fylde counterbalance logo

search counterbalance

plain text / printout version of this article

countering the spin and providing the balance


A Library Story

A Library StoryMany of our correspondents from Lytham area are annoyed at present.

There doesn't seem to be a single point source for the anger; it's more a welling-up of widespread dissatisfaction over several matters.

The concerns that have been expressed to us include:

  • growing opposition to the use of Lytham green as an entertainment venue;
  • the growth of premises in the town centre with late night alcohol licenses;
  • the appearance of forecourt 'canopies' which in practice are little short of building extensions (and in some cases very much out of keeping with the street scene);
  • increasing prevalence of recreational drug use and availability;
  • but most of all, there is considerable anger about LCC's decision not to re-open the Library in the Lytham Institute, and to locate a 'reduced' library service in Lytham's Assembly Rooms.

We expect to address some of these matters in future articles, but this story is essentially about the fate and fortune of Lytham Library - which some councillors are saying has become a political football.

Some  see it as a conspiracy to prepare Lytham Institute for a sell-off by FBC.

And we have to say we can see some justification for that view.

Some have even suggested to us that we are in the foothills of something that could grow to echo the scandal of Melton Grove for political chicanery.

So this story looks at the background to the library closures, and how LCC's decision appeared to evolve, before offering some opinions from others and concluding with our own views.

We begin with a Chronology and Comment giving the Background and origins of Library closures in January 2016. Next we look at the first moves by our MP to re-examine the decision to close Libraries in September 2106, followed  in October 2016 by the Minister's decision to hold a Local Inquiry.

Then in  February 2017, Lancashire Conservatives pledged to re-open the Libraries the Labour administration had closed. But in March 2017, the first proposals from the Lytham Library Working Group were rejected, and FBC made its first press comment.

Change was to follow, and in May 2017 the Lancashire Conservatives swept Labour from office. Later in the month, a new 'Friends of Lytham Library and Institute' was formed.

LCC's Cabinet considered a report called 'Proposals relating to Library Buildings which were closed/proposed for closure.' on 13 July 2017. This resulted in a decision on Lytham Library being deferred whilst 'a range of factors' were addressed.

The Friends group responded  in October 2017 by starting a petition to reopen the library in the Institute. And on 9 November 2017 LCC did defer the decision on Lytham Library.

With concern mounting, and a further the LCC decision approaching, our MP lent his support to the Friends campaign in April 2018. This was followed by even stronger statements and help from his own staff in May 2018.

On 14 June 2018 LCC's Cabinet considered a report called 'Proposals Relating to Libraries. It outlined three options for a library in Lytham: Hastings Place, The Institute and the Assembly Rooms. We reproduced what we think are the main points from the report before quoting The Decision - which was to provide a smaller Library in the Assembly Rooms.

Next, we look at the Reaction to this decision from the main parties, including The Friends groupLCCFBC and  Lytham Town Trust (who run the Assembly Rooms). After that we look at the Views of others, firstly from two members of the public with differing views, one which the Express published and one which (we're told) they would not publish.

We also give some views from organisations that have made comment, firstly a view that is set out in the Civic Society's latest newsletter, and secondly a very forthright view published on Facebook by Lytham St Johns Ward Ratepayer Councillors Mark Bamforth and Roger Lloyd

Finally, we give Our own view of what's gone on before coming to Our own Conclusions and asking What can be done about the decision, and what issues flow from it for the future.

There's also an Update for Another readers letter we received


 21 January 2016

in the face of what it called 'an unprecedented financial challenge' the County Council's Cabinet considered responses to a consultation. They had asked for views on a range of service that were being considered for spending reductions. This report did not go into detail on any of the services, rather it appeared to be a way of gauging public opinion as to the services which were of greatest concern.

The matter attracting most concern was Bus Services (242 responses), then Libraries (173 responses), then Knott End Services - bus, ferry, library (168 responses), and Museums (88 responses). The County Council noted the results, and said it would bring forward specific proposals for each affected service.

 4 February 2016

The Cabinet received a further report with the first of those proposals. It was titled 'Lancashire County Library Service Consultation – stage one.' and said:

'The consultation had been on the service's design, need and use, and was available to complete between 4 January and 31 January 2016'.

'The majority (95%) of respondents were current library members and therefore the consultation findings predominantly represents the views of this group. 92% of respondents use the library at least once a month and 97% are very or fairly satisfied with the service'.

'Respondents commented that they wanted their library to remain open, they valued borrowing books and improving literacy and there were positive comments about staff. Libraries were seen as community hubs, improving wellbeing and cohesion, and groups and events were valued'.

Again the LCC's Cabinet noted the report

 12 May 2016

Matters came to a head with a further report entitled 'Property Strategy (Neighbourhood Centres) - Consultation Proposals'

This unusual title explains what LCC was trying to do.

It wasn't simply planning to close some libraries, it was undertaking a fundamental root an branch reform of how most of its services would be delivered in future. The plan was to create multi-purpose 'neighbourhood centres' from which LCC services would be delivered. As the report itself said

'The Property Strategy sets out a methodology to achieve a sustainable long term reduction in the Council's property portfolio to align with the aspirations in the draft Corporate Strategy and to enable the future delivery of public facing services through a range of multi-functional Neighbourhood Centres.'

Cutting through the corporate-speak, essentially LCC was doing what everyone else has been doing - closing small local 'branches' from which its services were delivered, and merging them altogether as one building serving a much larger geographic area.

The logic of this is that you need less buildings (= cost savings) and it is claimed you can make efficiency savings by, for example, merging managerial and administrative roles from within each of the 'branches' that you close. In our experience this doesn't work as well as you might expect in practice, but some savings do accrue.

The libraries were simply swept up into the great tsunami of changing service delivery.

As the report itself put it, the multi-purpose premises around the county would provide:

  • A smaller and more affordable property portfolio
  • A move away from service specific premises to a corporately managed property portfolio offering flexibility of use in order to ensure future efficiency savings can be coordinated and realised
  • A network of Neighbourhood Centres which provide community focussed multi-functional buildings tailored to deliver high quality specific services within identified areas

In Fylde, and so far as libraries were concerned, it was proposed that St Annes Library was to stay open, and Kirkham's was to move within the town and become a more community focus property, but Ansdell, Freckleton and Lytham were scheduled to close altogether.

Unfortunately, the 'axe' fell disproportionately on Fylde because one of the criteria to determine which library should close was the extent of deprivation within the locality.

This factor was given more weight than any other. In fact it was given a weight of 10, when all other factors taken into account (Accessibility, Finance, Legal, Sufficiency (size), Suitability, and Ease of disposal) only added up to 33.

All that technical and mathematical analysis done, the report's end paragraph rather spoilt it all by saying:

'However this approach does not give the whole picture and so professional judgement has been applied taking into account local context, community need and service requirements in order to provide a range of preferred building options.'

And so it was that' after all the technical statistical calculations had been done, and then had been 'modified' by applying 'professional judgement', areas (like Fylde) with less deprivation (than, say, areas of East Lancashire), saw a proportionately higher number of closures.

LCC undertook another 12 week consultation on the proposals for its new 'Property Strategy (Neighbourhood Centres)'

 8 September 2016

Regular readers will know that if you want to put people off from arguing with what you are proposing, you make the report VERY long, and you don't give people much time to read it, and you usually put it as the last item on a long agenda.

Well, LCC's final report on this matter wasn't the last item on the agenda, but it did fit the other two conditions.

It was published on the last working day before the August Bank Holiday, leaving just seven days for County Councillors to digest 992 pages of the 'Property Strategy' report amongst an agenda running to 1,448 pages altogether.

 16 September 2016

counterbalance published 'Library Closures' as part of our 'Snippets' article where we noted that LCC had confirmed that Libraries in Lytham, Ansdell and Freckleton would be closed at the end of September, and Kirkham would be moved to a new building.

