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Area Forum for Lytham?

Area Forum for Lytham?There are curious goings-on in sleepy Lytham these days. Reports reaching counterbalance show that Fylde Council is considering setting up a consultative body for the town, and last week they invited the great and good of Lytham (or at least several of them) to a meeting to discuss how such a body might work.

We understand that most of Fylde Borough's Lytham Councillors attended the meeting which was chaired by Councillor Raymond Norsworthy. Our Beloved Commissar and his Deputy from the far flung reaches of St Annes were also due to attend.

Quite how the list of those invited was decided upon by the Council, we are not able to say, but compiled it was, and the invitations went out.

The agenda seems to have been quite broad and interesting - it included discussion on a Parish Council for Lytham, Lytham Quays (which with all those Councillors there who could say nothing about it must have been an interesting item to listen to)  and other important topics of moment.

Reports of the meeting that reached counterbalance suggest that several of those attending found it so enthralling they asked if they could send someone else to represent them if there was to be another one. We also understand that most of the talking came from the Borough Councillors and most of the listening came from those invited.

It seems that the primary topic was whether Lytham ought to have its own Parish Council, as Saint Annes has recently set up, and as exists in every other area of Fylde Borough. Predictably,  the Borough Councillors were not much in favour, and it is believed the Chairman commented to the effect that although St Annes now had one, they really didn't know what they were there for, or what they were going to do, so it all seemed a bit pointless.

The invited audience asked a few questions about what the benefits might be, and how they worked elsewhere, and why everywhere else thought they were a good enough idea to have one, but without anyone being there who was actually from a Parish or Town Council, or even anyone from the Lancashire Association of Parish and Town Councils, who could outline the pros and cons, there was never going to be much informed discussion.

Furthermore, considering the lengths Fylde Council adopted to prevent St Annes getting its own Town Council, including knowingly making an invalid order to establish the Parish Council, and failing to make proper financial provision in the first year of operation, there wasn't really anyone to put the positive side of the case for having one, was there? 

So what was really going on here?

Well, the introduction of the Politburo Cabinet System of governance had brought about a lot of changes in Fylde's way of working. In theory, there are several 'overview committees' that are supposed to chew the cud and feed their recommendations into the Politburo Cabinet, and if they don't make the right decisions, there are also 'scrutiny committees' that can call in the Politburo Cabinet decisions.

Given that all of these committees are dominated by a majority of the same ruling group, the chances of anyone being held to account and causing political embarrassment must be about as good as winning the Lottery, (and that's fourteen million to one against.)

In addition to that system however, the Commissar wants to include the views of Joe Public (or at least to be able to appear to have done so). So the stated plan is to create something called an 'Area Committee' or 'Neighbourhood Forum' or 'Area Forum' in each part of Fylde.

These talking shops will become the tame poodle of the Commissar, dependent upon him for funding and (typically) for administrative support and organisation. Almost certainly Fylde Council will provide the administration and minute taking and so on, and thus control the decisions of the forum or group.

Now, given that most of the functions these groups would perform would also be done by a Town or Parish Council anywhere in the rest of Fylde, a picture of why Lytham has been chosen first, and why it has been done so quietly, without the usual trumpet of press releases will start to become more clear.

It's pretty much certain that in any other area, the Parish Council would (rightly) see the establishment of an "alternative" Committee as being both an insult and a threat (apart from being a gross waste of money)

So it is probable that by trying to set it up in Lytham first (where there is no Town or Parish Council) all that hassle can be avoided, and once it is going, the Commissar can say to other areas - there you are - it works fine, nothing to worry about at all. Now it's your turn.

counterbalance is fortunate to have contacts in the nearby metropolis of Blackpool where there are no Parish Councils, and these sorts of area committees already exist.

One intrepid correspondent joined a  committee as Vice Chairman, but was not happy with some of the administrative arrangements and left after a few meetings. 

For example, when they queried the fact that the minutes of one area committee showed the number of attendees voting for and against one proposal added up to  more than had attending the meeting, they were told the minutes would not be changed they had no statutory rights to require them to be changed or the vote taken again, it was all at the discretion of the Chairman and administrators.

You can see why our Beloved Commissar would love this sort of system if the good people of Lytham are daft enough to fall for it.

counterbalance respectfully suggests the good people of Lytham look more seriously at a Town or Parish Council if they want better local representation.

 Apart from the risk of manipulation and funding dependency that emanate from a non-autonomous forum (and which alone are good enough reasons to choose an independent Town Parish Council), the downside of these committees or fora is that they have no statutory powers or rights. 

Their income is taxable (which a Town/Parish Council's is not), and they could only ask the Borough Council to consult them, whereas a Town Council can, by law, require to be consulted and have their view taken into account on, say, significant planning applications. 

We're watching with interest, and will bring you next month's thrilling installment if it happens.

Dated 6 March 2006


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