If you've arrived via a link and you want to see all the latest posts: Click here

Wednesday, 30 December 2009

Tree of light

Every day I get sent several press releases by the Cheshire East media relations department. In truth this is quite useful, because many of them provide juicy content about daft stories for the blog and give rise to many discussions in group meetings about quite why we need such an active spin operation.

However, I received one recently that I thought was a heartwarming good news story:
Hundreds of people have paid tribute to their loved ones as The ‘Tree of Light’ festivals returned to Crewe, Sandbach and Macclesfield this month.

It all started six years ago when Crewe Cemetery invited people to remember those they had lost by dedicating a silver star to them, which is then placed on a tree within the grounds. The designated tree is then lit up with thousands of lights during a special ceremony.

This year services were held at Crewe Cemetery (December 4), Sandbach Cemetery (December 10) and Macclesfield Cemetery (December 11).

The trees will remain lit until the twelfth night. The silver stars needed to make a dedication were free.

Sandbach Ladies Choir, St Johns Primary School Choir and The Lions Youth Brass Band were also at the Sandbach ceremony, providing appropriate, festive music to those who attended.

Mary Slinn, Bereavement Services Manager at Cheshire East Council said:

“The popularity of this festival never ceases to amaze me. We have had people asking for stars as far back as July. This festival has become an important event for many people, it is a very personal time but also one where people come together to be reunited in the act of remembering.”

Sunday, 27 December 2009

Videoing Council Meetings

I hope that everyone had a good Christmas and took the opportunity to enjoy time with family and friends.

The festivities are still ongoing for us as I'm sure they are for most of you, but I just wanted to draw your attention to one small thing that has been mentioned here previously.

There has been some discussion about videoing of Council meetings and how and why this could be done. Personally I think it's a fantastic idea.

It seems that this idea may continue to progress even though the initial question was dismissed at the meeting when asked. The corporate scruitiny will be discussing this on the 11th January.

The agenda can be viewed here:

Wednesday, 23 December 2009

Christmas Greetings

I've received a Christmas message from the officers of Cheshire East Council*

Just in case you are at risk of forgetting your responsibilities in the frivolity of the Christmas season, I would like to remind you of the following……

The Rocking Song
Little Jesus, sweetly sleep, do not stir;
We will lend a coat of fur,
We will rock you, rock you, rock you,
We will rock you, rock you, rock you:

Fur is no longer appropriate wear for small infants, both due to risk of allergy to animal fur, and for ethical reasons. Therefore faux fur, a nice cellular blanket or perhaps micro-fleece material should be considered a suitable alternative.

Please note, only persons who have been subject to a Criminal Records Bureau check and have enhanced clearance will be permitted to rock baby Jesus. Persons must carry their CRB disclosure with them at all times and be prepared to provide three forms of identification before rocking commences.

Jingle Bells
Dashing through the snow
In a one horse open sleigh
O'er the fields we go
Laughing all the way

A risk assessment must be submitted before an open sleigh is considered safe for members of the public to travel on. The risk assessment must also consider whether it is appropriate to use only one horse for such a venture, particularly if passengers are of larger proportions. Please note, permission must be gained from landowners before entering their fields. To avoid offending those not participating in celebrations, I would request that laughter is moderate only and not loud enough to be considered a noise nuisance.

While Shepherds Watched
Their flocks by night
All seated on the ground
The angel of the Lord came down
And glory shone around

The union of Shepherd's has complained that it breaches health and safety regulations to insist that shepherds watch their flocks without appropriate seating arrangements being provided, therefore benches, stools and orthopaedic chairs are now available. Shepherds have also requested that due to the inclement weather conditions at this time of year that they should watch their flocks via cctv cameras from centrally heated shepherd observation huts.
Please note, the angel of the lord is reminded that before shining his / her glory all around she / he must ascertain that all shepherds have been issued with glasses capable of filtering out the harmful effects of UVA, UVB and Glory.

Little Donkey
Little donkey, little donkey on the dusty road
Got to keep on plodding onwards with your precious load

The RSPCA have issued strict guidelines with regard to how heavy a load that a donkey of small stature is permitted to carry, also included in the guidelines is guidance regarding how often to feed the donkey and how many rest breaks are required over a four hour plodding period. Please note that due to the increased risk of pollution from the dusty road, Mary and Joseph are required to wear face masks to prevent inhalation of any airborne particles. The donkey has expressed his discomfort at being labelled 'little' and would prefer just to be simply referred to as Mr. Donkey. To comment upon his height or lack thereof may be considered an infringement of his equine rights.

We Three Kings
We three kings of Orient are
Bearing gifts we traverse afar
Field and fountain, moor and mountain
Following yonder star

Whilst the gift of gold is still considered acceptable - as it may be redeemed at a later date through such organisations as 'cash for gold' etc, gifts of frankincense and myrrh are not appropriate due to the potential risk of oils and fragrances causing allergic reactions. A suggested gift alternative would be to make a donation to a worthy cause in the recipients name or perhaps give a gift voucher.
I would not advise that the traversing kings rely on navigation by stars in order to reach their destinations and suggest the use of RAC route finder or satellite navigation, which will provide the quickest route and advice regarding fuel consumption. Please note as per the guidelines from the RSPCA for Mr Donkey, the camels carrying the three kings of Orient will require regular food and rest breaks. Facemasks for the three kings are also advisable due to the likelihood of dust from the camels hooves.

Rudolph the red nosed reindeer
Rudolph, the red-nosed reindeer
had a very shiny nose.
And if you ever saw him,
you would even say it glows.

You are advised that under the Equal Opportunities for All policy, it is inappropriate for persons to make comment with regard to the ruddiness of any part of Mr. R. Reindeer. Further to this, exclusion of Mr R Reindeer from the Reindeer Games will be considered discriminatory and disciplinary action will be taken against those found guilty of this offence. A full investigation will be implemented and sanctions - including suspension on full pay - will be considered whilst this investigation takes place.

And on that note - I hope that you all have a lovely Christmas and 2010 brings you health, peace and happiness!!

And sometimes - you just need to smile.

* Quite obviously, not really. But if you were the person that sent it to me (you know who you are) and you'd like credit here then just let me know.

Monday, 21 December 2009

Cheshire East gritting update...

Received from the Council...


Roads across Cheshire East have been gritted since 6pm on Friday December 17.

All available resources have been fully operational. Principal routes have been treated seven times, covering 6,000 miles of highway, using over 1,000 tonnes of salt.

With the road surface temperatures likely to remain well below freezing for the remainder of this week, all resources will be focused on dealing with the effects of the severe weather conditions.

All available vehicles are in operation at the current time, gritting on a priority basis and in accordance with our winter policy as below.

Priority 1 Routes
These are all ‘A’roads and designated routes to A & E Hospitals.
Priority 2 Routes
These are other major commuter roads or ‘B’ roads.
Other Carriageways
The aim is that these will only be treated to remove ice or snow after all the Priority 1 and 2 routes are treated, when snow or ice is likely to persist for a continuous period of 24 hours.
We currently have 7– 14 teams treating footways.
Cheshire East Council is expecting a delivery of a further 750 tonnes of salt over the next 48 hours.
A further 10 drivers were trained for gritting operations prior to the winter season.
The Cheshire East website is currently being updated to bring the winter services section to “In Focus” on the homepage www.cheshireeast.gov.uk.
In some areas, specialised recycling vehicles are having difficulty making collections due to compacted snow. We will continue to attempt to empty these bins over the next few days.

Extraordinary Meeting

There is to be an extraordinary meeting of the full council on 25th Jan in Congleton to pass the submission regarding the boundary review. This must be delivered to the boundary committee by 15th Feb.

I've now got the pack from the boundary committee and will post details if I can summon up the strength. It's all available from their website though, if you can't wait.

I'm generally disappointed that the press haven't picked up on any of this boundary stuff as it's probably more crucial than the election itself.

Sunday, 20 December 2009

Let it snow, let it snow...

You may have noticed that it's a bit like winter outside.

Cue lots of questions about "Why isn't my road gritted", etc...

Some info on roads that will be gritted:

In previous years I've also seen the gritters pay visits to the estate roads when the major routes have been cleared.

Remember that road salt is only effective to certain temperatures (which is why they don't use it in the alps) and that falling snow washes the salt away meaning it needs to be re-spread.

Please drive carefully, unlike most of the people I have seen out today who didn't seem to have a clue about car control in slippy conditions.

Saturday, 19 December 2009

Absentees from the public gallery

I posted yesterday about the council meeting and how it was quite well attended by the press for a change.

We also had a few members of the public, including some of the Congleton parking campaign who delivered a very well constructed speech and ex-councillor Ken Edwards who essentially wanted to speak about the next item of the agenda. He's obviously missing being a Councillor.

