Wednesday, 23 February 2011

The CWaCC solutions team

Whilst reading many of the on-line Freedom of Information requests I came across the following information about CWaCC's solutions team.

"Solutions Team was created as part of the Chief Executive's Office. This team was set up to handle customer comments, compliments and complaints, MP and general correspondence and FOI and EIR requests. Within this team there are 2 officers spending 100% of their time dealing with FOI and EIR requests (1 full-time and 1 part-time = 55hrs per week). The remainder of the team and Team Manager may also have some involvement with requests.

The Solutions Team manage a network of around 90 'Champions' to disseminate complaints, correspondence and requests throughout their service area and collate the response. This role is in addition to the Champions' 'day job' and we estimate that at least 25% of their time is spent on this, based on the amount of average time spent on requests. On that basis, we can assume that the Champions each spend around a minimum of 2 hours a week on FOI and EIR requests alone."

My comment: Their track record has not been all that great because CWaCC has been heavily criticised for, among other things, wanting to illegally charge for all FoI requests (Probably wanted to be self financing) and for attempting to block ex employees from using the FoI Act. More like a team that helps create problems rather than provide solutions.

Who do they think they are kidding?

Extract from a letter by a local resident: "It is amazing how the prospect of Cheshire West and Chester Council elections on May 5 has galvanised local Conservative councillors into action.

I refer to the full-page advertisement placed in a recent edition of the Northwich Guardian.

How delighted we all must be to know that Northwich is now a step closer to getting a makeover aimed at boosting the town’s economy......Perhaps an idiotic salt arch as suggested by a lower authority.

Northwich taxpayers are footing the bill for this Tory advert in the guise of a council communiqué in these times of public spending cuts and economic hardship!"

Read the letter in full from the source Your letters Middlewich Guardian

Tuesday, 22 February 2011

CWaCC cannot come to terms with freedom of information

There are many councils that seem unable to grasp the point of the Freedom of Information (FoI) Act. One such local authority, the clumsily-named Cheshire West and Chester Council, has not only introduced charges but has taken its hostility to the FoI act to a new level.

It has prohibited a former employee from using the act by requiring the person to sign an agreement waiving his right to make an FoI request to the council. The gagging agreement also curbs his rights under the Data Protection Act (DPA).

The irony is that the agreement came to light because of a specific FoI request (carried in full on the WhatDoTheyKnow website) that asked the council to say how many "current employees/ex-employees who have agreed... to forgo their right to approach the council in the future with Freedom of Information or DPA Subject Access requests." The answer was one.

According to the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO), the agreement is invalid. (And it may breach human rights legislation too).

A council spokesman, Ian Callister , told the paper: "I am assured by our senior solicitor that our compromise agreement with our ex-employee is entirely lawful and was agreed by that person's legal representatives.

My comment: Do you think Cwacc's legal department knows better than the ICO? The council that just a short while ago wrongly thought that they could charge for all Freedom of Information requests. 

Read the full story from the source  Greenslade Blog (Guardian)

Sunday, 20 February 2011

CWaCC cuts services & grants but wants to waste money on bronze warriors

A TREE-LINED boulevard ‘guarded’ by imposing bronze warriors could be the vision greeting visitors arriving at Chester Railway Station.

Council chiefs want to commemorate Chester’s 2,000-year military history in a spectacular ‘make-over’ for City Road as a key pedestrian link into the city centre.

Proposed military statues – all on impressive plinths – would begin with a Roman Legionnaire and end near The Bars roundabout with a Mercian Regiment soldier in Afghanistan combat gear.

Cllr Mike Jones, leader of Cheshire West and Chester Council, said: “Chester has been a garrison town since the time of the Romans and we thought that a tribute to this proud part of our heritage would help set the scene for our visitors. My comment: Especially visitors from Afghanistan.

“The scheme is in its infancy at the moment but would almost certainly involve us seeking sponsorship for the various statues” said the leader.

My comment: I wonder how much it will cost for a feasibility study, planning, staff/councillor time and expenses, project management and marketing before they get their first sponsor? Buy one get one free?

Read the full story from the source Chester Chronicle

Saturday, 19 February 2011

BARMY council bosses are spending thousands of pounds

COUNCILS that are supposed to be saving money are wasting taxpayers' cash.

Town halls have splashed out on surveys, adverts, questionnaires, public meetings, letter drops, focus groups and adverts to explain the impact of budget cuts.

