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Hall Change?

Hall Change?Since our last article on Lytham Hall (in October 2017), there have been three more meeting of FBC's Tourism and Leisure Committee to discuss what was happening.

We also attended a really interesting talk by Barry Fothergill who ran the Hall and Estate for Guardian, and was instrumental in discussions at the time the Lytham Town Trust took it over.

So this article covers the period from October 2017 to date.

SYNOPSIS
We begin with a Quick Summary followed by a flavour of Our last report in  October before looking at the November 2017 Tourism and Leisure Meeting where Fylde's tone started to soften.

We then move on to the 11th January 2018 Tourism and Leisure Meeting where it softened still further and confirmation was provided that the lottery people were happy all the Moore Stephens recommendations had been implemented. But one financial matter still puzzles us.

Next we report A talk by Barry Fothergill who was General Manager of Guardian during the period they owned the Hall. He had lots to say and we were specially interested in the relationship between Guardian and Lytham Town Trust.

Finally, we look at the Tourism and Leisure Committee of 8th March 2018 when hardly anyone spoke, the news was all good, the omens positive, and it looks like this appalling episode has finally turned the corner. Lastly we give Our own conclusions from what we've seen and heard.

 A QUICK SUMMARY

This is another lengthy article so we've included this rough and dirty summary.

As we said (and expected) in our October 2017 article. Mr Turner has now assumed control of the HTNW's Lytham Project and he has mostly closed down the flow of information emanating from the Hall - except, that is, for the sanitised plain vanilla press releases now distributed in spinspeak - where nothing goes wrong, where there are never any problems, and everything is 'Unicorns and Rainbows Forever'

We expected this to happen. It's exactly what we would have done in his shoes.

But the agenda, proceedings and minutes of Fylde's Tourism and Leisure Committee remain in the public domain, and information flows from them which we can bring to our readers.

Probably the most stunning news is that during the last Tourism and Leisure Committee, the tenor and tone of the agenda item about Lytham Hall was very different to what we have seen before.

Not least because hardly anyone spoke.

We did notice one councillor who sat, stony-faced throughout and - it seemed to us - seething with suppressed anger judging by their body language.

We later found out that, before the meeting, one of the Conservative councillors had, to our surprise, apparently seen the light, and addressed a pre-meeting of the Committee where they had 'read the riot act' and told councillors they needed to forget the past; to move on; and to encourage co-operation in formulating a new lottery bid.

We couldn't be more pleased.

This is exactly what we've been saying needed to happen from day one, as our regular readers will know.

Frankly we have never been able to understand why Fylde had become persuaded to adopt the ridiculous and untenable position they did - with threats of legal action, and the vindictive personal vendetta against the (then) Chief Executive of Heritage Trust for the North West.

In its handling of this matter to date, Fylde has disgraced itself and it has opened itself to ridicule.

Those who instigated this path, and those who supported them, need to hang their heads in shame.

But if what we're hearing now is correct, and Fylde are dropping the vitriol - in preference to acting as a catalyst to effect closer harmony between the formerly warring parties, that can only be good news, and we welcome it.

We'll have more to say about most recent Tourism and Leisure meeting shortly, but we'll do a quick chronological update first.

 TOURISM AND LEISURE: OCTOBER 2017

We first offer a quick refresh of the decisions back in October, when Fylde was in 'Takeover Mode'

The whole committee, (excepting for Cllr Julie Brickles who had more sense) approved a series of quite ridiculous recommendations. They were:

  1. To advise the Heritage Trust North West that the committee has no confidence that it can establish, lead or be involved in a new project team that will deliver a successful Heritage Lottery Bid for the restoration of Lytham Hall.

  2. To investigate the option of making a bid with partners to the HLF Resilience Fund and also investigate the feasibility of establishing an appropriate accountable body or structure e.g. a Community Interest Company to make the full bid for the restoration of the Hall.

  3. To support Fylde Council acting as the 'Accountable Body' for any future HLF bids

  4. To require HTNW to be more transparent about their financial matters with regard to Lytham Hall and act on the findings of the Moore Stephens report.

  5. To reserve the right to undertake further investigation and/or seek to legal advice to reclaim all or part of the £300,000 capital grant.

  6. To reserve the right to report the matter to the Charity Commission if deemed necessary.

  7. To make appropriate arrangements for a progress or standing report relating to the Lytham Hall Restoration Project to be included on the agenda at each meeting of the committee.

This was all quite preposterous.

Fylde had no evidence to support any vote of 'no confidence'. The expert external auditors they hired to pore through HTNW's books could find no evidence that Fylde's money had not been spent as the Council meeting that authorised it had required. That's because the sum they gave *was* spent in conformity to the Council's resolution. All but a few coppers of the post-Melton Grove £300,000 had been spent in pursuit of restoring the Hall or its grounds as the council had required.