We also noted that 'support' or 'friends' groups had sprung up, first to fight the closures, then to see whether they could take over providing the library service on a volunteer basis, with LCC offering limited initial support.

We also said that Conservative County Councillors (and some of their colleague Borough councillors) representing Fylde had pledged to re-open the libraries if they are elected to a majority the following May.

We explained that there are some services that councils have to provide by law, and others that are discretionary. Libraries, leisure, tourism and subsidies for bus services are examples of discretionary services, adding that the (not unexpected) outcome is that discretionary services have been hit disproportionately hard in LCC's budget cuts. and we explained and outlined the adoption of Super Output Areas for LCC's future service delivery.

In a view that was probably not popular with those seeking to save the Libraries, we said that if you don't enough money to run services as you did before, it's no-brainer that cut discretionary services before cutting those you are legally obliged to provide. And better than withdrawing from discretionary services altogether, the preference should be to rationalise them.

We also said we said it seemed to us that the Library Service's failure to adapt and embrace technology to a sufficient scale was probably a contributory factor to why centralising the library service into fewer locations was probably the most sensible response to not having enough money to run it as you did before.

In a perfect world the cuts would not have been needed, but the financial measures to mitigate the crash of 2008 meant the UK was spending more than it earned and the national debt grows bigger daily, so something had to give. LCC was faced with having to cut over £200 MILLION from its budget.

The Government had required LCC to lose more than some of the other councils in the UK. We didn't like that, or what the impact would be, but we had to agree that LCC had provided a logical response to this requirement. No one (including one or two LCC members we know) liked it, but the 'fault' in this matter was not only down to LCC.

We also noted with interest that one of Fylde's (Conservative) County Councillors was quoted in the paper as saying "Libraries provide so many services to our communities, including combating social isolation, providing safe places for those with learning disabilities and autism, providing computers to access essential services online...." etc

We said it was All very laudable, but in truth, that description belongs not in the library budget, but in the social services budget.

Unknown to us at the time, this comment was a harbinger of what was to follow. The Labour administration closed libraries to protect the social services budget - which for them had a higher priority, whilst later, the Conservatives would use reductions in the social services budget to re-open the libraries.

This is a pretty good example of why it is important that people vote in elections. Your vote does make a difference.

 At the same time, in September 2016,

Moves were being made by our MP to have the Government intervene in LCC's decision, and elsewhere, 4,000 people signed a petition to save Lytham Library in the Lytham Institute building, and Ansdell was making moves toward becoming a community run library.

Then two Fylde Conservative County Councillors (Cllr Fabian Craig Wilson and Peter Buckley) announced that if the Conservatives were elected to power at Count Hall in May, they would reopen closed libraries.

Echoing the sentiment, County Councillor Tim Ashton - whose county ward includes both Ansdell and Lytham library told the Gazette:

"We would certainly reopen any closed libraries in the event of us regaining control of the County Council, but for now I have to stress that all is not lost and I will be doing everything I can to preserve our libraries. I intend to speak at the Cabinet Meeting and put the case that there is no need for the libraries to be in this situation.

These proposals would take them from universal services to targeted services and that shouldn't be allowed to happen"

But despite 7,700 responses to the 12 week consultation, LCC's Cabinet approved all the recommendations that had been put to them, and the scheduled libraries were to close.

A defiant Mark Menzies MP said the fight to save Fylde's libraries would go on, and he reminded residents that there were new County Council elections in May

A Lytham Library Working Group was formed, and their spokesman said the group

".....included representatives from Lytham Heritage Group, Lytham St Annes Civic Society, Lytham based Fable Arts, and interested residents and businesses as well as County Councillor Tim Ashton and Fylde Cllr Ray Thomas...."

The Working Group spokesman said having done a public consultation themselves they would submit a proposal to LCC to change the building into a 'mixed space facility featuring a community managed self-service Library'. and it was expected that LCC would consider proposals in October.

But Lytham Library remained scheduled for closure on 30 September, and that was even after LCC's Scrutiny Committee had considered a 'Call In Request' for the decision to be reviewed.

Lytham Ratepayer Councillors Mark Bamforth and Roger Lloyd called for a public inquiry and supported the bid being prepared by the Working Group. Cllr Lloyd in particular was concerned about the future of the wider Institute building if the library was removed from it.

 30 September 2016

Lytham and Freckleton libraries closed on 30th September as planned, and they were emptied pretty quickly. Staff were transferred to other duties elsewhere.

 13 October 2016

Mr Menzies' call for Government to look at the plans had borne fruit, and it raised hopes amongst campaigners. He welcomed the announcement that the Secretary of State had launched an official inquiry into LCC's decision. Mr Menzies letter had been treated as a Formal Complaint, and the Government said it would ask LCC for all the relevant documentation, following which the Secretary of State would decide whether a local Inquiry was necessary to consider and decide whether LCC's decision had been legally sound.

We understand that the chief basis of Mr Menzies complaint was that deprivation had been given undue weight in the consideration of which libraries should be closed, and this meant that '....hard-working, taxpaying residents of Fylde would always be hit hardest'

 31 December 2016

Freckleton Library, (along with five others across Lancashire) was one of the first buildings to be put on the market by LCC. The asking price was £325,000

 9 February 2017

Lancashire Conservative Group announced their manifesto pledges to be implemented if they were elected.

Pledge number 3 was tweeted as:

'to reopen all libraries that had been closed, reinstate staffing and maintain support for community libraries'

Shortly after this, but before the May elections, the 'Fylde Conservative's County News' newspaper style publication arrived with us (and probably lots of other people across Lancashire)

Prominent on the front page - under the headline 'Council Slammed As Libraries Shut' with a catalogue of criticism of the ruling Labour and Liberal members - was this group photo

Lancashire County Conservatives

It was followed by this pledge

'From Lancashire Conservatives Leader Geoff Driver...

Having run the County Council as recently as 2013, we know that plans have to be affordable to be credible.

That's why Lancashire Conservatives have a fully-costed plan to protect all our libraries and re-open those that are being closed by the current Labour administration. If we take back control of the County Council next May, that's exactly what we will do.

Unlike Labour, we understand how important these libraries are to our communities and how many people rely on them for a wide range of services. This fight isn't over, we'll continue to put residents first and make sure existing libraries remain open.

That is our pledge to you.'

As an election communication it was powerful, and inside was a sub-article headed 'Fylde Unfairly Hit With Library Closures'

There can be no doubt that the pledge attached itself to ALL libraries, and that existing libraries - like Lytham Library - would re-open.

That promise would have been very persuasive at the election for the many people across Lancashire.

 23 March 2017

The proposal from the Lytham Library Working Group was rejected by LCC as not being sufficiently robust.

The proposal had been to keep the building for community use including a library service, and to meet the building's maintenance costs by renting out some of the other space for commercial use.

So the Lytham Library Working Group asked for further ideas and support from the wider community

At about the same time, Fylde's Cllr Susan Fazackerley told the Express:

"The County Council has not expressed any plans to reopen the library service under alternative operations.

Fylde Council has enquired about the County's intention in respect of the user rights and we are still waiting to reach an agreement that would leave Fylde with sole ownership of the premises.

The current tenants who use two rooms on the first floor, and the couple of groups that use the Hewitt Lecture Room are working with Fylde Council to maintain their operations whilst seeking alternative options"

We think her quote in this matter is very telling.

Our own take (on the last paragraph in particular) suggests that Fylde's majority group led by Cllr Fazackerley have already made up their mind that the building has no future as a community facility operated by Fylde Council and funded by taxpayers.

It sounds to us as though the (as yet, unofficial) plan from the Council is to empty the tenants and dispose of the building.

If this were not the case we would have expected Cllr Fazackerley to say that Fylde were actively seeking another tenant for the space formerly occupied by the Library.

