Wednesday, 31 December 2014

Thanks to everyone who has been out gritting


Tonight is slightly warmer than it has been recently. The CWaC gritting crews can have a lie in - they won't be needed tonight! I'm sure on a personal level they will be delighted - as they have been out gritting all our main roads twice per day for most of the last week. I think they've been doing a superb job. 

Whilst in the village earlier this afternoon I was thanked for having had the shopping area pavements gritted. I pointed out that whilst I'd put the arrangements in place the thanks was due to our volunteers who are gritting the pavements and side streets for us.  A big thank you is due to the crew at the leisure centre who have been taking a gritter for a walk around the town centre.

If anyone wants to help grit Frodsham FTC will give you free grit.  We've hand propelled gritters anyone can use at Overton Stores, Churchfields, Top Shop on Langdale Way and at the Leisure Centre.  All of our Primary Schools have them too - so come term time all the approaches to the schools can be gritted if the school community organises it.

If you want grit to spread on your side road or pavements just call the Town Council on 01928 735150.

Incidentally I've asked CWaC to refill all our grit bins.

Happy New Year.

Saturday, 20 December 2014

Eleven Rail improvement schemes we need in Cheshire before HS2

At our recent Council meeting at CWaC we debated the improvements we desired both in and around Cheshire in advance of HS2.  The wish list emerging from Cheshire and North Wales has eleven projects.

The schemes are both listed below as well as being shown on the map.  They are:

  1. Electrification of the Crewe-Holyhead line - this passes through southern Cheshire and Chester before running along the North Wales coast to Holyhead;
  2. Chester - Wrexham line - rail lines to be restored to double track;
  3. Bidston - Wrexham line - to be upgraded and electrified;
  4. Halton Curve (Frodsham to Runcorn main line station) upgraded to bi-directional use for passengers;
  5. Chester - Manchester (Mid-Cheshire Line) greater frequency of service;
  6. Manchester Airport link line to the Mid-Cheshire Line;
  7. Link line to Middlewich from Mid-Cheshire Line to be upgraded to passenger grade with a new station built at Middlewich;
  8. Chester - Liverpool service via Halton Curve;
  9. Hooton - via Ellesmere Port, Helsby, Frodsham etc to Liverpool and North
  10. Chester - Warrington - line upgrade and electrification; and
  11. Winsford - Hartford service enhancements. 


Now you don't need to tell anyone in Frodsham just how important we are, and just how much we want our rail services to be improved and enhanced.  However I am delighted that CWaC (and our partner authorities) are arguing for 11 rail improvement schemes - 4 of which directly involve Frodsham and the services from our station.

These improvements aren't solely about railway lines - they also involve the associated infrastructure such as car parking.  In the council debate I raised exactly that issue and the need to ensure that, for example, car parking at Frodsham station is sufficient to meet the likely significantly increased demand.

I am delighted that as a council and with our neighbouring authorities we are being this ambitious.  At the moment just under 80% of us in Frodsham who go to work, do so by car.  These rail schemes are not only vital as part of building a 'northern power-house' - they are also important to ensure we have sustainable transport that is kinder to the environment.


Friday, 19 December 2014


Please pass this on to anyone you think could benefit from getting on-line.  It is one of the excellent services offered through Frodsham Library.  Don't forget we have free wi-fi there too.


Tuesday, 16 December 2014

Vision for Localism & Decentralisation in England

Message from Rt Hon Eric Pickles MP


Dear Cllr Andrew Dawson
Localism & Decentralisation in England
Today, William Hague has presented to Parliament a Command Paper on the implications of devolution for England. As well as setting out the Conservative Party’s support for English Votes on English laws, it outlines this Government’s achievements on localism and the Conservative Party’s stance on further decentralisation in England.

The Conservative Party embraces the Union of the United Kingdom and the continuing role of our national Parliament in Westminster as our law-making body. We back England’s traditional boroughs, towns, cities and counties, as opposed to Labour’s artificial regions. We endorse the tried and tested electoral system of First Past the Post. We embrace lower taxes and less red tape. We rally behind supporting enterprise and growth across the country. And we champion local democracy and local accountability, and the devolution of power from Europe and from Whitehall down to councils, and down further to neighbourhoods, parishes and individual taxpayers.

The full text of the Conservative Party’s route-map on localism is reproduced below.

“The Conservative position on further devolution within England is based upon the view that England is a great nation, proudly forming a constituent part of the union of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. We believe that the Westminster Parliament is, and should remain, England's law-making body.

However, we also believe that, without a local voice, communities are made weaker because social responsibility and civic involvement are inhibited; local communities are strongest when everyone has a free and fair say in the decisions that affect them. This is why Conservatives in the coalition government have worked with their coalition partners to deliver significant decentralisation of power and finance within England. But we believe that there is more to do.

The Conservative Party takes the view that, in the years before 2010, central and regional government across England too often undermined local democracy and allowed people too little say over decisions that directly affected them. We argue that power should be decentralised down to the lowest appropriate level – down from Europe, down from Whitehall, to councils, to community groups and to individual taxpayers: giving power to the people.

Therefore in the next Parliament we wish to continue with the empowerment of neighbourhoods and parishes in England, not least through a huge further increase in neighbourhood planning. The aim is to extend community rights and thereby mobilise what Edmund Burke called the “little platoons”, strengthening social and civic responsibility and building social capital – fostering the Big Society.

Conservatives believe that greater localism should be accompanied by greater local accountability, with democratic checks and balances to ensure the responsible use of greater local power. We will continue to support the tried and tested method of first past the post elections for the Westminster Parliament and for all levels of local council in England. But we believe that there should be greater use of direct democracy, such as allowing local people to hold local referendums on local issues. Conservatives also aim to extend and strengthen the transparency and accountability which the current Government has championed, and help support the press and public in holding local politicians to account.

