July-August 2021

Here is an update on what I’ve been doing in the last two months since my previous blog.

If you want to chat to me about what I am doing in the Council my monthly surgeries are continuing on the second Monday of the month. The next one is 4th October. You can join on Zoom here or look out for my event on Facebook.

COVID-19

Cases are still occurring in our area and our case rate is between 170 and 460 per 100,000 people in the Congleton area. We have high vaccination rates too, though, with 85-95% of people (dependent on location) having had one dose and 75-85% having had two.  You can track all this information if you like, on the government’s interactive COVID map. Of course serious cases and hospitalisations are much reduced but we must still be vigilant.

Restrictions are lifted and council events are being planned, but we still have to consider allowing for social distancing and encouraging people to practice hand-washing, sanitising and appropriate use of face-coverings.

Domestic Abuse

Congleton Chronicle report on increase in domestic abuse reports

The DA Clinic has been continuing weekly in the Old Saw Mill, and virtually. This is run by myCWA in partnership with Cheshire Police.  At our recent Community & Environment Committee and Antisocial Behaviour Working Group meetings we have heard from the Police that Domestic Abuse reporting has increased slightly year-on-year.  Whilst this my be due to the Euros football (which often results in an increase), myCWA thinks it might also be because people feel more confident reporting to the Police due to our DA Clinics.

Note: if you need advice or support related to Domestic Abuse please call 0300 123 5101. In an emergency call 999. Also see the Council’s web page – Staying Safe at Home.

White Ribbon

Our Congleton White Ribbon purpose is to “Strive to eradicate all forms of gender-based violence and abuse in Congleton”, and we have been a very active group, taking the message out and in particular tackling the male behaviours that lead to violence.

We had a Town Centre stall on 10th July which was ably manned by the White Ribbon Ambassadors in our group.  (I was self-isolating, but had prepared much of the material used).  It was a quiet day but a few new people offered to volunteer to help White Ribbon and we are following up with them.

White Ribbon Ambassadors man the stall

If you like you can join our White Ribbon Congleton Facebook Group. This is a private group intended to be a safe space for men (especially) to have constructive conversations with each other about how to challenge toxic masculinity and behaviours that lead to violence.

If you, your employer, your sports club or any other group would like a White Ribbon awareness session, please get in touch: info@congleton-tc.gov.uk.

If you want to get personally involved you can get in contact with anyone on the White Ribbon Working Group, or you can make your own White Ribbon Promise here.

Supporting Parents

I continue to work with officers on a section ‘For Parents’ of our website which will cover everything from play parks to childcare to the rights of working parents. Congleton is a great place to bring up a family and we want to support Mums and Dads as much as possible, with both parenting and working.

I have discussed our remote learning courses with representatives from Macclesfield College.  This initiative started pre-COVID and is to help local people such as single parents get training to get into work, without having to travel to Macclesfield or Crewe.

Congleton Museum

I am a Trustee of Congleton Museum and the recent challenges we faced during the pandemic brought home to the team the imperative to modernise and consider what the museum will be like and how it will work in the future.

To this end I designed a Strategy Workshop and facilitiated it with the support of Cllr Suzy Firkin (also a Trustee).  We looked at the SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats) for our museum and considered how other museums around the country have modernised their approach.  We then brainstormed new ways of working to address our key challenges and came up with 4 projects to work on. These include further digitisation, building up our volunteer base, engagement with schools and re-looking at the museum’s space.

We are now taking these forward and I’m particularly working on the digital side for which I’m drafting a brief for a potential provider of a ‘digital museum’ solution. We’re also doing desk research into digital platforms.

If you would like to get involved with the Museum, please contact me or info@congletonmuseum.org.uk

The Museum is still collecting ‘100 objects’ that tell Congleton’s Story to celebrate the 750th Charter Year in 2022. Do you have an object that might be included? Email Congleton100@congletonmuseum.co.uk to suggest it.

Congleton Pride

The Congleton Pride event was on 21st August 2021. I hope you enjoyed the event, if you came!

The Pride event was a great day in spite of poor weather – a really wonderful festival for Congleton. There were stalls from retailers, political parties, charities, the Police and the Fire Service and one from 7 Congleton Churches. The outdoor stage catered for everyone from children’s magic shows to drag acts. The day was topped off by an amazing evening event at the Vale Club. The positive, inclusive spirit was inspiring and people of all ages and backgrounds joined in. A fantastic time was had by all and the Pride team have been inundated with thanks and positive comments.

The WEP Team at Congleton Pride

Many thanks to all the organisers, stallholders, entertainers and everyone who came along on the day.

The Pop-up Vaccine Clinic, with Nurse Marie Townsend

I helped with the set up and also did stints on the WEP stall and on Elizabeth’s Group.

I also managed to get a Pop-Up vaccine clinic organised for the Pride event, to allow anyone to come along and have their first or second jab.  This was very successful and 228 people were vaccinated during the day.

In the run up to Pride I and a few members of the team went to United Reformed Church the previous Sunday as a gesture of friendship, as the URC has been a great Pride supporter and welcomes everyone to its worship.

We were sorry to find in the weeks before the event, several Pride advertising banners were torn down.  The Police are investigating but the Pride team carried on regardless. This showed to me the importance of Pride in continuing to break down barriers in our town, although I’m sure the opposition numbers are low in Congleton.

If you want to get involved in future events or connect with other LGBTQ+ people, please contact Congleton Pride.

Congleton Green

The Sustainable Living in Congleton online course is now available.  I have been a member of the team putting this together. 

We are doing a ‘soft launch’ at the moment and allowing people to try it out and check everything is working properly and making sense – so do let me have your feedback on it. 

This course will develop over time and we can add content as things change in this rapidly-evolving topic.


The Green Working Group is now meeting monthly and accelerating our efforts to combat climate change, the impact of waste and loss of habitat.

We have added biodiversity as a permanent part of our agenda and we have a large number of topics we are moving forward on.

Our re-wilding project continues and Streetscape Manager, Ruth Burgess, has now put a section on the Congleton Green web page explaining which areas are covered and how we are consulting local residents.

Integrated Transport Working Group

Following our meeting with Cheshire East Council we decided to run a public survey about bus use and requirements here in Congleton and I drafted the survey questions.

We have to be careful because, as a Town Council, we do not have the budget or the authority to run public transport services and we do not want to stimulate demand for services it is not in our gift to provide. However, we know that Congleton bus services are inadequate and we are keen to lobby providers or maybe run a couple of pilot projects to see if better services would encourage public transport use. Of course this is an important part of our green agenda too.

Please complete the survey here to let us know about your travel habits and what you think about buses in Congleton: https://www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/BusCong21

Antisocial Behaviour Working Group

I chair the Antisocial Behaviour Working Group of the Council, in which we partner with Cheshire Police, Cheshire Fire Service and Cheshire East Council.  This month I have received reports from residents of some serious illegal activity in a house in a local area.  I reported it to our Police contacts, and several local people also reported this to the Police. I’m glad to say that a number of arrests have been made and the house is now empty.

My chairship of the ASB Group was challenged in our first meeting of this year, but the Group voted for me to continue as Chair for which I am very grateful. The challenger asserted that some of the items I have added to the agenda, such as sexual violence and domestic abuse, did not constitute ‘antisocial behaviour’ and should not be discussed by our group.  I and other members of the group disagreed.  This behaviour is antisocial whether it occurs on the High Street or behind closed doors, and these serious crimes should remain front-of-mind for a group like ours and indeed for a Town Council.

Congleton 750th Year Celebration

A number of projects are getting underway to celebrate Congleton’s 750th Charter Year in 2022.  I’m on the working group for this, chaired by Cllr David Brown, and have volunteered to help with any of the activities. It should be a great year for Congleton.

Elizabeth’s Group

Elizabeth taking shape

Cllr James Smith and Deputy Chief Officer Jackie MacArthur have been writing a report requested by Councillors on the options for the location of the statue, and consulting with experts such as Cheshire East’s Cultural Economy Team. I have been the Elizabeth’s Group liaison on that report – providing the Group’s perspective rather than a Council one.

The report will be provided to both Elizabeth’s Group and to the Council.  It is likely that the Council will discuss it at the October meeting.

Meanwhile the sculptor, Hazel Reeves, has been working on the statue and you can read about her progress here on the Elizabeth’s Group website.

Congleton Community Projects

My company, Kanga Health Ltd, is doing a pro bono project to update the Congleton Community Projects website. This project started in August with a requirements workshop at our office in Meadowside, Congleton, with Jo Money who runs Community Projects. The next step is to develop the site map and wireframes for the new website.

My Meeting Attendance

Overall, my Council meeting attendance in these relatively quiet two months has been 80% for all council meetings and working groups, either face-to-face or virtually (8 out of 10). For the mandatory council committees my rate is 60% (3 of 5).

I was very sorry to miss a Community & Environment Committee (which I chair) meeting due to having to self-isolate in July. We are still working on getting the right system for remote attendance at meetings, which will be very helpful in these instances! (Remote attendance will have to be non-voting due to the law, unfortunately). I am helping officers select a vendor for ‘hybrid’ meetings and we have some meetings with prospective ones in September.

In total since I have been a Councillor (from May 2019) my overall meeting attendance across all types of meetings and statutory meetings has been 94%.

I am a member of fourteen other Groups as well as the Council Committees, which meet at regular intervals, typically every couple of months. You can see my memberships on the About Me Page.

The Town Council’s remit does not include things such as Social Services, Health, Transport, Waste, Recycling – these are the domain of Cheshire East, but we can lobby in these areas.

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May-June 2021

Here is an update on what I’ve been doing in the last two months since my previous blog.

If you want to chat to me about what I am doing in the Council I have an ‘online surgery’ on the first or second Monday of each month at 7pm. The next one is on Monday 12th July. You can join on Zoom here or look out for my event on Facebook.

COVID-19

Vaccinations have now finished in the Town Hall and I’ve done my final shift as a ‘vaccine volunteer’. If you need COVID support or information please visit the CTC COVID-19 support page.  The COVID community group is still meeting regularly and much of the discussion is about how to open up events and support groups around the town. I am also continuing to help administer the the Facebook Congleton COVID-19 Group.

Congleton Tip

Following our attendance at a number of Cheshire East Council meetings, Cllr Sam Corcoran, leader of CEC has agreed to meet Congleton Town Councillors and discuss the future of Household Waste and Recycling in Congleton.  Our existing tip must close (the lease has expired) but we will do what we can to encourage CEC to provide a replacement service in future.

Congleton Green

The SLIC (Sustainable Living in Congleton) elearning course is likely to launch in the next few weeks.  I have been looking at the user experience of it and making recommendations, working with colleagues Cllrs Gartside and Firkin and expert Barry Fox, who have been focused on the content. We plan to pilot it with Councillors and then release it to the general public.

As Community & Environment Committee Chair, I’ve been involved in discussions about areas of the town we are ‘re-wilding’ by not mowing and allowing wildflowers to grow. This is a controversial topic – some people complain when verges are mown, some complain when they are not!  We have come to a compromise where we are wilding some areas unless a majority of local residents say no to this, and signs will be up in those areas explaining the plan so people will know we have not just forgotten to mow!

Monitoring particulates outside Mossley School

Following on from our input to the Cheshire East Air Quality Action Plan, Barry Speed of our Green Group has borrowed an air quality monitor and we are monitoring outside schools at ‘peak times’ to see if particulates are going to unsafe levels.

I have volunteered on the rota for this and have spent an hour or two outside Mossley School so far, where the particulate levels did go out of the safe zone for a period at peak times.

Domestic Abuse

Our local service provider, myCWA, had 1700 referrals from Congleton in the year to April 2021, up from 1500 the previous year (a rise of 13%). This may be due to the COVID lockdown. I helped secure funding for the set up of a Domestic Abuse Clinic in Congleton.

The DA Clinic has been continuing weekly in the Old Saw Mill, and virtually. This is run by myCWA in partnership with Cheshire Police. The team have been very pleased with the success of this clinic and evidence suggests that significant harm has been prevented. As a result, they are confident that they will be able to secure more funding and are looking at the possibility of starting a peer support group in Congleton.  These groups are a vital part of the support structure for survivors of domestic abuse so it would be a very good addition to the service here.

Note: if you need advice or support on Domestic Abuse please call 0300 123 5101. In an emergency call 999. Also see the Council’s web page – Staying Safe at Home.

Violence against Women and Girls

Cheshire East Council is currently running a survey about the Safety of Women in Public Spaces.  Please complete it if you wish – the deadline is 4th July.

I was not happy about the content of the survey, which asked women about factors such as what they wear, their age and so on, which is unacceptable victim-blaming. At no point did it ask the question ‘what can we do to stop some men attacking women’ which is the most important way to make our streets safer for women! I commented and had a very positive meeting with the Domestic Abuse & Sexual Violence Team at CEC; we are going to collaborate on this issue. They will be piloting some schools’ materials to encourage more positive behaviour in boys, and I will investigate the possibility of Congleton being part of this.

White Ribbon

Our Congleton White Ribbon purpose is to “Strive to eradicate all forms of gender-based violence and abuse in Congleton”, and we have been a very active group, taking the message out and in particular tackling the male behaviours that lead to violence.

