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Institute Steamrollered

Institute Steamrollered

This long article transcribes almost an hour and a half of what was said about Lytham Institute at a Special Council Meeting at Fylde on 9 March 2020, together with our analysis of what it all means.

Fylde's Conservative Group leaders had tried to close down and emasculate the purpose for which the meeting had been called - by changing the order of items on the agenda, but they were thwarted by a clever strategic move from Cllr Peter Collins.

However, as we suspect he knew all along, that didn't change any of the voting.


This is a long report because we're repeating (mostly verbatim), what was said at this important Special Council meeting.

We have several reasons for doing it this way, not least because this is the first ever Special Council meeting Fylde has held in its new 'Committee Governance' system , and it is setting precedents about how matters will be dealt with for the future. We think people will want to be able to refer to this article from future times.

Secondly, this issue has echoes of both the Heeley Road Hostel, and the Melton Grove scandals, where a steamrolling Conservative Group charged over common sense, good practice, propriety, and logic to secure a pre-determined position that local people did not support. So it is important that we detail and document the twists and turns of the process for both current and future readers.

Readers who want a 'quick and dirty' version of the article can simply read the following synopsis - which has inbuilt links to the main sections of the Article

So with that explanation, forward we go....

We begin with a Background that quickly précis the last article and brings readers up to date, before looking at The Agenda for this Special Council Meeting, and introducing What Happened At the Special Meeting Itself.

As soon as The Mayor Opened the Meeting, it was interrupted by Cllr Liz Oades who called for a Recorded Vote on all Items, following which Cllr Karen Buckly Started to introduce her Propositions, but was Interrupted by A Procedural Motion From Cllr Brian Gill. He sought to reverse the two main items on the agenda. The Mayor called the vote on the Procedural Motion and it was lost 30:12.

We digress briefly to explain how The Conservative group all seem to have the same view when voting, before Returning to Cllr Buckley's moving of her proposition, and Our Comments on this, including a look back at Cllr Buckley's previous form on changing inconvenient resolutions, then going back to Our Comments on what she said, before reporting the remainder of what she said to Explain her new resolutions, and Our Own Take on this.

As soon as her proposition had been seconded, Cllr Peter Collins Proposed an Amendment. and gave notice of three others, (the effect of which was to change the order in which matters were to de discussed).

All Cllr Collins' amendments were actually what Cllr Lloyd was going to propose later in the meeting, and were to do with Councillors needing more and better information on which to take decisions about the Trust, and about better processes to consult local people about what they wanted for the trust.

His First Amendment proposed that the wording of Cllr Lloyd's first proposition later in the meeting should replace the words that Cllr Mrs Buckley had Just proposed. Cllr Roger Lloyd seconded him and spoke. Cllr Shirley Green ironically  commended Cllr Collin's strategy. Then Cllr Chris Dixon made a point, before Cllr O'Rouke showed us why Cllr Collins' amendment was necessary, and we added our explanation Why we think he had missed the point somewhat. With no further speakers, Cllr Mrs Buckley Summed up on Cllr Collins Amendment 1, and We give our own take on what had been said, before The Vote was Taken and the Amendment Lost. 30:12

Cllr Collins then Proposed his Second Amendment, after which Cllr Liz Oades urged slow and careful progress on setting up the trust. She asked about the Trust's accounting and sought to learn from the Council's experience of setting up Lowther Gardens Trust. Next, Cllr Brian Gill spoke about his experiences of the Institute and said not a lot needed to change, before Cllr Mrs Buckley Summed up on Cllr Collins Amendment 2, and we give Our Take on what had been said, before and the Vote was Taken on Amendment 2, which was lost 30:12

Cllr Collins next proposed his Third Amendment, to which there were no Speakers, so Cllr Buckley Summed up on it, and we provide Our take on what was said before The Vote Was Taken on Cllr Collins' Amendment 3 which was again lost 30:12

Finally - for the moment at least - Cllr Collins Proposed his Fourth Amendment. which was followed by Cllr Roger Lloyd who seconded it. before Cllr Buckley Summed up on it, and we give Out Take on what had been said, before The Vote on Amendment 4 was Taken, and lost 30:12.

Next, we look at Where we are up to, before we realise There's more to come as Cllr Brian Gill says he has Three Amendments to propose.

Cllr Gill introduces his Amendment 1 which proposed to delete the first of Cllr Mrs Buckley's propositions. With no other speakers, Cllr Mrs Buckley sums up on this amendment, before The Vote is taken, and lost 30:12, after which we give Our own take on what was said about this matter.

Next, Cllr Gill introduces his Amendment 2, which is to delete some words about the Trust working from Other Premises. Cllr Shirley Green speaks against this, and Cllr Mrs Buckley doesn't even bother to sum up, before The vote is taken on Amendment 2 and lost 30:12 and we give our take on the matters in Cllr Gill's Amendment 2.

Finally, Cllr Gill introduces his third amendment which is about giving the public more priority in the ensuing consultation and changing the method of public consultation from an online form to surgeries and ward meetings with Cllrs. No-one spoke to this amendment so it went Straight to a vote and was lost 30:12 before we give Our comments on Cllr Gill's third amendment.

With all the amendments done and dusted, we Take stock on what's happened so far, before returning to Cllr Mrs Buckley's Original Propositions which are now, themselves open for debate.

Cllr Chris Dixon is the first to support her, but We show why we think he is wrong in this matter. Next Cllr Roger Small offers her his support and We add our own comment, before Cllr Peter Collins wants to know why it is all being rushed, and Cllr Roger Lloyd attempts to correct what Cllr Dixon said, following which Cllr Shirley Green comes to Cllr Dixon's defence, before We try to add some illumination for our readers.

As this item draws to a close, Cllr Mrs Buckley sums up on her own propositions, before we add Our own comment on what she has said and The vote is taken and, of course, won.

The Meeting should now have moved to it's next business which was to have been Cllr Lloyd's four propositions, but  because they have been voted on already (as amendments at the start of the meeting), a procedural device is used to close the Meeting.

Finally, we give Our own overall Conclusions, We consider Ways to respond to the Consultation Fylde has initiated on its proposals, and we look at What's likely to happen next, before we conclude with What to make of it all - well, so far at least.


In our last article 'The Institute at Council' we gave the background to how Cllr Roger Lloyd and several other councillors had called a Special Meeting of Fylde Council to discuss arrangements for the future operation of Lytham Institute now it is a charitable trust.

At that meeting, he gave four reasons why the special meeting was necessary. Essentially, he said councillors needed more information before they could take sensible and responsible decisions.

As well as calling the Special Council Meeting he - together with at least nine other councillors - also called for a decision that the Finance and Democracy Committee was going to take - to be stopped, and for the Council to consider and take that decision as well.

When we published our last article, the agenda for the Special Council meeting had not been finalised. However, we had heard that both Cllr Lloyd's concerns, and the 'Referred' Finance and Democracy Committee report, would both be heard at the same Council meeting on 9th March.

We said at the time....

'We imagine arguments are bouncing around amongst Fylde's protocol officers about whether the four matters Cllr Lloyd raised will appear on the agenda of the Special Council meeting BEFORE or AFTER the item that has been referred from Finance and Democracy Committee.

That's significant, because each of the two matters more or less emasculates the other.'

If the Referred Finance and Democracy decisions were to have been taken first, and if, (as might be expected) they were voted through by the Conservative majority group, it would be pointless considering Cllr Lloyd's item (asking for more information before taking a decision), because the decision itself would have already been taken.

But if the reverse order applied, and the first decision resulted in a vote to have more information, then the Council couldn't sensibly vote for the referred Finance and Democracy Committee item if it had just voted that it didn't have enough information to decide.

So it was that, everyone interested in the Institute was waiting for the agenda to be published - to see which came first- because whichever came first could more or less cancelled out the other.

Before the agenda was published, we heard some inside information that the relevant officer had decided that,

  • partly because the reason that the Special Council Meeting had been called at all, was specifically to discuss the four issues that Cllr Lloyd had questioned,
  • and partly because the request for the Special Council Meeting was made before the decision to refer the matter from Finance and Democracy Committee to a future Council meeting,

then the matters raised by Cllr Lloyd and others should take priority, and they should be the first item to be discussed.

We agree that was the correct decision, and it was based on the facts of the matter.

However, following representation from her Conservative colleagues (specifically Council Leader Cllr Susan Fazackerley and Deputy Leader and Chair of the Finance and Democracy Committee Cllr Karen Buckley), Cllr Angela Jacques, the Mayor (who technically has the final say in ordering the agenda) overrode the officer's decision and reversed the order, to put Cllr Mrs Buckley's Referred Finance and Democracy item as the first of the two items on the agenda.

And that's how the agenda for the Special Council Meeting was published.

We cannot say the Mayor made the wrong decision here, (because it was her decision to take), but we do regard it as a very bad decision to have been taken.

As yet, the logic underpinning her decision to change the order has not been made public, but we hope it will be - otherwise it risks appearing to be a politically motivated decision that could be damaging to the office of the Mayor.


From what we can see, the first item - i.e. the referred item from the Finance and Democracy committee - was reproduced without any significant change, but notably and curiously, it was headed 'Lytham Institute' (i.e. without reference to the Trust - almost as though it is not about the Lytham Institute Trust)

In our last article we'd said the way the 'referral' was handled at the Finance and Democracy Committee meeting was unusual, and the only reason we could think of for it being done like that was because Cllr Mrs Buckley wanted to be able to change something in the wording of the report - and she couldn't do that unless she referred the whole report to Council.

There was to be a change.

The 'second' item - the one requested by Cllr Lloyd and his colleagues (for which the Special Council meeting had been called) - had some further detail in the agenda report, and some propositions.

It was set out at Item 2 and headed Lytham Institute Trust'.

Readers can follow this link to download a copy of the whole agenda (including both items)

Fundamentally, the difference between the two agenda items is that for the Finance and Democracy one, the Council's officers have decided what they think is the best way to do things (without asking for the views of councillors).

They then presented their view to Finance and Democracy Committee as a single 'this is what you need to do' option for rubber-stamping.

Cllr Lloyd's approach is to have the officers inform councillors what all the options and possibilities are, before councillors debate the pros and cons of each, and come to a decision about which they prefer.

You might say he wants to 'take back control'

Cllr Lloyd's report addressed the four matters he asked questions about at the last council meeting: They were set out as:

'Matter 1:
'To determine what steps the Council will take to gather the evidence it needs to inform its decision-taking regarding the Lytham Institute.'

'Matter 2:
What steps the Council will take to identify the circumstances that make it necessary to alter the present purposes of the Institute'

'Matter 3:
What steps the Council will take to consider whether or not it meets the relevant criteria for making a scheme'

'Matter 4
What steps the Council will take to consult local people to identify the similar purpose(s) that the charity and property will have in the future.'


We'd heard there might be more people than usual turning up in the public gallery so we arrived quite early - at about 6:35 for the start time of 7pm. By about quarter to seven, the Public Gallery (which usually has two or three people including ourselves) was quite full. (It holds about 35 people).

The councillor we call 'The Brigadier' (because of his military background and bearing) arrived, looked at the gallery and said (audibly) but apparently to himself "Never seen so many people here".

 The Mayor opened the meeting.

Unusually, there were no prayers at the start, nor was there the usual provision for councillors or members of the public to ask questions, nor were the minutes of the previous meeting proposed for approval. Evidently it was to be straight into business.

 Call For Recorded Votes

Well, it might have been supposed to be straight to business, but Cllr Mrs Oades had other ideas. She indicated to speak, saying:

"Mr Mayor, can I ask that all votes be recorded tonight please. I think I have a seconder for that. "

Several councillors stood to support her request for recorded votes.

That means that rather than voting by the usual show of hands, an officer calls out the name of each individual councillor, and they answer 'For' or 'Against' (or sometimes 'Abstain'), and each vote is recorded in the minutes - so people reading the minutes after the meeting can see which way each councillor voted.

Mrs Oades went on to explain that she had called for recorded votes because it would comply with Government guidance and it would protect councillors from inadvertently placing the council at risk. She went on to give more details of her reasoning, citing the relevant parts of Charity Commission guidance to explain her action.

Fylde's constitution requires that when five or more councillors call for a recorded vote, it becomes mandatory to take votes in this way.

The Mayor has no discretion in this matter and after Cllr Mrs Oades finished, the Mayor said they would carry on with the agenda.

