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Friday, 25 June 2010

Fishing Competition

Just a quick note to say that Cheshire Police will be running the fishing competition again this year. Entries are free for under 17 year olds, and the competition runs from August 9th to the 16th.

More more info or an application pack call 01244 614 446.

Thursday, 17 June 2010

Support our local soldiers

As you will no doubt be aware, the "Cheshires" (1st Battalion Mercian's) are presently serving a six month tour of the Helmand Province. Many of the Battilion's soliders hail from Macclesfield and the surrounding areas.

Whilst the inhospitable environs of Helmand may seem a long way away, it is possible for us to support our local soldiers from the relative comfort of Macclesfield.

A group of parents from Broken Cross school, lead by Nicky Flintham, are collecting everyday items to send to the troops on Helmand and they need the help of the residents of Macclesfield.

The idea is to prepare jiffy bags, up to a weight of 2kg with items to be sent to our soldiers. People can either donate individual items, or put bags together themselves. The Cheshire soldiers really appreciate the gifts that are sent.

Popular items to fill the Jiffy bags include:

● Book/magazine/puzzle book
● Pens/pencils
● Playing cards
● Toothpaste/toothbrush
● Shampoo
● Roll-on deodorant
● Vaseline
● Soap/wet wipes
● Disposable razors
● Tampons/sanitary towels and tissues (for women’s bags)
● Sachet of drinking chocolate
● Super noodles/cuppa soups
● Packets of mints or chewing gum
● Boiled or jelly sweets or Lucozade tablets
● Salted peanuts
● Small ring-pull tins of food (eg. tuna, fruit)
● Powdered milk

Donations need to be made by 5th July, and can be dropped off at Broken Cross Primary school (community room), Parkett Heyes Rd, SK11 8UD. For more details contact the school on 01625 383 029.

Alternatively - drop me a line if you've got any queries:
01625 421903
and I'll help you out.

Thursday, 10 June 2010

How to get a good deal

Perhaps I've missed something here.

At the last council meeting we had to decide how much we thought we could afford to pay for the new contract to deal with our waste. This will be taking over from our landfill sites, and will probably be a company running an energy from waste plant. We're about to enter the last phase of the tendering process, and the council have to decide how much we think we can pay. If the tenders come in over this figure, the matter will have to be referred back to the council.

All good so far.

This subject was discussed in secret, as a "part 2" item of the agenda. This means that the public and press cannot be present. Fair enough I thought - why would be want the people bidding to know how much we could afford. It would rather give the game away.

Then I got up the next day to find out that council have sent out a press release to the papers with the figure we agreed in it. This has now been published in most titles. Therefore the bidders will know what we are expecting to pay them.

I can't imagine either of the tenders will come in much below that figure, do you?

Tuesday, 8 June 2010

Have your say...

From Thursday an exhibition is taking place in the Grosvenor Centre for a few days to allow you to have your say on the future of Macclesfield.

I'm going to explain this from the start, because it's prone to confusion.

Cheshire East are carrying out a economic planning exercise for Macclesfield which they are calling the "Masterplan". Many people I speak to, upon hearing about this process, confuse it with the town centre development. Which is understandable, because the town centre development could be one of the small elements within the masterplan. However it's larger than that - and it seeks to decide what we should be doing with other areas of land which could be used for commercial or residential development, such as Lyme Green/Danes Moss, or perhaps areas close to the canal.

This consultation will allow you to feed your views into this. And your views are crucially important. Many of us disagreed with the previous plan for the town centre redevelopment because it didn't deliver what we thought Macclesfield needed. Now is our chance to establish what Macclesfield actually does need, and therefore will set the foundations for schemes to come, such as the Town Centre redevelopment.

A few of us Councillors have fought very hard for this - and specifically to make sure that nothing progresses on the town centre redevelopment until this piece of work is done. We didn't think it was right that such a major part of Macclesfield could be changed without fully understanding the background behind it all.

I know there will be frustration from people who think we've done this already, or that we just need to get on and get something built in the town centre. But I disagree with that. I think we need to ensure we're doing the right thing in the first place, rather than rushing off with some half baked plan.

So, if you've got a view then get down to the Grosvenor Centre:
Thursday 10th June, 10.30am to 5.30 pm
Friday 11th June, 10.30am to 5.30pm
Saturday 12th June, 10.30am to 5.30pm
or alternatively to the Football Club:
Monday 15th June, 3pm to 8pm.
Make sure your voice is heard.

