Author Archives: westlancashirerecord

About westlancashirerecord

I am a pensioner. I was a strong supporter of the rights of elderly and disabled residents of West Lancashire to receive equal treatment from the old Tory WLBC that unfortunately did not agree, leading to the social exclusion of some immobile disabled residents. My personal suggestion of honouring the County Regiment led to us having probably the proudest day ever in West Lancashire, with the help of Cllr Adrian Owens who wrote "You will be pleased to learn that this evening the motion passed unanimously. Colonel Amlot from the Regiment was accorded a standing ovation and we look forward to a parade and march through Ormskirk next year. Thank you". After the Parade I wrote to Cllr Owens "I was reading through the emails we exchanged after I made the suggestion to honour our County Regiment. As you said today, we got there in the end, and what an end? This celebration of our Regiment was quite simply, as my original mail said, the greatest honour of all. To see all these young people who risk their lives for us was so moving. Little did I know what Council could do and how our residents would react to it all. Well, we should all be so proud of this great day. I know I am".

Update on Flood Risk in Cumbria and Lancashire

Following the LCC flood warning published earlier, the Environment Agency and Rosie Cooper wish you to know “You may be aware that the Met Office has issued a yellow warning for heavy rain for Cumbria and Lancashire from 9.00am tomorrow (Thursday 29 October) until midnight this Friday evening. We are also expecting another band of heavy persistent rain during Saturday and then further rain on Sunday morning. At this stage it is too early to tell which areas will be affected the most.

We have issued a yellow flood warning for Cumbria and Lancashire from Thursday up to and including Sunday. We are currently forecasting a low chance of both flooding to property and impacts on transport. This may change as the weather pattern evolves.

Based on the current forecast we are expecting to issue several flood alerts and possible flood warnings for Cumbria and Lancashire from tomorrow and over the weekend.
The rain will be sweeping over the two counties in a series of 3 bands. We currently believe that river levels should have a chance to drop in between breaks in the rain.

We are prepared and ready to install temporary barriers and we are expecting to operate our flood basins. Our teams are on 24 hour standby and ready to respond
.


We continue to monitor coastal and river levels closely and are working with local authorities and partners to reduce the risk of flooding. Our teams are out on the ground working 24/7 clearing grids, checking defences and making sure our pumping stations are working. We are ready and prepared to respond to any flooding incidents in a socially distanced way.

We urge people in your constituency to check their flood risk, sign up for free flood warnings and keep up to date with the latest situation at https://www.gov.uk/check-flood-risk, call Floodline on 0345 988 1188 or follow @EnvAgencyNW and #floodaware on Twitter. Please feel free to highlight these information sources via your own social media.

We also advise people to take care on coastal paths, stay away from swollen rivers and not to drive through flood water as just 30cm of flowing water is enough to move your car.

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For any queries out of office hours, please ring the Floodline number on 0345 988 1188.



Open Letter To The Local Lead Flood Authority AKA Lancashire County Council

“Trenching without appropriate consents”, a primer for public officers uneducated in the custom and practice of digging drainage ditches.

“Dear Stephen Young

“Thank you for your email. The ditch referred to in your letter is a drainage ditch 200 yards away from the nearest house. Residents believe it has had no noticeable effect on the flooding on Crabtree Lane. Whereas BFG firmly believe that the cause of the railway line’s partial collapse is the increased flow of surface water from the new housing developments in Burscough. Each flood causes water to flow horizontally through the embankment resulting in cumulative damage until we arrived at the point where the embankment collapsed.

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“BFG first reported problems with the inadequacy of the rail culvert and floodwater build up against the railway embankment to the LLFA, when it met with it in 2016. The meeting was voice recorded and included Borough Councillor Andrew Pritchard, County Councillor Cynthia Dereli, Rachel Crompton Senior Flood Risk Manager, and Paul Baguley LLFA Officer. We have recently learnt that the LLFA in the four years since they were first being told about the problem have never warned Network Rail! Does the LLFA perceive as we do that this could be viewed as negligence?

