We bring news of the continuing story of Lytham
Following a difference on future direction between the former Chairman and the broader membership at their last meeting, the Friends of Lytham Institute and Library elected
new officials at a public meeting in Lytham, and a new Constitution was also approved.
The new group has a key aim to restore a Library in Lytham Institute.
The Friends perspective is thus re-united with their (new) Chairman and officials
We now bring our readers an update on what's been happening with the new group. We also report developments at Lancashire County Council, at Fylde Council and with Lytham
We begin with a quick Recap of the 9 April Friends Meeting, before moving to an Update of Events
since that time for a range of organisations.
We start with a look at Lytham Town Trust, and first at an Explanation of What a Charitable Trust and a Company Limited by
Guarantee is, then at what we think is an Awkward Situation this form of governance can create. Then we look at the Charitable
Objects that govern what a Trust can do, before examining the Connections between Lytham Town Trust and The Institute, which resulted in the
Lytham Institute Working Group being created. Next we look at How the Barrister's Opinion Might Impact on these matters,
before looking at the Pros and Cons of Using one of the Assembly Rooms for a Library. Next we look at the Circumstances that
Might have Prompted the Move.
Next we turn our attention to Lancashire County Council. In particular we ask 'Why Were LCC's Figures Wrong?' when
they chose the Assembly Rooms over the Institute for 'restoring' Lytham Library, and
we look at the Matter of Disabled Access at what they currently expect to be the new Library.
Thirdly we look at Events at Fylde Council. We unveil proof that Fylde has long harboured a desire to Get Rid of the Institute
and says the Institute and the Assembly Rooms are surplus to service delivery requirements. We challenge the authority for such statements. We also question what
authority existed for officers to Change the Lease of the Assembly Rooms without a decision from Councillors. Next we look at the
Matter of Trust in Fylde. And to help our readers better understand the implications of forming a Charitable Trust, we first consider The Lowther
Experience, before examining Similarities between Lowther Gardens and the Institute before Applying The Lowther
Experience To The Institute so see where that approach might lead us.
Fourthly, we look at The New Friends Group and, after briefly considering the transition phase we consider The Public Meeting
of 11 June 2019 in which we address The Agenda, the composition of a New Steering Committee, and we provide our
own take on the main points of the Proposed Constitution. Next, we give our take on The Meeting Itself, and in a tailpiece
'And Finally...' we conclude this section about the re-formed Friends Group by some 'tidying up' notes of new Facebook, Twitter and Email
facilities now offered by the new group, and a copy of a pamphlet they have just published called 'A Tale of Two Councils'.
As readers will recognise, things have been moving quickly since April, and as soon as we had finished the article we already had an important Update
RECAP OF THE LAST MEETING
In 'Friends of Library and Institute - April 2019' we chronicled a public meeting where there was some 'falling out'
between the Chairman and what seemed to us to be most of the of the people in the hall.
It came about because the group's Chairman had come to the view that it was inevitable that the Library was going to go into the Assembly Rooms and it would be better to
accept that position, and seek a new future for the Institute.
She had become part of a working group with the Town Trust and others who were working toward that aim.
We know that she had previously fought hard for the Institute and the Library it housed, and we're sure she was well intentioned in her judgement on this matter, but as that
previous meeting went on, it became clear that those present didn't want to give up the fight for the library to stay in the Institute - especially having just heard the
opinion from an eminent barrister that Fylde Council did not own the institute, but held it as a Trustee, on charitable trusts - and one aspect of those trusts was that it was
used as a library.
When it became clear that the majority of those present wanted to oppose the library service moving to the Assembly Rooms operated by Lytham Town Trust, the Friends'
Chairman (who had embarked on a contrary course in association with the Town Trust), did the honourable thing and resigned as Chairman with immediate effect.
In the administrative vacuum that briefly reigned, Marion Coupe from the Civic Society stepped in and brought the meeting to a close. She suggested that if anyone wished to
consider re-forming the Friend's group, they should leave their contact details with her at the end of the meeting. We saw several people doing so.
In that article (and in previous articles), we had been slightly critical of the way the group had been run up to that point. There was undoubtedly passion and good intention, but
there was no governing body and almost no formal organisational structure.
So, for example, there was no-one who could assume responsibility for, and speak on behalf of, the group when the Chairman resigned. (Which is why Mrs Coupe - or someone
like her - needed to step in). Nor did the group have a clear definition of who was (or who could be) a member of the 'Friends'.
At the end of our last article we said...
"There are two ways this can go forward now.
If there is to be a popularly supported campaign to be run by a revised or rejuvenated organisation, its first job ought to be to create some sort of Steering
Group - probably comprising some of those formerly involved - to put together a basic outline 'Aims and Objectives' for the group, and to present that, and themselves, together
with some sort of outline governance document, to a public meeting for Lytham residents, at which they would seek a mandate from the local community for what is being
We understand Mrs Coupe subsequently called a meeting of those who had left their contact details with her, and explained that whilst she was not able to assume any
organisational responsibility for the group herself, she was happy to offer advice and support if those present could agree and organise themselves to reform the Friend's
We're pleased to report that all of those things have come to pass.
EVENTS SINCE APRIL
So, by way of an update in the aftermath of that April meeting, we need to consider the four threads that are running on this matter:
- The Friends Group themselves;
- Fylde Council;
- Lancashire County Council; and
- Lytham Town Trust.
We'll look at them in reverse order.
1. LYTHAM TOWN TRUST
Before looking at some of the events at Lytham Town Trust since April, it might be helpful for our readers if we explain a bit about how a Charitable Trust such as
'Lytham Town Trust' works.
Typically, in their annual report, you will see something like "The Trustees are directors of the charity for the purposes of the Companies Act, and the Directors of the
company are also charity trustees for the purposes of charity law."
With statements like that, it's very easy to be confused. So, with the help of an expert friend, we've tried to set out below a clarification that might help readers
understand this fairly confusing aspect of a Charitable Trust....
Charitable Trusts and Companies Limited by Guarantee
Anyone who establishes a charity has to consider how it is to operate, and how it will be managed, on a day-to-day basis.
They also have to consider the issue of personal liability in case things were to go wrong.
