Monday, 17 December 2012

#QuackCWaC Council Open Data £500 + Spend

If you want to know what #QuackCWaC Council spend taxpayer's money on then you could do worse than use open data.

Visit the CWaC Council open spending data project here

Please note: The data above has been temporarily suspended due to data protection issues which #QuackCWaC Council failed to spot before releasing the raw data.  The open data is now  available but excludes any which potentially breached the data protection act.

You can search for payments made to a particular company by entering the company name in the search box at the top - or by using the side bars on the right choose a particular service, a particular time period, look at all the companies they paid or what they paid for etc.

A must link for all those who want to know on what, why and when CWaC Council spend taxpayer's money.

Friday, 26 October 2012

Is #QuackCWaC an officer led Charlie Foxtrot of a council?

Further to an earlier post #QuackCWaC Council, where's the control, where's the scrutiny? Which included four of the then latest CWaC Council cock ups -

Councillors weren't consulted over proposed canoe club closure
Freedom of Information
The Constitution fiasco
Richmond Court

I now have another couple of examples to add to the list.

1) Council orders British Legion to pay rent MEMBERS of the Winsford branch of the Royal British Legion have been asked to pay £1,400 for their information centre after Cheshire West and Chester Council said it failed to provide evidence of “clear community benefit”.

A bit like saying the NHS has failed to provide evidence of "clear community benefit".

2) Councillors’ emails at Cheshire West and Chester Council probed by managers CHESHIRE West and Chester Council is investigating the leak of commercially-sensitive information to the media.

However, this also means that constituents can no longer correspond in confidence with their councillors. For example, what if a resident wanted to complain about an officer and sought the help of their councillor? How would they feel if they knew the officer concerned or their colleagues could access their emails to councillors?

Whilst all these examples provide further evidence of cock up after cock up (Charlie Foxtrots) they also appears to suggest CWaC is an officer, not a councillor, led council.

A few more 2012 CWaC Council cock ups -

#QuackCWaC Council Data Breach

Adjudicator criticises #QuackCWaC Council

Man fined after another #QuackCWaC Council cock up

#QuackCWaC CCTV parking fine for emergency contractor

Chester Cathedral Square: Another QuackCWaC Council cock up?

Proposed Phone Mast in Caldy Valley Nature park

CWaC Council's latest cock up, a dodgy website

A 2011 cock up, included because knowing CWaC they may well do it again this year.

Dim CWaC Council cock up Xmas lights switch on

An example of CWaC Council cocking up related things more than once? If this is not a Charlie Foxtrot then CWaC clearly has something against our armed forces?

April 2011 CWaC charge homecoming parade soldiers for tea and coffee

November 2011 CWaC Council: Remembrance Day, Lest we forget....to charge!

October 2012 CWaC orders British Legion to pay rent

Linking back to an earlier post, I repeat

#QuackCWaC Council, where's the control, where's the scrutiny?

It looks to me like the officer tail is wagging our elected representative dog of a council. The $64,000 question is why don't councillors, or at least those in a position to do something about it, wake up take control and start to earn their allowances?

Saturday, 29 September 2012

#QuackCWaC Council, where's the control, where's the scrutiny?

UPDATE 1st October 2012: Update is included at the bottom of the Freedom of Information article below.

A recent article about the proposed closure of a canoe club illustrates once again the total lack of control and scrutiny that CWaC Councillors appear to have over the actions of, and the decisions taken by, senior council officers. [Please note: When I refer to councillors in this blog post I mean those councillors in power who have the authority and responsibility to control and scrutinise the actions of senior staff.]  

Councillors only appear to wake up, take back control and/or scrutinise when members of the public kick up a stink, get the press involved or complain to an outside authority.

Councillors Weren't Consulted Over Proposed Canoe Club Closure
Cheshire West and Chester councillors were not involved in the proposed decision to close the canoe club at Queen's Park Boat House. That was the shock admission made in a press release issued by the council on 15th August. 
Council Chief Executive, Steve Robinson, said "The decision that the authority could not continue to fund the activity in its current form was taken by management, and followed a detailed review.
Mr Robinson added: "A cross-party group has been set up to review all services formerly run by Connexions to ensure we can shape a youth service for the future that meets the needs of young people in West Cheshire."
Cheshire West and Chester Council say they carried out "a detailed review" and the decision was made "for the right reasons".
However the fact that service users, i.e. the club members' parents, weren't consulted begs many questions about the validity of the review.
Read the full story from the source Handbridge.com

It's not as if the above is an isolated incident which Councillors can excuse as a one off failure. Below are further examples of their failure to control and/or scrutinise..


Freedom of Information

It is a legal requirement that the council responds to a request with a Freedom of information Act compliant response within 20 working days.

It is also the duty of the council monitoring officer to ensure that the council does not break the law and that they meet their statutory duties.

CWaC Council regularly breaches the 20 day deadline in which to provide a compliant response. Figures suggest they do so about 48% of the time.

However, they stated in 2009 that they put in place an 'appropriate process to make sure all requests are captured, recorded, assigned and dealt with under the terms of Freedom of Information legislation.'

This current figures prove beyond a shadow of doubt that whatever process they put in place in 2009 isn't working. So just what if anything are Councillors doing about the problem?

Apparently nothing because I personally submitted an FOI request on the 25th May 2012, following which I was forced to submit a request for an internal review on the 27th June 2012 because they failed to comply with the FOI Act and provide a compliant response within 20 working days.

As a result of the internal review I was informed on the 23rd July 2012 that I would receive a Freedom of Information Act compliant response within the next 15 working days.

The promised response did not materialise so on the 15th August 2012 I submitted a formal complaint to the Information Commissioner. (I am currently waiting for my complaint to be investigated, which due to the workload of the Information Commissioner can take quite a long time.)

However, it does prove that not only are CWaC Council willing to break the law, they are also willing to break their promises.

It has now been over 4 calender months since I requested the information, over 3 calender months since they should have provided a legally compliant response and over 2 months since they promised I would receive a compliant response within 15 working days.

So we have a process which is demonstrably failing to meet their legal obligations, one which is getting worse but no indication that Councillors are even concerned about the problem let alone doing anything about it.

For more information read my earlier blog post on the subject.

UPDATE 1st October 2012 On the first working day after I published this blog post I finally received a belated response to my Freedom of Information request. Whilst I didn't get the info I wanted it does provide another example of their continued use linguistic gymnastics to delay matters.

In addition,  I am now in a position to refine my request and move closer to finally pinning them down. Furthermore, their continued attempts to delay matters tells me I am onto something they would rather not be made public, ie people working within CWaC in a management role who are not on the payroll but paid via a private company.


The Constitution fiasco

If there is one incident which demonstrates a total lack of control and scrutiny by Councillors, this is it.

A constitution is the most important document an organisation ever creates yet officers were able to create the document which included contentious and key constitutional changes without any councillor being aware until hours before they were supposed to accept the new constitution.

For more information read my earlier blog post on the subject.


