Posted by: westlancashirerecord | September 26, 2018

MEPs’ Hiding Expenses And Allowances Is Legal!

I bet you all thought the EU was a law abiding body, open and transparent, no secrets kept from its citizens? Well think again, as the EU General Court  confirms the Parliament’s refusal to grant access to documents relating to MEPs’ subsistence allowances, travel expenses and parliamentary assistance allowances.

In 2015, a number of journalists and journalism associations requested access from the Parliament to documents relating to the subsistence allowances, travel expenses and parliamentary assistance allowances of Members of the European Parliament (‘MEPs’). Those requests were all refused by the Parliament, as were the confirmatory applications which followed them.

The persons concerned brought an action before the General Court seeking the annulment of the Parliament’s decisions. By today’s judgment, the General Court dismisses the actions and confirms the Parliaments’ decisions refusing access to the documents requested.

The Court  recalls first of all that the institutions must refuse access to a document where disclosure would undermine the protection of privacy and the integrity of the individual, which provision must be implemented in accordance with EU law on the protection of personal data. 1 Under that legislation, ‘personal data’ means any information relating to an identified or identifiable natural person. Indeed, since all the documents requested contain information concerning identified natural persons (namely MEPs), the mere fact that those personal data are closely linked to public data on those persons does not mean that those data cannot be characterised as personal data.

Next, the Court recalls that access to documents containing personal data may nonetheless be granted if the applicant shows that the transfer is necessary and if there is no reason to believe that that transfer could prejudice the legitimate interests of the person concerned. The General Court considers that the first of those two cumulative conditions (the need for the data to be transferred) is not met in the present case. The applicants have failed to show how the transfer of personal data at issue is necessary to ensure an adequate review of the expenditure incurred by MEPs to fulfil their mandate, in particular to remedy the alleged inadequacies of existing mechanisms for the review of that expenditure .

Similarly, the wish to institute public debate cannot suffice to show the need for the transfer of personal data, since such an argument is connected solely with the purpose of the request for access to the documents. Finally, the applicants have failed to demonstrate that that transfer is appropriate and proportionate to the objective pursued.

The Court points out that, in any event, by their arguments, the applicants are not so much seeking again to challenge the legality of the contested decisions but are, in essence, denouncing shortcomings in and the ineffectiveness of existing review mechanisms. It is not for the Court to assess that point in the context of proceedings brought before it.

Posted by: westlancashirerecord | September 25, 2018

Discrimination At The Beacon Park Golf Course

Senior, ie older members at the Beacon Park Golf Course Club are being discriminated against by the Serco/West Lancashire Community Leisure partnership simply by paying for annual membership. Once paid there are no refunds for having to play on a sub-standard course. Pay and play golfers can turn up, play a few holes and realise how bad the fairways are and obtain a refund. They might never return!

One of the dodgiest deals the Tory dominated council ever brought to the borough was to legalise landfill dumping on Beacon Park Golf Course to the extent it did, by allowing the destruction of a practice field and the driving range. It has connotations of the neglect of the valuable asset that was once assessed at circa £2million. Without any due diligence, cowboy companies arranged the dumping for royalties that came nowhere near to the borough accounts, paid by its own admission to Serco Leisure Operating Ltd via Oakland Golf and Leisure Ltd . As quoted officially by WLBC “In 2011 the Beacon Park Golf Centre was transferred to the Leisure Trust who use Serco to deliver the service”.

The whole affair probably breaches the Consumer Contracts Regulations 2013, the Consumer Rights Act 2015 [CRA] and its predecessors the Unfair Contract Terms Act 1977 and the Sale of Goods and services Act 1982. Prior to the CRA, consumers had no statutory remedies where services were of poor quality or defective although they had common law remedies (e.g. damages) where the services were in breach of any express or implied contract term that the supplier would use reasonable care and skill.

The CRA introduced a new provision under which the trader is contractually liable for any statements it makes. Serco Leisure Operating Ltd is the trader by contract for the Beacon Park Golf Course and its spokesman Steve Lawrence wrote “The current condition of the course is excellent and it has been improving steadily over the last 2 years”. That claim, you might surmise, will come back to haunt Serco.

