Posted by: westlancashirerecord | April 18, 2018

WLBC Delays FoI Act Request With New Tactic?

On 15 February I asked WLBC  on Whatdotheyknow.com “Dear West Lancashire District Council, Which, if any, West Lancashire parish councils have been awarded WLBC grants, either wholly or in part, to assist them in the purchase of SPIDs and if any have been awarded a) what was the value of each grant b) what conditions applied to the funding c) what conditions if any apply to maintenance of the SPIDs d) what budget exists within WLBC for donations to parish councils for SPIDs and e) is any means testing used by WLBC to ascertain the value of parish council accounts before SPID grants are awarded? Please include any and all such requests for the past three years up to and including February 2018”.

On 9 March WLBC  told me “Thank you for your email of 15th February in which you requested information concerning grants to parish councils for SPIDs. There have been two Parish Councils successful in Capital Grant applications in the 3 year period to February 2018, for assistance with the purchase of SPIDs. Parbold was paid a total amount of £4,844.50. Downholland has to date been paid an amount of £1,945.22 (part payment). Capital Grant applications are subjected to a scoring criteria to ascertain which Parish Councils will be awarded the funding. The Borough Council is not responsible for the maintenance of these SPIDs. Instead it is expected that the Parish Council will maintain them and keep them in good order, but there are no specific requirements on this. A SPID capital application was received from Aughton Parish Council in February 2018, but no decision has been made on this application at this time”.

On 9 March I replied to WLBC “Thank you for the information. You state “A SPID capital application was received from Aughton Parish Council in February 2018, but no decision has been made on this application at this time. Would you be kind enough to confirm the SPID capital amount requested by Aughton Parish Council?

On 11 April after a month of silence from WLBC I wrote “I am writing to ask for details of the decision, if it has been made, on the matter of the Aughton Parish Council (APC) SPID capital grant application. The matter was discussed in public on 9 April at the APC meeting, and it is difficult to understand why there is a delay. or indeed why APC with its cash assets of £109,000 should be considered for other public funding for SPIDs. The delay might cost lives or injuries as the SPIDs are for help to slow speeding traffic on some dangerous roads”.

On 18 April, today, I have asked WLBC “What is the prospect of a meaningful response to my simple request made in February for WLBC to disclose the decision about the Aughton Parish Council bid for Capital Grant aid for SPIDs?”

Also on 18 April, today, I have a prompt response from WLBC that “Your request for further information was logged as a separate Freedom of Information request. We will provide a response by the 8th May”.

Hence the question “WLBC Delays FoI Act Request With New Tactic?” They change the status of the original request AFTER being asked to meet the FoI and claim that to be a separate FoI request. It’s creative, that’s for sure. But is it lawful and within the FoI Act?  Under the Freedom of Information Act public authorities are required to respond to requests no later than 20 working days. The Act makes this clear “a public authority must comply with section 1(1) promptly and in any event not later than the twentieth working day following the date of receipt”. Perhaps WLBC is protecting the Aughton Parish Council bid for WLBC matched funding when Aughton Parish Council is cashwealthy? Authorities can, at times, take advantage of requesters by not applying the law correctly. This can sometimes be due to them not wanting to disclose information. This is likely to be the case here. Nil carborundum illegitimi.

Posted by: westlancashirerecord | April 18, 2018

Aughton Police Station Re-Opens

After a long period of closure of the Aughton Police Station, its been reported that that the ceiling damage at has last been repaired and the police post, situated on Town Green railway station, became operational again on Monday 16 April .

The volunteers who provide this essential police service have resumed their duties this week. It’s worth remembering the fight we had to save this local Aughton service, with over 1,500 people signing the petition .

Posted by: westlancashirerecord | April 18, 2018

Tory Invasion Of Halsall?

Residents of Halsall were surprised to find a Tory Southport MP newsletter delivered to their homes this week . It purports to claim a series of successes the MP has had for various campaigns in the Southport constituency. Perhaps he knows something we here in West Lancashire don’t know? Does Rosie Cooper MP know about it? We might soon find out as one resident wrote “Why do you think you are the MP for Halsall? Why are you delivering leaflets about Southport in Halsall? Rosie Cooper will be extremely upset about this invasion of her West Lancashire constituency. You have some explaining to do! Name; Upset resident of Halsall. Address; Not in Southport!

Posted by: westlancashirerecord | April 17, 2018

We Found Money

So said LCC Cllr O’Toole in Halsall last week. “We [LCC Conservatives] inherited a mess…within days of taking control we set about remedying the situation…we found money”. And have you found fairies in your garden?

