Wilmslow Town Council Election 2019: Candidate Martin Watkins

MJW 1705

In the run up to the local elections on May 2nd I have been publishing brief interviews with each of the candidates - standing for seats on both the Town Council and Cheshire East Council - that respond to my request, in the order in which they respond.

To read interviews with other candidates you will be able to click on the tags at the bottom of the article. For example, pieces on the other candidates for the Wilmslow Town Council election will all be tagged 'Wilmslow Town Council 2019 Election'. Candidates representing the same party or group will also be connected via the tags, candidates competing in the same ward will be connected by tags as well and all articles will be tagged '2019 Local Elections'.

Martin Watkins is standing as a Conservative Party candidate for the Dean Row Ward on Wilmslow Town Council.

Martin has lived in Wilmslow for over 20 years. He is married to Carol, a psychotherapist, and they have five children and 13 grandchildren.

He is retired having spent a career in the armed forces, principally the Royal Air Force before retiring 25 years ago. He then ran his own business in rural North Wales and subsequently worked for the Royal British Legion in Greater Manchester for ten years where he was responsible for the provision of welfare, the Poppy Appeal, membership and the running of branches and clubs.

Martin told me "I have been involved in many interests since being a Trustee for two local branches of the Royal Air Forces Association, the Vice President of the Northern Area of the Royal Air Forces Association and a Trustee of the National Charity. I am the current Chairman and Trustee of the Wilmslow Aid Trust which seeks to support vulnerable adults and young people who live in what was the old Wilmslow Urban District Council boundaries. I sit as an advisory member and supporter of the Colshaw Estate Tenants and Residents Association. When I get time, I enjoy fishing, travel, music and singing where I can be found at Christmas, with a mate, singing carol duets at St Mary's in the Market Place, Stockport.

"For all these reasons, I reckon "retired" is a misnomer – I would prefer to say, "not in paid employment". (Wilmslow Town Councillors are not paid)."

How long have you been a councillor? Why have you decided to stand for re-election as a councillor for Wilmslow?

I have been a Wilmslow Town Councillor since the inception of the Council in 2011. I have been its Chairman for four years out of the last five which I may add has been a considerable honour. This role brings you into contact with many, many people and local businesses be they in Wilmslow, Cheshire East or the wider community. I hope that I have listened attentively to what is said to me for it is not a case of whether I agree or not, but more do I believe these voices are being adequately heard? And, realistically, what can I do about things? I hope my experiences of the last eight years will be of use to the incoming council.

What do you think have been your biggest achievements as a councillor in the past 4 years?

The biggest achievements have been the Council's not mine. Top of that list must be the toilet block on the Carrs especially given that Cheshire East had "no political will" to provide it themselves. The process of getting that toilet block built, the permissions needed and to persuade Cheshire East to engage, was a steep learning curve for us all and a real eye-opener. Add to this list was the Council facilitating and encouraging the reopening of the Rex Cinema which included being prepared to fund a not insubstantial amount of funds had the need been necessary.

Fortunately, the reopening of the Rex was considerably less frustrating than getting a toilet block! There have been other success stories quietly going on. The Citizens Advice (Bureau) which originated in Wilmslow had, by 2011, long since gone when Cheshire East funding was withdrawn. Wilmslow Town Council reinstated and enhanced that funding and Citizens Advice now operates from the Library, URC and St Bart's. Citizens Advice also refer clients to the food banks who themselves receive funding from WTC.

No-one likes putting their head above the parapet and talking about using the services of either Citizens Advice or the food banks, but the stats speak for themselves – there are citizens of our town in need; we heard, we funded. Lastly, I want to mention the Wilmslow Neighbourhood Plan. We should be proud and particularly thankful that some two dozen individuals of our town volunteered a lot of their time over more than three years to produce what is acknowledged to be an outstanding document on how we wish to see our town develop over the next decades. If you have not read this Plan, please do so for the Town Council will be developing it as we, the town, move forward.

What have been your biggest disappointments as a councillor in the past four 4 years?

I should like to mention a couple of points. Firstly, parking and much has been said about this elsewhere already. I very much regret that I felt it necessary to tell the leader of our Unitary Authority that when it came to parking, the message I was getting was that the citizens of our town (not to mention the businesses located here) did not believe a word her council had to say on the subject because of promises made, never kept and broken. To me, parking is to Wilmslow what Brexit is to our country as the chances of getting any of us to remotely agree is difficult.

