Posted by: westlancashirerecord | February 26, 2017

Does It Pay Council Service Directors To Move To West Lancashire?

Heidi McDougall, named as the new borough Director Of Street Scene, comes as former Head of Environmental Services at Derbyshire Dales with a salary there of £55,000, benefits in kind of £1,000, employer pension contribution £7,000, total remuneration £63,000.

By comparison the current details for WLBC Director of Street Scene, now retired, include a salary of £63,720, benefits in kind £4,578 and pension contribution £8,678, total remuneration £76,971. Almost £14,000 more, and probably a removal to West Lancashire package too that promotion from within West Lancashire would exclude?

Until 2012 Derbyshire Dales waste and recycling collections were privatised to Veolia but in August 2012 under a new £20 million contract Serco sercoderby took over. Oh dear! Sercockup was soon mired in complaints of poor service. The BBC reported “Residents in the Derbyshire Dales are calling on a council to take action against its refuse contractor after waiting weeks for bins to be emptied. The village of Tideswell was said by some to be “a disgrace” after rubbish was left uncollected for four weeks. Derbyshire Dales District Council has apologised and said it was “putting pressure on Serco, its contractor.

“Serco, which was awarded the contract in August, said it was rectifying the delays “as a matter of urgency”. The authority provides waste collection services to 33,000 households. One Tideswell resident Bob Walkden said “In the food caddy you put things like peelings and old kitchen waste – but they haven’t been emptying it. I’ve had it for four weeks, and with food waste that isn’t very clever”.

“Director of community services Peter Foley said the council was looking at Serco’s contractual obligations and putting pressure on the firm to provide an efficient service. He said “We always knew there would be some disruption to service – but what has happened is way beyond that”. and Mike Boult, Serco managing director, said “We are taking every possible step to resolve the problems with the waste and recycling collections. We would like to assure everyone our priority is to ensure everything is brought up to date as quickly as possible and a consistent and reliable service established to all residents”.

It’s ironic to read how what presumably had been a good service from Veolia but possible changed to a cheaper contract with Serco promptly lowered standards to the level described by residents. It’s to be hoped the new Director of Street Scene here isn’t coming with a mandate to look at changing our waste services to the likes of Sercockup? Watch this space!

Posted by: westlancashirerecord | February 24, 2017

Independent Talking Points

Independent councillors are wielding influence on our behalf at the county. They do so because of the “no single party majority” there. An independent councillor chaired a committee that saved many local bus services. The latest OWL Talking Point dropped through letter boxes today informs us of what political whips don’t think we need to know. See the comments here owlind2402-001 and here owlind2402-002 [click to read]. Free meal allowances for county councillors, first class travel, party whips allowances,  party secretary allowances, all paid by you while council tax rises. They don’t talk about them, they just take them, picking your pockets to do so, like Majority Group Secretary and Whip each receiving £4,343, and Opposition Whip and Secretary each receiving £2,959, and all are percentages of what the Leaders get. Why? 

Posted by: westlancashirerecord | February 24, 2017

Chief Executive’s Update

wlnow2402 Emphasis, since the last edition of West Lancs Now, has been on completing preparations for Council on Wednesday 22 February, and key projects, including in relation to the Shadow Lancashire Combined Authority. Preparation for the next Cabinet meeting on Tuesday 14 March also continued.

On Monday 13 February, I was grateful to John Harrison, Director of Development and Regeneration for representing me at a meeting, involving Lancashire Chief Executives and Sir Howard Bernstein, to discuss Lancashire’s role within the Northern Powerhouse. On Thursday 16 February I accompanied the Leader of the Council to the regular Shadow Lancashire Combined Authority meeting, and also attended the Lancashire Chief Executives’ Meeting which precedes this.

On Friday 17 February, together with John Harrison, I was pleased to hold our regular catch up meeting with Dr John Cater, Vice Chancellor, and Steve Igoe, Deputy Vice Chancellor, Edge Hill University. It was useful to touch base on the work we do jointly, and developments within and affecting our organisations.

