Joint Meeting Snapshot
As we came out of Wyre Council offices in Poulton, all hell had broken loose. It was like the Somme without mud. Mortars
were exploding all around us. A sharp clack clack clack like small arms fire could be heard between the screech of shells flying over our heads. The night sky was lit up with vivid flashed of fire - and all around, the shells thudded and exploded.
The omens were most definitely not good.
Fortunately, it was not WW3, but November 5th, and the fireworks, (which couldn't be heard inside the double glazed, plush, marble and pale wood interior of Wyre's offices), were a stark contrast to the quiet, bland, almost unquestioning way that six
people set the framework for amalgamation that the leaders of both Councils are intent on pursuing.
The meeting was a (technically "informal") Joint Meeting - with the leader of each Council hand-picking two other Cabinet members to make a tripartite voting block for both Fylde and Wyre
For Fylde, Commissar Coombes picked Dim Tim and That Nice Paul Rigsby (No surprises, and not much disagreement likely to trouble the Commissar there then),
For Wyre, Leader Russell Forsyth picked Alan Vincent (now back from his period of suspension as a Councillor and installed as Deputy Leader) and another person whose name we missed, but it might have been Councillor Vivien Taylor who had
travelled all the way from the wilds of
Also invited was the Chief Executive of Blackpool Council, Stephen Weaver.
Interesting, we thought.
The Chairman explained that Mr Weaver had been invited as an observer at the meeting.
From what we could see, he was the only male without a tie - so either he had taken the "informal" bit rather too much to heart, or he was reflecting Blackpool's traditional notoriety for "fresh air and fun".
Anyway, the informal joint team of six received and considered the reports that we summarised for our readers in Wylde Fyreworks. If you'd like to see the full agenda and the reports in detail, they are on
Fylde Council's website under Council and Democracy >Committees
>Joint Committee >Mon 05 November 2007
The items were (unsurprisingly), voted through without dissent.
A few of Wyre's Councillors turned up and were allowed to ask questions, notable among these was Roger Brooks from Winmarleigh who asked some searching, but not really troublesome, questions.
The meeting opened with Fylde's Deputy Chief Executive David Joy saying the Project Team had a broad brief, and now it was time to narrow it down.
He said the aim of all of this is "To provide a better service at the same price, or the same services at a lower price"
This of course is the impossible but cunning trap to keep everyone on-side.
All those who want to implement cuts will vote for it, as will those who think the aim is to produce better services.
Deceptive, but intentionally woolly objectives like this keep people from causing trouble until it's too late.
One of Wyre's Councillors tried to get some clarity and asked "Without the efficiency savings, what is the idea of the scheme?"
Living up to his epithet, Dim Tim replied to say he was a member of the Project Board, and it wasn't about cheaper services, it was about better services. It wasn't about having less gardeners, it was about having less managers."
This is a really good
example of dim logic. He thinks you can get better services more cheaply, by having fewer people to organise them.
Wyre Councillor Roger Brooks (he of the more searching questions), said he was concerned they hadn't yet identified a vision for where they wanted to go, and he was far from convinced there was a realistic potential for savings.
He said he had
heard talk of £200,000 savings split between the two councils, but he wanted to see actual figures. He said "I am not convinced we have persuaded people at large there is a realistic chance of success" (Right on Councillor!)
The Commissar picked this up and said the spending power of the new joint department would be in the region of £12 to £15 million, adding "If we can't save 10% we shouldn't be sat round this table".
Then, remembering he had to keep the quality-waverers on-side, he added: "But we shouldn't focus on just the savings, it's about being the best two authorities in Lancashire or the country"
He really does think we are stupid.
He is looking to improve our services by spending £1.2 million less on them.
The man's loopy, and a liability to the people of Fylde - and Wyre it would seem.
Pressing his question home, Wyre's Councillor Brooks asked when the figures would be available. Roger Beer said "We have a team of accountants working on the figures and they should be available in 2 to 3 weeks"
Let's hope it's not Fylde's accountants, they're the ones that can't even add the bills up in time (see No Accounting for Fylde)
Still not content, (we're quite getting to like this chap), Councillor Brooks asked "How will you tell if it's a better service?"
Right on cue the Commissar replied, the public will tell us, plus we've got Overview and Scrutiny and the BVI (Best Value Indicator Statistics) to tell us.
We were about as confident with that answer as Councillor Brooks looked.
At this point the Chairman called time, and put the matter to the vote of the two leaders and their handpicked supporters.
Unsurprisingly, none of the six voted against it.
And so flowed the rest of the meeting, spoilt only by a murmur of dissent from Wyre's Councillor Vincent who dropped in a warning that he would not be in favour of having only one Scrutiny Committee for all services.
Also noted was what we perceived to be a veiled threat to the Ashdell Nurseries at Thornton. Our Commissar doesn't like greenhouses and demolished Fylde's at the first opportunity, so we don't give out too much hope for Ashdell. Or for the depot on Copse Road,
Fleetwood for that matter.
Then Fylde's Chief Executive reported on progress with the Multi Agency Agreement. If you think the Wyre takeover of Fylde's staff is a bad idea, just wait till you see where this is going. We will do our readers a separate piece on this shortly.
So; to sum up.
- The proposals set out in the reports for "Streetscene" (now to be called Community Services") were agreed as the future basis for operation.
- The Tourism Leisure and Culture service is going to be thrown into the same mincer, and quickly.
- The "shared services" (the staff like wages clerks who exist to serve front line staff) are to be prepared for mincing.
We will bring you more as it breaks.
Dated: 6 November 2007
See also: Steps toward a City of the Fylde