Thursday, 24 February 2011

Community Grants update

Well following the tremendous success of our Community Grants participatory event yesterday Les, Mark and I are able to confirm that in addition the following Community Groups have been supported:

Frodsham Cricket Club - £1,000
Helsby Rugby Club - £1,000
Helsby Hillside Primary School - £1,000
Frodsham Methodist Church - Messy Mice Group - £732
Rotary Club of Frodsham & Helsby - Festival in the park - £430
Frodsham & District Choral Society - £350
Frodsham Craft Group - £270
Homewatch - £198

more details of all awards can be viewed at


Well another year another budget - and I have to say CWaC deserves tremendous praise and credit for having produced a budget for next financial year where there is no rise in Council Tax, all front line services are supported - nothing will be closed!  And this in a year when we have faced the front-loaded cuts to Local Government budgets imposed as part of the public sector austerity measures designed to pay down our country's massive budget deficit.

If you are insomniac and want to watch the debate it he web-cast will be available to watch on the CWaC website. 

However a health warning - there was little worthwhile debate.  The Labour opposition suggested very few amendments - and those that they did propose amounted to around 0.3% of the total monies - or as one of my colleagues put it - they agree with 99.7% of what is proposed!

Blowing in the wind

Peel Energy are seeking to have the representatives on their windfarm community benefit fund steering committee agree a press release with them.  That draft press release is presently being discussed.  I don't like it and have said as much to my colleagues in an email:

Dear colleagues
Whilst it is up to Peel to determine what they want to say in their press release I really don't like their suggestion and the implication that we are in agreement with them.  I don't want to be associated with such a release in any way.  If a balanced press release can be produced (which I doubt incidentally given the polarised positions) which shows the scepticism of the local community, its continued implacable opposition to the windfarm proposals and the view that the suggested contribution by Peel is derisory then fine.  A better way may be for us to send our own release out at the same time saying these things.
Incidentally I was at the Liverpool Airport Consultative Committee recently and they indicated (ball park figs not costed studies) that the second primary radar required to overcome the windfarm sparkles and dead zone would cost of the order of £4m - £6m.  I have understood Peel to say previously that the size of the Community Benefit Fund ('CBF') was dependent on the costs they had to spend on the radar. 
I am very unhappy that Peel would seek to limit the size of the CBF given such an issue and would want to see them pressed on this and the fact that £1.5 m over 25 years is derisory given the damage to the locale and the likely adverse impact on the communities if Chris Huhne the present Secretary of State ever granted permission for the proposals...

Community Grants

What a fantastic night! We had 15 community groups from Frodsham & Helsby seeking support from their colleagues for three £1,000 grant awards from Cllr Les Ford, Mark Ingram and my community grants pot.  Each of us has had £5,000 to award in each of the last two years - so that is £30,000 in total available to support community work.

And we've awarded the lot!

Last night 4th Frodsham Scouts, 3rd Frodsham Sea Scouts, and Castle Park Arts Centre convinced their colleagues that their projects for:
  • indoor bowling for our older citizens (4th Frodsham (Overton) Scouts)
  • refurbishing their toilets, and (3rd Frodsham Sea Scouts)
  • assistance in reparing (Castle Park Arts Centre)
should be supported.

Les, Mark and I also took the opportunity to support some of the other projects.  Those winning the awards will learn of that very shortly.

Roodee or not Roodee that is the question

It has taken many years - but at last there are now proposal with some money attached to them which could see a theatre being built in Chester.  The two sites suggested are the Little Roodee or the Odeon Cinema.  Neither is perfect, each has issues and more studies are to be undertaken.
Most crucially of all whilst CWaC has earmarked capital monies that can be spent on this project additional resources from elsewhere will be required before anything is built anywhere... oh and there is the small matter that CWaC needs to approve its budget tonight which includes the proposal to allocate capital in due course.

Perhaps this is 'one small step' closer to Hamlet?

Saturday, 19 February 2011

Budget Scrutiny

On Thursday night (17 February 2011) the Overview & Scrutiny Committee discussed CWaC's proposed budget for next year with the Council's Leader, Deputy Leader, Chief Executive and Director of Resources.  The budget has been prepared with the back-drop of the Coalition Government's austerity cuts and the corresponding reduction in Government grants paid to the Council. 

The Executive has produced a budget which will freeze the Council Tax at the level charged last year and ensure, that notwithstanding the cuts in government funding front line services are preserved.

Unlike the carnage being reported elsewhere CWaC is set to protect front line services and ensure that it delivers those services at less cost and more efficiently.  So all the SureStart centres, all Leisure Centres, all Libraries etc will remain open.

We think there will have to be some job losses - however they are estimated to be around 140.  And even these losses have to be seen in the context that nearly 700 people who wanted voluntary redundancy two years ago when CWaC was created couldn't be let go as we needed their services.  Yearly staff turnover exceeds 140 per year too.

I envisage that the Council we adopt this budget next week.

Wednesday, 16 February 2011

Pragmatism versus ideals and idealism

'Life is the art of the possible' - this is one of my favourite sayings and hints at the inevitable compromise between impossible idealism and the do-able or pragmatic.  Now most of the time I never find myself in a tussle between pragmatism and idealism - most of the time they amount to the same thing in my book.

However I'm presently wrestling with a situation that is troubling me.  What is pragmatic is not what is ideal.  What I feel is ideal, is also what I think should happen - but not everyone agrees with me.  I can live with the pragmatic option - however it will be an uncomfortable position for me.  It feels like the classic Harry Hill's TV Burp moment when he decides to have a 'fight' between his two competing positions!

As a lawyer I often explain to clients that the only people who can afford to have principles are the very rich or the very stupid who are prepared to fight for them - and happily fill the lawyer's coffers. 

So ... can I navigate these choppy waters with my principles and dignity still intact?  Time alone will tell!  Sorry to be opaque about the issue - sometimes you just have to work it out yourself!

Monday, 14 February 2011

Winter gritting

I spoke with the Head of Manor House school today and hopefully, between us, we'll get more of Langdale Way gritted when it is icy or snowy.  Subject to finalising the arrangements - which lies in the hands of CWaC officers - I'm hoping to assist the school in getting salt supplies and a spreader using the discretionary community grants budget I manage.  They will be able to grit the approaches to the school if the arrangements are approved.

I see this as a continuation of the Lakes Estate experiment - which I'd like to see extended throughout Frodsham & Helsby if we can.  Whether the experiment continues will depend on others' decisions - principally to do with funding.

In the same vein I received a letter today from a local resident who doesn't live on the Lakes Estate praising the efforts being made to improve winter maintenance in Frodsham.  It is nice to be appreciated!

Preparing for Scrutiny

We've budget scrutiny later this week so I've spent part of the afternoon preparing for the meeting - highlighting with officers those issues that need a closer look in advance of our budget setting Council meeting.

Sunday, 13 February 2011

Adult Safeguarding

CWaC has appointed a new Chairman of our Adult Safeguarding Board - Geoffrey Appleton.  I met him for lunch and discussed a range of issues concerning safeguarding - something that is not as well understood as it should be.

Candidates Selected

Frodsham & Helsby Conservatives have selected Andrew Dawson and Lynn Riley to contest the election set for 5 May 2011 for the Frodsham ward where two councillors are to be elected.  Les Ford has been selected to contest the election in the Helsby ward.