While the saga of Serco mismanagement of the BPGC continues, courtesy of WLBC in 2012, see what the beautiful 18 hole course, looked after by dedicated but lowly paid staff there, has always had to offer as todays pics show , and see what Serco and Oakland Golf and Leisure Limited created and have now put on offer at the so called footgolf facility and the 9hole heap without topsoil but with gravel and concrete and this . And when you read that the Breach Of Condition Notice only refers to some landfill near to the old driving range and not to the 9 hole heap, ask why? You need to know as council tax payers how years of paid for dumping of rubbish produced no income for WLBC, without quibble by politicians and officers, while it apparently kept Serco Leisure Services Limited, its subcontractor Oakland Golf and Leisure Limited, and the land profiling sub-subcontractor all well paid for years, from your, our, golf course. Rosie Cooper is apparently trying to find the money as she writes “I will continue to pursue this matter as there should be proper accountability by those who made these poor decisions which I believe led to a loss of revenue to WLBC and its council taxpayers from both the course and the proceeds from the amount of rubble and waste materials which have been dumped”. Rosie is trying to meet Serco Directors. She should ask them to pay an agreed sum of compensation ex gratia for the appalling mess the facility is in. £2,000,000 should cover it!
A couple of weeks ago I referred to being “Sandbagged, windbagged, O’Tooled, all in one evening, courtesy of the chairman who needs more practice in the art of chairmanship? Probably”, I added.
This occurred during the Aughton Parish Council annual meeting when O’Toole gave his, and the absent Westley’s, annual report. It came with bags of self esteem…including that “At County Hall I have been given the position of chairman of the very important Internal Scrutiny Committee and Chief Whip” truly you might think reflecting his own subjective view of his own worth to the local electorate?
Naturally O’Toole described the county mess his party inherited…but “Within days of taking control we set about remedying the situation. We put millions back into highway maintenance…”
But there was a strange O’Toole absence from his annual report about a highways matter much closer to home. Granville Park. The shambolic “single and double yellow line marking exercise from Delph Lane junction down Granville Park to Town Green Lane was undertaken by LCC that apparently breached the TRO, leading to some residents complaining. They have been told there had been an error and the lines would be removed, and some of them have indeed been blasted away yesterday (05 September 2017). While we await the completion of the work, it seems pertinent for local residents to enquire how and why this situation arose, on whose orders, for LCC to notify the legal status of the TROs, and the costs of a) marking the lines and b) removing them”.
Unbelievably “The cost of marking the lines was £801.12 and the cost of removing the lines was £8,543.58. This was due to the fact that the road had just been resurfaced and the lines couldn’t be burnt off as normal, as this would have severely damaged the new surface. It took a couple of hours to do the lining, but a team 2 weeks to remove them”.
So bad for that selective self esteem? Probably!
In January 2017 WLBC was claiming that “The existing operational leisure services agreement and the relationship between West Lancashire Community Leisure Limited (a registered charity) the operating partner Serco Leisure Operating Limited and the agreements between WLBC and Serco Leisure Operating limited for maintenance and Serco Paisa for capital investment have proved beneficial for the Authority”.
That was included in the “WLBC Labour Cabinet 10 January 2017 Report of: Director of Leisure and Wellbeing. Relevant Portfolio Holder: Councillor Y Gagen. Contact for further information: John Nelson, the Subject: New Leisure Facilities And Procurement Of Leisure Partnership.
“The Council at its meeting on the 24 February 2016 agreed to the adoption of new Leisure and Playing Pitch Strategies for the Council. The first key action is for the establishment of a project team:- Establish a Project Team led by the Deputy Director of Leisure and Wellbeing with representatives from Finance and Legal, supported by the Procurement Executive with an external Specialist Adviser to undertake the procurement of a new partnership arrangement from 1 April 2020 which would include significant capital investment for the built sports provision as outlined in (a) to (d) below, including options for securing capital investment.
“7.7 The existing operational leisure services agreement and the relationship between West Lancashire Community Leisure Limited (a registered charity) the operating partner Serco Leisure Operating Limited and the agreements between WLBC and Serco Leisure Operating limited for maintenance and Serco Paisa for capital investment have proved beneficial for the Authority. The current arrangements were agreed in 2004 and since then other types of operational partnership structures have been formed and should be considered. A new type of management arrangement and or variations of the current agreement may provide additional benefits and opportunities.
