 2008

Bomb scare Mk II

Received from Cheshire Police:
Please accept the following as an update to an incident in the Park Green area of Macclesfield this morning.

At 9.13am a telephone call was made to a business premises on Park Green claiming that a bomb had been planted and that it would explode at 12.30pm

The emergency services responded and the area was thoroughly searched. By 11.30am we were able to declare the area safe and normal business could be resumed in the area. No devices were found so the incident came to a fairly swift conclusion as a result.

There are a number of ongoing enquiries in relation to tracing the call etc and if anyone is able to provide any information that could assist us then I would urge them to do so.
Someone is obviously finding this quite funny - but I don't think it's going to be long before the Rozzers catch up with them.

Wednesday, 19 November 2008

Fun fun fun...

Just got a questionnaire from Royal Mail .

Asking me for my opinion is asking for trouble anyway, but they've asked me to return it to:

Macclesfield Delivery Office
SK10 1EJ

Now if RM can't even work out that Macclesfield is in Cheshire and not Stockport, then what hope have we got?!

Monday, 17 November 2008

Glad to know we're doing something right

Cheshire East are being held up as a shining example by the Chester Chronicle and a Lib Dem Councillor.

This article states in relation to special responsibility allowances, which are paid on top of the standard Councillor's allowance:
Cllr Gaskill claims some councillors, who are receiving more than one extra payment, can double their basic allowance. In Cheshire East councillors are limited to just one extra payment, irrespective of how many extra responsibilities they take on.

Doubt we'll get a good word in the 'Express though.

Popular Complaints

Councillors love to complain. It's in our blood. One of the favourite complaints of councillors is Jargon. They (we?) just hate it.

Now I'm all for this - because it's important that you make yourself as clear as possible. If a member of the public hasn't read hundreds of council papers and been involved in all the background work then it's unlikely that they're going to understand what LSP's and CDRP's stand for or are.

But I'm concerned that a drive towards reducing jargon will make it difficult to communicate anything with any substance. Sometimes "Jargon" - especially acronyms or New Labour euphemisms are worthless (like how our parking wardens have become "civil enforcement officers")

But sometimes it's important that we use new terminology to encapsulate new ideas. Like "3rd Sector": we need some way to terming a group of organisations are so vitel to what we do. We just have to be careful about creating them, and use them in moderation.

Sunday, 16 November 2008

Shifting the blame

I wrote earlier in the weekend about how frustrated I was about not being able to recycle my plastic.

I've heard all sorts of reasons for why we can't do it and I still remain unconvinced. If it's so difficult, cost ineffective and worthless then why are lots of other authorities doing it?

But I wonder if I'm chasing the wrong people. Rather than trying to find someone to recycle, perhaps I should be looking to cut out the waste at source.

The laws governing excess packaging are toothless and impossible to enforce. But the consumer has a power, not granted by law, all of their own.

I'm therefore becoming ever more tempted to start unpacking my goods at the checkout and leaving the rubbish for Tescos and Sainsburys to dispose of. By the time a few of us started it we'd soon cause enough of a scene for the supermakets to start paying attention.

Sumoking: I know that you're the expert, so perhaps you can tell me if it's legal?

Saturday, 15 November 2008

Watching Kerry Katona on this morning

I'm going to do something which I don't normally do - I'm going to indulge in celebrity gossip.

I happened to watch that Kerry Katona clip on youtube the other day - the one where she was on "This morning".

It seems that Kerry was either drunk, or on heavy medication which made her appear drunk.

Much speculation over which ensued.

Who even cares? This woman has done nothing constructive in her life. I expect I work harder in one 15 hour working day than she has ever done in a month. She has no skill, no talent, no work ethic. And bizarrely, no ambition.

When she was asked where she was going to take her life now she answered "nowhere really".


The only possible good she can do is to be a role model for our youth - and she's certainly not doing that.

I'd dispatch that one on a one way mission to Mars, and send Max Clifford with her.

