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Status Storm

Status StormThere's been a storm raging about the European designation of 'Assisted Area Status' that might be applied to parts of Fylde.

It's a longish article, because the story has kept unfolding -  with new twists arising faster than we could deliver them !

Readers who have signed up to be notified of new articles had early-warning of it when we circulated a 'Newsflash' with a recent counterbalance to say we were picking up stories about parts of Fylde being designated with 'Assisted Area Status'

Assisted Areas are those areas where regional aid can be offered under 'state aid rules' that would normally not be allowed (because it is considered unfair for Governments to support business).

Essentially, the economic deprivation in these 'Assisted Areas' is so bad, that the usual rules of not supporting businesses with Government money are officially suspended to get the economy in Assisted Areas 'moving' better.

At it's root, this is a European 'tonic' designed to boost employment. But as with most medicines, it has side effects. And for some, those side effects are worse than the cure.

As far as we can tell, the initiative began simply enough. Europe will have said - OK we're looking to designate some more assisted areas, do any member states want to make suggestions?

And so it came to pass that, in July last year, the UK member state (or our Government, as it used to be known) launched a first stage of consultation on updating the UK Assisted Areas Map for 2014 to 2020.

The Government will have written to all councils saying - erm, there's scope to designate some new areas for assistance and release some dosh. Anyone want a go at applying? It's pretty straightforward, you need to be 100,000 population and be economically deprived and a few more things.

Crucially, we suspect, the Government also wrote to 'Local Enterprise Partnerships.'

Lancashire has one of these, called (unsurprisingly) 'The Lancashire Local Enterprise Partnership'

Together with British Aerospace, it manages, amongst other things, the recently created 'Lancashire Enterprise Zone' centred on Samlesbury and Warton. We'll return to this aspect later in the article.

Now, when the Government's letter arrived at Fylde, it probably won't have got very far, because the whole of Fylde doesn't add up to 100,000 population and, as with previous years, they would have smiled wistfully at the prospect of losing buckets of dosh, and simply filed the letter.

But that's not what happened this time.

According to the Government's response to consultations, Fylde BC didn't submit a consultation response to this Stage One of the consultation.

But there were three consultation responses submitted from the Fylde area.

They were submitted by

  • BAe Systems Integrated System Technologies Ltd
  • Blackpool Fylde & Wyre Economic Development Company Limited
    (which the Gazette says is 'part of Blackpool Council' but which has a company registration address of County Hall, Preston and Directors that include Fylde's Chief Executive and FBC's Director of Development Services.)
  • Lancashire Local Enterprise Partnership

And therein (we think) lies the problem.

None of these are elected bodies. They are either business,  quasi-business (or at least business-centric) organisations and, as such, they're not based on the democratic ethic. Nor are they especially used to consulting other bodies - especially elected ones.

True, some of them have councillors (or council officers) on their boards, and you'd expect *they* ought to be able to keep people 'back home' in the loop.

But such is the civic lunacy that prevails these days that representatives of councils acting as Directors on bodies that are Limited Companies are often told they may only speak and vote in the interests of the company (i.e. they may not represent the interests of the council that appointed them to the board).

So even if such a company asks a Council to select a Councillor (or an officer) to join their board and become a Director, the person selected may be bound by company law to act exclusively in the interests of the Company, and may not be able to disclose what the board - to which they have been appointed - is up to.

We regard this as wholly unacceptable.

If a Councillor or officer may not act in the interests the Council that was invited to nominate someone to such a board, then we have absolutely no hesitation in saying that the offer of the appointment should be politely but firmly declined by the Council.

But that's not how it works - more's the pity, because these bodies often end up running substantial parts of civic life now - without support from the public,  and without public scrutiny or accountability.

From what we can see, this whole issue about 'Assisted Areas' came to a head in Fylde because the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills saw 'Local Enterprise Partnerships' as key contributors, and asked them to provide local intelligence on priorities for Assisted Area status, and especially, they asked them to identify areas that were best placed to make 'a telling contribution to the local economy'.

Twenty-seven Local Enterprise Partnerships responded to the Stage 1 consultation across the UK (including the three above), and fifteen Local Authorities did as well (FBC did not respond directly to the stage 1 consultation), (A couple of individual business bodies and a professional organisation also responded)

The Business, Innovation & Skills, Department eventually produced another - Second Stage - consultation document on the draft proposal for a new assisted areas map for the period 2014 to 2020.

