Friday 9th July 2004


Watchdog finds council
“guilty” on six occasions

by Terry Johnson
WARRINGTON Borough Council has been found guilty of maladministration and injustice on six occasions following complaints from members of the public.
The findings have been revealed by Ombudsman Mrs Patricia Thomas (pictured), who has ordered the council to pay cash compensation.
It is the highest number of rulings against any public authority in Cheshire – covering nine district councils, police and fire brigade.
Thirty-six complaints were made against the council, a marginal increase on the previous year.
But blame was determined in six cases (three reports) compared with a blemish-free record in 2002-03.
People living close to a children’s nursery at Birchwood complained that the planning application was wrongly decided. They alleged the case officer was biased in favour of the applicant and as a result they now suffer noise and disturbance from the nursery operation.
The report reveals the council has apologised and paid ?200 compensation to complainants “for their anxiety”.
A further case upheld by the watchdog involved a ?500 council pay-out and an undisclosed sum for reduced property value after land was developed and a mature copper beech felled.
The home-owner had been assured by the council that the woodland area in front of his home was protected from development.
The council was further told to compensate a market trader for losses after his licence was terminated.
A further six complaints against the authority resulted in “local settlements”, the Ombudsman’s annual revealed.
The highest number of complaints( 51) were made against Cheshire County Council – though Mrs Thomas says in no case was maladministration/injustice found.
Last year, the Ombudsman’s office recommended a total 1,842 payments against various authorities – some said to be “very substantial”.
The payments totalled ?1.5m.

Women obtained ?14,000
in benefit frauds

by court reporter
TWO women who between them falsely obtained more than ?14,000 in benefit have appeared before magistrates at Warrington.
The pair, in entirely separate cases, cheated Warrington Borough Council and the Department of Work and Pensions out of the money.
Karen Mason, 35, of Long Lane, Warrington pleaded guilty to making false statements and representations by failing to declare the fact that she was in paid employment.
Maria Bate, 39, of Statham Avenue, Warrington admitted three counts of false accounting.
Mason was sentenced to 100 hours community service and ordered to pay back the overpayment plus costs of ?75.
Bate was sentenced to 180 hours community service and ordered to repay the overpayment.
The court was told both women obtained benefit wrongfully from the council and the DWP.
In total, Mason defrauded the council of Housing Benefit and Council Tax Benefit amounting to a total of ?3,373.62 between January 2002 and July 2003.
She also defrauded the DWP of Income Support amounting to ?4,323.54.
Bate defrauded the council of Housing Benefit and the DWP of Income Support amounting to ?7,160 between April and December 2002.
Investigations showed that Bate, who claimed Income Support and Housing Benefit for herself and three dependant children as a lone parent, was in fact living with a partner who was in full time employment.
After the hearings, Adrian Webster, the Council’s Benefits Manager, said: “Benefit cheats are not just defrauding the government or the local authority, but their own neighbours and communities. They must realise that they cannot abuse the benefit system and steal from the rest of society.
“Fraud is a serious matter and these cases are a clear demonstration of our determination to tackle benefit theft and to reduce the amount of money lost through fraud and abuse. We are committed to ensuring that people get the benefits they are rightly entitled to.”
Roy Paul, Counterfraud Operations Manager with the DWP, said: “These cases are a good example of how our fraud detection teams, working closely with the local authority, root out benefit cheats. We are making good progress, but people in Warrington can play their part by telling us about other fraudsters free and in confidence on our National Benefit Fraud Hotline 0800 854 440.”

Local man charged in
connection with murder

by staff reporter
A 19-year-old Warrington man has been charged in connection with a murder case at Widnes.
Matthew Lawson was appearing before magistrates at Runcorn today, charged with perverting the course of justice.
He was appearing with two others, a 17-year-old girl and 53-year-old Denise Davies, both of Widnes, who were charged with the murder of 71-year-old Agnes Hanrahan and with perverting the course of justice.
The pensioner?s body was found at her home in Baguley Avenue, Widnes, on December 9 last year.

