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 first Monday of the month. The next one is 1st November. You can join on Zoom here or look out for my event on Facebook.
At September’s Community & Environment Committee Meeting I invited a Congleton Survivor to speak as well as Saskia Ritchie, CEO of Cheshire Without Abuse (myCWA) and the Police.
The Survivor spoke frankly about her experience, which spanned 20 years before she finally escaped with her child, and said that if there had been a local service like our Domestic Abuse clinic, she would very likely have got out sooner.
Saskia then gave some figures about the DA Clinic which has been running weekly in the Old Saw Mill for the past 12 months. Headlines were:
- 83 clinics at the Old Saw Mill have been attended (including general advice, Police advice and Legal advice)
- 161 referrals for 94 individuals between October 2020 and September 2021
- 91% of the adult victims who came to the clinic were women
- 9 Perpetrators had been to the clinic
- 23 victims have been assessed at high risk of death or serious harm referred to Multi Agency Risk Assessment Conferences – so the clinics are helping to prevent serious crime.
- This was backed up by the Police describing a case study of someone who had been to the clinic getting appropriate Police support and follow up.
Interestingly, Saskia mentioned that for the first time ever for myCWA, six men who were perpetrators had come to the clinic of their own accord (without a Police or other agency referral). It is not clear why this is happening in Congleton, but it may be due to the White Ribbon Campaign (see below).
Next steps for the Congleton Hub included the initiation of a face-to-face peer support group which started in October.
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.
The White Ribbon Group is getting ready for White Ribbon Day on 25th November – this is also the UN’s International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women.
Our group is planning a town centre stall on 27th November, decorating the town with white ribbons and social media/online awareness. I am facilitating an Ambassadors’ Workshop on 9th November to help our Ambassadors prepare for manning the stall. Some of the group will also be attending the Cheshire White Ribbon Conference on 25th November.
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 sexism 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: email@example.com.
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.
Cheshire East – Domestic Abuse and Sexual Violence
I met with Emma Storey who is the CEC’s Domestic Abuse and Sexual Violence Development Lead Advisor. She and their team are leading a number of projects, including one engaging young people to develop a campaign against sexual violence for schools.
Emma shared with me the Results of the Safety of Women in Public Places survey – 94% of women do not always feel safe in the streets of Cheshire.
Emma undertook to work on White Ribbon Accreditation for CEC. We will now have regular meetings to share our work in this area.
Cheshire PCC, John Dwyer
I met with John Dwyer in my role as Chair of the Antisocial Behaviour Working Group. We had a wide-ranging discussion covering misogyny in the Police, hate crime, especially with regard to the LGBTQ+ community, and a discussion of road safety and 20mph speed limits in residential areas. He undertook to look at how some other countries have improved conviction rates for rape, and also promised to come and speak to Congleton Town Council about his strategy when it is published.
We spent some time discussing the PCC’s domestic abuse strategy, which had received additional government funding that is being invested in perpetrator programmes, victim support, support for children to ‘break the cycle’ of abuse and business training, among other initiatives.
The Congleton Pride team has had two meetings with Cheshire Police, to discuss how we can encourage LGBTQ+ to feel safe in Congleton and encourage the reporting of hate crime. The first meeting was with PCSC Amy Heath and the second with Inspector Jim Adams and Kerry Richardson, Engagement Officer.
As a result of these meetings, we have got hate crime leaflets into many pubs and also we are now discussing whether Congleton Pride can become a ‘reporting hub’ to support local LGBTQ+ people. We will be following up with the Police in January.
I attended a meeting with the PubWatch group in the Town Hall at which PC Helen Hood and PCSO Amy Heath gave a talk about drugs, including drink spiking. Many of the pub and club owners were very appreciative of the up to date information. We also handed out hate crime leaflets (see above), ‘Ask for Angela’ Posters (for women who do not feel safe), Open The Door (domestic abuse) posters for toilet doors, and White Ribbon leaflets.
I attended the Green Fayre in Congleton on 31st October and spent the afternoon on the Congleton Green stall, explaining our Town Council projects to reduce carbon emissions and increase biodiversity. The Fayre was part of a series of events billed Congleton Climate Festival and a big shout out is due to organisers Jackie MacArthur, Martha Hayes, Barry Speed and Peter Aston.
