Posted by: westlancashirerecord | August 16, 2018

Aurora Energy Resources Exposed

 states it is a “Not-for-profit co-operative providing critical information on the social and environmental impacts of corporations and capitalism. Since 1996 our research, journalism, analysis and training have supported people affected by corporations and those taking action for radical social change”. They have published “A Ferrari-Loving Oilman Bets On Fracking” which, for residents of West Lancashire and parts of Sefton, is an eye-opener on fracking and frackers. We repeat their work below.

They write “The Aberdeen-based company Aurora Energy Resources holds four licences to explore and frack 110,000 acres in the north-west of England. Work has already included seismic testing in Formby and across south-west Lancashire. Plans were announced earlier this year to drill and frack two wells near the village of Great Altcar. Aurora acquired the PEDL 164 licence in the 13th Onshore Licensing Round in 2008

“This has provoked criticism and resistance from local residents. You can read their concerns over the risk to the environment and community of the area on the Frack Free Formby  and Moss Alliance websites. For information on the damage caused by fracking, including water pollution and climate change, see our report To the Ends of the Earth.

“Like other fracking companies, Aurora claims its work will bring investment and economic benefits to the local community. If the explorations are successful and they start fracking, no one doubts it will bring a cash bonanza. But it is the people behind the company who will benefit, not those living in the area. An investigation by Corporate Watch  has found Aurora’s owner is using tax havens and complicated financial structures to keep as much of the profits for themselves as possible.

“We put all the points below to Aurora for comment or clarification but they said they would not provide a response. Aurora is controlled by oil millionaire Larry Kinch, who owns over two thirds of shares in the company. Kinch is no stranger to the exploitation of fossil fuels: he made his fortune from North Sea oil. He worked as an engineer for firms including Shell and BP from the mid-1970s, before founding Petroleum Engineering Services, an Aberdeen-based oilfield equipment and service company in 1985. He grew the business over the next fifteen years then sold it for a tidy £111 million to Halliburton, the notorious US oil services multinational. Kinch’s share of the sale was £25 million, according to the Sunday Times.

“But this was dwarfed by the profits from Venture Production, the oil company he co-founded in 1997. After over ten years of oil production in the North Sea, Venture was snapped up by energy giant Centrica for £1.3 billion. Kinch is estimated to have personally made £92 million from the deal. The Sunday Times Rich List puts his fortune nowadays at £90m. That success helped him buy a 50-acre estate, fancy cars – there’s at least one classic Ferrari in his garage – and garnered him an honorary degree from Aberdeen’s Robert Gordon University in 2006. It also gave him lots of cash to exploit new opportunities in the fossil fuels business. In 2009, he founded Aurora.

“While Kinch owns most of the company, Aurora is run on a day to day basis by Managing Director Ian Roche. Trained as a geologist, Roche stands to gain significantly if Aurora becomes successful – and his pay packet suggests the plan is to sell Aurora and its exploration licences if, or when, they find the fracking opportunities they are searching for. Documents filed at Companies House show Roche – as well as fellow directors Nicola Hamilton, Margaret Stoddard and Chairman Ken McHattie – collectively own over 12% of the company’s shares.

“However the Aurora company accounts show Roche also has “options” on shares worth about 10% of the company. He can only get his hands on them if Aurora is sold, listed on a stock market or if it sells its licence in the next six years. In January this year those options were valued at £5.8m but they would increase significantly in value if the company’s explorations are successful. The clear incentive therefore is for Roche to build the company up to be sold at some point in the future. The major beneficiary in such an event, of course, would be Larry Kinch, who will be hoping for another payday like those he has enjoyed in the past.

“Although Kinch lives in his Westfield Lodge estate in Milltimber, on the outskirts of Aberdeen, he owns his stake in Aurora through a complicated network of trusts and offshore holding companies based in tax havens. Kinch owns the Aurora shares through his – or possibly his family’s – trusts. Their location is not disclosed but according to company records, they are managed by LJ Capital Ltd and Quadrangle Trustee Services Ltd, subsidiary companies of Isle of Man-based offshore finance firm LJ Management.

“However before any money paid out by Aurora gets to the Kinch trusts, it will first go through shell companies registered in tax havens. Companies House records show Aurora’s immediate majority owners are Jersey-based APL1 Aurora Holdings Ltd and APL2 Aurora Holdings Ltd. Records obtained by Corporate Watch from the Jersey Financial Services Commission show the APL Holdings companies are owned by more Jersey-based companies.