The WLBC Director of Leisure and Environment wrote “In terms of the breach of contract between the Council/Serco/Trust and the Golf Courses Members, the Golf Course membership Terms and Conditions allow for work on the course to be carried out and if needed the temporary closure of greens, subject to sufficient notice being provided”. For her benefit we describe a golf course as “The grounds where the game of golf is played. It comprises a series of holes, each consisting of a teeing ground, a fairway, the rough and other hazards, and a green with a flagstick (“pin”) and hole (“cup”). From this she will conclude the temporary closure of greens is not the current issue.

The WLBC Director also stated “Serco have until the 16th November to comply with the breach of condition notice or to submit a further planning application and they are working closely with WLBC Officers and Oaklands [Oakland Golf and Leisure Ltd] to find a solution. Pre-application discussions are confidential in nature and it would not be appropriate for third parties to form part of those discussions; however if a suitable solution can be agreed then subject to due planning procedure, proposals will be made available to Golf Course users at an appropriate time”.

In what was stated above readers will notice extreme use of the mushroom method of communication . You can go to the course, see the construction, for want of a better word, of the 9hole heap, and see the destruction of the driving range as it remains, but you can’t be told what is supposedly commercial in confidence about their bizarre wrecking ball management system.

But the Freedom of Information Act 2000 was amended so that “For normal planning applications, negotiations between the developer and planning authority, for example over section 106 agreements, are exempt from freedom of information requests on the grounds that they are commercially confidential. However, when a local planning authority applies to itself for planning permission, that exemption does not apply. In other words, a freedom of information request could obtain information about any written negotiations between the local authority officers involved in development and those involved in planning”. The borough refuses to disclose it.

For the record, John Nelson Head of Leisure and Cultural Services West Lancashire Borough Council wrote on 26 August 2015 “I can confirm that the driving range will close prior to the phase 2 works and before a new play area is to be installed. It is not the intention of the operator to manage this area as a driving range in the future. I have agreed to this change in use and I am waiting for detailed proposals as to how this area will be used in the future. Depending on the proposals this may require separate planning permission”. He did that because in November 2011 the Cabinet decided “That the Assistant Director Community Services, in consultation with the Leader and relevant portfolio holder, be authorised to develop and implement proposals for the long term operation of the Beacon Park Golf Course and negotiate and conclude all arrangements (to include the obtaining of all necessary consents, providing for all requisite notices and the entering into all necessary licences, leases and agreements/documentation) to give effect to that proposal”.

It is a fact that the hidden economy of the Beacon Park Golf Course landfill industry is a West Lancashire Borough Council enabled black economy, a part of council economic activity which is unrecorded, unchallenged, and probably untaxed by the government, exposed with some certainty from the insolvency of DCT Leisure Ltd and its non payment of VAT. It goes ignored.

Posted by: westlancashirerecord | September 25, 2018

The Hope Of Plan A+

Remaining a devotee of democracy despite regular insults from Brexit remoaners is challenging. I read about some Tory MPs speaking alongside an ex-Northern Ireland Secretary and ex-Labour MP and Leave campaigner Gisela Stuart to announce the launch of an alternative Brexit plan published by the Institute of Economic Affairs in Whitehall yesterday .

The lengthy report called on ministers to seek a “basic” free trade agreement for goods and pursue “regulatory freedom and trade independence” to allow Britain to strike new free trade deals immediately.

The alternative Plan A+ says grasping the opportunities of Brexit must be made the top priority – instead of being a “damage limitation exercise”. It has been compared to the kind of comprehensive free trade deal Canada has struck with the EU but Mr Rees-Mogg said the name didn’t matter – and instead rested on the PM changing her approach. He also claimed the EU had already offered this more basic approach to a new trade deal.

Author of the IEA report Shanker Singham warned negotiations have been approached from the “wrong end of the telescope” and said his new Brexit plan seeks a free trade agreement for goods. Mr Singham referenced Prime Minister Theresa May comments about a “Brexit prize” during her keynote Lancaster House speech, adding “What is that prize? I think that prize is entirely to be found in your independent trade and regulatory policy. It is nowhere else. If you don’t have an independent trade and regulatory policy as you leave the EU, then this is only a damage limitation exercise. This can only be a bad result.”

Having lived the lies of Edward Heath that “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” Prime Minister Edward Heath, television broadcast on Britain’s entry into the Common Market, January 1973, and the cost to the UK since then, over £100billion, it’s time for us perhaps to assume that’s what is good enough for Canada/EU is good enough for UK/EU. Just get on with it!

