Posted by: westlancashirerecord | June 18, 2018

Not Another HMO?

OWLs  are asking “What do you if there are 285 student rooms available in 58 student houses, while Edge Hill University will open 82 new student rooms like these in September and expect their intake to fall for the second year in a row, and you have a house in Peet Avenue in Ormskirk”. Simple…You apply for a change of use to HMO…and WLBC confirms “That proposed development is compliant with the NPPF and relevant policies in the West Lancashire Local Plan 2012-27 and is recommended for approval”. You couldn’t make it up. 

But it has been called-in, as former councillor Dowling requested it be referred to Planning Committee to consider the impact on the amenity of nearby residents, highway safety and appropriateness of a HMO at this location. Ormskirk Residents Group (11/05/2018) – Object on the grounds of: No demonstrable need. Student number at Edge Hill University have fallen; Conflicts with Policy GN3 of the WLLP. Student lifestyle invariably conflicts with that of working families and older residents; Parking is a potential problem.

And there are 32 letters objecting to the proposal on the following grounds: Parking; Alter residential character of street; Highway safety; Increase in traffic; Noise in terms of different living patterns of students; Concerns of upkeep of property; Vehicle access and turning; Impact on existing residents’ health and wellbeing; Access for emergency services / delivery vehicles / refuse vehicles compromised; Drainage and waste; Loss of family home; Road already congested.

Our West Lancashire states “It’s about balanced communities: something national planning policy recognises but to which local planners seem to have a blind spot”. And the application doesn’t bode well for the business plan of the applicant who seeks to provide more accommodation in a diminishing market, that’s if he’s got one?

Posted by: westlancashirerecord | June 18, 2018

Britain, Europe, And The Culture of Deceit

“There are some in this country who fear that in going into Europe we shall in some way sacrifice independence and sovereignty. These fears, I need hardly say, are completely unjustified” . And so the lies started right at the top, with Prime Minister Edward Heath in his television broadcast on Britain’s entry into the Common Market, January 1973.

By 2001 in the infamous Steven Thoburn Sunderland metrication case Judge Bruce Morgan stated that “This country quite voluntarily surrendered the once seemingly immortal concept of the sovereignty of parliament and legislative freedom by membership of the European Union … as a once sovereign power, we have said we want to be bound by Community law”. On appeal to the Divisional Court QBD the decision was that “It is important for its recognition of the supremacy of EU law and the basis for that recognition”.

But it wasn’t the country it was the government, the liars to the country, that sacrificed independence and sovereignty. The long-term objectives of economic and monetary union, it was made clear to Heath, “are very far-reaching indeed”, going “well beyond the full establishment of a Common Market”. The Werner [then Prime Minister of Luxembourg, Pierre Werner] plan could lead to “The ultimate creation of a European federal state, with a single currency. All the basic instruments of national economic management (fiscal, monetary, incomes and regional policies) would ultimately be handed over to the central federal authorities. The Werner report suggests that this radical transformation of present Communities should be accomplished within a decade”. (PRO/FCO 30/789)

Today, this once great country is held hostage by rebel politicians who claim to know better than 17.4million people who voted to leave the corrupt EU. They have warned the prime minister they “could collapse the Government” if she refuses to bow to remainer demands. These remainers demand a “meaningful” vote on the Brexit Bill. Even worse, unelected Labour peers have vowed to back those demands again in the House of Lords.

It is now claimed by one Tory rebel he will not sign up to a “slavery clause”. It beggars belief that these people were chosen on the basis of a party manifesto and a statement binding us to the unambiguous result of the referendum. After years of deception and the surrender of our democracy Theresa May should get off her knees, stop grovelling to these people, deliver what she keeps on telling us she believes, that Brexit means Brexit, and then publish a bill to abolish the House of Lords and replace it with a new elected chamber. Its contempt for the referendum result is disgraceful.

Posted by: westlancashirerecord | June 17, 2018

MEPs Outdo The Lords

The EU takes our UK money for a variety of reasons, like maintaining Germany’s vast balance of trade surplus, paying French farmers from the CAP, and not having legal annual audits of its accounts. Its MEPs are similar, or worse, than our own unelected Lords. Here are a few photographs taken in the EU Parliament that will make you wonder why we stayed in so long…vested interests?  They are highly paid and receive vast expenses too. Hopefully we won’t be paying them for much longer?          

