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 on 11th July at the slightly earlier time of 4pm. You can join on Zoom here or go to my event on Facebook
Ukraine Support Network
The Congleton Area Ukraine Support Network (CAUSN) is doing some great work to support hosts and the Ukrainian families who are staying with them. My own role has been in helping to administer the private Facebook Group (which is for local-area hosts, volunteers and Ukrainian guests only), advising on the website, and as a Town Councillor attending briefings and helping connect various agencies including with Cheshire East Council. I am also a host myself. We have a lovely family of a mother and two sons staying with us.
If you would like to be involved as a host family or learn more, please visit www.CAUSN.com
Jubilee Picnic in the Park
Congleton Town Council hosted a free-to-enter Picnic in the Park to celebrate the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee. We were a bit surprised but also delighted with the number of people who turned up – thousands, and there was barely a piece of grass anywhere – in the field or garden – without a picnic rug or table & chairs and happy people on it! The sun shone and everyone enjoyed live music from the past 70 years as well as giant games, a dog show, face painting, Punch & July and much more.
My job for the day was to steward the Ukraine meet-up point. I brought my own guests along and lots of other Ukrainian guests came and met each other, glad to have a chat in their own language.
It was the best possible welcome for our refugee guests and I think they got a very good impression of Congleton.
I think everyone was delighted to just get out and about again, a very enjoyable day. Many thanks to the Council officers and army of volunteers who made it happen.
Jubilee Tea Dance
Another event we held, this time in the Town Hall, was a Jubilee Tea Dance for invited guests of a certain age. We bussed them in from care homes or their own home and gave them afternoon tea plus a traditional ballroom dance with music from the time of the coronation. I volunteered at this event, served the tea and chatted to the guests, many of whom reminisced about dancing to these tunes in their younger days. I enjoyed hearing their stories, it was a super afternoon and very inspiring to see so many smiling faces.
Thanks to our lovely Council Officers who organised this, to Mark’s Events for a super afternoon tea and to Andrew Bell and his dancers for the lovely tunes and moves!
White Ribbon is a charity supporting men to campaign against male violence against women and the behaviours and attitudes that lead to this. Congleton Town Council is a White Ribbon Accredited organisation.
The White Ribbon team had a stall at the recent Town Meeting and had a meeting to put together a plan for the rest of the year. One of our plans is to create a ‘White Ribbon Garden’ as an awareness tool, which the Streetscape team have kindly offered to create for us. I also had a discussion recently with a councillor at Cardiff city council, where they project a big white ribbon onto Cardiff Castle for White Ribbon Day and have a permanent plaque in the castle gardens for WR awareness. All these ideas are being discussed within our White Ribbon Team for Congleton.
If you’d like to get involved please contact me or visit www.whiteribbon.org.uk
We have been invited to speak at Alsager School about the White Ribbon Campaign in July. Two of our Ambassadors will attend, with me. Our White Ribbon Chair, Robert Hemsley, remarked in the Community & Environment Committee meeting that it was good to see pupils coming out of Eaton Bank School still wearing their White Ribbons on their blazer after our talk there in March.
I’m a member of the National Association of Councils’ Women’s network and have shared our White Ribbon action plan and proposals with other members who want to take this to their own councils around the country.
Work continues on the carbon footprint, air quality and biodiversity. My own role is largely in the marketing and communications side. I created a public version of our calendar for the year which you can see here
Please join in our events by sending photos or videos of what you are doing, or putting them on social media with the hashtag #CongletonGreen.
June was walking and cycling so I shared a post about my new bike, which I am enjoying very much.
In July the focus is going Plastic Free so please tell us what YOU are doing about this? In fact, Congleton has just become a ‘Plastic Free Town’ – well done to Heather Seddon and her team who have made this happen and all the organisations who joined in.
I have also put together a Content Plan for a new Green section of the CTC website and started work on some of the pages. We have ‘green’ topics quite scattered in different parts of the site at the moment and this new structure will help people and businesses find what they need.
Congleton Tree Group
This group of volunteers are working extremely hard to plant 30,000 trees (one per resident of Congleton) by 2025. So far, more than 10,000 trees and almost 5,000 hedge plants have been put in the ground, including 70 Cherry Trees for the Queen’s Jubilee.
I have been a volunteer with this group and helped plant in various locations around Congleton. CTC does not run the tree group but has been helping with the consultation with residents.
A couple of residents have objected to some of the trees that have been planted. As a result of this, council officers agreed to arrange for Streetscape to move a small number of trees, on the basis that the consultation in the earliest days of the project could perhaps have been more effective.
The project will continue with the new planting season in Autumn. If you’d like to get involved, please contact me or connect with the group via Facebook.
