Friday, 29 March 2013

Thank you Costa

I was innocently minding my own business this morning - hoping for a lie-in when I got a text from Lynn - she was looking for hunky men.  Now obviously Lynn was scraping the barrel as I may be many things - but I don't think I am an example of Frodsham's finest manpower - but she needed help in shifting sofas.

Costa coffee has been refurbished - and very kindly, they have donated some of their old chairs, tables and sofas to the community.  We will use them as part of the youth cafe project that the Youth Association is looking to bring about this summer.

So a big thank you to Costa for the donation!  It is also very impressive to see how quickly Costa have refurbished they cafe!

Monday, 18 March 2013

Altogether Better

Wow - I've just had one of my most productive days as a Councillor.

I had two meetings - one this afternoon and the other this evening all about the Altogether Better agenda for Western Cheshire generally and for Frodsham in particular.

The first meeting was with public sector partners.  We sat around the table with colleagues from police, fire, health, Weaver Vale Housing Trust, a key local education specialist and Frodsham Town Council as well as my colleagues from Cheshire West and Chester Council. and   We explored how we could work together going forward.

Everyone agreed and accepted that working together going forward was the right thing to do - and the best way of maximising and shaping Frodsham centred outcomes.  There was also agreement that this would also be the best way in securing help for the vulnerable in Frodsham.

Did you know:
Frodsham has the highest level of unemployment of any CWaC rural community;
22% of Frodsham's population is 65 or more; and
one segment of our community is amongst most deprived 20% in the country.

Our public sector partners indicated that they thought Frodsham was too small to work with alone.  We had a general consensus that a population size of around 20,000 or perhaps as high as 30,000 would be the ideal size.  I suggested we worked on the basis of the catchment area of Helsby High School - one public sector colleague said - 'I can't believe no one has suggested this before!'

The second meeting looked at the same issues but was a briefing for Frodsham Town Council.  As many of you know I have been trying for years to get FTC to lift its horizons - this was a truly heartwarming experience seeing the enthusiasm I have being extended to my colleagues and seeing them grasp the idea that FTC could have a seat at the top table - and influence all manner of public service delivery in Frodsham.

If we can start to make this work in the next 2 years we really will have made some really significant progress.

Thursday, 14 March 2013

Use your legs day in Frodsham

It was 'use your legs day' for school children in Frodsham today.  Everyone was encouraged to walk or cycle to school.  I was honoured to be at Weaver Vale School this morning congratulating the many youngster who cycled, walked or scooted to school.  CWaC officers were on hand giving out 'goodie bags' which contained lots of interesting things to encourage an active life style and safe cycling.

Frodsham's latest Home Watch

I'm delighted to report that Frodsham has a new Home Watch Area in the northern part of our town.  I was delighted to be able to support the initiative out of the Member's Grant pot.  This picture is of our PCSO Neil Flanagan and me posing in front of the new sign put up outside Weaver Vale School.

If you are keen eyed you'll spot the signs at:

Ship Street - by the Police Station;
Hawthorne Road
St Luke's Drive
Wayford Close/Wayford Mews
Ship Street - Near Hayes Crescent
Ship Street - near closed play ground; and the one photographed
Ship Street - opposite Weaver Vale School.

I need to say a big 'thank you' to Liz Biddle at Cheshire Police and to John Lloyd for all their hard work in establishing this new Home Watch area and for all the good neighbours joining in this excellent scheme.

Thursday, 7 March 2013

CWaC Special Council 6 March 2013

Cllr Lynn Riley and I, along with all other CWaC Councillors were invited to attend a special council meeting at Winsford last night.

We were asked to consider the proposed merger of Cosmopolitan Housing Group with Sanctuary Housing Group.  Chester and District Housing Group was formed to take a transfer of the former Chester City Council house stock many years ago.  More recently it became part of the Cosmopolitan Housing Group. 

If you are interested in the underlying issues I suggest you 'google' Cosmopolitan Housing Group and read the press reports.

We can't say anything about the meeting as it was all commercially confidential - however the Chief Executive of CWaC has authorised us to say that the Council is working hard to achieve the best possible outcome for the tenants of CDHG.

