Wednesday, 29 February 2012

Frodsham's First Big Awards Event

We've just had a wonderful grant awards evening in Frodsham.  Sixteen different community groups and associations came together to present to each other and decide which proposals should be funded.

Cllr Lynn Riley and I each have a £10,000 community grant pot that we manage.  The idea is that local community groups and associations can approach their Councillors and seek assistance - and that the grants can be awarded with a minimum of fuss.  This evening we offered three £1,000 grants and four £500 grants.

Rather than Lynn and I decide - it was the community groups themselves that decided which of the proposals should be funded - and they weren't allowed to vote for themselves!

It was also a wonderful evening of networking with the groups mingling with each other - and with other groups that could also potentially provide grant assistance too - such as Rotary, Round Table.  It was also good to see Arthur Nield explain how grants could be obtained from the PCT providing they chimed with health and well being.

Any way enough explaining.  You all want to know who the winners were... Well ...

In no particular order:

Frodsham CE Primary School - £500.  The girls bid for money towards an 'eglu' - a fox proof, cosy chicken coop for 2 chickens to help them learn about sustainable food production.

Frodsham Rainbow Club - £500 to support families with special needs children experience out door activities.

Rotary Club of Frodsham & Helsby - £500 towards the Festival in the Park family fun day

Overton Memorial Hall Recreation Club - £500 towards the costs of replacing the bowling green flood lights.

Frodsham Youth Association - £1,000 for an inter-generational story telling project - where the older generation will tell their stories and the youngsters will perform them - with the Association raising the funds to make this a sustainable, repeatable event.

Frodsham Community Association - £1,000 towards the 'Weaver Words' Literary Festival due late summer 2012.

Vale Royal Women's Aid - £1,000 towards supporting women and children affected by domestic abuse through cooking and so much more. 

Lynn and I think it was a wonderful event - more importantly the groups themselves overwhelmingly considered the evening to be excellent.  Many thanks to Pastor Tim for letting use the 'tin church' and to Debra and Fiona for organising the evening for us.

Tuesday, 28 February 2012

FTC steps up to support our High Street

FTC delivered on its promise to create the role of a town manager at its meeting yesterday.  In fact the new role gained a new name.  After discussion with representatives of Love Frodsham the role has been named the 'Town Champion.'  We're hoping to agree on the job description and person specification within the next week or so with a view to the post being advertised later on this month and job interviews and presentations in April.

We've also got to make our presentation to the DCLG seeking to become a 'Portas Pilot' town.  It would have been great to have had the Town Champion in post first - however the timing isn't in our hands.  If you think you can help - please be in touch!

The submission to the DCLG has to be made by 30 March - and has to be done largely by video presentation.

There is lots of hard work to be done. 

Monday, 27 February 2012

Youth Speaks - District Final

Youth Speaks District Finalist at Forest Hills, Frodsham 25 Feb 2012
I was honoured and delighted to be invited to the Youth Speaks district finals hosted by the Rotary Club of Frodsham and Helsby last Staurday afternoon as Mayor of Frodsham.  Youth Speaks is a fantastic event hosted by Rotary in which teams of 3 youngsters compete in public speaking.  Each team, drawn from a school in Rotary District 1280, has a chairman, a principal speaker and a third member to propose the vote of thanks.  The event is strictly timed and is all about encouraging our youngsters to have the confidence to speak in public.

There were two competitions this afternoon - the Intermediates (up to 14 years of age) and the Seniors (school students over 14).  The speakers spoke on a range of topics including the Olympics, drama, lying, university, television and '50 ways to leave your lover.'

It was marvellous to see and hear such wonderful talent, skill and humour on display.  It was also wonderful to behold Wendy Sutcliffe (Chairman of the Judges) have the time to comment on each speaker's performance.  She was right to tell everyone that they could all be very proud of their performances.  Each team had already won their heat to get to the district final - and not surprisingly the standard was very high.  As Wendy put it - there were very few points separating the teams.

Well, the winners and runners up were:

Shevington High School
Bury Boys Grammar

Tower College St Helens
Falinge Park High School

The regional finals take place in at Forest Hills later in March.

Friday, 24 February 2012

Should Frodsham be a Mary Portas Pilot Town?

Mary Portas - the high street retail guru - has persuaded the Government to pilot her initiatives to breathe more life back into our high streets.    The Department of Communities and Local Government (DCLG) has established a £1m fund to support changes in up to 12 towns nationally.

Cheshire West and Chester Council indicated last week that it wanted to support one of its towns in making the bid to the government.  Frodsham Town Council had already signalled its intention to bid to become a pilot town when CWaC made its announcement.  CWaC invited each town in the Borough to highlight what their bid to the DCLG would be likely to contain so it could evaluate the best candidate for support.

After having evaluated the bids from Chester, Neston and Northwich as well as Frodsham CWaC's Executive Member for Regeneration Cllr Herbert Manley selected the bid from Frodsham as the one which CWaC will support in the bid process.