Also on Friday 17 February, it was pleasing to receive the news that, alongside Lancashire Councils and health service provider colleagues, we had been successful in accessing Government funding to help fund refuge provision, specialist accommodation and other support. Thanks go in particular to Jonathan Mitchell, Housing Strategy and Development Programme Manager, and Cliff Owens, Community Safety Officer, for their work in helping to secure £1.3m of funding which will benefit domestic abuse services across Lancashire, including in West Lancashire.

On Wednesday 22 February there was a special meeting of the Cabinet which made decisions in relation to a number of reports: Local Plan Review – Scoping and Issues and Options Consultation; Provision of New Cycle and Pedestrian Link through the Tawd Valley, Skelmersdale, linking to West Lancashire College; and Planning Appeal Decision regarding land to the east of Prescot Road, Aughton.

Similarly, on Wednesday 22 February, the Council agreed its general revenue and capital, and housing revenue and capital budgets for 2017/18. The Council also agreed reports on: Pay Policy Statement 2017/18; Timetable of Meetings for 2017/18; Contaminated Land Strategy – 2017 Update and Public Space Protection Order. There was a significant amount of work involved this year to ensure the Council could set its budget effectively council-tax-bill_jpg_gallery. I am grateful to senior colleagues and especially to Marc Taylor, Borough Treasurer, and his team, and to Jacqui Sinnott-Lacey, Director of Housing and Inclusion, and her team, for all their work in this regard. Thanks go also to staff in Council Tax who now continue the process in terms of billing and collection. [Your average bill for Band D will rise to £1,644.45, a rise of 3.47% on last year]

On Thursday 23 February, together with Marc Taylor, I was pleased to hold one of our regular update meetings with Karen Murray, Engagement Lead and Georgia Jones, Engagement Manager of Grant Thornton. It was useful to update Karen and Georgia on budget matters and on the work going on within the Council towards achieving the Council Plan.

Also on Thursday 23 February, senior managers and staff across the Council were involved in dealing with the impact of Storm Doris along with colleagues in other agencies. Particular thanks go to Dave Tilleray, Director of Leisure and Wellbeing and his team for their co-ordinating role.

Finally, on Thursday 23 February, I chaired the regular Corporate Health and Safety Committee meeting and it was good to discuss progress in a number of areas, including on training and work towards the 2017/20 Health and Safety Strategic Plan.

Next week we look forward to welcoming Heidi McDougall to the Council, as the new Director of Street Scene; Heidi will join us on Wednesday 1 March. Heidi has extensive experience in environmental services fields, most recently as Head of Environmental Services at Derbyshire Dales District Council. Prior to this she worked for a number of authorities in Lancashire and Greater Manchester. She joins us at an important time for the Council and the service, and will be a valuable addition to our senior team. I am also very grateful to Phil Samosa and the Street Scene management team for overseeing the service in the interim.

Posted by: westlancashirerecord | February 24, 2017

Where Now For 31,000 Green Bins?

The very experienced Borough Cllr Paul Greenbinall, elected in 2001, is unaware of what will happen to our unwanted green bins after the Labour charges are introduced. He tweets “Labour’s ‘bins tax’ in West Lancashire assumes only 35% of the 48,000 homes will opt in. What will happen to the 31,000 unwanted green bins?”

“The Council needs to save around £1.44 million in its 2017/18 budget. A wide range of measures that will not impact on residents have previously been approved by the Council, but more still needs to be done. At its meeting on 19 October 2016, the Council agreed to introduce an annual charge of £30 to collect garden waste along with a charge of £25 per year per bin to have an extra green bin emptied. When the charge is introduced this year, residents will be able to choose whether or not they wish to use the Council’s garden waste service. If they do not wish to pay the charge they do not have to use our service and can dispose of their garden waste by other appropriate and legal means image1-1. Each household that pays the charge will have its garden waste bin labelled so our collection teams will know it is to be emptied. There will not be any discounts or exemptions to the green bin collection charge”.

