Thursday, 22 December 2011

New Year resolution suggestions for QuackCWaC Council































A disappointingly long list so I hope the executive are rightly ashamed of their performance so far. No wonder many people regard them as a quack council.

Tuesday, 13 December 2011

Quack Council, Quack consultation

Council's Sham "Consultation" As Handbridge Green Space Under Threat.

We know that many residents will want to have their say on this and Cheshire West and Chester Council proposes a consultation. However, the views of those people who really count will not be heard because the council plans to EXCLUDE RESIDENTS AND PARISH COUNCILS FROM THE CONSULTATION.

If residents and parish councils are not being consulted, who is? We strongly expect that developers, and other financially interested parties, will be invited to have their say. As before, the proposed Council "consultation" is no more than a paper exercise and difficult to describe as anything other than a sham!

My comment: Can Quack CWaC Council do anything right?

Read the full story from the source Handbridge.com

Sunday, 4 December 2011

A Christmas message to a CWaC Council


See previous post for why I thought this Christmas message was appropriate.

Will Quack CWaC Council ever stop being CWaC-Cers

It has come to my attention that CWaC Council has told staff to stop referring to them as Quack (CWaC) Council.

Apparently any staff calling CWaC Council Quack Council will be disciplined. Which rather goes to prove that CWaC Council is a bit of a Quack Council.

Were they worried that their name makes it easier for people to ridicule them or were the worried that some may confuse them with Wil cwac cwac the Welsh cartoon series?

Below is a You Tube video introducing Wil cwac cwac. Would you be confused or do you think CWaC Council are just a little bit quackers?


Friday, 18 November 2011

70,000 years to clear social housing backlog in CWaC

MORE than 17,600 families in and around Chester face years of waiting for somewhere to live, a new report has revealed.

It is estimated that it would take more than 70,000 years to clear the backlog of Cheshire families waiting for social housing because of the ‘broken’ housing market, the National Housing Federation has highlighted.

Jon Longden, the National Housing Federation’s lead manager for the North West, said: “Caught in an impossible can’t buy/can’t rent dilemma, families face life-changing years on social housing waiting lists. With the lowest number of new homes for 90 years, the only things we are building up are long-term problems for schooling, health and jobs.”

The National Housing Federation is calling on the Government to renew its commitment to building new homes at scale and to restore the £300 million annual funding to regenerate inner-city neighbourhoods across the region.

My comment: So by my reckoning we will have enough social housing by the year 702011. I  wonder how many cock ups CWaC Council will have racked up by then :-)

Read the full story from the source Chester First

Monday, 14 November 2011

CWaC Council: Remembrance Day, Lest we forget....to charge!

Yet another example of CWaC’s incompetence or lack of caring… this is feedback I’ve had this morning.

Chester should be rightly proud of the very many veterans, service personnel, citizens and visitors who came to pay their respects at the remembrance service and parade at the Chester War Memorial on Sunday 13 November. However CWaC are being accused of insensitivity by making money by charging for parking at the nearby Princess Street car park early on a Sunday morning.   

One veteran said “the Council makes an exception for free after 3 on weekdays, but did not for this very important occasion in our city at a time when the car park is normally empty?”
 
My comment: First they charge soldiers on a homecoming parade for refreshments and now veterans for parking to attend Remembrance Sunday services.

What have CWaC Council got against the armed services? Or is it just another example of their incompetence.

Remembrance Sunday screen shot CWaC Council (http://www.cheshirewestandchester.gov.uk/)


If you would like to view some photos of Remembrance Sunday don't bother wasting your time with Cheshire West and Chester Council's Go Cheshire Flickr pages because there aren't any. However, the Chester Chronicle did a fine job even if our council couldn't be bothered.

Neither did the Go Cheshire Tweet anything about it so it's a good job the Chester Chronicle and others did.

Cheshire West and Chester Council lest we forget they forgot!
 
For further info see what a Google search throws up on the CWaC Councils website about Remembrance Day and then try all other councils. It would appear that CWaC Council are in the minority, if not alone, regarding Remembrance Day publicity.

Saturday, 12 November 2011

Dim CWaC Council cock up Xmas lights switch on

Normally the Chester Christmas Lights Switch On is an enjoyable family occasion, but not this year. Instead of holding it in the tradition place of Town Hall Square where there is plenty of space, CWaC, in their infinite wisdom decided to hold it at the Cross.

So imagine, an open top bus adjacent to the wall of St Peter’s Church, a stage in front of that, how much room is left for people?

See some of the comments that were on Twitter:

@MarkCarline: The cross is packed out, people cant see anything, totally stupid place to switch lights on in #Chester. Town hall next year@ChesterChron

@VforChester: Whose idea was it to put the stage at the most inaccessible location ever! What was wrong with outside the town hall like in previous years.

@ChronRachel: Gave up on the Chester Christmas light switch on almost got pushed off the rows as everyone heaved to the front.

@ChesterChron: We have had loads of reaction to the #chester #christmas light switch on on our #facebook pg. Seems like the majority of u weren't impressed.

@JamesFarley: @ChesterChron @MarkCarlin: and don't even get me started on the fireworks! I had bigger bangers for my tea last night!

@ChesterChron Chester Chronicle: @JamesFarley sounds like everyone agreeing it should have been somewhere else...like @MarkCarline said the town hall would have been good.

Chester Chronicle: "HUNDREDS of people flocked to Chester last night for the traditional lights switch-on.

But from the comments we have received on our Chester Chronicle Facebook page and Twitter, many of you were disappointed with the evening.

Wrong location, no celebrity guest and no Christmas tree were the common complaints posted on our Facebook page.

Hannah Turner posted: "I was stood on the corner by Northgate and Eastgate Street. I couldn't hear a word anyone was saying. What we were meant to be doing? What song was being sung - it was so squashed! Lights didn't come on properly (in true Chester style)!" [My emphasis]

Read what spin Cheshire West and Chester Council put on the disaster here
 
Read more and view the Chester Chronicle Picture gallery here or more pictures from Cheshire West here.

