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Green Bins: The Finale?

Green Bins: ImplementationThis article brings to an end the story of the introduction of green waste collection at FBC.

Or rather it almost does. That's because, once again, the Council meeting that gave the final approval to the green bins charge, saw yet more disastrous governance errors in the way the decision was taken.

Although we think they probably should, we suspect these errors will not nullify the decision of this budget meeting. (That's because the officers and the Conservative majority group on the Council has decided to 'tough it out' and pretend there was nothing wrong. So unless someone successfully challenges the process via  a judicial review, Fylde's majority Conservative group look set to 'get away' with it).

But we believe the errors are a mistake of such importance that they warrant - and will receive - a dedicated future article from us.

SYNOPSIS

So in this article, we look at Fylde's Budget Council meeting where three amendments to the green waste scheme were proposed by Cllr Elizabeth Oades. The first amendment would have made the first year charge just 10. Cllr Mrs Oades introduced the amendment, Other speakers included: Cllr Alan Clayton and Cllr Roger Small and Cllr Elaine Silverwood together with Cllr Edward Nash, Sandra Pitman, Neil Harvey, Keith Beckett, Richard Redcliffe, with summing up by Cllrs Linda Nulty and Karen Buckley. The recorded vote shows this amendment was lost and who voted which way.

The Second Amendment was about showing income and spending separately in the accounts. Again this was proposed by Cllr Liz Oades, but this time none of the Conservative majority members had the courage to speak against it. Cllr Karen Buckley declined even to sum up her opposition. They simply voted it down without any debate. But the Mayor mistakenly said the amendment had been carried. This situation was to cause trouble at the next meeting when the minutes were proposed for adoption.

Cllr Mrs Oades Third Amendment was about exploring help for the disadvantaged, the disabled and the elderly in paying the subscription charge. Other speakers to this item included Cllrs Elaine Silverwood, Linda Nulty and Karen Buckley. Once again this was a Recorded Vote which was lost to the Conservative majority - who voted against it.

Finally, provide Our Own Conclusions on this matter, before bringing a few of the Readers Views we've received to date.

 FBC BUDGET MEETING 1 MARCH 2017

In our last Green Bins article in February, we noted that the main practical decisions on the introduction of green waste charges had already been taken, but the final decisions on charging had to be approved in this budget approving meeting on 1 March.

As this article is about green waste charges, we're going to skip all the other items that were discussed in the budget for the moment.

Cllr Fazackerley did the party political introduction to the budget and Cllr Mrs Oades responded in like terms, before Princess Karen Buckley who chairs the Finance and Democracy Committee proposed the Conservative majority party 2017/18 budget - which included the green waste subscription charges that have been previously proposed (as we set out in last article 'Green Bins: Latest Information') - ie 25 for a part year this year, and 30 a year thereafter.

Cllr Buckley's proposition of the budget as it had been published, was seconded by Cllr Susan Fazackerley.

The Mayor then asked if other Group leaders wished to propose an alternative budget or an amendment to the present one. Cllr Oades said she would be making such a proposition.

 CLLR MRS OADES' FIRST AMENDMENT

When it came time for Cllr Mrs Oades to make her amendments, she did.

 Cllr Liz Oades

Her first budget amendment was about the scale of and justification for the charge being made for green waste.   She said:

"I move that there should be an interim 10 charge for the green waste service in 2017/18, to be reviewed and adjusted when the real costs of the services are known"

This amendment was seconded by Cllr Linda Nulty, then Cllr Oades continued

"This item was debated in December, with a subsequent report taken to the Operational Services Committee in January providing more information although not much more clarity.

You may remember at the December meeting, I commented that in March, in a Committee Report, we were told there are 33,883 garden waste properties in Fylde.

In a September report, this figure had changed to a rounded 20,000. But this figure represented not the number of properties, but the number of bins which are regularly presented.

This make a huge difference to income figures.

If 80% of green bin properties in Fylde take up the service, as is the case in Wyre, this would yield a massive 812,000 per year. It wouldn't matter how often the bins were put out, because the charge of 30 is per property, not per collection.

There's also no mention at all of the multi-bin properties which would, of course, make more profit for the Council.

I asked at the December meeting what it is we're trying to achieve? Are we trying to cover the cost of the service - which is reputedly 564,000 - or are we attempting to generate a surplus which could be used to offset spending elsewhere?

Cllr Eaves responded at that time by saying 'we only want to cover the cost of the collection service' which made me wonder, if this was so, why he and his colleagues couldn't accept my amendment, as this was exactly what I was trying to achieve.

