Sunday, December 17, 2017

Those pesky CWaC Tory straws

Bet you're thinking "why has Winsfords only elected Tory (at the moment) written that headline"? Fair point, I could have written "Labour really don't like letting us speak" or "the Labour Chairman runs the council like a feifdom" but you've possibly heard all of that in my previous blogs.

The real reason for writing that headline will become all to apparent as you read - providing you feel inclined to do so given the obvious lack of respect I will give any reader of this blog (that one only applies to self indignant socialists mostly).

Lets start then, I'm sitting here enjoying a beverage not held in a plastic container and certainly not being drunk through a plastic straw as in the last Council meeting of 2017 it was my pleasure to second a motion for the Council to encourage business and in the borough to stop using plastic drinking straws. Admittedly, this stemmed from a petition in Chester supported by Chester Conservatives but it was a motion without political motivation, designed to highlight a growing and massive problem that has a global reach and will affect our future generations in unimaginable ways.

So, the motion was raised after the founder of the petition (Dr Christian Dunn) had spoken earlier in the public speaker part of the agenda (and he didn't even get interrupted by the Chairman!!) and had indicated that any political party could support this or other campaigns along this theme (by the way he spoke really well).

And then it came - the politically motivated, designed to make a grandstand against the government, lets stop the CWaC Tories getting any airtime and wholly unnecessary amendment by CWaC Labour. Brought forward by our very own "frackers charter author" Cllr Matt Bryan. You know the one....often in the Chester papers about a year or two back.....

However, anyone is allowed to make an amendment, except this one was really only brought to give Cllr Bryan and no doubt his political masters a platform to drone on about issues which has literally nothing to do with straws or plastic or recycling. In fact, after a challenge (as the "fair and respectful" Chairman was clearly enjoying his performance) by Cllr Anderson via a point of order the Cllr for Fracking (sorry, Upton - where he is considerably outperformed by the Tory Cllr Houlbrook) continued his tirade of unrelated topics. The Chairman steps in again, this time on his own rare  initiative and finally switches the Corbyn stuck record to the "off" position.

So no politically motivated and disrespectful treatment by CWaC Labour there then eh?  Amendment won, Tories lose but at least we have the straws issue firmly in the picture and hopefully the Labour Council will actually do something other than draft "another" strongly worded letter to the Government (it feels like half our Council Tax increase last year was so the CWaC Labour could afford more stationary to send a lot of those letters......).

Well from there it could only get more entertaining couldn't it? After Cllr Anderson raised another point of order - asking the monitoring to offer advice to Cllrs over bringing motions to Council which would be beneficial to Unions and therefore beneficial to Cllrs who received support off Unions - the totally respectful and overly fair and completely apolitical Chairman (who coincidentally states "I intend to vote" and then votes for every Labour item) actually said "...stick to your day job" to Cllr Anderson.

And later came my own Notice of Motion - not surprisingly described as "horrible" by Cllrs Shouty & Co. from the red side of the chamber but hey, I'm not gonna lose any hair over that any day soon - which highlighted the lack of accountability of the Council, its Leader and its meetings.

I must admit, I was a little surprised when the reds agreed to debate it, no doubt in indignation that anyone could or indeed would question or oppose all the brilliant things they have done (ahem!) such as removing free after three in Chester, introducing car parking charges elsewhere, their success in Barons Quay in Northwich, the G+T fiasco, their action on Winnington Bridge, the Ampitheatre in Chester and their supreme desire to answer all the questions and supplemental questions asked of them at Council etc. etc.

I started by saying that I thought it odd that during the last few Council meetings a lowly Ward member (me) had spoken more times than the Leader of the Council, that the Leader actually spoke a lot in Cabinet meetings but usually to introduce other speakers and that there were on-line "debates" where the Cabinet members out numbered the audience.

An offer to withdraw the motion was made if the Leader would action some items, such as the set-up and offer dates meetings off cross-party working groups and to get a report back from the group working on the Council Agenda protocol by the end of January. No such agreement came and the motion was seconded.

