Friday, 28 March 2014

Domestic Violence - why we are all involved and we all have to be vigilent

Domestic violence is in the news at the moment. We are going through another round of initiatives seeking to encourage victims to come forward, the police to take them seriously and for robust action to be taken.

Domestic violence is a particularly nasty, brutal outrage.  All of us should feel safe at home.  I know of at least two people close to me (not part of my immediate family) who have suffered domestic violence and controlling behaviour in the past - and fortunately in both cases they have now found peace.

Now I'm a great fan of Radio 4 Extra - I love listening to the old comedies.  Yesterday we had the classic 'Dad's Army' from 1976 where the Home Guard had to look after a U Boat crew.  It contains the classic line 'don't tell him Pike!'- perhaps the funniest one-liner in all of Dad's Army.  Today it has been Steptoe and Son - an episode where Harold was jilted at the altar.  However I found this episode, and in fact previous episodes from that series quite disturbing.  Casual lines about 'beating your head in' are broadcast.

Now I think the BBC should take a firm line about this - just as they have about the casual racism that passed for comedy in the 1970s and before.  We don't see or hear repeats of 'It ain't half hot mum' because of the concerns that it could pander to racism.  I think the BBC should self censor inappropriate aggressive lines - such as the Steptoe and Son example.  They have no place in comedy in my view.

I think as a country we have a long way to go over violence - and in particular unnecessarily aggressive language which I think betokens an unnecessarily aggressive personality.  As a Councillor I see far too much of it.  You'd have thought I'd see more of it at the Fostering Panel where we are trying to pick up the pieces for innocent children - but in fact I see and hear far more inappropriate language when dealing with the public and in some cases dealing with other councillors.

As President Obama put it recently - 'you can object without being objectionable.'

I worry about people who, when expressing themselves, when discussing proposals consider it appropriate to besmirch and criticise an individual rather than discuss the proposal in question and the merits of what is suggested.  Often nasty, aggressive and defamatory language is used.  Lies are broadcast without thought.  Brief interchanges on social media or email seem to encourage this behaviour.  And it is all so unnecessary.

I do hope I'm wrong - and that all I am seeing and reading actually reveals a less than skilled communicator.  A 'want of education' as my mother would put it when I uttered an expletive as a child!  However I suspect I'm right.  If your language is aggressive and nasty, leaving aside the merits of what is being said, does that not show the state of someone's thoughts and personality?  If we tried to treat everyone with respect all the time - would that not lessen the risk of violence generally?

You can object without being objectionable.  In fact if you do object in respectful language I suspect you'd be more likely to be listened to...


By the way I'm going to write to the BBC about Steptoe and Son and domestic violence.

Wednesday, 26 March 2014

Frodsham Consultation

If you are reading this blog and you are a Frodsham resident I do hope you either have, or are about to respond to the Frodsham Consultation.  This is largest consultation ever attempted in Frodsham, and it is the mot comprehensive survey attempted by any Town or Parish Council in the Borough.

Several of us hit the road last week to deliver our share of the 3,500 envelopes to each household in Frodsham.  I checked this morning - the last few deliveries are being made today and tomorrow - so if you haven't had your consultation papers by Friday do please phone the Town Council on 01928 735150 and request that one be delivered to you.

The Consultation is being jointly funded by Cllr Lynn Riley and me from our CWaC Members' Grants and by FTC.  The Town Council is responsible for the logistics with some help from Kate Dodgson of the Foundation.  If you want you can fill the survey in on-line - the link to survey monkey is included in the papers.  The data crunching will be done independently and, if you've used survey monkey automatically.

If you are going to fill in the consultation do please include both your postcode and your unique reference number - we need that information to make sure we keep the replies honest.

The Consultation - or more particularly the replies to the Consultation are very important for lots of reasons.  The Consultation gives Frodsham residents there opportunity to have their say on many of the issues that irk each and everyone of us from:

  • Car Parking - and how we manage it;
  • The road layout at the Swing Bridge - how should it be configured after the refurbishment is completed?
  • Road crossings - do we need them, and if so where;
  • Speed limits and speed limit enforcement - do you want more or less...?
  • Play areas - should we improve the FTC owned ones - and if we do how do we pay for it?
  • Leisure more generally - what are the priorities..
The replies will also help shape our first attempt at a neighbourhood plan and will also give feedback to the police, the health service and the market.