For more info: www.cheshireeast.gov.uk/maccregen

Thursday, 27 May 2010

Winter Learning

Now that it's warmed up a bit (and boy was it hot last weekend) it's easy to forget just how cold it was this winter. That is until you take a look at my garden, where several plants suffered much more than normal in the winters sub -10 conditions. If anyone's got any ideas how I can rejuvinate my Jerusalem sage then I'd love to hear it....

Anyway, the council have been thinking back, and there's a very interesting report been produced entitled Winter Learning. Click the link to read the full report.

What did we learn? It a nutshell, that the council met it's legal obligations, but it didn't meet public expectation. There are many sensible suggestions for improving the service, and even more importantly the communication - especially when it came to rubbish collections.

This raises the question: is it possible to meet public expectation? Most of the complaints and telephone calls I received about roads needing gritting were for minor estate roads. We can't honestly expect the council to be able to hold enough grit to keep these clear, and have sufficient gritters/drivers to do so. It would double council tax.

Interestingly, and the report picks up on this, I had many more complaints when the weather first turned bad than towards the end of the period. Had conditions got better? No, probably the opposite. But people had got more used to them, and learnt to drive in them - hence the end of the "it's not like this in France/canada/norway" comments. Or perhaps it's just because I proof that it was just like this in France....

Wednesday, 26 May 2010

Can't see it myself....

The two week diversion for the aforementioned gas works will be:

The alternative route for traffic is via the B5088 Oxford Road and A565 to Congleton then north on the A34 to rejoin the A537 at Monks Heath, or vice versa.
Local traffic under 7.5 tonnes can avoid the works within the town. Through traffic and heavy goods vehicles are advised to avoid the A537 route east or west through Macclesfield and use an alternative route, if possible.
It's a long diversion. I can't see it myself. I can't help but think that those with local knowledge or SatNav may get re-routed via Ivy Lane and Ivy Road, where the weight limit is in place. I think I'm going to have to speak to the police to see if we can get some high visibility presence to avoid this.

** UPDATE **: Highways have confirmed that the No. 19 bus will be diverted via Oxford Road, Ivy Lane and Ivy Road.

Tuesday, 25 May 2010


I know that everyone is still being bothered by Gas works - especially as the ones on Chiltern Ave seem to like blocking the entire road when they're not supposed to - but I'm afraid I've got advance warning of some more.

United Utilities need to carry out some repairs to the sewers on Chester Road, and as a consequence the road will be closed from 01/06/2010 to 14/06/2010.

This is a pain in the backside for our ward, not only because it's a bit difficult for us to get anywhere, but also because a lot of people will be trying to use Ivy Lane/Ivy Road as a diversion.

The interesting thing is that these roads have a 7.5T weight limit, and this is something that the residents are very keen to keep enforced. If this route is to be the primary diversion (which I can only assume it must be, along with Victoria Road?) - then what's going to happen to the HGV's?

I've written to the highways engineers requesting more information. I'll let you know what I hear.

Friday, 14 May 2010

Happy new year....

What does the Council have in common with China?

We both like to have run to our own calendar and have out new year at seemingly inexplicable times.

Yesterday saw the start of a new year for the council (it's the year of the greasy pole climber again, apparently). This manifests itself as a full council meeting which starts at Tatton Park, in adjourned and then is finished at Congleton Town Hall the next day.

Sounds odd, but it makes a bit more sense in practice. The first part of the meeting is to elect a new mayor and is called the "Mayor Making". The election is already a done deal - the council voted last meeting to decide who the mayor should be, but the decision is ratified again at this meeting. Once elected, the new mayor is installed in due pomp and circumstance, and everybody who's anyone gets a chance to say something nice about them. The meeting is then adjourned, and everybody gets a nice buffet lunch at the taxpayer's expense. We then all go home.

The next day we arrive at Congleton Town Hall, get a nice buffet lunch at the taxpayer's expense (Yes, again. I'll come to this part in a minute....) and we hold the rest of the meeting. This is mostly procedural items to appoint a new leader, deputy leader, cabinet and chairman of committees and there isn't much to discuss.

