Category Archives: NewsWatch

West Lancashire Coronavirus Big Spike

The West Lancashire Ormskirk & Southport NHS Hospitals have reported 23 new coronavirus infections today, and the total has reached 908, that’s 794.4 cases per 100,000 of the population.

West Lancashire is reported to be split somewhat evenly, with nine areas seeing low rises of coronavirus. They are in Hesketh Bank & Tarleton; Scarisbrick, Halsall & Haskayne; Bickerstaffe & Newburgh; Ormskirk North & West; Ormskirk Town & East; Up Holland; Skelmersdale Ashurst; Skelmersdale South East; and Skelmersdale West.

432 new cases of coronavirus infections have been reported across Lancashire in the last 24 hours. Apparently it is the largest daily increase on record. It’s thought to be because of far more people being tested than ever. Sadly one death from coronavirus in Lancashire is reported today.

West Lancashire Borough Council states

Like other areas in the county special measures have been introduced in West Lancashire due to a rise in coronavirus cases. The new local rules will start on 22 September across West Lancashire to stop the disease spreading.

Please share the following regulations with family and friends so we can all keep safe: We cannot have visitors inside our home or in our garden or visit anyone else at their home or garden, unless they are in our support bubble; The food and drink hospitality sector is limited to table service only; Pubs, clubs and other night time attractions must close between 10pm and 5am

 The government is also advising us all to only use public transport for essential purposes, such as travelling to school or work and to avoid attending amateur and semi-professional sporting events as spectators.

Councillor Ian Moran, Leader of West Lancashire Borough Council, said “It’s really sad that these new measures have had to be introduced which have been imposed on us without consultation by national government. I would urge everyone in West Lancashire to stick to the new rules so we can beat coronavirus together. If we don’t we could face further restrictions or even a full local lockdown.”

“All other national guidelines are still in place, and we are still being advised to wash our hands regularly, keep our distance from others, wear face coverings in enclosed public spaces and on public transport (unless we are exempt), and get tested if we have symptoms of coronavirus.

“We can travel to work and go on holiday with our household members but you should only do this with people you live with (or have formed a support bubble with). We need to follow any rules in the area we visit and be aware of the self-isolation rules when travelling to and from certain countries. The measures will be monitored closely and reviewed on a weekly basis. The next steps will depend on the impact these measures have”.

 

Flooding Institutional Inertia Overcome By OWLs

Hopes rise for flood affected area after Network Rail “come to the table” with OWLs.

Hopes for progress to alleviate flood risk for long-suffering residents living in Crabtree Lane in Burscough have risen. Network Rail drainage experts have confirmed drainage investigation works are underway and they will be meeting with Lancashire County Council on Monday.

Despairing residents in the area approached OWL Councillor Adrian Owens

for assistance after the floods of the 11th August which saw properties once again flooded. Residents have suffered repeated flooding damage over recent years.

After spending 90 minutes outside their properties and listening to their concerns first hand, Cllr Owens took up a number of matters on their behalf. “A camera survey of the pipework system under Crabtree Lane has now taken place and today Network Rail (the rail line runs across the affected area) have confirmed their investigations are underway”.

Cllr Owens said “It was clear that residents were meeting institutional inertia in having their voice heard and that there was a lack of coordination between agencies. I’m pleased that agencies now appear to be pulling in the same direction and I hope that out of this will come meaningful and effective proposals to alleviate the flooding risk in this part of Burscough”.

Email to Rick Hellings Senior Asset Engineer Drainage & Off Track – NW&C Region (North) 11 September 2020 from Cllr Adrian Owens “Dear Mr Hellings, I am a West Lancashire Borough Councillor and I have very kindly been given your contact details by our council Drainage officer, David Owens. I am assisting residents in the area. I am writing in connection with the Drainage System in part of Burscough, West Lancashire close to Crabtree Lane which crosses beneath the Manchester to Southport train Line.

“I understand that Network Rail have been contacted regarding this previously, the reference number is Network Rail – Service Request Notification 200114-000419. The primary intention of this email is that discussion and communication can be opened up with yourselves, the Local Lead Flood Authority; other agencies and local residents in order to explore the possibility of considering works which could ultimately lead to reducing flooding locally with funding being made available from other sources than Network Rail’s alone.

