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A Ray of Hope? - Or Not?

A Ray of Hope?This article could be the start of a new era at Fylde, but it could also be a cynical ploy to share the blame for what will be unpalatable change for Fylde residents.

We'll need to see more before we can be sure.

If it is a ray of hope, we would be very pleased.

It concerns some big changes in direction proposed by Fylde's officers, but put on hold for further consideration by Fylde's Councillors.

We see this as a developing battle between what Fylde's Chief Executive says needs to change to 'modernise' the Council, and councillors (including the ruling Conservative group) - who appear to be approaching any change more, well, conservatively.

In some ways, it looks like a battle for the soul of the council.

It's about what sort of Council Fylde will be in the future.

SYNOPSIS

We begin with a little Background about how Fylde's Conservative group have arranged things to make the Committee system feel like the old Cabinet. This includes what they did about: Influencing Officers Behind the Scenes and Preparing the Annual Budget in Private. It also looks at what happened with the Peer Review and INLOGOV Reports  before concluding with probably the most blatant example, the Conservative's Corporate Plan.

We then look at the new document that's causing ructions at present, the Transformation Strategy. We ask Where Did This Come From? and What Happened at the Recent Finance and Democracy Committee where stunned Councillors considered it, before looking What Has Happened Since, and what might happen at Council on Monday night and in the future.

 BACKGROUND

The story has its deepest roots in the Fylde Civic Awareness Group's 'Localism Campaign' which we reported in 'Back to Committees' and 'Committees Campaign' back in Feb 2014.

This resulted in a referendum about how Fylde was governed.

The people of Fylde said they wanted their council to abandon the Cabinet System (where all power was vested in a Leader, and where only a handful of single-party councillors took all the day do day decisions - acting as a 'Cabinet'),

The referendum result required Fylde to make this change, and to re-introduce the Committee system - which gives supremacy of decision making to the whole Council, and requires other decision-taking to be made by committees that reflect the overall political balance of the Council.

We reported that referendum result in '22 May 2014: Fylde's Democracy Day' where we concluded: ".....people like Cllr Susan Fazackerley will probably find this more difficult - having been on the radio the day the result was declared she said "...I, personally, am disappointed that people have voted to move away from a winning formula...." and "...I just hope that the people of Fylde don't regret the decision they made yesterday."

For those Conservative councillors who argued to keep the Leader and Cabinet system, the referendum result was seen to have called their judgement into question. They had been strongly opposed to the change, and campaigned against it.

However, the people of Fylde voted to restore the Committee system.

But the Conservative group sought ways to deny the intent of the referendum result. Like the non-Brexiteers of today, they became governance 'Remoaners' and set about and making the new Committees as much like the old Cabinet as they could.

We saw two main approaches being used: Influencing officers behind the scenes; and the use of single-party (i.e. Conservative) Working Groups - who effectively took the significant decisions behind closed doors, but reported them as 'Recommendations' to the Committees where the Conservative majority vote could legitimise what they had already decided in private.

 Influencing Officers Behind the Scenes

In the lead up to the governance change (and since), they continued to delegate more decisions to officers who (we believe) they sought to influence outside the formal decision making process.

An example of this would be the extension and other changes made to the 'Lytham Proms' event where normally, we would have expected to see a report to the Tourism and Leisure Committee, followed by a debate and decision on extending it or not. But we were told by some councillors that the decision to make the changes had been taken personally by the Chief Executive after consultation with the Chairman of that Committee and the Council Leader.

Although it was probably not unlawful, we regarded that approach as an abuse of the proper democratic process and an insult to the members of the Committee.

 Preparing the Annual Budget in Private

We were also less than impressed when Princess Karen Buckley announced that she and her Conservative colleagues would be drafting the Council's budget in private meetings that excluded all the non-conservative councillors.

She did this by styling the meetings as a 'Working Group'.

If she had styled it a 'Sub Committee'  it would have had to have been politically balanced - meaning that councillors representing the whole spectrum of political opinion would, as of right, hear all the officer briefings, reports and information, and participate in the debate and decision taking.

But this was not the way Cllr Mrs Buckley wanted it to happen, and she actually told the Finance and Democracy Committee that she made no apology for doing it in that way, and she used the device of a 'Working Party' to circumvent the requirement for politically balanced decision taking.

Fylde gets around this by pretending that the Working Party reports to the politically balanced Committee (which, by law, must take the decision). Here,  non-conservative Councillors get a vote as well. But the non-conservative members of the committee rarely get to hear all the detail or the options discarded in the private Working Group discussions and, in any event, the Conservatives have a majority on each committee anyway, so they can just vote their preferred direction to become the Committee's decision.