But the impression gained is the exact opposite; they seem to be trying to persuade current users to move elsewhere.

We can only see one reason behind such a move.

 4 May 2017

The day of the LCC Election, with voting taking place across Lancashire.

LCC had already told campaigners for Ansdell Library that they were one of four community groups across the county whose proposals for running 'their' library had been accepted. Whilst giving the decision a cautious welcome, the Friends Group made it clear they would have preferred LCC to continue to operate the Library.

Meanwhile at Lytham, campaigners were urging their supporters to write to the Secretary of State to make their views on the closure of Lytham Library known.

The election result saw the Conservatives sweep Labour from control at the County Council

 11 May 2017

A week after taking office, Cllr Driver contacted the Friends of Ansdell Library, and confirmed that Ansdell would remain open as a County Council run Library. We have no evidence that he made contact with the Lytham Library Working Group.

 12 May 2017

counterbalance published the LCC election results which gave the Conservatives 46 seats and all other councillors 38 seats, resulting in a comfortable overall majority for the Conservatives. We said at the time

'It's not yet clear what their priorities will be, but based on statements before the election, we might expect to see a reversal of the Library closures that drew so much public attention recently.

We're a bit doubtful that they will save them all. We heard that Cllr Tim Ashton was removing himself from the bodies that were campaigning to save Lytham Library which has already closed, and which is owned by FBC (who we imagine could be keen to asset strip and sell it off anyway) so we wait with bated breath on that one.'

 25 May 2017

A new 'Friends of Lytham Library and Institute' was formed in anticipation of Lytham Library re-opening as promised.

When the Express sought LCC's comment on Lytham library, they were told County Councillor Driver was unavailable to comment on specific library re-openings ahead of the Annual Meeting of the County Council.

We thought this was a bad sign after he had contacted the Ansdell group to tell them it would be re-opened. We thought it sounded like something fishy was going on.

 6 July 2017

New Cabinet Portfolio Holder for 'Community and Cultural Services' and Fylde resident County Cllr Peter Buckley (husband of Fylde's 'Princess' Karen Buckley), warned that

"A significant amount of Activity will be needed to re-open the libraries which were closed.

This will include building assessments and carrying out work to improve the condition of some buildings, recruiting and training staff, reconnecting ICT and other infrastructure and reallocating the book stock.

Building surveys are already under way and the next step will be to produce a detailed timeline for libraries reopening.

Whilst some require minimal work in order to reopen, at this stage we're anticipating that most will reopen between this autumn and spring next year.'

We were troubled by his comments. The libraries had been closed for less than 12 months, and we couldn't see why it would be necessary to improve the condition of the buildings, and in particular Lytham Library in the former Institute building, the greater part of which was still in use by other groups.

Unlocking and cleaning yes, and replacement of fixtures and fittings if they had been removed, but that's about the size of what should have been needed.

And as for recruiting and training, we'd have thought they could simply move back the staff they moved away when Lytham closed.

Furthermore, reconnecting a network of computers to the internet and the Library network shouldn't take much above a week or two if there was a will to do it.

We thought some intentional stalling was going on, and our concern for the future of Lytham Library was growing.

We couldn't help wondering whether Cllr Buckley's to-do list might be masking a process intended to delay the reopening of Lytham Library.

 13 July 2017

LCC's Cabinet considered a report called 'Proposals relating to Library Buildings which were closed/proposed for closure.' Essentially this report updated LCC's Cabinet on plans to re-open, (or in some cases to transfer control of), most of the libraries that had been closed.

LCC also decided to rescind the previous administration's decision to declare eleven libraries as surplus to requirements. In Fylde this meant that Ansdell Library and Freckleton Library were removed from sale. (We understand that some that were destined for sale had had their internal fittings etc removed in preparation for the sale, and these fittings would have to be replaced with new ones).

The Cabinet was further asked to agree to defer decisions in relation to twelve library buildings - one of which was Lytham Library. The report gave no explanation as to why it was necessary to defer these decision other than saying it was

"....whilst a range of factors are addressed."

The minutes confirm that the Cabinet did defer a decision on Lytham.

 5 October 2017

Cllr Peter Buckley told the Express:

"....we have deferred decisions about reopening some libraries, including Lytham Library, as there are other issues that need to be considered. However a report is being prepared for the Cabinet meeting in November which will set out the situation regarding Lytham Library and provide the basis for further progress."

Again, our take on what he said was not that it would be a basis to re-open Lytham Library as had been promised. We were not reassured.

We had a growing sense of unease that a separate agenda existed for the Institute building in Lytham.

 10 October 2017

We suspect the Friends of Lytham Library and Institute were also worried. They held a public meeting and launched a new petition calling for the library to be reinstated in the Institute building. They planned a second meeting a month later.

 19 October 2017

The Express reported that the Friends' petition had got off to a flying start, with around 600 signatures collected at tables set up outside what had been the Lytham Library entrance.

Notable at the petition launch was Fylde's MP Mark Menzies who told the Express:

"I met with library campaigners in Lytham who are calling for the return of a library to the town as soon as possible"

Perhaps he was mis-quoted but we suspect they were calling for the library to be returned to the Institute, not a library in the town.

Chairman of the Friend's Group Christine Marshall told the Express:

"....The aim of the petition is to show how much support Lytham Library has and how much people value the building as a community facility."

The plan was to present the petition to LCC's November Cabinet meeting that would consider the report on Lytham Library.

 26 October 2017

As the November deadline approached, the petition went online. By now it had more than 1,000 signatures, and eventually it grew to almost 4,000 signatures before being delivered to County Hall.

 9 November 2017

In the event, the report to LCC's Cabinet turned out to be something of an anti-climax. Instead of hearing the fate of Lytham Library, county councillors were told:

"Provision of a library service in Lytham was originally delivered from Lytham Library and Registration offices within Lytham Institute and closed on 30 September 2016.

The former library was operated from part of a building owned by Fylde Borough Council, subject to the County Council having a user right agreement, but is under consideration in relation to its suitability for future service delivery.

It is proposed that a range of options for service delivery are considered.

If agreed, the findings of the options appraisal will form the basis of a further report for consideration by Cabinet."

And the Cabinet did agree.

This bland statement is actually the death knell for the library in the Lytham Institute.

What's being said is that rather than re-open the Library, a range of options would be considered by LCC.

Sadly, we were not able to attend this meeting but we think more must have been said at it, or further information had leaked out, because Christine Marshall, Chair of the Friends group told the Express

"The Friends are adamant they will continue their campaigning until the library is returned to the Lytham Institute building as promised at the last election.

They do not want to see a reduced 'library service' in another building as has been suggested as an option"

 23 November 2017

Fylde Ratepayer Councillors from Lytham, (Cllrs Mark Bamforth and Roger Lloyd) wrote an open letter to the Express. We've selected a few quotes for our readers:

"At the May county council elections, the Conservatives in their election pamphlet stated: "We will reopen all libraries which are currently closed with staff and new books, whilst protecting all our libraries across Lancashire...."

"....Many people voted Conservative in May simply because of this promise...."

".... Rather than the re-opening of the Library, the Conservative county councillors have subjected Lytham Library to an individual means test for its worthiness and scrutiny to see if there is a need for it to be re-opened in Lytham. This was not part of the deal. We expect it to be reopened"

 30 November 2017

In the midst of the furore, local author Brian Turner published a 32 page 'Story of Lytham Institute and Library' which is said to be 'brilliant' in its accuracy and detail. It is (or at least was, and may still be) available from Lytham Heritage Centre for £7.50

 5 April 2018

Our MP's website noted that:

"The Friends of Lytham Library and Institute group has published its plans to convince Lancashire County Council to put its library back where it belongs – in the heart of Lytham.

I’ve been supporting the Friends and am pleased to see a document with not one, but four separate schemes showing how the Institute building can be brought back to life with a vibrant mix of community use, the library, and a commercial offering.

