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Cheshire East leader faces Police investigation

by Iain Roberts on 3 January, 2016

Cllr Michael Jones, standing down as Conservative leader of Cheshire East Council

One of the biggest issues facing our area in the next few years is how we will cope with the additional traffic from the 4,000+ homes that Cheshire East Council plan to build near the Stockport border – many of them around Handforth Dean. We have been asking Cheshire East to work with us and find ways to stop the extra traffic bringing our roads to a halt, but for more than two years little has happened.

Now the Conservative Leader of Cheshire East Council, Michael Jones, has said he will be standing down amid a police investigation into the awarding of contracts. As the BBC reports:

A criminal investigation has been launched after a council leader resigned over criticism concerning his links with a fitness firm owner.
Cheshire East Council waived its rules when it granted three contracts to Core Fit Ltd, owned by the physiotherapist of former council leader Michael Jones.
A police investigation into misconduct in a public office is under way.
Mr Jones denied any wrongdoing when he stood down on 8 December. He was unavailable for comment.
Core Fit Ltd, which is owned by Amanda Morris, runs fitness classes in schools and was given contracts collectively worth £156,000 by the council.

We do not think that the change of leader in Cheshire East will lead to any significant changes to their proposals, but we will be continuing to look for every opportunity to work with Cheshire East to avoid transport chaos.

   20 Comments

20 Responses

  1. David Johnson says:

    The additional financial and more importantly social environmental costs will not be born by East Cheshire Council – they will simply reap in the rates and other advantages from expanding their activities. Is this really benefitting the population? Has any investigation extended further than the current contract fixing??

  2. Bruce says:

    What has this got to do with Cheadle?

    You only reported it because he is a Tory.

    So business as usual for the anti-tory party

  3. Iain Roberts says:

    Hi Bruce – I’m surprised you think that more than 4,000+ houses being built on the border of Stockport – and the issues and events around it – isn’t something that we should be discussing.

    You are in good company though – as far as I’m aware, our MP hasn’t had a word to say about the Conservative plans in Cheshire East.

    No doubt you will feel that raising this important issue that affects the daily lives of nearly everyone in the area is simply being “anti-Tory” – fair enough!

    • Hailifax says:

      Iain, you keep banging on about Cheshire East’s plans to build houses, but Stockport continues to rubber stamp housing development knowing full well that the transport infrastructure can’t cope.

      The new development at Woodford, where will all that traffic go? And the Barnes Hospital development, any traffic wanting to get to or from the M60 will have to go through the Gatley junction.

  4. Bruce says:

    Iain – this is absolutely nothing to with the extra homes which are years in the future anyway (if ever) – it is just your party being vindictive again – and why on earth bring our MP into it. Why don’t you tell us about Alistair Carmichael and his trial (relevance – integrity of your party)

    Your constituents are more concerned with the imminent extra chaos that your have allowed by sanctioning all the extra homes at the Barnes site. Hundreds of extra vehicles, an additional junction on the A34, not to mention all the extra traffic that will be using the South Park estate.

    Reader- if you live on South Park do you realise that a lot of these extra vehicles will be using your estate?

    • Iain Roberts says:

      Bruce – very happy to report that Alistair Carmichael was found not guilty and the vindictive action brought against him by SNP supporters was completely dismissed as without merit.

      But getting back to our area, yes it is important that 4,000 houses will be built with traffic pouring onto the A34 and it is relevant that, whereas Mark Hunter spoke out against the plans, our current Conservative MP has remained completely silent. I think it’s a major issue that affects local people. She and you may disagree, and that’s fine – we can let the voters decided.

      We’ve reported extensively on Barnes Hospital.

      • Hailifax says:

        Iain – You state ‘We’ve reported extensively on Barnes Hospital.’

        What does that mean?

        The traffic from Barnes will end up at the Gately Junction, which as everybody in the areas knows is over capacity – so why did you approve it knowing that?

        • Iain Roberts says:

          Halifax, it means what it says – on this website, in public meetings and in leaflets we’ve reported throughout the process on what’s being planned for Barnes, what the options are to save the hospital and what the alternatives are. There’s been good discussion throughout with some people feeling that it shouldn’t go ahead, and others that it should.

          My own view is that we’re going to have to build these houses somewhere in Stockport and, given the big traffic flow is to and from Manchester (where most jobs are) having it north of the Gatley Road junction is going to produce a much lower impact than having an equivalent development to the south of the junction.

          And that’s an important point – the debate isn’t about whether or not we have more houses (that’s out of our hands). The debate is about *where* those houses should go and *how* we deal with the impact (traffic, etc.) that they create.

