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The Conservatives on Cheshire East Council have struggled to find decent candidates for several Cabinet posts, but the Finance Portfolio has been particularly problematic. The post was held by Michael Jones when the fateful decisions over Lyme Green were taken (with Peter Groves as his deputy).

 

Later the post was held by Sam Gardner until it was revealed that he caused Fomfest Ltd to misuse donations of at least £4,142 collected on behalf of a charity. Peter Groves was then brought back to the post, but recently resigned to protect his reputation Surely that should read to protect the reputation of the Council? However, the Conservative brand on Cheshire East Council is now so toxic that even Cabinet members are trying to distance themselves from the mess they have created.

 

The current Finance Portfolio Holder Cllr Paul Bates, is sustaining the doubtful Tory track record as he was a director of Solutions (EU) Ltd which went bust in 2010. Solutions (EU) Ltd, company number 06506411, was formed in only February 2008, but in less than 2 years later the company was wound up with unsecured creditors of £176,804.

 

Irene Faseyi, Labour Councillor for Crewe Central, said, “Why do the Conservatives keep putting the Council’s Finance Portfolio into the hands of people who have bankrupted companies? Cllr Paul Bates is the third since I became a councillor in 2011.”

 

Cllr Brian Roberts,  Labour Councillor for Crewe West, said,

 

“Paul Bates has also had problems with being accurate and transparent. For he uttered a load of what he later accepted was inaccurate gibberish at a recent meeting of the Full Council when asking Councillors to approve  £2.8million of additional funding for the controversial Ansa depot in Middlewich on the basis that it was a loan by the Council, to Ansa at commercial interest rates.It wasn’t!’

 

9th October 2017 Financial illiteracy and cabinet members for finance

The Conservatives on Cheshire East Council have struggled to find decent candidates for several Cabinet posts, but the Finance Portfolio has been particularly problematic. The post was held by Michael...

At the Audit and Governance Committee meeting on 28th September 2017 an internal
audit report into air quality was discussed.
In 2016, a response to a Freedom of Information Act request by a Sandbach resident
showed nitrogen dioxide levels of 39.5 microgrammes per cubic metre on Middlewich
Road in the town. This was queried by Sandbach Town councillors who commented
how it was suspiciously just below the threshold of 40 for declaring an Air Quality
Management Area. The accurate figure of 50.4 was later reported to an air quality
working group of Sandbach Town Council.
A staff member of Cheshire East Council raised concerns about the air quality data
more widely and this led to an external investigation which concluded that the data
had been deliberately and systematically manipulated over a number of years.
When the external investigation was commissioned it was supposed to determine the
reason for the errors and who is responsible. Sadly we still don’t know who did it or
why they did it and nobody has admitted responsibility (although at least one
Conservative Cabinet Member whose portfolio included air quality has denied any
responsibility on the grounds that Cabinet Members only deal in policy).
The review also identified that there were no policies or procedures in place to ensure
that air quality was effectively managed in accordance with statutory requirements.
Five new Air Quality Management Areas have now come into force from 1st October
2017.
The report presented said “Cheshire East Council’s real time analysers have recorded
no breaches of this limit for 2013, 2014 and 2015. By contrast, Putney Bridge in
London exceeded this limit on 19 occasions in the first week of 2016.” This might be
interpreted as an attempt to belittle the scale of the problem in Cheshire East. If that
was the intention then in came unstuck when Cllr Sam Corcoran presented the
detailed figures produced for Putney Bridge showing that although the number of
exceedences in 2015 & 2016 was very high, since March 2017 there had been NO
exceedences. In Putney the local council had measured the nitrogen dioxide levels on
an hourly basis, published the results, acknowledged the problem and taken steps to
improve air quality, leading to a dramatic improvement in air quality. The contrast
could not be greater with Cheshire East Council, where the problem was hidden, the
figures were manipulated and we are still awaiting any meaningful action to address
poor air quality on the Council’s own doorstep on Middlewich Road in Sandbach.
At the Audit Committee meeting the question was asked about why Cheshire East
Council’s team of data analysts had not picked up on the manipulation of air quality
data. The Conservative chair of the Audit Committee refused to allow discussion of
the manipulation of figures as that was subject to a police investigation and refused to

allow discussion of how to improve air quality as that would be a matter for a
different committee.
There have been issues with the publishing online of data from the few real time
analysers that Cheshire East Council operates.
Cllr Sam Corcoran said,
“In March 2016 I wrote “At a local level nitrogen dioxide along Middlewich Road is
already at high levels and will increase unless action is taken. I suspect that the
nitrogen dioxide levels along the pavements near the girls school are already at
dangerous levels (but the levels on the pavements are not measured ...). ” More
recently I have called for a real time air quality monitor on the pavement on
Middlewich Road between Sandbach High School and St Peter’s Rise. This could
then measure the levels of pollutants which children are breathing in on their way to
school. There are frequent traffic jams on this road at just the time when children are
walking to school. There is clear evidence that poor air quality affects children -
whether they are travelling in cars, cycling or walking. We need to improve air quality
along the routes to school for our children. At present the Conservatives are simply
denying there is a problem and not even measuring the air pollution levels on the
route from Elworth to the Sandbach secondary schools.”

Cllr Steve Hogben, Labour Councillor for Crewe South said,
As I said at the Environment & Regeneration Overview & Scrutiny Committee
recently, like my colleague, Cllr Brian Roberts, I live near an air quality management
area, and I have long thought there is something in the air in Crewe. The Clean Air
Acts of the last 60 years or so have made big changes, but air quality still needs to be
improved, not least by curbing the use of the internal combustion engine.
At a time when we are seeing year on year increasing levels of traffic congestion, and
there are also several thousand new houses in the pipeline for Cheshire East, it is vital
that the Council restores residents’ faith in how it carries out its legal duties regarding
the monitoring and control of air pollution in our towns and villages’.

Air Quality How Did the Manipulation Come to Light?

At the Audit and Governance Committee meeting on 28th September 2017 an internalaudit report into air quality was discussed.In 2016, a response to a Freedom of Information Act request by...

At the Audit and Governance Committee meeting on 28 September 2017 the
complaints received in 2016/17 were discussed. In total 1603 complaints were
received - a small increase on 1565 for 2015/16.
Top of the list of issues for complaints was waste and recycling (including missed bin
collections), with Highways a close second.
Highways complaints have started to rise again, up by 24% from 227 in 2015/16 to
281 in 2016/17. The main causes of complaints were due to repairs not being carried
out promptly and poor quality work.
The Council response was that reduced funding in 2016/17 has meant a ‘managed
decline’ in ‘network condition’.
The amount of disruption on the roads has increased due to all the house building
across the borough and this is set to increase further.
Cheshire East Council has outsourced all highways repair work

Cllr Brian Roberts, Labour Councillor for Crewe West said
‘Residents and motorists are suffering the consequences of chronic under-investment
in Cheshire east’s road network by the Tories, with many rural and estate roads not
having had any proper investment now for a decade.
Over the wet summer it has been no surprise to see here in Crewe an increase in the
rate of dilapidation of many of these neglected roads and footways.. With winter fast
approaching and with many of these defects being ignored by CEC, we can expect the
rate of dilapidation to accelerate, resulting in an upward  spiralling of costs of these
much delayed repairs.’

Cllr Janet Jackson, Labour Councillor for Macclesfield Central said:
‘The reality of the phrase ‘managed decline’ is that our already crumbling road
network, will see even further decay, with the Council seemingly retreating to little
more than a ‘patch and make do’ approach to our ageing road network, rather than a
systematic plan of investment and renewals to make our roads fit for the 21 st Century.’

Cheshire East Roads are in Managed Decline

At the Audit and Governance Committee meeting on 28 September 2017 thecomplaints received in 2016/17 were discussed. In total 1603 complaints werereceived - a small increase on 1565 for 2015/16.Top...