The formal letter confirming Frodsham's status as CWaC's supported bidder said: 'we felt your application represents the best opportunity.'  

A well connected source described the Frodsham bid as being 'by far the best.'

FTC will discuss the next steps at its meeting on Monday 27 February.  If you want to get involved please contact me or our Town Clerk.

The bid to the DCLG needs to be submitted as a video by 30 March 2012.

Thursday, 23 February 2012

CWaC reduces Council Tax - and even better news in Frodsham

Conservative run Cheshire West and Chester Council tonight voted to reduce the overall Council Tax in the Borough by 0.25%.  This reduction will reduce the Council's income from the Council Tax by around £300,000 over all.  The Council wished to refund money to Borough residents who had their services interrupted by strike action earlier in the year - hence going beyond simply freezing the Council Tax.  This £300,000 refunds around 2/3rds of the money the Council saved when its workforce went on strike.

The Council also voted to bring in a Special Expenses Regime which apportions its costs of providing Christmas lights, Police Community Support Officers and playing fields to the Council tax payers in the local parishes where those services are paid for by the Council.  Now in Frodsham CWaC doesn't pay for any of these services - they are all paid for by Frodsham residents through Frodsham Town Council.  This change coupled with the overall drop of 0.25% means our council tax payable to Cheshire West and Chester will fall by 0.91%.  On a Band D property this is a £11.40 reduction.

This also means that Frodsham Town Council has more than achieved its aim of offsetting its Council Tax rise against the reduction in Council Tax from Cheshire West and Chester Council.

So on a Band D property:

CWaC down £11.40
FTC up            £8.33
net reduction  £3.07

Now to get the full picture on the Council Tax you need to consider also what the Fire Authority and the Police Authority have done too.  The Fire Authority left its Council Tax rate unchanged.  The Police Authority voted to increase its Council Tax by 3.94% or £5.77 on a Band D property.

Overall then this means a £2.70 increase in the Council Tax on a Band D property or 5p per week.  Effectively this is a standstill position.  According to my calculation the overall increase on a Band D total council tax bill of around £1,500 is 0.0018%.

Incidentally I voted against the Police Authority's rise - but was out voted!

Friday, 10 February 2012

Fabulous Frodsham

Do you ever have one of those days when, suddenly you start to see how things could be, and when I mean could be, I mean could be so much better?

Well today has been one of those days.  Chance conversations with people - when one sparks an idea in the other, and suddenly you can see what could be done.  We have a truly marvellous community with lots of inspired and inspiring people.  If only we could join up the dots between them.

My phrase of the moment is 'forces of nature' - I am really anxious that we harness as many of these people who are truly inspirational 'forces of nature' and have them all working together for our wonderful community in Frodsham.

Well I've found another 2 forces of nature today, I have hints of a 3rd that I will go in search of in due course.  

When you realise what talent we have in our community and link it to the localism agenda - in other words making sure we in Frodsham decide or influence as much as possible about what goes on in and around Frodsham and for our community you realise we don't have to be passive behind our front doors - we can go out and change things for ourselves.

For far to long we have had those who design and run services doing no more than 'occupying the crease' playing the game of life like Chris Tavere's style of cricket on a particular sultry, languid afternoon.  Just imagine a few forces of nature rallying round to breath more life into our community... now that's why I've got a twinkle in my eye at the moment.

Saturday, 4 February 2012

Winter Gritting

A day of freezing rain and potentially lethal conditions on our pavements.  I do hope all our volunteer gritters have been out gritting the roads and pavements - we need it!

My wife and I were out walking our Labrador today - I took this photograph of icicles on a gate down at the Frodsham Cut by the River Weaver - but I found walking on ungritted pavements particularly difficult en route!

As we walked I noticed that some of our side roads (the ones Cheshire West and Chester Council don't grit, and have no obligation to grit) - needed it.  I hope our volunteers are out doing their bit!

A really big thank-you to all our local volunteer gritters and to the Cheshire West and Chester Council gritters helping to keep us safe and moving.

Friday, 3 February 2012

And on the 3rd day...

I have had a manic week.  Lets leave aside for one moment that I do have a full time day job, I have spent the last 3 days heavily engaged in local government work.

On Wednesday I was in London with Cllr Lynn Riley and Graham Evans MP.  That was all about the swing bridge - I'll report more about that in due course - suffice it to say at this stage Lynn and I are very much engaged on this.

Thursday was the Fostering Panel - with all the responsibility and difficult decisions ... and then today.

Today kicked off with the Police Authority Finance Committee and the detailed work on the police budget for next year.  There are some very difficult decisions to be faced here - and we have until 21 February to decide what we need to do.  Lunchtime saw Lynn and I with CWaC officers discussing Frodsham, the challenges we face and crucially where we see great opportunity for bringing change and improvement.

And then in the afternoon we had the first round of interviews for the new Town Clerk for Frodsham.  We interviewed two candidates and we have another 4 to interview next week.