For Fylde, it's not yet clear who did the leading and who did the following on this. We're not even sure who made first contact because the bodies who had responded to the 'Stage One' consultation don't publish their minutes or agenda, nor are their meetings open to the public.

Fylde's minutes and agenda have no mention of it - so at a guess, it was not led  by FBC as such.

Whether it was led by FBC's employees wearing their Company Director hats is unclear, but they were certainly not wearing an FBC hat if they were involved.

However, it came to pass that parts of Blackpool wanted a go at applying, but couldn't muster the 100,000 population needed, so a someone suggested or agreed to adding in parts of Fylde and submitting a cross-boundary bid for Assisted Area Status in the Stage Two consultation.

So heads were put together, and a proposal was prepared.

In many ways, you can understand this happening as it did.

But what didn't happen was any proper contact with the Councillors in Fylde who are supposed to be running the show here.

So you had council officers embarked on a course of action - seemingly without feeling the need to involve those we elected to take such decisions.

A Blackpool / Fylde proposal was duly worked up and was about to be submitted to the second stage of consultation by the Government. (This ran from 18 December 2013 to 7 February 2014)

The purpose of the second stage consultation was really to seek views on the draft Assisted Areas Map, taking into consideration the government's response to the first stage consultation, and the need to comply with the European Commission's regional aid guidelines.

One of the responses - (not the one from 'Fylde' - we don't think that has been made public) summarised the process as being:

  • "Assisted area status permits the granting of additional financial support (regional aid - a form of state aid) to small businesses and large enterprises in economically disadvantaged locations.
  • In 2014-2020, the map can cover 27.05% of the UK population. Just 4.26% is pre-determined by Government, with the consultation providing the opportunity for Local Enterprise Partnerships to influence how the remaining 22.79% (which is classed as 'non pre-defined c coverage') should be designated by the UK Government.
  • The 2011 Census wards will be the building block from which to develop the 2014-2020 'non pre-defined' assisted areas.
  • Regional aid is well suited to investing in manufacturing in particular, as well as potentially property development, renovation and regeneration support."

Readers might care to note the role envisaged for Local Enterprise Partnerships in determining which 'other areas' should be included, and deduce that the LEP, together with the Blackpool Economic Development Company Limited might have been the main protagonists in getting together an area that takes in Warton and Westby and St Leonard's wards in Fylde.

By late January, the plans concerning the area had become close to final.

There was just a week to go before the Stage Two consultation closed, and finally, someone at Fylde realised that they had not been keeping elected members informed.

So a (we think rather high-handed) email was circulated to ward councillors in the affected wards, telling them what was going to happen.

Their wards were about to become designated as economically deprived areas.

It said

"Dear Cabinet and Ward Councillors

I email to draw your attention to the current government consultation on the Assisted Areas Map 2014 to 2020, further details of which can be found here:

In short the Government is proposing to include an Assisted Area that includes the two Fylde wards of St Leonards and Warton and Westby along with a significant portion of the inner urban areas of Blackpool.

No area of Fylde has ever qualified under any of the previous EU funding programmes as an Assisted Area.

The designation of 'Assisted Area' is based on a number of qualifying criteria including areas of economic opportunity and need and a minimum population of 100,000.

Assisted Area status permits the investment of additional public financial support to small businesses and large enterprise in economically disadvantaged locations, typically granted as a percentage of the eligible costs of capital investment, than would normally be allowed under Regional Aid Guidelines.

The current consultation closes on 7th February 2014 after which the finalised map (of Assisted Areas) will be submitted to the European Commission for approval (probably spring 2014) and should come into effect later this year (summer/autumn 2014).

The Council will be submitting a supportive response to the Government's consultation and should you wish to discuss any details then please do contact me."

We were stunned at the insult this email conveyed to elected councillors, and equally shocked that it was not sent to all Fylde's councillors.

It's arrogance is breath-taking.

In a better administration, an officer would not have dared to go this far without having had the matter reported to, debated, and decided by, the councillors we elect.

The officer's email is casually informing Ward Councillors in the affected wards of what he has done - when it's too late to do anything about it.

We find that shocking.

We won't win any friends at Fylde for saying this, but it simply cannot go unsaid - just who does this officer think they are, telling the Council we elect that - in effect - "they" (our Council) - will be submitting a response without even having seen it?

How dare he say "the Council will be submitting a positive response" when he has absolutely no electoral mandate to make such a statement?

It is just possible that he has been quietly keeping elements of the dreadful 'Cabinet' informed and taking informal advice from them whilst other elected Councillors are kept in the dark, - but even that is not clear (based on the fact that the email is also addressed specifically to Cabinet members)

But even if that were so, the Cabinet is not 'the Council' on a significant policy issue like this!

