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