One way of addressing these issues is to form what's called 'A Company Limited by Guarantee'.
The governance structure for this is not the same as a commercial Limited Company - which has shareholders to whom profits are distributed.
Companies limited by guarantee don't have shares or shareholders, and their profits are not distributed to shareholders.
Instead, any profits are applied internally to benefit the aims and objectives of the company and charity itself.
It's also the case that in a 'Company Limited by Guarantee' - personal liability for the company's debts is limited to the amount guaranteed on the incorporation of
the company (often this is just a nominal 'one pound').
But - and here comes the really confusing bit - when the entity is a charitable trust with its liability limited by guarantee, then that same legal entity is both a
charity and a company, and it has to be registered with both the charity regulators and the company regulators.
That means it registers with both the Charity Commission and Companies House.
The matter is further confusing because a commercial limited liability company with shareholders *must* display the word 'Limited' or 'Ltd.', at its
registered office and on all its official communications.
But a company limited by guarantee is not obliged to display the word 'limited' at its registered office, on its notepaper or in electronic communications.
That's why you can see - for example - the names 'Lytham Town Trust' AND 'Lytham Town Trust Limited' with two different registration numbers.
One with the Charity Commission where it is Registered Charitable
Trust (No. 1000098)
having Trustees responsible for meeting its charitable objects, and was established in 1990.
And another, which is Lytham Town Trust Limited, the private company limited by guarantee and without share capital (Companies
House Registration: No. 02523744) This was also incorporated in 1990, and this company has Directors (rather than Trustees) who control the administration of its
In essence, we find the easy way to think of it is a single entity that has two different regulators. One for its charitable objects and another for its business
But the Trusteeships and Directorships of such entities can create what we think of as being some awkward situations regarding representation.
For example the board of directors of Lytham Town Trust consists of 15 people altogether. Some of these form an 'inner circle' of decision takers known as the 'Executive
Committee.' But they also have five 'Nominated Directors'
These are Trustees and Directors which various organisations have been invited to nominate.
The organisations currently listed to nominate Directors and Trustees to Lytham
Town Trust are:
- Fylde Borough Council
- Lytham St Anne's Civic Society
- Lytham Heritage Group
- BAE Systems
- Friends of Lytham Hall
So it is that, until his recent resignation as a Borough Councillor, Tim Ashton was appointed by Fylde Council to represent them on Lytham Town Trust.
Once appointed, he automatically became a Trustee of the Charity and a Director of Lytham Town Trust Limited.
Now, in our experience, it's not uncommon to find people who would have expected that former Cllr Ashton (for example), would have been acting in the interests of the
Council that appointed him when he went to meetings of the Town Trust.
But that's not the case.
Once appointed, Trustees may lawfully *only* act in the interests of the Trust and the Company itself.
The same applies to the lady who was appointed to Lytham Town Trust by the Lytham St Anne's Civic Society.
We say this is awkward because - using former Cllr Ashton as an example - if he was speaking in Council meetings about matters in which the Town trust was connected - we
could never be sure whether he was speaking as Tim Ashton the Councillor, Tim Ashton the Trustee, or Tim Ashton the Company Director.
We think that situation also applies to other representatives appointed to 'the Town Trust' - such as the lady who is appointed by the Lytham St Anne's Civic Society.
And although Lytham Town Trust has charitable objectives which - to some people - will make it seem as though it acts in a similar way to a small council (i.e. to
preserve whatever of the English historical architectural and constructional heritage may exist in and around Lytham, and to provide recreational facilities, community centres,
and other amenities of a similar character for the benefit of the community), a Charitable Trust Limited by Guarantee has governance arrangements that do not require
anything like the transparency of a Council.
For example, a Council is required to make public (almost all of) its agendas for discussions, and the minutes of all its decisions. But the Town Trust does not have
this requirement. So the business of their meetings is not normally put into the public domain (although the do publish an annual report with some - mostly financial -
Readers can follow this link to download a copy of Lytham Town Trust's Annual Report and Accounts for 2017 as an
The basis of each charity is its Charitable Objects - the reason it came into existence. The Objects for Lytham Town Trust are:
- To preserve for the benefit of the inhabitants of Lytham in the county of Lancashire and of the nation at large whatever of the English historical
architectural and constructional heritage may exist in and around Lytham aforesaid in the form of buildings (including any building as defined in section 290(1) of the Town
and Country Planning act 1971) of particular beauty or historical architectural or constructional interest, together with any land pertaining thereto, and in particular the
land and buildings known as Lytham Hall.
- To provide recreational facilities community centres and other amenities of a similar character for the benefit of the community
So one of their key purposes is to preserve buildings like Lytham Institute and Library (which is Grade 2 Listed).
Lytham Town Trust owns a number of properties. The main ones shown in their Annual Report are: Lytham Hall - which they own but have leased to the Heritage Trust for
the North West; and The Assembly Rooms in Lytham, which they hold on a lease from Fylde Borough Council.
So what's the Town Trust's Connection to Lytham Institute?
Well for one thing Lytham Town Trust's charitable objects require it to preserve buildings of particular beauty or historical architectural or constructional interest such
as Lytham Institute. That is one of its fundamental purposes, (whether it owns them or not).
And for another thing, the Town Trust look set to house a library that used to be operated from the Institute until it was closed by Lancashire County Council's Labour
Lytham Library is now destined for the Town trust's Assembly Rooms because the recently elected Conservative administration at LCC promised to restore the Library in Lytham - but
they now want to do so by putting a smaller library in the Town Trust's Assembly Rooms.
After LCC decided to put the Library into the Assembly Rooms (rather than accept the proposal put forward by the former Friends group to retain it in the Institute),
the Town Trust offered to try to support the Institute going forward.
The 'Lytham Institute Working Group' is Created
The Chairman of Lytham Town Trust has been working together with the Library Friends' (now former) Chairman, and others, toward this purpose.
They came together - calling themselves the 'Lytham Institute Working Group' and appear to have the aim of creating a proposal to run the Institute specifically *without*
a Library. We know this plan has reached a quite an advanced stage.
We imagine their plan is ultimately destined for Fylde Council - perhaps even (once again) in competition with what the newly reconstituted
'Friends of Lytham Institute and Library' group propose as their view for the future of the Institute.
