Posted by: westlancashirerecord | January 15, 2018

Why Do Some Politicians Wallow In Ignorance?

What a good question, as we see the general carping from a very junior councillor about others who can show superior knowledge and service to his. It’s the Derby ward “independent of Labour and Conservative” Our West Lancashire councillor Adrian Owens  who asks it.

He writes “A supposed advantage of electing people from different walks of life to a Parliament or Council Chamber would be that better decisions are reached. Elected MPs or councillors bring expertise; knowledge or life experience to the subjects under debate. In return, they are listened to, proposals modified and better decisions reached. For all its faults (and I happen to favour an elected second chamber), the House of Lords very often reflects this well. If only the same could be said of West Lancashire Borough Council. Instead we regularly see two tribes going to war. Any comment made by someone not in their tribe is one to be dismissed out of hand.

“At the council meeting just prior to Christmas, Skelmersdale Councillor, Claire Cooper had tabled an important motion on fire safety in the aftermath of the Grenfell Tower tragedy. As I work professionally in health and safety, including fire safety, I suggested that Cllr Cooper might want to strengthen her motion which was a representation to the Government on how national fire policy should change after the tragedy in Kensington.

“I made a suggestion about defining what was meant by high rise building (was it five storeys, 10 storeys or what?) using the current definition in current building regulations. I also put forward that if we really wanted to create a positive impact on fire safety that we should lobby the government to require sprinklers to be fitted in all new Care Homes in addition to the calls in the motion for sprinklers in high rises and schools. After all, fires in care homes such as Rose Park and Newgrange only 8 months ago have claimed more lives in recent years than school fires.

“Councillor Cooper is the sort of councillor that West Lancashire needs. She is very active in her community and prepared to listen. She agreed to amend her motion to take on board and strengthen it.

“Alas, we reckoned without the more typical tribal West Lancashire Councillor. Cllr John Hodson a Labour cabinet member quickly jumped in and bullied his group to stick to the straight and narrow pre-rehearsed wording. Perish the thought that anything put down on paper before the meeting could possibly be improved through the process of debate. Then we had a Conservative councillor misunderstand how sprinklers work, though afterwards in private he had the good grace to apologise. Meanwhile another Labour councillor showed his complete ignorance by stating that burnt toast could set off a sprinkler. Anyone watching the debate would have been dismayed at many of the contributions, often from councillors woefully ignorant of the subject or simply tribal”.

And, possibly with Cllr Currie in mind among others he quotes “He knows nothing; and he thinks he knows everything. That points clearly to a political career.” George Bernard Shaw. How apt! Read the article here

Posted by: westlancashirerecord | January 14, 2018

Currie Stands For Himself and Downholland, Not For Aughton

The idiotic stance taken by Cllr Currie is that nearness to the ward represented by a councillor is crucial to being fair to those living in the ward. In which case why are so many councillors representing wards they don’t live in, or are near to, quoting Cllrs Stephenson, Westleys, Hodsons, Hennessy, Moran, Savage, as examples?

Also as idiotic is the apparent right of Currie to complain about other councillors from Labour raising the issue of respect “failing to treat the mayor with respect by not stopping speaking when asked, and also of bringing his office or the council into disrepute” all of which indicates simply a lack of good manners, not to mention integrity towards the electorate by walking out of a Council meeting. “Come along children, keep in line”…the Party line, that is!

Of course Currie could look back four years, when WLR asked “Do Halsall, Aughton, Burscough, and WLBC have “Councillor Accountability” and what is its value? In a case of considerable interest to observers of “elected councillor accountability” a striking example occurred in Halsall during the course of the Local Plan through its consultations on proposed residential developments on New Cut Lane.

A number of alleged incidents relating to the conduct of Parish and once, for reasons unknown the Borough Deputy Mayor, Councillor Doreen Stephenson , a current Currie colleague, were reported. They included various complaints of her alleged failure to comply with the Code of Conduct; alleged breach of the Principles of Openness and Accountability; alleged lack of Accountability and Integrity; alleged lack of Honesty, Openness and Integrity. These incidents allegedly occurred in July, August, September, and October 2013 at parish and public meetings and were witnessed. They became the subject of a formal complaint relating to four issues.