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“Luckily no trains were derailed and nobody was hurt. Flooding could have been reduced or eliminated at any time, in the last 10+ years had: • LLFA warned network rail and, in turn, they had cleared its blocked culverts; • United Utilities (UU) increased the network capacity of their sewers to adequate rather than third world; • UU cleared their section of the boathouse sluice • LLFA addressed the general lack of capacity of the local water courses and the sewer network • The Environment Agency (EA) forced UU to clear the boathouse sluice as UU are the riparian owner.

“Yet none of them did anything! Instead LLFA have chosen to divert attention from the near rail disaster, due to the collective failure of the Flood Risk Management Authorities (FRMA), by falsely drawing negative attention to the action of the farmers. The farmers have removed a restrictive culvert and dug a new ditch to drain their own land simultaneously improving downstream drainage for Burscough.

“You don’t need permission to plough your land, dig drainage ditches, plant a hedgerow or create a shelter belt.” https://www.buyaplan.co.uk/…/53-how-do-planning-rules-affec…

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“Finally, as you must be aware, because I wrote to the LLFA at the commencement asking for technical assistance, BFG together with the Wilson family, Burscough Town Council and Bernard Webster have come up with a low cost fully funded solution to the flooding on Crabtree Lane using the Town Councils CIL money. The LLFA ignored the email!

“Now unfortunately a number of persons have made what we perceive as purely politically motivated objections and that has delayed our purchase of materials and stopped the project as of the 26th October. We note an alternative solution which was promoted by the LLFA on the 14th September, didn’t come into existence until after BFG’s solution had come to fruition. It is surprisingly similar but doesn’t have agreement amongst the FRMA, permission from the landowners, a cost (which is estimated to be 3 x more) or funding and will no doubt take four years more than our scheme.

“Due to weather and the needs of the farmer, there may only be a short window of time available to install our drainage scheme on farmland this year. Please can you reassure us that you will write to us within a week to formally tell what exactly is meant by “consent issues”? We don’t believe we need any more permissions than those we already have from the Environment Agency and the receiving landowner, however, if we do need any other consents, then will you assist us in obtaining them so that this delay in protecting residents who have suffered severe flooding doesn’t continue? Or will the LLFA ignore this email?”.

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Gavin Rattray – Secretary Burscough Flooding Group


The Relentless Rise Of Coronavirus In West Lancashire Continues

The West Lancashire Ormskirk & Southport Hospital NHS Trust has reported 102 coronavirus infections today, the total is now 3,116 and the infection rate is 2,726 cases per 100,000 of the population.

Sadly, NHS England has today reported two more coronavirus deaths, recorded by Ormskirk & Southport Hospitals NHS Trust, on October 27th. The shocking total is now 191 deaths.

They are included in thirteen more people dying in hospitals across Lancashire after testing positive for coronavirus.

LCC Recommends DIY For Leaf Clearance Of Blocked Drains

Try removing leaves to prevent blocked drains ahead of stormy weather. Lancashire County Council is asking more people to help in the constant battle to clear leaves from the top of drains, ahead of heavy rain forecast later this week.

It is estimated that up to 80% of reports received about problems with drains during the autumn are due to leaves sitting over the top of grates, rather than a more serious maintenance issue. Highways staff are grateful that many people already help by clearing debris away and allowing water to enter the drains, and is encouraging others to do the same if it is safe to do so.

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The Met Office has issued a yellow warning for rain affecting Lancashire from midday on Thursday and throughout Friday, and are alerting people to possible flooding to properties and disruption to travel in the worst affected areas. The county council maintains over 300,000 roadside drains with those most at risk of becoming blocked being checked most often.

County Councillor Keith Iddon, cabinet member for highways and transport, said “We will respond whenever we receive a report of flooding, and try to help however we can, whatever the source of the problem. Problems with highway drainage systems are very rarely the cause of flooding to properties, but often cause roads and pavements to become flooded if they have become blocked. At this time of year we have a lot of leaves on the ground, and with the heavy rain forecast for later this week, there is a likelihood that drains could become plugged by leaves.