Cllr Greenbinall should know better than most that this will mean a write-off of huge sums of money invested in green bins a few years after his election, and then the ongoing replacement costs. At approximately £18 per wheelie bin in 2005, the purchase cost for 36,000 households (plus 2 – 4,000 ‘spares’) would be around £648,000 to £720,000. He must surely remember the use of the Yorkshire Purchasing Organisation for buying wheelie bins in bulk? He must also remember how the total cost per annum of the wheelie bin service in 2005 was £1,249,400? If he can’t he should look back at the Council Meeting of Wednesday, 29th June, 2005 for details, Cllr Greenbinall attended.

The 31,000 green bins will probably be written off. It’s a loss of £558,000 at 2005 prices, but while WLBC offers replacements at £23, current prices suggest £39 a bin, a comparable loss now of £1,209,000. Waste management is an expensive business for council tax payers, even including those who don’t have gardens and green waste!

Posted by: westlancashirerecord | February 24, 2017

Better Infrastructure Before New Homes

Champion letters return to Aughton, with one aught2202-001 relating to infrastructure and one giving thanks for the fight against large housing development champlet2202-001 click to read. As for affordable homes in Aughton, spare a peek at the new houses at Robins Bridge Meadows, snips at between £595,000 to £760,000 robbins2202-001.

Posted by: westlancashirerecord | February 23, 2017

Council Gossip Including Cllr Currie In Nappies?

rumour-mill According to council gossip it seems that the motion to council last night on green bins was mired in legal discussions about whether the green bin motion could be brought forward, leading to a lengthy discussion taking place. It’s reported that Cllr Currie was very rude by heckling Cllr Wilkie to sit down while he was speaking! Goodness me, has Cllr Currie grown a pair?

Cllr Currie wasn’t finished with that. My sources suggest Cllr Currie couldn’t resist a dig or two at Halsall Cllr Maureen Mills. Seems he’d spoken to residents in Haskayne and Halsall about green bins and therefore looked forward to seeing how Cllr Mills voted on their budget! Apparently Cllr Mills waved to him when she raised her hand against it. Not sure if she might have raised a finger as well? No, too lady-like?

No surprise then on my source hinting Cllr Mills suggested Cllr Curry was still in nappies when she and Cllr Marilyn Westley used to attend the PACT meeting in Haskayne as Parish Councillors! And on she asking Cllr Currie “whether we ever see police where we are” there was no comment from him. It seems the speech by Cllr Kay in which he said the police had loads of money but wouldn’t spend it was considered “strange”. Cllr Greenall voted with Labour and OWL on Police. As for Cllr Currie, we must look forward to reading his manifesto for the Skelmersdale Central LCC seat in May, or perhaps not!

Posted by: westlancashirerecord | February 23, 2017

The Independent View Of Full Council

Independent Cllr Adrian Owens writes “Given that local papers no longer cover council meetings, my blog posts of council meetings tend to attract a fair amount of interest. Last night’s meeting was dominated by the budget and motions, but we started with the dry subject of the council’s Pay Policy Statement. Dry it may be, but it contained a nugget that might raise an eyebrow among those who think a Labour run council is committed to greater income equality.

It revealed that the Chief Executive is now paid almost 4-and-a-half times that of the average employee, up from only 4 times, 12 months ago, thanks to a generous pay rise kim1602. With most staff getting 1% and local residents seeing services cut or charges imposed, the phrase “we are all in this together” clearly doesn’t apply to some.

It doesn’t seem to apply to councillors either. Just before they voted to impose a £30 green bin charge on residents they voted to retain the highest councillor allowances in Lancashire for themselves. I spoke briefly to again argue that we should save £75,000 by reducing our allowances to the Lancashire average and allow us more scope in the budget setting later on the agenda. It was no surprise to see the Labour and Conservative groups vote solidly to keep their sky-high allowances. I voted against because I wished the allowances to be cut.