But - like the former Friend's group - in our own view, what the 'Lytham Institute Working Group' plan is short on is democratic legitimacy and transparency.
The organising group have not been elected by the public of Lytham to speak for the Institute. They are self-selected. And, like the Town Trust, they do not publish their
agenda or minutes.
The Impact of the Barrister's Opinion
It's also the case that their plan would have been formed before the Civic Society secured the Barrister's opinion saying that the Institute was held on Charitable Trusts.
The relevant section of Mrs Quint's Opinion on this matter says
"The deed of assignment declared that the Council took the premises, not for the purposes of the Institute and not for the local authority's corporate purposes,
but 'upon trust to maintain the said premises and the buildings now or hereafter erected thereon for public use under the provisions of the Public Libraries Acts 1892-1901
and the Museums and Gymnasiums Act 1891 or any Acts re-enacting or amending the said Acts or any of them'.
I have no hesitation is advising that those words created an exclusively charitable trust for the benefit of the public."
If her opinion is correct (and we have every reason to believe it is correct, and we will return to this aspect later), then the trust under which FBC holds the
Institute premises expects Fylde to maintain the Institute building for public use under the Libraries Act - so the 'Lytham Institute Working Group's' idea of having
the Institute *without* a library might be a bit tricky to effect in this regard.
Readers can follow this link to see Mrs Quint's full Opinion.
But, (although it has representation on the 'Lytham Institute Working Group' and it will be aware of Mrs Quint's Opinion) - Lytham Town Trust has been pressing on
with it's own plan to host the Lancashire County Council library within the Assembly Rooms it manages,
And in this regard it is being aided and abetted by Fylde Council. (More later)
Pros and Cons of Using the Assembly Rooms
We also know there have now been at least two instances since last April's Friends group meeting when Lytham Town Trust has been asked to withdraw from housing the Library
in the Assembly Rooms.
But on each occasion, the request has been declined.
The move of the Library from the Institute to the Assembly Rooms (which the Town Trust lease from Fylde Council) mean that the money Lancashire County Council pays
for library accommodation in Lytham will no longer be paid to Fylde Council (to support the Institute's costs). It will be paid to the Trustees and Directors of
Lytham Town Trust Limited.
So we can understand there being a commercial imperative for the Town Trust not withdraw from having the Library in the Assembly Rooms.
But we can also see some reasons why their withdrawal from having the Library might have been the better option, and we now enumerate them:
The Town Trust's website says
"The Trust is a registered charity (No. 1000098) and was established, in 1990, with the broad objects of the preservation and protection of all buildings of
architectural or historic interest in Lytham and the provision of facilities for the community. "
Firstly, whilst both the Assembly Rooms and the Institute buildings are of architectural and historic interest, only the Institute is Grade 2 listed, and it is easily
arguable that supporting a listed building should be accorded more priority than supporting one that is not.
Being part of the process that results in the funding being removed from the (listed) Institute and transfers it to the (unlisted) Assembly Rooms is a
retrograde step in that regard, not least because it makes the viability of the (listed) Institute building more uncertain.
Secondly, the agreement under which the Town Trust leased the Assembly Rooms building from Fylde required part of the Assembly Rooms
(first floor and basement) being used for income generating purposes, whilst the ground floor was to be used for 'recreation, cultural or community centres'.
So community use of the two rooms on the ground floor was secured and assured by a legal covenant between the Trust and Fylde Council.
The proposed library use in one of those rooms contravenes that covenant - because it will halve the number of rooms the public can hire for community use when one of them
is let to a tenant (Lancashire County Council). (We will return to this matter later)
Thirdly, to proceed with re-housing the Library in the Assembly Rooms is likely to further damage the reputation of Lytham Town Trust in the eyes of local people.
As we have reported from previous Friend's meetings, there is already considerable anger directed toward Lytham Town Trust because the contact they had with LCC
(irrespective of whether it was invited or proffered) resulted in LCC considering and then deciding to move the Library out of Lytham Institute, and into the Assembly Rooms.
That was in direct competition with plan that had been proposed on behalf of Lytham people - prepared and submitted by the Friends of the Institute - to retain the
library in the Institute.
So it might be thought that reducing the commitment the Town Trust had previously made - to provide two rooms for community - use will further damage the regard in which
Lytham Town Trust is held locally.
But the commercial benefits of the move have seemed to be more important to the Trust.
What Do We Know About the Circumstances?
We were puzzled about this and spoke with several people. It led to some information that might shed more light on the matter.
We're told that in 2016, community use of the Assembly Rooms had reduced to only around 30% of its former use. (and even then, that 30%, included hires by commercial
undertakings for things like sales and fairs - which were retailing and not 'community use').
But with use at only 30% of its former level it's likely that income from room hire was lower, and operating costs would have been increasing.
The following year (i.e. 2017) we have been told that, faced with this situation, Lytham Town Trust's Board made a decision to submit a planning application for
change of use for one of the rooms. The idea was to use it either for offices or as a restaurant, and to reach agreement with Fylde Council to dispose of one of the two rooms
for this use. We also believe Fylde Council was aware of, and might have been sympathetic to, what was being considered by the Town Trust.
However, this timing coincided with the County Council's decision to provide a reduced scale of Library Service in Lytham.
There has been a lot of claim and counter claim as to whether the County Council approached Lytham Town Trust and invited them to submit a proposal to put the Library into
the Assembly Rooms, or whether the Town Trust initiated the move. We've seen no definitive evidence either way so we can't say one way or the other.
But it was the case that the plan to apply to Fylde for a change of use was withheld by the Town Trust in September 2017.
It was also around this time that (on 4th September 2017) Lancashire County Councillor David Smith, (who was to prepare a Cabinet Report on Lytham Library),
attended a Friends group meeting with Cllr Tim Ashton. He attempted to explain why the Cabinet was reviewing the situation at Lytham and not including the Institute on the
initial list of libraries for re-opening.
We're told that those present did not accept his explanation, and he was left in no doubt as to the strength of local feeling that the ruling group at LCC should honour
their election pledge to re-open all libraries closed by the previous administration.
Once LCC had eventually decided to house the Library in the Town Trust's Assembly Rooms work began to put the necessary legal and administrative arrangements in place.