Legal Response to Cheshire West and Chester Council Over Issue of New Contracts

UNISON solicitor tells Cheshire West and Chester Council: ‘We believe you will be acting unlawfully if you then take steps to dismiss and re-engage those employees who do not sign up to these new terms.’

Neil Todd for Thompsons, who are acting for West Cheshire UNISON, wrote a letter to Cheshire West and Chester Head of Human Resources, Euan Murdoch-Hollies, last week. In the letter Mr Todd pointed out that what started out as proposals to harmonise terms and conditions following a reorganisation of Councils within Cheshire was being used as an opportunity to make cuts.

Neil has looked at the financial position of Cheshire West and Chester and has concluded that it is very questionable, given the financial reserves that the Council have in place (which have recently been increased by £12 million), that it does have a sound, good business reason to justify such dismissals.

My comment: Sound business reasons don't appear to enter the equation when CWaC Council reach a decision. 

Read the full story from the source West Cheshire Unison

Is CWaC Council turning a blind eye to an illegal market?

MARKET traders in Winsford have voiced serious concerns over what they claim are illegal stalls in the town centre. They say that the eight stalls effectively make up a small market and, as such, infringe local market rules.

Niel Hodkinson, chairman of the local Market Traders Association, said: “Winsford market traders are very concerned at the number of stalls that are setting up in the town centre.

“At the last count there were eight. This constitutes a market and is illegal under present law.

“The market rights are council-held and, as such, markets cannot be set up in the area without their consent. 

My comment: Most well run markets/shopping centres try and protect their permanent stallholders/shopkeepers by minimising the number of 'here for the Christmas trade and gone by New Year' part time traders.

It's the full time traders who are there in January and in all weathers who are the backbone of any market/shopping centre. So it's both short-sighted and unfair to allow part time traders to cream off their business during the best trading weeks of the year.  

Whilst this short-sighted approach gives the management/organisers extra income from stall rents over the Christmas period it has serious repercussions for both themselves and the permanent stallholders/shopkeepers. Firstly the loss of business forces many permanent stallholders/shopkeepers to question their motivation for being there through the all bad trading months and many decide it's no longer worth it. This means the market/shopping centre is only part occupied and loses the management more income than they made through part time stalls/pop up shops.

Unfortunately, when faced with such a crises many management companies/organisers decide to allow even more 'here today gone tomorrow' traders  in an attempt to boost their income to balance the losses from less and less permanent stallholders/shopkeepers. 

Management and organisers end up in a vicious circle. Year on year they allow more and more 'here today and gone tomorrow' traders because there are less and less permanent traders to balance their books.

Put yourself in a stallholders/shopkeepers position, would you like to invest tens of thousands of pounds in stock and rent, spend months barely breaking even only to find that when the best trading days are approaching someone with a paste table sets up in competition just a few yards away?

If the Council and Shopping centre don't get a grip there will be no market or shopping centre left.

I would also like to add before anyone comments, this is not about traders griping about competition, all traders constantly compete with other traders, this is about unfair competition.

Read the full story from the source Winsford Guardian

Friday, 11 November 2011

Will the new CWaC service provide long-term support for stroke sufferers?

New service will provide long-term support for stroke sufferers.

Cheshire West and Chester Council is working with the Stroke Association to provide a new long-term service to provide support for stroke sufferers.

In West Cheshire alone there are around 380 people diagnosed as having a stroke each year and an estimated 3,188 people living with its effects of which 1,020 have moderate or severe disability caused by a stroke.

The new service means that patients are now supported beyond an initial six-month intensive re-ablement programme.

Read the full story from the source CWaC Council 

My comment: Will they live up to their promise or is it just more spin? Read an email I recently received from a correspondent and reach your own conclusions. 

"I'm one of the stroke sufferers (mild one in June 2007) and what support have I been offered? I approached both their predecessor CCC and CWaC and got nowhere. I am MEANT to have an Outreach Worker, according to their spin, but was never offered one. If I hadn't got a supportive wife, children and wider family, where would I be now?

That's my personal experience of the councils. After 4 years, I'm mostly fine but have residual numbness on my left and some minor weakness. The main problem I have now is epilepsy as a result of the stroke."

Councillors Question Cheshire West Gypsy Site Process

The Labour Group of Cheshire West and Chester Council has "called in" the decision by the Conservative Executive to withdraw proposals to establish two Gypsy and Traveller sites in Saughall and Neston.

Concerns have been expressed by members of the public in all parts of the Borough about the site selection process, which led to unsuitable sites being proposed in Neston and Saughall, before being withdrawn by the Executive on the 2nd November. The Labour Group is asking the Council's Corporate Scrutiny Committee to take a detailed look at the plans, to ensure that any remaining issues are addressed.

"The Executive has shown no contrition and given no apology for the upset and distress they have caused by the unnecessary identification of these sites. What is even more alarming is that one of the Executive members publicly admitted not reading the report upon which his decision was based." [My emphasis]

"We now face months of uncertainty while the Council find another site. Given the confusion their handling of the process has caused so far, how can our communities be confident they will handle this sensitive matter any better in the future?" he added."

My comment: I think it would be an interesting exercise to plot all the suggested sites against the addresses of the executive / decision makers. I hope they don't turn out to be NIMBY elected representatives.

Read the full story from the source About My Area

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Ofsted publishes Children's Services ratings: CWaC Council POOR!

Ofsted has published their verdicts for Council's Children's Services Departments.

It rates 28 councils (including Hammersmith and Fulham) as "excellent" in this area.

Councils judged to be performing poorly are Staffordshire, Gloucestershire, Slough, Birmingham, Calderdale, Cheshire West and Chester Council, Cornwall, Kent, Peterborough, Salford, Sandwell, Torbay, West Sussex and Worcestershire.

My comment: Yet another CWaC Council failure to add to their long list of failures.

