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In May 2011 Sam Corcoran was elected to Cheshire East Council  for Sandbach Heath & East by 6 votes defeating 2 sitting Councillors (one LibDem and one Conservative)

In May 2015, Sam was re-elected with a majority of 190 votes, doubling the number of votes he received.

In June 2017 Sam stood to be MP for Congleton Constituency, covering Congleton, Sandbach, Middlewich, Alsager and Holmes Chapel.

Although the Labour vote increased from 10,391 in 2015 to 19,211 in 2017, one of the biggest increases in the country, Sam was not elected. the full voting was 

Conservative: 31,830

 

LABOUR:      19,211

 

LibDem:          2,902

UKIP:              1,289

Green:               999

 

For the latest campaign information please   CLICK HERE

Facebook https://www.facebook.com/Corcoran4Congleton/

Twitter @Sam4Congleton https://twitter.com/Sam4Congleton 

 

For Congleton Labour Party http://www.congletonlabour.org.uk/

For the British Medical Association's election report  CLICK HERE 

Contact Sam on 01270 753038 or email sam at ncla.co.uk

 

Calls for Investigation into Cheshire East Council - September 2017

 

A Sandbach residents group has called upon the Secretary of State to initiate an independent enquiry into the actions and behaviour of the members and officers of Cheshire East Council to restore public confidence and have set up a petition at https://www.change.org/p/sajid-javid-launch-an-independent-enquiry-into-air-quality-data-falsification-by-cheshire-east-council

 The Secretary of State will not normally intervene at a Council over one recent issue and will only intervene if there has been a history of poor performance. It is therefore worth looking back over the history of Conservative-controlled Cheshire East Council.

 The Council was formed in 2009 and the Conservatives appointed a chief executive on £230,000 p.a. saying they were ‘reaching for the stars’. It wasn’t long before the wheels started to come off. The chief executive left after just 3 years in the job with a £93,000 severance package.

 In 2012 the Conservative portfolio holder responsible for ensuring that landlords know their legal duties became a convicted criminal landlord. Despite this salutary lesson, the Conservatives have failed to address the issues caused by a massive increase in the number of Houses of Multiple Occupation and rogue landlords resulting in deep rooted social and health issues.

 Work started on a waste transfer facility at Lyme Green near Macclesfield, but the Council failed to get planning permission from itself. The report into the fiasco cost £225,000 and revealed numerous failings and breach of procurement regulations but the Conservatives refused to make the report public. A redacted version showed a culture of mistrust & fear at the Council.

 In 2012 the Council’s auditors expressed “concerns about whether Cheshire East Council has proper arrangements to secure value for money in its use of resources” and qualified their opinion accordingly. The auditors said “The most significant of my recommendations is the need for Members to provide clearer strategic direction and political leadership when agreeing priorities, taking difficult decisions and supporting officers to deliver agreed plans.”

This statement clearly places the blame for Cheshire East Council’s woeful performance on the Tory administration of the council and not on the officers employed by the council.

 The Conservatives stopped pensioners from using their free bus passes on the charity-run Dial-a-Ride service, caused the charity to collapse, then re-instated the use of free bus passes when the service was taken over by a private company.

 The Council’s children’s services were put into special measures from 2013 to 2015 following an ‘inadequate’ rating from OFSTED. The services have improved by one step from the bottom are now rated ‘requires improvement’.

 The Planning department has perhaps caused the most anger amongst residents. The long-running saga over producing a Local Plan seemed to be over when a Local Plan was finally approved in July 2017, but the Plan is now the subject of a legal challenge. Even more worrying is that a recent appeal hearing has allowed a speculative housing development to go ahead on a greenfield site despite the application being in breach of the Local Plan and the Holmes Chapel Neighbourhood Plan.

 A developer has estimated that the Council has spent over £2m fighting (and losing) planning appeals. Developers and landowners have made millions out of speculative housing applications on greenfield sites in Cheshire, leaving local residents to pick up the tab for overloaded infrastructure such as schools and roads. The planning applications already approved will cause problems for years to come.

 In 2013 the Local Government Ombudsman found 6 examples of maladministration over a planning application at White Moss Quarry near Alsager and said that the Council had knowingly and persistently misled the public

When questioned at a Cabinet meeting about White Moss Quarry the then Conservative Leader, Michael Jones, said, “I am very concerned that certain sites historically in the Council have come forward with strange decisions around them. That won’t happen on my watch. I’m not part of any secret group, masons or whatever.”

 The Ombudsman found the Council guilty of maladministration again in 2014 over a planning application in Sandbach and again there was evidence of a lack of honesty in council officers.

 It was not just the planning department where the Ombudsman’s reports revealed a lack of honesty at the Council. In 2015 the Ombudsman rejected the Council’s claim that disclaimers had been included on all garden waste renewal letters warning of plans to remove the service over the winter. The Ombudsman said I am concerned there are two versions of the renewal letter in existence, one with, and one without, the disclaimer on it. I cannot see why this should be the case. I am concerned the disclaimer may have been added later, once the Council started to receive complaints. The number of complaints only increases concerns many customers did not receive the disclaimer.”

 The Council has also been found at fault by the Ombudsman over the treatment of a vulnerable adult in 2013. In fact, this was the second time the same vulnerable adult had gone to the Ombudsman seeking redress and it was only after the second maladministration finding that the Council put things right.

 At the Cabinet meeting on Monday 4 February 2013 a member of the public asked why Cheshire East Council had used taxpayers’ money to sponsor the Cheshire & Wirral Conservative Party conference. In response, the Conservative Leader, Cllr Michael Jones, said, “Sponsorship of CW13 conference was in order to get a message to Eric Pickles.” before pulling out his cheque book to pay the sponsorship costs himself.

In 2015 the BBC revealed that Council staff had been drafting tweets for the Conservative Leader attacking his party pollical opponents; party political campaigning by council staff or using council resources is illegal.

 In 2016 It was revealed that Cllr Sam Gardner, the Conservative Cabinet in charge of Finance, had been disqualified from being a company director because he caused his company Fomfest Ltd to misuse donations of at least £4,142 collected on behalf of a charity. Sam Gardner wasn’t fit to run a small company, but the Conservatives put him in charge of the council’s finances.

