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Snippets: August 2011

Snippets August 2011Snippets are a collection of short items which, in themselves aren't big enough for an in-depth article, but they nevertheless have relevance to where Fylde is going.

That's especially true of the first snippet this month. It came to us recently and we've not been able to separately verify it so far - so with that 'health warning' to treat it as hearsay, here we go....

TROUBLE IN 'T TORY CAMP?
Word is reaching us that there is trouble in the Conservative camp.

There's a scheduled Conservative Group Meeting this evening, but immediately before it, at six o'clock, we understand there is a 'crisis meeting' where the new members of the Council's Conservative Group will meet separately with David Eaves. This follows his perceived 'lack of leadership' which, we're told, has been called into question by those new members.

It sound to us as though the newer members are not happy with the way they're being expected to perform as voting fodder.

We can understand this. There have already been Council meetings where votes have been taken on a purely party political basis, and we suspect at least some of the new members with a brain of their own are unhappy at being told how they must vote - especially if they don't agree with what it is they're being told to support.

This always happens with new members, of course, but this time it feels different because there are enough new members to make a change to the system if they get together and want to do so.

We're told this evening's six o'clock meeting is seen as a plan to try to stave off the growing divide between the old established members like Ben Aitkin, Sue Fazackerley and even Cheryl Little, who - it is being said - have greeted the new comers with contempt, and view them as 'upstarts who need to learn their place'.

It will be, at least,  a chance for David Eaves to meet his new Councillors, and  to try and bring them into the fold before problems spill out into the public arena. Especially after a number of the new members have criticised him and his management team for their behaviour - including the fact that David Eaves has, allegedly, virtually ignored many of them since the election, and he was  'nowhere to be seen during the campaigning'.

We'll bring you more as we hear it.

 

MORE PARTY POLITICAL DECISIONS?
We're also told it's being said that Howard Henshaw could be the last non-Conservative Mayor.

It seems that David Eaves is presently considering a demand from Dim Tim to make the Mayor a political role after Cllr Henshaw's 'political behaviour with the Melton Grove meetings'

This is both untrue, an absolute disgrace.

Cllr Henshaw did his duty as Mayor.

He did not display bias or favour to any side when he called the Extra-Ordinary Council Meeting.   As he said , he had been approached by Councillors from all parties (including the Conservatives) who wanted to know more about what happened in the Melton Grove Scandal before deciding how to vote on whether to debate or scrutinise it.

We know this to be the case because we have seen and received emails from Conservative Councillors expressing their concern about what was being done in their name by officers.

What we have here is a classic illustration of a baby throwing its dummy out of the pram when it doesn't get its own way.

Or just possibly, retaliation for the Council having the temerity to open the possibility of proper investigation and questioning of the linkages that existed between the plan to dispose of Melton Grove and the plan to grant fund Lytham Hall with some of the sale proceeds. 

After all, readers will remember it was Cllr Ashton who was a Director of both the companies that owned each of these properties.

 

COCKLE PICKERS ARE COMING
Rumours are rife that the North West and North Wales Sea Fisheries Committee is about to declare St Annes beaches fit for harvesting of cockles again.

There's a process by which cockle beds around the country are harvested, then left to grow for several years until their cockle population is built up again, before they are harvested once more.

Traditionally, cockle fishers used to be local folk working beds, using horse and cart for transport. Whilst some of these local fishers remain, the cockle industry now has many itinerant fishers moving around the country, exploiting the best available cockle stocks, mainly for export to Southern Europe where demand is still high.

In 2002, after news of the money to be made at Morecambe Bay, there were greatly increased levels of exploitation in the cockle fisheries.  So to protect sustainability of the fishery and the safety of those fishing, byelaws were updated

The cockle fishery can be highly lucrative, providing big returns for merchants in a short period of time. The majority of quality cockles in the U.K. are destined for France, Spain and Portugal, where fish is still prized and large cockles have fetched very high prices. Todayís U.K. cockle market is mainly pickled jars for sale in fish & chip shops and supermarkets.