There were no responses to the declarations of Interest at item 1, so she moved on to Item 2 (Mayors announcements) and Item 3 (Chief Executives Communications) before reaching the first 'business' item where she said

 The Mayor Calls Cllr Buckley To Speak

"Item 4 on the agenda is the Lytham Institute, so I invite Karen Buckley to present this item..."

 The Process Was Interrupted by Cllr Brian Gill

At this point, before Cllr Mrs Buckley could move her propositions, Cllr Brian Gill interrupted, asking to raise a Procedural Motion.

The Mayor consulted with the Chief Executive and the Solicitor to ask whether Cllr Gill could do this - and was evidently told that he could. So she asked him to continue. He said:

"Mr Mayor, the Constitution allows a procedural motion to change the order of business on the agenda."

He cited the relevant section then went on to say...

"The reason for this request is that a number of councillors called for this special meeting, with Councillor Lloyd submitting a paper to be taken with the agenda. Subsequent to this, an agenda item at the item at F&D - that's Finance an democracy - was referred to this Special Meeting.

The order should reflect the course of events.

Having read the Finance and Democracy paper, it would seem inappropriate to discuss this agenda item without first establishing elements raised by Cllr Lloyd in the paper he originally submitted because they provide the Council with the background necessary to allow good decision-making.

To do this would also show that the Council is operating to the Charity Commission's guidelines around openness and transparency.

I have asked Council officers why the agenda items are this way round and have been informed by email from the Chief Executive that the decision has come from advice given by the Charity Commission.

When you read the Charities Act, the Guidance and the email sent to the Chief Executive, none of these define the running order of the agenda. They merely define the process that needs to be followed to change the objective of the Trust and to then enter into consultation for an amended scheme.

The only conclusion one can come to is that the proposals are being submitted to Council without allowing members to be fully aware of the circumstances.

The agenda order is purely down to you, Mr Mayor, as defined by the Council's constitution, to which the trust is currently operating.

I therefore move to change the order of business on the agenda for the proposed agenda items to be reversed."

After Cllr Peter Collins had seconded his proposition, the Mayor advised that the matter must now be put to a recorded vote without further discussion, and it was.

 The Vote on Reversing the Order of Business.

The attendance record shows there were 43 councillors present at the meeting,  (Conservative, Independent, Lytham Independents, Liberal Democrat)

(Note: Lytham Independent Cllr Mark Bamforth - whose health has for some time prevented him from attending meetings in person - attended the meeting via video-link, but under present legislation he is not allowed to participate in any votes via the video link and therefore did not do so).

This means there were 42 votes available to be cast for each resolution, and for this first vote, the record shows:

a) For reversing the order to put Cllr Lloyd's item first: Councillors Armit, Blackshaw, Clayton, P Collins, Gill, Griffiths, Henshaw, Lee, Lloyd, Nulty, Oades, Silverwood - 12 votes in total

b) Against reversing the order. Councillors Aitken, Andrews, Anthony, Buckley, D Collins, Dixon, Fazackerley, Fiddler, Gaunt, Green, Harris, Harrison, Jacques, Kirkham, Little, Nash, Nash-Walker, Nixon, O’Rourke, Redcliffe, Rigby, Sayward, Settle, Singleton, Small, Thomas, Threlfall, Trudgill, Willder and Withers - 30 votes in total

This result meant the Finance and Democracy item would be the first to be discussed.

What this result showed is that almost a third of the Councillors present did not believe they had been given sufficient information to take the decision they were about to be asked to take, and around two thirds thought they should be kept in ignorance of the information they had asked for.

Furthermore, the voting pattern that is evident, (showing all the Conservative party members voting one way, and councillors from three other political groups voting the other way) - especially when considered in relation to the Mayor's personal decision to reverse the order of business that had been decided by council officers prior to the meeting, makes it difficult to believe that this was anything but a vote taken on party political lines by the Conservative group.

 A Short Digression

To understand how this comes about, our readers need to know that the constitution of the Fylde Conservatives says that whilst within their private group meetings, members can argue for or against an issue that will be considered in committee or council.

But once the group has taken a vote on a matter, the majority view on that issue must become supported by all Conservative group members - even if they disagree strongly with it.

Failure to vote in accordance with the Conservative group's decision leads to sanctions.

These normally begin with suspension of the individual's membership of the Conservative group, and can lead to expulsion from the group - as former Cllr Barbara Pagett found to her cost when she defied the group voting instructions on a matter of conscience to her.

She was to have been sanctioned by being suspended, but resigned from the Conservative party in a principled stand before this was done, and became an Independent Councillor loved by her electorate and returned to the Council as such year after year.

For her action and integrity at that time, counterbalance dubbed her Saint Barbara Pagett.

So the most that any dissenting Conservative may do is to abstain from voting - and then only if it is a matter of conscience and affects people in the ward they represent.

They may not publicly speak against what the group has decided behind closed doors nor may they vote against it.

That's why our readers see 'block' Conservative voting so frequently at Fylde.

Some argue it produces strong clear and firm local Government.

We think it is a denial of democracy and it fails to take account of the depth and breadth of knowledge, opinion and experience that is available from the individual views of a broad spectrum of elected councillors.

 Back To the Meeting and Cllr Mrs Buckley Speaks

After the vote to change the order of business had been lost, the Mayor asked Cllr Buckley to introduce what had previously been the Finance and Democracy Committee item;  except - as we were to see - it wasn't the same item (just as we had suspected at the 'unusual' F&D meeting itself).

Cllr Mrs Buckley said:

"First of all I wish to be clear that when making decision on Lytham Institute we are doing so as corporate trustee. We are not doing so as a council and we're not doing so as the individual trustees of a charity. As such, the trustee cannot act simultaneously as a council nor by purpose. There has been much confusion over this, understandably so, and therefore it is worth making this distinction at the outset.

The situation has come about following the registration of Lytham Institute as a charity. And we need to move forward in that guise, something that opposition members are unfortunately stalling with their actions to date.

Members of the public and the different groups that have an interest in Lytham Institute are naturally concerned with the use of the building to further the ends of the charitable trust, and this is where another confusion lies. Because the purpose of this report is to start the consultation process which will set the parameters. In other words, it will update the charitable purposes of the trust, after which time any uses of the building can be considered.

It is putting the cart before the horse to do otherwise.

To refer to the report before you, the application to register the Institute as a charity was made in August last year, and the process completed in December. The next steps are to update the charitable objects and to introduce administrative procedures, and I will deal with these in turn.

Firstly, on the charitable objects. At paragraph ten, the report explains why the charitable objects need to change. That can only be done by the Charity Commission. And in accordance with their guidance, it will be done after a consultation exercise. The proposed objects are set out in bold at paragraph twelve.

These are drafted based on the charity Commission example of a community centre. I need to stress that the decision is to consult on the proposed objects, not to decide upon them today.

Turning to the administrative provisions. The administrative provisions which govern, for example, how trustees are added or renewed or how meetings are run, are normally included in the governing document. In this case however, the 1917 lease assignment does not include any governance arrangements, yet this is a requirement of a trust in 2020.

Further guidance has been sought from the Charity Commission on the administrative provisions, and confirmation in writing has been provided that the corporate trustee has the power and should draft those provisions, which are referred to in paragraph thirteen of the report.

And the recommendations, which are on the table in front of all members, have been updated to reflect this guidance."

 Our Commentary on What Had Been Said Up To Now

So there we have it. As we suspected, she did not follow the expected procedure at the Finance and Democracy meeting where she should have made a recommendation to the Council, but instead she sidestepped what the constitution appeared to require of her, and referred the whole of the report to this full council meeting.

We said at the time the only reason we could see that she would have done that was because she wanted to change what was in the report.

That's because if her Finance and Democracy meeting had recommend the council to approve the F&D report from its earlier meeting, it would not have been possible to change it at the subsequent Council meeting without making a formal amendment - and she almost certainly wouldn't have wanted to open that can of worms.

 Cllr Mrs Buckley has previous form on this sort of thing.

Back in 'Corruption in Fylde?' in February 2009 we reported how a Scrutiny Committee she chaired had voted to refer the disposal of some land at Heeley Road for a homeless hostel to the full Council for further discussion and a recommendation to sell the land by competitive tender.

But this decision was not the outcome that Cllr Buckley had wanted, and when it got to the full Council meeting, Cllr Mrs Buckley, simply noted the decision of her committee, and then proposed an entirely conflicting resolution which was to seek another valuation to justify the sale of the land without exposing it to competitive tender.

She broke two rules by doing this and was required to apologise to the next meeting of the Council and to undergo training.

We never knew whether she did undergo training, but if she did, it seems to have worked - because this time she boxed more cleverly and just sent the whole report (without her Finance and Democracy Committee having made any recommendation on it) to be considered by the Council.

 Back To The Special Council Meeting

Returning to this Special Council meeting, we have to say that, technically, we're still not sure how the original recommendations to the Finance and Democracy Committee could have been altered - or as Cllr Buckley said 'updated' after the whole report (including the recommendations) had been referred by the Finance and Democracy Committee.

Once it had been presented to the Finance and Democracy Committee, unless the report had been withdrawn altogether, we do not believe there is a constitutionally recognised mechanism to make any changes to its wording without councillors having proposed and seconded such a change, and a vote taken to make a change.

But changes were made.

Mostly they seem to us to be technical changes by adding some words that the Charity Commission recommends should be included in an application by a Council for a new scheme of governance for a trust.

We've done a comparison of the two sets of words, so readers can follow this link see the changes made to the wording between the Committee and Council meetings.

We suspect council officers might have been nervous about what was happening here, because they published the original Finance and Democracy recommendations in the Special Council's agenda papers, and introduced a separate paper on councillors desks (with a new set of recommendations) for the evening of the Special Council meeting.

To us, that process meant Cllr Mrs Buckley should have proposed them (effectively to change the wording of the recommendations referred from the Finance and democracy meeting) at the start of the Special Council meeting, had them seconded and voted in as the new wording.

But she didn't do that that. There was no vote to accept them as changed recommendations before they were debated. She simply announced they had changed and then proposed them as replacements.

We think that pretty much breaks protocol, but then, hey, this is Fylde and we should be used to that sort of thing by now.

Either way, the officers (or Cllr Buckley) appears to have been allowed to get away with it on this occasion, and to be fair, she did go on to propose the 'updated' recommendations anyway.

The first three changed each resolution to add a statement saying that the Council had taken the decisions acting as the trustee. They added the words 'That the council acting as trustee of the Lytham Institute.....'

Whilst they said it in the resolution, in our opinion, the decisions were, in practice, not taken by council as the trustee, but by the Conservative Party block majority vote acting as anything BUT the trustee, as we will show....

 Cllr Mrs Buckley Continued

After saying the recommendations had been 'updated' she said....

"Turning specifically to the updated recommendations therefore, the first is to approve the proposed objects for consultation. The second is to take on board the Charity Commissions guidance regarding the drafting of administrative provisions, and instruct officers to do this for consideration by members. The third is to re-set the dates for consultation given that this report has been delayed by the calling of a Special Council Meeting, to 20th April which is a period of six weeks.

The fourth, is to address another confusion about the appropriate forum for decision-making on Trust matters, and it is worth dwelling on this for a minute.

The Charity Commission guidelines clearly state that where the local authority is a sole corporate trustee, decisions regarding the trust should be made in accordance with the existing decision-making procedures of the Council.

In this case, in Fylde, this is a committee system.

Whilst the Institute currently has some users, there are no council services delivered from the premises, and the asset belongs to the trust and not the Council.

Therefore, it is, and indeed should be, surplus to the operational service requirements of the Council.

It is a Trust asset, held for the purposes of the Trust.

Finance and Democracy Committee is responsible for dealing with assets that are surplus to the requirements of the Council.

It is not appropriate to choose a committee for dealing with matter because of the makeup of the members of that committee. To do so, is yet again, blurring the distinction between councillors, the council, and the corporate trustee.

Dealing with trust matters at Finance and Democracy Committee allows for greater flexibility to debate and make decisions, allows for presentations by officers with scrutiny of those presentations and questions, and the flexibility to call a special meeting if necessary, which is a less cumbersome process than calling a Special Council Meeting.

This process, undertaken by members of the opposition puts the matter into a debating chamber, where grandstanding is more prevalent, and inappropriate and misguided propositions are more likely to put into the arena, an example of which is at agenda item five.

Mr Mayor I move the amended recommendations and I have a seconder in Cllr Vince Settle."

 Our Comment on This Part of What Had Been Said

We found this second part - and in particular her (new) fourth recommendation - quite appallingly wrong.