LCC  senior officer Neil Kissock, Director of Financial Resources, wrote officially “The Council has faced an unprecedented period of financial challenge since the Government’s austerity measures began in 2010, with year on year reductions in the funding provided by Central Government to the Council. This has primarily been through revenue support grant which has dropped from £302.103 million in 2010/11 to £118.841 million in 2016/17. In addition, the Council continues to face significant financial pressures from rising costs of the national living wage and contractual inflation and also in relation to increasing demand for its services. This is particularly the case for both adult and children’s social care services and waste services.

“On 11 February 2016, the Council approved a net revenue budget of £713.020 million, which included savings of £20.252 million identified in February 2015 and a further £64.686 million of savings approved in November 2015. The revenue budget represents the cost of meeting the annual expenses of carrying out the Council’s duties and responsibilities to the community, many of which are of a statutory nature.

“The under-spend was largely due to the delivery of the vast majority of the agreed in-year savings programme, support from reserves and additional income of c£23 million arising from treasury management activities. This additional income reflected opportunities arising following the decision for the UK to leave the European Union. However, without the use of reserves and treasury management activity the Council would have overspent significantly above the approved budget reflecting a number of service pressures, particularly in children’s and adult social care”.

LCC Cllr O’Toole told Halsall Parish Council “Four years ago we had left almost £150 million in reserves. However by May 2017 this had fallen to under £50 million, well below the recommended level for a council the size of Lancashire”.

“And then we found money”! So why are we, the elderly and disabled, users of Dial-a-Ride, group transport, community car schemes, day trips and volunteering opportunities” on the cusp of yet another reduction of funding by a third for community transport in Lancashire? “This may mean loss, reduction and/or changes to these services including fare increases”. Now take a look at the LCC Special Responsibility Gravy Train, cost to council tax payers £355,000

O’Toole “Continues to represent you as the Conservative lead member on both Lancashire Fire and Rescue Authority…basic allowance 2016/17 £2,703.35, Special Responsibility £5,134.56, Travel & Subsistence £516.60, Total £8,354.52”.

As LCC elected member O’Toole “I have been given the position of chairman of the very important Internal Scrutiny Committee and Chief Whip” takes £10,466 basic + £4,483 Chief Whip. The Chair of Internal Overview and Scrutiny carries the Special Responsibility Allowance of £7,471.

On Special Responsibility Allowances, LCC states “This Allowance is paid monthly to those councillors holding the special responsibilities shown in Schedule ‘B’ of the Scheme. There is no statutory limit on the number of special responsibility allowances which may be paid to a councillor. However, the Council’s Independent Remuneration Panel has advised that councillors should be paid only one such allowance, unless the additional Special Responsibility Allowance arises out of a Group block allocation in recognition of Group duties and this is County Council practice. Where a councillor would otherwise be entitled to two or more special responsibility allowances e.g. Chair of two committees, the higher allowance will be paid.

O’Toole wants your vote to re-elect him to WLBC Aughton & Downholland, basic allowance £4,842. Fire, LCC, WLBC, he has membership of all three we all pay for. Give me an independent candidate any day of the week!

Cnty Cllr Paul Greenall  resigned the Tory whip in July last year after claiming colleagues tried to stop him from raising the issue of reducing allowances. He said “County Hall is a gravy train for greedy fat cat councillors who want taxpayers to give them more than their generous £10,466 basic allowance. Given that most taxpayers cannot claim for travel and meals when they go to work, why should they fund these benefits for councillors? Also why should taxpayers’ money be used for political roles shouldn’t these positions be funded by the political parties?”.

Posted by: westlancashirerecord | April 16, 2018

New Threats Of One Third Funding Cuts To Community Transport In Lancashire

Just when we are reading the claims of Wally Westley in the election glossies that “The Conservatives are back in control of Lancashire  and are on with sorting out the mess left by Labour. They have restored the highway budget, re-instated the plan for an Ormskirk By-pass, reopened the libraries and improved local bus services” they are about to ruin Community Travel that helps the most vulnerable of us. One of them being Cnty Cllr O’Toole , backed by those “Local people” who just happen to be from Halsall and Haskayne? 

“Like many councils across the country, Lancashire County Council continues to face an unprecedented financial challenge due to continued funding cuts by Government, rising costs and rising demand for the services we provide.

“We are committed to providing the best services we can to the people of Lancashire, particularly to the most vulnerable in our communities. However, the council’s financial position remains extremely challenging, with a forecasted funding gap of £144m in 2021/22. Because of this, we still need to make some difficult decisions in order to make further savings.

“Community transport in Lancashire is provided for eligible people who are not able to use mainstream public transport. Community transport includes Dial-a-Ride , group transport, community car schemes, day trips and volunteering opportunities.”

