Part-Time Councillor Shouldn’t Claim Full Allowances

What would we council tax payers think if WLBC officers worked part time for WLBC and part time for Wyre Borough Council? Would we pay them full time wages and accept that Wyre would also pay them full time wages? Of course not. Should we also accept borough councillors wearing two hats and being county councillors? Of course not, but they do it regardless, and some take “special responsibility allowances” too. They might not though if we reduced the number of WLBC councillors from 54 to 36, starting with Aughton & Downholland and Aughton Park?

Cllr Adrian Owens writes on his blog

“My views on Councillor Paul Moon  the councillor who remains a Borough councillor in both West Lancashire and Wyre are well-known (see here and here), but given his recent performance, I am raising another concern. His attendance record at West Lancashire is only 33% over the past 6 months (15 July 2017-15 January 2018) having missed 4 out of 6 meetings in West Lancashire.

“In July, when he missed the full council meeting in Ormskirk one of his colleagues informed me that he was on holiday. Fair enough perhaps, we all deserve a holiday. However, there are only 6 or 7 full council meetings each year – the most important meetings of the council and the dates are known many months in advance. Councillors are summoned to Full Council Meetings, not invited, and holidays can easily be fitted around this duty.

“On 28th September, he was absent again, this time from the council’s Overview and Scrutiny Committee. This time the reason was that, not for the first time, he once again had a diary clash with a Wyre council meeting. He must have felt that Wyre took precedence and attended the meeting of the council there that evening. I’ve seen no explanation from Cllr Moon to his electors in Hesketh Bank as to why their interests played second fiddle to his electors north of the Ribble.

“Quite evidently, Cllr Moon is not able to adequately fulfil his duties to both of his electorates. His attendance continues to be among the worst on West Lancashire Borough council.

“Last year he took his full councillor allowances from both councils. If he won’t do the decent thing and resign from one of these councillor positions, he should at least take a pay cut and take only a half allowance from each. I’m not holding my breath”.

“American politicians do anything for money…English politicians take the money and won’t do anything.” Stephen Leacock

Filling The Salad Bowl of England

While we bemoan the scruffy state of the cash rich Aughton parish, the go-ahead parish of Hesketh Bank, known as the “Salad Bowl of England” with its population in excess of 4,000 and current planning proposals likely to top 5,000 in the not too distant future as modern estates (and infill housing) are built, has, from the 1st of April 2017, commissioned a new scheme to enhance the general appearance of the village by appointing a “Lengthsman”. The contract for this work was won by “BP Maintenance”.

Company owner Brian Parkinson is seen here  displaying the new partnership logo. Must Aughton’s residents watch its Parish Council continue its policy of doing nothing while Hesketh Bank Parish Council can find the resources to enhance its appearance?

Do You Remember When We Had “Town Clerks”?

In the “old days” towns and boroughs were run by Town Clerks who were all generally local people who rose through the ranks of the authority. The term comes from clericus and meant “scholar”. In a 1944 legal case it was held that “The office of town clerk is an important part of the machinery of local government. He may be said to stand between the local Council and the ratepayers. He is there to assist by his advice and action the conduct of public affairs in the borough and, if there is a disposition on the part of the council, still more on the part of any member of the council, to ride roughshod over his opinions, the question must at once arise as to whether it is not his duty forthwith to resign his office or, at any rate, to do what he thinks right and await the consequences”.

And then came Chief Executives, generally “Head of Paid Services” and with them came the salaries to match or even be greatly exceeded. By chance I saw the average pay for GPs in my local surgery is now published by law. The average pay for GPs working in Aughton Surgery  in the last financial year was £61,825 before tax and National Insurance. This is for 1 full time GP, 1 part time GP, 1 part time salaried GP and 1 locum who worked in the practice for more than six months”. By comparison with the circa £126,670 our WLBC Chief Executive, known for her West Lancs Now “meetings bloody meetings” will be paid, my sympathy goes to all GPs, wherever they work. If pay equals appreciation for work done something is rotten in this borough.

