Brendan Murphy - Independent
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Independent Councillors are the third largest group on Cheshire East Council, much to the relief of Tory backbenchers. That’s not surprising. Hitherto, their key function has been voting fodder for the Party. But now the "one-man rule" system is being vigorously challenged, every councillor counts.

With offices scattered all over – Macclesfield, Knutsford, Sandbach, Congleton, Crewe, Nantwich – councillors and officials spend a lot of expensive time travelling backwards and forwards. But don’t worry about us. We can claim 65p a mile. And even after tax, that leaves a healthy “profit”. Cabinet Members do even better. Besides getting a basic £11,2000 allowance plus 65p a mile, they get £1000 per cabinet meeting even if they fail to attend!

My first day on the Council … and what an eye opener. I am offered an index-linked, guaranteed pension! But, I protested, I’m over 60. No problem, they tell me, you can still join the scheme … and for every £100 you pay in, the Taxpayers will chip in another £200. Thank you very much.
   After 4 years, I will be eligible for a tax-free lump sum of £1680 … plus £560 a year for the rest of my life. Do another 4 years and the annual pension would be doubled. Of course, at the top of the ladder, the Council Leader collects a bit more. For every 4 years, he’ll get £9,400 lump sum plus £2000 a year, index-linked!
   How can a Conservative Council extend these “welfare” benefits to councillors when employees – and Taxpayers – are being asked to take pension cuts, pay cuts and redundancies? I think it is crazy and should be stopped.

At my first full council meeting, I tabled questions on four issues:

  • What was the justification for a 25% hike in market stall rents when the Council was already making a 4.7% profit on them? It was then disclosed that the Council was actually making a 27% profit. The Council has now decided to lower the increase, claiming it is a “subsidy”!!
  • Why is money being poured into Crewe (e.g. £8M for a new Crewe station car park) while, at the same time, Macclesfield is being starved of town centre investment?
  • What financial guarantee does the Council have that Wilson Bowden will deliver on its promises? The answer: “We have a commitment from them.” In other words, there is no guarantee. But what do you expect when Macclesfield’s redevelopment is in the hands of a Knutsford Councillor?
  • Why is the Fostering Panel not properly representative of ordinary people as well as professional social workers? The position will now be reviewed.

Alarming, however, was the Mayor’s conclusion of the meeting. Casting aspersions on the legitimacy of some questions, he suggested they were not suitable for Council meetings and should be asked in private!

So much for the Council’s commitment to transparency and honesty!

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