Richmond Court

A motion was passed unanimously at the full council promising ‘a full and open consultation’ on the decision to go to Richmond Court.

Yet Chief Executive Steve Robinson said: “The consultation will not centre on views about whether or not Richmond Court should be brought into use by its owners, Chester and District Housing Trust, to deliver part of the city’s service to homeless people.

That appears to contradict the motion passed by the full council, so why does a member of staff give the impression they have the power conduct a different consultation to that agreed by full council?

Read the full story from the source Chester Chronicle and more from my earlier blog post on the subject.

Wednesday, 19 September 2012

24 more #QuackCWaC Councillors jump on the pension bandwagon

Further to an earlier post of the 27th February 2012 Pension Contributions for 39 Councillors: £124,080.40 in which I reported the outcome of the following FOI request.

FOI request 29th January 2012: Members Pension Contributions 2010/11

CWaC response: Cheshire West and Chester Council contributed £124,080.40 to the pensions of  39 Councillors.

Cautionary note: I don't know when any of the 39 Councillors actually joined the scheme. Some may have already been on the scheme whilst others may have joined nearer the end of the year.

However, what is certain is that by the end of  2010/11, 39 Councillors were on the taxpayer funded pension bandwagon. 54% of all Cheshire West and Chester Councillors.

I recently decided to submit another FOI request to see what the situation was at the end of  2011/12.

FOI request 12th September 2012: Members Pension Contributions 2011/12

CWaC response: Cheshire West and Chester Council contributed £149,000.00 to the pensions of  63 Councillors.

Cautionary note: I don't know when any of the additional 24 Councillors actually joined the scheme. Some may have joined at the beginning of the year whilst others may have joined nearer the end of the year.

However, what is certain is that by the end of 2011/12, 63 Councillors were on the taxpayer funded pension bandwagon.

The CWaC website states there are still 72 Councillors.


That means that 87.5% of all Cheshire West and Chester Councillors were, at the end of  2011/12, on the taxpayer funded pensions bandwagon.

This is what the Taxpayer's Alliance had to say on the subject in a report dated 25 January 2012
Councillors’ Pensions
The purpose of a councillor is to represent the people of a local ward in their council. They
are elected to bring their expertise and experience to address the specific needs of their
local community.
These duties are meant to be separate from their private and professional lives outside the council and their position is voluntary. Any payments they receive are not intended to represent earnings but instead to compensate them for incidental expenses incurred in fulfilling their duties in local government such as the use of their phones, transportation and office expenses.
As these payments are described as reimbursements, the fact that many local authorities consider them to be pensionable pay calls into question the voluntary nature of participating in local government.
Many councils do not give councillors the opportunity to join the LGPS, maintaining the
tradition of volunteerism, but in many others a large number of councillors are enrolled in
the scheme. The number of councillors enrolled has grown by more than 1,000 since
2007-08. This growth suggests that more councillors are becoming professional politicians.
Read the Taxpayer's Alliance report here


Sunday, 2 September 2012

Protest outside #QuackCWaC Council HQ Wednesday 5th September 2012

Protest information (I have been sent): Protest against Homeless Shelter at Richmond Court, Boughton Canal Side, Chester. Prior to the Exec Meeting at Council HQ - Wednesday 5th September.

We are gathering outside at 5:15pm, please do everything you can to be there so that we can demonstrate to the Council (and all the employees in the building) how many of us feel that this is a poor decision that has been made for the wrong reasons.

Please bring placards and banners. To stress - banners should be aimed at the council e.g. Why did you not consult? Don't ignore the motion we won. No super hub at RC.

Please do not bring any banners that say anything bad about the homeless, they are not at fault here and are as much victims of the council’s failure to consult as anyone else.

Anyone that is coming by car, don't forget parking is free after 3pm at the Market car park (Princess St) entrance opposite the bus station.

I also attach an open letter to Steve Robinson, which you are welcome to publish along with the leaflet.

Additional background information, plus the open letter mentioned above

Background to the Protest: Residents opposed to a homeless shelter are considering ‘direct action’ after feeling duped by Cheshire West and Chester Council (CWaC).

People living in Boughton believe the council’s belated agreement to consult them over plans to convert the former old people’s home Richmond Court into a 36-bed homeless complex is meaningless.

Read the full story from the source Chester Chronicle

The petition: Residents against Homeless Shelter at Richmond Court, Boughton Canal Side, Chester

Protest Group news letter: Click on pages to view larger size.

Protest Groups FaceBook Page

Open letter to Steve Robinson:  Click on pages to view larger size


Friday, 24 August 2012

#QuackCWaC forced to unlock their doors to social media and bloggers

New law changes to introduce greater openness and transparency in executive councils meetings will mean all decisions including those affecting budgets and local services will have to be taken in an open and public forum, Local Government Secretary Eric Pickles announced today.

The changes will result in greater public scrutiny. The existing media definition will be broadened to cover organisations that provide internet news thereby opening up councils to local online news outlets. Individual councillors will also have stronger rights to scrutinise the actions of their council.

Crucially councils will no longer be able to cite political advice as justification for closing a meeting to the public and press. In addition any intentional obstruction or refusal to supply certain documents could result in a fine for the individual concerned.

Eric Pickles said: "Every decision a council takes has a major impact on the lives of local people so it is crucial that whenever it takes a significant decision about local budgets that affect local communities whether it is in a full council meeting or in a unheard of sub-committee it has got to be taken in the full glare of all the press and any of the public.

New legal rights for citizen reporters: Local authorities are now obliged to provide reasonable facilities for members of the public to report the proceedings as well as accredited newspapers (regulation 4). This will make it easier for new 'social media' reporting of council executive meetings thereby opening proceedings up to internet bloggers, tweeting and hyperlocal news forums.

My comment: Excellent news as long as #QuackCWaC don't attempt to circumvent the new laws as they have attempted to do with the FOI Act.

Read the full story from the source DCLG or The Local Authorities (Executive Arrangements) (Meetings and Access to Information) (England) Regulations 2012 here

Tuesday, 21 August 2012

#QuackCWaC Council Data Breach [Updated 23/08/12]

UPDATE 23rd August 2012: A further email was sent to the recipients of the emails below asking them to delete it. Full story below original post.

From: PLANNING [mailto:Planning@cheshirewestandchester.gov.uk] 
Sent: 21 August 2012 14:46
To: [See below]
Subject: Planning application consultation - 12/03447/OUT
The above email, together with an attachment, was sent to some 260 people who commented on the previous withdrawn application by #QuackCWaC Council Planning. I have removed the 260 private email addresses which CWaC wrongly disclosed to everyone else on the list. Attachment below.

Realising their cock-up and in an attempt at damage limitation the following email was sent out just under 3 hours later.
From: PLANNING [mailto:Planning@cheshirewestandchester.gov.uk]
Sent: 21 August 2012 17:38
To: PLANNING
Subject: RE: Planning application consultation - 12/03447/OUT 
Please accept our apologies for the error on the email sent to you. Our standard procedure is to use the Bcc (blind carbon copy) email tool but due to an administrative error this did not happen on this occasion.
Kind regards Development Management
An administrative error that led to a serious data breach. Now 260 people know the private email addresses of the other 259 people who were also sent the email. I just hope many of them will be complaining to the Information Commissioner. Here is a helpful link.