The brunt of the argument from Cllrs Shouty & Co. was that:-
during the previous administration the constitution was set up in the maner it now finds itself: Agreed
that the group meeting to discuss the council Agenda order had already met: Agreed
that the critiscism was unfair because the administration was already completely open and fair: er...ummm..er...
that the motion was only brought forward by a "tiny but noisy minority": Agreed - there were two of us raising the motion but of course the Tory group has many times highlighted the lack of time given to answering questions by the Administration.
that there was indeed plenty of times to ask questions during Cabinet meetings and Scrutiny meetings and that I should attend those meetings to ask those questions rather than making the point at full council: Oh boy... I was embarrassed to have to actually point out to the good and yet lamentable Cllr who raised this point that I actually sit on Scrutiny and ask lots of questions. Now who was the one not paying attention??

The crux of the matter is as follows, CWaC Labour do not like opposition, do not like being criticised for the Nirvana that they believe that have reached while in power and don't like anyone pointing it out that they are consistently not achieving their own goals, not showing much innovation and take little action while not actually putting themselves in a position to be accountable. Their answer is simple - it's everyone else's fault and we will treat everyone else like we think we have been treated because we can.

I think of them as the villain at the end of the much loved cartoon series starring a friendly dog.....

"We've been caught with no ideas (except raising taxes), the borough falling apart around us and treating everyone with absolutely no respect...........and we would have got away with it if it wasn't for you pesky Tories"

Enjoy your holidays with your families and friends - if you get a minute watch the Council Webcast

https://cheshirewestandchester.public-i.tv/core/portal/webcast_interactive/318392

P.S. I'm taking bets on how much Council Tax goes up next year in Winsford, looks like an accumulator bet with a Labour CWaC, Labour Town Council and Labour PCC all in the running.









Friday, September 15, 2017

Dear Labour, if you're not too tired or fed up....Can I ask a question please?

I like asking questions....call it nosy, call it a desire to learn, call it whatever you want (just be civil) but I really like asking questions. Most revolve around the daily chores, figuring out what the kids are up to or what I have forgotten to do now.

As a councillor, I sit on a scrutiny committee and really enjoy asking questions there especially when another complex or critical issue comes up. I feel that by asking questions we can make informed decisions and help our residents understand why those decisions are made.By asking those questions I can arrive at a decision to support or not the CWaC labour administration in achieving their statutory responsibilities and aims.

Ok...you get it, I like asking questions. I'll get on with the point of this now before you stop reading and muttering comments such as "I'm fed up now".

So, at full council meetings we are asked/allowed/able to ask questions of the Cabinet Members of the Labour administration - questions which are recorded, minuted and available for all to see (there are some die-hards out there who apparently watch the council webcasts). When the question is answered, we then get to ask a follow up question - this is called a supplementary and I'll get back to this later.....

The questions have to be submitted a few days in advance and they are answered towards the end of the council meeting if only there is time to do so. Maybe not all will be read, maybe none if the schedule is full or all the allotted time is taken. All of this is covered in the constitution.

The opportunity to ask a question is important, given that we only meet at full Council 6 times a year ( and one of those is mostly ceremonial) it is a chance of members of all political parties to "nail down" the cabinet members on important topics and get them to take some form of accountability.

Hope you are still with me.....maybe you are a bit tired by now.....

Remember the bit about all the allotted time being taken? Well, turns out that there's been a lot of that happening at our council meetings. Many of you will use the "old ones are the best ones" answer for that - you know, politicians like to hear their own voices, blowing hot air etc. but really, there has been a LOT of time taken up in the meetings, time talking about issues which CWaC cant do much about and only result in strongly worded letters being drafted to government ministers who reply with a "thanks" or "noted".

So when after three or four council meetings in a row where maybe one or two questions are actually asked out of maybe twenty or so submitted at each meeting, the conservative team start to voice disquiet at the intentional tactic Labour are deploying in order for us NOT to ask difficult questions (I haven't been able to find out where that lies on the "respect" agenda) and ask for more time at the July Council meeting.....the reply was both informative and shocking.

The best way I can show you this is via video (from the July Council Webcast) and it details what our Council Chairman replied to our request to actually get more time to answer the questions (22 were submitted, 1 was answered on the night). There were other comments from other Cllrs so please make sure you watch the whole section of the webcast (via the CWaC website)


Now I have tried to be fair in that there is some explanation of the process given in the video and the Chairman is factually correct on his comments about the constitution and the previous changes made but for any Chairman of CWaC to state "when I get tired or fed up I can say we've had enough of doing that" that does not strike me as being fully respectful to CWaC residents, especially those who, like me "like to ask questions". After all, these questions come from residents and are important to residents (as are the answers).