“7.8 Members of the Cabinet Working Group were advised of the current relationship with Beacon Park golf course, which was added to the operational leisure services agreement in 2012”.
However, following years of approved landfill dumping on parts of the Beacon Park Golf Course, involving the accrual of undisclosed “royalties”, and breaches of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 (As Amended) a Breach of Notice Reference E/2015/0223/BCN was issued to Serco Leisure Operating Limited by the Borough Solicitor dated 16 May 2018. The relevant planning permission relates to 2016/0040/FUL for the “Variation of Condition 7 imposed on planning permission 2011/0787/FUL to read ”The development shall take place in accordance with the Coal Mining Risk Assessment Addendum Report produced by WSP dated November 2015” Condition 1 (A map).
“The WLBC Solicitor requires Serco Operating Leisure Limited to “Remove all excess material placed on the land hatched black on Attached Plan 2 dated 11 May 2018 to provide the land profile as defined by Sections M-M, N-N, and O-O and contoured site plan all shown on plan reference 1115.14 received by the Local Planning Authority on 13 July 2011”.
In simple terms the regular and ongoing public warnings that Beacon Park Golf Course was being used against planning conditions to create untold wealth, by payments of “landfill royalties” on the WLBC owned land, but not paid to benefit council tax payers have been proved correct. Perhaps justice is being applied?
The details of the Order can be read here
Rosie Cooper MP reported that West Lancashire Borough Council served a ‘Breach of Condition Notice’ on the management at Beacon Park Golf Course, Serco. In 2011 “The proposed development comprises the remodelling of approximately 12 hectares of the existing Beacon Park Golf Course. It involves the remodelling of the 5th, 6th,13th and 14th holes and construction of temporary greens and tees with the importation of 55,000cubic meters of inert soil; remodelling of the golf range to provide perimeter mounding and improved targets with 35,000cubic meters of inert soil; formation of 9hole short course for junior golfers on 3.7ha land to be formed by importation of 65,000cubic metres of inert soil; remodelling of 1st and 2nd tee with 32,000cubic metres of inert soil” .
The breach of condition notice relates particularly to the profiling of a part of the course, whereby the maximum height allowed under the original planning consent has been exceeded, with the quantity of infill which should have been added over the whole site has been concentrated in one area. Serco will now have six months to comply with the breach of condition notice and remove material from the area around the driving range and the foot golf area. So what might be the destination of the material under notice of removal? How much does the notice specify?
WLBC states that “The planning system operates to regulate development and the use of land in the public’s interest having regard to the Development Plan and other material planning considerations. The effective and proper enforcement of planning control is essential to public confidence in the planning system. It is important that the local environment is protected from the harmful effects of unauthorised development, as are the interests of residents, visitors and businesses.
“West Lancashire Borough Council has a duty to investigate alleged breaches of planning control and has powers to remedy proven breaches subject to available resources. The Council views breaches of planning control very seriously. It is the Council’s policy to exercise powers appropriately and rigorously so that development takes place in accordance with the appropriate legislation, or with the planning conditions and limitations imposed on any planning permission through the development management process”.
WLBC defines a breach of planning control as “The carrying out of a development without the required planning permission, or failing to comply with any condition or limitation subject to which planning permission has been granted”. And “Planning laws are designed to control the development of and use of land and/or buildings in the public interest. They are not meant to protect the private interests of one person against the activities of another”.
The breach at Beacon Park Golf Course has been publicised on many occasions. Only now has WLBC reacted to the abysmal performance of the so-called development that will never deliver the Serco statement that they “Have proposed a surplus income share arrangement. They have not included any management fees in the cost of the operation and have agreed to absorb any losses incurred within the golf course arrangement during the contract period. The surplus income share is based on 1/3rds (thirds) distributed equally to West Lancashire Borough Council, West Lancashire Community Leisure Trust and Serco Leisure Operating Limited.
“The income share for West Lancashire Community Leisure will be used to support their outreach for community development work providing access for community groups and schools towards events and activities.
