Police investigation into Council's manipulation of air quality figures


Cheshire Police have confirmed that they will be investigating whether any crimes have been committed in relation to the Council's false air pollution figures.

An external investigation into the Council's air quality monitoring procedures found that serious errors were made "as the result of deliberate and systematic manipulation of data", which may have affected planning decisions in the South of the Borough.

The report also revealed that the Council failed to ensure that adequate processes, procedures and systems were in place to manage this data effectively.

A spokesperson for Cheshire Police said "We can confirm that the matter has been brought to our attention and officers will review it to establish if any criminal offences may have occurred."

Adding "At the current time, until we have until we have established if any criminal offences may have occurred, it is impossible to say how long it will take."

Cheshire East Council monitors nitrogen dioxide levels at approximately 100 sites throughout the borough as part of its ongoing work to improve local air quality.

However, the external investigation found that serious errors were made in the council's air quality data for 2012, 2013 and 2014 which may have impacted on Air Quality Assessments undertaken as part of the process of considering planning applications in Nantwich, Congleton, Crewe, Holmes Chapel and Sandbach.

Sean Hannaby, Director of Planning and Sustainable Development, said: "On behalf of the council I would like to sincerely apologise in respect of these findings, we would like to assure everyone that we have done everything we can to rectify these failings. It is worth reiterating that in July 2016 the then Director of Public Health assured us that there are no immediate health protection measures needed as a result of these errors and I have been assured that this advice still stands.

"We appreciate that it has been a year now since we first reported these concerns, but it was important that we ensured a thorough review and investigation into this important matter.

"Significant work has been undertaken to ensure that there are now robust processes and procedures in place. The planning service is currently analysing the relevant planning applications to assess whether any additional mitigation measures are required. Our council website now contains the correct data and supporting information and our annual status report for both 2016 and 2017 containing the accurate data will be submitted to Defra within the next few weeks.

"Consideration is still being given as to the council's response to the investigation's findings in relation to any HR issues."



Here's what readers have had to say so far. Why not add your thoughts below.

Kathryn Blackburn
Wednesday 2nd August 2017 at 8:28 am
Surely time for a vote of no confidence in Cheshire East Council by the electorate.
Any one for starting a petition via change.org ?
Pete Taylor
Wednesday 2nd August 2017 at 9:23 am
@Kathryn, long overdue- go for it.
Wednesday 2nd August 2017 at 9:48 am
Call me a sceptic - but I would like to see the full report which the independent Company produced when they looked at this - not the bits of information given out by Cheshire East. The drip feeding of information was exactly what happened over Lyme Green and when we did get to see the full report everything important was redacted - that cannot happen again.
Nick Jones
Wednesday 2nd August 2017 at 11:12 am
Just what is going on at CEC ?? … The ‘unchecked’ catalogue of catastrophe’s increases buy the week…. The ‘Deliberate and Systematic” aspect reported is the demonstrated CEC accepted norm ; Failing to Merge East and West / Lyme Green / Corefit / Michael Jones & law enforcement investigation / Severance payments / Michel Suarez + Bill Norman suspended / Cllrs voting to remove Green Belt protection / Local Plan engagement demonstrably dismissed / Non-compliance to Govt planning policy / Ignoring the ‘exceptional circumstance’ criteria / Ignoring Brownfield development / PCC increasing precept then appointing family friend and empire building at Stockton Heath / CEC re-organising into directorates ( Cost !) to become self-funding ? / £3.7M spend on flawed local plan impacted by this manipulated data / Consultation on Local Plan & Royal London AFTER CEC has already published its decision / Manipulation of Air pollution data etc .. The resultant 4% Tax rise -declared as a saving, means we have to continue paying for these comedians to play their part in this Rachel Bailey led tragedy. There are ‘many’ who could do a better job than the current incumbents who continue to extol their strange relationship with common sense and electorates opinion. Until an election I fear were stuck with them, and those that are truly representative and befitting their role serving their electorate are tarnished by all those involved in these ‘Deliberate and Systematic’ identified failures. Change is required.
Pete Taylor
Wednesday 2nd August 2017 at 11:44 am
@ Nick Jones, among several own-goals you missed this stunning appointment:

and don't forget:
Nick Jones
Wednesday 2nd August 2017 at 1:28 pm
@ Pete
Thanks for that.. Disqualified Directors and The redacted meaningless Lyme Green report... how could we forget, like CEC would like us to ! Our new MP must be thrilled in dealing with such incompetence.
As The Donald recently said " I have a great relationship with the Mexican people" ...
... En tus sueños !
Terry Roeves
Wednesday 2nd August 2017 at 3:22 pm
What other figures reported to national government have been fiddled? Meeting performance goals earns money. Has CEC missed an opportunity for a payment by failing? Would they have let our or previous MP down?
Air quality might just be one of other deliberate errors.
Manuel Golding
Wednesday 2nd August 2017 at 5:47 pm
"Clear the Cheshire East swamp!" and quick.
Our council is fast acquiring a reputation for planning dodgy-data and grand scale bullying.
And this before we look back to the many other questionable goings on; do not mention
Lyme Green or Corefit.
Not fit for purpose would be a understated reason for clearing the swamp and the newts who inhabit it.
Roger Bagguley
Wednesday 2nd August 2017 at 6:38 pm
It is time CEC be subjected to a full Goverment audit with senior officers and all additional fee earning councillors suspended. I am sure an investigation of this kind would be of great interest to other council tax payers across the land. More and more out confidence in Local Government is being challenged.
Julie Lowe
Wednesday 2nd August 2017 at 6:42 pm
I totall agree Kathryn go for it! Before we get more suspensions on full pay over the emissions investigation and end up paying yet more double salaries!
Richard Birchall
Wednesday 2nd August 2017 at 7:17 pm
We get the Council we vote for, if we continue to give the Tories a monopoly decade after decade it will inevitably lead to corruption and poor decision making.
Laurie Atterbury
Wednesday 2nd August 2017 at 7:30 pm
No doubt any costs or fines will be just passed on to the council tax payers?
Bob Bracegirdle
Wednesday 2nd August 2017 at 7:55 pm
They won't be the only ones.
Pete Taylor
Wednesday 2nd August 2017 at 10:22 pm
Who pulls the strings of these puppets?
Lynne Prescott
Wednesday 2nd August 2017 at 11:31 pm
I agree with Richard - it's no good getting upset by what Cheshire East does if every time we get a chance to vote, we vote the same old numptys in! Please print out Nick Jones' comprehensive list of Cheshire East own goals and take it into the polling station with you, to remind you what you DON'T want. Remember the definition of insanity to to keep doing the same things but expecting different results!
Frank Fisher
Thursday 3rd August 2017 at 11:38 am
if this isn't misconduct in public office, a specific criminal offence, then I don't know what is. The council has shown a pattern of dishonest, deceptive and incompetent behaviour for many years now - all without proper oversight and without any effective punishment or redress. This must end. Council tax payers deserve better>