I realise that the Government has changed the rules in relation to waste management, by altering the responsibility for collecting green waste from the County to Districts, removing all grants and subsidies for the service. So I can see that we need to look at ways of covering the cost. But I think that the charge being proposed is, quite frankly, a rip-off. And the more sceptical amongst us may think that it's a way of making a profit, and also getting around the cap.

This charge - if added to the 5 being proposed for the Council Tax rise - will result in an increase of 15% for our council tax payers subscribing to the service. This is truly dishonest, and will hit some people badly.

Fylde will be in receipt of the 730,000 grant this year, and this will give us the opportunity to levy a 10 charge for the first year - which would give us the opportunity to see exactly what the cost of the service is and, in year 2, work out the real cost of the service and levy a charge accordingly. I also believe that at 10 more people are likely to take up the service. I therefore move my amendment and ask you to support it."

We thought this was a brilliant speech. It was absolutely holding the majority Conservative group to account. Quite literally so.

With the exception of the Wyre takeup being 80%, we believe everything she said was wholly accurate, and Wyre's 80% is only questionable because we have seen both 80% and 60% quoted as the take up in Wyre BC.

 Cllr Alan Clayton

Supported he proposal because he thought a 10 charge would encourage people to take up the scheme. He also asked if the Council would provide replacement bins for residents that had damaged ones when the scheme came in.

 Cllr Roger Small

Said:

"Obviously, it's quite a tricky problem this green waste one.

As all councillors are aware, from the financial year 18/19, LCC are withdrawing from the joint recycling, and that's going to cost this Council around 763,000 - I realise figures slightly vary - but lets have a look at that. That is three-quarters of a million pounds for us to find. Now the Council has had to look very carefully as to how and where it might try to plug these gaps. And by operating this voluntary take up service, only beginning in June this year, this Council, unlike some others in Lancashire, has waited until the last possible time to realistically introduce the scheme. And for many of us who are committed to re-cycling, we've done so with a heavy heart, but we have to try and mitigate some of these future huge losses. As this will be a voluntary scheme, some residents will choose not to take it. Therefore, the income from this will be very difficult to predict, certainly in the first year, and even beyond. So lets have a look at some of those figures.

There will be close to 40,000 setup costs. And of the charge of 25 in year 1 - I realise a part year - and 30 afterwards, which seems to be the common figure around Lancashire councils, we're looking at charging approximately 50p per week. Now I appreciate there's an anomaly around that particularly round the Christmas time, but it's broadly roundabout that figure.

As Cllr Oades has said, we have approximately 20,000 green bins and an annual waste cost of over half a million pounds. This scheme is not about profiting, and frankly, I can't see it generating profit, but it is about trying to plug that gap in costs. And as was said at the recent Finance and Democracy Committee, it is also about trying to be open and transparent with regard to this scheme right the way along. And I know we had a member of the public ask questions about that and received clear answers. So from that point of view, I think the scheme that's been trying to be brought in - we brought it in as late as we could, so as not to kind of burden the taxpayers, but what we have done is fair to everyone concerned."

As we found with his involvement in the Heeley Road Hostel scheme, this is a man not given to detail. As he admits above, he favours using 'broad' calculations that are 'roundabout' right.

We think the Mayor should have pulled him up during his ramble, because he was not speaking to what he should have been addressing - (Cllr Oades' amendment of a 10 first year charge) - but rather he was arguing the case for the principle of charging for green waste.

We also think that whilst his neurolinguistic manner of speaking is designed to make clever associations in the minds of those who listen, but when you analyse the detail of what he says, you see a different picture.

He rightly says that LCC will stop paying for the service from April 2018 - But of course, that's a year away from now. So Fylde ARE going to get paid twice this year for delivering the same service: once from the people who subscribe to it, now, and again from LCC who will continue to pay the whole of the green waste cost in Fylde for the whole of this year. But his phrasing would encourage you believe otherwise.

He also says Fylde has brought the charge in as late as possible. No they haven't. To do that would mean introducing it from April 2018 when LCC cease paying Fylde to deliver the service. But his woolly, broad-brush approach adds the word "realistically" into the mix here saying it's the latest time it could 'realistically be introduced' yet he offers no explanation why doing it a year later would be unrealistic.

Like others in his group, he also thinks that the withdrawing of LCC funding from April 2018 means Fylde will have a loss of 760,000. But there would be no loss at all if Fylde simply reduces the scale of its green waste operation to match the income it receives from subscriptions. So there need be no loss to be met, only the self-funding cost of delivering a service at a level that people wish to support.