“Thanks to being registered in Jersey rather than the UK, these companies will not pay tax on any dividends they receive from Aurora, and will avoid capital gains tax on any future sale. It is impossible to know the final tax savings that could be made by Kinch or his trust. In addition to Kinch and Aurora’s management, Aurora’s owners also include German company Bergenoil AG, which has a 4% stake, and an as-yet unknown investor who bought just under 8% of the company for £4.4 million in January this year.

“Aurora needed this new investment as their cash levels fell from £3 million in 2015 to just £160,000 at the end of 2017, after the company lost £2.8 million in the previous two years, according to accounts filed at Companies House.

“It is not a particular surprise that the company is losing so much money at the moment – it hasn’t yet started producing anything after all. But building the road access, well pad and drilling for the necessary wells will not be cheap and Aurora may need to source further investment. If Kinch is unwilling to put more of his own money into the company, new investors will have to be sought, providing those looking to stop the project with more targets to focus on”.

WLR readers will recall the extent of PEDL164, shown on the following map,  and should be apprehensive about the effect of fracking here in our area.

Posted by: westlancashirerecord | August 15, 2018

Four Years And Long Lane Is Still Waiting For SPIDs

WLR copies the excellent QLocal report and a picture of what happened in Aughton last night. “These long skid marks  tell their own story after a near miss involving a tractor and young cyclist last night in Aughton.

“The incident happened early evening at the junction of Long Lane, Parrs Lane and Scarth Hill Lane; the young cyclist was seen walking along Long Lane towards Aughton Park station with his badly damaged bike, its wheel buckled after the accident. It’s a story which could have had a very unhappy ending – but thankfully not this time…”. 

http://www.qlocal.co.uk/ormskirk/news_list/Aughton_cyclist_lives_to_tell_the_tale_after_near_miss_with_tractor-55032695.htm

But no thanks to the Aughton Parish Council, as residents of Long Lane have fought for traffic controlling measures there for four years. People like Colin Draper attended APC meeting after meeting and asked for SPIDs to be strategically placed. All to no avail, the cash rich APC would not spend any of its considerable reserves.

August 2014 APC Minutes “A resident from Long Lane asked if an update had been received in respect of concerns raised at the May Meeting about vehicle speeds on Parrs Lane/Long Lane? The Chairman advised that Councillor O’Toole had taken this matter up with officers at County Hall and an update was awaited”. September 2014 “A resident from Long Lane asked if an update had been received from Aughton’s County Councillor about concerns raised at the May Meeting in respect of vehicle speeds on Parrs Lane/Long Lane? The Chairman advised that the matter had been taken up with officers at County Hall and an update was still awaited”. And thereafter it went on, as Long Lane was known to be like a race track.

As mentioned so often, Aughton Parish Council is cash rich. From a cash balance of £98,775 in 2015, its cash reserves have risen to £117,857 in 2018. Despite this the APC refused to invest in SPIDs on Long Lane. Never mind whose money it is, it won’t be spent on what the public might need because, it is, apparently, earmarked for we know not what.

But then came the idea of SPID matched funding. Give us half, we pay half, and never mind that it ALL comes from Aughton/West Lancashire taxpayers. Why should taxpayers in Skelmersdale, or Burscough, long denied facilities they need, pay for Long Lane SPIDs? As reported by WLBC “I can confirm that a decision was made to award grant funding to Aughton Parish Council for their SPID parish capital application on 23/5/18 and they were informed of this decision on the 25/5/18. The Borough Council will provide 50% match funding for this scheme with a maximum contribution of £3,000” a decision that must have brought tears of joy to the APC bean-counters.

We have no idea when the match-funded SPIDs will be installed. Residents and users of Long Lane will hope it doesn’t take another four years, but who would bet against it, even after last night’s wake-up call?

Posted by: westlancashirerecord | August 14, 2018

0 to 19 Public Health Services Saga To Continue

The county council  will complete its tendering process for public health services for 0 to 19 year olds by re-evaluating the two existing bids from Virgin Health Care Ltd and a joint bid between Lancashire Care NHS Foundation Trust (LCFT) and Blackpool Teaching Hospitals Foundation Trust (BTHT).

The services, which include health visitors and school nurses, were subject to a legal challenge by LCFT and BTHT, which questioned the county council’s procurement process following its original decision to award the contract to Virgin Care Services Limited in November last year.

Following a hearing in the High Court in London in April, Mr Justice Stuart-Smith set aside the decision to award the contract.