In addition, we want to go further and deeper with the localist reforms that have taken place in England during this Parliament. This will include delivering more bespoke Growth Deals with local councils, including metropolitan mayors where locally supported, and working with Local Enterprise Partnerships and councils to promote jobs and growth. To save taxpayers’ money and improve front-line services, we propose to continue the drive to help local authorities join up different public services, taking forward projects such as Community Budgets, the Better Care Fund, joint working between the emergency services, and the Troubled Families programme.

Our view is that patterns of local government should reflect England’s local identities and traditions. We will champion England’s long-standing towns, boroughs, cities and counties, and will continue to oppose the imposition of artificial regional structures. We take the view that enabling locals to determine local structures locally will encourage civic and national pride across class, colour and creed – in our municipalities and neighbourhoods, in the nation of England and in the United Kingdom.

We strongly believe that localism must not be a way of imposing new taxes: the English taxpayer already pays too much tax. Instead, we wish to strengthen the fiscal incentives that councils have to support enterprise and growth – for example, by further extending the local retention of business rates. Following the course already set by the coalition government, in the next Parliament we will further reduce ring-fencing and ensure that councils are more self-sufficient – building on the fact that 70 per cent of council income is now raised locally.

Conservatives want all parts of England to enjoy prosperity and growth – north and south, shire and municipal, rural and urban. Rather than playing one part of England or Britain against another, we want to let local people in all parts of England keep the proceeds of local growth – thereby providing strong incentives for all local governments to work with local business to support jobs and improve quality of life locally.”


As we approach the general election and the final stage of this Parliament, I hope this presents a vision that the broad church of our Conservative & Unionist Party will welcome.

Yours truly,

Rt Hon Eric Pickles MP
Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government

Monday, 8 December 2014

Air Quality in Frodsham... and the BBC

Sunday afternoon was meant to be a quiet affair - attending to my wife's ever increasing list of jobs for me.  Grouting the bathroom was high on the list ... and then out of the blue the BBC phoned.   Radios 5 & 4 wanted to do a story linking the House of Commons Environmental Audit Committee report on concerns regarding air quality around schools, care homes and hospitals with the air quality monitoring we have in place in Frodsham and in particular the environmental monitoring we have put in place at Manor House Primary School courtesy of Lynn and my members grants and FTC.

Not for the first time we have Frodsham leading the way and of national interest.

It's worth taking a step back.  Lynn and I pressed for enhanced environmental monitoring in Frodsham on the back of Peel's proposals to build their two incinerators at Ince and the commissioning of the incinerator at Ineos's plant which is now burning waste from Greater Manchester.

We were able to persuade Peel to contribute money allowing us and a group of residents to commission an independent expert Prof Laxon to give us advice on the then current air quality in and around Frodsham ... and to give us a benchmark against which to judge future developments.

Lynn and I were able to join this project up with CWaC's ongoing monitoring of traffic pollution.  It is a good few years now since I was able to have monitoring equipment installed near the Marsh Lane park homes.  To this CWaC added a number of additional monitoring stations primarily along the A56 in Frodsham.  We were also able to bring a comprehensive environmental monitoring station to Manor House School.  The scientists advised that Manor House was an ideal location to monitor background levels of air-borne pollutants as it was not directly on a main road.

That environmental monitoring station has been in place now for a few months.  In the meantime work elsewhere in Frodsham has backed up Prof. Laxon's initial report.  Air quality from industry doesn't appear to be an issue.  The issue, where we have one in Frodsham is traffic.

The location of the air monitoring diffusion tubes on the A56
The modelled NOx pollution levels - the worst being at the Fluin Lane / A56 junction

The data collected shows we have NOx (various nitrogen oxides) above the 40 microgram average action level in and around the Fluin Lane / A56 junction.

So what are we to do about this?  Well CWaC Environmental team and the highway engineers are looking into what can be done.  There are few options though given our constrained geography and narrow transport corridor.   The House of Commons Committee is suggesting low emission zones be run out over the country, rather than just in London.  They are also suggesting air filtration equipment for affected schools etc.  However I'm not sure these measures are the answer.  I don't think anyone would welcome a reduction in traffic on the A56 if it meant that each of our own freedom to drive would be curtailed.  Electric cars seem only a few years away... but can we wait that long?

One thing that struck me very keenly this morning whilst watching the school run develop was how Langdale Way had gone from a quiet inoffensive residential road into a road temporarily choked with cars with  a strong smell of car fumes.  Ironically the fumes will no doubt dissipate by 9am but they will be at their worst when our youngsters are walking to and from the school gate!

Now Manor House is a great school; all my children went there.  There is nothing particular about the Manor or its parents (other than they are great).  I'm sure all of our schools in Frodsham will see the same effects with the school run.  I do want to see, if I can, monitoring equipment at Weaver Vale School - bearing in mind how close it is to the M56.  However as the second of the maps shows traffic pollution tends to be perceived within a few metres of a heavily trafficked road and not further afield.

We all hear the message about our children walking to school - I can just imagine the domestic revolt of my daughter had to walk to Helsby High School - but so few of us can work walking to school into the daily routine. Would things be any different if we had a sign outside our schools showing us the live air pollution data and how it was being worsened by our own cars?  I certainly think it would make many of us stop and think... and alter our behaviours.   This strikes me as one of those issues where we ourselves and our busy car bound lifestyles are the problem.  Nearly 80% of us in Frodsham who go to work do so by car according to 2011 census.