As you know I like to ask questions....here is one or two for you...what exactly are Labour scared of? Why don't they like being asked questions? Too difficult? Here are my two two pennies.....The questions submitted are often answered with help and direction from council officers, service chiefs and dept heads etc. (makes sense to me because often details such as costs, timings etc are asked).

If the questions are answered in Council, the asking Cllr can pose a supplemental question....remember this? the follow up which can be harder to answer than the original question and must require the person asked to be "on top of their game".

If the questions are not answered in Council, the supplemental must be written and can take a very long time to be returned and appear to be once again answered with help from the officers.

Next time I'm fed up or tired sitting to another Labour "rant to the world because I'll prove to the unions that I look good" motion in Council, I'll be dreaming "can I ask a question......please?"






Finally...the questions I submitted for July 2017 meeting (not answered on the night)

Question 6 From Councillor Michael Baynham to Councillor Angela Claydon, Cabinet Member for Housing
Could the Cabinet member for housing please inform members that after the WYG report into the provision of Gypsy and Traveller permanent site highlighted a severe shortfall in the number of permanent pitches required by the council for Gypsy and travellers, why permanent pitches at Barlow Drive, Winsford allowed to be allocated to Travellers from outside the local area and without a local connection to the Borough, leading to this site meeting needs from surrounding authorities rather than those of CWaC?
Answer 6 The council has a legal obligation to have an allocation policy for the pitches on the sites under their management, this should reflect as closely as possible the local housing allocation policy. The policy it adopted uses a banding system to allocate pitches, from a band a to a band D o Band A prioritising those with a local connection threatened with homelessness – this covers those living on the sites in the greenbelt o Both band B and C have a local connection o Band D allows those who do not have a local connection to apply. The reason why we have to have the fourth banding with no local connection is due to a high court case decision in North Somerset. This stated that the authority could not disqualify Gypsies and Travellers from applying for its accommodation due to them not having a local connection, as they are transient, therefore will not be able to have a local connection. If the families from the sites in the greenbelt had applied for pitches they would have in all likelihood been allocated a pitch, as they could prove they had a local connection. Unfortunately no applications were received, despite the council proactively encouraging applications by contacting all families and visiting the sites.
 Supplementary question 6 
What evidence is there to support any further G+T permanent sites in the Winsford area when the council has not been able to relocate those from greenbelt land and who may have already been served eviction notices, given that they have already refused to move to this site?
Supplementary answer 6 The level of site provision required in the Borough and in Winsford has been independently assessed through the Gypsy and Traveller Accommodation Assessment and the Council is required to have a 5 year land supply of G&T sites. It is suggested that future site provision may consist of smaller family sites leased to individual households, which will complement the existing supply of affordable, public operated sites.

Question 7 From Councillor Michael Baynham to Councillor Brian Clarke, Cabinet Member for Economic Development & Infrastructure 
Given that the WYG report on Gypsy and Traveller provision for CWaC has been effectively proven to be of little value and that we are still awaiting final decisions from that report which affects our residents, could the Cabinet member for Economic Development please provide a full breakdown of costs accrued while working on Gypsy and Traveller provision, including the original costs to consultants WYG plus any costs for officers time, any associated expenses and costs of any time spent on redrafting of reports since the announcement of the WYG report at the LPWG on April 25th 2016 and up until July 20th 2017 ?
Answer 7 The cost of the WYG study was £24,734. It is not possible to quantify Officers time as developing planning policies, including for the provision of Gypsy and Traveller and Travelling Showpersons accommodation, is part of the statutory requirement of the Council as Local Planning Authority to produce an up-to-date and robust development plan. This is business as usual and officer time is not attributed to one particular area of policy preparation.

Friday, July 14, 2017

Let's talk? - only if Labour say we can

The disaster at Hillsborough has struck us all as a nation. The families of those who died and were affected are a proven testament to how to behave with dignity and poise when faced with great adversity and in the face of some of the worst injustices in living memory. We all feel for their loss and support them in their battles to get their story heard correctly and definitively. To have to read false and untrue stories in the press while dealing with lives torn apart by tragedy is also something we can all hope we never have to deal with as did those grieving families, some of which come from our borough.

That we should not make political capital out of such a tragedy should be a given, there is no need and it stoops us to the level of those we detest most. 