 The Council has been under investigation by the Organised Crime Unit of the regional police force since December 2015 when an investigation was started into contracts awarded to the Conservative Leader’s personal physiotherapist, waiving normal procurement procedures.

 Since its formation 8 years ago the Council has had 7 different Monitoring Officers. The Monitoring Officer is a senior lawyer, responsible for dealing with complaints against councillors and ensuring that the Council conducts its business lawfully.

 The Chief Executive was suspended six months ago and the Monitoring Officer (head of legal) is also suspended. A temporary s151 officer is covering for the head of finance after he was removed from some of his duties. The Head of Communications has been absent from work for the last year. The Head of Internal Audit left after being off work for a year and has not been replaced; it is almost as if someone doesn’t want an effective audit team looking into the internal workings of the Council.

 At the Council meeting in July 2017 there was a proposal to allocate an extra £2.4m to construct the waste processing site in Middlewich the extra costs were said to be down to land remediation costs not noticed when the Council bought the site and increased insurance costs. The Cabinet Member responsible said that the increased allocation wouldn’t cost the Council a penny as it would be a loan to the council-owned company ANSA Ltd who would pay the money back. After the vote was taken ANSA Ltd denied that it was a loan and it was conceded that the real cost to the Council was £2.4M. When a Labour councillor queried whether the decision was valid the acting Monitoring Officer ruled that it was – so it seems that Conservative councillors can say whatever they like (true or not) to get a motion passed.

 The Berkeley Academy primary school in Willaston was promised £70,000 for a car park by the Conservatives. This was not in accordance with the Council policy and was not agreed with officers of the Council. The promise was confirmed in writing by Cllr David Brown allegedly forming a binding contract. Labour councillors sought to have the decision scrutinised by a committee, but in September 2017 the acting Monitoring Officer rejected the request as there was potential legal action and disciplinary action so it would not be appropriate for any public scrutiny!! Surely the fact that the decision was dodgy should be an argument in favour of public scrutiny, not a reason to suppress Labour pressure.

 On 27 July 2017 Cheshire East Council approved its Local Plan and rejected a Labour amendment that work should immediately start on a new local plan that took into account correct air quality data. On 28 July the Council revealed that an external report had concluded that air quality data had been deliberately and systematically manipulated. An internal report later concluded that no planning applications had been affected by the falsified data. So now we are in the position that we know that a person or persons deliberately manipulated data, but we don’t know who they are or why they did it.

   

No Conservative Councillor has admitted any wrongdoing over any of the above list.

The coalition government abolished the Standards Board for England and the Audit Commission, so effective means of taking action are now very limited. The only power rests with the electorate to vote them out of office or with the Secretary of State to put the Council into special measures.

   

Sam Corcoran, Labour Group Leader said, “The Labour Group has been calling since March 2017 for an external investigation, reporting within 3 months to group leaders, into the culture of the organisation and allegations of bullying. For the sake of the staff and residents of Cheshire East, the Conservatives need to take urgent action.”

 

 

PAST CAMPAIGNS

 

PRESS RELEASE 02/05/2017 

Sam Corcoran has lived and worked in Sandbach for 17 years running his own business. His wife is a GP in Alsager. They have been married for 28 years and have 2 primary age children.

Sam went to Manchester Grammar School and won an open scholarship to read maths at Oxford University. After qualifying as a chartered accountant he worked for 2 years as a teacher in a girls secondary school in rural Kenya with the Volunteer Missionary Movement.

Since 2011 Sam has been the Cheshire East Councillor for Sandbach Heath & East (a seat he won for Labour defeating a sitting Conservative councillor).

As the Cheshire East Labour group press officer Sam has maintained a very high profile and was influential in exposing the scandals of Lyme Green (where over £1m was wasted when the Council started work on a waste transfer station without getting planning permission from itself) and CoreFit (when the Council waived its normal rules to award contracts to the then Conservative Leader's personal physiotherapist).

Sam has also served as a town councillor, as chair of Churches Together in Sandbach and is currently the Vice President of the North Staffordshire Symphony Orchestra. He spearheaded a campaign against payday loan companies and is on the board of the Cheshire Neighbours Credit Union.

Sam has had many notable achievements as a local councillor including new equipment in parks and playgrounds, Junction 17 improvements (an ongoing issue), supporting the successful campaign to keep Sandbach Children’s Centre open as well as instigating and supporting the fantastic community-led effort that produced the Sandbach Neighbourhood Plan.

Sam continues to campaign against the cuts to school funding proposed by the Conservatives. If the Conservative proposals go through then Cheshire East schools will be the worst funded in the country and many staff may lose their jobs. Some schools may reduce to a 4 day week.

Sam said, “I have seen the devastating impact of Conservative planning policies on our towns in south Cheshire. I am determined to do all I can to stop the flood of speculative housing applications that are the result of deliberate government policy and local Conservative incompetence. I am standing for election because in order to protect my community I need to be elected to Parliament. If I am elected as MP for Congleton then I will ensure that government policy changes and the greenfields around our communities are protected.”

 

Middlewich Councillor Jonathan Parry said, “I am delighted that Sam is standing for Parliament. He would make an excellent and effective constituency MP, standing up for the interests of the people of Congleton. Also as one of the top tax experts in the country he could really make a difference to the nation; many people say that they want to reform the tax system and make it fairer. As a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Taxation, Sam has the ability and technical expertise to actually achieve it.”

 

 

 

CHESHIRE EAST COUNCIL LOCAL PLAN

I set out below my submission to the Local Plan consultation. I urged residents to respond making the following points:

450 houses on Sandbach Heath is too many

the Capricorn site should be for employment

houses should only be allowed on the Capricorn site  on if it can be demonstrated that there is no demand for employment use and/or employment use is not viable.

in an earlier consultation 102 out of 109 respondents opposed 450 houses on this site, so why are 450 houses now being proposed?

the Sandbach Neighbourhood Plan is at a very advanced stage and will be put to a referendum on 24 March

 

CONSULTATION SUBMISSION BY CLLR SAM CORCORAN

PROPOSED AMENDMENT

In regard to site CS24 I would like to propose that the area in the south of the site currently designated as housing should be designated as mixed use (where planning permission has not already been granted).

Paragraph 15.436c should be inserted to say “the land designated as mixed use will only be used for housing if it can be demonstrated that there is no demand for employment use and/or employment use is not viable”.

