One of two OWL members, Cllr Adrian Owens , wrote about the Open Golf Championship coming to Royal Birkdale and what visitors to the area including West Lancashire will see. He uses descriptions like unkempt; untidy; overgrown; weed strewn and grimy, and this picture  as evidence. And he refers to the main thoroughfares and entrances to the borough. But everywhere in the borough is unkempt; untidy; overgrown; weed strewn and grimy. So why can we not have an acceptable road scene everywhere? Why are whole stretches of our borough so disgustingly neglected? Perhaps it’s time for all 54 members of the borough council and every parish council to find the resources to bring grass cutting and weed control to the forefront. We have five borough councillors in the Aughton wards, that’s three too many if their interests don’t lie with the concerns of local residents, and they don’t, because they don’t live with it!

Cllr Owens “This is what I wrote yesterday to those at the Borough and County Councils charged with grass cutting; weed control; street cleansing etc. The Open Championship is to be held at Royal Birkdale the week after next. The Borough will be hosting many hundreds of visitors from other countries and thousands more will travel through it on the way to the Links. It must be hoped that some of the “visitor dollar” will be spent in the hospitality industry in West Lancashire, but with its current appearance they would be forgiven for driving swiftly on. Currently, I am ashamed of the appearance of our Borough and the boundary between West Lancashire and Sefton is a stark one as one travels along the main thoroughfares. In the remaining time before the start of the golf (a week at most given the busy practice days), what work do you intend to carry out to ensure that, at the very least, the main thoroughfares and entrances to the Borough are presentable rather than their current unkempt; untidy; overgrown; weed strewn and grimy condition?

“I’m not hopeful that I’ll get a sensible response. Perhaps it’s time for a unitary council – where one council is responsible for all services and the buck stops with them?”

Well, he got lucky! He then wrote “After being contacted by a resident concerned by the appearance of West Lancashire scarcely a week before many overseas and national visitors will visit or pass through the Borough in connection with the Open Championship at Royal Birkdale, Adrian contacted senior staff and councillors at the Borough and County Councils.

“The Open Championship is to be held at Royal Birkdale the week after next. The Borough will be hosting many hundreds of visitors from other countries and thousands more will travel through it on the way to the Links. It must be hoped that some of the “visitor dollar” will be spent in the hospitality industry in West Lancashire, but with its current appearance they would be forgiven for driving swiftly on.

“Currently, I am ashamed of the appearance of our Borough and the boundary between West Lancashire and Sefton is a stark one as one travels along the main thoroughfares. In the remaining time before the start of the golf (a week at most given the busy practice days), what work do you intend to carry out to ensure that, at the very least, the main thoroughfares and entrances to the Borough are presentable rather than their current unkempt; untidy; overgrown; weed strewn and grimy condition?”

“In responses today, the County Council  has promised to cut grass and maintain the grounds along ‘the advertised diversion route from Junction 3 of the M58 to the Royal Birkdale Golf course’ this Wednesday and the Borough council is organising street cleansing to follow behind. Adrian said “I had to wring this commitment from the respective councils. The current condition of our street scene is shameful and this doesn’t address anything other than the single route to the golf. How we expect to encourage visitors to linger in our Borough is not explained in the council responses”.

Posted by: westlancashirerecord | July 19, 2017

Student Voting

At the monthly meeting of the West Lancashire Pensioners’ Forum yesterday the Chairperson Margaret Boulton [seen centre in this pic  copied from the Champion, click to enlarge] produced the “green flyer” we have all received that states “Your Vote Matters” and includes “This House Is Occupied By Students” copied here .

She went on to ask Cllr John Hodson, our guest speaker, to explain its effect on council tax income for the borough. After explaining why he thought it was minimal a debate among members indicated great concern that there must be a revenue loss and there must be unacceptable profits for student landlords, albeit their companies would pay taxes to central government.

The Electoral Commission states “A student who has a permanent home address and a term-time address can be lawfully registered at both addresses. If an elector is registered to vote in two different electoral areas, they are eligible to vote in local elections for the two different local councils. However, it is an offence to vote twice in any one election. Such an offence could result in a fine of up to £5,000”.

And lo and behold, it seems that electoral fraud is suspected by some students voting twice in the general election, a claim made all the greater by them bragging of how they did it. One vote being a core principle of democracy is hardly endorsed by the right of students to vote twice in local elections is it? Simple enough to stop it, a single sentence amendment to the relevant electoral law.

