Council Leader Michael Jones spoke at a meeting of the Full Council today to announce the appointment of a new Head of Governance and Stewardship, his plans for the future and the need for greater transparency at Cheshire East Council.
He called for a review of the role of planning and financial procedures, for Network Rail to build a new station at Crewe, to be completed by 2020, and announced that he will consult with Wilmslow residents "to discuss what they want to have the council do with our resources locally".
Below is Michael Jones speech in full:
I am pleased to confirm the appointment of Judith Tench as our new Head of Governance and Stewardship (Deputy S151 Officer). This illustrates my commitment to governance in the strongest terms.
I am further pleased to announce that I will be asking our cross party colleagues of the constitution committee to work a little harder. They already do a fantastic job and as this council's transparency is increasing and I thank this committee for assisting with this.
Today I request that this committee should review the role of planning in the constitution, especially the strategic planning board and working with all the three planning chairs to create a more transparent, resident friendly and holistic planning framework. This will be alongside Cllr Don Stockton.
I further request a review of our financial procedures working with our COO Peter Bates, with a strong emphasis on procurement. We must and can improve this area and give greater transparency on our finances, which are strong. I also want to support procurement locally, Cheshire East first.
I believe the council will have a balanced budget this year, next year and the year after, all without increasing the burden on our residents,
I am also pleased to announce that I shall be requesting the head of paid service to move away from zero hours contracts towards flexible contracts and also that this council will move towards the living wage for all our employees, something we do already in most areas.
I am also pleased to announce that this council will also look to open a controlled redundancy process for all in 2014 to allow all officers to apply for redundancy (although many will not be supported). Any officers whom ask for terms will be treated in strictest confidence and only senior managers will be made aware. This does not automatically mean that all staff will be allowed terms as many roles are important to the council.
I am pleased to announce that I am looking to introduce a review of the PDG's (Policy Development Groups). I believe some work well and some work less well. I want to know what members think we should do to change and adapt to strengthen member decision making.
I am also asking our constitutional committee to look into an addendum to our constitution illustrating that where possible ward members should know at the earliest opportunity. This protocol exists but I want it strengthened and potentially added into all council and officer protocols and to be part of officer behaviour. I will also be working with CLB (Corporate Leadership Board) and our union colleagues on the introduction of confidentiality and non disclosure clauses in all managers' contracts of employment.
I am committed to strong open leadership but we must have the structures in place to underpin transparency. In this I am requesting our head of paid service and COO to review the terms of reference of the monitoring officer, who joins shortly. I want a robust and effective officer core and I believe today that we have the strongest leadership board in the history of CEC, let us ensure that the monitoring officer is empowered to deliver this council's ambitious agenda.
I am also pleased to announce that the full introduction of the ASDVs (Alternative Service Delivery Vehicles) has been delayed until March 31st 2014, including a new transport company focusing on all transport including expanding cycleways throughout the borough, utilising our many bus shelters for advertising etc.
Why the delay? So that we can get the governance right. Members already can attend any formal meeting and speak at the discretion of the chair; I want more control for members, especially corporate scrutiny and the audit and governance committee. This is an ongoing process and as such I have given our officers more time until March so that these vehicles are ready and to ensure the governance is strong.
I also want the constitution to illustrate these new delivery vehicles and that the governance is reflected in our constitution.
However, I am pleased to inform members that many staff have already embraced the new delivery vehicle ideology and I am pleased to say that we have some excellent work going forward. As one example, our environmental WOC (Wholly Owned Company) are already working together and these teams are doing more than ever and I am pleased to inform you that our refuse collection have a trial underway which will see the end of all landfill for our highways waste, saving money and our planet.
I am also pleased to announce that I am keen to introduce compulsory for member's mileage at 45p per mile and we will work with officers and our union colleagues to move to the HMRC level for officers too.
I must commend our union colleagues. Whilst pushing me hard, as they should; we have broad agreement in putting residents and officers first. We will talk more in the next few months and I encourage this dialogue.
I am also announcing that as a part of the budget process we will focus on delivery in the community and we will be looking to make this council resident first and partnership first. We will work with our partners to ensure that we will become local and that localism is alive in Cheshire East.
To this point I am charging the Corporate Leadership Board to focus on working more at the local level and to this I am pleased to announce that we will have in the next three years renewal schemes across the borough, working with local members, in consultation with shopkeepers and residents. These will be public realm in Nantwich and Knutsford, Mill Street in Macclesfield where I see the future for residential and retail together creating a cultural quarter to go along with silk heritage. I will also be working to renew Crewe and especially its town centre. I am working for further fantastic news on jobs and investment for Crewe coming on top of the fabulous investment by Bentley.