Fylde says this process cloaks the decision (that has effectively already been taken in private) with legitimacy.

Legally they are right.

Morally they are wrong.

We reported this in 'The New Committees: Finance and Democracy' in July 2015. Once again, we saw the intent of the referendum being thwarted by devices to exclude all councillors from proper participation in decisions.

 Peer Review and INLOGOV Report

When Fylde moved to the Committee system, it did not revert to the tried and trusted version of a committee system it had used before the Cabinet; it implemented a variant of it. Some people (us included) thought this was an attempt to get as close to the former Cabinet system they were legally allowed.

But one thing they did do was say they would review how the new Governance arrangements were working in 12 months time (presumably to make adjustments if needed). On 28 July 2016, Fylde's Audit Committee considered a report called 'Governance Review' which included the following quotation

''It was always the intention that the new governance arrangements would be reviewed after the first year of operation....'

So after the first 3 cycles of meetings (June, September and November 2015) Fylde asked the 52 councillors and its officer staff for comments on how the new Committee system was working.

Only 14 comments were received, and they were conflicting and inconclusive.

But Fylde had also asked the Local Government Association to examine its new governance arrangements in a 'Peer Review' (Where a panel of councillors, former councillors and officers from other local authorities came to look at Fylde).

We were told the headline results of that governance review were first reported orally to selected senior councillors at Fylde. We were also told that the Conservative councillors who heard these results were dissatisfied with the findings, and would not agree to its being made public at that time. We believe it has only formally been published now, in July 2017, (a year after it was produced in July 2016).

It is not clear whether all the comments made by the LGA's representatives found their way into the final report, but the group did go on to look far more widely than the Governance issue - at what Fylde might do to change the way it works in the future.

However, in terms of the Governance Review, an alternative approach was adopted.

Justified by a claim that the LGA people did not actually make in their report, a pretext was created to commission a further Governance report from another source (not the LGA this time) - but from someone who was an honorary Lecturer at INLOGOV which is part of Birmingham University.

It occurred to us that this looked like a case of 'we didn't like the first one so we'll get another.'

That report eventually arrived and suggested four changes.

Fylde's officer report to the Audit Committee listed three of them and ignored the fourth (which advocated using Working Groups that were cross-party - rather than single party).

Most of the proposals were formally rejected at Audit and, of course, with the fourth recommendation about cross party working groups not even being listed in the agenda, this matter was not considered by Audit Committee at all.

(We should say that Mr Cade's report was appended to the agenda, and could have been debated if anyone had taken the trouble to compare what it said and what the officer report had said. But none of the Councillors noted the officer's omission).

Readers can judge the appropriateness of this governance review process for themselves.

We think it was manipulated to produce a whitewashed, sanitised result that has helped the Conservatives avoid the spirit of the referendum vote.

 Corporate Plan

But the most overt of the 'anti-referendum-result' devices we have seen used by Fylde's Conservatives combined both party-political manipulation of officers, and decisions being prepared in private for taking in committee.

This was done in secret at a Conservative group 'Away Day' dubiously paid for out of taxation, and arranged by Fylde's staff at the request or instruction of the Council's Conservative Leader.

We have not been able to establish whether she requested or gave instructions for this meeting - because Fylde told us it had destroyed the emails about it.

Nor, for the same reason, could we establish  whether she did so as Leader of the Council (which, as 'Leader ' within a Committee system, she had no authority to do) or as the Conservative Group Leader (which again gave her no authority to instruct officers to book rooms and arrange refreshments for a single political party meeting), but she did cause a private meeting consisting only of Conservative Councillors to be held.

After lunch, this single-party meeting was advised by Fylde's officers about the issues and options for a Corporate Plan. And it was at this meeting where Fylde's ill fated Corporate Plan was prepared and drafted. The plan went on to cause a lot of trouble.

We broke news of this in our article 'Corporate?? Plan??' in February 2016. It was followed by another article 'Statement of Dissent' which reported the wrath of non-conservative councillors who had been frozen out of preparing the Corporate Plan (and who did not even know it was being prepared!).

These councillors represent about 35% of the council seats. The Statement of Dissent began by saying:

"The signatories to this Statement of Dissent, representing over 35% of Fylde councillors, wish it to be known that we are unable to support Fylde's Corporate Plan 2016 - 2020 as adopted by the Council on 8th February 2016.

