Keeping Residents In Touch

The role of District Councillor has changed dramatically since the year 2000. Government policy and public awareness has meant that Councillors need to be more accountable than ever before to their electorate. Technology has also moved on and in Heyhouses your Conservative Councillors are at the forefront of adopting e-mail alerts, Blogs and Newsletters such as the Heyhouses Harrier to keep you up to date. Our monthly mobile Ward surgeries are also a vital face to face opportunity for residents to keep in touch with us. Finally the Heyhouses Branch committee, made up of volunteers, plays a vital supporting role in campaigning and fund raising. If you would like to play a more active role in your area and would like to become part of the team, then please get in touch. We hope you enjoy the Blog.

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Tuesday, 27 February 2007

Conservative Councils are more efficient!!

A recent article in the times has made comment on what many of us already know about Conservative led Councils:

'Tory-led councils continue to outperform others, according to Audit Commission research. They are more efficiently staffed, quicker to adopt “best practice” in general and more successful at holding down the costs of long-term private sector contracts in particular' (Editorial, The Times, 26 February 2007).

The noticeable turn around of Fylde Councils fiscal controls have received praise from the Audit Commission. We are recognised as having some of the lowest corporate management costs within English authorities, whilst still being able to offer quality services such as our Waste collection and Environmental Services. Fyldes streets were recently recognised as being some of the cleanest in the North West of England.

Thursday, 22 February 2007

Letter to the Editor - New Fylde Independent Group (FIG)

Dear Editor

New Political group in Fylde - Fylde Independent Group

Internal feuding and a bitter power struggle has led to the demise of two long standing political parties in Fylde's Town Hall. The Independent and Ratepayer Groups have been forced to reform under a single banner after 7 Independent Councillors distanced themselves from their Parties 'Non Co-operation policy' within the Town Hall. An internal struggle for the Leadership of the Ratepayer Group has also seen a meltdown of the long standing organisation. The newly constituted group, to be led by Opposition Leader Paul Hayhurst has pledged that it if elected it will scrap the Cabinet system brought in under the Conservatives in 2005 and return the Council to the former committee structure, even though just 5% of Councils in England still operate what is considered to be a cumbersome and outdated method of delivering local services.

Leader of Fylde Conservatives Group John Coombes said 'many residents are not aware of the fact that almost 50% of the Independent Group have resigned since 2003 due to their unease at it's negative stance and in particular the behaviour of it's Leader Cllr Hayhurst. The new Fylde Independent Party has just two goals one, to oppose Conservatives and two to un-ravel four years of progress. Residents need to realise that there is no such thing as an Independent Candidate in Fylde'

Cllr Roger Small Deputy Group Leader added 'This is a public interest issue that has gone unnoticed by the press, when former Deputy Independent Group Leader Cllr Mullholland jumped ship we realised that the Independent cause was in crisis. This is an important issue on the build up to Local Elections and Fylde's residents need to understand fully the implications that such a negative political policy will have on the Council's continued improvement'

In the aftermath of the 2003 Comprehensive Performance Inspection Fylde Council was branded a 'weak council with uncertain prospects for the future' . Many of the official reports criticisms were levelled at the former Independent led Council and cited, lack of Political Leadership, poor committee structures, internal feuding and hostility towards Council Officers, the reluctance of members to take difficult decisions, the list goes on.

Cllr Coombes added 'Fylde is now seen as an innovative, forward looking Council, the Cabinet system does need time to bed in but surely 95% of the Councils in England can't be wrong? it would be a tragedy to see the Councils strong progress wrecked by the Independent Party's single negative policy'


Saturday, 17 February 2007

Update on Issues raised at Singleton Mobile Surgery

Just thought I would update you on the status of the comments received from residents visiting our Ward Surgery two weeks ago. If you have any further comments or concerns, please do not hesitate to contact either myself or Keith.

From Streetscene Manager:

When I visited the site I saw some bins just inside the gates.
They are conveniently sited for people to use but I think some of the staff there are deliberately not using them as they are unhappy with the new restrictions on smoking.

