Monthly Archives: October 2017

Why The Secrecy? Frightened We Might Have Clapped Our Hands?

Following our “More Secrecy At Council” article about the Senior Management Structure being held in secret, the story is out. Quite why the saving of over £100,000 a year on a Director level overpaid jobsworth post should have been a secret beggars belief. Perhaps the sounds of us clapping our hands at the loss of another huge salary might have been unbearable? West Lancashire Borough Council has agreed changes to its senior management team, which will save more than £100,000 a year, whilst continuing to deliver on its ambitions for the Borough.

At its meeting on 18 October 2017, the Council agreed the voluntary redundancy of the Director of Leisure and Wellbeing, in a move which means that together with previously agreed measures, the Council will make a total of £267,000 in efficiency savings next year from restructuring. Who knows, the leisure business of WLBC might have been different if the vast income from the council owned Beacon Park Golf Course landfill  had come to the council rather than to private developers!

Councillor Ian Moran, Leader of the Council has said “The Council is under financial pressure, with the need to make an estimated £2.7m of savings over the next three years, and we are keeping our operating arrangements under regular review. The changes will enable the Council to make a significant saving, whilst continuing to deliver the Council’s priorities.”

From 1 February 2018, the Council’s management team will comprise:
Kim Webber – Chief Executive
Jacqui Sinnott-Lacey – Director of Housing and Inclusion
Heidi McDougall – Director of Leisure and Environment
John Harrison – Director of Development and Regeneration
Terry Broderick – Borough Solicitor
Marc Taylor – Borough Treasurer

In terms of transparency the Director of Leisure and Wellbeing post carries a remuneration of £78,515 per annum. A redundancy payment of £84,323 will be made to the Director of Leisure and Wellbeing. Council policy is that when making posts redundant there should be a payback period of less than three years. The changes agreed by Council provide a payback period within 2.87 years.

Redundancy costs have been calculated in accordance with the Council’s Redundancy Policy, which complies with the Local Government (Early Termination of Employment) (Discretionary Compensation) (England and Wales) Regulations 2006. Pension strain cost will be paid to the Pension Fund of £175,998. The pension strain cost has been calculated in accordance with the Local Government Superannuation Scheme Regulations.

Efficiency savings of £267,000 will be made by the Council from restructuring in 2018/19, £174,000 of which will be made by the General Revenue Fund, and £93,000 by the Housing Revenue Account.

Council Protest

It might have occurred to readers of WLR that over recent times, vitriolic claptrap has been the forte of people who not only insult their electorate as in the “Aughton Doorstep Liars” and the “Backward Aughton Residents” episodes but who walk out of Council meetings so as to leave their local electorate without representation. And those same readers might wonder if the “walkers” will claim their full members’ allowance for part-time attendance? Or might they be considered redundant?

A Press Release from the Labour Leader states “Councillors and local residents were left shocked on Wednesday night following a Full Council meeting of West Lancashire Borough in which the entire Conservative Party abandoned the meeting only part way through. On the agenda for the meeting were seven important issues for debate, discussion and decision ranging from supporting small businesses in Ormskirk and West Lancashire to campaigning for a Government Older People’s Ministerial role.

In response to Cllr John Bullock’s motion to try and better balance the tax burden on local small businesses that seem to be disadvantaged in comparison to larger multinational companies, the Conservative Leader Cllr David Westley replied that the motions were “pointless” and that he and his colleagues would be leaving the Chamber. This happened just a few minutes after 9pm, with the meeting not closing until 10pm.This left many many thousands of residents from across the borough completely unrepresented with Tory Councillors laughing and waving as they exited, including most notably Cllrs John Mee of Tarleton and beaten parliamentary candidate Sam Currie of Aughton & Downholland.

The wards of West Lancashire left without a voice at the Council include Aughton Park, Aughton & Downholland, Hesketh-with-Becconsall [could that be the “Moon Walker? ], Newburgh, North Meols, Parbold, Rufford, Tarleton and Wrightington.

And Cllr Moran said “This is truly shocking and awful behaviour from the 21 elected and paid Conservative Councillors who refuse to take part in council proceedings and represent thousands of their residents. “Not only is this damaging to their own party and I’m sure voters will vent their frustrations at the next round of elections, but it does little to inspire confidence in those of us working hard to serve and better our communities.