Our Congleton White Ribbon Group consists of (male) councillors and members of the community, plus our Chief Officer and myself.  

Our next activity is a Town Centre Stall on 10th July from 10am-3pm.  Please pop along and find out more about White Ribbon and how you can get involved.

We have recently acquired a new (male) Ambassador and (female) Champion – members of the public who have volunteered. Many thanks to them! I also contacted the new PCC for Cheshire, John Dwyer, who is interested in working with us and is himself a White Ribbon Ambassador. I and colleagues have met with Councillors from Alsager, Holmes Chapel and Stockport to support them with their White Ribbon Accreditation Projects.

If you like you can join our White Ribbon Congleton Facebook Group. This is a private group intended to be a safe space for men (especially) to have constructive conversations with each other about how to challenge toxic masculinity and behaviours that lead to violence.

If you, your employer, your sports club or any other group would like a White Ribbon awareness session, please get in touch: info@congleton-tc.gov.uk.

If you want to get personally involved you can get in contact with anyone on the White Ribbon Working Group, or you can make your own White Ribbon Promise here.

Supporting Parents

Council Officers and I have started work on a section of our website to support local parents in various ways, including signposting to facilities in Congleton and online information about childcare, tax credits and other support for parents.  This is the result of working with parents in a workshop last year.

Now that lockdowns are easing I’m contacting Macclesfield College again to see if we can re-start the ‘remote learning’ courses in childcare and social care that we were planning to pilot in Congleton. This is to help local people such as single parents get training to get into work, without having to travel to Macclesfield or Crewe.

Integrated Transport

Following from our Bus Back Better meeting we met with Cllrs Craig Browne and Laura Crane of CEC to discuss what is possible within Congleton.

Unfortunately, there is no national government money for public transport in a town like Congleton, but we could fund our own pilot scheme based on encouraging people to use the bus and save money on taxis and parking, especially for short trips into town. We have a few ideas of projects we might fund and are considering how to consult the public on these to get constructive feedback.

Congleton Senior Forum

Cllr Suzy Firkin is chairing this group and we have been discussing commissioning services such as talking books and newspapers for older people, using Partnership funding.

Congleton 750th Year Celebration

A number of projects are getting underway to celebrate Congleton’s 750th Charter Year in 2022.  I’m on the working group for this, chaired by Cllr David Brown, and have volunteered to help with any of the activities. It should be a great year for Congleton.

Congleton Pride

The Congleton Pride event is now going to be on 21st August 2021. If you want to get involved please contact Congleton Pride.

We followed up on the results of our LGBTQ+ Survey with both Church leaders and the Police.

As a result we have had two meetings with Church leaders. Attending the meeting were Rev. Murray George of United Reformed Church and Rev. Ian Enticott from the Parish of Congleton (which includes four churches), with Rev. Anne-Marie Naylor of Astbury St Mary’s sending apologies. At the first meeting Frankie Markland and Sam Worthington, who are trans and gay, described what it felt like growing up and how some religious teaching had affected them. The meeting was very constructive and all involved want to work together to build understanding and a welcome for LGBTQ+ people into local worship. The Churches will have a joint stall at Congleton Pride event which is fantastic.

Congleton Pride meets Church Leaders

In addition I am in contact with the Cheshire Police who have also agreed to have a stall at Pride and work with our group in a similar way to ensure everyone feels safe in Congleton.

Antisocial Behaviour Working Group

I chair the Antisocial Behaviour Working Group of the Council, in which we partner with Cheshire Police.

The ASB Group has been monitoring COVID incidents and planning additional CCTV as well as discussing the output of the Pride survey (above) and also how to move forward on VAWG in collaboration with the White Ribbon Group.

We investigated the possibility of Purple Flag status but whilst we are doing a lot of the things this accreditation requires, we felt the scope of it was beyond the ASB group and is too much to take on with our 750th year preparations too. It will be deferred for consideration at a later date at full Committee.

Elizabeth’s Group

Following Councillors being divided on the actual location of the Elizabeth Wolstenholme Elmy statue, Cllr James Smith has been putting together an options paper with the support of Council officers. I have had a great many people write to me and stop me in the street to say they want the statue on Bridge St, which is the group’s preferred location over a garden or park, as it is intended to be ‘street art’.

Examples of ‘street art’ showing the public interacting with statues as intended for Elizabeth

I was involved in providing some input to this review, as were the artist, renowned sculptor Hazel Reeves, and the Cultural Economy Development Manager at Cheshire East Council, Janey Moran, in addition to the utility providers and the Police. This paper will be presented to Council for a final decision on the Council’s own preferred location, then Elizabeth’s Group (an independent charity, not Council funded) can decide what to do.

The group is seeking its final sponsors. If you know of any organisation who might sponsor please get in touch with me. You can donate here if you wish.

Hazel Reeves, the sculptor, is asking local children to submit pictures or writing to inspire her as she designs the statue. Watch this video to hear from Hazel and join in!  To learn more about Elizabeth join the Facebook Page or see the Website.

Congleton Museum Trust

Congleton Museum, of which I’m a Trustee, reopened on 20th May!  Book your tickets here.

This period has given the trustees a chance to reflect on the future and we are planning a workshop on 19th July to agree on the Museum’s strategy to engage people of all ages and bring Congleton’s history to life.

In particular the Museum is planning to collect ‘100 objects’ that tell Congleton’s Story to celebrate the 750th Charter Year in 2022. Do you have an object that might be included? Email Congleton100@congletonmuseum.co.uk to suggest it.

Other Work

Hybrid Meetings Paper

I and Cllr James Smith have supported officers to produce a paper recommending that the Council should continue to have Hybrid Meetings – allowing remote participation by non-voting members, the press and the public. (Unfortunately legislation does not permit entirely remote meetings now that the COVID emergency rules have ended, and the Local Government Association is campaigning to get this law changed).

I believe allowing some to join remotely will open up our democracy to members of the public who may not be able to attend in person, due to caring responsibilities, lack of transport, disability or other factors. This is an important ‘equality’ move by our council, as well as being a major step in reducing our carbon footprint. I hope that the members of the Town Hall, Assets and Services Committee vote in favour of it at their 1st July meeting.  I’m not on that committee but intend to speak at the meeting if possible and you can read the document in the meeting papers.

I have participated in a panel that investigated a breach of Council confidentiality. As a result some of our procedures have been tightened.

As a member of the Personnel Committee I have been involved in a number of meetings recently relating to recruitment and staff reviews. We also are saying goodbye to Jackie Potts, who is retiring after a distinguished 14-year career as our Council’s Responsible Financial Officer. Thank you Jackie!

Local Support

I have supported residents requesting disabled parking bays, concerned about local crime and worried about potholes in recent months. I have also followed up on the problem of waste bins being left on the street.

I appeared in an Ask the Councillor programme on Canalside Radio.

I’ve also been working with a national cross-party group of Councillors, Officers (Including Jackie Weaver) and Residents on a Government Petition to deal with bullying and harassment by Councillors. Happily this is not a problem in Congleton, but it is elsewhere in Cheshire (as you may have seen in that now-famous ‘Handforth’ video)  At the moment there is no way to sanction or punish Councillors who behave in a way that they would be disciplined and potentially sacked for in a workplace. We believe this should change. Our petition was featured on Radio 4’s PM programme recently. You can sign it here: www.tinyurl.com/LocGovPetition

My Meeting Attendance

Overall, my Council meeting attendance for the two months has been 100% for all council meetings and working groups, either face-to-face or virtually (16 of 16). For the mandatory council committees my rate is 100% (7 of 7).

In total since I have been a Councillor (from May 2019) my overall meeting attendance across all types of meetings and statutory meetings has been 95%.

I am a member of fifteen other Groups as well as the Council Committees, which meet at regular intervals, typically every couple of months. You can see my memberships on the About Me Page.

The Town Council’s remit does not include things such as Social Services, Health, Transport, Waste, Recycling – these are the domain of Cheshire East, but we can lobby in these areas.

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March-April 2021

Here is an update on what I’ve been doing in the last two months since my previous blog.

As Congleton moves out of lockdown it has been good to plan future events and activities for the town, and consider how to support businesses and people as we recover from the past 12 months.

COVID-19

Vaccinations continue in the Town Hall and I’ve done a couple more shifts as a ‘vaccine volunteer’. If you need support or information please visit the CTC COVID-19 support page.

The COVID community group is still meeting regularly and much of the discussion is about how to open up events and support groups around the town. For example, The Lunch Club is still delivering on Fridays but would like to go back to serving in the Old Saw Mill.

The Town Council is setting up a Civic Award scheme for residents who have gone out of their way to support others during the crisis. More on this soon! I am also continuing to support the the Facebook Congleton COVID-19 Group.

My Council Activities

If you want to chat to me about what I am doing in the Council I am now having an ‘online surgery’ on the first or second Monday of each month at 7pm. The next one is on Monday 10th May. You can join on Zoom here or look out for my event on Facebook.

Domestic Abuse

The Domestic Abuse Clinic has been continuing weekly in the Old Saw Mill, Congleton, and virtually. This is run by myCWA in partnership with Cheshire Police. At these clinics people can have an informal discussion about the options open to them and how to prevent or escape from abuse. This clinic is funded with grants from two charities that I and myCWA have applied for, but in my view it should be funded as an ongoing essential service.

Due to the continued tier restrictions and lockdown caused by the COVID 19 pandemic, the team redesigned the delivery of the Congleton clinic, to ensure that residents were still able to have enhanced access to domestic abuse support.

myCWA promote the clinics in social media and print

Since September last year myCWA have provided 63 domestic abuse clinics in Congleton offering a total of 252 consultations. They have also offered a weekly virtual peer support group each Tuesday afternoon, and a closed Facebook group. This group is moderated by a trained staff member.

The service, including the 24 hour helpline, have appeared in CTC’s Bear Necessities, the Congleton Town Guide and The Beartown Voice. The team has provided 50 care packs (including safety advice for children and resources for adults) to the Congleton Children’s Centre to be distributed to families in the area.

238 have people directly benefited from the Congleton Domestic Abuse Clinic so far. As an example, Julie (not her real name) saw the article in the Beartown Voice and this prompted her to come to the Domestic Abuse Clinic after years of physical violence and controlling behaviour from her partner. It would not have been safe for her to access phone or online support so the ability to come to a local clinic was essential to access the service. As a result of this, Julie is now planning her safe escape and re-housing with the support of clinic support workers.

I would like to thank myCWA for providing this important service and Cheshire Police for their support in attending some of the clinics to provide specialist advice.

Note: if you need advice or support on Domestic Abuse please call 0300 123 5101. In an emergency call 999. Also see the Council’s web page – Staying Safe at Home.

White Ribbon

Victim Focus 2021 Research

Our Congleton White Ribbon purpose is to “Strive to eradicate all forms of gender-based violence and abuse in Congleton”, and we have been a very active group, taking the message out and in particular tackling the male behaviours that lead to violence against women and girls (VAWG).

The White Ribbon Group is now encouraging people from across the community to join the cause. With this in mind we have created a Toolkit of useful resources that you might like to use if you want to become more informed about White Ribbon or even become an Ambassador.

We are sharing components of the toolkit, tips and information as well as the latest research on and legislation around VAWG, in our new White Ribbon Congleton Facebook Group. This is a private group intended to be a safe space for men (especially) to have constructive conversations with each other about how to challenge toxic masculinity and encourage respect and kindness. One such resource is the recent national Victim Focus research showing the extent of VAWG across the country, from the victim’s point of view.

We are planning more awareness sessions, workshops and webinars about White Ribbon later this year. If you, your employer, your sports club or any other group would like a White Ribbon awareness session, please get in touch: info@congleton-tc.gov.uk.

If you want to get personally involved you can get in contact with anyone on the White Ribbon Working Group, or you can make your own White Ribbon Promise here.

Childcare

Following on from the work I have done with local parents and providers, I’m now working with Council officers to see what we can add to our website to point parents in the right direction when organising parental leave and childcare, to ensure all opportunities are available to parents in Congleton.

Congleton Green

The SLIC (Sustainable Living in Congleton) elearning course is likely to launch in Q2 2021, slightly later than originally planned.

In addition, I have attended a meeting to discuss the Cheshire East Air Quality Action Plan and the Congleton CTC Green Group submitted a response to the plan. We suggested a number of improvements, including monitoring outside schools at ‘peak times’ not just taking average readings throughout the day. you can read our comments in the Community & Environment Committee papers from March starting at page 28.

Integrated Transport

As the country moves out of lockdown there are a number of government initiatives to seize the moment and change the way people travel. Most notably in recent weeks is the Bus Back Better programme to try to encourage bus use, in smaller towns and rural areas as well as cities.

Our Working Group met with a local coach company to discuss the opportunities and we updated our ‘Bus Ideas’ document from 2020 to re-send to Cheshire East Council and volunteer CTC as a test town for new bus services. This document is the same as the ideas already voted on and submitted as part of the Local Transport Plan submission from Congleton Town Council. We will continue to work with CEC and bus companies to make the most of this opportunity.