... so having had the pleasure of being on (albeit via Reporter Nick Garnet and an inmarsat link) with Radio 5s Nicky and Rachel and Radio 4s A team of John Humphries and Jim Naughtie I don't have all the answers, although I'm working on them!  If you have any thoughts ... do be in touch.


... by the way I've been getting tweets, emails and comments from listeners who both heard me and know me... an interesting insight into those who prefer Radio 5 over Radio 4!  Radio Merseyside now have the story ... as do North West tonight.  Is this where I fall-back on 'my face for radio?'

Tuesday, 11 November 2014

Remembrance Day

At the going down of the sun, and in the morning, we will remember them
Today on Frodsham Hill - the act of commemoration was led by Fr Michael - who, as usual found the words to make everyone reflect on the futility and suffering caused by conflict and war.  


Young and old remember


The solemnity and quiet dignity of Remembrance Day is always very moving.  Cllr Lynn Riley represented both of us and Cheshire West and Chester Council on the hill today and took these photographs and suggested some of the commentary.

I wasn't able to join the commemorations in Frodsham today as I was representing clients at an Inquest in Leicester.  All of us in the packed court room stood in silence at 11am and observed two minutes of reflection.  I found that small act of quiet remembrance remarkable and poignant.  All disputation, representation and challenge ceased as we remembered those who fought and died for us to have the freedom to deliberate matters in court and all the other freedoms we take for granted.




Sunday, 9 November 2014

Remembrance Sunday - St Lawrence Church, Frodsham

St Lawrence church was packed this morning for our annual Remembrance Sunday commemorations.
Father Michael leading the commemoration

we had more wreaths laid this year than we have had in many years

Professor Tim Wheeler laying a wreath on behalf of HM Queen and Lord Lieutenant of Cheshire


Cllrs Dawson & Riley laying a wreath on behalf of Cheshire West and Chester Council

Cllr Allen Wales Mayor of Frodsham and Frodsham's Junior Mayors








Thursday, 6 November 2014

Frodsham and Ince Marshes

Over the last 18 months or so I have been sitting on a steering group seeking to work out how the drainage and flood risks associated with the Frodsham and Ince Marshes can be managed going forward.  The reason this issue has arisen is because the Environment Agency ('EA') announced some while ago that they would cease to take responsibility for the pumping stations on the marshes and for the clearance of the main water channels from April 2015.

We've now got to the point where Heads of Terms have been broadly agreed and each respective landowner, business and Town or Parish Council needs to decide whether they are going to sign up to the largely informal arrangements.

The EA has agreed that it will transfer the pumping stations to others.  In the case of the Frodsham pumping station - to the Highways Agency, and in the case of the Ince pumping station to a consortia of Peel, Grow How and Quinn Glass. The EA has also agreed to replace the pumps - with modern eel compliant pumps before they transfer the responsibility to others.  The new pumps will have the same capacity as the present ones - although the 4 pumps and the Ince station will be replaced by 3 pumps of slightly greater capacity.  The water engineers tell us that this will increase the syphonic effects and will make the water flows more efficient. (In other words the water's own flow will help convey more water through the system).

The riparian landowners (that is the legal term for the owners of land either adjacent to, or through which a watercourse flows) are responsible (as they always have been) for cleaning out the watercourses as needed.  Historically the EA had carried out some of the maintenance work - but if you listen to the farmers they will tell you that they didn't do it particularly well.

Last year the farmers and local land owners carried out the watercourse clearance work - and for the first time in many a long year the marshes drained effectively.  The marshes are designed to work as one system - and it therefore makes sense that everyone interested acts together as an informal partnership, co-operating with each other.

FTC will need to make a decision at its next meeting whether or not it wants to be part of the Partnership Management arrangements going forward.  FTC has to be very interested in what happens on the marshes for several reasons.


  • First the vast majority of the marshes lie in the Frodsham parish;
  • Second, all of us in Fodsham have a very real and direct interest in seeing that the land drains effectively - none of us want to contemplate the M56, the A56 or the railway lines being flooded, ever before we think of Main Street;
  • Third the marshes are perhaps the greatest and most underused leisure asset in Frodsham - and so much more could be done to encourage sustainable recreation and leisure activities;
  • Fourth FTC is, itself a modest landowner at 'Marshlands' - and that land floods!


If FTC wants to be part of the arrangement then it will need to agree to make modest supportive contributions.  FTC can't spend precept monies on drainage works, but it could spend monies on things like:

  • commissioning with others periodic expert reports on the drainage arrangements and how well they are performing;
  • aiding people who want work experience to work with the contractors clearing the ditches, or those with an interest in ecology; etc
  • commission a website or facebook style page where all information on all aspects of the marshses could be published - such as details of the footpaths, bridleways and cycle tracks, the latest bird-watching news, whats happening in terms of road and track maintenance and an information exchange on water flows;
Now if FTC agreed to make this sort of contribution it would be given a seat at the table and be in a position to influence how the marshes are drained going forward.   Personally I think FTC should be very interested in what happens here - however I am looking forward to debating this issue at our next meeting.

Incidentally if you are a landowner living with a water course and you want to know what your legal obligations are, and you don't want to speak to a lawyer you can have a look at this advice leaflet Living on the Edge

Tuesday, 4 November 2014

Road Works in and around Frodsham

As most of us will have spotted we have had and are going to have road works around Frodsham for most of November.

Lynn and I have done our best to minimise any disruption as we have impressed on officers at CWaC that planned highways works in and around Frodsham should not take place during rush hours, and ideally they should only take place over night or in the evening.

So for 4 days of this week around the Swing-bridge on the A56 and Clifton Road we will have road resurfacing works.  They will take place overnight between 7pm and 7am.  There will be single lane, traffic light controlled working, and there will also be a workman on hand to control the traffic lights manually.