As a CWaC Councillor, I received the latest Agenda for the full council meeting of July 20th 2017 and cast my eye through the items, stopping at the following:-


Agenda Item 8  NOTICE OF MOTION - Hillsborough and Support for Residents
To consider the following Notice of Motion, proposed by Councillor Paul Donovan and seconded by Councillor Richard Beacham. On April 15th 1989 crowd control mismanagement at Hillsborough stadium in Sheffield led to the deaths of 96 innocent football fans. Men, women and children whose ages ranged from 10 to 67 including James Delaney (19) Jimmy Hennessy (29) Chris Edwards (29) Jonathon Owens (18) and Henry Rodgers (17) from our Borough. 4 This Council has supported the families of the 96 victims in their tireless campaign for justice. On April 26th 2016 a jury returned verdicts of unlawful killing in relation to each victim. Cheshire West and Chester Council praises the dignity and courage displayed by families and deplores the behaviour of some in positions of responsibility and public trust. This Council recognises and will not forget the hurt and distress caused to the families and friends of the 96 during this period, not least in part due to lies and slurs published in a British national newspaper.

As such, Cheshire West and Chester Council;-

Will support all local vendors who choose to stop selling The S*n newspaper.

Ensure that elected Members and staff do not advertise or give interviews to The S*n newspaper.


Supports any reasonable and lawful campaign that raises awareness of proven injustice and/or lies in regard to the events at Hillsborough or elsewhere

For the record, I fully support the first paragraph of the Notice of Motion (NOM) and have nothing further to add to it.

The second part, the action part, simply took my breath away.

Now I do not buy The S*n, I do not read it and I have never been interviewed by it. For reference, I also don't buy the Socialist W*rker or the M*rror.

So if a particular shopkeeper wanted to stop selling The S*n newspaper then I cannot stop them, neither could you or anyone else. 

But if a shop keeper wanted to keep selling The S*n and this NOM was passed, what would "not supporting" shopkeepers look like? Would it mean a little visit from some friendly momentum members reminding them of their civic duties? 

Ok - maybe that isn't going to happen but how will CWaC "Ensure elected members....do not...give interviews to The S*n newspaper". 

As an elected member (a Councillor in layman's terms) who stands for freedom of speech and freedom of choice, I am justifiably concerned by this statement. 

Red states all over the world have histories full of incidents where speech is controlled and directives dictated. That a Labour run Council has the audacity to attempt to stifle free speech in this manner should tell us all about who is really in charge and what their ultimate end game is. 

This is a political game for Labour, driven by the tit-for-tat nasty politics of the left. Corbyn was blasted by The S*n so now he gets his army to give them a kick but in doing so, crosses a line of decency and respect. Now CWaC Labour want us to be silent.

So, for those of you who have Labour Councillors in your area - please write to them asking not to support this. I suspect they wont listen, because if they don't tow the party line they will likely be deselected in the Labour new world order of things.

I for one wont be silenced - after all, what will they be able to do? whatever it will be, it'll be no hardship compared to some.

*updated to reflect that I do not wish to cause offence (Intentional or otherwise) to the victims of the Hillsborough disaster. 

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

What price to shop in CWaC?


I try to always start these blogs with things that I like. However, like many people I know, shopping isn't one of them. The dawn of internet shopping hasn't made that particular hobby any more interesting for me but every now and then when the mood strikes me I really do like to go to a town and peruse the offers and stroll the pavement looking for the items I want.

It normally doesn't take me too long, I go armed with a list or have already pretty much decided what I want to buy - if I impulse buy I usually spend to much money and then am spending the next few days time justifying the purchase to my understandably annoyed wife.

Whether I am in a minority or a majority is unclear but there are many people who wish or need to go to the shops and for those who want to (or must do) the issue of parking (fees, no fees, Badges, schemes, parks, drop off zones, waiting zones etc.) can be a very big concern.

We are very lucky in CWaC as many of our towns have free parking or can offer such great incentives like "free after three" which allows the afternoon/evening economy to thrive without taking away the income required to maintain car parks in those areas where charges exist.

OK - so what? Why am I tattling on about Car Parks - obviously not the most interesting topic in the western world is it?

Well - perhaps it should be, especially for us lucky people who live in Winsford. You know, the town that as yet does not have the super deluxe shopping centre to which many would love to spend their afternoons and evenings at.