Readers will be able to tell we are unhappy about this.

That's because we are.

But our anger is not so much about the designation (which has upset some folk in the areas affected), it's about - yet again - the corporate governance prevailing at Fylde that can allow a process like this to have any life at all without having first sought direction from all the elected councillors.

The short answer to his turgid email - and our questions - will probably be that Fylde's Constitution says 'responses to consultations' are delegated to officers, and the Multi Area Agreement and its subsequent Economic Development Strategy set the direction, so it's all OK

Well it's not.

Calling this a 'consultation' as far as Fylde's Constitution is concerned would be a monstrous and cynical twisting of the meaning of 'consultation'.

The fact is that it pre-supposes the Council will become part of the designated area when they have never agreed to do so.

Fylde has delegated FAR too much authority to its officers.

And this dreadful Leader and Cabinet system that was imposed on Fylde's unwilling electorate has become as bad as North Korea for keeping matters secret.

When an administration is reduced to secrecy and manipulating information to get its own way, it becomes despotic.

When it seeks to hide what is really being done from the public it serves, it becomes bankrupt of civic responsibility.

And when it sets out to hide its actions from elected councillors until it is too late to make changes,  it shows itself to be deceitful, manipulative and not worthy of public trust.

Whilst we are angered by the way this has been done, we understand Warton and Westby parishes in particular were also very angry about the actual plan to designate them as being economically deprived.

Warton is in the middle of trying to fight off an onslaught of development, and the last thing they want is to have that development justified by oodles of 'Rate Tart' type businesses who move around the country being attracted by the latest offer of free or cheap rates - or whatever is envisaged by offering public money to businesses - until that benefit runs out, and they close up shop and move on to the next 'sucker' borough.

It was made worse for Warton and Westby because their parish councillors had not been involved in the discussions leading to the status being sought. No-one had thought to ask them.

We understand that soon after the email went out to ward councillors in the affected wards, an urgent meeting was sought by the two Parish Councils (Warton and Westby) with Cllr Julie Brickles in the vanguard of calling for it to be held.

We had reports from that meeting that Fylde's officers didn't even seem to understand why the bid had been prepared.

They initially suggested it was to backup the Enterprise Zone (which could tie it in to the three businesses organisations we referred to above)

But when Parish Councillors pointed out to Fylde's officers that:

  • The Enterprise Zone included BAe Samlesbury as well as BAe Warton, and
  • Samlesbury had become the clear focus of interest for companies looking at the Enterprise Zone, and
  • the Assisted Area Status patch at Warton didn't include Samlesbury.

'Erm' seemed to be the only response available....

We're told that eventually, Fylde's officers agreed that our involvement was almost 100% in support of Blackpool's bid because of the 'Duty to Cooperate'

This further angered the folk from Warton who, apart from concerns about the impact on potential development in their areas, were also concerned that Warton was not, and should not be described as, an area of economic deprivation.

Furthermore, Westby has long opposed plans to make it more industrialised.

There was also concern from some individuals about possible 'side effects' that might come from designation - such as higher insurance costs and lower property values. Some people feared this sort of thing might accompany the 'deprived area' status.

Westby Parish Council formally wrote to Fylde's Chief Executive saying...

"Westby Parish Council cannot support this proposal with regards to the maps submitted. Initially, the injection of funding would seem to be for the purpose of commercial development in what is a rural area."

They also said "These comments are our immediate thoughts as a concerned community, which, due to the lack of consultation from Fylde Borough Council, have been coupled in an informal meeting held at the eleventh hour, this evening.

In conclusion, the Westby Parish Council take great umbrage at being included in the Assisted Area programme and in no way will support this proposal."

Readers can follow this link to see the full letter from Westby

Bryning with Warton Parish Council also formally considered the matter and wrote to Fylde's Chief Executive Allan Oldfield. They said "it was resolved to strongly object to the proposal of Warton being designated as an ‘Assisted Area’" adding that "members contested that the Warton area met any of the principles outlined and the nomination was solely based on the circumstances that Westby and Warton ward shares a boundary with certain Blackpool wards"

Their letter finished "In conclusion the Bryning with Warton Parish Council object strongly to being included in the Assisted Area Order, it should be removed from the areas designated and members believe that the Borough Council should formally oppose its inclusion. It will have a negative connotation not only on the Wards of Warton and Westby but also their immediate neighbours Lytham, Freckleton and Wrea Green and will undermine any future development and regeneration in the Fylde sought by the Borough Council."

