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 on 12th September at 6.30pm. You can join on Zoom here or go to my event on Facebook
Living History Exhibition: Congleton 750
In early July Congleton Town Council hosted a Living History Exhibition in the Town Hall, as part of the celebrations for Congleton’s 750th year since being granted its Charter by Henry de Lacy in the reign of Edward I.
The Charter gave rights to the men of the town to run their own affairs, pay for their homes with rent instead of service, have a market and a merchant guild, and elect officers such as a mayor, catchpole and ale taster.
For the first week of July, we invited schools to bring children along to learn about the Charter and what life was like in Congleton in 1272. We had over 400 children during the week and on the Saturday we opened the exhibition to the public.
The exhibition had as its centrepiece a wonderful diorama (model) of Congleton as it might have been in 1272, designed and made by the very talented Jenny Unsworth.
In addition, visitors could learn about the Charter itself, how houses were constructed with wattle and daub and how to spin and dye in the cottage industry way. They could have a taste of small ale and the bread that people ate in 1272, and experience a court-room drama and the use of the stocks.
My own part was to display and explain the Charter to visitors – many were amazed to be gazing on a document that is 750 years old. I also played a role in the ‘court room drama’ we staged – as the villain of course, who ended up in the stocks!
Many thanks to the Council officers and volunteers who worked so hard on this event, which was a major part of our Congleton 750 celebrations.
The main Congleton Pride event took place on 23rd July in Congleton Town Centre. The day event had lots of performances, stalls and activities. I am a trustee of Pride and helped on the day as well as supporting stalls for two of my other projects (Women’s Equality Party and Elizabeth’s Group).
It was a wonderful day, the weather was kind and the town centre had a great vibe, with the Pride flags and the heraldic banners making a colourful combination.
One addition this year was the ‘speaker’s corner’ in which members of the LGBTQIA+ community and allies could give short talks on ‘what Pride means to me’. It worked very well and some of the testimonials were very moving. I had the privilege of reading on behalf of Jake, who is pansexual, and I also gave my own short speech on why I am involved with Pride.
The day rounded off with a ticketed evening event in the Town Hall, which was a sellout and lots of fun.
Thanks so much to all the members of the Pride team, the volunteers, stall holders and others who worked so hard to make this day a success, and of course to everyone who came and joined in on the day, which was bigger and better than ever.
Medieval Festival in the Park
In August CTC held another big Congleton 750 event – a Festival in the Park with jousting, a dragon hunt, stalls and much more. A great day was had by all. I couldn’t attend as I was on holiday, but I did my bit as part of the planning on the ‘Congleton 750 working group’ and also spent a few hours building some of the blue and yellow heraldic banners that lined the park on the day.
Many thanks to all the wonderful volunteers and CTC officers who made this day happen. A good time was had by all.
White Ribbon is a charity supporting men to campaign against male violence against women and the behaviours and attitudes that lead to this. Congleton Town Council is a White Ribbon Accredited organisation.
In July we were invited to run a White Ribbon awareness session for Year 12 at Alsager School. I set this up and attended with two White Ribbon Ambassadors – Yacob Cajee and Jonathan Dakin. The session was very well-received with over 50 students making their White Ribbon promise there and then, and lots of people wanting to plan follow up action in school.
Our Streetscape team has planted a beautiful White Ribbon Garden outside Congleton Fire Station. Many thanks to them and the Fire Service, who are themselves a White Ribbon organisation.
If you’d like to get involved please contact me or visit www.whiteribbon.org.uk
Antisocial Behaviour Working Group
Earlier in the summer we had a number of problems with antisocial behaviour in the town centre of Congleton. Our working group discussed this at length and also corresponded with some residents and parents who were concerned about it.
We have been working closely with Police and CEC colleagues to share information and help to stamp this out. It was a small group of quite young teenagers and a number of actions have now been taken to stop these behaviours and ensure that the perpetrators are dealt with.
Many thanks to the residents and shop owners who have been sharing information and helping the victims of these crimes.
In my role as Chair of the ASB Working Group I attended a webinar on the Community Safety Charter, run by the Neighbourhood Watch Group. This is a charter that towns, organisations and individuals can sign up to in order to signal that antisocial behaviour, intimidation and hostility will not be tolerated.