They also had no idea what HTNW was (and already had been) doing to change and modernise its governance arrangements. The blind fury of some senior Conservatives - who plainly had the wrong end of the stick, must have rammed that same stick so firmly into their ears that they could not hear what they were being told by HTNW.

And as for the idea of seeking a prosecution or reporting HTNW to the Charities Commission, well that was completely ludicrous when the Council had sent a very warm and personal letter to HTNW confirming they were completely happy with the work and spending that HTNW had undertaken with the grant FBC had provided, and wishing them well with the lottery bid. It would take less than 10 minutes for any able barrister to have that matter laughed out of court.

Fylde had either been fed duff information and failed to see what was really happening before they got the cudgels out, or - even worse - they knew what they were doing when, in effect, they assumed the role of the 'Heavy Mob' in place of Lytham Town Trust, in what appeared to us to have been an ambush of HTNW's Chief Executive at the very first Committee meeting on this matter.

But a year later, things had started to change

 TOURISM AND LEISURE 2 NOVEMBER 2017

This November 2017 Committee saw the starting-gun fired on some of the fastest back-tracking you're ever likely to see from a public body.

The report NOW said things like.....

"Whilst the committee has reserved the right to seek legal advice in respect of the £300,000 grant and this remains on record from the minutes of the meeting held on September 7th 2017 the focus should at present remain on working with all partners to secure a new HLF bid that will deliver the full restoration of Lytham Hall and therefore meet the original objective of the grant."

"from October 1st Mr Miller stepped down as the Chief Executive of HTNW....... Mr Miller no longer has any responsibility for the financial arrangements at Lytham Hall. Mr Miller remains as an advisor to HTNW .... with no involvement at any level in Lytham Hall."

We understand, and are pleased that, so far as we can ascertain, Mr Miller remains a key figure at HTNW. His historic knowledge and restoration experience to HTNW is very important.

And as heralded in our previous October report, this meeting heard that Mr Anthony has been appointed General Manager, and Mr Lomax Deputy Manager of the Hall. They are now the on-site authority and in control of day to day activities.

Furthermore, plans were announced for a new 'Lytham Hall Foundation' which was said to be a new charitable trust that would ensure that all donations and grants to the hall would be paid into this account, and only dispersed exclusively for projects and restoration at Lytham Hall itself.

Readers will recall that Cllr Richard Fradley had been chosen by the T&L Committee to be their eyes and ears on the ground so to speak, and when he introduced his Nov 2017 report (a month after the previous one), his tone was very different.

We thought it was probably overly optimistic at that time, but it did signal what turned out to be a pause before what looks to be a directional change. We've selected a few quotes.

"I'd Like to say that since the last committee meeting a lot has happened. A lot of good stuff has happened. And we're well on the way for hopefully putting in a new HLF bid. What I'd like to do is concentrate on the future and how we're going to get to a restoration bid with the Heritage Lottery Fund...."

"We went to Barrowford with Mr Paul Swindles and had a look at the accounts of HTNW and everything was laid out on the table. Any information I asked for I got."

After Fylde had sent two very experienced - probably the best investigative auditors on the Fylde Coast - to go through HTNW's books in the expectation of finding wrongdoing, and found that the grant Fylde had given for the restoration of the Hall and grounds been spent as per the Council resolution that authorised it, we had been surprised they had then sent Cllr Fradley and an officer in as well - almost as thought they didn't believe what the expert auditors had told them, or they thought these experienced auditors had missed something.

Up to this November 2107 meeting, we think Fylde's handling of this matter demonstrated only their assumptive prejudice of wrongdoing, their ignorance of what was actually happening, and their unwillingness to listen to what they were being told.

But this November meeting began the retreat from that position, and ended with the following resolutions

  1. That the committee confirm its priority to secure a new bid to the HLF for the restoration of Lytham Hall by the most effective means possible working with all relevant partners and request that Councillor Fradley focuses on achieving this.

  2. To note that some progress has been made by HTNW to address the recommendations made by this committee and the Moore Stephens report with the introduction of new leadership, governance and financial arrangements at Lytham Hall.

  3. To request that any new HLF bid for the restoration of Lytham Hall includes direct engagement by the nominated elected member from the Tourism and Leisure Committee.

  4. That prior to the committee supporting any future lottery bid led by HTNW, written evidence is provided from the HLF that they are satisfied with the measures taken by HTNW to address the recommendations in the Moore Stephens report.

If our readers compare the wording of these decisions with the wording of those from a month earlier (above), the start of the backtracking process is clearly evident.

We thought (and hoped) it likely that more of the same would follow.

 TOURISM AND LEISURE: 11 JANUARY 2018

The next meeting was on 11 January, and a summary of the agenda item said

"....The council's interest remains focused on facilitating a renewed Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) bid for the restoration of the Hall, only through a new bid can Lytham Hall be restored.

