News

Towns in Cheshire have been deluged with speculative planning applications since the coalition government introduced new rules to try and boost the economy by allowing housing on greenfield sites. Local authorities can reject housing applications if the sites are not in the Local Plan, but as Cheshire East Council doesn’t yet have a Local Plan, developers can build almost wherever they like at the moment. Cheshire East Council is now working on a Local Plan, but the progress has been dogged by delays and controversy.

As an interim measure Cheshire East Council produced a 5 year housing land supply showing which sites were held to be suitable for housing. Thegreenfield sites identified in the 5 year housing land supply were intended as sacrificial victims. Houses would be built on the sacrificial sites, but other sites would be protected. Now that the 5 year housing land supply has been rejected all those sacrifices have been in vain

This latest setback, which comes hard on the heels of the announcement of further delays to the Local Plan, damages the reputation of the Cheshire East Council planning department which earlier this year was found guilty of maladministration by the Ombudsman and to have "knowingly and persistently misled the public”.

In a devastating blow the Inspector states, “There is no dispute that supply of housing has not met targets in the CEC area since the 2008/9 year. Since that time targets have been missed to the extent that the under delivery amounts to well over 2500 dwellings.”

“Where there has been persistent under delivery, as is quite clearly the case here, action is required to seek to redress the situation because the need is not going to disappear. Part of that action is to increase the choice of land available by adding a 20% buffer to the housing land requirement.”

So now, having been caught out, Cheshire East has to prove not just a 5 year supply, but also an additional 20% buffer. But it gets worse. As well as a 20% buffer Cheshire East will now have to add 1750 houses to catch up on the previous undersupply.

The Local Plan also comes in for criticism as “the pattern of some strategic sites across the Borough is relatively concentrated”. Labour councillors have previously pointed out that proposed new housing has been mainly in the south of the borough around Crewe, Sandbach and Alsager. The Inspector expresses reservations about the site at Basford East and says “Similarly, there is a distinct lack of credible hard evidence that the projections for Leighton West and other sites are achievable or realistic.”

Cllr Sam Corcoran, Labour Councillor for Sandbach Heath & East, said, “This decision is further bad news for Sandbach. The 160 houses off Congleton Road are now going ahead. The £282,000 funding from the developers is not enough to pay for expansion of Offley Road Primary School, likely to be £300,000 - £600,000. We need to ensure that developers pay for the infrastructure necessary to support new houses. The developers have so far got away with minimal contributions and the tactics of the Conservatives are playing right into the developers’ hands. The desperately needed road improvements, new primary school places and other facilities should be paid for out of the profits made from building houses on greenfield land. Under the Tories the only winners are landowners, property speculators and lawyers.”

Labour Strategic Planning spokeswoman Cllr Janet Jackson said, “This ruling is a damning indictment of Tory incompetence. Due to past persistent, obstinate under delivery, the Inspector has set a target of 9,000 new houses in Cheshire East over the next 5 years and determined that only 7,000-7,500 have been demonstrated so far. That means that sites for an extra 1,500-2,000 houses will have to be found.”

Labour Group Leader Cllr David Newton said, “The importance of getting a Local Plan in place cannot be overemphasised. The Labour Group is willing to work with the Conservatives to achieve a decent Local Plan that will stand up to government inspection and judicial review. This latest decision shows that Labour was right to highlight the significant flaws in the Emerging Core Strategy published last month. We now need to work hard to prevent the collapse of the entire Local Plan.”

 

Cheshire East Left Wide Open to Housing Speculators

Towns in Cheshire have been deluged with speculative planning applications since the coalition government introduced new rules to try and boost the economy by allowing housing on greenfield sites. Local authorities can reject housing...

The IPCC (intergovernmental panel on climate change) is holding its 37th

right now, and concludes tomorrow. Latest reports suggest that climate change is almost certainly

the result of human action rather than some routine cosmic variation. It seems that the impacts

upon the planet may be dramatic and that this major challenge to the people of the world is even

greater than many want to believe.

While I freely acknowledge that the contribution this council can make to mitigate the effects of

global climate change may be limited, I firmly believe that the retail slogan “every little helps”

applies in tackling the problem. There is a broader agenda which this council needs to address as

one of a number of community leaders in the north west of England.

This council has undoubtedly made efforts to reduce its own carbon emissions, and to educate

young people in the process.

I could quote from the CEC Greenhouse Gas Report for 2012-2013, but time is limited. Suffice to say

that through our Carbon Management Programme, a number of projects and initiatives have

been developed and are on-going to achieve a reduction in carbon emissions from the Councils

activities.

