Tuesday, 7 February 2017

Car Parking Consultation - what is planned for Frodsham

The following is an extract from the CWaC commissioned report from engineers Mott McDonald about car parking.  The report is some 42 pages in long in all.

What I've reproduced here are the specific policies suggested for Frodsham.

Saturday, 4 February 2017

Air Quality checks

We had a meeting of the Protos Air Quality Forum on Wednesday this week.  This was the first meeting of the forum which had air quality data from the new monitoring station at the former Serviceman's Club site it Helsby.

Lynn and I had lobbied Peel hard to ensure we had comprehensive air monitoring in and around the estuary ahead of any development at the Protos site.  This is what led us to having a comprehensive monitoring station installed at Manor House Primary School in Frodsham.

The data from this monitoring station reported as follows on a yearly average basis.

PM 10s - 16 micro grams - against a 40 micro gram limit
PM 2.5s  13 micro grams - against a 25 micro gram limit.

PM 10s and PM 2.5s are small particulates which can cause lung inflammation and other health problems.

The monitoring of these particulates is also done on a daily basis.  The current standards allow a daily average of up to 50 micro grams and for this limit to be breached up to 35 times a year.  At this monitoring station this standard was breached only once.

This monitoring indicates that our air quality standards are satisfactory at the moment ahead of the incinerators being built.  Our wider monitoring shows that our air quality is affected by traffic pollution far more than industry.

Northern Powerhouse ...

I had the chance to speak with Rt Hon George Osborne MP this morning at the Cheshire and Wirral Conservative Conference.  George gave a speech explaining the thinking behind the Northern Powerhouse.

Cllr Pat Holder (Helsby Parish Council) and I raised with George Osborne the problems of car parking at Frodsham and Helsby stations which will only get worse on the opening of the Halton Curve - unless parking provision is greatly expanded.  George has promised to raise this issue at the highest level with Government.  This was a detail that he hadn't considered previously.

I also raised with the former chancellor the question of the Mersey Gateway tolls.  Regular commuters who use the crossing but who live outside Halton will face paying around £1,000 per year in tolls.  Whilst people are used to paying tolls in certain parts of the country - such as the Mersey Tunnel tolls - those of us in northern Cheshire have not have to factor this in to our family budgets.  George stated that he had wanted Cheshire West residents to be exempted and that we should keep pressing the issue.

Don't worry - we will!

Monday, 9 January 2017

What price for a Police Community Support Officer? What is the Police and Crime Commissioner up to?

I attended Frodsham Town Council's budget setting council meeting tonight.  The first order of business was a discussion with the police regarding the funding of Police Community Support Officers - PCSOs.

PCSOs are funded by the Police and Crime Commissioner.  They are allocated by the Chief Constable.  There are around 200 PCSOs throughout the Cheshire Police area.  They serve a population of just over 1 million.  On a simple pro-rata basis there is around 1 PCSO for 5,000 people.  Frodsham has a population of around 9,500 so on a population basis you'd expect us to have nearly 2 PCSOs.  We have one.

In some cases PCSOs are part funded by partners.  Those partners include Cheshire West and Chester Council, Frodsham Town Council and some social landlords.  The partners, at present pay what is described as 1/3rd of the cost of the PCSO.   The maths is interesting though.  FTC's 1/3rd in 2016-17 (i.e. the current financial year) is £11,918.  The advertised salary costs of a PCSO are between £19,326-£21,402.   In other words FTC's '1/3rd' is, in reality 55% of the highest paid PCSO gross salary.

Typically, though when considering the costs of an individual employee one also has 'on-costs' such as the employer's national insurance and pension contributions.  In addition establishment costs can also be added.  It can only be on the basis of these additional costs that £11,918 can be considered to be a third.

So doing the maths - if 1/3rd is £11,918 - the full cost must be £11,918 x 3 = £35,754.

But if the full figure is £35,754 - the on-costs must be £35,754-£21,402 = £14,352 for the most expensive PCSO.  That is the on-costs are 67% of the highest gross salary.

Frankly I don't believe the on-costs can be anything like as high as this - however I remain open to being convinced - but I will now expect full disclosure of the relevant figures.

Good PCSOs are a tremendous asset for their community.  Ten parish or town councils in CWaC part fund 'their' PCSO no doubt recognising this.

So this is the background to tonight's discussions.