The plans have the support of the business community and residents.

A revitalised Institute will be a draw for the town, and we desperately want our library back in that mix.

The plans have been presented to libraries operator Lancashire County Council, and Institute owner Fylde Council. I hope both see the merit in and support these plans – which will reduce costs for both authorities. "

 24 May 2018

The Friend's Group was now becoming agitated. They had not been asked for any clarification or further information by LCC.

Supporting their case, Fylde's MP Mark Menzies told the Express:

"The County Council needs to understand the strength of feeling in this matter.

We want Lytham Library back in the Institute building and there has been a lot of work and effort from the Friends of the Library and Institute, involving my office, to get the plans to where they are today.

No questions have come back to the Friends group from Lancashire County Council regarding these plans, so I can only assume officers have not looked at them in any detail yet.

I am meeting with the Chief Executive of Lancashire County Council on Friday, and I will be making it clear I fully support the library going back into the Institute"

We thought it significant that Mr Menzies said his office had been involved in preparing the plans. He (as with other MPs) does not usually become involved in matters pertaining to the County of Borough council's remit, and we hoped his involvement here was a good sign.

Further support came from Mr Menzies after a protest march and rally in Lytham when he was reported to have said:

"I was pleased to see such great support for our bid to return the Library to its rightful home in Lytham Institute.

I have written to each county councillor involved in the decision to highlight a number of issues and am still 9incredibly disappointed that after all of the hard [work] that went into the Friends' business plans for the Institute, no-one from Lancashire County Council saw fit to contact the Friends and ask further questions."

We think what he said shows is a closed mind on the part of the County Council. It seemed to us they had made their mind up before the meeting took place.

 14 June 2018

LCC's Cabinet received a report headed "Proposals Relating to Libraries."

It outlined three options for library facilities in Lytham.

Most notably, but (in our view) not highlighted sufficiently strongly in the report, was what appeared to be a reappraisal of the scale of need for a Library in Lytham.

We don't have the details for all the former library properties, but as far as we can tell, Lytham was the ONLY library where this sort of re-assessment took place.

The key point from this re-assessment was that

'.... the Library service has confirmed that a Band C Library would be appropriate to serve a community of the size and demographics of Lytham.'

Using details elsewhere in the report we can calculate how much smaller a 'Band C' library would be.

In fact, the revised size would be 67% less than the area of Lytham Library at the time of its closure in September 2016.

And it's 51% less than the area ORIGINALLY used by LCC when (the report claims) they 'inherited' the agreement with Fylde in 1982.

And of course, as we all know, Lytham hasn't seen less people living within its boundaries over the last 35 years. It's population has increased.

Without further explanation, we simply don't believe it is credible that this situation only applies to Lytham

Again, the fishy smell of a hidden agenda begins to emanate from this matter, just as it did before the scandal of Melton Grove entered the public consciousness.

The more we read the report, the stronger that smell became.

Essentially, three properties had been considered to serve as a library for Lytham.

 1). The Estates Office at Hastings Place (owned by Lancashire County Council)

This housed LCC's Adult Social Care Service and provided temporary accommodation for the Registration Service (births deaths etc). It was considered to be 'central' to Lytham with a disabled access ramp serving the ground floor.

It comprised several small rooms which were said to need significant remodelling for library use. But the biggest problem was that it had insufficient ground floor space to house a library of the size Lytham was said to require.

That being the case, we are left wondering why it was actually being considered in the first place - unless it was simply a makeweight to avoid the decision appearing to be a choice between the Institute and the Assembly Rooms

 2). Lytham Institute (owned by Fylde Borough Council)

A Grade II listed building. The part opening onto Clifton Street and used by LCC (initially 41% but growing to 61% over time, included some use by Blackpool and Fylde College) was occupied under an Agreement to deliver Library and Registration Services. The remainder of the building was chiefly the Hewitt Lecture Room (a hall for public hire), together with some smaller rooms used by local groups, and Lytham Heritage Group's important local history archive and store.

Running costs for the whole building were apportioned between FBC and LCC on a % occupancy basis with 12 months notice required from LCC to end the agreement.

This building truly was in Lytham's town centre, and had both steps and disabled access to the side.

The report asserted that the accommodation was not a suitable space for the delivery of a modern library service, (several individual rooms requiring supervision by staff), and many of the fixtures & fittings including ICT equipment had been removed from site. The report also said that the condition of the building had deteriorated due to it being largely vacant.

We struggle with the argument LCC's officers are making here, because the building had not been empty, it was in regular use. It was only the rooms used by LCC that had been vacated, and then only for less than 12 months. So we don't see how any 'deterioration' could have been significant.

The report also said that - what amounted to a quick look around by FBC and LCC - had revealed 'a significant maintenance requirement" - the cost of which would require LCC to pay 61% and FBC 39%.

There is UPDATED INFORMATION ON THIS PERCENTAGE COST - Please see UPDATE 2 at the end of this article.

This is a Grade II listed building. Whoever (and we think it's probably FBC) has let it reach a state where it is in need of 'significant maintenance' is failing in their duties.

The report said that a specialist conservation survey has not been undertaken, but hung that comment like a Sword of Damocles over the decision, and once again, we suspect we can see 'project fear' being deployed and the 'bigging-up' of costs that will help to justify not returning the library to this building.

 3). The Assembly Rooms (operated by Lytham Town Trust under a lease from Fylde Borough Council who own the building).

The report notes that any sub-letting of this building to the county council would require a variation to the lease agreement to which FBC had already indicated their consent. (We don't remember the Council or any of its committees, taking that decision - and we follow such matters quite closely - so once again it looks as though Fylde's officers have usurped what we believe to be the proper responsibility of elected members if consent has been given)

Like Lytham Library, the Assembly Rooms are well located in the centre of Lytham. They have no disabled access at the front where there are steps. The disabled access is to the rear of the building.

LCC had developed and costed a proposal to deliver a Band C library from the 'Dicconson Room' (the left hand room as you look from the front of the building).

And the report noted that

"A visual condition survey has been undertaken to identify the scale of potential maintenance works. Whilst a number of issues need addressing the estimated maintenance requirement is significantly less than that for the Institute."

The terms of Lytham Town Trust's lease require FBC to be responsible for external building maintenance, so the county council would only be responsible for 'their' part of the internal maintenance costs, and an apportioned contribution for shared areas.

 Lytham Town Trust's Proposal

In addition to the physical properties of the buildings, the report also gave some details of Lytham Town Trust itself, and the offer they had made to LCC. It said:

"Lytham Town Trust is a registered charity established in 1990 with the aim of preserving and protecting buildings of architectural or historic interest and the provision of facilities for the community.

The Trust manages the Assembly Rooms and Lytham Hall. As stated on their website (www.lythamtowntrust.org), Lytham Town Trust's main focus now is to support the refurbishment and restoration of Lytham Hall and Parkland.

The business case submitted by the Town Trust offers the county council the dedicated use of the Dicconson Room within the Assembly Rooms, at a cost of £14,500 per annum plus a contribution towards utilities etc, estimated to be £8,000 per annum which is approximately £22,500 in total each year.

It is proposed that the location of a county council library within the Assembly Rooms would support the wider community use of the remaining accommodation which is not let to other tenants."

 The Friends' Proposal

The report also considered the proposals sent by the Friends of Lytham Library and Institute. It said:

'The business case submitted by the Friends group sets out four different options for the future use of the building, each of which is contingent on the county council re-instating a library service in the building along with varying levels of community and commercial use and in two options proposes additional use by county council services:

  • Plan A retains the library to the front of the building in the two rooms used previously. The rooms to the rear on the ground floor, and the small former classroom on the first floor are earmarked for community use. The remaining first floor would be utilised as commercial space.

