Saturday, 17 September 2011

So where exactly is Frodsham?

Those of us who live in Frodsham know where it is.  If you want the co-ordinates we are at 53 degrees 17 minutes and 33.82 seconds North by 2 degrees, 43 minutes 14.93 seconds West.  We are located by the Mersey Estuary, the Ship Canal and the River Weaver and we are off Junction 12 on the M56.  We shelter beneath Frodsham, or if you prefer Overton Hill and to the south of us there is rural mid-Cheshire with many smaller communities and villages.   More than 9,000 people call Frodsham home.

If we need health services we look primarily to our own GPs and then to main hospitals like the Countess of Chester.  We shop in Frodsham, Helsby, Chester and Cheshire Oaks and on occasion we may go further afield like Liverpool, Warrington or Manchester.  We have our own police and fire stations.  We have largely amicable relations with our near neighbours in Helsby and virtually all our older children are educated at Helsby High School.

Our main links lie along an East-West corridor.

You'd have thought everyone would realise this - especially the powers that be?  Well in my last blog I talked about the Boundary Commission's suggestion that Frodsham should end up in a Parliamentary seat with Ditton, Hale, Bromborough, Eastham and Ellesmere Port.  A thoroughly bizarre suggestion.

This week I've been fighting off those who would use Northwich's needs as justifying decisions for Frodsham.  In CWaC Frodsham lies in the 'Northwich and Rural North Area Programme Board' - a rather curious false geographic construct that has no meaning on the ground - certainly not in Frodsham.

So what do we share with Northwich other than lying within Cheshire and CWaC?
Well our children go to different schools.  If you are ill you go to different GPs and different hospitals.  At the moment we are in different PCT areas - and will be in different GP commissioning areas once those reforms go through.   We are within the Western Division for Cheshire Police together - but then so is Chester and Ellesmere Port - but our community police are based here in Frodsham.  We don't shop in each other's shops.  We worry about different planning projects and there are no direct roads connecting us.  We don't even share the same local newspapers.

Those of us living in and around Frodsham are different and distinct from Northwich. 

So ... a word of advice to those who would make decisions about or for Frodsham - treat us with respect.  Understand we are not a suburb of Northwich.  If you want to change things here based on evidence of need - use evidence of need from Frodsham and its hinterland not from Northwich.  You'll find, if you haven't already noticed, that Frodsham is very independent in spirit and getting increasingly fed up by being ignored and taken for granted.



Tuesday, 13 September 2011

Boundary Commission Review - Mersey Banks

I don't whether to laugh or cry when looking at the Boundary Commission's suggestions for a Mersey Banks constituency.  I have to say this must be amongst the most absurd suggestions that the Commission has proposed - and they've reached this position through what I see as poor decision making, having painted themselves into unnecessary corners elsewhere, and our interesting geography and proximity to seemingly immutable boundaries.  However the commission seemingly can defy the vast expanse of the River Mersey. 

So why do I think this is absurd?  Well how many Parliamentary Constituencies bridge 3 local authority areas - we have Bromborough and Eastham from Wirral, Hale and Ditton from Halton with the remaining areas being in Cheshire West and Chester in this suggestion.  How many Parliamentary Constituencies are divided by a river - and one of the  size of the Mersey Estuary?  When the new Mersey Gateway bridge is built one will have to pay a toll to move from one side to another.  This suggestion strikes me as having been produced by someone looking at a map and not appreciating that the 'blue bits' are water.  The Hale and Ditton portions are physically distant and remote as a matter of geography from the rest of the suggested constituency and other than touching the river they are not even contiguous with the other parts.

This suggested constituency straddles the Merseyside and Cheshire boundary - an inconvenient boundary the Commission has chosen to ignore.  This proposal links communities that have few if any ties.  Do the people of Ditton consider themselves to be similar or linked with Eastham or Bromborough? I suggest that the Mersey Estuary and the few transport links there are over or under the Estuary demonstrate that these communities are not linked in any meaningful way.

However as the Commission has decided that it can't link Liverpool with Birkenhead (clearly tolls or the prospect of tolls are no impediment) even though they are in the same county, and with the Welsh and the North West region boundaries being 'fixed' some difficult decisions are needed.  However the absurdity of straddling 3 local authority areas of linking communities that have little or no contact is going too far in my view. Certainly you don't hear of Weaverham residents clamouring to go to Eastham or Ditton or vice versa.

And then to add to the stupidity the Boundary Commission decided that it wouldn't take account of the ward  changes in Cheshire West and Chester that were used at our last elections in May 2011.  There is no such thing as 'Weaver ward' any more, or indeed any of the Cheshire West wards as shown.  If you want a recipe for confusion for voters in this area this it.

It is interesting to note this proposal is 'oversized' with a suggested electorate of over 80,000 - and this is before one considers that CWaC is 'going for growth.'

Speaking as a Frodsham resident I would be looking to be linked with rural mid Cheshire or to Chester, or perhaps towards Ellesmere Port.  If that isn't possible, and with regret I would consider what we presently have with Weaver Vale at the moment links with Runcorn - although I don't see how Runcorn, Northwich and Frodsham are linked communities at the moment.  The previous MP Mike Hall described Weaver Vale as 'not the best piece of work done by the Boundary Commission.'  Well this is even worse.

I'm sorry Boundary Commission this is Grade U material.  You are failing all the communities in these proposals.  This is simply not fair to anyone and not good enough.

Monday, 12 September 2011

Frodsham Downhill Run

Frodsham Downhill Run September 2011.  Another fantastic Frodsham event - many thanks to Sue and her team at the Community Centre for organising it, Widnes Vikings for sponsoring it and the army of supporters who kept us all on course!   It was wonderful to see around 250 runners with many families and loads of youngsters running.

I'm smiling in the photograph as I was near the finish line.  This was my second year of running and I set a personal best!  Eight seconds faster than last year and 2 places better!  I was 74th in 11:14 - over 4 minutes longer than the first home.  At least I can boast I was the first Councillor and the first Mayor - however I was well beaten by Graham Evans MP.

The long summer is over

Summer is normally a quiet time politically - although this summer we've had a more active summer period than usual.  CWaC's Executive has had a number of difficult decisions to make including whether to continue with subsidised transport for children attending faith schools for faith reasons as opposed to their local school and whether the Council should seek to provide additional pitches for the Gypsy and Traveller communities.

If the summer has been this challenging goodness only knows what the autumn will bring.