Barlow's Beef: Would councillors do this with their own money?


This week's column is like orienteering: you need to read the clues to know where you are heading.

In July 2013 Wilmslow Town Council wanted to spend £12, 700 on a chain of office. Cllr Gary Barton commented: "This is an asset for the Council so it is not money that's disappeared but money transferred into assets. I think the investment is well made."

Clearly the people of Wilmslow did not and after much public protest the 'investment' was shelved.

Wind forward to January 2015 when the Chairman of Wilmslow Town Council suggested that iPads should be purchased for all members of the council at a cost of £7K. Not what you would consider essential spending in theses austere times.

Now Congleton Town Council is in a bit of a tizzy. The council decided (as councils do) that it would be of great advantage to local taxpayers to have a digital sign in the centre of town disseminating council information.

They considered it so spiffingly beneficial that residents would be willing to spend £25,740 of their own money on such a sign. Well... they didn't actually ask residents their opinion but opted to buy it anyway.

So eager were councillors to broadcast information they paid a 'deposit' of £20K in August 2013 to the proposed supplier. Now, I don't know about you, but when I'm making a sizable purchase and the supplier demands a deposit I feel the need for some form of legal protection.

A request for anything more than ten per cent and I'm suspicious. Not so Congleton Town Council who coughed up £20K of taxpayers money up front without any guarantee of any kind for a digital screen that simply failed to materialise.

According to the Congleton Chronicle, Congleton Town Clerk told the Finance Committee that the supplier "clearly wants to supply the unit but has not been able to muster the resources to make it happen."

My maths is not great, but isn't the balance just £5,740? Did Congleton Town Council really hand over £20K to a supplier of such insignificance that he could not find £5K to fund the balance? Err... yep, that's exactly what it did.

Councillor Sally Ann Holland said, "We have been hoodwinked. Plus by the sound of it we're not going to get our money back." (source Congleton Chronicle)

No kidding?

And that, my fellow taxpayers, is why I do not support town councils. They are just another layer of politicians who simply cannot resist squandering our money.

We already bankroll MEP's, Westminster, and Cheshire East just how much 'government' do you want to pay for? How about a council to represent your street or avenue? The possibilities for bureaucracy are infinite.

Macclesfield is next in line to form a Town Council. Do you think they will be any different?

Answers on an iPad or digital display to: ohno@ivebeenhad.

The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of

Barlows Beef, Vic Barlow


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

Derek Stevens
Tuesday 10th March 2015 at 2:48 pm
Perhaps the Congleton Councillors who squandered the £ 20k could make amends for their serious errors.

As a Congleton Business Rates payer may I suggest that they purchase their own sandwich boards and parade around the town with the council news

I am willing to supply waterproof dunces caps to them. just in case it rains
Justin Handby
Tuesday 10th March 2015 at 4:03 pm
The company that was supposed to supply this signage needs to be named and questioned directly. If the Town Council fails to provide this information then questions have to be asked of them. And whoever agreed to pay such a large "deposit" should be sacked and his/her back pockets checked on the way out.
Pete Taylor
Tuesday 10th March 2015 at 4:27 pm
Don't forget the £5k which WTC recently paid for a coffee machine at the cafe in Styal Prison (not in Wilmslow) or the £1900 to seed an invisible triangle at the side of the by-pass. They might as well put our money into a triangle in Bermuda.
Mark Goldsmith
Tuesday 10th March 2015 at 4:34 pm
Congleton should take a leaf out of Cheshire East's book:

a) Commission an independent review of your spending fiasco at a phenomenally unjustifiable cost.

b) Announce that the review concluded your buying process is not very good (wow, who'd have thought).

c) Publish the report only after you have totally obliterated every word of it with a giant magic marker.

d) Tell the people of Congleton you only lost £2,000 because you "saved" £18,000 in not paying for the electricity to run the sign, thus exonerating the council of any blame.

Simples. Well, the people of Macc must be if they actually want more of this lunacy.
Nick Jones
Tuesday 10th March 2015 at 5:42 pm
Vic; Would it be more entertaining if it was their own personal money and not ours ? ( i.e; tax paying Joe Public ),, considering 'financial genius' advice would be available on the end of a phone from the 'great minds' involved in Lyme Green, Local plan etc...... ............Hoodwinked ?........ not really went into it with their eyes open ..........
.......Nutmegged ?....... definitely straight through the legs.. ..goal !! and £20 k in the bank.. sounds like a good business to be in....As entertaining as ever Thanks Vic
Vic Barlow
Tuesday 10th March 2015 at 10:04 pm
I had a wealthy boss once who when asked to support any new venture would only consider it if those suggesting it met his investment with their own.

It was amazing how many proposals were withdrawn.