In particular, we don't accept her comment that...

"Whilst the Institute currently has some users, there are no council services delivered from the premises, and the asset belongs to the trust and not the Council. Therefore, it is, and indeed should be, surplus to the operational service requirements of the Council."

We don't accept what she said here because you can apply exactly the same logic to the Lowther Gardens Trust with a very different result.

The Lowther Gardens and the Lowther Pavilion also currently has some users, and there are no council services (as she calls them) being delivered from Lowther Gardens premises, because it too had to be registered with the Charity Commission as a charitable Trust and is now managed and operated by that Charitable Trust.

Lowther Gardens too is a Trust asset, held for the purposes of the Trust.

Furthermore, the title to the whole of Lowther Gardens was transferred to the Official Custodian (a division of the Charity Commission) at Fylde's own request - so Fylde don't even hold the title deeds for Lowther Gardens and Pavilion.

So there is even more reason to say that Lowther Gardens and Pavilion are, using Cllr Mrs Buckley's perverse and twisted logic "and indeed should be, surplus to the operational service requirements of the Council" and thus Lowther Gardens and Pavilion should be dealt with by the Finance and Democracy Committee as well - at least according to her logic.

It is utter rubbish.

Fylde's constitution explicitly places the operation of Lowther Gardens Trust under the control of the Tourism and Leisure Committee

That Tourism and Leisure Committee sets the parameters for how the Lowther Gardens Trust must operate.

They monitor the 'Service Level Agreements' that set out what services must be provided by the Trust and what standards must be maintained there. (Things like how well the grass is cut and how many hours each year the Pavilion must be made available to community groups, that sort of thing).

Fylde's Tourism and Leisure Committee also receives an annual report and presentation from the Lowther Trustees, showing how well or otherwise the Trust has performed against its service level agreement. (Regular readers will know we have reported several of these meetings, most recently in Lowther Annual Report on 7 February 2019). 

Furthermore, Fylde (or rather local residents through their Council Tax) actually pay the whole of the cost of maintaining the gardens by way of a grant to the Lowther Gardens Trust (something like £123,000 a year for the gardens, with another net cost of £7,000 pa for leisure services / playground, together with another £26,000 a year toward the Pavilion costs),

All told, in addition to the income the Trust can generate (and keep) for itself from things like bowling fees, car parking, entrance fees to the pavilion and so on, Fylde expect to pay Lowther Gardens Trust £174,133 to operate Lowther Gardens and the Pavilion this coming year - or at least that's what they've budgeted for.

And as Fylde's Finance Officer told the Council's Cabinet at the time (on 14 March 2007) as Lowther Gardens went through the same process to become a trust:

"Charitable trust status does not provide a way for the council to release itself from its financial commitment to Lowther Gardens, at least in the short term. As long as the council continues as sole trustee, it will be obliged to maintain the Gardens in a suitable state for use as a park or pleasure ground. Any incoming trustee and the Charity Commission would also want to be satisfied that funding arrangements are in place to enable the trustees to perform their duty. In practice this would mean that council funding would need to continue for the time being."

To be honest, Cllr Mrs Buckley - unusually for her - spoke complete rubbish about her new 'recommendation four' in this matter.

She also said 'the asset belongs to the trust and not the Council.' and 'It is a Trust asset, held for the purposes of the Trust' and in that, (but only that) we would agree with her.

But we've recently been in correspondence with the council (in some detail) about this matter and in particular the status of the Institute property and who should take decisions about it.

Like Cllr Buckley, we had thought, and we wrote to FBC saying, that it was now a property that belonged to the trust.

But we were told we were wrong.

A senior officer told us....

"....the Institute is an asset of the council, but is not one that the council can use for its own purposes. This is a semantic distinction, but one that is important in the context of your forensic examination...."

So according to her own experts, it is still an asset of the Council, so she (and we) are not correct to say it belongs to the Trust.

Furthermore, we absolutely do not understand her comment about choosing a committee for dealing with matter because of the makeup of the members of that committee.

We've never heard anyone suggest that is (or even should be should be) the case.

To date, all we've heard, (and what we have said ourselves) is that the Institute Trust should be dealt with by the Tourism and Leisure Committee whose Terms of Reference include the services that are to be provided by the trust in the Institute - and as set out in the 1917 governance document which is currently the governing document for the Council as corporate trustee.

The Tourism and Leisure Committee has historically overseen all the services provided by the Institute (even after the library closed) and most recently, (on 9th January this year) it was this same Committee that set the Fees and Charges for hiring the Institute for the financial year starting next month.

Cllr Buckley's comment in this regard is a complete nonsense.

But most shocking of all to us was her dictatorial comment that...

"This process, undertaken by members of the opposition puts the matter into a debating chamber, where grandstanding is more prevalent, and inappropriate and misguided propositions are more likely to put into the arena, an example of which is at agenda item five."

Firstly, we detest her use of the phrase 'the opposition.'

There is, and should be no 'opposition' at Fylde, there should be elected councillors each following their conscience for the good of the people of this area. All councillors should be working together for the common good.

Secondly, the whole point of a Committee is - literally - to BE a debating chamber - where alternative views are advanced, debated, and a consensus (or if necessary a majority) view determined.

Thirdly, we deplore her condescending, patronising and contemptuous description of what were perfectly valid and relevant propositions being made by other councillors, each of whom was elected with status equal to her own.

(And if she wants to quibble with that, we might point out that she secured 681 votes (19.5% of her electorate) in the last election whilst Cllr Roger Lloyd - who made the propositions she was so disparaging of - secured 934 votes (25% of his electorate).

To us, what Cllr Buckley appears to want, seems not to be dissimilar the return of the 'one party state' that existed at Fylde under her former colleague Cllr John Coombes who, in 2009, stood accused of running the 'Banana Republic of Fylde' and was compared unfavourably with another well known dictator - Robert Mugabe.

There is NO objective justification for the objects and purposes of the Institute being dealt with by any committee other than the Tourism and Leisure Committee, and we maintain our view that is where the Council's Constitution says its future should be debated.

 Cllr Peter Collins Takes Control of the Meeting

As Cllr Buckley sat down, Cllr Vince Settle did indeed second Cllr Buckley's proposition. But as soon as he did, Cllr Peter Collins indicated to speak and said he wanted to propose an amendment to what Cllr Mrs Buckley had proposed.

This was a really clever move on his part.

He had found the chink in the armour that had been deployed by the Mayor and others to ensure Cllr Mrs Buckley's item was debated first (so as to nullify the effect of Cllr Lloyds subsequent proposition for which the meeting had been called).

And he was having none of it.

It's been a while since we saw such a clever move being executed by an Independent councillor.

They are normally more familiar with being outvoted and outmanoeuvred by the 'Conservative Block Vote' each time something other than a Conservative proposition is made.

But Cllr Collins had spotted the exposed jugular, and went straight for it.

He had realised that in Fylde's Constitution, a properly moved and seconded amendment suspends debate on the proposition it seeks to amend, and requires the Mayor to transfer debate to the amendment that has been moved and seconded.

That meant that Cllr Buckley's proposition would be 'parked' whilst his amendment was debated.

Even more cleverly, his first amendment was the first of the four propositions that Cllr Lloyd had initially expected to be the first item on the Agenda, but which the Mayor had reversed in order.

And, without a trace of humour on his face, Cllr Collins also gave the Mayor notice that if his first amendment failed (as we knew it was always going to do with the Conservative group voting as a block), then he had a further three amendments he wished to make.

We wanted to applaud.

This absolutely brilliant move did two things.

Firstly it de-facto forced the reversal of the agenda order - so Cllr Lloyd's propositions were to be debated before Cllr Buckley's (albeit that they were debated as amendments rather than propositions), and secondly, by using the amendment procedure, he prevented what we always thought was the very real possibility of Cllr Lloyd's propositions being closed down and not debated at all.

That could have happened if the Conservatives used a procedural motion to move to the next business at the start of Cllr Lloyd's item which, (as Cllr Lloyd's matters were the last item on the agenda) would have moved straight to the closure of the meeting.

Not since former Cllr Charlie Duffy's proposition to rename Fylde's Planning Committee into the 'Large Planning Application Rubber Stamping Committee' have we seen and enjoyed such a clever use of procedure.

And as with former Cllr Duffy's example, Cllr Collins would himself have known he had no chance of having his amendment voted through and, if our guess is correct, Cllr Lloyd would also not have expected to win any of the votes on his propositions - even if they got as far as a vote.

So, our readers are quite entitled to ask, what on earth was going on here?

Well, we can't be sure of course, but we suspect that this was never about winning the vote, it was about putting down markers that would expose what the Conservative group was doing to the full glare of the public, and to the Charity Commission in particular.

We think it was actually about showing what Fylde had done wrong, or had failed to do, or was trying to avoid doing in their rush to divest themselves of Lytham Institute.

And if we're right, the Conservatives fell for it hook, line, and sinker.

 The First Amendment

Cllr Collins proposed his first amendment saying:

"Mr Mayor, In practice, it appears to have been the case that parts of the Council have assumed the Institute was only a library, and once that was relocated; the building was no longer needed. The other uses for which it was established, and which remain set out in the trust instrument (currently the 1917 conveyance), appear to have been disregarded, as have the services within those categories that are currently being provided by existing users and hirers.

It is therefore necessary to determine what steps the Council will take to gather the evidence it needs to inform its decision-taking regarding the Lytham Institute.

I therefore propose the following amendment to replace the recommendations in the report, and I'd like to give notice of three further amendments"

As required by Fylde's Constitution he provided written copies of his amendment (and the other three amendments) to the Council's officers beside the Mayor who read this first one out, vis:

“that Fylde Borough Council notes

1. Councillors have been asked to take decisions without being provided with proper and sufficient information on which to base them.

2. No evidence has been provided to Council to support, nor have Council debated, the claim made to Finance and Democracy Committee that the substantive interest in this property now falls within the definition of being surplus to the Council's operational requirements.

3. Council have not been presented with any documentary evidence to support the claim that the Institute is not held for the purposes of meeting the cultural, recreational and social needs of people in Lytham and the surrounding area.

4. Council have not received a professional officer report and evidence regarding the architectural and heritage importance of this Grade II listed building, nor have Council received details of what may be required and achievable by way of repair, maintenance or improvement.

5. Council have received no report from the Tourism and Leisure Committee concerning the value or otherwise of the Institute in respect of the Leisure, Community Development, Arts, Culture and Heritage facilities that are currently provided in and from the Institute. This is a fundamental omission when that Committee's Terms of Reference include:

"3. Considering reports, reviewing, and formulating where necessary, policies relating to leisure management and community development"

"5. Considering reports, reviewing, and formulating where necessary policies relating to arts, culture and heritage"

"10. To deal with issues arising in relation to the Trust set up to manage Lowther Pavilion and Gardens"

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

"14. To keep the Council's sports development programme under review"

6. Council have received no report regarding the currently unmet social, cultural, recreational and community development needs of people in Lytham and surrounding areas that the trust is established to cater for.

7. No data has been provided to Council on the use of the building over time, nor whether any of those uses are declining or growing.

And so, before any further decisions are taken, there is a need to produce the evidence that Councillors need to properly inform their decisions on such matters and therefore this Council requests:

1. That the Planning Committee report to a future Council meeting on the importance of the architectural and heritage value of the Institute Building and its current importance and relationship to Lytham Town Centre.

2. That the Tourism and Leisure Committee be asked to gather evidence detailing the existing services and facilities provided within the Institute, including their extent, and their community value and importance.

3. That the Tourism and Leisure Committee commission a survey of unmet social, recreational and cultural need in Lytham and surrounding areas.

4. That the Tourism and Leisure Committee invite the views and observations of relevant local and national bodies about need and availability that is, and could be, provided in the Institute, with the selection of those relevant bodies being guided by the expressed public desires in the 'Possible Future Uses Report' produced by the Friends of Lytham Institute.”

Silence reigned.

We don't think it would be too much to call it a 'gobsmacked silence' - even if that phrase is a little vulgar.

Then Cllr Roger Lloyd seconded what Cllr Collins had said, and the Mayor (properly) asked if anyone wanted to speak to the amendment.