In essence, the formal complaint was relative to the Councillor’s alleged conduct as parish and borough councillor and her alleged attitude and responses to the public. It sought removal of the Councillor from all public office. At the October meeting of the Halsall Parish Council it was alleged, recorded, and reported the Councillor shouted “I am glad that woman has left” in response to the Complainant being upset by a previous alleged remark that “I will not be pushed out and if you had all handled the situation differently the outcome would have been different” in reply to a question in respect of her not representing residents’ views.

In the Official Response there is included a particular reference made by the Monitoring Officer that “…however, the comment that the Subject Member is alleged to have made when the Complainant left the room is likely to be a breach of the respect provision in paragraph 3.1 of the Code”. I do not consider that the four issues raised in the complaint could reasonably be dealt with by local resolution, e.g. by way of an apology or other remedial action.

“Having regard to the Complaint, the seriousness of the allegations as set out at (i) and (ii) above, balancing the interests of good governance in undertaking or completing an investigation into these four issues in the complaints and all relevant matters the Monitoring Officer in consultation with the Independent Person has decided that no action should be taken on these allegations. In determining this, regard was had to the significant cost of an investigation against the “value” of a finding of breach which, in these circumstances under the current standards regime, would provide limited available sanctions to the Standards Committee. It is noted that the remedy sought by the Complainant is not a sanction that is available to the Standards Committee under the current regime”.

So WLR then asked “Does that mean our councillors should pick their offences carefully so as to avoid a sanction, apart from the ballot box whenever that might be for them as individuals and could be one/two/three years away? How many ways can this WLBC defend its alleged recalcitrant councillors? Cost, as it applies to the public cost for who else pays council tax for events such as this, is a new excuse for insulting the public…”significant cost of an investigation against the “value” of a finding of breach”. Well, we must give them the answer to that. Whatever the cost, whatever the sanctions, councillors must be judged properly. A breach DOES have a value. Good governance is indispensable and critical to the values we, the public, set ourselves.

And WLR suggested “Our council values its council tax funded councillor hospitality; it values its council tax conservation grants; it values its generous conditions for its employees; it values its denial of travel help for disabled immobile residents; it valued its poor management of its Housing Division. These “council” values should be open to challenge because they are not OUR values and we see breaches of them all too often. This particular alleged breach should be vigorously appealed by the Complainant. An alleged comment that’s described as “likely to be a breach of the respect provision” is equally likely to have consequences. After all, a bland conclusion that “does not merit further action” decision merits further public consideration in the ward and parish where the alleged offences occurred.

Posted by: westlancashirerecord | January 13, 2018

Are These Village Councillors For Real?

While we who suffer local council representation by people like Sam Currie, Wally Westley, and David O’Toole, who are seldom seen “being councillors” in Aughton & Downholland, the state of our area just gets worse. Scruffy and unkempt, neglected, it’s as shabby as our representation. If ever there was a case for councillor reductions, it is here in Aughton & Downholland. They receive annually a collective £17,915 and we would be better to see that spent on paying a ward road cleaner! 5 councillors for 2 wards is ridiculous.

This  is the state of the grid at the Aughton Surgery pavement on Town Green Lane. When it rains it floods, which is quite often.

And this  is the overgrown pavement on Prescot Road near its junction with Town Green Lane, reduced to single pedestrian walking, pushing prams, using wheelchairs, due to neglect that councillors should address.  Well, we might just as well be represented by locally grown turnips! What are Sam Currie, Wally Westley, and David O’Toole doing for the ward they are paid to represent ? Not a lot, and by reading what follows you get the drift of the stupidity of one of them.

Sam Currie tweets; Elected #westlancs Cllr @LizSavagelabour on average tweets five times more about Southport than she does about her own borough. Will she be standing down this May.

Mary Jones‏ @jones22_Replying to @Samuel_P_Currie @LizSavagelabour @LabourWestLancs No she won’t, @Samuel_P_Currie but, if she did, rest assured that your party wouldn’t replace her! Bad enough dealing with the privatisation your Party has forced on West Lancs with Virgin Health Care

Sam Currie‏ @Samuel_P_Currie Replying to @jones22_mary @LizSavagelabour @LabourWestLancs Thank you for your response, Mary. Regardless of party politics I believe that West Lancs residents deserve cllrs who are committed to them and not focussing their efforts elsewhere. I’m sure you would agree with this.

