Posted by: westlancashirerecord | February 14, 2018

Tantrums At County Hall

Should the public, the taxpayers, of Lancashire be kept in ignorance of the salary of a senior manager? If you are the Tory leader, then yes, but if you are a Labour leader, then no? And should the public, the taxpayers of WLBC, be refused information that’s claimed to be exempt even under  Freedom of Information Act requests?

Burscough Flood Group, renowned for their unceasing fight against Victorian standards of sewage and drainage in their community and having asked for information about flooding and been declared vexatious by the council have had to request that Rosie Cooper MP  takes up the issue. She has been asked “Please may Burscough Flood Group have your offices help getting hold of the following information from WLBC through Freedom Of Information legislation?: 1. Copies of all legal and non-agreements and accommodations between WLBC and United Utilities made since 2005 concerning the local plans/local development frameworks. This would include the “partnership text” referenced in section 4.17 of West Lancashire Borough Council Infrastructure Delivery Plan Update 2016/17 (Part 1). 2. Copies of all communications, notes taken, meeting agendas and minutes meetings between UU and WLBC since January 2013 concerning flooding in Burscough and the local plans/local development frameworks (please don’t supply anything already supplied in 1 above). 3. Copies of all communications, notes taken, meeting agendas and minutes of meetings between WLBC and the environment agency concerning surface water flooding (including sewers) and water management in Burscough and its outlying areas of New Lane Crabtree Lane and Martin Mere. This would include the “Information from the environment agency” for West Lancashire Borough Council Infrastructure Delivery Plan Update 2016/17 (Part 1) and referenced in section 4.17 of it”. We in every community should all support BFG in this request, as we might be next to ask it. 

As for the issue of the salary, the Blackpool Gazette has reported that “A County Hall  row over leaked information on top salaries has escalated after leaders of the two biggest political parties lodged complaints about each other. The clash over just what and what is not in the public interest erupted after the opposition Labour group revealed Lancashire County Council’s new Interim Director of Children’s Services John Readman will be paid £1,125 a day.

“Outraged council leader Cllr Driver complained that Labour had breached the Code of Conduct for elected members. A council officer is now investigating to see whether a formal investigation should be launched. At last week’s council meeting Cllr Driver publicly accused Labour leader Cllr Azhar Ali and other Labour councillors of leaking confidential information. In turn Cllr Ali has now complained to the council’s Chief Executive about Cllr Driver’s comments. Meanwhile Deputy Labour group leader Cllr John Fillis admitted releasing the information about John Readman’s salary and accused Cllr Driver of trying to gag Labour over issues in the public interest.

“Cllr Fillis said “I recognise that this may result in disciplinary action against myself which I accept. I believe that the people of Lancashire have a right to know what this Conservative council is spending their money on. Especially now they have increased council tax by six per cent while cutting vital services. It does not surprise me that the leader of the council is attempting to gag those who would expose the Conservatives’ incompetence.”

“Cllr Driver said “They’ve been councillors long enough to know that it’s a breach of the councillors’ code of conduct if you leak information that has been classified as confidential. There can be no excuse. There is no doubt at all that the information is deemed in law to be confidential”. He said he could not reveal the salary but said “We are having to pay the market rate”. Cllr Driver added “The actual cost over the period of this interim directorship would be a fraction more than we would have paid if we had made the full appointment for the period. Labour are counting the gross costs. They are not taking account of the fact we would have had to pay a director anyway”. He said that despite interviewing for the post no suitable permanent candidate had been identified.

Cllr Ali challenged Cllr Driver to produce evidence of him or other councillors leaking information and said “There’s a difference between information marked confidential and reports or comments about issues. I’ve asked the Chief Executive to investigate it under the code of conduct”. Isn’t this the same issue that confronts Burscough Flood Group?

On the basis that Cllr Fillis  found it necessary to say “I believe that the people of Lancashire have a right to know what this Conservative council is spending their money on” would he also agree that the people of West Lancashire should know what the Labour WLBC keeps secret, and still does by not recording minutes of meetings, in respect of the Serco deal to take over the Beacon Park Golf Course and its “commercial in confidence” category that has led to the perceived landfill scandal there? Probably!


Responses

  1. Another example of obscene pay. £260,000 per year plus all the benefits on offer. Congratulations to Cllr Fillis for bringing this to the attention of the taxpayers. I know who will get my vote in the forthcoming local elections.

    • Compare the obscene pay with the now obscene services we receive. Austerity is surely no excuse for pothole filling that is in situ for 2 days in some instances. It’s the public who should be having tantrums?


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