Again, we're able to offer readers a link to the full text of the letter.

These letters are not the sort of language you usually see from a Parish Council. They were clearly angry folk.

We understood that when the matter first came to light, Fylde's CE  initially seemed sympathetic and said that the Borough Council had not made its mind up and were happy to be led by the Parish Councils, and would respect the Parish Council's position and ensure FBC's response reflected that of the Parish Councils.

That went some way to mollify the incredible anger present in Warton and directed toward FBC at the moment. The local plan fiasco has produced huge distrust of FBC there.

But whatever mollification there may have been was short lived, because it transpired that the Borough Council's response did not reflect the view of the Parish Councils.

We heard gossip that Fylde's Portfolio Holder for Planning and Development has something to do with this change of heart. If he did, it was another 'behind the scenes' operation because there is no official record him making a decision on this matter.

Hell hath no fury like a parish scorned.

Since then there had been even more distancing between the positions of FBC and the Parish Councils.

It seems that two Borough Councillors and one Parish Councillor who each represent part of the area wrote to Fylde *in support* of the plan for Assisted Area Status.

It's right that Borough Councillors are free to express an opinion - they are elected to do that, and their perspective is the whole of Fylde (whilst the focus of a Parish Councillor represents only the part of Fylde within its civic parish). So that will occasionally bring differences in emphasis.

The Borough Councillors involved in this instance were Cllr Susanne Cunningham, and Cllr Susan Ashton.

The respective Parish Councils were no doubt be displeased that their Borough representatives had failed to reflect and endorse the views expressed by the Parish councils of both Warton and Westby. (It was alleged to us that this was despite assurances given that they *would* support the views of the parish councils).

If correct, this would make the Parish Council's anger more palpable, especially when the Chief Executive used the expressions of support from the two Borough and one Parish Councillor to tell the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills that there was a 'mixed response 'and that "made it difficult for us to reflect a view one way or another from Warton and Westby."

As indicated, a letter of support also went from a dissenting Warton Parish Councillor (when the Parish Council itself had resolved to oppose the plan), and that could be a significantly different matter.

Whilst anyone is entitled send a letter of support as an individual, if they do so appearing to act in their capacity as a Parish Councillor, we think that could set even more trouble brewing at Warton.

And we understand that is what happened.

We say this because we've seen an email from Fylde's Chief Executive saying "We did get copied into a response supporting the Assisted Area Status from a Warton Parish Councillor that made it difficult for us to reflect a view one way or another from Warton and Westby so it was prudent to encourage the responses to be sent directly given we are not the consulting body and it is not our scheme."

In other words, the Chief Executive appears to believe it was a letter from a Warton Parish Councillor, not from an individual.

This has brought more anger from residents in Warton, and we understand the Parish Council received up to a dozen representations calling on that councillor to resign, and for the Parish Council to take action on the matter.

The central problem here is the doctrine of collective responsibility. Parish Councillors are elected individually, but may only act in an official capacity as part of the corporate body of the whole Parish Council (unless individually mandated to act by a resolution of the Parish Council)

If a Parish Council of which you are member debates something and arrives as a decision with which you do not agree, it is your right to dissociate yourself from it. You do that by asking for your name to be recorded in the minutes as having voted against (or sometimes for) the resolution.

We understand the Parish Councillor in question did not vote on the matter at all. They abstained from voting altogether (so therefore could not ask for their dissent to be recorded), but did then write - seemingly in their official capacity as a parish councillor - in support of the Assisted Area Status even though the Council of which they were a member formally voted to oppose it.

That is a pretty clear case of action that undermines the will and resolution of the Parish Council of which they are a member, and almost certainly, it is not the sort of action that any Parish Council should allow to go unchallenged.

We understand that Bryning with Warton PC held a meeting with the press and public excluded last week, and we imagine it would have been about that issue, perhaps providing an opportunity for the matter to be resolved with a degree of amicability in an unheated atmosphere. However, we heard that the Parish Councillor involved did not attend the meeting.

We find it difficult to see how this situation could be allowed to continue without some sort of censure of the individual involved, and we thought there may be more to come on this, because Bryning with Warton Parish Council had a normal public meeting on Tuesday at which the issue was also an agenda item. However, the Parish Council deferred the item to the end of the meeting, then went into closed session once again.

This is unusual (and we're not actually sure it was lawful). 