However, it really does divert attention if we get bogged down on who thinks yellow lines should be put down where and when. We need workable solutions, short, medium and long term and we need them across the board. We may not like it and probably would never follow the path taken by Cheshire East ourselves. They played us the card, which we are unable to refuse, of a public consultation which, despite sceptics, has taken place in public with a visible input from the public (not to forget either the 54+ business companies large and small who joined in). When did you last see a public consultation held in Wilmslow? And the trump card we may just be holding is a growing realisation by Cheshire East that town and parish councils can, and will, answer back.

My second disappointment must be levelled at the media. I am disappointed that little publicity is given to the grant applications made by local organisations who are trying to make a real difference to our Wilmslow community. There is no better example of this than the recent grant (details on the WTC web page) to Wilmslow Youth. They asked for a small grant to address youth mental health issues. They were supported by Churches Together and the High School. For those of us who heard the enthusiasm and commitment of the individuals who made the presentation (and these applications are open to the public to attend and hear), you could not fail to be anything other than mightily impressed – but who knows about it?

What do you think the important issues facing Wilmslow?

Without doubt, top of the list must be the implementation of our Neighbourhood Plan. This is where you and I need to roll up our sleeves and get involved just like the two dozen citizens have done for the last three years. We need to attract private funding given that Cheshire East own virtually no property in Wilmslow.

We need to persuade Cheshire East that perhaps there are some things we can do as well, if not better, than they can so they need to pass services over to us. This will help get over the widespread feeling that Wilmslow is ignored. The statement I have often heard is why should a Councillor in Crewe be in the slightest bit interested in spending money in Wilmslow if it means less money for his ward?

What experience and personal qualities will you bring to the role?

I hope that my many experiences around the world, with different people and cultures explains why I have a caring nature. I have tried to bring that caring experience to my work both as councillor but also to the charities I belong to; I do care about parking in Wilmslow; I do care about our green belt; I do care about how our town develops but over everything I care about people. I care more about people than anything else but that also means I must be fair. I hope my fellow councillors will agree that is what I have attempted to do.

2019 Conservative Party Candidate, 2019 Local Elections, Dean Row Ward, Wilmslow Town Council 2019 Election


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

Oliver Romain
Thursday 25th April 2019 at 9:34 pm
Martin you say you are disappointed with the media's interest in the grants WTC hands out. I fought for more transparency regarding the grants and in your attack on residents asking questions (primarily me) published on this website you said:
"The Town Council is under no obligation, legal or otherwise, to disclose grant applications on its web site. In the past, information has been posted to assist those organisations making their application. Note that grants are not made by public acclaim but by a responsibility placed on each and every Councillor. Please note that Cheshire East do not publish details of grant applications made to them."
The full article, which represents a very low point for WTC and was designed to stifle debate and stop the public from asking awkward questions, can be found in the link below. It shows just how out of touch you are. Or course a very different tone than is set out above when it comes to election time.