So, Sam, tell us about your drinking buddy, Wyre and WLBC Tory Cllr Paul Moon . Is he someone you believe is “committed to West Lancs and not focussed elsewhere”, Wyre perhaps, or just on two full-time councillor allowances for the part-time fun of it and bugger the electorate? Double standards, perhaps?

Posted by: westlancashirerecord | January 12, 2018

A Not So Champion Moaning Letter?

In the letters today Dr John Watt bemoans the fact that “Leaving the EU was never a simple black and white question”. Of course it wasn’t although the Ballot question itself was simple enough as we all know. But in its wisdom our government of the day issued a £9million leaflet “Why the Government believes that voting to remain in the European Union is the best decision for the UK” to every household in the UK.

So it came down to how the government would influence the result with the leaflet. It would be “An important decision for the UK”, about “A stronger economy”, about “Improving our lives”, about “What happens if we leave?”, “Controlling immigration and securing our borders”, “The benefits of EU membership”, a “A once in a generation decision”.

The Champion letter  purports to represent more accurately the balance of opinion, especially “when only 37% of the electorate voted for Brexit”. We’ve been here before and explained the referendum was the highest ever vote in the UK. “Brexit options were not adequately understood”…tough, every election brings cries of the losers never being understood. The letter mentions “imagined trade benefits…” but doesn’t mention our “actual trade deficit” with the EU. A mere £70billion or so!

And the letter rambles on to a crescendo of being “…necessary to condemn the despicable and shameful Home Office treatment of so many EU nationals who have been settled for years in this country and which seems to be responsible for fostering the hostile attitudes”. And the evidence for that claim is where?

In actuality it seems that the UK is doing rather well. The UK economy has strengthened, growing by 0.5pc in the three months to November as a weaker pound helped boost manufacturing exports, data from the National Institute of Economic and Social Research (NIESR) suggests. This comes as official data showed exports to non-EU countries had grown. Excluding the EU, the trade deficit narrowed by nearly £3bn, as the impact of the cheaper pound made UK goods more affordable.

Figures released also revealed improved export activity in every region of the UK, according to data from HMRC, with England’s and Scotland’s exports rising by 14pc and 19.9pc respectively. Imports to the UK from the EU grew in the three months to October however, widening the trade deficit with the UK’s largest trading partner by £1.9bn, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS). All, surprisingly, despite Brexit! Perhaps it really was the case that the public had had enough of “experts” telling us what a terrible fate Brexit would bring us, those experts being failed politicians and bankers, enough said!

Posted by: westlancashirerecord | January 11, 2018

Aughton Surgery To Move?

Depending on the outcome of the upcoming Parrs Lane Planning Inquiry, the Aughton Surgery management has instructed Assura HC Limited to act as a third party developer to secure new practice premises. Assura confirmed its interest to WainHomes on 14th November 2017, as the attached letter  shows. It comes as no surprise that a proposed D1 Use for Long Lane might re-emerge after the Aughton Surgery withdrew from the original proposal. But the emergence of a Developers’ map shows the new D1 to be near the corner of Parrs Lane/Prescot Road behind Crossways. Assura seems intent on stating its case for the creation of “New GP premises to enable the practice to meet the demands of modern primary healthcare” and “…serve a patient list size of nearly 6,000 people”. It also cites a “lack of available clinical rooms”, something not immediately obvious to those of us on the practice list. The map indicates that a public footpath link from Prescot Road into the proposed surgery would create a pedestrian road crossing hazard from those living in and around Town Green side, which, combined with current school traffic, will be exceptionally dangerous.

The Secretary of the Burscough Flooding Group has told the public via the Champion Letters that the county council won’t meet with the residents group to discuss flooding problems. Mr Rattray believes the Local Lead Flood Authority is a disgrace. His letter is here .

