At the mindset of the most senior WLBC officers in relation to the public, the council tax payers. “Follow the money” is the catchphrase popularized by the 1976 Watergate drama film, All the President’s Men, which suggests political corruption can be brought to light by examining money transfers between parties. In 2020 it’s “Follow the Emails” to expose the apparent contempt for West Lancashire residents from Derby Street Towers. It could equally include “Follow the Floods” and how WLBC flounders in ignorance of how to deal with them. By staff training?
In mid-November flooded resident Burscough’s Bernie Webster wrote to the CEO “You may recall I wrote to you on the 14th November following the ‘Inaccuracies” forwarded by one of your senior officers to our MP Rosie Cooper.
“On 27th November the Officer concerned wrote to me stating “Hello Mr Webster. Thank you, it was a sincere apology and there was no intention to mislead anyone”.
Mr Webster replied “I have to admit, it took some considerable suppression of gut feeling on my part to accept this as a genuine apology. But, on the 4th December, no more than one week after sending his “Sincere apology”, the same individual again wrote to Rosie Cooper stating “Although Mr. Webster did not categorically turn down the offer to meet I do not recall any response from Mr Webster stating he would still be happy to meet given the problems he had been facing”.
Mr Webster declares to the CEO “Evidence of disbelief shows via an attached e-mail trail highlighting the fact that this statement to our MP was clearly untruthful. I do not know what action you took in relation to my previous e-mail, but if you did take action, then clearly it was not effective. So who rules the roost at WLBC?”
“Dear Head of Planning, thank you for the invitation to have a meeting regarding flooding in Burscough, and particularly the Crabtree Lane area. You will recall that an invitation was sent previously but then you chose to go ahead with your meeting excluding Local Residents, Burscough Flood Group and myself. So much for being “inclusive”.
“Our MP Rosie Cooper has kindly shared with me a recent letter from yourself which takes a quote directly from my e-mail to yourself, I have absolutely no problem with you sharing the content of our correspondence providing it is not marked “Confidential” and providing also that you are not “selective” in sharing only parts which would give the recipient a less than balanced understanding of the full facts. This appears to be what you have done on this occasion, and not for the first time you have presented a distorted view of the facts to our MP to avoid taking responsibility for your failures.
“I will refer you to the e-mail trail of our correspondence, on 17th August you (WLBC) state your first availability is 15th September. A full month ahead. My response is based on the urgency you placed on our problems on Crabtree Lane as you comfortably enjoy your Annual Leave. Given the devastation in my home, it is not unreasonable for me not to be able make appointments as far away as one month as I would not know at that stage what problems would present themselves in that period.
“You may think this is inconsiderate of me until you look at your own diary,
initially you were available on the 15th 16th and 18th of September, then you revised this to the 4th, 7th and 11th September, and finally organised the meeting, without consultation, for 14th September, and you didn’t have to deal with your home being devastated whist organising your diary. So trying to find grounds for defending your failings based on my uncertainty of availability when you can’t even organise your own diary appears disingenuous.
“On 20th August in response to your (WLBC) for a date for a meeting I enquired who was the meeting to include and whether it was specifically related to Crabtree Lane or Burscough as a whole. In view of the fact you chose not to refer to it when you made contact with our MP to proffer a feeble excuse for your failings, and though it is copied below, I will repeat it here so you are left in no doubt as to the content:
“Dear ******, thank you for getting back to me 9 full days after my home flooded, this is the first acknowledgement of the fact from any person within WLBC. The performance does not live up to WLBC’s rhetoric.
“Firstly, could you tell me what is the meeting related to, is it as previously discussed, issues to be resolved with Burscough Flood Group, is it related to problems in Crabtree Lane or is it for some other purpose. If it is related to the flooding in Crabtree Lane, then you could perhaps advise me ahead of the meeting what responsibilities WLBC have in respect of keeping the residents here safe and in a healthy environment and whether homes being flooded forms any part of WLBC’s remit, as previous correspondence with yourselves has only ever resulted in you deflecting blame to another authority.
“If it is the case that you may have some solutions, and one would have thought with over 4 years of receiving e-mails from me that someone would have taken the time to go and gather all the relevant information to address the problem, then perhaps you could share these possible solutions with myself and my neighbours who are also suffering flooding problems, ahead of any meeting.
“May I ask, if this relates to flooding in Crabtree Lane, then are the other residents to be invited so they may listen to what you may propose by way of a solution and express their concerns as well.
“Whilst I will be working every day trying to put my home back in a habitable, clean and healthy place to live, resolving the flooding issues must take priority. I will make time for anyone who is genuinely prepared to move things forward and help the residents here, and if that is the case with your officers, then I would be happy to make time. In my previous e-mail I referred to: (those who talk a good job but have no intention of raising a finger), If you feel that this describes your officers then any meeting is only likely to prove fruitless. If however your officers can finally summon up the will to address our problem here, then I will give you as much of my time as you would like. I would also like to inform my neighbours as I am sure they are equally concerned about our future here. Yours sincerely, Bernard Webster”.
To the CEO “In your letter to our MP You state “Although Mr. Webster did not categorically turn down the offer to meet I do not recall any response from Mr. Webster stating he would still be happy to meet given the problems he had been facing”.
“Having taken into account the e-mail I sent you, (above), then either you have seen it, or you have not. If you have not seen it, and it has been sent to your office, then bearing in mind your senior position and responsibility for your department, who takes responsibility for you not having read it?
“If you have read it and just forgotten about it, then do you have some memory issues? If you have read it, and remember it, but choose not to refer to it when spinning your tale to our MP then the question has to be asked as to whether the public should have faith in your integrity.
“In your letter to our MP nowhere do I see any suggestion of any apology to her, though this is a matter between yourself and the MP the absence of an apology does tend to support the perception of sheer arrogance on your part.
“As regards a meeting, the issue of a full recording of the meeting has not yet been agreed to. The purpose of recording is so that there is a permanent and accurate record of the discussions which take place which is made available to members of the public. It is quite simple, all you have to do is turn up and tell the truth, I have absolutely no difficulty with that so why is it such a problem for WLBC and the LLFA?
“It would help however, if you did not ignore all of the issues raised previously so that there would be less to clarify in any meeting. It would be helpful if you could share the proposals for the Drainage Scheme discussed at your meeting of 14th September as this could only be achieved if it was to be put through private land. I have discussed this with my neighbours and none have been approached for any discussion in the matter. It may be of interest that since this meeting a senior officer within Lancashire County Council states there are currently no plans/proposals for such a system. Why is it so difficult for the public to get to the truth?
“I would also request by way of Freedom of Information “What communications have taken place between WLBC and Network Rail relating to Network Rail Assets, Culverts and Flooding issues on Crabtree Lane Burscough between 25th December 2015 and 11th August 2020”. Please let me know if this needs to be re-sent as a separate request”.
We are in a season of goodwill, well some of us are. We can only wonder if there might ever be a will to resolve the flooding of homes from those we presume to have the power to do so. But when people defy logic and fact, and we read of council inability to organise a council diary, we doubt it!