Again, he trots out 20,000 as being the number of bins in Fylde. Again he is wrong. As we know from the official report, there are 33,883 addresses from which one or more green bins may be collected. The charge being made is per bin at each address, so it is the 33,883 figure that is relevant. The 20,000 is nothing more than a red herring to make it appear that Fylde will collect less income overall. The figure of 20,000 bins 'regularly put out for collection' bears no relationship to the subscription charge, and has been used at Fylde to artificially depress the realistic estimated income that will arise from the subscriptions.

What we can't tell at present is whether this red-herring figure of 20,000 bins is being advanced by officers or councillors. But it's purpose is undoubtedly either to create a safety margin in terms of income likely to be generated, or it is to ensure a surplus of income over costs - allowing other services to be cross subsidised by green waste subscriptions.

Finally we take issue with Cllr Small's justification for the charge being made. He argues that it's only 'around' 50p a week and that's what most councils in Lancashire are charging. If you use his broad-brush approach, he's right about it being 50p a week. But the point of the charge - as Cllr Eaves has said - is to recover the cost of the service, and if, as we believe, the justification for that cost has been artificially increased by artificially depressing the likely income, it could be that the real cost recovery figure should be 40p rather than 50p - in Cllr Small's broad-brush, roundabout terms of course! His argument concludes with the extended false logic that it's OK to overcharge so long as you overcharge everyone. If you do that, it's at least fair.

Readers will be able to tell we're not very impressed.

 Cllr Elaine Silverwood

Said she didn't want the Council to be perceived to be treating the green waste charge as a 'cash cow' (she actually said "like a car parking fee cash cow") to generate an income that was more than the cost of providing the service that Cllr Eaves had already said was the objective, and she worried that the confusing figures between what Cllr Small had said, and the figures in the reports seemed to be setting out an intention to do exactly that.

 Cllr Edward Nash

Spoke next. He said:

"Again this is one of these items that has been discussed at length at the Operational Management Committee and those, like me, who are on that committee have gone through this time and time again, and the recommendation we made was the recommendation of the Committee. We're certainly not first out of the trap in Lancashire with this proposal, nor are we the highest charger in Lancashire, nor do we have to provide a green bin as was said, and indeed Cllr Oades commented herself previously she doesn't need one because she can compost and a lot of people in the rural areas do just that. So it's not a mandatory thing that we have to do, it's a voluntary thing. It's not a high cost. It's not making a profit. There's no such thing as profit in this organisation. If it helps us to fill the black hole that a Labour controlled County Council has imposed upon us, the so be it. And I cannot see that we need to change the recommendation that is before you."

He was another who didn't speak to the amendment, but was allowed to ramble off into areas that were nothing to do with what Cllr Oades had proposed..

 Cllr Sandra Pitman

Spoke next. She said:

"As someone who came to the Council in 2015 and joined the Operational Management Committee, I'm well aware that this has been something that has been talked about regularly, and we have tried to be very proactive in our approach to the withdrawal of the Lancashire subsidy. And that. as far as I'm concerned is what a responsible Council should do. We are proactive, and we are not going to be caught short by this cut. At no point has anybody ever suggested there is going to be a surplus of money from our introduction of what is the average charge, and if Cllr Oades had studies, listened to those discussions, I'm sure she would have found it very difficult to have found any evidence of us making this into a cash cow. Certainly it is not. I call this scaremongering and trying to invent some sort of conspiracy to make money and I feel that it is really not acceptable to waste our time on something which is what, as a responsible council, we should be doing."

This was another Cllr who spoke to the principle and not to the amendment. We'll go further. We'll disagree with her and say the evidence of it being made into a cash cow exists in the form of the red-herring (sorry to mix cows and fish dear reader!) that has been deployed to change of the basis of calculation from the detailed March figure of 33,883 green bin properties that might subscribe, to the rounded September figure of 20,000 bins regularly presented for collection. The 20,000 has nothing whatsoever to do with the number of properties that might subscribe (except to say that the reduction in numbers has been used to depress the likely income received, and thus justify the imposition of an unnecessarily high subscription charge).

As a member of the Committee with an eye for figures, we're very surprised Cllr Pitman didn't spot this herself.

 Cllr Neil Harvey

To some amusement and cheers around the chamber (he seems to be developing a reputation for oration not unlike the one we have for long articles), he said:

"I'll try and keep my comments brief. I can't support the amendment. I mean just looking at this, it is no way a cash cow. It's quite clear that with the - I'll call it three-quarters of a million 750k - I'm aware there's a little dispute over the figure, but with that being reduced or actually taken away from the next financial year onwards, it's only this first year by adding a charge in this first year that we can make up for the losses in any future years as well, when we're not going to have that three-quarters of a million.

