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countering the spin and providing the balance


The Cabinet is Formed

Fylde Council loses the will to live.On Monday 13 February 2006, Fylde Council lost the will to live. Having previously agreed a plan to create a Politburo Cabinet to concentrate decision-making power into the hands of a 'Leader', the Council ceded power to Commissar John Coombes tonight when it formally elected him Leader. He then hand-picked eight other councillors to make all future executive decisions on behalf of the Council. (For more information, see Who's Who in the Politburo)

You will soon see how far the source of power is insulated from the ability of the electorate to directly hold it to account.

This move to a cabinet is probably the most dangerous thing Coombes could have done for the majority of Fylde's residents. 

In his traditional style, he implemented it against the expressed majority of the public who responded to FBC's vote about Fylde's future democratic structure. He argued that although the public vote went against him, the percentage voting was not really enough make the result "meaningful"

His Cabinet Politburo is now made up entirely with seven of his own political party placemen, and one from the minority 'Truly Independent' group who currently vote en-bloc with the Conservatives. (see Who's Who in the Politburo)

The Council also appointed new "Scrutiny Committees" - who are supposed to provide the checks and balances on the Cabinet Politburo. Coombes announced that he had allowed two or three non-Conservatives to be the Chairman or Vice Chairman of a few of these committees, but that doesn't really carry much weight because the committees all have an overall majority of his own party! 

counterbalance thinks that even Mr Mugabe would be proud of this setup.

So, when Politburo aspirants have to scrabble for his favour - as they await the crumbs from his Cabinet table - which of them is going to gainsay the Mighty Commissar?

The democratic direction in which he has taken us will turn into a disaster for most people in Fylde. 

As Councillor Paul (The Mauler) Hayhurst said "We are in an absolute mess, we've taken on another 1m in salary costs since John Coombes took over, we have nowhere to meet, we're paying a fortune for a temporary Chief Executive, and we're spending 20k a year on a Press Officer when we can't afford 20k to repair Kirkham Baths. We're just moving from one disaster to another, and I'd ask John Coombes to reconsider, and let someone else stand as leader"

Coombes' political and financial incompetence, together with his alienation of many residents by taking what he calls "the difficult decisions" (for which read - "I know this is not what you want, but I'm going to do it anyway"), will almost certainly ensure that by the time of the next election, the urban conservative group has become unelectable. 

He demonstrates a complete misunderstanding of his role as a local councillor, thinking that overt loyalty to party dogma, and hammering the "opposition" into the ground at every opportunity is all that is required. He appears to have no conception of arriving at a consensus view in the interests of local people. 

Like others in his coterie, his understanding of compromise is that those with other views should change them to match his own.

His main hope is that we will have forgotten all the bad things he has done by the time of the next election. 

He hopes we will have forgotten about the sale of public assets such as part of Ashton Gardens and land adjoining Park View Playing fields. 

He thinks we won't recall his appalling plans to demolish and sell off the Town Hall, the North Beach car park and other council owned sites in order to fund a new administrative HQ for the Council. 

He hopes we won't have noticed the decrepit and disgraceful state of listed buildings on the promenade, and that we will have forgotten his proposed conversion of Lowther Pavilion to a "Civic Suite"- and the isolation of officers from the community they serve through the introduction of "Stop One Shops" where you can make an appointment to see a technical officer or speak with them on the phone (which you could do from home on the phone anyway!).  

He expects we will have forgotten the bulldozing of the Ashton Institute, and the plan to close all the public loos in the town, and the proposal to close the swimming baths, and the loss of 500,000 that his auditors found in his accounts, and the fact that the accounts were so bad the following year the auditors couldn't even audit the books, and the 512,000 supposed expenditure shortfall when at the same time 1.1 million had been salted away into less visible "Earmarked Reserve" accounts, and his ludicrous plan to blackmail parish councils into charging a second council tax, and his avoidance of hearing anything said against the Lytham Quays scheme in case his mind became so contaminated against the plan that he couldn't make the right decision, and all the appalling planning decisions we have endured, and his beloved "modernisation" schemes that have all but ruined our heritage, and the huge increases is service charges he has implemented - bowling and car parking to name but two.

He thinks the spin and deception that now pours out of a once respected and responsible public body is something to which we will have grown accustomed and not mind.

So, in his own cloud-cuckoo land, he still thinks the conservative group can win a local election!

The man seems to have no understanding of the role of local government in a community. If you read between the lines of what he says, it is quite clear he sees the Council as a business. The bit he can't understand is why he can't  make it run at a profit. This is why he is trying to hive off everything to the private or voluntary sector. This approach is the last resort of a failing administration that has given up and admitted its own incompetence to govern.

The danger we face as a Borough, and the danger to which he appears blind, is that when his group loses the next election - as almost certainly they will - just as they did previously when conservatives lost the trust of their electorate, the concentration of power he has created will fall into the hands of people who feel (probably with some justification) that they have had a bad deal under his leadership, and boy, will it be payback time for those in the coastal strip!

Perhaps that is what he hopes. Perhaps he intends to fight the next election on the basis that no matter how bad his plans are, you will have to vote for him because the opposition would be even worse for you. 

As an ex Councillor told counterbalance "The trouble is, we remember a time when the Council was in tune with its electorate, and saw its role as providing the services we needed. Now we are being managed and manipulated

The spin and deception we suffer, together with the increased conflict and lack of unity within the Council, the much-increased party politicisation of the Council, and now this latest move away from direct democratic accountability, is down to Commissar Coombes and his acolytes. 

The people of this area are unlikely to forgive - or forget.

Dated:  13 February 2006


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