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Snippets - February 2009

Snippets February 2009 We saw this chap as we were passing South Ribble Council Offices, and couldn't resist the picture. Seems he has been standing there come rain come shine for months trying to get what he believes to be a proper outcome to his complaint.

He told us South Ribble Council has now prevented him from using the loos in the building that other members of the public use (He lives some distance from the Council offices, but turns up to protest every working day).  In an attempt to deflect the criticism, South Ribble Council, rather foolishly we thought, has put a notice in its notice board case saying definitively that it is NOT a corrupt council.

And our Commissar thinks counterbalance is troublesome :-))

So here you will find the latest bits of gossip and news for our readers that like to keep ahead of the field. This time we have bits about the ongoing saga of the swimming pools, the 'Blue Route', the St Anne's Link Road, plans to transfer all the refuse staff to Wyre council,  a school that is curiously doubling in size, and plans to cut the number of Fylde councillors to about 30 and more.

There's not a lot of hard information coming out on this. The only thing certain is the announcement keeps being put back. We understand that the powers at FBC have more or less ruled out the proposal introduced through St Anne's Town Council for a commercial undertaking to run St Anne's Pool.

We hear St Annes is very much behind Kirkham in the plans that are being discussed, and there is gossip that some structural damage is starting inside the building. This is not surprising. The weight of water in the pool helps keep the tiles in place on the sides and on the bottom. If the pool is emptied, that pressure is no longer there, and the tiles start to come off. If it is happening, correcting this sort of damage can involve many thousands of pounds.

Kirkham is closer a solution we gather, but the decision is not yet in place and going to the wire. There was to have been a special meeting on 5th Feb to resolve the matter, but that has been cancelled, and we understand the decision will be made at the Cabinet meeting of 11 February.

Whilst details are scant, what you can probably deduce from this is that either the negotiations with the YMCA are hard, and the money is the sticking point, so it's who will blink first, or the Commissar wants to delay the decision until the very last minute so as to leave no opportunity for other options to be tabled or discussed. Some of the Conservative councillors say they are quietly confident, so we will have to wait and see.

The argument about the relief road for Fleetwood opened itself up again recently. We previously said the so called 'blue route' would not get Government support because it meant installing a new motorway junction just a few hundred yards along the M55 (where the railway line crosses), and the Highways people said that was too close to Jct 4.

However, the opening up of discussions again leads us to wonder of a M55 Hub planworkaround has been identified. If you look closely at the layout sketches in the Lock report connected with the Growth Point scheme, an answer can be seen. 

The existing motorway junction is under the squares in the middle of the picture, and the 'blue route'  junction that was planned has been sketched in black to the right. However, if you look carefully, you will see an orange line leading away from current the motorway junction toward the end point of the previously planned junction. If the picture was bigger, you could see the other main arterial roads also shown in orange.

So someone is planning to connect the Fleetwood route through to the existing M55 junction, avoiding the need for a new one.

That does mean a rather stupid detour from Fleetwood (to go via Mains Lane and Singleton, then back to Blackpool to join the Motorway at B&Q). Quite frankly, if that is what is planned, we don't think much of the Fleetwood traffic will bother, and it will go from Mains Lane to Greenhalgh as it does at present.

Despite protestations that they would not fund the planning application for the link road to be resubmitted unless they were awarded planning permission for the 1,150 houses on Queensway (a quite disgraceful attempted threat), we hear that the County and Kensington seem to have resolved their differences because staff at County Hall are working up to the planning application for the road.

This is the one across the moss that will damage quite a bit of the wildlife. It will also become the main way into Lytham, St Anne's and Ansdell from the Motorway. If it is built, it means that all the commercial traffic making deliveries to supermarkets and businesses in those towns will arrive at Cypress Point or Kilnhouse Lane and then have to find it's way along residential roads that were not planned to take traffic on that scale.

