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countering the spin and providing the balance


Miscellany - April 2007

Miscellany April 2007We seem to have had a selection of small items that have come our way in the last week or two - several of them based on calls and emails from readers, so to cover them, we're using a multi-subject issue of counterbalance. We hope you find something palatable.

Following our Sold Down the River piece, one sharp eyed reader has spotted the prospect (and the hint of it in the official leaflet) of a road bridge across the proposed barrage that might be built across the River Ribble. This adds to the complexity a bit.

If it were to be built, the road would probably run from somewhere near the airfield at Warton, to the track on the south side that eventually becomes the road to Tarleton from the A59 joining the main road just before the Traffic lights where you turn for Liverpool or go straight on for Southport.

Lots of implications here. Reduced congestion in Preston, but equally business taken away as well. Increased congestion and traffic flow in Freckleton and Warton as would also be likely.

Apparently the Commissar is saying that it's all on the back burner and it might never happen anyway. 

It is true  just last month the Government ruled against ANY of the three Lancashire applications for unitary status (which will have riled Preston), and that Preston's Tithebarn  re-development (Preston Bus Station) has a high priority, but even so, with the money already spent on plans, reports and consultancies, (and another 300k or so earmarked from the Northwest Development Agency), we don't think it will be that easy to get rid of the Riverworks scheme.

Like the rest of Fylde, we're noticing that candidates are calling and leafleting in preparation for May's election. 

It's not a piece of cake delivering them, and it's even more dangerous calling at houses where you don't know what sort of reception you will get. 

We heard about one this week where four Conservative canvassers called on a counterbalance reader who is quite clued up on local issues. 

Things began quite well, with introductions and a leaflet handover, but quickly went downhill when our correspondent was asked if he would give his support to the Conservatives. 

He wanted to know what was the point of voting for anyone who was not on the Cabinet because only the Cabinet can make decisions. Valiantly they said the Cabinet was subject to a Scrutiny committee, which our reader quickly pointed out has a majority of the same party running it. 

We gather it got a bit heated after that, especially when the candidates were disparaging about the St Anne's Town Council. 

The canvassing group were not to know our reader had chaired the Steering Group that brought it into existence.

Oh dear!

Bad move really. Soon voices were being raised, neighbours were peering over the fence, and leaflets were being firmly handed back.

Like we said, you never know who's going to answer the door.

Another reader used the link we provided to the candidate list to do a statistical analysis of where the Fylde Borough candidates came from relative to where they were standing. 

counterbalance is very nervous of using even simple terms like "average" within his earshot, for fear of being eaten alive. (He spent his working life as a statistician with major multinationals), so we won't, but what he did conclude is that out of 97 candidates for the Borough Council 43 of them don't live in the ward they are hoping to represent. 

He recognises that a few of these will be people standing where they are known for their work and so on, but even so, he wonders about the validity of claims to be close to, and in tune with, the electorate.

Staying at Borough level for a moment, we notice that Cheryl Little (who stood unsuccessfully as a Ratepayer last time) is standing in Fairhaven ward as a Conservative this time around, (with veterans Alfred Jealous and George Caldwell). This contest in interesting because Fairhaven returns three councillors and Kevin Eastham (Chairman of the Ratepayers Association) is the other sitting councillor at present. So Cheryl is attempting to unseat her former 'boss' 

This could be a little difficult.

Did you spot the public notice advertisement last week, that looks like one of those boring planning application development notices that are made so difficult to read. In essence it said a company called Warwick Energy has applied for permission to drill for oil or gas (technically "hydrocarbon bearing horizons") at Kirkham Prison (of all places).

One is tempted to think that digging tunnels in a prison is a pretty risky activity, and adding explosive gases into the mix isn't going to make it any better, but there we are. 

Maybe there is some cheap labour to do the drilling - and some cheap petrol for sale - if all goes ' well ' (sorry!).

