Here is an update on what I’ve been doing in the last two months since my previous blog. I would love to hear from you. What should I and the Council be prioritising? What particular challenges are you facing, if any? Do you have ideas for how we can improve things in Congleton and Cheshire Easet? Please get in touch with me and let me know your thoughts:
- Email email@example.com
- Call or text 07711 459740
Or you can come to a monthly surgery – I will publish dates after the election in early May.
The Bromley Farm Hub group is thriving and working very well with the Council, local educational establishments and Plus Dane Housing. I am helping mainly with organisation and administration, connections to the Town Council, and volunteering with the Friends.
The Residents’ Forum sub-group has been making progress in highlighting housing issues and also the outdoor environment. Parnell Square planters have been tidied up, lighting and step highlights provided, and the square will be power-washed.
The Bromley Bloomers sub-group is working with several partners including Trees for Congleton, Rotary, the Bell Group and Plus Dane to plant the large community allotment on Hilary Avenue as well as some planters on Bromley Farm.
The Friends Group on a Tuesday afternoon (1-4pm) is growing and a few regulars now come along for a chat, cup of tea and a game or activity.
The group is planning an informal get-together to watch the Coronation in the Hub on 6th May. Tea and cake will be provided, plus activities for children.
White Ribbon Campaign
White Ribbon is an international organisation engaging men to stand up against men’s violence towards women, and the behaviours and attitudes that lead to it. Congleton Town Council is a White Ribbon Accredited organisation and our goal is to ‘eradicate all gender-based violence and abuse from Congleton’.
I attended an excellent talk about the importance of the White Ribbon Campaign and being an Active Bystander, by Ambassador Jonathan Dakin at St. Peter’s Church. It was well-attended and 17 people made their White Ribbon Promise.
If you’d like to get involved in White Ribbon, please contact me or visit http://www.whiteribbon.org.uk.
Working with the Police
I am a member of the Cheshire Police EDEI (external diversity, equity and inclusion) board and I attended a board meeting in March at Chester Police HQ. We discussed the Enable Network of Cheshire Police, for those with a disability and carers.
I also had the opportunity to visit the custody suite and learn about the work they do.
This meeting was soon after the Casey Report into institutional misogyny, racism and homophobia in the Met Police. The EDEI board members expressed concern about this.
I have written to PCC John Dwyer to ask what he is doing to ensure Cheshire Police is subjected to independent scrutiny to uncover any problems that might exist in the force. He has promised to reply to me after the local election.
I also attended a training on Being an Active Bystander run by Cheshire Police for PubWatch and our White Ribbon Ambassadors. It was very useful and provoked good discussion about how we can all eradicate poor behaviours in Congleton.
I also attended another Police Community Cohesion Group in which we observed and discussed the local Police’s use of Stop and Search.
Community Safety Charter
The Town Council has received more training modules and resources to help reduce street crime in Congleton, and has been awarded some funding from the Police Community Fund in order to roll it out. I suggested we sign up to this last year and the free materials seem very helpful. They will be rolled out to Council partners and other organisations.
The recent modules have been on hate crime, being an active bystander and antisocial behaviour.
You can sign up for a free Active Bystander Webinar here.
There is a very useful Antisocial behaviour web page.
Finally, check out the Hate crime training here.
I attended the Biodiversity launch day with my family and enjoyed planting a plum tree. This will be the start of our 30 new biodiversity sites in Congleton, each of which will have its own character and flora, creating a unique habitat at each site. Many thanks to the officers and volunteers who organised the day.
I have helped Trees for Congleton with the consultations this year and also been along to help at a number of tree and hedge planting sessions. The season is now finished and planning begins for the next one.
I agreed, with Cllr Firkin and Ruth Burgess, to meet a couple of residents at Hillfields to discuss an idea for some allotments on the site. To our surprise, about 40 residents turned up. Many people felt very strongly against the idea. It was due to go to full public consultation, but this meeting pre-empted that.
The idea has now been shelved until after the election, because a public meeting is needed to find out what the residents would really like to do with the site (which is itself an important biodiversity site) and the election rules preclude Councillors from attending this until after polling day.
