Caring for the old, the young and the vulnerable, creating skills and opportunity, cutting waste and bureaucracy while devolving power to the people – this was the pledge today from the leader of Cheshire East Council.
Addressing the first full meeting of the Council since the May 7 elections, Councillor Michael Jones announced a new arms-length organisation to focus on skills and training and new measures to protect troubled young people.
He said that community hubs would become the powerbase for meeting local needs, shifting control “permanently in the direction of the people”.
Localism and empowerment of communities would become a key priority together with an attack on waste and bureaucracy.
“Too often innovation and delivery are sacrificed on the altar of process,” he said, adding that more can be done to cut costs and red tape.
Setting out his vision for the next four years, Councillor Jones told councillors and senior officers that he wanted to see greater innovation and a council focused on protecting the most vulnerable and supporting the elderly and frail.
Young people will be supported into work with skills and training and those at risk of self-harm, low self-esteem and bullying will receive counselling and early intervention support.
Councillor Jones said his message to all troubled young people was: “We care about you, this council cares desperately for you and we will listen to you.”
He added: “Children are our greatest resource and we MUST listen to them.”
Urging schools to be more alert to troubled minds, he announced that the Council would host a conference on self-harm and eating disorders in 2016.
The Borough also faced an ageing demographic along with the costs and responsibilities that presented.
The Council was committed to independent living for older people, less social isolation, minimal residential and hospital care. But it wanted to change regulation by making blue badge parking automatic for over 85s and for agoraphobia and other mental health conditions to be included in definitions of disability.
He promised a range of policies to support independent life and mental well-being, while securing visible achievements from public health resources.
Putting residents first will continue to be the council’s mantra and main priority.
Like most local authorities, the Council faces financial challenges. Therefore it will continue its policy of disposing of assets for the benefit of taxpayers while identifying partnerships and joint ventures advantageous to the Borough’s prosperity and economic development.
Town centres including Macclesfield, Crewe, Nantwich and Knutsford would benefit from renewal schemes but on a much wider scale, the Council will reach out to neighbouring authorities of whatever political persuasion.
Councillor Jones said: “I relish the opportunity for smaller central government, a greater involvement in decision making at a local level.
“I believe we in Cheshire know what is best for Cheshire and that we should have the resources and power to determine where our money goes locally.
“That is why I shall be meeting with pan-Cheshire colleagues to determine whether we can achieve a ‘devo-max’ type deal for Cheshire.
“My hand of friendship is held out to all partners across boundaries to deliver for not just Cheshire East but beyond, as I think we can.
“This could see billions of funding brought to the people of Cheshire and beyond.
“This is localism first, smaller government and an end to faceless agents in central government making decisions for us.”
Councillor Jones added: “My cabinet and I will also be investigating greater devolvement from the centre of Cheshire, working with Cheshire West and Warrington.“This is a new, exciting dimension but today I call for a Cheshire deal, without boundary changes, and I am pleased to say that dialogue is already underway.”