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Thursday, 29 January 2009


I've been enjoying the new Cheshire East website recently. It looks a lot better than the old one, and us Councillors were "consulted" on what the new site looked like. Which was nice, except we only had three choices and the other two were rubbish. Great choice.

Anyway, delighted to see that everyone is going to get "consulted" on the new budget:


Except most of the meetings are by invitation only?

The idea initially sounds good, but surely it doesn't really work if you decide who comes?

Wednesday, 28 January 2009

Macc Skate

If you're into Macclesfield blogs, then you may find this one here interesting:


They're a group who are promoting skating in Macclesfield. Obviously not everyone's cup of tea, but I'm very impressed with how they present themselves and the effort they put in to make positive changes. It's forward thinking people like this that Macclesfield needs.

Tuesday, 27 January 2009

Music to my ears

I was surprised to read that the my local co-op are adopting a novel, but not unique, way of scaring off the kids:


Funny thing is, being that I can see the co-op from my bedroom window you can expect that I visit the shop quite often. Yet I've never heard music....strange?!

Monday, 26 January 2009

Rules or results?

There's an interesting story in the MEN:


It's about a teacher from Macclesfield (not with a school here, though) who was suspended/sacked for not following process and procedures correctly.

Why is it interesting? Because she was so successful at the school - she turned around a failing establishment and was awarded a Damehood for her efforts. Shame she broke the rules whilst doing it.

So the question is, what's more important?

Saturday, 24 January 2009

Don't forget to download and sign the petition....

I've just pulled the following out of a comment left on a previous post by Liz Ross, mainly because I thought it deserved closer attention.

With respect to the town centre development:

"If you take the history and the reason of history and life away, you only receive boredom and violence in return – there is no respect for plastic glass and safety glazing, but beautiful buildings with a rich tapestry of previous life – the possibility of a ghost haunting the ladies etc, that offers respect."

Friday, 23 January 2009

More roadworks....is it worth it?!

Received from the highways dept:

The final works connected with the new pedestrian crossing on Westminster Road, Macclesfield are due to be carried out on Sunday 25th January. These works will involve carriageway surfacing works in the vicinity of the crossing as part of the new Urban Traffic Control System on behalf of Cheshire County Council.

The effect of the closure will be to prohibit traffic on the length of County road known as Westminster Road, Macclesfield between the roundabout at its junction with Cumberland Street and a point 40 metres north of its junction with Coare Street (there will be no access or egress between Coare Street and Westminster Road during these works).

With Churchill Way already a bit messy, the North side of town is going to be worth avoiding on Sunday.

The killer question is all of this going to be worth it? How good can the UTC be?

Thursday, 22 January 2009


Cllr John Lamb from Trafford Council has recently paid a visit to the Belong development on Kennedy Ave. His thoughts are here:


I've recently visited a similar new development in Handforth Dean that is making good progress. Hopefully that will be as successful as Belong. If executed correctly developments of this type are certainly a good idea. The key to success in my eyes is being able to provide a safe and secure living space without isolating residents from the surrounding community...no easy task.

Tuesday, 20 January 2009

Wrong people in the wrong jobs

Sometimes it's not so hard to see where money is wasted in the public sector, and how some swift culling would bring obvious results.

An excellent example is IT services manager Carol Hudson from some Sheffield NHS trust, which I don't know the name of.

The hospitals in question have just suffered an outbreak of the Conficker Worm - which is a type of virus which replicates itself automatically and can infect machines which are passive as long as they haven't been patched to the latest versions of Windows.

Initially you'd think that Carol are her team were super speedy to respond to the crisis - and they sent out an email to all staff asking them to keep hush if the press came sniffing due to the scale of the problem.

More info here: http://www.theregister.co.uk/2009/01/20/sheffield_conficker/

Then you realise why. Carol's department turned off the updates that would have prevented this from happening. They did this because they caused auto reboots of machines in surgery - which seems like something you wouldn't want - until you understand that they only did that because Carol's IT chaps hadn't configured it correctly.

I'm not an MS engineer. I haven't done all the courses to understand updates and domains etc. But even I know that you can configure a group policy so that some machines reboot and some don't. Or you can configure what time of day they reboot. And if you don't want them rebooting at all then you put a business policy in place to make sure that someone toddles round and power cycles them at a uncritical time.

And even if you didn't know that, you would know that if you turn off automatic updates then it's really worth your while checking the list of released updates to ensure that there's no serious vulnerabilities about.

The stupidity and ignorance of these IT managers and directors will have cost the trust hundreds of thousands of pounds, not to mention the the risk patients have been put at.

Thanks for the hard work sending out the email Carol, but your services are no longer needed here.