There is a WLBC planning application: 2017/1275/FUL “The Wildfowl And Wetlands Trust Martin Mere Fish Lane Burscough Ormskirk Lancashire L40 0TA. Removal of the existing tensile geodesic dome and construction of a new teaching structure, a new bespoke pond dipping area with the creation of four raised dipping ponds, set under a netted cover with landscape enhancements to an adjacent large existing pond providing natural dipping areas”.

Mr Rattray also wrote “Dear Parish Councillors, WLBC and Residents

Note: The following is a copy of the information uploaded to WLBCs planning portal with added photographs. The closing date to make comments is the 12th January. I urge anyone with first hand experience of flooding near or at MM to comment on the application themselves.

I wish to comment on the flooding aspects of the recent WWT planning application referenced above in light of the Flood Risk Assessment provided by the WWT, which states, “there are no historical records of flooding in this location since 1975 when it became a WWT Centre”…not even the flooding that occurred in October 2012 and was reported by…yes, Martin Mere itself”

Burscough Flooding Group’s records indicate that:

• Residents and farmers near Martin Mere (MM) report that they have suffered regular flooding and near misses for many years. 
• One resident reported who began to suffer flooding in 2014, reported that the groundwater level is substantially higher than it was 30 years ago.
• One farmer neighbouring MM regularly loses £1000s of pounds worth of crops to flooding and blames MM. 
• A resident of Fish Lane (living opposite MM) told us that widespread flooding occurred in September 2012 when MM had to make huge efforts to rescue birds from all over the sanctuary. It was reported in the Champion at the time. The same residents has contacted WLBC to complain about MM several times, he believes that the height of the Martin Mere’s weir has had a very negative effect on his homes flood risk and has the impounding of water to enable MM to operate its canoe safari. He also stated that at previous applications MM had incorrectly stated they have no knowledge of flooding at the site despite flooding being widely reported in the media. 
• One Fish Lane resident was internally flooded due to groundwater flooding on Christmas Day 2015 and at least one other suffered internal flooding beginning on Christmas Day 2015.
• Two homes on Fish Lane have had flood prevention equipment installed through WLBC issue of central government grants. 
• Seven homes on Fish Lane (living opposite/near Martin Mere) suffered flooding on Boxing Day 2015, some of those saved their homes from internal flooding by digging ditches and using portable pumps. No doubt as always some won’t have reported their flood to any of the authorities.
• Martin Mere was badly flooded beginning on Christmas Day 2015 and still deeply flooded eleven days later on the 5th January 2016 when the attached pictures were taken for the Southport Visitor.

BFG have made considerable efforts to get to the bottom of the flooding problems that residents, farmers and MM suffer from, and to that end we had a lot of correspondence with the Environment Agency (EA) including FOI and have met them in their offices. We found that the weir at MM wasn’t licenced and doesn’t have any formal approval, nor is there any evidence of MM consulting with local residents or farmers over the weir. All of the residents and neighbours who have spoken to BFG generally blame MMs weir and impounding of water for their problems.

BFG through its communication with the EA believes that the flooding at MM is caused by lack of maintenance of the boathouse sluice and the catchment drainage systems, housing developments in the catchment and global warming. We do know that the weir at MM has a negative effect on nearby flood risk and are very concerned about the above; especially as we believe MM have plans to alter the weir (if they haven’t already done so) and perceive that the EA do not have the inclination to make MM consult with their regularly flooded neighbours first. Nor do we believe that WLBC as our LPA is keeping an eye on MMs plans for the weir despite the flood risk it poses. Some residents we spoke to believe that MM turned its pumps from the purpose of raising the channels for canoeing to instead dump floodwater water onto farmland downstream after Boxing Day 2015. We know that this wouldn’t have been possible if the wetland centre (MM) had a published water management plan. It doesn’t and we believe that this is a serious failure of the authorities to regulate it. That, along with their failure to control the development of MMs weir means that the authorities as a whole are failing to do the basic checks on MM and therefore not protecting its many neighbours from flooding.

We trust that WLBC will take the opportunity to address its past failures to regulate MM by questioning MMs FRA in detail and gets them to correct it. In addition, as WLBC is currently travelling the county looking for flood risk, we hope that for residents sakes many of whom are rightfully angry about the high level of flooding they suffer, it analyses the risk posed by MM’s weir, canoe safari and lack of water management plan.

