Reader's Letter: Proposed merger may disadvantage Handforth residents


All three elected town or parish councils involved in the Cheshire East Council (CEC) proposal to merge Chorley, Handforth and Wilmslow have already voiced their opposition to the proposed merger. In view of this, it is perhaps surprising that CEC have persisted in progressing the proposal to the stage of public consultation. However, it has to be admitted that the process of public consultation is necessary for a truly democratic approach to deciding whether or not the three parishes should merge.

It is our view that none of the various parameters (electorate size and housing development data; local elections nominations data; parish/town council workload; pre-consultation survey responses) used to decide the fate of parishes is fit for purpose. Indeed the poor quality of the parameters used to decide the fate of parishes undermines the very basis of the proposed merger.

Tenuous arguments have been advanced to suggest that Handforth and Wilmslow represent the same community or that Handforth is dependent on services only available in Wilmslow. However such arguments are not supported by credible evidence. Handforth Parish Council has a proud record of (independent) service to its local community and the past disagreements within that Council should not be used to argue for its dissolution by merger with its larger neighbour, Wilmslow.

If the proposed merger of Handforth with Wilmslow and Chorley were to go ahead, Handforth would be represented by only four seats on an expanded Wilmslow Town Council totalling 20 seats. It therefore seems likely that Handforth's influence over planning matters including negotiations for the spending of S106 or CIL money would be greatly weakened.

The Local Government Boundary Commission Guidance on Community Governance Reviews page 32, para 114 states that "Grouping or degrouping needs to be compatible with the retention of community interests. It would be inappropriate for it to be used to build artificially large units under single parish councils". It would therefore seem to us that the CEC proposal to merge Handforth with Wilmslow and Chorley does not accord with The Local Government Boundary Commission Guidance on Community Governance Reviews.

In conclusion it seems to us that the proposed merger of the three parishes may be very much to the disadvantage of residents of Handforth. For a more detailed critique Handforth residents are encouraged to visit Handforth Town Council website:

Roger Small (Chair)
Alan Murdoch (Vice Chair)
Handforth Neighbourhood Plan Steering Group



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

Howard Piltz
Wednesday 8th September 2021 at 1:40 pm
I have long felt that Cheshire East Council gives the WILMSLOW area a very low priority and therefore that all decision making affecting this area should be vested SOLELY in WILMSLOW Town Council with CEC serving only as a service provider.
In any boundary changes I would include Styal and Alderley Edge as they are very much part of our community and Styal in particular needs the weight of a larger council against the expansionist Manchester Airport
Toni Fox
Wednesday 8th September 2021 at 9:25 pm
I have no opinion on this either way and no longer being a resident or Councillor of Cheshire East the outcome will no longer affect me, however, I would like to offer some food for thought having been involved in the initial process.

May I suggest that it would be helpful if Dr. Small could provide a breakdown of the income and costs of running Handforth Parish Council and Chorley Council thus highlighting the net balance that is currently available to spend in the local community?

If they were to be merged with Wilmslow how much more money would be available to spend on matters that are important to residents?

Given that Handforth Parish is largely, or wholly, comprised of Independent candidates and the recent success of Independent candidates at Wilmslow Town Council, it is not unreasonable to anticipate that at the next elections in 2023 (if the merger went ahead) that Independent candidates would have a majority on the merged Council.
Peter Moore
Thursday 9th September 2021 at 1:51 pm
I think that cost argument is not the over-riding factor here. The key word in Local Government is clearly local. Having people who live in the village and with the demise of the controlling group, that are committed to improving the lot of the Village and its residents is almost independent of cost. A good example of this is the setting up a local help group of fifty volunteers to provide shopping and prescription pickup during the pandemic. This was organised by Ward councilor Smith and Parish councilors Smith, Samson and Moore. It cost nothing but people’s time. Further more Cheshire East’s assertion that Wilmslow and Handforth is a community is laughable.
Toni Fox
Thursday 9th September 2021 at 5:20 pm
Sadly the ongoing reduction of grants by the Government to Local Authorities is inevitably having a negative impact on the services it provides to residents. Town and Parish Councils have the opportunity, if they wish, to offer financial assistance for some services - the new initiative for paying for highways improvements being a prime example.

My understanding is that Handforth Parish Councils' annual income is £90,000 however it costs £50,000 a year to run it.

Potentially therefore an additional £50,000 a year could be made available to spend on residents.

Is there any reason why such excellent initiatives as the one mentioned by Mr Moore could not continue in a merged council?
Stuart Redgard
Thursday 9th September 2021 at 6:43 pm
I am against this merger and have been ever since I first heard about it. As someone who lives in Wilmslow, my opinion is that Chorley, Handforth, and Wilmslow are all separate communities. I, therefore, support the argument being put forward by the authors of the letter.

It is my understanding that all three Town/Parish councils are against the merger. Handforth Parish and Wilmslow Town Councils have also only existed for just over 10 years. They were created after a public referendum on whether to have one council for Handforth Styal and Wilmslow or three separate councils. The electorate chose to have three separate councils. So why do a group of unelected council officers believe that they know how the communities operate and what their separate needs are better than that of the electorate?

I hope that the electorate of all three parishes choose to complete the consultation survey and make their feelings known.

With regard to cost, I can only assume that the "new" council created from the merger of the three would have the same workload and therefore require the same number of support staff. Wilmslow Town Council already has one full-time and two part-time members of staff. I believe that Chorley Parish Council employs a part-time clerk but I do not know how many staff Handforth Parish council employs and on what basis.

The electorate of Handforth and Chorley also have less representation per elector on the proposed merged council compared to the current arrangement.

Basically in my opinion it's a bad deal for the electorate of Chorley, Handforth, and Wilmslow and I hope the proposal does not go ahead.
Toni Fox
Thursday 9th September 2021 at 11:13 pm
Cheshire East Council was required to carry out a review to ensure that community governance arrangements continue to reflect local identities and facilitate effective and convenient local government. It was not a choice to carry out the review, it was a requirement from Government.

Sadly, as with the demise of Macclesfield Borough Council, finance is one of the optimum considerations in changes to governance.

Whilst currently these areas may be considered as separate communities, the threats that they face are all the same - lack of funds and pressure for more development.

Together we stand, divided we fall......
Peter Moore
Saturday 11th September 2021 at 11:46 am
I think Stuart Redgard is spot on with his analysis of the situation. Out of interest Chorley and Handforth share the same Clerk. Apparently Wilmslow Town council are already suggesting they would need extra staff. There will be no real saving in cost just a poorer service for Handforth.
Toni Fox
Saturday 11th September 2021 at 8:28 pm
Residents deserve to be able to make an informed decision rather than one based on supposition.

Unless there is evidence to support that additional staff would be needed, and unless you can explain why Handforth would receive a poorer service, your comments Peter are disingenuous and misleading.

The current evidential information available suggests that an additional £50,000 could be made available to spend on schemes that will be of benefit to residents.

If you have different evidential information perhaps you would like to share it.

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