The £300,000 capital grant the council contributed towards the HLF bid in 2012 was to achieve the restoration of Lytham Hall, this remains a priority for the council....."

As readers will see, Fylde's tone is softening all the time.

There was debate about the proposed 'Lytham Hall Foundation Trust' (LHFT) and Mr Turner had confirmed that its

'charitable purpose will be to fundraise for and on behalf of the Lytham Hall….. This will be a defined purpose fund for the benefit of the Lytham Hall project. Trustees of the Foundation will be local, and independent with HTNW and no other body or organisation having a place on the board of trustees as of right. The Trustees will be responsible for allocating funds, releasing and then monitoring spend’.

The Committee were also advised that, after discussion with the Heritage Lottery Fund, the Heritage Trust for the North West (HTNW) believed it unlikely that LHFT will be the appropriate body to apply for HLF funding, and that any application for lottery funding would likely be from HTNW itself, either as a partner with other stakeholders or as a sole bidder.

Committee were also told that income generated from catering and events at the Hall is at an all-time high with the ‘Paint the Hall Ball’ and Rotary Club Steam Rally recent examples of successful fund raising through the local community.

It also appeared to us that Mr Turner had been 'promoted' within HTNW because the Committee was told that

'HTNW’s Chairman Mr John Turner confirmed that an account called the Lytham Hall appeal account is open and is temporarily to be used for holding funds raised at the Hall for the Hall, until such time as defined purpose fund is established by for example LHFT."

So it appears he is now the Chairman of the Trustees at HTNW

Committee were also told that on December 15th 2017 Nathan Lee from HLF sent the following statement to confirm that HTNW had successfully responded to all the recommendations in the Moore Stephens report:

"I am pleased to report that HTNW have now responded to all the points in the Moore Stephen’s report. I met with John Turner (Chair) and Laurie Peake (new Trustee) on 13th December and agreed to email them and yourselves confirming that the response is positive and places HTNW in a position to be able to consider a Resilient Heritage Grant request to HLF. We have suggested this as such a grant would be able to help them continue their journey in improving their financial position and their governance. The key issue currently is succession planning for John Miller who has retired (as CEO of HTNW) but upon whom they still continue to rely in the absence of a Chief Executive or Director...."

So the main lottery funding body for heritage is now satisfied that all the points in the 'Moore Stephens' report have been addressed by Heritage Trust for the North West. And they are now working up to applying for a 'Resilience Grant' (that's money to help them improve their organisation and administrative capability, so they are better able to manage).

Readers will also note another new name here - Laurie Peake - we'll have more to say on that shortly.

Cllr Fradley's report also noted that it was in the interest of all stakeholders to act in partnership, but it was clear that relationships have been strained as a result of the previous HLF bid being suspended and the remaining funds withdrawn.

He noted that one of the key relationships for the Lytham Hall project was between the landlord (Lytham Town Trust) and the tenant (HTNW), and he said the lease between the two parties allows for an 'Executive Board' with representation from both landlord and tenant, and he had been in discussion with both parties in the hope of developing effective working relationships through the Executive Board.

It's possible this could be a way forward, but a former Guardian source has suggested to us that, as long term leaseholders, HTNW actually hold most of the cards on whether this would come to pass or not.

At the meeting, Cllr Fradley presented his report, and John Turner from HTNW was invited to answer questions.

Cllr Fradley said the lottery people had told him they thought the proposed 'Lytham Hall Foundation Trust' would only complicate things, and forming the charity and 'bedding it in correctly' could take up to 2 years. He said with that in mind, his focus had moved away from the Lytham Hall Foundation Trust, and he was still trying to work out what would be the best vehicle to go forward for a lottery bid.

In a questioning session that followed, there was still some lingering distrust evident. Cllr Pitman wanted to know what steps had been taken to appoint a new Chief Executive in John Miller's place, and what the timescale was.

Mr Turner said it would not happen until they applied for and received the HLF 'Resilience' grant, because that would part-fund the senior management role (whatever job title it had), and they were actively working to produce the Resilience Grant application and submit it.

Cllr Pitman was still unhappy and pressed on, asking whether they had a Chief Executive at this time.

Mr Turner said not.

Cllr Pitman asked if they were saving his salary and questioned why they couldn't use that for a new CE.

Mr Turner gave a surprising reply, saying it was just a post they were unable to fill at the present time.

We were surprised at this because it has been repeatedly said in previous meetings, that Mr Miller took no salary from Heritage Trust North West and, that being the case, the saving they made when he was no longer CE would have been zero, (and that was never going to pay anyone else!)

A quote about cutting off noses and spiting faces sprang to our mind, but perhaps Mr Turner was too polite and didn't want to re-open the 'John Miller' argument. (We have previously spotted his unerring ability to recognise when it's better not to say something).