 Cllr Lloyd did wish to speak and said:

"I'd like to support Cllr Collins' amendment. The Lytham Institute has been at the heart of the community for nearly 150 years. Fylde Borough Council has recently registered the Institute as a charity, and a number of questions have been raised by Cllr Collins, such as:

  • at which meeting of the council was a decision made that the Institute was surplus to the Council's operational requirements?
  • where is the report about the architectural heritage value of the building?
  • what is the importance of the present cultural, recreational and social services provided in the building?
  • does anyone here tonight know the extent and scope of the information held in the Heritage Group's archives which are housed in this building?
  • does anyone here tonight know what the range of educational and social activities are in the building, and how well attended these activities are?
  • what views have been sought from local and national bodies concerning cultural, social and recreational needs in Lytham, such as the local CCG, Sport England, Lancashire County Council Social Services, Churches etcetera?
  • And are these increasing or declining?

A lot of questions. And there are many more.

Full and deep down research is needed to fulfil the Institute's future role as a charity so that councillors can make our individual decisions based on knowledge and insight.

So how do you value a community centre? That's what the Institute has been for the 150 years. Is it in pounds shillings and pence, or is it something much more, such as the health and wellbeing of the community?

I would urge members to support Cllr Collins' amendment that calls for a close co-operation with all the various committees, to create a detailed and knowledgeable platform of evidence which councillors can them make their value judgements on. Thank you Mr Mayor"

When he speaks from his heart like this, we find Cllr Lloyd's arguments very persuasive.

 The next speaker was Conservative Cllr Shirley Green.

This is a lady that doesn't often speak in public, but we suspect she has strong influence behind the scenes. She is also politically astute and said:

"Thank you Mr Mayor. I'd just like to commend Cllr Collins on trying to bring that item five forwards."

She, at least, appreciated the procedural skill with which this had been done.

 Next Cllr Chris Dixon

Cllr Dixon made a point about it not being debated at Finance and Democracy. He evidently thought the matters to be discussed were the same, and they were not.

 Cllr O'Rourke

Then Cllr O'Rourke said he didn't see the need for the amendment at all, and the Charity Commission's description of a Community Centre wouldn't prevent any of those things happening at the Institute anyway. He worried about blurring the distinction between the Council and the corporate trustee saying:

"So, for us to talk about the committee going off commissioning reports, that's for the Trust to do, and therefore the Council, as a Corporate Trustee, not for us to decide, as the Council. And I think there's an important distinction there, but anyway, thank you very much."

 Our Take On What He Said

We don't think Cllr O'Rourke has grasped what the Council's role is.

The Council has, by creating the Terms of Reference for their Tourism and Leisure Committee, set that committee as the body responsible to assess and formulate policies on 'leisure management; community development; arts; culture, heritage and sports development.'

Those policies exist to meet the needs of Fylde residents, and it is that Committee's job to decide what should be provided, how best it should be delivered, and whether the chosen method of delivery is meeting the objectives set out in the policies the Committee has agreed.

It ABSOLUTELY IS the responsibility of that Committee to discharge the responsibilities it has been set by the Council in this matter.

The Committee's policies decide which services within those categories are to be provided to Fylde residents from the taxes demanded of them, and it has responsibility for delivering those services either by employing people directly, or by letting contracts to businesses, or by engaging with, and grant-aiding volunteers, or by grant funding a charitable trust.

It is NOT the responsibility of any Charitable Trust to absolve the Tourism and Leisure Committee of its responsibility set out in the Council's Constitutional Terms of Reference for the Tourism and Leisure Committee.

Nor is it the responsibility of any Charitable Trust to set or amend the policies that the Council has charged the Tourism and Leisure Committee with responsibility to deliver on its behalf.

It is most DEFINITELY NOT for a Trust to commission the sort of reports that Cllr O'Rourke seems to think it should do.

As we said earlier about Lowther Gardens (which is also a charitable trust), the Tourism and Leisure Committee decides the services it wants to be delivered at Lowther Gardens via the taxes it takes from local people. It sets the scope, quantity, and quality thresholds that must be delivered for those services, and it monitors the delivery of those services against the Service Level Agreement (a form of contract between the Council and the Trustees of Lowther Gardens Trust) which the Council then pays the Trustees to deliver.

That's how it works, and how it is supposed to work.

In fact, if our readers think about it, Cllr O'Rourke's comment in this meeting very ably demonstrated the lack of knowledge and information that the amendment he was arguing against suggested he needed to have.

 Cllr Mrs Buckley Sums Up

There were no more speakers to this amendment so the Mayor invited Cllr Buckley to sum up. She said

"Thank you very much Mr Mayor. I can't support the amendment as it is part 1 of item 5. I think we now know what the next three amendments are all going to be. I urge Council to stick with the original resolutions on the desk, and not to pre-empt any future uses of the building which I think the proposition before you is trying to do, but to do things in a proper way as guided by the Charity Commission."

 Our Take on her Summing Up

We're going to look first at what she didn't say.

She didn't put forward any arguments to refute any of what Cllr Collins had proposed. She had no solution, or at least expressed no solution, to the matters of concern he had raised. Nor was she willing or able to answer any of the questions raised by Cllr Lloyd.

What she did do was say she was not supporting the amendment simply because it held the same words as an item later in the agenda, and she wanted the Council to vote for what she called 'the original resolutions on the desk' (actually they were propositions not resolutions, but it's an easy mistake to make).

Her approach in this matter is simply the equivalent of a mother, who has run out of logical arguments to her child's questioning, reverting to the ultimate parental refuge of 'because I say so.'

In a council that should be working from evidence and logic, that's simply not good enough.

Nor do we believe she was either correct or accurate to say the amendment would pre-empt any future uses of the building.

We leave our readers to judge for themselves, but so far as we can see the amendment simply sought more information before a decision was taken.

It pre-empted nothing - unless of course, Cllr Buckley thought that by obtaining the evidence, and using that to take a properly informed decision, it would pre-empt what she might want to do with the Institute herself.

As to whether she was doing things 'in a proper way' we return to her opening comments of "First of all I wish to be clear that when making decision on Lytham Institute we are doing so as corporate trustee. We are not doing so as a council..."

We leave our readers to judge her opening comments against her unwillingness to engage on the substance of the matters raised in Cllr Collins' amendment, and to decide whether she was, in fact, using her summing up to urge the block voting of her councillor colleagues to take the decision as a Council, or whether she was urging them to act as the Corporate Trustee in the best interests of the charitable trust.

We know where our vote on that one would go.

 The Vote on Cllr Collins' First Amendment

When she sat down, the Mayor asked the officers to take the recorded vote on that item. Key: (Conservative, Independent, Lytham Independents, Liberal Democrat)

a) For Cllr Collins' first amendment: Councillors Armit, Blackshaw, Clayton, P Collins, Gill, Griffiths, Henshaw, Lee, Lloyd, Nulty, Oades, Silverwood - 12 votes in total

b) Against Cllr Collins' first amendment: Councillors Aitken, Andrews, Anthony, Buckley, D Collins, Dixon, Fazackerley, Fiddler, Gaunt, Green, Harris, Harrison, Jacques, Kirkham, Little, Nash, Nash-Walker, Nixon, O’Rourke, Redcliffe, Rigby, Sayward, Settle, Singleton, Small, Thomas, Threlfall, Trudgill, Willder and Withers - 30 votes in total

Cllr Collins' first amendment was lost.

 Cllr Collins' Second Amendment

Having given notice of three further amendments, the Mayor called Cllr Collins to introduce his second amendment and he did so, saying:

"Council is aware that altering the original purposes of a trust is a complex and important matter. Ultimately, as the sole Trustee, it requires exercise of the Council's judgement to fashion proposals on which it will consult.

In order for the Council's judgement to be well informed, those taking the decision need to be fully appraised of the need for alteration, and of the options and alternatives that may be available."

He then proposed his second amendment and asked the council officer to read it out (as per the requirements of Fylde's Constitution). The officer said....

"Yes Mr Mayor. The amendment is - yes I think you've read the preamble out haven't you Cllr Collins? Yes.

The council requests that Officers report to a future meeting of the Tourism and Leisure Committee setting out:

a. The original (and current) requirements of the trust instrument;

b. Details of the reasons that change is now required, and whether such changes are mandatory or discretionary;

c. Any criteria and constraints governing the changes that might be made;

d. What officers consider to be the closest possible modern equivalents to the original trust instrument;

in order that the Council may be satisfied that it is necessary to alter the present purposes of the trust."

The Mayor asked for a seconder and Cllr Lloyd obliged. She then asked whether any members wished to speak to the second amendment, and Cllr Mrs Oades indicated to do so saying:

 Cllr Mrs Oades

"I believe that we should take time, and pay a great deal of attention when setting up a trust for Lytham Institute. There's no reason to rush things as far as I'm aware. I believe that we've not even separated the accounts in any way at the present moment, or, maybe we have by now. If not, can I ask when this will be done?

The only experience the council has of setting up a Trust is the one at Lowther, and personally I would hate to replicate that because from what I can gather, we appear to have a situation where we have one trustee on that Trust. We're paying out huge sums in grant monies. We appear to pick up bills for maintenance, and some of our officers are paid by us to work for the Trust. And I'm advised that in the past, the Council has been criticised by the Trustees.

Then, when, as a result of their decision-making, they need access to professional advice, they come running to us expecting us to pick up the bill, threatening to resign from the trust if we don't agree to bail them out which, if the threat had been carried out, would have left the Council as the sole trustee, and left to pick up the pieces.

Please colleagues, let us learn from this.

With this in mind, I think we should use our experience to make sure that we get a better agreement in place for the Institute. this Council, our residents, and also the people of Lytham.

I've always believed that Lytham should have it's own Town Council. It's the only area of the Borough not parished, and if there was a Town Council, we could hand this building to that body, to make sure that the building is retained for the people of Lytham.

In the absence of a Town Council, we need to set up a trust which will protect the building and its use, to ensure that it's not sold off, and the monies used to prop up other buildings in Lytham. Thank-you Mr Mayor."

The Mayor asked if there were any more speakers and Cllr Brian Gill indicated to speak.

 Cllr Brian Gill

He seems to be getting into his stride with the Council now. It takes time for members to settle into the processes and procedures of the Council, but he is doing so at pace compared with what we see of other new councillors of his intake. We suspect he will be a force to be reckoned with when he has even more experience under his belt. He said

"Thank you Mr Mayor. Councillors, you may wonder why I'm standing here and what has Lytham Institute got to do with me. Well, I'm going to make it a little bit personal here because I moved to Lytham when I was 19, and lived in digs on Westby Street. And I spent many an hour on the snooker tables, and Cllr Tim Ashton never actually got onto table 1, he was always on Table 3.

Latterly, in recent years, my youngest daughter has attended the ' Bounce and Rhyme' when the library was actually housed there.

We're trying to save the Institute for the future use of Lytham residents, in the same way that I benefited from it and its existence in the past.

Every town needs a community focus. Lytham has a community focus in the Institute. This building with its history, heritage and position should continue to be used in this way. This was the intention of the gift from the original owners. It's the duty of the Council to ensure that this legacy endures and the state of the Institute does not remain, as it is currently the case, being left to languish and deteriorate.

It is imperative that the people of Lytham are consulted over its future use, and with that and the correct partner it can thrive and flourish. To make this happen, it is not necessary to alter the objectives of the Trust.

Instead, a functioning document is required to allow the Institute to be managed correctly. Hence the need for consultation over the scheme, not the objectives.

In essence my aim is not so far removed from the aim of the Councils officers, however there are two distinct differences. I want to ensure that the trust does not lose the spirit of maintaining the facility for the public, and the public have the leading right to have their say. Thank you Mr Mayor."

His personal introduction cleverly engendered a feeling of warmth toward the Institute in the minds of listeners, and his presentation style was measured and logical. We also thought it was interesting that he did not believe the objects needed to be changed, only the administrative arrangements for managing the Trust.  He would later explain why that was his belief.

 Cllr Buckley sums Up on Cllr Collins' Amendment 2

With no other speakers to the second amendment, the Mayor called Cllr Buckley to sum up. She said

"Thank you very much Mr Mayor for the opportunity. I first of all just want to correct any assumption that the accounts have not been separated because the accounts have indeed been separated. So I'm very happy to clarify that.

If members read the F and D report, and they read the new resolutions, they would see that all of the matters just been raised are dealt with adequately in that report, and also in the new resolution. Certainly it is recognised that there does need to be administrative provisions, that is dealt with in resolution 2, to instruct officers to draft those to be considered by members prior to consultation so certainly any... there can be no suggestion that that will not happen.