Now, the big news is that two cabinet members have been removed (Cllrs Findlow and Silvester) in favour of two new faces (Cllrs Bailey and Gaddum). The eagle eyed among you will note that this is bringing two women into the cabinet to bring the total number of women to.....two. Although this change gets announced at the full council meeting it is for information only and we cannot debate or vote on the changes, it's completely within the gift of the leader.

I'd just like to point out that I'm not for a moment suggesting the change had been solely to bring balance into the cabinet at all. I don't know Rachel Bailey that well, but most people from Macclesfield will know Hilda Gaddum and will know that she doesn't do anything by half measures and she is there on merit. It is slightly odd that she's been given Children's Services as a portfolio when she doesn't have any experience in this area - but of anyone Hilda will be able to get her teeth into it. She's also tenacious enough to ensure that officers can't slip anything past her. I wish her and Rachel the best of luck.

Just to pop back to the lunches....nice as they were, I'm at a loss to explain why the taxpayer has to pay for lunch for two days running - especially when you consider that the meeting on the 2nd day lasted for less than half an hour. Some of the meetings go on for an age, and perhaps then it's more understandable, but it doesn't seem right when we're out of the building within 30 minutes.

Friday, 19 February 2010


Following on previous budget post, there's another interesting capital project in the works.

The council will be spending £815,000 next year to scrap the existing CCTV control rooms in Crewe and Congleton (Sandbach, actually, but serving the old borough) into Macclesfield.

I've spent time in the CCTV room in Macclesfield and was impressed by what I saw. The CCTV operators know what's going on. They know the virtual "patch". They know where to look, who to look for, and who to contact if there's a problem.

Whilst I guess there's a cost saving argument as we won't need as many staff on the go when it's all being controlled from one place, I can't help think there will be a noticeable drop in the quality of service that's delivered. And even if there is a cost saving, it'll take us 10 years to recoup what we're spending.

Common sense tells me that these operators are never going to be able to deliver the same kind of service as when they were dealing with one town only. A relationship is built between the local shop security chaps, bouncers, coppers, and CCTV operator.

This just won't be sustainable if they're dealing with a much larger area.

Thursday, 18 February 2010


You can always count on Sir Nick to say something courageous or unfortunate.


In this case it's also inaccurate as well when it comes to Councillors traveling first class.

The Council constitution states:
All Rail Travel to be booked centrally through the travel bookings system
wherever possible and second class travel to be used, unless in exceptional
circumstances where a good business case can be made for first class. Where
applicable senior rail cards to be used to reduce cost.
Personally, I've never claimed travel expenses from the Council directly be it payments for mileage or for train travel. The only time the taxpayer has funded my travel was through Connexions, when they sent me down to London to meet Prince Phillip. I traveled standard class and walked the half hour across London.

However if I'm honest I do try and travel first for business and pleasure, always by booking in advance and getting the cheapo tickets. It's nice - free paper, drinks, meal and then there was the time that I bumping into Abigail Clancy. We shared a taxi from the station (true story).

The point really is that we should be asking our public servants, be it local or national, elected or officers, to be more careful about how they book tickets. I don't care if it's first class or not, I'd rather they were all booking in advance to get the good deals.

Wednesday, 17 February 2010

IT Systems for Children

I mentioned a day or two ago about the ContactPoint system which we are spending £280k on in the next two years.

I wouldn't want you to think that this is the only IT spend in the Children's and Families budget - so I'll tell you what else there is.

Ignoring structural projects for schools, children's centres, etc, these are some of the systems also in the Child protection/social care area just for next year:

Integrated Children's Systems (ICS) - £656,000
Contact Point (already mentioned) - £231,000
Electronic Social Care Records - £250,000
PCT Access to Child protection data - £25,000

A grand total of just under £1.2 million.

As anyone who works in IT will know, a system won't provide you with a solution. It's only as good as the management structures/process/procedure around it. The drivers for these projects aren't coming internally, they're coming from central government. The overload of technology is an attempt to circumvent the need for good management, and it won't work.

As an authority, we should be pushing back against it more. But we're not - we just tend to go with the flow. It will cost us in £'s no doubt, I only hope it doesn't cost us in the quality of social care as well.

Monday, 15 February 2010

Budget Madness

Nothing brings home how futile life can be as a Councillor as the round of meetings that occur at budget time.

We haven't got to the big one yet, which is the full Council meeting, for the moment we have a round of scrutiny committees who have been asked to look at sections of the budget. The sections were given to us at very short notice and don't look anything like a budget you'd expect to get in the private sector, so it's all a bit tricky.