The average pay for GPs working in Ormskirk Medical Practice in the last financial year was £51,323 before tax and National Insurance. This is for 1 full time GP and 7 part time GPs who worked in the practice for more than six months.

The average pay for GPs working in Parbold Surgery in the last financial year was £58,059 before tax and National Insurance. This is for 2 full time GPs 4 part time GPs and 0 locum GPs who worked in the practice for more than 6 months.

The average pay for GPs working in Parkgate Surgery in the last financial year was £87,800 before tax and National Insurance. This is for 3 full time GPs, who worked at the practice for more than 6 months.

The mean earnings for GPs working in Burscough Family Practice in the financial year ended 31st March 2015 was £89,309.96 before deduction of employee’s superannuation contributions, tax and National Insurance. This is the average pay for the 1 full-time GP and 1 locum GP who worked in the practice for more than 6 months during that year.

With the best will in the world how can a local authority pay so much more for senior staff by comparison with GPs and their staff who save lives and do so with such amazing skill?

Why Do Some Politicians Wallow In Ignorance?

What a good question, as we see the general carping from a very junior councillor about others who can show superior knowledge and service to his. It’s the Derby ward “independent of Labour and Conservative” Our West Lancashire councillor Adrian Owens  who asks it.

He writes “A supposed advantage of electing people from different walks of life to a Parliament or Council Chamber would be that better decisions are reached. Elected MPs or councillors bring expertise; knowledge or life experience to the subjects under debate. In return, they are listened to, proposals modified and better decisions reached. For all its faults (and I happen to favour an elected second chamber), the House of Lords very often reflects this well. If only the same could be said of West Lancashire Borough Council. Instead we regularly see two tribes going to war. Any comment made by someone not in their tribe is one to be dismissed out of hand.

“At the council meeting just prior to Christmas, Skelmersdale Councillor, Claire Cooper had tabled an important motion on fire safety in the aftermath of the Grenfell Tower tragedy. As I work professionally in health and safety, including fire safety, I suggested that Cllr Cooper might want to strengthen her motion which was a representation to the Government on how national fire policy should change after the tragedy in Kensington.

“I made a suggestion about defining what was meant by high rise building (was it five storeys, 10 storeys or what?) using the current definition in current building regulations. I also put forward that if we really wanted to create a positive impact on fire safety that we should lobby the government to require sprinklers to be fitted in all new Care Homes in addition to the calls in the motion for sprinklers in high rises and schools. After all, fires in care homes such as Rose Park and Newgrange only 8 months ago have claimed more lives in recent years than school fires.

“Councillor Cooper is the sort of councillor that West Lancashire needs. She is very active in her community and prepared to listen. She agreed to amend her motion to take on board and strengthen it.

“Alas, we reckoned without the more typical tribal West Lancashire Councillor. Cllr John Hodson a Labour cabinet member quickly jumped in and bullied his group to stick to the straight and narrow pre-rehearsed wording. Perish the thought that anything put down on paper before the meeting could possibly be improved through the process of debate. Then we had a Conservative councillor misunderstand how sprinklers work, though afterwards in private he had the good grace to apologise. Meanwhile another Labour councillor showed his complete ignorance by stating that burnt toast could set off a sprinkler. Anyone watching the debate would have been dismayed at many of the contributions, often from councillors woefully ignorant of the subject or simply tribal”.

And, possibly with Cllr Currie in mind among others he quotes “He knows nothing; and he thinks he knows everything. That points clearly to a political career.” George Bernard Shaw. How apt! Read the article here

Currie Stands For Himself and Downholland, Not For Aughton

The idiotic stance taken by Cllr Currie is that nearness to the ward represented by a councillor is crucial to being fair to those living in the ward. In which case why are so many councillors representing wards they don’t live in, or are near to, quoting Cllrs Stephenson, Westleys, Hodsons, Hennessy, Moran, Savage, as examples?