The dog wardens have checked Hope St Park
There are:
- 11 signs for dogs off lead and fouling.- Paving slabs with the no dog symbol on both gate entrances to the play area.- 3 dog bins in the park.They will step up patrols in this area.

From Housing/Planning Director

3. The DWP have been contacted and agreed that smoking will be brought back within the boundaries of the site in designated areas. Consideration has been given to the new regulations and to health & safety for workers and as such the designated areas are outdoors at a reasonable distance from any doors/windows to buildings. The location of the designated areas within site allows for the appropriate disposal of cigarette waste as it will become the responsibility of the cleaning contractors. They are finalising details of the designated areas and so the move should be imminent.

4. This has been reported to Emma Bolton (Anti-social Behaviour Co-ordinator, Community Safety) who will liaise with the Community Beat Manager for the area and take the appropriate action using their powers which include the possibility of confiscating the bikes. CW&P powers relate to any noise nuisance caused, so we are liaising with Emma to check if any further support is needed from us. (relating to mini motos on Wildings Lane)

5. Streetscene removed several deposits of waste along Wildings Lane last week. Warning signs about fly tipping are to be affixed at points along the bridlepath. Items dumped in the sluice have been reported to Environment Agency who are responsible for their removal. We will continue to patrol the area to secure evidence about any future perpetrators so that we can take enforcement action.

6. The damaged fencing to the plot of land at the rear of Ridgeway Court is a piece of herras fencing (similar to that used on building sites) which has been bent, and has been reported to the land owner for his attention. We are chasing up.

We hope you find this of use?


John, Keith & Craig

Thursday, 15 February 2007

The Cabinet Recommends the 2007 Budget for Fylde

On Wednesday night the Conservative Cabinet met to discuss the budget for 2007/08. The Council has worked hard over recent months to reduce costs, embark on joint ventures with other Councils and to pinpoint priorities whilst not being forced into reducing services. A difficult task. The process has involved all Councillors through the Overview & Scrutiny Committees. The budget shortfall was £841,000. There was also a recommendation to adopt a system of local Council Tax raising and spending to ensure that residents could see focused improvements in their area. This was called nicknamed "Equitable Taxation". Although the scheme received majority support from Parish Councils, the Cabinet felt that more work needed to be done with both St annes and Kirkham Town Councils and with the Lytham Forum to work on transferring the same responsibilities to them as operated by other Parish Councils in the Borough. Cabinet recommended that the Council continues to work on ET to this end.

The £841,000 worth of savings were found mainly from removing long standing vacant posts and increased revenues from a variety of operations on council owned facilities. The ultimate goal is for the Council to be able to not only balance the books, but to also be able to invest six figures sums each year in improving all of the Councils facilities. As already reported in previous blogs the previous Lib Dem, Independent and Ratepayer Coalition had one policy, to keep Council Tax levels the lowest in Lancashire, which they did. Although in principle this sounds a worthy cause, if they would have used incremental increases to the same level as Rossendale District Council, this year we would have had almost £2 million pounds of additional funds to invest in town centres, parks, swimming pools etc etc. Food for thought!

On Monday I attended the Lancashire Leader and Chief Executives meeting hosted in Lancaster Town Hall. At this meeting we discussed the challenges we were all facing with funding for concessionary bus travel. It was reported that the bus companies had had a bumper years and that the 14 Councils of Lancashire could receive a share of the £1.8. million pound over target receipts received. This would be approximately £60,000 for Fylde Council. With this in mind the Cabinet agreed to invest this money in Revenue Growth items listed in priority order. They were:

£25,000 to the Fylde Community Projects Fund. This will be matched by the same amount from the LSP. This scheme should see over £100,000 being raised towards local projects this year.
£10,000 for Information, Communication Continuity. Disaster recovery etc.
£8,000 for the removal of Spartina Grass from the Amenity Beach. The Council is going to hold the line just before the Beach Terrace cafe. The loss of the beach at St annes would be a disaster.
£8,500 for new Highway and Park trees.
£3,000 for the Boroughs entry to Nations in Bloom.
£4,000 for low level security lighting on Fairhaven Lake.
£1,500 to kick start a review of on street car parking restrictions in St annes town centre.