Note Weaver Vale Housing Trust took the transfer of the old Vale Royal Council's housing stock and as such this proposal is unlikely to raise any issues in Frodsham.

Wednesday, 6 March 2013

The Ken Riddoch Trophy for Contribution to Sport

Can you help me solve a mystery?

I was handed what I take to be an EPNS Silvered Dish tonight.   Around the rim it is entitled 'The Ken Riddoch Trophy for Contribution to Sport.'  In the centre it has 'Vale Royal presented by Sports Council.'

Apparently it was in the back of a cabinet where old council trophies and dishes were being stored.  Something of a clear out was being considered - however Cllr Eleanor Johnson spotted this dish - and noting that it was apparently first awarded to Frodsham Harriers in 1979 and was linked to Vale Royal she suggested that it be given to me.

I've given it a light polishing - as it was very tarnished.

There are some obvious leads I will attempt to follow up in due course - but if anyone knows anything about the trophy and its significance please let me know.

The engravings on the front appear to be:

1979 Frodsham Harriers
1980 Fred Egerton Angling; Jack Bennion Bowling
1981 Harold Brotherton Bowling for the Handicapped
1982 Shirley Strong Athletics
1983 John Biddulph Power Lifting
1984 George Bunner Athletics
1985 Mr W Shufflebottom Rowing
1986 Dave Warburton Karate
1987 Jack Denton Swimming
1988 Pip Wright Football
1989 Terry Veal Cycling
1990 Tom Stelfox Football
1991 Frank Yarwood Swimming
1992 Jack Buckley Cricket & Gordon Bennett Youth Football
1993 Michael Wilding & Tommy Blackmore Boxing
1994 George Wardle Cricket
1995 Roger Blake Rugby Union
1996 Geoff Crompton, Les Burgess Founders Moulton Adventure Group
1997 Peter Warburton Soccer

The engravings on the back are:
2001 Pat Joseph
2002 Ken & Mary Ayrton
2002/03 Bill Perrin Football
2003/04 Stewart Bailey
2004/05 Tony Ryder

I'm open to suggestions as to what should happen to it next.  It is a nice piece and it would be great if it could be awarded again - but before we think about that - what was this trophy all about?

Saturday, 2 March 2013

Frodsham Foundation's Big Wedding Event

It's been a sunny day in Frodsham.  The town has been bedecked in white balloons all attracting people to the town for the Big Wedding Event.  We've had visitors from Liverpool, Preston and Chester to name but a few places ... all attracted to Frodsham.

We want Frodsham to be a wedding destination of choice - we know what a fantastic place it is - we just need to make sure everyone else knows too.  Everything anyone needs for a fantastic wedding is here in Frodsham... and best of all much of it comes from our local independent businesses.

We have the venues - the Churches, the Hotels and Castle Park;
We've the dress shops, the jewellers, the cake shops, the photographers, the gift shops ... the list goes on and on.

It was wonderful to see the buzz in Frodsham today, to see the Foundation bringing businesses together and attracting people to Frodsham.  As Rob Crowther said to me ... 'can we have one of these every weekend please!'  I gather his whole hog was well and truly eaten by early afternoon!


Friday, 1 March 2013

Putting life in Frodsham

In a rather dull budget debate last night one of the issues that Labour chose to highlight was Members' Budgets.  I won't repeat what I've recently blogged about - if you want to read all about Member's Budgets just dig out my missives from February.  However it is clear that there is something of a disagreement about them between the parties.

For Lynn and me in Frodsham those members' budgets (small in comparison with what FTC could spend) and positively tiny when compared to CWaC's budgets can go a long way to make real differences in the community.  

Those member's budgets have brought/leveraged amongst other things for us;

Highway improvements - Kingsley Road/Bradley Lane Zebra Crossing Improvement; speed reduction on the A56 - the extended 40mph zone; double yellow lines for Marsh Lane; and a balance of funds to help FTC lever more highway improvements
Support for the Christmas Festival, the Festival in the Park, the FCA's Downhil Run;
Several schemes for our Scout and Guide Associations, the Army Cadets and Youth International as well as the Youth Association and the Model Car Club
Frodsham Foundation
Bereavement Support
Play Group supports and improvements
Soon to be 8 public access defibrillators in Frodsham (including one for each primary school) - and an additional one in Helsby High School; 
Localised winter gritting anywhere in Frodsham where there are volunteers - and a gritter for Helsby High School; and
the page Lynn and I take in Frodsham Life.