Then we moved onto the budget. Neither of the finance spokesmen for either party addressed the matters in their budget papers. Cllr Whittington whittington did not explain why the Conservatives wanted to cut street cleaning budgets by more than £70,000 while Cllr Wynn wynne was obviously too embarrassed to offer any explanation for accepting an ongoing loss in Building Control of £58,000 or a one year delay in savings already budgeted from greater use of digital delivery of services. It was only when I questioned him that he offered some sheepish comments about being “disappointed” in the delays.

If only our councillors spent more time scrutinising and questioning officers about these failures to deliver, but they would rather grandstand and budget debates are among the worst for the use of the soapbox. Last evening’s example was when we had Labour Councillor Bullock bullock who represents Up Holland but is a property developer living in Aughton launching a tirade during which he described the £30 green bin charge as “paltry”. Well, perhaps for Cllr Bullock, who after all had just voted to keep his nice councillor allowance intact, it is “paltry”, but to many local people it most certainly is not.

Two Labour councillors – Wilkie  and Wright wright took it in turns to tease Cllr Paul Moon over his different stances on green bin charges in West Lancashire and Wyre. This was entirely justified and they were taking their lead on this from comments I had already made. Anyhow, I abstained on the Conservative budget. It proposed scrapping the green bin charge – good, but it also raided reserves put aside for our new sports centres to freeze council tax and cut street cleaning – something I could not support. Labour’s budget included the unnecessary green bin charge and so I opposed that.

When the council has underspent by £310,000 in the first part of this financial year then the green bin charge is unnecessary. Combining this with other measures including £75,000 from cutting councillor allowances, and a 1.75% council tax rise, which is below inflation would allow the green bin charge to be scrapped and some extra monies directed to improving retail trade and activity in our town centres. Sadly, neither of the main parties is prepared to focus on the detail and value for money efforts required for this.

Then we got to the motions. My overall view on motions is that they should be used sparingly. Councillors spend too much time debating matters over which they have little or no influence when more time ensuring, for example, that the promised savings from digital services are delivered rather than delayed would be a better use of their time.

Last night, we had a motion from Labour’s Cllr McKenna on Brexit which tried to sound like one everyone could support. However, it soon became clear from the speakers that it was more a re-run of the referendum. West Lancashire can make sure that its voice is heard in the process through our MP, Rosie Cooper and the Parliamentary process and our local government connections. I voted against the motion and was pleased to be joined by two Conservatives. It was sad to see a Brexit-supporting Labour councillor forced to support this motion by the Labour whip.

Then we got to a Labour motion on the cuts in Government funding to the police. Sometimes Labour motions are written in a highly partisan way, but on this occasion the motion was worded in temperate and clear language. Many councillors spoke with passion and emotion about how our police service has been hollowed out. Over the years, I have seen the ability of the police to respond in my ward diminish, and where I live in Newburgh, it is many years since I have seen a police officer on patrol.

Conservative Cllr Kay, a retired former police inspector made the lead speech on behalf of the Conservatives arguing that the police were “salting money away”. I also thought I heard him say in response to an interruption that many of those who had lost their jobs were the sick and lazy – perhaps I misheard. In any event, the logic of his argument that only waste had been cut was undermined when he said that when he was in charge of Ormskirk police, 30 years ago there were 52 police officers in the town, while now the number is 12. This crystallised the case the motion was making and with the problems my ward residents face in getting an adequate police response at the forefront of my mind, I spoke strongly in support of the motion. There were some glum looking Conservative faces. Cllr Westley urged his colleagues to vote against the motion, but Cllr Greenall joined me in supporting it, while Cllr Pope abstained.

Posted by: westlancashirerecord | February 23, 2017

Lobbying for Brexit?

A week ago when the Labour Motion to council about Britain and the social and economic consequences of Brexit was published here it seemed obvious to anyone that in a borough supporting Brexit, democracy would prevail. After all, Rosie Cooper is MP by being voted for, who has challenged her democratic election? And the councillors have been voted for and elected, did anyone challenge their democratic elections?