But the people who were noticeably absent in my view were the Prospective Parliamentary Candidates (PPC's). In Macclesfield now we have PPC's from all parties, and yet none of them were there. I've always understood why standing Parliamentarians weren't there, because they have a job to do in London.

But for those people who want to do the job they should be there - especially if they're going to tell us how they're going to put Macclesfield First. Perhaps this proves what their priorities really are?

Friday, 18 December 2009

Full Council

It was another very odd full council meeting all round last night.

I was initially pleased that it was held in Macclesfield, especially as the weather looked like it might turn increasingly inclement and I didn't relish the idea of getting stuck in Crewe in the snow.

But the Town Hall assembly rooms are a funny place. First of all it was freezing cold. Well...perhaps not quite freezing, but it can't of been much about 15 degrees and my hands didn't take long to go numb. Many members weren't happy about the lack of space (although oddly I had plenty - must be my aftershave, etc...) and then there's the sodium lighting that gives everything an odd orange tint. Everything, that is, apart from stuff that's orange/red which seem to become white. For example, the copper-top hair of Rhiannon from the Macclesfield express looked positively blonde.

I hope that paints the picture. It's like spending the meeting wearing orange safety specs. It's a very surreal experience.

Speaking of the press table, it was quite well populated for a change. This was good news, although all of them yawned a lot. And I don't blame them, as some elements of the meeting were rather tedious.

One of the Councillors got lost in the agenda (again) and attempted to tell the Mayor we were debating the wrong item. Similar confusion was bestowed upon the same Councillor last time around so it's turning into a theme.

Then there were the endless questions. 16 were listed, although Cllr Hardy's had 6 points so I reckon it was 21 questions in all. Now I've got no problems with asking questions. I do it to officers and cabinet members on an almost hourly basis. That's what we're supposed to do.

But I think that questions at full council should be either:
a) Something of the upmost importance and needs to be bought to the attention of everyone
b) Be a question which has received no, or an inadequate response, from the normal channels.

That's not what they're being used for. They're being used by Councillors, who I suspect have done nothing useful since the last meeting, to make themselves look like they're diligent and hard working.

The culprit here really is Cllr Flude. She has abused the question facility in the most grotesque fashion. She submitted 9 to this meeting, many with several sections, and none as far as I could see were important or had been refused through other channels.

Let's take a look at how much of a waste of time some of these were:
"Will the Executive Member confirm that the budget for this department is 1.45 Million, with an extra 300k from transitional costs."
Blimey....it's in the budget book. Look it up. Don't waste the officers, the cabinet, and the council's time on something you can't be bothered to do.
"The recent LAA Performance Indicators for Cheshire East indicate that our Library service has a 76% public satisfaction level well above the nation avearge of 69%. Will this Council congratulate the staff in our libraries for their excellent performance?"
Excellent news, I agree. But the cabinet member isn't going to say no, are they?

This question was also a good example of the other side of the problem - the lengthy answers that cabinet members feel they have to give when prodded on a given subject. We got a ten minute diatribe on the improvements still to come, which are also good news. But in my view the question should have been dispatched in an appropriate fashion, which would have meant a simple "Yes".

Wednesday, 16 December 2009

Mayor's Christmas Message

To All Cheshire East Residents,

Greetings to you all.

It’s that time of year again when the frost descends upon us, dark nights set in, and we begin to get into the festive spirit.

For me, the real magic of this time of year is found in spending time with friends and family members, and reaching out further to the wider community to extend the hand of friendship and companionship to more vulnerable members of our society.

At Christmas, I relish the time I spend with the many excellent voluntary organisations and schools across Cheshire East – seeing the excitement and enthusiasm of schoolchildren in our area in particular, never fails to remind me of what a special time of year this is.

It has without doubt been a fast-moving and eventful year, during which we have seen the introduction of our new Unitary Authority. We have seen the impact of the recession across the country, with recession task groups here in Cheshire East doing their utmost to minimise this impact, and many wonderful achievements for our Authority.

We were delighted to be awarded an ‘excellent’ rating for the care of adults with learning difficulties at the Wilmslow Supported Living Network, and to have our recycling efforts recognised in DEFRA’s figures for this year, with Congleton coming out top in the rankings for the North West.

We’ve seen the first of many British citizenship ceremonies take place at Crewe Hall, and the accreditation of our community wardens to give them greater powers to tackle crime and anti social behaviour.

I’m delighted to welcome on board at Cheshire East one of my former Crewe and Nantwich Borough Council colleagues, newly-elected Councillor Stan Davies. Councillor Davies will now represent the Cholmondeley Ward, following the sad death of the long-serving and much-admired Councillor Allan Richardson.

I also reflect now on the many events which took place across Cheshire East to mark Remembrance Day. It was a great honour to stand alongside our war veterans and local dignitaries, with the British Legion, to remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice for their country. I’d take a moment now to remember our local troops in particular – of the Mercian Regiment – who are currently out in Afghanistan. Our thoughts are with them and their families at this time.

I take a great deal of pride in the work of Cheshire East Council throughout our first year, and I hope you agree, we are serving the diverse communities of our area well.

I look forward to continuing my work throughout Cheshire East, and meeting you in our schools, community centres, workplaces and charities, into the New Year and beyond.

I’d like to take this opportunity to extend my thanks to my Mayoral team, fellow Councillors, Cheshire East Council staff, the many community groups and organisations I have worked with throughout 2009 and, most of all, to you, the Cheshire East public for your continuing support.

Wishing you a very Merry Christmas, and a happy and prosperous 2010.

Best Wishes,

Councillor Margaret Simon
Mayor of Cheshire East

Macclesfield Future...part 3

I posted yesterday about "Macclesfield Future" - a scheme by the council to develop a strategic plan for what we want out of Macclesfield's Town Centre and the Lyme Green area.

One important element of the Macclesfield Future scheme that is due to be considered by cabinet is the cost.

At present they're asking for a budget of £150,000. This is just for the strategic planning and association legal and administration costs that go alongside it.

Initially I found this terrifying. You wouldn't believe the amount of voluntary organisations that I speak to who do excellent work on very tight budgets. Just think what the sector could achieve with a pot like this?

But then I consider that we really need to make something happen with the town centre, and this seems to be the only route that we can use to come up with something that pleases everyone. In addition, any development in Lyme Green area where the council owns some of the land would have to be carried out in line with EU procurement laws, and I understand that some of the £150k budget is to cover the required advertising costs in line with these laws.

That said, we cant get away from the fact that a good deal of the money will be spent on consultants who are going to carry the main piece of work. This will upset many, who think that we should do this work "in house". But then of course that isn't free - I hope not anyway, as I hope that we don't have people sitting around twiddling their thumbs. We'd therefore have to recruit a full time person to do the work, but I doubt if they would have the required experience and that's the crux of this.

We need consultants with experience of town centres of our type (far more than our size). We don't want someone who is all into big, commerical developments. We need someone that understands the cultural and tourism offering that Macclesfield should have.

I'm prepared to pay a premium to ensure that's what we get. And if we don't get the right person, then this project is likely to go the same way as the previous two.

Not welcome here

Much as it pains me to link to the daily mail....


I hope that doesn't mean he's planning on coming home. As far as I'm concerned, he's not welcome here.

Tuesday, 15 December 2009

Macclesfield Future...part 2.

This morning I attended a meeting hosted by Cllr Macrae about the future for Macclesfield. Fortunately, the location had been moved to Macc Town Hall from Sandbach, which debunked the myth that Congleton and Crewe are actually the future of Macclesfield.

Essentially the plan is to carry out some work to properly understand what Macclesfield wants and needs economically from a larger strategic viewpoint. This work can then be used to inform the 247th revision of the town centre plans, and also to drive forward work for the South Macclesfield Development Area, by which they mean Lyme Green/Danes Moss.

Prior to the meeting I was given an embargoed copy of the cabinet report, although I note that it's publicly available here anyway:

Sounds a bit like management mumbo jumbo and further council promises to get on with something? Well that's because it is to a certain extent. But do not underestimate this to any extent. It is without a doubt one of the most crucial decision to be made for Macclesfield in the last 20 years.

Essentially the intention is to push forward two projects, the names of which will send a shiver down the spine of most self-respecting sensible denziens of Macclesfield: Danegate and the Wilson Boden development.

It's only when you start to consider these projects that you realise how much they have in common. They were both deeply unpopular. There was inadequate consultation, and attempts by the authorities to drive ahead with them regardless (more so in the case of Danegate). But most importantly, they are both desperately needed. In the right form, of course.

That's why this is so important. The approach that the council is now looking to take will overcome everything that was wrong with the initial iterations of these two projects in the first place.