Labour's Cllr Tickridge chose to attack the page in Frodsham Life as a particularly poor example of members' budget spending - she criticised it for supporting a private company.  It is a shame she hadn't done her research a little better - if she had she would have found out that Frodsham Life was: 
  • started with public funding from the old Frodsham Forward (that was supported by Labour);
  • that it is a good way to communicate with the people of Frodsham - as it supposed to be delivered through everyone's door.
Without Frodsham Life we wouldn't have had a cost effective way of bringing to everyone's attention things such as:
  • meetings about the Swing Bridge and other highway matters;
  • changes to speed limits;
  • changes to bus services;
  • details of how to apply for grant funding;
  • details of how to get your home insulated;
  • news about public access defibrillators;
  • updates on gritting etc etc
  • events etc
The list goes on.  It also supports a magazine that helps us all communicate about Frodsham and see what a wonderful place it is.

So when you see just how far the small amount of money has gone just bear in mind that Labour doesn't agree.  Perhaps we shouldn't have localised winter gritting, nor public access defibrillators etc.
Incidentally Cllr Frank Pennington thanked Lynn and me effusively at FTC on 25 February for the way in which we had administered the grants money and made sure that the greatest number of people had benefited from it.  

Setting the Council Tax - CWaC

We had the yearly budget debate at CWaC last night.  As you might expect we voted to accept the budget put forward by Cllr Les Ford for next year.  This sees a modest 1.9% rise in the Council Tax - slightly less than what Cheshire Fire Authority (1.99%) and Cheshire Police and Crime Commissioner (1.99%) are doing and a little bit more than the 0.2% cut I introduced at Frodsham Town Council.

This means that every year since CWaC was created residents of Cheshire West have seen a real terms cut in the Council Tax.  We've had council tax cuts (last year), council tax freezes (the year before) and a couple of less than 2% rises in the period.  Inflation when cumulated over the four years has been around 11%.

No-one likes tax rises - but the extra £2m or so this modest rise raises will allow CWaC to keep its ambitious capital programme on track.  It is also worth pointing out that since CWaC was created we have stripped out and saved more than £100m from the costs of running the council - and it looks like over the next 3-4 years we will be making a further £34m worth of savings.  This is also whilst pushing foward on ambitious regeneration work in Northwich, Winsford and Ellesmere Port.

This is at a time when we have protected front line services - and are continuing to invest in our infrastructure.  In Frodsham I hope we will be seeing shortly a new expanded and improved library as an example.  And we've all seen the excellent job the council is doing in improving the state of our roads.

The budget debate is not usually a riveting affair - it is normally an opportunity for many to show ineptitude - and last night was no exception.  The opposition Labour Group proposed, in the scheme of CWaC's budgets, a tiny change - they wanted around £1.5m to go towards an 8, rather than a 6 lane swimming pool in Northwich and £100k to go towards facilities in Neston. 

I pointed out that Northwich Town Council - incidentally the Town Council with the highest council tax charge in CWaC - could readily finance that money - along with extended winter gritting as we do in Frodsham (this was raised earlier by a member of the public).  It also looked like the Labour Group seeking to shore up their support in Northwich - and I chided, gently, Labour Cllr Mercer-Bailey who proposed the changes.  Was she putting forward an manifesto for re-election in Northwich for 2015?

Lab Finance Shadow Cllr Tickridge rambled in her 19 min speech which was punctuated every few seconds with the word 'Tory.' If she had concentrated a little more on local government finance and a lot less on synthetic invective over national government policy she may have made a more telling contribution.  As it was I offered her - what I had hoped to be my and my wife's seat on the trip to Mars - I suggested she may get a better, more receptive audience amongst the planets.

[Note - The trip to Mars is looking for an older married couple - who are likely to suffer less from 500 days in space.  However they will have to live together in very close proximity with a limited audience!  You can imagine my wife's response to my suggestion]