Calls have been made for residents to get behind plans give Macclesfield back a voice and establish a new council in the town.
Macclesfield has been without its own elected body since the old borough council was abolished and merged with Cheshire East in 2009. People who live in the town will be given the chance to vote on whether to set up a new town council at the end of the year.
Senior figures across the town this week called for residents to show their support for a new town council. It comes as the first meeting into the proposals was due to be held today.
Neighbouring areas such as Prestbury, Bollington and Sutton all have their own town and parish councils, leaving Macclesfield as the last ‘unparished’ area of Cheshire East after Crewe voted in favour of a town council last year.
Both Labour and Conservative councillors have urged people to support a council in the town. Coun Wesley Fitzgerald, leader of Macclesfield Borough Council from 2004 until a year before its abolition in 2009, added: “I very much support Macclesfield having its own town council.
“There are certain powers that are not available to voluntary groups or other organisations and Macclesfield is missing out on these at the minute.
The Conservative councillor for Wilmslow West and Chorley said: “I hope residents support it so we can push it through and start seeing the benefits.”
Labour’s Macclesfield West councillor Alift Harewood, also urged residents to back a new town council.
She said: “This is our only chance to get one and I would without doubt urge residents to vote for it. Only a town council can tackle the issues that local people want to see dealt with.”
A review has now been set up to look at several options to deal with this ‘democratic deficit’. Other options include a community trust, or more than one parish council to cover different areas.
But a new elected body could hit tax payers in the pocket. Residents in a band D property currently pay an extra £1.55 for the town’s chartered trustees – which currently perform civic ceremonial functions – in the town on top of the council tax they pay to Cheshire East council.
This compares to the £46.47 that similar properties in Alderley Edge are billed annually for its town council, while the same figure for Crewe is £28.
Laura Jeuda, Labour councillor for Macclesfield South and chairman of the Local Services Delivery Committee, said she believed people in the town need more of a say over their own affairs.
She said: “A lot of people think Cheshire East is very removed, especially when you look at issues like the town centre redevelopment.
“People are making decisions about the future of the town, who are not elected.
“And I do think local people need more of a say.”
Broken Cross’s Conservative councillor Martin Hardy said: “Whether we need a town council or not I am not sure, because of the simple issue of cost. But we definitely need something, and I think all options should be investigated.”
David Neilson, Liberal Democrat councillor for Macclesfield East, urged people to have their say. He added: “I have always been of the view that Macclesfield needs an independent voice. We need to look at different ways of making that voice heard.”
A series of public meetings are being staged where residents can quiz council bosses about the plans.
Beverley Moore, spokeswoman for Wake Up Macc, the campaign group formed to fight the town centre redevelopment plan, said the town needed its own elected body.
However, not all councillors favour a new body.
Councillor Brendan Murphy said: “What we don’t want is a mickey mouse town council whose only powers are Christmas lights and hanging baskets. We want a town council with real powers.”
Macclesfield MP David Rutley said: “I think it's important for local residents to have their say on all the governance options. But I hope that the council will clearly set out each option.”
POWER THE TOWN HALL USED TO HAVE
Macclesfield Borough Council was the second layer of a two-iter system below Cheshire County Council.
It was responsible for such things as
- Rubbish collections
- Collecting council tax
- Managing council houses
- Determining planning applications
POWER THE TOWN HALL COULD HAVE
A new town council would have much more limited powers. It would deal with hyper-local issues such as:
- Representing opinion in the town
- Commenting on planning consultations
- Public Clocks
- Bus Shelters
- Community Centres
- Play areas and Equipment
- Grants to help other local organisations
It would also have the power to issue fixed penalty fines for things like:
- Fly posting
- Dog offences