This afternoon an old lady I've known through council work phoned me up and thanked me for caring enough about Frodsham to have organised the consultation.  She then went on to say she was too frail to write a reply but she wanted me to pass on her comments.  So here they are:

She sees having a Swimming Baths as a priority for us;
She thinks first aid is important and she wants school children taught more about it;
She thinks the market is wonderful and wants to see it continue
She wants the playgrounds improving and
She wants the police to tackle the low level anti-social behaviour she witnesses near her home

So far we have received 281 physical consultation responses.  That is a return rate of 8% - and it is still early days.  This figure doesn't take account of the number of people sharing the response, nor does it include the responses made on-line - so it is more than possible that we are already over 10%.

Marketing companies will tell you that a mass marketing exercise with a 1% return rate has done well. National opinion poll surveys are often performed with somewhere between 1,000- 1,500 people questioned... so however you look at it, and whatever the responses actually are it looks like the consultation exercise has been a success.

Thursday, 6 March 2014

Swing Bridge Update - road layouts once complete - what do you reckon?

Cllr Lynn Riley and I together with Kingsley Councillor Ralph Oultram have met with CWaC highway officers to discuss the Swing Bridge refurbishment and crucially what the road layout should be once the bridge is restored and reopened.  We all know just how well the temporary road configuration has proved to be - well can it be replicated permanently?

The decision has been taken that the Swing Bridge, when re-opened, will have one lane in each direction.  You may remember the old configuration had 3 lanes - 2 leading out of Frodsham to a traffic light controlled junction.

The 3 lane configuration was an unhappy compromise.  The lanes were narrow, narrower than normal highway standard.  We know from the repairs on the bridge that many cars and lorries lost wing mirrors on the bridge.  The Canals and Rivers Trust are also looking to reduce the risk of bridge strike by vehicles - hence the decision to have 2 lanes only on the bridge.

So what should the configuration be on the Clifton Road / Sutton Weaver side?

There are three working models which are being worked on.  The three of us have asked the officers to work up the schemes and model the traffic flows so a fully informed decision can be made.

Option 1 - traffic light controlled junction
This one appears to be the least favoured option.  With the decision to reduce the bridge to 2 lanes of traffic there is every likelihood that the delays from this configuration will be worse than we were used to before;

Option 2 - a mini roundabout controlling the 3 legs on the Sutton Weaver side
The roundabout would have to be a painted dome allowing larger vehicles such as HGVs to over run it.  There is barely enough space to put such a roundabout in the existing carriageway space.  This option is a compromise as it gives every leg equal priority at the junction - even though the traffic flows are principally to and from Frodsham to the M56.  There is also a significant concern that the road from Sutton Weaver across the bridge would literally be a 'straight-on' road - not the best configuration to approach a roundabout.

Option 3 - an as is option - replicating the temporary configuration permanently
We know this configuration works and works well.  There is also space to move this configuration to the bridge from the temporary road works.  However this configuration too is a compromise as there is no 'straight-on' option from Frodsham to Sutton Weaver.  Are we prepared to accept this compromise for what is likely to be the most free flowing option?

When the preparatory work is done we intend to have the results published so everyone can have a think and have their say.

Incidentally the bridge works are on schedule to finish in the summer.  The Canals and Rivers Trust is  however wrestling with unexpected repairs to the bridge pontoon - so there is some uncertainty as to when the bridge works will be fully finished.  That said with the temporary road configuration working so well none of us are pressurising CWaC or the Canals and Rivers Trust to finish early!

CWaC highway officers tell us that there won't be time to put the final road configuration at the time of the bridge re-opening - so do expect to have to navigate through coned lanes.  This may mean there is an opportunity to test out a layout before deciding on a permanent layout.

Tuesday, 4 March 2014

Proposed speed limit reductions in and near Frodsham - A56, Tarvin Road, Commonside etc




The A56 is a rural A class road running between Helsby and Frodsham; the B5393 Tarvin Road and Frodsham Road is a rural B class road running from the A56 to Alvanley; the remaining roads listed lead off the A56 or B5393.  The assessment was carried out at the request of the Parish Councils along the route and the ward members.  All the roads are currently subject to the national speed limit (60mph). 