We understand that now, within the last few weeks, Fylde Council has agreed and signed the necessary documents for the Town Trust to be able to tell the County Council it
can go ahead with the works to move the library. (We'll address that matter from Fylde's perspective shortly)
We also believe some building work has been begun in the room in which the new Library is intended to be housed.
2. LANCASHIRE COUNTY COUNCIL
The County has been pretty quiet about it's plans, refusing to provide details of the costing information for the adaption of Assembly Rooms.
In terms of running costs, the LCC report said the annual cost of housing the library in the Assembly Rooms was expected to be around £22,000
We know it has already been pointed out to them that the figures presented in the report on which the decision to choose the Assembly Rooms rather than the Institute
was based on inaccurate cost information.
Further representation on this matter has continued to be made since they took the decision.
Why Were LCC's Figures Wrong?
The fuss being created on this matter stems from the fact that the LCC report said because they used 61% of the floor area, their agreement with Fylde Council meant they had
to pay 61% of the Institute building's outgoings and to decorate the parts of the building it is entitled to occupy.
LCC was told this was an annual cost of £45,000 and it was better value to house it in the Assembly Rooms.
That 61% comprised: LCC 461 square meters, and Fylde 262 sq m out of a total of 882 sq m, with 159 sq m shared. So the County paid for a square meterage of 461 + 79.5 =
540.5 of the 882 sq m total - giving an annual use of 61% which then translated to a cost of £45,000
The County Council's use of the Institute building over time has varied.
We understand originally, and for many years, it used 41% of the area, but a change in recent years saw the installation of something like a 'computer training suite.' This
is said to have increased the area of the Institute that LCC used to 61%. Quite properly, they agreed with Fylde to pay for 61%
But we understand that even more recently, the area used by LCC shrank back again, and the County Council ought to have renegotiated the area of its use (and therefore
its cost) back to 41%.
We seem to remember that Cllr Ashton said he had told County Council meeting that took the decision exactly that. He told the meeting that this figure was wrong, and the
costs should have been based on 41% - but it had made no difference.
And it has subsequently been independently confirmed by Fylde that LCC was only using 41% of the building when the library was removed, so the costs should have been
calculated on a reduced area of 41% which would have given a cost of just over £30,000.
Not only that, but LCC also decided that when it was 'restoring' the Library to Lytham, the circumstances had changed and Lytham now needed a much smaller Library than it
(When folk in Lytham go to use the planned new library, they're in for a shock. What's being provided is nothing like the library that was in the Institute.)
The County Council are not reopening the library, they're conning the people of Lytham by putting an excuse for a library in the Assembly Rooms.
It is very much smaller than the former Library.
Both buildings have some shared space (entrance hall, loos etc) which makes it difficult to calculate accurate comparisons, but if we look at only the area of the
library, Lytham Institute had 461 sq m of library space, and the space within the 'Dicconson Room' of the Assembly Room is only about 150 or 160 sq m.
That suggests the 'restored' library in Lytham will only about one third of the size of the former library rooms.
The image below is the most recent publicly available plan we could find. There might have been some small changes since it was done in January 2018.
Readers can click on the image below for a larger version.
The plan shows the Dicconson Room edged red and what are probably shared areas coloured light blue.
To the right of the entrance hallway is another room edged red suggesting it will be used by LCC. Its use is unclear, but looks to be about big enough to hold a table, four
chairs and a bookcase or cupboard. It might be staff facilities or perhaps a reference library, we're not sure.
The Dicconson Room is to the left of the entrance hallway and edged red.
In the bottom right hand corner are 3 or 4 bookcases and one six-seat table marked 'Children's Area' and what looks to be a storage area.
In the bottom left, is a five table and 5 seat area that looks to be computers.
Above them are what appears to be just 5 or 6 double-sided freestanding bookshelves and a four seat table. We assume this is the extent of the fiction and non-fiction books
that will be available.
As one of the Star Trek actors might have said: "It's a library Jim; but not as we know it."
One of our readers has done some approximate calculation using publicly available data and comes to the view that the area planned to be provided in the Assembly Rooms is
equal to about 23% of the area of Lytham Institute
Using as consistent a basis as we used before, that would give an annual cost for LCC to use the Institute of just under £17,000.
If correct, that would be LESS than the £22,000 per annum they agreed to pay for using the Assembly Rooms
It is also the case that the Institute already has proper disabled access and other facilities, so there would be no need for LCC to incur the ongoing costs for capital
repayments that will be borrowed or otherwise used to adapt part of the Assembly Rooms for Library use.
Furthermore - and although this is outside of the matters that LCC could have taken into account at the time - if, as we believe, Fylde Council is forced to accept
that the Institute is held on charitable trusts, then they will have to separate out the income and spending for the Institute from Fylde's own accounting system.
That's a biggish job for them, but it also means it's very likely that Fylde will no longer be able to spread part of their corporate overhead costs over the Institute
(because it's not a Council asset any more).
That is what happened at Lowther when that was recognised as being held on trust.
When we did the sum for the Institute, we found that simply removing Fylde's 'Central Overhead Recharges' would reduce the Institute's running costs by about £12,000
When that happens (as we think it will), then the costs payable by LCC would also have reduced. The 61% charge would reduce from £45,000 to just £37,700.
The 41% (which is a more realistic area formerly used by LCC) would reduce from approx £30,000 to just £25,300.
And if the County Council's use of the Institute for the reduced scale library they plan to put in the Assembly Rooms was something more in the order of 23% or even (say)
30% to include the shared facilities, the annual charge paid by LCC would be somewhere between £14,000 and £18,500 a year compared with the £20,000 they plan to pay to Lytham
And it doesn't stop there, because as a Charity, Lytham Institute will be entitled to 80% Mandatory Rate Relief, reducing its cost still further.
So it's no wonder that the Friends of Lytham Institute are still crying 'foul' about LCC's decision.
The Matter of Disabled Access
The Friends have also been considering the issue of disabled access at the Assembly Rooms - which LCC seem no longer prepared to change.
We were told at one time that a new disabled access was going to be to be provided at the front of the Assembly Rooms building.