Cllr Pitman said she was not happy because in her view, this was kicking the can down the road.

She then opened up another front to complain about uncertainty with what she called 'the money'. Mr Turner refuted her characterisation and referred to the work of the Council's external auditors and Cllr Fradley and FBC officers looking at the accounts.

It seemed to us that Cllr Pitman hadn't quite got the message that the Council was changing its direction and its view on this matter, and she said

"I think we've put too much trust in what's gone on in the past, and I don't think you can sort of expect us to suddenly become 100% trusting because we haven't really...."

At which point Mr Turner interrupted and said he saw it as a matter of understanding and he had been, and was, happy to, put in whatever effort was necessary to explain things.

We thought that was an extremely clever and polite way of saying that Cllr Pitman had simply had the wrong end of the stick from day one. (Which we also think was the case - because in our view she, and some other members, seem to have been fed the wrong information from the start)

Cllr Barker said she was still concerned about how the money from various fundraising events at the Hall was being looked after, and she did not feel sufficiently clear which account it had been paid into and who was responsible for it. She also wanted to know which people were now representing each of the various groups in the discussions and negotiations that were now taking place.

We thought the implication behind the second part of her question might have been picking up on a comment several meetings ago from Mr Turner who had accepted that LTT and FBC had lost confidence in Mr Miller, but who had also sought a change in representation from the Lytham Town Trust side (as well as HTNW itself having changed Mr Miller).

Cllr Barker continued

"Perhaps we should know the names of those people who are involved in these negotiations. For example, the Friends of Lytham Hall is a large group of volunteers, and I believe some of our Councillors are part of that group. And it seems that Fylde Council now has a very large role to play, we've got Cllr Fradley, we're also as a council going to act as the accountable body, we've got Cllr Peter Anthony as General Manager, and various other councillors may also be part of these different organisations. Paul Lomax, the Deputy Manager is a partner to a Fylde Borough Councillor, and I think we should know really the names of those who are involved. Just in the interests of openness and clarity. So that's another bit of information I would like before I can go on and offer any more support..."

Cllr Fradley offered to respond to her. He said:

"The reason I haven't put any names in this is because the names have changed.

What I'm trying to do is get the landlord and tenant back on an even keel. As everybody knows there's been a major fallout.

The people I've been speaking to on the HTNW side have been John Turner, the person I've been speaking mostly to on LTT side is a chap called Steve Williams. I've also been speaking to David Gill and Stan Kitt. I've had meetings with them. I've had meetings with the HLF with Nathan Lee.

It is a mistake in there that I've spoken to the Friends of Lytham Hall, it had been pointed out to me, and I am meeting with the Friends of Lytham Hall on Sunday.

What I was trying to do was concentrate on the landlord and tenant to try and sort out what I think is the core problem. I am trying to bring the two parties together so we can go for an HLF bid, and if we do get an HLF bid, the HLF would like the Council to be the accountable manager, so that is what I'm focusing on at the moment.

Hopefully, when I can get people round the table we're going to get this sorted. What I'm trying to do is get the Lytham Hall Executive reformed. I think it wouldn't be prudent at the moment to put names into those slots, until I've got agreement from HTNW and LTT that they're happy to reform the Executive, and once that is reformed and we've had the 'Go' from both partners, then all the names will be out there.

Once that is formed and we go to the HLF, then we can start bringing in the Friends of Lytham Hall or any other fund raisers to work with the core Executive."

He went on to say he was sorry it was not happening more quickly, and he wanted it to happen more quickly, but that was where they were.

We thought this was a really interesting statement, especially if you try to pick between the lines.

Cllr Fradley played it down, but his mention of a new name from LTT as being the person he has 'mostly' been speaking to on this matter is probably more significant than it appears from what he said.

It's also clear that, at that time - with such ill-will having been generated in the past - not enough progress and repairing of relationships had been made to bring both landlord and tenant together at one table.

We were also a bit concerned about his plan to use the 'Lytham Hall Executive' as a vehicle for future progress. People need to understand that with the length of lease they have been given, HTNW are in effect the owners of the Hall. Provided they meet whatever is set out in the lease that both they and Lytham Town Trust will have signed, it will almost certainly be HTNW who have the right to take decisions about what happens at Hall.

If Cllr Fradley's intention is to create or adapt something called an 'Executive' which he intended to have an executive function in respect of Lytham Hall (i.e. a body that has decision taking, as opposed to talking shop, powers) then as far as we can see it would be a matter for Mr Turner and HTNW to decide how much (if any) of their autonomy they would be willing to cede to such a body.

We think that's a really difficult path, and he'd be better making it a sort of forum rather than something to take decisions, at least at first, whilst relationships are normalised. Either that, or he should ape aspects of the UN model and require unanimous votes of all parties for decisions to be taken (which in effect gives both sides a veto on each other).

