IT project dispute for CEC and CWAC

Dear editor,
It is just over 7 weeks since the local Council elections of May 2nd saw the overwhelming Conservative majority at Cheshire East Council, a majority that has been in place since the Council’s inception in 2009, evaporate with the loss of 18 seats, leaving the Conservatives 8 Councillors short and unable to form the ruling administration.
Some will argue that the cause was a national failure to deal with Brexit but a detailed analysis of the election results would suggest the reason was closer to home and far more to do with the reputation the Council had earned for itself over the last 4 years.
I have long argued for greater transparency at Cheshire East Council, championed the audio-recording of meetings so that there is an unarguable record, fought for employees to get a fair hearing where I thought it had been denied to them, battled for sleep-in care workers to be paid properly and I have challenged the former administration and Council Officers with probing questions; most of these issues have been extensively reported upon in the local media.
I don’t believe that Cheshire East Council has been as open and transparent as it should have been or as it could have been, but I sense the wind of change and a stirring within the Council that is to be celebrated.
The new Cabinet, a coalition between Labour and Independent Councillors, led by Councillor Sam Corcoran has been in place for less than a month, following the administration being confirmed at the Annual Council meeting in May. The commitment to greater openness is clear for all to see and should shame the previous administration of which I was a part.
Appointment to a Cabinet position attracts a responsibility payment of £14k and being appointed as a Committee Chair attracts a responsibility payment of £7k. Historically, these appointments, which are at the whim of the Council Leader, have been awarded for reasons only known to the Leader, though many would argue that it is merely a system of patronage that helps to secure loyalty, in effect, bought votes.
Councillor Corcoran (Leader and Labour Cllr) and Councillor Browne (Deputy Leader and Independent Cllr) now control appointment to these positions in a partnership arrangement where the Cabinet and Chair positions are shared between the two groups.
However, what is more interesting is that Councillors have to express an interest in those positions and virtually apply to be appointed; this approach is a welcome and long overdue nail in the system of patronage.
Additionally, and reflecting what is seen as good practice, the new administration has allocated all the Chairs of the Scrutiny Committees to opposition Councillors, this is something the Conservative group, ignoring dissenters in its ranks, refused to do for a decade.
What is disappointing is that the Leader of the Conservative group, Cllr Janet Clowes, has simply awarded every single one of those Scrutiny Chairmanships to those of her colleagues who only a few weeks ago were Cabinet Members, and accountable for the reputation Cheshire East established for itself.
Clearly, patronage is living on and thriving in a Conservative group that appears to have learnt nothing from its May 2nd defeat.
I say well done to Councillors Corcoran and Browne for wanting to appoint opposition Councillors to the Scrutiny positions, despite you being spitefully denied that chance for 10 years.
But I say you haven’t got it quite right!
You should demand, from opposition Councillors, expressions of interests for these positions supported by their CV and you should appoint the Chairs yourselves with competency being at the forefront of your demands.
This is what residents would want, positions that are won fairly, not handed out like sweeties to buy loyalty.
You can make this change to appointment of Scrutiny Chairs whenever you want, but I urge you to reconsider the appointment process urgently so that residents can see that Scrutiny Chairs are focused on working for them, not a party leader.
Many readers will know that I have recently been expelled from the Conservative Party for criticising conservative held Cheshire East Council and its former Leader but not that I am appealing that expulsion.
No doubt this letter will hinder my chances of success. In a way it doesn’t really matter because I’ve always said I’ll put residents before party because that is what I believe residents want of all Councillors.
If the Conservative party can’t accommodate that view, then inevitably we’ll part company.
But back to the main point, Councillors Corcoran and Browne you are certainly improving openness but go further please and make opposition Councillors who are interested in chairing the Council’s Scrutiny Committees apply to you for those roles so that scrutiny is working for residents not the party.
Yours Sincerely,

David Marren
Shavington Ward Councillor

5 Comments

  1. Trevor Dobson says:

    Well Said Councillor Marren!

  2. Chris Moorhouse says:

    They never learn do they? They think they are always right.
    David, I don’t think you have improved your chances with the party but I suggest you will serve Shavington better by being Independent.

  3. Right behind you David thank you for standing up and speaking out for what you believe in. Although I would never vote Labour I have noticed an uptick in road cleaning around here in the short time Brian Roberts has been in charge of it – no less than 4 roadsweepers in the nantwich area in the last 2 weeks – more than Ive seen over the last 5 years (and that is no exageration).

    As for your expulsion from the party you are better off out of it. As residents we want more like you!

  4. Well said.

    Corcoran and Browne please take heed. You have nothing to lose and everything to gain by following the recommendation.

    I have long thought there was something not quite right or correct in the way Cheshire East was carrying out its duties.

  5. Eric Shaw says:

    Excellent letter and points well made but leopards don’t change their spots and handing out the Scrutiny Chair positions to the ex leaders favourites was to be expected. As David says these positions should be filled following application and interview and I would encourage the Council Leader to do just that

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