Posted by: westlancashirerecord | September 25, 2018

Money Galore, Still No SPIDs For Aughton

My word, how they, the Aughton Parish Council, wriggle out of using our, parishioners’, cash to buy the much needed and fought for SPIDs, as long as they can.

As previously reported “APC Cash and short term investments £117,857, total fixed assets plus long term investments £320,809, Total CIL Receipts Retained (Unspent) £7,356.73. Reported in May 2018 that “Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL): to receive notification of CIL receipts paid to the Parish Council April 2018 – £13,642.51 (development on land at Aughton Chase, Springfield Road ).

Minute 10986 July 2018 “WEST LANCASHIRE BOROUGH COUNCIL: a) Parish Council Capital Schemes 2018/2019: i) to report on the bid for partnership funding towards the provision of Solar Powered Speed Indicator Devices  and to receive and consider approval of the Terms and Conditions which apply to the grant funding (details circulated to members) – the successful bid was NOTED, ie £6000 – percentage grant rate 50% (£3,000 APC £3,000 WLBC) and it was AGREED to approve the Capital Grant Agreement (document executed as a deed) to be signed by the Clerk/Proper Officer. ii) to consider a Working Group – it was AGREED to set up a Working Group to consider the most appropriate locations for the Speed Indicator Devices (SpIDs), liaison with Lancashire County Council Highways, arrange site visits, etc. Additionally, consideration would be given to the use of CIL monies for SpIDs if the location(s) met the specific criteria. The Scheme would be reported back to the Parish Council for approval, once all issues relevant to the project had been completed”. 

Working Group…

Posted by: westlancashirerecord | September 24, 2018

Active West Lancs

Have you heard about “Active West Lancs” that gives people of all ages the opportunity to embrace a healthier lifestyle? WLBC states “Building on existing projects, this service includes gym-based programmes, swimming, health walks , school activities, family workshops, after-school clubs, weight management programmes, community farming/allotments, taster and physical activity sessions.

“We run a wide range of activities across various settings such as leisure centres, community centres, parks & outdoor facilities, schools & community allotments in a bid to get our community more active”
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You can imagine “Active Golf” being popular, but it is limited to GP referral only. WLBC says “Active Golf is a brand new initiative for you to be referred onto by your GP or medical practitioner. We will be holding weekly golf sessions on Fridays, 10.00am – 12.00pm at Beacon Golf Club, Upholland.

“Equipment can be borrowed on the day – no previous golf experience needed!! So if you fancy some fresh air, meeting new people and socialising, then have a chat with your GP and if you meet the criteria, you can be referred. Please note, this is the only programme that is soley GP Referral only”.

You might be worried about some possible activities there. Walking up the new 9hole feature might necessitate taking an oxygen bottle with you, and likewise if the new foot golf feature  is unlocked, although these features are not planned to open any time soon, guestimated to be in the next five years!

Posted by: westlancashirerecord | September 24, 2018

Bloor Flogs Its Homes With Help To Buy

You may have read about Bloor Homes having sold 3,023 homes at £300,000 average price. It states in its accounts “The housing market has been strong as a result of the availability of mortgage finance products at affordable levels and the Government backed Help to Buy Scheme” also known as the “help developers to become rich scheme”.

Hence Bloor Homes’ generosity to the Tory Party , although the Bloor directors do not recommend a final dividend. The Bloor Group funds its operations through a combination of shareholders’ funds, group loans, bank loans, and bank overdrafts, all arranged on a sub-group basis by Bloor Holdings Limited, its wholly owned subsidiary of Bloor Investments Ltd.

Bloor paid £30,015,000 taxation on profit leaving it with £122,506,000 profit for the financial year.

Why doesn’t West Lancashire Borough Council ask for authority to build with Help to Buy? The cap on the amount local authorities can borrow has been in place since 2013. It means that councils are able to borrow against assets for facilities such as swimming pools but not to build housing. A change to this rule would cost nothing and it would simply give councils the ability to borrow against the un-mortgaged value of the existing social stock that they own.

It’s reported that in 2016/17 just 1,840 homes were built by local authorities in England, and research by the Institute for Public Policy Research found that 92pc of councils were failing to meet affordable housing needs. We should not be surprised!

