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countering the spin and providing the balance


Snippets April 08

Tonight, Wednesday 16th April sees the Saint Anne's on the Sea Town Council and the Fylde Civic Awareness Group holding a Public Meeting to let people have a say about issues that are of concern to them.

We've covered many of these in the recent past, and if you're free tomorrow evening and want to go along, we suggest you get there early.

Doors open at the St Anne's YMCA on St Albans Road at 7:00pm and the meeting starts at 7:30. Maximum capacity is around 200 we understand, so early birds will get in OK.

If you can't make it yourself, we plan to be at the meeting, and will bring you the story of what happens.

The parish poll calling on St Anne's residents to give their view on the future of St Anne's Swimming Pool will be held on 1st May.

Between 4pm and 9pm on May 1, anyone on St Anne's electoral roll can vote on the question: "Do You Demand Fylde Borough Council Keep The St. Anne's Swimming Pool Open and Operational"

The answer will be an X in the "Yes" or "No" box.

Parish polls are a bit like a mini election, you go where you normally vote, but the polls are only open between 4pm and 9pm.

Also, none of the usual polling cards sent out to remind you, so it's often difficult for the poll organisers to get people out to vote.

Probably because of these sorts of issues, parish polls typically produce a turnout of around 8% to 10% of the eligible electorate,

We can just hear the commissar now saying - well there we are, 90% of the people aren't bothered about the pool so we can go ahead and close it then can't we?

So if you want to remind him who's in charge, you might like to spread the word to your friends in St Anne's to make sure they pop along to their usual polling station and cast their vote.

We understand that it might be sensible to have some sort of ID with you when you go.

We'll publish a list of the polling stations and a reminder  a bit closer to the date.

Despite a valiant rearguard effort by Lytham's Cllr Ken Hopwood to save the Lytham Information Centre office, the County Council in the form of Cllr Chris Cheetham - Cabinet Member for Adults and Communities - decided to go ahead with the closure.

Undaunted, and acting in the public interest Ken Hopwood asked for a call in of the decision by the County Scrutiny Committee.

They aren't used to this sort of thing at LCC and we gather they were a bit thrown at the idea, but give them their due, they not only held the call in, but did so as an urgent item.

They also let Ken Hopwood speak against the closure.

Sadly it didn't result in a policy change, and we expect the shop to close within the next few weeks.

Continuing the charm offensive we heralded a week or two back, Fylde has announced that the Aggregates Levy Fund is going to pay for a Duneland Conservation Officer, initially for a 12 month period but maybe with an additional three years of funding.

He's going to be looking at Dune Conservation and (another) dune management plan we understand.

We understand that at the last Politburo Cabinet meeting, as part of the asset management plan update for 'Local Property Performance Indicators' Cllr Paul Rigby attempted to justify the new Town Hall spending by quoting the annual running costs of £146.23 for Council Property against a benchmark of £106.

If he had looked one line above this in the report he was reading from, he would have found that space utilisation is 19.33 sq m per employee against a benchmark of 12sqm, which suggests that the council has 1.6 times more office space than it needs for current staff levels.

If the council were able to vacate its excess office space, the running cost would fall to £91 per sq m which is less than the benchmark figure.

So the present running cost is fine; it's just that they haven't got quite enough employees in it.

And it's not helping when they keep sending them to work at Blackpool and Wyre, and then hire them back on at inflated contract prices that give us even worse value.

The report showed also that the annual running cost per employee is £2,825 whereas the benchmark running cost was £1,272.

This shows that if excess office space were closed (or maybe let out to others) there would be a saving of £1,553 per employee.

The same meeting heard the Town Hall project would cost £7 million and would start very soon.

We have a friend whose famed quote is applicable here. "My mind is made up; don't try to confuse me with facts"

Plans were reported to be "at an advanced stage" and disposal of property would begin soon, as would preliminary work in relocating to temporary accommodation.

But since then, we've had the charm offensive, and counterbalance thinks you can expect some backtracking on the Town Hall scheme.

Probably a smaller scheme on a different site. We wait with interest to see just how much can be wasted in consultancies, fees, and plans before they decide to stay as they are now and just enlarge the old Council chamber toward Lytham, which is what they should have done in the first place.

(You can follow this link for High Performing Council 1 - complete with musical accompaniment).