Read the full story from the source Local Government

Also read the Improvement Notice

Extract
The report of the inspection of safeguarding and looked after children’s services carried out by Ofsted (published December 2010) which judged the overall effectiveness of Cheshire West and Chester Council’s safeguarding services to be ‘inadequate’. [my emphasis]

Failure to comply with this Improvement Notice by the assessment date may lead to:

The Secretary of State for Education using statutory power of intervention (s497A Education Act 1996) directing the Council to enter into an appropriate arrangement to secure the necessary and rapid improvements required in children’s services.
Also read CWaC Council's response to the report.

Council promises 'decisive action' following critical Ofsted report 

Extract
Council leader Mike Jones and chief executive Steve Robinson, who is also chair of West Cheshire Children's Trust, said that "decisive action" was needed following the report. 
During an unannounced visit in September inspectors gave the council's child protection service its most serious grade of "priority action needed".
My comment: Shows what a pathetic job the trust was doing. Also further evidence that you can't 'trust' CWaC Council to do anything right. 

Also read Council promises decisive action

Extract 
Dr Johns Stephens, Director of Children’s Services, said: “This comprehensive and proactive review of all our cases demonstrates an absolute commitment to do everything within our power to secure the safety of our children and young people.”
My comment: Only CWaC Council could ever describe a reactive review (as a result of a damning Ofsted report) as a proactive review.


UPDATE 23rd November 2011

Read more here (Telegraph article Ofsted: children 'at risk' in fifth of local authorities)


Which also contradicts CWaC's spin.

Monday, 7 November 2011

Cheshire West and Chester Council: The 'Council From Hell'? Part 2

Further to an earlier post I have just been informed that the website has just been updated.

Well worth a read if you are interested in how Cheshire West and Chester Council works (and how their predecessor Cheshire County Council worked).

Read the full story from the source Cheshire and Chester West: The Council from hell.

Friday, 4 November 2011

Can you influence how CWaC Council spends its cash next year?

CHESHIRE West and Chester Council is inviting residents to have their say on draft budget proposals for the next financial year. Read the spin here

Here are my suggestions

Stop wasting money producing self promoting videos.

Stop wasting money producing council newspapers spin.

Stop wasting £398 a year paying for one senior staff member to be a member of SOLACE.

Stop wasting money  on reputation management, propaganda and spin.

Stop wasting money paying way over the odds for old cinema buidlings.

Stop wasting £8 million a year on consultants.

Stop wasting £25,000 wrapping trees.

Stop wasting £69,293 on LGA membership 

Stop wasting money on no hope legal cases yes, there was more than one.

Stop wasting £25,937.64 promoting CWaC Council to other councils.

Stop wasting money  sending more people than necessary to events.

Stop wasting money paying councillors more than they are worth.

Stop wasting money on crap campaigns.

Stop wasting money paying councillors when they are in New Zealand.

Stop wasting money paying senior staff more than they are worth.

Stop wasting money allowing  staff and members to use Facebook whilst at work.

Stop wasting money spending millions on repairing and refitting old buildings only to rent them out for a peppercorn rent that would hardly cover notional interest on the money spent let alone a decent return on the investment money thrown down the drain on vanity projects.

Monday, 31 October 2011

CWaC Children in care and adoption performance tables

Children in Care and Adoption Performance Tables

Placements 1: 109=/152
Placements 2: 97=/152
Placements 3: 74=/152
Placements 4: unranked due to confidentiality

Adoption 1: 118=/152
Adoption 2: 93=/152
Adoption 3: unranked due to confidentiality

Attainment 1: 91/152
Attainment 2: unranked due to confidentiality
Attainment 3 15=/152
Attainment 4 43=/152

Leaving care 1: 140=/152
Leaving care 2: 119=/152
Leaving care 3: 12=/152
Leaving care 4: unranked due to confidentiality

My comment: A few too many low rankings?

More here Councils named and shamed over slow adoptions.

And here Cheshire West and Chester, Local authority adoption agency and local authority fostering services inspection reports.

Particularly the the latest unannounced inspection report

An old article in the Chronicle provides good background info. It will be interesting to see more recent reports from Ofsted when they are available.

Friday, 28 October 2011

CWaC Council staff misuse taxpayer funded internet access

One member of staff sacked and four others disciplined due to internet misuse at Cheshire West and Chester Council.

The figures – obtained following a Freedom of Information request by the Chronicle – relate to incidents of internet misuse between April 2009 when the authority came into existence and August this year.

A staff member was sacked for ‘bringing the employer into disrepute’ after making a comment on a social media website.

The Chronicle also asked for the 100 most visited websites by council staff during the month of August.

Google proved most popular with 28,487 hits followed by Facebook with 24,769. Other frequently visited websites included the council’s own site (5,450)

My comment: Wow! Facebook visited nearly 5 times more than their own website.

Read the full story from the source Chester Chronicle

Wednesday, 26 October 2011

Staff morale ‘at rock bottom’ in CWaC council

A COUNCIL worker from Ellesmere Port says morale is at an all-time low after new terms and conditions were announced last week.

Last week, council leader Mike Jones appeared on regional TV news to defend the move. But the employee we spoke to claims he will lose £50 a week under the new terms and slammed the ‘hypocrisy’ of council leader Mike Jones – who will not suffer any drop in salary.

The Streetscene team worker refused to be named, but insisted ‘morale is at rock bottom’ since news council cost saving would hit salaries.

He said: “Steve Robinson got a one-off payment of £60,000 just for overseeing the local elections.

“These two hypocrites are telling us to take pay cuts. Imagine how much it would save if they took even a 5% pay cut.”

My comment: Whilst that's an excellent idea unfortunately turkeys don't vote for Xmas. 

Read the full story from the source Ellesmere Port Pioneer

Another CWaC cock up

Cheshire West and Chester Council is contacting approximately 3,000 social care customers following an error in its billing system.

The authority has become aware that the latest bills, dated 14 October 2011, incorrectly charge customers for an eight-week rather than a four-week period.