Normally we would have expected to see minutes recording the decision made at the 'closed meeting' reported to the normal Parish Council meeting. But there did not appear to be any, so perhaps the previous meeting failed to reach a decision.

Going into closed session again - when the public who called for action are once more excluded - is a pretty clear sign that agreement had not been reached on what, if anything, should be done about the dissenting councillor.

With no resolution,  we can expect the unrest to fester, and rumble on.

But the parish isn't the only battleground in this matter.

The two Borough Councillors were also taken to task by residents for their part in writing their letters of support for the Assisted Areas scheme.

We should say here that we see a distinction between what they did and what the dissenting Parish Councillor did - because Fylde Borough Cllrs Ashton and Cunningham are not members of either Warton or Westby Parish Councils, so their action in supporting the Assisted Area status proposals can be said to be in support of a broader, Fylde-wide (as opposed to parish-wide) objective.

This all blew up a the FBC budget Council Meeting on Monday, where a member of the public from Warton had submitted a question in the "Questions from the Public" section of the meeting.

The question first noted that the two Cllrs had responded in support of the Assisted Area Status designation despite the strong and overwhelming objection by both Parish Councils. It called on them to explain why they were not representing the views of their parish councils and asked what had convinced them to act against the wishes of the parish councils.

Council Leader David Eaves had asked Cllr Trevor Fiddler to respond to the question. Cllr Fiddler said he was happy to do so, but if the two councillors concerned wished to speak he was equally happy for them to do so. They were, and they did.

We're going to digress for a moment at this point because for 'civic anoraks, like us, this question posed a really unusual situation.

Fylde's Constitution requires that questions from the public at Council meetings should be dealt with by the Council Leader who will designate a Cabinet member to answer it. And up to this meeting this has been Fylde's practice.

But this question was addressed specifically to two councillors who were not Cabinet members and therefore in strict terms, they could not respond to the question.

To us, it posed an interesting question about exactly who 'the council' is, and whether questions addressed to it are properly addressed to the Leader, or whether they may be addressed to specific councillors as in this case.

We spoke with a senior officer on this matter after the meeting and came to the view that procedurally, it would probably have been more correct to suspend the Council's Standing Orders so the two Councillors could respond directly, rather than have the Leader invite Cllr Fiddler and him invite the two Cllrs to respond.

It just goes to show that no matter how much you try to plan for in constitutional matters there's always something that will crop up that doesn't fit the prescription.

So, to get back to the story, Cllr Suzanne Cunningham spoke first. It was the first time we had ever heard her speak at a meeting since she was elected in May 2011. We had another Councillor comment to us after the meeting that they didn't realise Cllr Cunningham was a Scot because they hadn't heard her speak in all that time either.

She said she and Cllr Mrs Ashton represented '4,000 people who live in the wards, not the few who sit on the local parish council'.

She went on to say that Assisted Area Status could help promote economic and employment opportunities and thus sustain local families.

Referring to Whitehills Business Park and the Whyndyke farm site, she said Whitehills could not fill all the units they have, so what hope was there for Whyndyke to attract new business without some kind of aid?

She went on to say that there "was no link at all" between Assisted Area Status and housing, or the creation of towns. She said both she and Cllr Ashton fundamentally disagreed with the decision that was taken by the Parish Councils, adding that some of the statements she had heard about the possible effect on house prices, insurance and the status of the area were "quite frankly, ludicrous" and in her opinion, they were only the views of a few mis-informed individuals.

She said she would always vote and stand up for what she thought was in the best interests of the people she represented.

Fighting talk, we thought.

Readers might care to note her perspective that she will vote what she thinks is in the best interests of those who elected her - rather than according to the wishes of those who elected her. - This is a subtle, but very significant difference of course.

Also, in direct terms she was technically right to say there was no link at all between Assisted Area Status and housing.  

But the point she did not address is that if additional employment arrives as a result of the assistance offered to inward migrating businesses, it will require additional housing for those it brings into the area.

An anticipated increase in economic activity is the main planning justification for Warton to have 1,200 extra houses. So it's really a bit disingenuous to say there is no link at all, because there is a link - albeit that it is a consequential link.

The Cllr Mrs Ashton rose to speak.

Again it was the first time we had heard her speak since she was elected. Her response began with a sugar-sweet and, we thought, rather patronising tone ("I hope that Cllr Cunningham and I are able to reassure him that we have taken note of the question and that our reply will satisfy him and the Warton residents who are concerned about our commitment to Warton's future development.....")