Friday, 14 November 2008

Still none the wiser

I was asking previously if anyone knew anything about Tesco's owning some land that is due to form part of the Town Centre redevelopment. I'm still none the wiser about this, and though someone has kindly offered to do some land registry searches it's going to be a little bit tricky unless I can work out which site it actually is.

But it works like this - Tesco's may own some land that form part of the Town Centre redevelopment. MBC will need this if they want to press ahead with the plan. That is a rumour with no basis, pure speculation. I don't know if it's true or not.

But let us all consider a hypothetical situation.

Tescos wanted a roundabout on the Silk Road, and the council said no. Then the council suddenly said yes. The reason for this was to avoid a lengthy legal challenge with Tescos.

Let's not beat about the bush. If Tescos tried to sue the council then:
1) Personally, I'd be happy to pay £10 on my council tax that year to fight it - because I don't want a roundabout on the Silk Road and respect my council for making a sensible decision.
2) I would never shop at Tesco again because they showed so little respect for said council.
3) I would stand outside Tescos every Saturday morning for the forseeable future and tell everyone why they should go to Sainsburys instead.

Tescos know something like this would happen, and they wouldn't risk it. The action would result in higher council tax for all of their customers - and that would be bound to lead to negative publicity.

But what a (hypothetical) coincidence (with no basis) that the same Tescos may be holding a parcel of land which is of use to MBC.

The Macclesfield Bomb Scare

Just received this from Insp Gareth Woods:
The following is an update for you all following the bomb hoax incident in Macclesfield yesterday afternoon which brought Macclesfield Town Centre to a virtual standstill. Apologies for the delay in getting this out to you all but I am sure that you will agree that the operational response to such incidents must take priority and that response remains ongoing at the time of typing.

At 3.13pm yesterday afternoon a telephone call was made to McDonalds on the Hurdsfield Retail Park claiming that an explosive device had been placed inside a nearby bin. McDonalds staff contacted the police who responded to the area straight away. Having confirmed that an object was indeed inside the bin in question the area was evacuated and cordoned off.

Our colleagues from the Explosive Ordnance Disposal Team were called to the area and a controlled explosion was attempted. Due to the fact that the object in question turned out to be a hoax device it didn't physically explode.

The above activity took a significant amount of time to co-ordinate and deliver. As a result it wasn't until around 9pm that the cordons required to safeguard the public were removed. During that time there was significant disruption to local traffic, pedestrians and businesses. In addition the emergency services were committed for the duration to the detriment of other priorities and issues across the area.

Our enquiries have continued since yesterday and the current situation is that the original phone call that was made to McDonalds has now been traced to a telephone box outside the shops in Tytherington. A number of forensic enquiries have been completed in and around the telephone box and house to house enquiries are being conducted in the area by officers this afternoon.

We remain confident that the person who orchestrated this incident is local and that we will be able to trace them. Any information that anyone can provide that can assist the investigation will be most welcome.

Thursday, 13 November 2008

Saving cash - woooohooo!

Was delighted to receive a cabinet report from the council that tells me the forecast costs have recently dropped - and it looks like the transitional costs may be £500,000 less than originally forecast.

But just before I celebrated I notice this killer line...it may be "because projects do not deliver during the latter part of the year resulting in slippage into 2009-2010".

Which is interesting. Because transitional costs couldn't be met from Council Tax rises....but can they be if the dates slip and it's no longer a "transitional" project?

Must keep an eye on that.

Gets earlier every year?

I know it's just a little too predictable to complain about Christmas lights going up earlier every year, but I've just read this in the Community News:
Wilmslow Grove Street will be the first lights switch-on at 4.30pm this Saturday, November 15, attended by the Mayor of Macclesfield Borough, Cllr Thelma Jackson.
Yes, that's the official Christmas lights. In the middle of November.

I'd like to promise that there'll be none of this madness under Cheshire East, but I sure we're powerless to stop it.

Wednesday, 12 November 2008

Chester setting a good example

Chester are extending the trial "free after three" parking arrangements until next year.

The scheme has also been expanded into another shoppers car park because it was so successful.

