To receive such announcements as may be made by the Leader and Deputy Leader.
The Leader, in summary
1 advised that the Covid-19 infection rate in Cheshire East was 332 per 100,000 and local hospitals were under pressure. He reiterated that people could reduce the risk of spreading Covid-19 by maintaining social distancing, ensuring good ventilation indoors and washing hands thoroughly with soap and water;
2 updated the Council on those affected by the ongoing war in Ukraine. To date, 804 Ukrainians had registered to come to Cheshire East under the Homes for Ukraine scheme and, of these, 424 had arrived in the borough. There were currently 277 sponsors registered in Cheshire East. The Education Team was supporting Ukrainian families in accessing education and, to date, the Council had offered places to approximately 90 children and young people. Officers were undertaking a wide range of safeguarding, housing and welfare visits, arranging payments and supporting volunteer, community and faith sector groups and sponsors. Colleagues from other local agencies, including Health, Police and the Fire and Rescue Service were all supporting the scheme and he thanked them, and everyone else who had contributed so positively;
3 reminded the Council of the ongoing work by the Council in supporting Afghan refugees, a number of whom were still in temporary accommodation in his ward. A bicycle scheme had been introduced to help them to be more mobile;
4 thanked the Officers who had put forward a strong technical bid resulting in Crewe being shortlisted for the HQ of Great British Railways. The team, he felt, had created an excellent presentation for the Rail Minister’s visit, including visiting Avanti West Coast’s national training academy, visiting the entrance to Crewe station with virtual-reality goggles to show what the area would look like if plans were implemented and a trip to a site restoring classic trains;
5 reported that the Council had received the Armed Forces Covenant Silver Award. This latest award made by the Ministry of Defence, followed the Bronze Award which the Council received in 2020, and highlighted the ongoing commitment the Council was making to support serving personnel, reservists, veterans, families, cadets, and the wider military community across the borough;
6 reported that, for the fifth year in succession, the Registration Service had won the Ceremony Provider of the Year category at the North West Wedding Awards. He congratulated the Registration Service team for maintaining such a performance.
1 attended a sod-cutting ceremony on 27 May to mark the commencement of work on the North-West Crewe Package;
2 reported that the design and development work for the Middlewich Eastern Bypass scheme continued to make good progress. A package of early site work was implemented earlier this year, whilst other environmental works, earthworks and landscaping were currently in preparation;
3 reported that since Council last met, the second reading of the Phase 2b (Crewe to Manchester) Hybrid Bill had taken place, which had triggered the petitioning process. A resolution had been made to petition against the Bill, as it was felt the proposals did not currently represent the best deal for the borough. The Council was currently running a series of ‘cluster workshops’ for town and parish councils affected by the scheme, to ensure they were well placed to petition themselves;
4 advised that the Council was also working with its neighbouring authorities, as well as sub-regional partners, as part of Transport for the North and Growth Track 360 to make the case for essential investment in HS2 infrastructure;
5 advised that the Council’s planning service continued to experience significant delays, with a backlog of 2,684 undetermined cases at the end of June. A number of initiatives were being implemented to address the issues including the launch of a new recruitment campaign video, extending the Council’s contract with Capita to provide agency staff, a revised site visit protocol for officers, establishing additional Team Leader/Principal Planner roles, engaging with universities to explore graduate recruitment and employing a planning consultant to lead to Planning Service Improvement Plan;
6 advised that, at the last budget council meeting in February, the Council took the ambitious step of borrowing to invest an additional £19M in its highways maintenance and repair programme over the next three years. The £7M tranche of money being invested this year was starting to bear fruit and both Members and members of the public could find more details on the schemes being delivered on the Council’s website;
7 reported another alleged assault on a member of the highways team. He felt all Members would want to join with him in condemning such behaviour towards an officer, who was going about the task they were paid to do. He stated that he was raising this issue to send a clear message that assaults on staff were unacceptable. He had signed up to the apolitical “Debate Not Hate” campaign, which the Local Government Association was currently championing, and encouraged all Members of Council to do the same;
8 reported that Crewe had been shortlisted as one of six potential locations for the new Great British Railways HQ. He had attended, along with the local MP and other Group Leaders, a meeting with the Minister of State, Wendy Morton MP, where she had an opportunity to see what Crewe had to offer, both now and in the future. He felt officers had submitted an excellent technical bid and encouraged friends and families to vote for Crewe head at www.gbrcrewe.co.uk.
Upon the invitation of the Mayor, Group Leaders spoke:
Councillor J Clowes endorsed the comments made by the Deputy Leader in relation to assaults on Cheshire East employees and expressed her support for Crewe as the HQ of Great British Railways. In respect of HS2, she was grateful that the Council had moved forward with setting up North and South cluster groups.
Councillor P Williams echoed the comments on assaults on employees and ‘poison pen’ attacks on Councillors. On behalf of the Liberal Democrat group, he was encouraged to find strong cross-party support for the Great British Railways bid. In respect of HS2, he welcomed the response coming forward, but equally important was the support for the provision of an enhanced station hub at Crewe as well as pressing for compensation for those impacted by the Crewe to Manchester phase and mitigation on the ecological and environmental impacts.