  • Plan B moves the library to the central area of the ground floor, accessible through the side doors which also have a disability access ramp. The Hewitt Lecture Room and small former classroom on the first floor would be retained for community use. The entire front of the building, the former library rooms and those on the first floor for commercial lettings.

  • Plan C is similar to B, and suggests the county council utilise the first floor for the Adult Social Care service. While this would mean a larger proportion of rent from the county council it would enable the authority to dispose of Hastings Place.

  • Plan D suggests the return of the library to its former two rooms to the front of the property, the county council's Adult Social Care service to move in to the first floor. The Hewitt Lecture Room and the former classroom on the first floor would be retained as community use, and the middle section of the ground floor available for commercial lettings.

Each of the four options has been considered against a set of criteria including service requirements, cost and suitability.

Whilst each option demonstrates merit, their viability is dependent on securing community and commercial use over a three year period which does not address the residual financial liabilities of the county council and Fylde Borough Council under the terms of occupation.

Whilst each option considers the revenue implications in some detail there is no reference to obtaining the capital funding that would be necessary to address the maintenance requirements and develop the interior of the building into commercially desirable spaces.

Each option assumes a level of both commercial and community use of the building which has not been secured.

The amount of space allocated for the delivery of library services in each of the options is greater than that required by the service for a Band C library and would therefore require additional capital. The proposals also present problems in terms of providing an adequate number of staff to supervise a service split across different rooms.'

To be honest, we're not impressed with the analysis LCC has provided.

It feels like a stitch-up.

Firstly, there's no need to move at all.

If LCC want to reduce their use of the Institute to 20% of the building and their User Agreement with Fylde says they pay maintenance costs based on their area usage, then they simply need to tell FBC they are retracting to just 20% of building area, and they will only need to pay 20% of the £45,000 they currently pay to use 61% of the building.

That would reduce the premises cost of housing Lytham Library in the Institute to about £15,000 - the lowest of all premises costs

This wrinkle is shown up more clearly in the report's Appendix D which purports to compare premises costs and says:

"Hastings Place: £33,000 per annum (2016/17) - liability for full running and maintenance costs

Lytham Institute: £45,000 per annum (2016/17) - 61% liability for premises related running and maintenance costs

Lytham Assembly Rooms: £22,000 – no liability for external maintenance. Includes estimate contribution to utility costs.

There's a lot of smoke and mirrors going on here.

The cost for Hastings Place does not make it clear whether the cost of maintenance is within this figure or additional to it, and it makes no mention of utility costs - which, as far as we know, are not separately payable at Lytham Library but are included in the Assembly Rooms cost.

But worse than that - and in a blatant distortion of the true situation - the report says the cost for Lytham Institute is based on continuing use of 61% of the building.

But the scale of library provision now needed is said to be only 20%

So it's not an equal comparison.

Furthermore, whilst LCC criticised the Friends group proposals for having ' no reference to obtaining the capital funding that would be necessary to address the maintenance requirements and develop the interior of the building into commercially desirable spaces', LCC appear to us to have done exactly that in respect of Hastings place option themselves.

They have kept the actual figures as 'Exempt Information' (which the public are not allowed to see), but they claim that if the cost of library installation, including construction and condition costs, fees and disbursements is 100% for the Assembly Rooms,   then Hastings place will be 20% higher than this, and Lytham Institute will be 125% higher.

Yet at Hastings Place, the report says

'The building is made up of several small rooms which would require significant remodelling and has insufficient ground floor space to house a Band C library.'

We simply can't see a cost to remodel several small ground floor rooms - that are not big enough even to accommodate the reduced size library - and to install a lift to access the first floor (that would be needed in order to give the floor area the library would need) for a cost that is only 20% more than the 'No structural work, mainly cosmetic' adaption cost that LCC has attributed to the Assembly Rooms in Appendix D.

And that's especially the case when you consider that one of the reasons to reject the Friends' proposals for Lytham Institute said:

"Two of the options proposed by The Friends of Lytham Library and Institute suggest relocating the Adult Social Care service from Hastings Place to the first floor of Lytham Institute and a cost estimate for these works has been produced. However, the move is not appropriate as there is no lift access to the first floor of the Institute and significant capital monies would be required to convert the space into modern office accommodation (Appendix C)."

Again, these comparisons do not appear to be equal - and it's for reasons such as those we have set out above that we think this is a stitch-up

 The Decision

the Cabinet was asked to approve

"(i) The establishment of a full library service at Lytham Assembly Rooms

(ii) An allocation to fund capital works as set out in Appendix C to establish a library service in Lytham to be funded from the Libraries Re-instatement
Capital Allocation of £1.571m

(iii) The entering into an Agreement for the establishment of the library in the Lytham Assembly Rooms

(iv) The surrender of the county council's interest in the Lytham Institute."

And that's exactly whet they did.

Readers who'd like to see more details can follow this link to download the full LCC Cabinet Report  

 21 June 2018

Reaction to the Decision from the main parties involved

 Friends of Lytham Library and Institute

The Express carried a banner headline 'It is a sad day for democracy' (which was actually a quote from the Friends' Chairman) as it reported that two of the town's most historic buildings were preparing for a new era.

Friends' Chairman Christine Marshall asked people to continue to email County Hall to express their dismay at the decision, but added that the Friends would continue to battle for the future of the Institute.

 Lancashire County Council

The County Council spokesman said it would have been financially irresponsible to opt for the Institute over the Assembly Rooms and he said it would have cost the taxpayer more than double the amount to put the library back in the Institute building.

 Fylde's Borough Council

Fylde was reported as saying its members and officers had not pre-empted the County Council decision and had not considered any options for the use of the Institute in the event that user rights were removed.

As one of our readers (now in Scotland) would have said "Yeah. Right."

Fylde's spokesman told the Express:

"There will be a period of time now to carry out the necessary process to remove the user rights and return control of the Institute back to Fylde Council.

This time will be used to consider all possible options for the use of the Institute which will include community engagement and consideration of the proposals that had been presented to the County Council."

This puzzled us.

We can't see Fylde removing the User Rights for LCC. We expected the County Council to give 12 months notice to terminate its agreement.

Perhaps Fylde mean they are in the process of removing the user rights that OTHER users of the building enjoy.

Alternatively it might mean they are not going to require 12 months notice from LCC and will let them avoid their responsibility to meet 61% of the maintenance costs over the next 12 months.

And just whilst on that topic, given this is a Grade II Listed building - which Fylde and LCC agreed currently had a 'significant maintenance requirement' when they undertook a recent joint visual condition survey - we're surprised Fylde has not outlined their plan to bring the eminence up to scratch, and whether, and to what extent LCC should bear the cost of such works.

 28 June 2018

Perhaps in response to the sort of comments we were hearing from some of our readers in the Lytham area, Lytham Town Trust must have announced they would help to secure a viable future for the Institute.

 Lytham Town Trust

The Express reported

".... Town Trust officials have pledged that the additional income from the County Council to use the space as a library will help the Trust to support Lytham Hall as well as its wider charitable objectives..."

LTT's spokesman was reported to say the use of the assembly rooms had been declining for several years, and opening the library in the Dicconson Room was consistent with they charitable objects, adding

"The restoration of Lytham Hall and achieving a financially viable future for this magnificent building remains a key priority for the Town Trust"

He went on to say

"We understand that the decision of officers will have been a great disappointment to the Friends of Lytham Library and Institute, who see the reopening of the library in the Institute as the only way to save this important building.

As a charity whose primary objective is the preservation of buildings such as this we share their concern.

However the economic reality is that very significant expenditure will be required to bring the Institute back into public use in a sustainable way..."

They added that having no library service would have been bad for everyone, and the Trust would encourage the setting up of a working group to look at options for a secure and viable future for the Institute - and they would be fully supportive of this.

There are a number of points in the Trust's comments that leave us puzzled.