As long as the businesses and the public are given the ability to scope what they do and don't want, then there will be minimal objection to the proposals which come out of the other end. Jamie has promised me that this will be the case, and I believe him. I hope he doesn't let us down.

Monday, 14 December 2009

How much?!

The cost of putting Cheshire East stickers on our vehicles? £50,000.

An odd thing keeps happening to me - people keep attacking me on the issue of scrapping the two tier council system and expect me to defend the formation of Cheshire East.

In fact, I find it rather odd generally the amount of people who expect me to defend the council's actions in many areas. I'm a representative of the people who talks to the council, not a representative of the council who talks to the people. Therefore I don't expect to be able to explain to you why certain positions are taken.

The use of shopper parking in Macclesfield as a fundraising exercise is one good example. I didn't do it, I don't agree with it, don't expect me to defend it when you talk to me about it.

Anyway...back to the Cheshire East thing. Whilst undoubtedly we have been successful in many areas of the new council, essentially we could have done this by improving the system we already had. It's just that the formation of the new council gave us the impetus to carry out the work to reform services.

But not everything is hunky-dory. I had a meeting with some members of the voluntary sector this week and it seems that they're more in the dark than they've ever been about how they should interface with the council and what commissioning opportunities are available to them. 12 months ago I understood that we were taking steps to improve this, but from the feedback I received this week it seems that nothing has improved at all.

In fact, many of these organisations get less cash from the council than they used to as well. When you consider that we've spent £50,000 putting new stickers on cars and vans, you start to wonder how much better that cash could have been spent by some of these 3rd sector organisations.

If we would have kept the two tier system

Friday, 11 December 2009

Residents Parking

After the two rounds of consultation, the wheels are now in motion to start residents parking schemes in Coare Street and Prestbury Road in Macclesfield.

This will be welcome news to people who live in these streets as the response was overwhelmingly in favour of residents parking schemes. However I worry this may be short lived as they will have to pay for a permit - and I doubt it'll be long until the Macclesfield Express is full of stories about "stealth" taxes and all the rest of it.

The decision to proceed was taken officially on the 10th December. I don't know how long it'll take to implement.

Tuesday, 8 December 2009

Macclesfield Future

With the Frankenstein Town Centre development thankfully "on hold", I've been having several discussions with people about how we effect a new plan that's far more sensible and delivers what Macclesfield requires.

One of these conversations was with Cllr Macrae, who told me that there was to be a strategic piece carried out to think about the wider commercial issues for Macclesfield, including what happens in the Lyme Green area.

Excellent news, and I was very excited when I received an invite to a briefing called "Macclesfield Futures".

The location of this briefing?


Is that the future for Macclesfield?

(The meeting has now thankfully been moved to Macclesfield Town Hall.)

Who noticed the irony?

I've had a few emails and comments asking where I've been - but I'm dreadfully disappointed that I've had no abuse for the fact that one of my last posts was about Politicians being useless at using the Internet. And then immediately proved this myself by going AWOL.

You lot are a disappointment.

Lots going on at the moment. Work is a little tricky at present and there are a lot of ward issues that need resolving. Everything's in the mix, from broken paving slabs and planning applications, to speeding motorists and school governors. Unfortunately a lot of these things are very difficult to make progress with and they don't make for particularly pithy blog posts.

Some things are moving forward though, we've got pictures in shop windows for example. Yet others still prove elusive, such as the fact that I was reminded in a meeting this morning that the situation with the voluntary sector is still woefully inadequate.

I can't promise regular updates in the future - but I'll see what I can do.

Saturday, 7 November 2009

Town Centre

Interesting to see the Town Centre Development making the front page of the express again.

It does indeed seem like the development isn't going to go ahead in it's present form.

I personally am delighted by this. I thought, and still think, that it was the wrong type of development for us. Whilst we need something to be done, the plans on the table were going to do more harm than good.

I see this as a small moral victory for the "Plan B" campaign. But only a small one. I hope that we will all get a chance to get involved in putting a different plan for the town centre together, and only then will the victory be complete.

So, thinking hats on people.

Friday, 6 November 2009

Oh dear....

An interesting bit of tittle tattle on the Sun website here...
A TORY grandee was at the centre of rumours last night that he GOOSED dishy MP Natascha Engel.
The grandee in question happens to represent Macclesfield, although according to the article he can't quite remember whether it happened or not.

Thursday, 5 November 2009

Getting on teh Interwebs - part 2.

(A lot of links in this post - much better viewed online at http://darrylbeckford.blogspot.com)

A lot of Politicians like to talk big about engaging with the public and using new media, but in reality it's just lip-service to make themselves sound like they're "down with the kids".

The sad fact is that only two CE Councillors twitter, and only this one has a blog and regularly emails constituents. Some are very good at leafleting, but many only leaflet when the election comes around, which I think is shameful.

In Parliamentary terms, you think things would be better. Perhaps it is a tiny bit: there are two and a half websites for the five MP's in the CE area (GO's isn't really a website so it's counting half, it just links back to Conservatives.com). Considering how many PPC's we now know about, I would be expecting them all to be fighting for space in the Interwebs tubes.

When they do finally get online, it sometimes seems to be a bit half baked. For example, the Congleton Labour Party have decided to follow my lead by using Google maps to highlight what they've been working on.

You can see my map at the side of the blog, or view it full screen by clicking here.

Unfortunately, the Labour party's version is a little more sparce. In fact, it seems that their PPC has been working on absolutely nothing, as the map below the heading "Working hard for you" has nothing on it.

At least he's honest.

Hopefully the new candidate in Macclesfield will be making a better effort than that although I note that someone, who is trying to poke fun on religious grounds, has already beat him to it on Twitter.

I'm worried that Cheshire East Council is becoming an example of this phenomenon, as we seem reluctant to engage online. I asked for a Freedom of Information disclosure log, and was told that there wasn't resource to do it. The council seems to be one of the only ones in the country now that doesn't use Twitter (although I'm about to stop following Cheshire West's feed because it never tells me anything of significance). And now we won't video Council meetings and put them online.

Following my post last week it seems that many people would like to be able to watch council meetings, or at least part of them, online. Most people seem to agree that this is far more valuable than arguing about when or where to hold the meetings themselves.

In fact, two people have volunteered to help free the information, and so I'm currently trying to find a way to make this work.

Wednesday, 4 November 2009

What have we learnt from the open primary?

The Macclesfield Open Primary on paper was a step in the right direction. We all want more control over who represents us - and allowing people to chose candidates for one particular party is a good way to do this.

However, I wouldn't say it was a resounding success. Assuming that we put aside the rather irregular methods used in the shortlisting process, there was still a few problems with the primary itself.

The communication regarding the whole process should have been much better. There was confusion as to who could register and attend, and who could submit questions. Confusion was inevitable, but none of the communications I saw managed to iron out the queries - and printing the wrong phone number on the first batch of leaflets was just embarrassing.

But for me the major failure was about time. We want to encourage a wide range of people to get involved. Some of these don't have time to spare, some will have families and for some it will be medically not possible to sit in a school hall for five hours. This is where we have really failed with the primary concept. Many people couldn't attend for these reasons, and worse still some attended by weren't allowed to vote because they hadn't seen all the speakers.

Although several hundred people registered, I'm told that less than a couple of hundred actually attended. In order for us to consider primaries a success, the numbers need to be in the thousands, not the hundreds.

The postal ballot is the way to go - but we need to curb the cost. Perhaps we could reduce this by doing it online, and by having papers available on request.

In the run up to the voting deadline we could hold a series of hustings to allow candidates to get their views across. One in a school hall, one in a shopping centre, one in a bar on a Saturday night. Mix it up a bit and try and make sure different formats to suit different types of candidates.

Without this the fad won't last. It just won't be possible to tell the media that the candidate was "selected by the people" when we have a process that so blatantly restricts who can attend.

Monday, 2 November 2009

Getting Councillors Online

As the topic of the week seems to be democracy and the Internet (more coming later following the post last week), I've noticed that the Conservative party have a new campaigning portal available for Councillors.

It's accessed here...


...and the idea is that Councillors can use it to setup their own site from a template. It's relatively basic, but definitely a step in the right direction.

Sir Nick always said to me that you couldn't win elections on the Internet. I agree with this - but that doesn't mean that you can't look to use it to supplement your campaign. In addition, it's a perfect way to provide information for your constituents as and when they want it.

The big question is how many of the Cheshire East Councillors will use it?

Friday, 30 October 2009

New Look

The eagle eyed amongst you will have noted a redesign of the blog over the last week or so. I hope it meets with your approval.

I wanted to give it a fresh new look as start of a drive to develop my online presence further.

Watch this space for more info...

Thursday, 22 October 2009

Getting on teh Interwebs

One moment of interest during last weeks full council meeting was a question tabled by Cllr Flude about recording and broadcasting Council meetings on the web.

I thought this was an excellent idea.

We have the following problems:

* There are constant debates about when and where to have meetings in order to get most of the public involved.
* We get concerned when the press don't attend because the Guardian Media Group fat cats won't pay their petrol money.
* We expect the public to sit through a 3 hour meeting if all they want to do is find out about one agenda item and then wonder why they decide not to turn up at all.

Therefore, the idea that the full debate could be available for public perusal really floats my boat. I think it could be one of the best things we ever did to promote democracy in Cheshire East.

Regrettably it was dismissed as too expensive, which is a shame because it wouldn't be very difficult to do. It could be done with a cheapish camera, one of the officer's laptops and then hosted on youtube. Total cost under £100.

Another alternative would be to make the sound only available - we had two sound engineers present last week to run the PA system so it should be easy to knock up an MP3 from the output with no additional technology required.

But what would the public be subjected to if this was the case? Well unfortunately there were a lot of moments at the meeting last week that were more Shakesperian farce than Churchillian grandure.

One of the opposition leaders couldn't phrase an amendment in a way that anyone could understand - which was regrettable considering he only wanted to change "£1 Million" to "£500,000". When he did get it straight half the Council couldn't hear (this is a frequent issue), and once everyone had eventually heard there was still one particular member who still said she didn't really understand (this is a frequent issue, also).

We had many many referrals to the legal officer with regards to process and procedure, including a near riot when speakers waiting to speak were told they couldn't be heard because we had inadvertently let the mover speak for a second time which signaled the end of debate.

Then there was the vote that was taken 4 times because we couldn't work out who had their hands up - or perhaps the problem was that a couple of us abstained which meant that they couldn't make the numbers add up.

It would be quite entertaining if it wasn't so serious. But it is serious. This is the only level of representation for my household before we get to Parliament. This body is responsible for a budget in the region of a quarter of a billion, all of it your money.

We need to tighten things up a bit.

Selection process discussion on the ConservativeHome website

There's an excellent post by Tim Montgomerie on ConservativeHome today titled: "CCHQ has trashed principle after principle in its manipulation of candidate selection", with the following graphic used as a heading:

No further comment required.

Wrong end of the stick....or is that oar?

(Although I usually like to call them Paddles, just to upset my rowing friend Kev...)

There I was thinking that we needed some *serious* action to sort out the mess at BAE.

Let's get this straight: everyone who's involved in national or local Politics should be ashamed of the BAE situation.

Businesses downsize, move and close. It's part of the organic process of life, and we can't change that and that's not our fault. But what we can do is make sure the areas we represent plan and prepare for eventualities like this. BAE caught us out, which is odd because it seemed to be on the cards for a while, but we should be working now to think about other large employers should similar things ever happen there.

Then I read this in the express:

And it turns out it's OK - the jobs aren't the big issue here. The big issue is why we don't have a rowing lake.

Here's where local knowledge is a little useful. I personally don't think it would be a very nice place for a rowing lake because the proposed route for the Poynton bypass skirts and hugs the runway enroute to the A555.

I suppose it would at least be easy to get there, even if it was a little less than tranquil when you arrived.

Wednesday, 21 October 2009


I note that BAA have agreed the details for the sale of Gatwick Airport.

The asset has to be sold because they want more competition in the market. Great idea.

Except it's being sold to the people who own the majority of London City. Not exactly throwing the market open, is it?

Macclesfield Library

Stuff the roadworks - I've just received details of the following "bookworks":

Macclesfield library will be closed for refurbishment from Monday 2nd November until Saturday 28th November, reopening on Monday 30th.

The work will include improvements to some of the lighting and electrics, re-carpeting the ground floor, putting all the public access computers together on the 1st floor, increasing the size of the junior library and redesigning the space, and installing new counters and self service desks. We will be offering a limited service during the first three weeks of the closure, details to be confirmed.

These improvements will allow us to extend our opening hours (to 9am am every morning) for no additional cost, have more space to hold children's events and activities (children's issues currently represent 30% of all our issues) and offer self service facilities instead of the traditional counter. 'Quickscan' will speed up the issue and return of items and free staff up to get out from behind a counter and give people a more personalised service, help people find what they are looking for and have time to plan and run events.

These changes should ensure that the library and it's staff can be more flexible to meet the changing needs of the community and adapt to some of the challenges ahead. If you would like any more information please don't hesitate to contact me.

Tuesday, 20 October 2009

Alcohol awareness week

This week is alcohol awareness week.

I know that because I received a press release from our beloved media relations department telling me so.

They're trying to encourage everyone to pay attention to what they drink, and I'm thinking perhaps they should themselves as the press release contained this gem:

The Chief Medical Office’s guidelines on lower-risk drinking recommend that men do not consume more than 3-4 units – around two cans of larger – a day.
I can neither confirm nor deny if this was sent at around 3pm...the traditional time one returns from a long lunch.

In fairness, we all know how much we rely on spellcheckers these days and it's a killer when you manage a typo that's a word in its own right.

And I don't want to mock the Awareness Week either - as we should be paying more attention to what we drink. The Council are citing health and behaviour as reasons for doing this - in my case it's more about cutting out excess calories.

Monday, 19 October 2009

Roadworks triple whammy

The latest on roadworks from the Highways department:
Ivy Lane, Macclesfield (I assume starting immediately)

There will be temporary 2-way traffic signals on Ivy Lane, Macclesfield between Kendal Road and Valley Road whilst a replacement manhole frame/cover and repairs to the surrounding carriageway are carried out. These signals will be in operation daily between 10am and 3pm for up to 3 days. The contact for these works is Ian Molloy of North Midland Construction Ltd on 01623 515008.
A536 Congleton Road, Gawsworth - Road Closure

It is anticipated that the above road will be closed from Tuesday 27th October to Saturday 31st October whilst essential carriageway re-surfacing takes place for a distance of 650 metres in a southerly direction from Lowes Farm (south of Lowes Lane). This will include the length through the crossroads junction of the A536 Congleton Road with Dark Lane and Church Lane which will mean that traffic will not be able to reach the crossroads on the A536 or turn from the A536 into either Dark Lane or Church Lane throughout the works. These works will obviously have a major impact on this road and have been programmed to take place during this week as it is half-term week for most of the local schools and traffic flows are normally lighter.

The diversion route whilst these works take place will be via the A536 south to Congleton, A34 north to Monks Heath, east on the A537 Chester Road to Macclesfield, south on Oxford Road and A536 Congleton Road or vice versa
Congleton Road

There will be temporary traffic signals on Congleton Road, Macclesfield in various lengths between Thornton Avenue and Penningtons Lane from Saturday 24th October 2009 in connection with the ongoing gas main renewals in Macclesfield. These will again last throughout the half-term break and have been programmed at this location to take advantage of the previously advised closure of the A536 Congleton Road (Tues 27th - Sat 31st October) at Gawsworth when this road will have significantly reduced traffic flows.


The final Parliamentary update [Warning: epic post. Only read with tea handy]

The last time I blogged was the 23rd September. This was immediately after I received a message telling me that I had been unsuccessful in making it onto the shortlist for Macclesfield.

I was a little upset, but I was mentally prepared for this outcome. Obviously it wasn't what I wanted, but I knew that the panel could find many reasons not to shortlist me and simultaneously many reasons to shortlist others. Therefore I knew I should plan for rejection.

I had not intended to stop updating the blog for a while, but as the exact circumstances of the selection process became clear in the hours after I wrote that post I realised that I would need time to understand everything that had happened and decide how I felt about it all.

You will undoubtedly know the story by now. It has been covered by the Macc Express, Canalside, BBC North West, The Politics Show, The Times, The Telegraph, Radio 4 and I'm sure there are others. This has come about because one person has spoken out - and well done to him for having the courage to do so.

If you don't know...I'm sure I can mention it as it's all over the press. The story runs that I was unsuccessful because of the extent of my local involvement, and specifically this article from the 26th August.*

So that was the end of that. It seems some even more interesting things happened after that, but whilst they are disturbing I don't consider them directly part of my story.

It's been a very interesting couple of weeks. I've learnt a lot about the party that I support, I've learnt a lot about the individual local members of that party, and I've learnt a lot about what I believe is right and wrong. I've learnt that some people value getting a result more than playing fair - which in my view just isn't cricket.

Most of you probably don't care too much, but I want to say this: the hard decisions are often the right ones, and whilst people will try and make you feel guilty for doing what you think is right, a good moral yardstick is asking yourself what your grandparents would have made of it all. I'm pretty sure I know what they'd have made of all of this.

It's now time to move on. Last Saturday, the open primary was held - although rather confusingly it was closed to the press. As far as I'm aware, the successful candidate has had nothing to do with any of the process and shouldn't be punished for the errors of others. I wish him the best of luck.

I have no intentions to seek a seat elsewhere, but I intend to remain as a Councillor for as long as I possibly can. This does mean that my focus will have to change slightly. I'd neglected work over the summer in order to make sure I was 100% on top of everything Macclesfield. I'll have to throttle back a bit as I need to make up for the work I missed. After all, the mortgage still needs to be paid and the dog still needs to eat.

Thanks go to everyone that's written to me voicing support, which has come from some very surprising places. I really appreciate it and I will be responding to you all individually just as soon as I can find enough hours in the day.


* My understanding is that I have not done anything wrong, nor is it considered that I broke any rules. In the article there are some comments where I talk about local candidates. Just for the record, not that it matters, I gave those comments in the context of a discussion about the Totnes local primary which had just happened (it was an all-local shortlist), with the knowledge that there were up to 5 local Councillors and 2 local non-members that had expressed an interest in confidence to me in applying, and at a time when I didn't think I would be applying myself because I hadn't passed the required assessment and there was just over two weeks left before the Macclesfield deadline.

Normal service due to be resumed...

I apologise for the hiatus. It's been a very strange couple of weeks.

The open primary took place on Saturday night and it's all over now - I should be back into blogging routine later on today.

Wednesday, 23 September 2009

Parliamentary Update

I've just received the following from our regional office:
Unfortunately your application has not been successful on this occasion, however we thank you for your interest in Macclesfield and send every good wish for your future political career.

Obviously the CV I sent wasn't good enough. Shame.

Monday, 21 September 2009

Gas Leak

It's all a bit late, as I've been away, and I guess you've been tolerating the traffic since last week:

Unfortunately, there is a gas escape on Park Lane, Macclesfield which requires emergency attention. It is not in one of the mains that has been replaced as part of the ongoing renewal works. This has meant that two-way traffic signals have had to be installed on Park Lane this morning close to the junction with Oxford Road (Flowerpot junction). Gas engineers are currently working to find the source of the escape and repair the main. The signals will need to remain in place until the repair has been carried out but until the source has been located it is not possible to say whether the temporary signals will be in place for hours or days. I will update as soon as I have any further information.

Sunday, 20 September 2009

I'm back...

I've been on holiday for the last two weeks. The posts over the period were all written before I went away, so I'm sorry if they seemed a bit bland or non-topical. It's a bit tricky trying to write that much all in one go.

I'm back feeling refreshed and raring to go. It's going to be a very interesting Autumn for me and for Macclesfield. I have no idea how things are going to work out, but I know that the next twenty days are likely to provide some tough times. I made the decision to apply for a Parliamentary seat with my eyes open, but that doesn't mean that it's not going to be heavy going whatever the outcome.

I'm not exactly sure on the timetable from here. Although I'm one of the people that run the local association I have been excluded from all meetings recently because I am a potential candidate, which means that I only know what I've read in the papers.

Speaking of which...I normally turn to the letters page of the Macclesfield Express wondering what charge has been levelled at me or my colleagues this week. However last week it seems that there was a very interesting letter from Brendan Murphy which, unless I'm reading it through rose tinted specs, seems to be an endorsement.

Thanks Brendan.

Friday, 18 September 2009

HS2 - What does it really mean for us?

A lot of people have been getting quite excited about the news of "HS2" - a new high speed railway line to link the North and the South.

It seems like one of the preferred routes will be London - B'ham - Manchester - Glasgow. This has lead to speculation about journey times, which are suggested to be just over an hour to Manchester.

All seems great so far, but what about if you don't live in Manchester?

The line will probably come through some part of Macclesfield, because we're in the way. If it does it'll mean compulsory purchase orders and unpopular decisions about which part of our beautiful landscape it carves up. Irrespective of the route, it won't be stopping here. I expect it'll have to be a non-stop service, otherwise you wouldn't be able to manage those journey times.

So the great concern to me is how this effects our current rail service. At present, we have a very good service to Manchester and London. This is essentially because we are part of the UK's leading rail line and Virgin are constantly pushing to offer an improved service. Hence the Pendolinos and the recent track improvements that give us all those replacement buses on a Sunday.

But what happens when our line is no longer the cutting edge? Will there be the incentive to offer quicker times, nicer trains and more capacity?

Will the west coast mainline become the new slow line, stopping at every station and getting us to London in 4 hours?

Transport is crucially important to building a strong economy in Macclesfield. We suffer from being so far away from the Motorway, and we can't change that. But we can fight for a better rail service.

And I will.

Wednesday, 16 September 2009

Parking...yet again.

I'm aware the cabinet will have to do something about the Lib Dem motion for free parking on Saturday. Strange thing is that I'm told it's not coming before Cabinet until October, which seems like quite a long time to delay something that you're going to throw out.

But I'm sure it will go out, which is fine with me because none of the traders want it on a Saturday anyway. They would certainly be interested in something at lunchtimes or after 3pm. The feedback that I'm getting is that it's smaller, incidental trade that's far more important to them.

I've been doing a fair amount of work with local businesses, and the most wacky idea that they've come up with is that exit parking would be much better than pay and display. The more you consider this the more sense it makes. One of the traders said that she feels that her customers don't mind paying to park, but they don't like the hassle of having to have the correct change, and then they hate being criminalised for staying 5 minutes longer than they meant to. This is what brings the resentment that the council are at the wrong end of.

This is a fair point - can you imagine any other service where you get fined for using more than you expected to, without a chance to pay the extra?

I appreciate that there would be significant capital cost to convert car parks, but I genuinely think it's worth thinking about. We could probably save a couple of wardens, as I would expect they spend most of their time trawling round the car parks. You won't need them. You would need support for the barriers / machines etc but on the whole this can be managed remotely. They seem to manage it this way at the airport.

It takes the hassle away from shoppers because they won't have to rush back. They could then pay by card also, which makes life a lot easier for everyone involved.

And the best bit is this - I think we could then offer free parking for 30 minutes, and would still end up with higher parking revenue. This is because I think shoppers who previously would have got an hour ticket and rushed back when the time was nearly out would stay and have a coffee - knowing that all it'll cost them is an extra 40p. Similarly, shoppers would pop in to take advantage of the free half hour and would overstay. With any other system they'd get a fine for this, but with exit parking they've just pay the next rate.

I've written to David Brickhill about this and started some dialogue with the officers. They've not come up with a way of saying no yet, but I'm sure it'll come.

Monday, 14 September 2009


Got myself into a bit of a position that was unavoidable, (unless I wanted a divorce, or something to occur that I thought was wrong).

I was one of the signatories on a "call in" - which is where we ask a cabinet decision to be looked at by a scrutiny panel. The decision was to allocate land on the Hurdsfield industrial estate to be used for a waste transfer station. I can't quite remember the full list, but I seem to recall that it's a few Lib Dems, with Martin and myself.

I called it in because I believe that AZ are of significant importance to the economy of Macclesfield. Whilst they wouldn't shut up shop if we put a waste transfer station next door to them, it's not going to make Macclesfield an obvious choice next time they're or some other high tech industry is thinking of putting a new building somewhere.

Although the transport links at Hurdsfield may be the best in Macc, I think there are better locations for the station.

However, the scrutiny meeting is today, and I can't attend because I'm on holiday with my wife. It's generally the done thing to turn up when you've called something in, and this I can't do.

So I've written to the Chairman to apologise. I hope he'll forgive me, and I hope the other members who called the decision in will be able to make my points for me.

Friday, 11 September 2009

LAP - priorities

For whatever reason not even Councillors were getting sent agendas and minutes for the infamous LAP's. I have managed to get hold of a copy, and whilst all of the meetings so far have been closed to people other than those invited (of which I am not one), at least we can see what went on.

I must admit that I'm a little knocked off balance by the idea of a body, which isn't wholly elected, meeting in private to discuss important issues such as these. I thought that was why we elected a council.

My view is that if all the LAP's did was focus on anti-social behaviour then they'd be worth their weight in gold, but I'm told that there priorities are far more wide reaching (and yet strangely narrow when it comes to ASB):

* West Park anti social behaviour
* Crime in rural areas
* Facilities and support for young people
(external to education)
* Initiative to promote civic pride
* Killed and seriously injured statistics
* Macclesfield Town Centre redevelopment
* Engagement with businesses
* Worklessness

Wednesday, 9 September 2009

Council irritations no. 98

I get an email everytime a planning application is registered in my ward. Good news so far.

It has a lovely letter attached, which contains no useful information about the application except a reference number. Slight irritation.