I mean to talk of 20,000 green bins in the area, well 20,000 green bins at 30 per bin, is 600,000 so in each subsequent year, we're going to have a loss of 150,000 - even if there was 100% take-up on the green bins which there's not going to be. In this first year if there was 100% take-up at 25 per bin on 20,000 bins, that's only 500,000. There isn't going to be that. We're not going to get the 100% take-up, you'll probably have significantly less than that. But you might end up with over 1m this year from it, but the extra 250,000 - 350,000 you make this year is not going to make up for the shortfall in succeeding years that we're going to have.

So over the term of the forecast, we're not going to have that profit. It's not going to be a cash cow. All we're doing is trying to plug a gap for the next however many years, and reduce the shortfall by as much as we can.

So whilst I hear what Cllr Oades is saying, I'm afraid I won't be able to support the amendment, and it's not a cash cow. It is a difficult decision that's only been taken after a lot of debate, and I can only support the proposals as put forward in the budget."

We actually quite like this chap. We've said before, he has a brain and (especially as a relatively new councillor), he has a willingness to read and grasp quite complicated agenda items.  Furthermore, he was the only one so far that spoke to the amendment (even if he did veer off into the long grass a couple of times).

But sadly, on this occasion, he was wrong. Not because of his logic, but because he failed to understand that the purpose of charging for green waste collection was - as Cllr Eaves had said - was only to recover the cost of providing the service.

The officers reports show the cost of providing the service has been between 561,000 and 564,000 depending on the year you choose as your reference point.

So the aim of charging is not to recover three-quarters of a million. The aim is to recover around 564,000

He is also wrong because he has used the same red-herring figure of 20,000 bins. (We think this is exactly why it was introduced in the September officer's report). The true number of properties in Fylde that have green bins - each of which will require a subscription to be emptied - is not 20,000 but 33,883

When you do the sums using the right numbers, you arrive at a very different answer to the one Cllr Harvey propounded.

The figures in the budget that he used are bad estimates.

Because they depress the number of green bin properties from 33,883 to 20,000, they understate the income that will arise from any given take-up of service and, we believe, (based on take-ups elsewhere), there will not be a shortfall on costs going forward. There will almost certainly be a surplus on costs.

And of course, even if there was a poor take-up, the scale of service delivery will be adjusted downward as well, reducing the costs that have to be met anyway!

We absolutely don't think Cllr Harvey was intentionally wrong. He doesn't strike us a being a deceitful person. And we don't think he was trying to manipulate the information to disguise the truth.

We do think that when he realises he has been duped into using and citing false information he will be pretty annoyed. He seems to us to be a man of integrity.

So whilst we disagree with him on this occasion, and we believe time will prove him wrong, we think he at least was honourable in his intentions in this debate.

 Cllr Albert Pounder

Spoke next. He is the Vice Chairman of the Operational Management Committee. He said:

"As the representative on Lancashire Waste Partnership for this Council for the last 4-5 years, this has been gone through so many times. We are the last of the rural areas to really put this.... a charge on this. Pendle, Wyre, even Blackpool put their charges on last year. We're only putting it on this year.

When Cllr Oades started off I thought she was reading her County Council thing for their budget. I really did because what she was saying was of no relevance. We're not interested in Social care. We are as individuals but as a Council we don't have that responsibility, it's County's responsibility. But County - some years ago - also made this agreement to pay all the Districts a amount for recycling. It was Lancashire County Council that suddenly, at the stroke of a pen, said 'You're not getting it' You will not be getting it from 2018.

Neil has just given you some figures. It's unlikely that we're going to get anywhere near what it going to cost us. Be nice to think it would, because what we don't make... get on this, would have to come from somewhere else. Youknow, we're going to lose 750,000 a year. If we don't make 750,000 .... we make half a million, then 250,000 has got to come from something else that we're responsible for. Somebody else is going to suffer.

Now what we're doing is putting a charge on something which is optional. People don't have to take it up if they don't want. They can go and take it to the waste, they can compost the stuff, they do not have to do it. So it's an optional programme. And that's what you've got to bear in mind. It's not a compulsory one, we're not saying 'right, your bins will not be emptied unless you pay it.' If they want their green bins emptying they have to pay for it.