I received this press release below from local Labour, about Brexit. I publish it now in the knowledge it was supported last night. I wish I knew why councillors felt they should waste the time they have done on a matter that West Lancashire cannot affect, it being a matter for Rosie Cooper MP. We might also wonder at some added comments from outside MPs writing about Liverpool, Merseyside, Halton, and Greater Manchester, and just what did those authorities ever do for West Lancashire?

“West Lancashire Borough Council is being asked to back ambitious plans to lobby for local and regional involvement in Brexit negotiations, and is looking to local authorities in the surrounding area for backing. The proposal, which will go to Full Council on February 22nd, is to work with other local authorities to “pursue any lobbying or legislative means, so as to ensure that our local and combined authorities acquire and use to best effect a substantive place in the negotiations between the United Kingdom and the European Union following the ‘triggering’ of Article 50”. britbrexitwestlancs

Proposer of the motion, Cllr Frank McKenna, said “Brexit is the biggest economic event of our lifetime, and we can’t just stand by and see the post Article 50 negotiation period be frittered by a government which arguably now lacks both the know-how and the credibility to come up with any kind of workable deal, and is thus letting us in for the hardest of hard Brexits not because it may be best for the country, but because it has no idea how to do anything else.

“At local and regional level, we get the main threats and opportunities surrounding Brexit, and are much more capable of negotiating regional level deals than a government tied to Westminster’s political priorities. The government won’t consider things like how we can best help a port city and its surrounding area meet the demands of possible exit from the customs union, for example, but we will.

“The EU does have a long history of dealing with regions as well as nation states, not least via the large European funding programmes for Merseyside, and if we are to properly meet the challenges of Brexit, including the funding gaps that may emerge, we need to be at the table. This motion to council is the first stage of that campaign to take local control of our destiny.

“If Nissan can apparently get promises from government overnight about how its position will be secure whatever happens, then it’s only right and proper that democratically elected councils seek to secure a voice for the people they serve”.

Comment from Steve Rotherham after May’s ‘hard Brexit’ announcement of Jan 18th: “During our meeting last week I suggested that the North of England, in particular the Liverpool City Region, should have a voice at the Government’s negotiating table, as the decision to leave the EU is likely to define the future of our area for the next generation. If I’m elected in May 2017, I will demand that Brexit Ministers ensure full consideration of the interests of our City Region are at the heart of their exit strategy, as we cannot afford to allow the 1.5 million people across Merseyside and Halton to be left behind again”.

Comment from Andy Burnham “Rather than leaving these crucial decisions to a London-centric right-wing clique around the prime minister, it is time to open up the debate, give Greater Manchester a voice in it and establish a Brexit committee of the nations and regions”.

Posted by: westlancashirerecord | February 23, 2017

Cllr Green”bin”all On Green Bins

Cllr Green”bin”all tweets “Full Council meeting 2nite in West Lancashire, Labour rejected Conservative plans to abandon their new ‘bins tax’ which will start in June”. greenbinall

And “Labour’s ‘bins tax’ in West Lancashire assumes only 35% of the 48,000 homes will opt in. What will happen to the 31,000 unwanted green bins?”.

 

Posted by: westlancashirerecord | February 23, 2017

More Tweeted News From Councillor Dowling

SEVEN MILLION POUNDS – the amount of money cut from West Lancashire Borough Council budget by the Conservative Government. £7m!!!

Cllr Wynn: “We’re looking at building new wet and dry facilities in Skelmersdale and Ormskirk” [but not looking at where the Beacon Golf Course landfill loot has gone?]

Conservative Councillor Kay kay believes “they don’t need money” in reference to Lancashire Police despite financial cuts causing 1364 jobs lost. He should be asking why Neighbourhood Watch, freely run by volunteers, is losing its police co-ordinators!

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