And then, starting on the 10 November we will have road works on the A56 between Castle Park and the Netherton.  These works will encompass both resurfacing and the introduction of a crossing. They have been scheduled to be done outside peak hours.

Fingers crossed.

Monday, 3 November 2014

Frodsham Library - free e-books and free wifi

Libraries are great - and at the risk of sounding like Mohammed Ali - our library in Frodsham is the greatest!

This week CWaC is launching free WiFi at our Libraries - so if you have a need to get on line - get on down to the library.  If you don't have your own device you can use one of the Library computers and our library staff are on hand to help if you need it.  Everyone in the Borough who can get to a library can get on-line.

And, if you are a member of our Library you can now borrow, free of charge up to 3 e-books at a time for either 14 or 21 days.  Best of all there are now no risks of fines for late returns as the e-books automatically disappear from your devices at the end of the loan period!

There are over 2,000 e-book titles available ranging from reference books, to children's stories and encyclopedia as well as a host of the 'usual material.'

You can use virtually any tablet type device... If you want to know more go and chat to Jen and her colleagues at the library.

The service is supplied by Overdrive and is available from the Cheshire Libraries Catalogue http://libcat.cheshire.gov.uk/

Friday, 31 October 2014

Halloween Fun in Frodsham

A great big thank you to everyone who has been helping out in Frodsham to make sure our youngsters have a spooky and fun Halloween.


This morning Lynn and I went to our fantastic Frodsham Library where our Librarian Jen Evans was leading story time.  Its quite a while since anyone has read to me.  As you can see the children were in fancy dress.

I'm always impressed by Jen and her team - and we've some more good news about our Library which will be announced next week.

This afternoon I was joined by Cllr Fran Sutton (Deputy Mayor of Frodsham) to judge a pumpkin carving competition at Frodsham Youth Association.   A big thank you to all the volunteers who make the Youth Association such a fantastic place for our children to hang out together.  I'm sure many parents are grateful that there is a safe place for our youngsters to go to - especially evenings during the holidays.




As you can see from the photographs the standard of workmanship in the pumpkin carving competition was excellent.  We raided the CWaC 'goody bag reservoir' and made sure that all our junior carvers left with something.  

A big thank you to Andy and Sarah from CWaC who also helped make this such a memorable day.

Thursday, 30 October 2014

Are these footpaths just footpaths... or a bridleways... what's your view?


Have a look at this map - it highlights three footpaths FP8 in Frodsham and FP33 and FP19 in Kingsley.

Footpath FP8 starts, as you can see on the map, at Ellis Lane.  It runs almost parallel to the River Weaver and then the Weaver Navigation - approximately a fields width from the water before joining the road that runs to Catton Hall.   Here the route is designated FP33 Kingsley.  At Catton Hall the path, now designated FP19 Kingsley turns sharply south and runs ultimately to Pike Lane.

In 1999 and in 2004 the old County Council received applications suggesting that this route should either be a Bridleway - in other words a route that can be used by horse riders and cyclists, or a byway open to all traffic (otherwise known somewhat confusingly as a BOAT).  A BOAT can be used by walkers, riders (horse and cyclists) as well as by motorised or non motorised vehicles.

Seemingly these applications were not determined - and so CWaC now has to consider them and determine them.  This is a formal legal process - and one that requires the assessment of evidence.  The council will have to determine whether there are public rights to use these footpaths as bridleways or BOATs.

Keep your eyes peeled for formal rounds of consultation.  This is one of those issues where many people will have lots of opinions....

Opinions are interesting - but the council will be looking for evidence - how have these paths been used and for how long.  If this is something you know about or if it that interests you - make sure you have your say.


Peel's plans for Ince Resource Recovery Park - aka waste incineration

I've just received the attached press release from Peel Holdings.  
These are their words not mine!  At this stage I am making no comment on these proposals.


Press Release                29 October 2014
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Peel Environmental to work with BWV to deliver Ince Park

Peel Environmental has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with Babcock & Wilcox Volund (BWV) to progress the consented Ince Resource Recovery Park in Cheshire.

The deal will see Peel and BVW work together to pursue the development, construction and operation of the consented Energy from Waste plant which will service local needs and industry.

Jane Gaston, Development Manager, Peel Environmental said:

“We are delighted to be working with BWV to take Ince Park forward. The site is already consented and with a delivery partner onboard, we are targeting having an operational facility by 2019.

“Ince Park could deliver a new renewable energy source for the region, reducing the reliance on landfill and exportation of waste overseas. We are now looking to get contracts in place with local waste producers.”

Simon Allin, Business Development Director, B&W Volund said:

“Ince Park is in a great location to service the North West region, with the potential to provide low carbon and renewable heat and electricity to businesses in the local area. We are looking forward to working with Peel Environmental to deliver a state-of-the-art facility.”

Located near Ellesmere Port, the plant would take household and commercial & industrial residual waste from the region. Construction is planned to start in 2016 with the first line operational by 2019. For further information on commercial opportunities contact:

Jane Gaston, Peel Environmental Limited JGaston@peel.co.uk
Simon Allin, B&W Volund sal@volund.dk

ENDS


NOTES TO EDITORS

-          Peel Environmental owns, manages and develops properties in the waste, mineral and environmental technology sectors.  We are at the forefront of developing new infrastructure and are now developing Resource Recovery Parks - modern, clean and sustainable industrial parks that are focused on the reprocessing and remanufacturing of waste materials for efficient energy use. 