Attachment to the initial email

Dear Sir/Madam

Town and Country Planning Act 1990
Proposal: To erect a student village including accommodation for up to 2,300 students, recreational open space, a combined student hub/sporting facility (comprising cafe/bar, kitchen, student services, launderette, fitness areas, treatment/consulting rooms and changing areas), full sized football pitch, four mini-sports pitches, construction of a new access from Parkgate Road, an emergency vehicular access link off Milton Road, internal access routes, ground modelling and drainage works, parking provision for up to 400 cars, footpaths, cycle routes, Energy Centre, Refuge and Recycling facilities, sub stations and associated works including access (OUTLINE APPLICATION)
Location: Land Between Parkgate Road And, Shelley Road, Chester, Cheshire, 
Cheshire West and Chester Council have received a planning application in respect of the above development. The Planning Officer dealing with the application is named above.

You are invited to inspect the deposited plans and make comments on line via our website at www.cheshirewestandchester.gov.uk/planningapplications or screens are available to view in the Customer Service Centres, at The Forum, Chester, CH1 2HS, Wyvern House, Winsford, CW7 1AH and Civic Way, Ellesmere Port, CH65 0BE, between 8.30am and 5pm Monday to Friday. Please contact Pauline English on 0151 339 1405 if you wish to view the paper copies of the documents available online.

Please make any comments on the application no later than 11 September 2012. Alternatively you can comment in writing to the Planning Office, address above, quoting 12/03447/OUT. Please note that under the Access to Information Act 1985 the contents of any letter you submit will be available for public inspection and may be copied on request.

An acknowledgement letter will be sent out to you on receipt of your comments and the contents will be taken into consideration when the Planning Officer determines the application. Unfortunately, a detailed response cannot be given because of the tight timescales in which a decision must be reached.

If you are not the owner of the property, you should forward a copy of this letter to the owner.

Yours faithfully

Mr Mark Lynch
Area Planning Manager - South and West


UPDATE 23rd August 2012: A further email was sent to the recipients of the emails above asking them to delete it.
From: GREGORY, Angela [mailto:Angela.Gregory@cheshirewestandchester.gov.uk]
Sent: 23 August 2012
Subject: Email regarding Planning Consultation 12/03447/OUT
Importance: High 
Dear Sir/Madam
You were sent an email from Cheshire West and Chester Planning on Thursday 23 August 2012 at [time removed by me], please could I ask you to delete the email as soon as possible.  I have attached the Neighbour Notification letter again for your reference. 
Yours faithfully
Angela Gregory, Senior Plan Processing Officer
Cheshire West and Chester Borough Council

Tuesday, 7 August 2012

#QuackCWaC Council leader in Private Eye AGAIN: 'WHO'S THE DICKHEAD?'

UPDATED 8th March 2013: CWaC leader Mike Jones in Private Eye again. A Hat Trick!

UPDATED 19th February 2013: Cheshire council leader in the clear over remark. Really?

UPDATED 19th August 2012: Formal complaint submitted about the offensive comment.

UPDATED 26th August 2012: Story hits The Telegraph.

UPDATED 18th January 2013: Resident claims Cheshire West and Chester Council conduct code has ‘gone out of window’

Updates below original post.

It was recently reported in the Chester Chronicle that Mike Jones, leader of Cheshire West and Chester Council, ‘regrets’ using insulting swear word at two ward members. Read the full Chester Chronicle article. However, the story was limited to the local press until Private Eye picked up the story.

This is the second time Cheshire West and Chester Council have been mentioned in Private Eye, on both occasions because they ran a story about the Cheshire West and Chester Council leader.

Unfortunately Private Eye is not in our local shops until Wednesday (tomorrow) but I have managed to obtain a copy from London for a sneak peek, hence this post title.

If you want to read the full article please buy a copy of Private Eye (or better still subscribe because the way things are going it won't be long before Cheshire West and Chester Council are in it again). They have a special section for Rotten Boroughs and it looks like #QuackCWaC are very keen to join other regulars such as Barnet and Carmarthen councils.

Extract above added on Wednesday 8th June 2012 11am
The $64,000 question is what are #QuackCWaC standards committee going to do about it? Unlike the earlier article CWaC can't even argue it's a personal matter, especially since a CWaC spokesperson has already attempted to excuse/mitigate their own leader's blatant breach of their code of conduct. See Chronicle Article,


Code of Conduct extracts

Introduction and interpretation

(1.1) This Code applies to you as a member of an authority.

(1.3) It is your responsibility to comply with the provisions of this Code.

Scope (2.5) Where you act as a representative of your authority—
(a) on another relevant authority, you must, when acting for that other authority,
comply with that other authority's code of conduct; or
(b) on any other body, you must, when acting for that other body, comply with
your authority's code of conduct, except and insofar as it conflicts with any other
lawful obligations to which that other body may be subject.
General obligations

(3.1) You must treat others with respect.

(5) You must not conduct yourself in a manner which could reasonably be regarded as
bringing your office or authority into disrepute.

Download the full Code of Conduct here.

UPDATED 19th August 2012: Formal complaint submitted about the offensive comment.

Tattenhall resident Colin Oats told the Chronicle he has lodged a complaint, believing the Cheshire West and Chester Council (CWaC) leader was in breach of the Code of Conduct for Members.

My comment: Having read the code of conduct for CWaC members it certainly appears the comment breached the CWaC members code of conduct. However, what will be more interesting is what CWaC Council do about the matter, for it is their reputation on the line now not their leaders. 

Read the full story from the source Chester Chronicle


UPDATED 26th August 2012: Story hits the Telegraph


My comment: First only the local press published stories about #QuackCWaC, then Private Eye joined in and have published two so far. Now it looks like the mainstream national press have started to take an interest in the goings on in #QuackCWaC Council. 

UPDATED 18th January 2013: Resident claims Cheshire West and Chester Council conduct code has ‘gone out of window’

A COMPLAINANT challenging Cheshire West and Chester Council leader Mike Jones says the authority’s code of conduct ‘lies in tatters’ after the councillor refused to co-operate with the investigation.

An external investigator found Cllr Jones broke the councillors’ code of conduct, although the council leader refused to co-operate with the inquiry. How the leader will be dealt with has yet to be decided.

Mr Oats, who is becoming frustrated with the lengthy process, said: “Any councillor can now turn around and say ‘I’m not willing to participate in the investigation’ and there is nothing the council can do because Cllr Jones has set the precedent.”

My comment: I will reiterate what I said earlier , what will be more interesting is what CWaC Council do about the matter, for it is their reputation on the line now not their leaders. 

What an utter shambles, some 6 months and #QuackCWaC council still can't sort out a simple undefended complaint. No wonder they have problems with more serious matters.