Mark Palethorpe, Director of Adult Social Care and Health, said: “I would like to apologise to all those affected by this computer error that has now been rectified and reassure everyone that customers will not be charged twice.”

My comment: Computers don't make errors the people who use them do. This was a mistake by a member of staff. Nice attempt at spin though.

Read the full story from the source The CWaC spin factory

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

One Team One planet, One Councillor One question

During 2010, Mike Jones leader of Cheshire West and Chester Council (in partnership with a Kevin McLeod), started a Solar Energy company called One Team One Planet Ltd .

He rightly declared his interest in the register of interests.


On the 6th July this year he removed his interest as a shareholder/partner but retained a directorship in the company.


If you type oneteamoneplanet.co.uk in your browser...

You are automatically redirected to a company called Maxiflow, another Solar Energy Company. UPDATE: Since this post was published this auto redirect from One Team One Planet to Maxiflow has been removed. I wonder why?


Which also has the same address as One Team One Planet Ltd.

If you search Who is for the owner of the domain name 'oneteamoneplanet.co.uk' you will find it was registered by Maxiflow Ltd in March 2010.  

On their website Maxiflow list Cheshire West and Chester Council as one of their clients.

If you check out the directors of One Team One Planet Ltd you will find Mike Jones and Kevin McLeod listed as directors. (They originally started the company as a 50%-50% partnership). Kevin McLeod is also listed as a Director and shareholder of Maxiflow. (Details correct when checked 1/5/2011.)






If Mike Jones is employed as a director of One Team One Planet Ltd, as the latest register of interest suggests.  Then he is employed by a company which, when I checked, was partly owned by a director and shareholder of Maxiflow. Maxiflow is a company used by Cheshire West and Chester Council and other councils for contract work.

(Still waiting for companies house to confirm who now owns Mike Jones 50% of One Team One Planet Ltd. This should be available after they receive the One Team One Planet annual report.)

Therefore, my question to  CWaC Council is, why don't you  insist that councillors  declare these types of indirect interests in addition to the more obvious direct interests? 
  
On Company Director check Mike Jones' directorships past and present are shown.. (Scroll down the linked page to obtain specific details. ) [Please note: Information may be out of date, just because the company is shown as active doesn't imply he is still a director.  It may not be the same as the register of interest for a number of other reasons. They are updated at different times, I don't think the register of interests apply to unpaid directorships and they could contain errors. Errors which I will gladly highlight if and when they are brought to my attention.]


UPDATE 1st June 2012: GAZ2: Second notification of strike-off action in London Gazette (Section 652) has been published.

For more information about A.S.C. Developments please read my earlier blog post.

Tuesday, 11 October 2011

CWaC Council leader 'Speaking at public meetings'

Further to my previous post Democracy in action CWaC Council style

Below is a video featuring 'We've moved on now Mike' telling the public how they can speak at council meetings. At no point does he mention his right to 'overlook' them when it comes to their turn to speak. Which basically means this video is just council spin.

Democracy in action CWaC Council style

The following was sent to me by a reader.

"I am watching this online. Breathtakingly arrogant behaviour by Mike Jones showing blatant utter contempt for the public.

He “missed” (accidentally or otherwise) a public speaker who was on the agenda to speak on the travellers site who was due to speak following Cllr Brian Crowe. When the man pointed this out Mike Jones said “we’ve missed it so must move on”. When he further protested, Mike Jones threatened to have staff remove him if he continued.

Then the rest of the public gallery audience protested accusing him of looking after his own interest and then one said “there’s plenty of green belt in Hargrave, why don’t you put it there?”.

They were seething as they walked out shouting abuse at him. Prior to this Cllr Brian Crowe (Saughall and Mollington) made a good speech criticising the “consultation” as almost non-existent. Cllr Crowe had just reminded Mike Jones and the Executive their obligation to the electorate.

There were a lot of angry people there, many Tory supporters. I think this one will hit the press but you are welcome to publish my account which is from the webcast. "

Below is a short extract of the webcast to illustrate the issue. Featuring 'We've moved on now Mike', leader of Cheshire County Council.


My comment: This isn't democracy in action this is autocracy. Shame on the other councillors present for not following Cllr Brian Crowe lead when he tried to  speak out in support of the member of the public who was wrongly denied the right to speak. Hat tip to Brian Crowe, a Councillor to be proud of.

Want to know what your rights to speak at a CWaC Council meeting are? Watch this video by "We've moved on now Mike" himself, Mike Jones. 

Sunday, 9 October 2011

Teacher sacked over sex and race slurs wins five-year battle to clear her name

A teacher who was sacked over accusations she abused pupils has spoken out after being cleared five years on. When Alison Addison was accused of abusing the special-needs children in her care, she thought she would quickly be cleared.

The claims – that she had physically abused the children, used racist words and had sexual intercourse with the caretaker in her school's pool – seemed too outlandish to withstand any scrutiny. Cheshire police dropped the investigation after interviewing 10 members of staff.

Despite the police decision, Cheshire County Council appointed an independent investigator who questioned the school staff.

Instead, the teacher waited five years to be free of the slurs made by a colleague that ended the career she had loved for 24 years.

She was finally cleared by the General Teaching Council for England last month when it ruled that her accusers were "not to be relied on", after hearing that she had been the victim of a "conspiracy".

Cheshire county council was split in two in 2009. One of the new authorities, Cheshire West and Chester council, said: "This case was heard by two sets of governors and was the subject of an independent investigation. This authority has no reason to doubt the actions taken at the time by Cheshire county council." 

My comment: Just how stupid are CWaC Councillors? Police dropped the case and it was only pursued by an idiot from Cheshire County Council (who may, for all we know, still be working for CWaC Council). Ignoring the fact that her accusers were invited but failed to give evidence, just what part of  'her accusers were not to be relied on' don't CWaC Council understand?

I know from experience that if an officer from Cheshire County Council or Cheshire West and Chester Council said two plus two was five councillors would believe them. 

