Handforth councillor urges residents to support merger with Wilmslow and Chorley


A Handforth councillor is urging local residents to support Cheshire East Council's proposals to merge Wilmslow, Handforth and Chorley to create a single community called Wilmslow.

The recommendation has come as a result of a two year review carried out by Cheshire East Council to ensure that community governance arrangements 'continue to reflect local identities and facilitate effective and convenient local government'.

The review looks at a range of issues, including town and parish boundaries, numbers of town and parish councillors, grouping of parishes and warding.

Wilmslow Town Council, Handforth Town Council and Chorley Parish Council all voted unanimously to to oppose the merger. Additionally, all Members of Parliament representing constituencies in Cheshire East have set out their concerns about the plans which they say "will deeply damage local community spirit and the identities of local villages in the constituencies they represent".

However, Councillor Barry Burkhill who represents the Handforth Ward on Cheshire East Council, wrote to local residents this week urging them to support the proposal.

The letter from Handforth Ratepayers' Councillors, which was also sent on behalf of former Former Vice-Chair of Handforth Town Council Aled Brewerton, said "About one third of Handforth Ward already lies within Wilmslow. It makes sense to support this proposal.

"It would mean we would pay less Council Tax and we would not be paying for the overheads involved with a small Handforth Council. We would also benefit from any devolved powers to an enlarged Council, including possible additional Highway maintenance. It would not mean an end to all those local groups which flourished in the days before Handforth ever had a parish council and would continue to be engaged with the local community, regardless of being part of a larger unit.

"It would mean an end to the endless arguments, turmoil, disruption, disputes and complaints made to CEC about Handforth Council since 2011, which have become a world-wide embarrassment to us all and have led to the loss of more than half of the Council members since the elections in 2019."

Three former councillors have resigned since the infamous Handforth Parish Council Zoom meeting went viral in February 2021, after it descended into chaos with members trading insults and removing each other from the call.

Following the chaotic meeting councillors Barry Burkhill and Aled Brewerton declined to attended any more Handforth Parish Council meetings.

Former Vice-Chair Aled Brewerton stood down in March giving no reason, then Barry Burkhill resigned from his parish council seat in May, followed by Councillor Brian Tolver in October 2021 citing health reasons.

Councillor Barry Burkhill continues to represent Handforth on Cheshire East Council along with Julie Smith.

Local residents now have the chance to express their views in the public consultation on Cheshire East Council's Community Governance Review, which
can be accessed online at https://surveys.cheshireeast.gov.uk/s/CGReview2.

The consultation started in early September, and ends at midnight on Sunday 28 November 2021.

When finalised the changes will be implemented before the scheduled local elections in May 2023.

Community Governance Review


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

William White
Friday 26th November 2021 at 8:37 am
All 3 parish councils and the local MPs are against it. How out-of-touch are you Mr Burkhill?

Too much is read into what happened with Handforth's viral meeting. Sure, it was not a good look, but I'll bet there are plenty of other parishes around the country that have similar problems. People get elected, probably do a decent job for a while, inertia sets in among the voters and the next thing you know is you've got a self-important elite who think they're untouchable. Eventually the people wake up and do something about it.

You won't solve Handforth's problem by merging it with Wilmslow or anywhere else. There are plenty of decent people there who could put up, and with the new housing developments more will be moving in. It just needs a few fresh faces to get up off their backsides (if you'll excuse the imagery) and replace the likes of Burkhill who are long past their sell-by date
Pete Taylor
Friday 26th November 2021 at 10:01 am
If Handforth Town Council "voted unanimously to oppose the merger" why are some of them now taking the opposite tack?
Peter Moore
Friday 26th November 2021 at 2:40 pm
To Pete Taylor
All 7 current councillors are unanimously opposed to the merger. Burkhill, current ward councillor, and Brewerton are ex-councillors. Along with ex-councillor Tolver they were the controlling group since the elections in May 2019. In their combined pre-election manifesto Tolver and Burkhill made it quite clear they were in it for the 'long haul'. Over the next ten years or so Handforth Council would receive approximately £2m from developers of the 'Garden Village'. This would be spent on infrastructure projects. Tolver and Burkhill outlined some of their ideas. All three have resigned thanks to the famous viral video and having lost power and control have done a spiteful U-Turn. Handforth Village stabbed in the back. There is a much bigger story here and when finally the CEC's independent Barrister's report finally comes out people will be able to decide what sought of man we have had as Mayor and still Handforth's Ward Councillor.
Pete Taylor
Sunday 28th November 2021 at 8:31 am
@ Peter Moore: reading