Theoretically at the full council meeting any Councillor can propose a change to the budget, to add/remove/increase/reduce something. Except there's no chance of this happening, because the ruling majority is too large (and some would argue that a good number of Councillors consider the few thousand bonus they get as Chairman of committees more important than listening to an argument about whether we should really be cutting Connexions funding for the 3rd year running. About £200k lost this year.)

Of course what they'll actually say is that they don't think changes should be considered at Council when the thing has been adequately scrutinized in advance. Which to a great extent is true.

Or is it?

Firstly, from an day to day expenditure point of view, the information we have is minimal. I have no idea what the Children's and Families stationary budget for the year is, so I'd have no chance of reducing the number of pencils they all take home. (Not that I should really care about looking into things at this resolution). Consider all those aspects unscrutinized.

The information we have about the capital spend is much better, but it still seems that nothing can be done about each item.

For example, we are down to spend £280,000 next year on the next stages on ContactPoint. This is a computer database which will hold details of every Child in Britain. It's intention is to protect Children from harm, but why this couldn't be better achieved by having a database of Children at risk rather than collecting arbitrary information about every boy and girl I don't know.

More criticism here:

Oddly, Cheshire East has become a pilot for this scheme and that is why the money will be spent. I say oddly, because the Conservative oppose ContactPoint and will be scrapping the scheme should they win the election next year. Therefore it's a mystery to me why the Conservative controlled Council has got involved in it.

So why spend this money if the plug may be pulled next year? Rather than spending money on technology and administration that won't actually help anybody, why don't we give it to an organisation that actually does improve outcomes for Children. Of course I'm actually talking about the aforementioned Connexions again.

I couldn't get an answer out of anyone for that. All I was told when I suggested we didn't spend anymore was that we had to because it's a mandatory scheme. (Except it seems that it's not).

So given my experience, I don't consider the budget has been scrutinised in advance, and that's a very worrying thought.

Friday, 12 February 2010

Barnaby - save the date(s).

As the observant of you will already know, plans are afoot to resurrect the tradition of the Barnaby Festival in Macclesfield. Thank those crazy kids at the loop, lord knows where we'd be without them.

It will be held on 18th to 20th June this year. Put the date in your diaries, it's not one that you'll want to miss. The weekend will showcase local arts, and the highlight will be a parade through town on the theme of "Made in Macclesfield".

To whet your appetites, the following was read at the launch event today (Friday 12th).

Barnaby bright, Barnaby bright,
Light all day and light all night.

Barnaby laugh, Barnaby play,
Dance all night and dance all day.

Barnaby summer, Barnaby sing,
Barnaby bebop, Barnaby swing.

Barnaby old, Barnaby young,
Barnaby family, Barnaby fun.

Barnaby boy, Barnaby girl,
Barnaby knit, Barnaby purl.

Barnaby market, Barnaby shops,
Barnaby barley, Barnaby hops.

Barnaby sup, Barnaby eat,
Barnaby mingle, Barnaby meet.

Barnaby magic, Barnaby Macc,
Barnaby's ours. Barnaby's back.

Wednesday, 10 February 2010

Macc Express to move again?

It seems that Macc Express are to move again from their current location in the centre of Manchester (although most of them seem to spend 90% of their time writing copy up in Macclesfield's costa coffee) - to who knows where:


How are the Council supposed to be held to account if the people that do that spend all their time packing and unpacking crates?

Monday, 25 January 2010


Just about to leave for the council meeting (assuming the gas men decide to let me out of my drive), but I'll leave you with some food for thought.

The chap who killed Maxonian Neil McDonald has been sentenced to a measly five years.


I accept the decision to prosecute for manslaughter, although many will argue that he intentionally used violence and therefore was aware of the potential consequences.

But what really took me back was Cunningham's history.

Cunningham had convictions for six other violent offences from street robberies as a youth, to affray, possession of a firearm and making threats to kill in 2000 for which he got seven years.

In 2008 he was given 17months in jail after he was convicted of assaulting his ex-girlfriend by dragging her and punching her to the floor.

This chap isn't going to be reformed by another sentence. It's clear he'll offend again.

Lock him up for life.

Wednesday, 20 January 2010

Is it just my sense of humour, or...