“I understand that in previous correspondence from a resident, enquiries were made regarding Culverts and drains which were believed to pass beneath the Railway but had fallen into disrepair. Network Rail responded indicating that these could not be found. However, as a result of recent work carried out on drainage nearby, one culvert and one drain have now been uncovered and cleared. These are shown on attached images pic 1 and pic 2. As you should be able to see from the pictures, the Culvert allows a considerable amount of water to pass through”. There is more, read it on the OWL website. https://www.ourwestlancashire.com/2020/09/hopes-rise-for-flood-affected-area-after-network-rail-come-to-the-table/

Email from Rick Hellings to Cllr Owens Friday 18 September 2020 “Dear Councillor Owens, Thanks very much for your email and extremely detailed and useful account of the issues. We are undertaking drainage investigations into the area, and this information will help that investigation. I am going on a meeting with Lancashire County Council this coming Monday to discuss this and other local issues regarding flooding. My colleague, Ben Fitzpatrick will endeavour to keep you informed of further developments. Rick Hellings BEng (HONS), IEng MICE Senior Asset Engineer Drainage & Off Track – NW&C Region (North)”.

There is more detail. But the main reason for this development was the total despair of the residents of flooded Crabtree Lane Burscough. We showed this picture of a flood damaged house with its beautiful flooring ruined, enough to break your heart. Who came to help? 

Nobody from the local Labour party, no Labour councillors for Burscough, were evident. Nobody from the Labour Council was evident. But the Independent OWLs  listened and you can read what happened above.

It’s the same in Aughton  parts of the Town Green School and surrounding properties ruined. Where were the local Tory councillors? One lives and works in London but is paid full allowances, two others an equal waste of space. Time was we were told this borough council would be cut to 36 elected members from 54. It can’t come quick enough if Burscough and Aughton are setting the standard for service to taxpayers!

Friday Covid-19 Lockdown For West Lancashire?

Skelmersdale and Ormskirk look set to join the growing lockdown list as Merseyside also prepares for an announcement, according to government sources. Both towns are believed to be on a watchlist and the borough council will be notified today.

The North West is believed to be following the North East with new lockdown measures expected to be announced on Friday. Liverpool is known to be expecting the news.

NB The measures will come in from Tuesday. This has come as a surprise to some who feel that action is needed now to stop infections spreading in our Borough. But the government says the new measures will be brought in from midnight on Tuesday. From Tuesday, residents must not socialise with other people outside of their own households or support bubble in private homes and gardens.

Neglected Halsall-Enough is Enough!

Picture the scene in Halsall today. From an irate resident, who tells us “Enough is enough! Not only do residents of New Cut Lane Halsall have to endure and suffer surface water flooding, inadequate drainage systems and rogue developers building without planning permission whilst facing no penalty or recourse. Now, residents have other obstacles to overcome such as overgrown vegetation which completely blocks the footpath created by landowners who can’t be bothered to conduct basic maintenance.

“Photographic evidence clearly demonstrates the dangers of having to walk on the road to navigate around this vegetation. This issue was first reported to WLBC on the 3rd September 2019 and again on 29th July 2020 (Ref No RITM0042294).

“WLBC were asked to force the landowner to cutback and remove the overgrown vegetation or conduct the works and bill the landowner for the Councils time.

“A small amount of vegetation cutting was conducted in November 2019; however, the problem has continually been getting worse. As yet, WLBC has failed to respond at all to this basic request but it’s very poor that an e-mail acknowledgement has not been sent let alone any action on the situation after nearly 2 months have passed”.  

Which local bureaucrat  is really to blame here? The WLBC bureaucrat who hasn’t liaised with the County? Who is elected to the County to represent Halsall, who do Halsall taxpayers expect to take up the issues the County is responsible for? That’s Aughton resident David O’Toole  the multiple hatter. 

From Lancashire County Council

Time to Cut Your Overhanging Hedges Back? “So many of our footpaths and pavements are too narrow at the best of times, but hedges and trees encroaching onto the public highway often force pedestrians into the road or make navigating a right of way like trecking through a jungle. Lancashire County Council has responsibility for ensuring that the footpaths and pavements are free from obstructions, including overgrown hedges. It is the owner’s responsibility to keep them cut back. In spring and early summer, overgrown hedges are one of the most common complaints we receive, but by then its often too late to do anything because birds are nesting. Please, please, please, if you have a hedge adjacent to a public footpath or a pavement, make sure it is cut well back so pedestrians are not inconvenienced. And if you are a pedestrian who is inconvenienced, or whose safety is compromised by an overgrown hedge, report it early: once birds are nesting nothing can be done. Most highways complaints such as these should be reported to highways@lancashire.gov.uk, or use http://www.fixmystreet.com or telephone 0300 123 6780.