Congleton Tip

I and other councillors have been continuing to campaign for a new Household Waste and Recycling Centre in Congleton. We attended the Environment & Regeneration Scrutiny Committee of Cheshire East Council in March to encourage them to ask Cabinet to consider this further. The Scrutiny committee voted to implement a ‘Task & Finish Group’ to look into it, but this has not been done.

We then attended the April Cabinet meeting, only to have the subject pulled from the agenda at the last minute. The next Cabinet meeting is on 4th May. I have asked to speak at this meeting but the feeling of CTC Councillors is that the decision has been made. We will continue to campaign, even when the Congleton site closes in September.

Thanks to my CTC colleagues who have worked so well together on this, especially Robert Douglas who has led the charge with forensic analysis of the poor decision-making at CEC, Suzy Firkin who has spoken at and attended many CEC meetings, and Paul Duffy who started a petition that you can still sign here.

Congleton Business Support

May be an image of sky
New lighting and a clean Bridge Street

I am on a Business Support and Regeneration Working Group, chaired by Cllr Russell Chadwick. In the early days it was offering support during COVID but now it is looking more at making Congleton attractive for new businesses and business growth. As the owner of a local digital business that works across the world, I have a specific perspective on this.

Council officers have done a fantastic job of sprucing up the town centre with cleaning, new bunting and festoon lighting to welcome shoppers back into town, as well as fixing a number of ‘grot spots’, many of which were identified by Cllr Chadwick on a walkabout.

We are also considering how else we can co-ordinate and support Congleton businesses to get more out of and put more into the local community. We have spoken to a number of business leaders and received some promising ideas. If you run a business in Congleton and would like to chat about this, please get in touch or come to my surgery. Thanks.

Congleton 750th Year Celebration

Volunteers and Council Officers have already started to plan some wonderful activities for next year’s 750th Charter Year for Congleton. I have volunteered to be one of the Councillors on the joint Working Group that is now being set up to support this.

Congleton Pride

The Congleton Pride event is now going to be on 21st August 2021. The group, of which I’m a Trustee, has pushed it back from July but is very much looking forward to it and planning is well underway. Luckily most of the sponsors/stalls etc are already in place from last year, but if you want to get involved please contact Congleton Pride. The team is also planning smaller social events through the year (as requested) so watch out for those on the Pride Facebook page.

We have discussed the results of our LGBTQ+ Survey with both Church Leaders and the Police. As a result we have a meeting scheduled in May with the Churches to take this further. I am in contact with the Cheshire Police Network Lead for Pride to try to set up a similar discussion.

Antisocial Behaviour Working Group

I chair the Antisocial Behaviour Working Group of the Council, in which we partner with Cheshire Police.

The ASB Group has been monitoring COVID incidents and planning additional CCTV as well as discussing the output of the Pride survey (above) and also how to move forward on VAWG in collaboration with the White Ribbon Group.

We are interested in potentially trying to achieve Purple Flag Status, which means our night life is safe for everyone. I am investigating this with Council officers.

Purple Flag Status: How It Fits Place Management Policy

Please note: if you have been a victim of hate crime in Congleton please do report it at Cheshire.Police.uk, on 101 or 999 in an emergency.

Elizabeth’s Group

The fantastic news is that the new Congleton link road has been named Wolstenholme Elmy Way, after Elizabeth Wolstenholme Elmy.

I am a Trustee of Elizabeth’s Group and to celebrate we walked the new road, then drove down it in a classic car (Daimler) on the official Opening Day.

The event, and especially Elizabeth, were featured in BBC North West Tonight news, as you can see below.

Elizabeth’s Group cruise down Wolstenholme Elmy Way in their Daimler

This shows how much attention the new statue of Elizabeth will bring to Congleton. At the April Council meeting, Councillors were divided on the actual location of the statue in a very heated debate.

An independent panel is going to be asked to evaluate the main site options based on heritage, context, convenience, artist’s intent, safety, education, practicality and a number of other criteria. More on this in the coming months!

Funding has been set back a year due to the pandemic so we are seeking new sponsors. If you know of anyone who might sponsor (we have platinum, gold, silver options) please get in touch with me. You can donate here if you wish.

Hazel Reeves, the sculptor, is asking local children to submit pictures or writing to inspire her as she designs the statue. Watch this video to hear from Hazel and join in!

To learn more about Elizabeth join the Facebook Page or see the Website.

Congleton Museum Trust

Congleton Museum has again been closed due to lockdowns, but is hoping for a busy summer and will reopen on the 20th May. Book your tickets here.

This period has given the trustees a chance to reflect on the future and we are planning a workshop after June 21st to agree on the Museum’s strategy to engage people of all ages and bring Congleton’s history to life.

In particular the Museum is planning to collect ‘100 objects’ that tell Congleton’s Story to celebrate the 750th Charter Year in 2022. Do you have an object that might be included? Email Congleton100@congletonmuseum.co.uk to suggest it.

Other Work

Young Person and Children’s Mental Health Group

As C&E Chair I am joining meetings with mental health providers from Congleton and Holmes Chapel to discuss how we can better co-ordinate, communicate and ensure access to services for young people. CTC can potentially help with awareness and connecting with residents.

Local Support

I have supported residents requesting disabled parking bays and investigating the removal of trees in the last couple of months.

Annual Town Meeting

I gave part of the presentation at the Annual Town Meeting in April, the section on what we have been doing on domestic abuse and White Ribbon. We had some interesting questions from the public, and the Zoom format worked well.

International Women’s Day

I was invited to give a talk at IWD 2021 about my two years as the first Women’s Equality Party Councillor in the country. The video will appear online in due course.

Hustings

I helped organise a Hustings for the Cheshire Police and Crime Commissioner elections on May 6th. All four candidates turned up and the organisers were the Women’s Equality Party and Reclaim These Streets Cheshire and Chester. It was a very lively and insightful debate! You can watch the whole thing (1.5 hours) here, or here you can see the Introductions and the Closing Statements.

My Meeting Attendance

Overall, my Council meeting attendance for the two months has been 100% for all council meetings and working groups, either face-to-face or virtually (26 of 26). For the mandatory council committees my rate is 100% (11 of 11).

In total since I have been a Councillor (from May 2019) my overall meeting attendance across all types of meetings and statutory meetings has been 94%.

I am a member of fifteen other Groups as well as the Council Committees, which meet at regular intervals, typically every couple of months. You can see my memberships on the About Me Page.

The Town Council’s remit unfortunately does not include things such as Social Services, Health, Transport, Waste, Recycling – these are the domain of Cheshire East, but we can lobby in these areas.

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January-February 2021

Here is an update on what I’ve been doing in the last two months since my previous blog

Our response to COVID-19 continues and as Chair of the Community & Environment Committee, I am on the COVID-19 Congleton Community Leaders’ group. I have also been moving forward on several other projects.

COVID-19

The big news is the rollout of the COVID vaccine and Congleton Town Hall has been a vaccination centre from the start. The Main Hall is the vaccination area and the NHS-led teams have vaccinated thousands of people here, some days working 8 till 8.

Vaccine Volunteering

It has been my privilege to join the volunteer vaccination marshalls and support people before and after their ‘jab’. It was good to meet so many people who were feeling optimistic about the future for the first time in months. Some people had not really left their house since early 2020. Congleton, and Cheshire East, were one of the fastest areas in the country in getting all the over-70s ‘done’.

Hats off to the NHS and the volunteer teams who have made this happen. A big shout-out also to Mark Worthington, Town Hall Manager, and his team who have accommodated this and kept the cogs turning so that the operation can be as smooth as it has been. Wonderful job!

My Lateral Flow Tester Certificate

I also got trained as a Lateral Flow Tester and practiced my skills helping test some members of the Council’s Streetscape team as part of their regular weekly testing. Thanks for being my guinea-pigs!

If you need support or can offer it, please visit the CTC COVID-19 support page.

The COVID community group is turning its attention to the wellbeing of children who are not able to to to school at the moment, and Jo Money of Community Projects is leading an initiative to deliver them ‘fun packs’ with Easter and Spring-themed activities and treats included.

I’ve also been helping with up-to-date content for the CTC website, especially the new information on the vaccination programme and supporting the Facebook Congleton COVID-19 Group.

My Council Activities

If you want to chat to me about what I am doing in the Council I am now having an ‘online surgery’ on the first Monday of each month at 7pm. You can join on Zoom here or look out for my event on Facebook.

Domestic Abuse

The Domestic Abuse Clinic has been continuing weekly in the Old Saw Mill, Congleton.  This is run by myCWA in partnership with Cheshire Police. At these clinics people can have an informal discussion about the options open to them and how to prevent or escape from abuse. This clinic is funded with grants from two charities that I and myCWA have applied for, but in my view it should be funded as an ongoing essential service.

I attended the Police and Crime Commissioner’s webinar recently and asked if more central government funding was coming for domestic abuse services. The response from David Keane, PCC for Cheshire, was:

“Thank you for the question. For me this has been one of the key issues that I and the team have addressed during the pandemic.

We realised that there have been lots of vulnerable people trapped at home with their abuser. We immediately started talking to local authorities about their services, also local charities, and the voluntary sector. We noticed that calls to the Police had dropped at first, but we realised quickly that that was because people were stuck at home with their abusers and not able to report crimes or escape easily.

I and my strategy team went out and put ‘Alone at Last’ posters up at the supermarkets all over Cheshire, and talked to staff in those supermarkets to ask them to point people in the right direction to get support – the phone numbers on the posters – as this was one place people could go alone during lockdown.

We also worked with Cheshire Without Abuse to understand the best strategy and set up a working group to assist people.  We put in two bids for national govt funding during the pandemic: 

  • £330,000 – this was distributed to charities across Cheshire that work in DA and SA services
  • Fund to support a ‘whole family’ approach to DA – we bid for £250k. This was to work on the perpetrators in the family setting with the support of the rest of the family. This has been very effective in some families where stresses were coming out due to lockdown.

Oddly, in this case, success was to increase reports of abuse in the short term as we knew from our partners that a lot of abuse was happening and not being reported.  And this did happen.  People found the ways to reach out for help.

The weekly clinics have been great, and we have seen real impact from them. Make no mistake, it is our goal to eradicate Domestic Abuse from Cheshire.  We are here to help and so far, the recent campaigns have been a huge success.  As well as partner abuse, we have seen progress in child abuse and elder abuse too.”

I was pleased with that reply, but rather disappointed that Congleton (i.e. me) was the only Council that raised this issue and no other Town asked a question about it. However, when anti-social behaviour, parking and speeding were discussed, Councillors from other towns had a lot to say!

Note: if you need advice or support on Domestic Abuse please call 0300 123 5101. In an emergency call 999. Also see the Council’s web page – Staying Safe at Home.

White Ribbon

Our Congleton White Ribbon purpose is to “Strive to eradicate all forms of gender-based violence and abuse in Congleton”, and we have been very active since our White Ribbon Accreditation was confirmed in September, especially in activities for the 16 days to eradicate violence in November/December 2020 around White Ribbon Day. 

The White Ribbon Group is now reaching out further into the community and I attended a CeCP (Congleton Headteachers’) Meeting with a colleague from myCWA to explain the services available to schools and teachers. One headteacher said he had used the ‘MonkeyBob’ materials to good effect with a child who was a victim of domestic abuse.

myCWA Video: ‘Staying Safe with MonkeyBob’

We have contacted ManKind and downloaded their materials for male victims of abuse, although of course White Ribbon is really about male perpetrators and prevention – challenging those ‘toxic masculinity’ behaviours that lead to the current ‘pandemic of abuse’.

Many thanks to the women who have got in touch with me in the last couple of months to tell me about their own experience with domestic abuse, controlling behaviour and sexual violence. It is clear that the DA Clinic and the White Ribbon campaign is helping to bring this out from behind closed doors, so thanks to all those who have reached out to us, and of course to the volunteers who have joined the campaign.

If you want to get involved you can get in touch with anyone on the White Ribbon Working Group, or you can make your own White Ribbon Promise here.

Childcare

I have been working with Council Officers to look at how we as an employer support working parents.  The Chief Officer and Ruth Burgess have updated the employee handbook to bring it up to date on a number of fronts, including our new Equality and Inclusion Policy, and our White Ribbon agenda. This is now in final review.

I spoke to some nursery owners this month about how difficult is has been during the COVID lockdown, and with the help of Council colleagues and Officers, supported one in particular with trying to get further grants in order to stay afloat through a COVID-induced closure.

Congleton Green

Visual of the new elearning course

The SLIC (Sustainable Living in Congleton) elearning course is progressing.  I am part of the team reviewing each module’s content and visual layout.  The course is looking very good and we expect to launch it in Q1 2021.

My role in the team is principally to consider the usability and accessibility of the training as I’m not an environmental expert – indeed, reviewing the materials has been an interesting education for me!

Integrated Transport

Our Council met as a Strategy Group and created an extensive response to the Congleton Local transport and Car Parking Plan which has been submitted to Cheshire East Council.

Our feedback on transport in general was in support of more cycleways, footpaths and buses, and a more integrated approach, for example bus services to Congleton Station to connect with commuter trains. We opposed car parking cost increases in Congleton to match other towns. The full submission from CTC can be seen on the minutes of the January Community & Environment Committee meeting here. (page 5 onwards)

If you like, you can visit the Local transport page for more information and to submit your own views.