In his findings, Mr Justice Stuart-Smith had said he did not find any fault with the tendering or scoring elements of the procurement process for the services, but did raise issues with record keeping in the moderation element, which is the final stage of the procurement process.

The scoring and moderation stages will now be re-run with a new independent panel, which will make the decision over who will be awarded the contract.

The county council has also agreed to make a payment towards the health trusts’ costs for the legal challenge. Although the total costs for the case are still being finalised, it is anticipated that the figure Lancashire County Council will need to pay will be in the region of £200k which would be around 75% of the total costs.

County Councillor Shaun Turner, cabinet member for health and wellbeing, said: “We will now be able to move forward to finalise this procurement process and we have also agreed to pay 75% of the trusts’ legal costs for this case, which will mean we do not have to go back to court. Where services such as the 0-19 public health services are not being delivered in house, we are under a legal duty to open them up to competition; and the decision to do so in this case was in no way political.

“The existing contract with LCFT and BTHT does not expire until March 2019 so the public can be reassured that there will be no disruption to these important services. Health visitors and school nurses all do a fantastic job and we will continue to support them in any way we can to ensure children and families continue to receive a good service”.

How disappointing it is to hear that once again our County Council is involved in dealing with Virgin Health Care Ltd, sadly one of the repercussions of outsourcing.

Posted by: westlancashirerecord | August 13, 2018

Silas Nicholls Delivers For Ormskirk Hospital

Southport and Ormskirk hospitals’ new Chief Executive said he wants to make sure “the hospital where I live is one we can be proud of”. Silas Nicholls joined Southport and Ormskirk Hospital NHS Trust from Manchester University NHS Foundation Trust in April where he had been Group Deputy Chief Executive.

“One of the most common questions I’ve been asked since I started is: why Southport and Ormskirk? The answer is simple: it’s my local hospital – and I want to make sure the hospital where I live is one we can be proud of”.

He said the Trust had been through an uncertain time for both staff and local people over the past few years with no permanent leadership of the two hospitals. “But it’s a tribute to every one of our staff that, even in challenging times and with growing pressures on the NHS in general, they have strived to give a quality service for patients. That pride, determination and can-do approach is now being channelled into giving our patients the best experience we can. Investment in buildings and staff in A&E at Southport, a new day surgery unit at Ormskirk and two major clinical IT initiatives are each contributing to a safer, calmer Trust,” he said.

Now, it seems he’s received the approval of Rosie Cooper MP after she welcomed the announcement by Southport and Ormskirk Hospital Chief Executive Silas Nicholls of increased investment in the Trust’s facilities. A further £136,000 has been invested in a discharge and transfer lounge, following a £1.25m improvement to the Accident and Emergency Department.

Rosie commented “I very much welcome this further investment by the Trust and the NHS in our local hospital facilities, and commend Silas for the speed at which progress is being made in improving and rebuilding Southport and Ormskirk Hospital Trust. I look forward to continuing to work closely with Silas, NHS England and the Department of Health & Social Care in securing the future of Ormskirk Hospital and pushing for much needed investment at the Ormskirk site also, to provide increased capacity and range of services for my West Lancashire constituents.”

Posted by: westlancashirerecord | August 13, 2018

Burscough Flooding Group Is A Flood Action Group

In case LCC wants to know WHAT IS A FLOOD ACTION GROUP “A Flood Action Group is made up of a core of local people who act as a representative voice for their wider community. Groups are very much led by the community themselves. The National Flood Forum  simply gives them the tools to ensure their success and sustainability. It supports the group to work in partnership with the all the right professionals that are needed. “We work with communities to empower them to reduce their flood risk and be in control. I have no doubt that the best results happen when people in Flood Action Groups are listened to, their ideas are valued and their local expertise and knowledge is acted upon as part of a partnership approach to reducing flood risk. Flooding is a complex issue with lots of agencies and authorities each having a different role to play, which is confusing and frustrating for people. In our experience the best way of making things happen locally is by communities working in partnership with those who can make a difference such as local authorities, the Environment Agency and water companies”.

Who could argue that Burscough Flooding Group isn’t a “Flood Action Group” despite its formal  constitution in 2016? Only LCC, apparently, but it seems that even they have accepted it after some buck passing and jobsworthiness.

Gavin Rattray of the BFG wrote to LCC “Thank you for your letter to MP Rosie Cooper dated 21st May 2018, which I received today.