Posted by: westlancashirerecord | September 23, 2018

Doubt Over Skelmersdale Railway Station?

Adrian Tayler of Tanhouse asks in Letters to the Champion  “Why no mention of proposed Skem railway station in Local Plan Review?”. There is, actually, as WLBC stated in its summarised bumph, “This proposal would make a significant contribution to the business case for creating a Skelmersdale Rail Link”.

Not that the bumph should be read as biblical tablets of stone. Far from it. The Tory Local Plan was written by the same people who now write the Labour Local Plan. Perhaps its origins lie with consultants “sleeping with the enemy” ie developers who, evidence suggests, are looking for long term profits from the destruction of much of the West Lancashire green belt.

A public document entitled West Lancashire Local Plan Review Issues and Opinions was published in April 2017  to make “Representations by Redrow Homes and Wainhomes North West Ltd”. Emery Planning Partnership is instructed by Redrow Homes and Wainhomes North West Ltd to submit representations on the West Lancashire Local Plan Review (March 2017). Our clients have a specific interest with land at Parr’s Lane, Aughton, which is allocated as a Plan B site in the adopted West Lancashire Local Plan”.

Two options are set out for consultation these being: 2012 to 2037; or, 2012 to 2050. Our view is that the plan period for West Lancashire should be 2012 to 2050. Our reasons for this are as follows. The first is that West Lancashire will require Green Belt release. On that point Government guidance is clear. Paragraph 83 states that “At that time, authorities should consider the Green Belt boundaries having regard to their intended permanence in the long term, so that they should be capable of enduring beyond the plan period”.

And “As the Council will be aware they reviewed their Green Belt as part of the adopted Local Plan and the LPR is clear that further Green Belt releases will be required for the majority of the housing options. Therefore with a review being necessary using either plan period, it would be in the interests of all parties and in accordance with Government guidance that the plan period is to 2050…A concern we had at the Local Plan Examination was how development was distributed in Policy SP1 where Burscough was given 850 dwellings whereas the significantly larger and more accessible Ormskirk with Aughton was given 750 dwellings…The clear and compelling needs for Ormskirk with Aughton must be addressed and its role in West Lancashire and the wider region recognised which reflects its services, facilities and rail links and the growing status of Edge Hill University…It is therefore apparent that with Burscough being able to deliver that level of development provided all sites come forward, then Ormskirk with Aughton and Skelmersdale are the two most sustainable locations to meet need”. Persistent buggers, aren’t they? They lost the Parrs Lane appeals!

You can read the full submission here, surprisingly under the name of Harris. https://www.westlancs.gov.uk/media/537918/60-Harris-4-_Redacted.pdf

Also in Letters, Paul Coney states “We don’t need 15,000 new homes!”. Agreed, Mr Coney. Local planners can and should do better than to impose ridiculous pie in the sky guestimates on an intelligent populous. As we all know, the fight has started.

Back to the Skelmersdale Railway Station issue, WLBC states “There are the proposals for a new Skelmersdale Rail Link (with connections to Liverpool and Manchester) and for West Lancashire to accommodate a share of the growing demand for logistics space (emerging from the anticipated growth of shipping through the Port of Liverpool) on the M58 Corridor. This therefore means that the need for housing in West Lancashire (especially around Skelmersdale and the M58 Corridor) will naturally increase because of this growth in jobs and improved access to Liverpool and Manchester.

“The Local Preferred Options would provide new homes and employment space in and around Skelmersdale, including an ambitious initiative to create three new Garden Villages and a Logistics Park alongside the M58. The three Garden Villages will offer comprehensively planned new settlements which enhance the natural environment. They will provide new high-quality and imaginatively designed homes, including affordable homes, and access to local employment, all combining the best of town and country to create walkable, vibrant, healthy and sociable communities with good access to cycling and public transport infrastructure. This proposal would make a significant contribution to the business case for creating a Skelmersdale Rail Link”.

From which you might deduce people, residents, must be considered as part of a “business” rail link. Now think that one out? Because the Tory slap down of elderly and disabled residents who have always wanted off peak equality on the Liverpool-Ormskirk service was simply discrimination, not business.