-          Peel Environmental is a division of The Peel Group, one of the leading infrastructure, real estate and investment enterprises in the UK. Our diverse network of businesses ranges from ports to airports; land to leisure; media to hotels; wind farms to shopping centres, and a portfolio of investments in major public companies. www.peel.co.uk

-          The Ince Park development has full outline consent and part detailed consent. It will comprise an Energy from Waste (EfW) facility and Environmental Technologies Complex – a cluster of waste management and environmental technology facilities. For further details visit http://www.incepark.com/

-          When built, Ince Park will:
·         Create up to 3,264 jobs in total
·         Represent a £500million investment into the site
·         Produce a total economic benefit of between £78 and £134 million of direct and indirect Gross Value Added to the economy each year
·         Divert waste from landfill, using it to generate  renewable and low carbon heat and electricity

-          BWV is one of the world’s leading suppliers of renewable energy plants, with more than 50 reference facilities built in the last 15 years, and more than 500 lines in total installed in 30 countries world wide. These facilities have been developed to process a range of fuels, for example, household and commercial and industrial residual waste, refuse derived fuel, and waste wood.

-          BWV’s solutions are based on providing its own proprietary technologies covering the complete technology solution, except for the turbine. Full turnkey EPC solutions are provided in conjunction with BWV’s UK construction partners.

-          BWV is owned by Babcock & Wilcox based in the US. The parent Company has more than 140 years of experience of developing boiler and energy solutions and designs, manufacture and construction of power generation facilities.



Friday, 24 October 2014

Speed limit reductions

New 50mph limit at the Netherton heading towards Helsby
I do hope you've all been noticing the changed speed limits along some of our main roads - such as along the A56 between Frodsham and Helsby, along Tarvin Road, and Commonside.

Following local consultations and lobbying where residents expressed clear views that they wanted the speed limits reducing Cllr Lynn Riley and I in Frodsham, along with Cllr Eleanor Johnson in Gowy Ward have contributed to the costs of the legal orders and the changed signage out of our members grants.

From a personal perspective I'm always anxious to make sure any changed speed limit strikes the right balance between road safety for all road users and allowing motorists to make sensible safe progress on their journeys.  I'll readily support a reduced speed limit down from say a de-restricted limit where travelling at 60mph on that road would be too fast to a limit that makes sense for the road conditions.

This afternoon I was asked to perform in the 'usual' photo shoots.  I'm not looking for sympathy but posing next to a road sign isn't an everyday activity for me!  And I ended up doing 3 photoshoots - one with Cllr Johnson and her Alvanley colleagues and two in Frodsham.  One near the Ridgeway and the other on the A56 near the Netherton.
On Tarvin Road by the Ridgeway heading towards Frodsham
At the Netherton heading into Frodsham




















Now we had hoped that we would have been able to have consistent re-signing along Tarvin Road and up to Frodsham Road at Alvanley - however we weren't able to persuade Cllr Ford from Helsby.  So when you drive along that road and you come across a short de-restricted stretch you'll know you've crossed the border into Helsby and out again!

On the border with Helsby - please drive safely

Saturday, 18 October 2014

Budget setting at CWaC

Last Thursday we set the budget for 2015-16 at CWaC.

For those of you who know about public sector budget setting - you'll appreciate that normally council budgets are set in February or March and come into effect on 1st April.

This year CWaC was able to set its budget early because last year we set a 3 year budget.  This was year 2 of the 3 year budget, and everything remains on track.  We will formally set the council tax rate in February or March 2015 as expected, however on the basis of this budget it is already clear that the council tax does not have to increase.  We are on course for another year of 0% council tax rises.  The final decision on this will be taken in February 2015.

I know from the basis of checking this last year that this will mean that since CWaC came into existence in 2009 there has been a real terms reduction in the council tax charged in excess of 12%.  In other words, taking account of inflation, the council tax likely to be charged in 2015-16 will be more than 12% lower than it was in 2009-10.  I'll work out the figures in February 2015.

The Council meeting on Thursday night was one of the most political meetings we have had.  Whilst you'd never expect me as a Conservative Councillor to be particularly praiseworthy of Labour's efforts I have to say their performances were particularly poor.  And if you don't believe me - just watch the webcast.

What we did learn from Labour is that if they did, God-forbid, win any of the elections in May 2015 they will raise the Council Tax in CWaC.

I quoted, at the council meeting, a letter written by Hilary Benn MP Labour's Shadow Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government.  He stated in his letter of 25 August 2014 that whilst in the first year of any Labour Government they would stick to the budget figures set by the present government they would move money around between councils to favour what they term the 'deprived councils.'  This, in my view, is code for saying they will take money away from CWaC and give it to inner city councils - which, even under this government, receive far more money per head than CWaC receives.  The only way a council loosing money in this way can make it up, is by increasing the council tax.

Labour's Cllr Powell indicated that Labour would do away with Special Expenses in CWaC.  That immediately means that Frodsham would be hit by this - as we benefit the most from the special expense regime.  We organise more through our parish council than virtually all of the other parish council in the Borough.  The special expense regime seeks to even out expenses over the Borough between parish councils and CWaC and seeks to ensure that local council tax payers are not charged twice for the same services.

Watch the webcast - you'll see Cllr Powell say this and me responding to the point, later on.

So with the elections looming into view the choices at a local level become clearer.

The Conservatives have taken £133m out of the cost of running CWaC since it was first created.  We have invested more than £40m additional monies in adult and children's social care, and the council tax looks set to have fallen more than 12% in real terms.  When the Care Act 2014 is implemented by April 2016 we will be putting around £6m of additional monies into adult social care.

The Conservatives have no plans to increase the council tax for 2015-16.
Labour on both a national and local level have already effectively said they will increase your council tax.   They've learnt nothing.