Are you listening, MBC? Don't build a new shopping centre - just let people come to the one that's there.

Cross Boundary Library Services

I must admit, I don't have a library card because I don't tend to use the library. The main reason for this is that I'm terrible at taking books back on time. So terrible in fact, that it's cheaper for me to buy second hand books than it is to pay the fines from the Library.

But the Library is an excellent resource which is used by many. One of the important things is that you can get hold of books that aren't so easy to find elsewhere, and whilst they might not be at your local library as long as they are in Cheshire we'll move them around for you.

So it's a great relief that Cheshire East and Cheshire West & Chester are to adopt a shared library system post vesting day. This means that your Cheshire East library card can be used at a Cheshire West library - and if there's a book on the other side you fancy it'll be possible to get it moved over.

For all you scientists

I know half of Macclesfield (in my case, the better half) works at AZ...so you'll be pleased to hear the latest science news at Dizzy thinks


Tuesday, 11 November 2008

We will remember them.

Watching our country's leaders lay wreaths at the Cenotaph on Sunday I felt that at that time, and in that place, they had understood the potential consequences of the decisions that they take on a day to day basis.

Decisions about who we fight, how our troops are supplied, how they are treated when they come home.

But the fact remains that whilst politics can only sometimes lead to a "successful" outcome of war, war is always caused by the failure of politics.

Does Brown understand the gravity when he's not standing with the mass of dignitaries on live TV with Elgar's Nimrod floating around him? Does he understand that a failure in international politics lead us down the road to Iraq? But most importantly, a failure in UK politics and a battered attempt at a security agenda took us the rest of the way there?

If I ever get to meet the man, I think I'll ask him.


Tomorrow is the next meeting of the places committee - and there's two things I've noticed on the agenda that interest me.

The first is that they've recognised the need to look deeper at tourism and are going to set up a tourism task group.

Tourism has previously contributed £600 million to Cheshire East and there's no reason that this can't increase as people feel the squeeze and decide not to holiday abroad. Personally, I think that tourism is the way forward for places like Macclesfield - and is a much better solution that cheap looking, reproduction shopping centres which are going to offer no culture to our town whatsoever.

The second thing that interested me was this quote in relation to parking:
"...need for a decision within Congleton borough for enforcement of both on & off street parking"

They don't enforce at moment because off street parking is free and so they have limited issues. By saying this, it's been made clear to me that someone inside Cheshire East has already decided that Congelton will be paying to park from April next year.

This sums up my view on this:

More Town Centre Worries

I'm trying to like the redevelopment. I really am.

I'm trying to put aside my wishes for a nice, cosy, market town (probably smelling of smoke free, clean coal (?!) ) and embrace the idea of a nice shiny Debenhams.

After all, it'll be so useful when I've forgotten to buy my Wife a birthday present.

But I can't. The more I think about it, the more bonkers I think the idea is. Which is why I'm up till gone midnight trying to figure out the plans.

Lets just think about traffic. I actually think that there might be enough parking spaces, although we're going to get stung to park in them because there's a plan to outsource the car park to a private contractor.

But that won't matter because, if I'm reading the plans right, you won't be able to get to it.

The car park entrance and exit will be on Churchill Way, but you'll only be able to access it from one end (the B&Q end) because I think it's to be pedestrianised between Castle Street and Roe Street.

So if you're coming from the North Westish of Macc, you'll have to go all the way round Hibel/Silk road, or come down Oxford Road and through the already creaking Flowerpot and College road junctions.

For the couple of car parks there at the moment you can access from either end, so we're looking at doubling the traffic at the Park Lane end *and* adding more because this development is going to bring people from far and wide to shop at Debenhams (!!)

We need to see more in the Macclesfield Express about this, and we need need to hear more about it on the radio. It's time for Maxonians to rise up and get what they need and want, not what is being forced upon us by some (nearly bankrupt?) commerical developer.

** Update: To clarify the parking situation for those that asked, I count 1016 spaces in the car parks that we are losing, and the new development will have 1200 spaces.**

Monday, 10 November 2008


According to the BBC, MP's are calling for a happy hour ban.