The plan has insufficient democratic legitimacy to properly be described as a 'Corporate Plan.'

It is not corporate because it was not prepared corporately, and its absence of targets, timetables and resources mark it out as being a statement of aspirations rather than a plan.

It was prepared by a single political party, and is probably better described as a party manifesto."

So, a shadowy, secretive process in which officers became politically enmeshed, produced a plan that became the Conservative plan because it had been disowned by the rest of the Council.

The Corporate Plan itself is a deceptively worded document.

It sets out to conceal the real meaning of its simplistic wording.

However once it was voted into being by the Conservative majority at a Full Council meeting - a meeting that heard neither a proper exposition of the contents, nor any of the options that were offered as alternative directions by officers - it became the de-facto driving document for the whole of the future direction of Fylde Council.

It was adopted against the wishes of 35% of the other councillors, and from which they felt it necessary to publicly dissent.

What no-one knew at the time was that in the background, officers were also stitching together a radical, fundamental change in how Fylde operates.

Officers will no doubt argue the (Conservative) Corporate Plan justifies their right to produce these changes as a future strategy without reference to councillors.

We think they will argue that the majority Conservative group's approval of the Corporate Plan authorised officers moving to the next stage - to set the strategy to define how they would implement the plan

This strategy has now surfaced and is called the 'Transformational Strategy'

The process by which it appeared on a Committee agenda recently caused some ructions.

Those ructions MIGHT just represent a desire to work consensually across the political spectrum .

We hope readers will forgive our uncertainty here, but given the direction adopted by the Conservative group to date, it's difficult to believe this really is what they're after.

We might have seen a ray of hope for all councillors to work together outside party political allegiances for the future (and if that is the case, it would be wonderful to see Fylde working as it should be working), or we might have seen a clever and cynical attempt to work-around the 'Statement of Dissent'  with a plan to persuade non-Conservative councillors to share the pain likely to come from implementing a future plan that will not sit well with Fylde's particular demographic who - by and large - are very distrustful of words like 'Modernisation' and 'Transformational'

To get a better understanding, we need to have a look at the item on Fylde's Finance and Democracy Committee of 19th June 2017 headed.....

 THE TRANSFORMATION STRATEGY

This was a report from the Chief Executive - and it's definitely the sort of report that raises our blood pressure.

It makes us very angry.

counterbalance fits quite neatly onto the classic Fylde actual demographic. We would argue that the delightful thing about living here is precisely that it is NOT a modern authority. At its best, Fylde was 40 years behind the times. It espoused the sort of culture, beliefs and values that go with tradition, civility and small 'c' conservatism. Politeness, respect, deference for others, and formality were its hallmarks.

You only need to stand in St Annes Square to see this in action every day.

Stand within sight of one of the zebra crossings and watch the incredulity on the faces of people from elsewhere as they approach the crossing and see Fylde's drivers slow down and stop, *in anticipation* of their reaching the crossing before they actually get there. (Rather than see the cars speeding up to race across before they manage to get a foot on the zebra - as happens elsewhere).

You can see equal incredulity in the reverse roles - when drivers from outside Fylde stop their cars at the zebra crossing - only to receive both a smile and a wave of thank-you from locals as they gesture their appreciation to the driver.

That politeness still happens in Fylde, and it is one of the best attributes of our area.

No-one is there to enforce it. It needs no policing. It just happens. It does so because of the inherent civility and respect for the traditional values that reside within each of the great majority of Fylde's (typically older) residents.

But this report from the Chief Executive seeks to shake Fylde out of its traditions. It disregards civility; it sets out to conserve nothing. Its aims are both radical and revolutionary. Politeness is sidelined for speed, deference for expediency, and formality is abandoned for its opposite.

Transformation is defined within his report as being,

"in essence, a change of working, of culture and of disposition, changes made possible by digital technology. "

This is a report that sets out to abandon the values that Fylde's residents hold dear, the values that attract so many to come and live here. It delights in setting out to woo the twitter generation - whose attention span ends at 140 characters.

It simply fails to take account of the particular demographic of Fylde, which is a haven enclave for older, retired professionals many of whom are already comfortable with using technology, but who do not believe that technology itself should become a way of life.

Like the dreadful former Chief Executive but one, the present incumbent appears to see no difference between St Annes and Skelmersdale.

We are no longer to be individuals whose views are represented by our Councillors; we are to be digitally homogenised into a mindless mass of 'stakeholders' who are led (not even represented) by a Council that is, to all intents and purposes, run by an officer class of technocrats.