JUSTIFICATION
The wording in the suggested paragraph 15.436c mirrors the wording in the Sandbach Neighbourhood Plan.
The impact of the change would be to allow houses on the site if and only if it can be demonstrated that housing is needed to fund the business park (or that employment use is not viable without the housing).
Furthermore, the suggested change would make clear to other developers on adjacent land that IF further housing is needed then it will be in a designated area (so there is no point in other developers holding out for more housing on their land).

 

 

Sandbach’s allocation of housing is 2,750.

Up to September 2015, permission had been granted for 2,801 houses.

So Sandbach has already fulfilled its allocation of housing.

 

The amendment I am proposing now is a better way of ensuring that a business park gets built.

Site CS24 is divided in 2 by the wildlife corridor. Planning permission has been granted to W&S Sandbach Ltd on the area to the north of the wildlife corridor for phase 1 of a business park alongside junction 17 with 250 houses to fund it. No work has yet started on the business park.

Planning permission for 50 houses on the southern part of the site has been granted to Persimmon, with no contribution towards the business park. Persimmon are now seeking planning permission for another 144 houses (application ref 13/5242C). They are offering 15% affordable housing and £2.2m towards a bridge across the wildlife corridor. However, Persimmon don’t control the land required for the bridge or the business park.

It is vastly premature to start taking money for a bridge that has not yet been properly costed on land that is owned by somebody else.

If the Local Plan is approved as it stands then the Persimmon planning application will be granted with 15% affordable housing, £2.2m will be paid to Cheshire East Council, but critically phase 2 of the business park is no closer.

 

By designating the land as mixed use it can be held in reserve and housing granted if and only if there is a clear, realistic plan for phase 2 of the business park that needs funding to make it viable.

I believe that allocation of this land now for housing will NOT bring forward employment use and will encourage other nearby landowners to hold out for housing, so rather than promoting employment use the current Local Plan will hinder employment use. By contrast if the Persimmon land is designated as mixed use then owners of land elsewhere on site CS24 will see that if they hold out for housing then the housing will not go to them, but will go to Persimmon. This removes the incentive for landowners elsewhere on site CS24 to delay bringing forward plans for employment use.

 

My third point concerns consultation. The Pre-Submission Core Strategy proposed ‘up to 450’ dwellings on this site and that was rejected by 102 out of 109 respondents - a massive rejection. It must appear to anyone reviewing this that by proposing 450 dwellings again, Cheshire East Council is ignoring the consultation results.

 

Finally the Sandbach Neighbourhood Plan, which will be put to a referendum on 24 March says that, “Where there is a reasonable prospect of a site being used for its intended purpose alternative uses will not be considered unless it can be demonstrated that there is no demand for the intended use and/or the intended use is not viable.”

 

The examiner of the Neighbourhood Plan referring to site CS24 said “there may be some merit, at least in the short term, of resisting further loss of potential employment land, particularly as the market recovers”.

 

SUMMARY

The plan as it stands will facilitate more housing on the site and will encourage developers to hold out for more and more housing. The draft plan goes against previous consultation results where 102 out of 109 respondents opposed up to 450 dwellings on the site. There is no commercial justification within the supporting documentation for the extra houses or any requirement for developers to provide commercial justification for the houses. There is no requirement for a masterplan or outline planning application for the whole site. The site is a key employment site in Sandbach and may become even more significant if an HS2 hub station is built at Crewe .

The change I am proposing reconciles the comments of the examiner on the Sandbach Neighbourhood Plan with the Local Plan, gives a better chance of getting a decent business park and goes some way to accommodating the results of previous consultations.

 

 

CHESHIRE EAST COUNCIL UPDATE

Save Sandbach Children's Centre

A 6 year Oxford University study has found that Children's Centres help disadvantaged families. http://www.education.ox.ac.uk/about-us/childrens-centres-improve-parenting-skills/

Yet Cheshire East Council are consulting on proposals to close Sandbach Children's Centre and replace it with unproven alternatives.

Please sign the petition at https://www.change.org/p/cheshire-east-council-uk-government-david-cameron-prime-minister-stop-the-closure-of-our-sure-start-childrens-centres?recruiter=11830648&utm_source=share_petition&utm_medium=twitter&utm_campaign=share_twitter_responsive

and complete the consultation at http://www.cheshireeast.gov.uk/children_and_families/childrens_centres/sandbach_childrens_centre/sandbach_childrens_centre.aspx

 

Budget Speech by Cllr Sam Corcoran for the Labour Group at the Cheshire East Council Budget Setting meeting on 26 February 2016

Last year in my budget speech I set out a Labour vision

for a council that truly puts people first – whether they are staff, residents or both.

for a council that promotes physical health, mental health and wellbeing and is not afraid to encourage and nudge behaviours.

for Cheshire East as a green borough that is a beacon of truly sustainable development and low carbon, healthy lifestyles.

 

I pledged that Labour would not increase council tax in 2015/16 but refused to give a commitment to freeze council tax in 2016/17 until we knew the government freeze grant and the government settlement. You may recall that the bombastic Conservative leader was not so cautious and gave a pre-election pledge not to increase council tax in 2016/17. I described that as irresponsible ideological electioneering – and so it has proved.

This Budget should be different – the elections are past and we should be making long-term plans for the next 4 years. But as the Institute of Fiscal Studies said, George Osborne’s long term economic plans keep changing – think abut that one – it’s quite subtle mockery. This year’s settlement set new standards for flip-flopping

For the last 5 years, the government has been hammering urban councils; cities such as Stoke, Manchester and Liverpool have seen government grant funding cut by 50%, while rural areas such as Cheshire East saw their government grant funding cut by only 5%. But in December 2015, in a massive U-turn, the tables were turned and Cheshire East Council suddenly had to find an extra £13m of cuts in order to set a balanced budget. The outcry from rural shires was loud and strident and George Osborne, like a drunk driver swerving from side-to-side of the road, U-turned again and gave interim funding to rural councils, including £3m to Cheshire East Council in both 2016/17 and 2017/18. That latest announcement came the evening before Cheshire East Council Cabinet met to approve the 2016/17 budget. So we now have a proposed budget in Cheshire East that has big cuts and at the same time millions squirreled away into reserves.