By its own public admission “2nd October 2012 WWT News “Last week wasn’t such a good week for us here at WWT Martin mere we experienced a lot of flooding due to the heavy rain fall. We were flooded from Tuesday carrying on until Saturday. It was the worse flood I have seen in 40 years. The local farmers said they had not experienced that kind of flooding since 1957 when the original draining bank burst and flooded large areas of land. The main implications were some of the birds had to be moved. We did however for the captive birds make floating rafts out of pallets to put food on for them. We also had to move the cattle onto dryer grounds. There was no additional damage caused to the centre, just loss of revenue, inconvenience for both us and members and additional work for the ground staff. Thankfully we are now open as usual”.

It is not just the Burscough Flooding Group that should be fighting what passes for planning probity around flooding. The more time that passes, the more the chance of every property in West Lancashire being flooded. 

Posted by: westlancashirerecord | January 10, 2018

Currie Spat Verging On The Ridiculous

The WLBC solicitor has concluded that borough councillors ought to be robust and aware of what constitutes a breach of the code of conduct. He was referring to a complaint involving Aughton & Downholland Cllr Currie . An unnamed Labour councillor made an official complaint over the behaviour of Cllr Sam Currie at a council meeting in October 2017, in which he criticised another councillor before repeating his comments in a subsequent press release.

Cllr Currie, who ran disastrously as the Parliamentary candidate in West Lancashire in last year’s General Election when he was crushed by Rosie Cooper, had questioned if another councillor had stepped down from a committee role due to living too far away, and whether doing so was fair to those living in her ward. In an official complaint the Aughton and Downholland councillor was accused of failing to treat the other councillor with respect, failing to treat the mayor with respect by not stopping speaking when asked, and also of bringing his office or the council into disrepute.

After being cleared of any misconduct by a West Lancashire Borough Council solicitor, Cllr Currie hit out at Labour for wasting the council’s time and money on the complaint which involved an independent adjudicator overseeing the process.

He said he only learnt of the complaint after receiving a letter clearing him of any breach of the code. He said “How can this be conducive to local government when on the one hand they’re complaining about the government cutting back on local government resources and on the other they’re frivolously wasting money on spurious complaints? I think there should be complete transparency and to not be able to ask questions is not transparent”.

Responding to the criticism Cllr Ian Moran , the leader of the Labour-run council, said the complaint was made by an individual councillor and that he had absolutely no problem with them doing so. He also pointed to previous complaints made by Conservative councillors which have also resulted in no misconduct being found.

He said “Councillors are entitled to put complaints in. If you look at the past record, most of the complaints have been from Conservatives so I think he needs to refresh his memory. He is entitled to jump up and down but I’m happy with our stance”.

It was left to the decision of the borough’s solicitor to argue that a degree of ‘robustness’ is expected of those holding office and that nothing which was alleged to have been said would have constituted a breach of the code of conduct. Ultimately, he argued, the threshold required for a breach of the code was ‘much higher’ than what was alleged. Perhaps Currie might wonder if he is so thin skinned as to be unsuitable for public office? Probably!

Posted by: westlancashirerecord | January 10, 2018

LCC To Increase Band D Council Tax By 5.99%

Upcoming LCC  recommendations are that the LCC Cabinet is asked to: (i) Note the current forecast underspend of £15.758m on the revenue budget in 2017/18 and agree the transfer of the final underspend at year end into the transitional reserve. (ii) Note the revised funding gap of £144.492m covering the period 2018/19 to 2021/22 as set out in the revised financial outlook forecast for the Council. (iii) Approve the additional budget adjustments for 2018/19, and following years’ increases, included in the revised MTFS following the financial settlement. (iv)Approve for purposes of consultation the budget proposals set out in Appendix C, the outcomes of the consultation to be reported back to Cabinet for consideration in due course. (v) Approve the budget proposals set out in Appendix D, authorise officers to proceed with their implementation and agree that the 2018/19 budget is based upon these revenue decisions (vi)Agree to make recommendations to Full Council on 8th February 2018 a Band D Council Tax for 2018/19 reflecting a 5.99% increase including 3% to be used for social care as per the new flexibilities. (vii)Note the contents of the County Council’s Reserves position at 31st December 2017 forecast at 190.285m at the end of 2019/20, and approve the transfers between reserves contained within the report. (viii)Approve the specific capital programme estimated at £226.117m for 2018/19 – 2020/21 as presented within the body of the report. (ix)Approve prudential borrowing totalling £200.428m over the period 2017/18 to 2020/21 as identified within the Capital Programme report.