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“During the autumn we very often find the cause of blocked drains is simply leaves lying on top of the grate which act like a plug and stop the water flowing down. The grates are designed to trap leaves and other debris to prevent them causing blockages further down the piped systems, which would be more difficult to deal with. If people are concerned that a highway drain is not flowing this may well be the cause, and if it’s safe to do so I’d ask people to consider brushing the leaves one side to see if that works, and if possible to clear the leaves away.

“However, please only do this if it’s safe as we would never want anyone to put themselves at risk. We do of course respond to all reports that we receive, but particularly during heavy rain when we have to prioritise the most serious flooding issues, it’s worth people knowing that most blocked drains can be easily cleared. If people could help by clearing leaves from drains during the autumn it helps to ensure they’re fully working when it rains heavily, and mean that highways staff are free to prioritise the most urgent flooding issues”.


Highways staff are this week checking locations which are vulnerable to flooding to ensure that highway drains and trash screens are clear in advance of the heavy rain forecast. If you can’t clear a blocked drain yourself, or the problem doesn’t appear to be caused by leaves, it can be reported at http://www.lancashire.gov.uk or by calling 0300 123 6701 and highways staff will attend as soon as they can. You can also find advice about what to do before, during and after a flood at lancashire.gov.uk/flooding.

The Use, Or Not, Of Council (Public) Useable Reserves, Part 3

Dear Ms Sinnot-Lacey

Thank you for your reply, which has explained, apparently, that the council useable reserves of £24,400,000 are really an apparition. They are phantom “useable” reserves, not fit to be used but reduced by your earmarked amounts of £21,600,000 to a mere £2,800,000. Why doesn’t WLBC publish that, real, information?


You quote “£1m is set aside to meet uncertainties in government funding within the revenue account…a further £15.5 m is earmarked for specific purposes…£2.6m of earmarked Housing Revenue Account (HRA) reserves and a further £3.6m of Capital Receipts Reserve that are specifically to be used for HRA purposes only and to fund planned capital projects within our capital programme”.

You write about the use of reserves to ensure that capital projects require financial viability. As I wrote about Cllr Moran stating “We have been placed in an impossible situation of deciding between the numbers of lives affected and lost in either scenario. Our COVID numbers are rising day by day and we must do something to address this, but we must protect our local economy, the long term mental health of our workforce and residents along with the risks of poverty that could come through job losses” do you consider your concerns for “meeting unforeseen costs, an example being insurance claims”, relevant to the real costs of 189 West Lancastrian lives lost as I write?

Cllr Yates is quoted as claiming a Covid-19 government payment to West Lancashire Council is short by £1.7million. It will be tragic if your response is to wring your collective council hands about £15.5 being earmarked for specific purposes and not for emergency relief.

My expectations of a reasonable and practical explanation of our, public, useable reserves, being used at such a time of crisis have been disappointed, to put it mildly.

And now, entering the fray, is Rosie Cooper MP who writes that she “voted to support the Labour motion calling on Government to continue directly funding free school meals over the school holidays until Easter 2021. If passed, this would have meant…2,444 children here in West Lancashire being supported and not going hungry during the pandemic, a time where millions of families are feeling the strain of unemployment, furlough, reduced wages or reduced hours. 

And she said “To ensure that children continue to be nourished is the absolute least this Government could do, but sadly the Prime Minister and the Conservatives voted against feeding the children. The old Conservative trait of knowing the cost of everything and the value of nothing continues, with children being punished by this Government due to the pandemic”.

Do you have a strange feeling that Rosie might regret that remark, bearing in mind Labour WLBC has just, in a few sentences, clearly demonstrated it knows the cost of every possible future reason to deny the use of reserves that could be feeding the 2,444 children she’s identified, and never mind the relief that could be given to our local economy?

The Use, Or Not, Of Council (Public) Useable Reserves, Part 2

From the WLBC Chief Operating Officer “Thank you for your email of 21st October regarding the Council’s reserves.

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“As you will be aware, the Council maintain reserves for a number of reasons and many of these are restricted or set aside to meet unforeseen costs, an example being insurance claims. The 2019/20 statement of accounts refers to “usable reserves” of £24.4m, all of which is either earmarked for specific purposes or ring fenced, of this, approximately £1m is set aside to meet uncertainties in government funding within the revenue account, and a further £15.5 m is earmarked for specific purposes. The latter amount includes funding generated from Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) monies, which are used in line with the CIL framework.

