It seems that after we broke the news about the Commissar's plan to transfer 60% of his staff to Wyre's payroll, something
of a storm has broken loose in Fylde's Town Hall.
We're told the notice giving the date and time of the Joint Meeting at Wyre, together with the meeting agenda, and the accompanying reports about what was being proposed, hadn't been circulated to Fylde's Councillors.
So none of them knew what was going on until they read it here.
We gather some were not very happy to be told there had been "an administrative error" in failing to send out the papers.
Now, counterbalance knows something of the internal procedures in Fylde.
We know that for the most part, there are dedicated, professional officers in the administration department and, quite simply, it is almost impossible to believe they would forget to send out agendas.
It is a fundamental part of their existence. There are protocol driven people there that can set out the right order of priority for everyone from dukes and dustmen at civic functions. They know, live and breathe procedure. Failing to send out an
agenda is about as likely as the Gazette forgetting to print its front page.
No, we think the more likely explanation is that they are taking a hit for someone else. Someone who didn't want anyone else to know about the meeting.
Now, we wonder, who that might be - if, indeed it is the explanation?
Since we published Wylde Fyreworks and Joint Meeting Snapshot, we have been cogitating about the Joint Working scheme and how it would be implemented without Fylde's
Councillors who object having chance to veto it.
There is a way.
The Commissar said he expects £1.2 to £1.5 million pounds of savings as a result of the Wyre takeover. Note that as yet, he doesn't seem to have realised there will be one-off and setup costs for the new organisation that will more than cancel out
these savings - (and that's if he can achieve any savings).
He also said he planned to put half the savings into next year's budget, presuming the transfer to Wyre's payroll would take place around next September or thereabouts, giving half a year at the theoretically lower rate.
So it's quite possible he planned to leave the announcement of the actual new employment arrangements until the budget process next March, when he might say something like "Well, we have a statutory deadline to approve a budget by next week, and
there's no time to re-work all these figures now, so you'll just have to approve the whole package"
He knows there's nothing like an unmissable deadline to focus the mind.
But now, at least two Fylde Councillors are so cross they have submitted what is known as a "Notice of Motion" to the Council meeting to be held at Lowther Pavilion next Monday (26th) at 7pm.
The motion is proposed by Queen Elizabeth Oades of Kirkham, supported by Cllr Mrs Linda Nulty. It says:
"[It is] Proposed that Fylde Borough Council shall not transfer responsibility for the delivery of any service to any joint arrangements, partner, contractor or agency without:
- full consideration and open discussion of any proposal by full council
- consideration of the views of partner organisations
- consideration of the comprehensive business case which addresses all options and which shows the clear financial and operational benefits - including redundancy and set-up costs.
- identification and evaluation of the degree of loss of sovereignty of this council to determine the standards of service appropriate for our communities"
Sadly, the way the Commissar has things sewn up these days, the Mayor is quite likely to invoke one of the regulations that prevent any debate on the matter, and it will quite probably be referred directly to the Politburo Cabinet for them to
consider - which will mean it is quietly dropped into the long grass.
But what will probably happen, is that both the media and Wyre's staff and Councillors will be alerted to the concern expressed by some - possibly quite a few - of Fylde's "opposition" Councillors (who number almost half the Council). That
doesn't augur too well for any joint working scheme like this continuing smoothly into the future, even if the Commissar gets it through this time around.
Also at the meeting on Monday is another Notice of Motion from Councillor Kevin Eastham and Cllr John Davies.
Their motion says:
"In the light of the long awaited proposals showing the development of the existing Town Hall site, a full debate should take place to re evaluate current needs.
The following topics need to be addressed:-
- Costs of current proposals compared to any alternatives.
- Estimated value and identity of sites to be sold to finance the project
- Number of staff we are now planning for in the light of proposed mergers and joint working with neighbouring authority's
- Proposed future of the old St Annes municipal offices where we have invested in providing a One Stop Shop, bearing in mind this is a building listed as being of architectural or historic interest.
The proposals shown to staff and members this month involve retaining the existing Town Hall building for members functions alone i.e. Council Chamber, Mayoral Suite, Members Room and Parlour. In the absence of dual use functioning of these
rooms (i.e. hiring out for weddings and conferences) can we in this day and age justify this cost to the residents of the Borough?
Nothing has yet emerged about temporarily re housing staff from the Chaseley building whilst it is being demolished. Staff are concerned that there are no on site parking facilities. Members have expressed concerns about the removal of detail and the
old staircase from the town hall and the necessary need for long ramps to access the entrance.
The practical and legal issues associated with developing and selling off two upper tiers of the old town hall have not yet been addressed nor has the use of its basement.
A well structured debate is called for with the council, Messrs. Turner and Townsend, our project managers demonstrating that the proposals in front of us represent the best value for money in terms of site structure, detail and disturbance.
The proposal must meet the needs of staff, members and the public in the most cost effective way for the foreseeable future".
So someone else has seen the folly of spending £7 million on a new office block when you're getting rid of 60% of your staff to Wyre.
Will the Commissar listen? Our guess is not.
We'll keep you up to date.
Dated: 18 November 2007