Fylde Civic Awareness Group
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Who's making decisions?
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REFERENDUM LINKS

Download Leaflets etc
All about the Referendum
Book a Presentation
2013 Seminar Report
 

The 'Localism in
Action Project' is
supported by
 

Awards for all lottery logo

Fylde Civic Awareness Group

WHAT'S THE REFERENDUM  ALL ABOUT ?

 

Click here to
skip straight to the reasons to change to the Committee System

 


HOW DID IT START? 

Meeting reportThe campaign  a meeting of 14 community groups and 200 members of the public at the St Annes YMCA in 2008. That meeting said it had no confidence in the Leader and Cabinet system of governance that Fylde had adopted in 2006, and it called for a return to the former Committee System. It also asked Town and Parish Councils in Fylde to support the call. Those representing more than half of Fylde's residents did support the call. You can follow this link to read the full report of that meeting
 

WHY WERE PEOPLE UNHAPPY?

The chief concerns from the 200 attending were about the financial mis-management which had caused the closure of swimming pools (32 comments), the Heeley Road Hostel debacle (11 comments), and concern about the loss of heritage buildings (21 Comments). But the greatest number of concerns by far (62 comments) was about the way Fylde Borough Council was operating.

The main concern was the new Cabinet system of governance had resulted in a lack of transparency and democracy. People were also critical of 'group decisions' made in private; the divisive nature of overt party politics, and an unwillingness to respond to public concern. Perhaps the comment that best summed up the mood was "I want to know how we can get rid of this Cabinet system. How do we stop the lack of transparency in decision making?"
 

WHAT HAPPENED NEXT?

We asked FBC to consider changing back the Committee system - and just before the last election they looked at it half-heartedly, then they quietly dropped the idea.

Select Committee EvidenceWhen the Localism Bill was being considered, we sent evidence to the Parliamentary Committee about what should be in the Bill. We explained the background to what had happened at Fylde, asked them to support allowing councils to return to the Committee system as the Government's manifesto had promised. You can follow this link to see the evidence we provided to Parliament.

The Localism Act did indeed contain powers for Councils to change back to Committees.

  • Twelve Councils have already changed back to using Committees
  • Another 30 or so are considering changing back

The Localism Act also gives residents the right to call for a referendum to change their council's system of governance.


THE 2013/14 'LOCALISM IN ACTION' PROJECT

Fylde Governance Seminar March 2013Our February 2013 seminar marked the start of our project that could change Fylde Council's Cabinet Operating System back to the tried and tested Committee System (that's where every councillor can have a vote on all the decisions the Council makes, not just the Leader and six Cabinet Members who vote on the day-to day decisions at present)
Follow this link for a report of the Seminar

.

Over 4,600 Fylde residents signed
our petition calling for a local referendum.


Fylde Council has now validated the petition
and will arrange to hold a referendum in May 2014

 

Collesting signatures for the petiton

We'd like to thank all the shops who took part and allowed people to walk in to sign the petition.

We'd also like to thank the 30 or so people who agreed to be 'letterboxes' throughout Fylde where people could post forms they had downloaded and completed via the Internet.

Finally we'd like to thank the 4,000 or so residents of Fylde who supported the call for a change back to the tried and tested Committee System. 

 

Members  of Fylde Civic Awareness Group and some of their supporters assemble at the Town Hall
for a photograph to mark the delivery of the petition that could
change Fylde Council back to the Committee system

 

 LATEST NEWS 

 


   

On Monday 24th Feb 2014, Fylde Council debated arrangements to return to the Committee System of governance. The meeting decided to approve the proposals for a committee system as set out in a report. by their officers (click the link for a copy)


WHAT ARE THE OPTIONS?
The Localism Act now allows a local authority to be run using one of the following main options. Our campaign is about using the Committee system...
 
  • Leader and CabinetThe Leader and Cabinet System. This is the way Fylde Council works now. The public elect 51 councillors. Those councillors then elect a 'Leader' who handpicks six other councillors to be their Cabinet. This Leader and Cabinet now vote on and take all the day to day decisions in the name of the Council. The full Council (comprising all 51 councillors) is only allowed to decide the policy framework and the overall annual budget.
  • Mayor and CabinetA Directly Elected Mayor and Cabinet System. This is not on offer in Fylde at this time, but if it were, the public would elect a Mayor directly. That Mayor then chooses between two and ten councillors to be their Cabinet. As above the Mayor and Cabinet make all the day to day decisions on behalf of the Council. (Note: This system is, in effect, a directly elected Leader, and the 'Mayor' in this system is not to be confused with the ceremonial Mayor which each Council has).
  • Committee systemThe Committee System. This is the change offered in the referendum. Fylde's 51 Councillors form themselves into committees which consider issues and make recommendations for the Full Council meeting to approve. This is the only system where the councillor you elect has a vote on all decisions the Council makes.
  • 'Prescribed arrangements' This allows the Secretary of State to specify how any particular Council should be run. Some Councils are trying slight variations of the main systems.