Looking ahead, Cheshire East preparations for participation in the Carbon Reduction Commitment

from April 2013 included:

Piloting the new Eco Centres approach in some of our Community Buildings

Investigating the use of electric vehicles in our fleet, potentially as pool cars

Installation of superior telematics in the remainder of our fleet

Undertaking a driver fuel efficiency training programme pilot

Holding 3 green fairs for staff in September to raise awareness of carbon and sustainability issues

Review of our staff travel approach and project management

Green IT strategy

Sustainability E Learning modules on our intranet

Staff awards – category for sustainability

This notice of motion has two main objectives. First, the council must continue its efforts to cut its

own emissions, and more widely promote clean air quality. That requires funding as can be seen

from some of past initiatives.

But possibly it is more important for the Council – as a community leader - to secure serious

commitment from the wider Cheshire East community to carbon reduction. There are countless

other ways that the objective can be addressed. Here are just a few examples.

• Solar power systems

• Electric vehicles of all kinds including motor bikes

• Wind and water power generation – including geothermal energy

• Installation of wind turbines – Middlesbrough FC is building a turbine that will meet all the

power needs of their Riverside stadium for 20 years and save them £3.2M and 3000 tCO2.

• Promote the introduction of all-electric buses by transport operators

• Improve cycleway links to reduce car reliance and encourage cycling and walking

• Press the rail industry to introduce new generation fuel-efficient trains

• Press Network Rail to cut lighting levels – it has done this at Clapham Junction!

• Reduce air travel by backing high speed rail

• Encourage recycling to the maximum extent

• Design new towns and villages to maximise walking, cycling and use of public transport, and

redesign our older towns to achieve the same end

• Encourage allotments and provide council land for that purpose without bureaucratic delay

• Source food locally

• Replace under-used car parks with bike racks

And no doubt there are countless more examples that members can suggest.

All these are examples that are being actively pursued in parts of the UK and abroad. As a Council

we should be using our collective influence and press our many partners to try some innovative

approaches, and maybe even explore some of them ourselves as a council.

I believe it is crucial that we keep up levels of awareness of the need to reduce carbon emissions,

and make the transition to a low-carbon future. As politicians we should be anxious to campaign

for a better future, and in the end that is what this motion is all about. Madam Mayor, I move the

proposition.

Reducing Carbon Emissions in Cheshire East - Steve Hogben

The IPCC (intergovernmental panel on climate change) is holding its 37th right now, and concludes tomorrow. Latest reports suggest that climate change is almost certainly the result of human action...

Madam Mayor a qualified audit report is a significant event. A qualified audit report in any major

business would cause heads to roll. A qualified audit report two years running would be followed by

the resignation of the entire board. There are of course differences between business and councils.

We have 2 audit reports. Firstly the technical accounts preparation was good. When I joined this

council there were over 50 errors in the draft accounts, some of them major. This year there were

no major errors. I congratulate the accounts team. However as a council we also have an audit

report on whether we are obtaining value for money – whether the council is well run – and that is

where the auditor has qualified her opinion.

I am disappointed that this motion won’t be debated today. The auditor said that the council should

be and be seen to be open and transparent in its decision making. Oh dear.

Never mind, I hope for a good debate at Cabinet on how the council addresses the failings identified

by the auditor. There is only one response that I would consider unacceptable and that is to say that

the complacent dismissive response that this is a legacy issue that has already been dealt with. That

is the response we had last year from the Conservatives and yet the value for money opinion has

been qualified again this year. Again the response is complacent. The Council issued a press release

in response to a qualified audit report headed ‘Auditor Gives Seal of Approval’. Well if your ambition

is to waste money and duck difficult decisions then you have the auditor’s seal of approval.

That is not to deny that some progress has been made since the new Portfolio Holder for Finance

took over. I do accept that he inherited a mess and has made some improvements, but he was

starting from a position where budgets were routinely missed by a significant margin. It is an

improvement that the 2012/13 final outturn was close to budget. However, as the auditor has

highlighted that it NOT because the budget was followed but because unbudgeted remedial cuts

were made during the year to make up for budget overspends. As the auditor has highlighted, such

unplanned in year cuts are wasteful and may not give value for money. The culture in some parts

of this organisation is to rush from one money saving idea to the next and implement it yesterday

without going through the proper processes. What we should actually be doing is taking the difficult

decisions during the budget setting process, setting a realistic budget and then sticking to it.

There are 3 major issues that the auditor raised that I would like to see addressed when this comes

before Cabinet

1) procurement was again identified as a weakness. The recently appointed procurement

consultants have identified £1.8m of savings. Put another way we have been wasting £1.8m

a year.