What a way to run the nation’s finances!

I did try and praise George Osborne for one thing at Corporate Scrutiny, but got shot down by officers! I praised George Osborne for saying that Councils could enter into detailed negotiations for a 4-year settlement. That’s just what I’ve been asking for – so how did I get shot down? Well a finance officer responded by saying we already know that our revenue support grant will be NIL in 4 years time what more do you want to know and negotiate over?

So what would I have done? The 2% increase to fund social care has been dubbed the Osborne tax and there won’t be many councils that won’t impose it. I can understand the petty political reasons for a 3.75% increase rather than a 3.99% increase – just so we can say that out increase is lower than neighbouring councils. In truth we got £3m interim funding and Cheshire West only got £1.4m so maybe 3.75% is all we need. I am not proposing any amendment on council tax increase. The only difference between Conservative and Labour here is that I am not breaking any pre-election pledge in supporting a 3.75% council tax rise.

I welcome the new leader and I hope to see at least a change in presentation. The previous bombastic style has caused reputational damage to the council. We are now renowned for clichés rather than substance. For soundbites and overpromising. And that feeds through into the excessive wording of reports. The foreword to the corporate plan refers to Cheshire East as a FABULOUS place. Fabulous has 2 meanings very good and detached from reality. I do hope that the new leadership will be less bombastic. There are many good things in Cheshire East, but by overstating the case, those can get lost in the flood of clichés. We need honest, straight-talking politics to re-establish trust.

If you turn to page 131 of your packs you can see there what is described as a 3 year summary, but again it isn’t really. If you look at the bottom line you can see finding deficits in 2017/18 and 2018/19. Unlike George Osborne who has set a budget with a deficit of £69bn, we cannot legally set deficit budgets, so years 2 & 3 of the 3 year summary are ‘fabulous’.

Given the way the government settlement has been handled I am not surprised that we don’t have a balanced medium term financial strategy for years 2 & 3. However, I put down a marker now that next year we should have a balanced 3 year strategy. The one year budget encourages short term thinking and deters investment. A good example of that is the work of Cllrs Mannion and Roberts and the task and finish group into fly tipping recognised in this budget as a £80,000 cost. If we had a proper 3 year financial strategy then you would see that this item would generate savings in future years. It is possible to do well out of doing good. If we cut down on fly tipping we save money AND stop the blight on communities. So investing £80,000 in 2016/17 will improve the environment and save money over 3 years. 

I am pleased to see the idea of investing in early intervention for children recognised in this budget, but interventions must be evidence based if we are not simply to waste money. At this point I would like to give notice of an amendment.

I am also pleased to see Labour proposals on domestic violence adopted in this budget.

It is good to see Labour ideas adopted in this budget. I hope that is a sign of things to come, because we can help address the challenges that this Council faces. At the end of last year the Labour group proposed increasing the assumed collection rate, because we do have a very good council tax collection rate of over 99%. That proposal was voted down – shame, but you will see on page 131 of your packs a collection fund surplus of £2.5M helping to balance the budget in 2016/17. The collection fund surplus arises because actual collection rate is higher than the assumed collection rate, in this case it is mainly business rates collection. They say plagiarism is the sincerest form of flattery. I have no objection to Labour proposals being adopted even if it is a bit late.

 

Finally, something that I couldn’t find in the budget was planning. I am surprised not to see something in for costs of planning appeals, costs relating to the Local Plan and costs relating to Neighbourhood Plans. Cheshire should be a proudly green county – our symbol is a wheatsheaf not a concrete-mixer.

 

   

To sum up

Given the omnishambles of the local government settlement I understand why we don’t have a balanced 3 year strategy before us today, but I expect to see one next year.

I think that in time it will be seen that the closure of Lincoln House, Hollins View and others was a mistake, but we have had a vote on that and it was lost. I am pleased to see Labour ideas adopted in this budget. I hope this is a sign of things to come under the new Leadership.

 

 

Budget Speech by Cllr Sam Corcoran for the Labour Group at the Cheshire East Council Budget Setting meeting on 26 February 2015

 

Last year in my budget speech I quoted the Mayor's pithy comment that the budget was long on words and short on figures. That is true again this year.

 

I would like to thank officers for the information that has been provided, but as last year, my main comment has to be that we do not have the detailed information to know what cuts are being proposed. The Labour group have asked for line by line information, but that request has been refused. So much for openness and transparency.

 

I know that this will be Cllr Raynes’s last budget and therefore, I will set out a Labour vision to guide Cllr Raynes’s successor.

 

In preparing this speech I have looked back over the last four years:

 

In February 2012 I criticised plans to build up the general reserve to £36.5m by March 2015.  I needn’t have worried – those were simply arrogant, boastful castles in the air built by the then Cabinet Member for Finance and they were never actually going to be delivered. There has been a tendency in the political leadership of this Council to overpromise and underdeliver.

By contrast, in 2012 I suggested removing exemptions for rates on empty residential properties saying this would raise £2.5m a year. The changes have delivered £3m a year of extra income and have helped reduce the number of empty properties in the borough. Those reforms were underpromised and have overdelivered.

We have a vision for a prudent approach to council finances. Cheshire East Council should be reliable and trustworthy.

 

In February 2013 we said that Labour would implement a Living Wage for all Cheshire East staff. We also said that we should take advantage of our new responsibilities in the fields of Health & Wellbeing. We have a great opportunity to tackle some of the major problems facing our society, like the obesity epidemic. We have the tools available to us, like control of planning to encourage walking and cycling …. parks and leisure centres. As an example of what can be achieved, huge changes have taken place in my lifetime over the social acceptability of smoking. We have the capability to change people’s lives for the better.

Under Labour, our communications team would not be preparing tweets attacking the Leader’s political opponents… so they would have more time to promote healthy lifestyles. Paragraph 113 correctly states that the focus is on promoting and supporting better lifestyles, but then this is watered down by the words ‘through delivering choice and personalisation’. The Conservatives give residents choice, not encouragement, and that choice is too often the choice of the bedroom tax – downsize to a non-existent empty one bedroom property or else.

 

The Conservatives claim they put residents first. Labour would do it.

We have a vision for a council that truly puts people first – whether they are staff, residents or both.

