6 TO FIX
1. POOR QUALITY CONSULTATION
The Council has a track record of paying little regard to the wishes of local communities. The sale of County Hall in Chester for example ( the District Auditor criticised the council on this point ).
Liberal Democrats would give power to the people :-
- Devolve decision making (as far as possible ) down to the local communities affected. This is what we are doing in government with more planning powers being devolved to local councils.
- Promote Town and Parish Councils across the Borough ( these councils have a proud record of delivering local service and providing value for money ).
- Engage in proper consultation where everyone can have their say and all views are taken fully into account. Encourage the use of street and neighbourhood surveys and reduce the scale of borough wide consultations.
2. SHODDY CUSTOMER SERVICE
For many of us contacting the council is a nightmare. If you contact by phone often you are put through to the wrong department and spend wasted minutes repeating your concern/comment to different council staff. By e-mail often there is not even the courtesy of a reply. Arriving at reception without an appointment risks finding the appropriate person out of office and the council website is not very user friendly.
The Council needs a simple system that provides:-
- A reference number for every enquiry
- A response within 48 hours either to answer a query or to advise the subject will take time to address and confirm who is taking the action and what their contact details are.
- Investment in staff training to deliver excellent standards of service
- a commitment to learn from mistakes and seek ever improving standards at an affordable cost
3. THE STATE OR OUR ROAD AND PAVEMENTS
The council blame recent bad winter weather for the state of our highways but actually they are the result of a decade of underinvestment.
Liberal Democrats would:-
- Coordinate work planned by the Utility companies to reduce the number of occasions the same stretch of road is dug up by different companies in a short period of time
- Stop the wasteful practice of temporary filling potholes and initiate a more cost effective regime of road patching.
- Use council leadership and influence to encourage residents and visitors to use other modes of transport than cars e.g. encourage car clubs; hired cycles; engage with the train companies to put attractive offers on so more visit West Cheshire yet less damage is done to our roads ( look at the offers Liverpool puts on to encourage West Cheshire residents to visit Liverpool by Merseyrail rather than by car).
4. POOR ENVIRONMENTAL STANDARDS
In a borough like West Cheshire where the local economy is dependent of tourism; retail; commerce and farming we should not have to put up with dirty streets and dirty neighbourhoods. Flytipping is prevalent; litter gathers in the hedgerows and gutters; dog mess is a health hazard. Visitors regularly complain at the sights and smells.
Nationally Lib Dems are pushing for green legislation to reduce the amount of packaging wrapped around products; a chewing gum tax and investment in recycling
- We would work with social housing providers and private landlords to work with tenants and encourage/incentivise good housekeeping standards.
- Introduce communal bins into areas where there are alleys.
- Introduce neighbourhood waste initiative days to encourage and share best practice.
In our view living in a clean; greener environment is good for the people; good for the environment and cheaper than the current cost of clean up campaigns.
5. CALLOUS TREATMENT OF THE ELDERLY
The number of Respite care beds have been reduced ; “personalised” budgets introduced by this council seek to transfer the cost and risk from the public purse to the pocket of some of our most vulnerable and to the third sector (voluntary organisations and charities).
At the same time the council is cutting its budget for older people and for the third sector.
Liberal Democrats would:-
- Support older residents through an inclusive regime of encouraging healthy lifestyles ( working in partnership with other organisations ); social interaction and personal development (taking on new skills and/or experiences) individuals will be able to live independent lives for longer and reduce their dependency on the council or state. There is no simple fix here. The council must take the strategic view.
6. UNDERINVESTMENT IN WEST CHESHIRE
Three years on from the formation of CW&C there is still no sign of a theatre for Chester; a new swimming facility for Ellesmere Port; no regeneration in Northwich and no Northgate development in Chester. But we do have a new council building to add to the many and various council offices dotted around the borough.
The council should be investing in Jobs and communities. Lib Dems would:-
- Develop a strategy urgently to match the needs of the urban and rural areas
- Promote start-up businesses (through advice; contacts and training particularly in the early years)
- Encourage the development of West Cheshire as a natural home for the arts and culture.
- Promote West Cheshire on the International stage to bring in new investment
- Focussing procurement on West Cheshire people and businesses and stop the wasteful practice of spending council tax money elsewhere in the country.