If you think about it, St Anne's was planned to be serviced from the seaward side - with wide roads like Clifton Drive provided to cope with the bigger lorries. We think having it arrive at the back of St Anne's will produce quite a few problems, not least for residents of Heyhouses for whom the vibration of euro-juggernauts will be a threat to the stability of their homes.

We reported a while ago on plans to merge or takeover Fylde's troubled Streetscene department by Wyre Council. There has been further movement on this, and we gather that by April the deal could be done. We plan to do some more research on this and bring you a better story shortly. Quite soon, so many staff will have been transferred out of Fylde Council's employment the prediction in 'High Performing Council' will have come true (We're a high performing Council, cos there's nowt left here to do). However, there may be an even more sinister motive in store. Not one of the Councils in the UK took up the government's offer to try out 'incentivised' waste collection. The scheme offered a mixture of carrot-and-stick powers that Councils could use to 'encourage' people to do more recycling.

Around Christmas, Fylde put out a press release saying they were not planning to implement 'charge as you throw' and similar schemes.

We've learned the hard way to read between the lines of these press releases, and it's always dangerous when they say "We're not going to......" Because it often seems just the opposite happens.

Now, we hear that councils are being encouraged to set up 'Joint Waste Authorities' between two or more Councils where the service would be at arms length from the elected Councillors. This means appointed boards and no voter influence over what they do - which would make it a lot easier to introduce schemes such as: pay as you throw; on the spot fines, and other 'encouragements' to speed up the recycling process.

Even more notably, FBC just renewed its tenure of 'FBC Solutions Ltd' a private Limited Company with Officers and one Councillor (Streetscene's Dim Tim) as the directors. It has not traded yet (and unless Fylde is given a higher Comprehensive Assessment score, it won't) but it could make a handy vehicle for the future.

We expect to bring you more on this story shortly.

We wonder if our readers have spotted the doubling of the size of the school on School Lane just outside our boundary in Blackpool? One of our readers mentioned it to us and asked why it might be so.

It is puzzling. There have been a few new houses built near the traffic lights in recent years, but not of the scale to warrant doubling the size of a school, and as far as we know, that part of Blackpool hasn't suddenly seen a huge and unexpected increase in its child population.

But, when you start to think about the Growth Point Scheme and the plan to build acres of housing at Whyndyke Farm and Whitehills, and the Marton Moss development scheme, you can see a possible reason.

We're picking up stories about a scheme to cut the number of councillors in FBC from 51 to maybe 30 or so. It has been heralded in a training seminar about the gloriously named "Local Government & Public Involvement in Health Act 2007"

We can hear people cheering in the background, but this plan may not be not as sensible as it sounds.

It may be that the Commissar's plan is actually to close down FBC altogether in preparation for a merged 'City of the Fylde' now that his party has power in all three council areas and could turn the coast forever blue (he thinks)

But if FBC is to continue in existence, the number of Councillors available is a bit like the number of doctors. The more there are, the easier they are to get to see, and the greater the chance of your finding one to take up your case who agrees with you.

At present one councillor represents about 1,000 electors, and each ward of 3,000 people has three councillors. This scheme is planning to merge the current 21 wards to have just ten, so maybe Staining, Weeton, Singleton, Greenhalgh, Elswick and Little Eccleston would all become one ward with a population of roughly 7,000  in each new 'Superward'.

Done in the name of 'efficiency' this will reduce the individuality and focus, and the voice that each area presently enjoys. It will also make councillors more distant and harder to get to see.

For every one of the party political driven councillors (that we have little time for at local level), there is another, first class grassroots individual councillor quietly getting on with the job. By that we mean people like former Councillor Ron Wilson, who was as good a model as you could have. There are several present day Councillors who could fill his shoes, but you won't find them sitting near the Commissar, who has no time for human people like Ron who did his best to represent the views of those who elected him. No, the Commissar's role is to lead us (whether we want to be led or not), his Council publications all say as much, as does his manner.

So if there are to be reductions in numbers, can you guess which sort of Councillor will be serving you in the future? 

Dated:  1 February 2009


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