Monthly Archives: February 2018

Sam Currie Confession

On being asked by Richard Evans (Twitter) “Is it true WLBC has £100 million pounds in the bank?” Cllr Sam Currie  replied “Must confess Richard I’m not the portfolio holder for finance so I can’t help there. A freedom of information request could help you though. For me, this is simple though: Local councillors are there to represent our areas. And that’s what I’ll do- openly and honestly”.

So, Sam Currie, Tory, elected in Aughton & Downholland 5th May 2016 still doesn’t know what’s in the Borough Accounts, and is thus unable to help “because he isn’t the portfolio holder for finance”. Neither am I but I do know where to find it! Could Cllr Currie be handed a copy of the Borough accounts at the Full Council meeting, tonight isn’t it?

Click to access statement-2016-17-audited-version-final.pdf

Local Elections

The Borough Council is advertising briefings for people interested in being a candidate or an agent in the forthcoming local elections, in May . They are taking place on 19 March 2018 at 2pm and 5.45pm in the Council Chamber at 52 Derby Street, Ormskirk.

Kim Webber, Returning Officer for these elections says “The events will cover what you need to know about the election process. There will also be the opportunity to speak informally to Electoral Officers after the event. People who are interested in standing are invited to come along to one of the briefings. There are no set qualifications or experience required to be a Councillor. For example, skills gained through raising a family, volunteering or being active in faith or community groups are just as valuable as skills gained in employment or training. The role is a responsible position which allows you to make a real difference to the area you represent”.

Already preparing for May are the OWLs, as they offer surveys for people on what representation people want, rather than party politics. 

The Nanny State Of Health

Public Health England (PHE)  has issued cold weather alerts and health warnings following the arrival of colder weather in some parts of England.

Further snow and ice warnings across England have prompted PHE doctors to warn people in areas likely to be affected, to plan ahead now. Forecasts from the Met Office suggest large parts of southern England will see freezing temperatures, significant snowfall and possibly even frozen rain over the next few days.

PHE’s Dr Thomas Waite said “With more cold and for some snow on the way, now is the time to think ahead. Consider what you need to stock up on. Do you need food or essential supplies such as medicines? It may be harder for some people to get out later this week when more snow arrives, so if you know someone at risk, someone with heart or lung conditions, young children or someone who is over 65, please take the time to check and see if there’s anything they need”.

Doesn’t the Health Service have better things to spend its (our) money on? Are we all without common sense? This is gratuitous in the extreme, and many of us have experienced over 70/80 winters. Many of my neighbours are over 65 and I will be knackered if I have to check on them all! But I’ll be out when THEY come to check on me!

West Lancashire Wally Party Press Officer Appointed

The West Lancashire Wally Party has announced “Sam Currie is a Conservative Councillor in Aughton and Downholland. He was elected in May 2016. He lives in Haskayne. Sam was the 2017 County Candidate for Skelmersdale Central. Sam was the 2017 West Lancs Parliamentary Candidate for the Conservative Party. Sam is now the Association Press Officer” .

Since the appointment he has become involved in a public spat with someone he describes as “making thinly veiled threats” and adds “I’m not sure what it is that makes people say things from a keyboard that they wouldn’t necessarily say in person but frankly, it’s disgusting and needs to stop” .

Among his previous gems from his own keyboard used to assess his suitability for the post was this statement about OWL Cllr Owens “Sam Currie‏ @Samuel_P_Currie
Follow @Samuel_P_Currie
Replying to @Visiter
Has he ran out of potholes to gently caress? Paul Moon is one of the best cllrs at @Westlancsbc and we are damn lucky to have him”

He clearly scored high on grammar and judgement on a given subject then, depending on who appointed him, of course!

Election Woes Reach Wyre?

Rumours abound in the press that Wyre Council may well have broken election rules by potentially influencing the outcome of the recent election in Preesall (incorporating parts of Knott End). This is due to the fact they announced the Knott End to Fleetwood Ferry Service  had been saved for an 8 year term, when in fact no contract had been signed at the time. The announcement was made prior to the election and the truth came out following it. The possibility now exists for a re-run. The Wyre Council Residents Concerns and Action Group will announce more news as and when they have it.

Last month, Wyre Council announced the ferry was to enter a new eight year contract with Wyre Council and Conservative-led Lancashire County Council, with agreement struck with an as yet un-named operator. The deal was said to have saved the ferry after a year of uncertainty and political arguments between the Tories and Labour.