Posted by: westlancashirerecord | June 15, 2018

Goodbye And Good Riddance To Two Hatter

Voters living in West Lancashire Borough Council’s Hesketh-with-Becconsall  Ward will go to the polls on Thursday 19 July 2018 for a by-election to elect a new Councillor. This by-election will cost WL taxpayers circa £8,000 because Paul Moon resigned mid-term after being in post for two years during which he was paid £9,284 in allowances from our taxes, for, in his own words, doing “us a favour”. He was referring to his Conservative Party, as only they could nominate and endorse his candidacy.

As was known, but not then revealed to West Lancashire voters he was a Wyre Borough councillor with a dubious record including a resignation for throwing a “poo bag” at a pensioner during a public meeting.

Now, having been elected on 6 June as Wyre Borough Council Chairman of Planning, his annual special responsibility allowance there is £6,204 + £4,276 basic allowance. 

Perhaps the local WL Conservative Party might consider making a donation of £9,284 to WLBC for whatever that “favour” was? And might they also not repeat their stupidity again?

NB Don’t believe what WLBC says on its website…”Thursday, June 14, 2018. Apply now for postal and proxy votes for the Hesketh-with-Becconsall Ward By-election. Voters living in West Lancashire Borough Council’s Hesketh-with-Becconsall Ward will go to the polls on Thursday 19 July 2017 for a By-election to elect a new Councillor. If you live in Hesketh-with-Becconsall Ward and are registered to vote you can vote in the elections even if you can’t get to your polling station on that day”…cock-up on date by Kim Webber, Returning Officer for the By-election!

Posted by: westlancashirerecord | June 14, 2018

Is LCC Facing Special Measures Due to Bankruptcy?

Local authorities have been forced to embark on an epic economy drive. Their spending on public services will be nearly 22% lower this year than in 2010. In some places things have become dire enough for local politicians to propose special referendums to increase council tax, a levy on property. The Local Government Information Unit think-tank reckons that because they have low council-tax bases and little new business some will fail. Since they are not permitted to run a deficit it is thought that there is more than a 50% chance that some local governments will be unable to balance their budgets by 2020.

As for Lancashire, is it really meltdown in county hall just a few weeks after I heard LCC Cllr O’Toole describe the wonderful changes his Tory party made to the County so that “Within days of taking control we set about remedying the situation” left by Labour?

It seems so. Whatever Labour left is now far worse, according to the Lancashire Post . Will the Government be called in to run Lancashire County Council, it asks? That’s the question being asked this week as councillors meet to consider a crisis report on council finances.

They will be told that 47 schools went over budget last year and other services overspent by millions of pounds. Earlier this year Northampton County Council was forced to call in the government after it effectively went bust. Now some fear that Lancashire could be going the same way.

Unison spokesman Elaine Cotterell, whose union represents 10,000 council employees, said “It could happen here if there isn’t a way for the council to meet savings. I don’t know how Lancashire county council is going to provide services to the citizens of Lancashire. Lancashire, along with a lot of other authorities are using their reserves up. We’ve got to provide the services for adult and children’s social care. I think what has happened in Northamptonshire is going to be replicated in other councils the length and breadth of the country”.

County Coun Azhar Ali, leader of the council’s Labour opposition group said “We are heading towards a complete meltdown in service provision while council tax is rising year on year. Lancashire County Council is on the same track as Northamptonshire. There are serious issues in local government finance. It’s a complete shambles. Buckinghamshire and some of the some of the larger county councils in the country could go bust in a few years”.

He claimed that locally “The Conservatives are in denial and not putting the case to Government for serious additional money. They’ve taken their eye off the ball and are heading towards the buffers”. Meanwhile County Coun David Whipp, leader of the Liberal Democrat group on the council accused the council of “a new twist on highway robbery” and complained of “a massive £30m road improvement failure.” He continued “Our streets have gone from bad to worse. They specifically promised to invest an extra £5m on road repairs, but failed to spend £4.8m of that. Overall the £30m failure is made up of hundreds of repair and improvement schemes across the county – vital work that could and should have been carried out in a timely way to help end the misery on our highways”.

He continued “The county council story is a sorry saga of slippage adding up to tens of millions worth of work deferred, cancelled or not delivered. It’s a scandal. He said while the county was a patchwork of potholes and bodged pothole repairs bosses sat on a mountain of money referred to as under spends. It’s a new twist on ‘highway robbery’. They shouldn’t be allowed to get away with it”.

The Council has a forecast funding gap of £68m in 2019/20. This year it received additional one off income of £6.54in a settlement re its discontinued Waste PFI (private finance initiative).