Friday, 10 October 2014

The opening of the Swing Bridge

Its been a grand day out!  Today the Sutton Weaver Swing Bridge was officially re-opened.  It will be re-opened to traffic in about a days time; there are a few last minute snags to finish off.

I have to say the 90 year old bridge was looking in fine fettle after its £4.5m restoration project.  It has had a whole new road deck - with the hardest wearing grade of road surface laid above it.  The pontoon on which it sits has been repaired - this involved men having to work 15 feet beneath the water level.  All the old electrics and hydraulics have been serviced, and, if course it has had a brand new paint job that should last at least 15 years before it needs a touch up.  The bridge weighs around 500 tons (yes the old imperial sort)

I discussed the new road layout with CWaC's highway engineers - they showed me the new arrangements on the Sutton Weaver side where, although the traffic lights are being restored the lane from Frodsham to the motorway will be governed by a give way sign - hopefully to allow freer traffic movements out of Frodsham.  The traffic islands have been altered to allow for easier movements by HGVs over the junction.  The engineers discussed possibly setting back the stop line for traffic coming down from Sutton Weaver and wishing to turn right to the motorway so as to give greater clearance for vehicles wishing to travel from Frodsham to Sutton Weaver.  If that is to happen, that tweak will be made in a few weeks time.

In celebration of the bridge re-opening we had a short procession of a modern and an old truck supported by Helsby and Longden's vintage bus, a three wheeler car and an old Ambulance.  The bridge was then swung and a flotilla of small craft rowed and tooted their way under the bridge and back.  I have to say it was marvellous watching the bridge swing.  It looked effortless - a tribute to the skilfulness of the original design and its refurbishment.

The bridge was officially re-opened by Graham Evans MP, and we had speeches from him, Cllr Lynn Riley, George Ballinger Head Engineer Canals and Rivers Trust and Richard Parry the Chief Executive of the Canals and Rivers Trust.  Each speaker remarked on the difficulties that had be-set the project to begin with and harked back to the meeting that Graham Evans had hosted in Parliament and where Lynn and I thrashed out some of the difficulties with George and looked to find solutions.

There was reference also to the public meeting I had chaired for the Frodsham businesses where we were able to persuade the Canals and Rivers Trust that they had to put in a temporary bridge if Frodsham wasn't to grind to a halt.  One only has to remember the nightmare visited on us last week with the United Utilities road works on the A56 to realise just how important it was to get that particular decision right too.

It was the partnership working that was established from the meting in Parliament that set the project on the right foot going forward.  To begin with CWaC had to fund c£3.5m of the £4.5m cost - although we were able to persuade the government to make a £1.777m contribution towards the scheme effectively meaning its repair costs were funded by three partners.

A big thank you to everyone involved and especially to Kier the contractor and their engineers who actually carried out the refurbishment.

Fingers crossed that all goes well when the traffic resumes this weekend.

The new road surface is the highest grade - as you'd find on trunk roads, the left filter lane is slightly wider than before
George Ballinger Hd Engineer C&RT
Richard Parry Chief Exec C&RT

Cllr Lynn Riley 

Graham Evans MP
The grand re-opening: Graham Evans MP, Cllr Lynn Riley and Richard Parry C&RT Chief Executive

First we had old and new lorries, a bus, a three wheeler and an ambulance cross the bridge


Helsby & Longden's vintage bus

A three wheeler followed by a 1950s Austin Princess Ambulance
Then the first ceremonial swinging of the bridge - the new stop lights
The new barrier

The first official swing!
The flotilla of narrow boats, rowing boats etc

as the boats sailed by - we spotted the tins of paint - a few bits of touching-up are required over the next 24 hours


Old technologies are sometimes the best - the old megaphone 
The C&RT Engineering Team
Richard Parry in the control box
There are two commemorative plaques!


Celebrating a good job, well done!



left to right: Cllr Mike Pusey Chairman Sutton Parish Council, Cllr Allen Wales Mayor of Frodsham,
Cllr Andrew Dawson CWaC Cllr for Frodsham, Graham Evans MP, Cllr Mike Jones, Leader CWaC, George Ballinger Head Engineer, C&RT, Cllr Lynn Riley CWaC Cllr for Frodsham and Executive Member for Highways, Richard Parry Chief Executive Canals and Rivers Trust

Thursday, 2 October 2014

CWaC Town and Parish Council Governance Review

Over the last 3 1/2 years CWaC has been undertaking a Governance Review of the Town and Parish Councils in the Borough.  This review has been checking to see whether parish boundaries and the governance arrangements are and remain appropriate.  Around 2/3rds of the Borough is parished.  There are 166 civil parishes in the parishes part of the Borough and the governance arrangements for 161 of them have been reviewed.  As a consequence of the reviews 122 parishes will see some changes, ranging from abolition to amalgamation through to minor changes to boundaries or parish wards.

The process is set to continue after the May 2015 elections concentrating on the un-parished areas of CWaC.  The old Vale Royal area was fully parished, so the post May 2015 review will affect around half of the old Chester district and large areas of the old Ellesmere Port and Neston district.

CWaC's council meeting in October will see the final decisions made for the last batch of parishes.  The behind-the-scenes administrative work in terms of producing the revised mapping, updating the parish tax base will then start in earnest.

The reviews look set to lead to 58 boundary changes between the various towns and parishes.  The boundary changes will see around 800 properties moving from one parish to another.   Now one of the anomalies is that the CWaC wards have not been reviewed.  This isn't something that CWaC could do.

