'Wilmslow in my view is now grossly underfunded'

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Cheshire East Council has recently taken the decision to abolish Area Highways Groups, which cost £350,000 a year, and reallocate the funding so that each council member receives an individual budget of £4200 per year to spend on highways issues within their local ward.

Speaking about the decision, Councillor Don Stockton (Conservative, Lacey Green Ward) said "I am appalled that the people of Wilmslow have lost their Area Highway Group which enabled local councillors the chance to work together to allocate more funding than is now available individually. Wilmslow in my view is now grossly underfunded and with the Council tax rises the Labour/Independent group put into effect, I completely fail to see why. The government contrary to popular opinion have given this Labour Independent led Council large amounts of funding to offset COVID and even after that have cut the highways budget."

He added "As a result, I've just applied for everything on my priority list ( far more than £4200 ) I might add, but I can and will soon be adding more ! Compared with Councillors in rural areas with far greater lengths of road than my ward I get the same amount as everyone else so complaints they and I have more than a few ! This Lab/Ind system helps urban wards disproportionately ( to lengths of road at least )."

Councillor Mark Goldsmith (Residents of Wilmslow, Wilmslow West & Chorley Ward) said "The change was introduced so we can respond far more quickly to low-cost road improvements that residents bring to us.

"The new budget has just kicked in, so it is not yet allocated. However, it does not buy much (eg a zebra crossing can cost £60,000), but it does mean we can make small improvements much more quickly than before."

He added "I am working with residents on Altrincham Road to improve the speed signage coming into Wilmslow, which will be the first use of my allocation and a test of how faster the new system will operate."

Councillor Iain Macfarlane (Residents of Wilmslow, Wilmslow West & Chorley ward) added "As Mark mentioned these funds have not yet been allocated but as we are both Wilmslow West ward councillors we can either spend it on smaller jobs or combine our individual budgets for work on a larger project which concerns local residents.

"I am currently finalising the painting of vital road safety markings outside Pownall Hall Primary School on Gorsey Road using last remaining funds from the previous Area Highway Group budget. This has taken a long time to organise but will be much appreciated by parents and children who cross this busy road every day."

More details will be published on wilmslow.co.uk as your local ward councillors confirm which local highways projects they have chosen to spend their £4200 budget on.

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Comments

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

Mark Goldsmith
Tuesday 29th June 2021 at 1:32 am
Unfortunately, Conservative Cllr Stockton has his sums all wrong.

The previous Area Highways Group had £21,000 a year to spend on road improvements across Wilmslow, Handforth, Alderley Edge and Style. However, these areas will now get £33,600 under the new scheme. Wilmslow will get a guaranteed £21,000 (£4,200 for each of the five Wilmslow Councillors) vs a possible nothing under the old scheme. Therefore, I have no idea why he thinks this is a cut for the town.

What clearly is a cut though is the government’s £4 million a year reduction (-23%) to Cheshire East for highways maintenance. This was despite the Conservative manifesto in 2019 promising “We will launch the biggest ever pothole-filling programme as part of our National Infrastructure Strategy – and our major investment in roads will ensure new potholes are much less likely to appear in the future.”

Therefore, perhaps Cllr Stockton can ask Conservative Central Office when Wilmslow will get this promised investment in our roads?

As for the Covid-19 money he mentions, Cheshire East received this from the government as repayment for the activities it did for the government eg issuing business loans and shielding vulnerable people. The council had to provide detailed receipts to claim this money from the treasury though, so it could never be used to fund non-Covid-19 activity as Cllr Stockton suggests. The council didn’t even get this full amount. The treasury underpaid and demanded Cheshire East (like most other English councils) make up the shortfall by increasing council tax. Therefore, the extra council tax did not give us more money to spend, it just filled the shortfall the treasury left us with.

Finally, this new Highways scheme does not stop councillors from working together. We did this very recently to discuss the parking issues on Cliff Road. This road is on Cllr Stockton's ward but a lack of progress on fixing the problem led Cllr Jefferay to organise a meeting with Highways officers and the councillors. The outcome is that Wilmslow Town Council is likely to agree to install more planters to stop cars from parking on the pavement there. If not, we can fund temporary water filled barriers instead from this new budget. These are both low-cost solutions (a few hundred pounds) and the new scheme means we have certainty of funding, so we can now act much, much quicker to get things done.

So, if you prefer we wait for 3 months to have a meeting of 7 councillors and 6 Highways officers to argue how and where we spend less money on the towns roads, then Conservative Cllr Stockton's clearly your man.

However, if you think having no quarterly meetings, no cost of officers time and the ability to immediately spend more money on Wilmslow's roads is a good thing, then you'll need Residents of Wilmslow councillors to represent you.


Cllr Mark Goldsmith
Residents of Wilmslow
Wilmslow West & Chorley
David Jefferay
Tuesday 29th June 2021 at 8:38 am
Further to cllr Goldsmith's post, it is probably worth explaining the old scheme. The way it worked was that the "Wilmslow Area Highway Group" comprising the 5 Wilmslow cllrs (including Styal), the 2 Handforth cllrs, the Alderley edge cllr, put forward lists of minor highways jobs that needed doing then sat in a room every March to discuss what a measly £21,000 should be spent on. This required a lot of "horse-trading" and every year there would be winners and losers.
We would then meet again in September to discuss progress.
Under the new scheme, not only does Wilmslow get more (guaranteed) funds, but what it is spent on is decided by your cllr, not subject to who shouts loudest or who is in the right political grouping (in the old scheme, politics came into play quite a bit).
Cllr Stockton is right that Wilmslow's highways are underfunded but that's nothing to do with the change to the area Highways group, which in my opinion is a massive improvement compared to the old system.
Alan Brough
Tuesday 29th June 2021 at 1:45 pm
David / Mark,

Can you use your allocations to rid
us of the “Curse of Brook Lane”

The “temporary” traffic lights have been there for at least ten months and not a stroke of work done.