What do we do when we want to "go to the shops"? I suspect a lot of us drive off to Northwich, to gaze in admiration at the newly developed Barons Quay and stand in awe. Perhaps we go to the cinema or coffee shops or other fine, new establishments?  What would you say that it's going to start costing you to park in Northwich (currently it's free) after the Labour run CWaC council introduce parking charges?

I'm hearing the headlines now "Winsford residents taxed for not having a new shopping centre" because whichever way we look at it, that is what it effectively is if we decided to leave Winsford and go to Northwich, Chester* or indeed Ellesmere Port* to do a bit of shopping.

*With removal of "free after three"

"They're not going to introduce charges in Winsford are they?" I hear you scream. Thankfully not, thankfully not YET anyway is the answer. But if they are willing to introduce those charges now into Northwich, while the development is finding its feet and struggling to secure enough footfall without charges, what will it do to the rest of the plans, which are already faltering under labour? Will it really encourage more businesses to set up in Northwich or elsewhere?

OK - this might mean a windfall for us in Winsford because maybe, just maybe, those companies will want to set up here, as we will look attractive without those charges. In the detail, Labour have already own-goaled that idea as they have declared a desire to start charging as soon as possible.

What else was in that report? A lorry park in Winsford, more parking for the old high street.....truly excellent ideas that have my support. Getting Labour to deliver them is a bit more tricky, they've been slated as "medium" term , which to you or me means 5 - 10 years. So, charges now on shopping in other towns but 5 years before we get anything back. Starting to sound the complete opposite of a magic money tree, eh Mr Corbyn?

Thankfully, within CWaC we have something called scrutiny and we exercise the right to scrutinise reports and decisions which affect the residents of this borough (the type of things we Councillors do that doesn't really get seen by residents). The draft borough-wide parking strategy was scrutinised last night (19th June) in a marathon 4 hour meeting held at HQ in Chester.

Labour normally get these items through with a few recommendations and their usually poorly thought out strategies and pet projects continue along unabated as they have the majority on the council and therefore have a majority on every committee, including the scrutiny ones. Perhaps now you see why we in opposition keep a keen eye on events such as councillors who get pulled up for poor behaviour in Chester night clubs.The balance of power is a fine indeed within CWaC.

But last night was different.....for such important and contentious issues such as parking, Labour didn't have a majority present. I wont get into that as there may have been a perfectly good reason for it. What is probably worth a mention is that Cabinet Member for Economic Development wasn't there...Really? Given that car parking charges might have a direct economic consequence?

Thankfully we Tories could see that if you are going to bring in any charges, then you had better take a good look at the economic impact first.We voted for and indeed passed a recommendation that a full economic assessment be done before any decisions be made. We consider this as simple economics, although Labour keep failing to grasp this.

No doubt Labour will make a hullabaloo about this recommendation being above and beyond what was asked of the scrutiny committee. Of course they would, as they were the ones who asked the scrutiny committee narrow and specific questions. We Tories think somewhat different and feel it a duty to point out to Cabinet (where the report goes) if we feel a mistake is being made.

The Cabinet Member for Environment (Cllr Shore) has to decide whether she accepts the recommendation from Scrutiny when recommending (or not) implementing parking charges. You can find her already clear answers in the webcast to decide whether she is for or against.

https://cheshirewestandchester.public-i.tv/core/portal/webcast_interactive/287827  

For Labour, introducing parking charges will not be a popular decision. We Conservatives have urged them to consider taking all aspects into account first, a first impression is that, as usual, they have not.

Until then, enjoy your Saturday afternoons - wherever you shop.
  







Thursday, May 18, 2017

Karma Comedians? All hail the new Mayor

They say a day is a long time in politics, yet this last year seems like no time at all.


Now before I start on what is behind that particular comment, I want to state (For the Record) that this particular blog is not making any comment on the capability or ability of our new Mayor, Deputy Mayor or any member of the highly esteemed Winsford Town Council (Labour 10, Lib Dems 5).

With that on the record, a year ago, I went along to the annual AGM of the said Winsford Town Council (WTC) to watch the making of the new Mayor after the then current Mayor, Cllr Ailsa Gaskill-Jones, stood down after a successful year in office. Winsford has a "Mayoral Convention" which means that the Mayor is chosen based on standing and seniority and this means that the Mayor does not always come from the ruling party. A fair and equitable, perhaps indeed a noble act for our venerable town council.

Therefore, we were expecting to see the Elder Statesmen of the council, Cllr Malcolm Gaskill, rightly take over as the Mayor of Winsford. It has been clear for a long time that our Labour group have not seen eye to eye with Cllr Gaskill, it could be argued that not many people do but that is perhaps for more discussion in a later blog. To say "they were not getting on very well" would be quite the understatement for those of us who take the time to visit the WTC meetings.

Add into this mix the fact that a new Town Clerk had just been appointed after the long standing and excellent Alan Warburton headed off into retirement. The new Town Clerk (Mark Bailey) came with many years of experience in the public sector and with a glowing reputation. During this last year he has in my opinion been proven to be a first class choice to take over from Alan.

So, back to the meeting a year ago then.....Labour proposed to suspend the Mayoral Conventions for a period of three years. After a heated discussion, this was passed by a Labour majority.

Why? It's the question that has never adequately answered then or ever since. The "reason" given was that the new Clerk needed time to settle in and gain experience of the role. Understandable, I guess, except that if that were indeed the case, why was he appointed in the first place? Labour held the majority on the selection committee after all. Did they appoint the wrong person, even after telling us the new Clerk had loads of experience and was the right man for the job?

Or was it more likely that Labour simply did not want Cllr Malcolm Gaskill to be the Mayor. Did they fear him getting more press coverage then them? Or again is it more likely that Labour simply do not like any kind of opposition, as we have seen at CWaC.

Either way, it doesn't show Labour in a good light, either being incompetent in appointing the right town Clerk or petty and disrespectful in how they have treated the next Mayoral candidate. Did I mention that by the time the Mayoral Convention is back on track it will be at the Council elections in 2019? Funny that eh?

Fast forward to this year and of course our Liberal chums have not forgotten (they love to fight old and lost causes e.g. Handley Hill School, Brexit referendum). Cllr M. Gaskill gives a "damning speech" during the Mayor making meeting and refused to take part in the event by refusing to vote for the Mayor or his Deputy.

I can understand the new Mayor of Winsford, Cllr Mike Kennedy ( who I am sure will do an excellent job) being annoyed at the Lib Dems, after all, Labour have only given themselves three years to showcase themselves locally (in which they will no doubt never make a reference to Jeremy Corbyn either) and the Labour spin machine goes off again on their oppositions supposed "gutter politics" rather than their own actions which led to this point.

Time for a change locally in my opinion but Labour Cllrs need to remember one thing in politics.....

A day may be a long time.... but......you reap what you sow......

Friday, April 28, 2017

What's a little fracking between friends?

When the CWaC Labour spin machine gets going it can be a very effective resource at stopping real debate or even telling the truth about a particular situation as it unfolds before us.

This week I took the often travelled journey to CWaC headquarters in Chester to be part of the call in team for a very important and emotive item which on the face of it should not have required a call in if my voice or the voice of residents had been taken into consideration throughout.

For those of you who are not sure what a call in is and what it is for, its a mechanism where a decision of a committee or group within council can be asked to be scrutinised in depth by one of the various scrutiny committees (there are four) in CWaC. These committees are well run, two with Labour Chairpersons, one with Conservative and one by our independent Councillor.

So what was called in? Well, in order to call anything in there must be a minimum number of councillors and I was one of those calling in the SPD (Special planning Document) that has been developed by the LPWG (local plan working group)  around fracking and how (or not) to do it.

Why did I call it in? I like the other call in members did not disagree with the SPD but we felt it did not go far enough. I (we) wanted a situation where by any fracking application could be held to a referendum by local communities after working with fracking companies to see if there were any mutual benefits such as infrastructure, financial etc. You could therefore imagine that residents would have a say or even THE say on whether the fracking would go ahead.

At this point, I need to remind readers that in Labours manifesto pledge of 2015, they committed to this "We will seek to put a moratorium on the extraction of shale gas methane in the Cheshire West and Chester area...". However, after gaining power they were told they had no legal powers to do so (the first sign of a lack of understanding how it all works perhaps?)

So they (with our help and backing) have brought along the SPD - without which frackers can put in lots of planning applications to frack and CWaC can't do much about it.

We wanted it to be stronger......

and so we end up at the call-in April 26th and a few days after a general election is called and a couple of days after the Conservative group leader told Labour and officers that we are now under the rules of "purdah".

I hope you are still with me.....so far anyway. One of the rules of Purdah is that no local council facilities or buildings can be used for electioneering. A pretty common sense rule I think as that is not what Council Tax is paid for.