We think September (the start of the Cockle season) will see the invasion of the cockle snatchers. Each person intending to fish commercially for cockles  must register and receive a permit which is  issued to those who have previously held a permit (allowing 40 new entrants each year). Applicants must provide proof of identity, residence, a National Insurance Number and a Foreshore Gatherers Safety Training certificate. (Yes really!)

CAKE ANYONE?
We thought it was deliciously ironic that she who was alleged to have implied it was OK to put a Lidl store at the east end of Lytham - because that's where the poorer people lived - was asked to open the new store this week.

We hope the had a good stock of cake in.

 

PROJECTING OUR IMAGE?
With thanks to one of our readers, we came across this little gem from North West Lancashire Chamber of Commerce's newsletter....


"We all know that our local authorities are strapped for cash  and that, as a consequence, valuable services are being cut back or even scrapped in the more extreme cases. Which is why we raised a quizzical eyebrow at the news that Fylde Borough Council is advertising for "suitably experienced and qualified Project Managers/Quantity Surveyors in the public sector" to undertake the project management for the refurbishment of the Council's Town Hall. Firstly, in this age of austerity why is the work being done at all and, secondly, why only invite applicants from the public sector? Our message to the Council: please think again."


We were puzzled.

As far was we know there have been no reports to Council members of the jobs being advertised (unless it has featured in the Chief Executive's weekly 'Grapevine' newsletter).

We checked the online jobs site for Fylde, and were even more puzzled. That only has vacancies showing for an 'Assistant Planning Officer' on a pay scale ranging from £17,000 to £26,000 a year, and a 'Cycling Development Officer' vacancy on £15,700 a year. And neither of those was what we were looking for.

We Goggled it and found it here at 'The Chest'.

It's actually a contract for the 'Procurement of the Project Manager/Quantity Surveyors' so it's not a job as such but an opportunity for firms (or possibly individuals?) to tender for work.

There's a sort of description which is worth a look (You can see a copy of it here). It includes the following:

"The contract will be in two phases. 

Phase 1:- Will commence on 5 September 2011 and end on completion of the tender documents for the procurement of main contractor.  Monthly payments will be made to the Supplier during this phase on work satisfactorily completed.

Phase 2: - There is no guarantee this phase will take place, and if this is the case, no further payment will be made to the Supplier.  Phase 2 may start months after Phase 1, after land sales, agreements and finances are all in place.  In this case, it will commence on issue of the tender documents for the main contract, and end after the final account.  Monthly payments will be made to the Supplier during this phase on work satisfactorily completed.

The capital budget for the scheme is £2.2m.  There is no prospect of this sum being increased.  It is dependent on the sums received from the land sales, and as a result, it may decrease."

So it looks as though this contract as now advertised is only to pay someone to write the documents that will be used to appoint the main contractor, but there is the prospect of more work if the scheme can go ahead based on income land sales.

We doubt the land sales will raise enough for phase 2, at least not unless Government steps in and funds the de-contamination of the St David's Road site. That site was offered to someone we know for £1 if they would take on the cleaning up and redevelopment of it.

The advert blurb also says "Please note the Council is looking for contractors who have a proven track record and previous experience in managing a project similar to this in the public sector and are located within an hourís drive of the Town Hall in order to facilitate the project.

Any Applicants not meeting these minimum requirements will not have their PQQ evaluated and therefore eliminated from this process. "

If you read the  paperwork, you get a strange sense of de-ja-vu from it, (especially after reading the Audit report on the pool tender).

 

MELTON MEETINGS
We hear that the first task-and-finish group meeting on the Melton Grove Scandal was held last week with members being briefed on what it's all about and given a big wodge of reading to do as background information that they will need to frame their questions.

We understand that Cllr Mulholland who is chairing the meeting has already been to see many of the people involved so he has a good grasp of what went on.

He had a good brain and won't miss a lot.

We hear the second meeting of the group is taking place this week.

So for a change it's nice to be able to say that Fylde finally looks to be taking at least one of its scrutiny processes seriously.

The task and finish meetings are not open to the public, and not being videoed for webcasting. We're sad about that. We understand why it might be, but we see all the Government's select committee questioning broadcast in the name of openness and transparency, and we'd like to see more of the same thing at Fylde.

We'll bring readers news as it reaches us.

Dated:   08 August 2011


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