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Thursday 28 May 2015

Leader’s address to Full Council today.

Cheshire East Council

A new way

Madam mayor, honoured guests and members.

Let me congratulate you madam mayor on your election to mayor and may I also congratulate all the winners and commiserate to all the losers in the recent Cheshire east election. It was an exciting election night and Friday afternoon. I think it is fair to say my party are more than satisfied with the result, which offers a dimension that I believe this council must take.

We must now grasp the opportunity to work across boundaries to ask for greater devolvement to deliver greater prosperity across Cheshire and North Staffordshire. My hand of friendship is held out to work with 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.

Since I became leader in 2012 my cabinet and I have led the council in a new direction and my party and I are proud of our many successes.

It is time now for us to charter a new way, learning from the lessons of the last four years and to deliver more for residents, to be a better and stronger council. Today we set our goal to deliver more for all in our communities, whilst aiming to be one of the best unitary councils in the country. We shall deliver renewal in our town centres and today I say my cabinet and I are confident of new town centre schemes in Macclesfield, Crewe, Nantwich and  Knutsford.

A lot has been learnt from my first three years and here are some of the lessons we have learnt.

Firstly, let me say that it is a privilege to represent the great people of the Bunbury ward and all the residents of Cheshire East. We thank everyone who voted and especially those who voted Conservative.

Secondly, we have learnt that there is a clear role for Cheshire East Council but that it must be focused more on delivery and less bureaucracy, more emancipating of residents, more localism and more facilitating of community services. We are a powerful voice for our communities and we must listen more. My cabinet and I believe in resident first, all residents first and foremost. This council must listen more and be seen to listen to all our residents. Communication is the key and we will improve this.

Thirdly, and I make this very clear, the staff are fantastic. They work very hard, long hours, they care and overall they deliver. They know they have done much better and we have many successes to report but they also know we can be better and in certain areas must do better and today I tell you that they will be doing better, that is why my cabinet and I have ordered the CEO to undertake a rapid review of the senior management and a commissioning review, residents have demands rightly, and they must be met. Staff  have aspirations and they must also be met.

We say a humble thank you to the many staff who have delivered brilliantly for us in the past three years. There are too many to thank or we would be here all day. But they have made us the best place to live and work in the North West.  I also say publicly today that I appreciate the loyalty of our staff, often approached with offers of substantial pay rises and yes we do pay below market rate, but they stay, why ? because of what they are achieving in Cheshire East and the environment they are thriving in.

Fourthly, we have seen, through our arms length companies that we can empower our staff to deliver and I am proud on how each and every arms length company has performed but I want to deliver more and so today we announce there will be more.  A new arms length organisation will be focused on skills and training, including delivering to our most needy the opportunity to work. We will bring live our energy company and others will be looked at as we develop the commissioning review. The model works well so we should expand it.

Fifthly, we must also empower our communities and especially our army of thousands of volunteers and faith groups. They are the often hidden heroes of Cheshire, that is why I admire the British Empire Medal service, where these volunteers are rewarded, I am often humbled by the efforts each recipient has made.
So today we announce that we will further empower our community hubs and they will be centres that deliver for those in need, the vulnerable and the  weak. We promise that my cabinet and I will make lives of the vulnerable better through these community hubs and there spokes. We want to free up these hubs to be facilitated to deliver our services and others to the most needed and to all young adults. We will look to franchise the delivery of our services with the providers telling us how to deliver and where. These must be locally led and locally driven.

Finally, the most significant lesson we have learnt is that local government and central government is a process laden management experience. Process is necessary, even essential but not at the price of agility or delivery. We must be legal at all times but NEVER process for process sake. Too often innovation and delivery are sacrificed on the altar of process, we are often too slow and too expensive. Legal first and foremost but all processes must be reviewed including our clumsy constitution and non agile procurement. This also where we can make savings as process is often wastage. We need to allow drive and enthusiasm to flow, not to be suppressed and dampened by process.

I relish the opportunity for smaller central government and 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 cabinet and I call upon the senior management to cut red tape, get out and visit more members of the public and spend more time in the community and less time in meetings. If you are in meetings, lets ensure that the meeting is delivering for residents ? We should ask first and foremost are we delivering for residents.  Reporting is a key part of management but so is challenging. We do not challenge enough within the council so today I say to be the best we must challenge each other more and have open debate about delivery. Strength through dialogue and never being frightened to say we can do it better.

As I have stated, local government should be more local and more delivery driven, more in the community and less in council offices. This change is inevitable as is our increasing of transparency and openness. We will move this agenda forward from the lessons learnt.

So as to the new way.

As with dawn of a new Council the rising dawn of opportunity means we must enjoy the sun light and pass the energy forward with the vigour of the early morning. To be clear my cabinet and I will meet immediately to review the direction of the Council and we will shift it permanently in the direction of the people. We will move fast and with purpose. We have spent many hours listening on the door step and residents should know we have heard. As already stated, my cabinet and I will also be investigating greater devolvement from the centre to 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 under way.