The team has been working very hard towards the main Pride event on 23rd July in Congleton Town Centre. The day event will have lots of performances, stalls and activities, all free of charge. The evening (18+) tickets are selling very fast. Look out for the details on Facebook. It promises to be a fantastic day and night.
I attended a fantastic drag night, ‘Collateral Damage’ at Glebe Farm which acted as a fundraiser for Pride. It was a sellout with some fabulous performances.
We have trained more members of the Congleton Pride team to be part of the police Reporting Centre for hate crime and will be wearing ‘you can talk to me’ badges at the Pride event.
The Police are attending Pride with a Police car with rainbow trimmings, and the Fire Service will also be there with the Fire Engine.
The Pride team has been dismayed to see the toxic debate about trans people in the national (and some local) media, and our Pride survey showed some lack of knowledge about this subject, so I’m working with trans members and friends on an article to publish about this to help inform and educate.
We have had a couple of workshops with our ‘Global Museum’ vendor and they have gathered the insights and got a good understanding of the trustees’ objectives. In the next month they will be coming back with proposals for how to develop our digital museum and create a truly omnichannel experience for those who visit the museum in person and those who want to access our collections and stories remotely.
CEDSAP Board Meeting
I am a member of the Cheshire East Domestic and Sexual Abuse Partnership Board and in this capacity I attending a morning kick-off workshop for the Whole Housing Project. This is a nationally-funded pilot into holistic solutions for survivors and perpetrators of abuse, working with every agency and a number of partners involved in housing.
It is a fantastic win for Cheshire East to be given the lead on this pilot and I look forward to being part of the ongoing consultation group and learning about how this approach can lead to sustainable solutions for domestic abuse.
Bromley Farm Community Development Trust (BFCDT)
Several questions were asked at the Town Meeting about how the Trust operates and lack of engagement with the community. I suggested we should have a meeting at the town hall to try to move things forward, as residents have waited a long time for change. We will set this meeting up in the coming weeks.
Due to my role as a board member of the Cheshire Association of Local Councils, I have been asked to be part of a focus group on Civility and Respect in local government. We are currently reviewing a Dignity at Work Policy.
Unfortunately, as the famous ‘Jackie Weaver’ clip showed, bad behaviour including bullying and harassment does happen in local government. As a member of the NALC Women’s Network I hear plenty of stories of harassment and bullying shared amongst members. The majority of councillors behave well, but for those that do not, there is little sanction and the national government is unwilling to re-introduce punishments (which existed prior to the Localism Act 2011). They argue that the ballot box is the place where the public gets rid of councillors, but unfortunately the public does not always know about internal bullying, and officers (and other councillors, and the public) have a right to go about their business without fear of these attacks.
This is an issue because it means that many people, and perhaps especially women, are put off from becoming local councillors, which is bad for our democracy. With this work I hope to encourage more people to take part in their local council.
Following the success of the ‘Our Elizabeth’ statue unveiling the Group has met for its AGM and planned future projects. We will be continuing with educational talks, heritage walks, digital posts, videos and schools materials as well as celebrating International Women’s Day next year. More on this to be published in the coming months.
The statue has been formally handed over to Congleton Town Council as a gift to Congleton. It is a great asset; not many towns of our size can boast such a valuable and prestigious artwork.
Cheshire Life Magnificent 70
I was delighted to attend the Garden Party at Crewe Hall as one of the Cheshire Life Magnificent 70 people who have contributed to their community. I was equally delighted to find a couple of colleagues there – Saskia Lightburn-Richie, who runs myCheshireWithoutAbuse, and Kate Blakemore of Cheshire Women’s Collaboration. It was a lovely afternoon in spite of having to move indoors due to the rain.
I and Cllr Firkin met with residents of The Westlands to discuss parking challenges around their houses. As a follow-up I had a meeting with Plus Dane, who own the space, and they committed to trying to help residents come to agreement.
I did an interview with Stuart Neild of Congleton Radio, which has just launched. Really looking forward to hearing some regular interesting articles on there. Stuart and Sharon have assembled a great team and have some really good ideas for the station. You can listen at www.congletonradio.net
I met with the national Visible Women Group and shared our experience with the Elizabeth Wolstenholme Elmy statue. Since then, the Mary Anning statue has been unveiled in Lyme Regis, which is a wonderful commemoration of the great palaeontologist.
I attended the Lions’ Duck Race at Congleton Park. It was lots of fun, in spite of the wind blowing the ducks the wrong way up the river! Many thanks to the Lions
My Meeting Attendance
Overall, my Council meeting attendance in these two months has been 90% for all council meetings and working groups, either face-to-face or virtually (19 out of 21). For the mandatory council committees my rate is 71% (5 of 7). I had a two-week holiday in June which meant I missed two meetings, unfortunately, but I needed this break which was carried over from 2020!
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 eighteen other Groups as well as the Council Committees, some of which are council-related, some are other local charities and community groups. 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.