My comment: Cheshire West may be last on the short list but they are still on the list for spending £2,226 on a prize draw.

Read the full story from the source The Sun

Update

Cheshire West and Chester Council were among 28 local authorities across England named in a national newspaper, as part of their ongoing probe into ‘waste in the public sector’.

Chester’s council came in last on the list, spending £2,226 on printing and a prize draw.

A CWaC spokesman added: “The draw to award that prize to one of the respondents has yet to be undertaken.”

My comment: So the Sun story was correct. 

Read the full story from the source Cheshire First

Thursday, 10 February 2011

Halton Council education chief caught up in political row with CWAC

A SENIOR Halton Council director has been caught up in a political furore at a neighbouring authority.

The Weekly News exclusively revealed in November last year how the borough was poised to merge its services for children and young people with Cheshire West and Chester Council.

The merger has since been given the green light, with Halton’s strategic director for children and young people Gerald Meehan likely to be appointed to the top post, with Cheshire West’s children’s director Dr John Stephens as his deputy.

But a war of words has erupted at Conservative-led Cheshire West about the way the two men were appointed.

Cllr Bateman told the meeting: “I’m a member of the staffing committee responsible for appointing the chief executive, directors and deputy directors.” “I’m concerned the staffing committee would have had no opportunity to reflect, to appoint, to accept, to approve even, this appointments process.”

Cheshire West and Chester Council spokesman Ian Callister said the appointments procedure had not contravened constitutional requirements.

My comment: The staffing committee had no opportunity to reflect, appoint, accept or approve the appointment process but this had not contravened constitution requirements. Then the constitution needs amending! Other wise for what purpose does the committee exist?

Read the full story from the source Runcorn and Widness Weekly News

What lies beneath Cheshire West and Cheshire Councillor's pledge?

COUNCIL Tax payers will not be getting a bigger bill from Cheshire West and Chester Council (CWAC) in the next financial year.

Councillors have pledged to freeze Council Tax but maintain libraries and invest in leisure acoss the area, including setting aside £11million for a culture and recreation centre in Northwich.

My Comment: But all is not what it appears, see below.

Read the full story from the source Northwich Guardian

The reality of the situation
 
The Coalition is keen on freezing council tax so is offering any council that holds steady the equivalent of a 2.5% rise in their budget.

That means any local authority thinking of a rise of 2.5% or less might as well freeze and take the money from the Government rather than the local taxpayer.

In any case, any council will struggle to raise much more than that as the Communities Secretary Eric Pickles has said he will cap any council proposing a tax rise of more than 3.5%.

So councils might as well agree to a freeze, and at least get some credit from the local council taxpayer for not putting up the bill even if services are being cut. And councillors may be particularly keen if they are amongst the large number who are up for re-election this May.

Read the full story from the source BBC News

'Kept in the dark' over Middlewich's 250 homes plan

MORE than 250 homes could eventually be built in Middlewich as part of a neighbouring council’s strategy to meet its housing quota.

Furious Middlewich chiefs say they will face ‘all the pressures and receive none of the benefits’ if a massive estate is built on land to the south of Holmes Chapel Road.

Residents are also angry that they have been ‘kept in the dark’ over Cheshire West and Chester (CWAC) Council’s plan to identify new land for housing projects in the next 15 years.

Plans to build 258 homes on land owned by Pochin Developments near Sproston is included in CWAC’s ‘Strategic Housing Land Availability Assessment’ because it just crosses over the Cheshire East border.

My comment: Cheshire East residents get a taste of Cheshire West and Chester council.
 
Read the full story from the source Middlewich Guardian 

Wednesday, 9 February 2011

Dispute at Cheshire West and Chester Council may lead to union action

A UNION has not ruled out industrial action if Cheshire West and Chester Council sacks its workforce to rehire everybody on “worse” terms and conditions.

Letters to 10,000 staff, excluding teachers, explain the proposed changes which the authority says will harmonise contracts across the four predecessor authorities.

My comment: I wonder if this includes the Chief Executive and other senior officers?I some how doubt it!

Read the full story from the source Chester Chronicle

Cheshire West and East councils could be hit with a £10-15m bombshell

TWO councils could be hit with a £10-15m bombshell if they are sued by a waste management company, according to an opposition councillor.