          So if you oppose Barnes, you need to think about where else we might build 150 homes locally that would have a lower impact.

          • Bruce says:

            Vehicles leaving Barnes and travelling towards Manchester will have to cross the road to turn right.

            Those going South will just turn left.

            Those going west or east on the M60 will go through south Park.

            Those going on the M56 towards Chester will either turn right go up the A34 and do a U-turn just after the river.

            An awful lot of added congestion!

          • Iain Roberts says:

            Depends how much traffic you think 150 houses generates. For comparison, the South Park Road Estate has 190 houses and the estate behind the Tatton has well over 300. We need to be careful to look at the traffic implications, but we need to be realistic about how many actual cars a development will put on any given road.

          • Halifax says:

            Perhaps if we had kept control of immigration (an appox NET increase of 250,000 every year since 1997) we wouldn’t need to built quite so many houses. And I guess Cheshire East would you the same arguments as you i.e we have to build houses.

            You say the debate is how we deal with the impact (traffic, etc.) that they create. That is like saying the debate it how we can fit a quart into a pint pot.

            You can debate it as much as you want, but you can’t get a quart into a pint pot.

          • Halifax says:

            IAN you state “And that’s an important point – the debate isn’t about whether or not we have more houses (that’s out of our hands).”

            So what is the point and expense of local councillors if important decisions that affect the local community “is out of there hands”. What did our LibDem MP Mark Hunter do about that? I’m going to guess the answer will be the same as the square root of 0

          • Iain Roberts says:

            Halifax – it’s a good question. The answer is that there are many things local councillors can and do influence or control and there are many other things decided by central government. The targets for housing happen to be one of the things, rightly or wrongly, set by central government. Mark Hunter was involved in drawing up the 2011 Localism Act which started to turn round decades of central government taking powers away from councils and for the first time since at least the 1960s started giving us some powers back. We don’t have everything though!

          • Bruce says:

            Halifax

            Their party want us to take thousands and thousands of refugees by opting into an EU relocation scheme for asylum seekers already in the European Union (from their website)

            Where are we going to put them all Iain?

  5. Petronica says:

    The impact of 4000+ new houses in the area is an important issue for people already living here, but I don’t see what alleged impropriety by the former leader of Cheshire East Council and his subsequent resignation has to do with it. When I read the article it just seemed an opportunity to ‘slur’ the individual concerned, instead of just asking whether his resignation is likely to have any impact on existing development plans which is all that is relevant, in this context at least. Why does the Lib Dem Team in Cheadle/Gatley feel the need do this?

  6. Alan Gent says:

    Because corruption always needs to be exposed and it may have led to the decision to build those houses.

  7. Petronica says:

    The alleged ‘corruption’ has already been exposed and widely reported in the media, which is why there is to be a police investigation, and as this has not yet been carried out, no one actually knows whether the individual concerned is guilty of corruption or not. What happened to the principle of innocent until proved guilty?

    Also, I’m not aware that contracts have been awarded for the building of the houses in question, but if they have, and the individual under investigation was involved in granting them, this will no doubt also be the subject of investigation.

    I don’t believe that the Lib Dems are suggesting what you state, and I think you need to be careful of accusing someone of corruption before any investigation has been carried out.

  8. John Hartley says:

    We’ll have to wait for the police investigation and the outcome of any court case before we know if Cllr Jones has acted in a corrupt manner.

    My career was in the public sector and I’d be confident in saying that corrupt officials and politicians are rarely corrupt in a single act. They get a taste for it.

    I was a purchasing manager for one of the agencies for which I worked – there were strict procedures about competitive tendering. I’m sure the Council has similar procedures and I’d be surprised if Cllr Jones actions were not in breach of them, whether corruptly or not.

  9. Petronica says:

    I take the points you’ve made, but I still think it’s important to await the outcome of independent investigation before labelling anyone, or anyone’s actions as corrupt, otherwise what is the point of having any process of independent investigation?

    Also, it says in the Lib Dem article that Cheshire East waived its rules when it awarded three contracts to Core Fit Ltd. Does this mean the Council as a ‘body’ or as a committee, or did Cllr Jones as Leader of East Cheshire Council (at that time), have the power to take these decisions himself? I don’t know the answer, I’m simply posing the question.

    I know that councils have competitive tendering processes, but that’s all I know. If Cllr Jones was able to award contracts without reference to other council members, that’s clearly not democratic, and I’d agree that that should change.

    But all this takes us a long way from the original point which was that I didn’t think any of this was relevant to the building of large numbers of new homes in the area and the impact on local communities!

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