But this week there have been rumours and postings on social media that the deal with the contractor is off. Wyre Council would not confirm this, however. A spokesman said: “The tender process has not yet concluded. Therefore, it would be inappropriate to comment at this present time”. But Fleetwood councillor Lorraine Beavers, leader of Wyre’s Labour group, said there been a deal struck in 2016 between Wyre Council and the then Labour-led County Hall to keep the ferry going. The Wyre leadership later denied this.

Coun Beavers said this week “I am very angry about this uncertainty, because a better deal had been struck before the Conservatives even came to power in May. At that time there had been two tenders and the Labour leadership at Lancashire County Council had offered to gift the ferry boat to the successful tenderer, not a mortgage arrangement like this latest deal. Under this new deal, there has only been one applicant, which runs the risk that if there is a problem, there is no one left to run the ferry. The Conservatives have simply used the ferry as an election tool and put politics before the people of Fleetwood and Knott End.”

South Ribble Tory Bird Flies The Nest For Independence

There are signs of turmoil at South Ribble Conservative Association with news that David Bird , Deputy Chair Membership & Finance, has quit the ruling group, claiming it has broken its promise to electors not to bring in charges for garden waste. Cllr Bird is to continue on the authority as an independent. But his departure leaves the Tories with the slenderest of majorities just a week before the council votes on next year’s budget.

The state of the Council is now Conservative 26; Labour 18; Liberal Democrat 3; Penwortham Independent 1; South Ribble Independents 2.

South Ribble council states “If you do not wish to subscribe to the new Garden Waste Service  you will no longer get a brown bin collection from the 9th April 2018, and you can either compost the garden waste at home or dispose of it at your local Household Waste Recycling Centre for free”. So far only 9,000 residents have signed up for the controversial new brown bin service leaving an estimated 29,000 homes likely to opt out.

It is public knowledge that the councillor for Howick and Priory Ward in Penwortham claimed there had also been other issues which contributed to his decision. But the row over charging for bin collections had been the “final straw.” “I’ve not been happy with the decision-making process over the last 12 months” he said. “It’s come to a head and I couldn’t remain any longer. I’m sad, but it’s been a difficult 12 months and I’ve really been at loggerheads with the group over a number of issues I have disagreed with. I can imagine it puts them in a very difficult position, but I had to do something”.

Cllr Bird, who was elected in May 2015, said his campaigning literature at the time and that of other Tory candidates stated there would not be a charge for garden waste collection. He said he was “coerced” by his party into voting for its introduction last year on the understanding the council would do everything in its power to find an alternative. I don’t believe that was ever their intention,” he said. “And now I’ve had enough”.

Tory council leader Cllr Peter Mullineaux told the press “At this time I’m not really willing to comment.” A resident claimed “Cllr Bird would appear to be rather more honourable than his leader and the other Tories”.

South Ribble Tory membership includes West Lancashire Cllrs Blane, Two Hat Moon, Cairns, and Ashcroft.

Sam Currie Gets What He “Arsed” For

Some people are never pleased. Cllr Sam Currie  tweeted “Out in Burscough today delivering leaflets for @Conservatives #campaign18. Coffee @BoothsCountry first naturally. If you live around here and see me do say hello/hurl some abuse. It makes me feel relevant”.

So having asked for abuse he got some after which he tweeted “One chap just told me he would wipe his arse with my @Conservatives leaflet. I felt awful. Nobody should put up with that. Fortunately I’ve just been shopping so gifted him a roll of my Andrex aloe vera. To his credit he laughed and thanked me. Always happy to help!”

Just confirms he’s a bum councillor then?

Aughton Police Station Mystery Ceiling Damage

The Aughton Police Station is closed for repairs, and has been since early this month. No announcement was made, just a notice stuck on the door . I wondered if a volunteer knew how long it would take and who is paying the bill? I presumed Merseyrail would pay, but wondered if it might affect the lease with the Aughton Parish Council.

My contact didn’t have any other information about the closure, only that “volunteers were told about 2 weeks ago that it was closed due to a ceiling problem and they would be informed when it was to be reopened”.

A request to the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner for details of the ceiling damage, repairs, and timescale for repairs, brought this reply “In order to look into your enquiry I will need to consult with a colleague at Lancashire Constabulary”.