2) difficult decisions need to be taken. We all know that central government is forcing local

government to make major cuts. We need to take those difficult decisions in an open and

transparent manner and allow public scrutiny of those decisions

3) Finally we need to improve our budget setting process and not rely on knee-jerk in year cuts

to save money

Sam Corcoran speaks on audit report

Madam Mayor a qualified audit report is a significant event. A qualified audit report in any major business would cause heads to roll. A qualified audit report two years running...

Kate Green MP, Labour’s Shadow Minister for Disabled People, responding to reports that more than 150,000 people have raised serious concerns about fit-for-work tests administered by Atos, said:

“David Cameron’s out-of-touch Government needs to get a grip on Atos to ensure they start improving their service. If they aren’t ensuring these tests are handled sensitively, and delivering the right decisions, the Government should sack them. We need a system that delivers the right help to the people who need it.

“The system is failing too many people, and it’s the Government’s responsibility to make sure it’s fit for purpose.”

Cameron’s out-of-touch Government needs to get a grip on Atos - Kate Green

Kate Green MP, Labour’s Shadow Minister for Disabled People, responding to reports that more than 150,000 people have raised serious concerns about fit-for-work tests administered by Atos, said: “David Cameron’s...

David Hanson MP, Labour’s Shadow Immigration Minister, responding to reports that the Home Office, via Capita, are sending texts to British citizens asking them to leave the country, said:

“Theresa May’s immigration system lurches from one gimmick to another with little effect.

“The reports that the Government has allowed a private contractor to send British citizens text message telling them to leave the country demonstrates once more just how shambolic and incompetent the Home Office’s border police is under Theresa May.

“This government have consistently failed on immigration, even by their own standards, with the number of foreign criminals deported dropping by over 13% since the election, border checks being cut with only half as many people stopped, and illegal immigration getting worse.

“These messages will rightly cause distress and offence to British citizens, many of whom have done much to contribute to our society. It is simply wrong for this sort of message to be sent by text, and to be so poorly targeted.

“Yet again, like the offensive and inappropriate ad vans, the Government will be using taxpayer’s hard earned money to offend and alienate its own citizens.”

Response to reports the Home Office are sending texts to British citizens asking them to leave the UK - David Hanson

David Hanson MP, Labour’s Shadow Immigration Minister, responding to reports that the Home Office, via Capita, are sending texts to British citizens asking them to leave the country, said: “Theresa...

Liz Kendall MP, Labour’s Shadow Health and Social Care Minister, said on Jeremy Hunt’s comments reported in today’s newspapers:

"The real national shame is Jeremy Hunt’s attempt to shift the blame for dealing with the very real problems of loneliness amongst elderly people onto families alone.

"He seems completely unaware that there are over 6 million unpaid family carers in Britain today, 1 in 5 of whom provide more than 50 hours care a week for their loved ones.

"These unsung heroes save the taxpayer billions of pounds yet often get precious little support in return.

"Families, friends and neighbours need a decent care system to back up their efforts to look after elderly people, but the reality is our care system is in crisis and has been pushed to the brink of collapse.

"Jeremy Hunt and David Cameron need to take responsibly for their Government’s actions rather than trying to turn the clock back and say it’s down to families alone.

Hunt’s attempt to shift blame for dealing with loneliness amongst elderly people - Kendall

Liz Kendall MP, Labour’s Shadow Health and Social Care Minister, said on Jeremy Hunt’s comments reported in today’s newspapers: "The real national shame is Jeremy Hunt’s attempt to shift the...

Andy Burnham MP, Labour’s Shadow Health Secretary, commenting on the Competition Commission ruling on NHS trust mergers, said:

“It’s a sad day for the NHS when competition lawyers, and not doctors, are deciding what’s best for patients. This decision is a result of David Cameron’s top down reorganisation of the NHS where competition is put ahead of patient care.

"When the NHS is facing such a huge financial challenge, we should be encouraging collaboration and not erecting barriers to it. Yet the Government’s hard-line approach to competition is blocking the efficiency savings the NHS needs to make. It is nothing short of madness that simple collaboration between health professionals is now deemed "anti-competitive". This just shows that you can’t trust David Cameron with the NHS.

"Evidence from around the world tells us that market-based health systems cost more, not less. Ministers have put the NHS on the wrong path. Patients are the losers when doctors can’t talk to each other. This is why Labour has a commitment to remove this market madness from the NHS by repealing the health and social care act in the first Queen’s Speech of the next Labour government. We will put the right values - compassion over competition, integration over fragmentation - at the heart of the NHS.

Competition Commission ruling on NHS trust mergers - response from Andy Burnham

Andy Burnham MP, Labour’s Shadow Health Secretary, commenting on the Competition Commission ruling on NHS trust mergers, said: “It’s a sad day for the NHS when competition lawyers, and not...