Market Traders in Crewe have been temporarily moved to a new home whilst work is carried out to provide them with new facilities. Cheshire East have been quick to capitalise on publicity for this story, which is quite right because we all like a bit of good news.

So they've sent out a snapshot:

Pictured are some of the traders from Wayne Walker meat, a fruit and veg and a knitwear stall.

Now is it just my twisted sense of humour, or does anyone else find it quite funny that they're celebrating with a glass of Tesco's Finest champange?

You know, Tesco's. The people putting all the market traders out of business....

We're famous!

It seems that Councillors and officers from Chorley are to make a fact finding trip to Macclesfield to see how we're beating the recession*:


At least if nothing else, we'll take their cash for car parking.

( * no recession in coffee traders today....had to wait to get a seat).

Police(ing) Dogging

First of all, let me assure you that this post is a matter of Political point and not personal persuasion. I don't want any nasty rumours starting in the Macclesfield Express.

I got a call from a constituent last week, who'd had an interesting experience whilst on the way home. He'd been driving down Congleton Road when his phone rang, and being a good boy and not wanting to get a ticket for driving on the blower, he pulled into one the lay-bys to answer his phone.

Shortly after this he was approached by a couple of the Cheshire East community wardens. These are not the police, they are not PCSO's, they are council employees with the power to issue tickets for dog fouling, littering and other similar offences.

They informed him that there had been reports of lewd activity in the lay-by, and in light of this they were patrolling the area. They wanted to know what his reason was for being there and said that if they didn't think his reasons were genuine his number plate would be logged on a database and the registered keeper would be informed by post. You see....they thought he was after a blower of a different type.

Now....I must add at this point that I've been talking to the council officer responsible for this area, and they have reassured me that there is no database and no letters will be sent. I'm not sure where this part of the story arises from, but it still raises some interesting questions.

The council, including community wardens, have no business policing lay-bys. The police have an interest in matters of indecency, but if no criminal offence has taken place, or about to take place, then it really is no-ones business but the individuals involved. We are all aware of the kind of activities that do occur in such places, but however odd and strange we may find it, it really is none of our business unless someone has broken the law.

It is certainly not where the wardens, who are paid for by the tax-payers, should be diverting their efforts.

I am also very uncomfortable at the idea of a warden, who has no formal legal qualification, thinking they have the power to decide if an individual has right to be in a location. If I was asked similar questions by a warden I'm afraid to say that I would dispatch them in no uncertain terms to go an mind their own business.

Quite clearly, it would be completely unacceptable for us to log a database of such occurrences, or to send letters. Someone may have a perfectly good reason for being in the lay-by (as in this case), and yet they may refuse to tell the warden why (as I've suggested I would personally do). In this case, a letter could be sent which then could cause the owner significant problems back at home when their wife/daughter/mother read the letter.

So whilst I've been promised that there is no log of number plates, I've written to the cabinet member who is responsible for wardens to ensure that this will always be the case. Hopefully then the wardens can get back to making sure that everyone clears up after their dogs, which is what I want them to do.

Tuesday, 19 January 2010

Communication, when it matters.

Now that the snow and ice has mostly cleared (I've just got one lonely and miserable looking patch on the lawn), there are two noticeable things it has left us with.

The first is potholes, and the second is rubbish.

As you're no doubt aware, freezing temperatures cause havoc with the roads. This is especially true when the roads are wet (like with snow) because moisture gets into cracks, freezes and expands, pushing the surface apart.

These are popping up all over Macclesfield, like an outbreak on an adolescent's face, and the council want and need to fix them. But they need your help in locating them. Without knowing where they are, they can't be fixed. Obviously.

So if you come across one, please log it on the joint highways site here:

This portal is very easy to use, and can be used for logging other defects such as broken street lights.

With regards to rubbish, hopefully everyone's bins are being collected as normal now, and the backlog has been dealt with. By all accounts the waste collection teams did an excellent job at clearing up the mess - especially as wheelie bins were overflowing.

On the whole I don't think there are many people that will complain too much about the backlog stacking up. It was clear that the weather was extreme and this gave the refuse collection teams serious problem. (I'm sure this post will bring some of them out of the woodwork screaming "It's not good enough....I pay my council tax...etc"). But come on, lets be reasonable.