But more recent information suggests it will remain where it is at present, at the rear of the Assembly Rooms. (Although we are told that rear entrance is going to have a
Several people we know have been very critical of the idea that library users with mobility difficulties should have to go round to the back of a building for disabled
access, rather than use the same front entrance that able bodied users will enter by.
Public bodies have to meet a higher standard for disability access than non-public bodies, and one reader we know as someone with experience in this area said this must be
the only Library in Lancashire where this situation will exist.
Again, this is a matter that the Friends of Lytham Institute and Library have picked up, and are considering, with a view to further contact with LCC and others.
3. FYLDE BOROUGH COUNCIL.
There have long been suspicions about Fylde Council's unspoken intentions with regard to the future of Lytham Institute and Library. Some of our readers believe Fylde has
harboured a covert plan to end LCC's occupation of the building in order to dispose of it and remove Fylde's liability to maintain it.
Getting Rid of The Institute?
This concern has now gained credence in an email from Fylde's Chief Executive dated October 2017 which has recently come to light following a Freedom of Information request.
We were shocked to read it.
Addressed to a Lancashire County Council Officer and headed "RE: Library provision in Lytham", it says
" ......the Leader and myself met with Councillor Smith and discussed the options your team is now investigating and we would be happy to assist with any
feasibility study if we can.
Whilst both assets are owned by Fylde Council they are surplus to service delivery requirements, the Assembly Rooms are under a long term lease arrangement
with Lytham Town Trust and the former library building is a financial liability that the Council is must [sic] address under the legal requirement to deliver best value for the
A change from the current situation is something that Fylde has been proposing for over five years."
We think in this instance 'the Leader' means Fylde's Councillor Susan Fazackerley, whose role carries no decision-taking responsibility whatsoever.
In fact legislation says that within the committee system that Fylde now operates, the Council Leader is prevented from taking individual decisions on behalf of the
Council. So her view as Leader carries no
weight as far as a decision-taking is concerned.
In fact, we regard the role she occupies as 'Council Leader' - together with the remuneration that Fylde's majority group decides to allocate to its 'Leader' (on top of a non discretionary allowance of
more then £3,000 a year) - as a very expensive waste of another £10,000 of our Council Tax every year.
Be that as it may, given that a decision on these matters could not have been taken individually by the Leader, we looked for it having been taken by a Committee
And so far, we have not been able to find any formal decision by Fylde Council that would authorise the Chief Executive to make the statement he has made in his email to
Lancashire County Council.
If Fylde can find one and send it on to us, we will be happy to publish it and clarify the matter further.
But we've looked at Fylde's agendas and reports going back to 2004 and we didn't spot it. So we think we are justified in saying that the publication of this email is the
first time Fylde's undeclared intention to rid itself of what it sees as the financial liability of the Institute has been made public.
Furthermore, we are shocked to find that Fylde considers both the Assembly Rooms and the Lytham Institute as being 'Surplus to service delivery requirements'
We think our readers will be shocked as well.
If Fylde's purpose is not to use the Council Tax payments demanded of us to provide community facilities that no individual or family could afford to operate on their own, we have to ask, what
on earth do they think they are there for?.
Authority to Change the Assembly Rooms Lease
But there's an even more fundamental issue that has just come to light from another Freedom of Information request at Fylde.
It appears that in the last week or two, Fylde Council has agreed to change the lease held by Lytham Town Trust.
We can see two changes that have been made. Both removed the requirement of the Town Trust to provide the ground floor exclusively for community use.
One of them permits what has already been the Town Trust's unauthorised sub-letting of ground floor space to a commercial banking organisation, and the other permits the future use of
other areas of the ground floor to be used by Lancashire County Council for a library.
Neither of these changes has been approved, or even considered by, a committee of Fylde Council.
We know that because it would have to have been considered by either the Tourism and Leisure Committee whose responsibility includes management of the land and property
within the remit of the Committee nor by the Finance and Democracy Committee whose remit would include land and property owned by the Council that does not fall within the
control of a service delivery committee.
We follow those agendas closely and this matter has been to neither.
So it appears that the decisions on these matters have been taken by Fylde's officers without reference to the councillors on a committee.
We regard that as being entirely improper.
We understand that the agreed documentation was a single legal document to rectify the existing sub-letting as well as to address the proposed sub-letting to LCC, and
that these decisions have been taken by officers without consulting the relevant Committee.
The function of officers is to advise councillors how to frame the policies which the council might want to adopt, and to administer and execute the decisions of the elected
It is definitely NOT to usurp what are - and should be - decisions for elected councillors as to what level of library service is appropriate for the Lancashire
County Council to provide, and which of Fylde's buildings it might best be provided, and whether the lessees of the Assembly Rooms ought to be permitted to vary the terms of
their occupation set by a previous Committee and Council.
Even though Fylde does not provide a library service directly, it is perfectly proper, and arguably is a duty, for Fylde's elected councillors on its Tourism and Leisure
Committee to consider and come to a view about whether the level of service to be provided by the County Council is appropriate for Lytham residents. And to press its case in
this regard with LCC.
It is equally the responsibility of elected councillors to consider - and if necessary to change - the decision made by a former councillors about how much space the Town
Trust must provide for community use in return for the income it derives from being allowed to retain the income from its commercial letting of the first floor of the building
that is owned by Fylde Council and leased to them.
This is not a technical or administrative matter in the province of officers. It is a judgement and a decision to be made by those we elect.
It was a previous Committee and Council that set the terms of the agreement under which the income from the first floor of the Assembly Rooms, together with income generated
from hire charges from community use, was judged to be sufficient to make the income and expenditure balance.
If there is now an imbalance, it is for elected members to once again decide whether the cause of the imbalance justifies a change in the leasing arrangements - or whether
it is simply the inability of the present lessees to adequately manage and promote the community use of the building to the necessary extent, and whether they will have to do
better in the future, if they wish to continue with the lease.
And if, as we understand to be the case, the current community use hires of the Assembly Rooms have declined to 30% of its previous level, then it is a matter for the
council's officers to research and advise the Committee. Because it is elected councillors who have responsibility to their electorate to use their judgement in determining such
Only then is it for officers to execute those decisions.
We are a democracy, not a technocracy.