The latest instance of Fylde Borough being a high performing Council arose at the private "high level meeting" called at Lowther Pavilion to discuss the future of St Anne's Swimming Pool.

counterbalance has heard that the Chairman of the St Anne's on Sea Town Council, Barbara Mackenzie had expressed a wish to attend this meeting.

Given that the pool is in her patch, and she leads the only Council that could precept for the extra money to run it (Because FBC's expenditure is capped), you might have thought it sensible to invite her anyway. However it seems her request was given short shrift and a rather sharp indication that she would not be welcome, and if she was invited from St Anne's TC it would open the floodgates to every Tom Dick and Harry parish council that wanted to stick its oars in. (Readers should note these watery analogies are just our own way of illustrating the situation humorously, and don't represent verbatim quotes. That said, we understand they're not too far from reality).

We also understand at a meeting of the 'Borough and Parish Councils Liaison Committee' meeting last week, a strange quirk of fortune saw Cllr Mrs Mackenzie in the chair, and she took the opportunity to remind the Borough Council that if it wanted co-operation - as all the parish councils did - it would have to learn that Town and Parish Councillors too were elected representatives of their communities, and carried just as much (we might say more) democratic legitimacy as a Borough Councillor, and to treat them with disdain and disrespect as both St Anne's Town Council and her position as Chairman had been treated over the 'high level meeting' wasn't going to win too many friends and influence too many people.

Sadly, we also understand that although a positive gloss is being put on it, (and to use yet another watery analogy) the stories that are now leaking out from that high level meeting, it doesn't look as though it is going to produce much in the way of high level results that most St Anne's folk are looking for.

The Politburo cabinet meeting also heard the results of 'Listening Day 2007' and must have been sad to note a number of services had lower scores than last year. They were not unduly moved by these results. Perhaps, like Robert Mugabe, they feel undervalued, and think people simply don't understand what they're trying to do for them.

Also like Robert Mugabe, it seems to have taken Fylde a long time to get the 2007 results out.

The numbers heading southwards show the % of people who were very, or fairly, satisfied with the service


  2005     2006     2007  
Parks and open spaces 81% 75% 72%
Refuse Collection 84 % 82% 75%
Car Parking 49% 46% 39%
Public Transport 80% 76%  51%
Planning Service 52% 53% 26%
Leisure facilities 64% 57%  53%
Shopping 83% 74% 76%
Facilities for older people 69% 62% 46%
Overall satisfaction with Fylde
as a place to live
90% 87% 87%

The report's analysis of this was that "Overall satisfaction with Fylde as a place to live remained high at 87%. This disparity could indicate that people like Fylde as a residential area but the public sector was generally out of favour"

Oh. So that's OK then. Its the fault of the public sector generally, nothing to do with the rubbish way Fylde Council is ruining the place, closing down facilities, abandoning the delivery of public services as a matter of principle, let alone in practice, introducing fines and charges for whatever it can get away with, asset stripping anything of value to prop up the incompetent financial management of its Politburo Cabinet, and letting overbearing modernistic developments ruin the not only the character, but the architectural integrity of the area.

Couldn't be anything to do with that sort of thing could it?

Nah, it couldn't be that folk still like the area, but think the present administration is bunch of wallys.

But incredibly, the survey went on to ask people about local democracy.

Yes really!

Mind you, that bit didn't make it into the final report to the Politburo of course; it was buried in the middle of the appendix.

Residents were asked how satisfied they were with their ability to influence local decision making.

55% said they were dissatisfied.

So more than half the people in Fylde are dissatisfied with their ability to influence local decisions.

And that's before the Special Expenses con trick, the closure of two swimming pools, the £609,000 overspend in one department and £1.2 million overspend overall , and the £400,000 wasted on the plans for a new town hall and.....

He wouldn't dare try another survey now, would he?

So how does he think he is going to get over this little hump for next year?

The answer is in the report's recommendations. He knows he is going to be shot to ribbons next year, so he is going to make sure "future Listening Days target less densely populated areas of the borough via specific events such as local markets over a longer period of time"

That means he's going to hide from the people in Lytham St Anne's and Kirkham who by then will be calling for blood, and he will sneak away to take a less angry sample in the Fylde countryside.

Oh yes, and he's going to make up the numbers so it doesn't look so bad by ensuring " a specific survey is developed for young people" and is going to have that "targeted at all high schools within the borough."

One of his former party leaders had a word for this sort of behaviour.

It was 'Frit'

Dated:  16 April 2008


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