“As LCC now knows, Burscough Flooding Group’s relationship with LCC has changed radically for the better since the appalling meeting LCC and UU had with the public at Briars Hall. BFG were extremely pleased with the recent constructive meeting with the LCC team, during which we were told that it will be followed up by LCC arranging further meetings with us, including one with BFG, LCC and Jacobs in which BFG will liaise with Jacobs. The liaison with Jacobs will be to inform them of our local knowledge of the flooding issues in Burscough.

“In response to the second paragraph of LCC’s letter. BPC made it clear to us that LCC did not want us to attend that meeting and that is why we weren’t invited by BPC.

“In the third and fourth paragraph, LCC very strongly implies we weren’t a flood action group. BFG have always been a flood action group; we have always had a constitution and we have always met the definitions of flood action group within https://nationalfloodforum.org.uk/working-together/communities/what-is-a-flood-action-group/. “We are also a member of the national flood forum having joined it shortly after we were constituted in 2016; and finally LCC met BFG shortly after we were constituted (no doubt as part of its duty to meet flood action groups).

“In order for us to continue to have our new transparent and honest working relationship, it is necessary for BFG and LCC to let bygones be bygones. However, we would like to make it clear that the issue we had with LCC was brought about because of its refusal to incorporate the information residents, BFG and BPC had all gathered into its S19 report following the 2015 Boxing Day flooding. BFG believe that decision set back the resolution of Burscough’s surface water flooding problems by at least two and 3/4 years.

“In addition, because the Environment Agency informed BFG in 2016 that the major cause of increased flooding in Burscough is development without sufficient investment in drainage. We know how vital documents such as the SFRA are in protecting areas like Burscough from surface water flooding and I urge LCC in its role as final approver of the SFRA to help Burscough by insisting that Burscough’s SFRA meets current best practice.

“For example, we know that LCC currently have no criteria against which it measures the quality of the SFRA and this allows WLBC to produce poor SFRAs with little specific details of problems. This enables developers to build without fully mitigating the flood risks and, given the inherent flooding problems here, it is no surprise that nearly every large development is known to have flooding problems which are contributing to the deeper downstream flooding problems in Orrel Lane, Crabtree Lane, New Lane and Martin Mere etc. For further information on LCC’s role in the SFRA, see the DEFRA document “Land use planning – Assessing the quality and influence of Strategic Flood Risk Assessments (SFRAs)”.

Having read all of that, the letter to Rosie Cooper in May 2018 from Mr Durnell , Head of Highways LCC states “Should Mr Rattray and the other members of the Burscough Flood Group like to work in a constructive and proactive way with Lancashire County Council and other organisations I strongly recommend they consider establishing a Flood Action Group for the community”. You couldn’t make it up!

 

Posted by: westlancashirerecord | August 13, 2018

Does The Euro Maze Have An Exit?

So asks Austin Mitchell who was Labour MP for Great Grimsby between 1977 and 2015 . “Houdini would have had problems escaping the EU. We were told that the inclusion of an exit clause in the Lisbon treaty was a triumph for Britain just as we’d been told earlier that “subsidiary” would result from the Maastricht treaty. Neither claim was true.

“Article 50 was drawn up by Lord Kerr of Bilderberg, a Foreign Office mandarin who’d gone native in Brussels. He couldn’t conceive that Britain could ever be so ungrateful as to leave the EU. So he provided that anyone daft enough to try to depart had to jump enough hurdles to intimidate them into going back. Realising this, rampant Remainers then set out to undermine Britain’s negotiating position. They coordinated their moves with Junker, dragging things out in the hope that the May government would fall and a massive dose of fear would frighten the crazy Brits off while Junker commissioned his Naysayer, Michel Barnier to translate “non” into English for long enough for Brexit to fall apart. Masterful.

“It frightened Theresa May enough to offer them enormous bribes, dilute the electorate’s demands and impose them on a reluctant cabinet. When even this produced more “noes” she tried to appeal over the heads of the Commission to their puppet masters, the heads of state. Now that isn’t working either because no one really runs the EU. We should have learned from the humiliation of Harold Macmillan in 1962. He asked the other countries to overrule De Gaulle’s veto of Britain’s membership but they were too scared to do so.

“Now the smaller states have been so badly bashed by the unworkable Euro and the refugee crisis that they’ve no charity to spare for Britain. Mutti Merkel who did so little for Cameron has her own problems and the EU’s Mini Napoleon, Macron, wants to profit from our difficulties. The only chain any of them will pull is the lavatory chain. Which is why with the EU too constipated to negotiate, the member governments too worried, and most governments desperate to show their angry electorates that bad as things are in the EU, leaving would be worse, the prospects of a reasonable deal look slim.