Posted by: westlancashirerecord | July 18, 2017

West Lancashire Borough Council Efficiency Plan

Recently WLBC produced an Efficiency Plan which includes “Delivering efficiency savings. Earlier this year a new senior management structure was implemented, which will enable the Council to continue to focus on its priorities but at a reduced cost. Similarly the internal audit service will be restructured over the next few months to provide the same level of service but with a financial saving. Staffing structures will continue to be reviewed to consider any opportunities for employee efficiencies”.

We recently wrote that three senior officers on very high salaries each had some responsibility for the same matter, including grounds maintenance, caretaking and gardening, and trees and landscaping. Street Scene, Housing and Inclusion, and Development and Regeneration.

What is efficient about that as a “savings” or “reduced cost” system? Look at the new senior officer remuneration page of the WLBC Statement of Accounts, below  click to read. It is truly shocking in the scale of some pay rises year on year. Every few weeks the Chief Executive issues a “West Lancs Now” report to staff, but not to the public, as in this shot always choosing a picturesque view of the borough. Why doesn’t she show the not so picturesque dreadful state of roundabouts and grass verges?

Posted by: westlancashirerecord | July 17, 2017

County Councillors To Vote Themselves A Pay Rise

Residents of Lancashire will wake up on Friday to find the Lancashire County Councillors  have probably voted themselves a 1% allowance rise that we will fund. The deal is that “Whilst the Council’s 2017/18 budget did not include provision for a 1% increase, it was likely that the 1% increase could be met from within the existing Members’ budgetary provision. The Council’s Medium Term Financial Strategy would have to be adjusted to provide for any future increases. The Panel recognised the financial position of the Council but felt that the allowances should be uprated in  accordance with provisions of the Scheme, and to ensure that the allowances  were not seen as a barrier to people wishing to stand for election to the Council. £10,466 might not be enough?

Recommendation (2) to Full Council: That the 2017/18 Basic Allowance,  Special Responsibility Allowances and the Carers/Dependents Allowance be  uprated in accordance with the 1% staff pay increase for 2017/18.

Even the supplements like Group Whips and Group Secretaries will increase. Why should the public pay for these party fees, it is a total disgrace and should be stopped forthwith.

My complaint about the Public Right Of Way No Foot Path 25; Parish Of Aughton; District Of West Lancs is resolved “The problem you reported on the above public right of way has been investigated by the County Council’s Public Rights of Way team and the outcome is described below. Nature of Report: Public Footpath 25 leading from Prescot Road to The Serpentine and Whalley Drive is flooded and school children whose parents’ park in both roads and walk to Town Green Lane have no firm footpath to walk on. Resolution: The surface of the public footpath has been improved by the Public Rights of Way Team, the kissing gate has been removed to improve low mobility access. The falling fence post will be removed in the coming days”. The area close to the Foot Path is still a grotspot  and needs serious attention, but it’s not unique to the whole area?

The Aughton Parish Council met and it seems there was barely a quorum of councillors present. A member of the public is reported to have spoken at length to offer a big thank you to WLBC and all who had an involvement in the recent Manchester High Court Hearing for the Wainhomes Parrs Lane planning application against WLBC. The judge found in favour of WLBC quashing the inspector’s decision, so on behalf of the Chairman and members of the ARG, once again a big thank you to WLBC, and we appreciate the high costs of the Appeal. The residents of Aughton should also be very pleased at the results.

WLBC have now acknowledged that Long Lane does have a speeding problem, and it is understand that further action will follow by WLBC. The police are also now concerned and the resident also stated that it now looks like the new Police Inspector who recently attended the APC meeting is now doing something about the residents’ concerns regarding the speeding problem on Long Lane. Last weekend it received a visit from the mobile speed trap vehicle, action at last!

Our resident also brought up the problem of uncut grass verges and the state of all in the Aughton area, especially from the Robins Island section through to the Ormskirk roundabout. It is now in a situation of danger to pedestrians and car drivers, unable to view oncoming traffic; gutters are also blocked as well as drains.  Councillor Wally Westley stated that the new Conservative elected Council are also actioning this problem and have sacked the new contractors responsible for verge cutting due to poor quality etc. It was stated that the Aughton area is a mess considering that we live in a very affluent area and something needs to be done soon.