Our own message about this report is that if that's what our current Chief Executive wants to do, he should go and seek employment in Skelmersdale.

As quickly as possible.

His report sets out a future of continual change for Fylde. Change that is based around:

  • Cultural Transformation
  • Digital Transformation
  • Commercial Transformation
  • Financial Transformation
  • Political Transformation

It is truly awful.

Readers who have already taken their beta-blockers for today can follow this link to download a copy of the Transformation Strategy - but we would not advise reading it unless you have had your medication first.

 SO WHERE DID THIS COME FROM?

That's the big question.

So far as we can tell, this has not been produced by those we elect to represent us.

It's not yet completely clear, but we don't think any councillors have been involved in its preparation.

It looks to be the spawn of Fylde's officer class, and, judging by the tone, we think we detect the hand of the Chief Executive himself as the main driver.

If you can bring yourself to read through this culturally offensive document, we think our readers will wonder how it could be that something so revoltingly revolutionary could have appeared at Fylde without its (apparently) being touched by our elected councillors.

It was presented to them not as an item for debate or decision.

It was presented as an 'Information Item' on the Committee agenda.

That means the officer presenting it (in this case the Chief Executive) did not believe a decision on it was needed.

It was simply there to inform elected Councillors what the future direction of the council would be.

Yes really!

That's why we said we think officers will justify their production of this Strategy by saying it is simply the next stage in effecting the Corporate Plan - (which the Conservative majority on the Council has already approved).

What we think we have here - as we have said too many times before - is an officer class demonstrating that has been given far too much delegated power, far too much autonomy, and far too much leeway. They now seem to think they can walk from here to the Isle of Man unaided.

This Strategy is the Chief Executive telling elected Councillors what their future is to be.

The tail is wagging the dog.

Thankfully, he has been stopped in his tracks - at least for the moment - but we confidently predict that there will be a resurgence.

The origins of his report go back to the matters we have set out under the heading 'Background' at the start of this article.

The report begins:

"The Transformation Strategy has been developed in response to feedback from the LGA Corporate Peer Review Challenge which recommended that all the activities already in place aimed at transforming (changing & improving) the organisation should be brought together into a single strategy and reviewed to ensure that the activities are up to date, appropriate and will lead to the transformation required to deliver a self-sufficient council by 2020"

We will re-interpret a bit of that opening paragraph:

Firstly it shows it is prepared by Fylde's officers. (It has not been produced by a Committee or Working Group - otherwise it would say so)

Secondly, for the primary justification of its content, it claims to rely on the views of councillors, former councillors, and officers from other Councils across the UK.

Thankfully none of these was from the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea (whose expertise was so incompetent that a Government Task Force has been sent in to take over).

But the enduring lesson from that experience in Kensington and Chelsea is that whilst the approach of members and officers from other Councils may be different, it doesn't guarantee it will be better. (And if Fylde's Peer Review had included folk from Kensington and Chelsea, you night argue it could have been worse!).

A Peer Review is exactly what it says.

Someone else's view.

And if that 'someone' has no understanding or experience of the particular demographic that marks Fylde out as being very different from almost all other councils in England, their view is unlikely to meet what Fylde residents require of THEIR council.

(England has only one other Council with such a high proportion of councillors who are not from one of the mainstream political parties. That situation comes about because of Fylde's demographic - who repeatedly choose to elect such a broad spectrum of councillors.).

Readers can follow this link to see graphic of Fylde's exceptional position within all English Councils. It was done a couple of years ago by one of our readers who was a retired statistician previously working for Rolls Royce, but it is still quite relevant today.

So, given the exceptional nature of Fylde Borough, the view of councillors and officers from elsewhere - whilst interesting - should not be taken as a gospel or creed for how Fylde should be run - as our Chief Executive seems to believe it should.

This Transformation Strategy is also set to follow the mould of the (Conservative's) Corporate Plan.

Both contain an unpalatable future hidden in simplified and sanitised doublespeak, where - having had the Conservative majority vote it through Council - Fylde's officers are now running the show virtually unchecked - and claiming justification for whatever they do has pre-approval from their own interpretation of their own doublespeak as set out in the Corporate Plan.

This is technocracy out of control.

Apart from Government, the ONLY people to decide how Fylde should be run, should be the electorate of Fylde.

Any yet they are the only people being denied any say in the preparation of these documents.

None has been subjected to public consultation, let alone public involvement in their preparation.

This Transformation Strategy - like the Corporate Plan - is a Technocrat's Confection deigned to hoodwink ordinary people.

