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countering the spin and providing the balance


Snippets April 2010

In 'Decisive Company' we described how John Coombes has personally taken the decision to sign Fylde up to the 'Blackpool Fylde and Wyre Economic Development Company.'

And we said was an early step towards the dreaded 'City of the Fylde'

Notice of his intended decision was published on 6th April, and it formally became a decision on 14th April. The Chief Executive - in our view acting without sufficient cause - declared this decision to be formally 'urgent' and therefore not subject to the normal arrangements that allow such decisions to be 'called in' for debate by others.

Lots of other councillors were (understandably) pretty mad about being excluded from the decision, especially when Wyre had taken the item in full council debate when they had considered it a week or two before.

Well, despite being a minority opposition Councillor, Kirkham's Queen Elizabeth Oades decided enough was enough, and she got the hammer out. She has taken procedural steps that will force a Special Council meeting to be held and the matter debated in the next few weeks.

counterbalance salutes an able Councillor who has read the rule book.

It may not change the decision the Commissar made in his leadership death throes, it may not (as we argue it should) allow us to pass a view ourselves before some of our sovereignty is ceded to an unelected body, but it will ensure that body knows that the 'civic merger' to form the new limited company does not enjoy widespread support in Fylde, and that will pave the way for Fylde's future leaders to maintain our independence, and protect our interests, more readily.

We hear that Councillor Howard Henshaw has recently adjudged to have transgressed the 'Councillors Code of Conduct'.

We don't know all the details, and only have the story second-hand, but from what we can see, he was cross (as many taxpayers might have been) to see a very Senior Fylde Planning Officer (who now no longer works for the Council) sitting down to lunch with a bunch of local property developers and some other folk in the Council's building. There may be an issue about how sumptuous the lunch was, but we understand the lunch did take place.

It came about because the meeting was intended to find which land should be included in the SHLAA - to identify what land in and around Fylde ought to be considered as the 'long-list' of potentially developable sites.

It was expected to be a long meeting, and rather than break, we understand those present were having a 'working lunch'

We suspect lots of readers will think the developers shouldn't have been there at all (and we're inclined to agree), but the formal 'Guidance' from Government says that developers must be part of the process that identifies the land. (It doesn't say that you have to give them lunch of course, but that might only be being hospitable)

Anyway, word has it that Cllr Henshaw saw the scene and, according to some, made a scene.

The officer concerned made a formal complaint - and that caused an assessment of his complaint to be made. That assessment found there was a case to answer. And because there was a case to answer, there had to be a formal investigation (solicitors and all) to established the facts. That took place, and was reported to the Standards Committee who have made a judgement that appears to have found Cllr Henshaw wanting, and he now has to make a formal apology to the officer concerned.

We've said before, we have no time for these childish, 'playground complaints'

Officers, especially senior ones, need a thick skin and broad shoulders. It comes with the turf (and the 'senior' money).

We're very sad that the officer felt it necessary to make a complaint. We're surprised that he wasn't talked out of the idea by the Chief Executive, and we're saddened that an honourable man like Councillor Henshaw has been involved in a process that has dragged on for over two years (Yes that's right, the incident was more than two years ago), and has cost several thousands of pounds.

This stupid Code of Conduct is in urgent need of revision (nationally) to remove the requirement to "treat others with respect' and other such childish concepts. If a councillor develops a bad reputation for the way they treat others, that is a matter for the electorate to resolve, not Kangaroo Courts called in to settle childish scores.

The Inquiry process should be for serious failings in Councillors - things that are just below the level of proof needed for a police prosecution - not for whinging ninnies who've had their hair pulled.

We laughed out loud when we saw the photograph in the LSA Express of Cabinet Member Councillor Cheryl Little. At risk of being prosecuted under the copyright laws, we've reproduced it below so our readers can see for themselves.

Cllr Little was part of, and was very ably supporting, an event at Fairhaven connected with support for soldiers. She was photographed with our national colours in the background and surrounded by big strong soldierly types with impressive weapons.

To us she looked just like a modern day Boadicea, only needing a trident and shield to complete the scene.

The smile she is wearing in the photo is far, far wider than you ever see on Conservative Councillors these days, especially Cabinet Members. She looks happier than we've ever seen her before. And just to make it clear, despite the humorous caption below. We're not having a go at her here. We respect, and are impressed, with what she is doing for the soldiers. We wish her well with her plans and hope she sees the humorous side as we do.

Cllr Cheryl Little in Britannia Mode

"On hearing that her Lord Protector and Leader John Coombes  is stepping down, Councillor Cheryl Little takes her own steps to ensure that her place on the Cabinet remains secure....."

We understand that Princess Karen Buckley - who is standing as the Conservative Candidate for MP at Hyndburn - is busy with leaflets and canvassing in East Lancs. Interestingly, that also means that since she was selected as the Prospective Parliamentary Candidate, she's been preoccupied 'over there' - whilst the tussle of choosing the next leader of the Fylde Conservative group takes place 'over here'.

That situation is likely to reduce her chances of being Fylde's next Leader - even if she doesn't manage to get elected as Hyndburn's MP.

We understand that Hyndburn is a Conservative bellwether seat. If Hyndburn goes Conservative, it's likely that the Conservatives nationally will achieve an overall majority in Parliament. So, having been tutored by John Coombes at Fylde, there's now a lot riding on her in Hyndburn.

