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THURSDAY, 24th FEBRUARY, 2011.
Binmen to lose jobs
Swimathon teams needed Readers'ViewsPages22-26,32 Page 30
What’s on... What’s gone...
Police pounced on 'knifeman'
Police ‘not pulling out of communities’ By Tom Byrne
Police services will not be taken away from Congleton, even though the police station is under threat of closure and front line job cuts must be made.
Cheshire Police Authority gave the assurance that even though the town’s police station was “reaching the end of its operational life” services would not be pulled from Congleton.
At an authority meeting on Tuesday, director of corporate services Karen Watkins said no closures of police stations in the area had een confirmed and community service was still at the forefront of the authority’s aims.
She said: “A number of proposals are being considered in relation to the selling and relocating of police buildings.
“But they are proposals only, each of which will be assessed in a business case study, which will consider the costs and benefits, ensuring that local services are retained in the right places to serve the communities by co-locating with partners.
“We are not pulling out of the communities.”
Authority chairman Margaret Ollerenshaw lamented the “depressing” level of budget cuts forced upon it by the Government and revealed at the meeting, but vowed to keep front line policing a priority.
The Estates Strategy 2011-14 document indicated that Congleton police station and other buildings could close as part of £35.6m of cuts to the authority’s budget. The strategy was approved at Tuesday’s meeting.
It laid out proposals for closing certain police buildings in favour of shared accommodation, saving £194,000.
It describes Congleton’s station as “reaching the end of its operational life”.
The affected buildings could include Holmes Chapel police offices and the Crewe base, both of which would be sold, and Alsager police station, which would relocate.
The strategy also aimed for cuts to the maintenance, utilities, rates and external contractors and professional fees budgets totalling £547,000. An increase in rental income of £144,000, £100,000 in savings through putting the facilities management contract out to tender and £32,000 of savings agreed against a PFI contract for utilities charges would bring the total reduction target to around £1m in 2011/12.
The measures would result in savings near to the target of £1m in 2011/12.
The authority also discussed the
2011/12 budget and the forecasted budgets until 2015. They laid out £35.4m of cuts from the budget of £178m in four years. The cost cutting included £11.9m of savings in 2011/12 alone, which have already been identified by the authority.
The most notable saving was almost £5.5m made through front line job cuts and reduced police officer recruitment, with 83% of the year’s cuts coming from people related costs.
Mrs Ollerenshaw said: “It is quite depressing to see the level of cuts we are having to make, following the considerable work of the authority over the last 16 years to develop the constabulary so that it has the capability and capacity to make Cheshire safer and protect the public from harm.”
She said that the good performance of the force made the budget even harder to commend but stressed that the authority must recognise the “harsh economic climate”.
She went on: “I am very concerned about the budget cuts imposed by the coalition government — and the unnecessary front loading of the cuts in the first two years.”
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Telephone mast trio on council’s agenda
Residents and councillors are fighting a trio of telephone masts planned for Congleton and the issue will be discussed tonight (Thursday) at a meeting of Congleton Town Council.
WFS Telecommunications has submitted plans to Cheshire East Council for a 52.8ft mast at Congleton Cricket Club, a 59ft mast at Rood Hill and a 42ft mast on the corner of Box Lane and Sandbach Road.
But the trio could become a forest as three more sites have been eyed jointly by O2 and Vodafone, which are considering submitting applications. The sites are: Berisfords factory, Thomas Street; Bromley Farm Community Centre and the junction of Boundary Lane and Biddulph Road. Each mast would have six aerials.
Normally, planning officers decide phone mast plans but Cheshire East councillors want to ensure a committee has the final say on at least two of the applications.
Coun David Topping has called in the cricket club application while Coun Gordon Baxendale called in Rood Hill’s. Those plans will be discussed at a meeting of the authority’s Southern Planning Committee on Wednesday, 16th March.
Coun Topping told the “Chronicle” that they were citing the “social responsibility” of the phone company to find sites that took members of the public into account.
He said that although they had objected to the Box Lane plan, there were no planning grounds for calling it in.
Norma Thorpe, from Sandbach Road, wrote in her letter of objection to planning officers: “We would like it putting on record that we are totally opposed to erection of the phone mast. We would have to look at this monstrosity through our lounge window — just a few yards away.
“Why can it not go further up Sandbach Road where there are no houses, just fields?
“If this is forced upon us then we think a reduction in council tax will have to be requested.” • —Turn to back page.
A web of mystery and intrigue was spun in Scholar Green on Thursday when pint-sized superheroes were spotted flying around the village. The comic book capers were part of a superheroes day at Scholar Green Primary School. Pictured above are Catwoman Abby Willis and Spiderman Jac Longshaw with one of their art projects. For the story and another picture, turn to page 11. (“Chronicle” photo. 801a/11).
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