Preface: The names town council and parish council are more or less interchangeable. 'Town council' is generally used in urban areas like Kirkham and St Anne's.

Mostly, the elections in the parished areas are uncontested (i.e. there were no more people standing for election in any ward than the number of positions available), so in many cases, those who stood have been elected without being voted in. 

This is not exceptional, but it was not the case in the relatively new Parish of St Anne's, where, much to our dismay, the Commissar has attempted a bloodless coup to take political control of St Anne's Town Council, (Either that or it is a pure co-incidence that several people describing themselves as "The Conservative Party Candidate" decided to stand in each ward where there was a non-conservative sitting candidate.

Now there are some folk on the St Anne's Town Council that have clear political leanings, but so far they have stood for election as independent candidates and, if elected, left their political hats at the door when they went in. 

But this time Roger Walker (who was unopposed in Fairhaven) describes himself as "The Conservative Party Candidate" , as does Christine Akeroyd who stood unopposed in Kilnhouse Ward. Equally, Tony Ford is unopposed in Ashton Ward as a Liberal Democrat. 

counterbalance sincerely hopes these folk will not bring party politics into the St Anne's Town Council. There is no place for it at this level (even Borough level would be better without it), and we will be keeping an eye on the situation to keep you informed of developments.

One other candidate is returned unopposed in St Anne's. Arnold Sumner (who is so independent he doesn't describe himself as anything), has been returned unopposed in Park ward after his 'opposition' withdrew from the contest. We don't know if they gave up at the thought of having to take on such a well-known local personality, or whether like the other Arnie (now in California), he was worried about taking on another 'terminator' or for some other reason, but he has withdrawn all the same.

This leaves the contested St Anne's wards, which include former St Anne's Town Councillor David Meldrum, who is up against Tory hopeful Angela Jaques in St Leonard's ward.

Another Independent, Barbara Mackenzie - who (apparently) shares our dislike of 'political correctness' (You'll remember the Express said she was cross about the County Council's opposition to a cross in St Anne's Square at Easter), is pitted against conservative Margaret Hyde. 

Barbara currently chairs the St Anne's Town Council, and should have a head start in this contest. You'll remember Barbara is also taking on the sitting Conservatives at the Borough level, so St Anne's could see its first home-grown two hatted Borough Councillor if she wins there as well.

This leaves two (as yet untested) Independent hopefuls, Jill Sumner and David Wood contesting the Parish election in Heyhouses. This is the Commissar's ward at the Borough level, but he's not standing at Parish/Town Council level - well, he gets 6,000 a year for being Leader at Borough level, and he would get no pay and lots of work if he were to become a member of the Town Council. 

There are also contested Town Council elections in Kirkham North and South.

You can follow there links to see all the parish runners and riders, and those that are now declared uncontested

The following was received from one of our readers after the last feature:

"Thanks counterbalance for your excellent series of articles and local news. 

I find myself agreeing with many of your comments and enjoy being informed about relevant local issues and political pundits. I especially appreciate the classification of Saint, Mauler etc. 

Being slightly independently minded myself, I naturally reserve the right to disagree vehemently with your candid views, fortunately I have the opposite opinion and find myself getting quite angry under and over the collar about the surreptitious intentions of some of our so called political representatives. 

It seems to me that, behind closed cabinet doors, they pursue a pernicious agenda that is totally divorced from the electorate who, sufficiently somaed, vote them back in year after year to continue the process of de-accountability. 

Call me old fashioned, but didn't we call these representatives public servants at one time? 

Now, they seem to have a set intent to be our masters. 

If there is a light, it is free speech, such as in counterbalance, and the measure of people voting with their feet - ultimately protesting, publicly and vocally. 

Thank you for the time and effort you et al put into this fight. You will continue to receive my support, and no doubt that from many others who believe a better local democracy is possible, and is worth fighting for."

Makes it all worthwhile. Thank you, gentle reader.

Dated:  14 April 2007


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