“So the rampant Remainers and the Blair fifth column began Operation Fear Mark III, undermined Theresa’s negotiation position and clamoured for a “soft” Brexit in the hope of dragging out the agony and exhausting the nation into giving up and going back in a kind of Cleggcit. I say call their bluff. The horrors won’t happen and the EU can’t afford to ruin us. They can’t stop flights, trade, medical supplies, or try to cripple a major market. WTO rules require fair treatment and most favoured nation rules mean that everything conceded to other outsiders, like Canada or Turkey, will be available to us.

“Recognise too that a soft Brexit poses difficulties for the EU because it requires them to break basic rules, the only thing that holds the shambling mess together. The Commission knows that if the the rules are broken or diluted for Britain, other members will want the same. The rules are almost as important to them as our money. We’ve nothing to fear but fear itself (I’ve heard that before somewhere). Make it clear that no deal means no dosh. Stop arm-wrestling the octopus and leave on WTO terms.

“The Common External Tariff is not large. It can easily be leapt over by a competitive currency which we need anyway, in or out. If they impose the CET on us we’ll impose it on them as a useful source of revenue and a check on Germany’s growing dominance. Trade doesn’t require treaties, but we can prepare them with a whole range of countries presently excluded by the EU’s insistence on agricultural protectionism, to come into force when we leave next March.

“This requires more clear heads than we’ve shown so far. Yet it does allow us to fulfill the electorate’s wishes, to go for the world’s expanding markets rather than clinging to a foundering hulk and to manage our economy for our purposes not those of French farmers, German manufacturers or Brussels Eurocrats telling us what’s best for them. That’s Brexit”.

Posted by: westlancashirerecord | August 12, 2018

Labour Hospital Policy In Poor Health?

Labour LCC member for Skelmersdale East John Fillis wants local Labour to commit to scrapping both Southport and Ormskirk hospitals, making all local patients go to a new “Super Hospital” to be built in Skelmersdale instead. But this policy is at odds with West Lancashire Labour MP Rosie Cooper.

In July Rosie Cooper  told us “I will never accept any move or proposal to downgrade or close Ormskirk Hospital, and will defend our local health services. I was aware that a review of clinical services has been taking place and that no decisions on a preferred option has been taken. This decision will be subject to a formal consultation and I will strongly oppose any reduction in services provided here at Ormskirk”.

And she took the opportunity to challenge Theresa May over the Government’s plans to invest in building new hospitals, while sites such as Ormskirk are being underutilised. In March the Health Secretary pledged to build a new hospital every year, while locally Southport and Ormskirk Hospital are investigating their options as part of a Trust-wide review of services, with potential for Southport to become a “hot site” leaving Ormskirk as a “cold site”.

Rosie said that “One of the biggest ever reviews into services offered by Southport and Ormskirk Hospital Trust and where they are located is now underway. I have previously stated that I will never accept any move or proposal to downgrade or close Ormskirk Hospital, and will defend our local health service. This Government has shown that there is money available for investment in the NHS, so it is clear to me that the money is best spent expanding current sites to better meet patient demand, which is a far cheaper option than building new sites altogether. I was pleased with the Prime Minister’s response and we must agree that decisions should take serious account of local interests with clinicians putting forward the best proposals for patients”.

All of which reveals a serious chasm in Labour’s local hospital policy. Who will step in with any authority to clarify it? The local Conservative party, itself in deep depression after recent local elections, will look at this shambles and quietly enjoy seeing the flack fly.

Councillor Fillis  is proposing scrapping both Southport and Ormskirk hospitals and making local patients go to a new ‘Super Hospital’ to be built in Skelmersdale instead. He has attacked the original decision to put Adult A&E in Southport. He rightly points out that although the Labour health ministers who took children and maternity services away from Southport 15 years ago “promised improvement in public transport and highways, the fact is that thing have got worse”.

A conflict seems inevitable in the NHS as to where to put the one main hospital which they think is all that is sustainable locally, with the balance at the moment only just in favour of Southport Hospital becoming the new acute services “hot site” with closure of maternity and paediatric services at Ormskirk.

Councillor Fillis said “What we need is a new ‘super hospital’ built in Skelmersdale, which already has excellent highway links to Ormskirk and Southport via the new A5758. The M58 motorway link would also enable fast links to regional services in Merseyside, Greater Manchester and Lancashire”.