WHAT SYSTEM DO PEOPLE WANT?
We have been asking groups of local people about how they would like their council to be run. The early results are very clear. The Leader and Cabinet is the least supported system, whilst the Committee system is by far the most popular. We believe our mandate remains valid, but we would like more people to help us by providing opinions.

So if you belong to a community group in Fylde and would like to know more about the ways Fylde Council could be run, you could also help us understand which system you prefer. We can provide a 20 minute presentation and seek the views of your group. Please email clerk@fylde.biz or ring 01253 728047 to arrange a date.


WHY SHOULD FYLDE CHANGE? For a more in-depth look see  'Time to Restore Democracy?'

  • The Cabinet Has Limited Experience And Knowledge:
    Under the present system only 7 of the 51 councillors you elect are allowed to vote on day to day decisions. (that means the breadth and depth of experience and knowledge available from all 51 councillors at Fylde is not fully utilised)

    Quote No 133 from the Public Meeting "The Cabinet system is iniquitous! How can seven individuals supposed to comprise a range of skills and knowledge relevant to the issues prevalent at any one time? What purpose do the remaining councillors serve? This makes a mockery of democracy"
     

  • Cabinet Decisions Are Narrowly Based:
    Because only seven councillors take the day to day decisions, the smaller number is more open to inappropriate influence being applied. (It is obvious that a smaller numbers of decision-takers are more open to inappropriate influence being applied than are all 51 councillors)

    Quote 007 from the Public Meeting
    "Fylde Borough Council's Cabinet System is very undemocratic and leaves its members open to financial pressure from developers and others. Decisions should be made by the full council. FBC should listen to the wishes and concerns of the residents of Fylde."
     

  • The Cabinet System Gives Poor Representation:
    Unless they are Cabinet members, the councillor your elect to represent you has no right to speak on your behalf at Cabinet meetings, and has no vote on matters the Cabinet decides. (Non-Cabinet members may only submit written questions to the Cabinet, and then they have to be submitted in advance of the meeting)

    Only seven of Fylde's wards are represented by Cabinet members. Councillors representing the other 14 wards in Fylde have no vote on day to day decisions.

    Quote 108 from the Public Meeting
    "The Council should remember that they are our servants. The motto of the old Lytham St Annes Borough translated as - The will of the people is the supreme law - This obviously does not apply to modern local government."

     

  • The Cabinet Delivers No Balance of Views:
    In the Committee system, the composition of each committee has to match the overall political balance of the Council. (This ensures a range and balance of views are taken into account when decisions are taken)

    Under the Cabinet system, the leader has consistently chosen to select people from only one political party to make all the decisions.

    Quote 144 from the Public Meeting "I believe that the cabinet system employed by FBC is un-democratic and should be disbanded."
      

  • The Cabinet System is Less Transparent:
    In order to concentrate power into those fewer hands in the Cabinet, information is often limited only to Cabinet Members. Ordinary councillors simply do not receive the information given to Cabinet members and do not know the full facts. Cabinet members receive private briefings from senior officers, and other councillors are not allowed to attend these private briefing sessions.

    Quote 004 from the Public Meeting
    "I'm very concerned that elected councillors are not being allowed to speak on matters which directly affect the people they represent. Too many decisions are being taken without transparency."

     

  • The Cabinet System is Divisive
    It thrives on secrecy and the exercise of power by the few. It divides all the Councillors. It creates combative debates and generates conflict. The Committee system on the other hand is about working together to find common solutions to problems.

    Quote 084 from the Public Meeting
    "The Cabinet system is dividing all the Councillors and is not democratic."
     

  • The Cabinet System is Exclusive
    Because 44 of the 51 Councillors have no say in day to day decisions, they are likely to feel excluded and have less 'ownership' of decisions made by the Cabinet in the name of the Council.

    Quote 005 from the Public Meeting
    "I am concerned about the credibility of the Council and their undemocratic attitude ignoring the needs of the people. The electorate at this meeting have no confidence. Too many chiefs."
     