Congleton Tip

I and other councillors have been campaigning to retain a Household Waste and Recycling Centre in Congleton, and we are planning to meet in early March to discuss this further. Many thanks to my colleagues in the other political parties who are lobbying their own party members in Cheshire East, especially Cllr Robert Douglas who has attended a number of CEC meetings.

Also to Cllr Paul Duffy who started a petition that you can sign here.

Congleton Pride

The group has run two surveys to understand the needs of, and attitudes to, LGBTQ+ people in Congleton. I drafted and ran the surveys, and collated the results.

The first was an ‘attitudes survey’ looking to discover more about Congleton public views about LGBTQ+ people. The second was for LGBTQ+ people to say what ‘life is like’ for them in Congleton.

The group was pleased to see that most of the ‘public’  are tolerant and supportive, with a 91% ‘LGBTQ+ friendliness’ score overall.  The surveys has revealed a couple of areas where it seems that education is needed, especially around transgender topics.

Not so positive were the feelings of LGBTQ+ people themselves, almost two-thirds of whom said they have experienced discrimination, harassment or abuse in Congleton

People were particularly concerned in pubs/clubs and public spaces, and there was some concern expressed about the attitudes of some local churches.

The group is also concerned that some people are reluctant to report harassment or abuse because either they have reported before and ‘nothing was done’ or they don’t believe anything will be done, or they don’t know how/where to report it.  

I and the other members of the Pride team are hoping to meet with the Churches and PubWatch in order to move forward in some of the areas identified and ensure that Congleton is safe and welcoming for everyone.

I also plan to raise this in the Antisocial Behaviour Working Group of the Council, in which we partner with Cheshire Police.

Both groups of survey respondents thought that having a Pride event in Congleton was a good thing (c.80%) and the LGBTQ+ people asked for more informal social events and opportunities to meet like-minded people.

The Congleton Pride team is now planning some social events, the first of which was a quiz night to celebrate LGBT History Month on 24th February.

Please note: if you have been a victim of hate crime in Congleton please do report it at Cheshire.Police.uk, on 101 or 999 in an emergency.

Elizabeth’s Group

I’m a Trustee of Elizabeth’s Group which is spreading the word about Elizabeth Wolstenholme Elmy, Congleton’s suffragist campaigner, and trying to get a statue of her in the town. Our group Chair, Sue Munro, and I presented to Congleton Town Council to request support for the statue. The Council voted to support in some practical ways but not to make a cash donation.

Presentation to Council

Funding has been set back a year due to the pandemic so we are seeking new sponsors. If you know of anyone who might sponsor (we have platinum, gold, silver options) please get in touch with me. Or you can donate here: https://www.justgiving.com/campaign/elizabethelmystatue

Our goal is a statue to put Congleton on the national heritage map – it would be great to get this done in 2022 – the 750th year of Congleton’s Charter that will feature a number of important historic celebrations.

Renowned sculptor Hazel Reeves has agreed to create the artwork and Baroness Lady Hale has agreed to unveil it so the project is going very well.

Sue Munro, Chair of Elizabeth’s Group, has made a super educational video about Elizabeth that is suitable for schools or indeed anyone who wants to learn more:

Other Work

Sheldon Avenue

I have been writing to CEC officers again this month to ask that Sheldon Ave can be part of the pilot to enforce ‘getting bins off pavements’. This is a long-running battle and they have not answered my emails this month.

Local Support

I have supported residents reporting potholes, damaged grass verges, requesting disabled parking bays and investigating the removal of trees in the last couple of months.

My Meeting Attendance

Overall, my Council meeting attendance for the two months has been 100% for all council meetings and working groups, either face-to-face or virtually (16 of 16). For the mandatory council committees my rate is 100% (8 of 8). You can see the meetings I attend on the About Me Page.

The Town Council’s remit unfortunately does not include things such as Social Services, Health, Transport – these are the domain of Cheshire East, but we can lobby in these areas.I am a member of eleven other Groups as well as the Council Committees, which meet at regular intervals, typically every couple of months.

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November-December 2020

Here is an update on what I’ve been doing in the last two months since my previous blog

Our response to COVID-19 continues and as Chair of the Community & Environment Committee, I am on the COVID-19 Congleton Community Leaders’ group. I have also been moving forward on several other projects.

COVID-19

During the winter surge of cases of COVID I have continued to work with the COVID Community Leaders’ Group. We have published the helpline number again, but uptake has been quite slow – which is a positive sign. The Facebook page has required quite a bit of moderation as people get interested in the vaccine and we are concerned that only good quality information is shared, based on NHS advice. I also continue to support officers with the COVID-19 section of the Council website.

Our major concern has been isolation and loneliness – for all ages – in the run up to Christmas. We decided to work across groups (from the churches to community projects, the U3A and the Town Council with funding from DEFRA and Cheshire East Council) to provide a ‘Christmas Gift’ to anyone living on their own in Congleton and likely to be alone at Christmas. Between this initiative and the ‘hubbers’ Christmas boxes I hope that everyone who needed cheering up in Congleton received something.  I take my hat off once more to the army of wonderful volunteers who made this possible, including the schoolchildren who made the cards. Thank you!

If you need support or can offer it, please visit the CTC COVID-19 support page.

My Council Activities

If you want to chat to me about what I am doing, my work in the Council or about the Women’s Equality Party, we usually have an informal ‘open house’ on a Monday evening once a month – by Zoom at the moment.  Look out for the next one on Facebook or get in touch with me direct at cllrkay.wesley(at)congleton-tc.gov.uk.

A number of initiatives have moved forward in the last couple of months:

Domestic Abuse

The Domestic Abuse Clinic has been going ahead weekly in the Old Saw Mill, Congleton.  This is run by myCWA in partnership with Cheshire Police. At these clinics people can have an informal discussion about the options open to them and how to prevent or escape from abuse. The clinics have been going well, with a mixture of face-to-face and telephone support for Congleton residents on clinic day. A large number of families have been supported, and one case has been referred to MARAC which means significant harm has been prevented.

Just before Christmas we got the news that the CRH Charitable Trust, who I introduced to myCWA in March, have agreed to provide a £10,000 donation to keep the clinics going in 2021. The CRH Charitable Trust supports projects that have a significant impact on improving mental health outcomes, which improving Domestic Abuse services does achieve. Thank you very much!

I and my Council colleagues undertook a number of activities to mark the ’16 days of activism’ against violence against women and girls, which starts on 25th November – also White Ribbon Day.  See below.

White Ribbon

Our Congleton White Ribbon purpose is to “Strive to eradicate all forms of gender-based violence and abuse in Congleton”, and we have been very active since our White Ribbon Accreditation was confirmed in September.  

For the UN’s International Day to Eradicate Violence Against Women, 25th November, which is also White Ribbon Day, we decorated the town with white ribbons and flew the White Ribbon Flag from the Town Hall.

On 26th November several of our White Ribbon Group attended the White Ribbon Conference organised by MyCWA (Cheshire Without Abuse).  It was excellent with some very insightful talks by experts and survivors.

Some of the insights shared, including the importance of early support for domestic abuse and support for perpetrators, are available for you to view (and recommended) on the MyCWA Insights Playlist on YouTube.

I also played a small part in a myCWA and Cheshire East video about everyone’s role in combatting Domestic Abuse.

We had planned a stall at the Maker’s Market on 28th November but that was postponed due to COVID restrictions, and we wended up doing a Town Centre Stall of our own on 12th December.  It was a cold, wet day but we spoke to a lot of people who had been impacted by domestic violence and abuse, and met a few new potential volunteers too, which was great.

I also made my own series of videos about White Ribbon and Domestic Abuse in Congleton, which you can see here (click image):

We are continuing with our outreach and community activities to spread the word.  If you support this cause you can make your own White Ribbon Promise here, and if you’d like to volunteer, please get in touch with me.

Health & Wellbeing

I attended a meeting about the War Memorial Hospital (WMH) organised by the Chief Officer and attended by the Mayor and Deputy Mayor as well as representatives from local Clinical Commissioning Groups.

It is clear that the WMH has played an important part in the local COVID effort. The Aston Ward has been used as a COVID recovery ward and another ward is being used for patients who still need oxygen in recovery from COVID. A third ward has been used for COVID positive patients who are not yet showing symptoms. WMH has been a great asset for Cheshire East and freed up beds at Macclesfield Hospital on some more ‘intensive’ care wards.

The Minor Injuries Unit is closed due to COVID and the intent is to reopen on a similar basis after the crisis. I was happy to hear that the participants were keen to work with the Congleton Town Council Health & Wellbeing Working Group on planning sustainable services for Congleton in the future, especially in minor injuries and our priority area of mental health.

We had a Health & Wellbeing working group meeting in December and discussed how best to work with this group going forward, as well as getting an update on Mountview in Congleton, which will continue to be a social services facility supporting disabled people.

Childcare

I have been working with Council Officers to look at how we as an employer support working parents.  The Chief Officer and Ruth Burgess are reviewing the employee handbook to bring it up to date on a number of fronts, including our new Equality and Inclusion Policy, and our White Ribbon agenda.

I carried out some research to find councils who have won awards or been praised for their policies in these areas and supplied the officers with some examples to gain inspiration from.

Meanwhile we are still planning to start the Childcare Training in the New Year, working with Macclesfield College, although the first course is likely to have to start after COVID restrictions are lifted due to the initial face-to-face component.

Congleton Green

The SLIC (Sustainable Living in Congleton) elearning course is progressing.  I am part of the team reviewing each module’s content and visual layout.  The course is looking very good and we expect to launch it in Q1 2021.

I’m a member of the Congleton Green Group which met in November. We discussed options for carbon offsets, as well as our set of target areas for improvement in the coming years.

Integrated Transport

Our Council Strategy Group had a meeting with Richard Hibbert of CEC who outlined the new consultations on car parking and transport. We will meet as an Integrated Transport Working Group early in the New Year to develop a CTC response that can be ratified at the Community & Environment Committee in January. The deadline for the consultation is January 31st. Please have your say:

Visit the Local transport and car parking engagement page for more information and to submit your views.


Congleton Museum Trust

The museum re-opened briefly and had some visitors, but then had to close again due to government restrictions. However, the safe opening has now been tested and the team did a fantastic job of making the Museum COVID-safe for visitors, staff and volunteers.  The Museum Trust held a ‘virtual AGM’ during December and is now planning activities for when it is possible to welcome visitors again.

Please support your local Museum!  If you’d like support financially you can donate here.  Also – follow the Museum on Facebook for interesting posts about its artefacts and local Congleton history.

Congleton Pride

The group has been running two surveys to understand the needs of, and attitudes to, LGBTQ+ people in Congleton.

The Surveys will close very soon and be analysed in January so if you yet answered them you can answer the Public attitudes survey here or the LGBTQ+ community survey here.

Business Support Working Group

This group met in November and a large focus of this meeting was arrangements to support local shops in the run-up to Christmas.  The Christmas team have done a great job in difficult circumstances, with new Christmas lights, small trees above most shops and a wonderful projection onto the Town Hall.  You can see a video tour here. The Tree of Light by Congleton Rotary was planted and decorated.

Many Town Centre shops decorated their windows for Christmas as part of a competition and I volunteered to be a judge for it. 

Cllrs Firkin and Chadwick were the other judges.  I must say it was a great pleasure walking around with my son Marcus and admiring the ingenuity and creativity shown by the shops.  Thank you! 

Elizabeth’s Group

I’m a member of Elizabeth’s Group which is spreading the word about Elizabeth Wolstenholme Elmy, Congleton’s suffragist campaigner, and trying to get a statue of her in the town.  Our group Chair, Sue Munro, and I presented to Congleton Partnership to request funding support for the next 12 months as we try to get the statue project started. 

Funding has been set back a year due to the pandemic. The Partnership agreed to fund community involvement in the project and we hope to get a number of projects going in early 2021. Our goal is a statue to put Congleton on the national heritage map – it would be great to get this done in 2022 – the 750th year of Congleton’s Charter that will feature a number of important historic celebrations.

Other Work

Congleton Tip

I and other councillors have been campaigning to retain a Household Waste and Recycling Centre in Congleton, as ours is under threat of closure by Cheshire East. I went to chat to the team at the ‘tip’ and they told me that they have up to 300 cars a day through their gates, so the impact of closure on our carbon footprint, the traffic at Macclesfield site and the wellbeing of our residents is considerable.

If you haven’t had your say on the consultation – please do so now: You can complete the survey here.

Sheldon Avenue

We have seen a small chink of light at the end of the tunnel with regard to the long-running challenge of bins and fly tipping on Sheldon Avenue. CEC are running a pilot to roll out more robust waste management enforcement – I have requested that Sheldon Avenue can be part of the pilot.

Local Support

I was asked just before the holidays to help a family who have lost their benefits to access local help. I put them in touch with the benefits emergency team and also the Cheshire East Pathfinder service and trust they have got the support they need.

I was also asked to help a resident who reported anti-social behaviour so I referred this to colleagues in the Police.