Read the full story from the source The Telegraph

Tuesday, 4 October 2011

CWaC Council let down residents over Ways Green inquiry

RESIDENTS have accused the council of backing down in the fight against controversial plans to build 93 homes on land off Ways Green, in Winsford.

At a two-day public inquiry last week - following Anwyl's appeal - the council revealed it had withdrawn its highways objection and instead would fight the plans on the issue of appearance.

Celia Grant, who lives in Weaver Street, said residents feel hugely let down by the council.  She added: “It feels like a kick in the teeth - what are we fighting for now?

My comment: The  council often ignore highway problems when it suits them. To  suggest that they will now fight the plans on appearance is ludicrous. Highway objection could have stopped the development in it's tracks appearance won't. The $64,000 question is what 'exchanges' took place for them to remove the highway objections.

Read the full story from the source Winsford Guardian

Wednesday, 21 September 2011

CWaC Councillors come under fire after waste plant meeting

A NORTHWICH man has expressed his ‘disgust’ at the lack of council representation at a meeting to discuss plans for a energy from waste plant.

Both town councillors and borough councillors came under fire from pensioner Harry Rea, of Bowden Drive, who spoke of his disappointment at the lack of representation at the meeting.

 The 71-year-old said: “I have got to express my disgust that some of the councillors weren’t there.  Clr Malcolm Byram and Clr Lynn Riley did attend the meeting.

 SID member Kenton Barker said: “I was slightly disappointed at the turnout from CWAC.

My comment: The promise of a photo opportunity together with free food and drink would have secured a higher number of councillors attending. 

Read the full story from the source Northwich Guardian

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Postal votes in Davenham and Moulton branded 'a scandal'

POSTAL voting for the last election has been branded a scandal by a Northwich councillor after voting statistics were revealed.

Town councillor Brian Jamieson, from Northwich’s Labour group, said only half the expected amount of postal votes were returned in one of the town’s major wards because residents did not get their packs until it was too late.

The average return for postal votes in the Cheshire West and Chester Council (CWAC) area in May was between 60 and 70 per cent but in the Davenham and Moulton ward it was just 31.4 per cent.

The elections were organised by CWAC’s electoral services department.

Clr Jamieson said: “It’s an absolute scandal. 

 “Some people didn’t receive a postal vote and some got it late – we know because we asked them.

A CWAC spokesman said: “Cheshire West and Chester Council remains committed to ensuring everyone eligible is able to exercise their right to vote.”

My comment: CWaC Council can talk the talk (spin the spin) but unfortunately they can't walk the walk (actually do what they promise). More about their election cock ups here, here, here, here and here.

I recently submitted a Freedom of Information request to identify how much CWaC Council paid the returning officer for the last 3 years. Maybe they should consider asking for a refund!

Read the full story from the source Nortwich Guardian

UPDATED 23/9/2011: Response to my Freedom of information request arrives.

2009 – fee for the European Election - £11,963
2010 – fee for the General Election - £12,676
2011 – fee for the Borough and Parish Elections - £31,952.30
Fee for the Referendum - £13,129

Total paid to returning officer over 3 years £69,720.30

My comment: Not a bad extra income on top of a fat cat salary. 

Council pays for CEO's membership of SOLACE

Following a recent Freedom of Information request I have identified that CWaC Council are paying £398 per year for the Chief Executive's membership  of SOLACE.

SOLACE Society for Local Authority Chief Executives. Membership is open to Chief Executives, Senior Managers, Middle Managers and Graduates of all UK local authorities and related public sector organisations.

SOLACE research shows that 60% of the thousands of members who contact us every year are looking for personal advice and support.

The question is, why are Cheshire West and Chester Council paying their Chief Executive's membership fees when it is clear that the main use of SOLACE is for personal advice and support?

Sunday, 18 September 2011

Don't rely on CWaC Council to protect our open spaces, parks and play areas

RESIDENTS are being asked to nominate land to commemorate the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee.

Cheshire West and Chester Council (CWAC) is joining in a national programme that will see areas of land becoming dedicated Queen Elizabeth II Fields. 

The project sets minimum criteria around quality and accessibility of land as well as protecting the sites as public open spaces. Read the full story from the source Northwich Guardian

The question is, will CWaC Council protect our open spaces, parks and play areas in the future?

Here are a couple of examples of them failing to do so, I am sure there are many more.

Example 1: The First Duke of Westminster gave Edgar's Field Park in trust to the Council for use forever by the residents of Chester, in particular those of Handbridge.   However the Ship Inn, a private business, appear intent on encroaching on the field.

Example 2: In order to obtain planning permission for their Pinetree/Firtree/Linwood estate Barratt had to incorporate an open space and play area into the development. These should have been completed to standard and gifted to the council before all the houses were occupied. All the houses were occupied way back in 2001 yet when I last checked just a few months ago the play area and open space were still owned by Barratt.

So the question is can you trust CWaC Council to protect our open spaces, play areas and parks? I don't think their track record looks good so far! 

Friday, 16 September 2011

Video shows CWaC people how to generate their own electricity

PEOPLE in Cheshire West are being encouraged to reduce their carbon footprint by generating their own electricity.

A new video produced by Cheshire West and Chester Council entitled Solar Panels for Your Home features interviews with homeowners in the area who have had solar panels fitted to their houses.

The film outlines how the technology works and shows the installation process, which usually takes no longer than a day.

My comment: This must be wonderful news for solar energy companies and their staff. All the extra business generated through CWaC Council's efforts must be a boon to solar energy companies during this current economic climate. 

I just wish I had the foresight to have started a solar energy company last year so I could now capitalise on all the business this CWaC promotional material will no doubt generate. I wonder if anyone in CWaC Council did.... or has a job with a solar power company?

Read the full story from the source Chester Chronicle The link given in the Chron article is for a CWaC spin video NOT the solar panel video. One of the downsides of accepting council press releases without validation.

And a link to my Freedom of information request in an attempt to find out how much this video cost and who paid for it. Particularly since it appears to benefit solar panel companies.

