Profile Of An LCC Officer On The County Rich List

In January 2018 Lancashire County Council appointed Stephen Young to the newly created role of executive director of growth, environment, transport and community services. His salary in 2019/20 is £136,950 plus £19,879 pension contributions. Total £156,829. We wonder at the generosity of LCC with the council tax paid by people scraping by on miniscule comparative pensions as sole incomes?

Stephen Young said “I am so looking forward to joining Lancashire County Council and continuing to build on the great work that is already taking place. Lancashire is an amazing place with exceptional people and I can’t wait to get started”.

So why are we profiling Stephen Young? Because he’s involved in the matter of how local politics is adding an effect on the content of S19 reports. A section 19 flood investigation report is a public statement of the circumstances of a flood event and what parties have a role in managing the risks. And he wrote a most unwelcome letter to Rosie Cooper MP denying how S19 prescribes how such activities should be carried out.

Back on 5th September 2020, Gavin Rattray wrote about an EFRAC (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee) Meeting. 1st September 2020.

He wanted the committee to know how important it was that a remark made, that Local politics was adding an effect on the content of S19 reports” was precisely the experience Burscough’s FLAG (Burscough Flooding Group) experienced in 2016, when dealing with Lancashire County Council (LCC).

And he wanted them to know that local politics having an effect on S19 reports is the tip of a considerable iceberg. He referred them to the widespread West Lancashire Boxing Day flooding in 2015, which led to LCC the Lead Local Flood Authority (LLFA) creating an S19 report for its area, which “painted a false picture of flooding in Burscough”.

“The picture was false because our local authorities have been very poor at collecting and keeping flooding information for a long time. In addition, LCC refused to accept flooding evidence provided by Burscough Flooding Group collected from local residents and when that became a controversial public issue, LCC councillors voted in council to support that decision”.

Gavin described the shortcomings as “photographs which showed extremely widespread flooding had occurred in Burscough, the LCC S19 report indicated very few localised flooding problems and completely failed to mention overwhelmed/surcharging sewers which were (and still are) common and widespread…

What followed was a sorry and pitiful example of local politics. For example LCC denied Burscough Flooding Group and the public oversight of the scope and production of the 2020 Jacobs Surface Water Management Plan (SWMP) for Burscough.

LCC was also currently keeping the changes that the Flood Risk Management Authorities (FRMA) made to the Jacobs SWMP secret by denying a local resident, John Crawford, his Freedom Of Information (FOI) rights. The FRMA set the scope for Jacobs and it inexplicably excluded the main downstream areas, with critical drainage problems, including Crabtree Lane in Burscough where homes have been flooded four times in the last ten years (including this summer).

A 2015 report obtained through FOI to LCC, of a 2010 independent report on Burscough’s flooding problems produced for West Lancashire Borough Council (WLBC) had been kept secret by WLBC, the Local Planning Authority (LPA), and our councillors had no knowledge of it for five years. Had the report been placed into the evidence base for the 2012 local plan, it could have changed the outcome.

Local politics means that, with the exception of the Environment Agency, the FRMA have all publicly refused to accept flooding information provided by Burscough Flooding Group. 

Local politics means there is no public oversight of Making Space for Water Meetings. The FRMA meet in private without agendas, recordings or taking minutes to prevent the content of their discussions from being accessed using FOI legislation.

Local politics means drainage/flooding matters on anything but small sites in Burscough are reserved planning matters. The decision making process on reserved matters usually allows developments to proceed which increase downstream flood risk. In some cases the flood risk and drainage aspects of the planning applications conflict with NPPF, the Burscough Neighbourhood Plan, the Local Plan and (in the case of the strategic development site) the design significantly differs to the publicly agreed Masterplan, all again without explanation. The reserved decision is always publicly unscheduled and made in private without minutes or notes.

“Local politics meant that from October 2017 until May 2019 myself, the FLAG and anyone, including MP Rosie Cooper, who asked WLBC about drainage or flooding in Burscough under FOI legislation, was classed as vexatious. This was unanimously overturned by a First Tier Tribunal (GRC) Information Rights on the 9th May Appeal Ref: EA/2018/0219 attached. Despite at least two requests from the local press to WLBC no explanation has ever been provided why our FOI rights were denied for 18 months”. 

Footnote: *Burscough’s FLAG consists of five Burscough residents who are nearly all flood victims. We were set up by Burscough Parish Council (now Burscough Town Council) to collect flooding data from all sources, because of perceived under-reporting by the authorities and United Utilities. Our work (as unpaid amateurs) culminated in Burscough Flood Records Report attached (first published in 2016).

I understand that you can’t help with a specific complaint because that would be impracticable. However, I have sent the same email to MP Rosie Cooper and will be publishing it locally on forums in order to raise public awareness of the issues. 

Yours sincerely. Gavin Rattray – Secretary Burscough Flooding Group (Burscough’s FLAG)

From Gavin Rattray 02 January 2021

To: Stephen Young. Copies to: MP Rosie Cooper, Jonathon Findlay for EFRAC and Tess Reddington

References: Stephen Young GD/ZA53648 28/9/20 and MP Rosie Cooper GD/ZA53648 29/9/20

Dear Mr Young

“Sorry for the delay in responding to your letter of the 28th September 2020 to MP Rosie Cooper.

“I obviously don’t know where you got it from, but rather embarrassingly for you, you seem to have been armed with false information. Personal information wasn’t provided to Lead Local Flood Authority (LLFA) and wasn’t given as the reason to when Lancashire County Council (LCC) voted to reject Burscough Flooding Group’s (BFG) evidence. Years later the LLFA agreed to accept the same information during a meeting between the LLFA, two Burscough Town Council (BTC) Councillors and BFG. You should listen to LCC’s own recording of its meeting in 2016 when it voted to reject BFG’s evidence and consider apologising to MP Rosie Cooper and the EFRAC committee if you have also copied your letter to them.

“You won’t find any mention of what the LLFA did to BFG which I have stated following, in national best practice, although you personally may be in complete ignorance of it.

“The LLFA “discouraged BFG from collecting flooding information”, by falsely writing, it had good information about the 2015 boxing day floods in Burscough, when it had very little, “Defamed BFG in public meetings after we supplied the LLFA with good information (without personal information) and dis-enfranchising all flood victims in Burscough by refusing to meet with BFG and falsely stating, time and time again that BFG weren’t a proper Flood Action Group (FLAG)”. Incidentally both WLBC and UU acted in unison with the LLFA by all refusing to meet BFG.

“As nothing in the public’s interest seems to come from it, the Flood Risk Management Authorities (FRMA) should stop meeting in secret shouldn’t they?

“Best regards. Gavin Rattray” – Secretary Burscough Flooding Group

Mr Young must be fully aware of his responsibilities by now. If he isn’t he’s not worth what we taxpayers pay him. He’s got friends in high places. He shouldn’t disappoint them. Or us.

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