Posted by: westlancashirerecord | February 26, 2017

Independent Councillors

Not too far away from West Lancashire, the Fylde Borough Council fylde-council-white-black operates a committee system style of governance of four programme committees, four regulatory committees and Council. Each committee has full delegated authority to make decisions within the parameters set by Council. However Fylde Council can take any function it has delegated to a committee, in place of that committee, and a committee may refer or recommend a decision in respect of a delegated function to be taken by Council.

The Fylde council boasts six categories of councillors. It has 32 Conservative, 1 Labour, 2 Libdem, 12 Independent, 2 Non-Aligned, and 2 Ratepayers (Aligned to the Independents) members. All 16 elected independents won their seats against Conservative and or Labour candidates.

Its committees are stuffed with majority Conservatives, some Independents, and hardly a Labour member in sight, reflecting the council makeup. Members’ basic allowance is £3,500, Leader +£6,000, Cabinet +£4,000, and then various extras for committees etc. The latest total costs were Basic Allowances £178,500, Independent Person Allowances £750, Special Responsibility Allowances £60,888, National Insurance £925. Total cost £241,063 for 51 members, average £4,821. At this annual pay there is no shortage of applicants.

By contrast and in the same county, WLBC has 54 members receiving at least £4,842 each and costing us a total of £333,356, average £6,173. Perhaps austerity indicates it’s time for council tax payers to expect cuts in the WLBC numbers or their earnings or both? Perhaps we should be consulted lawfully about it? We are in a period of austerity. There are going to be more difficult decisions, with at times fearsome cuts and tax increases, like the green bin tax.

The 2014 Haringey Council Tax case at the Supreme Court supcourt sets the rulebook on consultation. While it did not actually create new law, as much of what the judges said was already known as ideal practice, the highest court in the land now expects where there is a requirement for consultation, local authorities will be expected to: contact all those who will be or are likely to be affected; consult them before irreversible decisions are made with not only with information about proposals such as a draft scheme or policy, but also with an outline of the realistic alternatives, and an indication of the main reasons for the authority’s adoption of its preferred option; give them adequate time to respond, for example six weeks to three months would be reasonable in most circumstances; following the response from the consultees, active consideration must be given to the response. The £30 green bin tax has incensed public opinion here in West Lancashire, 83% in a poll rejected it. Perhaps its delayed introduction until June gives WLBC the opportunity to consult as in the Haringey case? One thing is certain, the cost of legally contacting all those who will be or are likely to be affected by it will probably outweigh the £30 charge anyway?

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