The organisation provides tools to help address these things. Our group will discuss whether CTC should sign up to this Charter. I have signed up personally already – and you can do so here if you like: https://www.ourwatch.org.uk/charter
Work continues on our carbon footprint, air quality and biodiversity. My own role is largely in the marketing and communications side. I created a public version of our calendar for the year which you can see here
July was ‘plastic free’ month and August was ‘keep it local’ month. We are now getting ready for the Green Fayre on September 24th.
I am still working on the Green section of the CTC website, with support from other members of the team.
Opening of Just Bee Garden
I attended the opening of the new Just Bee Garden in Congleton Park. This important natural habitat was designed by Annabel of Congleton High School. Including over 1000 species of plant, the garden was developed by a team of young and old volunteers led by Patti Pinto. I highly recommend a visit. True to its name, there are plenty of bees, butterflies and other insects visiting the plants, and some new benches around the perimeter from which you can enjoy the view.
The InBloom volunteers have once again done Congleton proud and the North West and Britain in Bloom Judging days were in July and August. The judges focus on a number of criteria including floral and horticultural displays but also environmental management, provision of natural habitats for wildlife ,and community involvement. You can read the criteria here.
This year I helped with some of the town tidies, including bringing along colleagues from Congleton Pride who enjoyed helping.
I also stood beside Elizabeth’s Garden on judging day and explained to the judges who Elizabeth Wolstenholme Elmy was and the significance of the plants chosen for the garden.
Chair of Elizabeth’s Group, Sue Munro, stood beside the Our Elizabeth statue and provided more information about Elizabeth and horticulture.
Many thanks to all those involved with InBloom, including the many volunteers and the CTC Streetscape team.
Bromley Farm community support.
I have been working with the Bromley Farm Wellbeing Hub team on ideas to support the Bromley Farm community. The Hub already offers a number of groups and services, run by the team in partnership with Plus Dane Housing. There will be a community consultation to gather ideas on what is needed going forward, and CTC will support this, as well as asking the Bromley Farm Community Development Trust for the results of its recent survey.
Congleton Area Ukraine Support Network
I attended a meeting of this group in July. It continues to support hosts and Ukrainian guests in our area and the team organised a trip to Formby and Liverpool in July which was very much appreciated. On Ukrainian Independence Day the group organised a fundraising dinner which everyone enjoyed, and also in August there was a day out at Glebe Farm for Ukrainian guests and their children. Many thanks to the volunteers who put these together! I continue to support the Facebook page for this group and help connect with other organisations.
We flew the flag from Congleton Town Hall on Ukrainian independence day, 24th August.
If you are interested in becoming a host, please get in touch with CAUSN on its website. https://www.causn.com/
Elizabeth’s Group continues to deliver talks and campaign to raise the profile of Elizabeth Wolstenholme Elmy. My role is now mainly on the website and digital communications side. I recently sent out an email inviting supporters to become Friends of Elizabeth, in order to maintain a level of funding to keep our activities going. You can become a Friend of Elizabeth Here.
Streets Named After Women
When I first became a Councillor, I nominated the names of five women from Congleton’s History to become street names, in order to create some balance as many of our streets are named after men from the past. In recent months these streets were opened on the new Turnstone Grange estate by Miller Homes, who also kindly made a donation to Elizabeth’s Group.
I went to check out the street names recently.
The five street names and the women are:
Ormiston Way – Margaret Ormiston was a British Army doctor who founded a hospital for wounded soldiers in WWI on the site of Quinta Primary School.
Turner Drive – Theodora Turner OBE was President of the Royal College of Nursing, was mobilised at Congleton during WWII and treated service personnel evacuated from Dunkirk.
Williamson Close – Margaret Williamson MBE, is still remembered by many as a Councillor, founder of Congleton Partnership and for a lifetime of service to Congleton including numerous charities.
Burgess Place – Jessie Burgess was the first female mayor of Congleton in 1945 (yes, it was 673 years before we got a woman mayor!).
Elmy Avenue – Elizabeth Wolstenholme Elmy, women’s rights campaigner and suffragist who now has a statue in Congleton’s town centre, thanks to Elizabeth’s Group.
Transport and Regeneration
I have been involved in a number of activities relating to transport and town regeneration during this period.
I followed up with Plus Dane housing on the Westlands parking problems and they assured me they were working with residents to find a solution. I have reported to the Police a number of problems with speeding on Canal Road and also inconsiderate parking around the bus station, the Crescent and Wesley Place. I also reported a damaged bus stop to CEC.
I met with the Crewe & District bus users’ group to learn about their activities to promote public transport and support bus users in Crewe. I have joined their Facebook Group and would like to talk to anyone interested in starting a similar group in Congleton.