Wednesday, 7 September 2011

CWaC Council reputation management, propaganda and spin

On the 22nd August 2011 I posted the following  

CWaC CEO cost taxpayers an extra £17,000 last year 
Steve Robinson, the chief executive of Cheshire West and Chester Council, saw his total remuneration rise by £17,000 to £235,000 last year, including pension and benefits.
 His total packet took him to 14th place in the list of the country's highest paid council bosses.
My comment: The gravy train keeps on rolling!
Read the full story from the source The Telegraph
On the 24th August 2011 I submitted the following Freedom of Information request to Cheshire West and Chester Council.
I would like to know the amount you paid to the returning officer for each of the last 3 years together with an explanation as to what the payments were for.

 PS: I have searched your website for the information but can't find  it.
I am still waiting for a response to my FOI, however,

On the 24th August 2011 Cheshire West and Chester Council left the following comment on my blog post.
STATEMENT RE: CHIEF EXECUTIVE’S SALARY
Council spokesman, Ian Callister, said today: “The Chief Executive of Cheshire West and Chester Council has not received any salary increase since his appointment in July 2008.
“Total reimbursements recorded in the authority’s Statement of Accounts also include repayment of travel and subsistence expenses; the agreed rise in pension payments as required by the Fund’s External Actuary and the Government’s regulation payment to all Chief Executives who acted as returning officer during the last general election.
“All the above are recorded as ‘salary’ in the Council’s Statement of Accounts, as required by financial regulations. His pay has not changed.” 
On the 24th August 2011 I updated my blog post with the follwoing statement
UPDATE 24th August 2011: Irrespective of what spin the council tries to put on it the Chief Executive cost taxpayers an extra £17,000 last year. 
and left the following response to CWaC

You mean you actually paid someone for managing this years election shambles?

http://bodgedroad.blogspot.com/2011/05/residents-fury-as-postal-votes-fail-to.html

http://bodgedroad.blogspot.com/2011/05/another-election-cock-up.html

http://bodgedroad.blogspot.com/2011/04/cwac-fails-in-its-promise-to-do-better.html

In addition on the 31st August 2011 the following article appeared in the Ellesmere Port Pioneer.

Cheshire West and Chester Council chief justifies extra £13,000 payment.
COUNCIL chief executive Steve Robinson received an extra £13,000 for acting as returning officer at last year’s General Election, despite a fiasco which saw voters denied their right to vote.
Mr Robinson earned his £180,000 annual salary plus £13,000 for organising the election in Cheshire West and Chester according to the accounts. 
The council’s accounts show Mr Robinson’s benefits in kind, including his car allowance, rose from £1,000 to £2,000 last year and his employer’s pension contribution rose from £37,000 to £40,000 resulting in an overall £17,000 rise in his financial package of £235,000 compared to the previous year. 
It would appear that, in common with many other councils, Cheshire West and Chester now prefer to concentrate on reputation management, propaganda and spin.

Still no response to the question I posed in an ealier post.

Does Cheshire West and Chester Council put pressure on our local press? [(1) To promote positive stories and excuses for the council. (2) To ignore any negative stories and turn a blind eye to their pathetic excuses.] Other councils do! 

Friday, 26 August 2011

Corporate hospitality and the Bribery Act

The Bribery Act 2010 came into effect on 1 July 2011. It is amongst the toughest anti-bribery and corruption legislation in the world.

You can continue to provide bona fide hospitality, promotion and other business expenditure. The intention of the legislation is to catch hospitality which is really a cover for bribing someone.

In a commercial context for there to be an offence, the prosecution must show that the hospitality:

(a) provided an advantage to another person and

(b) was offered or given with the intention of inducing the person to perform a relevant function improperly or in the knowledge of acceptance of the advantage would in itself be improper performance.

It should be understood that improper performance of a function is a performance which amounts to a breach of an expectation that a person will act in good faith, impartially or in accordance with a position of trust. Functions both in the private and public sectors are covered.

The best protection for companies, to ensure they do not infringe the Act, is to publish clear written policies prohibiting gifts, expenses or hospitality which might influence or be seen to influence a contractual or material matter.

My comment: Please contact me if you have any information regarding any potential breaches of the said act by CWaC council members or staff or any of the companies they deal with. 

Read the full story from the source Shoosmiths

Thursday, 25 August 2011

Cheshire West and Chester Council: The 'Council From Hell'?

I am Peter Johnson, a Cheshire pensioner who faces financial ruin, the loss of my home and a lengthy jail sentence. All this came about simply because I carried out what HM. Government advised me to do, in order to defend and prevent my property from Flooding!

Since that time the corrupt ‘Council from Hell’, Cheshire West and Chester Council, (formerly the Chester City Council) has pursued what amounts to a personal vendetta against me for the last eleven years.

Read the full story from the source The Council from Hell

My comment: In my case, Cheshire West and Chester Council (formerly Vale Royal Borough Council and Cheshire County Council), went out of their way to bodge a class 3A road at my expense because they had wrongly allowed a developer to build and sell over 60 houses knowing that the developer could never complete the road to adoptable standards. When the developer went bust the council decided to offload their problem onto me (and other road users to a lesser extent) and just bodged the road instead of completing it to the planned and approved standards.

Funny how standards can change when the council is trying to extricate itself from self created difficulties due to earlier incompetence or wrongdoing. 

A planning officer misplacing an important document just long enough for the developer to build and sell all the houses they shouldn't have been allowed to sell before the class 3A road was competed to standard. (Would you believe he eventually found it in the bottom draw of his desk.) You make your own mind up, simple incompetence or something much much worse? 

The highway authority department at the council was even worse, giving the developer certificates of completion when they shouldn't have done. Doing work without planning permission on an unadopted road etc. 

Even now, after adoption, there is still missing lamp posts on the road, no elevation on the bend etc. Loads of stuff they would normally refuse to adopt a road for. Adopting the road to get themselves out of their self created difficulties prove that they have double standards. High standards for others and very low standards for themselves.

