Posted by: westlancashirerecord | June 20, 2017

Salus Populi Suprema Lex

When you read a statement that a council Chief Executive chose her career “for the difference councils can make to the quality of life in an area, and for the value of local democracy”, you might be forgiven for thinking this couldn’t be West Lancashire.

How could it be, as we reflect on the inequality of life faced by many of us, exposed from the appalling 2010 Audit Commission report on housing and its ‘poor’, zero-star rating. “The inspection covered areas of the services including repair and improvement of homes; rent collection; dealing with anti-social behaviour; tenant involvement; dealing with empty homes; value for money and sheltered housing. West Lancashire Borough Council is providing a ‘poor’ housing management service which has “uncertain’ prospects for improvement”. There were faulty gas boilers in council homes.

It cost us “£500,000 up front from existing budgets to support the work already undertaken to meet the Improvement Plan, including procurement of the new housing computer system”. And it cost an estimated further £220,000 to be invested in delivering the “Improvement Plan” and sustaining the level of improvements required by the TSA regulatory regime.

In a quite remarkable statement by the WLBC Chief Executive she has invoked the Borough Council’s Latin Motto “Salus Populi Suprema Lex”  which she explains translates as “The Wellbeing of the People, the Supreme Law”.

We know what it means. We wrote about it and described how in August 2014 WLBC was “The council that stole our old age”. In 2011 we reminded people how useless we thought Wally was even then, by him stating in 2009 “In order to help balance the budget we are taking money from reserves…”. In January 2011 WLBC was proposing taking away the travel concession from a large group of the council tax payers whose money was used to build up those massive reserves, elderly and disabled council tax payers. Social exclusion, discrimination, replaced the Wellbeing of the People. The Supreme Law never existed for us as it did for others.

So our Chief Executive has stated that “Several times a year, together with Heads of Service, I meet with Senior Managers to discuss topical issues. Typically these sessions involve an update from me, and presentations/workshops led by Services, and on this occasion we had an external speaker Dawn Yates-Obe from Effective Training [NB at what cost to council tax payers, we might ask?].

“In my update this time I focussed on why I chose a career in local government: for the difference that Councils can make to the quality of life in an area; and the value of local democracy. I spoke about the vision for the Borough, and how, as officers of the Council, we support the Council and Councillors in delivering the Council’s priorities and statutory responsibilities.

“The Council’s Latin motto is as relevant today as it was when it was first conceived: “The Wellbeing of the People: The Supreme Law”. [NB The district was formed in 1974 under the Local Government Act 1972, as a merger of Ormskirk and Skelmersdale and Holland urban districts, along with part of West Lancashire Rural District and part of the former Wigan Rural District]. I spoke about the importance of the effective and efficient use of resources, of drawing on best practice and research as to what works, of striving for outstanding customer service; remaining ‘current’, whilst recognising that not all residents are tech-savvy. I spoke of the need for excellent processes, policies and procedures to guide our work; of being inclusive and consistent, and the importance of partnership and advocacy, in meeting the needs of our communities.

“I updated Managers on some of the key developments and achievements across Services, over the last 6 – 12 months, and spoke about the issues and priorities for Councils going forward.

“I concluded by thanking Managers and their teams for really good progress over the last year, as demonstrated by performance figures. It is important to continue to maintain this effort, and also to look for improvements wherever possible, notwithstanding the budget challenge facing the Council, alongside other Councils. Managers also took away some questions for discussion in teams for feedback by 24 July. Please do get involved in the discussions”.

So does this “really good progress” include the state of the Beacon Park Golf Course landfill development and the private profits created on this public asset ? Does it include the leisure policies that gave Serco Leisure Services an extended contract that protects it from the cuts just about every other service is being hammered by? Does it include the flooding issues in Burscough where raw sewage appears in some streets there on a regular basis? Is that a priority “going forward”, or probably not? What about the “top of the league table” of member allowances  for 54 members when some members have already admitted that number should be cut to 36?

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