Meanwhile, those of us that use the road twice per day are made to sit and wait and add carbon to the atmosphere.
David Jefferay
Tuesday 29th June 2021 at 5:40 pm
Hi Alan, afraid not. It falls under Alderley edge. My understanding is that it is a dispute because the home owner believes it is the council's responsibility to repair it. The council has installed the lights for safety.
Fraser Hill
Tuesday 29th June 2021 at 6:46 pm
If you go to Macclesfield the roundabouts are all immaculate and welcoming with well maintained displays. Wilmslow on the other hand has a load of disgusting overgrown, unkempt messes. The ones on the bypass are particularly ugly and overgrown with mangled signs and car debris.
It’s easy to take your own surroundings that you see every day for granted, but if you take a critical look around, Wilmslow town centre actually looks a bit of a state with the exception of the flower displays by oak nurseries.
Mark Goldsmith
Tuesday 29th June 2021 at 9:09 pm
Alan

The council has issued a legal notice to the owner of the wall to get it fixed.

They now have 11 days remaining to appeal the notice or else the council can enforce the repair.

Therefore, it looks like this will soon be resolved and at long-last the traffic lights can be removed.
Stuart Redgard
Wednesday 30th June 2021 at 6:10 pm
Fraser Hill

I agree that the roundabouts on the bypass are particularly ugly, but which of the other thirteen are you concerned about?

To maintain the roundabouts on the bypass Cheshire east Council (CEC) have to do a lane closure for safety reasons. I am aware of this because as a member of the Wilmslow Cleanteam we have previously been in contact with them about the ongoing litter and fly tipping that takes place on the bypass. CEC do litter picks on the by pass when there are lane closures for gully cleaning or grass cutting.

With regards to the “flower displays”, there are two types. Ones paid for and provided by Cheshire East Council and others paid for and provided by Wilmslow Town Council.

As far as I am aware (but I could be wrong) Cheshire East Council only provide floral displays in three locations in Wilmslow.

1) The Garden of Remembrance opposite St Bartholemew Church
2) The flower beds in the grass verge by the “Old Rectory” on Alderley
3) The flower bed in the central reservation at the junction of Hawthorn Street/ Water Lane/ Altrincham Road/ Hall Road.

All other floral displays provided in planters on the pavement or attached to railings are provided by Wilmslow Town Council. Oak Nurseries are paid to fill, water and maintain these on behalf of Wilmslow Town Council.

There is also a lot of work done by the “Wilmslow in Bloom Group” to enhance the town centre with the assistance of schools, and some (but not all) town centre retailers.

Wilmslow in Bloom Group have worked tirelessly over the last 6/7 years and their work has been recognised by numerous awards.

I appreciate and understand your comments and there is a lot more work that could be done to improve the town centre. However, I’d rather focus on and celebrate the initiatives of Wilmslow Town Council and all the volunteers involved in Wilmslow in Bloom Group.
Simon Rodrigues
Wednesday 30th June 2021 at 6:23 pm
The Council and its Director are a long way from getting it right. Im still waiting to see improvements given Covid so they have not had the time given circumstances to get things resolved. However their ethos is to group areas with Budgets.
Audrey Youngman
Wednesday 30th June 2021 at 7:35 pm
I would be quite grateful if the potholes in Hall Road Handforth could be repaired. This is a busy road with all the school traffic. .
Stuart Redgard
Wednesday 30th June 2021 at 8:21 pm
Councillor Don Stockton.

Why do you believe that “Wilmslow in my view is now grossly underfunded”. Exactly how much did the Area Highways Group for Wilmslow have to spend in each year that the conservatives were in control and when, if I remember correctly, you were for some time a member of the cabinet. May be you could supply the figures to prove without a doubt that councillors Goldsmith and Jefferay are just trying to “pull the wool” over our eyes by baffling us with actual figures. I look forward to you providing us with the figures as I’m sure you are keen to prove the Labour/Independent group are being disingenuous. Or is it you that is being disingenuous?
Pete Taylor
Monday 5th July 2021 at 8:59 pm
@Stuart Redgard; don't hold your breath waiting for an answer from "Silent" Don Stockton- has he ever answered a question on this forum?

He pops out of the dinosaur-world of "Party-Politics in Local Government", makes a Daily-Mail style rant (with a load of wrong numbers) and is swiftly put back in his box by two of our modern, switched-on, independent local Councillors (thanks Mark and David for putting him right) and that's probably the last we will see of him until another election draws near.

Judging by what I read, the UK electorate is finally realising that they do not need local Councillors who are dictated to by whatever bunch of self-serving characters are currently in the Westminster bubble. We are very lucky that Residents of Wilmslow and Alderley First were ahead of that curve and have really made Local politics LOCAL. Well done to all of those involved.
Nick Jones
Tuesday 6th July 2021 at 9:36 am
It does beg the question; Is this just a personal rant ?... or sniping and spin at the behest of his puppet masters ?... Ironic to merely comment on this and not explain the many previous more serious questions / issues put to him on issues such as development and the like on this forum in the past. Perhaps he should take a lead from the more progressive and effective Independent Cllrs representing Wilmslow who are prepared to explain.
Stuart Redgard
Tuesday 6th July 2021 at 10:54 pm
Pete Taylor / Nick Jones

Thinking that Don Stockton might not look back at the comments, I decided to send him an email, to which I did get a response. As it was a private communication I don’t think it’s appropriate to share any of what he said other than to confirm that the matter is now closed and I’ve accepted that the information I requested is no longer needed.

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