Monday, 19 January 2009


There's this fella here:


Who fancies himself as the Labour PPC for Congleton. His site is obviously set up to lobby the members of the Labour party in Cong to ensure that he is successful for selection, which is a strange choice because he could probably ring them all in an hour or so.

But anyway, he says:

"Congleton has had 26 years of Ann Winterton. It’s time for a change."

And I thought this was no time for a novice? Make your minds up chaps.

Thursday, 15 January 2009

Dad's nose, Mum's eyes...

Apologies in advance, non local issue coming up.

You won't be surprised to hear that I've signed up to David Cameron's mailing list so I get frequent updates about what's going on. You probably also couldn't care less about he sends me. But I'm going to tell you anyway. Sorry ;-)

His office have just sent me this video which I think is worth seeing. Excellent message, strongly presented:

Not so sure about the "Now for change" slogan though...

Wednesday, 14 January 2009

Drinking less - part 3

Following on from the previous post - I've been thinking more about changing attitude to drinking.

We ate in a well known Pizza restaurant last Saturday where I observed an interesting phenomenon. There was a group of youngish people, of whom some may have been over 18 but most looked about 16/17. They were all, as you would expect, drinking.

In fact, it's something that I remember doing when I was that age. You knew that:
a) In a restaurant you were more likely to get served
b) There was some loophole in the law (which at the time none of us knew the details of) that meant it must be legal.

Anyone who has watched the Inbetweeners may be familiar with this concept:

So what's the point of all this?

Well they weren't causing any trouble. They were sitting down, talking, and of course eating (which we all know is a very sensible companion to drink). In my view the perfect conditions for younger people to drink.

In a few months when they're all over 18, they'll be standing up, downing drinks to "move on", shouting, and skipping dinner because it costs money and takes time (and calories). And that's where it all goes wrong.

So surely we can learn something from this?

Why not change the law to allow 16 and 17 year olds to also consume beer and wine in restaurants as long as they're seating at a table with a full meal. Then, in addition, up the age you can drink in pubs & bars to 21.

It may seem like a radical idea at first, but once you think about it a bit more it achieves our objectives of changing the culture and attitude to drinking. It desensitises the excitement of drinking. After all, by the time you're old enough to drink in a pub you'll have had 4 years of doing it in restaurants and there'll be very little to be too chuffed about.

Tuesday, 13 January 2009


I've finally finished delivering the last of my leaflets. This means that all of the ward should have received the Winter edition of our "InTouch" (assuming of course that my fellow Councillors have delivered theirs too!)

If you've not got a copy for whatever reason, then you can download one here:

If you live in the ward and can deliver to your road then please let me know. I think it's so important to keep in touch with all of the residents and let them know what's going on, but delivering to 5,500 houses is quite a mammoth effort which means I can really only do it twice a year. More help means that I could update everyone more often.

Monday, 12 January 2009

Town Centre Redevelopment: Time for action!

I've said quite a lot about why I think the Macclesfield Town Centre redevelopment is wrong. If you've been lucky enough to miss out, then you might want to have a quick look here:


And here:


I hope that you feel the same as I do about the development, and if so you'll be wondering what it is you can do to make your voice heard.

The two most important things you can do are to contact the planners and sign our petition. Information about how to do this is here:

Sunday, 11 January 2009

Look out....

Christmas, lots of work, lots of decorating has meant that I've just been treading water recently and making sure that I just stay up to date with things.

But the visit from the carpet fitter and the removal of the fairy lights heralds the end of decorating and family Christmas visits.

Which means I'm about to get stuck into my "To Do" list....

Be very afraid.

Saturday, 10 January 2009

Drinking less - part 2

A couple of days ago I suggested that the price of alcohol does not effect how drunk people are on a Saturday night. More correctly - that increasing the price will not result in less trouble in our town centres.

Obviously that's not quite true. If beer was £200 a pint then we'd have a very limited number of takers. But that's stealth prohibition by tax, which is a daft. You might as well just ban it.

But we must accept that prices will increase as trouble decreases. This extra margin must be taken by the landlords, and not by the taxman.

This is a crucial, crucial point. If you increase tax to decrease demand, then landlords sell less volume, with the same margin on each pint - this means a lack of takings. Cue closure of lots of pubs.

Recently in Bulgaria and Greece we found drinks to be more expensive in bars but much cheaper in supermarkets. Less tax was responsible for the latter, and the former was due to the bar owners expectation. They didn't expect us to have more than one drink. We bought a glass of wine and got a table for the evening. Try that in the UK and you'll be accused of "nursing" your pint.

The problem this gives me is that it's lead me down a logically argument towards price fixing and tariffs - which is not an area I'm comfortable with at all.

Friday, 9 January 2009


Did anyone feel the ground move last night?

According to the BGS there was an earthquake in Macclesfield:

I was out of Town for the night so missed any fun, but there doesn't seem to be anything about it in the news so I assume it couldn't be felt.

More Chaos for Macclesfield

I've just received a reminder from Highways that the UTC works are to recommence in Macclesfield on Monday.

In the long term this means better traffic flow for Macclesfield (although, perversely, controlled from West Cheshire - lets hope we don't fall out with them lest they do a Putin).

In the short term this means complete traffic Chaos and a lot of money (which in my view would probably be better spent on improving road surfaces, but is probably "ring-fenced" in a way which prevents us from doing this).

These works will cause severe congestion in the Churchill Way area of the town centre. The works involved are anticipated to take place between 12th January and 31st March 2009.

* Churchill Way junction with King Edward Street and Chestergate - install new signals and pedestrian crossing facilities. Provide new marking layout at the roundabout at the top of Churchill Way.

(This is going to be interesting as the Roundabout causes fights both from Hibel Road and Churchill Way at present. Will be fun to see how it's resolved).

* Churchill Way junction with Castle Street and at Exchange Street (near Puffin Crossing) - install new signals and pedestrian crossing facilities at junctions.

* Cumberland Street near roundabout at Westminster Road junction - replacing existing Puffin Crossing.

Further information is available using the on-line mapping link on the following web page:- www.cheshire.gov.uk/roads

Best of luck.

Thursday, 8 January 2009

Drinking less - part 1

Come January I'm feeling the guilt from over indulgence at Christmas. And so, like many others, I try to eat less rubbish and drink a little less. So it's no surprise at this time that some retailers are looking for ways to buck the trend and keep the sales coming in.

Cue plenty of liberal outrage at the fact that Wetherspoon's are planning on dropping the price of some of their drinks to 99p a pint.

Naturally, there's a free market aspect to this. Who the hell are any of us to tell Wetherspoons how to run their business? The Libertarian argument only applies, of course, until they're doing something that adversely impacts on society. You could claim that this is the case if they're dispatching lashed-up yobbos into our town centres at the end of a busy week.

But it's all pish. Price has relatively little impact on demand - but it does form part of the solution in a way that most people don't realise.

Wetherspoon's cheapest beers are normally local real ale. These are significantly cheaper than the fashionable european lagers they sell. If you pop in on a Saturday night you'll see the yobbos on the more espensive tipples rather than a nice pint of Storm.

Same applies to disruptive kids in the park who are under the sauce. We blame cheap supermarket prices, but they're usually drinking more expensive, fashionable drinks. Perversly, it's only tramps that have enough sense to work out the White Lightening and sainsburys own is the most economic route to unconciousness.

But price is relevant - and we'll never improve drinking attitude in the UK until we realise that. Hold that thought until tomorrow.

Wednesday, 7 January 2009

The answer for Macclesfield's town centre?

Want to open a sex shop in Macclesfield? Well you need to get on with it. The license application will cost you £500 for the next couple of months, but £2260 from April.

I'm sure there's a joke I could fit in here but perhaps I shouldn't be resorting to gutter humour so early on in January.

Drink Driving

From Cheshire Police:

"Fifty Seven people were arrested for drinking and driving in East Cheshire between December 1st and the end of the Christmas holiday period"

The terrible thing is that there will be 57 more who didn't get caught.

We need a better solution to this....and I'm looking to Saudi Arabia and thinking, you can't drive without hands, can you?

Tuesday, 6 January 2009

Cheshire East Congress

News is now out that the voluntary groups of the East have formed the "Cheshire East Congress". The only source I can find so far is here:


This is excellent news - and I have been waiting for this since September last year.

Now what I really want to see is a Third Sector champion in the cabinet, but I'm not doing so well at soliciting a response from our leader on that one.

East Cheshire Hills

In the Guardian country diary here.

More shops closing

The news that the Adam's store in Macclesfield is closing is more unwanted news - and brings the grim reaper closer to the door of Macclesfield Town Centre. But why is it so bad for us? After all, Adams and Woolworths have closed stores in many towns - so why is it making Macclesfield so nervous?

The reason is that new shops are always looking to open in other towns. The threat of a recession doesn't hold a good businessman back. It's park of the natural cycle of business life that some fail, and some succeed.

But this isn't happening in Macclesfield because no trader wants to be stuck in the soon-to-be-obsolete Mill street and Chestergate. I know of one major retailer that was looking to open a branch in Macclesfield recently, but decided against it because of the town centre development.

The "threat" of our town centre development is not the saviour of our shops, it's the bitter cause of their demise. It will continue to be so until the Councillors responsible for this farce come to terms with that, and ensure that it's resolved quickly.