We wonder what they know (and we don't know) that means the Institute now needs 'saving.'

We also didn't understand the need to 'bring the institute back into public use in a sustainable way'

It is already in public use, it doesn't need 'bringing back'. The Hewitt Lecture room is used for meetings (The Friends group had some of their meetings in it) and other rooms are used for Lytham's heritage archives by volunteers.

So far as we can see, it simply needs a new tenant or user for the space the Library has vacated.


 Public Letters to the Express

In the same (28 June) Issue of the Express was a letter which said:

"I am frankly baffled by your June 21 Headline (Sad day for democracy)

Lytham Library was closed by the Labour controlled Lancashire County Council.

The Conservatives campaigned on the promise of re-opening the library and for once, are making good on their promise.

Not only that, they have respected the fact that they are spending taxpayers money and implemented the cheapest option of reopening the library in the Assembly Rooms.

To me that sounds like a good day for democracy"

Not everyone shared that view though.

Another reader sought to respond to contribute an alternative view, but we understand he was told the Express would not publish his letter.

We don't exactly understand why not. It is a strongly worded opinion, but we are happy to allow him to use our 'other media' platform to express his opinion.

As regular readers will know, we usually refer to our correspondents without attributing names, but sometimes people specifically ask to have their name published - as in this case.

The letter that had been destined for the Express, (but was not published) said:

Dear Sir.

Lytham Library & Institute.

The article about the Town Trust in your issue of 28th. June, together with an associated letter concerning the recent decision to re-locate the library 'being a good day for democracy,' will have baffled many Lytham residents.

The Conservative candidates at last May's County Council elections gave the undertaking that, if elected, they would re-open the libraries closed by the, then, Labour administration. It is acknowledged by the Conservative Group at County Hall that many people voted for them on the basis of that promise. Where Lytham is concerned it was clear that the promise was to open the library in its true home, the Lytham Institute, where it had successfully served the locality for nearly 140 years. However, with the connivance of the owners of the building, Fylde Borough Council, and despite the specific promises made at the election, a secretive deal was concocted to re-open a lesser library service in the Assembly Rooms thereby placing the future of the Institute in serious doubt. It is therefore a bad day for democracy unless you count deliberately misleading the electorate as a prerequisite of modern public life.

The position of the Borough Council has long been well known but for the Town Trust to have worked behind the backs of the people of Lytham to prevent the return of the library to the Institute is sheer hypocrisy. They claim to want to work for a viable future for the building and yet the very heart of the Institute, the library, has been removed by the Trust. Their position is morally akin to stabbing an old friend in the back and then asking to be chief mourner at the funeral. Your readers should be in no doubt that without the library the future of one of Lytham's most important public buildings is in serious doubt.

The Trust speaks further of there being 'no viable alternative available to the County Council'. Rubbish! If the County Council, both officers and Councillors, had bothered to read the development proposals put forward by the Friends of Lytham Library & Institute they would have seen a positive and financially viable future, including a full and modern public library service, together with many other community facilities, available for future generations in Lytham.

Democracy has been ill served by this decision which has done little to enhance the local reputation of either the Town Trust or our two esteemed Local Authorities.

Yours sincerely.

Robert Wand

***** We've had another letter the Express didn't publish. Please see the end of the article.*****

 The LSA Civic Society View

The current issue of the LSA Civic Society newsletter also has comment on the matter, and we've taken the liberty of reproducing it....

"In spite of a hard fought and well argued campaign by the Friends of Lytham Library, we have learnt that the Lancashire County library service will not return to the Lytham Institute building but will be located in the Dicconson Room, Lytham Assembly Rooms.

We regard this as a blow to the viability of Lytham town centre and to community cohesion. Lytham Institute is purpose built for community use and is under the control of Fylde Borough Council.

We hope that they will now respond to the need for continued community use of this lovely Grade 2 listed building and work with the Friends, ourselves and many others to achieve it. Town centres are failing nationwide and it is slowly being realised that community facilities are key in preventing this.

It is not all about shopping and restaurants. Think culture: children, dance, drama, art, music, yoga, keep fit and a meeting place. If the library does not go back into the Institute, then the Grade 2 listed building, which was paid for by the residents of Lytham, could be lost to community use.

There is no doubt in our minds that St Annes Town Council is good for St Annes.

By the same token surely Lytham would benefit from having its own Town Council and an ideal base would be the Institute."

We publish these comments to show the broad spectrum and depth of feeling this matter is raising in Lytham.

 Comments from Fylde Ratepayer Councillors

But there was another significant expression of concern published by St Johns Ward Ratepayer councillors Mark Bamforth and Roger Lloyd on Facebook

We've reproduced this hard-hitting exposition verbatim below, but whilst it remains, the original can be seen at the link to Facebook above


Members of the Town Trust put a rival secretive bid in with Lancashire County Council to house the Library despite the thousands of people in Lytham that expected the Library service to be reinstated at the historic Lytham Institute. We also believe that election promises have been broken and the Library will now be housed in the Assembly Rooms. The historic Institute was paid for by the people of Lytham by public subscription and was gifted to the council in 1917

The most important remaining public building in Lytham, a community hub has been abandoned through lack of investment and political sculduggery .........where potential conflicts of interest and smoke and mirrors abound....... Lytham Institute and the fight to save it orchestrated by some conservative councillors was nothing more than shameful.

The good people of Lytham who voted conservative at the county council elections last year believed they would reopen the Lytham Institute, not to close it and move it with a much reduced service to another venue.


We believe the Town Trust has betrayed Lytham. The Town Trust was formed in 1990 initially to look after the assembly rooms which are owned by Fylde Borough Council. Also the Town Trust owns Lytham Hall after British Aerospace bought the Hall from the then GRE for the people of Lytham.

Why did the Town Trust stab the people of Lytham in the back and put a secret competing bid in to host the Library at the Assembly Rooms. The Town Trust is a charity and a Ltd company with the noble aims of "preserving for the inhabitants of Lytham historic and architectural buildings" and secondly to provide social and educational facilities for the people of Lytham.

On both these aims the Town Trust has failed.......The TT has not listened to the thousands of people in Lytham who signed petitions and attended meetings with the sole aim of reopening the Lytham Institute. By submitting a secret rival bid it has also failed to help secure the future of this iconic building, and it has also failed to protect the institutes role as a community hub at the heart of Lytham

The Town Trust and its lack of transparency are not accountable to anyone other than themselves. The TT were selfishly acting for themselves by putting a secret bid in and not for the people of Lytham. The Assembly Rooms are massively underused and we feel they were desperate to get a reliable income in no matter who they trod on to get it.....we think this is despicable.


Councillor Tim Ashton was a central figure in "trying to save" the Lytham Institute, in fact he was for a while chairman of the friends group.....he has played an active part in developing the "friends " proposals for Lancashire County Council. Councillor Ashton with the aid of his conservative colleagues drew up the three proposals that the friends group had put forward to secure the Library at the Institute. He was well aware of the contents of these proposals and the financial implications,

Councillor Ashton worryingly wears another hat.....He is also a member of the board of Directors on the Town Trust who put the secret bid in for the Library at the Assembly Rooms. ..............We believe this is a serious conflict of interests.


Councillor Ashton is also a member of conservative controlled Fylde Borough Council who own the Lytham Institute. FBC as previously mentioned also owns the Assembly Rooms. The fourth hat is his role as County Councillor on LCC ,the body that will run the Library service............So when councillor Ashton got up to speak at some of those friends group meetings we wonder which of all his hats he was wearing?


Conservative controlled Lancashire are not blameless either, with CC Peter Buckley of St Annes refusing to meet the friends group even though he was chairman of the group that would decide the Institutes fate........ We have not been able to find a single instance where county councillors Buckley or Ashton publically spoke up to support the friends bid at county level .