The results of the assessment, following the latest guidance from the Department for Transport, suggested that the section of the A56 between Mattys Lane and Castle Park would benefit from a speed limit reduction to 40mph.

For consistency Mattys Lane, Dig Lane and Hatley Lane are also recommended for reduction to 40mph. 

The remaining section of the A56 is more open, has one junction and no accesses so the recommendation is for the speed limit between Mattys Lane and the speed limit change near Woodhouses Park be reduced to 50mph.   

The B5393 Frodsham Road/Tarvin Road from the speed limit change near Ardern Lea to Alvanley Park was assessed as being appropriate for a reduction to 40mph.  The entire length of Back Lane and first 260m of Commonside which share a cross roads with the B5393 was also appropriate for a 40mph speed limit.

The B5393 Tarvin Road from the A56 to its junction with The Ridgeway, The Ridgeway and remaining length of Commonside were determined to be suitable for a 50mph speed limit and for consistency Woodhouses Lane, Chestnut Lane and Burrows Lane were to be the same too.

The speed limits proposed, but nothing lower, meets the Department for Transport guidance on setting local speed limits and is supported by the Police, Alvanley Parish Council, Frodsham Town Council and the local CWaC Members.

The proposed speed limit will be joint funded by the local elected members, and Cheshire West and Chester Council.

CWaC Council tax freeze this year, and next

Last night we set the Council Tax for CWaC.  It has been frozen.  There will be no increase from CWaC this year, and we have budgeted for no increase next year either.

The council tax we all pay in Frodsham is made up of 5 elements.  They are:

CWaC Council
CWaC Special Expenses
Town or Parish Council
Police and Crime Commissioner
Fire and Rescue Authority

The special expenses relate to the services CWaC provides in some parts of the Borough that are provided by Town and Parish Councils in other parts.  There are no special expenses in Frodsham.

So the position this year in Frodsham for a Band D council tax payer is as follows:

Precepting authority               2013-14                2014-15             Change £       Change%
CWaC Council                        £1267.57               £1267.57                 0.00               0.00
CWaC Special Expenses               -                             -                      0.00               0.00
Frodsham Town Council             £38.47                   £38.47                0.00               0.00
Police & Crime Commissioner £153.21                  £153.21                0.00               0.00
Fire and Rescue Authority           £67.75                    £69.09                1.34               1.98
Totals                                    £1,527.00               £1,528.34                1.34               0.09%

The change which is less than 1/10th of 1 percent - which is all down to the Fire and Rescue Authority will amount to less than 2.6p per week for a Band D council tax payer.

I always think it is useful to compare what a Frodsham Tax Payer pays compared with other parts of the Borough.  The variables here are the CWaC Special Expenses and the council tax set by the Town or Parish Council.  The size of the parishes and the ambitions of their respective parish or town councils varies enormously.

Comparing Frodsham with the other parished towns in CWaC:

Northwich         £1,572.60          £44.26 more than Frodsham
Winsford           £1,530.76            £2.42 more than Frodsham
Neston              £1,536.44            £8.10 more than Frodsham
Frodsham         £1,528.34

Yet again Frodsham is the lowest council taxed parished town in the Borough.

What about some of our larger non-town neighbours:

Elton                £1,532.77          £4.43 more than Frodsham
Helsby             £1,533.25          £4.91 more than Frodsham

When looking down the table of the council tax charged in the various towns and parishes in the Borough Frodsham lies 21st.  I well remember from the old Vale Royal days when Frodsham vied with Northwich for being the most expensive!  Incidentally there are around 97 town and parish councils, charter trustee areas etc.  Most parish councils - especially in the rural areas are very small and do comparatively little.

The comparison with Chester City is interesting to - as they have many services - including the Lord Mayorality charged as a special expense.  They are unparished.  They pay £1,507.26 - £21.08 less than Frodsham.

Frodsham is unique in CWaC in offering £5 vouchers to the over 70s.  This effectively means that a household with one person over 70 receives a £5 discount on their council tax, or £10 if there are 2 people over 70.

Taking the example of a household with one person over 70 they effectively pay £1,523.34.  There are 27 Town and Parish councils that charge their residents more than that in the Borough.

So if you have a couple over 70 - their effective council tax rate is £1,518.34  There are 39 Town and Parish councils that charge their residents more than that in the Borough.