The new Cockbeck Co-Op was granted opening times until 23:00 every night, something that will have a poor effect on local residents. The Co-Op is also applying for the construction of an acoustic fence to the rear for noise reduction associated with chiller units and air conditioning units. And they have offered to assist with local community work. They have volunteers to undertake this work if APC can confirm requirements. APC are to look into this. Perhaps they should ask the Co-Op to keep the village greens mown regularly, after all the APC won’t spend our own precept doing it!

Posted by: westlancashirerecord | July 16, 2017

Armed Police In Halsall

On June 8th, WLR reported that a legally authorised and peaceful anti-fracking information gazebo situated on the Halsall Memorial playing fields became the centre of a spurious complaint by a local resident. The Memorial Hall housed a polling centre. The local resident, Cllr David Westley, was seen taking photographs of a gazebo and its occupants. It was also reported that a complaint about the  gazebo was made to the Lancashire Constabulary.

The WLBC solicitor attended. We wrote that “One can only wonder how and why, with such scarce police resources, that four officers were deployed to this legal and peaceful presence of local residents all at the behest of another local resident whose property wasn’t remotely affected by the gazebo or its occupants? Presumably crimes were being committed elsewhere that needed these officers to investigate? No doubt there will be an official notice in due course, but the presence of the Electoral Inspector implies there was a complaint made in respect of the nearby polling facility”.

Today WLR can reveal that the Lancashire Constabulary has confirmed that prior to election day, two officers were allocated to visit polling stations on the day of the election and as such, there was a visit planned for Halsall. However, a call was received about the protest and the two officers attended. The writer confirmed “I understand from the officers, it was a very peaceful display. The officers spoke to the locals just to explain their presence, then remained in the car park co-ordinating the other staff visiting stations”.

But what will shock locals and West Lancastrians generally was the news from the Constabulary that “I understand an ARV arrived that was also allocated to the elections and the officers spoke for a while then they left”.

An armed response vehicle (ARV)  is a police car operated by British law enforcement. ARVs are crewed by Authorised Firearms Officers to respond to incidents believed to involve firearms or other high-risk situations. Are we law abiding citizens of West Lancashire who peacefully oppose fracking now facing the concept that our police consider us to be high enough risk that they must be armed? This incident, started by the local resident, the leader of the borough Tory opposition party, has escalated into the need for a full and comprehensive inquiry at the highest level. Not only should the Returning Officer report fully on it, and publish it, but our MP Rosie Cooper should raise the matter with the Home Secretary.

Posted by: westlancashirerecord | July 16, 2017

On Being Whipped Or Not?

On July 6th West Lancashire LCC Councillor Paul Greenall  tweeted a request to the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government “Dear @sajidjavid  do your comments under Rebuilding trust mean you oppose Party whips in Local Councils? Thanks, Paul”. This followed a speech to the Local Government Association. And on July 13th Cllr Greenall tweeted again “Dear @sajidjavid you have not answered my question sir, can you please do? Thanks, Paul”.

In local government it is reasonably assumed that the person you vote for is OF your community and the vote is FOR your community. In some parts of West Lancashire this is simply not true. How many elected members live in the wards they represent? In the case of the Tory county controlling party, it appointed Cllr O’Toole as “party whip” and Cllr Greenall is a self announced party rebel who in his question to the SoS C&LG is effectively asking for a view on O’Toole and can he, and other local whips, be trusted. Perhaps rebel Cllr Greenall might take matters into his own hands and refuse the whip he seems to dislike so much?

The SoS stated that “Local government is facing a looming crisis of trust”. Well, he wasn’t wrong there, was he, as we look at the scandal hitting the Tory county party as its leader is reported to have banned its chief executive and four other officers from briefings he attends?

“Whether you’re councillor or an MP, we are elected by our local communities to serve the people of our local communities – to ensure their interests are put first. After all, government is about serving people, not simply telling them what to do. And local government must show that it is FOR the people, not just OF the people. Above all else they must be listened to. They must be heard. It must be an honest and open discussion across all communities. Where consultation isn’t just treated as a legal necessity, but a genuine engagement in which all views even ones we don’t like are treated as if they could actually be right. So we need to rethink the entire process of development and, as ever, that starts with planning.