And when all the above fails, don’t wait to be run over as you are forced onto the highway! As reported below

“I wish to report a serious overgrown vegetation issue from a plot of land between No 20 and 22 New Cut Lane Halsall (PR83DW). As evidenced by the photos this clearly demonstrates the obstacle created and the road safety issue in navigating the footpath. Residents have been complaining about this for some time and now not only is it an nuisance but also a safety hazard.

“WLBC parks and gardens department were contacted last September 2019 (ref No (Ref No RITM0042294) requesting that they either contact the landowner to cutback the vegetation and or conduct the work and bill the landowner for the works completed. This issue was reported yet again to WLBC however they do not wish to get involved for reasons unknown”.

 

Virgin Care Hits Back At NHS Privatisation Claims In West Lancs

…is the headline in The

And there it is, the usual claim that out of the goodness of his heart “Health group claim boss Richard Branson does not seek to make a penny from the NHS…” after a letter to the Champion.

Of course not, he’s filthy rich by using his skill in using money to make more money. Virgin Care has never made a profit…except in the tax free British Virgin Islands!

“Research also found that Virgin Care borrows money solely from a Virgin holding company and reports that it will repay that loan, which will be corporation tax-deductible, when a profit starts to be recorded. That holding company is based in the UK but it, in turn, owes money to other parts of the Virgin business, whose ultimate parent company is in the British Virgin Islands. This type of corporate set-up has potential for reducing or eliminating the tax liabilities of operating companies; a company in the UK could always report a loss due to loan repayments to sister companies thereby never having to pay tax”.

West Lancashire Urgent Care And Community Care

Virgin Care was awarded two five-year contracts together worth £65 million in December 2016 by West Lancashire CCG. The community health services contract is worth £45 million and the urgent care services is worth £20 million; both started on 1 April 2017. The services include district nurses, community matrons, IV therapy, end of life teams, GP out of hours and walk-in centres. The current provider, Southport and Ormskirk Hospital NHS Trust, was not shortlisted for the contracts.

Virgin Care has become a major player in the market for NHS services since it entered the healthcare market in 2010. Over the past seven years the company has been awarded contracts worth well over £2 billion, with several large contracts in community health.

Virgin Care has probably been the most active private company in the area of NHS contracts for community health and in 2016 the company made the move into adult social care. In early 2020, Virgin Care reported on its website that it operates over 400 NHS services around England; despite the scale of its business the company shows no signs of making a profit. Indeed, according to its accounts, since 2010 the company has recorded an annual loss in the UK.

As Virgin Care Ltd makes no profit in the UK, the company pays no tax in the UK. However, Virgin Care Ltd is a small entity in Richard Branson’s Virgin empire.

Legal challenges

Virgin Care has been very successful in winning contracts with the NHS, but if it does not win, the company will turn to the courts. In December 2017, Virgin Care was awarded a five year contract for the 0-19 year healthy child programme by Lancashire County Council. However, following a legal challenge by the NHS trusts’ who were currently carrying out the work a judge overturned the decision in June 2018 stating that the scoring process by the council was flawed. The NHS trusts’ continued to run the service until April 2019 whilst the council re-evaluated the bids. In October 2018, following a re-evaluation of the bids, the council re-awarded the contract to Virgin Care.

So, just for clarity, the ultimate parent is Virgin Group Holdings Ltd registered in the British Virgin Islands whose beneficiaries are Richard Branson and his family. The British Virgin Islands are a tax haven and entities registered there pay no tax. As a result of the link with the British Virgin Islands, questions have been raised over whether tax would be paid in the UK if Virgin Care made a profit.

So why was he knighted? “In March 2000, Branson was knighted at Buckingham Palace for “services to entrepreneurship”. For his work in retail, music and transport (with interests in land, air, sea and space travel), his taste for adventure, and for his humanitarian work, he has become a prominent global figure”.

You couldn’t make it up!

Another Surge In West Lancashire Coronavirus Infections

The West Lancashire Ormskirk & Southport NHS Hospitals reported a surge of 12 coronavirus infections today with the total brought to 885, that’s 774.2 infections per 100,000 of the population.

No coronavirus-related deaths were recorded in hospitals in Lancashire according to today’s NHS figures. But there were 250 new cases of coronavirus confirmed in Lancashire despite ongoing problems with testing capacity, reports Public Health England.

West Lancashire Reports Increased Coronavirus Infections

The Ormskirk & Southport NHS Trust Hospitals reported 5 additional coronavirus infections today, that’s now 873 cases, and 763.7 infections per 100,000 of the population.