However this doesn't return a document on the planning system straight away, telling me that the reference doesn't exist. It takes a few days until the documents are available to me.


Monday, 7 September 2009

Highways v2

Following my post last week about the highways alterations I just wanted to highlight something.

Utilities companies have pretty much free reign to dig up the road and pop their cables down. In many circumstances, the highways department will try to change where and when this happens, but it will happen at the end of the day.

There are guidelines as to how deep these cables should be placed in the road or pavement, with the specification being less exacting for the footpath as it has to handle less weight of traffic. Specifically, the cables can be placed shallower.

So it's logical that if we want to turn the said footpath into a road, as I'd like to do at the Flowerpot, the cables will need to be sunk lower.

But it seems that the Council have to foot the bill for that. Which seems incredibly unfair, considering it was our footpath before BT came along. I don't mind them putting them there, but surely they should take the risk that we might want the bit of earth they've used back?

Might be time to take legal advice again.

Friday, 4 September 2009

Residents Parking

As you will no doubt be aware, Cheshire East have been running a consultation on whether residents parking schemes are desired in certain streets.

I have received the results of the consultation, with some rather baffling interpretation from the highways department.

Overall, 375 people returned questionnaires. Considering the tens of thousands of people who live in Macclesfield this is seen as somewhat of a disappointment. Which I think is odd - we're a bit loopy if we believe that a large number of people were going to partake in the survey. If you don't live in one of the affected streets then you're not going to reply. And even if you do live in one, there's a fair chance that you don't drive and therefore don't care about parking. Or even you can't get to the exhibition.

The street with the most respondents was Coare street*. Of 65 residences, 14 responded, which makes 22%. All of these were in favour, which according to highways means 22% of respondents were in favour of a residents parking scheme on Coare street.

Except in my book it means that 100% were in favour of residents parking in Coare street.

The story from Highways is that this isn't enough to do anything. Personally, I think it's more than enough. Overall, 86% of respondents wanted residents schemes, and 10% didn't with the remainder unsure. That seems enough to me to suggest that in streets where there are real problems, the public believes that residents parking is the best solution.

To suggest that it's insufficient response to proceed isn't quite right. I don't live in one of those streets, but I would feel cheated if I did - considering the level of response.

However, there is a glimmer of hope. There MAY be a second stage on consultation to see if they can get a response level that they deem appropriate. At least if there is more consultation it'll be good news for the Lib Dems - they can get some more leaflets delivered free of charge.

* The next two most popular streets were:
Great King Street 21% responders, 20% in favour.
Lord St 19% responders, 19% in favour.
Figures may be inaccurate. The text report I was sent didn't match the spreadsheet. Will confirm when I get correct figures.

Thursday, 3 September 2009

Parliamentary Prospects

I've just got back from Canalside, where I was interviewed by Heidi Reid on her local matters show.

Being that my mother has always told me to tell the truth, I had no choice when asked about the the upcoming Parliamentary selection process in Macclesfield than to fully disclose what I've been up to.

This is that I have been through the rigorous vetting and assessment process which has got me onto the list of Conservative approved Parliamentary candidates. This means that I can apply for any seat in the Country that becomes available. I have chosen to apply for Macclesfield, for which the deadline was today, Thursday 3rd September.

People keep asking me who is applying for Macclesfield. I have to say that genuinely I have no idea. All I know is that there is now a pile of application forms in an office in London, all with Macclesfield written on the top. And one of them is mine.

There could be over 200, and they need to be shortlisted down to 6. I therefore seems that my chances are slim. It means there is a temptation to keep quiet about it, because I will be undoubtedly disappointed if I don't make it through. But that would mean lying if people asked if I'd applied, and I didn't think that was the right thing to do.

So I'm happy to tell the truth. I'm happy to pile public embarrassment onto the personal feeling of failure if I don't succeed.

Some will say I'm too young, but that's not true. I wouldn't be the youngest in Parliament and I'd actually be the same age as Sir Nick when he was first elected. Some will say I don't have enough experience, but then in fact I doubt those people actually know. They won't know where I've lived, worked, and what I've achieved - and I look forward to telling them all about.

Fundamentally those questions are answered by the Conservative Party. They have a very strict process designed to only allow candidates through who are mature and experienced enough to make good MP's. I passed that process, so I'm feeling pretty confident about those questions.

Over the next few weeks I'll be saying more about what I want to do for Macclesfield. I have been careful to keep this blog about Council work over the last 12 months and you may see that change a little. I hope you still find it as interesting.

Wish me luck,

Wednesday, 2 September 2009


We have been sent a new protocol for asking highways to make alterations to the roads, designed to ensure that all Councillors can have their say on what is important in the ward. It involves a bit of interaction with the Local Area Partnerships, which is worrying because I've not encountered a problem recently that the LAP's aren't going to fix, and will need final approval from the Cabinet member. But the point is that local ward members can request things.

Which is good. Because if there's one thing that causes confusion between the electorate and myself it's that they think I have the power to do things I don't.

For example, parking in the town centre. I personally can't change it. I can't waltz into the car parks and stick new prices up to encourage shoppers. All I can do is raise the issue, debate the issue, come up with better ideas and lobby the relevant cabinet members. And that I'm doing.

Take also Ivy Lane - this is an area in the ward where speeding motorists are of concern to the residents. I've discussed this with highways, I've discussed this with the police. I've got the Rozzers to turn up (but they forgot their speed gun) and got the three most senior people from CE to come and see the issue for themselves.

But as yet there is no solution. And a couple of the residents are convinced its all my fault now - perhaps that'll teach me to get involved.

So anyway, back to the point.

After meeting to discuss issues, the councillors for Macclesfield West have submitted the follow issues. I thought you would be interested to see them. Initial responses from the highways department are in red:

Ivy Lane - frequent and regular speeding

This is a site of constant concern, and has been the subject of a visit from Cllr Fitzgerald, John Nicholson and Erika Wenzel who discussed concerns with a sizable group of residents.

Concerns are over speed both up and down the road, especially since there is now an increase amount of pedestrian school traffic over the last couple of years since the closing of Henbury High and the full opening of the learning zone.

Community use of SIDS?

Possible solutions could be chicanes or mini roundabouts, both at the top and bottom of the hill (Sycamore Road, Valley Road junctions).

Mini roundabouts work only where there is a deflection from a straight line at neither junction does Ivy Lane deviate, false deflections often do not work as most drivers straight line the mini roundabout.

Chicanes would work well at slowing the traffic during peak times but are not so successful off peak and can lead to increase in accidents at such times. Would we want to slow / stop traffic at peak times on this route?

Flowerpot Junction

Whilst lines for turning have been painted on the Ivy Lane, Park Lane axis this persists as a problem. The Ivy Lane direction is worst where traffic does not get forward and right enough to prevent straight through traffic from being blocked.

Whilst it may seem easy to blame this on the drivers, the uncomfortable truth is that there is not a large amount of space for them to move into, and the layout of the lines is slightly eccentric and unusual. When cars do get far enough right, this is startling for straight through head on traffic which has to swerve around them.

Solution would be to provide a proper turning lane by using the council owned land on the junction of Oxford Road and Ivy Lane to widen the junction. This will involve moving telecoms cabinets, CCTV and traffic lights.

The cost of the works within CEC control are manageable civil engineering £20k, CCTV £2k, Traffic signals £10k, the difficulty is the cost of BT moving cables and apparatus. The cost during the works at the junction was £76k and likely to be a similar amount. This additional cost and potential delay to the work prevented the widening being carried out during the recent contract.

As a cost benefit the scheme begins to look poor at £100k.

Fieldbank Road / Chester Road Junction

Traffic turning right into fieldbank road travelling out of town blocks vehicles wishing to go straight on. Needs additional lane which could be achieved by using the lay-bys in fieldbank road which are presently used for parking.

(Planning application due soon to modify this junction for a fourth spur, but it is not clear if a right turn lane will be provided at this time)

No right turn at present but negotiations are underway, the tree is a major problem for junction design as is the cost of moving the BT equipment priced by them at £120k in 2000 for the original junction works. There are four options for the TA access. Moving services is always very expensive.

Oxford Road - speed of traffic by school.
No desire for calming but possibly a speed indicator device.

No policy in place at the moment - device cost £5k assuming suitable power supply at location.

Gawsworth Road - additional parking

The top section of Gawsworth Road often has problems with parked cars. Would be possible to provide some better parking by utilising the grass verges.

It has never been part of the remit of a highway authority to provide parking, there is no absolute right to park on a highway only the right to pass and re-pass and it is our duty to uphold that right. If we accede to this deviation from policy there may well be a significant increase in requests for similar treatment for which the cost is substantial.