However, who is to blame? You have to say a great deal of blame must fall on voters, who keep returning these crooks and idiots to power.
Kathryn Blackburn
Friday 4th August 2017 at 8:23 am
We the voter are NOT to blame for the behaviour and actions of some power hungry individuals who make poor choices and bad decisions. They know who they are and if they had any self respect at all would stand down from public service.
Manuel Golding
Friday 4th August 2017 at 12:41 pm
And Kathryn, we voters know who many of them are. Enough said?
Paul Weston
Saturday 5th August 2017 at 10:14 am
On a different note I would like to bring to your attention the complete trashing of Lindow Moss with the complete compliance of CEC and the fact that the water table figures drawn up by CEC for Lindow Moss have never made sense. Artificial drainage, non existent sluice or settling ponds and a fourteen foot deep scar that has been stripped from over half the site and CEC categorically state that the water table has not been affected?

Obfuscation springs to mind every time we here of the goings on at CEC. The people in authority know what's going but always insist it's not them and they don't know who is responsible for whatever scheme that is about to or has gone pear shaped. Maybe an independent enquiry should be commissioned to look into the way the Lindow Moss report has been carried out by CEC.
Manuel Golding
Saturday 5th August 2017 at 11:53 am
Not to repeat myself too often, though in the case of CEC this can never be be too often, it would seem from what Paul Weston says & others have told me, this Council appears to be draining Lindow Moss 'swamp' against the best interests of the community. Now all we need is for it to drain its very own Sandbach swamp and all who wallow in it's murky mire.
Everything CEC is involved in appears to have a dark side, from Lyme Green, Corefit, questionable highways surveys & air pollution data, the joint fiasco with Cheshire West, the Local Plan gerrymandering and more.
It is time the government or the Local Government ombudsman took a very close scrutiny at the goings on at Westfield.
Pete Taylor
Wednesday 9th August 2017 at 9:35 am
It was rather disappointing to open Private Eye this morning to see that CEC has been banged to rights, yet again, in their "Rotten Boroughs" section.

Under the headline "Cheshire Cheats" it says "Cheshire East (CEC), a Tory Council notorious for telling lies and fiddling figures, has been caught at it again". It goes on to detail the falsified air-quality data, draws the conclusion that planning permissions may not have been given for thousands of houses (had the real data been used) and suggests that the "hooky figures" made it easier to pass the Local Plan, as the recordings were recorded as below the level which makes an "Air Quality Management Area" compulsory.

Private Eye also reminds us that in 2013 CEC falsified records and lied to the local Ombudsman, who found CEC guilty of maladministration.
Nick Jones
Wednesday 9th August 2017 at 2:43 pm
‘Deliberate and Systematic’ identified failures.. Year on Year ,Stupidity would not appear a handicap to some and the events catalogue lengthens, by now seeking public consultation after having already made planning decisions. Meanwhile,were stuck with self serving hypocrites spinning their own agenda's until the next election.These same embroiled Cllrs who have capably demonstrated their inability to arrange an 'event' in a brewery, willingly damage their relationship with the electorate, Undermining / tarnishing the bona-fide Cllrs that are truly representative and befitting their role in serving the public. Ian Hislop's report merely reminding us that maladministration from 2103 is now probably surpassed by a multiple factor, with cognisance to the many more recent identified failures. ALL INCURRED AT TAXPAYERS EXPENSE ! ... ., Change is required !
Jonathan Follows
Wednesday 9th August 2017 at 3:10 pm
Whilst I quite understand what you mean by "disappointing", Pete, I was in fact very pleased by the Private Eye article and was eagerly waiting for my delivery later this morning. Pleased because it shows that the activities of our council have come to the attention of a wider audience; maybe not quite to the national newspaper level but nonetheless welcome I think. There is something very bad going on at CEC and I hope it's not going to be us who will suffer as a result, although I fear I'm already too late in this hope.
Anthony Evans
Wednesday 9th August 2017 at 5:48 pm
And please don't forget that CEC were found guilty of maladministration by the LGO in 2012 regarding the activities on Lindow Moss. Because of the latest revelations, we SCPS) requested the latest water table figures from CEC last week. Surprise surprise, no response - but the subsidence continues.