A NEWLY elected Labour councillor in Chester has been appointed to the board of social enterprise company Avenue Services.

Ben Powell won the Blacon ward by-election following the resignation in March of long-standing councillor Reggie Jones.

Cllr Powell will now also replace Mr Jones as a director of Avenue Services, which is a joint venture between Sanctuary Group and Cheshire West and Chester Council, restoring the number on the board to eight.

Fellow Blacon councillor Carol Gahan took over as vice chair from Mr Jones and will continue in that role.

Paul Knight, head of Avenue Services, said: “I would like to publicly welcome Ben to the board of Avenue Services and look forward to working with him to serve the people of Blacon.

“Following the transfer of important public assets from Cheshire West and Chester Council in recent months, such as playground facilities, these are exciting times for the community.”

Cllr Powell said: “Avenue Services plays an important role within the Blacon community and I am excited by the opportunity to continue that work.”

Avenue Services, which is 49 per cent owned by the council and 51 per cent by Sanctuary, was set up in 2012 to deliver neighbourhood services and manage assets such as land and buildings.

As a not-for-profit organisation, it pledges to reinvest any ‘profits’ into the Blacon community and oversaw the £15 million regeneration of The Parade.

It provides services such as grass cutting, caretaking and cleaning, housing management, training and employment, neighbourhood planning and management of the Blacon Adventure Playground.

Most recently it unveiled plans to invest £250,000 in youth services and creating employment opportunities in Blacon.

However, the organisation is not without its critics. 

Campaign group The People’s Alliance say politically-motivated councillors should not be allowed to sit on the board of Avenue Services. Led by former Ukip parliamentary candidate Steve Ingram, they claim some Sanctuary tenants now feel unable to approach elected councillors due to their connections with the housing provider.

They also opposed the transfer of £2 million of ‘assets’, including buildings and open spaces, from the council to Avenue Services, saying it amounted to the handing over of publicly owned property to a ‘private’ company.

But supporters of Avenue Services argue that such organisations are the only hope of meaningful investment in communities at a time when councils are struggling with huge government-imposed budget cuts.