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

About Kay Wesley

Congleton Town Councillor for the Women's Equality Party. CEO of Kanga Health Ltd - practical digital transformation of healthcare.
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