As before Mr Mayor, the proposal before you is simply to follow the guidance, and not to put the cart before the horse. Thank You"

 Our Take On Her Summing Up

We can see why Cllr Buckley argued that there were similarities between Cllr Collins' Amendment No. 2, and her Proposition.

There are.

But those similarities are about the same as the similarities between a surgeon and a butcher, both of whom make their living from cutting flesh,

But there's a world of difference between them too, and in this case the difference is about the level of detail provided to members, it's about hearing all the options available and having a commentary provided on them, or being told of a single or limited range of options that councillors can take or leave.

Once again, we see Fylde's officers failing to present what we would call balanced reports - with alternatives and options - to the decision-taking committee.

For example, Cllr Gill said he believes it is not necessary to alter the objects of the trust.

If his proposition is a serious alternative, it deserves examination and testing in debate before any option is offered for public consultation. But that wasn't going to happen if Cllr Buckley's propositions were adopted.

 The Vote on Cllr Collins' Amendment 2

When Cllr Mrs Buckley sat down after her summing up, the Mayor asked the officers to take the recorded vote on that item. It was Key: (Conservative, Independent, Lytham Independents, Liberal Democrat)

a) For Cllr Collins' second amendment: Councillors Armit, Blackshaw, Clayton, P Collins, Gill, Griffiths, Henshaw, Lee, Lloyd, Nulty, Oades, Silverwood - 12 votes in total

b) Against Cllr Collins' second amendment: Councillors Aitken, Andrews, Anthony, Buckley, D Collins, Dixon, Fazackerley, Fiddler, Gaunt, Green, Harris, Harrison, Jacques, Kirkham, Little, Nash, Nash-Walker, Nixon, O’Rourke, Redcliffe, Rigby, Sayward, Settle, Singleton, Small, Thomas, Threlfall, Trudgill, Willder and Withers - 30 votes in total

Cllr Collins' second amendment was lost.

 Cllr Collins' Third Amendment

The Mayor then called Cllr Collins once again. He moved his third amendment and asked the officer to read it out. The officer did so saying

"Fylde Borough Council notes

1. If the Council determines that a change needs to be made to the trust's purpose/objectives, Council will need to consider the range of options available to it in respect of changed purposes / objectives that lie within the criteria set by the Charity Commission.

To make properly informed decisions about future purposes/objectives for the trust, the Council needs to be appraised of the options available, together with a commentary for each option, setting out the extent to which it accords with the Charity Commission criteria.

Furthermore, to secure the support of the trust's beneficiaries, it is important to ensure they are invited to input into the decision-taking process in this matter at an early stage.

2. The position of a Council as a charity's sole Trustee is not always ideal, not least because - as the Charity Commission sets out in its guidance-

"local authorities often fail to appreciate that they are not free to deal with the property of a charity in the same way as they can deal with their corporate property held for statutory purposes."

The Commission also say "When making a Scheme for some other purpose in relation to a charity which is administered by a local authority as trustee, we will consider whether other trusteeship arrangements might not be more appropriate. For example, we may suggest to the local authority that it retires in favour of a body of individual trustees, while perhaps retaining the right to appoint some of those trustees."

This Council needs to secure arrangements that can deliver its influence, whilst at the same time engaging and encouraging users and beneficiaries of the Trust to be proactive in its governance and support.

One option amongst the possible alternatives to meet this need and deliver a broad spectrum of governance perspectives would be to consider representation by (say) thirds, where one third of trustees would be nominated by the Council, one third nominated by users of the Institute, and one third nominated by beneficiaries of the Trust.

In order to reach a decision on what form of governance it should seek for the future, Council needs to be advised of the range of possible governance options that exist, and the potential advantages and disadvantages of each, and Council requires that the officers revised recommendations be removed and replaced by

  1. In respect of changed Purposes / Objects for the Institute, the Tourism and Leisure Committee receive a report setting out the range of options that exist as being close alternative purposes / objects, together with a commentary on each option, setting out the extent to which each meets the Charity Commission's requirements to:
a. accord with 'The spirit of the gift';
b. deliver new purposes that are close to the original; and
c. to be suitable and effective in light of current social and economic circumstances.
  1. The Tourism and Leisure Committee publish a consultation report on these options, together with its preliminary view on this matter, and invites comment from existing Institute users, interested local community groups, and the beneficiaries of the charity, prior to considering the representations it has received - and amending its preliminary view as needed - in order to make a recommendation of its final view to Council
  2. That in respect of future Governance arrangements, the Council receive a report setting out the range of alternative governance options the trust could request, together with a commentary on the advantages and disadvantages of each option, in order to come to a preliminary view for consultation purposes."

 Cllr Mrs Buckley Sums Up On Cllr Collins' Amendment 3

The Mayor then asked if anyone wished to speak to the amendment. There were none, so the Mayor invited Cllr Mrs Buckley to sum up. She said

'I'm slowly losing the will to live Mr Mayor, and becoming more and more convinced that certain individuals are more intent in tying this Trust up in knots, rather than to put matters out properly to consultation, deal with the objects of the charity that need, quite clearly need to be updated, and put together a proper scheme for its governance.

If we were to follow all of this Mr Mayor, we'd still be debating it a year from now.

I can't accept the amendment"

 Our Take On Her Summing Up

Once again, she had failed to engage with the substance of the amendment that had been proposed.

We got the impression she was not prepared to debate the amendment, because her mind was closed to anything other than what she thinks should happen.

She had little or no interest in hearing what any other councillor has to say, what ideas they could offer, what experience they could contribute to the process.

In reality, the most cogent argument she could muster was that it would take longer to do it properly and, frankly, we don't think that's good enough.

 The Vote on Cllr Collins' Third Amendment

The recorded vote on this third amendment, when it was taken, was entirely predictable. Key: (Conservative, Independent, Lytham Independents, Liberal Democrat)

a) For Cllr Collins' third amendment: Councillors Armit, Blackshaw, Clayton, P Collins, Gill, Griffiths, Henshaw, Lee, Lloyd, Nulty, Oades, Silverwood - 12 votes in total

b) Against Cllr Collins' third amendment: Councillors Aitken, Andrews, Anthony, Buckley, D Collins, Dixon, Fazackerley, Fiddler, Gaunt, Green, Harris, Harrison, Jacques, Kirkham, Little, Nash, Nash-Walker, Nixon, O’Rourke, Redcliffe, Rigby, Sayward, Settle, Singleton, Small, Thomas, Threlfall, Trudgill, Willder and Withers - 30 votes in total

Cllr Collins' third amendment was lost.

 Cllr Collins' Fourth Amendment

Cllr Collins was invited to propose his fourth amendment and did so, asking the officer to read it out.. The officer said:

'Fylde Borough Council notes

  1. The Council has accepted its responsibility to comply with Charity Commission Guidance to consult at various stages in the process of refreshing the purpose and governance arrangements of the trust.
  2. It has also noted the Commission has stressed that, because of the local interest in the charity and use of the Institute, there needs to be a suitable consultation before proceeding with the scheme application.
  3. That consultation needs to seek the views of those who would be affected by, or might have an interest in, the changes proposed.
  4. Council will separately need to come to a preliminary view on its preferred changes to the trust's governance arrangements.
  5. Council should then publish and consult upon its preferred purposes and governance arrangements with:
     - Existing Institute users;
     - Interested local community groups;
     - The beneficiaries of the charity,
    and, having arrived at its preferred view on the trust's future purpose and governance, the Council will debate and determine an appropriate form of consultation that will meet the Charity Commission's requirements, and secure the widest support from local users, community groups, and beneficiaries.'

 Cllr Roger Lloyd Speaks

The Mayor called for any speakers to the amendment and Cllr Roger Lloyd (who has seconded it) indicated to speak. He said:

"Thank you Mr Mayor. We as councillors must follow the Charity Commission's guidelines. The Friends of Lytham Institute - set out nearly five years ago - have been assisting in this process. The Friends have had numerous public meetings. Indeed they have recently gathered public opinion in a 'Future Uses' report, which I believe many of you have now seen.

This is an exciting time for the Institute in many ways, paving the way to a new, reborn, community centre that will emerge from this period of consultation.

We as councillors must follow the Charity Commission's guidelines, as spelt out by Cllr Collins, and consult with a whole raft of interested parties before gathering the evidence to proceed with a new scheme as the Charity Commission indicates. So I would ask you all, fellow councillors to support this amendment. Thank you Mr Mayor"

 Cllr Buckley Sums Up On Cllr Collins Amendment 4

With no other councillor wishing to speak, the Mayor invited Cllr Mrs Buckley to sum up. She said

"I'd just like to say Mr Mayor that we as councillors on this side of the chamber are following the Charity Commission guidelines. I don't know what they're doing over there, but simply say that all that's been said in here, is dealt with quite adequately by the F and D report, if it had only reached committee, all these questions, these angsts, these concerns, could have been rehearsed in that environment, with officer representation and proper scrutiny, and by bringing it to Special Council, the opposition members have deprived this council from doing that."

And with that she sat down.

 Our Take On The Debate of Amendment 4

We've a few comments to make on the debate of Amendment four.

Firstly, both the proposition and the amendment acknowledge the need to follow the Charity Commission guidelines.

But we think Cllr Mrs Buckley's understanding of them is either incomplete or disingenuous, not least because as well as the bits she has quoted to suit the argument she wants to make, they also say


Before we make a decision as to whether a Scheme should be made, we will usually expect the trustees to have carried out a genuine and appropriate consultation exercise to take into account the views of the charity's stakeholders about the proposals, and properly inform their own decision as to whether a Scheme is required.

(that's our highlighting and underlining)

Our policy is that consultation should be carried out in all but exceptional cases. Although it is not a legal requirement, it is part of our usual Scheme making process and helps to ensure that the trustees have properly established the case for making the changes in the interests of the charity and for showing that the criteria have been met before we commit staff time and resources to proceeding.

Only where the changes are so minor, or the particular circumstances of the case are such that consultation is clearly unnecessary, we will consider a Scheme application without any consultation having taken place."

Readers will see from this that the Charity Commission guidelines actually say there should be consultation BEFORE the Council considers producing a new scheme - in order for that consultation to inform what sort of scheme Fylde should propose in the first place.

It literally says the Trustee should not come to a decision on WHETHER A SCHEME IS REQUIRED without consulting stakeholders first.

Cllr Mrs Buckley is either ignorant of this need, or she is wilfully choosing to ignore this part of the Charity Commission's guidance that says what she doesn't want to hear.

To be clear about this matter: to date, Fylde has not followed this specific Charity Commission guideline in this matter. There has been NO public or 'stakeholder' consultation on what the Council should consider proposing - either as changes to the Trust's Charitable objects or as changes to the governance arrangements.

In fact, not even the Councillors (who, collectively, are the Trustee) were consulted on it before the proposals were published in the report that appeared - as if by magic out of the ether - on the agenda  for the Finance and Democracy meeting.

The Council's officers have simply said what they think would be the best wording to put out to consultation, and Mrs Buckley clearly agrees with it.

In fact, the strength of her support for the wording of the objects and powers, and her unwillingness to countenance any changes to it, makes us wonder - and we think it must make other people wonder - if what was written in the Finance and Democracy Committee report is what the officers have been told to put there in the first place.

Cllr Collins amendment, on the other hand, would have specifically included this consultation (from the Charity Commission's B4.2 requirements) into the process that Cllr Mrs Buckley's proposition explicitly excludes from it.

Secondly, Cllr Collins amendment went further than hers. Not only did it propose following the (full) guidelines of the Charity Commission, it went further to also require the consultation to also 'secure the widest support from local users, community groups, and beneficiaries.'

We can't see that Cllr Mrs Buckley's refusal to accept and adopt that as an aim of consultation can do much to improve the case Fylde will need to make to the Charity Commission when they ask them to make a new scheme for the trust.

Finally, as with some of her previous responses to earlier amendments, Cllr Mrs Buckley demonstrates the divisive, party-political nature of the way this matter is being handled by Fylde.

To us this meeting demonstrated that the decisions the Conservative majority group were forcing through this special Council Meeting were not decisions taken by councillors acting as the Trustee (as is required); they were taken by councillors acting as a political party.

And in particular, her reference to '... councillors on this side of the chamber..." holds this distinction in stark relief as far as we are concerned.