 SO WHAT HAPPENED AT COMMITTEE?

At the Finance and Democracy Committee it was a late item in a big agenda.

That's often a sign.

It can mean it has been put toward the end by officers who want it to be approved.

Late items (when Councillors are tired and want to get home), stand a better chance of not being discussed much, and going through more or less 'on the nod' without too much change.

But that was never going to happen with this report.

Even before the meeting, we had heard tell that some of the non-Conservative councillors were very unhappy with it.

However, they didn't even need to speak of their displeasure, because as soon as the item was reached, Princess Karen Buckley (who chairs the Finance and Democracy Committee) called on Cllr Susan Fazackerley to speak first.

After a moment's pause - which increased the palpable tension, she said:

"Reading this through over the weekend, I'd like to make one or two comments, if you don't mind me reading my comments..."

"Whilst this report could be described as directions of where the Council should be heading and, in many cases is already heading, in terms of cultural, commercial, financial and political transformation, and obviously a lot of thought has gone into the production of this strategy, I am somewhat concerned about the process by which it has been compiled.

There's a good deal of input from the Peer Review, but I'm struggling to find much evidence of input from elected members.

I recognise the content of some discussions that have been held by senior members of the administration as a desirable way forward, but I'm quite surprised to see statements such as, and I quote, 'The option to acquire additional assets to generate commercial revenue will be explored as part of the commercial and financial transformation required to achieve a self-sufficient council by 2010' and, another one to deliver the financial transformation we will need to develop quote 'an investment portfolio that generates income to the revenue account.

These are just two random examples of possibilities that have been bandied about, but now seem to be included in a policy.

Obviously a lot of hard work has gone into the production of this report, but I'm not happy about the process by which it has arrived on tonight's agenda as an information item, without - apparent - consultation.

This is a very important report, and we need buy-in from all elected members if possible, and then, perhaps, to put the report before Full Council."

Many in the room (us included) were stunned by these comments.

They appeared to be a serious rebuke for the Chief Executive, but, at the same time, they suggested there had been some of what she called 'discussions that have been held by senior members of the administration' (this probably means the leading lights in the Conservative group - which we think she euphemistically terms 'the administration.')

It also implied that the Chief Executive was involved in - or at least party to - those discussions. He must have been, in order to introduce them into his report.

The bits that she said she was surprised to see are about Councils who use either their own land (or they borrow to acquire land) and then either take on - or enter into partnerships with -  developers, to redevelop such land and let it out for commercial or residential use.

The aim of that process is to deliver a regular income for the Council to use.

It short, it turns councils into property speculators. (With the attendant risk).

We have heard rumblings on Fylde's bush telegraph that just such an idea is already in its embryonic stages with a property that Fylde has been trying to dispose of for quite some time, and it also looks to us as though the recent attempt to market 'The Island' site on St Annes seafront could just about fall within this category as well.

Whilst we very much welcome the placing of a pause on the Chief Executive's report, we're unclear about the underlying motive.

If it is genuinely an attempt to seek to work consensually with other councillors on the matter, it is to be welcomed, and we do so, warmly.

But as we said before, if the aim is really to seduce councillors from outside the Conservative group to bring about what Cllr Fazackerley called the 'buy-in from all elected members if possible', then her intervention could really be about getting others to share the pain of implementing some of these unpalatable policies on what we believe will be an unwilling electorate.

Either that, or it will be about damage limitation for the Conservatives who would wish to stop those outside the Conservative group (those who publicly dissented from the Conservative's Corporate Plan) from holding the Conservatives to account by shining bright lights into the dark policy recesses that were lurking within the 'Corporate Plan' - and which are only now becoming more visible.

If this is the case-  and we worry that it might be -  (because of the discussions that Cllr Fazackerley said have already been held by 'senior members of the administration' and probably the Chief Executive) then nothing will have changed.

We think it's too early to tell which of these options it is, but we'll stay alert to both possibilities.

Cllr Liz Oades said she was going to say something similar to what Cllr Fazackerley had said. Cllr Oades thought it was a policy and it was the members that should set the policy for the Council rather than officers. She wondered if they should defer the item and set up a group to look at it in more detail.

Cllr Richard Redcliffe said he thought there were a lot of good things in the report, but even if there wasn't, it would lack a sense of ownership because of the points that have been made already, and he thought members needed to take some ownership of it, because if it was 'owned' by members as well, it would be much more 'powerful.'