“On 18 January 2018 the county council’s Cabinet agreed to consult on proposals to reduce funding by a third for community transport in Lancashire. This may mean loss, reduction and/or changes to these services including fare increases. We would like to hear your views on this proposal”.

Sure, here’s a view, not just on this issue but on the ever present member allowances and “special responsibility payments” received by almost every member of the LCC Conservatives. Abolish them, share the pain you are inflicting on elderly and disabled people, stop being greedy! And when you turn up for WLBC meetings, don’t walk out and leave us unrepresented! 

Posted by: westlancashirerecord | April 16, 2018

In The Local Election Blue And Red Corners

Election glossies are appearing thick and fast, and while the Reds are basking in their successful defence of the developers’ “great Parrs Lane grab” , the Blues are depending on a policy that accuses the Reds of a “great greenbelt grab” ,

These glossies follow the meeting in Aughton last week when Labour Cllr John Hodson described some details of the Parrs Lane appeal and the upcoming new Local Plan to 64 locals who attended. Questions were put to him about whether or not the current Plan stands until 2027 or is likely to be replaced by a 30 year plan from 2020 to 2050.

Plan B trigger points were mentioned, and naturally enough the question of safeguarded land in Aughton was of interest. Cllr Hodson referred to the WLBC Cabinet Local Plan working group. He spoke about duty to cooperate with other local authorities. The duty to cooperate is a legal test that requires cooperation between local planning authorities and other public bodies to maximise the effectiveness of policies for strategic matters in Local Plans. It is separate from but related to the Local Plan test of soundness.

It places a legal duty on local planning authorities, county councils in England and public bodies to engage constructively, actively and on an ongoing basis to maximise the effectiveness of Local and Marine Plan preparation in the context of strategic cross boundary matters.

The duty to cooperate is not a duty to agree. But local planning authorities should make every effort to secure the necessary cooperation on strategic cross boundary matters before they submit their Local Plans for examination.

Local planning authorities must demonstrate how they have complied with the duty at the independent examination of their Local Plans. If a local planning authority cannot demonstrate that it has complied with the duty then the Local Plan will not be able to proceed further in examination.

Local planning authorities will need to satisfy themselves about whether they have complied with the duty. As part of their consideration, local planning authorities will need to bear in mind that the cooperation should produce effective and deliverable policies on strategic cross boundary matters.

Posted by: westlancashirerecord | April 16, 2018

Aughton Park Candidate Stephenson 5 Point Plan

It seems that Aughton Park candidate Doreen Stephenson has five points in her plan for the ward , the first of which will anger residents of Skelmersdale. “1 Ensure money raised by the Council on new housing development in Aughton is spent in Aughton and not in Skelmersdale”.

You might be wondering why she picked out Skelmersdale alone? Why not Derby, Scott, Tarleton, to name a few? Ill chosen words by an ill chosen candidate?

“2. Campaign for more police to combat crime and anti-social behaviour”. Her silence on the now long term closure of Aughton Police Station that serves all of Aughton is deafening.

“3. Work with LCC to get speed and parking restrictions on Long Lane”. The cash rich Aughton Parish Council is begging for matched funding from WLBC for SPIDS, isn’t that scandalous?

“4. Campaign for disabled access at Aughton Park Station”. Too little too late, the ward Cnty Cllr Greenall started this campaign.

“5. Introduce tighter restrictions on converting houses to student accommodation”. No statistics provided, how will this be monitored?

But her claim that “Local people are backing Doreen Stephenson” names two, Cllr David Westley…local to Halsall, and Cllr Currie…local to Haskayne. You couldn’t make it up.

Posted by: westlancashirerecord | April 15, 2018

Cllr O’Toole Predisposed Not To Be Determined?

To comment on planning is not being judicial or quasi-judicial, but some councillors who ought to know better give the impression it is. Apparently at a recent meeting in Halsall , LCC/WLBC Cllr O’Toole is quoted as stating “Finally I must mention concerns over planning applications which may result in fracking in parts of West Lancashire. I have deliberately not commented on this subject other than to say that I will take serious note of the residents’ concerns. I am not a member of the Development Control Committee at County Hall and have no vote on that Committee”.

And for WLBC he apparently claimed “I am however the Conservative lead member on WLBC Planning Committee and in that respect again I will take heed of residents’ concerns within my Council Ward. To declare my intentions prior to the matter coming to Committee would be considered to be as prior determination and would be an extremely foolish thing to do as it would mean that I would need to declare an interest and not take part in the debate or subsequent vote which would in turn mean I would not be able to speak on behalf of my residents”.