No news is often not good news. Local policing is being lost. We should be told of any lack of local policing services, hopefully just temporary, but the silence is indicative of the mushroom method of communications.

What Do You Know About “Fleecehold”?

Thousands of homeowners on private estates are facing unregulated and uncapped maintenance fees, amid allegations that developers have created a “fleecehold” cash cow from charging for communal areas not maintained by the council. Management contracts for “unadopted” private estates are frequently sold off to speculators and property management companies in the same way as freeholds and ground rents leaving homeowners with spiralling fees and nowhere to turn.

If a new-build estate is “unadopted” it means communal areas such as roads, grass verges, pavements and playgrounds are retained by the developer. The developer then usually sub-contracts day-to-day management. These companies then pass on the costs to homeowners (both freeholders and leaseholders) via a deed of transfer which obliges the homeowner, under the Law of Property Act 1925, to pay for maintenance of this land. This is often referred to as an “estate charge” or “service charge”. These are on top of full council tax even though the council doesn’t maintain their street.

A homeowner in Buckshaw Village  has urged buyers to be wary of purchasing homes from new housing estates. Bridget Murphy bought her nine year old property under a freehold agreement in 2015. She says that despite owning the full rights to the house she still has to pay fees if she wants to make changes to the property. “The unfairness of the situation in which leaseholders find themselves is widespread and also extends to freehold properties on new housing estates in this area” said Bridget, who is retired. “Although the property is freehold, the deeds contain numerous covenants, some of which are linked to uncapped permission fees. For example, I believe the fee is currently in the region of £200 for permission to add a conservatory or extend the property.

“It seems unethical that, although I own my freehold, the developer still has an interest in my property and can demand permission fees.” In a statement a spokesman from the developer Redrow  said “For those who apply to Redrow, in writing, to make changes to their home, for example to add an extension, Redrow charges a fixed admin fee of £150 + VAT to process the application. An exception to this would be if someone applied retrospectively, having already made changes to their property, in which case a reasonable fee would be charged for the time taken to process the retrospective application.”

The leasehold scandal caught Government attention last year when Sajid Javid, the Communities secretary, announced a crackdown on the practice. Also known as fleecehold, the practice sees charges on ground rent ratcheting up for buyers as their freeholds are sold on to investment companies.It means the properties become unaffordable to the leaseholder but also means they are trapped, unable to sell the lease on. On top of this leaseholders have to pay permission fees to refurbish the properties.

But Bridget is warning that this practice is now being transferred to freehold properties. She says that buyers need to be conscientious in buying freeholds from new housing estates as some freehold agreements are now also stipulating that residents need to pay fees if they want to make changes to their homes. “Now that the government has announced plans to sell all future new build houses as freehold properties, people need to be alerted to the fact that this new type of freehold is set to become the norm, if developers get their way” said Bridget.“Leasehold residents planning to purchase their freeholds also need to be alerted to the issue of permission fees in freehold deeds.”

The Mayor of Chorley councillor Mark Perks said “My advice to anyone who has contacted me interested in moving to Buckshaw has been to make sure you get a good solicitor who reads and understands the fine print on the deeds, lease or freehold and what permissions are placed upon each property. Certainly choose your own independent solicitor rather than go with one a developer recommends. It may cost you more at the start but far better than being trapped into something that turns out to be costly and difficult to get out of”.

Buckshaw Annual Service Charge Explained 
All Buckshaw property owners pay an annual management fee to the Buckshaw Village Management Co. Ltd (BVMCL) either directly or indirectly. The BVMCL is made up of all Buckshaw developers, with the principle developers being Redrow & Barratt who own the majority of the land on the village. This funding pays for the maintenance of all community amenities including the parks, community centre, Astro pitches and communal green areas etc.

Who are RMG?  RMG is the management company that are contracted by BVMCL to collect the annual management fee on their behalf. RMG manage the day to day administration of the Village and its amenities, including the collective management fund.

I’ve heard that if the community amenities don’t make a profit then my annual management fee will go up?The funding is directly related to the profit/loss of the community amenities. Therefore if the Astro turf or the community centre fails to cover their running costs, this impacts the funding and will inevitably have an effect on the annual management fee. The BVCA once sat on the village management group (made up of RMG, Envirocare and BVCA, as residents) and were fully involved to ensure that the community centre and Astro turf maximised their potential to turn a profit in order to safeguard the funding and keep the management fee as low as possible.