“To refer to motions around women and state pension inequality, supporting small businesses across West Lancashire and the Night Markets in Ormskirk, council tax and student accommodation all as pointless defeats the purpose of local democracy. I’d like to assure all residents however that despite the mass Tory exodus last week, Labour Councillors from across the borough regardless of where we represent will continue to work to represent residents from the entire borough”. And this  is the scene as the Tory benches are empty while Cllr Bullock addresses the meeting [click to enlarge].

More Secrecy At Council

Tomorrow at Full Council there is a matter to be debated, “Senior Management Structure”, that will be held in secret, as being “Not Open to The Press and Public”.  We can only wonder why the matter of this top heavy [click to read]   and very expensive  group of people should be kept from the people who pay for them all, we council tax payers. Transparency is not a priority at WLBC. It’s time it was! Every employee of this public council should be made aware that all matters of their salaries and conditions of employment, and the full structure within which they work, are rightfully of concern to the public.

That Council Driving Range Cock-up

I’ve been asked to repeat my publication of how WLBC has made a monumental mistake in a key council policy document agreed by the Council Cabinet in September. Notwithstanding the importance of the West Lancashire Green Infrastructure and Cycling Strategy    adopted and announced on Friday, October 06, 2017, it makes the utterly ridiculous claim that there is a driving range at the Beacon Park Golf Course. It must be this one

How often has the golf course and its landfill scandal, agreed and given planning permission by WLBC itself, been visited by members and officers, and of course Rosie Cooper MP who met and discussed development of this great borough facility with the Leisure Trust and Serco contractor?

Page 19 of the document states “Play provision within West Lancashire is generally only catered for within the main settlements of Ormskirk, Skelmersdale and Burscough, with gaps in provision especially to the north of Appley Bridge, and for older age ranges between Aughton Park and Ormskirk. Two notable areas of open recreational space in West Lancashire are: Beacon Country Park, situated on the eastern edge of Skelmersdale. This country park contains inter alia play areas, woodland, picnic areas, a network of paths, and a golf course/driving range”.

“The preparation of the Green Infrastructure Strategy and Cycling Strategy has been resourced through the Planning Service’s revenue budget. Whilst the Strategy identifies capital projects to meet the Council’s aspirations, this report does not commit the Council to the funding of any of the projects. Funding of these individual projects will need to be determined on a case-by-case basis as external funding opportunities arise. In particular, while CIL will be one source of funding, there will need to be a wider consideration by the Council of what to prioritise CIL funding to given the wide range of infrastructure demands that will wish to draw from the finite CIL monies likely to be collected. However, development opportunities in general may well provide opportunities to lever in funding which CIL or other funding sources can match in order to deliver projects within this Strategy.

“Green Infrastructure refers to the connected network of open spaces, green corridors and inland waterways around us and can deliver a wide range of benefits. These include providing wildlife habitats, contributing to an attractive environment and creating potential benefits for health and well-being. It can also provide opportunities for sustainable forms of travel and leisure, particularly walking and cycling”.

What is so sad about this report is the lack of golf being mentioned as a form of leisure and health while much is made of cycling, when surely both are equally important? By chance I received a letter from a long time and now elderly member of the golf course in response to my articles. He wrote “You tell us what is going on at Beacon Park Golf Course. What I can’t get my head round is councillors came to the Beacon Golf Course, saw the mess, and were never to be seen again. Cllr Gagen said she would try to get the Borough Cabinet meeting held at the club house to discuss the landfill. That must be over 2 years ago but never to be seen again. Then we had Cllr Terry Aldridge up there and the same again at least 18 months ago never to be seen again. We had our MP Rosie Cooper who sat in at the AGM of the Leisure Trust and the West Lancs Council, and last but not least Serco.

“Rosie Cooper had seen what had gone on with the tipping and the mess they had made especially with the driving range which is a total mess, worse even than the so called 9hole academy course. When Rosie Cooper heard that all the royalties from the tipping were going into Serco accounts and not the Trust or the Council accounts she was far from pleased. That was more than 12 months ago and low and behold never to be seen again yet you see them in the Champion every week.

“But then it’s ONLY SKEM. No Youth Clubs. No Sport Centre. No Glenburn Sports. Rumour has it NYE BEVAN POOL is going to close. WLBC babble on about keeping fit, especially the OAPs. It’s amazing all that money which was made from the tipping from Beacon Golf Course which is local tax payers money cannot be disclosed because there is no such thing as a “real” Freedom of Information Act. Just waiting for the time to come when they tell us the Beacon Golf Course is closing then the people of Skelmersdale will have nothing. How will the OAPs keep fit then, because there’s quite a lot of them who play golf at the Beacon?”