I am also keen to deliver equity in health so today I am formally announcing a new Health and Wellbeing centre as a destination point in Crewe. It will be consulted on shortly and I am pleased to have the support of the local members and look forward to hearing what our residents think it should look like. It is proposed to be built on the Christchurch Car parks in Crewe. This is the catalyst for Crewe's Cultural Quarter vision.
I am not forgetting anywhere am I?
I will work with Congleton to enhance their town centre work, creating a new museum and leisure centre. I will consult with Middlewich and Wilmslow residents to discuss what they want to have the council do with our resources locally. I will also have a new offer for all villages and our new Stronger communities officer will lead this work.
Oh and yes Alsager, I am happy to announce that an application will come forward on the MMU site which will include a sports hub embracing all the current pitches, like for like and this will provide the best facilities in sport in Alsager.
So I set a broad agenda for this council to move forward. We will build on our achievements such as 102,000 potholes and I today give you all the latest information on what we have delivered on the highways. It is a start with more to come.
In 2014, we will look for excellence in education and we are hopeful on our bid for a UTC in Crewe, with a compelling argument and also the development of apprenticeships in engineering and health. We will also be leading a conference for pan Cheshire East schools on cyber crime and on drugs within our schools.
Cheshire East is leading the £31.4m Connecting Cheshire Project which is one the fastest rollout projects of fibre broadband in the country, and will enable 96% or premises or another 80000 new homes and businesses to access high speed broadband by March 2015. This is great for all our communities rural, urban and business.
This is a massive engineering challenge with a team of over 100 people working to lay 875 miles of fibre-optic cable, more than the distance between Lands End and John O' Groats.
I will also reinforce this council's commitment to HS2. We will publish our consultation document which will give a compelling argument, for not only HS2 in Cheshire and under write the broader economic argument for HS2, but as part of our faith in HS2 is a compelling logic for not only an HS2 stop at Crewe but an HS2 station at Crewe. This is so compelling that I call for Network Rail to build a new station at Crewe from today completed by 2020. This is because Crewe embodies the essence of the hub model connecting North Wales, Liverpool, Stoke, Birmingham, Manchester and the North West. This is why Cheshire East is the engine for the development of the Northwest. A new station at Crewe would add up to 60,000 new jobs.
In the North of the borough we will see the opening of the Waters Corporation headquarters and the sale of Alderely Park. Both reinforce that we have a growing corridor of science jobs, which will continue to grow. This corridor stretches from Hurdsfield in Macclesfield, Jodrell Bank, Radbrook Hall, (the fantastic global IT facility of Barclays bank), Booths Hall at Knutsford, Alderley Park and its growing Bio Hub and obviously the Waters Corporation.
This corridor promotes a UK PLC corridor of growth in science supporting the Northwest burgeoning scientific offer.
2014 is a very important year for this council. We will commemorate the 100 year anniversary of the start of the Great War. A poignant event which will hold great personal and emotional impact for the residents of Cheshire East. We will commemorate this with dignity and I thank the officers and members who are collaborating on this. A paper will be bought to council shortly illustrating our pans. As part of this I today announce a £100,000 fund for repair and renewal of any Great War memorials which may need enhancing. Parishes can apply directly to the council as can the Royal British Legion, which I respect immensely.
We will also commemorate National Holocaust Day 27 January with a two minute silence and civic event.
I believe in plan led development and I will fight to protect our greenbelt so today I announce that we are close to achieving our Five Year Housing supply and a 5% buffer. I am fighting against the 20% buffer. We have had a Labour imposed moratorium and we should not be punished for this by needing to increase our supply by a further 15%.
Once we have established our Five Year Housing Supply this will give more strength to our planners to defend our green gaps, greenbelt and villages. Moreover on safeguarded land – I believe we will get to a position of reducing the current levels in the draft plan so that we can both reflect local opposition but also get a sound plan.
It is important that we all work together to support the greenbelt and to limit development in our green pleasant land.
I am announcing that we will minimise all Part II items unless there is a clear and absolute risk for the council, a company or an individual. This should mean an end to most Part II reports.
I am also requesting Corporate Leadership Board to ensure that in pre planning applications all members are invited again, unless there is a clear and absolute risk for the council and thus to remove the tick box exclusion of members which has occurred to date.
Finally, as to our staff – they deserve the thanks and support of us all and as part of my thanks I will be encouraging better practice of our robust processes so we can create, especially through the ASDVs, a work ambience that supports openness so that officers can complain and that senior officers learn from these complaints, which has not always been the case.
Open transparency for members, open transparency for officers, resident led .......... the journey to excellence has begun.