 The Vote on Cllr Collin's Amendment 4

The recorded vote on Cllr Collins' fourth amendment, when it was taken, was also entirely predictable. It was Key: (Conservative, Independent, Lytham Independents, Liberal Democrat)

a) For Cllr Collins' fourth amendment: Councillors Armit, Blackshaw, Clayton, P Collins, Gill, Griffiths, Henshaw, Lee, Lloyd, Nulty, Oades, Silverwood - 12 votes in total

b) Against Cllr Collins' fourth amendment: Councillors Aitken, Andrews, Anthony, Buckley, D Collins, Dixon, Fazackerley, Fiddler, Gaunt, Green, Harris, Harrison, Jacques, Kirkham, Little, Nash, Nash-Walker, Nixon, O’Rourke, Redcliffe, Rigby, Sayward, Settle, Singleton, Small, Thomas, Threlfall, Trudgill, Willder and Withers - 30 votes in total

So Cllr Collins' fourth amendment - like each of the others before it - was lost.

 So Where Are We Up To Now?

Whilst many will regret that his sensible amendments were not more widely supported, we don't think he will be shedding tears.

What he did achieve with them was to place almost all the instances of failure and omission to follow the full Charity Commission guidelines, and perhaps more especially the spirit which they embody, under the noses of those conservative councillors who voted against them BEFORE, they would (undoubtedly) go on to vote for Cllr Mrs Buckley's proposition.

The effect of that will be that none will be able to say they were ignorant of their ignorance.

They were clearly told what needed to be done, and they explicitly voted not to do it.

That's as much as any independent and minority group councillors could have hoped to achieve in the face of a party-political majority block vote.

They managed to clearly expose what was taking place, and have held those with the majority block vote to account to their acts and omissions.

 And There's More....

But, perhaps surprisingly, it wasn't over yet. There was more to come.

 Cllr Brian Gill's Amendments

Before Cllr Mrs Buckley could speak to her proposition, the Mayor was required to ask if there were any further amendments, and Cllr Brian Gill said he had three amendments in respect of Propositions numbered 1 to 4 that Cllr Mrs Buckley had made, and handed them to the officer, who said

"Mr Mayor. The Amendment from Cllr Gill is in three parts as I understand it. The first is an amendment to resolution...., proposed resolution 1, that that recommendation be removed.

The second is an alternative to Resolution 1 which is to remove the words ''or other appropriate premises' as we're only considering Lytham Institute, not, for example, the Town Hall."

And he third part is an amendment to resolution 3, that the order be changed in paragraph 15 for Item (d) to replace Item (a) and the wording changed from 'online consultations'  to ‘elected members in their respective wards to facilitate workshops/surgeries using a standard information pack agreed by council with a minimum of 100 responses.'

Cllr Mrs Blackshaw seconded his amendments, and Cllr Gill introduced them saying:

 Cllr Gill's Amendment 1: To Delete Recommendation 1

"Thank you. I do appreciate that what I'm going to be saying is a reasonable amount of complex legal terminology in my proposal, and the reason for that is I actually want to get this thing moving forward, and irrespective of what Cllr Buckley has said, I actually want to make sure that the Institute is there for the people, and we do it in the right way.

But as the challenge is about the legal position I hope to make it clear for you to understand, and I do hope tonight that on such a critical issue for the people of the Fylde, that everyone is allowed a free vote on their own beliefs, and not a mass party vote for, potentially, all the wrong reasons.

We want to ensure the trust objectives remain in place to prevent the sale or dispersal of the trust away from the Council's control and the people's ownership.

In the officer's report, paragraph 10 is quite misleading and incorrect. It infers that, because the Acts have been repealed, then this is a valid reason for changing the Objects. It infers that the running of Libraries not being a Council function is also a reason for changing the Objects.

The first issue about the Acts which have been repealed being a valid reason for changing the Objects is misleading. The current Trust's Objects clearly cover the case when legislation changes.

The words quoted in the 1917 assignment say 'Any acts re-enacted or amended and said acts or any of them'

So most of the Objects could be changed to update the relevant Act, but even this is not necessary as the current Object is still valid.

Now let us look at the second issue, where it refers to the Council running libraries. It's actually irrelevant.

We're discussing the Trust, not the Local Authority makeup of functions. The Trust should [indistinct word 'be'?], could be, to do basket weaving. Well, not to my knowledge does the Council actually have one of those functions - to do basket weaving.

So the reason should be discounted.

With regard to the library function, the Institute already has an archive library. It's in operation by the Heritage Group.

The definition of a library, just for those..., is that it is a curated collection of sources of information made accessible to a defined community, for reference or borrowing. A Library is organised for use and maintained by a public body an institution, a corporation or a private religion.

The Heritage Collection satisfies both these points.

I've been advised by officers that correspondence from the Charity Commission suggests that if the Charity no longer provides the Library, it's Objects need to be changed. Again, the Institute has a library, so this advice is irrelevant.

In fact, the trust Objects cover more than the Library aspects, they cover - and I quote from the recent legal opinion - which this council took into for allocating to the trust... 'Established to provide instruction and mental improvement for all classes, without sectarian or party politics where they can meet for reading, conversation, and general social intercourse'.

I therefore propose that the first part of the Objects be removed. Thank you.'

 Cllr Mrs Buckley Sums Up On Cllr Gill's Amendment 1

The Mayor called for any speakers to this amendment. There were none, so she invited Cllr Mrs Buckley to sum up. She said

"Mr Mayor, this is an example of falling into the trap of trying to decide on Objects now, rather than setting them out for consultation and having those responses and then considering each and every one of those responses, so for that reason I would urge members to stick with the original'.

 The Vote on Cllr Gill's Amendment 1

The Mayor then called the recorded vote on Cllr Gill's first amendment. It was Key: (Conservative, Independent, Lytham Independents, Liberal Democrat)

a) For Cllr Gill's first amendment: Councillors Armit, Blackshaw, Clayton, P Collins, Gill, Griffiths, Henshaw, Lee, Lloyd, Nulty, Oades, Silverwood - 12 votes in total

b) Against Cllr Gill's first amendment: Councillors Aitken, Andrews, Anthony, Buckley, D Collins, Dixon, Fazackerley, Fiddler, Gaunt, Green, Harris, Harrison, Jacques, Kirkham, Little, Nash, Nash-Walker, Nixon, O’Rourke, Redcliffe, Rigby, Sayward, Settle, Singleton, Small, Thomas, Threlfall, Trudgill, Willder and Withers - 30 votes in total

So Cllr Cill's first amendment was lost.

 Our Take on Cllr Gill's Amendment 1

So what to make of what was said on this matter?

Well, we believe Cllr Gill was absolutely right to explain that the repealed legislation had been replaced by more recent enactments and that the foresight of the drafters of the 1917 assignment understood this might happen in the future, and they added inbuilt provision for that to happen by way of their phrasing "any Acts, re-enacted or amended, and said acts or any of them'

On the assumption that he is correct - and we believe he is - then what was proposed in the officer's report can be viewed as either being unnecessary, or as a confection of deception to justify the making of changes elsewhere in the Objects.

Given the Charity Commission must (amongst other things) take into account the desirability of securing that the Institute is applied for charitable purposes which are close to the original purposes, then the fewer changes that need to be made, the closer the Institute will remain to the spirit of the original gift to the Council.

His analysis of the matter of the library is also correct in our view.

We find it difficult to avoid coming to the conclusion that - although we have never been able to find a decision of the Council or a Committee to authorise it - some people within Fylde Council did come to a decision they wanted rid of the Institute and sought to engineer the removal of the Library from it to justify being able to dispose of it, and this present situation represents the culmination of that disingenuous and dishonourable behaviour.

But, as Cllr Gill says, there IS still a library within the Institute. It meets all the definitions of a library as he says, and here's the crucial part, the existing reference library in the Institute that is run by the Lytham Heritage Group volunteers is EVEN MORE IMPORTANT that the LCC lending library that was there before.

We say that, because, unlike a lending library - where the information in the books can be replaced by buying-in a new set of books - the reference material in the Heritage Group's custody contains much that is irreplaceable to the history of Lytham and its residents.

So we agree with Cllr Gill that the existence of a library service needs to be reflected in any revised Objects that are issued for consultation.

But so far as Cllr Mrs Buckley's response is concerned, once again she had no answer to the matters he raised. Her argument seemed to be that it didn't really matter what Fylde put out as its proposals, because it was only for a consultation exercise, and it could always be changed later on if necessary.

And if our readers believe that.......

We formed the view that what she was urging the Conservative councillors to do was to vote to follow the party line, irrespective of logic. And although she (and the 'revised' propositions she had moved) had said they were voting as trustees in the interests of the Trust, they were not doing that at all; they were voting as a political party with its own interests foremost in its mind.

 Cllr Gill's Amendment 2: to remove 'or other appropriate premises'

After the amendment was lost, the Mayor called Cllr Gill to introduce his second amendment. he said

'Thank you Mr Mayor. I'm truly getting a bit fed up of this now.

This is a simple amendment, recognising that unfortunately people tend not to be voting for the benefits, but there we go.

This is a very simple amendment where, with regard to the proposal that is in front of us to change the objects, I'm suggesting that there is no need for any other premises to be included. We are talking about Lytham Institute here. The second paragraph actually refers to the maintenance of other appropriate premises. I don't believe we're looking at this Trust looking after...., the Assembly Rooms, the Town Hall, or any other premises. So I would recommend to remove "or other appropriate premises' within that. That's my amendment."

Cllr Brenda Blackshaw seconded his proposition.

 Cllr Shirley Green

 Cllr Shirley Greene indicated to speak on it, saying:

"Thank you Mr Mayor. Yes it's one building at the moment, but the Trust may move on. Why limit it now and have to go back and change things further down the line. One day, the Trust may be more than just one building, so I don't see a problem in leaving it as it is."

No-one else indicated to speak, so the Mayor invited Cllr Mrs Buckley to sum up. She did not wish to do so, so the vote was taken on Cllr Gill's second amendment. It was

 The Vote on Cllr Brian Gill's Amendment 2

Key: (Conservative, Independent, Lytham Independents, Liberal Democrat)

a) For Cllr Gill's second amendment: Councillors Armit, Blackshaw, Clayton, P Collins, Gill, Griffiths, Henshaw, Lee, Lloyd, Nulty, Oades, Silverwood - 12 votes in total

b) Against Cllr Gill's second amendment: Councillors Aitken, Andrews, Anthony, Buckley, D Collins, Dixon, Fazackerley, Fiddler, Gaunt, Green, Harris, Harrison, Jacques, Kirkham, Little, Nash, Nash-Walker, Nixon, O’Rourke, Redcliffe, Rigby, Sayward, Settle, Singleton, Small, Thomas, Threlfall, Trudgill, Willder and Withers - 30 votes in total

So Cllr Gill's second amendment was lost.

 Our Take on Cllr Gill's Amendment 2

We're quite concerned about the matters to which Cllr Gill was referring.

We don't think it's at all clear what the ramifications of the words in this part of Cllr Mrs Buckley's proposition are, and we worry they could be interpreted to permit the purposes for which the Institute was established and built, to be 'moved out' of the Institute building itself and delivered from another (different) building elsewhere in Lytham, leaving the institute itself no longer holding any of the purposes for which it was built, and potentially thus available for disposal.

We worry this might be the underlying motive for including the words 'or other appropriate premises' in Cllr Buckley's proposition, and Cllr Shirley Greene's comments that the Institute "might move on" didn't do much to allay our concern in this matter either.

And it doesn't help much that the background photograph behind the online consultation form that Fylde launched after this meeting is actually a photo of the Lytham Assembly Rooms and not the Lytham Institute.

That might be an unfortunate co-incidence of someone not realising that the Assembly Rooms in the picture is not the Lytham Institute that the consultation is about.  But on the other hand.....

 Cllr Gill's Amendment 3:

The Mayor invited Cllr Gill to continue, and his third amendment was: To change the order and method of consultation in Resolution 3 . He said:

'I come to my third amendment and this is associated with Resolution 3, and referring to paragraph 15 within the report.

Paragraph 15 would appear to be at variance to a proposal in an email from the Chief Executive to the Friends of the Institute group which is dated later.

The 1917 assignment clearly leaves the Institute upon trust to maintain the said premises and buildings now and hereafter erected thereon for public use.

This should therefore be the thrust of the consultation for the makeup of the scheme and to ensure the public are involved in consultation, and major decisions affecting the Institute with a minimum of responses required for the period of consultation.

To ask for online representation would just not work with the public. It doesn't work. You just have to look at the 'Customer Survey' from the Council, 407 people responded out of 78,000. Online representation just does not work. You need to address the people.