“Within the £24.4m, are £2.6m of earmarked Housing Revenue Account (HRA) reserves and a further £3.6m of Capital Receipts Reserve that are specifically to be used for HRA purposes only and to fund planned capital projects within our capital programme. You may also be aware that the Council also has a number of ambitious schemes in train, such as our plans to build new leisure facilities in Ormskirk and Skelmersdale in conjunction with our health partners and these projects will require the use of reserves to ensure that these schemes are viable financially.

“I would conclude by saying that our Council officers are working extremely closely with our local business communities to support them through these difficult times. We are working hard to ensure that we respond quickly to government initiatives and establish systems to enable available grant monies to be passed quickly to those in need
.

“We are continuously working with our members and partners to look at innovative and new ways that we can help those elements of our community that are most vulnerable during these unprecedented and difficult times. You will appreciate therefore that careful and prudent management of our limited finances and reserves is essential to achieve this”.

The Use, Or Not, Of Council (Public) Useable Reserves, Part 1

From WLR “Dear Chief Operating Officer, It’s been reported from Radio Lancashire that the WLBC Leader Cllr Moran stated, below,

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“Reluctantly I have been forced to put West Lancashire into Tier 3 for a
four-week period. Government have repeatedly failed to manage this
crisis and failed the people of West Lancashire. Talks have been ongoing
for days to secure a financial support package to be able to support our
vulnerable and shielding residents and the impact on local businesses,
job losses and loss of income for workers.


“As a county, Government offered just £12m in support, while Lancashire
Leaders argued that £50m was much closer to what was needed. The
Government have now offered £30m, but tell us that if we don’t move to
Tier 3 now they will impose on us anyway and provide less financial
support.


“The Government threatened West Lancashire with much stricter closures
if we don’t sign up, including the closure of our leisure centres and
gyms and possibly hairdressers and beauty salons. I believe if they
imposed these measures many would close and never return.


“We have been placed in an impossible situation of deciding between the
numbers of lives affected and lost in either scenario. Our COVID numbers
are rising day by day and we must do something to address this, but we
must protect our local economy, the long term mental health of our
workforce and residents along with the risks of poverty that could come
through job losses.


“The money we have secured we argue must be provided immediately to
enable the council to support our most vulnerable residents, and the
businesses and workers directly impacted upon”.


“You [COO] will be aware of WLBC declaring, in its published accounts, over
£25million in useable reserves. In what circumstances will WLBC make use of these reserves of public money to help the businesses and the local economy that Cllr Moran mentioned?
Or will the local economy stagnate and the poverty appear while the WLBC remains cash rich?

West Lancashire Coronavirus Is Rampant

The West Lancashire Ormskirk & Southport Hospital NHS Trust has sadly reported 2 deaths from coronavirus today, bringing the total to189 deaths since the pandemic began.

Our hospitals also recorded 96 infections today, the total is now 3,014, that’s 2,636.8 infections per 100,000 of the population.

Cllr Adam Yates, the WLBC cabinet member for resources and transformation, accused the government of breaking its promise to support councils after WLBC was granted less than £400,000 to cope with the pandemic instead of the expected £1.7million.”This failure of funding is an insult to local authorities in England and to our communities” he said.

But the WLBC has revealed its “useable reserves” of £24.4million which might help the borough economy at this time are not all they seem. In a reply to us the Chief Operating Officer has listed commitments covered by the useable reserves of £21,600,000, leaving a mere £2,800,000 of “possible” aid. Our expectations of a reasonable and practical explanation of our, public, useable reserves, being used at such a time of crisis have been disappointed, to put it mildly.

Sacrificing Sam?

According to the Wally led West Lancashire Conservatives website “Cllr Sam Currie, Aughton and Downholland Ward and Association Press Officer. Sam Currie is a Conservative Councillor in Aughton and Downholland. He was elected in May 2016. He lives in Haskayne”.

But he doesn’t live in Haskayne, he lives in London. Being an estate agent is apparently better thought of there. He handed in his notice and buggered off, far far away from those he should serve.