By resolved I mean one of two things - the plans are thrown out, or the development is complete. And I mean complete. If this development continues, no store will open in Macclesfield until the new shopping streets are being pounded by the feet of anxious bargain hunters.

If all goes to plan this will be 2011. Except that many now believe that Wilson Boden have no intention of proceeding with this development. It is rumoured that they are in fact looking for planning permission only to raise the value of the project, which they will then sell as a going concern. After that a new developer needs to be found, legal issues resolved, plans altered to their liking.

Lets add a couple of years to our original target.

No new shops in Macclesfield until 2013? Not what I call a speedy resolution. All the time our natural business cycle means that more shops will close, but the delay means that no new ones will open to replace them. We'll be left with nothing by the time the ribbon is finally cut by the (2nd) Mayor of Cheshire East.

The real solution is to throw these plans out, and get on with the real business of regenerating our Town. Forget about the architectural terrorism that is the proposed 8 storey concrete car park. Mill street has some excellent buildings, lets smarten them up and make the most of them. Rent and rates incentives will get vendors into them. Lets get market traders back in the Town Square, where they should be, and they can form a link between a thriving network of small, unique, independent shops on Chestergate and Church street. Free parking for three hours will bring in the shoppers. Lets build a modest number of new shops using capital we've raised ourselves, rather than selling our soul to a professional developer.

Because lets not forget, Wilson Boden are in this to turn a profit. The current Councillors may be incredibly excited by the idea that we're getting something for nothing, but there's no such thing as a free lunch. This development will be paid for in the long term by us in terms of what we pay in shops and what we pay to park. When you think of the development in those terms, it rapidly begins to sound like one of Gordon Brown's economic rescue plans.

Friday, 2 January 2009

Happy new year....

Happy new year to all Maxonians - lets hope that it's a positive year for Macclesfield and that the new Cheshire East council will herald an era of localism which gives us some real choice over our future. An example of which would be the mass rejection of an 8 storey concrete car park in the middle of what should be, by rights, an historic market town.

I've had a bit of a holiday, after having resolved to do nothing work or politics related between Christmas Eve Eve and new year.

This means that I got the chance (lucky me) to do copious amounts of cutting, hammering, and painting and we now have a freshly decorated landing. Bethany is very pleased. I didn't find it much of a holiday.

The "no politics" rule didn't really get off to a great start as I bumped into an old friend and raving socialist on Christmas Eve. We got into a spirited discussion about the merits of Hayek and why there's evidently no such thing democratic socialism (I rejected the term social capitalism as she refused to accept it as conservatism with a social conscience), as the nature of socialism demands that all serve the "common good" which will obviously lead to totalitarianism.

She disagreed.

Suffice to say there didn't seem to be anyone else in "The Skylark" that wanted to get involved in the discussion, and I seem to remember that the outcome was that I was definitely right and she was definitely wrong.

Again she disagreed.

Anyway....Inevitably the new year brings soul searching and I will indulge for just a minute or two.

It was an interesting year. This time last year I wasn't sure if getting involved in local politics and standing for the council was the right thing to do. Now I'm a Councillor and Chairman of the local Conservative Association - and I'm still not sure if it's the right way to make the world a better place.

The truth is that it's painfully difficult to get any information from the council or to impact decisions. It took me about 9 months to get two white lines painted on a road junction, and I don't think they're in the right place even now. Is democracy always like this, or are things more difficult than normal because of the Cheshire East transition?

I'm stubborn, and so I won't go along with something I disagree with just to get along with people, but I know many characters who will. It's easy to see how the beast of a machine that is local government swallows up them and all their good intentions.

For example: am I really the only Councillor who thinks that the Town Centre development is completely the wrong direction for Macclesfield? Or am I the only one with the guts to speak out?

This website has now been operational since 15th August and I've made 137 posts in that time. In that time there have been 332 unique visitors who have visited the site about 1,500 times. Not that much...but as it's the only website by a Cheshire East councillor I'm winning amongst that lot. I'm still undecided on whether it's a good form of communication or not - I know that not all 332 are constituents of the ward, and it's only a small proportion of the 5,500 households within my realm. Whilst I get the odd comment I've had no direct feedback to say it's a good replacement for stuffing leaflets through everyone's door. Perhaps that's because it's too passive, and relies on people chosing to visit the site. Perhaps only 300 people read my leaflets anyway....

As for the rest of the year - boundary reorganisation, general election?, new council, and coat of paint for the office are all on the cards. There's a lot I'd like to get done, and only time will tell if I manage any of it.

Should be interesting. For now I'm off for a run, going to clear out the rest of my emails and prepare to start work properly on Monday morning.