Many of the CWaC wards are based on parish boundaries.  The responsibility for reviewing CWaC's wards lies with the national Boundary Review Committee for England.  They will only look at the CWaC wards once the Orders reorganising the parishes have been made.  All this means is that we will go into the May 2015 elections with the parish boundaries having been refreshed, but with some CWaC wards no longer aligned to those parish boundaries.  It looks like there will be a small number of people living on or near the parish boundaries that have moved that are also CWaC ward boundaries who will find that they have to go to two different polling stations so as to be able to vote in all the elections being held in May 2015.  The answer for those few who may be affected is either to enjoy the walk between polling stations in May, or to get postal votes.

Incidentally the 5 parishes that have not been reviewed are:
Neston; Winsford; Northwich; Kingsmead and Chester Castle.  The towns of Neston, Winsford and Northwich were reviewed by the English Boundary Committee in 2009-10.  Kingsmead is the newest parish council, created in 2008.  Chester Castle parish is a wonderful historic anomaly - it has 0 residents!

A56 Road Works - the latest

There have been extensive discussions today between CWaC, UU and Amey over the A56 sewer pipe repair works.

The repair works are an emergency as sewer contents have been backing up into homes.  UU advise that the pipes are partially blocked with fat.  The sewer pipe works are 4m down - this depth brings its own difficulties and dangers.

UU and Amey are to extend the hours they work - and are aiming to have the work completed by Sunday evening if no further problems are found.  An additional crew is being brought on to the job.

The traffic lights are under manual control from 7am to 7pm - with the hope and expectation that human operation will maximise traffic flow and minimise delays - although delays must still be expected until Sunday.

CWaC Highway Inspectors will be in attendance on each day to check progress.


Wednesday, 1 October 2014

Update United Utilities Road Works on A56 by Gates Garage


Update: officers from CWaC, UU and Amey (contractors) set to attend road works tomorrow morning... My FTC Colleague Cllr Caroline Ashton has also been on the case!


This the text of an email I have written to CWaC's senior highway officials regarding the disruption on the A56:



Dear all

Those of you in the Frodsham area or affected by those driving from Frodsham will know that the UU works on the A56 by Gates Garage are causing mayhem.  Informally I have been told that these works will last 10 days.  The locals find this unacceptable - especially as the contractors are not working long days or 24/7. Delays of over an hour in getting into Frodsham from J12 are reported, as well as traffic diverting via J14 on the M56.  This is unreasonable and unacceptable.

First, could you please convey to UU the residents of Frodsham intense dissatisfaction with UU's management of these road works.  Second could you please encourage UU to carry out their works more swiftly and in a way to minimise disruption.  Thirdly could you please provide me with a report indicating what CWaC's involvement with these road works has been and what steps CWaC has taken to minimise what is and what is perceived to be unacceptable disruption to daily life.

ENDS

I intend to take this further tomorrow.

Frodsham Foundation

What follows here are the reports and accounts presented at the Frodsham Foundation AGM in March this year.  All this data and information has been public since March 2014.  I publish it again here as a reminder.

If you want to learn more please go to the Foundation's website www.frodshamfoundation.net.

Frodsham Foundation
Executive Director Report March 2014
Frodsham Foundation’s main community capacity building activities for the year ending 30 September 2013 were as follows:
Summary
Item
Cost (disbursements and time)
Communications
10,129.96
LDF
1,352.11
Neets, jobs, worklessness
3,120.24
Goods Shed
2,301.81
Sports, leisure, recreation and smaller events
2,466.60
Bee Festival
9,929.93
Christmas 2012 and 2013
11,241.81
BIG Wedding Events
4,292.06
Business/community contact
5,447.18
Accountancy
429.60
Admin
1,325.67
Total
52,036.97
Unpaid time for KD (exceeding capped daily hours and managing/attending events inc Bee Festival and Christmas Festival etc).
7,106.57