I attended a discussion with the PCC at the Town Hall about speeding on Wolstenholme Elmy Way and other concerns of residents relating to road traffic. I also joined a workshop on Active Travel along the A34.
I attended a presentation of the Congleton Town Centre Vitality Plan, which is shortly to go out to public consultation.
I have also been involved in discussions on the Neighbourhood Plan – which sets out the guidelines for development in Congleton – and which will also be going out to consultation with the public soon.
MyCWA (formerly Cheshire Without Abuse) has launched a brand-new early intervention programme called ‘Reset’, designed to educate teenagers on domestic abuse and its warning signs.
I asked for information about this to be presented at the Community & Environment Committee in July. The programme is funded by the Home Office via the Police and Crime Commissioner for Cheshire, John Dwyer, and aims to empower young people across Cheshire with knowledge of what makes a healthy and happy relationship, promoting self-identification of harmful behaviours.
‘Reset’ is currently being piloted locally in Congleton High School with very positive initial response from staff and students. I introduced the Reset team to my contacts from Eaton Bank School who we worked with on the White Ribbon presentation, so they can join the programme if they want to.
I was also pleased to report at the Community & Environment Committee that our colleagues at myCWA are building up their domestic abuse services in Congleton beyond just the DA Clinic, and have now launched a Peer Support Lounge for survivors of abuse to meet and get support and advice from others.
I am a member of the Cheshire East Domestic and Sexual Abuse Partnership Board (CEDSAP) and in this capacity a attended a meeting of the Board in July at which the Annual Report was presented. The report informed us of progress on the priorities for CEDSAP, which are:
1. Focus on those who harm
3. Cared for/care leavers
4. Health settings
5. Enabling communities
Also at this meeting a sergeant from the anti-corruption team of Cheshire Police gave an impressive presentation about what they are doing to root out employees who may guilty of sexual or domestic abuse. These crimes occur in all walks of life and it was good to hear of this proactive approach.
We had a workshop with our digital provider to finalise the strategy for our ‘Global Museum’ project. The aims of this project are to ensure that we can provide the maximum reach and engagement with our collections, with both live museum visits and through digital methods. The first major project to deliver will be an updated website and web shop, then we have a number of other project ideas that can follow as part of the ongoing roadmap.
Our first challenge is to secure funding for the online presence we need. The team will be launching a sponsorship programme for businesses and applying to local trusts and funding bodies. If you know of anyone who might be interested in funding Congleton’s heritage in this way, please get in touch!
In my role as an Executive Board member of the Cheshire Association of Local Councils, I have been asked to be part of a focus group on Civility and Respect in local government. I reviewed a new Dignity at Work Policy for council officers, and more recently reviewed a set of 14 documents covering all the process for recruitment of council staff. Many smaller councils do not have the resources to develop their own procedures so it is hoped that these standard documents will create a standard of good practice, especially with regard to equality, diversity & inclusion and adherence to standards of conduct.
I attended the ChALC board meeting in July. One thing that ChALC and its national parent body, NALC has campaigned for is a change in the law so that councils can hold ‘hybrid’ meetings with some members connecting remotely. This is still not legal, even though we did this for the duration of the COVID lockdown due to a temporary law allowing it. I worked with our Town Hall manager on the specification for a system that can deliver good hybrid meetings in Congleton and we now have the technology installed. It works very well, and we are using it for working group meetings. Hybrid meetings are important to allow people to stay connected who might not otherwise be able to join in with our democracy due to disability, caring responsibilities or lack of transport.
I attended a meeting with CEC about the future of Bradshaw House. This historic building in Congleton’s town centre has been granted planning permission to create supported accommodation. I and other Town Councillors asked questions about the long-term commitment of the service providers concerned. It is important that these buildings are preserved and maintained well. I also asked our Chief Officer to write to the owner of Moody Hall to push for development to continue, following a discussion at the Community & Environment Committee. No reply has been received to date.
In July I heard a presentation about a new Skate Park for Congleton at the Community & Environment Committee that I chair. The idea is to create a skate park for the future to stand next to the new Congleton Leisure Centre. I was very impressed by the project leader Xander Greenwood and the team of young people who came to speak to us, so I am supporting this project, which is currently putting together a bid for funding.
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 (15 out of 15). For the mandatory council committees my rate is 100% (6 of 6).
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 eighteen other Groups as well as the Council Committees, some of which are council-related, some are other local charities and community groups. 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.