Posted by: westlancashirerecord | August 11, 2017

Meeting The Council Budget Challenge?

There is much furore in the press about local council savings, or less to spend on services, mainly because of central government austerity. Take more council tax, reduce services, make charges for what council tax is imposed for, and then have the audacity to hold a “consultation” event viz “Residents and organisations in West Lancashire are invited to give their views on the Borough Council’s proposals for savings, efficiencies and increases in income totalling £310,000. Service users and residents, along with local community groups, organisations and businesses, can give their views through the “Meeting the Budget Challenge” page on the website. Comments can also be submitted by letter and email. The closing date is 3 September and the Council will consider the results in October 2017”.

The consideration? Just as in past consultations the views, probably very few given despite the size of the borough population, will be blandly ignored. Travel concessions ended for elderly and disabled residents and created social exclusion, housing, planning, local issues like the Burscough Parish Referendum on Yew Tree Farm, the Aughton Parrs Lane campaign, we could go on forever. It’s all just a matter of going through the motions to say “we consulted”.

But one issue keeps on and on recurring, the number of council members and their allowances. 54 members costing us £343,565 in total allowances. In Knowsley the council was reduced by almost a third as the authority made budget cuts after the Local Government Boundary Commission published its recommendations following an eight-week consultation. It said the council could be represented by 45 councillors in future, rather than the current 63. Council leader Andy Moorhead said it was a tough decision, but the right one. “Quite simply, it means that us as councillors have to work that bit harder,” he said. “We’re asking our employers to do exactly the same, I think it’s fair that we do the same.”

Max Caller, chair of the Commission, said he believed the plans deliver “electoral equality” for voters as well as “reflecting the identities” of the communities in Knowsley. He added that he was “extremely grateful” to people across Knowsley who took the time to send their views.

In a letter to the Champion this week  there is a drastic suggestion offered by way of WLBC being one of the most expensive boroughs in the whole of Lancashire in terms of allowances for councillors who apparently have fewer responsibilities compared to neighbouring authorities, so “lose Skelmersdale” and let it be absorbed into either Wigan or Merseyside. Perish the thought that this could bring the remainder of West Lancashire back into the ruinous hands of the WallyCons? And of course we have the “two council hats” member for Wyre and WLBC Councils, Moon, absent now for both recent Full Council Meetings, Wyre on 7th July and WLBC on 19th July. August is closed down for meetings, is it beyond belief that members can use that closure for their own ends? Moon’s current WLBC Full Council attendance rate is 60%, should he and others with low attendance rates at the decision making meetings be paid pro rata their allowances? Why not put THAT option out to consultation?

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