  • The Cabinet System Creates Patronage
    Because Cabinet membership is selected by the Leader, (in whose gift the 'portfolio holders' rise and fall), the system fosters an aspirational culture based on patronage rather than ability or merit. And unlike the former committee system, it singularly fails to create a seedbed and nursery in which new councillors can gradually cut their teeth, develop the talents and gain the experience necessary to become effective and experienced councillors.

    Quote 180 from the Public Meeting
    "Get rid of the Cabinet system it is not democratic."
     

  • Committee System = 'One Councillor, One Vote'
    The Committee System is the ONLY system that can guarantee all elected councillors have the right to speak, and the right to vote, in every decision the Council makes.

    Quote 109 from the Public Meeting
    "The Cabinet is useless and need removing. The Committee system did work."
     

 
 
Since the Cabinet System was introduced in 2005, we have seen:
  • March 2006 FBC announced it would ban kite flying on the beach
  • June 2006  FBC stop supporting St Annes Citizen's Advice Bureaux and it closed.
  • June 2006 After multiple closures and claims of "We're heading for a deficit of 700,000 this year"  FBC announce a surplus of 339,000 and deposit three quarters of a million pounds into special reserves, creating a 'back-pocket' of cash outside the normal revenue and capital accounts
  • July 2006 FBC approves a pay increase for councillors that will add about 40,000 a year to the Council Tax bill.
  • July 2007 FBC announce plans to impose parking charges in Lytham's Lowther Gardens
  • August 2007 an attempt to introduce a new computerised accounting system failed almost completely. Income was in one system, spending in another, and neither could be reconciled. Huge losses ensued.
  • November 2007 Supported and encouraged by the Council, the Muir Group plan to build a hostel for the transient homeless in St Anne's.
  • November 2007 Fylde's Cabinet is advised to give urgent support to what will turn out to be a disastrous idea - signing up to the 'Central Lancashire and Blackpool Growth Point Bid'. Eventually they back out.
  • January 2008 After a fire in a council depot and, with no proper accounting system in place to track its spending, a 609,000 overspend appear in the accounts and threatens swimming pool closure.
  • February 2008 FBC plan to close St Annes Pool and maybe Kirkham Baths because spending on the Street Scene department is "Spiralling out of Control"
  • March 2008 The worst meeting FBC has ever held decides to close Saint Anne's Swimming Pool only 20 years after it was built. They've literally almost run out of money.
  • April 2008 Our public meeting passes a vote of 'No Confidence' in the present Cabinet of Fylde Borough Council and calls for a return to the Committee and Council system of governance.
  • May 2008 The results of our Public Meeting make uncomfortable reading for the Town Hall. The pool closure plans are unpopular, but twice as many people are dissatisfied with the way the Council operates. 99% of 200 respondents say Fylde Borough Council should take more notice of its electorate.
  • July 2008 Fylde's officers advise the Cabinet to sell land at Heeley Road worth around 500,000 for a pittance and (adding insult to injury) they plan to give the buyer a grant equal to the sale price of the land.
  • November 2008 Disaster looms large. The Town Hall Project is to be shelved, spending and recruitment are frozen, emergency powers to be given to individual councillors, and there is talk of redundancy to save money. The coffers are running on empty.
  • February 2009 FBC turns down an offer of 310,000 to buy the Heeley Road site and sells it for 250,000. Then it says it will give the buyer a grant of 250,000 meaning it is giving it away.
  • October 2009 FBC abandons the 800,000 worth of planning already done on the New Town Hall scheme and vote to spend another 25,000 preparing another scheme to sell off the Town Hall, and build new offices on the car park at the back of the Public Offices.
  • February 2010 Fylde is the worst council in Lancashire and the fourth most expensive according to a new assessment reported to Cabinet.
  • September 2010 Plans are laid to implement charges on North Beach Car Park.
  • September 2010 The plan for a new 7 million Town Hall is declared dead. 800,000 has been wasted on plans that Fylde could never afford.
  • October 2010 The Tourist Information Centre closes. We first have a tourism office in the Town Hall, then a notice on the front door saying that when closed in the evenings and at weekends (when most visitors arrive!), please go to Blackpool.
  • December 2010 FBC appoints a Consultant costing 20,000 to look into ways to sidestep the Government capping limit and see another 300,000 taken in tax from the people of Fylde.
  • December 2012 Council meeting hears that Cabinet is accused of making decisions at unlawful 'Informal Meetings' and having private briefings from senior officers.

 

 

To find out more, please contact

 
info@fylde.biz

Fylde Civic Awareness Group
18 Sandhurst Avenue, St Anne's on the Sea, Lancashire. FY8 2DA
Phone: 01253 728047

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