A local campaign group is calling for the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government to put Cheshire East Council into Special Measures.
Residents of Wilmslow (along with other Cheshire East independent groups) has written to MP Sajid Javid outlining their concerns over the way the Council is being administered and requesting he initiates an independent enquiry to restore public confidence and considers placing the Council into Special Measures.
Speaking of behalf of Residents of Wilmslow (RoW) Manuel Golding said "We are informing him of our continued concerns about Cheshire East Council's poor management history that has resulted in a long stream of high profile errors, investigations and waste of taxpayer funds.
"Our latest concern is for the recent Cheshire East Council's admissions that officers have deliberately and systematically falsified and manipulated air quality data readings between 2012 and 2014. These falsified readings were put to some of the Council's Strategic Planning Boards' planning deliberations. We are concerned that this deliberate and systematic data falsification may have had a material effect upon planning decisions. It also may well have a serious effect on Section 106 awards during this time. Two officers have now been suspended and Cheshire Constabulary has now opened an investigation into this matter.
"We justifiably feel that this latest escapade has finally destroyed what remained of our waning confidence and belief in both our council's leadership, its cabinet members and its officers.
"This latest fiasco follows a litany questionable policies, decisions and administration by this council."
In their letter RoW have outlined the following, which they describe as 'earlier questionable issues':
- Suspension of the CEO of Cheshire East Council, Mr Mike Suarez, in April 2017 pending a police investigation.
- The resignation of the former Leader, Councillor Michael Jones, over contracts awarded to his personal physiotherapist's firm in 2015.
- The Lyme Green Waste Transfer Station Fiasco in 2013/14
- The suspension of Mr Bill Norman, Head of Legal Services in July 2017
- Financial venture 'Co-socius' costing over £3M supposedly to save money on I.T. & H.R
- Appointing a disbarred company director to run a Council commercial enterprise
- Inability to merge East & West Cheshire councils' governance silos of one small county
- Creating 'Executive Directors' roles followed by large severance payments
- The Local Plan has been over 5 years in the process- council leadership & officers have consistently ignored residents serious misgivings;
- Residents concerns have been treated, in the words of the Chief Planning Officer, as "irrelevant"
- Numerous professional & highly respected planners have always asserted the LP has been so obviously "retro-fitted" to suit a specific agenda. Even officers of a neighbouring authority have made the same observation
- Lack of a 5 year housing supply, developers do not build their applied for numbers, has resulted in significant over supply and unplanned growth in the south with an over demand for ever more of the north's green belt;
- Housing numbers and population growth have been vastly over estimated, based on suspect calculations (our figures are based on the ONS', CECs & others projections – we are able to present growth projections to prove our point)
- This highly flawed and elongated process has wasted huge sums of public money.
- Non Conservative councillors were not engaged by the council at any stage in the LP process
Manuel Golding added "Whilst it would appear there are a series of 'unconnected' events and issues that have resulted in a number of senior officers being suspended, with some officers possibly being charged with criminal behaviour, these only leads us to conclude there is something rotten at the core of this council.
"We are seriously concerned that Cheshire East Council has lost all credibility with the residents and electorate of the borough.
"Therefore we are writing to call upon the Secretary of State to initiate an independent enquiry into the actions and behaviour of the members and officers of Cheshire East Council to restore public confidence and to consider placing this council into Special Measures."