I live in the rural area. I'm the one whose got a garden. I don't object to paying it. Nor will most people. And I think you'll find at the end of the day, the only people who are moaning about it are the people who, at the end of the day, have actually put that on us, which is Lancashire County Council. Nobody else. We didn't ask for it, but it's County that's put it on this Council, as on Pendle, as on Preston, as on Ribble, Blackpool. We can't all be wrong. We can't all be doing it for a reason. There's no politics in this. This is a case of we're taking your money, if you want to get it back that's what you're going to have to do"

Oh Dear. Another one who didn't speak to the amendment. Not only that, but he confused what Cllr Oades had said in response to the Council Leader's party political budget introduction speech with what she said in proposing the amendment he studiously failed to address (which were quite separate items).

He was also wrong about LCC withdrawing the grant "suddenly at the stroke of a pen." In fact - and as we said in our first article on this matter - Fylde's Green Bin Bill of march 2016 - "However, in January 2014, LCC wrote to all Lancashire councils who collect the waste (including Fylde) to advise them that the scheme would not be extended again beyond 2018'. So Fylde has had four years to prepare for the change. Hardly 'sudden'.

We also thought it was worrying that the Chairman of the Operational Management Committee had said the aim of the charge was to recover the costs of delivering the green waste service - which last year was 564,000, but here, the Vice Chairman of the same committee seems to be saying that the aim is to recover 750,000 - because charging this sum to green waste subscriptions would exceeds the green waste service delivery costs by 186,000.

We leave readers to make up their own minds about what's going on here.

 Cllr Keith Beckett.

Pointed out that they had received the money for this coming year from LCC already so a lower charge, as per Cllr Oades' amendment would let officers see the take-up and costs in real time, thus allowing better estimating for the following year when the LCC grant was withdrawn.

 Cllr Richard Redcliffe

Indicated to speak. He said:

"I'm not on this particular committee, but I've been listening very keenly to the debate, and I keep trying to remind myself that. you know, what on earth can anybody find to challenge here. Here is a council with a good track record of prudential financial management of the resources of this Borough. They find themselves, not by choice, but by circumstance, they find themselves faced with a funding deficit of three-quarters of a million pounds in the future. And I absolutely despair that we're having a debate about a council taking forthright commensurate action to remedy this particular situation.

And also there's the principle of recycling that we ought to uphold, that all agree is an honourable principle that we want to maintain and sustain within our Borough. I think Cllr Pounder has already alluded to the fact that if we're faced with a funding cut of three-quarters of a million pounds - not an insignificant sum of money, a huge amount of money - surely this council should be applauded for its foresight, its planning ahead, its fairness when trying to introduce this particular charge at a fair and appropriate time.

I would completely agree with opposition criticism of this council if it didn't have a plan, and then we would face this crisis and then, as Cllr Pounder would say, we'd have to find the money somewhere if we wanted to continue this scheme. So I'm just looking at it from the very common sense point of view. I'm not going to quote a lot of figures. You can make arguments with figures stand on their head. There is a point of principle here. If somebody comes along and takes a big chunk of your funding away, you either stop the scheme or you look at another way of sourcing it if you believe its a scheme of worth. And I applaud the action this Council is taking, and the confidence with which I hope it will take it forward."

We're surprised at Cllr Redcliffe. He's a man who knows better. He understands the rules of debate, yet here he was, like almost every other speaker, not addressing Cllr Oades' amendment - which is what this part of the debate should have been about - but he is addressing the overall arrangements.

We agree when he says Fylde has a good track record of prudent financial management. But of course that's only since Bernard Hayes came in as a new finance officer from Preston Council and did a wonderful job to repair the absolute disaster of a financial situation that former Conservative Leader John Coombes got Fylde into when he had to declare the equivalent of a financial "State of Emergency'.

Cllr Redcliffe would do well to note that both the currently good and the previously appalling financial management at Fylde were both under Conservative administrations. The difference between them was only who was in charge at the time.

And he makes the same mistake as Cllr Pounder. The sum which the charge is to cover is not 0.75m, it is 0.56m - and if the fiddled red herring figure of 20,000 as the number of bins that may subscribe is discounted, and the original 33,883 is substituted in its place, he would see how easy it will be for Fylde to produce a surplus of income over actual service costs.

But of course he doesn't want to talk figures. We have to wonder why that might be....

 Cllr Linda Nulty

Exercised her right as seconder to mop up the points opposing the amendment that had been made during the debate. She said

"Can I remind everybody this is not.... we're not against this scheme, this is an amendment to the scheme. And it's inevitable that we have to have this because of the withdrawal of funding to the County Council by the Conservative Government. 62% over 5 years. Half a billion pounds.