Next to speak was Cllr Lloyd who wanted to know if the proposed Lytham Hall Foundation would now be necessary.

Cllr Fradley said because of what HLF had told him, his concentration had moved away from that idea.

However Mr Turner disagreed saying there were actually two issues. One was the Heritage Lottery bid and the vehicle for processing or delivering that, but the other issue was about local fund raising, local accountability, and local identity. He saw the two as different, and whilst HLF might see the Foundation as an extra layer of complexity, he definitely recognised a need over the last year for local identity and ownership of fundraising and accountability.

So it sounds to us pretty much as though this body will go ahead.

After a few more speakers the Chairman moved to the vote on the recommendations.

Cllr Pitman tried to amend the first recommendation, the effect of which would have been to require HTNW to have a new Chief Executive in place before they applied for ANY funds from the lottery people. At one point she said:

"..It seems to me that the money from this resilience fund is going into the pocket of the Chief Executive, which I'm not quite happy about..."

We suspect her aim with this was to make HTNW have a (new) CE in place before they applied for the 'Resilience Grant' that was going to part-fund his role.

(And if you think about it, that's a practical impossibility. So either she still doesn't understand what the resilience grant was for, or she's just being 'bloody-minded' and wanting to force the HTNW Trustees to appoint a new CE when they didn't have sufficient funds to do so)

The T&L Chairman was in a spot now, and appeared unsure how to deal with it. Cllr Pitman is from the same political party, and it's not usual for disagreements to happen these days at Fylde.

Technically, she should have asked if anyone would second Cllr Pitman's proposition, and then debated the proposition. But she didn't. Instead she sought to open discussion as to whether they were happy with what Cllr Pitman had said or whether they wanted to stay with the recommendations as they were.

This of course opened the door for other arguments to be advanced, and Cllr Barker said she was not happy with several of the recommendations and would not be supporting them. She wanted only to note and support the progress made so far.

Even clarification from officers couldn't get around the humps that had been erected.

With a further officer clarification a slight amendment was proposed and seconded to the wording of the first recommendation (to change the grammar but not the sense). The majority vote for this appeared to have resulted in the abandonment of what Cllr Pitman had proposed (but which had not been seconded).

The Chairman then asked for someone to propose and second recommendations 2, 3, and 4.

More confusion when Cllr Barker said she was unable to support these but did not actually make an amendment to any.

Eventually they took the Recommendations one at time in some really messing voting. All were passed with majority, but recommendation 2 had one vote against and four abstentions noted.

And with that the meeting ended. The decisions taken were

  1. "To note the progress made by HTNW in responding to the Moore Stephens report which had been provided by the HLF and recognise the need to recruit a new Chief Executive or Director in order to be in a position to conform with the recommendations and apply for any future HLF funding.

  2. That the committee offer to support a HTNW bid for Resilience Grant funding from HLF to help progress towards a new HLF bid for the restoration of Lytham Hall.

  3. That the committee support the HLF request for all interested parties to meet and establish the best arrangements for ongoing good working relationships that will ensure the splendour and potential of Lytham Hall is fully exploited for the benefit of current and future residents and visitors.

  4. That the committee request an update on the Lytham Hall restricted fund account as part of next progress update at the Committee meeting on March 8th 2018

These were all very much of a softer tone than previous resolutions, and we thought it a welcome direction.

That said, and given all the talk about accounting and money, we did have a look at HTNW's recently published sets of accounts on the Charity Commission's website, and found something that puzzled us a bit.

In some notes at the end of the accounts for 2015/16, under the heading 'Related Party Disclosures' there were a series of charges between the various parts of HTNW varying between £4k and £84k. They seemed to us to be mostly for building works by the contracting subsidiary companies of HTNW which were being charged or recharged to other parts of the organisation, and not exceptional.

However, at the end of the 2016/17 accounts, in addition to some very similar figures for Related Party Transactions, was the following

"During the year Heritage Trust for the North West received loans from a trustee and from the former company secretary.

  • As at 31st March 2017 Heritage Trust for the North West owed £112,360 (2016: £Nil) to E.M.J Miller.

  • As at 31st March 2017 Heritage Trust for the North West owed £25,000 (2016: £Nil) to L.E Stanworth."

And we didn't just understand why Mr Miller might be owed £112k for a loan he made to the organisation he worked for, and to be honest, we're still not sure.

 THE HALL UNDER GUARDIAN

On 29 January, we went (rather appropriately) to the Clifton Arms to attend a talk organised by the Lytham St Annes Civic Society where Barry Fothergill spoke about the time Guardian were operating Lytham Hall.

Introducing him, Marion Coupe said he became General Manager of GRE in 1998, and was appointed a Director of GRE in 1990 and he was the only Director outside London. She also spoke in glowing terms of his love of he Hall, and of Lytham.