At Cheshire East Council’s Audit & Governance Committee meeting on 28
September 2017, Cllr Sam Corcoran challenged the Council’s external
auditors over their statement that no ‘non-compliances with relevant laws and
regulations’ had been identified during their audit work. Leaving aside the four
separate matters being investigated by the police (awarding of contracts to
CoreFit Ltd, Air Quality data manipulation, awarding of £70,000 to Berkeley
Primary Academy in Willaston and land acquisitions), Cllr Corcoran pointed
out that failing to comply with National Minimum Wage (‘NMW’) legislation is a
criminal offence.
Cheshire East Council has been embroiled in allegations that it failed to
comply with NMW legislation over payments to care workers who have to
sleep in the same premises as the people they are caring for. The Council has
repeatedly denied being in breach of NMW legislation. However, on 27
September, the Council issued a press release saying that it was going to
increase the amounts paid to staff and backdate the increase by 2 years.
It may now be possible to explain why the Council has chosen this moment to
change its mind and admit to having underpaid its workers. The Council claim
it is due to “a landmark legal ruling”, but the critical ruling was in November
2013. However, it may be more relevant that an HMRC amnesty to avoid
penalties and any criminal prosecution expires on 2 October!
The Conservative cabinet member for corporate policy and legal services
said: “We have undertaken an extensive review to establish exactly who this
ruling affects and how much each individual is owed.”
At the Audit Committee meeting Cllr Sam Corcoran quoted from an email in
March 2014 from a finance officer saying “I am looking into the financial
impact of the recent ruling over Whittlestone v BJP Home Support Ltd (Nov
2013) where it was decided that NMW is applicable for employees sleeping
shifts.” This makes clear that the Council has known about breaches of NMW
legislation for over 3 years.

Another email in June 2016 from a legal officer says “There is no limit on the
length of arrears that can be claimed, provided it is all part of the same series
of unlawful deductions.” In the light of this clear advice back in 2014 another
Labour Councillor on the committee, Nick Mannion, then asked Cheshire East
officers why the extra pay was only being backdated for 2 years.
Officers then announced that the increase could be backdated by 6 years and
that the backpay will affect about 160 people and will cost the Council about
£200,000 for the first 2 years and about an additional £100,000 for 6 years.
Cllr Laura Jeuda, Labour Councillor for Macclesfield South said;
‘It is a great pity that CEC chose to ignore the advice of officers who warned
at the time that the council were in breach of NMW legislation. Instead they
resorted to what is now known to be the usual default position of denial and
blaming the very people who alerted them to the problem. 
This whole sorry business has cost employees their jobs, denied low paid
workers their employment rights and will ultimately cost the taxpayers of
Cheshire East yet another unnecessary expense.’

National Minimum Wage

At Cheshire East Council’s Audit & Governance Committee meeting on 28September 2017, Cllr Sam Corcoran challenged the Council’s externalauditors over their statement that no ‘non-compliances with relevant laws andregulations’ had...

Councillor David Brown has handed the Highways portfolio to a fellow
Congleton Tory whilst his involvement in the awarding of
£70,000 to the Berkeley Academy for a new car park is investigated by
Cheshire Constabulary.
Yet, whilst Cllr Brown has stepped down from his Cabinet responsibilities, he
remains as Deputy Leader of the Council!
He shall presumably continue to attend both formal and informal cabinet
meetings, voting on key strategic and financial issues, whilst continuing to
draw his annual allowance of £16,463 as Deputy Leader of Cheshire East
Council.
Therefore, the Council could end-up paying Special Responsibility Allowances
to both Cllr Brown as long as he clings to the Deputy Leadership of Cheshire
East, and to the substitute portfolio holder for Highways. The result could be
that even more money is spent on allowances to Tory councillors rather than
upon hard-pressed front line services.
Will Cllr Brown also continue to represent Cheshire East on a range of outside
bodies such as Cheshire and Warrington Local Transport Body, the Local
Government Association General Assembly, or as a director of Rail North
Limited, amongst many others?

Cllr Nick Mannion, Labour Councillor for Macclesfield West & Ivy said;
‘Cllr Brown should step away completely from all of his current posts, both at
Cheshire East and on outside bodies, pending the outcome of the police
investigation of his involvement in the promise of £70,000 to the Berkeley
Academy?’
Cllr Sam Corcoran, Leader of the Labour Group on Cheshire East said:
“The reputation of Cheshire East Council is suffering as the Conservatives
lurch from scandal to scandal. It cannot help that reputation if the
Conservative Deputy Leader is mired in a police investigation. Therefore to
protect what’s left of the Council’s reputation Cllr David Brown should step
down as Deputy Leader while the police investigation is in progress.”

Cllr David Brown

Councillor David Brown has handed the Highways portfolio to a fellowCongleton Tory whilst his involvement in the awarding of£70,000 to the Berkeley Academy for a new car park is investigated...

A report issued on Tuesday 19 September by the FIA Foundation reports that children are particularly vulnerable to poor air quality. Poor air quality can damage the development of a child’s lungs. The report also finds a correlation between poor air quality and obesity and identifies traffic levels as a key risk factor in the development of obesity in children.