Can I remind Cllr Pounder that Blackpool is a unitary authority, and they're having to put the charges on because of the cuts from Government.

So, we're not against the scheme. But, because it is voluntary, we have concern about the take up of the scheme, and a lower charge of 10 may encourage people to join the scheme, and this at a time when we are still in receipt of income from Lancashire County Council. So whatever happens this year, if you put 10 in the pot, you've got a sum of money at the end of this year that you can weigh up how much it's going to cost.

I also have concern that if people don't take up this scheme, fly-tipping will increase. It's bad enough already, and it is throughout the country as everybody knows.

So the ability to look at this again, charge 10 for the first year, and after that the ability to look at the true costs which will be clearer and it may even enable Fylde to set a slightly lower charge which would go down well with our customers won't it? If we have a slightly lower charge than Blackpool, even if it's 28 instead of 30 it would be a good move. And it may again, make more people willing to subscribe to the charge, and address any problems we may have in providing this scheme. So, all we're asking for is a lower charge to start with, and then see how it goes.

So I'm happy to second this amendment, and can we please ask for a recorded vote on this amendment. "

Nice. She reminded everyone they had been arguing about the principle of charging when they should have been debating the merits or otherwise of the 'first year 10 charge' amendment that had been proposed.

 Cllr Karen Buckley

Was invited to sum up. Confident in the support of her conservative colleagues to defeat the amendment, she said simply:

"I think we've heard the arguments, I'd just like to add that there's no dishonesty. There is no sleight of hand. There's no attempt to get round the Council tax cap. There's no conspiracy theory here. We are looking at shortfall of more than half a million pounds, and this scheme has come about because we need to make up that shortfall. That is simply what we are doing, and in setting a charge, we're looking at a reasonable charge, and a part year charge of course of 25, and we're aware of the charges that other councils have put on this scheme, and we believe it's reasonable."

Princess Karen is more careful than most in what she says. She at least didn't repeat the 'three-quarters of a million shortfall' That's probably because she knows that the cost of the service last year was 564,000 and that's the figure that the subscription needs to generate if the present number of rounds and staff are to be retained. If that income is not achieved, the rounds and staffing will be reduced - more or less - accordingly.

But we did find the implications of what she said worrying.

It seems to us that we now have three senior officials of Fylde's Conservative group giving thee different reasons for setting the charge as it is.

  • Cllr David Eaves - who, as Chairman of the Committee with delegated responsibility, ought to have the most credible voice - says they are looking to cover the operating cost. That's around 564,000.
  • Cllr Albert Pounder - Vice Chairman of the same committee - says they are looking to cover a loss of 750,000
  • Cllr Karen Buckley - Chairman of the Policy and Finance Committee - seems not to mind how much Fylde sets its green waste subscription at, as long as it is comparable with that of other councils and it is "reasonable"

We've no doubt in this matter.

To set a charge that aims to recover more than the actual cost of delivering the green waste service is plain wrong.

If it were to happen, we would say the process the Conservative majority has used to generate the surplus would have been dishonest, it would have been deceitful, it would have used sleight of hand, and it could well have involved officers and Conservative members conspiring together to achieve it. (Readers will recall our report of the awful meeting of November 2016 where matters of this sort actually spilled out into the open)

 THE RECORDED VOTE

On this first amendment from Cllr Oades the result of the vote of those present at the meeting result was: for the amendment (13),   against the amendment (25);   abstentions (1)

Cllr Ben Aitken Against   Cllr Karen Henshaw For
Cllr Christine Akeroyd Against   Cllr Paul Hodgson For
Cllr Frank Andrews Against   Cllr Angela Jacques Against
Cllr Jan Barker Abstain   Cllr Roger Lloyd For
Cllr Keith Beckett For   Cllr Cheryl Little Against
Cllr Brenda Blackshaw Against   Cllr Barbara Nash Against
Cllr Karen Buckley Against   Cllr Edward Nash Against
Cllr Julie Brickles For   Cllr Linda Nulty For
Cllr Maxine Chew For   Cllr Elizabeth Oades For
Cllr Alan Clayton For   Cllr Sandra Pitman Against
Cllr Delma Collins Against   Cllr Albert Pounder Against
Cllr Peter Collins For   Cllr Richard Redcliffe Against
Cllr David Donaldson Against   Cllr  Louis Rigby For
Cllr Susan Fazackerley Against   Cllr Vince Settle Against
Cllr Trevor Fiddler Against   Cllr Elaine Silverwood For
Cllr Tony Ford For   Cllr John Singleton Against
Cllr Richard Fradley Against   Cllr Roger Small Against
Cllr Gail Goodman Against   Cllr Raymond Thomas Against
Cllr Shirley Green Against   Cllr Vivien Willder Against
Cllr Neil Harvey Against      