If we are to provide verge parking the verge will be excavated and the cross fall from the carriageway continued, a new kerb will have to be installed at the footway edge which may have to be re-set to match the new lower kerb height. New gullies will have to be installed. This is achievable though a fairly major scheme. The construction of the lay-by will be of the order £40/ sqm, each metre of kerb £16, each gully £600. Assuming a car needs 2.3m x 6m the cost will be £550 plus a gully. Footway cost will be £20/ sqm.

The unknown cost will be the resetting of all the services to the correct level to allow vehicular traffic, you will have noted the cost of the BT diversion at the Flower Pot and similar alteration costs may be expected for each service along the road.

Kendal Road - complaints about speed and traffic using as a cut through.

Matter compounded by Blind Bend. Traffic often held up by parked cars anyway - a permanent solution is unlikely to do better than this, but would be interest in costs and the thoughts of the highways department regardless.

Parked cars do offer a good traffic calming solution; there have been no injury accidents recorded on Kendal Road in the last 3 years. The carriageway is narrow and most drivers take things slowly and give and take round the cars. Community SIDs may offer some additional traffic calming.

Local Area Partnerships

You may have heard about Local Area Partnerships.

Perhaps you want to find out where the action's happening? I've just been sent the following info, and it looks like we're all invited:

Date: Tuesday 8th September
Time: 4.30pm – 6.30pm
Location: Broken Cross Community Primary School, Parkett Heyes Road, Macclesfield SK11 8UD

All Local Area Partnership meetings are now open meetings, therefore if you know of any key stakeholders or community groups who may be able to help the LAP in its future work, please pass this email on by way of an invitation.


Got a taxi home the other night, pre-paid by switch because they didn't trust me to be there when they arrived. Checked bank statement this morning and it's listed as:


Funny, that was just what I was thinking.

Tuesday, 1 September 2009


So I guess that means the summer's over? I mean, at any time through August you still think there's a chance we might get a nice hot couple of weeks. By the time we're into September you're just hoping for a dry, sunny, weekend or two - accepting it will never really be hot. Ho hum.

Unfortunately it means two other things this year.

It means that fuel duty has been increased by a couple of pence. I'm now paying £1.08 per litre - and with expected rises in crude coming over the forthcoming winter I think things look set to get worse. This is the third rise in duty over the last 9 months which seems unacceptable to me.

This is the price we pay for bailing out the banks.

It also means that it's illegal to manufacture or import 100 watt light bulbs in the UK. Some may think this is a great idea, as it forces us all to use energy efficient bulbs. Unfortunately for some these are very difficult to read by, and I'm having difficultly tracking down CFL's that are dimmable at a reasonable price. Without these I'll have to have the light switches in some of the rooms replaced when the current bulbs blow.

Viva the nanny state.

Monday, 24 August 2009


I'm now back on my feet, just, as I've been ill since Thursday.

Been a very odd 4 days, mostly spent in bed. If it was the Swine Flu we'll never know, but I wasn't planning on going near that Tamiflu and I'm not really convinced that anyone's had Swine Flu anyway. I'm personally convinced it's a marketing ploy for Roche and GSK.

It's safe to say that I don't remember being this ill since I was a Child - certainly not to the extent that I've been out of action for such a prolonged period of time. I felt so pathetic and lifeless. I've spent most of it in bed, not really quite sleeping, with Test Match Special on in the background. Therefore it's all been some sort of fever-ridden restless euphoric Ashes victory blur chaperoned by Jonathan Agnew and Phil Tufnell.

How odd.

Once you're better you spend time trying to work out how you contracted the damn lurgy in the first place, and I have to say that all fingers point west in this instance. The most likely time is the joint meeting I attended over in Chester about the social care system we use. Perhaps CWAC they're trying to poison us?!

Saturday, 22 August 2009

I'm Ill....

Been in bed for the last few days, hence no updates. Hope to be back soon.

Thursday, 20 August 2009

Where does your Macclesfield recycling go?

I was sent this a couple of days ago by Cllr Smetham. Being a geek, I found it interesting, and I thought you might too:

Material collected for recycling in the Macclesfield area is sorted and separated at the kerbside. It is then taken to the council’s depot in Macclesfield to be passed to contractors for processing. The materials are sold on to approved industry sources to be turned into new products.

Paper Recycling collected at kerbside is sent to UPM-Kymmene Ltd paper mill in Shotton. Here it is recycled into paper for newsprint.

Glass Recycling collected at kerbside is sent to Recresco Ltd for processing into glass cullet for use in making new glass bottles. Further information can be found at their website.

Green Garden Waste collected in the green wheelie bins is taken to CRJ on farm composting in Allostock where it is composted in an open windrow system.
Aluminium cans collected are sorted from the steel cans at the councils’ depot in Macclesfield and sent to Novelis in Warrington recycled back to aluminium sheets.

Cardboard collected is sent to a local merchant who then supplies markets in the UK and abroad.

Steel is processed by Corus in the UK.

The Salvation Army collects textiles from the council’s depot, the textiles are then sorted and sent to Salvation Army shops in the UK and to various countries worldwide.

The recycling process depends on market demand for the materials collected. The UK has a growing market for recyclable material with new businesses coming on line particularly in the area of plastic recycling that will increase UK demand for the material. Other materials as described above may be exported to nations where there is a greater heavy industry demand for the raw materials.

While we would wish to support the UK market, export of good quality recyclable raw material is not necessarily a negative option but a product of the global market we are part of. Companies exporting product for recycling are controlled by the Environment Agency to prevent the export of waste. From a carbon miles perspective most export of recyclable product is on ships already delivering goods to the UK that could otherwise have returned empty. That said, as the UK market for recyclable product increases it is likely there will be less need for long distance export.

Wednesday, 19 August 2009

Lib Dems using taxpayers money for Political leaflets

Our Chief Executive, Erika Wenzel, will have this morning received the following letter from myself. I thought some of you may be interested with the content.

As you will no doubt be aware, the Highways Department are undertaking a review of on-street parking following a similar review carried out in Wilmslow. This process is beginning with a consultation phase which has recently seen an exhibition in Macclesfield Town Hall seeking the views of residents.

Highways have been very careful to include members from an early stage of the process, and for this I am very grateful. In fact, members were invited to a meeting at the Lyme Green depot to discuss the consultation phase. At this time, they asked one of the members if they would be happy to co-ordinate the publicity of the consultation. Cllr Arnold volunteered, and all present agreed on the proviso that none of the communication would be party political.

I was therefore dismayed to receive a copy of a leaflet advertising the Town Hall exhibition which was drafted by Cllr Arnold's party and distributed at the expense of the Highways department. This leaflet does not carry Cheshire East branding and does not mention any Councillors involved other than the Liberal Democrat members. It also carries the phrase "working for you" - which in the context of the rest of the leaflet suggests that this is a project driven by Cllr Arnolds party.

I have enclosed a copy for your review. It seems inappropriate that Cheshire East and therefore taxpayer’s money has funded this.

I received a note from Rob Cramer explaining that other Councillors could have a leaflet funded if they wished, but this note was received too late to publicise the exhibition in our wards. In any case, I’m not convinced that “two wrongs make a right”. Any publication of the exhibition funded by Cheshire East should have been non-partisan and correctly branded.

I responded to Rob outlining my concerns. Several weeks have now past and I have had no response.

I ask that you personally investigate this matter, specifically how a publication on behalf of Councillors for one political party came to be funded by the Council and not approved by our publicity department. I look forward to hearing the outcome of your investigation.

Naturally, I've got a lot more to say on the issue - but I thought you'd like the facts of the matter first.

Tuesday, 18 August 2009

Parking Express Comments

Here follows a selection of comments about me from the Macclesfield Express website:
"Come off it he is all show and no substance. He claims a lot of credit for projects which were initialised befiore he even came to Macc."

"We should be grateful that we have Councilors like Ainsley, John, and David who are prepared to represent their consituents, unlike some of the others mentioned."

"Perhaps they are just out of town tory clones. "

"If that is true, and I have nothing to suggest that it is not, then it does show the contempt that we as residents and traders are held by some of our elected representatives."

"What hope will Macclesfield ever have of getting decisions about the town, from people who have no interest in the town. "

Makes pleasant reading, doesn't it?

Notwithstanding that there is an anti-tory bias in the comments on the site that's not reflected at the ballot box, and notwithstanding that there is a pro-Darryl bias in my views, one can't help being a little aggrieved by these comments.

Some people fire of vitriol without consideration for what I have actually done or what my opinions actually are.

Monday, 17 August 2009

Death at Waters Green

Received from the local constabulary:

An assault took place in the Waters Green area of Macclesfield during the early hours of yesterday morning. Sadly, as a result, a 37 year old male later died in hospital.