The room at the Clifton Arms was 'packed to the gunnels' with extra chairs being brought in several times before the start.

He was clearly going to be someone a lot of people wanted to hear. We saw quite a few faces we knew in the audience - some councillors and former councillors, some former employees of Guardian who are known to us, some folk from the Hall today, and some Civic Society members.

He began by saying might be seen as a bit of 'grumpy old man' at present because he was not too impressed with some of the things that have gone on in recent years since he retired.

Turning to the Hall, he said Harry Clifton ran out of money around the 1990's. He was shopping round to get money from wherever he could and put up lots of land here for sale. He had some sort of connection with 'Liverpool and Victoria' and had borrowed £1m from them. He was so confident with his gambling arrangements and some of his outrageous living, that he was sure he would win it all back.

So he gave Liverpool and Victoria', as security, a disproportionate amount of land, but a year later when he'd spent all the money, they took this disproportionate amount of land off him.

But he still had no money, so he turned to 'Reliance Marine' (one of the largest aviation and marine insurers in the world), but he didn't know that that company was wholly owned by Guardian and when he went to them for money, he ended up in the clutches of Guardian.

They lent him some money and they took a lot of land as security.

A year later he'd spent the money, and instead of taking the land off him, they lent him some more money.

Part of the estate was signed over in 1963 and the final payment to Guardian came in 1965 which - coincidentally was when Mr Fothergill joined Guardian working with their latest technology - computers.

The Clifton's estate had gone down to about to about 2,000 acres from about 16,000 acres, and eventually Guardian took over completely. Harry Clifton's last visit to the Hall was in 1965. Mr Fothergill said that despite his faults Harry Clifton had been benevolent and very generous to Lytham.

He said he was not very proud of Guardian's stewardship of the Hall in the early years. Their Managing Director started running shoots there. They bred between 1,000 and 1,500 pheasants, and 500 ducks for shooting, and this created a lot of trouble with noise, injured birds fluttering into people's gardens and so on. However when that MD retired the shooting stopped.

Over time Mr Fothergill assumed responsibility for managing Guardian's land and property here, trying to continue to benefit the town with, for example, providing the scout hut at the back of St Annes and supporting festivals and so on.

He said they also upheld the covenants on the land. A fairground had wanted to set up on Lytham Green and he had said no, they were not going on Lytham Green. They would not be allowed on there because the covenant said no. But eventually a compromise was reached that gave them use of the small triangle. Guardian also paid £20,000 to buy back the silver casket that had been given to John Talbot Clifton on the occasion of his having been awarded the Freedom of the Borough. Mr Fothergill gave other examples where Guardian had upheld traditional values in the area and after giving numerous examples of GRE's generosity he said

"And I was very proud of GRE's contribution to the life and the community in Lytham and St Annes. As I retired, we sold all the remaining covenants and the ground rents to the Town Trust. They borrowed I think about £100,000 for it. Very quickly, with all the income from all the ground rents, they quickly paid it back, and I've got their accounts here, they've now £750,000 more in the bank as well. So that is the contribution that we made to Lytham."

He gave some details of the repairs, maintenance and restoration that GRE had undertaken to the Hall over the years, and how parts of the building became offices for GRE. He said they had spent at least £4m restoring and running Lytham Hall. He said for anyone else, the insurance costs alone would have been colossal.

He broke his talk at this point to show a short video about the Hall narrated by a former BBC presenter.

After the video, he continued the talk, moving to the time following the AXA takeover. Mr Fothergill said

"So we sold the Hall, eventually, to the Town Trust. As we all know that was thanks to the generosity of British Aerospace. But who was going to run it? That was the question. I was invited to join the Town Trust and there were suggestions that the Civic Society wanted to get involved, lots of people wanted to get involved, and there was a suggestion - I think it came from David but I may be wrong - to have a separate committee to run Lytham Hall, who would report to the Town Trust, and that was something which I would have, well, I readily supported. I didn't have a [indistinct word], but I would give them every bit of help, having been involved for so long. And I joined the Town Trust with that in mind.

Unknown to me, they were already having negotiations with North West Heritage Trust to run the Hall, and I looked at their accounts, in fact I've got a copy of their accounts.

Now you've heard of this problem with Carillon, all these things, and criticism of the Parliamentarians who didn't look at the accounts and gave them contracts, well, how the Town Trust ever gave the contract to run Lytham Hall to North West Heritage Trust is beyond my comprehension.

I was asked to meet John Miller at the home of Geoff Burrows, and I met him and I discussed with him. I said do you realise how much this is going to cost? Oh no he said, we run this place at Barrowford you know and were used to this sort of thing. I said it's a bit of a different scale, have you prepared a budget? Well, we'll do that.

He and I did not see eye to eye, and he hasn't seen eye to eye with lots of Guardian people who've offered to help.

