Here is an update on what I’ve been doing in the last two months since my previous blog.
If you want to chat to me about what I am doing in the Council my monthly surgeries are continuing on the second Monday of the month. The next one is 4th October. You can join on Zoom here or look out for my event on Facebook.
Cases are still occurring in our area and our case rate is between 170 and 460 per 100,000 people in the Congleton area. We have high vaccination rates too, though, with 85-95% of people (dependent on location) having had one dose and 75-85% having had two. You can track all this information if you like, on the government’s interactive COVID map. Of course serious cases and hospitalisations are much reduced but we must still be vigilant.
Restrictions are lifted and council events are being planned, but we still have to consider allowing for social distancing and encouraging people to practice hand-washing, sanitising and appropriate use of face-coverings.
The DA Clinic has been continuing weekly in the Old Saw Mill, and virtually. This is run by myCWA in partnership with Cheshire Police. At our recent Community & Environment Committee and Antisocial Behaviour Working Group meetings we have heard from the Police that Domestic Abuse reporting has increased slightly year-on-year. Whilst this my be due to the Euros football (which often results in an increase), myCWA thinks it might also be because people feel more confident reporting to the Police due to our DA Clinics.
Note: if you need advice or support related to Domestic Abuse please call 0300 123 5101. In an emergency call 999. Also see the Council’s web page – Staying Safe at Home.
Our Congleton White Ribbon purpose is to “Strive to eradicate all forms of gender-based violence and abuse in Congleton”, and we have been a very active group, taking the message out and in particular tackling the male behaviours that lead to violence.
We had a Town Centre stall on 10th July which was ably manned by the White Ribbon Ambassadors in our group. (I was self-isolating, but had prepared much of the material used). It was a quiet day but a few new people offered to volunteer to help White Ribbon and we are following up with them.
If you like you can join our White Ribbon Congleton Facebook Group. This is a private group intended to be a safe space for men (especially) to have constructive conversations with each other about how to challenge toxic masculinity and behaviours that lead to violence.
If you, your employer, your sports club or any other group would like a White Ribbon awareness session, please get in touch: firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you want to get personally involved you can get in contact with anyone on the White Ribbon Working Group, or you can make your own White Ribbon Promise here.
I continue to work with officers on a section ‘For Parents’ of our website which will cover everything from play parks to childcare to the rights of working parents. Congleton is a great place to bring up a family and we want to support Mums and Dads as much as possible, with both parenting and working.
I have discussed our remote learning courses with representatives from Macclesfield College. This initiative started pre-COVID and is to help local people such as single parents get training to get into work, without having to travel to Macclesfield or Crewe.
I am a Trustee of Congleton Museum and the recent challenges we faced during the pandemic brought home to the team the imperative to modernise and consider what the museum will be like and how it will work in the future.
To this end I designed a Strategy Workshop and facilitiated it with the support of Cllr Suzy Firkin (also a Trustee). We looked at the SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats) for our museum and considered how other museums around the country have modernised their approach. We then brainstormed new ways of working to address our key challenges and came up with 4 projects to work on. These include further digitisation, building up our volunteer base, engagement with schools and re-looking at the museum’s space.
We are now taking these forward and I’m particularly working on the digital side for which I’m drafting a brief for a potential provider of a ‘digital museum’ solution. We’re also doing desk research into digital platforms.
If you would like to get involved with the Museum, please contact me or email@example.com
The Museum is still collecting ‘100 objects’ that tell Congleton’s Story to celebrate the 750th Charter Year in 2022. Do you have an object that might be included? Email Congleton100@congletonmuseum.co.uk to suggest it.
The Congleton Pride event was on 21st August 2021. I hope you enjoyed the event, if you came!
The Pride event was a great day in spite of poor weather – a really wonderful festival for Congleton. There were stalls from retailers, political parties, charities, the Police and the Fire Service and one from 7 Congleton Churches. The outdoor stage catered for everyone from children’s magic shows to drag acts. The day was topped off by an amazing evening event at the Vale Club. The positive, inclusive spirit was inspiring and people of all ages and backgrounds joined in. A fantastic time was had by all and the Pride team have been inundated with thanks and positive comments.
Many thanks to all the organisers, stallholders, entertainers and everyone who came along on the day.
I helped with the set up and also did stints on the WEP stall and on Elizabeth’s Group.
I also managed to get a Pop-Up vaccine clinic organised for the Pride event, to allow anyone to come along and have their first or second jab. This was very successful and 228 people were vaccinated during the day.
In the run up to Pride I and a few members of the team went to United Reformed Church the previous Sunday as a gesture of friendship, as the URC has been a great Pride supporter and welcomes everyone to its worship.