It looks like all the skeletons are now falling out of the closet at CWaC Council as more and more stories about them are published. 


UPDATE 25th August 2011: Looks like this post has grabbed their attention :)

Monday, 22 August 2011

CWaC CEO cost taxpayers an extra £17,000 last year UPDATED

Steve Robinson, the chief executive of Cheshire West and Chester Council, saw his total remuneration rise by £17,000 to £235,000 last year, including pension and benefits.

His total packet took him to 14th place in the list of the country's highest paid council bosses.

My comment: The gravy train keeps on rolling!

Read the full story from the source The Telegraph

UPDATE 24th August 2011: Irrespective of what spin the council tries to put on it (see comment below) the Chief Executive cost taxpayers an extra £17,000 last year.

Friday, 12 August 2011

Councillors should consider the number of empty premises

This is an extract from a letter published by the Northwich Guardian

"Should Cheshire West and Chester Council not be aware, the country is experiencing a period of extreme austerity. Interestingly, neither the article nor in the information available at the Memorial Hall is there any mention of cost for the proposed scheme.

We have seven supermarkets in Northwich and for a study to conclude that there is ‘an unmet demand for food,’ presumably supermarkets, is unbelievable. Our politicians should look in the town and consider the number of empty premises and proliferation of charity outlets."

STEVEN BARRINGTON Antrobus

Read the full letter here or use the link above

My comment:  CWaC Council appear to have the money to spend £8 million on consultants and another £2.6 million to buy the Odeon in Chester

What I can't understand is when Cinemas around the country are closing down, ironically the Odeon in Chester is a good example. Who would consider building a new one a few miles away? Similar argument goes for the more shops argument, towns are awash with empty shops at the moment and whilst national companies may be able to afford the fancy rents new build attracts many of the smaller shops, the life blood of the community, can't. 

The $64,000 question is why are our councillors so keen to plough money into consultants and plans for new developments and not into the existing community, especially during a recession? 
 
UPDATED 17th August 2011: This is an extract from a letter published by the Winsford Guardian.

I CANNOT understand why Cheshire West and Chester Council persists in spending millions of pounds in the present financial climate.

The money involved could surely have been used to reduce council tax or some of it spent on maintaining Northwich. 

JANE BROWN Northwich


My comment:  CWaC Council only appear to have a one track mind, out with the old and in with the new. Selling county hall and replacing it with the HQ premises  was the start, same goes with the Chester and Northwich plans. They appear to have swept away any consideration of maintaining and improving what we have and decided the only way forward is expensive and at the moment, unnecessary grandiose plans. 

Let's face it of CWaC hadn't come to the rescue the HQ building would have been a white elephant for years to come. In addition companies like MBNA could move out of Chester at any time, retail companies are failing at an alarming rate yet CWaC want to build even more capacity rather than improve what we have. 

Mike Jones, Leader of CWaC Council & ASC (Developments) Chester Ltd

UPDATES 28th February and 5th March 2012: below this article.

Register of interests Councillor Mike Jones (6th July 2011)

1. Name of Employer and/or of any business carried out by you.(This includes any self-employed business partnership or company)

ASC (Developments) Chester Ltd

3. The name of any company for which you are a remunerated director.

ASC (Developments) Chester Ltd 

5. Name of any company or body (which has a place of business or land in the area of Cheshire West and Chester) in which you hold (or are held on your behalf) securities that exceed the nominal value of £25,000 or one hundredth of the total issued share capital of the company (whichever is lower). (NB: nominal value means “face value”, not market values.)

ASC Developments (Chester) Ltd

8. List and describe all contracts for goods, services or works between Cheshire West and Chester Council and:- (a) yourself, or; (b) a firm in which you are a partner, or; (c) a company of which you are a remunerated director; (d) a company in which you have shares that you have registered in Section 5

ASC carries out work associated with DFG and house renovation grants

Cheshire West and Chester Council leader’s firm wins £46K contracts (March 24th 2011)

THE council leader's company was paid £46,000 by Cheshire West and Cheshire Council in 2010 for work done on adapting homes for the disabled.

A Freedom of Information response shows Saltney-based ASC Developments (Chester) Ltd, in which Cllr Jones and his wife Suzanne are directors, received £46,725 in 2010 for that part of the adaptation work covered by a Disabled Facilities Grant administered by the council.

Read the full story from the source Chester Chronicle

Petitions to Wind Up (Companies) (26 May 2011)

("The advertising date is crucial, if the petition is advertised the bank could freeze the company’s accounts.")

A.S.C. DEVELOPMENTS (CHESTER) LTD (Company Number 01890400)

'A Petition to wind up the above-named Company, Registration Number 01890400, of Units 4&5, Facit Glen Industrial Estate, River Lane, Saltney, Chester CH4 8RH, presented on 16 April 2011 by the Commissioners for HM Revenue and Customs, of Bush House, Strand, London WC2B 4RD, claiming to be Creditors of the Company, will be heard at the Royal Courts of Justice, Strand, London WC2A 2LL, on 8 June 2011, at 1030 hours (or as soon thereafter as the Petition can be heard).' 

The case was dismissed because the matter had been settled.

Chester Chronicle Thursday 11th August 2011 (page 8): Cheshire West and Chester Council leader Mike Jones’s company has survived a winding-up petition raised by HM Revenue and Customs after a settlement was reached.

A spokesman for ASC Developments (Chester) Ltd said: “It is common knowledge that the recession has not been kind to many small companies in the building industry. However whilst this company has experienced some problems these were successfully resolved some months ago.

My comment: Petition presented 16th April, advertised in the London Gazette on the 26th May, resolved by 8th June. This suggests it was resolved between the 26th May and 8th June 2011. If it had been resolved earlier surely the advert would not have gone ahead. The London Gazette publishes each working day. 

Company House information suggests that ASC is wholly owned by Hargrave, another company wholly owned by Mike Jones and his wife. 