We have a vision for a council that promotes physical health, mental health and wellbeing and is not afraid to encourage and nudge behaviours.

 

In February 2014, I pointed out that Councils can retain 100% of business rates relating to new renewable energy projects.

 

We have a vision for Cheshire East as a green borough that is a beacon of truly sustainable development and low carbon, healthy lifestyles.

 

Councillors, we should also be protecting our greenfields – our emblem is a wheatsheaf not a concrete mixer. Paragraph 94 recognises that the Local Plan is critical. But there is no mention of any money (Yes Mr Mayor - long on words and short on figures). Paragraph 96 simply says that funding for 2015/18 will depend on progression.

We hope that the Inspector will approve our Local Plan, but we would start work now on laying rock solid foundations in case the Inspector orders a new Plan to be prepared.

 

Looking to the future, there is a £13m black hole in the Council finances for 2016/17 and an additional £10.2m for 2017/18. A total of £23.2m – nearly 10% of our total budget.  At Cabinet earlier this month I asked whether council tax would be frozen in 2016/17 … and got no answer.

Actually, I wouldn’t have responded differently. [I note the on-the hoof, lack of detail announcement today from the Leader that council tax will be frozen in 2016/17.] 2016/17 is going to be a difficult budget and we do not know what the government freeze grant will be [so I consider it irresponsible to give a commitment now to freeze council tax in 2016/17. This is ideological electioneering.] So we agree on 16/17. What of 2015/16?

Would Labour increase the rates in 2015/16? I can give a pledge today that if Labour controls the Council on 8 May, we will not increase the rates for 2015/16.

 

To sum up. We would make savings on the communications team and as I will set out in the next item Labour would be paying £100,000 a year less in interest. But the real difference between Labour and the Conservative financial plans is that Labour would not resort solely to service cuts to address the black hole in the nation’s and Council’s finances left by the Conservatives. We would also look at innovative, green ways of increasing income by promoting Cheshire East as a green borough. These savings and extra income would pay for improvements to Dial-a-Ride, pest control, planning control and enforcement.

 

I ended my last budget speech by congratulating the people of the Congleton area for the successful campaign to keep Mountview open until at least 2015. I warned that they had only secured a stay of execution. Regrettably Mountview’s future has already been determined. This year let me congratulate the people of the Crewe and Macclesfield for the successful campaign to keep Lincoln House and Hollins View open. But they have only secured a stay of execution. The Tories have a record of closing Alzheimer’s support units after elections and after consultations. We can remember Santune House & Bexton Court.  The future of Lincoln House and Hollins View depends on the outcome of the elections in May.

 

 

END HERE

 

 

 

 

STRAPLINES

 

Labour would bring planning under control.

Labour supports investment in green technologies.

Labour would not increase council tax in 2015/16

Labour supports the NHS and wants to improve the interface between council care and the NHS.

Labour recognises imperfections of the market and would intervene to promote jobs and improved infrastructure.

The Conservatives are cutting pest control and will leave the rats and vermin to profit under private enterprise.

People come first with Labour.

Conservatives give assurances but don’t deliver.

Labour supports public access to the beautiful Cheshire countryside.

Cheshire East is a green borough with Labour.

 

 

NATIONAL ISSUES UPDATE

Mishandling the UK Economy

At the start of the 2015 campaign the Conservative mantra was ‘long term plan’, but then the well respected Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) caustically commented that the ‘long term’ plan kept changing. Now the mantra is ‘we have a track record’. So what is the ‘track record’? In 2010 the Conservatives promised to eliminate the deficit in this Parliament and have failed abysmally. Now the IMF have said that under the current plans the deficit will not be eliminated in the next Parliament either! At the last election Labour said that they would halve the deficit in this Parliament and the independent Office for Budget Responsibility verified Labour’s plans. In fact the coalition has not even achieved the deficit reduction promised by Labour; the deficit has only fallen from £150bn to £90bn and total government debt has gone UP from £960bn to over £1,500bn. 

The deficits for the 4 years under George Osborne have all been in the top 5 worst deficits ever.

When George Osborne took over as Chancellor, the economy was growing and UK had an AAA credit rating. George Osborne has failed abysmally in eliminating the budget deficit and as a result UK has lost its AAA credit rating. Please note that the financial credit rating agencies (not usually noted for being Labour supporters) still rated UK as AAA in 2010, 2 years after the banking crisis, when Labour was in power. It was not until 2013 that UK lost its AAA rating. Clearly the financial credit rating agencies were not impressed by George Osborne’s first 3 years in power and had more confidence in Labour than in the Conservatives.

By comparing the UK economy to Greece , George Osborne damaged credibility in the UK economy.

Turning to the future, the critical question is what must be done to stop irresponsible bankers from causing another financial crash? The obvious answer seems to be action to deter speculative transactions and more regulation of banks. Even after seeing the impact of the banking crisis, the Conservatives are steadfastly opposed to more regulation and have refused to accept the Financial Transaction Tax (or Tobin tax) that is being brought in by the EU. With the Conservatives in charge, the next financial crash is only a matter of time away. In the meantime the bankers are happily receiving their large bonuses when their risk taking pays off, knowing that the taxpayer will pick up the tab if their gambles fail. Don’t forget that half of all Conservative Party funding comes from the financial services industry.

Now the Conservatives have announced that they will cut taxes for higher rate taxpayers before the deficit is eliminated. This will further damage the UK ’s credibility with financial markets. It also gives the lie to the Tory mantra that all the cuts to services are necessary to eliminate the deficit. Labour would eliminate the deficit by a fairer combination of cuts to services and increasing the top tax rate back to 50%.

 

The Mirrlees Review, published in 2011 by the Institute for Fiscal Studies, gives a good, detailed case for simplifying the UK tax system. This was a great opportunity that George Osborne has spurned. Instead the Chancellor has increased the complexity of UK tax legislation.

There have only ever been five Finance Acts longer than 600 pages and three of them have been under George Osborne. George Osborne’s Finance Acts have totalled over 2,500 pages length. The Finance Act 2014, at 646 pages, is the second longest Finance Act ever.

