Posted: 07.04.21 at 10:23 by Tim Taylor
The MP for Congleton, Fiona Bruce, was recently appointed by Boris Johnson as his Special Envoy for Freedom of Religion or Belief.
If the right honourable lady’s brief includes divine intervention, then that is what it will take to save the town tip from extinction.
Yesterday (Tuesday), a deadline in Cheshire East Council’s unstoppable process passed by quietly.
Yet the closure impacts on a total of more than 90,000 people affecting as it does residents in Alsager and Macclesfield as well as Congleton.
It seems inevitable next Tuesday will bring a CEC Cabinet decision that, from September, Congleton will be without a Household Waste and Recycling Centre for at least the following nine months.
With no guarantee that will not be forever.
A few days after the decision is made, Mrs Bruce is scheduled to be in Congleton to celebrate the opening of the town’s new link road.
She deserves admiration from all of us for that, irrespective of our political beliefs.
Only a small minority of MPs get a link road built for their constituency and Mrs Bruce has managed the rare feat twice.
Even the long running debacle of the town tip – in no way down to her – will fail to take the shine off that.
Yet residents of three towns will soon be left to clear up a mess – in some cases literally to clear it up – Cheshire East Council politicians have left behind.
When the lease expires, Congleton people will have to use the tip at either Alsager, where there are existing access problems, or Macclesfield, already blighted by congestion at their tip and on the roads leading to it.
Closing the Congleton tip is bound to lead to increased fly-tipping in or around all three towns.
Waste collection and disposal is a critical weapon in the war against disease.
A tip adequate for the needs of the amount of people who use it is vital in terms of preventing vermin infestation and disease.
So how did we arrive at such a situation, given yesterday’s deadline was a minor and expected setback to the already battered hopes of residents and councillors in the three towns?
Several Congleton town councillors spoke passionately in favour of ensuring a long-term HWRC facility was retained at Cheshire East Council's Environment and Regeneration Overview and Scrutiny Committee on March 15.
The outcome of the meeting was that a Task and Finish group was requested "to investigate all available options urgently”.
If any “urgent” information to date was to be issued by CEC as a result then that needed to be yesterday, five working days ahead of Tuesday’s Cabinet meeting. None was forthcoming.
The Labour and Independent coalition Cabinet have so far lacked transparency in their decision making, Cheshire East Council will next month revert to a committee system for running a council widely mocked and long discarded by most of the rest of the country.
Labour says the lease at Congleton is now up, the owners want the land back and that this was a foreseeable problem the previous Conservative administration failed to deal with, something the Tories deny.
Cheshire East Council has 82 councillors but only ten form the Cabinet and it is those ten councillors widely expected to vote through the controversial move on Tuesday.
There is an item on the Cabinet agenda expressly worded to “not replace” the Congleton tip when the lease expires.
Council rules dictate the subject cannot be discussed for six months. Even in the unlikely event of an immediate U-turn then, the minimum time to construct a tip elsewhere is three months.
At the very least, the council need to prepare now by investing heavily and immediately in measures to deal with the inevitable increase in fly-tipping.
A Freedom of Information request made to Cheshire East Council by a Nantwich newspaper in September showed that in 2019/20, two fines for fly-tipping were issued but only one was paid.
The CEC Cabinet includes Macclesfield representatives in Labour’s Laura Jeuda and Nick Mannion plus Independent Mick Warren.
All three have cabinet roles which bring the subjects of household waste, public health, the environment and community welfare under their combined remits.
Cllr Jeuda, the deputy Labour leader, is responsible for adult social care and health.
Cllr Mannion oversees environment and regeneration, and Cllr Warren is charged with overseeing communities.
Will the hopes of more than 90,000 people be realised?
Will these three Macclesfield councillors persuade their coalition colleagues to change their minds and thus bring joy to their own town plus Alsager and Congleton?
Will the CEC Cabinet want to create a feel-good factor at Congleton Town Council, which has no Labour councillors?
Hell will freeze over first. So come on Fiona, get on your hotline to heaven as soon as possible and have a word with Him or Her Upstairs!
Tim Taylor is a former national newspaper journalist turned copywriter, publicist and media relations adviser.
He lives in Congleton and is chief writer for an online golf magazine, Exclusive Golf & Travel.