Read the full story from the source Chester Chrincle


UPDATED 19TH February 2013: Cheshire council leader in the clear over remark. Really?

COUNCIL leader Mike Jones will not face any further action for calling two of his constituents ‘d***heads’.

Mr Goacher left the council in December and his replacement Meic Sullivan-Gould – who was appointed this month – has ruled no further action should be taken against Cllr Jones.

My comment: So the matter is delayed until Goacher leaves and an interim,  Meic Sullivan-Gould, who was only recently appointed and specialises in solving crises for Councillors and Councils reaches the decision that the leader is now in the clear over his remark.

Accordingly when I look at the headline "Cheshire council leader will face no further action over remark".  I can only ask really? Then they wonder why many residents think Chester West and Chester Council is a Quack Council.

Read the full story from the source Chester First


UPDATED 8th March 2013: CWaC leader Mike Jones in Private Eye again


My Comment: Looks like the Ken Livingstone/ defence has now given elected representatives, like Mike Jones, a loophole with which to drive a coach and horses through their code of conduct.

Wednesday, 25 July 2012

#QuackCWaC Council breaching the 20 day FOI deadline

One only has to peruse the Freedom of Information requests to Cheshire West and Chester Council on the What Do They Know website to realise that they are particularly bad when it comes to providing a Freedom of Information Act compliant response within the statutory 20 working day deadline.

Here is an interesting Freedom of Information request submitted to them on 16th July 2009 by a Mr Thomas

Since the inception of Cheshire West and Chester Council

1) how many requests for information under the freedom of information act has the council received?

2) how many times has the council failed to respond within the statutory 20 day period?

Here is #QuackCWaC Council's response sent on the 13 August 2009 [my comments in blue]

Thank you for you recent request for information on FOI requests received.

Before providing the figures I would like to provide some background on the new authority and present some additional information which will give a better picture for the figures describe below.

As you may be aware on 1st April 2009 the seven council authorities in the Cheshire area were abolished and two new unitary authorities came into being; Cheshire West and Chester is the amalgamation of Chester City Council, Ellesmere Port and Neston Borough Council and Vale Royal Borough Council, Cheshire East is the amalgamation of Crewe & Nantwich Borough Council, Congleton Borough Council and Macclesfield Borough Council.

The above information is totally unnecessary because the requester clearly stated 'Since the inception of Cheshire West and Chester Council'

In light of this there have been substantial staffing and process changes with ongoing centralisation of tasks. This has resulted in a small period of time where responses were not always responded to within a timely fashion.

Essentially a bullshit excuse for breaking the law by not providing a Freedom of Information Act compliant response with the statutory 20 working day deadline.

The organisation has now put in place an appropriate process to make sure all requests are captured, recorded, assigned and dealt with under the terms of Freedom of Information legislation. In addition the new organisation recognises the importance of making sure requests are dealt with within relevant timescales.

The figures for Cheshire West and Chester can be broken down as follows :

2nd April to 17th June 88 requests received, 55 not answered within 20 days (69%)

17th June to 12th August 108 requests received 15 not answered within 20 days (14%)

They state in 2009 that they put in place an 'appropriate process to make sure all requests are captured, recorded, assigned and dealt with under the terms of Freedom of Information legislation.'

However, that can't be true because they are still breaking the law by failing to provide a Freedom of Information Act compliant response within 20 working days. Which means in 2009 they either lied to the requester when providing an FOI response or the appropriate process has been failing for the last 3 years and senior management have failed demonstrably to do anything about it.


Here are a few recent examples to prove my point, there are many more.


Staff/Employee clarification    Payments by cheque    Members' Allowances: Tax deducted at source

Read their 2009 response again 'a small period of time where responses were not always responded to within a timely fashion'

That small period of time has now turned into - 3 years - #quackfail


For more information please download #QuackCWaC FOI response times here. They look a lot worse than the 14% quoted in 2009, more like 48% to me.


Friday, 1 June 2012

Bingate (Now resolved thanks to Cllr H Deynem)

UPDATED 3rd, 6th, 9th, 12th 14th, 15th, 18th 20th & 27th June 2012: Updates below initial post.

On Friday the 25th May 2012 we put our waste bin out as normal. On return it had a sticker on it stating it was now to be used for garden waste only.

For those unfamiliar with the system in Vale Royal we had a green bin for household waste and a brown bin for garden waste. Colour choice was a little counter intuitive but we got used to it.

As of Friday the 25th May 2012 we had a brown bin full of garden waste and an empty green bin which could only be used for garden waste. We had no bin we could use for normal household waste.

Although we knew a new system was being introduced we had been sent NO information as to when it would start nor any information about what the changes would entail.

As a result on Tuesday the 29th May 2012 we used the CWaC on-line contact form and asked when we could expect to receive a new bin for household waste together with an information pack?
At the time of writing this post we have still not received an acknowledgement let alone an answer to our question.

Luckily another tweeter had received a Recycle First email from CWaC and sent me a copy at 11.45am on the 1st June 2012. The email included the following statement,
Anyone who lives in the former Vale Royal area and has not received their information pack, black wheeled bin and brown food waste caddy by Monday 18 June should contact the Council's Customer Centre on 0300 123 7 026 or email enquiries@cheshirewestandchester.gov.uk
As a result we can now wait patiently for delivery of our new bins and if we don't receive them will contact CWaC on the above email. However, we have had no household waste bin since the 25th May 2012 and if deliveries are not concluded until the 18th June 2012 that will be over three weeks without somewhere to put our household waste.

Whilst that would have been OK in the cooler months it's certainly not satisfactory during this hot spell.

The email I was sent a copy of also included information about when the new collection system would start,
The new waste and recycling service is due to start in the Vale Royal area week commencing 18 June 2012. Collection days are likely to change and new calendars will be delivered through Royal Mail by 11 June 2012.
For those not in the Vale Royal area, the email also includes the following,
The Ellesmere Port and Neston area will start the new service in August 2012 and Chester in October 2012.
To be updated when I have more information and thanks again to the tweeter who sent me the information.

UPDATE 3nd June 2012: I have managed to secure an info pack from a friend who had two. Still no response to my on-line query, no info pack and no new bin from QuackCWaC.

UPDATE 6th June 2012: CWaC told a friend who rang about difficulty in carrying all the recycle boxes to kerb....Don't worry just put everything in your black bin. #quackfail

UPDATE 9th June 2012: Still no response to my on-line contact with CWaC regarding info pack and lack of bins. However, fed up of waiting we picked up our own copy of the info pack from Wyvern House. Also told to put any rubbish out in black bin bags until our new bins turn up. We also received, on Friday by post, a new timetable for collections. Collection day has been changed from Friday to Tuesday. Unfortunately the next collection appears to be Tuesday the 19th June 2012, some 26 days after losing the use of our normal household waste bin. Still not sure when new bins will turn up.  #quackfail

UPDATE 12th June 2012: Response at last. I had been out gardening most of the morning but when I stopped for lunch my wife told me the council had rung at approx 11.40am regarding our on line query about the new bins. She was told we could expect them before the end of the week.