Under this plan, Southport residents needing accident and emergency services would make the 23 mile trip first down the Formby bypass throughCcrosby and then via Switch Island before speeding up to the new hospital at Skelmersdale on the M58. His plan is for the present Southport hospital to “become a rehabilitation and hospital for the elderly”.

In the week of the NHS 70th birthday, new proposals by Southport and Ormskirk NHS trust chiefs to build a new hospital somewhere between Southport and Ormskirk are neither radical nor rational according to Cllr Fillis. He claims it will see local communities in conflict once again while the trust goes ahead with its closure plans of vital services and he wants to see the new ‘Super Hospital’ built in Skelmersdale instead. “The rhetoric is positive but the reality is a failing trust that has closed cancer services, people lying on trolleys in A&E and services being lost to private contractors. We have also had a series of management scandals destroying confidence in their ability to deliver. This is just a smoke screen for further cuts to our National Health Service”.

“The split site services review that established the current service provision (1st April, 1999) was wrong then and the report by the Northern England Clinical Senate, confirms that it is wrong now. The whole process was gerrymandered when they introduced ‘visitors’ to Southport as an excuse to establish the A&E there.

“The trust is now using the elderly to push through further closures at the Ormskirk Hospital under the discredited ‘Hot and Cold’ site scenario. At the time of the last review local people were promised improvement in public transport and highways and the facts is that thing have got worse.”

“The report has recommended that Southport Hospital is used as new ‘hot site’ for redevelopment and the closure of maternity and paediatric services at Ormskirk, they’ll be moved to another nearby Trust, outside of West Lancashire and Southport, including the Children’s A&E department.

So Cllr Fillis is clear that “What we need is a new ‘Super Hospital’ built in Skelmersdale, which already has excellent highway links to Ormskirk and Southport via the new A5758. The M58 motorway link would also enable fast links to regional services in Merseyside, Greater Manchester and Lancashire. Southport Hospital  could easily become a rehabilitation and hospital for the elderly. [And how would the elderly people without private transport get there?]

“The Conservative Government is underfunding our health services by £34 million according to the Acute Sustainability Progress Report, 2017/18. Despite constant promises it is clear that this government is preparing its trusts to cut local services once again, by misleading local people.

Our National Health Service is one of the most cost effective in the world, saving not only lives but billions of pounds in comparison to the private sector. The Acute Sustainability Progress Report fails to take this into account” he concluded.

Whatever the Conservative government is doing to local health services, surely nothing is worse than the local Labour party bickering about such serious matters? Shambolic is what best describes it?

 

Posted by: westlancashirerecord | August 10, 2018

What Does Skelmersdale Need? Not A Town Council!

“The Skelmersdale Independence Movement was established with the aim of helping to get our town its own Town Council. We are not a political party.

“We would like to thank Councillor Neil Fury for advertising Skelmersdale Independence Movement on page 16  of the Champion this week!! Unfortunately, Neil incorrectly attributed the letter published on 25th July to us, when it was in fact written by our friends at Skelmersdale New Town Council Group!! While Neil is entirely entitled to his opinion, that is all it is, an opinion. I would like to remind him what he wrote to me on 6th September 2016 “If residents strongly support this then as a Council we will have to listen and take a report to members” Cheers Neil.
Dave.

“Welcome to the Skelmersdale Independence Movement (SIM) page. Initially, we have one aim – to get Skelmersdale its own “Independent” Town Council – As the largest town in West Lancashire, with the biggest population and the most businesses and industry-We deserve our own council – We should HAVE A SAY and not be dictated to by West Lancs Borough Council based in Ormskirk or Lancashire County Council based in Preston, or indeed by the members of the House of Commons based in London – they DO NOT REPRESENT US.

“We have had lots of passionate, dedicated Councillors over the years that have been affiliated to the two mainstream parties – Labour and Conservative – but because people have been disillusioned with the Parliamentary Parties from both sides, this has led to our local community losing some of its most hard working and passionate champions it has ever had. Westminster does not represent our “local” community – EVER!!

Be honest, when was there ever a change of Government in London that directly benefitted you? – in the last 50 years? – NEVER. Well NO MORE – PLEASE!! This is the ideal time for the people of Skelmersdale to stand up and be counted. We call on the people of Skelmersdale – who are disillusioned by the Political elite of our country to forget Party politics, to engage with your local community, to make a difference – Because the Political elite – certainly aren’t making any difference to YOU, or OUR Community”.