As well as holding the record for 4 in the top 5 budget deficits, George Osborne has 3 of the top 5 longest ever Finance Acts

 

 

Housing Policy

We need to build more houses. The difference between the political parties is in how to meet that need. The Conservative policy is to encourage private industry to build more houses and to allow developers a great deal of flexibility in choosing the sites. The sites the developers choose are those which make the most money for private developers. Labour would give more power to councils and allow councils the financial freedom to borrow to build houses themselves. The Labour policy would not reduce the number of houses being built, but it would change the locations chosen. It would also change the style of houses being built and it would enable local councils to plan and fund the infrastructure necessary to support the new houses (schools, road improvements etc).

The clear party political choice is whether you want local government or private enterprise to determine when, where and what sort of houses are built.

 

 

 

LOCAL ISSUES UPDATE

by Cllr Sam Corcoran

I would like people to be aware of what I am doing as their councillor and also to be able to raise problems with me. Please have a look at the blog for ongoing issues or the achievements page for past events

I can be contacted on Sandbach 753038

or emailed at sam at ncla.co.uk

Cllr Sam Corcoran

Twitter @CllrSam 

For the local Labour Party please go to http://www.congletonlabour.org.uk/

 

Speculative Housing Developments

Before 2010 developers had to prove that their plans would benefit the local community before they were granted permission to build houses on Greenfield sites. Then the new coalition government changed the rules so that developers are allowed to build on greenfields unless the Council can prove that the development is harmful. This massive shift in policy marks a party political divide over how to address the national shortage of new homes. The Conservatives have let loose private developers hoping that free enterprise will solve the housing shortage. I would prefer to see local authorities given more control. Private enterprises will build houses wherever they can make most money (generally executive style houses on Greenfield sites). I would prefer to see more council houses and bungalows for the elderly built on brownfield sites.

The result of the new government policy has been a disaster. The coalition government up the old regulations, but didn’t have anything ready to replace them with. The disaster was made into a catastrophe in Cheshire East because the Conservatives still don’t have a valid Local Plan saying where houses should and shouldn’t be built. As a result of not having a plan saying where houses should and should not be built, developers can build almost wherever they like. If Cheshire East Council does reject the applications, then the Planning Inspectorate grant it at appeal

I set out below my comments on the latest Planning Inspectorate rulings:

On 26 July the Planning Inspectorate allowed another planning appeal. This time it was for 40 houses off Audlem Road in Nantwich. Again Cheshire East Council was criticised for repeatedly changing its story and for “careless terminology”.

As in previous cases, the critical question was whether or not Cheshire East has a 5-year supply of housing land. The Inspector dismissed the new claims that older persons’ accommodation makes up any shortfall saying “I consider that the figures for older persons’ accommodation cannot be relied upon”. The Inspector also imposed a 20% buffer as a penalty for serious and persistent under-supply in the past.

Although the Inspector did not provide a full analysis of how far off a 5-year supply the Council is, a picture is now emerging from all the rulings.

In the latest ruling the Inspector stated that the housing requirement in Cheshire East is for at least 1350 dwellings p.a. and not the 1150 that the Council has used. This gives a total 5-year requirement of 10656 dwellings (including a 20% buffer and allowance for a backlog of 2130 dwellings). Cheshire East Council says that it has a supply of 9884 dwellings but the developers say the actual figure is only 7577. The developers’ figure is closer to the figures mentioned in previous appeals. So it would appear that the Planning Inspectorate think that there is still a housing supply shortfall of some 3,000 dwellings.

Last week in losing an appeal on Dunnocksfold Road Alsager, the Council’s evidence was repeatedly found to be flawed and the Inspector went so far as to refer to “factual inaccuracies” and the need for “a reality check” to the Council’s evidence.

Those involved with Cheshire East Council know the extravagant, boastful inconsistency that comes from the top. However, planning appeal inspectors simply do not believe what Cheshire East Council is saying. The Conservatives claim that it is planning inspectors who are moving the goalposts, but in ruling after ruling the planning inspectors are pointing out the inconsistencies, factual inaccuracies and careless terminology in Cheshire East Council’s proposals.

We need our local MPs, including George Osborne, to take some action to stop this housing gold-rush over the greenfields of Cheshire . In return, Cheshire East Council could assist the government by providing a working definition of what ‘sustainable development’ means – something that is painfully lacking from the government’s National Planning Policy Framework.

 

Audlem Road , Nantwich appeal decision http://www.pcs.planningportal.gov.uk/pcsportal/fscdav/READONLY?OBJ=COO.2036.300.12.6801289&NAME=/Decision.pdf

  Dunnocksfold Road , Alsager appeal decision http://planning.cheshireeast.gov.uk/applicationdetails.aspx?pr=12/4146C&row=1&query=ad48ca4f31fd4f6c982aa7fcff197079&from=i

 

 

Council Tax Discounts

In 2012 I suggested that Cheshire East Council removed of council tax exemptions on empty properties. This suggestion was adopted in 2013

This simplified the system

Raised over £2m

And most importantly helped reduce the number of empty properties in Cheshire East by over 11%

 

Following on from this success, in April 2014 I proposed the following motion to Cheshire East Council

“This Council supports the proposals of the Local Government Association for reforming the single person discount. Under the plans, councils would have the flexibility to adjust the discount for working people living alone in large homes – rated council tax band E and above. Discounts for single people in smaller homes and all pensioners would remain protected.”

If adopted the proposed measures would

Simplify the system by removing a discount

Raise extra funds for the council  estimated at £1.5m a year

Encourage people living alone in a large house to move into a smaller house, thereby freeing up larger houses for those with families who need them.

A single person living in a mansion or even in an above average sized house should not receive a subsidy and should not get a rates discount. 

Looking at the wording of the motion, the proposal is to give councils the freedom to remove the discount (not dictating that they must remove them). I do believe in subsidiarity and giving councils more autonomy. Cheshire East Council should be allowed to decide whether to remove the discount or not and indeed what bands the discount could be removed from.

Pensioners would not be affected by the changes and those on low incomes would continue to qualify for Council Tax Support.

I regret that the Conservatives rejected the motion that I proposed. It is ironic that I support the final campaign of a Conservative led Local Government Association, [the LGA is now Labour led] and for the local Conservatives to reject it. The Conservative inconsistency was highlighted when in the same week that Cheshire East Conservatives supported continuing discounts to encourage single people to stay in large properties, Boris Johnson was promoting financial incentives to encourage single people to move out of large properties in London.