UPDATE 14th June 2012: Residents blame council for rat-infested bins

A WINSFORD woman has described having to chase rats away from her property at night because her bins have not been collected for eight weeks.

Residents have described Cheshire West and Chester (CWaC) Council’s new waste collection service as a ‘shambles’, with complaints that bins are too small and unhygienic.

Read the full story from the source Winsford Guardian

UPDATE 15th June 2012: Council issues bins apology
CHESHIRE West and Chester Council has apologised after the Guardian revealed last week that some homes in Winsford had been waiting eight weeks for their bins to be emptied.
The council said they would work alongside the company contracted to undertake collections to find out why the situation arose.
Read the full story from the source Winsford Guardian

UPDATE 18th June 2012: We didn't receive the new bins as promised on the 12th June. As a result I sent the following email today to enquiries@cheshirewestandchester.gov.uk
We used the on-line contact form on the 29th May to report that no new bins had been delivered and was later assured we would receive them by last Friday at the latest.
We still haven't received any new bins and have been without a household waste bin since 25th of last month. Please can we have our new bins as soon as possible.
At 11.27am I received the following automated response.
Thank you for contacting Cheshire West and Chester Council. Your enquiry has been passed to the relevant department who will be in touch shortly.
If your enquiry is urgent you can contact us via the General Enquiries line on 0300 123 8 123

Enquiries submitted under the Freedom of Information Act 2000 will be dealt with in 20 working days, as defined by the act.

If you have any further queries, please do not hesitate to contact us.
UPDATED 20th June 2012: Response to my email of the 18th June received today (Details above)
Thank you for contacting Cheshire West and Chester Council.
I do apologise that you have not yet received your new bins. However I have escalated this for you and you should receive your bins ASAP.
If you have any further enquiries, please do not hesitate to contact the Waste Collection Team on 0300 123 7024.
Enquiries submitted under the Freedom of Information Act 2000 will be dealt with in 20 working days, as defined by the legislation.
UPDATED 27th June 2012:  Following the intervention of Councillor Deynem over the last couple of days the council delivered our household waste bin today.




Sunday, 27 May 2012

The #QuackCWaC Council Constitution fiasco

Updates added below original blog post.

UPDATED 30th May 2012: 
FOI submitted in an attempt to clarify the situation.

UPDATED 30th May 2012: My reply to the comment from the Chair of Constitution working Group.

UPDATED 27th May 2012: Comment from the Chair of Constitution Working Group.

On May 24th, 2012 there was an article in the Chester Chronicle ‘Strange errors’ in Cheshire West and Chester Council constitution

The article states 'But in the event, Tory Cllr Gareth Anderson, a member of the cross-party constitutional working group, postponed a decision on the item after explaining the errors had been picked up by Labour Cllr Ben Powell and members of the public.' [my emphasis]

I was one of those members of the public and have now decided to blog my story regarding the constitution fiasco.

Firstly it is important to realise that a constitution is probably the most important document ever created by any organisation because it lays down the fundamental rules and principles that prescribes their nature, functions, and limits. The council states that their new constitution departs from the format of the outdated Department of Communities and Local Government (DCLG) model constitution and adopts a bespoke style unique to CWAC [My emphasis].

They also state that in order to make the document more focused and easier to use and understand, everything not considered to be strictly necessary has been stripped out. [My emphasis]

My involvement started when I first read a copy of the review of constitution document which was going to be put before the full council on 26th April 2012 for approval.The said constitution included 3 contentious items which concerned a number of people, including myself.
  • No cameras, tape recorders or any other type of recording equipment are permitted to be used/operated while a meeting is in progress other than those operated by the Council.
  • The Leader can be removed from office by a resolution of the Council  supported by not less than two thirds of the Council.
  • Persons wishing to speak or ask a question are required to give notice to the Head of Legal and Democratic Services at least 3 days before the meeting in question. 
If you view the background to the constitution review you will note that the constitution Working Group had met on 29 February 2012 to consider a revised Constitution document. It then went to the  Audit and Governance Committee on the 6th March 2012. After that a formal decision was published on the 20th March 2012. This includes the following decision
(1)  the Head of Legal and Democratic Services be authorised to finalise the Constitution in consultation with members of the Constitution Working Group and, subject to unanimous agreement and consultation with all Borough Councillors, submit the final document to the next meeting of Council for approval; and... [my emphasis]
However, many councillors, including a member of the constitution Working Party stated they were unaware of the contentious additions to the final document [constitution] until it was brought to their attention just hours before the council meeting on the 26th April 2012.

That in itself raises some interesting questions,
  • If the final document [constitution] was subject to unanimous agreement and consultation with all Borough Councillors, why were so many councillors unaware of what it contained?
  • If the Head of Legal and Democratic Service was authorised to finalise the consultation with members of the Constitution Working Group on the 20th March 2012, how could any member of that Working Group act surprised when the three contentious additions were later pointed out to them? 
  • Particularly since the said contentious additions were also in the version produced at 4.04pm on the 29th February 2012. Just prior to the Working Group meeting of the same date. In addition this is the version that went to the Audit and Governance Committee on 6 March 2012.
  • If the final document [consultation] had been unanimously agreed with all councillors why did legal and democratic staff feel the need to organise a last minute enquiry desk to allow councillors to ask questions regarding the constitution just minutes before the council meeting? What was supposed to be presented to the council for approval was, the final document not some back of a fag packet draft 'living document' which included a number contentious additions.
  • They also claim in appendix A that the draft has been checked by a number of different Officers across a full range of expertise in Legal and Democratic Services to ensure that the new draft complies with legal requirements. During that process some provisions required by law or good practice were discovered to be missing so have been added, but officers have taken great care to ensure that operative effect of the existing constitution has not been changed and that the new constitution accurately reflects how the Council currently operates. [My emphasis]. If that was the case why weren't the contentious additions spotted and removed during that process? Unless of course they considered the three items to be good practice and added them to the initial draft. 'During that process some provisions required by law or good practice were discovered to be missing so have been added.' [My emphasis]
An error in drafting was one of many excuses given for the contentious additions being included in the final document, however, that and the other excuses given so far, don't hold up to close scrutiny.
  • If you have followed what's been going on in council meetings over the last few months you will note that the three contentious additions to the constitution are connected. They would block any person confronting the leader, they would stop people having a recording of such a event and they would make it more difficult to remove the leader. Here is one example of what I believe the additions were intended to put a stop to but weren't introduced in time to do so.
  • The constitution, as I said earlier, is a very important and legal document. Not one to be cobbled together from a number of other constitutions (another excuse given for the errors additions), in any event how could they argue it was a document bespoke to them if it was just plagiarised from other constitutions. 
  • I just don't understand how those involved in producing the final document can argue that they didn't know about the contentious additions (errors as they now prefer to call them), before Cllr Ben Powell and members of the public highlighted them. 
  • Another excuse given was that it was a living document, however, whilst that may have been true when the constitution Working Group met (29th February 2012) what was supposed to be presented to the council on the 26th April 2012 was the final document. Please refer to the  decision highlighted above.
  • My investigations so far show that the contentious additions were also in the document produced just prior to the Working Group meeting on the 29th February 2012. So that's nearly 2 months during which not one of those involved in producing the final document apparently spotted the contentious additions. Additions which others spotted within minutes of reading the document.
What would have happened if the contentious additions hadn't been noticed by others? No doubt the full council would have nodded through the constitution and the council would now be able to enforce all of them.