You wanted secrecy and you wanted any questioning shut down. You were then reminded that WTC had promised to publish grand applications and now they are published. This was in-spite of you.
You say you want media interest but you and your fellow councillors are happy to have councillors vote for funding for organisations that they belong to. This is tax payers money and it should be allocated in a transparent and ethical way. Its that simple.
Having members vote to fund their own projects or organisations they are members of is completely unethical and must be stopped. Members should be required to disclose conflicts of interests and recuse themselves from considering grant applications where there is a conflict.
Everybody wants transparency and no conflcts when their money is being handed out. I am standing as Town Councillor in Wilmslow West and my first and foremost concern will be transparency and governance. It will not be popular with some, but this cozy cash club has to be shaken up.
Oh and also. Lets have a councillors' attendance register on the website. Since 2011 Tory Cllr Gary Barton has only attended half of the Cheshire East Meetings. Is the the same or worse for WTC?
Philip Barton
Friday 26th April 2019 at 5:05 pm
Martin has worked hard as mayor and leader of the council. I found it strange that anyone would criticise his comments on the poor publicity given to the grants made by the council. Far from lack of scrutiny he was asking for more publicity and openness.
Martin Theobald
Friday 26th April 2019 at 5:37 pm
Oh my, I did not realise that we had a mayor!
Ruth McNulty
Friday 26th April 2019 at 7:11 pm
Wilmslow does not have a Mayor, it was a mere slip of the pen by Phil. This was one of the first decisions made by the council in 2012. However there is a 'Mayoral Chain' (inherited from Macclesfield Borough Council) that is worn by the Council Leader during Council meetings and other civic affairs to which the Leader is invited.
Martin sells Council influences short.
Without his and fellow Councillors support for the activities of the Clean Team - the difference they make to the cleanliness of the town - would be significant. Please try to desist from the knee-jerk "this is a Cheshire East responsibility" It is unfortunate that people can drop litter faster than any agency can collect it.
Wilmslow Town Council has supported the activities of Incredible Edible, their initial entries into the In Bloom competition and now our 2019 entry - due to the efforts of volunteers - into the National competition. The attractive floral displays in the town for 12 months a year don't happen by accident but rather are the active interventions of the Council.
WTC, under Martin's Chairmanship, immediately adopted the view that it wanted to become 'Plastic Free'. Our MP has subsequently followed this approach and both have helped encourage businesses to examine ways in which they, too, could follow suit.
The events organised by the Council are significant in promoting a sense of community in the town. The celebration of the Queen's diamond jubilee in 2012 on the Carrs morphed into the Party on the Carrs and now the Cinema on the Carrs, attracting hundreds of people to a free event.
The Christmas lights, introduced and bought by the original council were replaced last year. Town centre businesses need every help the council has at its disposal to encourage shoppers to spend money in local retail outlets and making the town centre attractive during December is a significant tool to enhance the appearance of the town in a crucial trading period.
With reference to the debate about Grants. One example is that WTC was one of the first supporters of the Clink restaurant at Styal prison (and prison inmates will be planting hanging baskets for display at the station this year as part of our In Bloom efforts to enhance the appearance of the town).
There are lots more examples of the ways in which WTC has helped promote the community and made Wilmslow a more attractive place to live, work and visit
Oliver Romain
Friday 26th April 2019 at 7:32 pm
Phillip: I was directly quoting Martin. Read the article whinging about people taking and interest in, and asking valid questions about the grants. He tried to shut down debate, tried to block transparency AND allows councillors to vote for their own organisations.
You are either wilfully ignoring the reality or deliberately misleading the people of Wilmslow.
Whilst we have your brief attention, what about your son’s 52% attendance record in the last eight years? How do you justify re-selecting him as a Tory candidate?
Ruth: People don’t care whether people mistake him for the Town Mayor or he wears a gold crown at meetings.
What matters is how the council is governed. It’s not about who receives the grants. If the process is transparent and conflicts of interest are declared, councillors can carry on funding whatever is best. It’s about the process not the outcome. It has to be open, fair, legal and allow the people to have confidence.
Voting to fund your own organisations or projects is unethical and probably illegal. It must stop.
Pete Taylor
Saturday 27th April 2019 at 11:48 am
Gosh Mrs Menlove (McNulty) you have managed to get all your pet subjects into one post! How many of them have received financial support from our coffers? All no doubt worthy causes but others, possibly less-well "connected" seem to have missed out over the years, maybe?

Martin's comment on yellow lines is very apposite; your husband did his former neighbours no favours at all when he cover their roads with yellow lines (except for the white space-bars outside his friends houses) and then moved away.

Martin has gone on public record more than a few times, about his frustration with CEC ignoring WTC on many matters, especially planning; I share his anguish, it must be desperately annoying when this happens; other WTC Councillors from the same party have also publicly criticised CEC for ignoring decisions taken locally. The CEC Cabinet system of eight simply blocks out decision-making, by the likes of WTC, right across the Borough, yet conservative Councillors have said that they were whipped into keeping it in place.
Pete Taylor
Monday 29th April 2019 at 11:07 pm
No comment Martin?
The desperate "Promotional Feature" A Vision for Wilmslow... not to be confused with Wilmslow Vision, is indicative of how low things have gone for us. Who paid for that? A well-known local house-builder? Hopefully it's not coming out of association funds.

With the Daily Mail reporting that eight out of ten Tories will be voting for UKIP in the euro elections and the Daily Torygraph today predicting a loss of 800 seats in the local elections (at a time when the Labour Party "leadership" does not seem to know their base from their apex) it's a bit of a sorry mess, locally and nationally.

One way out of this this is for any Conservatives who might be accidentally elected to WTC declare themselves independent, after the election, we can do the right thing by our people.