She supported what Cllr Cunningham had said, and added that she had attended the 2 hour meeting (arranged by Cllr Julie Brickles of Warton and took place in the Town Hall as we described in the early part of this article). She said the officer present had tried to reassure and explain to everyone that it was EU money to be used to help businesses in the two wards. She also saw the need to get funding for Whitehills and Whyndyke and said it was for that reason that "Cllr Cunningham and I support this very welcome boost to local job prospects"

Turning more personal, she said she was surprised that Cllr Brickles had not supported the opportunity for Warton.

Readers should note at this point that it's not actually EU money as such, its UK Government money that the EU will allow them to spend in Assisted Areas to support businesses (often to give say, a business-rates-free period of 3 or 5 years to attract new businesses onto a new industrial estate) - a practice which is usually prevented under EU law.

This extract from the BIS Stage 1 Consultation might help to clarify the situation here: "Assisted Area status does not guarantee funding and does not affect the amount of European funds regions receive from the EU Structural Funds budgets. Any regional aid given in Assisted Areas is directed by domestic authorities."

But then, things became even more personal. Cllr Mrs Ashton spent a considerable time explaining which Parish Council meetings she had attended and which she had not, then went on to explain why personal circumstances and family illnesses sometimes prevented attendance for councillors. Quite honestly we thought this was all a bit too much and too personal.

It sounded to us as though she had interpreted the question from a member of the public as a personal attack, and was thus responding in personal a manner.

Her style didn't get much better when she said (we think chiefly referring to Warton) "... the main point is, when we do attend the meetings we never feel welcome, and are barely acknowledged by some of the Committee members. We are not encouraged to get involved in the debates, even though we may have better understanding because of our Council Training."

She concluded by saying she felt "they had been pushed out onto the sidelines by Warton Parish Council"

Readers should understand that it is not lawful for Borough Councillors (or anyone) to take part in debates of a Parish Council to which they have not been elected, so Cllr Mrs Ashton would be wrong expect to be involved in their debates.

It would have been a different matter if she had stood for, and been elected to, the Parish Council as well as the Borough Council.

What we see is this spat  are two key issues.

The first is a clash of cultures. We see two Borough Councillors who believe they are elected to decide what is best for the people that elected them, and Cllr Brickles and some other Parish Councillors who believe they were elected to do what the people who elected them would want them to do.

These sound similar, but there is actually a world of difference between the two perspectives.

We also believe we see two Borough Councillors who will most likely not be members of Fylde Borough Council after the election in May 2015.

So, as readers will see, it may be sad, but it doesn't look like harmony is going to be restored anytime soon.

And there's more, because we're told the statement FBC sent to the Government in response to the Stage 2 consultation said.

“The Council recognises that the wards of St Leonard’s and Warton with Westby have the potential for economic growth because they have been reflected in the proposed allocation of employment land in the Preferred Option of the Local Plan, based on independent research and include one half of the Lancashire Enterprise Zone.

The development of economic opportunity in St Leonard’s ward is welcome and would promote the diversification of employment around the airport and impact on Whitehills, in Westby, which could attract greater interest from associated industries.

The Parish and Ward Councillors in Warton with Westby have submitted mixed views on the proposals and as such it is appropriate that they have submitted these directly to BIS rather than being reproduced by another consultee.”

Although couched in diplomatic language, the Chief Executive's message to Warton and Westby Parish Councils is clear - and not the response he gave them at the earlier meeting.

To us, it doesn't seem far from - "Stuff you pal"

This has further inflamed a bad situation in Warton where residents were already preparing to take up arms against Fylde Council on the local plan and against a series of individual planning applications.

We had sight of a pithy email sent by a concerned Warton resident to Fylde's Chief Executive, Cllrs Fiddler, Cunningham and Ashton, and copied in to our MP. It said....

"I have just had sight of your quite pathetic response to BIS on the above consultation.

Once again you have failed to reflect and endorse the views expressed by the Parish councils of both Warton and Westby; despite assurances given.

As FBC you have a duty of care to protect the best interests of the residents of the above parishes. Clearly once again the Conservative ward representatives have followed the party line to the detriment of the electorate without care or consultation.

When will you start taking notice of the views and concerns of the residents directly affected by your actions?

Very disappointing."

So as far as we can see - with officers apparently working outside the control of  Fylde Council,  an unresolved administrative issue with a dissenting councillor, and a conflict that has set both Westby and Bryning with Warton Parish Councils on a collision course with the Borough Council - dissatisfaction with Assisted Area Status in Warton and Westby looks set to rumble on for a while yet.

Dated:  6 March 2014


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