Saturday, 19 March 2011

CWaC Council dodgy dealings over the sale of Chester County Hall?



Handbridge community champion Reg Barritt has slammed Cheshire West and Chester Council for refusing to acknowledge his request to their Full Council meeting of 17th March for an apology to be issued at that meeting to both himself and to his community for its failure to consult the public over the sale of Chester County Hall to the University of Chester.

A recently issued Audit Commission report has heavily criticised CWAC Council for variously failing to consult the public over this major asset disposal, for failing to brief members fully of what was going on over the sale, and for failing to apply best practice in delivering it.

After considering this report Reg Barritt recently wrote to CWAC Full Council via the Legal Officer criticising what had gone on and demanding a public apology be issued to himself and members of the community for these failing; which he says are a clear betrayal of Councils' Duty to Involve and its own Statement of Community Involvement. A claim he says is now backed up by the findings of the Audit Report.

He offered to attend CWAC's Full Council meeting and to read out his letter given an assurance that after doing so the obviously required apology would then be delivered. In response CWAC refused to confirm any apology would be forthcoming. Mr Barritt responded by insisted his letter be read by the Chairman to the meeting in his absence with a view to the meeting agreeing to provide an apology at the next Full Council meeting, which he promised to then attend with other community representatives to receive that apology.

The Chairman and Legal Officer refused that demand and his representationwas not even acknowledged in the meeting, with councillors left ignorant of it. Mr Barritt told us: "Clearly this is not democracy at work. What it is is repressive dictatorship, and that sort of leadership is not the sort I will be voting for at the coming local elections. I am appalled at the way my representation has been treated. It seems to me CWAC has paid lip service to the Auditor's criticisms in saying it will make changes to its procedures in matters like this in future, but in practice it shows it is utterly unrepentant over the undemocratic way it has behaved in this very questionable affair".

At the meeting CWAC's Labour group agenda listed an item asking for the Audit Report of this disposal to be debated but the Tory controlled council first voted to refuse the debate and then went even further in denying the right to much needed consideration of this matter by also refusing to refer the matter to its Executive or any other committee. Appalled at the lack of a response to the request for any open debate in the interest of accountable and transparent local government CWAC's Labour group then took the extraordinary step of standing up and walking out of the meeting in protest.

Reg Barritt says: "On behalf of the community that was so shabbily treated  at the time and that continues to be so treated I applaud the actions of the Labour group in taking this necessary action. He added: "We need more local councillors like them and less like the group that stayed in the meeting and that endorsed this gagging action on freedom of speech and a much needed debate of this matter in the public interest".

The streaming video of the meeting including the Labour Group walkout can be seen via the CWAC website.

Read Reg Barritt's submitted letter. The best response CWAC's Legal Officer has offered is a private written response; the nature of which, given the letter has so far not been forthcoming, remains unknown.

My comment: An earlier post of mine on the subject

Friday, 18 March 2011

Councillors storm out of Cheshire West & Chester Council meeting

FURIOUS Labour councillors from Ellesmere Port stormed out of a full meeting of Cheshire West and Chester Council.

Leader Cllr Derek Bateman (Central and Westminster), his deputy Cllr Pat Merrick (Grange and Rossmore), Grange and Rossmore councillors Angela Claydon and Tony Sherlock, Paul Donovan (Sutton and Manor), Lynn Clare and Justin Madders (Central and Westminster) and other opposition councillors left the ruling Tories to themselves and the handful of Lib Dems as they were out voted in a bid to debate a controversial auditor’s report.

It involved the multi-million pound sale of County Hall in Chester and the purchase of the new HQ offices nearby which led to questions to the district auditor who recently issued a report.

They claimed the auditors had unearthed “a catalogue of financial and legal bad practice” and called on the council to issue “an unreserved apology” to taxpayers and to improve its procedures. 

Cllr Jones said: “It’s beneath contempt how they treat any opposition to their plans. Transparency is an unused word here.” 

My comment: Their track record proves they are as transparent as a brick wall. Even going to the trouble of trying to charge everyone for FOI requests in an attempt to stem the flow of information into the public arena. In addition their predecessors also had a track record of financial and legal bad practice. For more information see my early posts regarding Cheshire County Council.

Read the full story from the source Chester Chronicle

Cheshire West and Chester Rich List

The Taxpayer's Alliance has, for our convenience, published it's annual Town Hall Rich List for 2009/2010.  Here are the figures for Cheshire West and Cheshire.

(1) Mr S Robinson, Chief Executive - £218,000.  Salary £180000; Benefits in Kind (e.g. Car Allowance) £1000; Pension Contribution £37000.

(2) Mr Steve Wilds (acting), Director of Adult Social  Care & Health - £152,325. Salary £125000; Benefits in Kind (e.g. Car Allowance) £1325; Pension Contribution £26000.

(3) Director Area and Community - £108,670. Salary £70769; Benefits in Kind (e.g. Car Allowance) £390; Compensation for loss of office £30000; Pension Contribution £7511.

(4) Mr John Stevens, Director Children’s and Young People Service - £152,436. Salary £125000; Benefits in Kind (e.g. Car Allowance) £1436; Pension Contribution £26000.

(5) Director of Environment Service - £134,253. Salary £110273; Benefits in Kind (e.g. Car Allowance) £1043; Pension Contribution £22937.

(6) Mr Charlie Seward, Director of Regeneration and Culture - £134,493. Salary £110367; Benefits in Kind (e.g. Car Allowance) £1170;Pension Contribution £22956.