But what wasn't good enough was that the communication from the Council. People didn't know when their bins were to be collected. They didn't know what recycling would be taken. So most people left everything on the kerb for two weeks in the hope that they'd come home from work and it would all be gone.

In fact, some of my friends and neighbours had rung the council, but they were given no more information than we already knew. Which was nothing.

Radio Presenter Heidi Reid hammered this point home as we discussed the weather outside the Council HQ in Sandbach. She suggested that the council should have had a constantly updating section of the website during the crisis period detailing which streets would be collected on what day. I think this is an excellent idea, and technically very easy.

Luckily, just as we were getting to the meaty bit John Nicholson happened to walk past - who is the head of service dealing with roads and rubbish. Undoubtedly he can't have been too excited about the prospect of a Councillor and Radio presenter tag team just before he made it back to the office with a nice sandwich, but he was very helpful and said that communications would be improved in the future.

I have often been critical of the Cheshire East communications department in the past. Mostly because I think they send out too many press releases about things that don't matter, and because of the communication protocol which went a little bit too far. Over the period of bad weather they did some excellent work, with regular updates as to what the gritters were doing and how passable the roads were.

But something needs to be done to ensure a better link between them and the people in the waste department that know which roads are being collected when. Perhaps this means splitting the communications department apart and embedding staff in the relevant departments. That would be quite a nice way to destroy the PR empire as well...

Wednesday, 13 January 2010

Why is rocksalt brown?

A couple of weeks back I posted a link to the Cheshire East gritting page. (http://www.cheshireeast.gov.uk/transport_and_travel/highways_and_roads/gritting.aspx)

I got sent this by a friend who read the post:
"I like the bit about rocksalt, which pulls you in by asking you if you've ever wondered why it's brown, then teases you with a link to the frequently asked questions page. Which says nothing about why it's brown."
And he's right. The page says:
Ever wondered why it's brown? Find out on our Frequently Asked Questions page!
When you follow the link it says nothing about rocksalt at all.

Nice to know it's all been proof read.

Anyway - I've search the internet and can't seem to find a definitive answer. By it's nature I wouldn't expect rocksalt to be white, but I don't know why it's brown.

Does anyone know?

Tuesday, 12 January 2010

David Brickhill Resigns

I received an email from the leader today saying the following:
It is with regret that I announce that Councillor David Brickhill has tendered his resignation from Cheshire East Council’s Cabinet, because of health reasons.
This has also been reported on the Crewe Chronicle website.

Wesley continues with the following...
I am delighted that a colleague of his experience will continue to serve Cheshire East and look forward to his return in good health and able to shoulder new responsibilities as opportunities present themselves.

I would like to thank David for the contribution he has made during the Council’s challenging period of transition. His efforts have always been wholehearted and he has applied himself conscientiously at all times.

I echo these comments and wish David all the best. I hope that he makes it back to full health quickly.

However, it is painfully obvious that some will say his resignation is not due to health at all, and is actually due to the current crisis surrounding the implementation of parking charges in Congleton. As I've said it would all along, this is causing a riot in Congleton and many have focussed on David as the source of these problems.

This came to a head recently with an article in the Congleton Chronicle which had gained access to some of David's responses on the subject. Some details here: http://www.chronicleseries.com/article.asp?id=1925

I think this is a bit unfair. Aside from the local ward members who are trying to keep on the right side of the local voters, many Councillors would have done the same thing. Personally, I certainly would be looking to harmonise parking, although my preference would be to offer similar free parking in the others towns rather than charging for Congleton. This would obviously be conditional on plugging the gap in the finances.

Anyway. I'll be interested to see who Wesley asks to fill the post. With the gritters on the road 24/7 and a huge increase in the number of Potholes due to the inclement weather, this is one of the most critical cabinet positions at present.


I've had a fair few emails and phone calls about gritters over the last three weeks, as you can well imagine.

It's a difficult situation, because we need to ensure that roads are treated as swiftly as possible to keep them safe and keep everything moving. However, we only have a finite capacity and unless everyone wants to double their council tax in order to have extra gritters sitting around doing nothing for ten years until the next snap comes along, we all have to deal with the fact that not all of the roads will get done. The council is very careful to prioritise the roads that are important and on the whole I think they've done a good job.

However there are some other complications as well. Salt only works well down to -5, at which point it is normally better to leave the snow on the road. Salting roads if the temperature is due to drop can be dangerous, as rather than having snow on the road you'll end up with black ice as the snow melts and then refreezes.