At the call-in, Chris Mathers, Labour MP for Chester, with a very small majority (I'll leave his ability for another blog perhaps) turns up. No doubt ready to make a compassionate election speech about how good labour were on turning about face on their promises not to frack.

And here in lies the truth, if we continue with the call-in, the legal team will stop it due to purdah, if we delay the meeting, we all have to tootle off to Chester again and in the meantime we have no SPD (which we conservatives support) with which to protect our residents. Thankfully common sense prevailed and we withdrew with assurances that the additional points would be discussed at a later date, webcast and recorded.

In the meantime......

The CWaC Labour spin machine goes off course and at full charge, accusing the call in members of wasting time, money and playing games. Some call this "fake news"...I have other words but can't print them here without upsetting even more people than the Labour cronies who might read this blog.

The biggest criticism comes from Matt Bryant (yes, the one due in court to appeal a decision) who calls us the pro-fracking Conservatives. I would remind readers he has gone from"no fracking here" to "we can frack now" within a space of two years......not bad eh?

No doubt this will also run and run but sometimes I think what residents want is strong rules and regulations which rely on them to have the better judgement on what is right in a community.

I'm not sure Labour can deliver that.....

Friday, March 10, 2017

Winsford given ultimate snub by Cheshire PCC

It's official. I love Winsford. 

I have raised a family here, moved from one side of town to the other, got elected as a councillor here and absolutely love the place and the people.

Our Police and Crime Commissioner (David Keane) obviously does not. 

Why do I say that? Well, it was announced yesterday that he was "moving his office" from Winsford to Stockton Heath near Warrington. That’s right, moving himself from the purpose built, at a cost of £40M no less, Winsford Cheshire Police Headquarters to an underutilised (danger of being closed?) police station.

This must have been quite the plush and expensive office for the PCC to house himself , given that by moving he hopes to save in excess of £50K per year although the exact listing of the savings are not defined.

The PCC also says that the Stockton Heath Station “provides an office which is easily accessible to the public” – ahem….Winsford headquarters is so easy to reach, it was why it was built here and not elsewhere.

Maybe there is another reason for the move. Our PCC says “A single police and fire headquarters is planned as part of the Cheshire bluelight collaboration programme”. Errr not quite….especially since the the BBC website shows the following…..from sep 2016
Cheshire Fire and Rescue Service has shelved plans to sell off its base in Winsford and move into the county's police headquarters.
Cheshire's Deputy Chief Fire Officer Mark Cashin said the decision was made "following an in-depth review". An official report says the cost of rebuilding fire training facilities was "prohibitive". 
Following a comment I posted on the Winsford Guardian Website, a “Qualtec” posted the following.
“it is now part of the smarter working initiative to encourage staff to either work from alternative office locations or home when this is possible dependant on the duties undertaken by the employee….The reasoning behind this is that a large number of public sector employees work electronically and with emails & telecon there is not a requirement to be in the same office at the same time to work”
Noble sentiments and yes, even I work from home, albeit without a £50K saving to me or my employer and indeed no one expects the PCC to work in his Winsford office 9 – 5 and 5 days a week.
So is there a deeper reason for the office move or snub as I now consider it?
Well, let’s think about this….
David Keane, our elected Labour PCC is awarded a salary of £75K and yet still sits as a Warrington Labour Councillor with an allowance of £8K for an additional approx 22 hours a week Council work*. Could it be that he wanted to move a little closer to home to fit it all in?
Whatever the reason, it can’t help but look like another politician getting the snout in the gravy train, this time the Warrington gravy train.
I would love to hear what residents think about this. I asked a prominent Winsford Labour CWaC Councillor what he thought – his reply (on twitter) was “if it is saving tax payers £50,000 per year. He could stay if govt stop savage cuts.”
Maybe a fair point but consider this – he could stay in Winsford if he did not hire a £50,000 per year political crony who “failed to demonstrate an adequate knowledge and understanding of the police service and Criminal Justice System” as his deputy.
Overall, whether strategic, tactical or personal the move out of Winsford by our PCC, David Keane, is a snub to the town that I love, Winsford.
At least he gave us a tax increase as a thank you.
*To avoid debate, we get a little more in CWaC and I am happy to supply details.

Quotes from BBC website, Silk news and Winsford Guardian