Oh, and whilst we do know that Fylde are going to lose income in the order of the £45,000 that LCC were paying toward the maintenance of the Institute, we
don't yet know how much (if anything), Fylde will receive for allowing the Town Trust to increase its sub-letting income by around £22,000 a year from LCC, nor how much (if
anything) Fylde will be paid per year for the other area of commercial letting that has now been agreed on the ground floor, nor whether there has been any backdating of such
payments since the former unauthorised commercial use was granted.
The Matter of Trust
Finally for Fylde, we come to the matter of Fylde's response - or rather their lack of response - to the assertion that they do not own Lytham Institute as a corporate
asset, but rather they hold it on charitable trusts for the people of Lytham and surrounding area.
When Mrs Quint gave her unequivocal opinion on this matter, the Charity Commission wrote to Fylde to require them to register the Institute with them as a charitable trust.
We understand a terse email went from Fylde to the Charity Commission complaining that the Charity Commission had already apparently taken a decision that Fylde needed to
register with them before they'd even heard Fylde's side of the case.
We're pretty sure that's because the Charity Commission *were* already convinced from what Mrs Quint had said.
But Fylde are at best, still prevaricating in this matter.
It's appears to us that the senior members of the majority party, and probably the most senior officers, don't want to have to manage yet another building as a charitable
trust, but we're pretty sure they will have to.
This was what happened over Lowther Gardens when the Civic Society asked the Charity Commission to consider its case for Charitable status.
So we thought it would be instructive for all concerned if we reviewed the events when Lowther Gardens and Pavilion became a charitable trust
The Lowther Experience
In the years leading up to 2004, Fylde Council's then Chief Executive (Ken Lee) embarked on a programme of radical modernisation and change for the Council. Much of
it was to the dissatisfaction of local people.
He simply did not understand the conservative psyche of Lytham St Anne's that emanates from its demographic profile.
As one insider told us at the time, he saw no difference between St Anne's and Skelmersdale.
One of his initiatives was to sell off the Town Hall in St Anne's to fund a new building that was more modern and in-keeping with Lee's 'modernisation agenda' for the
Several different locations were selected at various times, and the surveys, architectural fees and consultancy costs alone for this project ended up costing Fylde taxpayers
more than a million pounds before the Chief Executive and the Leader of the Council resigned or were deposed and their schemes were aborted.
An early version of the plan was to move the Civic facilities (or as one Conservative councillor put it - 'to move the Town Hall') to an upwardly extended Lowther
Pavilion in Lytham. Architects had been consulted; plans had already been prepared and, On 15th July 2004 A FBC Council meeting decided that
"£1 million of any capital receipts should be topsliced to improve the current facilities and provide community and civic meeting accommodation at Lowther
Pavilion, the Lytham St Annes"
Fylde's plan was to add what it called a Civic Suite above the existing Pavilion.
Fundamentally the idea at that time was to house all the 'back office' employees in a 'tin shed' on the Whitehills Industrial Estate and to put a new Council Chamber, some
meeting rooms and (as a sweetener) perhaps an art gallery on a second floor above the existing Pavilion. The existing Town Hall would be sold off to (at least part)
fund the changeover.
There was much public disquiet, and the Lytham St Anne's Civic Society was prominent in expressing concern.
On 4 April 2005 the Civic Society sent out a notice of Public Meeting to be held on 15 Apr to consider the plans and what might be done about it.
The public meeting supported the idea that the Civic Society should seek an opinion from an eminent Charity Law Barrister (Francesca Quint) about the charitable status of
Lowther Gardens and, by 7th June 2005, the Civic Society had that opinion.
It said that the terms under which the Gardens had been gifted had created a Charitable Trust, and the Council was a Trustee with an obligation to register the gardens with
the Charity Commission.
Fylde took their own legal advice from another Barrister called William Moffett. At that time, we understood that Mr Moffett worked in the same chambers as Mrs Quint, but
held a less senior position.
Mr Moffett's Opinion was sent to Fylde Council on 9 June 2005, and it was no surprise to us that his Opinion agreed with Mrs Quint's - that the Gardens were held on
By 19th June the Civic Society held the view that Mrs Quint's Opinion had prevailed, and on 25 June 2005, the Civic Society issued a press release that Lowther Gardens were
held by the Council on Charitable Trusts.
The Civic Society said they would pursue Fylde's need to register the gardens with the Charity Commission through their lawyers
In an agenda report on 28 September 2005, Fylde's Solicitor provided a summary of the main points of the William Moffett opinion, and told the Council:
"It appears, therefore, that the use of Lowther Pavilion or Gardens for any purpose other than for of recreational activity will be likely to be contrary to
the purposes of the charitable trust and use as a civic suite or for routine council meetings, ought not to continue."
Readers can follow this link to download Fylde Council's Solicitor's full report (some of which will be of
great interest to those involved in what is almost exactly the same situation with Lytham Institute and Library).
Readers can also follow this link to download the full Opinion from Fylde's Barrister, William Moffett
On 3rd October 2005 we published 'Lowther is Charity Case' setting out our take on the principle of the
change that was going on at the time.
Similarities between Lowther Gardens and the Institute
There are lots of procedural similarities between the two processes. Both have seen Lytham St Anne's Civic Society initiatives result in both Lowther and the Institute being
declared as Charitable Trusts by Mrs Quint.
The various other council reports we have from 2005 forward set out the logic and the process to implement the Lowther Gardens Trust, and we expect something similar to
follow for the Institute.
But we make two key points from understanding the 'Lowther' process.
The first is that by the time Fylde Council made public it's plan to add a new Civic Suite to Lowther Pavilion, they were already a long way down the road to doing it. They
had worked up plans and costings.
Like an iceberg - with nine tenths out of sight - the Council had been working on its plan in secret (almost certainly knowing it would be an unpopular move), and
they wanted to provide as little opportunity for opponents to challenge it as possible.
When a Council behaves without transparency like this, it loses the trust of its electorate. And trust and transparency are the very essence of democracy
Secondly, once they were challenged by the Lytham St Anne's Civic Society, and had sought their own legal opinion from William Moffett on 9th June 2005, it was known by the
Civic Society, that Fylde had accepted the Gardens were held on charitable Trusts on 19th June. That's just 10 days later.
