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The Great 2007 January Sale?

The Great 2007 January Sale?Working secretly behind the scenes, the Commissar is now considering wholesale disposals of the public realm assets that our previous councillors have built up over generations, and for which, decades of ratepayers have paid with their rates and taxes. He is using the cover of the "New Accommodation" scheme to have dozens of assets valued in order to see how much he can get if he sells them off or dumps them on the unwary.

This disgraceful betrayal of our public services is nothing more than we have come to expect from someone who completely fails to understand the purpose of either local government or of community. Emulating the 1970's Hanson style of business management, he thinks the Council is business that can't be made to turn a profit so its assets should be stripped or dumped. 

Thank God we have an election in a few months - and maybe a chance to stop the madness.

On 13th November last year, the Commissar assembled a team of councillors as the "Member Working Group on Assets". The aim of this group was to "support the asset management plan and to maximise the Councilís income."

What his latest piece of wicked doublespeak really means is that he wants to sell off the family silver in order to fund yet more wasteful consultancies and stupid schemes that will become aborted as his others have done before. He wastes hours and hours of staff time in pointless paperchases that produce nothing, he employs consultants at a cost of thousands to look who is using the beach when he could do that himself from an upstairs window at the Town Hall. If he had any common sense, he would know anyway, because he lives here and has as much opportunity to see who is on the beach as we all have.

He feels no shame that listed shelters on the Promenade have been smashed and unrepaired for over three years - its not something that troubles him. If it had been like that for just three weeks when proper councillors like Eileen Hall or John Tavernor were in office, the officer responsible would be picking up their P45 - and rightly so.

That's where so much has gone wrong. Those in charge now are so detached from reality and common sense, they genuinely don't feel ashamed. 

With supreme indifference and ironic detachment, they simply don't regard it as important enough to provide public facilities like well maintained shelters or public toilets, - at least not compared with a chance to strut on a regional stage. 

It's all about priorities, and the Commissar's priority is to sell off as much as he can to prop up his financial incompetence; to put off his day of reckoning a little longer.

So, to help him along, the Working Group on Assets has made a start by taking a list of property prepared by officers and categorising their suitability for disposal, either by sale, (or by  what the Council calls "devolution" to bodies like town and parish councils), and then to prioritise them for disposal within each of the categories.

(As an aside, 'devolution' is a very curious term to use here. FBC has no power whatsoever to devolve anything to a parish council.   It can  - and probably will - try to con parish residents into paying twice for the same service, but we're used to that approach, having seen the various guises of Equitable Taxation emanating from the Town Hall)

The categorisation proposed is:

Category 1: 
Assets that could or should be disposed of to achieve income

Category 2: 
Assets that could potentially raise increased revenue

Category 3: 
Assets that could or should be disposed of to others to continue to provide the councilís objectives, e.g. the Town or Parish Council

Category 4: 
Assets that should be retained, and if necessary improved/adapted.

So what's on the list?, what's heading for the chop? - what's in Fylde's Great 2007 January Sale.

We haven't reproduced the whole list here, just selected the main ones that might be of interest. (A copy of the full list is available on request) The assets now being considered include:

Category 1. 
Things that could or should be disposed of to achieve income.

  • 288- 290 Clifton Drive South - Contact Centre
  • 292- 294 Clifton Drive South - Puiblic Offices (sic)
  • Ashton Gardens - Exhibition Centre 
  • Blackpool Road Playing Fields - Site & Changing Pavilion
  • Car Park, North Beach - Site (Rear of 462-476 Clifton Drive North)
  • Car Park, St. Pauls Avenue - Site
  • Lytham Marsh - Pier Hole Lytham (dispose to wildfowlers?).
  • Melton Grove, Lytham (Clifton Lytham Housing Assoc Ltd).
  • Moreland Avenue, Wesham - Allotment site.
  • Moreland Avenue, Wesham - Garage Site.
  • Park View Changing Rooms Park View Road, Lytham.
  • St. Davids Rd Depot - Buildings and site St. Davids Rd North, St Annes.
  • Waddington Playing Field - Site St.Annes.
  • Wesham Depot - Buildings Derby Rd, Wesham.
  • Wesham Offices - Building Derby Rd, Wesham.
  • Wesham Site - Glengariff Building Derby Rd.
  • Woodlands Caravan Park - Carr Bridge Preston New Road.
  • Wray Crescent, Wrea Green - land Head of  Wrea Crescent.