Register of interests Councillor Mike Jones (6th July 2011)

Last year Councillor Jones revealed he dealt with the sale [of County Hall] and the purchase of part of the HQ building as he would as a business. “I AM DEALING with the council finances as I would as a business,” says Cllr Jones. My comment: WOW! 

What is a winding up petition

"A winding up petition is by far the most serious action that can be taken against your company. Often the company has broken any trust the creditor had, payment deals have failed, cheques bounced and generally the directors have not kept their word to pay".

UPDATE 28th February 2012 Suzanne Jones, a Director and Company Secretary, resigns from ASC.

Image from Company House re ASC

UPDATE 6th March 2012 Unconfirmed rumours are circulating that Mike Jones has told other councillors he intends winding up ASC. More when I obtain confirmation.

Thursday, 11 August 2011

Chester becomes one of the first to have a 'Responsible Drinking Zone'

Chester has become one of the first in the country to have a designated ‘Responsible Drinking Zone’.

Backed by law and Cheshire West and Chester Council, it aims to tackle alcohol-related crime in and around the Chester area.

My comment: All we need now is a responsible Councillor zone, may I suggest County Hall.

Cheshire West and Cheshire Council buys ex Odeon Cinema building

Cheshire West and Cheshire Council are buying the Odeon Cinema building in Chester for around £2.6 Million with no firm plans for it's end use.

A defunct Cinema, just what every Council needs when times are hard, the previous owners must be laughing all the way to the bank.

Who you gonna call........ when you can't sell an asset?.............. CWaC Council.

I wonder if one of the consultants they spent £8 million on  suggested the idea?

Cheshire West and Chester Council paid £8m in fees to consultants

A TOTAL of £8m was spent on consultants by the cash-strapped Cheshire West and Chester Council last year.

The council had originally refused to answer a Freedom of Information request about consultancy fees, saying it would cost too much to compile the data, but was forced backtrack after The Chester Chronicle, the sister paper of the Pioneer, won on appeal.

My comment: If their staff need consultants to do their job they should sack the staff and recruit those who are capable of doing the job without recourse to consultants.

Read the full story from the source Ellesmere Port Pioneer

Chester West and Cheshire Council have wasting money all wrapped up

Cheshire West and Chester Council spent £25,000 wrapping trees and lampposts with polyester.

WRAPPING Chester’s trees and lampposts with colourful stripy polyester cost £25,000, but brought a ‘festival feel’ to the city, a local authority has revealed.

Cheshire West and Chester Council has revealed that the colourful material decorations, used to entice visitors to the city centre, cost the authority £25,000.

My comment: Please consider a councillor wrapping event next year, I am sure many people would offer to do it for free.

Read the full story from the source Chester Chronicle

UPDATE 5/10/2011: Common sense prevails.

Tree wrapping has been rejected as part of festivities for Chester.

CONTROVERSIAL colourful tree wrapping will not be returning to Chester after councillors decided it was not in keeping with the city’s festivities.

The decision comes less than a month after the trees and lampposts lining the streets and roads of Chester city centre were stripped of the stripy polyester for an initiative which cost £25,000.

My comment: Note the spin, 'not in keeping with the city's festivities' when all they had to say was it was a crap idea and we won't be doing it again. Whenever will wrapping trees like the one above be in keeping with a historic city. They ought to wrap the person responsible for wasting £25,000 in the first place and send them to Timbuktu.

Read the full story from the source Chester Chronicle 

Friday, 29 July 2011

CWaC Council: Local Government Association (LGA) Membership costs

The Local Government Association (LGA) is a voluntary lobbying organisation acting as the voice of the local government.
Cost of membership for CWaC Council
2009/10 = £81,850 (net of VAT)
2010/11 = £79,220 (net of VAT)
2011/12 = £69,293 (net of VAT)
As of January this year there were 433 councils in the UK, of which 371 were members of the LGA. Many are leaving this year

Bromley, Torridge, North Somerset, Kings Lynn and West Norfolk have already withdrawn from the LGA and a further nine councils have said they are leaving.

Amber Valley to leave local government lobby group

Cotswold District Council could leave Local Government Association

"Cotswold District Council claims the Local Government Association's £12,500 subscription fee is not value for money."

My comment: I agree, why should councils use taxpayers money to fund an organisation that just lobbies government for even more taxpayer's money.  

Where is council cash being spent?

OPPOSITION Labour Group councillors have asked for more openness about who is spending what and where they are spending it following publications of details of the member’s budget.

Councillors on Cheshire West and Chester Council (CWAC) are given a budget each to spend on local organisations to benefit the areas they represent, This year’s budget has doubled to £10,000 for each of the 75 councillors.

However, Labour councillor Ben Powell is worried about some of the items on the list. He said £2,500 was spent on 500 Royal Wedding commemorative mugs, which were distributed for free to residents in one small area just before the election.

My comment: I raised my concerns, about the danger of member's budgets being wrongly used to buy votes, two weeks ago 'Member's budgets could be used to buy votes at the taxpayer's expense'. 

Read the full story from the source Northwich Guardian

Tuesday, 26 July 2011

Cheshire fails in legal challenge to PFI cuts

Further to an earlier post of mine review in to waste cash. A Judicial Review claim against the government's decision to withdraw £100m of credits from a household waste PFI in Cheshire has failed.

Cheshire West & Chester and Cheshire East Councils claimed the department for environment, food and rural affairs used a flawed methodology to assess the merits of Cheshire's 25-year scheme to dispose of around 180,000 tonnes of waste annually.

Both local authorities also said ministers under-estimated benefits which would have accrued from the scheme.
Mr Justice Langstaff sitting in the High Court in Leeds
dismissed the councils' case on all five counts put to him.

Both authorities have applied for permission to appeal.

My comment: A judicial review was a waste of time and money. They should have put the money to better use....like training their legal departments. Seeking leave to appeal is just another waste of money. Just how many times does CWaC Council's legal department need to be proven wrong before someone starts asking serious questions! They are beginning to make the old Cheshire County Council legal department look positively competent.

Read the full story from the source Place North West