Thursday, 26 February 2015

Celebrating Frodsham and our wonderful community

Earlier this week, we as a town, conferred the Freedom of Frodsham on our own branch of the Royal British Legion.  We gave them both types of Freedom - the Honorary Freedom conferred on someone who has performed 'eminent' service for Frodsham, and the 'freedom of entry' that is given to military detachments.

We are only the second town in the entire country to confer this honour on the Royal British Legion... and if I had had my way a few years ago we would have been the first.

I am very proud of Frodsham.  It is my home and in fact the only place that has felt like home for me.  I am very proud of my Manx heritage.  I have great respect for Liverpool - the city I spent my formative years in - but it is Frodsham that is my and my family's home.  I tease my wife, and particularly my mother-in-law by saying that I am only respectable because I married into their Frodsham family!

Frodsham is a wonderful place, and a great community... and if we are to remain so, if we are to attract investment we need to be a little less coy about it.  We need to let people know just how great we are, what a wonderful community we are and why investing in Frodsham and the surrounding area make such sense.  We all need to be ambassadors for Frodsham.  And shouldn't all our councillors take on that ambassadorial role as part of the job - along with everyone else who thinks the same?

I'm delighted that so many of my fellow councillors on Frodsham Town Council agreed with me.  Over the last 4 years or so we have been expanding the civic roles in Frodsham.  We have split the role of Mayor and Chairman of the council.  This allows the Chairman to run the business and the Mayor to perform all the important civic and representative roles entirely free from the malestrom the leading the town council can be.  I have to say that 2011-12, the year I was Mayor of Frodsham and the last year that the Mayorship and Chairmanship vested in the same person, was the most taxing and wearing year of my life so far.  Asking one person to do everything - leading and chairing the council and perform all the civic roles is, in my view, too much, especially as the town council's role is expanding and it takes on more functions and responsibilities.

Cllr Allen Wales, our present Mayor, is absolutely brilliant.  He is a credit to the town.  He works really hard representing the town outside Frodsham and the council within Frodsham.  I'm also delighted that we now have junior mayors alongside Allen.  It is fantastic to see youngsters alongside our Mayor at civic occasions - they are, after all our future!  It is also wonderful to see their evident pride and joy in representing Frodsham too.

Separating the Mayorship from the Chairmanship, having Junior Mayors and establishing local honours such as the granting of the Freedom is, in my view, all part of a growing self-confidence in Frodsham - and most of the town councillors agree.

However we have not been unanimous and here lies the rub.  When it comes to granting honours, such as the 'Freedom of Frodsham' the council can only do so on the basis of a 2/3rds majority.  Of course one would expect that the council would be unanimous when conferring any such award.  I would have been able to have proposed the awarding of the Freedom of Frodsham 3 years ago were it not for the opposition of certain Councillors.  I was not prepared to split the council over the issue at that time.   I hoped that the passage of time would bring them round or offer some other solution.

Circumstances did change somewhat following a series of by-elections but we were still left with a 'rump' of disgruntled councillors.  Fortunately when I proposed that we grant the freedom again last summer the council readily passed the enabling resolution which led to this week's wonderful cermonial with the Royal British Legion.

Now I ask the people of Frodsham to look carefully at the minutes of the meeting where we granted the Freedoms.  The minutes for the meeting of 25 February.  The minutes will show the council was unanimous.  But we didn't have all 16 members present.  Some were away on business, some were gracious enough to apologise for their absence.  Others were not so gracious.

Those councillors who chose not to attend will have to answer themselves as to what their motivations were and are and what else they put as a priority ahead of the granting of Frodsham's first civic award.   However from my point of view it is all very straight forward.  When you enter public service - the idea is one of service.  You put the community ahead of your own personal interests.  If you can't do that - if you put your own personal agenda first - you are not fit to be a councillor and certainly not a fit representative for our fantastic community.  I expect better, and I think the vast majority of Frodsham residents would agree too.