Also as idiotic is the apparent right of Currie to complain about other councillors from Labour raising the issue of respect “failing to treat the mayor with respect by not stopping speaking when asked, and also of bringing his office or the council into disrepute” all of which indicates simply a lack of good manners, not to mention integrity towards the electorate by walking out of a Council meeting. “Come along children, keep in line”…the Party line, that is!

Of course Currie could look back four years, when WLR asked “Do Halsall, Aughton, Burscough, and WLBC have “Councillor Accountability” and what is its value? In a case of considerable interest to observers of “elected councillor accountability” a striking example occurred in Halsall during the course of the Local Plan through its consultations on proposed residential developments on New Cut Lane.

A number of alleged incidents relating to the conduct of Parish and once, for reasons unknown the Borough Deputy Mayor, Councillor Doreen Stephenson , a current Currie colleague, were reported. They included various complaints of her alleged failure to comply with the Code of Conduct; alleged breach of the Principles of Openness and Accountability; alleged lack of Accountability and Integrity; alleged lack of Honesty, Openness and Integrity. These incidents allegedly occurred in July, August, September, and October 2013 at parish and public meetings and were witnessed. They became the subject of a formal complaint relating to four issues.

In essence, the formal complaint was relative to the Councillor’s alleged conduct as parish and borough councillor and her alleged attitude and responses to the public. It sought removal of the Councillor from all public office. At the October meeting of the Halsall Parish Council it was alleged, recorded, and reported the Councillor shouted “I am glad that woman has left” in response to the Complainant being upset by a previous alleged remark that “I will not be pushed out and if you had all handled the situation differently the outcome would have been different” in reply to a question in respect of her not representing residents’ views.

In the Official Response there is included a particular reference made by the Monitoring Officer that “…however, the comment that the Subject Member is alleged to have made when the Complainant left the room is likely to be a breach of the respect provision in paragraph 3.1 of the Code”. I do not consider that the four issues raised in the complaint could reasonably be dealt with by local resolution, e.g. by way of an apology or other remedial action.

“Having regard to the Complaint, the seriousness of the allegations as set out at (i) and (ii) above, balancing the interests of good governance in undertaking or completing an investigation into these four issues in the complaints and all relevant matters the Monitoring Officer in consultation with the Independent Person has decided that no action should be taken on these allegations. In determining this, regard was had to the significant cost of an investigation against the “value” of a finding of breach which, in these circumstances under the current standards regime, would provide limited available sanctions to the Standards Committee. It is noted that the remedy sought by the Complainant is not a sanction that is available to the Standards Committee under the current regime”.

So WLR then asked “Does that mean our councillors should pick their offences carefully so as to avoid a sanction, apart from the ballot box whenever that might be for them as individuals and could be one/two/three years away? How many ways can this WLBC defend its alleged recalcitrant councillors? Cost, as it applies to the public cost for who else pays council tax for events such as this, is a new excuse for insulting the public…”significant cost of an investigation against the “value” of a finding of breach”. Well, we must give them the answer to that. Whatever the cost, whatever the sanctions, councillors must be judged properly. A breach DOES have a value. Good governance is indispensable and critical to the values we, the public, set ourselves.

And WLR suggested “Our council values its council tax funded councillor hospitality; it values its council tax conservation grants; it values its generous conditions for its employees; it values its denial of travel help for disabled immobile residents; it valued its poor management of its Housing Division. These “council” values should be open to challenge because they are not OUR values and we see breaches of them all too often. This particular alleged breach should be vigorously appealed by the Complainant. An alleged comment that’s described as “likely to be a breach of the respect provision” is equally likely to have consequences. After all, a bland conclusion that “does not merit further action” decision merits further public consideration in the ward and parish where the alleged offences occurred.

Are These Village Councillors For Real?

While we who suffer local council representation by people like Sam Currie, Wally Westley, and David O’Toole, who are seldom seen “being councillors” in Aughton & Downholland, the state of our area just gets worse. Scruffy and unkempt, neglected, it’s as shabby as our representation. If ever there was a case for councillor reductions, it is here in Aughton & Downholland. They receive annually a collective £17,915 and we would be better to see that spent on paying a ward road cleaner! 5 councillors for 2 wards is ridiculous.