Category 2
Things that could potentially raise increased revenue.

  • Ashton Gardens - C. A. B. Building 5 St Georges Road, St Annes
  • Crematorium - Various buildings - Building Regent Avenue
  • East End Bowling Green - Site & Pavilion Lorne Street, Lytham.
  • Dicconsen Terrace (former Lytham baths)
  • Fairhaven - Lawn Tennis Club Inner Promenade, Lytham St. Annes
  • Fairhaven lake - various parts/buildings/pavilions
  • Miniature Golf Course - Site & Pavilion
  • Miniature Golf Course, Inner Promenade
  • Ribble Cruising Club East Beach, Lytham
  • South Promenade - Pleasure Island South Promenade
  • St Annes boating pool & hut 

Category 3
Things that could or should be disposed of to others to continue to provide the councilís objectives 

  • Admiral Square - Site
  • Allotments - Moss Hall Lane, Lytham
  • Allotments - Mythop Road Lytham - Site
  • Beauclerk Gardens - Site Corner of St Annes Road East and Church Road
  • Car Park Mill Street Mill Street, Kirkham
  • Chain Lane Staining - Site Staining Recreation Ground
  • Nature Reserve - Site and Visitor Centre Clifton Drive North
  • Oxford Road, St Annes Open Space
  • Park View Playing Fields - Site Park View Road
  • Raleigh Close Playing Fields - Site Off Frobisher Drive, St Annes
  • St Albans Rd - Reduced Site following sale to YMCA
  • William Segar Hodgson Field - Bldg (Changing Pavilion) Coronation Road, Kirkham 
  • William Segar Hodgson Field - Site Coronation Road, Kirkham
  • Windmill, East Beach, Lytham

After agreeing this as the provisional categorisation and priority - subject to site visits (which may or may not actually happen) - the Commissar has engaged consultants to value the property to see how many pieces of sliver he can get. 

Even more ominously than the list above was the throwaway line on page 2 of the report: "Fairhaven Lake - A review is about to commence led by Cultural Services"

Whilst that could mean a lot of things, the most likely is the operation of Fairhaven Lake is about to be reviewed from the perspective not of how valuable it is as a tourist resource, and not what an important wildlife function it fulfils, not even what a peaceful place it is to enjoy a quiet, health promoting walk. 

No, the review is going to focus on how much its pips can be made to squeak as the last drop of income is extracted from exploiting its commercial potential.

The valuers were due to start on all the sites early in the new year, "to undertake a current market valuation to establish the potential realisation value to the council," so you can bet they are about finished by now.

You've probably guessed from the tone that we aren't much in favour of selling off land like playing fields and gardens that is provided for a purpose (almost none of the assets we have listed here are held as speculative development land, or investment land, it has all been acquired for a purpose like recreation)

But even setting that aside for a moment, what on earth is the point of selling land at a time when there is a planning moratorium in force that will limit the value to that achievable for 'affordable' housing. Its like selling your shares at the bottom of a bear market just when you should be buying to pick up the low priced bargains.

If you're going to sell, how much better it would be to wait until the planning moratorium is lifted and the income you can get is not constrained by the need to accept an artificially low price. - But then, we suppose, why should the Commissar break the habit of a lifetime and do something sensible?

When the light eventually shines on the financial mis-management of this administration, there will come a day of reckoning, and it will be painful. 

For a tiny council like Fylde, trying to pretend it is one of the big players in Local Government is a hugely expensive exercise, and the cost of the Commissar's Captain Peacock impression will fall on no-one's shoulders but our own.

What's even worse, is that when you have someone in charge who either hasn't a clue, or simply doesn't care, about boring, practical, commonsense priorities like cutting the grass and sweeping the streets,  you know you're going to be in for a real shock in the final analysis. 

When the next administration opens the books and sees what needs doing, there will be howls of anguish from them and future pain for us. 

But it's not the next administration that will have squandered our birthright. That's down to the present incumbents.

Dated:  3 February 2007


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