So I fully agree and concur with the Chief Executive's proposal that we actually engage with the people in the wards via the councillors. I therefore propose that the order of recommendation, sorry, resolution 3 be changed in paragraph 15 such that the public come first - i.e. (d) becomes (a) and the wording in the Chief Executive's email replaces the online representation, to facilitate workshops and surgeries. Thank You'

He was seconded by Cllr Brenda Blackshaw.

No-one wished to speak to it and Cllr Mrs Buckley declined the opportunity to sum up, so the Mayor called the vote. It was:

 The Vote on Cllr Gill's Amendment 3

Key: (Conservative, Independent, Lytham Independents, Liberal Democrat)

a) For Cllr Gill's first amendment: Councillors Armit, Blackshaw, Clayton, P Collins, Gill, Griffiths, Henshaw, Lee, Lloyd, Nulty, Oades, Silverwood - 12 votes in total

b) Against Cllr Gill's first amendment: Councillors Aitken, Andrews, Anthony, Buckley, D Collins, Dixon, Fazackerley, Fiddler, Gaunt, Green, Harris, Harrison, Jacques, Kirkham, Little, Nash, Nash-Walker, Nixon, O’Rourke, Redcliffe, Rigby, Sayward, Settle, Singleton, Small, Thomas, Threlfall, Trudgill, Willder and Withers - 30 votes in total

So Cllr Gill's third amendment was lost.

 Our Take On Cllr Gill's Amendment 3

Cllr Gill knows what's going to happen with this consultation. As with Fylde's online consultation on its 'customer survey' and its 'corporate plan' only a small proportion of people know about the fact that an online consultation exists, and even fewer will respond to it.

So he was trying to get a better arrangement in place, one that the Chief Executive himself had proposed in a letter to the Friends of the Institute. But the closed minds were in action again

 Taking Stock Up To Now

The Consultation is now on Fylde's website and it is an appalling excuse for a consultation. We'll provide a link to it at the end of this article,

By now, all seven amendments (3 from Cllr Lloyd and 3 from Cllr Gill) that had been proposed to Cllr Mrs Buckley's own proposition had been dismissed out of hand with no debate on their merits.

As it was always going to do, the Conservative group simply knew they didn't need to have regard to anything that was said by those outside its own political party membership, and no one within the Conservative ranks had the integrity or courage to speak out and say otherwise.

But these amendments were not a waste of time.

They now form part of the official record in the minutes of the meeting, and will show the Conservative group's intransigence, its questionable voting pattern supposedly as the trustee, the lack of evidence on which to base its decisions, its lack of consultation on whether any change to the objects and governance were necessary, and its unwillingness to obtain the evidence needed for a proper balanced decision - even when it was told this is what was needed.

But, based on past experience, Fylde's ruling Conservative group was never going to do anything else of course.

However, the Charity Commission are the ones who decide what will happen in this matter and if they are convinced by the issues raised by Cllr Lloyd and Cllr Gill, there may yet be changes to what the Conservative party decided should happen.

 Back to the Substantive Motion.

With all the amendments disposed of, we came back to what's known as the 'substantive' motion - the proposition from Cllr Mrs Buckley that sparked off all the amendments.

It was always going to be the case that this would be voted through, because the Conservative group had clearly decided behind their closed doors that this is what was going to happen. And sure enough it did.

The Mayor asked if there were any speakers on Cllr Buckley's proposition and Cllr Chris Dixon indicated to speak. He said:

 Cllr Chris Dixon Speaks

"Thank you Mr Mayor. I just wanted to say I think tonight, we've really risked losing the layer of scrutiny and transparency involved in the Committee system here at Fylde, which many of the people in this room fought for to bring back - by having this at Full Council. Youknow, at Committee we've got officers and experts input to guide us as councillors.

At Committee councillors can speak on matters time and time again, not just once. I've yet to see a request to speak at committee ever denied. At Committee, the public can attend.

Why were we having it at Finance and Democracy? Because it involves a new governance model in the form of a trust. It's about placing a council asset in a trust, and F&D has remit over community projects, strategic partnerships and policy development which are all relevant here.

After Committee, the decision is brought to, you've guessed it, full council here, where councillors can further raise any issues, where members of the public can again attend.

By bringing this to this meeting alone, we've take a layer of debate out of the situation, and a layer of expertise from officers which, youknow, we could really do with.

There's been scaremongering about the Institute on a dreadful scale. Youknow, there's councillors with more than a little help from mischievous sources raising, and I think it was Councillor Gill mentioned before, the sale of the Institute.

I have not heard in my two years on this Council, any proposal to sell the Institute, and I thank my colleagues over to the left who's been on the Council, is it three decades?, the words 'sell' and 'institute' have never been mentioned in the same conversation, ever, ever."

At this point someone (perhaps Cllr Gill, we couldn't be sure) said 'Dispose' and Cllr Dixon continued..

'Or "dispose" - never been discussed It's shocking.

Everyone here is aware there's a full consultation in the pipeline which will involve every single councillor who wishes to take part, as well as interested community groups. Let's get it moving. Let's find out what we can do with that asset, and lets get it working in Lytham.

I was, until very recently, a part of one of those groups, and I worked alongside the original Friends group helping put together a series of business plans following extensive public consultation, to demonstrate how a modern Institute could work. I want to see a community facility in the Institute in Lytham. I want nothing more than for it to be a success, be a draw for the town, an surrounding businesses, and to help the town as a whole.

Whether that's a community space supported by education, creative arts, or some commercial space I don't mind, so long as we get a revamped Institute that works for the town.

But I've had to step back from that, because I was constantly and consistently told about me being a Conservative, and our plans and discussions to sell it off which simply have never happened.

I've just never ever heard, within this Council, any disposal or sale talk.

I also didn't like the vitriol in social media, and clearly politically motivated untruths that were being bandied about. Which led to approaches in the street from people quoting back at me things I hadn't actually said.

If only all that effort had been put into drawing up decent proposals for what could be a great community centre in Lytham.

For me it's very simple. We need that Institute back open and serving the community. Not used as a political football as has happened tonight, to help certain independent councillors score points in a battle which simply does not exist.

Perhaps it helps those councillors disguise the embarrassing fact that they've never been interested in the Institute in the past."

 Our Take On What Cllr Dixon Said

Gosh, where to start on all that.

Well, we'll begin by saying most of it is plainly wrong.

1. Expert advice: There is no reason why the Council could not have had contributions from officers at this meeting. We've seen that before at ordinary, and at Special Council Meetings under the former Committee System (before the dreadful Cabinet System was implemented in February 2006). And if we remember correctly, as a member of Fylde's staff at the time, we were requested to provide such advice and we addressed the Council at its Special Council Meeting which voted (by a narrow margin) not to sell off part of Ashton Gardens for a supermarket car park on 21 May 1998. Officers can, and do, provide advice to Council meetings.

2. Speaking more than once: It is incorrect to say that only at committees can councillors speak more than once. If it is necessary or desirable to have this facility in a Council meeting it requires only the moving of a successful vote to suspend Standing Orders to allow that to happen.

3 Attendance by the public: He was correct to say that the public can attend committee meetings. What he didn't say is they can also attend council meetings and did attend this Council meeting - in numbers.

4. Using Finance and Democracy Committee: The reasons for the item being sent to Finance and Democracy Committee given by Fylde's expert officers and Cllr Mrs Buckley do not accord with the reasons Cllr Dixon gave, and here again he is wrong.

Fylde already has a charitable trust at Lowther Gardens. That is managed by the Tourism and Leisure Committee, (not the Finance and Democracy Committee). He can read Terms of Reference for the Tourism and Leisure by following this link to them.

5. It Would Have Gone to Council Anyway: He is incorrect to say that the matter would have gone from Finance and Democracy Committee to the full Council.

The report to F&D expected that Committee to take the decision using its delegated powers.

It was only after the matter was arrested and sent to council that the wording of the recommendations were changed (there is an agenda footnote on the partially updated report that went to Council saying: "The recommendations in the original report to Finance & Democracy committee on 17 February 2020 made reference to “the committee” For the purpose of this report to Council this has been replaced with “Council”)

6. Removing a Layer of Debate: He was wrong to say that a layer of debate had been taken out.

Cllr Lloyds oral request for a special meeting was dismissed out of hand By Cllr Buckley at the previous Council meeting.

Quite properly - and within his constitutional right - Cllr Lloyd then effected a formal request for a Special Council meeting to address his concerns.

That request was submitted BEFORE the agenda for the Finance and Democracy Committee was published.

But once the F&D agenda WAS made public, if that F&D meeting had gone ahead and taken the decision, it would have neutered the reasons for requesting the Special Council meeting.

So Cllr Lloyd was obliged to prevent a decision being taken before the Special Council meeting and did so by calling for the F&D item to be referred to the Council.

7. Sale and Disposal: Regarding the 'sale or disposal' of the institute. We agree that we also have not heard any official use of the word 'sell'.

However there are at least two instances where officers have said the Institute was surplus to the Council's operational requirements that we know of (CE: Oct 2017 where he told LCC: "......Whilst both assets are owned by Fylde Council they are surplus to service delivery requirements, the Assembly Rooms are under a long term lease arrangement with Lytham Town Trust and the former library building is a financial liability that the Council is must [sic] address under the legal requirement to deliver best value for the tax payer. A change from the current situation is something that Fylde has been proposing for over five years." and the instructions given to the Institute's structural survey Consultants in late 2019 where, in the first paragraph of their report, they say "The brief provided by Fylde Council states: The council have a property which is effectively vacant and surplus to its functional requirements").

We could go on, but we think we've said enough on his comments.

 Cllr Roger Small

Cllr Small also spoke in support of Cllr Buckley's proposition saying

"Thank you Mr Mayor. Well, I'm standing to support the original recommendations. I'm sad tonight that it's had so much woolly thinking.

All it would do would cause further delay, dressing it up as progress, when all it would do is mire it in long-winded discussion.

And I do want to reiterate, for all concerned, I've never heard anything about selling the Institute, disposing of the Institute. In fact, people on this side want to see what's best for it and, youknow, we've been hearing these accusations all over tonight, which is frankly, ridiculous. We want to see what is best for the Institute for the people in Lytham.

The resolutions, the original ones that you've seen tonight, are the most common sense ones that we've heard. By adopting them, we move the issue forward, not further delaying it. By not adopting them, all we would do is stall the process further, and I'm not sure if it is some people's deliberate intention to do this. I find it hard to believe that people would do act that way, but some of the things I've heard tonight, frankly, beggars belief.

So I would ask all members, no matter what grouping they're involved with, support these recommendations, these resolutions tonight so that we can move it forward so that the Institute has a successful future. Thank You Mr Mayor."

 Our Take on What Cllr Small Said

Like Cllr Mrs Buckley, he was ready to criticise, but was not able or willing to engage on the substance of the amendments he had heard, and his only logic in supporting the proposition was not that it was better, but that it would be quicker.

And given that - according to something like 30% of the Councillors present, they did not yet have sufficient information on which to base their decision, we didn't think that was much of a good reason.

 Cllr Peter Collins

At this point, Cllr Peter Collins indicated to speak, saying

'Thank you Mr Mayor. What is the big rush? There seems to be a big rush to not go through the full process on it. An example of that is - we've had the question tonight - Who decided that the Institute was surplus to operational requirements?

And we've heard Cllr Small telling us we want a future for the Institute.

Who made that decision. We don't know.

People might call this mischief making, it is not. I think the mischief making was getting this item, the referred item, before Cllr Lloyd's item on the agenda.

What is needed is a full consultation, and this - what we've proposed tonight and has been rejected out of hand by the Conservative Group.

I've never said anything about the Institute being sold, all I've been interested in is forming the correct process, to arrive at the correct decision in the end.

Not a mad rush to get where you've already decided you want to go. Thank you Mr Mayor. "

We agreed.

 Cllr Roger Lloyd

Cllr Lloyd indicated to speak to the proposition and said

'Thank you Mr Mayor. Just to correct Cllr Dixon as he says there's never been any idea about selling the building.

As early as 25 July 2012, in a letter by Garry Sams to Lancashire County Council, he states ' We need to consider alternative options for disposal in connection with the Institute'

So it has been said before. Obviously he wasn't on the Council then and neither was I, and I can go on if you like, the Chief Executive writes to Mel Openshaw saying that the Institute is surplus to service delivery requirements. There's been a definite move to sort of dispose of the building."