"However, Councillor Barry Burkhill who represents the Handforth Ward on Cheshire East Council, wrote to local residents this week urging them to support the proposal."

you will perhaps forgive my confusion? So, he IS a CEC Councillor but WAS also a Town Councillor?
Peter Moore
Monday 29th November 2021 at 12:27 pm
To Pete Taylor
Yes Barry Burkhill is one of the two Ward Councillors for Handforth and has been for some years. He was a Parish Councillor when elected in May 2019 on a joint ticket with Brian Tolver, also ex-councillor and ex-Chairman who resigned on health grounds very recently. Mr Burkhill didn't attend meetings or communicate to the council for three months after the famous viral video. He finally resigned on the day he received the CEC report done by an independent Barrister. This meant he didn't have to explain his breaches of the code of conduct to the Conducts Committee. I would recommend the article by John Phipps on the Economist Website which explains some of the background to the actions of Burkhill, Tolver and Brewerton.
Andrew Backhouse
Wednesday 1st December 2021 at 3:22 pm
It is interesting to see Barry Burkhill's view on this now, when I understood him to be a county councillor who pushed for Handforth to be separate from Wilmslow in the first place.
John Harries
Wednesday 1st December 2021 at 4:25 pm
Handforth's electorate already recorded it's feelings on the proposed merger a couple/3 months ago - an on-line and a paper 'straw poll'. I don't recall seeing the official Handforth result but apparently all 3 Parish/Town councils (Wilmslow, Chorley and Handforth) came out against any combination to merge.
I can see some good reasons for a merger, for a start the Council Clerk is a remunerated position which skims in excess of £20K off a Council precept and there are other duplicated recurring overhead costs so at a guess a merged Council would immediately save the combined budget something like +£50K that could be ploughed straight back into direct benefits for the 'new' community. There will be other, lesser savings of scale all offset by the division of voting rights for the revised body (probably proportional to the extent populations/ward splits of the three existing entities), always a contentious '2 minnows vs 1 perch (or perhaps pike' in the case of Wilmslow TC) situation!
I haven't seen the independent barrister report.....
Roger Bagguley
Wednesday 1st December 2021 at 4:26 pm
For me it is not about saving money or achieving greater efficiency in is about localism, about local identity. Wilmslow had a Neighbourhood Plan, Handforth too though not sure where it is at in terms of being adopted. Whatever, each has defined its identity and aspirations moving forward.
Jon Williams
Wednesday 1st December 2021 at 7:15 pm
Bring back:
Wilmslow Urban District Council was established in 1895. Previously it had been governed by Wilmslow Local Board formed in 1878 from the urban portions of Bollin Fee, Fulshaw and Pownall Fee townships. In 1936, the boundaries were extended to include most of Styal civil parish (formed from the rural portions of Pownall Fee in 1895) and Handforth civil parish (and urban district from 1904). In 1974 it amalgamated with several neighbouring urban and rural district councils to form the new Macclesfield Borough Council.
Laurie Atterbury
Thursday 2nd December 2021 at 5:12 pm
I think this is a ploy to "level up" house prices in Handforth and Chorley, to those of Wilmslow, so that, in future, even more developments will raise even more council tax revenue for CEC; the exact opposite of a previous post.