The other problem is that snowfall washes the salt away. Roads are designed to channel water down the drain, and as the salt melts falling snow it will get washed away with the water. Therefore we have to keep gritting - which is why over the last few weeks we've picked the important roads and just kept going at them time and again.

But many people and are still not happy, and every other day someone is saying to me "It's not like this in "France/Sweden/Canada" when it snows.

I have to tell them, as politely as possible, that I know it is. I know it is because the physics that I've just described is the same there, and I know it is because I've seen it myself.

But people still don't believe me, so I took a photo last week of the main road of the town I was staying in in France:

You see they just don't even bother trying to clear it. Everyone drives on the snow, carefully, and everything is alright. Until a Brit comes along revving, heavy braking, etc, and generally causing chaos it all works fine.

Monday, 11 January 2010

Back in blighty

It all seemed so easy...

You know how Christmas is - lots of family to see and very little time to do it. This year my wife and I planned an epic Christmas trip, which involved seeing my family in Wales, her family in the South and then spending new year with her Sister in France, and then a few extra days skiing.

It all went quite well too. Granted the weather challenged us at every turn. The M50 got very dicey on the way to Wales and I had to do a fair amount of pushing to get the car up the hill to my sister's house. But after that it all went quite smoothly. Until last Thursday, the day we were supposed to fly home.

I won't bore you with the whole story, mostly to save Easyjet's blushes, suffice to say we were expecting to be home on Thursday and we actually got back at 2.30am this morning. Lots of very strange things happened over the last couple of days - but nothing quite as strange as being on the Easyjet ghost flight EZY9558 that didn't actually exist. We had boarding cards listing our destination as "Dummy City" which completely threw the guys at security, our bags were tagging with the destination "XXX" and we had a pilot who was very excited about the whole affair, right up until the point he accidentally set off one of the emergency slides.

Honestly, it's all true.

Then to cap it off I got home to find that even though I'd left the heating on low a pipe in the heating system had burst due to the cold and the whole house was freezing with no prospect of heating up.

Anyway, I'm back now and it's a new year. Wooohooo.

Sunday, 3 January 2010

Advance Notice - Silk Road Roadworks

There are currently proposals for roadworks at the Tesco Roundabout. Although most of the work will be carried out at night these are still going to cause some disruption - but the work is required, especially the high friction surface on the road as I have noticed this junction to be particularly poor.

More info:

A537 HIBLE ROAD / A523 SILK ROAD / B5470 (Roundabout Resurfacing and Road Marking Works)

Proposed Roadwork’s Friday 5th March 2010 for upto 2 weeks

As the Highway Authority, Cheshire East Council is carrying out necessary highway safety improvement works at the Roundabout of the A537 and A523 and B5470.

The works will include resurfacing of the approaches and the gyratory with high friction HRA, road markings and associated works. The highway improvements will be carried out by ‘BAM Nuttall’ who are provisionally programmed to commence work on site on Friday 5th March 2010.

Proposed Traffic Management

It is anticipated that the roundabout and approaches / exits will be closed on Friday / Saturday night and all day Sunday to enable works on the gyratory. It is also anticipated that the approach arms will be closed for 2 nights for the A523 approaches and Two nights for the A537 and B5470 approaches with a further night closure for resurfacing of the A523 Northern exit .

Diversion Route

Diversion routes will be in place and are provisionally A536 Park St. A538 Churchill Way A537 Hibel Road, A538 Beech Lane and Manchester Road, B5091 London Road. And Fence Avenue, A537 Buxton Road, A523 Silk Road, A536 Park Street, A538 Churchill Way A537 Hible Road.

Friday, 1 January 2010

Happy New Year

Happy new year everyone. I hope that you've enjoyed the Christmas break and are feeling refreshed and re-invigorated for a successful year.

It's difficult for me to say what the next year will bring - it'll be my last year before having to decide if I want to stand for re-election. Therefore I'll be trying to make a bit more progress with making the Council more open and accessible as a political body as this was one of the things I was most concerned about before I was a Councillor.

Personally I'll have to do a little bit more work to make sure all the bills get paid. I sacrificed this a bit last year and can't afford to do it again. I also want to lose a little bit more weight and will be entering a few endurance competitions over the year.

I've a few other "resolutions" but I'll keep them to myself for now.

How about you?