Police responded to the incident and enquiries were commenced. These enquiries ranged from interviewing witnesses to reviewing CCTV evidence. At the time of typing an arrest has been made and the matter continues to be investigated. There is already some local media coverage relating to the incident and I am confident that the offender will be charged with the relevant offences in due course.

Friday, 14 August 2009

Macclesfield cannot be found

A constant source of entertainment for me is fellow Councillors who get upset about some areas of the Borough getting more attention than others.

I suppose I find it entertaining because I sense the same paranoia in my own opinions. I remember myself moving to change the name of a topic at a Childrens & Families committee from "Underperforming schools in the South of the Borough" to just "Underperforming schools".

Fundamentally this is because if they're underperforming then they're underperforming, regardless of location. But I can't admit there wasn't a pang of fear that Crewe would be getting attention that Macclesfield wouldn't.

Anyway, there was a big flurry of excitment this week as one of my colleagues (who shall remain nameless unless they contact me requesting otherwise) drew our attention to this link:


It details community grant schemes for all of the borough. Try the links for Crewe, Congleton, and then Macclesfield, and you'll be able to guess what all the noise was about.

Wednesday, 12 August 2009

Council tax revaluation

This may be a little out of date now - as I've found it as a saved post on blogger that I meant to put onto the blog a couple of weeks ago. The topic of the day was council tax revaluation. The story was that covert methods were being used to re-band houses that had good views or nice gardens in order to bump them up to a different band.


I've been contacted by a constituent who was convinced that the recent stories about central government encouraging council tax revaluations didn't paint the whole story. Their concern was that the council were "in" on this, and it was just a different way for Cheshire East to get more money out of them.

This isn't the case, and can be proved by the way the council tax setting process works. This information is open to the public, and is all included in the papers for the budget meeting.

Essentially, the council decides how much it's going to spend in each department. It forecasts how much income we will receive from fees and fines, etc, and that leaves us with a deficit which will be paid for by council tax.

The council tax is then set by dividing this up into the different bands.

If a house is moved from one band to another, it does not result in the council getting more money - the total "take" from council tax has already been set. It just means that a bit more comes in from the higher bands, and in theory the lower bands can all pay a little bit less.

So what's the point in the revaluation? I suppose it's to try and make the system a bit fairer. I just hope that some properties get revised down as well as up.

Tuesday, 11 August 2009


Everyone in the Council gets sent a newsletter from Erika Wenzel called "TeamTalk" telling us what has been going on that week. Whilst we all know it isn't all penned by Erika herself, I at least like the romanticism that we all got a chirpy email from her every week.

Now they've changed it. It's still got Erika's signature on it and has the same kind of content, but it's now emailed from "Communications Cheshire East".

The ever expanding media relations department extends it's reach further...

I just felt a cold shiver go down my spine.

Monday, 10 August 2009

Is that it?

Seems the anti-viral collection point in the senior citizens hall is being closed down due to a lack of punters.

Does this mean that Swine-flu isn't as bad as we thought it was? Someone has suggested to me that most of the people off sick were a combination of people with colds, and some that fancied a few days off work. Once the skivers had done their bit it turned out that there wasn't that many ill as we expected.

I don't know if there's any truth in that, but I know that the senior citizens will be pleased to be back home. I'm also a little disappointing because I was only half way through a humorous blog post about how we should all be setting up stalls in the car parks to sell vicks vaporub and tissues to the "Flu friends" arriving from afar. I thought it would be a good way to supplement my pension.

Friday, 7 August 2009

Quiet blog week

Sorry chaps, been a bit of a quiet week on the blog.

I've had a lot of reading to do - trying to get on top of the social services IT system which is called PARIS. I'm a bit concerned that this isn't quite working out as well as it could, and I'm trying to find out why.

We've also been trying to get some progress on improving anti-social behaviour on the Weston. We're getting some anti-climb paint put up and some additional measures for the community centre.

I've got a lot of things I want to post about, but they'll have to wait for next week. One of them is about why James Nicholas always gets his letters in the express when I don't, and another is about rises in the number of looked after children. I blogged about the latter a while back and the 'Express are rumoured to be working on a story following the blog. I hope they do it justice.

Wednesday, 5 August 2009

Feeding the troll

They always say don't feed the trolls, but I couldn't help myself when James Nicholas wrote to the express last week. He suggested that it was all my fault that the Lib Dem's motion got little debate and was referred to cabinet.

I've not seen the paper today, but if they carried my response it would have looked like this:

James Nicholas would do well to carry out some research before committing pen to paper.

The debate on the parking motion was limited by procedure rule 12 of the Constitution, the Mayor had no choice in the matter. This allows 15 minutes discussion, to include 5 minutes each for proposer and seconder. It is therefore no surprise that there was not enough time for all members to speak who wished to.

The Constitution also mandates that the matter must be referred to Cabinet. He is wrong to suggest that there was anything I could have done to force a vote at the meeting and prevent this from happening.

Regrettably, it seemed that Nicholas is not the only person that hasn't read the Constitution as the Lib-Dem Members moving the motion were as much in the dark about procedure as he was. The layman can be forgiven, those paid to be there should be better informed.

Paying for parking

Assuming we can come up with parking incentive that works for the council and traders, it'll probably cost some money. Either the taxpayers will have to fund this or we'll have to get creative.

How about cutting the media relations department? We could save £140K there...which seems quite a lot for a bunch of press releases.

Friday, 31 July 2009

Toddlers Play Area - Rubbish x 2.

Unfortunately, the new toddlers play area hasn't fared too well - with it proving to be a magnet for Antisocial behaviour.

The apparent reason is that we should have built the bigger park first, giving these kids somewhere to go. Although we expected the ASB and the excuses to a certain extent, it's still a load of rubbish. I don't care how bored someone thinks they are, it's not an excuse to cause criminal damage. The selfish little so and so's have got more to do than I had growing up.

Plans are currently underway to deal with this - which I don't want to go into too much now, but things will happen.

However - there's another source of rubbish at the park, and that's the litter bins. They filled up in the first week and have been overflowing ever since. There's rubbish all over the shop and no one is to blame except us (Cheshire East).

I've dealt with this now, and I'm promised that they will be emptied immediately and added to the rota for regular litter picking, bin emptying and grass cutting.

Planning system

One of the excellent systems that Cheshire East inherited from MBC (there were many - although the Crewe and Congleton Councillors may rebut that) was our planning system.

This allows any member of the public to search and review planning documents online. It means that the process is far more transparent than it once was, and allows residents to keep an eye on how applications in their area are progressing.

Unfortunately, it's slightly misleading in one sense. The system mentions that it is updated daily, when in fact it is batch updated on a weekly basis with support/objections from residents. This causes quite an amount of consternation when a response is sent and does not appear, resulting in residents thinking their response has been lost or ignored.

So I've written to the head of planning:

We all know how crucial planning applications are to those involved. I have noted that one major concerns that residents have is that their application/response will somehow slip through the net. This is especially crucial with negative responses when they believe an application will have a serious impact on their quality of life.

Therefore, there is a tendency to check the planning portal once a submission has been made to ensure that it has been taken on board and not lost. Regrettably, the system displays in the bottom right hand corner:

"Data is updated daily at 2:30am"

Which is very misleading, and for the reasons described above causes distress when someone's response does not appear.

Can we either update the system more frequently, or have this text changed? I believe it would be very easy to do and would prevent a good number of bitten nails and ground teeth.
Lets hope we can get it changed. Incidentally, it's still branded MBC as well, although I'm not so bothered about that.

Thursday, 30 July 2009

In praise of the carrot

After blogging last week about carrier bags, I received a few responses by email.

The first was to tell me that I was behind the times, and that there had been this piece on the BBC website about how successful the reduction had been.

Curiously billed as a failure, because they were hoping to reduce usage by 50%, the Supermarkets had reduced usage by 48%. Apparently this extrapolates out to 346 million carrier bags per month that have been saved.

Which is amazing for one good reason: with the exception of a couple of smaller outlets, this has been done without a financial disincentive for using a disposable bag. I'm very impressed with what the sphere of social conscience can manage without government interference if it wants to.

This makes the final comment on the article slightly confusing:
As a result, some environmentalists are now calling for a charge of up to 15 pence for each disposable carrier bag.
Why?! If we can effect this kind of change without having to push it top down from the nanny state, doesn't it tell you that we don't need taxes to change behaviour?

The other email pointed out that I should be filling the charity bags with all my disused clothes etc. Of course, I know this, it's just that I only throw clothes away when they have holes in and my wife just doesn't allow me to buy enough clothes to keep spring cleaning*.

* All those who know me will know that's not true and that I'm a reluctant shopper - but I just couldn't help myself.