(7) Ms Julie Gill, Director of Resources - £151,258. Salary £125000; Benefits in Kind (e.g. Car Allowance) £258; Pension Contribution £26000.

(8) Head of Facilities and Asset Management - £104,451. Salary £86466; Benefits in Kind (e.g. Car Allowance); Pension Contribution £17985.

(9) Head of Individual Commissioning and Prevention - £117,896. Salary £74271; Benefits in Kind (e.g. Car Allowance) £1003; Compensation for loss of office £30000; Pension Contribution £12622.

(10) Head of Procurement - £104,782. Salary £85728; Benefits in Kind (e.g. Car Allowance) £1223; Pension Contribution £17831.

(11) Head of Regulatory Services - £101,979. Salary £83446; Benefits in Kind (e.g. Car Allowance) £1176; Pension Contribution £17357.

(12) Mr Alan Slater, Head of Strategic Housing and Spatial Planning - £101,648. Salary £83000; Benefits in Kind (e.g. Car Allowance) £1384; Pension Contribution £17264.

(13) Mr John Jeffrey, Head of Waste Management and Street Scene - £102,235. Salary £84250; Pension Contribution £17985.

Matthew Sinclair, Director of The TaxPayers’ Alliance, said: “Councils should be scouring every inch of their expenditure to identify savings, so taxpayers will be staggered that so many council employees are still getting such a generous deal. Councils insist cuts can only mean pressure on frontline services but they clearly have money to spend when it comes to paying their own senior staff.

It is crucial that some of these senior council executives set an example and ensure they have the moral authority to lead spending cuts by taking a pay cut themselves. Households have seen their Council Tax bills double over the last decade and deserve better value. Proper transparency is an essential first step so that residents can decide for themselves if town hall bosses are delivering the results to justify pay at these sorts of levels.”

My comment: 13 staff paid over £100,000 last year by Cheshire West and Chester Council. £1,684,426 in total for just 13 staff, an average of £129,571 each. Who got the cream!

Read the full story from the source The Tax Payer's Alliance

Wednesday, 9 March 2011

Ellesmere Port councillors attack Cheshire West and Chester Council budget

Cllr Bob Thompson (Hoole and Newton) insisted the 90+ page budget report was ‘opaque’.

Claiming the Tory administration had not spelled out how proposed efficiency savings would be achieved, he described the budget as ‘incomplete, inadequate and ill conceived’.

My comment: I think the word 'opaque' just about sums up Cheshire West and Chester Council in everything they do.

Read the full story from the source Ellesmere Port Pioneer

Tuesday, 8 March 2011

How much longer does Ashley have to wait?

A FATHER is pleading for swift action over plans to improve access for his disabled son at their Chester home.

Fed-up Malcolm Field has hit out at highway chiefs who he says are continually stalling over plans to create a car park facility outside his Blacon home which Malcolm says will aid access for his son Ashley, who is a Achondraplasia dwarf, and who suffers from spinal stenosis.

Taxi driver Malcolm, who says he has lobbied through councillors and highway chiefs for the past three years, said he was told the 20 space car park, off Blacon Point Road, close to the estate’s Healthy Living Centre, would be put before planning chiefs for approval at the start of this year.

It has dragged on and on and enough is enough. We were initially told the matter would be put before a Cheshire West and Chester Council (CWaC) planning meeting in January, and despite my making constant attempts to find out from the council as to what the situation is, I am getting nowhere.

My comment:  What CWaC promises and what CWaC do are usually two different things. Particularly in the highway department!

Read the full story from the source Chester First

Propaganda Together

The latest spin from the public authorities of West Cheshire is now available for download.

Download your copy here.

My comment: Local government minister Grant Shapps said "few things have done more to undermine local democracy than the explosion in town hall pravdas bankrolled by hard pressed taxpayers".

"The age of wasting taxpayers' cash on pet projects like local propaganda sheets or employing lobbyists to push a certain agenda is over."

Footnote: Talking 'Propaganda' Together is published by West Cheshire Together, a partnership of Cheshire West and Chester Council, Cheshire Police, Cheshire Fire and Rescue Service, Cheshire Police Authority and NHS Western Cheshire.

Cheshire West MP Graham Evans slammed for air guitar in Parliament

NORTHWICH’S MP is no doubt fretting after making national headlines for apparently playing air guitar during a Commons debate about 11,000 army job cuts.

Graham Evans, MP for Weaver Vale, was sat behind Defence Secretary Liam Fox in the House of Commons during the debate, which meant his every move was caught on camera.

This has struck a discordant note among fellow MPs, with Shadow Defence Minister Michael Dugher condemning his behaviour. The debate took place on Wednesday, March 4, with the footage quickly posted on the internet.

Jokers have even put music to it on YouTube and the footage had already had more than 39,800 views. (UPDATE: Now over 79,500 views)

My comment: Is this indicative of all elected representatives in this area? He was a Cheshire Councillor before becoming an MP at the last election! Watch the You Tube Video here.

Read the full story from the source Northwich Guardian 

Sunday, 6 March 2011

Police Station now a home!

Comment found here.

In Chester the police station was moved to the worst part of the city ie Blacon who boasts the largest Council est in Europe one has to use the car or bus to get there its not manned you have NO access to this police station - the new building is now a hotel and shopping site with the top first floor looking over Chester racecourse reserved for County Council hierarchy - where has the money gone from the sale of our police station and the giving up of our wonderful County offices over looking the River now IMHO is part of a stupid university which used to be a college and still should be!