“Crewe needs one town council”, said David Williams Labour’s Parliamentary Candidate for Crewe and Nantwich, “we now have an opportunity to sort out the Town’s gross under-representation.”
David continued, “The people of Crewe are telling me that the Town needs a strong voice in the new Cheshire East and they want their views to be heard. I very much share their view. Crewe has suffered more than most Cheshire towns from last year’s local government reorganisation and we now have the chance to put it right.
“If this unjust situation is allowed to continue, Crewe and its residents will suffer. For the sake of jobs, inward investment and public services Crewe needs a voice.”
David Williams concluded with a challenge to the Member of Parliament, “This is not a time for party politics, this is a time to stand up for the people of Crewe.
“I hope all who share an aspiration for a thriving and prosperous Crewe will join the One Town – One Voice campaign, giving a clear message to Cheshire East Council.”
Response to the Cheshire East Council Questionnaire as part of the Crewe Community Governance Review from David Williams - Labour’s Parliamentary Candidate for Crewe and Nantwich
I welcome the opportunity to respond to the Crewe Community Governance Review following the submission of a petition for a town council signed by over 10% of Crewe’s electorate.
I am an ardent supporter of the establishment of a town council and have been since the Voice For Crewe Campaign was launched.
I am proud to have been an active participant in the campaign, which is supported by Labour, Liberal Democrat and politically independent people. I was responsible for the collection of approximately one-quarter of the signatures on the petition.
I have personally spoken to around 1,000 voters in Crewe about the town council proposal, mainly by visiting to people at their home, on stalls in the town centre and at the Carnival and at various meetings with Crewe residents.
This background means that I am well qualified to comment on the governance of Crewe and that the views expressed in my response are representative of a large proportion of the people of Crewe.
One Town Council for Crewe
Crewe needs one town council to provide a strong voice in the new Cheshire East Authority. When the former Crewe & Nantwich Borough Council (C&NBC) was abolished, the relationship of Crewe Town with its council fundamentally changed. In C&NBC, Crewe provided 36 of the 57 councillors. In Cheshire East, the town has only 12 of the 81 councillors.
This local government reorganisation has left a democratic deficit in Crewe, which Cheshire East Council now has the opportunity and duty to rectify. By comparison, other towns in Cheshire East are much better represented than Crewe:
Town (Population) (Councillors)
Nantwich (13,880) (15)
Congleton (25,750) (26)
Knutsford (19,607) (18)
Middlewich (13,390) (15)
Sandbach (17,630) (24)
A crucial part of democratic systems is the link between voters and their elected representatives. The towns listed above have the balance about right, which means Crewe’s 50,000 residents are grossly under represented with a mere 12 councillors.
Opposition to a town council for Crewe
In all the conversations I have had with Crewe people very few opposed the idea of a town council for Crewe. I cannot accurately quantify the opposition I experienced, but I would estimate that less than 20% refused to sign the petition and many of those simply were not interested in local government arrangements and had no view.
I can however very accurately quantify the number of people who suggested that there should be more than one parish council for Crewe. Nobody told me that they wanted Crewe carved up.
Therefore I was amazed to see a proposal for four parish councils in Cheshire East Council’s consultation paper. More than 10% of Crewe voters called for one town council. Cheshire East Council should tell us how many Crewe voters signed a petition for the four parish option. If it was less than 10%, they should explain why different thresholds applied to the two proposals.
The mysterious addition of this four parish option has merely served to confuse the consultation and the way that the ballot questions are worded confuses further. I have spoken to many Crewe residents who are absolutely committed to one town council for Crewe, yet were unsure about how to vote to support their view.
There are serious questions about the arrangements of the consultation that will cast a shadow over its validity and impartiality, which may lead to referrals to the Local Government Ombudsman, the Audit Commission or even a Judicial Review.
Cost of a town council
I was amazed to see this question raised in a consultation about the governance of Crewe. This is a question that will be answered by voters at the election of councillors to serve on the new Town Council.
Under current arrangements the residents of Crewe have practically no say in the level of the parish precept that on levied on them. There is virtually no democratic accountability for the £1.93 they currently pay or for the way that money is spent.
I was also shocked at the biased way in which the costs were presented in the consultation document. There was no mention of the 6 parishes in Cheshire East that levy a zero parish precept. There was no mention of the 39 parishes in Cheshire East that levy a precept lower than Knutsford. Yet the document highlights 17 examples of parish councils, two-thirds of which are not in Cheshire East, half of them are not even in Cheshire and two the parishes are over 100 miles away. What was the motivation for selecting these examples?
Again I state: There are serious questions about the arrangements of the consultation that will cast a shadow over its validity and impartiality, which may lead to referrals to the Local Government Ombudsman, the Audit Commission or even a Judicial Review.
Crewe needs one town council. That is the overwhelming response I have received from extensive discussions with residents of Crewe. They are telling me that the Town needs a strong voice in the new Cheshire East and they want their views to be heard. Crewe people want what many other towns in Cheshire East have.
I very much share their view. Crewe is currently grossly under-represented compared to other towns in Cheshire East. Crewe has suffered more than most Cheshire towns from last year’s local government reorganisation and we now have an opportunity to rectify it. To give Crewe the voice it deserves.
If this unjust situation is allowed to continue, Crewe and its residents will suffer. Crewe has a long history of dealing well with dramatically changing circumstances. The current democratic deficit weakens the Town’s ability to fight back. For the sake of jobs, inward investment and public services Crewe needs a voice.
This is not a time for party politics, this is a time to stand up for the people of Crewe and I hope all who share an aspiration in a thriving and prosperous Crewe will join the One Town – One Voice campaign.
Labour’s Parliamentary Candidate
for Crewe and Nantwich