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countering the spin and providing the balance


The Dust Settles....

The Dust SettlesFor the successful participants, the fevered excitement of the May election is now a rapidly dimming memory. Euphoria is giving way to the grim realisation of what is practically achievable. And for most, if not all, of those who were unsuccessful, a rationale has appeared to explain away the lack of a positive result. For some new councillors there has been a significant culture shock as the Commissar's highly political approach is stamped on the new administration.

So how has the election settled down, and what will it mean for the future?

As we reported, it was a huge shock for Blackpool's former leader Roy Fisher to lose (in one fell swoop) his leadership, control of the Council, and his seat in Layton Ward. Yet he showed remarkable aplomb and dignity in the process.

The new leader is Conservative Peter Callow - not someone well known to counterbalance, but as we have previously shown, he was planning to refocus Blackpool more toward tourism, and the early signs are positive to this end. Less positive was his commitment to helping the disadvantaged of the town. We predict some hefty cutbacks in this area.

One of the less obvious problems of becoming a Unitary Council is that big services like Education and Social Services swamp and overwhelm smaller ones like tourism, and push them off the bottom of the agenda. Sounds as though the new Blackpool administration might want to change that.

We're less sure about their plans for physical re-development - they seem to favour a significant re-thinking of what is known as the 'Talbot Gateway' - and that will have repercussions elsewhere.

We'll re-visit events in Blackpool from time to time, to keep our readers informed.

St Anne's
Well, its been hectic in the usually sedate bit of the peninsula. counterbalance  went to the first meeting of the St Anne's Town Council to report on their proceedings.

The visit saw the moderate and independent Town Councillor Barbara Mackenzie re-elected over Roger Walker in a contested election for the Chairmanship of St Anne's Town Council.

Newcomer (and new Borough Councillor) Tony Ford was elected as Vice Chairman when Roger Walker decided he wouldn't accept a Vice Chairmanship nomination (having not made it to the top job).

Business was brisk and, well, businesslike. Approval of housekeeping matters was dealt with, and new committees put in place to deal with allotments and planning applications.

In the public speaking session of the meeting, David Chedd - newly elected Borough Councillor for Park Ward introduced himself, offered to help with anything he could, and asked to be kept informed of issues that affected Park Ward residents who had elected him. We thought that a pretty impressive thing to do.

He was the only Borough Councillor to appear in the public seats, and on this evidence, it looks to us as though his electorate made a sound decision.

An interesting hint of things to come appeared in one of the debates.

It sounds as though the Electoral Commission (who make decisions about how many councillors there should be etc) has decided there should be an electoral review of St Anne's that will almost certainly give St Anne's residents better representation on its Town Council. It could also go some way to redress the Commissar's attempt to kill it off before it began, when he starved it of money and people do get things done.

Fylde Borough
FBC had its Annual Meeting in May, and the Commissar was clearly back in political charge.

With some of the old guard having been seen off in favour of the younger, more manageable, combatants, the retiring Mayor Harold Butler - a safe pair of hands to almost the last minute - suggested under his breath that there were things he might had said at the meeting but hadn't.   Shame, we thought. 

Incoming Mayor Councillor John Prestwich had stepped into the Mayoral Office at the last minute. Former Councillor Colin Walton had been due to become the Borough's first citizen but, having failed to get  elected to the Borough Council at all, he was no longer eligible (and pretty upset - as he put it - that the voters had let him down). 

His fellow Conservatives broke with tradition over appointing a new Mayor when, instead of choosing the next most long serving councillor as normal, they skipped over those eligible who were not of their own party, and landed on Gentleman John Prestwich.

To his credit, the new Mayor said he intended to run a tight and fair ship, ensuring equal treatment for all councillors irrespective of party, and he looked sternly at the Commisar and Dim Tim as he spoke. We wish him well, but only time will tell.

Picking up bits and pieces in conversations after the meeting we came to the three conclusions.

(That is, apart from the fact that counterbalance is not Dim Tim's favourite publication. He vented a messianic outburst to us claiming with wide and wild eyes that our views had no significance or importance because he was "In Power", repeating the word "Power" several times. We hope it made him feel better. He looked as though he needed to.

Our first real conclusion was that the Commissar wants to tighten his grip on what he sees to be "his troops" (rather than "our elected representatives" that is). He is heading in a direction that will get rid of the older councillors and bring in new, younger ones. We would not be surprised to see former Borough councillor Colin Walton being de-selected as the County candidate for St Anne's North at (or before) the next County election, just as the vastly experienced - but independently minded - Councillor Bill Thompson was deselected as a County Councillor in favour of Dim Tim. There's no room for dissent around the Commissar, and clearly, it's not the ability to think that counts.

This brings us to conclusion two, which is that with his slightly increased majority, the Commissar is probably gearing up to do all the unpleasant things early in the life of the new Council, (In the hope we will forget them before the next election) This is a common ploy, and you can expect the "shock horror" decisions to come quite quickly.

Our third conclusion is a prediction.

Even as he hovers around the zenith of his power at Fylde, we think we have seen the seeds of the Commissar's demise if he stays here.

Getting rid of independent thinkers and surrounding yourself with people who tell you what they think you want to hear, inevitably detaches and insulates you from reality, leading to self delusion, and a belief that you can walk on water.

This is the same direction of travel as former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. (Remember Kinnock's quote about her thinking she was a Sovereign) and, as far-fetched as it might seem at this time, we think the Commissar will go the same way if he remains at Fylde, that is, by assassination from within. It may take a while, but we now think this is the most likely result.

But, as with our new Mayor, only time will tell.

Dated:  20 July 2007


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