In addition, if a number of council members and staff can be so lackadaisical when it comes to producing such a key document, what other things have slipped through the net on their watch?

It shouldn't be left to the odd conscientious councillor and a few members of the public to proof read and scrutinise council produced final documents to identify irregularities. Particularly a document as important as their own constitution.

What would help clarify the situation is if the complete document change history and timeline was presented as a public report. Together with a list of the other constitutions, at least those which include the aforesaid additions, on which they suggest they based their bespoke constitution.

However, until that happens I can only draw my conclusions based on the evidence I have seen so far. In my opinion it looks suspiciously like the someone in the council tried to sneak through the additions under the radar and when caught out, in came the usual damage limitation, spin and bullshit. Which appears to have been swallowed hook line and sinker by some.

UPDATE 27th May 2012: A comment [see comments below] to this article has been submitted by the Chair of the constitution Working Group with the url of his response. To make it easier for people to access I have include this click-able link to save having to copy and paste the url supplied. I will of course be responding in full as soon as I have time.

Whilst I admire Gareth for trying to defend the constitution fiasco, I for one think what happened is indefensible and worse still was wholly avoidable. My full response will be posted here in a few days.

UPDATE 30th May 2012: As promised my reply to Gareth's comments on this post. To make it easier to follow, and save switching between documents, I have inserted my reply into his comment which I reproduce below. Gareth's in black mine in blue. His comments were copied immediately they were published and as such will not include any later edits or additions. Please visit his site for the current version.

Despite us discussing this several times, you have missed out some very important points here which make some of your accusations moribund.

Firstly we haven't discussed this several times as you wrongly state, all we did was exchanged a few tweets about the issue. Neither do I accept that I have missed any important points, on the contrary I think it is you who has missed the point. Furthermore, all the points I raise in my blog post are still valid because you have, as yet, provided no evidence to support your version of what may have happened. 

With all due respect, you may have to accept whatever you are told by council officers and other councillors without validation but I don't. All you have supplied so far is one explanation of what may have taken place with no supporting evidence. 

The Constitution Working Group, which I chair, has 5 members, 3 Conservatives and 2 Labour, including the Leader of the Labour Group (not a person known to want to fortify the position of the Leader of the Conservative Group).

It has already been established that none of the Working Group were aware of the contentious additions. Therefore, your point about the party political make up of the Working Group irrelevant.

We have been working on different aspects of the constitution for the last few years and before that I was one of a handful of councillors from the council’s shadow-phase on 08-9, who were working to make the council as open as possible, including webcasting, giving guaranteed public speaking and question time at meetings, ensuring that the right for councillors not on a given committee could speak (including at Executive), giving public petitions the right to force Scrutiny reviews and/or debates in Full Council, and more besides. For example I persuaded members to trial a “Questions Without Notice” in Full Council. However, written questions were so long-winded (as were answers) we never got round to actually trying them without notice and it was abandoned. I also proposed and garnered sup[port [sic] from the Working Group that we should hold 2-3 MORE meetings of full council each year , however outside the working group this was not so popular and did not find enough support to go ahead.

The above points are wholly irrelevant to the issue at hand. The issue has nothing to do with what you or others may or may not have wanted but what was added without your knowledge. No one is suggesting you were in favour of the additions. 

Every single one of the pieces of work carried out by the Working Group has been designed to open the council at all levels, and make both the structures and the documentation MORE accessible to all. As a result of this work, all 5 of us were very familiar with the contents of the constitution.

The above statement, that you were all very familiar with the contents of the constitution contradicts your later suggestion that you didn't know about the three contentious additions until they were pointed out to you. 

This particular pice [sic] of work which began late last year was designed to reformat the constitution so that it could be more easily accessed. We aimed to reorder the contents into sections that would draw relevant parts together so that rather than people having to extract sections from across a 400+ pages document, they could go straight to the relevant part. One of our requirements as a Working Group was that as part of this process there should be no alterations to the content or meaning of any of the constitution. We were familiar with the content and would indeed wish to continue to look at, alter and improve it in future, but that these two things should not be combined, precisely because it would be more difficult for us to fairly consider constitutional changes at the same time as reformatting it.
As a result of this, we were not looking for any changes to the content or legal implications of the constitution as our work was on reordering and occasional linguistic simplification. We had the lofty hopes that some parts of the new format constitution should aim towards a “Plain English” style.

Whilst the above excuses the Working Group for not spotting the three contentious additions it does nothing to explain how they actually ended up in the final document. In addition, one would have thought as chair of the Working Group, you would be extremely concerned that these three contentious additions were inserted under your nose and against your orders and carried to a full investigation. An investigation to identify who inserted them, when they inserted them, why they inserted them and then taken steps to ensure nothing like this happened again. 

To achieve these aims, a small team of officers, with one legal officer leading and doing most of the work, looked for examples of best practice and different models that are available including from the DCLG. The working group had agreed the new framework/layout already so working between our existing constitution, this new framework and these different sources, began to merge and then reorder them to meet our framework goal. Sections were sent between officers for checking that the legal requirements were met in the new one and continuous alterations were made.

If that is the case then there will be an audit trail of changes which will make it very easy to pin down when the contentious additions were inserted, who inserted them and why.

Throughout this time the Working Group’s focus remained on what our goal had been, which was to ensure that the reformatting was following our agreed objectives. It was. We also re-enforced the point that content should not be changed beyond helpful linguistic clarity, and this was agreed by the officers involved. [My emphasis]

From the above statement it is clear that the officers involved were at fault.

In the resultant 442 pages of the finalised draft there were indeed 3 elements which you mention that were different from the current constitution, and, therefore, outside the scope of the piece of work we were engaged with, and which should not have happened. But let me emphasise that: 3 elements out of 442 pages of constitution (which had been created in the process outlined above) were inaccurate and unacceptable. They should not have been changed from the original.

The point is it did happen, the fear is that is has happened before with other documents and will continue to happen in the future because no one appears keen to actually get to the bottom of what actually went on and take steps to ensure it does't happen again and hasn't happened in the past.

In terms of your fourth bullet point (“interesting questions”), I had arranged with staff from Legal and Democratic Services to hold several consultation events with councillors. members were emailed several times between February and April informing them that they could drop in and speak to officers involved at any time about the reformatting of the constitution, but that there were also certain times they would make sure they were available for such briefings. Likewise the enquiry desk pre-council in April was one of these sessions and been planned and members informed of its presence well in advance.