We must also innovate and be brave. We must watch our bottom line but also invest in our residents. In February the Council agreed the most aggressive capital programme and to pay for this we must match this with the largest asset disposal programme of Council assets, so to this I want to bring in partners and today I announce, under the chairmanship of Cllr Jamie Macrae, Engine of the North will pursue joint ventures and partners to deliver the maximum value for our residents. I will also chair a task force on the other assets we own not included in Engine of the North to ensure a reduction in our foot print and revenue savings, whilst looking at all options for our assets.

We must use our knowledge to deliver our outcomes but we must also be innovative. As an example, we have challenging budget demands, especially from an ageing population. The council is committed to independent living, people living at home longer, we want less social isolation and certainly less people going into care. Yet we have made it harder for people to get disabled parking badges. So my cabinet and I  have tasked Steph Corden to review this and as to whether we can mandatory allow disabled badges to all drivers over 85 yrs of age, this will be a change in Government legislation and I have written to Patrick McLoughlin MP to ask for a change and also to park more easily in our towns

We also should make staying at home for care easier, supporting quicker discharge from hospital. We must strive to introduce protocols easier to support four  people and carers at home.

This will make us resident friendly, dementia friendly and of course support independent living. We will also look to define disability to include agoraphobia and other possible mental disabilities, that supported car parking would assist them in there lives.

So yes the new way is a cultural change, in a member led council, we will lead and when I look at the new members on all sides I relish the opportunity to work together cross party to deliver the council the people want and deserve.

As to the specifics of a new way.

Most importantly the budget. We have a strong financial platform but I believe all councils can further reduce waste and I believe that we are also, like so many councils still locked into out dated processes that cost millions and despite the best of intentions we do not deliver, as much as we can.  So I say, we as a Council can make further savings and we will. The cultural shift will be essential and we will pursue this strongly in meetings throughout the summer with our staff.

My cabinet and I will be giving the Head of paid service  and the chief operating officer new targets on savings, alongside there commissioning review so that we can spend our resources more on the front line and less on the support structures. We must spend more in the community and the commissioning review should deliver more local, resident listened and resident led services.

As we have stated, we must work with our communities and already, in the last three years we have seen  financial savings through our early intervention. What is clear is that we have seen human savings, many people looked after, families kept together, people in jobs and contributing and there is less fear in our communities and more road safety. We believe that we, as a council, should deal with the causes of our residents problems, we have and we will continue to address the symptoms but focus more on the causes. We will work with our partners, especially on Health, to delivery solutions to these causes.

At this point we should like to say a thank you to our police service. We have an excellent relationship and especially on safeguarding, we have a zero tolerance on Child Sexual Exploitation and they work with us to ensure any information or intelligence is passed between us, this is partnership in action. Children are safer in Cheshire East as a consequence. We will be producing a policy report on CSE and it is fitting that it should be called the Hoyland report after its former chairman, Philip Hoyland.

We are also clear that whilst we have strong story and we are proud that we lead the country on dealing with Youth offending, Domestic Violence, Fostering and our schools will be the best in the Country and we will have no more NEET's. 

However, there is a group who need us most, who we do not reach enough. They are young adults and teenagers. So today my cabinet and I instruct all officers  this Council to expand our relationships with young adults.  We should give the message  “ to all teenagers that have dark thoughts, to the bulimic and anorexic,  to the self harmer, to the bullied... that we care about you, this council cares desperately for you and we will listen to you”.  Any budget surplus will spent on this area for one off innovative programmes.

We want to see more counselling in schools and we want to reassure all children that there shape is fine, that there thoughts are fine and that they matter, more than they know and we say, Children are our greatest resource and we MUST listen to them.  That is why we will be pushing our schools to do more about mind well being, delivering the best teenagers academically but also rounded, ready to contribute to society and full fill there potential. We need them to be more ready for society and the challenges society brings. We will hold a conference on self harm and eating disorders in early 2016.

We must work with our schools and partners to create a “happy to discuss” culture. We must teach health and happy minds to all children,  which intern promotes healthy living. We already have a pilot running delivering this, (with excellent results),  in 12 primary schools, we will expand this pilot.

We will also look carefully at our procurement of the 0 – 19 school health provision and see how we can improve our partnerships before these services become the councils on October 1st.

I will also be looking to introduce local people to drive our communities and these will be piloted shortly, we will have community advisors to ensure our services are reaching those in need through the community hubs.

We must ensure that the local plan is delivered and also that our neighbourhood plans are delivered. Localism is not a fad it is what the people demand and they must be heard as part of the process. Neighbourhood plans have consultation and/or referendums and that is important. We like referendums and my cabinet and I will be looking to introduce more.

