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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.