Local Radio

I appeared twice on Canalside Radio, once to talk about White Ribbon Day and once to mention the LGBTQ+ Surveys.  Thanks to Stuart and Sharon for having me!

Senior Forum

My Council colleague Suzy Firkin has taken over as chair of the Senior Forum and I volunteered to be a member of this group. Over the first couple of meetings we have been discussing the remit and role of the forum, which we feel is very much needed as we have one of the highest proportions of over-65-year olds in the country here in Congleton.

My Meeting Attendance

Overall, my Council meeting attendance for the two months has been 100% for all council meetings and working groups, either face-to-face or virtually (19 of 19). For the mandatory council committees my rate is 100% (8 of 8).

The Town Council’s remit unfortunately does not include things such as Social Services, Health, Transport – these are the domain of Cheshire East, but we can lobby in these areas.I am a member of eleven other Groups as well as the Council Committees, which meet at regular intervals, typically every couple of months.

These are the meetings I attend:

Council

Community and Environment Committee (Chair)

Planning Committee

Health and Wellbeing Working Group

Anti-Social Behaviour Working Group (Chair)

Congleton Partnership

White Ribbon Working Group

Integrated Transport Working Group

Congleton Green Working Group

Congleton Museum Trust

COVID Community Leaders

Congleton Business Support

Congleton Pride Steering Group

Elizabeth’s Group – commemorating Elizabeth Wolstenholme Elmy

Senior Forum

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September-October 2020

Here is an update on what I’ve been doing in the last two months since my previous blog.

Our response to COVID-19 continues and as Chair of the Community & Environment Committee, I am on the COVID-19 Congleton Community Leaders’ group. I have also been moving forward on several other projects.

COVID-19

As we enter the ‘second wave’ I am continuing to work with the COVID Community Leaders’ Group and have volunteered again to be on a helpline for residents as well as continuing to moderate the Facebook page. We are particularly concerned about isolation and loneliness – for all ages – as winter comes and some people face the prospect of Christmas without their family. If you need support, or can offer, it please visit the CTC COVID-19 support page.

My Council activities

If you want to chat to me about what I am doing, my work in the Council or about the Women’s Equality Party, we usually have an informal ‘open house’ on the second Monday each month at 7.30pm, previously in the Young Pretender in Congleton but more recently as an informal Zoom meeting. The next one is on the 9th November.

A number of initiatives have moved forward in the last couple of months:

Domestic Abuse

The Domestic Abuse Clinic that I proposed to the Council in July has started in Congleton. We have now managed to secure funding from the Cheshire Community Fund to increase the clinics from monthly to weekly, which is great.

At these clinics people can have an informal discussion with the Police and with a myCWA support worker about the options open to them and how to prevent or escape from abuse. The clinics have been going well, with a mixture of face-to-face and telephone support for Congleton residents. A good number of people have received support and harm has been prevented as a result. Many thanks to the team!

This service is as important as ever. In the 14 weeks from 16th July to 22nd October there were 118 incidents of domestic violence reported to the Police in Congleton – more than one a day. In addition there were 29 reports of sexual violence in this period. Given that these crimes are known to be under-reported, the actual incidence is likely to be higher.

Chief Officer David McGifford and I with the Police and myCWA

White Ribbon

Fantastic news:

Congleton Town Council has received White Ribbon Accreditation!

This means that CTC is among around 100 organisations across the country who have officially been recognised for their work to eradicate male violence against women.

Our Congleton White Ribbon purpose is to “Strive to eradicate all forms of gender-based violence and abuse in Congleton”, recognising that victims can also be male.

To show our accreditation, we decorated the town with white ribbons, flew the White Ribbon Flag from the Town Hall and set up stall at the Maker’s Market on 26th September as our White Ribbon Launch event.Professor Chris Green OBE, President of White Ribbon UK, came to help us mark the occasion, as did our Mayor Cllr Sally Holland, CEO of myCWA, Saskia Ritchie, and Superintendent Peter Crowcroft of Cheshire Police.

L to R: Saskia Ritchie, Cllr Robert Helmsley, me, Supt Peter Crowcroft, WR Ambassador Richard Walton and Mayor Sally Holland

On the day we had a great many people come and talk to us about their own experiences and sign the White Ribbon Promise. We were particularly pleased to have staff from schools and local employers express an interest in their own organisation becoming White Ribbon Accredited, and I am following up with them.Bottom right – Prof Chris Green, OBE, President of White Ribbon UKWe are continuing with our outreach and community activities to spread the word.

If you support this cause you can make your own White Ribbon Promise here, and if you’d like to volunteer, please get in touch with me.Our next milestone is another visit to the Maker’s Market on 28th November, and other activities around 25th November, which is both ‘White Ribbon Day’ and ‘International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women 2020’.

Antisocial Behaviour Working Group

I chair this group which has been meeting by Zoom. At the most recent meeting we discussed the PSPO (Public Space Protection Order) in the centre of Congleton. The good news is that there have been no reports of violating the order, which means that our town centre is relatively safe and quiet.

We have still had COVID breaches – 127 of them in the 14 weeks to 22nd October, and the 147 domestic/sexual offences mentioned above in the same period. Road safety is still a concern with a large number of speeding offences in particular.

Health & Wellbeing

The survey on post-COVID Health & Wellbeing completed on the 28th August and the results were published in our September Community & Environment Committee, which I chair. The responses have been very insightful and it is clear that many people have been affected financially, emotionally and practically by this crisis:· 

  • 76% said their mental health had been affected in some way, but most said ‘a little’ affected
  • Two-thirds of parents said the virus had impacted their children or their role as a parent
  • Half said their personal relationships had been affected· 63% said they were ‘very’ or ‘a little’ anxious about going to a pub or restaurant
  • More than half – 53% – were anxious about returning to their place of work

The Health & Wellbeing group, which I am a member of, will develop strategies and plans to support residents based on the responses.

Childcare

One of the goals set out by our ‘Childcare Group’ is to improve local childcare and help local people – especially single parents (mostly mothers) – access work. With this goal I set about seeing if we can provide an ‘online’ childcare programme for people to join and train for a career in childcare.

I suggested this to Karen Bruce, Adult Education Manager at Macclesfield College, who did a great job of putting together a comprehensive programme, covering ‘back to work’ skills as well as all the childcare basics, safeguarding, health and safety, mental health, food safety and so on. In addition to childcare, Karen has put together a similar programme for adult social care training for those who might like to re-train in that area; as we know that sector is under-resourced. Some of the modules of the two programmes (like employability and digital skills) are the same.

This course is a 4-week programme and about 2 days need to be face-to-face, the rest is online learning which allows people to learn flexibly, perhaps around the needs of family, work or other responsibilities.

We are hoping we can set up a pilot course in Congleton, and I’ve been discussing this with Usman Ashiq of Plus Dane and Susie Mead of Friendly Faces Day Nursery, who both know people who might join this training.

The courses would be free to anyone on benefits or a low income. If you are interested in getting on one of these courses, please get in touch with me.

Congleton Green

The SLIC (Sustainable Living in Congleton) elearning course is progressing and my main input is on user experience and learning design. The content is currently being developed.I’m a member of the Congleton Green Group which is next meeting in early November and is in the process of finalising sustainability targets for the coming years.

Integrated Transport

I’m a member of this working group and transport has been a controversial subject through the COVID pandemic. Cycling in the pedestrianised area has been a major source of public debate, as has parking in the town centre and potential 20mph zones. Furthermore, improvements to public transport, especially buses, are not likely in the short term because people are being encouraged to avoid bus use.

Therefore this group is looking at short-term quick fixes such as improved cycle-ways and footpaths, whilst at the same time considering our input to the Congleton Town Delivery Plan phase of the Cheshire East Local Transport Plan, which is just beginning, and understanding the impact of the Town Centre Vitality Plans being developed by CEC. The group will come up with recommendations to be considered by the Council at a public meeting.

Congleton Museum Trust

I am delighted to report that Congleton Museum, of which I’m a trustee, is now open to visitors again. You have to have a pre-booked ticket, but it is still free to visit. The team have done a fantastic job of making the Museum COVID-safe for visitors, staff and volunteers.Please support your local Museum!

If you’d like to visit you can book at ticket here, or if you’d like to support financially you can donate here.Museum visitors must pre-book online, but admission is freeAlso, you can follow the Museum on Facebook for interesting posts about its artefacts and local Congleton history.

Congleton Pride

The group would like to know more about the needs of the people in Congleton, so I built two online Pride surveys, having worked with a number of people to create the questions (thank you). We now have the two surveys live. Please answer the appropriate one for you:

If you cannot answer online there is a print version of both surveys available at the TIC in the Town Hall. Thanks for your input!

My Meeting Attendance

Overall, my Council meeting attendance for the two months has been 100% for all council meetings and working groups, either face-to-face or virtually (18 of 18). For the mandatory council committees my rate is 100% (7 of 7). I’m 18 months in, and since I became a Councillor in May 2019 my overall attendance is 91%.

The Town Council’s remit unfortunately does not include things such as Social Services, Health, Transport – these are the domain of Cheshire East, but we can lobby in these areas.I am a member of eleven other Groups as well as the Council Committees, which meet at regular intervals, typically every couple of months.

These are the meetings I attend:

Council

Community and Environment Committee (Chair)

Planning Committee

Health and Wellbeing Working Group

Anti-Social Behaviour Working Group (Chair)

Congleton Partnership

White Ribbon Working Group

Integrated Transport Working Group

Congleton Green Working Group

Congleton Museum Trust

COVID Community Leaders

Congleton Business Support

Congleton Pride Steering Group

Elizabeth’s Group – commemorating Elizabeth Wolstenholme Elmy

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July-August 2020

Here is an update on what I’ve been doing in the last two months since my previous blog.

Our response to COVID-19 continues and, with everyone getting used to virtual working, I have been working with colleagues to move forward on several other projects.

COVID-19

As the lockdown has eased, shops and businesses have been opening in Congleton and it has been pleasing to see people going out to eat, shop and meet, for the most part maintaining social distancing. I have continued to work with Council officers and community leaders on setting the strategy for the next phase and potential actions to address a ‘second wave’ in Congleton. The phone helpline has now stopped (redirects to the Council number) but the Facebook COVID community group is still running. Community Leaders are now meeting monthly from September.

My Council activities

If you want to chat to me about what I am doing, my work in the Council or about the Women’s Equality Party, we usually have an informal ‘open house’ on the second Monday each month at 7.30pm, previously in the Young Pretender in Congleton but more recently as an informal Zoom meeting. The next one is on the 14th September.

A number of initiatives have moved forward in the last couple of months:

Domestic Abuse

I have been working with DI Claire Jesson of Cheshire Police and Saskia Richie of myCWA to see what services we can deliver to local people, and in July we brought a proposal to the Community & Environment Committee of the Council for a monthly Domestic Abuse Clinic in the Old Saw Mill, Congleton.

At these clinics people can have an informal discussion with the Police and/or with a myCWA support worker about the options open to them and how to prevent or escape from abuse.

I was delighted to see that the Councillors were in strong support of the clinic. It was voted through unanimously and I hope will make a real difference to families in Congleton. Many thanks are due to Peter Aston of the Old Saw Mill for the venue.

Meanwhile, Council officers and I are continuing to submit funding applications to build on this for more frequent clinics and even a ‘domestic abuse hub’ with support groups and a crèche facility. If you know of any funding sources, let me know!

Some background facts and figures:

  • From 23rd March to 12thJuly there were 140 incidents of domestic abuse or violence reported to the police in Congleton – an average of more than one a day.
  • The Charity Refuge reported an 80% year-on-year increase in helpline calls and 800% increase in visits to its website in June 2020, which it attributed to the impact of the COVID lockdown.
  • According to Safelives, domestic abuse is under-reported. On average victims at ‘high risk of serious harm or murder’ live with domestic abuse for 2-3 years before getting help.
  • Cheshire Police, together with Cheshire East Council and myCWA, collaborate to deliver one of most effective and co-ordinated domestic abuse services in the country, dealing with crimes reported as well as implementing preventative measures. Their work was highlighted in a BBC documentary with Cheshire survivor Abi Blake – more can be seen here. https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/stories-51360772.

DI Claire Jesson

White Ribbon

Our White Ribbon Group has made progress on a number of fronts recently. Richard Walton, one of our Ambassadors, has run an awareness session for Councillors and they were very supportive of CTC becoming White Ribbon Accredited. Several individual Councillors pledged their personal support, and Cllrs Robert Hemsley and Robert Douglas agreed to join the White Ribbon Working Group. Cllr Hemsley is our new Chair.

We broadened our Congleton White Ribbon purpose to be to “Strive to eradicate all forms of gender-based violence and abuse in Congleton”, recognising that victims can also be men.

We are reaching out to the community including getting connected with the Congleton Education Community Partnership and PubWatch, and also we’ve been asked to help other Town Councils with Accreditation.

Meanwhile, I updated our White Ribbon Action Plan to include some of our outreach and awareness activities, including the Maker’s Market in September and November 2020. I sent the revised plan to the White Ribbon headquarters and we hope it will now be enough to award our Accreditation.

Our local Police Beat Inspector, Kelly Johnston, is going to work with our White Ribbon Working Group, in addition to the links with the DA Clinic (above).