As to the Local Plan, it is clear that we got it wrong on our job growth. In the middle of a deep recession, 0.4% looked optimistic, but under my leadership, we have retained thousands of jobs, attracted growth and investment and after all Cheshire East is the home of the small business. They have created the lowest unemployment in more than a decade. We applaud the Cheshire entrepreneurs and we promise we will support them more. Our growth rate is 0.7%. we are the victims of our own success. Today I thank the good work of my former colleague Peter Raynes and I confirm that Cllr Rachel Bailey will be responsible for taking the Local Plan through to completion.

However, all planning and housing should be sustainable and we will continue to defend against unplanned and unwanted, unsustainable development. To this we have  requested our planning team to review all policies to increase development on brown field sites, infill in our hamlets, where supported,  and bring forward sites that have clear advantages to our residents and more 106 monies to reduce impact on our communities. We are also announcing that we will hold a series of consultations with residents and developers on our policies to make them resident first as much as possible. These will be under taken through out June and yes, the plan is on time.

My cabinet and I want us to be the safest council and today we say we must address road safety with a broad ranging consultation on road speeds, traffic signs and yes we believe that we should have where possible 20 miles per hour outside all our schools, I say again where possible.  This must be supported by wide ranging speed reviews supported by local referendums on speeding, if needed.

We also want to look at creating drop off points at our schools to enable less of the chaotic parking that occurs outside too many schools today. This may need land but we will support those who have land to do it we will look, where we can, to introduce these drop off zones. Ending the blockages, around the primary and secondary schools that create chaos in morning and afternoons is common sense. Road safety is a priority of my council.

Cheshire is a special place to live, but we must be stronger, greener and healthier So we intend to bring forward a whole collective of policies to support independent life, mind well being and I hope to focus our public health resources on visible achievements. We will challenge all expenditure across the council and health will be important to every aspect of the Council.

We should develop technology, we want customer services to be smoother, I want a strong Cheshire East app and a digital service, not forgetting the rural isolated communities who cannot yet access faster technology. I also want assisted technologies to make life easier for all and from today all development should, through planning introduce broadband facilitating each house having connectivity to safeguard connecting into the future.

As to greener, we have helped more than a thousand people already reduce there energy bills by fairer power, but we must also be greener and my cabinet and I will propose to undertake energy from dry anaerobic and yes I want us to lead on Geothermal. I expect joint venture deals on both in the coming years. 

My cabinet and I am clear we must work with our partners, especially on Health and so from today I will be chairing the Health and Well-being board and yes we will look to help our partners to be all they can be.  We will be challenging our partners to deliver more, to work with our community hubs and also to deliver health cheaper and further to our residents.  I will build on the excellent work of my cabinet colleague but it is time to ask Central government for more.

Health and well being must be easy to access, quick to respond and fundamentally care about the person, not the paperwork. Our well trained staff and partners should be freed to do their job not get tied down with process and forms.

On regeneration, we will deliver on our work already started, we will deliver on our major town centres and also we will look into the process of concordats that serve the interest of our residents and also the process of ensuring the wealth of all of us. My cabinet and I believe that HS2 will happen and we will be looking at its delivery sooner, giving growth to Crewe, Middlewich and the rest of Cheshire and near neighbour Stoke.

Regeneration will occur in all our market towns and large cities, we will work with or town councils to get it right. 

So my cabinet and I will deliver transformation including the introduction of several arms length vehicles to deliver skills and job creation for all,  health and well-being and on our green energy ambitions.

I must say that our current companies have done remarkably well and we applaud all the members and officers concerned. They have been a great SUCCESS. As you know I am against outsourcing unless it works for the residents. I believe that we have got it right.
To our staff we say that we want to make your life easier and to encourage communication. We will introduce suggestion boxes in our key council locations. We will have more staff questionnaires and we will work with managers to end any vestiges of silo mentality.

Silos are the last bastion of the local government, they serve officers more than residents and certainly do not save money. We will strive to end the culture of silo thinking and encourage broader responsibility for our services “look not only at what you do but what you and the others around you are doing for the residents”.
The ultimate key is teamwork, the key word is together in all we do and it is a vocation of many to serve the public, we must embody this whilst giving our residents hope in their futures and hope in Cheshire East Council. We have the power to impact on the vulnerable, the low skilled, the unhealthy, teenagers and young adults and my cabinet and I believe we have had a positive impact already, but we can have more impact and we shall.

So colleagues and guests my Cabinet and I have begun to build a team of officers, who are becoming enthused to deliver and as their passion for  delivery and change grows then our delivery will become strong, unstoppable. I do expect a revised structure from the top as they align with this vision.

My Cabinet and I believe that as we look forward to the next four years we can see the future of this Council as a fore runner for other Councils, changed, innovative, pro-active and less reactive, thus saving money and improving all the lives of the great people of Cheshire East.

Today I say we have a new mantra. Let us together start to resolve the problems, let us intervene earlier and as a consequence have less symptoms to address.

To be Resident first and foremost, I now add, solving the causes of problems earlier, early intervention is not just for childrens and adults but all our resident facing services.

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