Star treatment
for Day Spa

by staff reporter
CORONATION Street Star and fitness guru Beverley Callard brought the star treatment to the official opening of the Eatonfield Day Spa, Higher Whitley, near Warrington.
Beverley, who returned to the street recently, plays Liz McDonald, opinionated barmaid at the Rovers and mother of taxi firm owner Steve McDonald. In real-life Beverley has taught fitness classes for the last 26 years and has produced many acclaimed books and workout videos.
Just minutes from Stockton Heath and the M56 motorway, Eatonfield health and beauty centre has its own licensed bar and bistro for clients.
Over half a million pounds of investment by Eatonfield Leisure Ltd has resulted in an imaginative and beautifully appointed conversion of a farmyard barn, which is now home to some of Europe?s most modern spa treatments, across two floors.
Managing Director of Eatonfield Leisure, Helen Wilson said: We know that Beverley has a passion for exercise and fitness and I am absolutely delighted she was able to be our guest of honour.
Speaking at the opening ceremony, Beverley expressed her delight at being invited to officially open the Spa and congratulated Eatonfield on such a: ?Wonderful place.?
Beverley spent much of the afternoon at Eatonfield chatting with visitors and staff and signing autographs before preparing to hold her own forty-five minute gym class.
Eatonfield is an oasis for busy lives boasting its own contemporary hair salon, ?Hair at the Spa? and a myriad of modern treatments from massage to hydrotherapy. There is also a private gym and a qualified personal trainer to help you get into shape.
Eatonfield Leisure is also good news for jobs in the area, with this new Spa employing over fifteen staff, eight of which are qualified beauty and treatment therapists. The company has plans to open a chain of beauty salons across the North-West of England.

Youngsters to receive
achievement awards

by Lesley Wilkinson
YOUNGSTERS from special schools in Warrington are being rewarded for their achievements in creative, community and sport projects, at a ceremony this Friday.
The Aiming High event will be held at the Birchwood Leisure and Tennis Complex. Pupils from Grappenhall Hall, Green Lane and Fox Wood special schools will be presented with certificates and prizes for their achievements.
Coun Maureen Banner, Executive Board member for education, culture and lifelong learning, will make the presentations.
She said: “These children have truly achieved something special. They are helping to develop and create a sense of community in their schools. We are rightly proud to be involved in the praise of these talented individuals

. It will be a great day.”
The Mayor, Coun Edward Lafferty will also present three citizenship prizes.
Assistant director of education, Norma Cadwallader, said: “Many of the children receiving awards will have overcome disabilities and difficulties in reaching their goals and we are very proud of them.”

MP leads campaign
for parental leave

by Lesley Wilkinson
A CAMPAIGN to make parental leave compulsory is being led by Warrington North MP Helen Jones.
She has tabled an Early Day Motion in Parliament calling on the government to introduce the right to statutory payment during parental leave.
She said: “The government has introduced a right to parental leave which is a very welcome measure. However I believe that many parents are unable to exercise this right because of financial constraints.”
She said statutory payment would benefit all families, especially those on low pay and would assist employers in allowing absences to be planned.
“I am working in conjunction with the shopworkers union USDAW on the issue and the EDM is only the first step in the campaign,” she added.
John Hannett, USDAW’s general secretary, said: “USDAW very much welcomed the introduction of Parental Leave, but the fact that it is unpaid means that many workers are excluded from exercising their right. Family budgets are so tight, that they simply cannot contemplate reducing their income.”

School health advisers
win national accolade

by Lesley Wilkinson
TEENAGE problems such as obesity, binge drinking and pregnancy, have been tackled by Warrington’s award-winning school health advisers.
They have won a national accolade for improving services for the 30,000 children across the town.
It is the first time Warrington Primary Care Trust’s (PCT) school health advisers have received Practice Development Unit status, for its work in improving the health and well-being of children and families.
The assessor, from Leeds University, said the team worked well with other organisations including education and social services.
Razia Chesworth, a school health adviser at the PCT said: “Our main concerns around children’s health are obesity, binge drinking, smoking, teenage pregnancies and emotional health and well-being.
“There is now scientific evidence that many adult diseases have their roots in childhood, so early identification and intervention has to become the main focus of our work,” she added.
The advisers are all trained nurses and work across health and education linking home, school and community, informing parents and carers of the services available.
Current projects include improving transition between schools, reviewing school screening programmes and supporting Warrington healthy school initiative. A drop-in service has been created at secondary schools where pupils can get confidential advice.

Eye tests to help
buy guide dogs

by staff reporter
PEOPLE having eye tests at Specsavers Opticians in Warrington throughout this month will be helping to benefit the Guide Dogs for the Blind Association.
The company is holding a month of fundraising to help the charity and will donate 10 pence from every eye test to the fund.
Warrington store director Geoff Smith said: “I think it’s a fantastic campaign. Guide Dogs is such a worthy cause and I hope that we raise a substantial amount throughout the coming month.”
The company is running a national campaign throughout the year and hopes to raise more than ?100,000 to help train 20 new guide dog puppies.


About Author

Experienced journalist for more than 40 years. Managing Director of magazine publishing group with three in-house titles and on-line daily newspaper for Warrington. Experienced writer, photographer, PR consultant and media expert having written for local, regional and national newspapers. Specialties: PR, media, social networking, photographer, networking, advertising, sales, media crisis management. Director Warrington Chamber of Commerce Patron Tim Parry Johnathan Ball Foundation for Peace. Trustee Warrington Disability Partnership. Former Chairman of Warrington Town FC.

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