Tristram Hunt MP, Labour’s Shadow Education Secretary, responding to revelations in the Guardian on the failings at one of Michael Gove’s flagship free schools, said:

“What this report exposes is that David Cameron and Michael Gove’s Free School programme has become a dangerous free-for-all: an out of control ideological experiment that has closed a school, leaving 400 children losing an entire week of learning.

“Pupils have been failed on every possible measure and parents will want to know how David Cameron and Michael Gove have allowed this to happen – especially as Ofsted identified that this school was not meeting the basic requirements on child protection before it was opened. Far from an isolated incident, the failings at this school reveal the systemic threat to education standards under this Government.

“David Cameron and Michael Gove can no longer ignore this issue – it is a crisis entirely of their own making.”

Ofsted report exposes Cameron and Gove’s Free School programme as a dangerous free-for-all - Tristram Hunt

Tristram Hunt MP, Labour’s Shadow Education Secretary, responding to revelations in the Guardian on the failings at one of Michael Gove’s flagship free schools, said:“What this report exposes is that...

Ed Miliband will today (Thurs) set out how the next Labour Government will raise millions of pounds through a levy on the profits of payday lenders - money which will be used to double the public funds available for low cost alternatives such as credit unions.

He will also announce that Stella Creasy, the new Shadow Minister for Competition and Consumer Affairs, has been given special responsibility to lead One Nation Labour’s campaign against abuses by legal loan sharks which have blighted Britain’s high streets and left many families with huge levels of personal debt.

The Labour leader will show how the latest proposals are part of One Nation Labour’s plan to tackle the worst cost of living crisis since 1870. He will also praise the work done by Labour campaigners across the country in helping families deal with soaring personal debt.

The measures he is announcing today come in addition to previous policy commitments on capping the cost of credit and giving local authorities new powers to limit the spread of payday lending shops in town centres.

On a visit to Peckham with Ms Creasy, Mr Miliband will visit the office of a credit union and meet some of the people who have suffered at the hands of payday lenders.

Ed Miliband is expected to say:

“The cost of living crisis afflicting millions of Britain’s families is so bad that it is creating a personal debt crisis too.

“The prices families have to pay keep on rising faster and faster than the wages they are paid. And, as a result, the market in payday lending has doubled in just four years. Almost a third of the payday loans taken out in Britain at the moment are to cover the cost of people’s gas and electricity bills.

“For too many families the end of the month is now their own personal credit crunch.

“A One Nation Labour Government would deal with the causes of the cost of living crisis. But it would also act to help prevent people falling into unpayable debt with radical reform of the payday lending market.

“We would cap the cost of credit, halt the spread of payday lenders on our high streets and force them to fund the credit unions that can offer a real alternative for people in desperate need.

“We must protect the most vulnerable people in our society from the worst of exploitation by payday lenders. And it is right that the companies that benefit from people’s financial plight, accept their responsibilities to help ensure affordable credit is available.”

Stella Creasy is expected to say:

“Across the country Sharkstoppers and Debtbusters campaigners are working to address the damage payday lending debt is doing to the finances of millions of families who are struggling to make ends meet.

“Whether helping to increase the capital credit unions have to enable them to lend more, kicking these companies out of their football grounds and shopping centres, or supporting debt advice to those caught in spiral of debt by the practices of these firms, these are the people dealing first hand with this Government’s failure to learn from other countries in capping the cost of credit.

“We are determined to see a cap introduced in the UK so that we can see an end to this legal loan sharking and give British consumers the protection they deserve.”

Miliband: Labour will act on payday lending

Ed Miliband will today (Thurs) set out how the next Labour Government will raise millions of pounds through a levy on the profits of payday lenders - money which will...

Rachel Reeves MP, Labour’s Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary, responding to a report from the Social Mobility and Child Poverty Commission, said:

“This powerful report offers a timely warning that the cost of living crisis faced by families today also threatens the promise of a better tomorrow for Britain’s next generation.

“While David Cameron congratulates himself on the long delayed recovery, the reality is that the majority are barely benefiting, with ordinary families’ living standards squeezed and social divisions deepening as a result of this government’s decisions to put a privileged few first. Families are £891 worse off this year because of changes introduced since 2010, while David Cameron’s Government is reversing the last Labour Government’s progress on child poverty - pushing 300,000 more children into absolute poverty in the last year alone.

“As Ed Miliband has said, Britain can and must do better than this. We can’t succeed as a country unless everyone has a chance to play their part and feels they have a stake in our future.”

Powerful report offers a timely warning that cost of living crisis faced by families threatens promise of a better tomorrow - Rachel Reeves

Rachel Reeves MP, Labour’s Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary, responding to a report from the Social Mobility and Child Poverty Commission, said: “This powerful report offers a timely warning that...

Liquid syntax error: Error in tag 'subpage' - No such page slug cookies