There were 137 new cases of coronavirus infections confirmed in Lancashire in the last 24 hours, according to the latest figures from Public Health England. No coronavirus-related deaths were recorded in hospitals in Lancashire today.

Afternoon Ormskirk From County Councillor Nikki Hennessey

Lancashire Combined Fire Authority

“I am so proud to be appointed as the Vice Chairman of the Lancashire Combined Fire Authority. The Authority is responsible for providing an effective and efficient Fire and Rescue Service which provides maximum value for money for Lancashire. The Authority is legally required to enforce fire safety legislation and to reduce the risk of fire causing death, serious injury and property related losses to the community. It must also make provision for rescuing people in the event of road traffic collisions”.

The Humiliation Of The ICO And WLBC

We expect our readers all know about the First-tier Tribunal (General Regulatory Chamber) Information Rights case that Gavin Rattray

won hands down against “The Information Commissioner (First Respondent) and West Lancashire Borough Council (Second Respondent) before Judge Anthony Snelson, Mr Pieter De Waal, and Mr Andrew Whetnall”?

The unanimous decision of the Tribunal was that: (1) The appeal is allowed. (2) The First Respondent’s decision that the Second Respondent correctly applied the Environmental Information Regulations 2004, reg 12(4)(b) is set aside and the Tribunal substitutes its own decision that reg 12(4)(b) was not correctly applied and the Second Respondent was not entitled to rely on that provision as entitling it to refuse the Appellant’s request for information dated 27 October 2017.

There is no doubt that the concerns raised by Mr Rattray are serious. He describes without challenge (supported by photographic and other evidence) consequences of heavy rainfall which frequently include blockage of highways and rights of way by standing water and the overflow into roads and gardens of raw sewage.

Gavin Rattray was declared “vexatious or ‘manifestly unreasonable’” by WLBC, which was a bit rich from people who couldn’t manage flood risks locally. But the big surprise during the case was when WLBC invoked the West Lancashire Record in its case against Gavin Rattray. As the judgement noted

“The Council also places reliance on an anonymous social media post dated 4 October 2018 by the West Lancashire Record entitled, “If At First You Don’t Succeed, Become Vexatious”. It is evident that the piece was composed by someone with knowledge of the request of 27 October 2017 and the subsequent response of the Council and adjudication of the Commissioner. It is deeply critical of the Council’s perceived failure to deal with the flooding problems in Burscough and its response to the request. It ends by ironically congratulating “the complainant” for the successful outcome conveyed in the Commissioner’s subsidiary finding that the Council was in breach of the freedom of information legislation by failing to respond within the statutory 20 working days period, adding, “you’ve proved that those bureaucrats ARE accountable!” Despite its title, however, the post does not advocate the presentation of further requests for information, vexatious or otherwise. If anything, its general tenor is that no good would come of doing so”.

There is a lesson here. It doesn’t just relate to flooding. As the case decision notes “We are troubled by the logic of the Council’s case, which it does not shrink from expressing in plain language, that the door must now be closed on any further request for information related to flooding risk in and around Burscough. That logic runs counter to the entire spirit of the freedom of information legislation. It seeks to deprive Mr Rattray and, by extension, other concerned individuals who might be seen as associated with him, apparently forever, of an important constitutional right to seek information in order to hold a public body to account on a matter of obvious public significance”.

Isn’t the dreadful case of the Beacon Park Golf Course landfill for private £millions, unknown but massive, royalty gain for Serco Leisure Operating Ltd and Oakland Golf and Leisure Ltd just as bad? As is stated by the Judge of this First-tier Tribunal “We reject the Council’s contention that Mr Rattray’s manner and tone in airing his concerns, through requests for information or otherwise, warrant the conclusion that the request under consideration is “manifestly unreasonable.” It is certainly true that he has complained vociferously that the Council has failed to live up to its responsibilities and has tried to minimise the problems to which he draws attention. He has also not hesitated to rehearse the history going back to 2012 and before but there is of itself nothing vexatious about that”.

This judicial decision can only encourage the plebs, the unwilling slaves to the decision makers, not to accept what is forced on us. How often have I, and Rosie Cooper acting for me, been told by WLBC that in the case of the WLBC owned Beacon Park Golf Course “information was provided directly to the Leisure Trust by (the corrupt) DCT and was not shared with the Council” and “In relation to the contract the Council was not part of the legal arrangements between DCT and Oaklands and does not have a copy of the contract”, the last occasion being 6th August 2020. It’s not that we deserve better than this, it is that WLBC should guarantee us there has been no corruption involved in the Beacon Park Golf Course landfill development.