White Ribbon is a national charity that encourages men to stand up against gender-based violence and abuse.

Antisocial Behaviour Working Group

I chair this group which has been meeting by Zoom. The group discussed additional CCTV provision and a proposal has now been approved by Council for an additional mobile camera in the town.

ASB in the outdoors has included Astbury Mere, Mossley Cricket Ground, Congleton Park and Little Street recently – the police asked that people call 101 if they see an incident.

I have worked with the residents of Silk Mills who have had a number of problems with misuse of a public footpath through their garden. The Police are doing extra patrols there and the Streetscape team cut down some bushes that were providing a hiding place.

The community spirit we have seen through COVID has led to welcome moves to add more Speedwatch and Neighbourhood Watch Groups in Congleton, which the ASB team and the Police are supporting.

The biggest single category of crime we see in Congleton remains Domestic Abuse, and Sgt Paul Brunton reported 89 incidents in the 6 weeks between ASB group meetings. This will be on the agenda for the parent Community & Environment Committee meetings in future (which I also chair) so that these statistics will be made public. Domestic Abuse is not a ‘private’ matter – it is a challenge for all of us to tackle.

Health & Wellbeing

Our Congleton Health & Wellbeing Working Group has a priority of supporting adult mental health, and I’m delighted to see that, following our meeting with them, SWaNs are now offering an online support services funded by the Cheshire Community Fund. Details are here:

The survey on post-COVID Health & Wellbeing completed on the 28th August and the results will be published in September. The responses have been very insightful and it is clear that many people have been affected financially, emotionally and practically by this crisis.

Childcare

I am working with Council colleagues to explore opportunities to improve childcare supply and support childcare businesses in Congleton. Many of them are struggling due to the lockdown and there is little government help for them. I am looking into opportunities to support training of childcare professionals.

ANSA, the Council HR provider, has informed us that they do not offer any support or information to new parents on their rights with regard to flexible working, childcare and parental leave. It is no wonder that the Gender Pay Gap in Cheshire East is not improving! We will be looking at how we can help with this.

Our Childcare workshop team (parents and providers) have given us some direction in terms of the questions parents and providers need to answer, and we are collecting information for a page on our website to support them.

Meanwhile, the Community and Environment Committee approved a proposal I brought to write to the Minister for Local Government in support of calls for carer’s allowance for Council meetings, to open up our democracy to those with caring responsibilities who could not otherwise become Councillors.

Congleton Green

The SLIC (Sustainable Living in Congleton) elearning course is progressing and I’m providing input from a user experience point of view. We hope to have this delivered by the end of the year.

I’m also supporting the Congleton Sustainability Group in putting together a series of webinars, each on sustainability topic, to engage and inform residents about what we can all do for the environment and our carbon footprint.

Integrated Transport

We met in July to discuss proposals to create safe cycling routes to schools. Headteachers, especially of the high schools, are worried about children cycling instead of using public transport when some of our roads do not have cycle lanes. Pupils are advised to avoid buses due to COVID and there isn’t space for all parents to drive their children to school.

We came up with a proposal to ask CEC to create complete, safe cycle routes to each high school and the Council voted to approve this, so it has been sent to Cheshire East Council.

Congleton Museum Trust

I am continuing to support the sub-team to looking at re-opening of the museum. Most of the action plan has been completed and there is final task to sort out the WiFi to cope with the new contactless payments, video doorbell etc. We are hoping the museum will open after that.

Congleton Pride

Congleton Pride could not go ahead as an event in July, but we flew the Pride flag on the Town Hall that week. We had a Pride meeting and agreed on some activities to keep the movement alive whilst communicating (mostly) virtually. I suggested, and the team agreed, we might survey the people of Congleton and our LGBT+ community to learn more about being LGBT+ in our town. I did some research and drafted some initial survey questions for review.

Cheshire East Equality Strategy Input

I contacted Marilyn Houston, Equality Champion for CEC and sent input to the strategy. As a follow up we had a meeting and discussed the role of the Equality Champion to see if it is worthwhile setting up this role at Town Council level.

My Meeting Attendance

Overall, my Council meeting attendance for the two months has been 89% for all council meetings and working groups, either face-to-face or virtually (17 of 19). For the mandatory council committees my rate is 88% (7 of 8).

The Town Council’s remit unfortunately does not include things such as Social Services, Health, Transport – these are the domain of Cheshire East, but we can lobby in these areas.

I am a member of eleven other Groups as well as the Council Committees, which meet at regular intervals, typically every couple of months. I am a member of the groups below but I also attend the Town Centre, Assets & Services Committee and the Finance & Policy Committee whenever I can, as well as Congleton Sustainability Group.

Council

Community and Environment Committee (Chair)

Planning Committee

Personnel Committee

Health and Wellbeing Working Group

Anti-Social Behaviour Working Group (Chair)

Congleton Partnership

White Ribbon Working Group

Integrated Transport Working Group

Congleton Green Working Group

Congleton Museum Trust

COVID Community Leaders

Congleton Business Support/Regeneration

Congleton Pride Steering Group

Elizabeth’s Group – commemorating Elizabeth Wolstenholme Elmy

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May-June 2020

Here is an update on what I’ve been doing in the last two months since my previous blog.

Our response to COVID-19 continues and as Chair of the Community & Environment Committee, I am on the COVID-19 Congleton Community Leaders’ group. I have also been moving forward on several other projects.

The Congleton COVID-19 Response

CTC has been working with community groups all over the town and many thanks once more to all those volunteers and organisations who have worked tirelessly, as well as our Council officers who have worked long hours to support the community.

We continue to maintain our various support activities as follows:

  • A telephone helpline that people can call to get support. The number to call is 01260 541 815 and the helpline is open every day from 11am-7pm. I answer the phones on Thursdays and Saturdays.
  • A section of the Congleton Town Council Website. I continue to maintain some of the content including the Frequently Asked Questions page.
  • Congleton Coronavirus Community Support Group on Facebook.I’m one of the admins/moderators of this group, and posts are moderated to avoid spam and ensure it is for those with a connection to Congleton.
  • Ongoing Communication of the support available through the Congleton Chronicle, our CTC magazine ‘Bear Necessities’, posters around the town and social media posts.
  • A Community Leaders Group now meets fortnightly and we are planning for the next phase of the pandemic.
  • A Business Support Working Group has been set up, chaired by Cllr Russell Chadwick. I sit on this group and as a local business owner I can bring my experience. The first act of the group was to survey local businesses to ask them about the impact of the pandemic.

Council Business

Congleton Town Council is now having full Council and Committee meetings by Zoom. The meetings are open to the public who can apply for the link and meeting details in advance. At my suggestion, the meeting information is now posted on the CTC Facebook Page as well as the CTC website.

Council Zoom meeting

My Council activities

If you want to chat to me about what I am doing, my work in the Council or about the Women’s Equality Party, we usually have an informal ‘open house’ on the second Monday each month at 7.30pm, previously in the Young Pretender in Congleton but more recently as an informal Zoom meeting. The next one is on the 20th July.

I’ve been moving ahead, with colleagues, on a number of initiatives that are priorities in the CTC business plan, as follows:

Antisocial Behaviour Working Group

I chair this group which met during lockdown by Zoom. Our police colleagues informed us that in the first two months of lockdown we had 188 COVID-related police incidents, mostly in private dwellings or at Astbury Mere. The Police policy is to Engage, Explain and then Enforce.

Police domestic violence calls were down slightly year-on-year in the first two months, at 61 (88 last year). This is still an alleged one domestic violence incident a day, which is much more than the amount of street violence we have in Congleton. The ASB group will now monitor domestic violence and abuse reports from the Police and develop strategies to support preventative measures.

Experts warn that where Police DV calls have not increased this may be due to ‘pent-up demand’ where the victim and perpetrator are in the house together in lockdown and victims feel unable to call.

Domestic Abuse

The lockdown has continued to cause concern as domestic abuse calls to helplines and visits to websites are skyrocketing across the country (Refuge has reported a 950% increase in website visits).

MyCWA here in Cheshire East has been very active supporting families with preventative measures and I wrote and maintained the page called ‘Staying Safe at home’ on the CTC website. The latest information added has been about child and adolescent violence to parents. Two thirds of this is son-to-mother violence with 87% of perpetrators being boys.

I and my WEP colleagues have been putting up our own ‘YOU ARE NOT ALONE’ posters with the same domestic abuse helpline phone numbers as the myCWA ones, just to help support their message. Thanks to all the shops who have put our posters up.

Thanks To Go East for putting the poster up

White Ribbon

White Ribbon is a national charity that encourages men to stand up against gender-based violence and abuse. Richard Walton, who is on our White Ribbon Group, has run an awareness session for Council Officers by Zoom, and a similar session for Councillors is planned in July.

Our White Ribbon Action Plan has been submitted to the national HQ and we hope this will mean we get our Accreditation.

I and other members of our White Ribbon Group attended a webinar run by the national White Ribbon organisation to allow us to share experiences. Subsequently, White Ribbon asked me to write a blog for their website, which you can read here.

My Blog on the White Ribbon website

I have been working with Cheshire Police, which is a White Ribbon organisation. Our local Sgt Paul Brunton introduced me to the Beat Inspector Kelly Johnston, who is keen to join our White Ribbon Working Group and informs me that our local senior officers, Supt Crowcroft and CI Taylor are very supportive too. The Police Commissioner for Cheshire, David Keane, is also a White Ribbon Ambassador.

Health & Wellbeing

Our Congleton Health & Wellbeing Working Group has a priority of supporting adult mental health, and the COVID-19 epidemic has also shone a light on the importance of mental health services and mental wellbeing. We have continued to promote services and for those who need it, including through a page of our CTC website.

We are still working with other agencies on our goal of better local provision – in Congleton – for adult mental health.

I drafted a survey that the Health & Wellbeing Group is sending to Congleton residents on the impact that the pandemic has had on their overall wellbeing including health, relationships, family life and household income.

Childcare

The COVID crisis has brought the national childcare challenge into sharp focus, as some parents have been unable to go back to work due to a lack of childcare, and nurseries, including several in Congleton, are under threat of closure due to the financial impact of the pandemic and the fact that they are not allowed to run at full capacity. This has had a particular impact on working mothers.

The outputs of our March Childcare workshop have been moving forward. We are aiming to meet with ANSA, the Council HR provider, to ensure that the Council has all the best practices in place.

Council Officers are gathering information for an online Childcare Hub for Congleton.

I brought proposals to Council Community & Environment Committee to continue this work. The proposal included the resolution to write to the Minister for Local Government in support of the campaign to allow carers’ allowance for future Councillors (this allowance exists at Borough, but not Town/Parish, level). This is to include those with caring responsibilities in our democracy and give, for example, single parents or those caring for elderly or disabled relatives the option to become Councillors in the future. The proposal was passed with a majority vote.

Congleton Green

The project to make Congleton Sustainability Group’s ‘Sustainable Living in Congleton’ (SLIC) into an eLearning has started and I’m supporting Council officers in meetings with the chosen vendor to deliver this project.

Many thanks to the officers who have created a useful new page on the CTC website about sustainable planting by the Council in Congleton.

Integrated Transport

I sit on this working group which met to discuss ideas for Congleton Town Centre post-lockdown in order to ensure that the town centre was safe for people to return to.

Our proposals to Council were:

  • 20mph limit in the town centre and 10mph in Broadhurst Lane
  • Pedestrian passing points made by closing some – NOT most or all – parking bays in certain streets (e.g. Lawton St, High St, Swan Bank)
  • Adding advance cycling stops at the traffic lights on Mountbatten Way to make the junction safer for cyclists
  • Signage in the town centre
  • Moving street furniture if needed to create safe social distancing.

We voted these through at full Council on 28th May and they were sent to Cheshire East. Unfortunately, CEC then employed a blanket closure of parking bays whilst re-introducing parking charges and allowing cycling on Bridge St, all of which were contra to the CTC proposal! Some of these measures have since been rolled back and Council officers are working towards a resolution.

Congleton Museum Trust

I am a Trustee of the Museum and a Council representative with Cllr Firkin on the Board of Trustees. We met to discuss re-opening options, post lockdown.

I volunteered for the sub-team to look at re-opening in more detail and I wrote the initial Risk Assessment.

The Museum is now likely to open in August when all measures for safety and social distancing will be in place.

Moody Hall

I asked for the future of Moody Hall to be on the agenda at the Community & Environment Committee. CTC is very keen that this building is supported and maintained as it has considerable historical significance, due in part to the fact that it was the home of the girls’ school started by Elizabeth Wolstenholme Elmy. CTC officers are consulting with CEC Planning department to find out why the latest planning application to develop the building into flats appears to be stalled.

Moody Hall at the end of the 19th century

Other Activities

I have continued to support residents with ad hoc queries about COVID-19 re-opening (in particular getting the public toilets open in support of shops re-opening), antisocial behaviour and planning, among other things.

Cheshire East Equality Strategy Input

Cheshire East Council published a new Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Strategy, and on behalf of The Women’s Equality Party (not CTC) I provided some input to this.

