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Peter Wood Letter

True or False?counterbalance is sometimes criticised for not offering people the opportunity to comment on our articles. We adopt this approach for two reasons.

Firstly, having had experience of managing fora in the past, we found ourselves choosing between censorship and the sort of language we couldn't possibly tolerate.

Neither of those is acceptable to us, so counterbalance remains, as it says on the homepage, a personal view of, and an opinion about, life in Fylde. It is but one voice amongst 75,000 and is no more right or wrong than any other.

That said, occasionally we receive a communication from 'outside' that we are happy to publish.

On this occasion it is a letter from a recent former Fylde Borough Councillor and member of the Conservative Association Management Team, Peter Wood, who comments on the LSA Express article headed ‘Council Leader Defends Cabinet’ of 7th February 2013.

We reproduce his letter here with the text unedited. We agree with some parts and disagree with others but, as it seeks to inform the debate about governance systems from the 'inside the factory' , we're happy to reproduce it.

Mr Wood writes:

When I was younger it seemed that the days were always sunny, holidays lasted forever and wagon wheels were bigger. The reality was different in that we had long cold winters, family holidays were shorter than we enjoy now and I have grown whilst wagon wheels probably stayed the same size.

My point is that we tend to look back with rose tinted glasses

As a former councillor, I wasn’t part of committee system but I do understand management models as part of my work. I understand meetings could be laboriously long and the re-introduction would have significant implications in staffing cost and time.

That said, the current ‘leadership’ or ‘cabinet’ system has to change.

Aside from the serious lack of transparency, the fact it is not inclusive, it is not democratic and also puts too much responsibly on one person.

It is inconceivable that any 8 people within a group of 50+ have the monopoly on ideas.

Fylde Council has some glaring examples of this current systems failings:

  • The sale of Melton Grove, for a bargain price and without protection for vulnerable residents
  • The £900,000 Street Scene fiasco
  • The continuing obsession with parking when most people would probably suggest the councillors get advice from business, to create innovation such as better traffic and parking management for peak and off-peak shopping times

Standing and being elected for council is not a spectator sport, the people who got up and went out of their way to elect a councillor expected that that they would speak in their voice, do right by them and act in their best interest.

How can this be done when 8 people, (who have been selected based upon some vagaries of competence such as having worked in a Doctors surgery, so they have the voice of health and welfare), meet in secret, then dictate the voting for the group in a 20 minute pre-council meeting.

To make this process worse, the Scrutiny process follows the decision.

There is an option open to the councillors of all sides of this debate and that is a compromise ‘hybrid’solution between the 2 systems. This approach would involve maintaining the cabinet system with a cross party group of councillors supporting each of the portfolio’s by robustly challenging and debating the issues and proposals before they make the full-council chamber for decision.

Without delegating the ruling group authority, it offers the opportunity to utilise the skills and experiences of all councillors to offer an open, transparent and more inclusive group in order to reach the best and most informed decisions for the Fylde.

I would urge all of the councillors to use their heads and their backbones and vote for the best available option on the table to represent all of the people of the Fylde and vote for a Hybrid system or a return to the committee.

If they fail to do this, the current cabinet look poised to blow tens of thousands of pounds of our money in forcing this to a referendum, there will also be additional campaign costs for each interested party . This is a waste of time and resources for all concerned.
Peter Wood

Former Councillor and member of the Conservative Association Management Team

Dated:  6 March 2013


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