Cllr Derek Bateman, Labour group leader on Cheshire West and Chester Council, claimed it had already been announced the firm Viridor was suing the council although this has been refuted.

This follows the government’s decision to withdraw of £100m of support for a £850m masterplan to dispose of the county’s household waste over the next 25 years for which Viridor had been selected as the preferred bidder.

My comment: Fail to plan, plan to fail.

Read the full story from the source Chester Chronicle

Oops, the council drops a clanger

THE council has been forced to retract statements made about the regeneration of Northwich in one of its own newsletters.

In its latest ‘You Said, We Did’ newsletter, sent out after the Marbury ward focused community forum, Cheshire West and Chester Council (CWAC) stated that the mines stablisation project at Barons Quay has been signed off.

But back in September Clr Mike Jones, CWAC’s leader, said it could be another two years before the mines were given their final certificates to say they were stabilised and safe to build on.

A spokesman for Cheshire West and Chester Council said that, despite the newsletter, the mines project had not yet received its certification.

My comment: 'One hand doesn't know what the other is doing' appears to be a common thread running through everything Cheshire West and Chester Council does.

Read the full story from the source Northwich Guardian

Tuesday, 8 February 2011

Which? magazine claims home help charges in Cheshire are ‘expensive’

CONSUMER magazine Which? says older people in Cheshire are paying ‘expensive’ charges for home help.

The Which? publication says the elderly in Cheshire West and Chester are forking out £18.20 an hour for help with tasks such as dressing, washing and bathing, which it describes as “relatively expensive”.

And older people in Cheshire East are paying £19.80 an hour which is the second highest charge in England and Wales. Services in Scotland are free.

Which? spokesman Adam Williams said: “The average across the country is £12.83....so they are relatively expensive compared to other authorities, especially because some areas provide it for free.”

My comment: My previous post comment also appear rather appropriate to this one.

Read the full story from the source Chester Chronicle

Monday, 7 February 2011

Connexions staff pose questions to Cheshire West and Chester Council

CONNEXIONS staff are asking questions about the company’s future and the decisions made by Cheshire West and Chester Council.

Clr Derek Bateman, the Labour group leader, revealed that CWAC is paying consultants for its children’s service at a rate of £1,100 a day.

This includes the appointment of a chairman on the council’s Independent Improvement Board, which is responsible for monitoring CWAC’s progress following a damning Ofsted report into its children’s services in December 2010. 

An unofficial letter has been distributed to all CWAC councillors from a source at Connexions, which outlines the situation and asks 13 questions.

These include how the council can justify how it can commission a coordinator on £1,100 per day to help develop the new service and how it can pull the plug on Connexions, which gave the the council its only credibility in its last Ofsted report.

My comment: This won't be the first time the Council have sought the most expensive way to solve a problem. And it probably won't be the last!

Read the full story from the source Northwich Guardian

UPDATE

Cheshire West and Chester, Cheshire East and Warrington Borough Councils agreed in principle to meet all costs relating to the restructuring of Connexions in Cheshire and Warrington.

Read the full story from the source Winsford Guardian 

Salt arch is not what the town needs

Extract from a letter by a local resident: "NORTHWICH Town Council must be psychic! Just as I was questioning what it plans to do with more than £500,000 of our council tax, several reports tell us all in one edition of the Guardian.

Northwich Town Council has teamed up with Cheshire West and Chester Council to combine their brainpower on how to regenerate the town and come up with a ‘salt arch’ – just what the excluded, unemployed and disadvantaged of the town have been crying out for.

Presumably the time taken to generate this ‘positive publicity’ will be used to justify this month’s £2,000 office staff overtime? Tell me it’s a dream."

[My comment: More like a nightmare.]

Read the full letter from the source Winsford Guardian

Sunday, 6 February 2011

More from the council which wanted to charge for FOI

Remember the case of Cheshire West and Chester Council, the authority which sent out a press release about its plans to charge for FOI requests?

Cheshire West and Chester Council has come up with another way of silencing those who like to ask awkward questions: It made someone who is either on its payroll or no longer on its payroll sign an agreement not to submit FOI requests or Data Protection Act requests.

Read the full story from the source: David Higgerson

Saturday, 5 February 2011

Blog title changed to Cheshire West and Chester Council Watcher

I originally started this as the Bodged Road Blog but now decided to include other information about the Cheshire West and Chester Council, hence the change of name.