First, I asked why only the legal minimum 9 ‘Protected Characteristics’ are considered (age, disability, gender reassignment, marriage and civil partnership, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion or belief, sex, sexual orientation) when it says Cheshire East is committed to “being an area of opportunity where everyone has a fair chance and people from all backgrounds can take part in community life”.

I suggested adding more characteristics, to include people who are often excluded for reasons other than the legal 9. For example, in our Congleton Equality and Inclusion Policy we add three more characteristics: ‘People in care’, ‘People with caring responsibilities’ and ‘People of different socio-economic groups’.

The statistics on hate crime in the strategy document showed that in the 12 months to March 2019 there were 636 crimes due to Race, colour, ethnic origin, nationality, or national origins, Religion or belief, Gender or gender identity, Sexual orientation, Disability or Age.

According to CEDAP in the same period in Cheshire East there were:

  • 4566 cases of domestic abuse reported to Police, including 957 cases of domestic violence.
  • 363 cases of rape or sexual abuse reported to RASASC (Rape and Sexual Abuse Support Centre), of which 23% involved children.

I asked CEC to consider asking Cheshire Police to view domestic abuse and sexual violence crime as part of the hate crime statistics, so that they get recorded in the same way and get the same focus and resources.

I also commented on CEC’s treatment of maternity and parental leave in its workforce information, as it does not even have council-wide data on this topic and seems to be doing the ‘legal minimum’ rather than promoting working practices to support parents. Related to this, the information about how CEC is addressing the gender pay gap was also too vague, especially given that the gap has hardly moved in the years since the statutory reporting began.

Finally, I suggested CEC produce an accessible version of the document itself which is not produced in a way that would be usable by those with visual impairment, and did not contain any information about how to obtain a Braille or accessible version, which seemed a big ‘miss’ for a document that is all about equality and inclusion!

Social Care Workers Campaign

This is not Council-related but I joined a national ‘Protect Them Pay Them’ WEP campaign to support social care workers and value their incredible contribution, which has been highlighted by the current crisis.

My Meeting Attendance

Overall, my Council meeting attendance for the two months has been 100% for all council meetings and working groups, either face-to-face or virtually (12 of 12).

The Town Council’s remit unfortunately does not include things such as Social Services, Health, Transport – these are the domain of Cheshire East, but we can lobby in these areas.

I am a member of eleven other Groups beyond the Council Committees, which meet at regular intervals, typically every couple of months:

Health and Wellbeing Working Group

Anti-Social Behaviour Working Group (Chair)

Congleton Partnership

White Ribbon Working Group

Integrated Transport Working Group

Congleton Green Working Group

Congleton Museum Trust

COVID Community Leaders

COVID Business Regeneration

Congleton Pride Steering Group

Elizabeth’s Group – commemorating Elizabeth Wolstenholme Elmy

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March-April 2020

Here is an update on what I’ve been doing in the last two months since my previous blog.

Of course, during that time, everything has changed. COVID-19 has come to the UK, and to Congleton. The ‘lockdown’ has happened. Friends, relatives and colleagues have been sick and most have recovered. Some of us have lost loved ones. In these unprecedented times, we have seen great sorrow and great kindness, and learned a new appreciation for our NHS and our front-line workers in social care, healthcare, retail, delivery and our public services.

As Chair of the Community & Environment Committee, I’ve been involved in the COVID-19 Congleton Town Council emergency effort from the start. I have also been moving forward on several other projects.

The Congleton COVID-19 Response

I have been blown away by the response of our Council Officers to this crisis. While some other town and parish councils around the country apparently slowed or stopped work, the Congleton Town Council team has been working at 200% (and round the clock) throughout this period. At the lockdown, in a heartbeat they started working from home and re-planning how to do their work, as well as how to support Congleton through COVID-19. The Officers work behind the scenes and are not often in the public eye but they deserve huge credit for keeping Congleton going and working tirelessly to help residents at this difficult time. They are some of the heroes of the hour. Thank you!

I also have to mention the people of Congleton who have stepped up to volunteer. Shaun Radcliffe immediately got a team together to ensure that emergency food supplies were available those who needed it, and continues to run a food hub. Organisations like the Partnership, the U3A, Community Projects, the Old Sawmill, Ruby’s fund, the churches and many more have joined forces with some Councillors in a ‘Coronavirus Community Team’ to co-ordinate support and ensure it is targeted to those who need it most. Neighbours have shopped for neighbours; volunteers have befriended isolated people with a friendly phone call. I take my hat off to them all. Thanks – you are amazing!

The CTC response to the crisis, and my role in it, is outlined below.

  • A telephone helpline that people can call to get initial help and support. We can point callers in the right direction e.g. if they need help with shopping or medication, if they are lonely or if they are concerned about their health. I am one of a team of volunteers on this, and I do 2 ‘shifts’ a week. The number to call is 01260 541 815 and the helpline is open every day from 11am-7pm. This is run by Officer Ruth Burgess, who is also doing her ‘day job’ of managing Streetscape.
  • A section of the Congleton Town Council Website including information such as how to get shopping delivered, financial advice, access to doctors and pharmacies. This has been the project of Officers Jackie MacArthur and Martha Hayes with the help of some councillors. I have written some of the content including the Frequently Asked QuestionsGetting and Giving Help and the Staying Safe at Home pages.
  • Emergency Support co-ordination with Cheshire East’s ‘People Helping People’ service, including food packs for those in greatest need. This has been set up by Chief Officer David McGifford. Town Hall Manager Mark Worthington and team have worked round the clock to ensure people get emergency food and also helped Shaun Radcliffe get his food hub operation going in the Town Hall initially, before it moved to The Vale Club. The Town Hall is also distributing ready meals to people who normally attend the luncheon clubs in Congleton. I have not been involved with this directly, and include it for completeness. I did set up a local online form ‘Neighbours Helping Neighbours’ on the CTC website which is just for Congleton but has added to our list of volunteers.
  • Congleton Coronavirus Community Support Group on Facebook.This was set up by two brilliant volunteers, Lisa Brooks and Emma Hall, who subsequently asked the Town Council to administer and moderate it. It now has 2500 members and is a great place for people to ask for and offer help. I’m one of the admins/moderators of this group, and posts are moderated to avoid spam and ensure it is for those with a connection to Congleton.
  • Ongoing Communication of the support available through the Congleton Chronicle, a special issue of Bear Necessities, posters around the town and social media posts.
  • A Community Leaders Group meets regularly (at first 3 times a week but now weekly) to ensure that efforts are co-ordinated, help and support is properly targeted, and we are planning effectively for the next phase.

Congleton COVID-19 Community Leaders

Council Business During COVID-19

Congleton Town Council had an emergency meeting at the start of the lockdown and agreed that the Mayor, Deputy Mayor and the Chairs of the Committees (Community & Environment, Planning, Town Hall, Assets & Services and Finance & Policy) would meet regularly with some devolved emergency powers to keep Council business going. This has been working with wider Council consultation and decision-making by email. Our Chief Officer, David McGifford, has made this work well, and is now planning how to run all our meetings virtually going forward so we can get back to a regular committee meeting schedule. More on this shortly.

Meanwhile several of the Working Groups that I am involved with have continued to work, using Zoom. I helped them, the Council and several other groups in the town get up to speed with Zoom – it is how I run my own digital business, Kanga Health Ltd.

I’m still open for business!

If you want to chat to me about what I am doing for COVID-19, my work in the Council (or about the Women’s Equality Party), we usually have an informal ‘open house’ in the Young Pretender on the second Monday each month at 7.30pm, and we have replaced this with an informal Zoom meeting. The next one is on the 11thMay – join here.

What I’ve been doing

In addition to the COVID-19 direct support work, I’ve been moving ahead, with colleagues, on a number of initiatives that are priorities in the CTC business plan, as follows:

Domestic Abuse

There is evidence that the lockdown is enabling a domestic abuse disaster. We already had an ‘epidemic’ of domestic abuse in the UK with 2 women murdered a week by a partner or ex-partner, and in the first four weeks of lockdown this rate doubled to 4 a week.

Agencies working in this field nationally are reporting much higher volumes of calls to helplines, and this is reflected in Cheshire East with calls levels up to 3 times the norm for this time of year to the ‘Hub’ number (0300 123 5101). Although calls are already up, experts also expect there to be ‘pent-up demand’ as situations are escalating in some homes but the victims do not feel able to call helplines and cannot easily escape to seek help and advice.

myCWA poster

I have been working on a number of fronts to support this effort. New posters that have been produced by myCWA (our local domestic abuse service provider) will be going up around Congleton. We had a White Ribbon emergency working group meeting (Congleton TC is seeking White Ribbon accreditation), and as a result I wrote a new page for our website – Staying Safe at Home, featuring some new myCWA and White Ribbon support materials to help families avoid crisis.

I hope that this time has helped shine a light on this ongoing crisis in our society and we can ramp up services to support families once the COVID-19 pandemic is over. We were already working to have more services based in Congleton and I hope we can achieve this in the months to come.

Mental Health

Our Congleton Health & Wellbeing Working Group has a priority of supporting adult mental health, and the COVID-19 epidemic has also shone a light on the importance of mental health services and mental wellbeing.

At the start of the crisis we had an emergency H&W Group meeting and generated a number of ideas that have become part of the CTC COVID response, and subsequently we had a session focusing on Mental health with representatives from Visyon and SwANs present.

In the short term we are signposting on our website and social media to the new NHS mental health helpline (0300 303 3972) and other resources, and we have added more information on our Mental Wellbeing Page.

The Working Group would like to support ongoing mental health support for those who need it and we are in discussions with other agencies about this. Longer-term we were already lobbying for a ‘crisis café’ in Congleton and still hope to achieve this.

Childcare

We had an excellent workshop in the Town Hall with some childcare experts – parents, nursery providers, Cllr Suzy Firkin and others – just before the lockdown. It was a very productive session.

The key issues we identified with childcare in Congleton are:

  • Cost and flexibility of childcare options provide a barrier to (mostly) women working
  • This reduces opportunities for fathers to be more involved parents, mothers (especially single ones) to return to work, and employers to tap into local talent to fill jobs.
  • The government allowances are not adequate to cover the costs of providing childcare
  • Parents and employers are often unaware of facilities and financial options

This led to a brainstorm of solutions, and we prioritised some ‘quick wins’ and some potentially more ambitious solutions:

  • Provide a hub of information for parents, providers and employers
  • Council to role-model childcare good practice in our own organisation
  • Work with local employers to encourage them to support parents with flexible working and childcare options
  • Investigate a Congleton workplace nursery scheme

Further work is proceeding on several of these ideas. Many thanks to the participants for their fabulous contribution to this, and for coming out under the cloud of COVID pre-lockdown (a good deal of hand sanitiser was used!)

The Gender Pay Gap

I’ve done an analysis of the Gender Pay Gap in Cheshire East, based on the statutory reporting that the government requires of organisations greater than 250 employees. Not all companies have reported yet because the government allowed a reporting deadline extension due to COVID-19. You can see a summary in the graph.

Median Gender Pay Gap Cheshire East 2019 (companies reporting on time)

Even with the partial reporting, nothing much has changed year on year. Cheshire East Council itself has a bigger gap than the region in general, and like many big organisations does have a promising-looking strategy to address it. Whether that strategy is being implemented effectively is in question given the (lack of) progress over the past 3 years.

Addressing this is in the CTC Business Plan for Congleton and I intend to continue to meet with local businesses to see what we might put in place. Cllr Suzy Firkin works in this area and, I’m happy to say, is keen to work together with me on this.

As we applaud our ‘front-line’ workers each Thursday I reflect that many of them – especially in social care – are doing a life-saving job for a ridiculously low wage. The gender pay gap is at least in part due to the fact that society does not value this work that is mostly done by women.

Congleton Green

The Congleton Green Working Group is progressing with Zoom meetings, and Barry Speed, one of our members, did a great job starting to estimate CTC’s carbon footprint. At our last meeting we had some advice on measuring the carbon footprint of procurement activities and this needs to be factored in.

Meanwhile we are keen to take Congleton Sustainability Group’s ‘Sustainable Living in Congleton’ (SLIC) training out to all residents as an eLearning course so that people can accelerate their ‘green living’ from home.

I wrote the brief for this and we are currently evaluating vendor proposals.

Integrated Transport

Our Integrated Sustainable Transport Working Group has met to discuss the bus funding that Cheshire East is getting and discuss ideas for Congleton. I put together a list of ideas including increasing the frequency of bus services, running them into the evenings and on Sundays, reducing the cost of fares and marketing buses as a convenient and cheap alternative to car use.

The working group added some builds and I sent the ideas list to Cheshire East as input to their thinking when putting together bus proposals.

The working group has also considered some ideas for moving towards being a ‘Living Streets’ town, and in particular has expressed support for a ‘20’s Plenty’ proposal in Cheshire East, whereby residential streets have a 20mph speed limit. This will come back to our full council for consultation if the idea is accepted at CEC.

Congleton Museum Trust

The Museum’s ‘comms calendar’ that I created kicked off in March with regular posts on ‘heritage days’ through the month. The results were very promising with Facebook page reach up more than 100% and engagement (Likes, Comments, Shares) up 400% month-on-month. The posts also went onto Instagram and Twitter.