Cllr Karen Buckley said she understood there was a lot of 'buy-in' from the officers who had put a lot of work into it. She said she agreed with the points that had been made and she would not want that work to be disregarded in the process in which the Council took the report forward. She said surely members and staff should be working toward the same goals.

Cllr Buckley said the Committee was not asked to endorse or otherwise the report, but they were suggesting input from members into the document.

There was then a brief discussion about the process for member input. Cllr Buckley and Fazackerley tentatively suggested a discussion at Council, but Cllr Oades thought there should be member discussion before that happened.

Cllr Susan Fazackerley thought a maximum of two sessions should not be exceeded.

Cllr Harvey suggested the strategy should be circulated to all Councillors, and their comments invited as a basis for the further consideration of the report.

This was generally agreed, and a cross-party group was chosen to consider the document.

 WHAT HAPPENED SINCE

Well, we've heard nothing more officially, but we understand one meeting of the cross-party Working Group has been held recently.

We also see the Council agenda for Monday night has a report giving an update on the Corporate Plan, and another report which reports the 'Peer Review' that was undertaken in May 2016.

To us it is evident that, the purpose of these items being on Monday's agenda is to commence a softening-up process to persuade councillors to support the ideas contained in the Awful Transformation Strategy.

The Peer Review report exactly commits the Council to supporting what the councillors from elsewhere said that Fylde should do in the future.

Again, readers who have had their medication can follow this link to download a copy of the Chief Executive's Covering Report and the Peer Review itself.

The Chief Executive's covering report for the Peer Review document says the Review was published in September 2016, but we could find no evidence of its being reported to a committee or to the Full Council at that time, so as far as we're concerned, this is the first time it has been 'published'.

Our scepticism here is not eased by a part of the Chief Executive's covering report which says

"When the report was first published a number of elected members sought further clarification about the findings and representations were made to the Peer Review Team lead. In response the Lead Officer from the LGA, Neil Shaw and the Lead Chief Executive on the review team, Shelia Oxtoby returned on site to hold a follow up session that all members were invited to on November 2nd 2016. This provided the opportunity for the team to clarify the findings in the report addressing the issues that some members had raised but also the opportunity for further discussion with elected members about the key strategic issues the council needs to address.

The note included in Appendix 2 to the report provides details of the issues that were discussed by the members in attendance on November 2nd that should be explored further as part of the improvement agenda at Fylde. Only 14 members were able to attend the additional follow up session so it is important that the follow up actions agreed are presented to the council and proposed as part of the improvement agenda. The relevant feedback from the LGA Peer Challenge Review as well as the issues discussed at the follow up session will be used to inform targeted improvement initiatives and forward planning."

The first of those green paragraphs from CE's report chimes quite closely with what was suggested to us at the time - that the Governance Review had not gone down well, and the Review subsequently re-focused on something else - in this case some 'key strategic issues' for the Council in the future.

The yellow highlighted section above also shows how Monday's Council is being asked to approve the content of this re-focused  'Peer Review' - and we've no doubt that officers would take such an approval as an authority to get on with much of what the 'Transformation Strategy' has proposed (perhaps irrespective of what Councillors have to say about that).

We also note that the November date above (when the review was concluded with a follow up meeting) is *after* the September when the Peer Review was allegedly 'published' and we think this anomaly adds weight to our view that it was put into the long grass until now, when most folk had forgotten what went on.

It's also clear that only 14 of Fylde's 52 councillors heard the findings of the Review clarified, and took part in further discussions to agree and  define - what is about to become - the basis for Fylde's future direction. 

We understand this low number of participants may (in part) be attributable to a sort of  boycott implemented by at least some of the non-Conservative Councillors - who were dissatisfied that the Governance aspects of the Review they had input into did not reflect what they had said, and thus they were not content with, nor trustful of,  the Peer Review's findings.

So, just as the 'fog of war' makes it difficult to see how everything will end whilst the battles are going on, so we can't yet tell how the 'Corporate Plan' and the 'Transformation Strategy' will turn out either.

At the beginning of this article, we said we suspected the officer class at Fylde was either out of control or was being manipulated to circumvent the will of the residents of Fylde as expressed in the Governance Referendum.  Sadly we can't yet even come to a conclusion on that matter.

And on the matter of consensus working, whilst we hope we see an outbreak of consensus, we fear we do not, and to us it looks like business as usual for those who subscribe to the view that: In the Council of the blind, the one eyed man is king.

What we can say is that the impact of this Awful Transformational Strategy is a long way from being over, and it's a matter we expect to return to quite a bit as time goes by.

 Dated:  16 July 2017

 

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