“The proposal includes investment into the golf course and facilities, reshaping of the landform to enhance existing golf holes and practice facilities and create a new 9 hole short course. Remodelled driving range outfield and target greens. Provision to enhance internal facilities in the golf club house and entrance area. The work is to be phased in over two years 2013-15 and has an estimated investment/enhancement value for the golf course of approximately £500,000”.
Driving range outfield? Target greens? New 9hole short course? Phased in over two years to 2015 and here we are in 2018 with a Breach of Condition Notice? WLBC states in its standard bumph that “The Council will also consider serving a Planning Contravention Notice (PCN) to obtain information relating to the alleged breach. A person on whom a PCN is served has 21 days to respond; failure to do so may lead to formal prosecution with a maximum fine on prosecution of £1,000 and a fine of up to £5,000 if false or misleading information is provided. Therefore, it may be several weeks until the appropriate evidence can be collected to enable the Council to reach the appropriate conclusion as to whether a breach has occurred”.
Perhaps giving Serco six months to comply with the breach of condition notice rather than a PCN is an act of generosity for the cosy relationship that exists between them and WLBC?
A week ago the LCC councillor for West Lancashire West, O’Toole, was in the throes of delight as he delivered his annual report to the Aughton Parish Council. His delight was based on how the county was, apparently, remedying the mess his Tory party had inherited in May 2017. Labour had left services closed or reduced, including, he said, that “Highways across the county were left in most awful state as a result of reducing the highways budget by millions and diverting the money to prop up other failing services. The lack of maintenance resulting in an ever growing number of potholes and dangerous road services”. He went on “We put millions back into highway maintenance starting immediately with 5 million earmarked for potholes and more recently the LCC cabinet voted a further 5 million again for potholes repair”.
All of which makes us wonder why the excellent QLocal website reports on the appalling situation caused by LCC neglect and incompetence at the junction of Northway and Moss Delph Lane. A local resident has informed Roger Blaxall “Re the fountaining manhole cover that you photographed at the junction of Northway/Moss Delph Lane…I noticed this too, back in early February, when it was fountaining in heavy rain, and all the adjacent gulleys were blocked/silted.
“I initially reported the drain to UU, and the gulleys to LCC (on their website). UU phoned me a few days later to say that they’d visited and lifted the manhole cover, they could see the drain was full to the brim, and is blocked. However, it wasn’t one of theirs, but is a highway drain so belongs to LCC. They told me they’d report the problem to LCC; for good measure I also added it to the LCC fault reporting website with some pictures that I’d taken. See LCC website fault report no 305628 details below, over 3 months ago now.
Highway Flooding, reported on 14/02/2018
Ref no: 305628
The gulleys were cleared shortly afterwards, but as you’ve just seen the drain remains blocked.’
Now perish the thought that, as O’Toole stated “Unfortunately we have experienced the wettest 6 months for decades and regardless of good intent you cannot repair wet potholes” but does that stop drains being unblocked? Does that excuse what is in the photographs published by Roger Blaxall, as this one shows?
O’Toole beats his own drum for all it’s worth in his annual report to the parishes in his division. “I continue to represent you as the conservative lead member on both Lancashire Fire and Rescue Authority and North West Fire and Rescue Forum made up of the fire authorities of Lancashire, Cumbria, Merseyside, Gt Manchester and Cheshire. At County Hall I have been given the position of chairman of the very important Internal Scrutiny Committee and Chief Whip”.
As we’ve remarked before, O’Toole is paid by the public for his numerous roles of “WLBC member/LCC member/Fire Service member/LCC Whip/Special responsibility member”. The least he owes us is any reason at all to think he is worth it.
West Lancashire MP Rosie Cooper has written to West Lancashire CCG and Virgin Care asking for an update on the promises made at the time of the award of the Community Care contract to the private provider Virgin Care that money would be made available for investment into the voluntary, community and faith sector (VCFS). The local CVS, who’s CEO is also a member of the CCG governing body, had secured an in principle agreement that a percentage of the health contracts would be made available to local West Lancs VCFS organisations.