For information on Council Tax Support see http://www.cheshireeast.gov.uk/benefits_housing_council_tax/new_council_tax_support_scheme.aspx

For further information on the proposals see http://moderngov.cheshireeast.gov.uk/ecminutes/ieListDocuments.aspx?CId=241&MId=5219

 

 

 

 

For news on Mutomo Hospital go to

http://www.cafod.org.uk/News/Campaigning-news/Learning-lessons

http://www.mutomohospital.com/index.php?p=

 

 

Speech by Sam Corcoran at Sandbach Town Council on 6/12/12

I support forming a working group. It is important that we get a Local Plan in place as soon as possible to prevent speculative planning applications. However the plan must be a good plan.

The latest stage of the Local Plan, which includes 700 houses on Sandbach Heath, will be debated at a Cheshire East Council Cabinet meeting at 2pm on 10 December at Westfields. The decision requested includes approval that the new “Development Strategy be used as a material consideration for Development Management purposes with immediate effect”…  so as things stand  on 11 December the green light will be given to approve applications to build up to 700 houses on Sandbach Heath. Then it will go out to public consultation in January. That public consultation will be Cheshire East wide, so the consultation response of Sandbach Town Council and indeed the people of Sandbach may well be swamped by responses from other parts of the borough. It may be that 1,000 or maybe 5,000 Sandbach residents oppose 700 houses on Sandbach Heath, but what if 7,000 responses from Wilmslow, Knutsford, Poynton and Macclesfield all tick the box saying yes? Cheshire East Council will then be able to say that the public consultation has approved of 700 houses on Sandbach Heath.

My point here is that it is not good enough for Sandbach Town Council to wait until the public consultation before commenting. At present Cheshire East Council are saying publicly that Sandbach Town Council has approved the Sandbach Town Strategy which includes 700 houses on Sandbach Heath. (I have a copy of the website page here and would be happy to send the URL to anyone who wishes to see it.)

So what can we do?

The Cabinet debate on Monday is not a foregone conclusion. It is not too late to influence the questions to be put in the public consultation in January. I intend to go and speak at that meeting to request that an employment only site by J17 is re-instated in the plans and that 700 houses on Sandbach Heath is withdrawn. I will speak because I believe it to be right for the future of Sandbach and I believe it to be right to demand that the results of the public consultation are respected. I will go even if I have to stand alone, but I would like to have the voice of Sandbach Town Council alongside me.

 

I therefore propose an amendment that the first meeting of the working group will be at 10am tomorrow morning in the SLI, that all members of the council can be part of the working group, that the working group is mandated to make representations to the Cheshire East Council Cabinet meeting on 10 December that the results of the public consultation should be followed and that the working group is given authority by this council to carry out information gathering including consulting the public and to make representations to Cheshire East Council on behalf of the council.

 

For those not familiar with the results of the public consultation

An employment only site by J17 was approved

700 houses on Sandbach Heath was rejected

A mixed use site in Wheelock was approved

 

I have questioned why the plans for 700 houses on Sandbach Heath (rejected in the public consultation) are being pursued and the plans for a  mixed use site including 245 houses in Wheelock (approved in the public consultation) are not being pursued. The answer I was given was that Sandbach needs a new primary school and this could only be achieved if we allow a large development.

Whilst I agree that Sandbach needs a new primary school to cater for all the new houses in Elworth and on the Albion Chemical Works site between Sandbach and Middlewich, I do not see that building a primary school on Sandbach Heath would help.

1)       The need for a new primary school is in Elworth or Ettiley Heath, not Sandbach Heath.

2)       If a new school is built on Sandbach Heath then what would happen to St John’s Primary School (the initial response I got was that St John’s would be closed).

3)       There are currently planning applications in the pipeline for 250 houses on the Capricorn site by J17 and 200 houses off Hawthorne Drive . Therefore allowing 700 houses on Sandbach Heath would NOT give one large development, but 2 separate developments at either end Sandbach Heath (site 28 on the latest plan)

Where and indeed if to build a large development with a primary school is a nettle for the working group to grasp. I don’t think we can solve that now. But what we must do now is to tell CEC Cabinet that we stand by the results of the public consultation and that we do NOT approve of 700 houses on Sandbach Heath. We DO approve of a J17 business park.

The plans that CEC Cabinet will be debating on Monday are flawed and are bad for Sandbach. We need to speak up against them now. I urge you to support this amendment.

 

The latest stage of the Local Plan will be presented to the Strategic Planning Board of Cheshire East Council on 6 December at a meeting in Macclesfield. It will then go to the Cheshire East Council Cabinet meeting at 2pm on 10 December at Westfields. Then it will go out to public consultation in January.

The plan can be seen at

http://moderngov.cheshireeast.gov.uk/ecminutes/mgConvert2PDF.aspx?ID=20726

I will be campaigning vigorously against the Sandbach element of this plan for the following reasons:

1) It advocates 700 houses on Sandbach Heath (despite this being rejected at the previous consultation).

2) the employment only site by J17 ( Capricorn Business Park ) has not been included in the plan (despite being approved at the public consultation). Instead a ‘mixed use’ site is proposed for this area with 700 new houses. I have long campaigned for a world class science and business park on the J17 site. Now that we have secured government funding for J17 improvements these plans are a real possibility. Don't throw away this opportunity by allowing the property speculators to make a few extra million by building houses on this site.

3) the mixed use site for employment and 245 houses in Wheelock has not been included in the plan (despite being approved at the public consultation).

I have questioned why the plans for 700 houses on Sandbach Heath (rejected in the public consultation) are being pursued and the plans for 245 houses in Wheelock (approved in the public consultation) are not being pursued. The answer I was given was that Sandbach needs a new primary school and this could only be achieved if we allow a large development.

Whilst I agree that Sandbach needs a new primary school to cater for all the new houses in Elworth and on the Albion Chemical Works site between Sandbach and Middlewich, I do not see that building a primary school on Sandbach Heath would help.

1) The need for a new primary school is in Elworth or Ettiley Heath, not Sandbach Heath.

2) There are currently planning applications in the pipeline for 250 houses on the Capricorn site by J17 and 200 houses off Hawthorne Drive . Therefore allowing 700 houses on Sandbach Heath would NOT give one large development, but 2 separate developments at either end Sandbach Heath (site 28 on the latest plan)

As you can tell from the above, I am feel strongly about this. The plans as they stand are incoherent, will cause problems and ride roughshod over the results of the public consultation.