Who can ever forget the Wally Westley interview on the BBC Radio 4 Consumer Affairs Programme “You and Yours” in 2014? A retail survey showed that three–quarters of vacant shop units in Skelmersdale had been empty for more than three years and as a consequence 90% of all retail spending was done outside of the town. Leader of West Lancs Council, Councillor David Westley, who appeared on the programme as well, commented “I had not realised that the vacancy rate figures were as high as that. I acknowledge that there is a problem in Skelmersdale. The problem in Skelmersdale is down to the way it was built in the 1960s and that there is no night–time economy. We are trying to address this”. How’s that for mastery of the subject by the elected member of WLBC and previously Resources and Transformation Portfolio Holder?

This “Memorandum” by Colin Pickthall MP  West Lancashire Constituency (NT 36) Select Committee on Transport, Local Government and the Regions Memoranda described the state of Skelmersdale in 2002. “Skelmersdale, in my constituency, suffers from all the problems of other New Towns with the addition of being relatively isolated (it has no rail links) and in an area of high unemployment since the 1970s.

“Over many years I have sought to make the point, to successive Governments, that concentration on Inner City deprivation, important as it was, led to an ignoring of the needs of smaller urban centres like Skelmersdale. These towns’ needs were similar to those of Inner Cities yet they had few of the compensating advantages (decent public transport, cultural infrastructures, shopping choices, leisure facilities, plus special Government investment and attention).

“During the 1980’s the local West Lancashire District Council and myself made repeated representations to Government asking that the assets in the New Town left in the hands of the Commission for New Towns (later with English Partnerships) should not simply be stripped off, but at least a proportion should be left in the town as “seed corn” for regeneration projects. These pleas were ignored, not to say ridiculed. The recessions of the 1980’s and 1990’s did long term damage to employment in Skelmersdale and created unemployment levels in some of the New Town wards that were amongst the highest in England. Like most New Towns, Skelmersdale was built in a hurry over a period of about a decade. “Originally intended to house 80,000 people, its growth was stopped at about 40,000, thus ensuring that the town never got the basic infrastructure it expected its hospital was cancelled; its public transport system was never developed. It has no cinema and very inadequate sports and fitness facilities.

“Most importantly, its housing has grown prematurely old all at the same time. Housing put up in Skelmersdale used virtually every experimental method known, many of them proving to be failures. Thus the local authority, which took over responsibility for the social housing from the Development Corporation at the end of the eighties, has been faced with a major problem of refurbishment and even rebuilds, throughout the nineties and into the new century, a problem that Governments have not fully recognised in its Housing Grant allocations.

“There is no means by which government has ever recognised the physical structural problems of New Towns built on the Radburn principle. This means that every Council Service costs more, especially refuse disposal and local transport. It also creates many more problems of crime and disorder and of social alienation than are experienced in traditional towns of similar size”.

And so back to Dave and Neil. While Tory West Lancashire preferred to ignore Skelmersdale, what has Labour West Lancashire been doing for it? Some major investments for phase one of the town centre scheme, some new homes, some new business opportunities, but no rail link and poor public transport. Aren’t these the services that should have priority?

Posted by: westlancashirerecord | August 10, 2018

The Lathom Solar Farm Done Deal

“It seems the solar application at Lathom was a “done deal” from the start…no matter how many objections…a Labour councilor said it was 99% going through…the Planning committee meeting was a fiasco…two Labour councilors spoke and got their facts completely wrong…they should all hang their heads in shame” all in a letter from Historical Lathom Residents Group.

“What a complete stitch-up between West Lancs Council, the Labour councilors and now the ex-Mayor of West Lancs, approving the solar application at Lathom”.

We’ve been here before, on many occasions. The Local Plan stitch up, Aughton Parrs Lane, Burscough Yew Tree Farm, Halsall, you name a locality and there is no localism at all. Big national developers, huge housing estates with no additional worthwhile infrastructure, and the certainty of flooding that you can see all around you today after the overnight thunderstorms.

In the case papers the WLBC Director of Development and Regeneration wrote about some principles. Of employment land he wrote “The Northern Array is located on land designated as an ‘other significant employment site’. Policy EC1(b)(iii) states that only B1 development will be allowed on the site. The proposed solar array does not fall into this category of development, however, the impact of climate change is acknowledged throughout the Local Plan and according to the supporting information submitted with the application direct benefits would be experienced by the business through the reduction in energy cost associated with the solar development. Therefore, whilst the development would not strictly accord with Policy EC1, I am satisfied that it would be in accordance with one of the main themes of the Development Plan, to promote sustainable development”.