“Years after local plans were introduced, some councils still haven’t produced one. Others produced a plan when the policy was first introduced, but haven’t touched it since and are left with a dusty document that’s hopelessly out-of-date and irrelevant to the real needs of their communities. And then there are those councils that have an up-to-date plan, but have failed to be honest about the level of housing they need in their area.It’s not good enough. The era of tolerating such poor, patchy performance is over. Today I can confirm that this month we will launch a consultation on a new way for councils to assess their local housing requirements, as we promised in the Housing White Paper.

“Our aim is simple: to ensure these plans begin life as they should, with an honest, objective assessment of how much housing is required. That means a much more frank, open discussion with local residents and communities. It also requires a new approach.

“One that is straightforward, so everyone can understand the process. One that is transparent, so decisions are not hidden behind complexity or bureaucracy. And one that is consistent, so every community, from the biggest city to the smallest hamlet, can be confident their council is assessing housing need properly and fairly. Most people are willing to accept new housing in their areas, they know that their children and grandchildren need places to live.

“But they also don’t want to see massive development being imposed on an area where schools, GP surgeries, roads, buses and trains are already under pressure. They’ll accept the new homes, but they also want the right infrastructure put in at the right time in a joined up way. It’s not exactly an unreasonable request. I know that you are in local government for the right reasons.

“Because you want to house the homeless. You want to maintain the roads. You want to keep the streets clean or make our parks beautiful. You want to see that our young people are taught properly and our elderly are cared for with the dignity they deserve. Doing all this requires practical action, yes, but not everything can be converted into pounds and pence.

“Good leadership matters too. And ultimately, for all of us, whether we’re in local or national government, our first role is to lead. What happened in Kensington three weeks ago showed just how important leadership is. So my challenge for local government this year is not only to provide the services your communities deserve, or plan for new homes and growth they need, but also to be the leaders they can trust. To listen to your communities. To treat them with care and respect”. Did you read that, local Tory councillors in Aughton, Halsall, Burscough and beyond, where insults against the public have littered the scene just because the party allows its appalling leadership to do so?

Posted by: westlancashirerecord | July 6, 2017

Idle Parish Council Cash?

Three years of the Aughton Parish Council accounts [click to read]   show it received “Precept or Rates and Levies” averaging £56,564 annually. Its “Total value of cash and short term investments” has risen from £102,221 to £109,239 at a time when some of Aughton’s residents have been pleading for SPIDs to be purchased for Long Lane. The answer is always no.

In addition to the above, the accrual of more “Total fixed assets plus long term investments and assets” from £302,407 to £309,770  shows no intention in the short term of this Parish Council ever spending for publicly requested assets, like SPIDs. Perhaps it’s time for a public requirement that the next precept imposed on them should be at least halved? Is that what the Clerk and Chairman  might be discussing? And with that thought WLR is signing off for some leisure time, until further notice.

Posted by: westlancashirerecord | July 6, 2017

Has Action Man Altered The Dodgy Local Plan?

The outcome of the court decision yesterday on the Wainhomes development application for the Prescot Road/Parrs Lane agricultural land is due to a number of events both local and national. The developers rely on the Government planning policies and perceived housing shortages, the defendants of the land rely on local passion and the continuation of its primary use, growing crops, and council house building achievements too.

What is clear now is the stark difference between the party that receives donations from developers and the party that doesn’t, a clear divide between those who will allow developers to decide local planning matters and those who won’t, guided by “Action Man” Labour Cllr John Hodson   [on the left of the picture].

It was he, and his Labour Borough Cabinet, who decided to make a stand and challenge the understandably risk averse planning officers, most of whom would have been schooled by the old Tory policy that ignored local democracy and played politics for all it was worth. After all, we were told by the then Planning Cabinet Member  that three options, including Altys Lane, were too many for us to understand. But what we DID understand was the forthcoming Derby Ward by-election in the Tory ward.

Who among us could ever forget what we published in October 2013, that Lord Derby’s agent had sent out a very interesting letter to councillors about the Local Development Framework strategic options selection process, which the Tories have been trying to manipulate for short political gain, the key sentence being “[The Estate] wishes to draw to the attention of Cabinet members that, in its view, the document does not accurately reflect the comments made by the Council’s Overview and Scrutiny committee which recommended that the document should seek comments on the merits of the Ormskirk Site”.