So the amendment to charge 10 for the first year was not approved

 CLLR MRS OADES' SECOND AMENDMENT

 Cllr Liz Oades

Invited to do so by the Mayor, Cllr Mrs Oades introduced her second amendment. She said:

"My second amendment is that accounting for income and expenditure on the green bin service should be shown as a separate item in the budget book and published in the accounts to ensure that only the true costs of the service are charged to our residents."

"The reason I move that is that it's absolutely essential that this is done if we are to review the charges year on year"

This amendment was seconded by Cllr Linda Nulty, who said it made absolute sense so that we could know exactly how the money is coming in and how its going out.

This was a cunning second amendment.

Given that Cllr Eaves had said the aim of the subscription was to cover the cost of the service, there could surely be no-one who would oppose the fact that its income and spending should be shown separately in the accounts in order for it to be seen how much the service was costing and how much income had been generated from subscriptions.

But despite all their earlier protestations of transparency, fairness, and there being no sleight of hand, no deceit, no conspiring, and no intent to create a cash cow, the Conservative group did oppose this measure as we shall see....

Not one of them dared to speak against Cllr Oades' amendment.

 Cllr Karen Buckley

Was invited to sum up on the amendment and she declined to do so.

We can see only one reason for this state of affairs.

The Conservative group could not justify opposing the amendment. so they were simply going to vote it down.

The real colours of Fylde's Conservative group in this matter had been exposed for all to see. They do not want anyone to be able to see whether the green waste subscription income exceeds the cost of providing the service.

We think this has been their intention all along, and we refute Cllr Mrs Buckley's protestations that this is not the case. Whey else would they vote down something that would show what the costs and income had actually been?

This time there was no call for a recorded vote. It was taken on a show of hands.

The webcast of the meeting shows most - if not all - of the non-conservative councillors voting in favour of showing the figures in Fylde's accounts, and most if not all of the Conservatives present voting against the income and expenditure being shown separately.

It was clear from the webcast that the majority vote did not support the amendment.

HOWEVER

The Mayor said "That is carried, thank you"

This was entirely the wrong thing for her to have said.

The amendment had not been carried at all. It had been rejected.

In fact  the Mayor gave a result for the amendment that was the exact opposite of the vote that had been taken.

This situation was to cause ructions at the next full council meeting when the minutes of this meeting were submitted for approval as a true and correct record.

We're going to address that matter in a future article - because there was also another, even greater mistake made later in this meeting (after the green bins issues had concluded) concerning another amendment about the payment of an allowance to the Leader of the Council.

Moving swiftly on, the Mayor asked if anyone had any further amendments to make.

Cllr Mrs Oades did have a further amendment.

 CLLR MRS OADES' THIRD AMENDMENT

 Cllr Liz Oades

"I would like to move that ways of helping the disadvantaged, disabled and elderly in relation to payment should be explored, along with options for payment."

Again she was seconded by Cllr Linda Nulty.

 Cllr Elaine Silverwood

Spoke to say she thought that because there were no concessions being offered, and there had been no assessment of the impact of payment (which she understood was to be only by direct debit) it was the wrong approach. She said it seemed more like the behaviour of a hard-nosed company who didn't care about its customers because it held a monopoly, rather than a public service organisation.

Using a personal family example she explained why an elderly relative would not set up a direct debit to pay the green waste subscription

 Cllr Linda Nulty

Summed up the amendment saying it would be hard enough for the elderly and disadvantaged to understand that they have to pay in the first place, let alone having to set up a direct debit to do so. She said it was vital that they sort out some scheme to help people in this predicament, and she asked for a recorded vote on this matter.

 Cllr Karen Buckley

Summed up the item saying this was something that shou7ld have been raised at the committee (we think it was raised there but voted down by the conservative majority). She said she was not supporting the amendment, not because she didn't have any sympathy with such people, but this was just not the forum to discuss such matters. She said a leaflet will go out to every household to inform people about the changes and charges.