We've been inundated with people (mostly other Fylde Councillors it has to be said) who've said they would be willing to go and help deliver leaflets and canvas for her in Hyndburn - to help make sure she gets what she really wants - to become an MP.

We think it's really nice when your colleagues (and even councillors from opposing groups) are willing to pitch in and help like that, isn't it?

We occasionally get feedback from readers about what we write, and of late we've had a few. Some positive, some negative.

The unusual article 'Corrupting Influence' which was outside our usual sphere of interest provoked the most negative ones. We were not altogether surprised and that was why we had put heavy warnings that those of sensitive disposition ought not to read it all.

But we thought our other readers might like to share some of the views we received in the last couple of weeks

Spanish Ayes
"My wife and I now spend our winters in Spain so we have been here since the beginning of January, unfortunately we are coming home soon. We enjoy keeping up with the happenings in Fylde via Counterbalance, bizarre as they might be. I find it quite strange that my views are so in tune with those of Counterbalance."

"...You obviously have the right to publish whatever you want but as a reader of this excellent source of comment and analysis of local politics I don't really want to read about your own, no doubt deeply held, cocktail of moral and religious beliefs. There are plenty of other sources for this kind of stuff.... So I look forward to get back to reading about the way our borough is being managed and our local politicians are behaving, sometimes well, often disgracefully"

Off Beam
"I never thought Counterbalance would be knocking human rights. You're way off beam in my book, especially in supporting segregated schooling for young people [think about Northern Ireland], but after all, you do have the right to be."

Good News
"I feel moved to comment on the very good news that Coombes is stepping down, too late in my opinion. The cabinet style of control, incompetent wastage of public money together with the closure of the swimming pools were his worst acts.

People have long memories and if the Conservatives think we are going to forget they backed Coombes to the hilt we won't. Good riddance, my fear is that the replacement will be as bad or worse but with a smile hiding gritted teeth.

The situation will become clear after the elections, local and national. Time for a change and the rise of some honest people who will make good decisions, properly researched and made for the best, not party, reasons. Yours, a regular reader. Keep up the good work."

One of our readers tells us that Lancashire County Council has been appointed as consultants to the new White Elephant Town Hall Project. He added that he thought Fylde was short of money. We're hoping that the common sense of Fylde's former best mates in Wyre will rub off on Fylde. Wyre just decided to abandon its plan to build a new civic centre.

Readers will know that we focus on Fylde and try not to stray into Blackpool (mostly in the hope that they reciprocate), but we're also keeping watch on the new National Political Party that started up on the fylde coast called Integrity UK.

This is that party that claims not to be a party is as much as it has no policies and no whip to control voting. Instead, it relies on choosing the right sort of people and supporting them as independent candidates.

Their first candidate is standing for parliament in Blackpool South Ward. Dr SiThu Tun - who is a doctor in Blackpool South - is standing against Gordon Marsden and others to become an MP.

We doubt he will get elected, but we understand that 43,000 election leaflets (and that's a lot) are being delivered next week. It shows the new party has got its finger out at short notice, and win or lose, it is already a creditable performance.

If you want to know more, the IntegrityUK website is here

Even further afield than usual, we're keeping a half eye on what's happening in Doncaster.

That's where the people decided to have a Directly Elected Mayor.

We're generally not in favour of that system because we think it's bad enough to have only seven or eight folk making the decisions. Putting them in one person's hands is, in principle, a bad thing. Even if, as in this case, we really like what the new Mayor is doing.

That involves 1) Halving his own salary on his first day in office 2) chopping expenditure on frippery, 3) stopping spending on minority pressure groups, 4) telling the Chief Executive that the next one would have a much lower salary. and so on.

He is outspoken and, by local authority standards, exceptionally unconventional.

But his maverick style has brought him into conflict with the Councillors. (The principle of working is the same as Fylde, but instead of the Leader and Cabinet you have a single directly elected Mayor. The Mayor proposes the budget framework and policy. The Council debates this and eventually approves it - or something like it - following which the Mayor and the hired hands implement it without going back for approval on anything).

You can learn more about the Mayor on his website.

The trouble in Doncaster has included a really bad assault involving some young people, and it is also said that relations between the Mayor and the rest of the Council have broken down so badly that the Mayor and the Council are more or less not speaking to each other.

As a result, the Government has sent in commissioners. The Communities Secretary John Denham said "Those leading the council - the mayor and cabinet, some councillors and some officers - do not collectively have the capacity or capability to make the necessary improvements in governance."

We get the impression that the Government wants rid of this turbulent priest. The Mayor is not a member of any of the main political parties,  of course, he is an 'English Democrat'

The Yorkshire Post newspaper said "Doncaster's elected mayor is a divisive figure who lacks the political skills to deliver better services for the people of the town, according to the Audit Commission."

But the English Democrats have a different take on it - as you'd expect of course.

We think its probably not the Mayor that's divisive, after all, he was elected on the ticket that he's now delivering.

The divisive part is that two entirely opposite philosophies have been elected by the same electorate and no-one is clear which should prevail.

Most interestingly for us, the Council seems to have been elected on the first past the post system, and the Mayor on some sort of proportional system. That might explain why the difference exists.

Having two sets of directly elected representatives elected in different ways  is always going to throw this problem up from time to time.

We're not following the fine detail, but we will keep an eye on the situation and keep our readers up to date with the main developments.

Dated:  23 April 2010


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