 

 

Housing Developments

I wonder how many people have noticed the large number of housing development applications put forward for Sandbach recently. 

     

There are 3 main reasons

1)   The government has changed the rules on planning. Previously developers had to prove that their plans were good. Now the council has to prove that they are bad or they will be approved on appeal. In technical terms 'there is a presumption in favour of sustainable development on greenfield sites'. There was much fanfare when the government announced a reduction in the amount of planning regulations. Sadly the new short regulations do not define 'sustainable', so developers can claim that any site is sustainable and the council has to prove them wrong or allow the development to go ahead.

2)    Cheshire East Council does not have an up to date Local Plan and won’t have until late 2014 and it doesn’t have a proven 5 year supply of new housing sites. This means that, in the words of one Cheshire East Cabinet member, “our ability to resist proposals for new housing development on Greenfield sites around our towns is made much more difficult”. In other words the next 12 months will be open season for speculative housing developments on Greenfield sites around our towns. Cheshire East Council took over in 2009 and there was a shadow administration for one year before that. The purpose of the shadow administration was precisely to ensure that there was a smooth handover of issues like Local Plans. Cheshire East Council might have got away with its lack of planning if the coalition government had not changed the planning rules so that there is now a presumption in favour of sustainable housing developments on Greenfield sites;

3)   The new interim policy of Cheshire East Council is to encourage small housing developments on Greenfield sites on the edge of Sandbach, Congleton, Alsager and other local towns. There is a definite policy to encourage developments around Sandbach and towns in the south of the borough so as to protect Tory heartlands around Alderley Edge, Wilmslow and rural villages. Sandbach is particularly attractive to property developers because it is a nice town with good schools and so the property prices are high - meaning that building houses in Sandbach makes the developers a lot of money.

 

Cheshire East Council should have a strategy outlining how many homes will be needed in the next 5 years and where it expects these homes to be built. It is scandalous that it does not. The current strategy identifies sites for 5,147 homes in Cheshire East, but this is only 4.48 years supply. If sites for only 600 more homes across the whole of Cheshire East had been identified then applications like the ones on greenfield land off Hassall Road or Hind Heath Road could have been thrown out easily and definitively.

We now hear that in writing up his judgement on the Hind Heath Road application Eric Pickles the Secretary of State made a legal error which may result in planning permission being granted.

So in short, ‘accidental’ blunders by the Conservative controlled Cheshire East Council and the Conservative Secretary of State could result in property developers making millions by building hundreds of homes in Sandbach on greenfield sites. Never mind, almost everyone is happy. The local Conservatives can claim they campaigned against the planning applications (not admitting that the failure to have a proper 5 year housing strategy had hobbled the campaign from the start). The Macclesfield Conservative rulers of Cheshire East Council can tell their constituents that no new houses are required in their backyards (because they’ve all been built in Sandbach & Crewe). The property developers are happy because they have made millions and only paid a few hundred thousand towards the infrastructure costs. The coalition government can blame the courts (rather than admitting that they relaxed the planning rules). The only people not happy are those Sandbach taxpayers who will have to put up with the extra houses and traffic as well as having to pay for extra infrastructure and the legal costs of the appeals. Sandbach is a good place to live and it is worth working to preserve and improve our town, but we can’t keep on overlooking the accidental blunders by the Conservatives that allow property developers to make millions.

 

for more details of planning issues please Click here or click on the Town Planning box above on the right or follow me on Facebook Cllr Sam Corcoran or Twitter @CllrSam.

 

 

Linden Bank Approved Premises

Motion passed by Sandbach Town Council 6/12/12 on Linden Bank

That this council writes to the Secretary of State

1) noting that it was incorrectly stated in Parliament that there was “no record of receiving any correspondence from Sandbach Town Council”

2) asking whether the newspaper articles which accompanied the letter had been lost and asking for comments on understandable public concern about these cases.

3) asking the Secretary of State to reconsider excluding child sex offenders from Linden Bank on the grounds that it is immediately adjacent to premises used by a toddler group, directly overlooking a children’s playground and within 200m of a primary school and a nursery.

4) asking for an explanation of the inconsistency in treatment between Linden Bank in Elworth and Bunbury House in Ellesmere Port. Neither Linden Bank nor Bunbury House are directly adjacent to a school or nursery. Bunbury House is adjacent to a SureStart centre. Linden Bank is directly adjacent to a toddler group and a children’s playground. Child sex offenders are excluded from Bunbury House. Sandbach Town Council believes that child sex offenders should also be excluded from Linden Bank approved premises.

 

and copies its letter to Fiona Bruce MP asking her to write in support of Sandbach Town Council’s request to reconsider excluding child sex offenders from Linden Bank.

 

 

 Speech by Sam Corcoran  at Sandbach Town Council 6/12/12

Councillors, in March we wrote to the Secretary of State. We did finally receive a reply and it is worth studying that reply. Firstly, the Secretary of State has refused to close Linden Bank. I am sure that is no great surprise to any councillor here. Next he corrects us in saying that it is CHILD sex offenders that should be excluded from premises directly adjacent to a school or nursery. In life and in politics a compromise solution is often the way forward. I am willing to compromise. My main aim is to safeguard children in Sandbach and to reassure parents that their children can safely use Elworth Park playground. A survey carried out by Cllr Hoffmann on Elworth Park and also the Town Plan consultation showed high levels of concern over child sex offenders in Linden Bank. I believe the compromise hinted at in the Secretary of State’s letter will address those concerns. And so I propose that we ask that child sex offenders should be excluded from Linden Bank.

 Councillors Moran and Merry have written to the press expressing their support for excluding sex offenders from Linden Bank and stated that Fiona Bruce supports this as well. I can see no objection to the course of action that I am proposing, which is following up what has already been agreed by this council.

 Unless the voting is unanimous I will request a named vote.

 

 

 

 

Useful Links

Cheshire East Council

Sandbach open space provision is inadequate and Mortimer Drive playground is a disgrace - It's Official - go to page 21 of the Sandbach report available via the above link.

www.cheshireeast.gov.uk/localplan

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This page was last updated on 05/05/2017