 

In a separate report the Royal College of Physicians stated that “each year in UK around 40,000 deaths are attributable to exposure to outdoor air pollution”.

 

Improving air quality should be a major concern of Cheshire East Council. However, even after admitting that the figures had been deliberately and systematically manipulated, the Conservatives are still dragging their feet over putting in place plans to improve air quality.

 

Sam Corcoran, Councillor for Sandbach Heath & East said, “I would like to see a real time air quality monitor on the pavement on Middlewich Road between Sandbach High School and St Peter’s Rise. This could then measure the levels of pollutants which children are breathing in on their way to school. There are frequent traffic jams on this road at just the time when children are walking to school. There is clear evidence that poor air quality affects children - whether they are travelling in cars, cycling or walking. We need to improve air quality along the routes to school for our children. At present the Conservatives are simply denying there is a problem and not even measuring the air pollution levels on the route from Elworth to the Sandbach secondary schools.”

 

 

Cllr Nick Mannion, Labour Councillor for Macclesfield Qwest & Ivy said;

 

‘Every day hundreds of children on their way too and from school and college have to make their way through Broken Cross in Macclesfield, where current levels of traffic congestion generated air pollution are already consistently above the lawful maximum.  

 

There are also now planning applications to build hundreds of additional houses nearby that will further increase congestion and thus air pollution at this busy roundabout unless Cheshire East council wakes-up and takes urgent meaningful action to address the problem, and insists that housing developers pay for mitigation measures if their planning applications are approved.’

 

Air Quality Affects Health - Fact!

A report issued on Tuesday 19 September by the FIA Foundation reports that children are particularly vulnerable to poor air quality. Poor air quality can damage the development of a...

After the Council admitted that it had mis-reported air quality data, Labour councillors asked for prompt action to be taken to address the areas where pollution levels were high. However, Cheshire East Council dragged its feet. Even a year after the true figures were revealed Air Quality Management Areas have yet to be declared in some affected locations.

 

It seems that most of the Council’s air quality team have been suspended, leaving no one to do the work. It appears that the suspensions only took place after the public outcry, rather than when the Council first knew that the air quality errors were as a result of deliberate and systematic manipulation of data.

 

Indeed, before the Council Meeting to approve the Local Plan on 27th July, the Council published an advert for an Air Quality Officer. After the Local Plan had been approved the post was withdrawn!

 

The number of Council officers suspended from their posts is now reaching such proportions that they are being referred to as ‘the disappeared’.

 

The deliberate and systematic manipulation of data sits uneasily with repeated concerns about bullying at Cheshire East Council.

 

The Labour Group are pressing for an external investigation, reporting within 3 months to the Group Leaders, into the culture of the organization.

 

 

Sam Corcoran, Councillor for Sandbach Heath & East,  said;

 

A responsible Council that wished to protect its residents would act quickly to declare Air Quality Management Areas and put in place action plans to improve air quality. Instead Conservative councillors have repeatedly sought to downplay the issue.  I have personally made several suggestions but in Sandbach we are still waiting for effective action to be taken to improve the situation. Sadly the Conservatives seem more interested in allowing developers to make millions out of housing applications than in addressing the worsening traffic congestion and air quality problems in towns across Cheshire East.”

 

 

Cllr Steve Hogben, Labour Councillor for  Crewe South, said;

 

Several neighbourhoods across Cheshire East are already blighted by unlawfully high levels of traffic congestion generated air pollution. Therefore, with the Tories’ Local Plan now adopted, the need for reliable and accurate air quality data is vital if speculative developers are to be required to set out, and  to pay for, ways to mitigate the impact upon air quality by their developments upon local communities.’  

Air quality is still NOT being addressed

After the Council admitted that it had mis-reported air quality data, Labour councillors asked for prompt action to be taken to address the areas where pollution levels were high. However,...

At the Cabinet meeting on 12 September, reference was made to letters sent by local resident groups and local MPs to the Secretary of State expressing concerns about the running of Cheshire East Council.

 

The Conservative Leader tried to brush off the Council’s problems as ‘legacy matters’ and said that many of the action groups that have written to the Secretary of State have suddenly appeared, then appeared to contradict herself by saying that the residents groups had been quiet for a long time. The Conservative Council Leader then added, in an apparent criticism of local Conservative MPs who have written to the Secretary of State, that nobody who had written to the Secretary of State had contacted her or come to the Cabinet meeting to speak.