They won a commitment from the CCG during 2017 for an additional and recurrent VCFS investment fund of £100k. Nearly two years on, things appear to have gone very quiet, and local charities have approached Rosie Cooper MP for support, asking what has happened to this money? Has it been distributed? If so where?
Most recently, MP Rosie met with Disability Advice West Lancashire (DAWL) Chief Tony Lewis and his team of Trustees and volunteers to discuss the current situation and concerns around funding. “We have got some phenomenal people and organisations here in West Lancashire striving to support, advise and help some of our most vulnerable residents. But cuts to funding budgets and contracts mean many of these struggle year to year and even month to month, to the point where they are having to consider closing down if funding doesn’t materialise.
“Many of these charities were wooed by talk of hundreds of thousands of pounds being made available in our area following the tendering of services by West Lancashire CCG to Virgin Care, but nearly two years on no one appears to have seen this money. The Vice Chair of the CCG Greg Mitten, who is also Chief of the Council for Voluntary Service (CVS) assured DAWL that opportunities were coming but here we are, there’s no money and charities are struggling to keep going.
“I’ve written to the CCG, CVS and to Virgin Care to ask just where this money is, what’s the plan and urging them to get on with dishing it out before it’s too late and we see these organisations ceasing. These agencies should keep their word and ensure all the promised support is given to these charities to ensure they can continue to carry out their work helping West Lancashire constituents”.
Meanwhile Virgin Care tax exile Branson has recently said he wants to go into space and visit the moon using his own rocket, and we see every reason to hope it is a one way journey ?
The current West Lancashire Borough Council (WLBC) Contract Register (of contracts worth over £50,000 in value) was updated 5th April 2018. Item 16 Leisure and Environment Services/Leisure Trust. Management of sports, leisure, and golf facilities. Leisure Trust. £1 million per annum.
In January WLBC advertised an opportunity for Leisure Facilities Replacements and Improvements in Skelmersdale, Ormskirk and Burscough. Main contract details; Opportunity Id DN317910
“Title “Leisure Facilities Replacements and Improvements in Skelmersdale, Ormskirk and Burscough” Categories 191700 – Property Management 291400 – Sport & Fitness
“Description. West Lancashire Borough Council has several leisure facilities across the Borough which are delivered through West Lancashire Community Leisure Trust and managed by Serco under a contract which is due to end on 31 March 2020. We welcome responses from appropriately experienced Leisure Facility Developers and Leisure Management operators. We do not require responses from other professional services (including construction services) at this stage.
“The Council and the West Lancashire Clinical Commissioning Group are exploring partnership opportunities to develop two co-located facilities in the towns of Skelmersdale and Ormskirk. The aim of the partnership will be to replace the two ageing 1970s swimming pools with purpose built Leisure & Wellbeing centres, resulting in leisure facilities operating alongside front line health services.
“The Council is also considering whether Beacon Park Golf Course should be aligned with the existing facilities contract or would be better positioned as a standalone contract.
“In May 2017 the Council commissioned FMG Consulting to undertake a financial viability and funding options appraisal for replacement swimming pool/leisure facilities in Skelmersdale and Ormskirk. The initial phase of this work is now complete and has concluded that the proposed facilities have the potential to be financially viable and operationally feasible.
“West Lancashire Borough Council wishes to share its ambitions and plans for the Skelmersdale, Ormskirk and Burscough leisure facilities in a soft market testing exercise, with the following aims: (1) to allow interested organisations with appropriate experience to outline their views and provide information with no commitment to themselves or to the Council; (2) to allow the Council to confirm, or encourage critical assessment of, the viability of its plans and gain expert input to assist with reshaping its plans in order to make the most of the opportunities and options available; (3) to gauge the level of interest from the market in taking the project forward.
“We emphasise that this is a soft market testing exercise, not a call for competition. A questionnaire, together with full details of the project including a summary of the feasibility study, can be downloaded from The Chest portal at http://www.the-chest.org.uk We welcome responses from appropriately experienced Leisure Facility Developers and Leisure Management operators. We do not require responses from other professional services (including construction services) at this stage. Categories 191700 – Property Management 291400 – Sport & Fitness Keywords leisure, swimming, golf, sports, wellbeing”.