We have had a couple of planning applications for new building on green space recently – a large area at Waggs Road and a small green space at the end of Penrith Court. I’m on the Congleton Town Council Planning Committee and I spoke against both developments.
Thanks to the many residents who came to Committee to give their views. The Committee objected to both and it is now up to Cheshire East Council.
The CEC Working Group has not yet reported back to us on the Town Council about what they are doing to provide household waste and recycling services in Congleton.
As a bit of background, our Tip closed in September 2021 as a result of the lease running out. CEC chose not to try to negotiate a renewal of the lease. We have seen fly-tipping increase threefold in the Congleton area from 2019-2022.
From the Town Council, Cllrs Robert Douglas, Suzy Firkin and myself have been active in trying to get this decision reversed by speaking at Cheshire East Committee Meetings, together with CEC Councillor Rob Moreton. Cllr Douglas has made an excellent business case for a replacement tip and campaigned relentlessly. Cllr Firkin and I have given talks about incompatibility with the green agenda, the carbon footprint impact and the poor service to Congleton residents, especially our older residents and those without transport.
Cllr Douglas and I are admins of the ‘Save Congleton HWRC’ Facebook page on which we have promoted petitions set up by resident Lesley Turner and Cllr Paul Duffy. The petitions have amassed 6000 signatures. This small group of town Councillors has also lobbied CEC officers for some short-term solutions, and we have got a clothes bank now at Parnell Square, but much more is needed!
What we really need is a replacement tip and I will continue to fight for this for Congleton. I have also spoken at CEC to object to Congleton residents being charged for green waste collection.
If you haven’t yet completed the Congleton Pride Surveys please do so now as they close in the next week or so
Please answer the right survey for you here:
Attitudes Survey for the General Public in Congleton
Survey for the LGBTQIA+ Community in Congleton
The Pride team is preparing for this year’s event and I’m involved with the communications team and the sponsorship team. We are reorganising the website and social media, and I wrote a social media policy for the group.
I attended a meeting of the new Congleton Active Travel Group, part of Congleton Climate Action group, and was impressed with some early achievements they have had to make particular spots more accessible for walkers and cyclists.
They have some exciting plans and I would like to work with them going forward. Part of active travel is bus and train use, and I hope we can work together to lobby for better public transport for Congleton, which in my view is woefully inadequate to meet residents’ needs.
The Town Council did a survey and found that more than 80 per cent of people (including car owners) would use the bus to get to around town if it were cheap and convenient.
Congleton Neighbourhood Plan
Officers are working on re-organising and adding to the Neighbourhood Plan ready for public consultation in May/June.
I reviewed the Design Code document, which describes the type of building and landscape in Congleton and outlines what is needed to develop in sympathy with the town’s character.
I fed back a few comments on the document, especially requesting more focus on designing for public transport and walking/cycling not just for car users.
I have input into the new branding and website design for the museum. We hope the new website will be launched in the next couple of months. The Museum’s Assistant Manager and the vendor have done a great job and our Museum website will be fresh, vibrant and engaging.
I attended the Wellbeing Fayre in the Town Hall. It was great to see more than 40 exhibitors and very good attendance by the public. As part of that I took part in the Defibrillator Training, which was very useful.
I also attended the town centre Easter activities with my family and my Ukrainian ‘family’ – many thanks to the Council Officers who put it together and all the local businesses who took part.
I joined other Councillors for a tour of the new Leisure Centre, the opening of which has been delayed until May. Hopefully then it will finally happen!
My Meeting Attendance
Overall, my Council meeting attendance in these two months has been 89% for all council meetings and working/other groups, either face-to-face or virtually (17 out of 19). For the principal council committees my rate is 100% (3 of 3). (This includes mandatory public meetings and additional core meetings such as Council Chairs’ group and strategy group.)
In total since I have been a Councillor (from May 2019) my overall meeting attendance across all types of meetings has been 95%, with 93% at core Council meetings.
I am a member of nineteen other Groups as well as the Council Committees, some of which are council-related, some are other local charities and community groups.
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.