This morning I, and two other independent Cheshire West and Chester Councillors, had one of our regular meetings with the Chief Executive of the Council, Andrew Lewis. I have to say that these meetings are always amicable and positive; we listen to one another.
We asked him, in advance, to address the following topics and then we thought of a few more.
- Update on the Budget. The CE referred to the recently published Council Cabinet papers on which I commented briefly last week. Basically the current financial positive has been brought back on track but that there were concerns about the growth pressures in the Adult Social Care and Childrens’ departments. As we all know there are more older, frailer people in our communities who need assistance that can be complex and therefore expensive. The Council is continuing to take a pro-active and co-ordinated approach to struggling families, bringing all services to focus on supporting them before they reach crisis point where children go into care.
- The New Waste Management. As part of a previously agreed change management of the waste collection and disposal service will become an in-house service from the 1st April this year. The intention is that residents will really not notice the changeover.
- Review of Verge Management. This is a topic that is becoming more and more pressing. I explained that we are all conscious of the climate emergency, financial pressures and the public awareness of habitats. Roadside verges do need to be managed especially regarding visibility and safety BUT I do question whether they need cutting in winter or early spring when the grass is short but dandelions and other nectar rich wildflowers are coming into bloom. If we cut at better times we could spend less on mowing and more on picking up the litter that scars our roadsides and countryside. Win Win! I suggest that you might like to read more on http://www.plantlife.org.uk
- Broadband Speeds especially in Rural Areas. There was a discussion about the importance of good quality broadband connectivity to rural businesses. More and more people work from home at least some of the time and in tackling the climate emergency this will only increase. Some areas still have such poor connected speed that working from home is impractical.
- What the Council can do to help small businesses. It is very easy to underestimate the number of businesses and start-up or part time businesses there are in the borough. Too often, I believe, official statistics reflect the registered offices as being the place of work but in most rural parts of the ward or in residential areas there are more businesses and self employed people than one imagines. Many homes have offices or desks from where people quietly work on everything ranging from advising multi-national corporations or government departments on technical matters to organising their dog walking rotas or writing professionally. These start ups or small outfits frequently need advice on matters from tax to planning permission to employment law. The Council can point people in the right direction either through their own services or through http://www.candwgrowthhub.co.uk