Congleton Museum has over 200 followers on Instagram

The lockdown has caused some interruption to this but still some posts are going out and getting good engagement, which is great when people cannot visit the Museum

In addition, I helped the Museum Trust move their meetings to Zoom, so work is continuing behind the scenes, on both acquiring collections and planning museum events for post-lockdown.

Council Communication and Transparency

The Council’s work is driven and approved by a number of large Committees (such as the one I chair – The Community & Environment Committee) which meet publicly and make all the decisions with public and press scrutiny. Often, however, it makes sense to set up smaller working groups to thrash out issues and brainstorm solutions, before coming to the Committee for a decision.

I proposed at the start of 2020 that we should publish working group information on our website together with any notes of the working group meetings. In the past the working groups have reported to the Committees, which are public meetings, but sometimes it can be difficult to find information about them because it is buried in the full Committee proceedings. The Working Groups were also approving their own meeting notes at the next meeting before it went to full Committee which caused a delay, sometimes of months, before that information was made public.

In the new system I proposed, working groups approve their minutes by email and so they can be fully approved at the very next Committee (typically within a month) and then put separately on the website. In addition, I suggested a web page about each Working Group so the public can see what they are discussing and offer to help if they have specific expertise in that area. I am happy to report that these pages are now going live on the website and you can see them here.

My Meeting Attendance

Overall, my meeting attendance for the two months has been 100% for all council meetings and working groups, either face-to-face or virtually (11 of 11). This is in addition to the COVID-19 Community Leaders’ Group which was 3 times a week at first, going down to once a week.

The Town Council’s remit unfortunately does not include things such as Social Services, Health, Transport – these are the domain of Cheshire East, but we can lobby in these areas.

I am a member of nine other Groups beyond the Council Committees, which meet at regular intervals, typically every couple of months:

Health and Wellbeing Working Group

Anti-Social Behaviour Working Group (Chair)

Congleton Partnership

White Ribbon Working Group

Congleton Integrated Transport Working Group

Congleton Green Working Group

Congleton Museum Trust

Congleton Pride Steering Group – Pride has been postponed due to the COVID-19 crisis as you would expect, but will be back!

Elizabeth’s Group – commemorating Elizabeth Wolstenholme Elmy, Congleton’s Suffragist. We have had to postpone our ‘Elizabeth’s Day’ celebrations at the start of May but Sue Munro, our Chair, has done a fantastic job of keeping the statue campaign alive on social media with videos and other posts.

I am lucky that, through the COVID-19 crisis so far, my ‘day job’ has been extremely busy, because we are a digital business and with a world wide distributed team we we are used to working virtually and using videoconferencing all day. Therefore, for me, life and work goes on, including council work, and I am busier than ever.

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January-February 2020

Here is an update on what I’ve been doing in the last two months since my previous blog.

It has been a busy couple of months. Overall, my meeting attendance for the two months has been 93% for all meetings and working groups (13 of 14) and 83% for statutory meetings (4 of 5). In addition, I’ve attended the Finance & Policy Committee twice, although not a member. Being a Councillor is so much more than meetings though, there is stuff to be done, too!

Tell me what you think

If you want to chat to me about what I am doing in the Council (or about the Women’s Equality Party), we have an informal ‘open house’ in the Young Pretender on the second Monday each month at 7.30pm – the next one is 9th March. If you’d like to talk to me in private, do let me know and we can set that up, but these open ‘chats’ have been working pretty well so far. Please come along.

Did you know that you can also submit a question to any Council or Committee meeting (dates are here), and come along to hear the answer? You have to submit questions a week in advance and can do so here on the Council’s website.

What I’ve been doing

As you know I belong to the Women’s Equality Party and so I’ve been focusing on the things I set out in my manifesto. You can see my priorities on my Cllr page here.

Equality and Inclusion

I am very happy to report that the Finance and Policy Committee of the Council voted unanimously to approve a new Equality and Inclusion Policy for Congleton Town Council which I presented to them on 13th February. At the same meeting the F&P Committee awarded Congleton Pride a grant to support their event in 2020, which I also spoke for.

The new Equality and Inclusion Policy sets out how the councillors and staff will behave with respect to people with different characteristics, including the legal ‘protected characteristics’.

The old Equality Policy met minimum requirements in terms of mentioning the protected characteristics but did not describe many of them in detail. Furthermore, the policy had an emphasis on discrimination and what we ‘will not tolerate’ and protective actions, rather than portraying equality, diversity and inclusion as a positive aspiration that CTC will embrace and promote.

I consulted the Local Government Association guidance, The Cheshire East Equality and Diversity Strategy, national government guidelines, Citizen’s Advice documents and the policies and practice of award-winning local authorities to develop a new Equality and Inclusion Policy for CTC. I worked with Cllr Suzy Firkin, who proof-read and improved the text for me from her experience as a professional equality and diversity consultant. Thanks, Suzy!

The new Policy states “We want Congleton to be a place in which everyone’s hopes and aspirations can be made real. We want to ensure that no one is held back or excluded and that our Town’s success is shared… Our policy sets our vision: recognising the contributions that people from different backgrounds make, actively tackling inequalities and fostering good relationships across our communities.”

The new Equality and Inclusion Policy differs from the old in that it:

  • Recognises that including more diverse groups of people will help our decision-making, democracy and the success of our town
  • Says that CTC will show leadership in equality and inclusion for Congleton
  • Commits to listen to and understand the diverse needs of all people to make our information, services and products more accessible and inclusive
  • Sets out the legal protected characteristics: age, disability, gender reassignment, marriage or civil partnership, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion or belief, sex and sexual orientation, and identifies additional characteristics that we will protect – these are: people in care/with caring responsibilities and people of different socio-economic groups
  • Gives examples of ‘types of discrimination’ (from case law) using each of the characteristics.
  • Says we are determined to continually measure our performance and improve, and that we will share good equality and inclusion practice.

You can read my report to the Finance & Policy Committee and the new Equality & Inclusion Policy in the meeting papers from 13th February (starting pg. 65).

I was very happy that the Congleton Chronicle put the news of the new Policy on their front page, together with a report about the council’s support for Pride (which I also spoke in favour of). I was less happy that the Chron called me a ‘LibDem Councillor’! My LibDem colleagues (and other friends) enjoyed this apparent switch of allegiance! But the paper did print an apology this week.

Childcare

I have written to the respondents of last year’s Childcare Survey who agreed to work with us further, and invited them to a workshop to discuss childcare challenges and potential solutions for Congleton. This will take place at the Town Hall on 14th March. If you’d like to take part, get in touch!

CTC White Ribbon Campaign

The White Ribbon Campaign works with men and boys to challenge those male cultures that lead to harassment, abuse and violence. It has volunteer ambassadors who act as role models, engaging with other men and boys to call out abusive and sexist behaviour among their peers and promote a culture of equality and respect.

Congleton Town Council has agreed to try to become a White Ribbon Accredited town. Our Working Group consists of 4 councillors (Paul Duffy, Mark Rogan, George Hayes and me), the Council Chief Officer, David McGifford, and two volunteers from the community – Richard Walton and Peter Munro. We have all completed White Ribbon Training so they are now Ambassadors and I’m a Champion, as they call women.

You can join in by making your Promise here: https://www.whiteribbon.org.uk/promise. If you’re involved with boys/men at work or in a social sense such as a sports club – perhaps you’d like to help? Do get in touch.

The next step for our group is training for our council employees and councillors.

Mental Health

The Health and Wellbeing Working Group, of which I’m a member, is prioritising adult mental health services for Congleton – for which we must lobby other agencies like Cheshire East Council and the NHS.

Cllr Mark Rogan and I visited ‘Number 71’, a new ‘Crisis Café’ in Chester to learn how it is set up and the services it provides. It is intended to be a place to go if you are in mental health crisis, instead of going to A&E. There will be qualified mental health professionals on-hand, and the facilities include consulting rooms, group-work rooms, activities and areas to relax and have a coffee and chat.

This is the sort of facility we want in Congleton. We have been told the Clinical Commissioning Group is rolling these out all over Cheshire so we will continue to lobby for Congleton to be the first in Cheshire East!

Some councillor colleagues met with Mentell who provide a service primarily for men with mental health problems. There is Cheshire East funding to support and train facilitators of mental health peer groups, so we will connect this with people like Mentell who have set up groups in Congleton.

Antisocial Behaviour

I was pleased to learn via this Working Group that for the last 2 months of 2019, antisocial behaviour was down 50% year-on-year. Cllr Robert Moreton has been working with local venues and Bamboogy have agreed to run an ‘under-18s night’ on 9thApril to give young people something to do in town. We will see how this is received.

Support for families affected by Domestic Abuse

We are continuing to support Cheshire Without Abuse in their efforts to get funding for a domestic abuse hub in Congleton and several bids are underway.

Street Naming

We were asked last year to suggest street names for a new development off Back Lane, Congleton. Since I believe more than 90% of Congleton’s streets named after people are named after men, I suggested 5 names of prominent Congleton women, and I’m delighted to say these have all been accepted as new street names! they are:

  • Ormiston Way (Dr Margaret Ormiston, who set up Quinta hospital for wounded soldiers)
  • Elmy Avenue (Elizabeth Wolstenholme Elmy – suffragist, women’s rights campaigner)
  • Turner Drive (Theodora Turner OBE, President of RCN)
  • Williamson Close (Margaret Williamson MBE, local Councillor and life-long volunteer)
  • Burgess Place (Jessie Burgess, first woman mayor of Congleton, 1945-47)

Environment and Sustainability

The Congleton Green Working Group has got going and has had a couple of meetings, the first one with a Cheshire East Officer who explained where things are up to with the CEC Environment Strategy.

It became clear that they are not going fast enough for us, so two of the Congleton Green Members (Barry Speed and Mark Rogan) will be calculating CTC’s own carbon footprint and from this we will set some clear objectives for our group.

The objectives will not be limited to carbon footprint – we will address all areas of sustainability including waste, plastics, consumption etc.

Plastic Free Congleton (Heather Seddon) came to request the formal support of Congleton Town Council, and I spoke in support of that group, which is doing great work.

I welcome the Young Pretender’s initiative to show a ‘climate change’ movie night each month – a great idea. This week I saw ‘Chasing Ice’ which was fascinating and sobering.

The Congleton tree planting initiative continues. I haven’t been out for a planting day yet, but intend to! If you’d like to join in you can learn more here.

Integrated Transport

Our Integrated Sustainable Transport Working Group has met and started to set its objectives. I have been looking into the new funding for bus services that is coming from central government. Cheshire East will be entitled to some of this assuming it puts together a bid, which I’m sure it will as Craig Browne of CEC states they will in this week’s Congleton Chronicle.

I am also interested in the idea of the ‘All-Electric Bus Town’ which is a large government fund for a single town to go to all-electric buses. CEC have not committed to bidding for this but I believe Congleton could be a contender so will continue to pursue it. If you’re a transport or bus expert and would like to help, please get in touch!

Museum Trust

I met with the Congleton Museum team and Cllr Suzy Firkin to discuss how to raise awareness and get more people coming to the museum. I put together a ‘comms calendar’ so we can regularly tweet and post about ‘heritage days’ and other important dates, and share images of our artefacts. This will start in March, in addition to the usual museum communications, so see if you notice the museum is more visible in your social media feeds!

Other Activities

I got trained as a Dementia Friend, along with other Councillors. If you’d like to be trained (it only takes an hour) please contact Dementia Friendly Congleton.

I wrote yet again to Cheshire East officers to ask what is being done about the bins on Sheldon Avenue, but did not get a response.

I corresponded with the residents of Bath Vale about a dispute with the developers and CEC because their road has not been finished off properly and is full of potholes.

With council colleagues I attended a meeting with Canalside Radio to discuss their increased broadcasting for/in Congleton and the potential for a ‘Congleton App’. More on this soon!

Elizabeth Wolstenholme Elmy

I’m a member of Elizabeth’s Group, which is raising awareness of suffragist Elizabeth Wolstenholme Elmy and all the great work she did in/from Congleton for women’s and girls’ rights.

I attended the Elizabeth’s Group fundraiser ceilidh, which was great fun. I also helped out at the Olive & Stitch market in January. Elizabeth’s Group is planning to launch a new Heritage Trail about Elizabeth on 2nd May and has lots of other activities planned for 2020.

Being a Councillor in Congleton

Almost every Thursday is a Council meeting, either the full Council, the Planning Committee (which is all councillors) or one of the other Committees. I am Chair of the Community & Environment Committee which has a large remit.

We also have regular meetings of the Chairs of the various Committees.

In addition, I am a member of nine other Groups which meet at regular intervals, typically every couple of months, and do other work in between meetings of course:

  • Health and Wellbeing Working Group
  • Anti-Social Behaviour Working Group (Chair)
  • Congleton Partnership
  • White Ribbon Working Group
  • Congleton Sustainable Transport Working Group
  • Congleton Green Working Group
  • Congleton Museum Trust
  • Congleton Pride Steering Group
  • Elizabeth’s Group

The Town Council’s remit unfortunately does not include things such as Social Services, Health, Transport – these are the domain of Cheshire East, but we can lobby in these areas.

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