Whatever local councillors claim in annual reports to their electorate they need to be taken with a huge pinch of salt, and even then don’t believe a word of them. I don’t!

Posted by: westlancashirerecord | June 14, 2018

Rosie Cooper Defied Labour Whip To Support Government

Last night, in respect of Amendment 51, Purpose: to make it a negotiating objective for the UK to remain in the European Economic Area (EU Single Market) the Result: Rejected by the Commons by 327 votes to 126 (majority 201)

Rebels: 15 Labour MPs – Sir Kevin Barron, Ronnie Campbell, Rosie Cooper , Frank Field, Jim Fitzpatrick, Caroline Flint, Mike Hill, Kate Hoey, Kevan Jones, John Mann, Dennis Skinner, Laura Smith, Gareth Snell, John Spellar and Graham Stringer – defied the whip to abstain and instead voted with the Government.

Posted by: westlancashirerecord | June 13, 2018

Labour Leader Hits At Tory Council Incompetence

Labour is settling some old scores in a statement that includes condemnation of Tory failures not just on waste but the green belt (Parrs Lane), solar panels, failure at Skelmersdale town centre, and IT systems.

“The change from blue boxes and bags to blue bins has caused some concern among residents, which we have been working to address” said Labour Council Leader Cllr Ian Moran . “The policy to charge for replacement blue bins was introduced by the last Conservative administration, with no thought given to the impact on residents should the service ever need to be standardised or measures brought in to increase recycling across the borough.

“Along with many other issues, such as the failure to safeguard green belt land at Parrs Lane, failing to implement solar panels and other measures to improve council properties, the failure to deliver on Skelmersdale town centre, and a chronic lack of investment in council IT systems (including payments systems) needed to increase efficiency and improve services, this policy was yet another example of the Tories’ incompetence and complete disregard for the impact of their actions upon local residents.

“Since we took control of the administration, we have had to undertake a huge amount of work in order to address the state of the council and make it fit for purpose for the 21st Century. The vast majority of this work would not have been necessary had the Tories invested in services, instead of cutting them.

“As a result, it has taken us longer than we would have liked to begin introducing the ambitious projects that we know will transform West Lancashire for the better but we are now heading in the right direction. As soon as we realised the impact the current changes to the blue bins would have on residents we began working to resolve the issue.

This has not been easy, as we are still operating under ongoing cuts to the council’s income from the Tory government’s failed austerity programme and the failure to invest in IT systems that would have identified the scale of the blue bin changes much earlier, but we have now identified a way forward.

“We are currently undertaking a full organisational review, as well as introducing new IT systems in order to address such matters, and we will be bringing this issue of the blue bins to the meeting of the full Council in July, so that we can change this discriminatory policy and allow anyone moving from boxes/bags to blue bins to do so without charge.

“Anyone who has already paid for a blue bin will be refunded and we would advise anyone yet to order their blue bin to wait until after the Council meeting on 18 July so that they can do so directly without charge and avoid the need for a refund. Bearing in mind that we will be heading into the summer holidays when the policy is amended, we will of course extend the deadline for ordering the blue bins until the end of September to allow people sufficient time to place an order before the eventual deadline”.

Cllr Moran seems to have forgotten to mention the disgrace of the Beacon Park Golf Course landfill, all introduced under the Tory party. Glad to remind him!

Posted by: westlancashirerecord | June 13, 2018

Burscough Still Fighting Against Foul Flooding Injustice

What sets Burscough residents aside from the rest of West Lancashire? By all accounts it is United Utilities  view of their need to be educated in the disposal of bum paper, pee, and poo in their foul drains. And if you believe that it appears to be true because it took a two hour lecture by a United Utilities employee to tell them so. So what do we who don’t live in Burscough and don’t have many problems with foul drains do that’s different from Burscough? Nothing. Our foul drains generally cope adequately. UU does drains in Burscough and elsewhere, and the difference is, what creates the stink is of UU under-investment in foul drain capacity. 

“Burscough Flooding Group offers this [truncated] local report on the Bum Paper, Pee and Poo Public Meeting with WLBC, LCC and UU – Chaired by UU 5th June at Briars Hall Hotel. The meeting was a follow up to the public meeting chaired by MP Rosie Cooper in 2017 in which West Lancashire Borough Council  (WLBC), United Utilities (UU) and Lancashire County Council (LCC) had received severe public criticism for their sewer failures from residents and BFG and UU were accused of under recording sewer flooding. This sparked an investigation from OFWAT (who were in attendance), OFWAT later dropped the investigation after discussions with UU and did not appear to take into account the evidence that BFG provided.