Integrated Transport Working Group
Our bus survey results have now been published and were presented at the Community & Environment Committee. Not surprisingly, most respondents said that buses were not frequent enough, too expensive and ‘don’t go where I want to go’. Almost all respondents used a car for most journeys that were too long to walk. However, it was interesting that more than 80% of people said they would use buses if they were cheap and convenient enough. We have sent the results to Cheshire East Council as input to the strategy for buses. We would very much like Congleton to be a pilot town for improved bus services if and when funding becomes available.
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.
I have drafted a letter for businesses to invite them to become sponsors of the event in exchange for advertising, including on heraldic flags that will be placed along Mountbatten Way. This letter should go out in November.
Congleton In Bloom
I attended the Congleton In Bloom celebration event and enjoyed chatting to people who have been leading various super projects around our town. The energy and hard work that goes into all these is very impressive. The Gold Award that Congleton received from the judges is certainly well deserved. Congratulations to all involved – great job!
I attended the opening of Congleton’s Social Supermarket, run by the dedicated volunteers at the Green Tree House.
I helped the team hand out gifts in the town centre to promote the supermarket, then joined them at their new shop which has generously been provided by the LOL foundation.
Cheshire East Vitality Plan for Congleton
I attended a meeting with the CEC Strategic Planning Team to feedback the initial Draft Baseline Overview report which will become the Town Centre Vitality Plan for Congleton. The idea is to publish this report so that if and when national government funding becomes available, there is a plan ready to implement to make the town centre more pleasant to visit, live, travel through and shop in.
In September I had the great pleasure of attending the COVID-19 Thank You event for Volunteers. Originally, CTC had planned Volunteer Awards but the judging panel felt that everyone nominated had done so much for their community it was impossible to pick ‘winners’. Instead, with a donation from CEC, the Town Council hosted a Thank You evening. It was humbling to hear of all the wonderful work done by all those attending. From me personally, also – THANK YOU.
Cases are still occurring in our area and our case rate is between 300 and 700 per 100,000 people in Congleton. 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.
Some elderly residents have complained to me about having to travel out of Congleton for COVID booster jabs. I raised this with the Clinical Commissioning Group. Since then, some pop-up booster clinics have been organised in Congleton, and Tesco at Barn Road has also been offering the booster, I believe.
The Partnership has a new Chair, Peter Aston, and as Chair of the Community & Environment Committee of the Council I met up with Peter to discuss how he wants to take the Partnership Forward and how I can support him.
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’m helping to draft some new content for our website about this.
I continue to discuss 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 wrote some revised wording for the Council’s Employee Handbook on flexible working and shared parental leave and sent it to Officers as input to the latest Handbook updates.
I wrote a brief for a future ‘digital museum’ and shared this with fellow Trustees at our September meeting. I am now incorporating their feedback and we will be inviting vendors to pitch to develop this new offer.
The idea is to allow people to interact with the museum and its collections online in a variety of ways, and to add digital components to a ‘real-life’ museum visit. This was one of the projects that came out of our Strategy workshop in the summer.
If you would like to get involved with the Museum, please contact me or firstname.lastname@example.org
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 Council met in October and I put forward a proposal that Elizabeth’s Group (of which I am a Trustee) should have the final say on the exact site for the Elizabeth Wolstenholme Elmy statue, since the group is self-funding. The Council voted in agreement and also agreed to ‘support the outcome’ of Elizabeth’s Group’s deliberations. The project can now continue apace and the sculptor, Hazel Reeves, has almost finished the clay version of the statue.
The day after the Council meeting the BBC interviewed Sue Munro, Chair of Elizabeth’s Group, and we dressed in period costume to welcome the BBC to Congleton.
You can watch the BBC video and read about the statue’s progress here on the Elizabeth’s Group website.
Bromley Farm Community Development Trust
I attended the AGM of the this organisation and supported some residents who want to get involved in volunteering with and helping run the Trust. The work continues, with the Trust committee taking the welcome step of setting up a Steering Group to allow residents to have input into how the Trust is organised and managed in future.
My Meeting Attendance
Overall, my Council meeting attendance in these two months has been 100% for all council meetings and working groups, either face-to-face or virtually (12 out of 12). For the mandatory council committees my rate is 100% (3 of 3).
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.