The Head of Legal and Democratic Services was authorised to finalise the Constitution in consultation with members of the Constitution Working Group and, subject to unanimous agreement and consultation with all Borough Councillors, submit the final document to the next meeting of Council for approval. 

If that was done then there should be documentary evidence proving when each councillor agreed to the final document [constitution] before it was submitted to the council meeting.

I don't accept your suggestion that the enquiry desk pre-council in April had been planned and members informed of its presence well in advance.  From the information I have it was organised at the last minute as a direct consequence of the three contentious additions becoming public knowledge. 

Once the particular issues were brought to light, members were emailed again at my request to inform them that we had had specific issues raised with us on certain parts of the draft new version and that the desk would be there to answer these prior to full council. In my discussions with officers it became clear that they were disappointed to to have missed these 3 elements as were all 5 members of the working group and other councillors. As you correctly point out, all 75 of us had many opportunities to comment on, examine and raise issues with regard to the new constitution BUT these were all in the context of the document being reformatted and NOT re-written. Cllr Powell himself rightly decided that as he was not familiar with the original constitution he should take a more detailed look at the new one in the 24 hours prior to full council and he was amongst the first to raise these issues to which i responded the moment I saw his concerns.

Firstly it wasn't a draft new version which was supposed to be submitted to council is was supposed to be the final version. I accept that you responded as soon as the three contentious additions were brought to your attention. However, the fear is that if they hadn't been brought to your attention the dodgy constitution would have been adopted at the council meeting.

Initially I felt that making amendments to these 3 specific elements at Full Council would be the best way to offer reassurance that there was no intention or desire on behalf of the Working Group to make any of these changes and, in fact our work, and my own longer-term beliefs and work on constitutional issues, had led in precisely the opposite direction to these 3 elements.

However, after some thought during the day we felt that we should give the new constitution a considerably more thorough examination because clearly the drafting process had created changes well beyond what we had requested, hoped for and intended, and that we should make sure there were no further examples of this anywhere in the document prior to seeking approval from Full Council.

If there had been some partisan plot to make specific changes then the Conservative Group would have been able to push the constitution through full council that night using our majority. We did not. In fact when I explained to colleagues what the issues were they were totally supportive of my proposal that we pull it from the agenda so that we could remove those 3 mistakes and ensure there were no more. Not one single person suggested otherwise. Not one.

Whilst it is true that the majority party could have pushed it through if they had wanted, it would have been political suicide to actually do so. 

As long as the three contentious additions remained under the radar there was no problem for anyone voting in favour of the new constitution. After it was adopted, if and when they surfaced the blame would fall squarely on the Working Party and you as the chair you would have been the fall guy.

However, it didn't remain under the radar and councillors would have had to vote openly in favour of adopting the new constitution with the three contentious additions. In light of the advice to local government from the Department for Communities and Local Government and recent events in Cheshire West I doubt the majority of councillors, especially those in marginal seats. would have  openly voted in favour of the new constitution.

Furthermore, at that time no one knew if any other contentious addition would surface so you had no real alternative but to stop the constitution being voted on.

It would also be ludicrous to suggest that the opposition, who have been involved with this process throughout, would have supported or allowed such things through at any stage, least of all allowed them to get to the day of Full Council itself. I think it is also fair to say that not one of my colleagues on the council, including those in the Labour Group who have any experience of me, would suggest that I personally would support such things.

I know you would not support the three contentious additions, that is not at issue. The issue is that you, and no one else apparently knew, they had been inserted because the three contentious additions were slipped in under the radar.

I can also say that the officers involved were embarrassed that they too had not realised these (and any further mistakes we find) had got into the draft. I have worked closely with these officers fro [sic] several years and I believe that in the large amont [sic] of work they have done on this over the preceding months, in as collaborative a way as possible, it would not have been hard for a small number of errors to enter the draft. And as none of us were looking for content changes then it is not beyond the realms of imagination that those of us very familiar with the content were not focussing on something that was not supposed to change.

Sorry to keep bringing this up but it wasn't a draft it was the final document [constitution] which was supposed to be presented to the council meeting.

I accept that errors can enter a draft but don't accept that three contentious additions appearing in the final document can be explained away as a simple error.

They must have come from somewhere, either someone wrote them or someone plagiarised them from other council constitutions. If the latter is true then it would be easy to remove all doubt by openly admitting which council constitutions they came from. I have looked at quite a few council constitutions in my time and haven't yet found one that contains those three contentious additions, therefore, without any evidence they previously existed one can only conclude that someone in Cheshire West and Chester Council actually wrote them and that rules out error as an excuse for them ending up in the final document.

In the final analysis, we councillors are the people responsible for the actions we take and propose. The 5 of us on the cross-party working group should have spotted these changes, but we did not for the reasons outlined above. I am very grateful for Cllr Powell and others outside the council who did notice them and the moment they were raised I took action in response. Nothing was forced through, nothing was denied, nothing has been hidden. I attempted to give as full an explanation as I could at Full Council that night and the Working Group will be meeting again in a few weeks to rectify these problems.

As I stated earlier whilst you may have to accept what you are told by officers and other Councillors without validation I don't.  Therefore until I see an audit trail for the document versions and have seen copies of the council constitutions from which the three contentious additions came from I don't accept that nothing has been hidden.  

Whilst you have provided one possible explanation for what happened you haven't as yet supplied any evidence to support it. I too have a possible explanation for what happened, which is actually a better fit to the events than yours but until I have the evidence I wouldn't dream of suggesting it is anything other than one possible explanation of what happened.

I believe if you look at the way I and others have brought changes to the Borough Council’s constitution, we are one of the most open and accessible councils in the country, and far more so than our predecessors in Cheshire. Yes, we do not get everything right and it is not perfect, but we are always looking at how we can improve things, how we can make changes and try out new ideas. I am only sorry that this episode has caused some people to doubt the efficacy of the process. I only ask you to look at what we have done and tried so far and see what we do in future and judge us on that, because I believe you will come to a very different conclusion.

Sorry but I  can't accept that the council is one of the most open and accessible councils in the country. By way of example you can't even meet the 20 day deadline for responding to FOI requests on many occasions and when you do answers are often evasive. That isn't indicative of an open and accessible council. 

Unfortunately, this episode, as you call it, is only one in a long line of episodes which have brought the council into disrepute. 

Summary: Whilst you have provided one possible version of events I too have an even more plausible version of events, so until I see some evidence one way or another have no intention of accepting any any particular version of events which led to three contentious additions being included in the final document [constitution].

UPDATE 30th May 2012: FOI submitted in an attempt to identify where they obtained the three contentious constitution additions from. Assuming of course they didn't write them themselves, which I believe they did.
Background
Councillor Anderson is on record stating [in reference to the development of a replacement constitution] "To achieve these aims, a small team of officers, with one legal officer leading and doing most of the work, looked for examples of best practice and different models that are available including from the DCLG".
FOI request
I would like a full list [by council or other organisation] of all the other constitutions that were looked at during the above exercise.
FOOTNOTE: If you have any information relating to the 'strange errors' in the constitution please let me know.