“5 UU staff, 5 LCC staff, 1 WLBC staff, and 3 local councillors attended the meeting chaired by the Wastewater Network Strategy Manager UU. There were approximately twenty members of the public in attendance including three Councillors.

“An introduction was made by the UU representative, who chaired the meeting, in which were shown a map of flooding in Burscough that ignored the flood maps provided online by the EA and the information known by LCC. Attendees were asked to keep questions until the end and there followed a two hour lecture by UU on the 3ps (only paper, poo or pee to be put down the foul drains), supported by slides then a brief outline of the recent works done in Junction Lane, Gower Gardens and Alexander Close which they loosely described as investigations.

“UU said that they were enhancing the flow model of Burscough with real data but they planned to reduce the minimum standard of flooding protection for Burscough from a 1 in 30 year return period to a 1 in 10 years as flooding in Burscough was almost one third of the national average. Obviously, this begs the question why, if they were correct and there wasn’t a flooding problem, do so many residents say otherwise and why does the local plan highlight the issue?

“UU’s presentation showed a map of flooding which omitted many of the places known to flood: the sewage pumping station outside the waste water treatment works at New Lane which flooded the farm land and the railway crossing with sewage in 2012 and 2015, the large number of surcharges which repeatedly happen on the A59, Junction Lane, Richmond Avenue, Truscott Estate. Manor Road estate etc. In addition to this, BFG’s data (attached) maps approximately 25 places that weren’t shown on UU’s maps. At this point interaction with BFG and the rest of the public and councillors started and it is difficult to report exactly who said what when but here is the BFG summary of what happened.

“Asked why, following their intervention in the Gower Gardens and Alexander Close problems, UU weren’t looking at New Lane because its sewage pumping station there had the same spectacular failures as those in Alexander Close along with the much less spectacular but very frequent discharges onto the A59, UU’s response was to say that it needed residents to telephone them before they would act and gave a very clear impression that they didn’t have to do anything about these problems anyway!

“LCC then took over from UU and said that LCC were currently undertaking investigative work in Burscough but upon being asked where was unable to identify any of the places where investigations were being carried out. LCC said that Burscough was lacking a flood action group and, when his mistake was pointed out, he went on to say that that he hadn’t realised that we were a flooding action group when he met us (in 2016) as BFG representatives LCC, UU and BFG agreed that LCC and BFG should talk to BFG about being a flood action group.

“This sparked a lot of polite but angry comments from BFG members all of whom had met him before. From this point onwards, every time LCC got into trouble with their answers UU took over answering the questioner. At times the chair was rude, speaking over the questioners until one member of the public insisted that he have some manners and allow him to speak as a flood victim without interruption as the chair had been allowed to speak without interruption during his presentation. The LCC Team Leader and Principal Officer in the Flood Risk Management Team LCC intervened and said she would work with BFG provided it was a properly constituted group. An agreement to meet her was arranged.

“There then followed a more wide-ranging argument in which it was stated that, when compiling its S19 report, LCC had ignored the 2015 Boxing Day flooding reported by the public in BFG’s report and that meant that flooding problems weren’t being recognised, investigated or fixed. To which UU and LCC jointly stated that they wouldn’t take any evidence collected from the public by BFG and they would only take evidence provided directly by the public.

“The problems with this are obvious to BFG as we knew that UU had put an answer-phone message on directing people to the wrong agencies for over a week during the 2015 Boxing Day floods and prevented anything but persistent callers reporting only internal sewer floods. In addition, at that time LCC had no auditable method of reporting flooding and that is why its records are poor.

“UU followed this up with some venom by saying that someone had said UU were under reporting in the meeting organised by MP Rosie Cooper [at which point Mr Rattray politely put up his hand to say that it was him, the meeting having descended to such a point]. The arguments continued with Mr Rattray arguing at one point with both the UU chair and with the UU stakeholder manager simultaneously. The chair threatening severe consequences if I and the other member of the public continued and the manager arguing that the telephone operators had gone home for shift change and demanding to know who from UU had told me that the telephone operators had gone home, obviously most of them went home once the answer-phones were set!

“Later the arguments ranged further and I was able to ask UU why they thought changing their operating criteria from the sewers to 1 to 10 years was acceptable, to which I didn’t receive any answer, and can only assume UU is lowering its standard of service because it can!