Fylde's own solicitor formally reported the content of the Moffett opinion to elected Councillors after the summer recess in September - three months after it's receipt.
Applying This Experience To The Institute
Mrs Quint's recent Opinion on the Institute is dated 4 February 2019, and we published it almost as soon as it arrived in Fylde on 15 February. (Lowther's was available
by 7 June 2005)
Fylde received their own Opinion on the Lytham Institute and Library (we're told it might have been from William Moffett again) on 5 April 2019
Mr Moffett's opinion on Lowther was 19 June, and Fylde agreed it was a Charitable Trust by 25 June 2005
So from receipt of Mrs Quint's Opinion at Fylde, to accepting that a charitable trust exists, the timescales were:
- Lowther Gardens Trust: 18 days.
- Lytham Institute: (so far), more than 126 days
And Fylde are still refusing to accept or deny that a charitable trust exists.
They have refused to make the Opinion they have received public, citing 'legal privilege' as their reason for doing so.
Frankly this is a subterfuge.
There is no law or requirement that prevents Fylde from publishing the opinion they received. It is simply that they are hiding behind a convention that allows them not to
disclose what it says.
The point of 'legal privilege' is to maintain as much confidentiality as you want between you, and the advice you receive from your professional legal adviser. It
also prevents your legal adviser from being required to release the information to any third party.
In this case, there ought to be no need for Fylde to hide behind 'legal privilege' because to maintain that argument is to say that the 'other side' may not see their
But in this case, the 'other side' is us, the public. The people that elect the Council. (Both the Civic Society and the Charity Commission are working for
us, the public
who have the benefit of the Trust), and it's Fylde that are choosing to put themselves on 'the other side'.
Just as the Brexit Party successfully painted a 'Remainer Parliament that was against the people' - in this instance at Fylde, it is an example of 'The Council
being against the
In reality, it probably doesn't matter all that much, because if Fylde's Opinion had not agreed with Mrs Quint's, Fylde would have been shouting it from the rooftops weeks
ago, and making an official challenge to the Charity Commission.
We're pretty much sure they have done neither.
We did hear that one member of the Council had demanded to see the Council's legal opinion, and been told by officers that they could not have a copy.
Frankly, that's a disgrace.
But we do have to wonder what Fylde's out-of-control officers are up to behind the scenes.
We can't help wondering if they might be talking to some other existing Charitable Trust to see if there is any scope to give the management of the Institute to another -
ready-made - Charitable Trust.
But if Fylde don't want to pay the maintenance costs, we can't imagine anyone else would want to take it on without the funding necessary to maintain it - if not even a
little extra towards the operating costs.
But Fylde could, for example, see if that nice Mr Lince at Lowther Pavilion would want to add it to his Charitable Trust, or maybe they might be talking to Lytham Town Trust, or
someone else altogether.
But the fly in that ointment is that something like that would still need to meet the trusts on which the building was given to the public (and that might well include
operating a Library)
With Fylde taking as long as they are doing before making an announcement, one way or the other, we can't imagine the Charity Commission are going to give them much longer before they have to undertake
If the Charity Commission do decide to press the matter with Fylde, it's likely they will refer it to the Treasury Solicitor (in the Attorney General's Department in
Whitehall) who prosecutes recalcitrant Trustees on behalf of the public who have the benefit of the trust that is not being registered.
So we think there's a lot more to come on this matter of registering the Trust with the Charity Commission.
If anyone wants copies of the reports and so on from the time Lowther Gardens went through this process we'd be happy to provide them on request.
Fylde's studious silence on the matter of the Institute, their apparent unwillingness to engage with the new Friends Group - and even to provide Council Documents to their
own Councillors - speaks volumes about the regard in which those leading the majority party hold the people of Lytham.
4. THE (NEW) FRIENDS GROUP
We have to say we're impressed with the work the new leading lights of the Friend's group have got through since early April.
In effect they began from base zero after the last meeting.
We understand about a dozen people who had left their names to help form a new Friends Group had a meeting on 9 May convened by Mrs Coupe, where a provisional Steering Group
After having been immersed in getting the background information from former group members and sorting themselves out into operational roles - by the middle of May, they had
produced and circulated a set of minutes of that 9 April meeting to those who were present and had left their contact details.
They also issued a Press Release announcing the change around 20th May.
We applaud these moves from the new organisers, and we note the contrast between the openness and transparency of this group - who are self-evidently keeping local people
who provided their contact details informed and up to date - and we can't help contrasting this approach with and the unwillingness of the 'Lytham Institute Working Group'
and the Lytham Town Trust, neither of whom seem to want to publish the minutes of their meetings or to keep the community informed of what's going on.
Toward the end of the minutes of that 9 April meeting it was noted that:
".... The four Lytham councillors in attendance committed themselves to secure information from FBC as to the status of the legal opinion it had secured, as well as any
measures that may be underway that could facilitate the reopening of the library in the Assembly Rooms. The councillors will report back to the Friends....."
The Councillors we heard speak at the 9th April meeting (a few weeks before the election) were Cllr Peter Anthony, Cllr Roger Lloyd, Cllr Ray Thomas, and Cllr Brenda
Blackshaw, and we reported the main points each of them said in our last article 'Friends of Library and Institute - April 2019'
so readers can refresh their minds on what was said should they wish to do so.
Public Meeting of 11 June.
A week or so before 11 June, those who had previously left contact details with the new group received an invitation to a Public Meeting in Lytham.
Along with the invitation was an Agenda, a list of the Steering Group who had volunteered to run the group, and a proposed Constitution.
As a short aside at this point, we really welcome the etiquette of organisations who respect their membership by sending out agenda and reports prior to their meetings - so
that those attending are briefed in advance on the purpose of the meeting and the decisions that need to be taken. We find it quite insulting to be asked to attend a meeting
only find out what it is about when you get there....
Short rant over, it's back to the main story....
Readers can follow this link to download the full Constitution, but we provide our own take on it as a summary below.