Neither is conservative controlled FBC blameless, who when asked for support for the friends group, its leader washed her hands of the matter by saying she had "no mandate" to petition Lancashire County Council, despite FBC being the owner of the building, and the overwhelming public support for the Lytham Institute.


There has clearly been little or no transparency in the process of reinstating the Library, the conservative election claim just over a year ago was .........
"We will reopen all libraries which are currently closed, with staff and new books" there was no mention of relocating it with a greatly reduced service and the loss of community centre ......Lytham people have been conned


There were dozens of libraries closed across Lancashire by the then Labour controlled Lancashire County Council some two years ago. When the conservatives took back control of LCC over a year ago only one of all those libraries was asked to tender........... and that was Lytham.
As far as we know the suggestion of tendering was instigated by councillor Ashton to the friends group..... it was at this point that the writing was on the wall for the Lytham Institute.........

Why the need to Tender we ask ? Because it meant that the Town Trust could then put a secret bid in for the assembly rooms and leave the Institute High and dry and empty.


We feel that the Institutes fate may well have been sealed over a year ago behind closed doors, the Library has been used as a political football and we feel the people of Lytham have been deceived

We have stated from the very beginning of these dreadful circumstances over a year ago that there should have been no need for a bid to be put forward to LCC. Lancashire County Councillors Tim Ashton and Peter Buckley promised to reopen the Institute no questions asked, a promise is a promise to the people of Lytham ....and you have broken your promises...


So what are we to make of all this.

Well, it seems to us that part of the problem is that it's a bit like the furore that surrounds foxhunting and fracking. There are so many angles and diverse agendas, and perhaps even separate sub-plots, that its difficult to sort the wheat from the chaff.

Above all, the anger emanating from Lytham on this matter seems to be driven by a sense of betrayal, and that engenders a powerful human emotional reaction.

There's no doubt people would have been partially influenced to vote Conservative in LCC's election last May.

The offer to re-open libraries that has been closed by the former Labour administration was a very clever and attractive pledge. And, having been elected, we think most people would have expected the pledge to be fulfilled by a simple re-opening of their local libraries - on a like-for-like basis.

As far as we can tell, this is what's happened in most places.

Yes, there may be new furniture and shelving in some that had been stripped out, but the location and scale of provision did not change.

Again, so far as we can tell, only Lytham has been subjected to a review of the size and location of its library.

This alone has led to the first sense of betrayal in Lytham folk.

Providing a library that is less than half the size of the one that has been there all along simply compounds the sense of betrayal by LCC

Costing of reopening the Institute using a floor area that is twice as big as the one you propose in the Assembly Rooms is inevitably going to make the Institute appear more costly, but that's exactly what LCC have done to justify their erroneous claim to financial prudence.

Fiddling the figures like this and selectively presenting arguments to support a decision that has, in effect, already been taken before the report was written is appalling.

But that seems to have been what happened - as we have shown.

The underlying logic of this matter puts us in mind of the scandal enveloping the police at present where - by failing to provide full disclosure of all the relevant evidence in some very serious criminal matters - miscarriages of justice have taken place and many decisions are having to be reviewed retrospectively and overturned.

So we come to the view that Lytham's electors have been conned.

What has been delivered is not what the supplier promised.

So then we come to: Well, will it do?

Is the library service that is going to be provided sufficient for Lytham?

We find this much harder to judge. We've said before that the library service as a whole has not adapted sufficiently to the change that has taken place since the advent of the internet twenty years ago. Their love of books has blinded many librarians to the fact that they were, in reality, providers of information rather than providers of books, and library adaption to the new digital medium was insufficient.

Today, people probably do have less need to use libraries, so it's logical to consider their being re-designed with the future in mind.

And to that end, perhaps a library that is less than half the size of the former one will be sufficient - especially if the library service provides a big increase in the provision of digital books for loan via downloads.

But if this hypothesis is right, then the key question that must follow is -

Why have all the other libraries that were closed not been subjected to the same review of their size and location?

Why has this only taken place at Lytham?

We come to the view that something or someone caused the separate treatment of Lytham Library

Also in the mix of concerns is the longer-term fate of the Institute building itself.

This is nothing to do with Lancashire County Council of course.

It's clear some people feel strongly against moving the library out because they fear it weakens the case for the existence of this important Grade II public building.

So some opposition to a move to Lytham Town Trust's premises is based less on what sort of library service Lytham needs, and more on protecting the community use of the Institute building.

That sort of concern can't have been helped by the attendance of what was described to us a 'local property developer and an architect' at some of the early meetings of the Library Working Group which, we were told, Cllr Ashton chaired, and where the potential to set up a Community Interest Company to run the Institute building was outlined.

The role of Lytham Town Trust in this matter is a bit unclear to us as well.

What we have not been able to establish is how they came to submit their proposal. Neither the LCC report, nor the reassurance Lytham Town Trust provided (as reproduced in the Express) adequately explains how they came to be invited to submit a proposal to house the Library. The LCC report says:

'....The Friends of Lytham Library and Institute, and Lytham Town Trust, were each invited to submit a business case setting out how each site might include a library service...'

But we can't tell how that invitation to LTT arose, or why other local organisations with premises in Lytham do not appear to have been invited to submit proposals, or whether the Directors of Lytham Town Trust simply spotted the opportunity to do so, took advantage of it, and asked to be invited.

Lytham Town Trust is an unusual entity. Reading its constitution a while ago, we found its ambitions and scope were very similar to those of a town or parish (or even borough) council in respect of providing for the needs of the community. But unlike an elected organisation, it is not democratically accountable to local people, and its proceedings and decisions are not open to public scrutiny in the same way that local government is.

But even more inscrutable in this matter is the role of Fylde Council.

Cllr Fazackerley's quotes of

'Fylde Council has enquired about the County's intention in respect of the user rights and we are still waiting to reach an agreement that would leave Fylde with sole ownership of the premises."


'The current tenants who use two rooms on the first floor, and the couple of groups that use the Hewitt Lecture Room are working with Fylde Council to maintain their operations whilst seeking alternative options'

suggest an implied desire to assume sole ownership and vacant possession of the Institute.

And on 15 June, Fylde issued its own press release which included the following: (Readers can follow this link for the full text of the press release) quotes from the County Council:

"This decision took account of the installation cost, ongoing premises cost and liability, the needs of the community and the service requirements to run a sustainable and efficient library. We also liaised with Fylde Borough Council since they are the owners of both the Assembly Rooms and Lytham Institute buildings."

"The decision to run Lytham library from the Assembly Rooms and work with Lytham Town Trust will also help to support the refurbishment and restoration of Lytham Hall."

Then - rather ominously we thought - an unnamed spokesman for FBC said:

‘We are pleased that the County Councils Cabinet have made a decision to ensure the future of a library service in Lytham. The decision to locate the reinstated library service in the Assembly Rooms and to give notice on the user rights at Lytham Institute will mean that Fylde Council will have control of the Institute without any conditions.'


"Fylde members and officers have not pre-empted the County Council decision and as such have not considered any options for the use of Lytham Institute in the event that user rights are removed, to do so could have unduly influenced the decision.

There will be a period of time now to carry out the necessary process to remove the user rights and return control of the Institute back to Fylde council. This time will be used to consider all possible options for the use of the Institute which will include community engagement and consideration of the proposals that had been presented to the County Council as part of a detailed, costed options appraisal."

We're a bit puzzled by some of this because the Terms of Reference of Fylde's Tourism and Leisure committee include the following:

'Considering reports, reviewing, and formulating where necessary policies relating to arts, culture and heritage'


'To consider any management issues arising in relation to land or property within the remit of the committee'

In our view, Fylde could have quite properly have sought to influence the decision of the County Council.

Arguably, with terms of reference like those, it had a responsibility to do so. Fylde could have worked with LCC to deliver an outcome that returned the library to Lytham Institute as part of its role for the management of buildings relating to its remit of arts, culture or heritage, the Library and Institute both tick all of those boxes.