This  is the state of the grid at the Aughton Surgery pavement on Town Green Lane. When it rains it floods, which is quite often.

And this  is the overgrown pavement on Prescot Road near its junction with Town Green Lane, reduced to single pedestrian walking, pushing prams, using wheelchairs, due to neglect that councillors should address.  Well, we might just as well be represented by locally grown turnips! What are Sam Currie, Wally Westley, and David O’Toole doing for the ward they are paid to represent ? Not a lot, and by reading what follows you get the drift of the stupidity of one of them.

Sam Currie tweets; Elected #westlancs Cllr @LizSavagelabour on average tweets five times more about Southport than she does about her own borough. Will she be standing down this May.

Mary Jones‏ @jones22_Replying to @Samuel_P_Currie @LizSavagelabour @LabourWestLancs No she won’t, @Samuel_P_Currie but, if she did, rest assured that your party wouldn’t replace her! Bad enough dealing with the privatisation your Party has forced on West Lancs with Virgin Health Care

Sam Currie‏ @Samuel_P_Currie Replying to @jones22_mary @LizSavagelabour @LabourWestLancs Thank you for your response, Mary. Regardless of party politics I believe that West Lancs residents deserve cllrs who are committed to them and not focussing their efforts elsewhere. I’m sure you would agree with this.

So, Sam, tell us about your drinking buddy, Wyre and WLBC Tory Cllr Paul Moon . Is he someone you believe is “committed to West Lancs and not focussed elsewhere”, Wyre perhaps, or just on two full-time councillor allowances for the part-time fun of it and bugger the electorate? Double standards, perhaps?

A Not So Champion Moaning Letter?

In the letters today Dr John Watt bemoans the fact that “Leaving the EU was never a simple black and white question”. Of course it wasn’t although the Ballot question itself was simple enough as we all know. But in its wisdom our government of the day issued a £9million leaflet “Why the Government believes that voting to remain in the European Union is the best decision for the UK” to every household in the UK.

So it came down to how the government would influence the result with the leaflet. It would be “An important decision for the UK”, about “A stronger economy”, about “Improving our lives”, about “What happens if we leave?”, “Controlling immigration and securing our borders”, “The benefits of EU membership”, a “A once in a generation decision”.

The Champion letter  purports to represent more accurately the balance of opinion, especially “when only 37% of the electorate voted for Brexit”. We’ve been here before and explained the referendum was the highest ever vote in the UK. “Brexit options were not adequately understood”…tough, every election brings cries of the losers never being understood. The letter mentions “imagined trade benefits…” but doesn’t mention our “actual trade deficit” with the EU. A mere £70billion or so!

And the letter rambles on to a crescendo of being “…necessary to condemn the despicable and shameful Home Office treatment of so many EU nationals who have been settled for years in this country and which seems to be responsible for fostering the hostile attitudes”. And the evidence for that claim is where?

In actuality it seems that the UK is doing rather well. The UK economy has strengthened, growing by 0.5pc in the three months to November as a weaker pound helped boost manufacturing exports, data from the National Institute of Economic and Social Research (NIESR) suggests. This comes as official data showed exports to non-EU countries had grown. Excluding the EU, the trade deficit narrowed by nearly £3bn, as the impact of the cheaper pound made UK goods more affordable.

Figures released also revealed improved export activity in every region of the UK, according to data from HMRC, with England’s and Scotland’s exports rising by 14pc and 19.9pc respectively. Imports to the UK from the EU grew in the three months to October however, widening the trade deficit with the UK’s largest trading partner by £1.9bn, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS). All, surprisingly, despite Brexit! Perhaps it really was the case that the public had had enough of “experts” telling us what a terrible fate Brexit would bring us, those experts being failed politicians and bankers, enough said!