How depressing it is to read that this elected member of both local authorities holds such views. It is by now well known that law  exists that assists members’ understanding of the common law rules on bias and predetermination which apply in addition to requirements under the code of conduct to declare pecuniary and non-pecuniary interests.

These rules are particularly relevant to regulatory decisions made by Planning Committees. The law on bias and predetermination is part of the legal obligation on public authorities to act fairly. This requires those taking decisions on behalf of the public to do so (and be seen to do so) in a manner which is fair in all the circumstances and is untainted by any issue or perception of personal or extraneous interest. The test for bias and predetermination was set by the court in the case of Porter–v-Magill in 2001 and is whether a fair-minded and informed observer, having considered the facts, would conclude that there was a real possibility of bias. The test is to be applied having regard to all material facts and circumstances. However, the Courts have recognised that as democratically elected representatives, councillors will inevitably have predispositions on matters of policy. It is therefore entirely lawful for councillors to have a predisposition and this will only become unlawful predetermination if the decision-taker closes their mind to any other possibility beyond the predisposition. Predetermination has therefore been defined as occurring when a member has fixed views on a matter and retains a closed mind when it comes to making a determination.

Did O’Toole ever indicate holding a worthwhile view, let alone a closed mind biased view, on fracking, which is a divisive issue in West Lancashire? None that is apparent to the electorate of Aughton & Downholland, many of whom face the threat of it. He scores 0/10 for his knowledge of bias. And for not apparently seeking his right to use the Borough Solicitor as his source of how to represent his short-changed electorate to save him making a balls of it?

Posted by: westlancashirerecord | April 15, 2018

Vibrant Borough Seeks Vibrant Planning Officer

Do you want to be a Planning Officer and earn £25,951 – £27,668 per annum in West Lancashire which, according to WLBC “Lies at the heart of the North West of England, located within easy reach of major cities such as Manchester and Liverpool, as well as the wonderful countryside of both the Lake District and Peak District National Parks”? If you do, look no further than Derby Street Towers, who need you!

“The Borough has a wonderful mix of vibrant towns [yet to be identified] and picturesque villages and boasts some of the most attractive and productive countryside in the UK. The Borough has a growing economy, is home to a top-class University and is a desirable place to live but over 90% is designated as Green Belt, so the Planning Service of West Lancashire Borough Council plays a vital role in balancing the economic and social aspirations of our communities with protecting our environment for future generations.

“The team is currently reviewing its Local Plan in order to make the most of local development opportunities. As such, you will be responsible for providing professional assistance primarily in the Strategic Planning and Implementation Team, but also within other teams in the Development and Regeneration Directorate as required.

“Main duties will include preparing local planning policy and evidence base documents, implementing the Local Plan and other local planning policy documents and developing strategies and other initiatives in relation to the environment, leisure, tourism, transport, infrastructure planning, housing, regeneration and economic development.

“A planning qualification and planning experience, together with high level communication and negotiation skills, good organisational skills and knowledge of legislative and national policy requirements are essential for this role. If this is you, what are you waiting for? For an informal discussion about this role, please contact Peter Richards at WLBC”. But hurry, there are two candidates already 

Posted by: westlancashirerecord | April 15, 2018

Can You Believe A Word They Tell You?

About us! The Tory Association claims it is run by its principal Officers and Executive Committee. The current Association Chairman is Bill Weingart. Further details of our officers are available here. But whoops, it claims Cllr David Westley – Aughton and Downholland and Conservative Group Leader and Association Chairman”. 

“The Association has branches throughout the constituency. Our current branch structure is as follows-Conservative Future; Lathom & Burscough; Newburgh; Ormskirk; Parbold; Patrons; Scarisbrick; West Lancs South (includes Aughton, Bickerstaffe and Halsall); Wrightington, Up Holland & Skelmersdale.

“Our Branches and Association as a whole have a thriving social, as well as, political life. You can take a look at our planned events here. We take our politics seriously, but we’re determined to have fun at the same time.

“Currently on the About Us page “Our Enthuse at Infusions nights bring together people who love debating and arguing about politics and current affairs. The club meets over a meal and a glass of wine each month through the winter. Well, it used to, but whoops, current events are Forum for the Future, and are held at Briars Hall , next one 26 April. Each night will include discussion of a topic provided by Conservative Central Office. Our feedback from this is sent back to them. We will have guest speakers linked to topics where applicable. Join like minded people for political debate about topical issues, this is the West Lancashire Conservatives-Conservative Policy Forum”.

Promoted [inaccurately] by Cllr David Westley on behalf of West Lancashire Conservatives, both at 72C New Court Way, Ormskirk. Oh dear!

NB West Lancashire Conservatives have changed the untrue claims and updated the website. WLR is always glad to assist them!

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