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countering the spin and providing the balance


Snippets - March 2009

Riots in the StreetsAs the volume starts to turn up on the European and County Council elections in June, we hear that UKIP (United Kingdom Independence Party) is considering starting up a Fylde branch and fielding candidates in Fylde constituencies. An open meeting has been arranged on 27 March at St Margaret's Community Centre on St Leonard's Road West in St Anne's, where UKIP's Regional Organiser Dr. Fred McGlade will introduce the former party chairman and UKIP's current North West MEP's, John Whittaker, as the guest speaker for the evening.

We understand UKIP expects to contest around 60 of the 84 seats in the Lancashire County elections and nationally they have over 1,000 standing for the County elections nationally.

Sadly, we can't make that meeting which starts at 7:30, but if any of our readers go, we'd be interested to hear your views afterwards.

One of our readers wrote  "You will no doubt have seen the missive from the Commissar in the LSA  Express of 12 March page 5 - how "rich" is that; perhaps a bit of sour grapes after his disappointment in the selection of a successor to Michael Jack !"

He was referring to the Express' 'In My View' column where under the heading "Time to start trimming jobs from the top" John Coombes had used his imminent review of management, staff, and councillor numbers at Fylde to launch an attack on Government.

He used what he saw as bad political policies and poor regulation to justify a reduction in the number of MPs, before he went on to criticise "career politicians who have either little or no experience of life in the real world"

Ignoring his twisted logic for the moment, we think there are those in Fylde who might readily agree - and hope the particular career politician who is running Fylde Council goes as quickly as possible. His financial incompetence has already left Fylde with almost no cash, and the longer he goes on, the deeper in debt we will become.

He went on to suggest there should be a "time limit on how long an MP can retain a seat for", or, at the very least, "there should be an agreement that MPs may only represent a constituency where they can prove significant ties and affiliations"

And they say "Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned"

Talk about being transparent

We've only met the prospective Conservative MP Mark Menzies briefly, but from what we have seen, the local party made a good and sensible choice. He appears to us to be an eminently good replacement for the excellent constituency MP that Michael Jack has been for us.

Although counterbalance was entirely convinced (but wrong) when we speculated it would be a female this time MP, we do at least claim the credit for having placed Mr Menzies at the top of the male candidates at 9:1 and the Commissar at 100:1 (see 'Our Next MP?')

We also agree with another of our readers who told us Cllr Coombes didn't get selected because he was simply not good enough. The record of the disasters we have chronicled on these pages is itself enough to make him unelectable.

It now looks as though his reign is entering its final phase, with delusion and political paranoia setting in.

Sadly, we were unable to get to the Planning Enquiry into the proposed mini-town that BAE want to build at Warton, so we can't bring our readers first hand reports of progress.

This is the case where Fylde Council defied its officers and voted to oppose the plan, only to be forced into a late change of mind when threatened with legal costs of a case they might lose.

We deplore the situation that can arise when communities are vulnerable because money is ruling the roost, and whilst we commend the bravery of the Council's first decision, we are saddened by the second. A hundred thousand or so spent in defence of democracy is a much better cause than six or seven times that sum spent on plans [sic] for a white-elephant town hall that has now been 'shelved'

We understand that at the enquiry, local councillors and residents spoke well against aspects of the plans, but with no formal opposition by the Council being maintained, they were fighting alone.

We think the plans are inappropriate. Providing facilities on-site such as a hotel and entertainment will starve the local community of the business they enjoy from those visiting BaE for work purposes which, if you like, is the price BaE pay for the inconvenience they cause in other areas. Now it looks as though much of the benefit it will be retained on site, and we will be left with just the inconvenience.

Can anyone see greed and a short-term perspective that we've seen recently in the banking industry here?

The Inspector will decide the matter and that will be in about five weeks time.

Still on the planning theme, an interesting situation has developed at the 'Hollywood Nurseries' site toward Whitehills. (Its near that pond thing with the incongruous lifebelt on the old road to Peel Corner).

Kensington were (rightly in our view) refused planning permission to develop this area for housing by FBC. But they have appealed and the appeal will be heard by (another) Government appointed inspector at a hearing starting on 6th May at Fylde Town Hall. It's expected to last two days.

It's interesting because the arguments that Fylde is advancing to refuse the application are exactly the same arguments that the Queensway Environmental Defenders are arguing to refuse the Queensway application, but where FBC seems reluctant to agree with them.

We hope FBC's planning officers will star on the Hollywood set, and that they see the light on Queensway as well.

