Posted by: westlancashirerecord | December 7, 2017

Council Smoke And Mirrors Over Brough Row?

   On 29th November, in the same issue of the Champion the Brough row was reported, Council Leader Ian Moran wrote that “Supporting small businesses fits in with a key priority of the Council Plan for the authority to be ambitious for the local economy and to retain and grow jobs”. The council also said “Small Business Saturday is a great opportunity to support and celebrate the quality of our small businesses and all that they bring to the local economy in the borough”.

And, as you would expect, we now read that “Council hits back in row over switch-on” as the “Butchers’ claims refuted as authority says event received lots of positive comments”. The smoke and mirrors, or as we know it the obscured or embellished truth by misleading or irrelevant information, is in full flow. “The switch-on event was enjoyed by huge crowds, even more popular than previous years with almost double the footfall in the town centre from last year’s event”. How does council know that? Was a jobsworth out in the town centre clicking a meter every time someone appeared? Might there have been double counting? Or just some tricky inventiveness?

“A spokesman for the authority said that the council had received a lot of positive comments about the event, particularly on the night itself”. Was that the same jobsworth as the meter clicker, wearing a council jacket that said “give me your positive comments”? Really, surely WLBC can do better than this bullshit?

We are left in no doubt by this press statement that WLBC is lilywhite and Broughs are entirely to blame for their poor sales on the night. Broughs should have approached the council in advance to discuss their proposals, they should have shown they could meet all statutory requirements, yet WLBC doesn’t state that the hot food van DID meet ITS statutory requirements, if it had any?

Let’s hope that all the claims council has made in its statement can be proved, especially the footfall and the positive comments. But this smacks of the “council to press and media smoke and mirrors”, the classic response to a public cock-up.


  1. Actually, there is ongoing footfall monitoring analysed on a monthly basis of which we are now in our 2nd year as part of the Ormskirk Town Centre Strategy. This enables us to monitor various factors such as weather and gives figures for numbers of visitors with daily, weekly and monthly analysis which can then be compared to the previous year(s) figures. This is important work which will lead to a much more structured and informed approach rather than the ‘finger in the air’ of previous ways of trying to determine what was happening on the ground. If you listen to some people Ormskirk is going to hell in a handcart and is doomed whereas the consultants who informed the Ormskirk Town Centre Strategy very clearly identified the strengths and weaknesses of the town stating that in comparison with many other towns they have assessed, Ormskirk was and is very well positioned to grow its visitors and therefore is importance within the Borough. In short, no ‘smoke and mirrors’ – but good, accurate, informed data!

    • Thanks. Your response suggests there was no footfall monitoring before Labour started it? Perhaps that explains much about why retailers have been failing and charity shops blossomed as they did? This is a serious matter for the public whose concern, for Ormskirk and Skelmersdale, is aired regularly. Publish the footfall figures and all this accurate informed data and let the public see them.

      • As the work is ongoing and we do not yet have two consecutive years worth of data it is a bit premature and I certainly am not qualified to do the analytical stuff on it! The findings will be produced at some time presumably to coincide with an update of the Strategy? As far as I am aware the footfall monitoring was started in 2016 and so it is probably fair to say that it has taken place since Labour came to power, however, the topic of Ormskirk Town Centre has been the subject of Scrutiny for about 3 years approx.

      • Thanks. Surely you can say what the year-on-year comparisons were for October or for November compared to the same month the previous year? That doesn’t need analysis, just plain old figures, as claimed? I’m still puzzled by what happens on the night, who is employed by WLBC to count? This is important for Broughs to know why they have been challenged. And there is still no explanation of the differing statutory requirements for Broughs and the hot food van.

  2. If the council can use data from this footfall system, whatever it is, in a press release, then surely Cllr Hodson can provide the figures WLR suggests? Year on year figures are suitable for fair comparison and if numbers doubled on Lights Switch On night, then over a longer period they must surely be something Cllr Hodson wishes to highlight.

    • That’s right, the article “Council hits back…” states “…almost double the footfall in the town centre from last year’s event despite the wet weather”. Now let’s see them.

      • I’d be glad to provide, however I don’t have them to hand but will check if they are available on Monday morning. The daily monitoring is done technically, the Christmas lights switch on monitoring I’m not sure if done the same way, I will check and get back to you.

      • I’m intrigued by the “daily monitoring done technically” admission. Is it by CCTV? Computer vision? How expensive is it? All of interest to council tax payers.

  3. I must say, credit to Cllr Hodson for engaging. Looking forward to seeing the data, next week.

    • Yes, quite rare for such a public response from a member of the council, and appreciated.

  4. The Christmas Lights Switch on footfall is provided by an electronic counter which monitors a given line so that numbers are counted as they cross it. The figures I have been given are for the Friday this year : 22,010 compared to last year’s 12, 367.
    How various data is drawn out and interpreted is not something that I have sufficient knowledge of as yet, however I am to take up the offer of a demonstration of the data sometime soon and I have asked a number of questions relating to statistical data and how we can use it. When I can, I will come back with more info. Hope this helps!

    • It doesn’t help because it doesn’t answer the question asked. If you are so keen to publicise the switch on data, surely you will publish the year-on-year data requested? It doesn’t have to wait for you to have a demonstration.

      • It’s somewhat peculiar, that there are electronic counters and “given lines”. Who is to say people don’t cross the same “given line” frequently and create multiple counting? But we are making some progress here, not that it alters the original story of the hot food van and its effect on council tax paying Brough Butchers.

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