  RECORDED VOTE

The request for this second recorded vote of the evening was supported by more than five people, and a recorded vote was taken. The result was: Votes for the proposal (12)   Votes against the proposal (26) Abstentions (1) 

Cllr Ben Aitken Against   Cllr Karen Henshaw For
Cllr Christine Akeroyd Against   Cllr Paul Hodgson For
Cllr Frank Andrews Against   Cllr Angela Jacques Against
Cllr Jan Barker Abstain   Cllr Roger Lloyd For
Cllr Keith Beckett For   Cllr Cheryl Little Against
Cllr Brenda Blackshaw Against   Cllr Barbara Nash Against
Cllr Karen Buckley Against   Cllr Edward Nash Against
Cllr Julie Brickles For   Cllr Linda Nulty For
Cllr Maxine Chew For   Cllr Elizabeth Oades For
Cllr Alan Clayton For   Cllr Sandra Pitman Against
Cllr Delma Collins Against   Cllr Albert Pounder Against
Cllr Peter Collins For   Cllr Richard Redcliffe Against
Cllr David Donaldson Against   Cllr  Louis Rigby For
Cllr Susan Fazackerley Against   Cllr Vince Settle Against
Cllr Trevor Fiddler Against   Cllr Elaine Silverwood For
Cllr Tony Ford Against   Cllr John Singleton Against
Cllr Richard Fradley Against   Cllr Roger Small Against
Cllr Gail Goodman Against   Cllr Raymond Thomas Against
Cllr Shirley Green Against   Cllr Vivien Willder Against
Cllr Neil Harvey Against      

So the amendment about looking at support for needy people was lost

 CONCLUSIONS

That vote concluded the introduction of the Green Waste Subscription service in Fylde Borough.

From 1 June, if you have not already registered to subscribe and pay for the service for the remainder of this year, your green bin will not be emptied, and it will take up to 3 weeks from making an application to having the bin emptied if you decide to subscribe after today (12 May 2017).

We recognise Fylde needs to make a charge if this scheme is to continue.

But we believe Fylde should set that charge to cover the cost of delivering the service, not to generate a surplus of subscription income over cost.

Bur sadly, we think that's what at least some of Fylde's Conservative majority group are setting out to do.

If the Gazette (which now says it doesn't do fake news) is to be believed, Blackpool has already made a surplus. It reported: "Coun Tony Williams, leader of the Conservative opposition at Blackpool Council, said the axing of the authoritys green bin collection service last year has created a surplus of 35,000"

We'll do our best to bring readers the real facts about the costs at Fylde after the first year.

We're also going to try and have the decision not to publish income and expenditure on the green waste service changed so it will be possible for everyone to see what's happening to their money. Whether we succeed or not is an open question, but we do intend to have a go.

 READERS VIEWS

We've had some thoughts from readers already.

We quite liked the humour of the one who said they would be sending FBC an invoice for use of land in their garden on which Fylde's green bin was being stored.

Another - in relation to the special stickers that 'subscribing' addresses are  to be issued with - suggested that "there could be an opening for black market stickers and as stickers fade over time will this create an opening for a new role, that of the Sticker Police, or Warden who could work along side the Traffic, and Dog Wardens."

One also said: "We have currently paid for 2016/17 1,621.29 in Council Tax for a band D property. 31.18 per week. The introduction of this additional charge, although not in itself a huge amount, is a step too far. As our Council Tax bills include separate items for Police, Fire, Adult Social Care, Precepts, and FBC Special Expenses I fail to understand why they don't just add an additional charge for Waste Collections. Spreading the load to everyone with a cost of half that proposed, and a lot less complicated, or is that too easy. Given the complications associated with this proposal is 30 per year enough or will this become a back to square one or a loss making policy?"

Our own position on this is straightforward. It's far better for your garden to return the nutrients to the soil by composting green waste. That's what we have always done. So in future, as now, we will only have to dispose of perennial weeds and woody branches. They can go in the grey bin - over time - if necessary.

As we understand things, today (Friday 12 May 2017)  is the last day that anyone can register a subscription if they want to have their green bin emptied from 1 June onwards.  If you're not signed up by today, Fylde say you might miss the first paid-for collection which begins on 1st June.

So we think this matter will explode around June 1st when the non-subscription bins stop being collected.

At that time, Fylde may need to batten down its hatches for a while.

The full story is in these articles:
22 Mar 16 - Fylde's Green Bin Bill
06 Apr 16 - Green Bin Bills Deferred in Fylde
12 Sep 16 - Green Bins: Interim Update
18 Oct 16 - Green Bins Charge - 2017
24 Feb 17 - Green Bins: Latest Information
12 May 17 - This article (Green Bins: The finale?)

Dated:  12 May 2017

 


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