Of the Green Belt he wrote “The proposed Southern Array would be located within land designated as Green Belt. Paragraphs 89 and 90 of the NPPF set out the forms of development deemed not inappropriate in the Green Belt. The proposal does not fall into any of the categories of development set out. Moreover, paragraph 91 of the NPPF states that when located within the Green Belt, elements of many renewable energy projects will comprise inappropriate development. On that basis the proposal would be an inappropriate form of development in the Green Belt. Paragraph 87 of the NPPF explains that inappropriate development is, by definition, harmful to the Green Belt and should not be approved except in very special circumstances. Paragraph 88 clarifies that ‘very special circumstances’ will not exist unless the potential harm to the Green Belt by reason of inappropriateness, and any other harm, is clearly outweighed by other considerations”. The proposed solar farm is inappropriate development in the Green Belt, resulting in a reduction in openness and encroachment into the countryside and is by definition harmful to the Green Belt. This harm must be weighed against the very special circumstances put forward by the applicant.

And then along came the “very special circumstances” that you would expect to see, most of which is bullshit. “It is important that Green Belt consideration should assess, in a balanced way, the very special circumstances put forward by the applicant. The NPPF confirms that very special circumstances will not exist unless the potential harm to the Green Belt by reason of inappropriateness, and any other harm, is clearly outweighed by other considerations. There are no defined criteria for assessing what constitutes very special circumstances and each case must be judged on its own merits”.

But as sure as night follows day criteria appeared. “The proposed solar farm and creation of renewable energy would have a direct benefit to the NSG Technical Centre , which is a significant employer in the Borough, by bringing economic benefits to NSG by reducing their overall energy cost and in addition to this, allowing them to showcase their work to visitors of the site. Economically, the creation of the solar farm would also assist rural diversification and would provide a mixed use of the land functioning for agricultural purposes, and for the production of renewable energy”. And therein lies the mound of bullshit…economic benefits to NSG …which is a significant employer in the Borough…showcasing their work…these are so special as to convince some Labour planning councillors to grant permission.

The Labour councillors have set a precedent for any other future applicant for solar farms in West Lancashire. As the Parrs Lane Public Inquiry result is already quoted in case law, so now will Lathom LightsourceBP. Perhaps the lack of respect for consideration of the War Horses and of the Skelmersdale Veterans whose petition of 400 names received short shrift will shame West Lancashire Labour? Probably not.

Posted by: westlancashirerecord | August 10, 2018

Tory County Hits Disabled Travel Card Holders

As expected, the Lancashire County Council’s cabinet has agreed to increase the charge for people with a disabled NoWcard to travel at peak times on weekday mornings from 50p to £1. The mandatory national concessionary travel scheme allows holders of a disabled persons pass  to travel for free between 9.30am and 11.00pm Monday to Friday, and all day at weekends and bank holidays.

Councils which operate the scheme locally have discretion to offer further concessions outside these times. Lancashire County Council’s NoWcard scheme allows holders of a disabled person’s pass to travel at a 50p flat fare on journeys on local buses, which begin before 9.30am on Mondays to Fridays. There has been no increase of the 50p charge for over 10 years. Further work will now be carried out with partner councils and bus operators to introduce the increased change over the coming months.

The cabinet received a report on the outcome of public consultation which received 179 responses, with 53% of respondents saying they have a current disabled person’s NoWcard. Of these, 29% said they had used their card to travel before 9.30am on weekdays on all or most weekdays in the last year, with 16% saying they had used their card a few times a week. 49% of respondents disagreed with the proposal, and 42% agreed with it.

County Councillor Keith Iddon, cabinet member for highways and transport, states “Like many councils, we are facing an extremely challenging financial position, with a forecasted funding gap of £144m in 2021/22. We’re committed to providing the best services we can, particularly to the most vulnerable in our communities, which is why we offer a concession to disabled NoWcard holders to travel outside the times mandated by the national scheme. Increasing the charge to travel before 9.30am on weekdays from 50p to £1 will still offer a concession while helping us to reduce the pressure on the budget.”

The NoWcard scheme is operated in partnership with Blackburn with Darwen and Blackpool councils but the change will only affect holders of Lancashire County Council issued disabled NoWcard passes at the current time.

This is more Tory party history repeating itself as we here in West Lancashire, elderly and disabled residents, were victimised by the removal of the concessionary travel that led to social isolation all over West Lancashire. LCC refers to ten years without increase, but “we are facing an extremely challenging financial position” that, strangely enough has no effect on all the allowances LCC elected members receive. 

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