The police indicated that for the next financial year (17-18) they want the '1/3rd' deal to continue.  With inflation that means for FTC £12,038.

However for 18-19 they want FTC to 'fully fund' the PCSO.  They estimated the costs of fully funding at around £38,000.  (Remember the advertised highest salary is £21,402.)

Yes, that's right - the suggestion is that if Frodsham wants to have a PCSO other than perhaps a rudimentary provision shared with others it will cost around £38,000.

FTC's revenue budget is around £190,000.  A contribution of £38,000 would amount to 20% of FTC's current revenue budget.  This is bad enough for a community like Frodsham.  Helsby Parish Council's  revenue budget is around £110,000.  A £38,000 contribution would represent around 35% of their revenue budget.

On noting these figures I suggested to the Police that this proposal was a good way of ending partner funding from Town and Parish councils who would, most likely, find these figures unaffordable.
Is this part of a plan by the Police and Crime Commissioner to cut the number of PCSOs and blame others for it?  I've had this suspicion for a while - and I've seen nothing to dissuade me so far.

The debate also went into the enhanced service that those towns or parishes that fund PCSOs would receive - however the police weren't able to describe those enhancements at the moment.  I made the remark - that it sounds like the 'enhanced' service will actually be what Frodsham receives at the moment.

I will be tabling a series of questions for the Police and Crime Commissioner at the next Police and Crime Panel.


Since posting this blog I've had a thought.

Could FTC employ its own 'PCSO'?  If it could (and I don't know whether it can) even allowing for 20% on-costs for NI, pensions etc that would suggest a costing of c£26k... an indicative £12k 'saving' on £38k.  This would still be a doubling of the present costing - but I suspect it would be do-able - where £38k looks very, very expensive.

Saturday, 19 November 2016

Frodsham Windfarm - Construction Liaison Panel meeting

Last night was the latest Frodsham Windfarm Construction Liaison Panel meeting.   Whilst we've had 5 or 6 of these meetings already this was the first meeting that was video recorded.

I've been concerned for quite some time now that all Peel's Liaison Panel meetings take place behind 'closed doors.'  Instinctively I don't like that.  Whilst these meetings are not 'local government meetings' with all the law and bureaucracy that ensures the public can have access to them - I had asked at a previous meeting to be given permission to record the meeting and post it on the internet.

Well for those of you who want to watch an hour of round table discussions this is the link to the video feed.

If you watch the video you'll see the latest round of local politicians pointing out to Peel how their arrangements for the Community Benefit Fund are:

  • secretive; and
  • democratically unaccountable.
You'll also see complaints that Peel have not disclosed the Constitutional Documents for the Community Benefit Fund as they had previously agreed to do.

You'll also hear that the construction work as a whole is finished.  The wind turbines are going through the final stages of commissioning.  Peel are hopeful that the wind farm will be fully commissioned by the middle of December.  This is largely a 'weather dependent' issue as the wind turbines have to be seen generating at full power for an extended period before they can be 'signed off.'  The question is whether the wind will blow hard enough between now and then.

If you'd like to see real time data of the UK's energy generation you can click this link.  Obviously, subject to whether the wind is blowing and the demand for energy at any particular time, wind energy can typically generate between 15-20% of the electricity the UK needs.  Just this morning, wind generation is producing more power than coal fired generation in the UK.  Most of our electricity is presently derived from gas-fired power stations.  We have asked Peel to allow us to see the real-time generation data for the Frodsham Windfarm - watch this space.

Now with the construction work concluded the construction compound is to be closed.   This stone base of the compound is to be swept up and used to improve the roadways on the marshes.  The present thoughts are that Lordship Lane (which is in a dreadful condition) will receive much of this stone.  Peel are also considering improving Straight Length which leads from the model aircraft field to Godscroft and Hatley Lanes.

As you'll see if you watch the video feed of the meeting, whilst welcoming the improvements to the roadways on the marshes I asked for measures to ensure that unauthorised vehicular use of the roads is discouraged or prevented.  I raised in particular the concerns of residents along Godscroft and Hatley Lanes.  Peel were sympathetic and have committed to liaise with me over this.

The map shown below is what Peel handed out at the meeting.  The pink highlighted stretch is the length of Lordship Lane they are looking to improve (if they have enough stone).  Straight Length is not highlighted - but is the lane that connects Lordship Lane to Hatley and Godscroft Lanes.