It's great that we're having a discussion about how to change the perception towards Alcohol in the UK, but this ban is not that way to do it.

You don't change people's attitude with price - you only change how often they can afford to do something. This just means that people who want to get drunk will do it one night a week rather than two.

You may argue that this result is good enough, but it's not. It doesn't in anyway help our end goal which is to have a more social and sustainable town centres in the evenings.

What we need is to encourage people to stay in one place and drink less by changing licensing laws and working with publicans.

This may mean that prices will increase because landlords still need to earn a living, but crucially it will be a consequence of a change in attitude and not a failed attempt at a driving this change.


From the Cheshire Police newsletter:

Mini Motos Seized Police seized seven mini motos in a month at Weston in Macclesfield, following complaints from local people that they were being ridden in an anti-social way and without tax and insurance. Other young riders were served with notices warning them that they will face seizure of their vehicles if they cause a nuisance or danger. Police Community Support Officer Andy Cooper said, “This is an issue which causes a lot of concern and we are making it clear that we won’t tolerate these bikes being used illegally.” At the same time officers are making inquiries to see if there is an off-road site available where the bikes can be used safely and legally.

Crackers Collections

My neighbour has had problems getting his green bin collected this week. For whatever reason that no-one has yet fathomed they just didn't empty it - and as a protest it's still waiting out front for the gentleman from refuse to come and collect it.

This isn't causing me too many problems at the moment because day to day casework doesn't apply to us during the "shadow" period. It's up to the current MBC councillors to get this sorted. If it's not gone today then I'll give Elizabeth or Andrew a call and ask them to lend a hand.

Which leaves me to ponder why we collect green bins in the first place.

It's a great service and we all love it - but is it really the best thing for the environment? Whilst some houses don't have the space, everyone in our road could home compost - and this would allow us personally to get rid of items that are not allowed in the green bin.

This is exactly what we do - but I'll hold my hands up and say that we put our green bin out when we've had a particularly heavy weekend in the garden and it all threatens to unbalance our bin. (As many of you will know - composting is actually far more technical than you realise when you start!)

But on those weekends I would be more than happy to take a quick trip up to Danes Moss and get rid of my excess waste that way. And this would produce less CO2 than running a wagon down my road to see if I needed a green bin collected.

Yet plastic...we don't collect at the Kerb and can't dispense at the tip because it's too light to collect. It drives me mad.

Surely this would be a better use of our financial and environmental resources?

Sunday, 9 November 2008


No....it wasn't because I was out dancing last night, but because I've just received my "Macclesfield Community Safety Handbook".

I've not had a chance to read the whole thing yet, but I opened the first page to read:

"The accuracy and content of any...editorial is not warranted or guaranteed by Cheshire Constabulary"

Which was a smart line to put in. Because just above it the contents lists:


For those that don't know, CRME is a new offence where people steal the vowels from perfectly good words. It's usually perpetrated by teenage owners of mobile phones, but it seems that people in the public sector spending tax payers cash are just as likely to offend.

Is the best we can do? I'm ashamed.

I'm about to "make enquiries" as the rozzers would say, and I'll be back when I've found out who is to blame. Hopefully we can snap them with a camera, put some points on their ECDL and see how they like it.

Reading Total Politics

I receive a magazine called Total Politics every month, which is sent FOC to Councillors and MPs. It's also available from some local newsagents if you're interested in that kind of thing.

In the last issue there was an article about young candidates, which especially interested me as I'm one of the younger Councillors in Cheshire.

It discussed how young candidates are treated with suspicion because they're considered to be careerist. This is true (the suspicion that is, not that they're all careerist), and it's a shame because some of them are genuine "localist" people who get involved in Politics at any level because they want to represent hard working people like themselves and make things better.

Unfortunately the article only proved to strengthen the view. Some of the candidates they picked to include obviously felt they were "entitled" to a seat in Parliament.