But fate and Covid-19 intervened, there could be no bye-elections, virtual meetings came in, a Labour member was rescued by some jiggery pokery, and we ended up being wangled into a status quo. And he did own a Haskayne property.

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Of course there had to be an embuggerance, there always is, and it has surfaced. He’s sold his Haskayne home subject to contract. An eagle eyed resident sent us a picture of the sign. What can’t speak can’t lie. Within weeks he won’t own or live in a West Lancashire Borough property. Will jiggery pokey resurface to save this Tory seat?

Or will Sam be legally stuffed and sacrificed with no other “you scratch my Tory back and I’ll scratch your Labour back” deal in the offing?
Will it be one down and seventeen to go in the much discussed but inactive policy of cutting the bloated WLBC by one third of its elected members?

Yes please!

The West Lancashire Front Organisation For Serco

This was posted on the website of then Cllr Paul Cotterill

on 13 March 2011 “West Lancashire Leisure Trust, the front organisation for Serco in West Lancashire, met on March 8th. As ever, it met behind closed door to discuss public money and public services. On the agenda, I understand, was the question of whether it should accept a voluntary reduction in its subsidy from West Lancashire Borough Council as its contribution to helping the Council deal with the massive cuts imposed by government.

As I’ve set out previously, a cut to the subsidy in line with the cuts to the council budget would mean an extra £150,000 in 2011-12 or so for the Council to maintain jobs and services. Serco and the Leisure Trust decided they would rather not bother with social responsibility. Presumably the shareholders might get upset”.


He also wrote “As I’ve reported, West Lancashire Community Leisure Trust met last night. On the agenda was a discussion about whether it would accept, effectively on behalf of its delivery partners Serco (because the Trust itself has little money), whether it would take a voluntary reduction in the subsidy paid to it by the Council.

“I had written to Trustees to suggest that a reasonable reduction might be on the same lines as the reduction in the central government grant to West Lancashire Borough Council. It was, I suggested, reasonable that Serco’s shareholders share the same pain, in monetary value terms, as West Lancashire’s residents.

“I do know what was discussed at the meeting, and I do not know what proposals may or may not have been put on the table. The fact that I am not allowed this information, even though I have asked specifically for it, is a matter of democratic deficit,
but I won’t go on about that here. What I have been told is that no decision was made by the Trustees last night, and that the matter will be considered further at the next board meeting on March 8th. This is on a matter which was first raised with the board in the Autumn, and I am unclear as to why a decision could not be taken last night.

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“The consequence of a failure to take a decision, however, is clear enough. The council’s budget will be set on 23rd February, and those setting the budget will need to assume that, as under the present contract, they need to fork out in the order of a million pounds to the Trust in continuing subsidy. This means that items of expenditure that might have been included in the budget, had a voluntary reduction been announced, will not be included in that budget.

“Just as handy examples, that might have included expenditure on concessionary travel for older and disabled people, or even the funding of free swimming for children under 16. The Leisure Trust and Serco have serious questions to answer on this matter, and I’ll keep on asking them, because that it my job as an elected representative, irrespective of how much information is withheld from me”.


And in 2020, you might assume the front organisation for Serco is the Labour West Lancashire Borough Council as it still hides from the public what the public will be still paying Serco for…how very un-Cotterill of them!


He was a governor of the Lathom High School which in 2017 wrote of him “Paul trained as a nurse and worked in London and Switzerland before moving to Bangladesh to work in urban slum primary health care and nutrition for a number of years. After spells in India and Tanzania, he returned to the UK and became involved in urban regeneration and community development work.

He has been a trustee to several charities in the West Lancashire area, and has had governance roles in primary and higher education before taking on his role at Lathom High School. He has also been a magistrate and a Non-Executive Director in the NHS. In a fund raising event he completed a charity cycle ride from Lands’ End to John O’Groats. He still enjoys a decent game of cricket especially being a left arm swing bowler, despite being very clearly over the hill and more suited to umpiring. Don’t ever get him on his favourite author, Franz Kafka, or he’ll bore you to tears”.