This was a reference to the Overview and Scrutiny committee meeting held on 3rd February, which carried the following resolution “That in relation to the decision of Cabinet the Committee does not ask for a different decision. That, when considering the Options document at Cabinet on 15 March 2011 in respect of Preferred Options B and C, Cabinet be requested to indicate that views may also be given, through the consultation process, on the rejected Option A”.

Option A stayed rejected, a Tory won the by-election, and ultimately the Local Plan became what it was, an Aughton developers’ paradise. But now it isn’t, not yet. And what we must always remember is the cacophony of objections by the Tory opposition to the costs of legal action, opposition fought by Cllr Hodson and his Cabinet and the Labour Group. Aughton’s residents can now feel the process has moved to a more level playing field, all we ever asked for.

Posted by: westlancashirerecord | July 6, 2017

Aughton Parish Council Meeting

Residents of Aughton are invited to attend the APC meeting on Monday 10 July 2017 in the Aughton village Hall Annexe, starting at 7.30pm. The agenda below is noticeable for its lack of any mention of matters local people have expressed concerns about, such as the scruffy state of the Town Greens and the Winifred Lane triangle, and the on-going speeding issues on Long Lane. Members of the public who raise these issues in public question time are general treated with a series of hand-wringing platitudes before being refused. Policing is included as usual, all crimes being historical and of no use to Neighbourhood Watch volunteers to warn their members. In fact NHW faces a dire future as its nature will change into a seemingly total volunteer led service as this letter shows, all in the name of a “cheaper than the already free” service provided [click to read].  

2. DECLARATIONS OF INTEREST – if a member requires advice on Declarations of Interest,   he/she should contact the Clerk in advance of the meeting.
3. MINUTES OF MEETING HELD 12 JUNE 2017, copies circulated prior to meeting – to receive and approve
4. MATTERS ARISING FROM MINUTES (for information only)
a) Aughton Village Hall Management Committee – to consider b) Ormskirk School Trust Governors – to consider
a) Weekly List Items – to receive and view plans on
b) Appeals/Planning Control: Land to the North-West of Parrs Lane, Aughton (Redrow Homes) – to receive Notice of the date for the Appeal (re-determined) to be heard at a Public Local Inquiry before an Inspector appointed by the Secretary of State, ie 30 January 2018 c) Planning Committee – to report on the meeting held 22 June 2017
8. PUBLIC FOOTPATH NUMBER 10 AUGHTON – to receive Notice of the ‘Ron Gordon Way Project’ proposed by the Merseyside & West Cheshire Area Ramblers (details circulated to members)
a) CCTV upgrades at the Sports Pavilion & Car Park at Winifred Lane – to note completion of schemes and approve payment b) Aughton Sports Association – to receive Income from Sport c) OPSTA Membership Renewal – to consider and approve d) Minutes of Extraordinary Meeting of the Parish Council to consider and approve the Accounts for the year ending 31 March 2017, copies circulated prior to meeting – to receive and approve as a correct record
10. ACCOUNTS – to receive and approve
11. DATE OF NEXT MEETING – to confirm
PUBLIC QUESTION TIME – at a convenient time, normally shortly after the opening of the meeting, the Chairman will adjourn the meeting (for a short interval at his discretion) to allow any members of the public who are residents in Aughton (or such other persons in the Chairman’s absolute discretion) to address meeting.

Posted by: westlancashirerecord | July 5, 2017

Court Victory For WLBC And The Aughton Residents Group

 In the matter of the hearing relating to the WLBC challenge to the Planning Inspector’s decision regarding the WAINHOMES application  (Prescot Road – 2015/0335/HYB and APP/P2365/W/15/3132594) heard on Tuesday 4 July 2017 at the Manchester Civil and Family Justice Centre before Judge Pelling, the decision has been given today in favour of the West Lancashire Borough Council. The original two barristers represented the parties. The case will be reheard by the Planning Inspectorate.

The hearing was open to the public. This is a tremendous interim victory for the ARG members, including Colin Atkinson who attended the court, Ian Forbes, David Willman, and Peter Cullington, whose dedication to fighting the proposed development has been outstanding, and also for Peter Richards and the Planning staff  at WLBC.

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