They included Emily Benn - the latest from the infamous Benn Dynasty - who was complaining that there was no money available to her to fight her campaign. She's missed the obvious point that it's her responsibility as a candidate to raise this money. She has to get out in her local towns and villages, inspire people, and convince them to support her.

If she can't even manage to grasp that concept....then what hope is there for the world?

The biggest disappointment is that the more fools like this get publicity, the more the public assume all candidates are like that. Where have all the good people gone?!

Saturday, 8 November 2008

British Obama

James Forsyth asks in the Spectator "Can we have a British Obama?"

The answer is Yes - his name is Shaun Bailey and he's the Conservative PPC for Hammersmith.

Down to earth, inspirational, hardworking. He's one of those people who simply "get it".

He blew my socks off at the Conference. The man is set to go far.

Association Dinner

Last night was the annual Macclesfield Conservative Association dinner. With Sir Nick in attendance it's always a popular affair - and last night was excellent fun.

Our speaker was Karen Bradley who is the PPC for Staffordshire Moorlands. An accountant by trade and now supporting the shadow treasury team - she made an excellent speech which was both interesting and insightful.

A good night was had by all and I wish her the best of luck when the general election comes.

Friday, 7 November 2008

...losing the dog.

I've had lots of people complaining about the story in the BBC last week about codes of conduct for pet owners:


I'm sure I don't need to go into how disgusted I am with the Nanny State. Waste of money, have we nothing better to fix? etc. etc..

But perhaps I'm not in a position to comment. I managed to lose the dog in Bristol last week and got a stern telling off by the dog warden. Obviously I need to be told how to look after my dog ;-)

(In my defence it wasn't completely my fault - the dog had been left with a friend and fellow dog owner who had left both our dogs in the Garden. His gardener then came round left gate open, and a member of the public picked Mutley up on the road outside. The whole incident cost me £52 and a two hour drive to the dog pound.)

Thursday, 6 November 2008

Tesco Public Consultation

This should be fun.

Tesco's are holding a consultation on a "replacement store for Macclesfield".

Tesco Store, Silk Road:
Thursday 13th November, 10am - 6pm
Friday 14th November, 10am - 6pm

Macclesfield Town Hall
Monday 17th November, 10am - 6.30pm

I'll see you there. I'll be the one being difficult...

Wednesday, 5 November 2008

Making Progress

Small progress, but progress nonetheless.

We now have appointed a project manager to push ahead with the Weston Recreation Ground project which is excellent news.

It's the start of a very long process of design, the dreaded consultation and then getting the cash together. But at least it's a start.

Congratulations Mr. President

It's now 3am and I'm sure now it's going to be 351 for Obama vs 187 for McCain. Definitely looks like Obama will sail home.

Tuesday, 4 November 2008

Wondering who else wants to be a Councillor?

Just read a report from the IDeA about a survey they did of the candidates that stood for election in May 2008. Don't know who they asked...but they didn't ask me (boohoo.)

Survey is here: http://www.idea.gov.uk/idk/core/page.do?pageId=8962753

Anyway, some usual predictable statistics - eg most Councillors are over 60 and male.

But it was interesting that around 30% of candidates were in full time employment. I'm self employed (of which there are 15% of us, apparently) - and I have found quickly that it would be difficult to do the job well if I had to keep regular hours.

The truth is that being a Councillor means a lot of commitment during working hours, and this is something that most people just can't do if they've got a full time job. It's a shame, because it shouldn't be that way - but it is.

Co-op robbed?

There are rumours that there was a robbery at the co-op on Ivy Road last night - just popping over to see if I can pick up any gossip.

Update: There was definitely a robbery and the small cash machine near to the door was forced open in some way. May have been opened with a torch or with explosives - it's not immediately apparent. Couldn't get anymore info because the manager was with the police. Hopefully will be able to find more out later.

Monday, 3 November 2008

Reading MEP's press releases

The award for the funniest sounding phrase in a political press release goes to Robert Atkins MEP for "cod-avoidance programmes".

Serious subject, funny phrase.