To be continued when I have time and/or other evidence/information becomes available. 

Friday, 25 May 2012

Adjudicator criticises #QuackCWaC Council

A CHRONICLE reader has won his appeal against being fined for dropping a passenger off in a city centre street.

Adjudicator Stephen Knapp, who has dealt with several appeals at the location, found ‘no stopping’ signs were unclear, there was inadequate warning CCTV was in operation and he had ‘never’ seen a cab using the rank .

Mr Knapp, who said the point of parking restrictions was to improve traffic flow, questioned the need for any restrictions, particularly during the day.

Council spokeswoman Rachel Ashley said the ‘no stopping’ signs were ‘in excess’ of legal requirements and other fines would not be cancelled.

My comment: The photo below appears to support the adjudicators position. There are,
  • only two extremely small signs mounted very low down at each end of the bay. 
  • no cabs in the rank.
The two signs highlighted with a small blue circle at either end of the rank.  Large blue circle shows a close up.
I obscured the delivery van details just in case #QuackCWaC missed them. Fining drivers for dropping passengers off appears to me to be more about raising revenue than a means of improving traffic flow.

Read the full story from the source Chester Chronicle

Tuesday, 8 May 2012

Are #QuackCWaC Council planning to sell Chester's only current cinema?

UPDATE 10th May 2012: Council state they do not own cinema site. (Below original article.)

Chronology of events

Executive considered a report on 16th April to sell land owned by CWaC off Clifton Drive in Chester

Item 167 Sale of Land Off Clifton Drive, Chester

Restricted: Information relating to the financial or business affairs of any particular person (including the authority holding that information.

Decision: The Council be permitted to enter into an agreement to sell the land as detailed in the report.

This decision was then called in for consideration by Corporate Scrutiny on 3rd May.

Agenda: Corporate Scrutiny Committee

Item 6:  Sale of Land off Clifton Drive, Chester

Restricted: Information relating to the financial or business affairs of any particular person (including the authority holding that information.

A search of the Land Registry for land owned by CWaC in that area shows that the land in question is title Number: CH294186.  According to past planning applications, the bulk of this land has been frequently put forward for phase 3 of Chaser Court in the Greyhound Retail park in Chester. The remainder, as you can see from the Land Registry title register, 2 units which are leased to tenants including number 10 Chaser Court (Land registry title shows that the lease expires on 24/12/2012 but I have been told that CWaC extended the lease on the cinema until 24/3/2016. Why that doesn’t show on the title register is anyone's guess. ).

10, Chaser Court, Greyhound Retail Park, Chester, Cheshire CH1 4QQ is the address of 


A recent planning application 12/01955/EXT sought to extend the time limit on a previous planning application for the adjacent phase 2 of Chaser Court which included demolition of units to Chaser Court.

Plans on the application suggest conversion of the units adjacent to the cinema, including the bowling alley, into a food store and demolish other parts of Chaser Court to create parking.

So the question is are #QuackCWaC Council planning to sell Chester's only current cinema?

UPDATE 10th May 2012: Council state that they do not own cinema site

CWAC council today (Wednesday) quashed unfounded rumours that the future of the Cineworld multi-cinema, at Greyhound Park was ‘in doubt’ because the authority was considering selling the land.

Said a spokesman for the Council: “Firstly, we do not own the land on which the cinema stands...

My comment: The Council's statement is contrary to what the land register states. In addition, the Land Registry is meant to be a definitive source and kept up to date. 

This raises a number of questions, 
  1. Did CWaC Council ever own the land?
  2. If they did, when did they sell? 
  3. Why isn't the land registry entry correct and up to date?
The recent fiasco regarding their own proposed constitution doesn't fill me with confidence that CWaC Council actually know what's going on. However, for the moment we will just have to accept what they say and investigate why the land registry entry is wrong.

In addition why does the risk section of CWaC Council confidential report regarding the sale of the land, include “loss of cinema”.  Which begs the question, why did CWaC Council argue that rumours over he future of the Cineworld multi-cinema were unfounded, when their own report includes it as a possible risk of selling the land?

Wednesday, 2 May 2012

#QuackCWaC Council fiddle with constitution whilst democracy burns

Our council wanted to add a few amendments to their constitution recently, including
  • A ban on public recording and filming of their meetings. 
  • Force members of the public, who wished to speak at a meeting, to submit details days in advance. 
  • Change the percentage of votes need to remove their leader from office from a simple majority to two thirds.
Anyone who has been watching #QuackCWaC Council meetings over this last couple of months will understand why they wanted to introduce these amendments.

Here is an example of what they are trying to stop with such amendments.

Wednesday, 25 April 2012

#QuackCWaC Council Rich list 2012

Total remuneration 2010/11 Percentage shows increase on 2009/10 remuneration

 1) Mr S Robinson Chief Executive £235,000 7.80%
 2) Deputy Director Children's and Young People Services  £152,585 0.10%
 3) Director of Community & Environmental Services £136,162
 4) Director of Regeneration and Culture £136,568 1.54%
 5) Director of Resources  £151,363 0.07%
 6) Head of Achievement & Wellbeing £101,772 12.05%
 7) Head of Legal & Democratic Services £101,798 6.60%
 8) Head of Facilities and Assets Management  £104,451 0.00%
 9) Head of Finance £102,301 21.97%
10) Head of ICT & Customer Services £102,296 2.79%
11) Head of Social Care Provision £101,496
12) Head of Planning and Transport £107,528 11.39%
13) Head of Policy, Performance, Partnerships £105,094 22.17%
14) Head of Strategy & Commissioning £100,696
15) Head of Procurement £107,584 2.67%
16) Head of Regulatory Services £103,841 1.83%
17) Head of Safeguarding £106,843 25.17%
18) Head of Strategic Housing and Spatial Planning £101,803 0.15%
19) Head of Waste Management and Street Scene £102,133 -0.10%
20) Director of Area and Community £108,670
21) Director of Environmental Services  £134,253
22) Head of Individual Commissioning and Prevention £117,896

Cost of the 22 posts 2010/11 is approx £2,622,123

23) Shared Director of Adult Social Care and Health £72,089 -52.67% 

Compare the list above with the 2009/10 rich list list here.

Cost of the 13 posts 2009/10 is approx  £1,684,426 

My comment: There was a significant increase in numbers during 2010/11 over 2009/10 plus some rather significant increases in total remuneration for some. Well above inflation and something the staff who have had their pay and conditions recently cut should be incensed about.

There were 13 known job titles with a remuneration above £100,000 during 2009/10. During 2010/11 this has risen to 22. It would have been 23 but one of the jobs is now shared with another council. More than a 50% increase in £100K fat cats in QuackCWaC Council from 2009/10 to 2010/11. 

Check out the Tax Payer's Alliance figures for the council here