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 14th March. You can join on Zoom here or look out for my event on Facebook
Chair of our White Ribbon Group Cllr Robert Hemsley and I produced a report for Council about the White Ribbon Day activities in Congleton.
We sent the report to White Ribbon UK whose CEO sent Congleton TC a personal thank you message, telling us that the report will be used to help other more recently-accredited town and parish councils plan their White Ribbon activities.
As a follow up to White Ribbon Day, I went with Councillor Robert Hemsley and Richard Walton to present the White Ribbon campaign to 250 members of Years 12 and 13 at Congleton High School, at the invitation of Paul Franklin who is responsible for 6th form.
The discussion was wide-ranging and included polls showing how the 16-18-year-olds felt about sexism, harassment and abuse, a problem the young people were clearly familiar with. There was enthusiasm for continuing the work in school and more than 60 per cent said ‘All of the above’ to a list of actions they could take, from calling out sexist behaviours to becoming a White Ribbon School.
Working with the Police
John Dwyer, Police and Crime Commissioner for Cheshire, attended the Community & Environment Committee in February at my invitation. He outlined his strategy and took questions from Councillors. It was helpful to hear his focus on domestic and sexual violence, antisocial behaviour and road safety, all of which are priorities in Congleton.
We have been concerned about a recent rise in youth antisocial behaviour in Congleton and will be discussing this at our ASB Working Group in early March.
I attended my first full meeting as a member of Cheshire Police’s External Diversity, Equality and Inclusion (EDEI) Board. The discussion was focused on how to track and be transparent about diversity within the Police force. At the moment the proportions of some ethnic groups, LGBTQ+ and disabled in the Police are less than in the community, and women are over-represented in administration and under-represented in senior officer roles. The Board is looking at strategies to improve reporting and hence to improve diversity itself.
I was happy to attend Congleton Pride’s first Valentine’s Evening. This is part of a series of events for the LGBTQ+ community and anyone else who would like to join in, both as fundraisers for the main Pride event and as social events in their own right. It was a brilliant night and many thanks to the organisers. There has already been a cinema night and in March there will be a St Patrick’s Day event.
I organised another meeting with Congleton Pride and Cheshire Police in January. The decision was taken for the Pride Group to get trained to become a Reporting Centre so that people who are concerned about hate crime can speak to a member of the group at one of the Pride events and get support reporting it if required.
I added a carbon offset calculation to the tree, hedgerow and re-wilding planner that the Green group is using. This will allow us to calculate total offset from all our activities. The only remaining challenge is to decide exactly what nominal offset figure we are going to adopt for ‘a tree’ or a metre of hedgerow. Discussions continue.
I worked with the CTC Marketing Team to put together a strategy and plan for communicating about the Green activities in order to work with all residents and businesses in Congleton to reduce our collective carbon and environmental footprint, including promoting our online ‘Sustainable Living in Congleton’ eLearning course. Have YOU completed it yet?
I have also continued to help out when I can with tree and hedge planting. We have had a number of questions about this in Community & Environment Committee meetings, that I chair.
CEDSAP Board Meeting
I have been invited to join the Cheshire East Domestic and Sexual Abuse Partnership Board and attended my first meeting in February. We discussed the new Cheshire East ‘Whole Housing Strategy’ for Domestic Abuse survivors as well as the upcoming SHOUT (Sexual Harassment OUT) campaign that has been designed by members of the CE Youth Parliament and is due to launch in March.
Congleton Household Waste and Recycling
Following the closure of Congleton Tip, several Congleton Town Councillors continue to lobby for better household waste and recycling services in the town. Cllr Suzy Firkin and I had a meeting with Cheshire East Councillors and Officers to discuss the procurement process that is just starting in order to appoint a new provider for the whole borough. We requested that having a new site in Congleton should be an option as part of the solutions that the new providers can come up with.
Fly tipping is being monitored after our tip closure but so far the data is inconclusive as to whether it has increased year-on-year – the impact of the COVID pandemic also makes the figures difficult to interpret. We requested that usage levels at other neighbouring towns’ facilities is monitored going forward, so that we can see the impact of the closure of Congleton. In addition, we asked about additional short-term provision in Congleton. There is a new clothing bank on Royle St and I suggested that Parnell Square might be a suitable point for another, as it is a central location in Bromley Farm estate.
Congleton Repair Café
I was delighted to see Congleton Repair Café getting underway at the Old Saw Mill in January. This is a fantastic initiative and a way to ‘re-use’ instead of throwing away broken things such as furniture, bikes, electrical equipment and so on. There is a group of expert volunteers who it seems can fix just about everything.
I went along to the first session and met organiser Ben Casey. Many thanks to everyone involved with this initiative.
The Café will be open at the Old Saw Mill on the last Saturday of the month, and you can get in touch with them on Facebook here.
Congleton 750th Year Celebration
Plans continue to take shape now that we are in Congleton’s 750th Year at last. For some of the more expensive merchandise I suggested using an online ‘make as you go’ service and this is being done, as well as ‘buy and go’ merchandise that will be in the Information Centre. The First big event of the year is the Elizabeth Wolstenholme Elmy statue unveiling, followed by Beating the Bounds in April.
Bromley Farm Community Development Trust (BFCDT)
Although I offered to help, the Trust has made it clear that they do not want any elected representatives supporting it and said the committee is working with residents directly to consult on future activities and engagement. I look forward to seeing the outcome of this work.
A team drawn from the Trustees met to evaluate vendors who have sent in proposals for future ‘Global Museum’ project – to digitise our collection and make it available to people remotely. We are in the process of selecting our preferred vendor and having meetings with the shortlisted ones in March to make a final decision.
The trustees are planning to consult with residents about what they want from their museum going forward. Some short surveys will be sent out but meanwhile if you’d like to comment, please contact me or firstname.lastname@example.org
In January we got the Planning Permission for the statue of Elizabeth Wolstenholme Elmy to stand in the middle of Bridge Street, in spite of some last-minute opposition from a small number of councillors. In the same week, we attended the foundry in London to watch the bronze statue being poured.
The final touches are being made to the statue and all is now on track for the unveiling on 8th March, 2022 – International Women’s Day and exactly 4 years to the day since the idea of commemorating Elizabeth was first proposed.
The day promises to be very exciting and we have 10 schools taking part as well as the Beartown Stompers, Congleton Choral Society, the Guides, and several other groups.
Sculptor Hazel Reeves will be in attendance and the statue will be unveiled by The Baroness Lady Hale of Richmond. The Programme for the day is on the ElizabethElmy Website.
Congleton Town Regeneration Group
Following our meeting with Jackie Randles, the Chief Executive of the Chamber of Commerce, Cllrs Firkin, Chadwick and I attended a COC Business Breakfast and handed out information about the Congleton 750 events. We are hoping to have a similar Breakfast in the Town Hall later in the year, to inform businesses about some of our CTC priorities and see how we can work more closely with local firms.
My Meeting Attendance
Overall, my Council meeting attendance in these two months has been 95% for all council meetings and working groups, either face-to-face or virtually (18 out of 19). For the mandatory council committees my rate is 86% (6 of 7).
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 95%.
I am a member of sixteen 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.