The Capital programme was discussed in depth and it was decided to divert funds from some Government priorities to Local ones. By doing this we were able to find £147,000 to spend on capital projects within the Borough. These were:

£12,000 to promenade Lighting in St annes. This amount enables us to upgrade the style of lighting columns from standard ones to Victorian.
£22,000 towards X2 Skydome CCTV cameras and Posts. These will be moved around the Borough to monitor areas of Low Level crime.
£15,000 for investment on youth issues and/or facilities.
£55,000 towards a full refurbishment of the Lytham Cenotaph Gardens.
£8,000 for a new fence for Newton Village playground.
£5,000 for new playground equipment for Newton village.
£5,000 for Willam Pickles Park, Newton village.
£25,000 towards the start of the refurbishment for Warton Sports Pavilion.

The current commitments which the Cabinet also agreed to continue supporting are:

£60,000 for Kirkham Memorial Gardens. (A total of £200,00 will be spent over next 2 years)
£30,000 on car park improvements. (surfacing, lighting etc)
£645,000 for the Heritage restoration of Ashton Gardens.

Many of the Parish bids have been on the books for years and as a result the facilities have declined year on year. The plan is over the next two years to fund these one off Parish Schemes and then to hopefully have the Parish Councils at a stage where they can budget for their long term upkeep. The facilities in the un-parished areas fall into our new planned maintenance programme.

In short we hope that the Council will adopt this budget on the 1st March as it is a budget for improvement and stability, based on need not politics!

Tuesday, 13 February 2007

Heyhouses Harrier update

The 10th issue of the Harrier is now being distributed across the Ward with feedback already being received regarding graffiti and issues relating to possible new roamer bus routes. The team have already started chasing up these requests and will report back in due course. We have already started getting the issues raised at our last ward surgery addressed and we hope that residents will now being seeing the results.

The Dog Warden has also been tasked with a high visibility campaign on Hope Street and Waddington Parks, so if you have any concerns relating to dog fouling, whether on a park on pavement please let the Town Hall know by calling 658658. We are also keen to see back alleys kept clean and clear and the new environmental powers given to Councils could see residents receiving on the spot fines for putting bins out early or leaving large items in our back alleys. Again if you have a particular concern or know of anyone leaving rubbish in your back alley then please let us know.

Finally, there has been much fuss relating Concessionary Bus Travel. Lib Dem's have accused the Council of diverting the funds elsewhere and not using the full grant for free bus travel for the over 60's. This is absolute rubbish! The facts is that the Council has always had a grant for OAP's for free bus travel. This grant was in the region of 300,000 pounds per annum. The old scheme being administered through Age Concern Fylde. At the last General Election Labour introduced a preliminary scheme increasing the 'within Boundary scheme' to a wider one which enabled free bus travel within Borough Boundaries and a 50 pence flat rate on cross boundary travel, the Government added an additional 483,000 pounds to the original grant, therefore a total of approx 783,000 per annum. As as at January the bus usage figures show that all this money will be spent on the reduced fares scheme, with perhaps more having to come from the Council as a subsidy. The shortfall may continue to widen and each month the figures change. The bottom line is - Council Tax revenue will have to be used to plug any shortfall, we believe that this is wrong, the Government should give us more! Far from squirreling the money away we have allocated all that we have been given.

Next years scheme, the National Free Travel scheme, we all applaud. There is however a massive risk to Fylde's Council Tax payers. The current proposal will see the local Councils having to pay for all bus journeys started within their boundaries, no matter how much these bus journey's cost. For a visitors destination such as Fylde this could cause meltdown. How can we afford to pay for the return journeys of all the people visiting our Borough for either day trips or holidays? it could run into hundreds or thousands of people per week! How can a Government even begin to administer and fund such a scheme? and how can a small Authority such as Fylde be expected to bare the cost of the scheme if funding fall's short? We will be lobbying the Local Government Association in the coming weeks to highlight the potential risks to Council tax payers.

