Open letter to The Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government
11 September 2017
Dear Secretary of State,
It has been brought to our attention that the Chairman of the local ‘Hands off Our Sandbach’ Action Group has, on the 4th September 2017, written to you outlining the concerns of a group of residents who live in the Sandbach area of the borough.
Whilst of course we respect the views of all of our residents and their right to be heard, I would like to respond to and address the concerns that have been raised with you. We are therefore writing to you on behalf of Cheshire East Council, both from the officer and political leadership perspectives.
The Council faces some difficult organisational challenges in addressing what are legacy matters, relating to the period of organisational leadership of the previous council leader (prior to February 2016). Some of these matters are the subject of ongoing police and audit investigation and/or internal disciplinary or member conduct proceedings. Nevertheless, we have approached these matters in a robust and transparent way and will continue to do so, putting as much information as we can in the public domain as and when issues come to light, taking steps to ensure that any matters of concern are fully and independently investigated and that any recommendations are shared openly and acted upon without delay. It is important to note however, that these are legacy matters, not issues relating to the current leadership or management of the council.
It is disappointing that the ‘Hands off Our Sandbach’ Group do not acknowledge the considerable achievements of this Council and the considerable efforts of both officers and elected members to ensure we can continue to deliver high performing services despite the current difficult circumstances.
Although we have a number of “acting up” arrangements in place within the senior officer team, with the exception of one experienced interim, all appointments are existing members of the senior management team and as such continue to provide strong direction, leadership and most importantly stability and continuity.
All members of the senior management team have access to support from mentors and coaches who are experienced senior leaders from other authorities within the sector.
We continue to work closely with North West Employers, the Local Government Association and Solace as key partners providing guidance and support to the Leader, Cabinet and Corporate Leadership Team and we are keeping our external auditors fully informed of developments.
We continue to receive excellent feedback and recognition for the services that are delivered across the Borough and work closely with our partners and leaders across the sub-region to deliver key outcomes in terms of growth, skills, health and well-being, housing and other strategic infrastructure investment. Despite the significant financial pressures we face.
This Council is pressing ahead with its ambitious agenda, including leading the development of a HS2 Hub at Crewe and the HS2 Growth Strategy for the Constellation Partnership, the town centre regeneration programmes for Crewe and Macclesfield and our commitment to once again bring the Tour of Britain cycle race to Cheshire East in 2018.
External recognition is just one small way of measuring how well our services are delivering for Cheshire East and 2016/17 has been the most successful year in Cheshire East’s history in terms of both awards and accreditation. In the past year alone, Cheshire East has secured 11 national award wins from organisations such as iESE, SOCITM and the Chartered Institute of Highways and Transport and we have been on the shortlist for more than 20 other national awards.
In addition we are working with the LGA on member development; have engaged in a LGA Peer Review of our Communications service and have participated in a range of sector led regional peer review activities to aid our self-assessment and learn from others.
Cheshire East is a great place to live and work and it remains our priority to listen to any concerns raised by our residents. As the acting Chief Executive and the Council Leader we would be happy to meet with you or senior officials to provide a confidential briefing on the issues we face and how we are dealing with them. In the meantime, we have offered to meet the Chairman of the group to discuss their concerns directly.
Kath O'Dwyer Cllr Rachel Bailey
Acting Chief Executive Council Leader