Roland, a good colleague of mine ran the farms - we had farms all over the country, not just here - and Roland has worked tirelessly trying to offer his help and he has been rejected both by the Town Trust and North West Heritage Trust. Other people have tried to help. Brian Jones who organised those splendid weekends at the Hall, raising tens of thousands of pounds, he wrote - he came to see me with a draft of the letter- to John Miller, offering to help. John Miller never even replied, so you can understand why I'm a little but grumpy about the whole affair."

Changing gear, Mr Fothergill moved back to speak of the Hall itself, and the exploits and extravagances of some of the Cliftons including their maintenance of a suite of rooms at both the Ritz, and at the Dorchester hotels in London, and when asked why this was necessary had said 'If I'm passing down Park Lane and feel tired, then I've somewhere to go.'

And with a few more anecdotes along these lines, and some credits in glowing terms to Grant Smith who, Mr Fothergill said, loved Lytham and had both compiled the video and 'conned him into doing this talk tonight' the evening headed toward its close.

But not before one last anecdote about 'Bog Island' the former underground public loos in the centre of Lytham, (the freehold of which had been owned by Guardian, who had refused to agree the building of a replacement above-ground disabled loo when the area was a traffic island). He said:

"When we - the Bog Island thing, when we said you could knock the building down and its got to be open space - when I passed some time ago and saw the hut going up, which is selling tickets for the festival, I saw David Gill, the Chairman and said What's going on here? I said it should be level and flat. He said it's nothing to do with me.

I said well, we sold you all the covenants. Oh, he said, the Council wanted to buy the covenants, so they bought the freehold, so it's nothing to do with the Town Trust.

Now, I thought when we virtually gave this lot to the Town Trust, I thought I could trust the Town Trust, but they have sold the freehold to the Council.

I get cross about this Festival because I wouldn't allow the fairground - although it's now spread onto the Green. You can't have political activity, commercial activity, no horse riding on the Green and this sort of thing. And yet look what happens now.

I saw Susan Fazackerley, Leader of the Council, and she just said to me, Barry, it's time you moved with the times, and it's what the people want, and so covenants can be broken. - More or less 'Go away.'

So I get cross about it. "

To us, Mr Fothergill gave anything but the perception of being a grumpy man.

What he did display was a clear and deep love for Lytham, and an even deeper regard for the beliefs, attitudes and values that formerly underpinned all that Lytham stood for.

His values represent an era that is, sadly, now being lost, and our community is not better for the changes that are being wrought.

We found Mr Fothergill's talk to be extremely interesting. We were grateful to him for speaking, and to the Civic Society for organising an event it was our privilege to attend.

 TOURISM AND LEISURE COMMITTEE: 8 MARCH 2018

The item on this recent agenda noted that Councillor Fradley had held a number of meetings with key stakeholders including Heritage Trust North West (HTNW), the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF), Friends of Lytham Hall and Lytham Town Trust (LTT).

The only new information we could see in the agenda report concerned information about the 'Lytham Hall restricted fund' which had been awaited at the last meeting, and had now been provided by HTNW’s accountants. Details of it were set out in the agenda report. Cllr Fradley's conclusion on this matter was:

"Based on the evidence provided the Lytham Hall Restricted Fund is reducing year on year with expenditure exceeding income and the funds required for the day to day running cost of the Hall. The initial enquiry into this fund was to establish whether the fact that it is restricted to Lytham Hall, and separate from the HTNW general fund account, meant that it could be used to leverage or match fund any new bid to the HLF lottery fund for the restoration of Lytham Hall. It is clear based on the information provided that the fund cannot be used for this purpose and that it is likely to be exhausted by the time, and in the event that, a new lottery bid is successful. In terms of any value towards a new lottery bid for the restoration of Lytham Hall the council has no further interest in the restricted fund account."

So it looks as though (contrary to what has been said all along) Fylde is finally satisfied on the historic financial aspects of this matter.

The report for this meeting also noted that relationships between the various partners involved with Lytham Hall have improved and interest in restoring the Hall is as strong as ever. It also noted that the catering and events help to maintain the profile as well as enhance the reputation of Lytham Hall. before going on to say

"However, the need for significant capital investment, as witnessed on the recent tour by Members, is clearly evident, therefore it is important that all stakeholders make it the top priority to develop a clear plan and time table for the submission of a new bid to restore the Hall."

Reality has dawned at last.

Whilst the fundraising events and activities are doing a good job to generate the sort of money to help with the routine operation and maintenance at the Hall, the scale of money needed for *conservation, restoration and the like* are beyond these sort of funds, and we think they will need multiple millions which, in reality, are only likely to come from the Heritage Lottery Fund.

And (unless HLF have recently changed their policies), in order to secure such funding, whoever it is that makes the bid will have to source (our own estimate) probably between £1 million and £2 million in 'match funding' which the lottery people will double or more.

Which, of course, takes us precisely back to LCC's failure to keep its promise of £1m which (as we have reported previously) precipitated the original problem and caused the HLF grant to fail.

So the key question is about to become - from where can we get a million or two for the match-funding?

And that should have been the issue all along, rather than the vitriolic backstabbing and incompetent, bigoted assumptions that were asserted about the failure of HTNW, and Mr Miller in particular.

 AT THE MEETING

We went to listen - as we do to most FBC meetings. Usually we're the only public there, but this time there was quite a crowd.

We spotted some who had come for the proposed 'Splash' water feature scheme on the Promenade, some from the Hall, and some from Lytham Town Trust.

But sitting with the LTT people was a face we had not seen before. And having noted the name Laurie Peake in an earlier report, we did some checking. It appeared to us that this lady in the public gallery sitting with LTT folk closely resembled a lady of that name (who is not difficult to find on the websites of various organisations with which she has been involved).

The earlier mention said she was a Trustee of HTNW, and that is correct, but according to Companies House she was also appointed Company Secretary of HTNW on 1 November 2017

She has a background in the arts, and is currently (or was) Director of the Creative People and Places Programme called 'Super Slow Way' (which concerns the Leeds Liverpool Canal corridor in East Lancs).

We understand she was previously Director of Projects and Programmes for Liverpool Biennial, and prior to that was part of the small team that established Tate Liverpool in the 1980s which was said to have kick-start the city’s regeneration based on arts and culture.

The reason we seem to be 'going overboard' on this lady is threefold.

  • Firstly, she has a solid reputation for managing arts and cultural projects of regional scale. (The Super Slow Way project, was a major arts commissioning programme that received a £2 million grant from Arts Council England). So she understands her way around the big funders and how to deal with them.
  • Secondly, she is the first person from HTNW that we have seen actually sit with the people from Lytham Town Trust, and to do so in public. We think that says a deal about her, and it augurs well for the future.
  • Thirdly, we heard from a reliable source that one of the Conservative Councillors 'read the riot act' to members of the Tourism and Leisure Committee in a private meeting before the formal committee meeting. As we noted at the start of this article, this emphasised the need to forget the past; to move on; and to encourage co-operation in formulating a new lottery bid.

We wondered if it might also have had something to do with FBC not making threats to HTNW in the presence of their Company Secretary.

But whatever the reason, it looked as though it worked, because - unlike previous meetings - there is hardly anything to report on this item from speakers at the Committee meeting.

Cllr Fradley spoke to his report. He made mention the visit that the Committee had made to the Hall recently, but more importantly, he referred to the fact that some face to face meetings had taken place between HTNW and LTT and, as a result, it had been proposed that Lytham Town Trust should have a representative on Heritage Trust for the North West's Board of Trustees, and a reciprocal arrangement for HTNW on the Trustees of Lytham Town Trust.

That indeed sounds a very positive move. It will help to dispel the distrust that was created, and is likely to remove the doubt and uncertainty as to the motives of each organisation. We think it is a much better arrangement than the 'Lytham Hall Executive' that Cllr Fradley had previously proposed.

The only committee members to speak other than Cllr Fradley were Cllr Maxine Chew and Cllr Brenda Blackshaw, who stressed the importance of the Hall and praised Cllr Fradley for the work and effort he had put in on this matter.

With no other speakers, the chairman put the following recommendations - which were agreed by all

  1. To note the progress being made by all partners to work together towards a new heritage lottery bid for the restoration of Lytham Hall.

  2. To note from the evidence and information provided about the Lytham Hall restricted fund account that it cannot be used to contribute towards a new lottery bid for the restoration of the Hall.

  3. That all partners be asked to focus on developing a time table for the submission of a new bid to the HLF for the restoration of Lytham Hall.

And with that the item closed.

 CONCLUSIONS

Fylde's Tourism and Leisure Committee (or more especially some specific members of it) behaved disgracefully when this matter arose in late 2016.

They poured petrol on the flames of a row between landlord and tenant and threatened actions they were never going to be able to take.

We suspect this was because someone fed bad information to the Committee - who failed to see it may not be correct.

The one exception to this was Cllr Julie Brickles who largely abstained or voted against the worst excesses that had been proposed. She is the one who has been shown to be right.

We also welcome Cllr Fradley's trip via Damascus and, indeed if it *is* his participation in this matter that has brought the two main parties together, we congratulate him, not only for what he has done, but also for having the courage to change direction when the real position became clear to him.

So whilst we're not yet out of the woods, the direction that Cllr Fradley now outlines, and the presence of HTNW's new Company Secretary at the T&L meeting gives us considerable hope that this sorry episode might at last have turned the corner.

Dated:  23 March 2018

 

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