When you add all of this up, the abiding perception is a deep sense that the electors of Lytham have been conned and betrayed by the Conservatives on Lancashire County Council, and probably by Fylde Borough Council as well.

Despite its attempts to emulate Pontius Pilate and show clean hands in this matter, Fylde's press release quote - which reproduces an LCC quotation - says

'We also liaised with Fylde Borough Council since they are the owners of both the Assembly Rooms and Lytham Institute buildings.'

This inevitably leads to the view that despite Fylde's protestations of clean hands, there has been contact, and perhaps even connivance, between the two bodies.

Fylde's apparently willing enthusiasm to vary the conditions of the lease on the Assembly Rooms without having that variation tested by the Committee that is responsible for both the Institute and the Assembly Rooms, does little to detract from this view of collusion.

The ultimate question of course, is not HOW this state of affairs that has angered many in Lytham, but WHY it has come to pass.

There is no firm evidence as to why, but having considered the matter in the round, we find it difficult to believe that the mood music behind these decisions has not been orchestrated and arranged out of the public gaze.

The secretive circumstances around this matter also mean we can't help being reminded of the prelude that led to the sale of Melton Grove.

That property was eventually proposed for sale by Fylde's Conservative Cabinet in order to give a grant of £300,000 to help Lytham Hall get a lottery bid.

The councillor who we believe knew the most about that process was Cllr Tim Ashton (because contemporaneously, he was the County Council's representative on the Heritage Trust for the North West, a Director of Lytham Town Trust, a County Councillor, and a Fylde Borough Councillor - he had fingers in all the pies)

At the last (6 June) meeting of Fylde's Tourism and Leisure Committee, there was an update on progress at Lytham Hall. (We've not had time to report this meeting yet, but readers may be assured that things at the Hall continue to move in a much better direction than they were doing).

Eventually, the focus of the T&L Committee debate moved to how a future lottery bid to restore the Hall might be made, and Councillor Elaine Silverwood asked:

"....I'd like to ask, when the bid is being discussed in the papers, does this mean that the Council have to pledge or give more money to Lytham Hall...."

In response, Fylde's Chief Executive said:

"....In terms of whether this council will make any further contributions, that is a completely unknown, I can't guarantee there wouldn't be an ask, however we don't intend to, and I don't exp..., I'm sure Cllr Fradley doesn't..., has not expressed any interest in this council putting any more money in. We've put sufficient in, our interest is in the Hall being restored.

We hope the reason why Melton Grove was proposed for sale by Fylde's Cabinet does not repeat itself with the Institute in the future.

But as we read the views of the two Ratepayer councillors in Lytham (above), we were reminded that the common thread of knowledge and perspective running through the matter of the Institute and the Assembly Rooms was, once again, Councillor Tim Ashton (because he is a County Councillor, A Fylde Borough Councillor, and he is a Director of Lytham Town Trust).

We make it clear at this point that we know of no evidence to suggest Cllr Ashton has done anything improper, either in connection with Lytham Hall or the Institute, but he is, once again with the Institute, probably the best placed councillor to know what happened - and more especially why it happened.

 So what's to be done about the decision?

Well, it's clear to us that neither LCC nor FBC are going to change their minds on this decision voluntarily.

So the only way of effecting a change of the decision would be to have someone with more authority require a change to be made.

That means either Government - which (unlike decisions on fracking), is not likely to want to take control of this decision itself.

Nor is it likely to look favourably on calls for a local inquiry.

So that only leaves the prospect of some sort of legal action via the courts - (as has happened recently when LCC's contract for healthcare services to Virgin was overturned after it was challenged by Blackpool Teaching Hospitals Trust in the Courts ).

The most likely path here would a judicial review of the process by which LCC arrived at its decision for Lytham - and we believe there are quite good grounds to argue both for a review, and for success in it.

But - unlike the Blackpool Teaching Hospitals Trust -  we can't see Fylde BC taking Lancashire County Council to court on this matter, so it remains to be seen whether anyone has the will, or the depth of pocket, to follow this route.

On the wider front, the campaign to secure the right future for Lytham Institute will now gather pace, and it's focus is likely to shift to Fylde Council.

We'd like to see questions asked about the 'significant maintenance' the building needs, and what steps are being taken to increase use of the building to secure its future.

Happily, there's no shortage of money to fix the Institute up, Fylde has just closed its accounts for 2016/17 and that process resulted in them having an unexpected windfall in the form of just short of £700,000 of underspending - most of which has simply been put into their reserves.

So there's ample cash available to undertake the necessary maintenance on the building.

We'd also like to see LCC contribute to that maintenance cost as well, as they have to give 12 months notice to terminate their responsibility for such maintenance

Wider still, we wonder how the people of Lytham's local interests can best find accountable advocates for their particular needs and desires if their dissatisfaction with the present situation continues.

We recognise that Lytham Town Trust has many of the attributes and aims of a Town or Parish Council, but influence in public matters without public scrutiny is not what people expect, and perhaps the Civic Society's belief that Lytham would benefit from having its own Town Council (like St Annes) should be seriously considered - and if that idea was to come about, we cannot but agree with the Civic Society that the Institute would make an ideal base for it.

 UPDATE 1-  13 JULY 2018

Subsequent to publication we received this letter from Brian Turner of Lytham who also asked for his name to be published. Like Mr Wand's, it was also destined for the Express originally, but didn't make it into print. We're happy to oblige and publish his personal opinion.....


It's a bit rich of the Lytham Town Trust to proclaim its concern for the future of the Lytham Institute (Express, 28 June) when it has just made the historic building redundant by bidding to host a "library service" in its own Assembly Rooms.

The Town Trust wields considerable influence through powers akin to those of the old Clifton Estate. As its name implies, the Trust should be using those powers for the benefit of the town as a whole, as the Estate once did.

Little about the Town Trust is open or transparent, but its published accounts explain its prevailing culture all too clearly - "any transaction entered into by the Trust is influenced only by the consideration of the charity's own interests."

That really isn't good enough. But what can be done about it? This ultra-secretive body appears answerable to nobody.

In theory this shouldn't be the case, since three of the Trust's directors have been nominated by the Friends of Lytham Hall, the Lytham Heritage Group and the Lytham St. Annes Civic Society. In practice the Trust's shadowy culture doesn't seem to allow any feedback to these community groups as to what the Town Trust is doing in their name. This was certainly the case with the Civic Society, even when the Trust's actions went directly against the Society's own declared wishes for Lytham Library.

The Town Trust may have been established with the best of intentions - "the preservation and protection of all buildings of architectural or historic interest in Lytham and the provision of facilities for the community." But its ingrained culture needs to change drastically if the Trust is to demonstrate that it is fit for purpose and worthy of its charitable status.

The Trust's first step should be to withdraw its self-centred bid, and help to ensure that the Library returns to its rightful and time-honoured home in the Institute, as promised.

Brian Turner

 UPDATE 2 - 18 JULY 2018

Subsequent to publication, we have been sent a copy of a document believed to originate from FBC that claims LCC's original occupation of 41% of the building meant they paid 41% of the maintenance costs, and that remained the case even after LCC increased the usage of 'their' area to 61% of the building.

However, the LCC officer's report to Cabinet of 14 June 18 - after noting the increased area of use over time - says:

"Unless the User Right Agreement could be varied to reflect the reduced level of occupancy the county council would remain liable for 61% of all premises related costs."

We are at present unable to clarify this dichotomy further. It may be that the document from FBC (which was dated 2016) was correct at the time it was written, but LCC subsequently increased, (or was asked to increase and did increase) its payment to equal its use - ie 61% of the area.

Original publication date of this article:

Dated:  8 July 2018



To be notified when a new article is published, please email