We were sorry to find in the weeks before the event, several Pride advertising banners were torn down. The Police are investigating but the Pride team carried on regardless. This showed to me the importance of Pride in continuing to break down barriers in our town, although I’m sure the opposition numbers are low in Congleton.
If you want to get involved in future events or connect with other LGBTQ+ people, please contact Congleton Pride.
The Sustainable Living in Congleton online course is now available. I have been a member of the team putting this together.
We are doing a ‘soft launch’ at the moment and allowing people to try it out and check everything is working properly and making sense – so do let me have your feedback on it.
This course will develop over time and we can add content as things change in this rapidly-evolving topic.
The Green Working Group is now meeting monthly and accelerating our efforts to combat climate change, the impact of waste and loss of habitat.
We have added biodiversity as a permanent part of our agenda and we have a large number of topics we are moving forward on.
Our re-wilding project continues and Streetscape Manager, Ruth Burgess, has now put a section on the Congleton Green web page explaining which areas are covered and how we are consulting local residents.
Integrated Transport Working Group
Following our meeting with Cheshire East Council we decided to run a public survey about bus use and requirements here in Congleton and I drafted the survey questions.
We have to be careful because, as a Town Council, we do not have the budget or the authority to run public transport services and we do not want to stimulate demand for services it is not in our gift to provide. However, we know that Congleton bus services are inadequate and we are keen to lobby providers or maybe run a couple of pilot projects to see if better services would encourage public transport use. Of course this is an important part of our green agenda too.
Please complete the survey here to let us know about your travel habits and what you think about buses in Congleton: https://www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/BusCong21
Antisocial Behaviour Working Group
I chair the Antisocial Behaviour Working Group of the Council, in which we partner with Cheshire Police, Cheshire Fire Service and Cheshire East Council. This month I have received reports from residents of some serious illegal activity in a house in a local area. I reported it to our Police contacts, and several local people also reported this to the Police. I’m glad to say that a number of arrests have been made and the house is now empty.
My chairship of the ASB Group was challenged in our first meeting of this year, but the Group voted for me to continue as Chair for which I am very grateful. The challenger asserted that some of the items I have added to the agenda, such as sexual violence and domestic abuse, did not constitute ‘antisocial behaviour’ and should not be discussed by our group. I and other members of the group disagreed. This behaviour is antisocial whether it occurs on the High Street or behind closed doors, and these serious crimes should remain front-of-mind for a group like ours and indeed for a Town Council.
Congleton 750th Year Celebration
A number of projects are getting underway to celebrate Congleton’s 750th Charter Year in 2022. I’m on the working group for this, chaired by Cllr David Brown, and have volunteered to help with any of the activities. It should be a great year for Congleton.
Cllr James Smith and Deputy Chief Officer Jackie MacArthur have been writing a report requested by Councillors on the options for the location of the statue, and consulting with experts such as Cheshire East’s Cultural Economy Team. I have been the Elizabeth’s Group liaison on that report – providing the Group’s perspective rather than a Council one.
The report will be provided to both Elizabeth’s Group and to the Council. It is likely that the Council will discuss it at the October meeting.
Meanwhile the sculptor, Hazel Reeves, has been working on the statue and you can read about her progress here on the Elizabeth’s Group website.
Congleton Community Projects
My company, Kanga Health Ltd, is doing a pro bono project to update the Congleton Community Projects website. This project started in August with a requirements workshop at our office in Meadowside, Congleton, with Jo Money who runs Community Projects. The next step is to develop the site map and wireframes for the new website.
My Meeting Attendance
Overall, my Council meeting attendance in these relatively quiet two months has been 80% for all council meetings and working groups, either face-to-face or virtually (8 out of 10). For the mandatory council committees my rate is 60% (3 of 5).
I was very sorry to miss a Community & Environment Committee (which I chair) meeting due to having to self-isolate in July. We are still working on getting the right system for remote attendance at meetings, which will be very helpful in these instances! (Remote attendance will have to be non-voting due to the law, unfortunately). I am helping officers select a vendor for ‘hybrid’ meetings and we have some meetings with prospective ones in September.
In total since I have been a Councillor (from May 2019) my overall meeting attendance across all types of meetings and statutory meetings has been 94%.
I am a member of fourteen other Groups as well as the Council Committees, which meet at regular intervals, typically every couple of months. You can see my memberships on the About Me Page.
The Town Council’s remit does not include things such as Social Services, Health, Transport, Waste, Recycling – these are the domain of Cheshire East, but we can lobby in these areas.