Posted by: westlancashirerecord | January 9, 2018

Knowing Your Pratt From Your Marsh

Not to be outdone by the national Conservative gaff of there being two party chairs in one day, the latest local Tory WallyCon website gaff comes with the news that they don’t know their Pratt from their Marsh.

As you can see here  they’ve published “Dave Marsh-Deputy Chairman for Membership and Fundraising” followed by details of “George Pratt…”. Perhaps it is a general party malaise? Last night they were holding a local executive meeting although we suspect it was more quiz than executive… We hear that Marsh is standing as the Conservative Candidate for Upholland in the Borough Elections in May 2018. He lives in Skelmersdale. NB…the Tory website has been altered, Mr Pratt is history!

Posted by: westlancashirerecord | January 8, 2018

Silly CIL Not For Flood Mitigation?

The Community Infrastructure Levy is a planning charge, introduced by the Planning Act 2008 as a tool for local authorities in England and Wales to help deliver infrastructure to support the development of their area. You might well ask what community, what infrastructure, and what levy, because in the hands of our bureaucrats  it isn’t what it seems. For example, it is for parks, but not a Burscough park associated with the Yew Tree Farm homes!

And local planning authorities can use CIL money to provide or improve infrastructure but not flood mitigation, and to pay for the operation and maintenance of this infrastructure. They can use it for libraries, health facilities, community centres, public realm, and leisure centres.

From April 2013 15% of the Community Infrastructure Levy revenue collected by the Local Authority is passed directly to those Parish and Town Councils where development has taken place. In areas where CIL is collected, the amount of CIL passed on is capped at £100 per existing council tax dwelling per year. In West Lancashire 80% of the CIL monies collected will be used for strategic infrastructure, 15% of the CIL monies collected will be given to parish councils for use on local infrastructure, and 5% of the CIL monies collected are used to fund some of the costs of the administration of CIL

West Lancashire Borough Council invited comments on the CIL Funding Programme proposals between 5 October and 3 November 2017. The consultation sought comments on how the unallocated strategic CIL monies received 2017/18 should be spent in 2018/19, and what projects they should be spent on.

As expected, many of the schemes suggested are “not appropriate for CIL funding because they are not an item listed on the R123 list /are not “infrastructure”. The Regulation 123 list (R123) sets out what the Council must spend CIL on, and is designed to prevent Councils from double-charging developers for infrastructure. Flood defences are excluded from the R123 list and so CIL monies cannot be used to deliver flood mitigation, instead that must be secured through planning conditions or planning obligations on specific sites. Subsequently, CIL cannot be used to fund flood mitigation or prevention.

“CIL must be spent on infrastructure required to support new development. Therefore it cannot be used to remedy existing infrastructure deficiencies, unless they would be made worse by new development”. In addition, some of the suggestions received do not fall within the definition of infrastructure. CIL cannot be used to tarmac resident parking areas, nor can it be used on signage, or insuring existing leisure areas, or to pay for litter picking. No surprise there, how often are signs broken and go unrepaired, and when was litter picked recently in West Lancashire other than by volunteers such as the 15 bags picked up in Skelmersdale a few days ago?

In its latest CIL report, Aughton Parish Council, which loves its big unused reserve balances, brought forward £2,771 from 2015/16 and added that to £4,584 for 2016/17. So we, the community, now have £7,356 in the CIL retained unspent bank. Isn’t it silly not to spend it on our Aughton neighbourhood public realm? NB Aughton Parish Council announced a further notification of CIL receipts in October 2017 = £14,214.58, so we now have £21,570 to spend, or save, or just ignore?


« Newer Posts - Older Posts »