It’s not unusual to detect the aroma of impropriety and bullshit around the handling by LCC of the Jacobs Report news today. Burscough Flooding Group (BFG) are stakeholders in the process and provided much of the flooding information. However, LCC obfuscated and kept their editing of the report secret from BFG and the public. BFG state “We don’t know how much they edited the consultants’ report nor do we know how much they guided the consultants, because LCC wouldn’t let us communicate directly with the consultants except for one occasion when they were present. Nor would they let us see the draft report”.
So what does LCC have to hide?
As represented by LCC Councillor for Burscough and Rufford Eddie Pope, not a lot, apparently, if you read the Champion article. But while he was fulsome, even verbose, with his press statement, he, and an LCC Officer, are reported to have walked out of a meeting called by LCC because a Burscough resident declared his intention to record the meeting. However, there is no law which prohibits a member of the public from covertly recording a conversation or a meeting of which they are a part.
Perhaps Cllr Pope is not conversant with “Open and accountable local government” unless he is seeking press co-operation? We do have strong, 21st century, local democracy where local government bodies are genuinely accountable to the local people whom they serve and to the local taxpayers who help fund them. It is a legal duty for the local government body to follow the new provisions.
We report on a timeline of the festering dispute BFG has with LCC. 9 August 2018 “LCC ask us to meet with Jacobs to help them and also told us in the same meeting that once the Jacobs report was draft we would get to meet Jacobs again and comment on it. LCC supplied the minute taker who takes notes and the notes don’t reflect all of that information. LCC then remain incommunicado until November”.
In November 2018 “BFG and LCC walk round flooding hotspots in Burscough with Jacobs and supply a large amount of flooding information collected by residents”.
On 11 October 2019 “Jacobs report was published draft in October 2019 and passed to United Utilities (UU) and WLBC (and possibly the Environment Agency (EA) also) for review”.
On 6 December 2019 “BFG ask for a copy of the draft report and LCC refuse several times”.
On 20 January 2020 “Jacobs report amended by comments from FRMA and re-issued final”.
February 2020 “LLC write to us and state, “The report from Jacob’s perspective is final in that they have completed their technical appraisal. For us this means a draft “final” report. It will remain draft until we sign it off as complete. The report is being shared with the group in advance of it going public. If the group identifies errors or omissions relating to the data you have provided, then you can raise them with us”.
On 18 February 2020 “LCC Councillor Eddie Pope hand delivers a copy of the final Jacobs report to Burscough resident Bernie Webster with draft written scrawled on it in felt tip. The Councillor said, “I’ve had a quick look through and there’s nothing in it to stop the development” (some paraphrasing).
On 19 February 2020 “LCC invite us to a meeting then cancel it on the morning of the meeting. LCC then remain incommunicado”.
On 20 February 2020 “Though LCC having confirmed a meeting at under 24 hours’ notice, Mr Webster is the only one able to attend, so he attends by himself. Prior to the meeting Mr Webster tells LCC he wants to use some method of recording the meeting agreeable to LCC, because not everything has been recorded in the past. When the meeting begins Rachel Crompton and Eddie Pope walk out after Bernie says he is going to record the meeting and then begins to record for the benefit of the BFG members unable to attend. Mr Webstater states that recording won’t be distributed to anyone else if LCC wish but that made no difference”.
On 21 February 2020 “Mr Webster writes to LCC to say how sad he is that LCC left and asks for another meeting to be arranged at their convenience and is any method of recording agreeable to LCC such as voice recording or stenographer. LCC are incommunicado”.
It’s reported that Mr Webster has opened a personal complaint about an LCC officer. BFG are in the process of making a complaint to LCC about the scope of the report, which misses some of the biggest problems, lists the responsibilities of UU, LCC, and WLBC, and misses some of the flooding responsibilities and their failure to consult with their stakeholder BFG.
It’s like the misleading 2016 S19 report on the Boxing Day 2015 flood all over again. Then LCC obfuscated in order to refuse to acknowledge photographic/written evidence of flooding provided by BFG. That stank too! Perhaps it’s not so much a festering sore as festering LCC grade bullshit but which is funded by we taxpayers?