Cllr Brian Roberts, Labour Councillor for Crewe West said, "Many local residents would dispute the Conservative Leader's claim that the Conservatives are not brushing the Air Quality scandal under the carpet. Private Eye’s Rotten Boroughs column has reported on the Council’s response to the finding that air quality figures had been systematically and deliberately manipulated for years. We still don’t know who manipulated the figures or why and the Conservatives maintain that no planning applications were affected. It seems that the Conservatives are in denial about the reputational problems of Cheshire East Council."

 

Laura Jeuda, Labour Councillor for Macclesfield South, queried why the Conservatives have decided that now is the time to review the Council's Constitution. At present the Director of Legal Services and the Chief Executive are both suspended and the Council is under investigation by the Organised Crime Unit of the regional police

Cllr Jeuda said “Reviewing the Constitution at a time when the Chief Executive and Director of Legal Services are both suspended, when residents groups are calling for the Council to be placed into Special Measures, and even Conservative MPs are writing to the Secretary of State sounds like re-arranging the deckchairs on the Titanic.”

At the Cheshire East Council Cabinet meeting Labour Group Leader Sam Corcoran said,
“From the comments today it seems that some members of the Cabinet are in denial about the serious concerns of residents. I would like to suggest a way forward.

“In March the Labour Group called for an external, reporting within 3 months to the Group Leaders, into allegations of bullying and the culture of the organisation. Would the Leader agree that had she responded positively to that request then there would have been no need for residents groups to have written to the Secretary of State? Would she also agree that initiating such an external review now would help restore the reputation of the Council and protect those many staff who work hard to deliver good services in Cheshire East?”

 

Conservatives in denial

At the Cabinet meeting on 12 September, reference was made to letters sent by local resident groups and local MPs to the Secretary of State expressing concerns about the running...


A Sandbach residents group has called upon the Secretary of State to
initiate an independent enquiry into the actions and behaviour of the
members and officers of Cheshire East Council to restore public confidence
and have set up a petition at
https://www.change.org/p/sajid-javid-launch-an-independent-enquiry-into-air-
quality-data-falsification-by-cheshire-east-council


The Secretary of State will not normally intervene at a Council over one
recent issue and will only intervene if there has been a history of poor
performance. It is therefore worth looking back over the history of
Conservative-controlled Cheshire East Council.

The Council was formed in 2009 and the Conservatives appointed a chief
executive on £230,000 p.a. saying they were ‘reaching for the stars’. It
wasn’t long before the wheels started to come off. The chief executive left
after just 3 years in the job with a £93,000 severance package.

In 2012 the Conservative portfolio holder responsible for ensuring that
landlords know their legal duties became a convicted criminal landlord.
Despite this salutary lesson, the Conservatives have failed to address the
issues caused by a massive increase in the number of Houses of Multiple
Occupation and rogue landlords resulting in deep rooted social and health
issues.

Work started on a waste transfer facility at Lyme Green near Macclesfield,
but the Council failed to get planning permission from itself. The report
into the fiasco cost £225,000 and revealed numerous failings and breach of
procurement regulations but the Conservatives refused to make the report
public. A redacted version showed a culture of mistrust & fear at the
Council.

In 2012 the Council’s auditors expressed “concerns about whether Cheshire
East Council has proper arrangements to secure value for money in its use of
resources” and qualified their opinion accordingly. The auditors said “The
most significant of my recommendations is the need for Members to provide
clearer strategic direction and political leadership when agreeing
priorities, taking difficult decisions and supporting officers to deliver
agreed plans.”
This statement clearly places the blame for Cheshire East Council’s woeful
performance on the Tory administration of the council and not on the
officers employed by the council.

The Conservatives stopped pensioners from using their free bus passes on the
charity-run Dial-a-Ride service, caused the charity to collapse, then
re-instated the use of free bus passes when the service was taken over by a
private company.

The Council’s children’s services were put into special measures from 2013
to 2015 following an ‘inadequate’ rating from OFSTED. The services have
improved by one step from the bottom are now rated ‘requires improvement’.

The Planning department has perhaps caused the most anger amongst residents.
The long-running saga over producing a Local Plan seemed to be over when a
Local Plan was finally approved in July 2017, but the Plan is now the
subject of a legal challenge. Even more worrying is that a recent appeal
hearing has allowed a speculative housing development to go ahead on a
greenfield site despite the application being in breach of the Local Plan
and the Holmes Chapel Neighbourhood Plan.