Spending other people's money is too easy.
Richard Bullock
Tuesday 10th March 2015 at 11:23 pm
It's the first I've heard of Congleton T-C's error, but have I missed something? The supplier is still registered with Companies House (although it looks like their accounts are late). Does this not mean that they could still pursue them for the money - perhaps with a statutory demand?
David Jefferay
Wednesday 11th March 2015 at 6:06 am
The following may sound a little defensive. I make no apologies for that...the benefit of being an independent councillor is that I am free to defend myself and say what I think with only the electorate to answer to!

Firstly, a lot of people don't realise that the Town Councillor position is voluntary. We do not get paid anything to do it. That means, if there was no town council, the jobs we do would either not get done or we (the tax payer) would have to pay council staff to do it. You may think the Town Council jobs don't need doing or that you would prefer to pay a council worker to do it.

My view is that Wilmslow is a better place to live as a result of the likes of Transition Wilmslow, the Clean Team, Incredible Edible, and other great causes that the Town Council at least partly funds. I therefore believe the job needs doing.

On the second aspect, I would rather have people who live in Wilmslow and care enough about the town to give up their time free of charge make those decisions than pay a council worker at Cheshire East who has no connection with the town to do it.

Yes, Town Councillors will make errors of judgement (some of which have been howlers) but so do council workers (as we all know). However, at least Town Councillors have some degree of accountability for their decisions, not only every four years but also on the street, in the supermarket or from their friends and neighbours.

As I see it, we have a Town Council and I'm not aware of any plans to disband it (in fact the plan is to devolve more powers from Cheshire East) so you have a few options.

1) You can whinge from the sidelines and make the job harder for the Councillors but not do anything to help.
2) You can vote for a candidate who you think will do a good job, accept that they are only human and may make mistakes.
3) You can stand as Councillor yourself and give up your spare time to try to make a difference.

Unfortunately option 1 is by far the easiest.

In answer to the original question 'Would Councillors do this with their own money?' Yes, I would...I do, it is my money (as much as it is yours)!

PS If anyone wants to try option 3, Residents of Wilmslow (RoW) is looking for candidates for May!
Pete Taylor
Wednesday 11th March 2015 at 7:42 am
Well said David. The coming election will be the first full WTC election where many of the residents have a choice; unfortunately two of the four wards were uncontested last time, so several of our current Cllrs have been in place without a single vote being cast.
Fortunately the electors have seen the error of their ways and hopefully all positions will contested next time.
It is interesting that a parallel situation also exists now in Alderley Edge (although for different reasons) whereby all Parish and CEC positions will be contested by an Independent candidate.
Stuart Redgard
Wednesday 11th March 2015 at 4:59 pm
Yes, Well said David, And here is my comment on the same article posted on

I am pleased that Vic has started to contribute on this excellent local news service. However, I would like to "leap" to the defence of the Chairman of Wilmslow Town Council who is reported as having "suggested that iPads should be purchased for all members of the council at a cost of £7K". I like the editor of this site (Lisa) were both present at the January 2015 meeting when Councillor Watkins (Chairman of Wilmslow Town Council) gave his report. Councillor David Jeffrey was also present and Lisa and David exchanged comment on this matter in a previous article.

It's obvious to me that the three of us there heard the same words spoken by Councillor Watkins but interpreted them differently.

What do they say about "communication" being 93% non verbal!. The very subject Councillor Watkins was commenting on when talking about iPads!!
Vic Barlow
Wednesday 11th March 2015 at 5:18 pm
Please see: Rules of Engagement.

"Now we have that out of the way let's talk about truth and accuracy. It should be simple but it isn't. In my long experience political praise is always just and criticism unjust"
Stuart Redgard
Thursday 12th March 2015 at 6:59 pm
@Vic: Please explain

"Please see: Rules of Engagement." No link etc. Am I missing something?

I try (but don't always succeed), in giving political "praise" and "criticism" for what I believe are "good" and "not good" decisions. But I appreciate that everybody else doesn't necessarily think the same way as I do. So what I think is a good decision, somebody else may think is a bad decision (And visa versa).

If anybody notices when I don't "succeed", do please let me know by commenting so.
Alan Brookes
Thursday 12th March 2015 at 9:02 pm
I have recently taken an interest in the smart screen Congleton Town Council have been trying to buy, they don't strike me as being very business savvy, who in the right mind would deal with a company who's value was only £5000 no wonder they could not afford to buy the product they were to sell to the council.

I have heard lots of rumour's about this matter quite a few constituents have requested under The Freedom of Information Act sight of the documentation relating to this purchase, some of the responses they have received are totally unbelievable if proven to be true such as "There is no paperwork for the purchase" not sure I believe that. A member of the council stated "The council have received the VAT back" if this is so where is the paperwork from HMRC and why wont the council supply copies to the constituents who have requested sight of them.

Is it a coincidence that the Deputy Leader of Congleton Town Council is also the Deputy Leader of Cheshire East Council look at the money Cheshire East Council have wasted over the last 5 years IT IS MILLIONS
Vic Barlow
Monday 16th March 2015 at 4:24 pm
Rules of Engagement: