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Lytham Hall Update: June 2017

Lytham Hall Update Jun17This article charts what has happened (we wanted to say it charts the 'progress', but we don't feel there has been much yet) since we published 'Lytham Hall Mess' on 6 March 2017 (just before the Tourism and Leisure Committee meeting on 9th March),

That previous article has lots of details about issues that this (current) article mentions only briefly, so if our readers want more detail on something, it's worth checking the links below to see if we've published more already.

If not you can follow this link to go straight to the synopsis of this current article.


We looked at the Background  before explaining About Lytham Town Trust and  Heritage Trust for the North West.

We looked from 2011 at the Early moves at LCC and then Early moves at Fylde and how Fylde's Cabinet Sets the ball rolling, before hearing how Full Council prepared to take the grant decision, and looking at the complication caused by the 'Prudential Agreement' before considering the actual Grant resolution wording at Council, and the later Cabinet meeting which accepted and approved the further information, and then the final Cabinet resolution authorising release of the grant money.

In 2012, we report the First monitoring report and the Cabinet Minutes that approved it.

In 2013, we noted a political move at LCC before considering the LCC letter that promised the grant of £1m, before noting the Change of political control at LCC and the lack of a Monitoring report at the end of 2013.

In 2014, we considered the Second Monitoring report at Fylde before moving to LCC to see what was happening about the £1m grant there.

In 2015, we look at more changes at LCC before considering the position at Fylde with the Third Monitoring Report - which heaped praised on the work HTNW were doing.

In 2016, we began with What was happening at Fylde, and at What was happening at LCC as HTNW tried to construct a revised and reduced Stage II bid. We then looked at LCC's revised and reduced £300k offer and the revised conditions LCC wanted to impose, before moving to the County Council's final offer which caused the bid to fail.

We then noted that our MP tried to help, but the bid failed and The cracks began to show.

We considered the Dreadful Tourism and Leisure Committee meeting last November that attacked  Mr Miller, before looking in more detail Why it was so dreadful as we re-consider the First Monitoring report, the Second Monitoring Report and the Third Monitoring report. Then we note that the Minutes of this meeting are awful and some may be ultra vires.

Next we looked at the Audit Investigation Fylde commissioned, and we Overviewed the Auditors Report,  and its Terms of reference before looking at each of the issues they considered. Issue 1 - Why funders pulled out, and Issue 2 - the work undertaken by others and Issue 3 Whether the project will complete, and Issue 4 - what Fylde's £300k has been spent on and Issue 5 whether Fylde can/should claim any back. Finally we looked at what we regard as the Weakest part of their report, something that, sadly, damages our confidence in all that has gone before.

Finally, we presented Our own conclusions from the story, and the Most shocking revelation in all of this dreadful story, and the Truly awful recommendations that were being made to Fylde's Tourism And Leisure Committee on 9th March, before we asked What's to be done and made some suggestions.

We concluded that article by saying

"We think both LTT and HTNW need to press their 're-set' buttons.

They need to step back from the brink of an unfolding disaster, and start again.

So firstly, Fylde Council should gracefully back out, and withdraw all the recommendations from its Tourism and Leisure Agenda this Thursday.

It should replace them with a recommendation that speaks about the Council's willingness to support and encourage both Lytham Town Trust and the Heritage Trust for the North West to come together to work through any differences they may have out of the glare of publicity, and with the common aim of resolving the problems at Lytham Hall.

We suspect this process will involve accommodations by both LTT and HTNW, and we imagine it could well involve a re-negotiation of the lease (which is clearly not working as LTT want at present), and that re-negotiation should give LTT more influence over what happens to the hall and grounds, and it should relieves HTNW of some of its financial responsibilities for maintenance of the property - at least until the restoration is completed and the building becomes watertight, weathertight, and has a sustainable income source.

In short, we think the relationship between LTT and HTNW needs to be more of a partnership with shared responsibility for success than one of owner and lessee

We don't know if this can be achieved.

We can only hope that it, or something like it, can."

SYNOPSIS (of this current article)

Having provided the links and conclusions of the last article as a refresher and reference source above, we move on to look at What Happened At the 9th March Tourism and Leisure Committee meeting which in the public platform heard from Chris Blackburn (a volunteer at the hall), then Marion Coupe (LSA Civic Society), then David Gill (Lytham Town Trust).

We then reproduce the main additional comments made by The Auditors Who Presented their Report to  the meeting (together with some of our own views on what they said).

Next, we move into the debate section of that 9th March meeting and hear from Cllr Jan Barker, then Cllr Maxine Chew, then Cllr Richard Fradley, and Cllr Liz Oades, before reproducing the Recommendations that were adopted.

Then we have a look at What Has Happened Since 9th March, including the influential Moore Stephens Report commissioned by the Heritage Lottery Fund to help them determine whether to support the revised bit that HTNW had requested.

After that, we come up to date, and look at The Latest Position, and consider the June 2017 report to the Tourism and Leisure Committee. We note its Recommendations are much softer in tone. We produce our own Brief Summary of the Meeting. before looking in Detail at the (slightly odd) Declarations of Interest, that were made,  the Substitutions that were made and we note in passing the Public Platform.

The remaining half of the article is devoted to the debate, starting with The Presentation by Mr John Turner of HTNW.  then the Questions  Comments and Issues that were put to him by Fylde's T&L Members on the topics of: 1. Compliance with Fylde's Conditions; 2. Mr Miller's Future Role; 3. What was Fylde's £300,000 spent on?; 4. Will HTNW Be Able to Get the Necessary Funding?; 5. Money from LCC; 6. About Mr Turner; and finally 7. Fylde Decide What to Do about what they have heard.

We then look at the debate as to how Fylde's Recommendations came about, and what The Resolutions of the Committee were, before coming to Our Own Conclusions.


Sadly, Fylde did not step back from the brink, and if anything, relations between Lytham Town Trust and the Heritage Trust for the North West became even worse.

We think it has reached the point where the acrimony between those who have been representing LTT and HTNW became so all-consuming toward the other, it has crossed the boundary beyond which resolution is possible. Too much poisoned water has gone under the bridge.

At the Tourism and Leisure meeting itself Cllr Tim Ashton took the Chair, but he (properly) vacated it for the item on Lytham Hall after declaring his personal and prejudicial interests in Lytham Hall itself.

Before the meeting proper, there was a Public Platform session where members of the public were allowed to have a say. First to speak was

 Chris Blackburn

He said he was a part time volunteer at Lytham Hall whose day job was in the wealth management industry and he is registered with the FSA as a Financial Consultant.

He said he was involved in a number of local projects and groups, including being a trustee of 'Park View For You'. He said his volunteering at Lytham Hall was his priority and it included the preparation of reports on funding and business opportunities to help achieve the tasks the volunteers wanted to achieve. He said:

"Following the meeting in November which was most disturbing, given personal attacks on Mr Miller, I felt that an independent eye was needed to find answers to questions being raised by volunteers who have given hours of their valuable time keeping the hall open for business. After interviewing Mr Miller and reports commissioned by the Committee, I have come to the conclusion that Lancashire County Council have a lot to answer for. All parties appear to be lacking governance and accountability, with inconsistent evidence.

What has saved me a huge amount of time is the report published by 'counterbalance'. I come to the same conclusion myself. I'd like to ask if there are any members of the Committee who have not yet read this report. I believe it to be impartial and well written. And thank you, 'Banksy', whoever you are, for writing such a complex story."

What he didn't know was that were sitting just a couple of rows behind him in the Public Gallery. To the best of our knowledge, we've never met or spoken with him in person, but we accept his thanks with gratitude.

He went on to say that Heritage Trust for the North West was a small charity relative to its income, and it is only its *surplus* income that it can afford to donate to Lytham Hall to keep Lytham Hall open.

He said as a tenant, HTNW should not be expected to fund the restoration project out of its own balance sheet.

That was, and in his view still is, the responsibility of the Town Trust, adding that now the pack of cards had unfolded, they too had withdrawn support and demanded repayment of loans which has plunged HTNW into further debt against its assets.

He had more to say but was stopped by the Chairman at the usual three minute deadline. Next to speak was:

 Marion Coupe

Mrs Coupe is the chairman of the Lytham St Annes Civic Society.

We know Mrs Coupe quite well and despite some of her detractors arguing she shares some of Theresa May's ability to be 'difficult' we admire what we see as her solid, principled, stand on many matters, and we have a great respect for the work she has done to maintain the standards of civic life in this area.

She is close to many people and organisations of influence, and when she speaks she is always worth listening to, even if you may not agree with her on every occasion.

Because of this we have reproduced her 3 minutes in full. She said:

"I've been involved with Lytham Hall since 1996, and I actually set up the Friends of Lytham Hall, and I'd just like to make a few points about morale.

It's clear that local people very much want to support Lytham Hall. We love it. It's also clear that Fylde Borough Council have not given Lytham Hall a huge amount of support. I know there are constraints, fine, but over the years, compared to *other* Local Authorities, with such major heritage assets - because Lytham Hall is very major.

As Mr Blackburn said, HTNW, a very much respected body with unrivalled knowledge in the conservation of buildings.

It has actually subsidised Lytham Hall for a number of years, from its own resources, plus grants, and now grants are hard to achieve.

But rather than criticise HTNW and its Chief Executive on very flimsy evidence, they should be praised for the steps they have recently taken to bring up to date, their governance structure, so that it fully conforms with the best principles, supported by the Charity Commission and major grant makers.

Sadly, and in a very destructive way, the Lytham Town Trust has been critical of HTNW's service delivery to Lytham Hall. I would say this is not justified. Of these two charities, it is HTNW which have unconditionally committed its financial resources in keeping Lytham Hall operational for the last, nearly 20 years.

In doing so they have, in my opinion had inadequate financial support from the Town Trust.

The Town Trust has become asset rich from property interests acquired from Guardian when the Hall was purchased. These are assets that would not have been acquired had the Town Trust not taken on the commitment of the Hall, and it holds approaching £2,000,000.

The Lytham Town Trust is a conservation charity. Has it taken steps to conform to the good governance guide? No.

There are many questions you could ask, but I think it's time for the Town Trust and HTNW to form a meaningful partnership here, supported by the very hardworking Friends of Lytham Hall group, itself anxious to pass on funds for the benefit of the Hall, and all this destructive back-biting needs to stop. If it continues, HTNW - itself run on a shoestring, and relies on volunteers - could be forced out of existence.

Nothing justifies the nasty, personal abuse suffered by John Miller, himself a volunteer. I ask the Council to be no part of this angry, and personal campaign which is evidenced in the proposal before you, but to stand back and join those who love and work hard for the Hall"

We couldn't agree more with her, and were particularly interested to see her quantify the assets that came to the Town Trust in order to support the ongoing costs of the hall from guardian at the time of its acquisition as being worth £2 million.

We had forgotten the actual figure from that, but thought it was something in that region.

 David Gill

The next speaker was from the Lytham Town Trust and we have reproduced what he said in full as well.

"In response to what has been said about our financial support, I would like to tell the Committee that Lytham Town Trust has paid, and committed, in excess of £1.6 million towards Lytham Hall, during the period in which HTNW have held the lease.

There are two points I'd like to make. One related to oversight, the other related to the current position within the Town trust.

In November 2013, the Lytham Town Trust was approached by the Chairman, Chief Executive, and Auditor of HTNW for a loan of £200,000 to fund cashflow for the HLF project at Lytham Hall.

In order to address the concerns we had at that stage, about a lack of transparency by their Chief Executive John Miller, the board of Lytham Town Trust imposed a number of conditions before making the loan. Two of these conditions were, firstly, to be open and transparent in all financial matters concerning Lytham Hall. And, secondly, to account for all income and expenditure on the project through a separate bank account, in respect of which Lytham Town Trust, and HTNW would be joint signatories.

Although this bank account was opened, not all grant funding was paid into it.

The only way we had of enforcing these conditions was to demand repayment of the loan, and we issued such a demand on 14th April last year. The reason we did so was because we knew that the HLF project - the purpose for which the loan was given, was going to come to an end.

The current position of Lytham Town Trust is that we believe the contents of the report by Moore Stephens, about HTNW's organisation and project finances are behind the significant risks identified by the Heritage Lottery Fund in declining the fully funded £2.4 million application to vary the scope of the project in May 2016.

The current position of the Town Trust is that, until we understand the risks identified by the HLF, and are satisfied that they have been adequately dealt with, our Board will not support any future funding application by HTNW for Lytham Hall.

We are charity trustees, and we have a responsibility to the general public to act responsibly, and that position is supported by legal advice."

The Chairman moved on to the Declarations of Interest item and Cllr Sandra Pitman declared her personal interest as a volunteer at Lytham Hall.

Cllr Richard Fradley also declared a personal interest in the Hall.

The Chairman (Cllr Tim Ashton) then declared both a personal and prejudicial interest in the item and (properly) vacated the Chair and left the meeting.

Cllr Susan Fazackerley (who was substituting for Cllr Cheryl Little) was nominated to chair the item in his absence.

However she declined, then nominated Cllr Sandra Pitman in her place.

The officer then introduced the report to the Committee

(Readers can follow this link to download a copy of this agenda item, including the report from the very able and experienced local government auditors Fylde had commissioned to investigate Heritage Trust for the North West's income and spending on Lytham Hall ) and he invited the Chief Auditor to present her report - following which she would answer questions.

 Comments from the Auditors.

Just before the Tourism and Leisure Committee meeting on 9th March, we had published the main findings of the Auditor's report, together with our own take on what they had said.

Readers can follow this link for our own views on the Auditors Report (within our last Lytham Hall article). (Right hand column purple text).

So in this article we'll first of all focus on anything we consider to be relevant additional information given orally by the Auditor at the meeting, and on the questions arising and the debate at the 9th March Committee.

We'll later go on to report the most recent June committee as well.

At 9th March meeting, the Auditor began by saying she and her colleague had interviewed a number of 'key stakeholders' including: officers from Fylde Council; Lancashire County Council; The Heritage Lottery Fund; Lytham Town Trust, and they had spent a day with Heritage Trust for the North West at their head office.

In addition to the interviews they had reviewed the documentary evidence provided to them.

She said their main work had focused on the HLF bid and how FBC's money had been spent. She continued:

"There's no doubt, across all of the stakeholders involved, that everybody's really committed to achieve the restoration of Lytham Hall and there's been a lot of volunteer time and help to try to make that happen.

The basis of the original HLF bid required a considerable amount of match funding. However, not all the funding that had been identified had actually been secured at the time of the HLF bid was awarded.

The key source of funding was from Lancashire County Council, and whilst discussions had been held with LCC back in 2011, they didn't make their formal decision and their offer of funding until March 2013, at which point the HLF funding had already been awarded.

Lancashire County Council were very clear that not only was the funding proposal there to contribute to the Hall's restoration, it was also there to try to get the Heritage Trust for the North West on a more sustainable financial future going forward.

Now, when Lancashire County Council offered the funding to HTNW, it was on the basis that some money was going to be received from the Architectural Heritage Fund, who would provide a loan for the project. That loan actually fell through in 2014, so the funding model, as was, from Lancashire no longer existed."

She is not entirely wrong, but in our view she has not expressed this situation completely.

As we explained in the LCC section of  Lytham Hall Mess, there were three - in our own view, wholly separate - aspects to LCC's 'in-principle' decision to provide funding to HTNW.

One of these was a £1m GRANT that was to be provided alongside Fylde Borough's £300,000 and some similar promises from other organisations to become part of the match-funding for the Lytham Hall Restoration project bid to the Heritage Lottery Fund.

Regarding this aspect, the wording of the 2013 LCC letter of promise says:

"An in principle agreement to investment £1,000,000 in the refurbishment of Lytham Hall"

This money was to be used on restoration work on the Hall and its grounds, but mostly it was being provided as an essential demonstration to HLF that the project was well (and financially) supported by local people and organisations.

HLF required this 'match funding', and to justify their providing the remainder of the money (approx £2.5 million) that they were going to give as a grant toward the overall cost of the scheme.

That 'in-principle' decision had been communicated to the Heritage Lottery Fund who took it at face value, and it resulted in their approving the grant to restore the Hall before LCC had actually paid the money over.

The second payment was AN INCREASED LOAN that was promised to Heritage Trust for the North West (not to Lytham Hall at all).

Regarding this aspect, the wording of the 2013 LCC letter of promise says:

"An in principle agreement to increase the Heritage Trust North West's Loan Guarantee from £500,000 to £1,000,000.

LCC's purpose in agreeing in principle to increase the loan guarantee was an attempt to leverage HTNW to change some of its business practices. (We think they wanted HTNW to become less reliant on borrowing to fund its work, and LCC was telling them to sell some of the properties HTNW owned, and to use that money instead of using borrowed money).

The only connection between this increased loan and Lytham Hall was that LCC thought it would make HTNW more financially robust for the future to ensure that in the longer term, they could continue to manage in the 18 or so properties (including Lytham Hall) that they had restored, or were restoring, throughout Lancashire.

In order to pressure HTNW to make the change, LCC implied (though did not state explicitly) they would only pay the £1m GRANT to HTNW after HTNW changed its business practices as LCC wanted.

The third payment concerned support for the operating (as opposed to restoration) costs of the Hall

Regarding this aspect, the wording of the 2013 LCC letter of promise says:

"An in principle agreement to provide revenue funding for the operational costs of the Heritage Trust North West"

However, subsequent to all this, HTNW refinanced its loan package elsewhere, and so they no longer needed the increased loan guarantee they had previously sought from LCC.

HTNW appear to have taken the (not unreasonable) view that because LCC were no longer being asked to increase the loan guarantee, HTNW no longer had to comply with LCC's requirements about selling off property etc, and all HTNW now wanted was the £1m GRANT that had been promised in principle, and which HTNW appear to have thought was not tied in to LCC's other conditions.

We suspect HTNW were right, but we'd need to see more of the correspondence and reports from that period to be sure that LCC did not specifically condition the GRANT (rather than the increased Loan Guarantee) to the changed business model they were asking HTNW to adopt.

But more especially, in the middle of all this, there was a change of Political Control at LCC

In May 2013. The Conservatives lost control to a minority Labour administration supported by Lib Dems who gave Labour an overall majority.

This new council had many different policies and priorities than the Conservatives had espoused and, if the Conservative administration at LCC had wanted to support the Hall's bid for HLF funding, we're sure they could have chosen to interpret the letter promising the funds in principle as a series of separate conditions, and still given the £1 GRANT.

But if the incoming Labour administration had wanted to use the 'in-principle promised funds' for something else, (say to support less well off people in other parts of Lancashire) they could deliver an equally justifiable reason not to fulfil the promise that had been made - by claiming that the original promise has been a "take it or leave it", all encompassing, single package of an offer. And a failure to comply with any part of it - even if it was not directly concerning the £1 GRANT request that HTNW had made to support the Lottery Bid - meant NONE of the promises in the letter would be honoured.

We think this might have been what happened.

We think that because LCC insiders have told us that's what *did* happen.

But as yet we've not secured any conclusive evidence either way, so it must remain not fact, but speculation on our part.

The closest we get to 'evidence' (and it's really only corroboration of what others have told us) is that HTNW's attempt to persuade the Heritage Lottery Fund to give them the same grant (even though HTNW would deliver less match finding and thus reduce the work that could be done) included the following statement:

"A major grant from Lancashire County Council negotiated in 2011-12, and confirmed in 2013 has failed to materialize due to a change in political power and major cutback to their budgets."

We don't think Fylde's Audit experts have gone into the matters we have outlined here in anything like enough detail or depth.

What they did say took place was a rather (in our view over simplified) comment that :

"Lancashire and HTNW continued to discuss the funding model, and HTNW were requested to submit a new business case. Unfortunately they missed a deadline, and when they did submit the business case, it still requested the £1m funding.

When Lancashire reviewed the business case, they noted that HTNW hadn't sold all the properties they originally said they would sell in the 2013 deal, and had they done that, the shortfall in funding would actually have been about £300,000. And therefore Lancashire was only willing to offer funding in the region of £300,000."

The rest of what she said is covered in her written report, so we won't repeat it. The Chairman moved into questions from the Committee, but there were none.

The Committee then moved into considering the recommendations (which we have already published in our previous article just before this meeting took place).

 Cllr Jan Barker

Said she was concerned that the 3 years of monitoring reports compiled after examining the documentation from HTNW had failed to highlight the financial discrepancies or failures to comply with the Heads of Terms at that time.

She said quite to the contrary, high levels of satisfaction were expressed by Fylde Council, and reports were brought to Committee and Council Officers viewed the financial accounts, reporting that the capital grant was being spent as set out within the agreement, and in continuing compliance with those terms.

She said it sounded to her to be a case of - well, everything is alright until it isn't.

She added that for this reason, she'd like the Committee to consider this aspect of the report, and consider more stringent monitoring of all capital grants in the future, perhaps by altering Recommendation No. 11 on the report.

She also said she noted that the Auditors had looked at, and reported on, everything except Fylde Council's role in this matter.

She was supported by Cllr Julie Brickles

There are two ways of looking at her comments on the monitoring reports.

The way she had set out seems to imply that things were always wrong and it was Fylde's officers who were so incompetent they could not see what was going on.

The alternative is that the earlier reports to Fylde were correct and Fylde was - as the reports said (and as we showed in our previous report about the monitoring phases ) Fylde *was* satisfied until LCC withdrew its promise of the £1m grant and gave only £300,000 - whereupon the project ground to a halt because there were insufficient funds to complete it and Fylde was left with egg on its face.

Our own view is the latter case.

You only have to read the reports to see the evidence.

Most especially, in May 2016 Fylde's Chief Executive personally sent Mr Miller one of the most glowing letters you could imagine. Readers can follow this link to see this letter for themselves

 Cllr Maxine Chew

Said she thought the council had become embroiled in an argument between Heritage Trust for the North West and Lytham Town Trust, and in some respects that has coloured their view and how they discussed things at the last meeting.

She noted that Fylde does not have the responsibility or the money that is needed to do it up, and she thought they could do no more than follow the recommendations before them.

She said she thought that the way HTNW had set up their accounting was 'absolutely ludicrous.'

It's not often we disagree with Cllr Chew, but we do take a different view on this aspect and will explain why, later.

Cllr Brickles asked about some of the matters the recommendations were calling for, and wondered if they were matters within the competence of the Committee.

 Cllr Richard  Fradley

Spoke about it being a terrible situation. He said:

"I agree we're in an absolutely terrible situation here. We shouldn't have got here, and there are a lot of people that should hang their heads low in this, the Council being one of them, as we've all discussed.

There's a lack of trust between everybody that we've got to get rid of, and clause 2, my personal opinion is that the immediate removal of the Chief Executive, I think, could be counter-productive. We may be hoisted by our own petard.

I think perhaps we need to nominate somebody, we need to nominate, interview and have a staged handover.

So the Chair at the moment has been in there for a long time, knows all the ins and outs, and I think that if we leave a rudderless ship, we can be in even more problems with the Hall.

So perhaps I think somebody needs to be nominated, a staged handover, so all the information is passed on, so I'd like to change the recommendation number 2 to have a staged handover once we have somebody nominated as a replacement."

We're sure he meant well, but with contributions like that, you do have to wonder about whether some of Fylde's councillors understand anything about what they're being asked to decide.

Firstly he's mixing up the roles of the Chief Executive and the Chairman of the Board of Trustees. Secondly, he seems to believe that Fylde Council has some sort of locus to nominate someone to one of these positions!

It has no locus whatsoever to do so.

The Board of Trustees of HTNW are entirely responsible for running their own organisation. They alone will decide if or whether to replace the Chief Executive that they alone appointed. Fylde has no involvement at all in this matter. And if Cllr Fradley thinks that by having one member of the Council nominated to the Board would make any difference at all, we say he is very wide of the mark.

If HTNW were foolish enough to invite someone from Fylde to become a Board Trustee, and if Fylde were foolish enough to actually take up such an offer, Cllr Fradley would quickly discover that, as a Trustee of the Charity, he (or any other Councillor representative) is prevented from voting in the interests of the Council.

As the poor residents of Melton Grove found out - Trustees of such bodies may ONLY vote in the interests of the Charity itself, not of the body that nominated or appointed them.

We say it would be foolish because Fylde's only interest here is a minority one in respect of the £300k it gave - nearly all of which has now been spent on improving the Hall or grounds.

It seems to us that Cllr Fradley has no understanding of the far, far wider role that HTNW undertakes.

Lytham Hall is one of 18 or so similar heritage buildings throughout the North West that HTNW look after, and quite why a Fylde Councillor should be appointed to the governing body of an organisation that manages properties in Manchester, Cumbria, East Lancashire, Heysham and Bank Hall at Bretherton, is quite beyond our comprehension.

It's the civic equivalent of the newspaper joke where the Titanic disaster was reported as "Lytham Man Drowns"

Fylde will have NO say in the running of HTNW, nor should it have.

The repeatedly very bad reporting of this matter to Committee has created a grossly inflated sense of their own importance for far too many FBC members.

They have been led to believe they should have a say in the operation of the Hall, and that they have some sort of authority to interfere in the relationship between a landlord, and a tenant who has the benefit of a 99 year lease - which for many purposes will count as ownership of the Hall.

It really was a preposterous situation.

Cllr Susan Fazackerley spoke briefly to say she did not support his proposition, and Cllr Fradley quickly removed his request.

It was for this sort of level of 'state control' she exercises that we dubbed her 'Kim Jong Sue'.

 Cllr Liz Oades

From the public gallery where she was sitting, (because she is not a member of this committee),  Cllr Liz Oades indicated to speak (as any Cllr is now allowed to do under the Committee system Fylde is now required to operate). She said:

"I'd like to ask a question if I may. We did not appoint this gentleman. We did not appoint this body. How can we have anything to do with the removal of this person? I just want that answering, because as far as I am concerned, this is between Lytham Town Trust and the body responsible. I don't see that it has anything whatsoever to do with this Council. I would like some clarity on that please. "

Bravo! This was the first piece of independent common sense we had heard in the whole debate on the issue to date.

Stumped for an answer, the Chairman turned to the officer who said:

"Chairman, this is only a request"

Those six words from the officer expose the glaring impotence and incompetence of Fylde Council in this matter.

The Chairman tried to move on, but Queen Elizabeth was having none of it. She demanded to know whether her question would be answered. The officer said:

"Chairman, this is only a request from this committee, it's not an insistence, it's a request. This committee's got no powers to insist on anything that relates to this body and its only a request."

Quickly back in the fray, Cllr Oades said they should make it clear in the recommendations that it had nothing to do with this council.

The Chairman said that's what it already said and it was OK. She said

"We are not in a position to sack anyone, we are just asking for that."

We are, frankly, disgusted with the ignorance that existed amongst members of this committee.

Few - if any - had approached the matter with an open mind. Few - if any - had read up the background to this matter. Few - if any - had done their own research into the matter. Few - if any- even understood their role in the matter or indeed the role and locus of the other main parties.

Their demonstration of ignorance was surpassed only by the viciousness and spite that was on display toward Mr Miller.

On items about Lytham Hall, this committee has behaved like a shoal of sharks in a feeding frenzy - attacking Mr Miller in person and the Heritage Trust for the North West in particular, with scant knowledge and apparently - as Cllr Fradley demonstrated so ably - no understanding of its role or organisation at all. He was just streaking in with everyone else to rip more flesh from the victim.

The Committee's disgraceful behaviour in this matter is akin to a latter-day internet pornographer delighting in the public humiliation of his victim for all to see.

We don't recall this sort of vicious personal attack on any of Fylde's officers when FBC was turned down for a large lottery grant for Fairhaven Lake a couple of years ago. There was no public inquest. There was no blood on the carpet.

There was no public censure of the officers whose application had failed to secure the grant in which a lot of taxpayer funded time and treasure had already been expended.

Fylde is not usually like this.

It does not behave so badly.

It does not usually allow (or instruct?) its officers to produce such incendiary and misleading reports which make Councillors think they have power and responsibility that simply does not exist.

So we have to ask why it was that they became involved in such a partisan way at all?

How did it come to be that, at the meeting last November councillors seemed primed to attack Mr Miller and HTNW?

It can't have been what the two public speakers from Lytham Town Trust said, because although they were openly hostile to, and critical of, HTNW and Mr Miller in particular, they would not have spoken until the meeting itself.

And by all accounts that reached us, Councillors were ready primed to fire salvo after salvo at Mr Miller - who appeared to think he had been invited to present is usual annual report on the Hall - as he had done more or less every year as a condition of the grant that Fylde had made.

But by all accounts, he walked into a firestorm of detailed accounting questions and personal attacks. We know two people who were in the public gallery that night (we were away), who told us they had taken Mr Miller outside the building because they feared for his wellbeing after seeing the unrelenting pressure to which he had been subjected. One said to us that they thought he might have a heart attack.

If true, that is a disgraceful way for Fylde to have behaved.

It seemed to our readers who were present almost as though someone had been briefing against him and against HTNW out of the public gaze, and informing and priming Councillors at that November meeting to launch a prepared ambush to kill him off.

We were at the March meeting, and although Mr Miller was not, we did get the sense that this 9th March meeting was just the next stage in that aim.

The figure that has most knowledge of all the parties involved in this matter (because he is in a position of influence in LCC, FBC, HTNW and LTT) is Cllr Tim Ashton.

In fact so far as we can see, he has a position of influence in all the main bodies involved in Lytham Hall except the Heritage Lottery Fund.

But he can't be behind it because he has always behaved impeccably in public meetings where he has - as he did this time - declared both a personal and prejudicial interest, and left the room whilst the matter is debated.

So we're at a loss to work out who is actually driving this matter at Fylde. But whoever it is, they should stop doing so, because it is only bringing shame and disgrace on the Council.

 The Recommendations  Were Adopted

The appalling resolutions recommended by officers for the Committee to approve - were, in broad terms, no better than the ones at their November meeting.

They were still far too controlling and threatening in tone, when the objective needs to be to solve the problem, not win a war. 

We invite our readers to study the phrasing of the resolutions passed by the Committee and, in doing so, to remember that - in their officers own words - "They are only a request"

  1. That Heritage Trust North West (“HTNW”) have failed to comply with clauses, 5, 8, 9, 14 and 22 of the Heads of Terms of the Lytham Hall Capital Grant agreement dated August 4 2011;

  2. That the committee has no confidence in the ability of the present leadership or management of HTNW to lead the Lytham Hall restoration project and request the immediate removal of HTNW’s Chief Executive from the Lytham Hall restoration project;

  3. That the committee seeks reassurance, with supporting evidence, from the Heritage Trust North West Board that they have the capability and appropriate personnel to continue to deliver the Lytham Hall restoration project, in particular an appropriately qualified financial officer, without which the committee cannot have confidence in HTNW delivering the Lytham Hall Restoration Project;

  4. That the management of the Lytham Hall restoration project includes separate and dedicated accounting and financial management from other projects being delivered by HTNW;

  5. That the financial management arrangements include a separate capital account and that all accounts are submitted on an annual basis for inspection to all parties that have made a grant contribution;

  6. That the Heritage Trust North West be required to provide an itemised list with costing of the capital initiatives that Fylde Council’s £300,000 has been allocated to and the amount of the grant that remains unspent, in accordance with Clause 5 of the grant agreement;

  7. That should HTNW decline or be unable to take any of the actions set out above to ensure compliance with the terms of the council’s grant, the council will take such action as may be open to it (including legal action) to recover the grant;

  8. That HTNW be requested to invite Fylde Council to nominate an elected member of as a member of its Board of Trustees;

  9. That six monthly progress reports are provided to the committee by the elected member representative and the appropriately qualified financial officer responsible for the Lytham Hall restoration project;

  10. The committee notes the continued challenge of the refusal to release the Moore Stephens report under the Freedom of Information Act and if it is made available that it is brought before the committee for consideration;

  11. That the council reviews the protocols for capital grant funding of longer term projects to include milestone payment terms determined by set criteria as opposed to one off up-front payment; and

  12. That the Council, preferably with other funding partners, seeks the intervention of the Charity Commission to review the overall financial management and governance arrangements of Heritage Trust North West and its respective trading companies.


Those at Lytham Hall have soldiered on as best they can in an atmosphere of gloom and despondency.

There have been few public utterances from HTNW. We applaud this, but it will make some think it is due to shame rather than a desire to reduce the back-biting and we suspect HTNW will not stay silent for ever in the face of this.

The Hall itself is, we are told, just short of break-even on its day to day operating costs. Income from catering, events, and other fund raising activities is almost producing enough income to keep the doors (or rather the gates) open.

But there is nothing in the kitty for renovation except what can be raised from individuals and groups with goodwill and a little cash.

We hear there is talk of a donation by a local group known for its good works that might be enough to fund some repainting of the facade which is looking in a poor state. But the addressing of the significant structural problems that include a leaking roof, drainage and internal damage will need income on the scale of another lottery bid.

And whilst back-biting and recriminations are rife between lessor and lessee - even if they are mostly in private except for Fylde's attempt to put out the fire with petrol - there's not much chance of that happening.

This is a dangerous time for the Hall, and for those who want to see it remain in public use. We've no doubt that commercially minded vultures will be starting to circle the Hall which, like a wounded animal, is weakened and currently more susceptible than it should be.

But on the positive side, we see a change of political control back to the Conservative group at County Hall, under whose tenure the grant for the Hall was first assembled.

So that's slightly more positive for the Hall, as is the current weakness of the national government's hold on power which suggests a more 'accommodating' view of Local Authority funding going forward. And who knows, maybe a combination of these two situations could bring about a restoration of the £1m grant that County Hall had previously promised.

The signs have recently become even better, because together with County Councillor Jenny Purcell, Lytham's County Councillor Tim Ashton was appointed as the County Council's representative on the Heritage Trust for the North West at a Cabinet meeting on Thursday, 15th June, 2017.

That restores the role he had in the previous Conservative administration at County Hall in 2012 - before the Conservatives lost power, and at a time when the County Council's grant arrangements for Lytham Hall would have been a hot topic.

But on the negative side, given the complete breakdown of trust between the current protagonists representing Heritage Trust for the North West and Lytham Town Trust, (of which Cllr Ashton is also a Trustee or Director), it is going to take a lot of change for even normal relations to be restored.


The main thing to have happened in the intervening period is that the 'Moore Stephens Report' has been released to selected parties.

This had been commissioned by the Heritage Lottery Fund to advise them of the situation when LCC withdrew the promise of the £1m grant and HTNW were obliged to ask the lottery to agree to a revised, and less comprehensive scheme for the second phase of the restoration.

None of the original parties to the report had been prepared to release it, but it has now been published to some at least, although we're not sure whether it is generally available.

However, we have seen a copy and can bring our readers at least a flavour of what it says .

Overall, the impression we got from reading it, is the one we had supposed we would get. What began life as very successful small heritage restoration operation has grown and grown.

In its early days it was brilliantly run by John Miller whose combination of heritage and entrepreneurial skills are an extremely rare combination.

But it relied on him and his particular abilities for its success (and to be fair he is the sort of chap who lives, eats, sleeps, works, and breathes his work, and he doesn't take kindly to others 'interfering' with what we're sure he sees as 'his baby')

Over time, as more and more success was achieved by HTNW, the scale and scope grew further and further. It has probably grown so much that it is now probably difficult for any one person - however committed - to manage it alone.

As a result, and with almost all control vested in him personally - (and anyone that knows him will tell you he IS heritage Trust for the North West), cracks are appearing in what is expected of organisations today.

We are no longer used to having one person run things (as used to be the case). Governance now is expected to have distributed power in order to reduce the risks of accidental or intentional failure.

But until recently, John Miller has resisted such change because it's the way he does things - and by the way - it's the way he achieved such outstanding successes.

He flies it mostly by the seat of his pants, and that's how he has been able to achieve such incredible results for such little money. But that sort of system also means you're more likely to see things like Peter robbing Paul if it for the greater good overall.

Fylde has been creating a fuss that all the Lytham Hall money should have been accounted for separately, and have has a separate bank account.

But that's not the way HTNW worked, (and note that both the 99 year lease from Lytham Town Trust and Fylde's £300k grant were both made to Heritage Trust for the North West, not to Lytham Hall, because no such entity existed).

Neither FBC nor LTT seem able to look much beyond Lytham Hall. It's as though they think that HTNW and Lytham Hall are synonymous, when in fact, Lytham Hall is one of a much broader spectrum of restoration properties that HTNW operate across the whole of the North West.

Detractors say Mr Miller's  'Musketeer Management' style (all for one and one for all) delivers awful accounting and governance in practice, and in modern terms, you can easily argue that it is.

But had it not been done the way it was, it is not at all clear that HTNW would have been able or prepared to subsidise Lytham Hall to the tune of an alleged £50,000 a year for the last 10 - 20 years - paid out from the same bank account that the surpluses from other (restoration completed and revenue earning) properties were paid into to allow easy cross subsidy to take place.

But in modern thinking, such practices went out with the dinosaurs, and change must ensue.

We recognise this (even if we are sad that as a nation we have become so fearful of mistakes being made that the costs of ensuring they don't happen sometimes rises to the extent that you never get started in the first place). And we know that HTNW and Mr Miller have recognised it as well.

Back in our last article we said

"We knew of an internal HTNW briefing from late in 2016 which noted the HLF had been concerned that the project was no longer sustainable.

This concern had followed on the back of several other large projects in the North West which had received large grants had recently gone into liquidation. It was also against a background that three Museums owned by Lancashire County Council (which HLF had supported) were closing.

So HTNW had already accepted the need for it to make a more robust case in the future.

The note went on to explain that HTNW was reviewing its Governance arrangements and also wanted to take account of recent changes in both charity and company legislation.

We understood HTNW's Governance Review was expected to cover:

  • a review of the Memorandum and Articles of Association;

  • the membership of the Board of Trustees;

  • a skills audit;

  • arrangements for advertising, interviewing and appointment of new Trustees;

  • the appointment of Advisory Groups (Building Conservation/ Gardens/Collections);

  • the human resources required to meet the objectives,

  • the staff structures,

  • the appointment of new staff and reporting arrangements;

  • arrangements for finance controls and reporting.

We understand this process is already in train at HTNW. "

So Mr Miller (who led the call for this change) was not insensitive to the need to change.

We've included a few of the quotes from the Moore Stephens Report that struck us as being relevant and which we think will help readers to understand the breadth of scope vis:

"The concerns that surrounded the short term cash-flow capabilities of HTNW have been alleviated somewhat due to the short term loans and bank overdraft being settled as part of a mortgage refinancing. The mortgage is now mostly recorded within long term liabilities and this therefore enables HTNW to meet its short term cash-flows more easily.

Therefore the financial viability of the HTNW as an organisation is in a much stronger position than what was disclosed in the March 2015 financial statements. The financial audit for March 2016 has just begun and therefore we are unable to provide evidence that the short term cash-flow concerns have improved from audited figures. However, from reviewing the latest position of HTNW through their financial accounting package, it appears that these concerns will have mostly disappeared."

"Our review uncovered significant findings around the financial controls and overall governance of HTNW that we recommend should be addressed by the Trust. Nonetheless, we have seen that slight improvements are beginning to be made in certain areas. Also, there are no material contracts or long term commitments in place that would put pressure on the short term cash position or the ability of the Trust to settle these in the short term."

"The management of business and project risks, and the updating, maintenance and management of risk registers within the Trust we consider to be inadequate. Risk is not discussed enough amongst Trustees during HTNW board meetings. The implication here is that risks may not addressed in a timely fashion. Without relevant risk mitigation planning there is a distinct possibility that the documented risk will affect the organisation. All risks from an organisational and project aspect should be fully discussed, maintained and updated at all Trustee board meetings."

"There are a number of related party transactions being processed between the Trust and the subsidiary companies covering cross-charge of expenditure between entities and the transfer of profits from the trading companies up to the Trust, to help fund the charity projects.

There was one key finding noted during our review:

The Chief Executive's knowledge of the transactions between the Trust and the trading subsidiary companies of which he is also named a director was very limited."

"The Chief Executive’s knowledge of related party balances ad [sic] transactions between the Trust and the individual subsidiary entities is extremely limited and suggests a disconnect between the Chief Executive of the group and the way the entities are operating between themselves. This also included a lack of knowledge on whether management fees were paid between the entities and the Trust."

"Internal HTNW controls around grant revenues and expenditure spent on projects are considered to be weak. The Heritage Lottery Fund (“HLF) have asked HTNW to reconcile £1.7 million of expenditure spent on the Lytham Hall project to date and HTNW have been unable to do this."

"Discussed the HTNW staffing with the Trust’s auditor who agreed that this could be better. HTNW do recognise that this is an issue and are currently looking at obtaining funding to bring someone in full time to enable the current accounting function to go ahead with planned retirements and reduced hours. The Trust’s auditor explained that two appointments are required in the near future – one to replace one of the accounting function positions and the other to replace the Chief Executive. HTNW have actually just secured funding to bring a new senior manager in to work underneath the Chief Executive for the next three years where the plan is for this Senior Manager to replace the Chief Executive at the end of this term."

"Based on the explanation provided by the Trust’s auditor it appears that by LCC pulling out of the £1 million grant they said they would provide, this has left the Trust short on expenditure already incurred."

"The Trust’s auditor confirmed that he has never had any issues with obtaining any information from the accounting function at HTNW and although they are not qualified accounting staff, there knowledge and experience of the role and the Trust is sound enough to get them through. No major errors have been noted by the Trust’s auditor and his team in that time and it was stressed that to get more experienced people into the Trust comes down to receiving the additional funding to do this."

These quotations are not a complete picture of the report, and may not include the most important aspects, but we think they give a flavour of the tone of the report.

However, Moore Stephens' overall perception was that significant weaknesses has been identified in the control framework of HTNW, and that put at risk achievement HTNW's own objectives, and that in some cases, (notably in the sphere of delivering projects), fundamental weaknesses had been identified in the control framework, and this opened the possibility of error or abuse more widely than is acceptable today.

They proposed 13 recommendations for change, ranging from changing HTNW's 15 year association with one auditing company, in order to increase what they described as 'the independence issue around familiarity', through to much bigger issues such as more, and more frequent, HTNW Board meetings, and a greater focus on financial matters at them.

Their recommendations did not seem to spend that much time on Lytham Hall itself, but rather they focused on the broader operation and governance arrangements of HTNW's across the whole of the North West.

They argued that remedial action was required as a priority and, as a result of this view, the Heritage Lottery Fund erred on the side of caution.

They decided that phase 2 of the work at Lytham Hall would not be funded by them (or at least not until HTNW can show that they have made the required changes).

Readers will see from this what we mean about the cost of compliance with modern standards threatening - or even denying - what it is you are trying to achieve in the first place.

When HTNW has changed its governance structure, and has put in place the complement of skilled and qualified technical and administrative people (accountant, solicitor, administrator or whatever) that modern standards expect it to have, it could well be the case that its costs have grown to such an extent that it will no longer be able to do anything like the scale of the good works it has achieved in the past.

Adopting the best modern accounting and governance systems will likely see HTNW move closer toward to the National Trust model that itself expects every new acquisition to be fully-endowed according to their internal 'Chorley formula'.

That seeks to set up an endowment fund sufficient to sustain the operating deficit and major cyclical repairs as they fall due over a 50-70 year period. The National Trust formula also takes into account that costs will rise by a faster rate than income over a long period.

We imagine it will take three well paid professional - but ironically detached - people to replace what Mr Miller currently does for love and for free.

You don't have to be a genius to work out where that situation ends up.

And given the information emerging from the Grenfell Tower disaster that appears to show how modern standards are circumvented with apparent ease, we're less than certain it will all be for the greater good either.

But it is on the cards.


The latest position is that Fylde considered the Lytham Hall matter again on 22 June 2017 in what was yet another awful meeting of the Tourism & Leisure Committee.

The report styled itself as an update on the recommendations of the previous committee meeting.

That said, the phrasing of the recommendations was much more conciliatory and sensible. It was almost as though officers had realised the Council's involvement was only making things worse, and they were trying to begin the process of backing out with grace, and as much face as they could save.

However, during the meeting itself, the old enmity surfaced as (most notably the Conservative) councillors went 'rogue' and again launched blistering - and in our view unwarranted - personal attacks on Mr Miller and the HTNW Trustee who was speaking for the Trust at this meeting.

We had the unedifying spectacle of Fylde's Council Leader saying, venomously, to the guest before them who representing HTNW: "I have to say that you are coming across as a John Miller apologist, and I'm afraid that doesn't wash with this Committee...."


The report noted that Mr John Turner, who, it said, had been commissioned by HTNW to facilitate a new approach to the project for the restoration of Lytham Hall under new leadership, with appropriate and robust governance, financial and managerial arrangement, had considered and responded to the allegations, criticisms and 'requests' in Fylde's resolutions from its last meeting, and he would introduce himself, note the changes in train at Lytham Hall and answer questions.

It goes on to say Mr Turner met with someone from FBC (We imagine it was with Fylde's officers because there was no reference him to meeting with councillors), and we think it is as a result of that meeting that officers have probably "seen the light"

Given that we're going to report the meeting in detail shortly, we will simply say here that readers are advised to follow this link to download a copy of Fylde's Officer Report which takes the assertions and challenges resolved at Fylde's previous meeting, and records Mr Turner's response to them as the basis for what the officers were saying.

It is this exchange of views that have led Fylde's officers to deliver the following recommendations for the Committee


Readers will see the difference in tone from the previous recommendations from officers:

  1. "That the committee note the responses from Mr. Turner on behalf of HTNW to the recommendations made by the committee on March 9th 2017.

  2. That the committee support the proposed establishment of new project team with new leadership, governance and financial arrangements that are consistent with best practice and transparency.

  3. That the committee seeks reassurance, with supporting evidence, from HTNW that the new team will have the capability and personnel to deliver a successful Lytham Hall restoration project, in order for the committee to have confidence in HTNW delivering the Lytham Hall Restoration Project.

  4. That the committee nominate a member to link with the new Lytham Hall Restoration Project team with the role and responsibility to be agreed in consultation with HTNW and reported back to the committee.

  5. That the nominated member works with the Director of Development and other appropriate officers to monitor the progress of the actions agreed by HTNW to provide a progress report to the committee on September 7th 2017.

  6. That if it is clear over the summer period that satisfactory progress is not being made with the establishment of a new project team or the financial, governance and leadership arrangements, ahead of the September committee, the Chairman of the committee will be notified to consider any appropriate action.

  7. That the committee withhold but retain the option to take such action as may be open to it (including legal action) to recover whole or part of the grant, and to seek the intervention of the Charity Commission to review the overall financial management and governance arrangements of Heritage Trust North West and its respective trading companies, subject to satisfactory progress with the new leadership, governance and financial arrangements outlined by HTNW in this report."

Now, they were only retaining the right to take legal action, not overtly threatening it.

We think this is an improvement and we hope it is a prelude to dropping their stupid idea.

We don't think they have a leg to stand on and it will cost Fylde's taxpayers tens of thousands in legal fees to mount what we are convinced would be an action that was doomed to failure before it began.


  • Fylde believe the Council gave the money for specific work at the Hall. They did not.
  • This meeting continued the blinkered and most unedifying bullying of the Chief Executive of HTNW in his absence. This was so bad that, in our opinion, Mr Miller could have grounds to take his own legal action against FBC for the character assassination of him that took place at this meeting.
  • Several councillors, (whose ability to read their own agendas must be called into question) continued to call for a list of all the things Fylde's £300,000 was spent on, when some of the best public body audit investigation brains in the area - people they themselves chose to do the investigation for Fylde - have already told them it is not possible to do this.
  • And they continue to threaten legal action against HTNW when, in our (admittedly non-expert) view, they have no adequate grounds to even begin to justify such a claim.

The behaviour of several members of the Committee was being driven by something other than logic. At times it seemed to us to be closer to malice bordering into malfeasance in public office.

One very senior member in particular, displayed a countenance that seemed to us to be contorted by rage, and they were making notes with such angry hand gestures and such heavy pen pressure, that we feared for the table itself.

But the worst aspect of all was their complete failure to understand and help to address the fundamental problem, which is a complete breakdown in trust and relations between those who have been representing the Lessee (Lytham Town Trust), and (at least) the Chief Executive who has been representing HTNW.

Instead of demonstrating a willingness to help to solve the problem for the future, Fylde seemed more intent on taking a scalp to assuage their childish and irrational anger tantrum.

It was another awful meeting. But one aspect surprised us. Although we wouldn't go so far as saying it was exceptionally well chaired - and there were a couple of aspects we were quite unhappy about, we would say that Cllr Cheryl Little delivered chairmanship of a really difficult meeting that was commendably light in touch, even handed, and fair.


 Declarations Of Interest

As expected, and as was perfectly proper, Cllr Tim Ashton declared a personal and prejudicial interest and left the meeting for the Lytham Hall item.

There were no other declarations of interest which we found a bit surprising because at the last meeting, both Cllr Sandra Pitman and Cllr Richard Fradley declared personal interests because they has some connection with Lytham Hall.

Perhaps that is no longer the case, or perhaps Fylde does not now require a declaration to be made at subsequent meetings if it has been made at a previous one.


Fylde allows councillors to substitute one for another provided notice is given.

This is not something we favour at all. We see a case to be made for it in the case of protracted unavoidable situations such as long medical illness.

But we worry that too frequently it is used for party political advantage or expediency where, say a councillor wants to avoid having to vote for something they know their residents don't want, so they arrange a substitute from another ward to substitute for them and the substitute cannot then be held to account at the ballot box in that ward.

There is also an issue about the potential for substitutes to come in at the end of a matter that has been discussed at several committee meetings, without knowing or understanding the Committee's previous deliberations. So, for a variety of reasons, we don't support the idea of substitution. But Fylde does, and that's the crucial matter.

Their rules on substitution are in the Constitution and include the following:

  • "(c) If he will be absent from the whole of a committee or sub-committee meeting, a member may, subject to paragraph (d), be represented by a named substitute member, but only if the intended substitution is notified to the Director of Resources (or her representative) no later than the day before the meeting either:

  • (i) by the member who will be absent; or

  • (ii) by or on behalf of the leader of his political group (but only if the member who will be absent does not notify a substitution at any time before the start of the meeting).

  • d) No member may act as substitute at a meeting of a committee if he has previously acted as substitute at three meetings of that committee during the municipal year."

In this case, Cllr Susan Fazackerley was reported as substituting for Cllr Mrs Akeroyd.

Assuming that was done within the proper timescale, and we don't know that either way, this was perfectly proper.

But what did have us confused was that we saw Cllr Mrs Akeroyd sitting in the public gallery before the meeting started and we also noted her there during the meeting. We didn't see when she left, but one councillor did tell us that she was still at the Town Hall when the item on Lytham Hall ended.

On that basis, there was no obvious practical need for her to be substituted for that item. And we wondered if it had been that Cllr Fazackerley had wanted to be part of the committee herself and Cllr Mrs Akeroyd had 'given way' to let her take her place at the Committee.

If that is what happened (and we've no way of establishing it either way), we regard it as a gross abuse of the facility by which substitutions may be made.

 Public Platform

No-one wanted to speak from the Public Gallery on this occasion.

 The Debate

The officer briefly introduced the item, and said Mr Turner from HTNW would address the committee. The Chairman said

"Good evening Mr Turner, can I please ask you to introduce yourself and give us a potted history."

Mr John Turner, HTNW addressed the Committee. We've reproduced his presentation verbatim.

"Of Course, yes.

A big thank-you all for giving me chance to speak. My name's John Turner. I'm here representing Heritage Trust for the North West, as one of their Trustees, and I just wanted to give a little bit of background and context to where we are and what we're up to, and principally, obviously, to deal with any questions that you have.

I've been a Chartered Surveyor, Rural Estate Manager for 25 years. For ten years of that I was Estate Manager for the National Trust at Stourhead, a Grade1 Listed 17th century landscape garden and Palladian mansion down there, where we welcomed 250,000 visitors a year. I worked on and as part of that property team for ten years, heading it for the last nine. And thereafter in 2000, and actually, whilst I'm not a local man, I actually spent 5 years of my schooling days looking out at that view at the Fleetwood end of this coast, so whilst I'm not local, I do have some links and memories from this area.

After my Stourhead days, in 2000 I went up to the Lake District and I managed the Lonsdale 7,000 acre estate up there for the family for the last 16 years. All of those 16 we've worked on the Lowther Castle and Gardens project, and over the last 3 or 4 I've been a Trustee of that group, that project team, delivering an £11 million restoration project up there, and seen that through its infancy and into its operational stage. So I'd like to think I have a significant amount of directly relevant experience, and it is then, that, in the context of HTNW I see and I recognise, through not just this committee, but within the area, I do see the breakdown of smooth running of the Lytham Hall project, and that is obviously a great concern to this locality, the communities, the bodies involved, but obviously also to us HTNW, massively, as the leaseholder of Lytham Hall delivering that restoration project.

So as a Trustee, seeing that troubled waters that the project is in, I have stepped forward to try and give the additional time and energy and support, on behalf of HTNW, that will obviously be necessary to see us through these difficult times.

It has been a breakdown of working relationships, and confidence, and we would be the first to arrive so we would be the first to recognise that and say that that's sad but, what are you going to do about it?

There are complex layers, there are issues to do with HTNW as a long term preservation charity that's been in place for 40-odd years, chaired by John Miller who has been instrumental in its work over the last 40 years but the HTNW needs to modernise itself and refresh itself and reposition itself to be able to move on post John's long time in tenure, and that is a huge chunk of work in its own right.

We are working on that, we've done a governance review. That review is now being reported, and we are working out and sorting out our action plan to actually draw what is needed to see succession, to see HTNW positioned firmly over the next phase, the next period of its existence.

So you've got HTNW governance and its work going on in the background, but then you've also, and this is of direct relevance to this team, the Lytham Hall project, that is being delivered by HTNW, together with its key partners.

A key partner, that I very quickly recognise is, and has to be, Lytham Town Trust.

Lytham Town Trust is the lessor who actually owns the Hall, the landlord, and at leased it to HTNW for 99 years, some 20 years ago. There are, built within the fabric of the lease, there are mechanisms and opportunities and structures for those two bodies to work together constructively and positively, to deliver the project. And what I have found in coming in, is a complete breakdown in that landlord / tenant working relationship. Now that simply has to be put right, and is the core of everything. It isn't - no disrespect - for you to be saying, poking directions for HTNW to do something. Actually, landlord and tenant need to sort themselves out and move forward. And sorting that out is the key issue.

When I have gone around key stakeholders, meeting Allan representative of Fylde, HLF, as well as Lytham Town Trust, I hear a common theme, I sense a common message, and that is that trust and confidence in the project's Operational Director at the moment, which is John Miller, confidence in John has collapsed. And I sense from those key stakeholders, that if John was to move on, ie retire, then there would be an immediate re-engagement because all those stakeholders have said that they're wholly committed to the project, wholly committed to the work, and want to get on with it.

I share that, and that theme is hopefully picked up in the responses to your recommendations. You will see that. Because I have confidence in HTNW right at its heart. I do. Then there needs to be better communication, better reporting lines and openness and accountability which recognises modern expectations and working practices. So I'm confident we can deliver that, and I have no fear of getting stuck in and showing and demonstrating that we can do it. I don't see there's a problem.

I'm also, and I have been minuted, and it's in this report as well, so it's in paper again, I have made improvement and positioned HTNW such that John will retire from the Lytham Hall project. The date is October. But by then, or earlier if I was able to actually set everything up in the interim time - I can commit to that. When I looked at Lytham Town Trust who meets with us - because I said, well this is a landlord / tenant relationship issue, therefore where do those two get together and sort things out, and there is within the lease a facility for the Lytham Hall Executive, which is two from Lytham Town Trust and two from HTNW, two representatives, who have therefore, the opportunity to meet and ensure that the project is on line.

That was why I minuted that John would retire from the project by October. I appealed to Lytham Town Trust, at that meeting, or one of those meetings, and I said, I need breathing space to be able to deliver this. Give me a bit of breathing space, but give me a bit of support in actually getting this project back on track, because there is untold, and possibly irreversible damage being done by individuals who are looking to absolutely broadside the whole project, and are actively out in the public arena, slagging off the project and individuals - ie John - at every opportunity.

It is not helping.

I asked for breathing space, and to date, since then, which was about two months ago, I can sadly, only report that the firestorm has been relentless and continuous, and has been continually fuelled, and no space from Lytham Town Trust has been given to me whatsoever.

I would like to thank you all for the support. I met with Allan and gave the same sort of feedback, and also appealed for the same breathing space, to give the project the opportunity to restabilise itself and bring the key stakeholders back on line, which I believe is wholly possible. And I'd like to sense and feel that that is what we've done. You gave me time to make a response, and you've given is time and you're listening to the deadlines tonight that I'm working to.

So I thank you for that, and that space is hugely appreciated, and it is a way, I believe, that we can, together, take the spotlight and the heat out of the situation. Trust and totally hold me to account when it comes to the timelines and, you know, I'm there in writing, holding to all those, and I look forward to working closely with one - and that recommendation in the report is great - one of your body working very closely with us, but gain an understanding of the detail, and I'm more than happy to work with that individual to build bridges, reconnect, and just enable that individual and, therefore you, to have total insight into the project, all its finances and structures and thoughts, and therefore reassure you that, actually, this was a landlord / tenant personality clash, and I believe that if we got rid of - actually 'got rid of' is totally the wrong word, forgive me for that - if we restructured in such a way as we refreshed the Board of the Lytham Hall Executive, and John Miller, but also, I am saying Lytham Town Trust look at themselves as well, that they look and refresh that body, to give that body an opportunity to move forward together in a new light.

So it's constructive feedback that I want to give you, and if there is anything, I'm open to questions."

This was the first time we'd come across Mr Turner and, whilst we'd like a bit longer before we come to a view about granting him the extent of the trust he requested, we did think he made a good start. His tone was positive and conciliatory. There was little if anything to antagonise councillors. He understood the key drivers of the problem, and had proposed a way to solve it. So we were keen to see how he fared in the questioning from FBC Councillors.

 Questions from the Committee

Whilst we could have considered the Committee's questions in chronological order, we think it makes more sense to group them in broad topics and we hope readers be happy (or at least will bear with us) in this format.

 1. Compliance with Fylde's Conditions

The Officers' report had said that, on behalf of HTNW, Mr Turner refuted the claims that the 'Capital Grant Agreement' dated August 4th 2011 had not been complied with, and he challenged the statement that HTNW failed to comply with clauses, 5, 8, 9, 14 and 22 of the Heads of Terms of the Lytham Hall Capital Grant agreement.

Cllr Sandra Pitman asked about this saying he had not provided any evidence to back up the claim to refute non-compliance, and she asked him to elaborate why he couldn't provide that evidence.

We would have replied that it wasn't that we couldn't provide it, but with Fylde having telegraphed its intention to launch a legal case against HTNW, we - or any sensible organisation in the same position - would not have been prepared to disclose the reasons in advance of proceedings being taken against us when they had been threatened.

Mr Turner was a little more genteel in his response. He said:

"In the response for the meeting tonight, and the meeting with Allan, I am attempting to get to the heart of the issue, and focus on the objective of getting the Lytham Hall project back on track, and supported and financed as quickly as possible. That's my sole objective. There are, in the allegations and counter allegations flying all around the project, there is a huge amount of time and money that could be spent in legal fees and nervous energy, in fighting the technicalities of the detailed [report?]. I am not there, I wholly recognise again in the end of your recommendations, in paragraph 12 that that's very much you the Council positioning yourselves without prejudice to - if this does not go the way that I'm hoping it does - that you wholly reserve the right to throw the legal book at us, and just do it. But similarly, I just know that the item you just raised is.... potentially I do not accept.... I would say that there is a huge legal battle in there to decipher technical terms and legalese and all the rest of it. I don't want to get into that debate at this stage, and if we can cut straight to the chase, and retire John Miller from the project, show openness and transparency, work with a representative from your body, and get the whole project back on line very quickly, and to be honest, park the arguments over the detail that would cost all parties tens of thousands of pounds, I'm personally committed to the project, not to the legal arguments. So that's where we stand"

He was much more conciliatory in his tone than we would have been.

Cllr Pitman came back to say she understood that, but there had been wrongs done and basically it was very difficult to forget what had happened,

We think this is legal nonsense all getting well out of hand.

Cllr Pitman was not even a Borough Councillor when all of this happened. She has no understanding of what a fool she will make the Council look, and how much taxpayers money she will waste if she persists along the line of legal action.

We can state categorically that when Fylde's Full Council meeting considered giving the grant of £300,000 in 2011, (money that it had (disgracefully) abandoned its civic responsibility to the Residents of Melton Grove to raise), there was NO intent on the part of the mover of the main recommendation and in the decision of Fylde Council to condition the grant to any specific work at the Hall.

It was given simply to increase the probability (some might say to ensure) that the Heritage Lottery Fund gave the Hall the £2 or £3 million that was in prospect if the Hall could demonstrate it has significant local support - £300,000's worth of support as it turned out.

We reported this debate at Fylde Council in considerable depth in our article "Still a Shambles' in 2011 - and we probably still have a video of the webcast somewhere if anyone needs it.

Our article showed the extent of opposition by many councillors to making the grant of £300,000 to Lytham Hall at all.

Many councillors were feeling duped about the way the money had been raised. Cllr Mulholland was one. He said

"......I am going to vote against this, on principle, I think to see it - we've talked a lot about transparency tonight, and I think this isn't transparent, and to link it on tonight's agenda with the sale of Lytham (Clifton) Housing Association, to link it with that, having seen such a political vote, is worrying. I had heard lots of rumours, which I dismissed. I'm now not sure I was right to dismiss those rumours......"

But the majority Conservative group were adamant they were going to make the donation to the Hall.

This view was strongly expressed by Cllr Brenda Akers (who was a Fylde Councillor and had also been a Director of Lytham (Clifton) Housing Association who twisted and turned within company law to effect the sale of the Melton Grove retirement enclave). She said - with no hint of compromise or contrition,

"We are going ahead with Lytham Hall. We're determined to go ahead with Lytham Hall"

But even some of the Conservative group were unsure.

Cllr Fazackerley said she had been "Wrestling with her conscience" on the matter. She went on to use the parable of the talents where a rich man had given a small amount of money to three people and asked them to increase it as best they could. Likening this to the needs of the Hall, she was no doubt referring to the self-help analogy.

It was actually former Cllr Kevin Eastham who saved the day for the Hall. He said

"I can understand that we need to take an in-principle decision to get this moving. Now, if in principle, we say "no" then there's no point in asking for these funds. The Heritage Lottery will go away and the good people of Fylde will thank us very much for turning down three million pounds. What I'm trying to do is get an in-principle decision which says that provided we get this detailed information then we will go along with it. That is what has been said off the leadership table here, its just a question of how we put that in words......"

His sentiment ended up being worded by the Chief Executive as a sort of composite resolution that could command the most support. The final words put to the vote were

"to agree the recommendation of Cabinet in principle, to a grant of £300,000 being made to the Heritage Trust for the North West for the Lytham Hall restoration fund, subject to:

1) further detailed information being available to the Council on a) financial arrangements; b) Public Access; c) Project timetable; d) other funding contributions

2) recommendation 1 to be subject to the receipt of equivalent additional capital receipt being identified in the Council's capital programme."

Those were the ONLY conditions under which THE COUNCIL made the £300k grant to the restoration of Lytham Hall.

This was a very clever move by Cllr Eastham. He had earlier separated out (and thus partially sanitised) the grant from its being conditional on using the money from the sale of Melton Grove (even though everyone still knew where it was going to come from), and he then gave the reason for making the grant as being entirely to secure the lottery grant. He was not concerned what the money was used for in restoring Hall. He was concerned to get the £300k through Fylde Council. He knew that the lottery people would not give the big grant unless Fylde gave its £300k first. We have since confirmed this to be both his aim and his view.

He also opened the door for the (then) Chief Executive (who we believe was the key force behind linking the sale of Melton Grove to the grant to Lytham Hall) to put forward an even more cleverly worded composite resolution which conditioned the grant ONLY to the Cabinet (acting as the Council in those days) deciding that conditions 1 a) to d) above had been met

The Cabinet did that on 28 June 2011 following the recommendation of the Chief Executive - whose report reminded them of the resolution, then said:

"2. The Trust has now provided the additional information requested, which is attached at Appendix A of the report, and the Cabinet is asked to confirm whether this information is sufficient to satisfy the request made by Council."

This was a stitch up of course. He had conned the Council into believing it could require a lot of information that they could examine and pore over before deciding whether to give the grant or not. But in fact because (in those days) the Cabinet was the decision taking body for most matters, it was never reported to the Council again. It went to the exclusively Conservative Cabinet who adopted Brenda Ackers line of "We are going ahead with Lytham Hall. We're determined to go ahead with Lytham Hall" and the minutes of that meeting record.....

"8. Lytham Hall
Councillor Susan Fazackerley (Portfolio Holder for Leisure and Culture) provided members of Cabinet with an update on the above. In doing so, she stated that the Council had previously resolved to provide financial support (in the sum of £300,000 capital grant) for the restoration plans for Lytham Hall subject to the receipt of specific additional information. The Heritage Trust for the North West had subsequently provided the requisite information and this was included within the report which had been circulated to all Members.

In reaching its decision, Cabinet considered the details set out in the report before it and at the meeting and RESOLVED to confirm the acceptability of the additional information received from Heritage Trust for the North West on the restoration project for Lytham Hall, and that the financial support committed by the Council be released subject to the receipt of the capital receipt referred to in the report."

End of.

There are no conditions attached to the grant. Those conditions that did exist (ie 1a - d) were discharged by the decision of the Cabinet acting as the full Council

And with that, the £300,000 was authorised for payment.

It's true that officers later drew up a list of conditions they wanted HTNW to meet, and HTNW appeared to have agreed to meet them.

But it would only take a half decent barrister (say one about a quarter as competent as planning ace Roger Lancaster) to show that the decision to make the grant was NOT CONDITIONAL on the subsequent agreement between HTNW and officers. The AUTHORITY to make the grant was given by Fylde's Cabinet without such agreement being required.

In our view Fylde does not have a leg to stand on in the matter of legal claims. Cllr Fazackerley knows the real position because it was she who said the Cabinet should make the grant (because the conditions had been met)!

Not only that, but the agreement Fylde's officers and HTNW made, required HTNW to produce an annual report and accounts for FBC showing progress at the Hall and how the money was being used.

Fylde approved every one of those reports, and as recently as 23 May 2016, Fylde's Chief Executive wrote to HTNW's Mr Miller as follows

"Dear John,


Further to our conversation about your application to the Heritage Lottery Fund for additional funding, I am writing to confirm that the Council is very supportive of the Lytham Hall project. We are delighted with the progress and particularly impressed with the transformation of the Park, and look forward to the completion of the next phase.

I confirm that the Trust has complied with all the reporting procedures regarding the grant of £300,000 paid to the Trust. Members have appreciated the opportunity you have given them to formally inspect the restoration on a number of occasions.

If you require anything further from me in support of the application for additional funds do not hesitate to contact me.

Yours sincerely,


So we think Fylde's bluster and threatening of legal action has never had any substance. It was a disgrace of them to even threaten it, and it can simply be dismissed - (as the officers now appear to understand and are backing away from the threat in their most recent recommendations which now only "reserve the right" to take legal action).

As we have said before, they should abandon the empty threat.

All it has done is damage the Council's credibility.

 2. Mr Miller's Future Role

Cllr Maxine Chew said she thought he should retire as soon as possible. She had felt duped and misled by him.

Cllr Sandra Pitman asked Mr Turner for a guarantee that Mr Miller would resign.

Mr Turner said 

"I'm in writing, with my name against it. I go if John stays, so I've committed to that and a timeline, therefore I can watch that day come and go and tell whether I did it or not. I stand by that."

Cllr Pitman Unconvinced, continued doggedly, with her teeth firmly clamped on HTNW, Mr Miller and now Mr Turner, saying: 

"But you've indicated that once your project has been completed, that you will depart, so what happens then?"

Mr Turner replied to say he had every intention of remaining as a Trustee of HTNW and he recognised that after John had retired he expected to ask the HTNW Trustees to agree that the Project Director who would be appointed to run the Lytham Hall project in his place, reported to the HTNW Board through (or to) Mr Turner himself, so John Miller would not be in that reporting line.

Cllr Pitman wasn't for letting go. Through gritted and firmly clamped teeth, she said:

"But will he have a role to play in this particular project, because he's obviously going to be in place until October, so what is he going to be doing?"

Mr Turner asked whether she meant between now and October because between now and his retirement he would continue to try to hold the whole project together through exceedingly difficult times. He was working with the team on the ground, and at present that was the position.

Cllr Pitman asked Mr Turner to confirm that between now and October Mr Miller would be a key part of the next phase of the project, saying that he wasn't going to be twiddling his thumbs was he?

Mr Turner said Mr Miller had catering staff and volunteer teams and an army of folk at the coal face who at present report to him.

But, behaving more like a 'clamped on pitbull' by the minute, she came back with

"But he is going to be involved in putting this next stage of the project together?"

Mr Turner said

"Well, I'm leading it, the...."

he was cut short by the Pitbull who said

"But you haven't sacked him off have you?"

Displaying more composure than we would have done in these circumstances, when someone (who, by this time had already been told by an officer they had no authority to *require* HTNW do anything) had behaved in such a crass and insulting way, Mr Turner said:

"Well, no, because we actually have an operational entity, there are visitors coming. We could shut the doors and say - Oh, so sorry, this can't be continued -

It has been a clear decision of HTNW that we are not going to shut the doors and say 'Oh, until this is sorted out, there's no further action. And therefore, it is a transitional stage. I have stepped forward, and I an reviewing and going to deliver, within this summer, which is a very realistic timescale, we're talking about a whole project that didn't receive its structural funding, therefore there is not a well resourced, well staffed team. There isn't just staff falling out of the doors. It is exceedingly tight, and charity driven.

HTNW has stood the operating loss of Lytham Hall for 10+ years. £500,000 has been... the project has been supported by HTNW to those sort of levels, and it's using its maturity and its size, that it was able to bring to the table. It's been able to withstand that level of loss, year on year. The operational business is just getting into a position where it will be able to pay its own way and start delivering a profit, but with regard to its being a project that is so well resourced that it's got dozens of staff, No. And John actually continues to hold it together by not being paid. He hasn't received anything for the last three years.

So again it's HTNW propping up what otherwise would be an even bigger disaster. But it isn't, because it's all being held together"

The Chairman, Cllr Cheryl Little, asked whether Mr Turner intended to wait until October to replace Mr Miller. If he was undertaking the daily running and being reported to on a daily basis, was there nobody that come in and either work alongside him or manage him more.

The ever-patient Mr Turner said

"I will work to deliver and action that change as quickly as I possibly can, and it is actively being worked on, I'm literally looking at five a week, so if I can deliver it faster I certainly will. I just give you my honest feedback which is, the relationship with LTT has to be rock solid, and actually, in landlord / tenant there are clear relationship demarcations between what landlords and tenants do, and at the moment, the whole project is being radically harassed and disrupted by daily, and if not daily certainly weekly, intervention by the landlord on the ground, speaking with staff, speaking with volunteers, and actually stirring up all sorts of management issues.

Now that is not quiet enjoyment as per the lease, and that sort of shows the depth of problems that I face, in getting LTT to work constructively and totally committed to the project, rather than a personal witch-hunt of one individual."

Cllr Brenda Blackshaw asked why - because of the lack of confidence in Mr Miller - Mr Turner had not given him immediate notice.

Mr Turner said:

"How substantiated that lack of confidence is, is another whole issue to debate, but I'm not here to defend, or say that there is not, because there is a breakdown of confidence. I just accept that, whether it is a substantiated breakdown in confidence or not. But I accept it and that is fact therefore I'm moving toward..."

He was interrupted by Cllr Blackshaw who seemed to want to have a fight rather than gain insight and understanding.

It felt to us as though she had already made up her mind and had come to the Committee to attack rather than to consider. She said:

"But it's not giving us confidence, because he's carried on till October, and you can't guarantee he's not going to be involved once he retires in October"

Mr Turner responded:

"Why not? I've made that absolutely clear that I would. What's the issue there?"

Cllr Blackshaw:

"He won't be involved in Lytham Hall?"

Mr Turner:

"No he won't. He will retire from Lytham Hall, and he will not be in the reporting line...."

Again his reply was interrupted by Cllr Blackshaw who said

"But surely sooner would have been?"

Mr Turner:

"In my judgement, we do not have the resources, the project does not have the resources simply to not utilise his time at all.

In other words, I have a full time job. I cannot simply satellite in there and take over the operational management of it. I can't.

Therefore, I've got to find ways or restructuring the team, and finding finances enough to actually deliver change, and when John's worked for three years for nothing, a lot of operational directors of a project of this scale could come in costing tens and tens and tens of thousands a year, and that money is not in the system. Therefore I've got to find a way as fast as possible, of actually finding some money. or re-structuring and setting the team up to be able to cope the day John stops giving his huge amounts of time for free, because he always has been, all his life, totally committed to the job."

Cllr Richard Fradley began by upsetting us when he said

"I still, as Cllr Pitman said, I don't understand how the Heritage Trust for the North West works. Are you in charge? And does John work for you?"

If this was a disingenuous ploy to lull Mr Turner into a false sense of security, we're pretty sure it would not have worked, but if it really was the case that he had no understanding of the body he was being asked to come to decisions about, we think he should be ashamed.

This matter has been going on at Fylde since November last year. It is one of the most important items to come onto the T&L agenda, and any councillor who failed to research and understand the background to what they were asked to consider and decide is, in our view, an inadequate member of the committee.

Mr Turner was more accommodating of the apparent ignorance. He said HTNW had a Trustee body, a Board which was 6 or more Trustees, of which he was one. Mr Miller is the Chief Executive Officer of that organisation, so he reported to the Trustees .

Cllr Fradley was back: Saying.....

"Excellent, so the Trustees can, for want of a better term, sack John Miller."

Mr Turner said they could. Cllr Fradley went on to say that Mr Miller was the common denominator that had brought in the lack of trust from Lytham Town Trust and others, so surely it was in Mr Turner's gift as a Trustee to move Mr Miller straight away. Not sack him but to move him from the day to day running of Lytham Hall, and he could do all the rest of the good stuff that he has done, and he agreed Mr Miller had done a very good job at Lytham, but he repeated that Mr Miller was the common denominator, and that Mr Turner had said that as soon as he goes, everybody will start speaking again.

He concluded it was within Mr Turner's gift as a Trustee to move him from that post, and he asked why the Trustees were not doing that.

There are a few things we need to say ourselves here.

Firstly, it is not at all certain - and we do not believe - that the cause of the problems at Lytham Hall rest entirely with Mr Miller. To our view they rest mostly with the withdrawal of the promise of funding by LCC.

That was the trigger.

The (then) governance and financial management of HTNW had had not been an issue for the first phase of the Lottery money. It was granted, and has been spent. It was only when the promise of LCC funding was withdrawn and HTNW had to ask the Lottery people to change the bid that the issue arose.

Secondly, Mr Turner has as much authority to move Mr Miller as Cllr Fradley might have to move Fylde's Chief Executive to another role, and we can't see that happening on Cllr Fradley's  individual say-so.

But the most gaping hole in Cllr Fradley's argument is whether he wants to close Lytham Hall down completely when there is no one to deal with the operational issues, and no money to employ anyone to do it. And in any case it would take months to recruit a new manager even if/when the money could be found.

Mr Turner replied to Cllr Fradley

"The timing is everything. There is not a straight immediate replacement. If there was funding in place, in a bank account where we could simply go ' Oh well, here is £40,000 to buy in an interim manager or whatever, if there was that funding available, then that would be an additional option. In other words it could be delivered tomorrow if that funding was available, but having said that, middle and senior managers bought in for this sort of job, every single one of them would be on three months notice, plus the advertising and interview and all the rest. So normally, rule of thumb, six months turn around for every single middle or senior management change.

Therefore, if tomorrow we say - John you're out - and we immediately find the 40 or 50 thousand or whatever to be able to staff an operational director of the project, so if the money's available, if John agrees to go tomorrow, it's going to be six months until a member of staff could be put in place, and therefore HTNW, as the project holders - is that responsible action - I'm sorry, I just go - no that isn't, because I could not, and no other Trustee could deliver full time management of the project. And therefore it is phased, but very swift response."

Cllr Fradley was back to ask if HTNW had put a job application out. He wanted to know if there was an advert for Mr Millers' role at Lytham Hall.

We wonder whether our readers agree with our perception that Cllr Fradley, like Cllr Blackshaw seemed to be struggling to listen, and seemed to have come with a decision in mind and wanted to impose a predetermined solution from inside their heads.

Mr Turner had already said there was no money in the kitty. How can you advertise a job that has no money to pay the salary for heavens sake? The first thing has to be to find ongoing funds that will pay the salary at least for a few years until the events and activities at the Hall bring in enough money to meet the cost.

But if, at present, the Hall's revenue raising activity isn't generating enough to do so - and in fact it's not yet breaking even when the current operational manager has not been paid a penny piece from the Hall's funding for 3 or more years, then there has to be little chance of an additional £40,000 a year being met from income generation anytime soon.

Mr Turner said they did not have an advertisement out at present.

Cllr Fradley - (confirming our view that he wanted to win a fight rather than solve a problem) interrupted his reply and said (we thought in a rather accusing tone):

"You've got six months by your own admission, so surely, you should have put an advert out by now?"

Mr Turner said

"I've just about concluded, well, I haven't fully concluded, but I've just about concluded my review, whereby I am coming up with recommendations, and on 7th July, I sit and put that to HTNW's Trustee Board. So 7th July, I get that proposal through, and then yes, hopefully that is the Board, the Trustees, behind the proposal and the we can start getting everything in train."

Cllr Fradley then said (beginning with a quote from Mr Turner's response to Fylde's recommendation 4)

".....'HTNW will commit to the CEO of HTNW withdrawing from the Lytham Hall Restoration Project by October 2017 and request that LTT appoint two new representatives to create a new project board'. So are you saying that the two current representatives from Lytham Town Trust have to go before John Miller goes?"

Mr Turner said he was firmly saying that if LTT and HTNW are to re-position themselves and the project can move forward, then from his position, they need to refresh the Lytham Hall Executive to bring new faces on who do not come with the toxic political history that all parties in that group at the moment were demonstrating.

Cllr Fradley said that by his own admission, Mr Turner had said if Mr Miller was to go everyone would start talking again, so why would they need to change LTT representatives.

Mr Turner said

"Well, at the moment I've been appealing to LTT to work with me and give him some space to deliver, and I am seeing absolutely zero co-operation from them. Zero."

He went on to say he was an outsider satellited in, but he was finding it exceedingly difficult work with the individuals he's trying to work with.

Cllr Fradley pressed further asking if it was a clause breaker, if LTT didn't change their members then.... his voice trailed off

Mr Turner said he used a word deliberately and pointedly at the moment, which was to 'request' the change, but added:

"The strategy so far is that HTNW have just sat back and taken, and taken, and taken, and there comes a point where actually, you go - You know what, all these allegations are not founded, they're absolutely spurious, and we're going to have a go back.

And that's when it all degenerates into mayhem as you get allegation and counter allegation. And by remaining silent, there is no admission necessarily of fault. And that is where I then keep saying to myself, I do not wish to get sucked into that negativity and disconstructive arena. There is a way through and out, and the quicker everybody goes for that exit, the better. That's my strategy. Go for the door and stop looking at the distractions on either side."

Well put, we thought. But you can see that even with HTNW's best intentions, its patience is starting to wear thin.

Cllr Susan Fazackerley introduced herself said that at present she was the Leader of the Council but noted that for six years she was the Cabinet Member responsible for Tourism and Leisure, and Lytham Hall had fallen within her brief. She noted all the visits she had attended and said she felt as well clued-up as anybody, then, seemingly out of the blue, said:

"I have to say that you are coming across as a John Miller apologist, and I'm afraid that doesn't wash with this Committee...."

We were astonished at the rudeness she displayed to a guest Fylde had invited to help it find a way out of the present disaster that surrounds Lytham Hall.

This is not the way ANY councillor should behave and, had we been chairing the meeting we would have stopped her, apologised to Mr Turner, and reminded Cllr Fazackerley that she had no authority to speak for this committee, and she should not have attempted to do so. We would also have asked her - Council Leader or not - to focus on the facts of the matter, and not to deliver personal abuse if she wished to have the meeting continue.

Cllr Fazackerley has been at Fylde for a long time, and she knows better than to bring such shame onto the Council. She also insults the taxpayers of Fylde by doing so.

It was awful behaviour from an experienced councillor toward an invited guest.

She went on to say it was November 2016 when Mr Miller had been invited to give an update on what was happening at the Hall, financially and otherwise.

This is what we had suspected, it sounds as though Mr Miller had come expecting to deliver his annual report, the framework of which have been set in previous years, to illustrate how the events and activity programme was expanding as it had been doing each year, and to show - as he had in previous years (although we believe this was mostly to the technical financial officers) what the £300k was being spent on.

And as an aside at this point, we note that for each of those years Fylde said it was satisfied with the report and happy with the financial information that had been supplied. The details are all set out in our last article "Lytham Hall Mess"

So Mr Miller would no doubt have come to Fylde last November expecting to do the same thing, perhaps with an explanation about the withdrawal of the lottery grant and what might happen to get the restoration back on track.

Cllr Fazackerley's expectations seemed to differ with this, because she continued:

".... it was at that meeting I think, that a lot of us felt that we lost all confidence in Mr Miller. We had questions for him, and all his response was - I've got lever arch files at Lytham Hall that I need to consult to find this answer, and he was there to give answers to what I'm sure he knew were the questions we were putting to him.

So at that meeting in November, it was so heated, and we were so distressed by how Mr Miller was speaking that one of our members wondered if it was a police matter. So it was quite serious stuff. And at that meeting, Mr Miller gave us a reassurance that he was resigning or retiring in the March, and this is the March gone. So now we are being told that he will not be going until October, which I personally find totally unacceptable. The Hall is a disgrace. I was at one of the outdoor productions a couple of weeks ago. The facade of the Hall is dreadful.

When I mentioned this to John Miller when he came to see the Chief Exec and I when the Heritage Lottery Fund money went down the pan, all he could say was - I could ask if anybody was related to a joiner who might be able to replace the window, and then they could have their initials etched on the windows.

I feel that the wool has been pulled over our eyes for a number of years, we've been invited to the Hall, we've had slides of reports from the local paper dating back years referencing things that's happened at the Hall, but as for the actual what is happening now, where we're up to and where we're going has been totally lacking.

I feel that you keep repeating back that John Miller isn't taking a salary, but I would rather have....., I think that is a red herring, because what is the merit in not receiving a salary for doing a bad job?

It's all very well you saying you've got conservation plans stacked up wherever he's got them stacked up, but we just see deterioration and further deterioration at Lytham Hall, and I take exception to your blaming Lancashire County Council because it's been made quite plain that John Miller missed a vital deadline in relation to a grant from LCC, which I mentioned at the meeting when he came to speak to us, we've got chapter and verse of just how late he was, and that had grave consequences for that grant that was in the pipeline"

We have to interject in her tirade at this point because we believe her statement to be significantly incorrect.

The deadline to which we believe she refers related not to the GRANT of £1m that LCC had promised to give toward the Hall's restoration and in support of the lottery grant, but to the extension of a wholly separate LOAN GUARANTEE for HTNW's wider property base across the North West. This was a guarantee which HTNW no longer required, because they had re-financed their loan elsewhere into a mortgage, (as we found on the internet, and as Moor Stephens found and commented on in their report, and as Fylde's own Audit experts also said).

It was LCC who chose to conflate the two separate matters to a single permission, and it is they who bear the responsibility for doing so. This, in turn, gave the new administration grounds to firstly refuse, then to negotiate a lower sum of £300,000 as a grant for the Hall. We gave full details of this in our previous article 'Lytham Hall Mess'

Cllr Fazackerley continued:

"Obviously, he is the CEO, but the CEO is responsible to the Board. It's not the other way round, and I feel that your, the Board of HTNW cannot wash their hands of what has been happening at Lytham Hall, and put it all down to Mr Miller, because I hear that - this may be untrue but - your Board meets once a year...."

Mr Turner says gently "That isn't true." Cllr Fazackerley continues:

".... That's what I've been told. You say that's untrue, I have to accept that. So I would urge you to replace Mr Miller. I think he's doing more harm than good, both as far as the building is concerned, and certainly as far as the volunteers are concerned, and the reputation of Heritage Trust for the North West in this area."

Her statement saddened us. As with too many of the other members on the Conservative side of the table, at some point she had became persuaded to see this as a battle to be won rather than a problem to be solved. So there was no attempt at conciliation. There was no seeking of consensus, there was no willingness to employ anything other than the closed minds (and in some cases appalling manners) that were evident.

Readers will recall our article that showed how Fylde managed to magic £1m out of the blue within 12 months to pay into the fund that 'might' eventually deliver a new road across the moss. That's a road that most folk thought Kensington would build, but which now seems to need significant financial support from other bodies if it is to be built.

Fylde could have chosen to give that £1m to Lytham Hall when LCC withdrew their offer, but they did not.

Had Fylde BC decided to do so, there would now be money in the pot to pay for the right sport of contractors to fix the roof and gutters and windows, to repaint the Hall and whatever else is set out as its priority in the Conservation Plan, and probably desperately needed.

Instead, with LCC's offer withdrawn and the Lottery people not willing to have a reduced scheme, there's no cash left. Zilch.

There's only what HTNW and LTT can manage to find for the skeleton staff, and for materials for volunteers to work with which, we hear gets more and more difficult each day.

Fylde could have put some of the almost half a million they have just declared as a 'surplus / underspend' from closing last year's accounts down. But instead, they have slipped it into various reserves and future spending pots. That's their choice, of course, but if they had wanted to help the Hall further, cash that could easily have done so recently and unexpectedly became available to do it. But we heard nothing of that possibility in this committee.

If Fylde had wanted a quick replacement for Mr Miller as project manager at Lytham Hall, they could offer to stump up, say 10 years worth of the £40,000 a year salary that will be needed to pay an operational manager. But we didn't hear that offer materialise - or even be suggested - at the Committee.

As Cllr Mrs Oades had proposed at Fylde's budget meeting in March, they could have offered to drop £13,000 a year into the Operational Manager's salary pot just by doing away with the 'grace and favour' titles of 'Leader' and 'Deputy Leader' that Cllr Fazackerley and Cllr Mrs Buckley are accorded, and for which they draw an extra allowance on top of their normal allowances as Councillors and or Chairmen. These titles and roles are an unnecessary irrelevance since the public demanded Fylde abandon its detested former Cabinet system which had made these roles necessary.

But that's not going to happen either.

 3. What was Fylde's £300,000 spent on?

Cllr Vince Settle said he thought HTNW should go back into the files they kept hearing about, and extract all the items that Fylde's £300,000 had been spent on. He noted that the independent report money said that money had been spent, but Mr Miller couldn't show them the files. Cllr Settle thought it should be a very simple matter to go to where the files are and don't leave the building until you extract the information.

He offered his personal solution - which seemed to be that the hall staff stop working on what they were doing and to go through all the files and extract what had been spent from Fylde's grant of £300,000

We can see his logic, but his reading of the Audit report has not bee thorough enough.

Fylde employed two of the most able local authority specialist audit and fraud investigators on the Fylde coast to conduct a detailed audit of HTNW's books. They did so and concluded it was not possible to say exactly what Fylde's money had been spent on - because there was no separate account, there was only a HTNW account. Almost all monies received by HTNW went into this, and whatever was needed at the time, for whatever property in their portfolio needed it, was taken out.

It appeared that Fylde's money was mixed in with grants and income from elsewhere and spending occurred as necessary, without keeping track of individual ins and outs. We have no idea of how the accounting is done at HTNW, but we can see that an order say for, say, a couple of thousand young trees that will be planted in the grounds of three or four HTNW properties might be aggregated to a single order to achieve a more favourable price, and not be separately identifiable as to how many went to each property.

We can see the same sort of thing with aggregated bills for other supplies and services as well.

It's probably not that the supplies and services haven't been provided, but that the apportionment of them has not been separately recorded to each property, so there is no accurate way to say precisely what has been spent on any individual element

We can see this could be partly because the grants were made to HTNW globally, not to a specific part of it.

We think it's very much like the current argument we're having with Fylde and its Green Bins. Just as they think HTNW should keep separate accounts for Lytham Hall and its other properties, so we think Fylde should keep separate accounts to show how much the green bin subscriptions bring in and how much the same service costs, and these figures should be kept separately from the general waste and recycling income and expenditure that are paid out of taxation. But the Conservative majority on the Council specifically refused to do exactly that separation of its accounting at its March budget meeting. And they are still refusing to do so.

So we think it ill behoves FBC to moan about the lack of separate accounting when it is currently displaying complete mastery of the art itself.

Back at the Hall, whilst HTNW's accounting methods mean you can't define exactly what Fylde's money was spent on, neither does it make it easy to identify the £50,000 or so a year HTNW surplus attributed to specific other HTNW properties or activities.

HTNW say they have subsidised Lytham Hall by this sort of sum for the last 10 to 20 years. We can imagine it being more difficult for that to happen with individual property accounting.

We think Fylde, and LTT should be careful for what they wish for.

In reply to (actually we hadn't spotted this before, but in the matter of 'accounts' we have to say the rather aptly-named) Cllr Vince Settle, Mr Turner said he would welcome Fylde's representative getting in touch with him because he would happily show them the accounting systems and the methodology that has been in place and used. He said there was no issue other than it would require an individual to give that time, but he was more than happy to show then so they can go back and report to Fylde.

He said HTNW's own accountants say they had done nothing wrong, but others said different, and he thought the answer might well lie in the legal definitions of accounting terms and defining, for example, what spending was capital and what constituted revenue, and that sort of thing. And although he was not in a position to argue that sort of matter at the meeting, he would be happy to explain accounts and methodology used if someone from Fylde wanted to look.

 4. Will HTNW Be Able to Get the Necessary Funding?

Cllr Maxine Chew wanted to know if there was a very good chance of Heritage Lottery Funding?

Mr Turner said that key to the Lytham Hall project was the sourcing of structural funds at the level of the HLF - so that meant a HLF bid, and that could only happen if and when all the key stakeholders (LCC, FBC, LTT, HTNW) were all fully on board and fully supportive. So re-connecting with those key stakeholders has to happen. His timeline for that to happen was

  1. John Miller's retirement from the project.
  2. Getting an individual in place to manage the operational team who are working on the ground (volunteers, tearooms, visitor management etc),
  3. Them, once the operational asset has been secured, working with the stakeholders, there has to be an openness.
  4. HTNW does its governance review so that HTNW together with its project team can demonstrate to the key stakeholders that they were back on track, and
  5. then the Conservation Plan for the Hall which has been completed needs to be re-fashioned and re-submitted to HLF.

When all of that is done he was sure HLF would be supportive.

Cllr Ray Thomas asked if the key stakeholders had been consulted as to whether they would actually support HTNW leading or being the accountable body.

Mr Turner said every single major stakeholder he had spoken to has said that the untenable breakdown in confidence goes as far as John Miller and not as far as HTNW, and they'd all said that if HTNW made the moves of John Miller retiring and a new governance structure, they would be right back on board. He said he's had that as a verbal, in principal message to him, and he took it as just that.

He added that when Mr Miller had retired and when the new system was in place, when the new application was prepared, that would be the time when those in-principle connections would have to be fully fledged, and that would be part of the process. Whoever was leading the project at that time would need to be sure they were rock solid undertakings, because otherwise, the grant simply wouldn't happen.

 5. Money from LCC

Cllr Mrs Chew wanted to know if the money from LCC was now lost and if it was, where would the £1 million come from?

Mr Turner said he did not know enough of the detail, but there was a huge question mark, adding there was a large body of people who believed that the whole crisis has been because LCC did not live up to their commitment to the funding that was promised, and they withdrew. That, in his view, although he said he was not aware of all the details, was the first card that was taken out of the pack, and actually was the cause of all this upset. So he saw LCC as being possibly hugely accountable for the problems that collectively, this community and Lytham Hall now faced.

 6. About Mr Turner

Cllr Sandra Pitman asked how he came to be appointed to be a Trustee. She said she found HTNW a bit difficult to understand, and it was not the most transparent of bodies, and she wondered whether Mr Turner was an associate of Mr Miller before he came to HTNW, and how far that may possibly compromise his position in terms of that relationship.

Mr Turner was more polite than we would have been in his response. He said he was a lover and enthusiast of our built heritage and was the founder of the 'Field Barn Trust' which was a preservation trust. He said his links into HTNW simply materialised because, as a local up in Cumbria, when Rose Castle was being sold off by the Church Commissioners, and a group of local folk stepped forward and set up a small action team whose objective was to save Rose Castle. John Miller, seeing a historic building in the NW under threat, gave time and support to that project. When the local group was struggling, he gave support from under the wings of HTNW, in order to keep the project alive and give it some hope, and that process to save Rose Castle brought HTNW's support, and in return, one of the Rose Castle group became a trustee of HTNW, as did other groups across the NW. He said there was nothing other than a lifetime of commitment by John to our heritage in the north west. There was no skulduggery, but there might be old age and a lack of modernisation in HTNW.

 7. Fylde Decide What to Do

Toward the end of the session with Mr Turner, Cllr Fradley said he would like to volunteer himself to be Fylde's representative on the new Project Group to be formed for Lytham Hall. We winced slightly given his admitted failure to find out much if anything about it since last November, but it probably could have been worse.

Summing up, the Chairman said there was a lot to do over the next few months, and she wanted to propose an additional recommendations when they were being considered.


The recommendations were:

  1. "That the committee note the responses from Mr. Turner on behalf of HTNW to the recommendations made by the committee on March 9th 2017."

  2. That the committee support the proposed establishment of new project team with new leadership, governance and financial arrangements that are consistent with best practice and transparency"

Cllr Pitman said she was not happy that these arrangements could include Mr Miller, and she proposed an amendment to add the words "but without Mr Miller," after "with new leadership" However, no-one was willing to second it, so that amendment fell, and the original wording remained recommended.

  1. That the committee seeks reassurance, with supporting evidence, from HTNW that the new team will have the capability and personnel to deliver a successful Lytham Hall restoration project, in order for the committee to have confidence in HTNW delivering the Lytham Hall Restoration Project.

  2. That the committee nominate a member to link with the new Lytham Hall Restoration Project team with the role and responsibility to be agreed in consultation with HTNW and reported back to the committee.

The Chairman said she noted Cllr Fradley's nomination of himself and asked if there were any other nominations. There were none. Cllr Fradley was duly seconded and voted to become the Council's representative, but (thankfully) it is to the project group when it is formed, not to the wider HTNW body itself (as has been resolved in the previous T&L minutes).

  1. That the nominated member works with the Director of Development and other appropriate officers to monitor the progress of the actions agreed by HTNW to provide a progress report to the committee on September 7th 2017.

At this point the Chairman proposed a new recommendation:

  • "That the committee request from HTNW an immediate action plan and timescale to ensure achievement of the improvements pledged over the next few years".

  1. That if it is clear over the summer period that satisfactory progress is not being made with the establishment of a new project team or the financial, governance and leadership arrangements, ahead of the September committee, the Chairman of the committee will be notified to consider any appropriate action.

At this point the Chairman proposed a further amendment which added the words "against the agreed action plan" after "is not being made"

And there was another amendment proposed by Cllr Barker who wanted to know who would decide whether sufficient progress had been made. She proposed it should be the Council's representative. We think this was the wording adopted.

  1. That the committee withhold but retain the option to take such action as may be open to it (including legal action) to recover whole or part of the grant, and to seek the intervention of the Charity Commission to review the overall financial management and governance arrangements of Heritage Trust North West and its respective trading companies, subject to satisfactory progress with the new leadership, governance and financial arrangements outlined by HTNW in this report.

In actual fact, the Chairman failed to have her, or Cllr Barker's amendments seconded before taking the vote on them. But the vote was in favour, so until the minutes are published, we were not sure what the wording will exactly be.


The minutes were published a day or two before we went to upload on 2 July. They are:

  1. To note the responses from Mr Turner on behalf of HTNW to the recommendations made by the committee on March 9th 2017.

  2. To support the proposed establishment of the new project team with new leadership, governance and financial arrangements that are consistent with best practice and transparency.

  3. To seek reassurance, with supporting evidence, from HTNW that the new team will have the capability and personnel to deliver a successful Lytham Hall restoration project, in order for the committee to have confidence in HTNW delivering the Lytham Hall Restoration Project.

  4. To appoint Councillor Richard Fradley as the borough council’s representative on the new Lytham Hall Restoration Project Team with the role and responsibility to be agreed in consultation with HTNW and reported back to the committee.

  5. That the nominated member (Richard Fradley) work with the Director of Development Services and other appropriate officers to monitor the progress of the actions agreed by HTNW and provide a progress report to the committee on September 7th 2017.

  6. To request that HTNW produce an immediate action plan with timescales to ensure the achievement of the input improvements pledged over the next few months.

  7. That if it is clear to the nominated elected member (Richard Fradley) over the summer period that satisfactory progress is not being made against the action plan, or with the establishment of a new project team, or the financial, governance and leadership arrangements, ahead of the September committee, the Chairman of the committee be notified to consider any appropriate action.

  8. That the committee withhold but retain the option to take such action as may be open to it (including legal action) to recover whole or part of the grant, and to seek the intervention of the Charity Commission to review the overall financial management and governance arrangements of Heritage Trust North West and its respective trading companies, subject to satisfactory progress with the new leadership, governance and financial arrangements outlined by HTNW in this report.


Where to start!

We concluded our last article by saying we thought (the lessor) Lytham Town Trust, and (the lessee) the Heritage Trust North West needed to press their 're-set' buttons, and that FBC should gracefully back out of that warring relationship, and withdraw all its recommendations from its March Tourism and Leisure Agenda, in order to promote a period of calm and reflection.

We said the two main parties needed to step back from the brink of an unfolding disaster, and start again, and we hoped Fylde would strike the pose of being a reliable intermediary to help facilitate that to come about.

Sadly - whilst we detect some softening from the officer position at Fylde, excepting for the notable efforts of Mr John Turner - there is almost no evidence that anyone is even willing to try that approach, let alone adopt it.

This is very bad for the Hall.

Mr Turner said all the right sort of things, and he definitely had the right approach in trying to pour oil on troubled waters.

We were very impressed with his approach. But we have to admit to having a few nagging doubts.

For one thing, we're not exactly clear how he came to be representing HTNW at the T&L meeting. We've seen it written somewhere that he was "designated." He himself says he "stepped forward" and the FBC officers report says he has been "commissioned by HTNW"

We'd have been happier to see something that said the Board of Trustees of HTNW had mandated (or perhaps nominated) Mr Turner to review and appraise the options for delivering Lytham Hall's operational management and its stalled restoration project, and to report to the Board with his recommendations by [date] - or something like that. But perhaps we're just too steeped in how councils should do things!

Also, whilst we believe him to be sincere, in reality, all of what Mr Turner said is subject to approval by the Board of HTNW, and then it is subject to finding the funding for a new Operational Manager to replace Mr Miller - who was reported as being willing to step down from the Lytham Hall project.

That opens another area that Councillors may not have spotted.

Stepping down, or retiring from, the Lytham Hall project does not seem to automatically mean also stepping down or retiring from HTNW itself. So it is possible, and perhaps even likely that Mr Miller will remain CEO of HTNW without direct involvement in the operational management of one of the properties in its portfolio.

If Fylde's expectation is otherwise, they will not be happy bunnies, and they need to be onside for Mr Turner's vision to have a chance of success.

Also, if HTNW is to be expected to continue to fund the Lytham Hall's operation to the tune of around £50,000 a year, it will take a very big and generous personality to have been treated as Mr Miller has been treated to watch the £50,000 a year to continue to exit HTNW's accounts. We would like to hope Mr Miller has a big and generous personality. We're not sure we would have it.

That prompts a wider question about whether changing the people who represent an organisation on another body can effect change the underlying views of the parent body, or whether the new faces will merely become new faces that remain constrained by colleagues 'back home' with older faces and longer memories, and we wonder if that situation might apply both to Lytham Town Trust and FBC.

We also note there may be other solutions than are not addressed at all in this article. We wonder if, say, an outsider could come along with a completely different operating model that might be acceptable and hopefully not overtly commercial.

We also worry about the changes being proposed at HTNW. The call for modernisation of governance and accounting is probably inevitable, but it is also likely to cause 'old timers' who are comfortable in their tried and tested roles to lose heart and give up altogether as 'modernisation' engulfs them.

And the prospect of losing the wealth of knowledge in people's heads at HTNW fills us with dread, especially if, to replace them, the administrative salary costs rise significantly - and HTNW, whilst operating to modern governance and accounting standards finds itself unable to provide the support funding (like the £50 k a year it says it has been subsidising Lytham Hall with) and has to move to a model that requires endowment funding before it can take on an important building in need of restoration.

To quote the reverse of Cllr Fazackerley's homily - what's the point of having a modern, well governed, well accounted, transparent organisation that spends all its money on administration and does nothing?

We wonder if she might be able to give us a good answer to that question.

If Mr Turner's mission does not receive enough support from LTT, (or if LTT embark on more overt and public attacks on HTNW) we expect to see HTNW become the empire that strikes back.

For the most part we think they have sustained a dignified silence against the allegations and assertions levelled against them since the Heritage Lottery Fund's withdrawal of its support. Our own view is that this was because, (as Mr Turner ably showed), they were adopting the maxim of 'least said soonest mended' but some will no doubt mistake that for culpability, and if attacks on the group and their reputation continue, we expect they will 'come out fighting'.

That's not going to be a pretty sight.

Allied to this are the provisions that landlord and tenant can enforce on each other from within the lease. Few know its contents. And in reality, this is probably the most important document going forward, and it undoubtedly will be if things get more messy.

County Cllr Tim Ashton's appointment to the Board of HTNW as the LCC representative is a very interesting development. It could be a really good thing for the Hall, but it has some potential to be damaging for HTNW as well, depending on Cllr Ashton's intentions.

We wish Mr Turner's mission well, and we hope it succeeds. It is probably the best of the most obvious solutions that are currently evident. But the number of deep and noxiously poisoned wells that surround the hall, and the accompanying self-belief in the rightness of their case by several of the main parties involved has us fearful that it may not succeed.

Finally, we think there is more than just HTNW's governance arrangements that need a dose of looking at. We think the governance of the relations between the property owner and the experts they have chosen to manage, maintain and if possible restore that property - i.e. a lease - might need to be reviewed and changed as well. It seems to us it should be more of a partnership document - with shared responsibility - rather than a lease that separates the parties and provides the basis for conflict.

There is undoubtedly more to come on this matter and we will keep readers informed as best we can.

Dated:  2 July 2017



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