Another reader wrote to say

"I'm sure that you will have read the article in tonight's Evening Gazette ""Council Leader puts himself in the Firing Line"". I'm absolutely appalled that ""the Commissar"" insults the hardworking employees of Fylde Borough Council in the way that he does in that article:

""Fylde Council employs its staff on some of the lowest local government pay scales in England. Although this is of benefit to the taxpayer, sometimes it does present a challenge in attracting qualified specialist staff to the authority"".

What an insult!"

We're inclined to agree that careless talk like this costs good staff.

What the Commissar doesn't get, is that money isn't the sole driving force in all local authority jobs, (if money was the driver you'd be in banking!)

This applies more especially as you get higher up the tree. Once there is enough to pay the bills and manage the family, it's about achievement, and self-fulfilment, and working somewhere you can be proud of.

But when you close and demolish the Gardening Exhibition Centre in Ashton Gardens;  sell off a chunk of the gardens for flats; close perfectly good swimming pools; try to demolish the tourism industry single handed; and waste money on diversity policies and white elephant ivory towers that in the end, have to be shelved because the coffers are drained through financial incompetence, then you've more or less taken away the reasons that good people with an empathy for the particular needs of this area might want to come and work for Fylde anyway.

Another of our readers (in a council far from Fylde) picked us up on our quote of "Lions led by donkeys" which we attributed to Churchill. (see 'A Shambles')

They thought it was attributable to a German military commander and was a reference to the British commanders (donkeys) and the rank and file (lions) at the battle of the Somme in 1916.

So fare as we can check, most sources we can find do attribute it to (a young) W Churchill (though the sentiment was the same - with Generals failing their troops). We were actually using it to criticise the Government (donkeys) at the time, saying how they were hamstringing the Police (lions) with red tape, political correctness, and centralisation.

Our correspondent went on to say that history "has viewed Haig somewhat less harshly than the author of the quotation but will be less forgiving of the 'Leaders' of the Fylde Borough Council if your splendid utterances are anything to go by".

And there, we couldn't agree more.

We don't know the professional calibre of our correspondent here, (judging by the grammar they're at least literate), but we doubt they'll be moving to Fylde anytime soon - whatever Fylde's pay rates are.

Not ones to give up, those folk in the Heeley Road Group.

At the last Council meeting, Cllr Mrs Karen Buckley made a public "Statement of Regret" which was, in effect, an apology to the full Council meeting and to the Chairman of the Heeley Road Group, for her misconduct as Chairman of (what should be) the powerful Scrutiny Committee that oversees the decision of the Politburo Cabinet and its Portfolio Holders.

The issue was her failure to propose the decision made by her committee to the meeting of the full Council. Instead, we saw her make a Monty Python (And now for something completely different) proposition.

She had been forced into this statement by the Council's Standards watchdog who had considered a complaint made by the Chairman of the hostel group. At first the watchdog said nothing had been wrong, but pushed into a review, we understand the Council took independent legal advice (which probably means they consulted a barrister) to see if the rules had been broken, and it looks as though the barrister said they had been - which has forced the about-face.

Readers will know our view that there ought not to be an 'offence' for councillors of 'bringing your position or the Council into disrepute' - it's mostly childish, playground stuff. We think Standards Committees ought to be dealing with really important matters such as those that are just below the threshold of proof required for prosecution (for example, where financial or other improper advantage has been gained). But whilst there is such an offence, you can expect people to use it if they think something has been done improperly.

Readers will remember that in Corruption in Fylde? we looked at the background of the hostel matter in some detail. We noted Cllr Mrs Buckley's failure to move the minutes of the Scrutiny Committee as one of many complaints raised. This action of failing to move the minutes has now been addressed with Cllr Mrs Buckley's 'Statement of Regret' to Fylde Council - although the minutes themselves have still not been proposed , seconded and voted on or amended as they should have been, and the officers appear to be still considering the offer of £310,000 from the chaps who want to put affordable housing on the site.

We understand the other aspects of this matter with Cllr Mrs Buckley's conduct as Chairman are still the subject of complaint, and there may yet be more to come out.

On Monday evening's Council meeting there is a motion from Saint Paul Hayhurst and Queen Elizabeth Oades that says "That in view of the controversial  circumstances and budget implications of the proposed disposal of  land at Heeley Road, St Annes to the Muir Group, an all party inquiry be set up to consider all aspects of this proposal and report back to Full Council before the completion of any contracts."

We couldn't agree more.

Dated:  19 March 2009


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