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

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?