Communications
In the year 2012/2013 Frodsham Foundation created three distinct websites (general/archive, weddings and events/Cheshire Hive/Christmas), three Facebook accounts (general news, Christmas and Weddings) and two Twitter feeds (general and weddings).  The Foundation also developed the popular enewsletters promoting local events, jobs, news and achievements.  The Foundation also published hard copy flyers and posters for each event, banners, a special edition newspaper, a Wedding Guide and a Guide to Christmas.
The social media weekly reach regularly exceeds 20,000 and has continued to grow, peaking at 40,000 more recently, whilst the enewsletters are received by around 2,000 recipients.  The enewsletters contain more local jobs than Job Centre Plus.  Social media has been particularly effective at progressing Frodsham Foundation’s objective of community capacity building by enabling local residents to share news and views and comment on current issues.
The total cost of communications for the year to the end of September 2013 was £10,129.96 inclusive of domain names, subscriptions fees, hosting, graphics and time.
Communications continues to be a focus in the current year.
LDF
Following incorporation, Frodsham Foundation spent considerable resources researching the requirements and issues facing Frodsham’s community.  The results of the research and consultations were used in providing a detailed and evidenced response to CWaC’s Local Development Plan. 
The cost associated with responding to the LDF and the specific research it entailed totaled £1,352.11.
NEETS, Jobs and worklessness
Frodsham Foundation worked and is continuing to work with a number of individuals and third parties in relation to local jobs and the increasing number of NEETS which has risen from 8 to 53.  Much of the work falls within the response to the LDF and communications but the time associated predominately with identifying and publicising local jobs, NEET requirements and barriers to employment cost Frodsham Foundation £3,120.24 for the year ending 30 September 2013.
Enterprise and employment are two areas of focus in the current year.
Goods Shed
Frodsham Foundation started exploring potential community uses for the Goods Shed in September 2012 and has continued to work with Frodsham’s businesses and community groups to identify future potential uses that would benefit the wider Frodsham community. 
For the year ending 30 September 2013, the total cost of the Goods Shed project was £2,301.81 which includes time and the costs associated with the open day and time preparing grant applications.
The Goods Shed continues to be a focus in the current year.
Sports, leisure, recreation and smaller events
In addition to the main events of the Bee Festival, BIG Wedding Events and Christmas Festival, Frodsham Foundation was also heavily involved in or solely ran Halloween, Youth Event, SEEN and the Football Festival.  In addition to the events, Frodsham Foundation met with representatives of surrounding parishes (residents and Councils) to explore the local sports, leisure and recreational requirements and the possibility of a combined A56 sports facility.
The cost of this element of work was £2,466.6 which involved publicity costs for the events.
Bee Festival
The Bee Festival provided a community focused event, promoting Frodsham’s beekeeping heritage.  The two day event included national speakers, a vintage helter skelter, local food and drink producers, local live music, local community groups, trade stalls, football tournament and It’s a Knockout.
Despite the poor weather, attendance was good and the feedback from the community was excellent.  The event also benefitted local businesses, with Devonshire Bakery stating that the Saturday was their second busiest retail day of the year.  
The total cost of the Bee Festival was £9,929.93 which included marquee hire, stage, sound/pa, security, first aid, It’s a Knockout equipment, park and ride charges, road signage, additional charges relating to the use of Castle Park and time.
Frodsham Foundation does not have the resources to organise a second Bee Festival but has joined together with NWAFA to create the SummerFestival which will take place on 12 and 13 July 2014.  The SummerFestival will raise money to improve local sports facilities.
Christmas
Frodsham Foundation was involved in Christmas 2012 and went on to manage the 2013 celebrations.  In 2013 Frodsham Foundation organised the Festival Market, the parade, entertainment, insurance, risk assessments, marshaling and publicity, ensuring that it was the most well attended event, as well as raising the profile of Frodsham nationally as a result of the social media coverage.  The event also supported local businesses, community groups and new enterprises with new start ups being offered preferential rates on the Festival Market.
The cost associated with Christmas 2012 was £1,488.88 and related to publicity and risk assessments and the Treasure Hunt.  The cost of Christmas 2013 was £9,752.93 and included time, risk assessments, fees, insurance, generators, lighting and publicity liabilities which were incurred prior to the financial year end. 
Frodsham Foundation does not have the resources to manage the Christmas 2014 celebrations.  The Foundation has suggested to FTC that they allocate a budget of £10,000 for 2014 and believe this has been done.  The Foundation has also requested £1,000 to produce a wrap up report with suggestions of how to minimise the cost of running the festival.

BIG Wedding Events
Frodsham Foundation developed the BIG Wedding Event model to promote Frodsham as a Wedding Town and to encourage collaboration between businesses.  The events in March and September 2013 involved over 30 businesses (both home and high street based) who benefitted from centralised publicity, social media coverage, a designated wedding website and printed wedding guide.  The Foundation ran the two events in 2013 and the businesses ran the 2014 event, drawing on the model created by the Foundation.   The 2014 event also utilised the website and artwork the Foundation produced.
Crowthers Cake Studio and Gift Shop on the Corner reported that the BIG Wedding Event generated their busiest retail day of the year.
The total cost of the BIG Wedding Events for the year ending 30 September 2013 was £4,292.06 which includes publicity, marketing, graphics, photography, video, printed guide, publicity balloons, goody bags and time, including sub contractors.
General business and community contact
Identifying Frodsham’s resources and requirements and developing local networks was an essential, but costly, part of establishing Frodsham Foundation.  Frodsham Foundation identified 1200 local businesses, of which only 28% create employment opportunities and 200 community groups.  Face to face liaison is time consuming but has been essential in establishing requirements and developing relationships. 
A diverse range of issues have been identified from the business and community contact.  Some are very specific to the particular business or community group, some impact on the wider community.   In 2012, the initial plans presented by Cheshire West and Chester Council for the bridge renovation produced a considerable amount of anxiety.  The Foundation worked with the business community and CWaC to find an alternative solution that was less disruptive to the town.  In August 2012 Frodsham Foundation provided CWaC with details of a temporary bridge proposal, with plans, photographs and contacts.  The temporary bridge proposal gained enormous support from the Frodsham community and, at a public meeting in September where the business community stressed the importance of the temporary bridge, CWaC agreed to consider and cost the proposal. To improve communications and trust, the Foundation then chaired two progress meetings between local business representatives, CWaC and its partners.
The cost of general business and community relations to Frodsham Foundation for the year ending 30 September 2013 was £5,447.18.  This figure also includes the procurement and trades identification work, web portal and Move to Frodsham initiative.
Administration

General administration of Frodsham Foundation for the year ending 30 September 2013 was £1,325.67.  This figure includes directors and officers insurance, Companies House fees, administrative time, telephone, broadband, printing and postage.

TRADING AND PROFIT AND LOSS ACCOUNT
FOR THE YEAR ENDED 30/09/13


2013
2013

£
£
Income


Frodsham Town Council grant
20,000

CWaC grant
15,000

Government grant
10,000

Other grants
350

Operating income
7,922

Total

53,272



Expenditure


Contractor Fees (2 contractors) and salary including HMRC costs for 14 months
36,324

Bee Festival expenditure including marquees, security, first aid, generator, stage, It’s a Knockout, Castle Park Fees, publicity and newspaper
5,521

Christmas 2012 expenditure
498

Christmas 2013 liabilities and expenditure
7,161

General publicity expenditure
611

Goods Shed publicity and open day expenditure
201

Wedding events publicity inc Guide, goody bags, balloons, posters, flyers and banners
843

Accountancy fees
430

Administration expenditure including Companies House fees, insurance, travel, parking, sustenance, phone, broadband and postage
448




Total

52,037



Profit on ordinary activity

1,235