A developer has estimated that the Council has spent over £2m fighting (and
losing) planning appeals. Developers and landowners have made millions out
of speculative housing applications on greenfield sites in Cheshire, leaving
local residents to pick up the tab for overloaded infrastructure such as
schools and roads. The planning applications already approved will cause
problems for years to come.

In 2013 the Local Government Ombudsman found 6 examples of maladministration
over a planning application at White Moss Quarry near Alsager and said that
the Council had knowingly and persistently misled the public
When questioned at a Cabinet meeting about White Moss Quarry the then
Conservative Leader, Michael Jones, said, “I am very concerned that certain
sites historically in the Council have come forward with strange decisions
around them. That won’t happen on my watch. I’m not part of any secret
group, masons or whatever.”

The Ombudsman found the Council guilty of maladministration again in 2014
over a planning application in Sandbach and again there was evidence of a
lack of honesty in council officers.

It was not just the planning department where the Ombudsman’s reports
revealed a lack of honesty at the Council. In 2015 the Ombudsman rejected
the Council’s claim that disclaimers had been included on all garden waste
renewal letters warning of plans to remove the service over the winter. The
Ombudsman said “I am concerned there are two versions of the renewal letter
in existence, one with, and one without, the disclaimer on it. I cannot see
why this should be the case. I am concerned the disclaimer may have been
added later, once the Council started to receive complaints. The number of
complaints only increases concerns many customers did not receive the
disclaimer.”

The Council has also been found at fault by the Ombudsman over the treatment
of a vulnerable adult in 2013. In fact, this was the second time the same
vulnerable adult had gone to the Ombudsman seeking redress and it was only
after the second maladministration finding that the Council put things
right.

At the Cabinet meeting on Monday 4 February 2013 a member of the public
asked why Cheshire East Council had used taxpayers’ money to sponsor the
Cheshire & Wirral Conservative Party conference. In response, the
Conservative Leader, Cllr Michael Jones, said, “Sponsorship of CW13
conference was in order to get a message to Eric Pickles.” before pulling
out his cheque book to pay the sponsorship costs himself.
In 2015 the BBC revealed that Council staff had been drafting tweets for the
Conservative Leader attacking his party pollical opponents; party political
campaigning by council staff or using council resources is illegal.

In 2016 It was revealed that Cllr Sam Gardner, the Conservative Cabinet in
charge of Finance, had been disqualified from being a company director
because he caused his company Fomfest Ltd to misuse donations of at least
£4,142 collected on behalf of a charity. Sam Gardner wasn’t fit to run a
small company, but the Conservatives put him in charge of the council’s
finances.

The Council has been under investigation by the Organised Crime Unit of the
regional police force since December 2015 when an investigation was started
into contracts awarded to the Conservative Leader’s personal
physiotherapist, waiving normal procurement procedures.

Since its formation 8 years ago the Council has had 7 different Monitoring
Officers. The Monitoring Officer is a senior lawyer, responsible for dealing
with complaints against councillors and ensuring that the Council conducts
its business lawfully.

The Chief Executive was suspended six months ago and the Monitoring Officer
(head of legal) is also suspended. A temporary s151 officer is covering for
the head of finance after he was removed from some of his duties. The Head
of Communications has been absent from work for the last year. The Head of
Internal Audit left after being off work for a year and has not been
replaced; it is almost as if someone doesn’t want an effective audit team
looking into the internal workings of the Council.

At the Council meeting in July 2017 there was a proposal to allocate an
extra £2.4m to construct the waste processing site in Middlewich the extra
costs were said to be down to land remediation costs not noticed when the
Council bought the site and increased insurance costs. The Cabinet Member
responsible said that the increased allocation wouldn’t cost the Council a
penny as it would be a loan to the council-owned company ANSA Ltd who would
pay the money back. After the vote was taken ANSA Ltd denied that it was a
loan and it was conceded that the real cost to the Council was £2.4M. When a
Labour councillor queried whether the decision was valid the acting
Monitoring Officer ruled that it was – so it seems that Conservative
councillors can say whatever they like (true or not) to get a motion passed.