The Agenda was
- Recap last Friends public meeting (9 April) and outcomes
- Summary of work done since last public meeting and discussion of tactical plan
- Discussion of Constitution
- Discussion of Steering Committee
- Sign up for volunteer work
The Steering Committee were proposed as:
Beverley Love who Chaired the Friends Meeting
- Beverley Love: to chair the Steering Group and the meeting
- Julie McGreevy: to act as Secretary
- Jorge Rogachevsky, to act as Outreach Coordinator. (That's the chap with the American or Canadian accent we spoke of toward the end of our report of the
previous meeting report)
The draft Constitution seemed to us to be a good first stab at having a proper structure for the group's organisation and administrative arrangements.
Going forward, we think it might need a bit of tweaking here and there, but overall it seemed like a very good start.
Broadly speaking, the Constitution fixes the name of the group as being the 'Friends of Lytham Institute and Library' and its objective as being:
"The Friends is a community organization whose aims are to see the return of the Lytham Library to the Lytham Institute, and to promote the continued operation of the
Lytham Institute in service of the social and cultural needs of the Lytham community"
There's also a new logo (image at the top of this page) and a general correspondence email address of
Organisationally, a Steering Group of (currently) three is supported by a wider group of three to six voluntary specialist advisors and professional or technical
experts selected to input into the needs of the moment. The Steering Group will be elected annually by a majority vote of members.
It also envisages two categories of wider memberships, both called 'Friends of Lytham Institute and Library.' One carries voting rights together with the
expectation of a small annual financial contribution and attendance of at least one meeting a year.
The other has no voting rights and is intended to encompass a wider circle of those who support the objectives of the Friends, but do not want to be actively involved in the
The Constitution also sets out that the Steering Group and its advisors will manage the day-to-day activities, reporting to a meeting of the Friends and their supporters as
necessary but at least every six months or less.
The Meeting Itself
And so it was that, on a wet and less than pleasant night on 11 June, after reading the preparatory documents, we went to Lytham to report the event for our readers.
At first, people were slow to arrive, and we thought there might not be so many attending. Weather undoubtedly played its part, but eventually about 30 people arrived.
The meeting began with apologies from the group's former Chairman and Cllr Michael Sayward, followed by a précis of the previous 9th April meeting for the benefit of several
people attending the Friends group for the first time - followed by an update of events since that meeting.
Apart from the matters we have spoken of in the article above, the update included a note of a letter sent to the Chairman of the Lytham Town Trust Board, requesting
re-consideration of its position, and that they join the Friends in lobbying for the return of the library to the Institute.
The response had been negative.
A communication to the Chief Executive of Lancashire County Council was also reported. This had expressed concern about the process by which led to the decision to house the
Library in the Assembly Rooms had been taken, and about access for those with a disability there. An acknowledgement that Ms Ridgewell would look into the matter had been
The Chairman then asked the Fylde Borough Councillors present to discuss how they had progressed their commitment to obtain information from FBC as to the status of the
legal opinion it had secured, as well as any measures that may be underway that could facilitate the reopening of the library in the Assembly Rooms.
Sadly, of the former attendees from the Council, only Cllr Roger Lloyd and Cllr Mrs Brenda Blackshaw were able to attend this meeting.
Of the new intake of councillors, Cllr Michael Sayward had sent apologies and, (also having just been elected), Cllr Brian Gill attended for the first time.
Cllr Roger Lloyd said he and three independent Lytham councillors had sent a letter, but the Conservative councillors present at the last meeting did not wish to support it,
saying they would send their own letter. No one was present from Fylde's Conservative group, so whether they had undertaken the actions they had promised, and with what result,
Once again, the new officials sought confirmation from the meeting that the Friends wanted to continue the fight to restore a library to Lytham Institute, and we saw this overwhelmingly agreed by
Then there was an explanation and vote on the proposed Steering Group members and the Draft Constitution. Both were overwhelmingly supported and adopted. (We saw no-one
vote against either).
During a general discussion that followed, we heard solicitor David Coupe say he thought Fylde were still not properly distinguishing between its two hats, and that the
Borough Council should lobby the County Council to bring the library back to the Institute even though Fylde had just released the covenant on the Assembly Rooms to allow it to
be installed there.
Cllr Mrs Brenda Blackshaw suggested the group should invite Fylde's Chief Executive to a future meeting.
After the general discussion, the meeting agreed its officials should contact the Lytham Conservative councillors to hear what action they had taken and with what result.
Officials would also consider formally asking a question about the Institute in the 'Questions from Members of the Public' session at the 15 July Fylde Council meeting.
The final agenda item was the request for volunteers to assist the Steering Group. In particular someone to create and manage the Friend's Social media presence; someone to
look into fundraising for the group, and for leaflet deliverers in the Lytham Area. We saw a small group clustered round the table at the end of the meeting.
And with that, after thanks being expressed to the Steering Group for the considerable work they had done in a short space of time, the meeting closed.
The official minutes of this meeting have since been distributed, and our readers can follow this link to download a copy of
the 11th June Meeting minutes.
It looks as though the Friends now have their social media manager in place because the Steering Committee have just advised they now have a Lytham Institute Facebook
account. Those who use Facebook can access in from this link lythaminstitute
They also now have a Twitter account named @lythamInstitute
both of which are intended for public information and news updates between the Friends meetings.
We're sure the Friends group would welcome counterbalance readers who have an interest in signing up for news from the group, or even to become Friends themselves. Please
email firstname.lastname@example.org or use the Friend's Social Media sites to get in touch.
And last of all, the re-united Friends group has just published a pamphlet that questions why Fylde and Lancashire County Councils are not listening to the people of
Lytham and asks whether there is something rotten in the processes to reinstate a library in Lytham.
Readers can get their own (free) copy of the pamphlet. Just email email@example.com and
asking for a copy of 'A Tale of Two Councils'
UPDATE 25 June 2019
Subsequent to their progress-chasing letter sent to LCC after the 11th June meeting, a reply from LCC has just been received by the Friends. It
contains the following statement:
"Lytham Institute is owned by Fylde Borough Council and as such the borough is responsible for determining any future use of the premises and in this regard
we have not been asked to remain within the premises."
Despite the hidden agendas and despite the secrecy being used to hide the real facts, as more of the story is brought into the public domain, it becomes clear that Fylde Council's behaviour in this matter has been
- and remains - a public disgrace.
Dated: 26 Jun 2019