 Cllr Shirley Green

Indicated to speak saying

"Yes, I just..., I think I maybe missed something, and it's a bit weird because I've been a member of the Conservative Party for many, many, many years. When was Gary Sams part of the ruling group?, -which is what's been put on facebook by Independents, by Cllr Lloyds ward colleague, that the ruling group have been bandying about selling. It's the first I've heard of it. To my knowledge Gary was a member of staff on the Council, not a member of the ruling group, so I'd appreciate these rumours stopping, and items such as that being taken off facebook by the Independent councillors that put it there."

 Our Take on 'Mr Sams'

Cllr Green is correct about Mr Sams being a council employee. He was Fylde's 'Estates Officer' in charge of managing all the Council's property within the policies set by the Council. We find it difficult to believe he would be making statements to dispose of the Institute if someone had not instructed him that was what was going to happen.

But perhaps we should remember that in 2012, Fylde was still running a Cabinet System of Governance where selected individual councillors could take decisions on their own - without any need to refer a decision to the Council or a Committee - and perhaps Mr Sams had been told that was the case by the then Leader, or the Cabinet Member with responsibility for the Institute.

Perhaps he was simply following the instructions he had been given outside the public domain and behind the closed doors that the Cabinet System so loved to use.

With no-one else indicating to speak, the Mayor asked Cllr Mrs Buckley to sum up. Speaking to her proposition, she said:

 Cllr Mrs Buckley Sums Up On Her Own Propositions

"Thank you Mr Mayor, I think we've come to the crux of it just now. I think the political mischief-making is clearly on the side of the opposition. I fully endorse what Cllr Green has just said, and remind this council, I hope I don't have to, remind this council that Members make decisions, officers advise and members make decisions.

So it is quite clear that the scaremongering is coming from that side of the chamber, and it needs to stop.

Despite saying that they want to move matters on, this convoluted report at Item 5, which has been repeated by the amendment, would actually work against moving matters on, which is the reason why members on this side will not support it, because members on this side do want to see a future for Lytham Institute in accordance with the guidance and we do want to consult and we do want to consult properly.

And we don't want to pre-empt the outcome of that consultation.

I think it's also...., it's been insightful this evening that some members would like to dispense with the officers of the Council for their advice, with lawyers, trust lawyers, for their advice, and think that they are all matters to all men.

It's also interesting to me tonight to hear from the Leader of the Opposition when she cites Lowther Institute and draws a parallel with Lowther Institute, Lowther Pavilion, sorry, and the trust there, that she clearly speaks against financial support for that, and I can only draw from that that the Opposition Leader will not support any financial support for Lytham Institute either, so I'm glad Mr Mayor that we've come to the end of these amendments, and I urge matters [she probably meant 'members'] to go back to the original resolutions to move matters on, which we all want to do and to support them. Thank You."

 Our Own Comments On This

As we've previously said, Cllr Mrs Buckley is a clever advocate and a cunning linguist. Her use of language in debate is really clever, and she is often able to sow enough seeds of doubt in ones mind to trip up the unwary.

We've seen her do this often, and you sometimes have to pinch yourself to stop it from happening - as we did ourselves on that night, when we noted she did not give the full purpose of officers in a council.

Yes, she is right to say officers are there to advise, but most of their time is spent on their other role of administering and carrying out the decisions and policies that the Council has made - which is why we said Mr Sams would likely have been instructed that disposal was going to happen and he was attempting or preparing to fulfil his instruction.

And anyway, the second paragraph of the report - which she was now proposing as her own recommendations - said

"This report was brought before the Finance & Democracy Committee, which has the remit of managing land and property not specifically held for the purposes of another committee, or which is surplus to operational requirement."

The case it subsequently makes is that because the 'substantive area' of the library (that had occupied 60% of the floor area) had gone, the building WAS now surplus to Fylde's operational requirement.

If transferring control of this building from the Tourism and Leisure Committee to the Finance and Democracy Committee was because of that change, and it is no longer required in support of Tourism and Leisure purposes, and is thus surplus to Fylde's operating requirement, we invite our readers to figure out what other course of action - apart from disposing of it - would be the logical conclusion of Cllr Mrs Buckley's position in this matter.

We were also concerned to hear her speak for the political party of which she is Deputy Leader, when she ought to have been taking decisions as the Corporate trustee.

She began the meeting by saying decisions were to be made as the corporate trustee not as a council. Yet here she was yet again, saying "which is the reason why members on this side will not support it"

We wondered how many 'sides' a trustee could have.

We'll have to have a think about that.....

We also had to smile at her comment about some members dispensing "...with the officers of the Council for their advice, with lawyers, trust lawyers, for their advice..."

Firstly we don't think Cllr Lloyd or Cllr Gill proposed anything of the sort - but even if they had, wasn't it those same lawyers - trust lawyers - who failed to discern what was so obvious to Mrs Quint, (the Charity law expert engaged by the local Civic Society) that the Institute was, and always had been, a charity, and not the Council's corporate property?

It has been the case that, so far, in this matter of the Institute, advice other than that from the legal experts the Council engaged to provide it, has been proven to be the correct advice.

But, of course, there are none so blind as those that will not see, and who wilfully disregard the facts that are staring them in the face.

 The Vote On The Substantive Motion

After Cllr Mrs Buckley sat down the Mayor called the recorded vote.

This time the result wasn't quite the same as the 30:12 that all the previous votes had been. That was probably because, having run out of steam trying to make changes, and in the knowledge that resistance was now futile, some of the Independent councillors voted for the only remaining choice - the decision the Conservative Group had wanted all along.  Others abstained.

Key: (Conservative, Independent, Lytham Independents, Liberal Democrat)

a) For Cllr Buckley's Propositions: Councillors Aitken, Andrews, Anthony, Armit, Blackshaw, Buckley, Clayton, D Collins, Dixon, Fazackerley, Fiddler, Gaunt, Green, Harris, Harrison, Jacques, Kirkham, Lee, Little, Nash, Nash-Walker, Nixon, O’Rourke, Redcliffe, Rigby, Sayward, Settle, Singleton, Small, Thomas, Threlfall, Trudgill, Willder and Withers - 34 votes in total

b) Against Cllr Buckley's Propositions  - 0 votes in total

c) Abstentions: Councillors P Collins, Gill, Griffiths, Henshaw, Lloyd, Nulty, Oades, Silverwood - 8 votes in total

 Next Business - Or Not

At this point, what should have happened next was that Cllr Lloyd's propositions - (that ones that the Mayor had placed as the second item on the agenda), but which with commendable strategic foresight, Cllr Collins had (in the face of entrenched opposition) so cleverly engineered to be the de-facto first of the two items to be debated on the agenda - should have been debated.

But of course, Cllr Lloyd's propositions had all had an airing when they became structured as Cllr Collins amendments.

The Mayor did the right thing and called Cllr Lloyd to speak, but in what seemed to be a spirit of pragmatism, Cllr Collins offered an opportunity to dispense with them by suggesting the Mayor consider another procedural device.

This involved a provision in Fylde's Constitution that, in effect, prevents a decision on the same subject being taken twice in the same meeting. It requires the Mayor to exercise her judgement as to whether it applies in the circumstances of each instance.

The Mayor did so, and came to the conclusion that votes had already been taken on the matters Cllr Lloyd had planned to raise, so she announced that as her decision and closed the meeting.


The position now is that by these votes, it can now be said that the Special Council Meeting called to hear four propositions from Cllr Lloyd was closed without him being able to present them.

The second position is that Fylde has now adopted two statements upon which it will consult.

Readers can probably think of them as Fylde's preferred options.

 Responding to the Consultation

We're not at all happy with what Fylde are proposing, and we expect to be saying so in the Consultation. We also urge anyone interested in this matter to send their own response as well.

As we expected, Fylde has put up what we consider to be a sham of an online consultation, so we won't be using their 'tickbox online system', we'll be writing our own response - which they are required to take into account.

That said, if anyone does wish to use Fylde's online option, readers can follow this link to it. It closes on 20 April 2020.

If any of our readers do want to comment themselves, we'd advise them to write their own response rather than use the online one, and if readers are wondering about the sort of things they might want to have a think about before doing so, you could do worse than have a look what we said in our last article about changing the purposes of the Trust.

As yet, Fylde is NOT consulting on its proposals for the revised governance arrangements. They have asked their officers to produce some information and have said that will be brought for councillors to determine.

Whether they intend to consult separately on this matters is not clear at present.

 What Happens Next?

Well, the consultation on the Objects and powers closes on 20 April, and we've seen that when Fylde is in this 'steamroller mode' they get their ducks in line ready to move quickly, so - unless anything that derails them (and that's always a possibility, especially given that the precautions for corona virus has just cancelled some local elections for 12 months), we think you can expect to see a Finance and Democracy Committee soon after the 20 April.

That will consider the responses to their consultation and, if necessary, amend Fylde's preferred option (well, that's the theory anyway), before they vote on a final form of words and request the Charity Commission to make as the new Governing Document for the Institute based on those words.

That might not be a straightforward process though, and it's possible the Charity Commission will not think Fylde has done things properly, or that Fylde has not satisfied what local people want - if that's what the responses to the consultation say.

It's also possible, (but less common) that The Charity Commission themselves will consult directly with local people if for some reason there is doubt about whether Fylde has consulted properly.

Concurrently with this, Fylde's officers will draw up some proposals for a governance structure. We addressed the sort of matters that will need to be considered for that in our last article, and readers can follow this link to see them.

There will be another Finance and Democracy (?) meeting (or maybe a council meeting) at which councillors will come to a view as to what governance arrangements should be put in place. They might then consult on them, but it's not clear that will happen (they haven't said they will or that they won't, but we think the Charity Commission might expect them to).

But if Fylde don't consult on Governance arrangements, then their request for a new Governance document and new governance arrangement will probably go off to the Charity Commission at the same time.

If, and when a new Scheme is approved, that's when people will see changes start to happen.

 What to Make of it All

We're sad to think this episode in its history shows Fylde at its worst.

It is not responding to expressed public opinion.

It appears to have had its own undisclosed agenda for the Institute for some time and  seems to be working toward that end.

There are undoubtedly matters it has failed to address.

They're driving the same Conservative Group steamroller they used when they wanted to give a site (and a grant of £200,000 of taxpayers cash!) to a developer to build a 'Homeless Hostel' at Heeley Road (and where they were forced to backtrack when the campaign group opposing this plan introduced them to someone who offered, and ended up paying, £400,000 for the land, giving an overall budget saving of £600,000 for taxpayers).

It's the same Conservative Group steamroller they drove through Melton Grove in order to generate £300,000 to support the Heritage Lottery bid that was submitted by the Heritage Trust for the North West that eventually went sour for all concerned.

Now they're trying to drive the steamroller through Lytham Institute - for an as yet undisclosed purpose.

We also think Fylde has been duplicitous in some of the things it has done and said in this regard.

So we we can't see why they wouldn't be happy to try to 'bluff it out' and attempt to con the Charity Commission that everything is fine.  Whether they succeed or not remains to be seen.

But we do think there are some fundamentally irreconcilable matters lying as difficulties in their chosen direction of travel.

For example, Francesca Quint's Legal Opinion which required the Council to register the Institute as a Charitable trust said

"(5) If Fylde District Council now or at any time considers that one of the circumstances set out in s 62 of the Charities Act 2011 applies, e.g. that there is no longer any need for a public library, museum or gymnasium or similar facility in Lytham, it will also be under a duty to apply to the Charity Commission for a cy pres scheme to alter the purposes as far as necessary to enable effective charitable use to be made of the property of the charity: see s 61."

(Note: a 'cy pres scheme' means a scheme that is close to the original purposes for which the Trust was created)

That seems to be what Fylde is doing at present.

But as far as we can see, Fylde can produce no evidence to justify a claim that there is no longer any need for those services in Lytham. In fact, they have just refused to consider developing that evidence by voting down Cllr Lloyd's amendments which - amongst other things - called for such information to be gathered.

Not only that, but there are existing services within those categories specified in the 1917 assignment that are still being provided and delivered from the Institute by hirers or tenants, including two archives and a reference library open to the public, music appreciation classes, youngsters martial arts type classes, yoga classes, dog training classes, public meetings and more, so we don't see how Fylde can reasonably argue there is no need for them when they are popular and still operating from the building on most days each week.

So we're not sure how that situation will pan out when that and other matters are addressed in the consultation responses.

We think there are quite a few angles like that which are yet to be addressed and tested, so we still can't be clear exactly what's going to happen.

Nor can we hear the fat lady singing yet.

There's more to come.

Dated:  18 March 2020


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