The Cabinet meets on Wednesday evening to finalise recommendations for the budget to Full Council. A lot of work has gone into the budget this year and we are confident that it will be well received by Heyhouses residents. Keep an eye on the blog for the details.

Sunday, 11 February 2007

The Election Starter Gun is Fired!

This weeks local Paper has seen Opposition Independent, Ratepayer and Lib Dem candidates start their campaign for the May elections. A Lib Dem campaign guide which was printed for the last Local Council elections instructed Lib Dem candidates to 'lie shamelessly and stir endlessly' and I can see that Fylde's Lib Dems are still using their National Parties guidance! The Lib Dems, Ratepayers and Independent Groups on Fylde Council formed the previous administration of the Council for 12 years. At the end of their term the Council's finances were destroyed, building's dilapidated, Council Staff the worst paid in Lancashire, Government Inspectors brought in to manage the Housing Department and Residents disenfranchised and ignored across the Borough.
On the first Monday after the May 2003 elections the Council started it's Government Inspection, Comprehensive Performance Assessment (CPA) At the end of the week long Inspection Officials gave a damning report on the Councils performance. The grade given was 'weak with uncertain prospects for the future' The only saving grace for the Council was the fact that a new Conservative Administration had been formed and Inspectors were willing to give us time to prove that we could turn the Council around.
It later transpired that the Council was just a whisker away from suffering the humiliation experienced by Rossendale Council in East Lancashire. Their fate was that all senior Council Officers were removed and Councillors sent home. Whitehall Officials were brought in to bring Rossendale back into the 20th Century. AT Fylde the Conservatives were given the task of delivering the turnaround. In 2006 our last CPA related inspection of Environmental Services classified our service as 'Good with promising prospects for the future' a 180 degree turnaround in just 3 years! This continued improvement is what makes the May elections so important, a recent 'Risk Assessment' within the Town Hall found that in the view of Councillors, Staff and Inspectors the biggest Risk to the Council's continued improvement was the re-election of a Independent, Ratepayer and Lib Dem Coalition. The Coalition has vowed to overturn many of the 4 years of policy changes made by the Conservatives, returning the Council to the outdated 1974 mindset and a structure which will see the Fylde yet again isolated within Lancashire and on the brink of Whitehall takeover.

over the next 12 weeks I will use the Blog to counter some of the misleading stories in the press and keep Heyhouses residents informed of the facts. I hope that you will sign up to our email alert service and hope that you will keep us up to date with any concerns or suggestions you may have.

Saturday, 3 February 2007

Week Commencing 29th January 2007

Monday. Another busy week again with this years Budget now taking precedent. This year the Council has a funding shortfall of 880, 000 pounds. The Council is determined to find the savings without reducing front line services or raising Council Tax above 4.95% The Equitable Taxation policy will be put forward as a possible option not only to help balance the budget but to also enable Parish & Town Councils greater flexibility when planning their own precepts. The Equitable Taxation exercise has shown that since 1974 residents in Rural villages have been paying twice for their services, whilst those in Urban cores such as Kirkham and Lytham St annes have been under charged. However this funding re-balancing will ensure that those Urban areas see ring fenced funding for parks and open spaces enhancements in their areas.

Tuesday. Lancs District Leaders & Chief Executives Meeting. Preston Town Hall. Today the Leaders Group met to discuss the Government White Paper of Local Government Re-organisation. Our bid has been submitted on the lines of an enhanced two-tier bid.

Saturday. Today myself and Keith were joined by PC Jo Jackson and the chaps from Blue Watch from St annes Fire Station for our monthly Mobile Ward Surgery, this month held outside the shops on Singleton Ave. Residents cam along to discuss local issues and were given an opportunity to request a free smoke alarm fitting in their homes. These pioneering surgeries have been of great use to all organisations involved.

Issues raised with Councillors included: Dog fouling on Hope Street Park, the lack of benches for Bowling clubs, discarded cigarette butts from DWP smokers on Moorland Road, mini motorcycles on Wildings Lane and a Boundary fence behind Ridgeway Court. We hope to find solutions to all these concerns as soon as possible.