TOWN councillors will be hoping the second year of their term is smoother than the first – but there is much work to do.

Labour won all but one seat on Middlewich Town Council last May with promises to be more transparent, bring the finances ‘under control’ and build up pride in the community.

But the town was rocked by clerk Jonathan Williams' death last September, before a shock audit left the council needing to repay nine years' worth of VAT, and three councillors have all resigned – including two chairmen.

“It has been a frustrating time with everything that we have found out since the new council formed,” said Cllr David Latham, independent.

Winsford Guardian:

“The findings in the audit were awful and we have had to bite the bullet and put in the policies and procedures that make us legally sound.”

New chairman Cllr Mike Hunter, Labour, believes members have done 'a fantastic job in the circumstances'.

He points to the installation of CCTV in Warmingham Lane, grants for primary school swimming lessons and a wider variety of events at the Civic Hall as some of the council's success stories, and says the 15-minute public speaking window in town council meetings has made the council more transparent.

With Lisa Benskin now at the helm as the new town clerk and work well underway to right old bookkeeping wrongs, Cllr Hunter believes there are good times ahead, as the town council pushes for Gold Standard.

His key aims for the year ahead include restarting the neighbourhood plan project, considering the possibility of hiring a town ranger and looking at the feasibility of making improvements to Victoria Buildings.

He said: "The biggest area of achievement has been in sorting out the financial and legal discrepancies which were identified in the audit we commissioned, although there is still a long way to go.

Winsford Guardian:

"The coming year will be no less testing then the last. We will still be busy resolving the issues which the audit has picked up.

"But we will also need to find the time to pick up the pace on delivering projects."

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