Who’s responsible for the upkeep of the street lights, road names and other street furniture?  The owners of the road are responsible for all street furniture. At the moment some roads on Buckshaw are still owned privately by the respective developer – it will be some years until the roads are adopted by Lancashire County Council (LCC). RMG has a responsibility for a proportion of the communal areas – including a section of the green corridor. To find out who has responsibility for your street/nearby roads please contact RMG (details below) or your local council.

Will the councils ever adopt Buckshaw and its amenities, meaning we won’t have to pay an extra management fee? Buckshaw Village is split between two Borough Councils and currently there are no plans for the village to be adopted. This process will be a long drawn out issue and until the village construction is finished it is unlikely this will be viewed in any great detail.

I get charged for two sets of Management Fees – why is this? Every household on Buckshaw pays an annual service charge. This service charge covers areas like the green corridor, the mound, the community centre and the sports pitches (as outlined above). If you receive a bill requesting monies for another service charge (i.e. Runshaw MCL, Cuerden MCL, Worden Hall MCL etc), this money covers the cost of shared areas pertinent to your property and could include the maintenance of your car park, shared garden, hallways etc. For more information please contact RMG directly as they will have more detailed relating to your property than can be covered on our website.

Wigan Council Woes

Wigan Council  knew on 15th February 2018 it would lose the Cllr Jones case. Cllr Jones took the council to the High Court and won the right to have a Judicial Review. He and his supporters won that but failed to get the injunction to stop the election on a legal technicality. As one supporter, Cllr Gareth Fairhurst said “To you and me it was the fact that [Chief Executive] Donna Hall wasn’t in the court room and had she been there I have absolutely no doubt that it would have been stopped by Hon Justice Kerr there and then”.

The Council barrister argued that Donna Hall was acting as a returning Officer a position that Wigan Council gave her but it is a stand-alone position. For that reason she had to be named personally on the legal papers and not just have Wigan Council name on there.

Cllr Fairhurst “had previously been discussing the case with the highly respected solicitor Piers Coleman and those talks continued throughout the weekend day and night. When the Hearing started it became very clear to Cllr Fairhurst that the Judge was not impressed that he had this case in front of him and he knew he was going to be ripping into someone. The legal arguments went back and forth very quickly because the Council said if they lost they would be going to London to get an urgent appeal in. The Judge was OK with this if that was what either side wanted but he got things moving quickly. He basically said to the Barristers don’t tell me something that you have written as I have read them over night.

“We had not only applied for the Injunction but for him to listen to the Judicial Review at the same time and to wrap it all up. He agreed but the council didn’t like this. It became apparent that he was going to agree with us on the JR and that Steve never had resigned. So now that had been resolved what to do with the election? I know the courts do not and I really do mean do not like getting involved with elections. The council’s barrister had said this and tried to use this as their argument but the judge said he could because it was an exceptional case and he was reluctant, but it was a mess that had been created by Donna Hall’s own doing. Discussions went back and forth people that had voted via postal votes would have to be destroyed but then Steve’s barrister said well what about all the people that voted for him 2016 what about their democracy and votes?

“So he said that because he had decided the by election should never have been called he said there really was only one thing to do – cancel the By election. What a result! At the point Steve’s barrister applied for costs against the council – another word for them to pick the bill up for everything as they had been at fault. The answer was yes and for a number of reasons including that I had written to Donna Hall last Friday after the last hearing to say call the election off or you will lose and get a big bill. She had been warned as I put her on immediate noticed. She wrote back to me on Monday night and said no. That was the trigger me and Steve had waited for and we knew we would go to London the following morning”.

“The Judge had said yesterday that Donna Hall should never have called the election and she never had the power to do so. Also that even when I warned her and told her to stop she ignored it and carried on. All these actions plus many others have left the tax payers with a bill that is huge. She is on over £200,000 and I believe that she should be sacked immediately with no golden hand shake pay off. If the Labour Leader Cllr Peter Smith sticks by her then he is condoning her actions and even to this very day the Council and Donna are claiming the Judge got it wrong and Steve resigned. The Judge said in his opinion he did not and then another said he definitely didn’t. I know Steve is getting back to helping residents but also Donna Hall needs to give him a personal and public apology now! This is just a small amount of detail on the whole case but hopefully it shows you some of what has gone on and what should happen in my opinion now”.

Isn’t life in West Lancashire boring by comparison?