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Political Capital?

Political Capital?We're still on the saga of Melton Grove, and we're not apologising for returning to it yet again.

This seems to us to be an act of shame that is on a par with closing the swimming pool. It has potential for all the ramifications of that ill-fated decision as well.

Quite apart from the distress this has caused to mostly elderly and vulnerable residents - (a situation which itself brings shame enough on those responsible for it) - we can see no reason but one for the secrecy and deception that has been employed in its preparation.

And that one reason is to create a lump of capital spending money outside the normal accounting processes, which could be used for pre-election promises in the hope of 'buying' votes.

If that is the reason, then the shame that those involved should feel, is deeper and more disturbing, than anything ever done in the name of Fylde Council before.

There is no written evidence to show this is the reason of course. It is all circumstantial and opinion. But it has been alleged to us by several reliable sources who know the inner working of the Town Hall, that this appears to be the case to them as well.

We ask our readers to consider what other reason there can be for these two situations:

1). The Council has this last week put up advertising signs on several depots it hopes to sell to fund work at the town hall. It put an advert in the paper to seek expressions of interest for these sites.

It's budget for next year is being debated as this counterbalance is published. But as the blue underline of the linked page from the budget will show our readers - in its accounts for next year, the Council has already included the 3 million of capital income that it expects to get from selling these sites. This is perfectly proper (if, in our view, somewhat over-estimated - but that's another matter).

But the sites have only just been advertised. They haven't had the contract details agreed, they haven't selected their preferred purchaser, they haven't considered any of the offers, they haven't agreed the price for any of the sites, they haven't agreed the timing of the payments, they haven't prepared the contracts of sale, and those contracts have not been exchanged.

Yet the assumed income is included in the Budget for next year (2011/12).

2). At Melton Grove, they first advertised the sites four years ago in 2007. By September 2009 they were considering options for disposal. In February last year, (12 months ago), those options were formally evaluated. By November last year they knew the prices they had been offered, and were working out tax-avoidance strategies on them, and they appeared to be negotiating prices with the preferred developer.

By the end of November the i's were dotted and the t's were crossed in terms of what was going to happen. It only needed a majority vote of approval from of the Directors to set the endgame in motion. That itself was undertaken, and has culminated in what is known as an "Individual Member Decision" which, on the published date of 3 March 2011, purports to take the final decision to dispose of the site - followed by the final step of assuming the shares of the individual Directors and selling them on to a willing buyer as the contracts for sale are exchanged.

But because this final step has not been taken, the Council's accounts say "The Council is the sole shareholder in Clifton (Lytham) Housing Association Ltd, the Board of which is currently negotiating the disposal of this asset. This is not reflected in this Capital Forecast."

They also say: "In constructing the Capital Programme a capital receipt is expected from the disposal of the Clifton (Lytham) Housing Association Ltd during 2011. However, the date of contract exchange has not been determined and no assumptions are therefore made in the forecast on this matter."

This is confirmed for our readers by the red underline of the linked budget page. There's no predicted income from Melton Grove / Clifton (Lytham) Housing Association shown for next year - or any of the next five years.

So as at today, you can contrast the situation where the town hall site disposals are months, if not years, behind having contracts exchanged, and the Clifton (Lytham) housing Association could be just a few days away from an exchange of contracts, but because of this, there is no potential income showing in the report.

What this means, is that the budget for next year will be set and fixed *before* the income from Melton Grove is taken into account.

We invite our readers to come up with any reason for this state of affairs and this combination of events other than a deliberate intention to create an 'off balance sheet' capital receipt at a time when the ruling group (justifiably in our view) fears for its chances at the May elections, and would welcome some cash to provide 'good works'

There was a time when those running Fylde Council could be trusted to act with honour. There was a time when Fylde Council could be relied upon to be a role model for integrity and honest dealings.

The awful way this matter has been handled brings shame on all who support it and, if it were to turn out - as has been alleged to us - that the income from Melton grove is about an electoral war-chest, then this 'blood money' would be so tainted that no right thinking person could possibly accept the 'benefits' it might bring.

If we were a Councillor who had spoken in support of this scheme, we've be ashamed to go into local shops or to walk the streets.

It is a complete disgrace.

Dated:  2 March 2011


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