The Berkeley Academy primary school in Willaston was promised £70,000 for a
car park by the Conservatives. This was not in accordance with the Council
policy and was not agreed with officers of the Council. The promise was
confirmed in writing by Cllr David Brown allegedly forming a binding
contract. Labour councillors sought to have the decision scrutinised by a
committee, but in September 2017 the acting Monitoring Officer rejected the
request as there was potential legal action and disciplinary action so it
would not be appropriate for any public scrutiny!! Surely the fact that the
decision was dodgy should be an argument in favour of public scrutiny, not a
reason to suppress Labour pressure.

On 27 July 2017 Cheshire East Council approved its Local Plan and rejected a
Labour amendment that work should immediately start on a new local plan that
took into account correct air quality data. On 28 July the Council revealed
that an external report had concluded that air quality data had been
deliberately and systematically manipulated. An internal report later
concluded that no planning applications had been affected by the falsified
data. So now we are in the position that we know that a person or persons
deliberately manipulated data, but we don’t know who they are or why they
did it.


No Conservative Councillor has admitted any wrongdoing over any of the above
list.
The coalition government abolished the Standards Board for England and the
Audit Commission, so effective means of taking action are now very limited.
The only power rests with the electorate to vote them out of office or with
the Secretary of State to put the Council into special measures.


Sam Corcoran, Labour Group Leader said, “The Labour Group has been calling
since March for an external investigation, reporting within 3 months to
group leaders, into the culture of the organisation and allegations of
bullying. For the sake of the staff and residents of Cheshire East, the
Conservatives need to take urgent action.

Call to investigate CEC

A Sandbach residents group has called upon the Secretary of State toinitiate an independent enquiry into the actions and behaviour of themembers and officers of Cheshire East Council to restore...

The first thing that struck me about the Budget was how little substance it
contained. This was the first Spring Budget of a new Chancellor, so I would
have expected new ideas, but the only headline grabbing change was the
increase in National Insurance for the self-employed.
The second thing that struck me was the disparity between the rhetoric and
the actual tax changes. The Chancellor said that he wanted to address the
discrepancy between the rates of tax paid by employees and workers operating
through limited companies. An employee earning (say) £30,000 a year will pay
tax at 20% plus employee’s National Insurance at 12% and the company will
pay employer’s NI at 13.8%. A worker operating through a limited company
earning £30,000 a year will pay corporation tax at 20% and dividend tax at
7.5%. The first £5,000 of dividends are tax free and the Chancellor
announced that this will be reduced to £2,000 tax free from April 2018; this
will cost the worker in my example operating through a limited company £225
a year in extra tax. The Chancellor also confirmed a cut in corporation tax
to 17% by 2020. This will give the worker in my example operating through a
limited company up to £900 a year in reduced corporation tax. So actually
the discrepancy between the rates of tax paid by employees and workers
operating through limited companies will INCREASE over the next few years.
The Chancellor also said that we shouldn’t be saddling our children with
ever increasing debt, but then announced that government borrowing will be
£100bn higher than predicted at Budget 2016. Government debt now stands at
£1.7trn (nearly double what it was in 2010). The Chancellor criticised
Labour’s plans to borrow £500bn to spend on capital infrastructure projects,
but seems happy to borrow to fund corporation tax cuts!
UK economic growth is forecast to be 2% in 2017 (roughly the same as it was
when Labour left office in May 2010). Growth is forecast to fall to 1.6% in
2018.
The Chancellor announced £100m to put GPs into A&E departments, but he
didn’t explain where the GPs would come from. If the plan is to move GPs out
of GP surgeries then this is going to make it even harder to get a GP
appointment! The underlying problem is a shortage of GPs and the diversion
of GPs away from the core job of seeing patients in GP surgeries.
I was surprised to hear the Chancellor say that ‘Choice is the key to
excellence in education’. I disagree! I think that good teachers and decent
funding is the key to excellence in education. The Chancellor announced an
extension to free transport for those at selective schools. This will jar
with many parents in Cheshire East who have just had their free school
transport withdrawn and are facing major funding cuts to their local school.
Finally the Chancellor said that those with the broadest shoulders should
bear the heaviest burden. A fine sentiment, but it is not matched by the
announcements in the Budget. The corporation tax rate will be cut to 17% by
2020. The Universal Credit taper rate will be reduced from 65% to 63%! Who
has the broadest shoulders? Is it a multi-national company or a low paid
worker who earns just enough to have some of their benefits withdrawn?

Sam Corcorans Budget Commentary

The first thing that struck me about the Budget was how little substance itcontained. This was the first Spring Budget of a new Chancellor, so I wouldhave expected new ideas,...

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