Posted by: westlancashirerecord | September 22, 2018

Theresa May Needs A Plan B

Poor Theresa May. After being brutally ambushed by EU leaders, apparently she will now have to fend off an assault from within her own Cabinet as ministers threaten to resign if she doesn’t come up with a Brexit ‘Plan B.  We in Aughton know all about Plan B! We had one. 

Former Labour MP Austin Mitchell writes “It’s properly European to give electorates which have voted against the EU the chance to purge their sin by re-voting and for those for whom Europe is a matter of religion it provides a last chance to stay in the welcoming arms of a benign EU. For Britain’s Europhile elite it looks democratic to allow the people to rectify their terrible mistake of voting to come out.

“Of course that would mean going back to a protective bloc, falling behind the rest of the world and shaped by the needs of France and Germany. That would mean a continued drain and a growing trade deficit for a nation which will have wasted two years arguing with itself and end any chance of reforming the EU to make it suit our needs too.

Then, why would they bother to make concessions to such a pathetic weak jellyfish of a nation which is resigned to accepting vassal status, when they’ve got so many other problems? Indeed, they could demand the final insult and treat our return as a new member with an obligation to join the euro, though no entitlement to cohesion funding”.

Get off your knees Theresa, and apply Plan B to the EU…”Plan Bugger Off!”. 

Posted by: westlancashirerecord | September 22, 2018

Devastating Loss Of Greenbelt Will Lose Communities

Iain and Linda Mathie of Bickerstaffe have written to the Champion to relate their objections to the proposed Local Plan  as they believe it will affect Bickerstaffe. As residents of a small rural farming community they know it cannot sustain an influx of people on the scale proposed. As they write  “Gone will be the community aspect of village school, mission hall, pensioners’ days out. In short, the lifestyle of residents will be lost forever”.

This letter will be followed by many more. Every time a field growing crops is threatened there should, and will be, protests. When did you ever hear about more agricultural land being created? The Mathies’ describe how Bickerstaffe has suffered from a motorway being built that cut the parish in half, losing land and houses in the process; forced to suffer the eyesore of electricity pylons built across the parish; lost the bus service and post office; shops too. All that destruction and they have never had a gas supply. 

They say “If the officers making these decisions think it is morally acceptable to destroy our community and farmland, then they are either totally insane or blinded by the monetary incentives on offer”.

It is probably a combination of both!

 

Posted by: westlancashirerecord | September 22, 2018

Turf War?

West Lancashire MP Rosie Cooper has been contacted by residents of Drummersdale Lane in Scarisbrick  who have suffered from flooding and fearful of further incidents, which they believe is due to field runoff.

Rosie contacted Lancashire County Council and Her Majesty’s Land Registry to ascertain the owners of the field which could be the land responsible for causing the flooding, and it has been confirmed that this land is owned by Harrowden Turf, previously trading as Turfland.

In following up with the constituents’ case, Rosie has tried on several occasions to elicit a response from the turf growers, but none has been forthcoming. Concern has been raised over their conduct and respect for local residents and neighbours.

Rosie said “Residents of Drummersdale Lane have contacted me frightened and worried about the constant threat of flooding of their property due to the field  [copyright Mike Pennington] runoff at the rear of their property. After ascertaining who owns the land I’ve contacted Harrowden Turf directly on numerous occasions. They failed to turn up to a meeting with me and keep promising a written response which never arrives! This certainly calls into question their social responsibility and respect for their neighbours. I will continue to pursue this matter by any means necessary on behalf of the affected and concerned residents until they can be assured that the flooding of their properties, which may be due to the inaction of this company, is eradicated”.

The company is a collective of turf suppliers, as they state “Turfonline  combines the expertise of three of the largest turf growers in the UK with over 2,000 acres dedicated to turf production. Turfland Farms Ltd, based in Southport in the North West, Turfland-Stewarts Turf in Edinburgh, Scotland and Q Lawns based in Norfolk in the South East. The three companies now trade under the one name, Harrowden Turf.

“The geographic spread of the our turf farms is key to enabling an efficient nationwide delivery service and guarantees customers freshly harvested turf direct from field to site.

“Turfland Farms Ltd (Turfland) is at Moss Farm Heathey Lane. Birkdale Cop, Scarisbrick. The company statement declares the parent company to be Harrowden Farms Ltd in Kettering, Northamptonshire”.

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