“Finally, the meeting petered out with the UU chair summing up the 3ps message almost under his breath. We were asked to draw a line under LCC’s S19 report on the Boxing Day floods to which we agreed provided it was discussed to our satisfaction how lessons would be learnt and that problem would not be repeated.

“Conclusions
“LCC , by denying meeting BFG, and questioning the constitution of the group and WLBC, by also questioning the constitution of the group in a public meeting in Halsall, led me to perceive that some or all of the FRMAs were paving the way for an alternative flooding group to be set up headed by someone sympathetic with their aims (or lack of budget). Had sufficient members and sympathetic members of the public not been present they would have succeeded.

“Because we live in Burscough and collect data from residents about all sources of flooding, we know that external sewer flooding is common and incidences of internal flooding are much higher than indicated by UU’s historical data and therefore cannot agree with UU’s assertion that flooding is one third of the average. Given the problem identified locally and the scale of local development we cannot agree with UU’s plan to lower operational standards to a third of the industry standard.

“LCC refused to include data in its S19 report showing the widespread foul and surface water flooding in Burscough caused by Storm Eva on Boxing Day 2015, including: A5209 blocked, School Lane blocked Pippin Street blocked and Higgins Lane blocked and the lower parts of Crabtree Lane underwater for two weeks. We know that the S19 report misrepresented the effect Storm Eva had on Burscough during the flooding and came to the strangely incorrect conclusion, based on no evidence, that there were no groundwater flooding issues in Burscough. So, it is no wonder that LCC are asking BFG to draw a line under its S19 report. LCC are preventing data from being used to improve the health and well-being of Burscough’s residents. Its public statement that it won’t use any BFG data shows an alarming disregard for comprehensive data compiled at the request of the BPC with the specific remit of gaining an accurate picture of the flooding issues in Burscough.

“UU’s public statement that it wouldn’t accept flooding evidence from residents’ groups but only that from flood victims telephoning their flood line, and that it would not use BFG’s evidence provoked no objection from the LLFA or the LPA present. By this lack of comment, LCC as the LLFA and WLBC as the LPA have given tacit permission to UU to ignore a large quantity of accurate flooding evidence and therefore stopped it from being used to prevent flooding and improve the health and well-being of Burscough’s residents.

“UU’s public statement that it will reduce the flood protection standard from 1 in 30 years to 1 in 10 years provoked no objection from the LLFA or the LPA present. By this lack of comment, LCC as the LLFA and WLBC as the LPA have given tacit permission to UU for them to implement that policy.

“Gavin Rattray – Secretary Burscough Flooding Group”

What is clear to UU watchers is how consistent its dividends to shareholders rise year on year, from 36.04p per share in 2014 to 39.73p in 2018. The moral of this story is buy some UU shares and take the Burscough grievance to the top management, shareholder meetings, and fund managers who invest in the company. 

Posted by: westlancashirerecord | June 13, 2018

OWLs Flying High

Council Leader announces victory for common sense after sustained pressure from Our West Lancashire. Cllr Adrian Owens  announced that “Yesterday, Cllr Ian Moran announced that the ruling Labour group would change council policy. Those residents faced with a charge of £25 and a forced change to a blue bin from the smaller recycling box would now instead be provided with a blue bin free of charge, with those who have already paid being refunded.

“This change came about after many of you told us about this totally unjust charge in response to our last newsletter. We took up the campaign for fairness on your behalf and uncovered a whole series of errors in the way the council were handling the matter.

“It’s taken a month of sustained pressure from ourselves and concerned residents, but finally we appear to have a victory for common sense. Better late than never, Cllr Moran. Well done in the end”.

No wonder Owls are happy today .

NB On the other hand “The Conservatives on West Lancs Borough Council are to force a debate at the July Council Meeting on Labour’s recent decision to stop emptying Blue Boxes and Bags as well as their imposition of the £25 charge for a new Blue Wheelie Bin”. Yes, Wally’s party is “…hoping that a full debate on the matter will make Labour realise the widespread public dissatisfaction that has been caused and that they will agree to the Conservative proposals”. Better late than never, or better never than late, that’s Wally for you!

Posted by: westlancashirerecord | June 12, 2018

Rosie Cooper In The Noes Lobby

Noes Rosie Cooper  (Labour – West Lancashire) European Union (Withdrawal) Bill: Lords Amendment 110 motion to disagree. Aye Count: 324. Noes Count: 302.

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