The Bickerstaffe Record

Being Labour, Cotterill on the Council

Full council review (3): no concessions, no integrity

12.17.10 | 6 Comments

I think of all the agenda items at Wednesday’s full council that got me cross, the one that got me crossest was the Tory motion on (lack of) concessionary travelfor older and disabled West Lancashire residents. 

You can see the full paper here, but basically the Tory proposals boiled down to:

a) We’re getting rid of the responsibility for statutory travel concessions in April, when the job goes over to the County Council;

b) We have to consult about what discretionary concessions we carry on with, or not, but we’re going to do it in as desultory a manner as possible so we get caused the minimum fuss.

Here, for the record, is our full amendment to the Tory recommendations, which we put on the night but which were voted down without too much discussion:

A.      That the current position, as outlined in the report, be noted.

B.      That officers continue to liaise with Lancashire County Council colleagues in relation to their proposals for any future scheme of concessionary travel in the borough and their proposals for this.

C.      That the proposals for consultation as set out in paragraph 7 of the report in relation to the options identified at paragraph 6.1 of the report be rejected and that the LCC in-house team be notified that it is not required to carry out the consultation as proposed at paragraph 7.1 until such time as a revised consultation process has been agreed and requirements of the team have been appropriately defined and agreed.

D.      That officers, in consultation the Portfolio Holder and the Shadow Portfolio Holder for Transportation, formulate consultation plans which are inclusive of but not necessarily limited to public meetings, to which those parties set out at paragraph 7.1, plus relevant transport providers, be invited to contribute.

We deliberately focused these alternative recommendations quite tightly around the need to openup the consultation process and engage seriously with the various people, including the actual providers of transport (a group which, astonishingly, the Tories left out of their own consultation proposals). 

We did this in the, I accept, naive hope that the Tories might actually accept that a six week (over Christmas) written questionnaire-style consultation process was inadequate, and that they might actually want to explore different options.  Clearly, we were wrong.

Of course, the fact that the administration had already outsourced the consultation job, as set out in their proposals, and agreed the fee, BEFORE the matter came to council for supposedly democratic debate, should have given us an inkling that they wouldn’t be interested in listening to anything we had to say.

But of course this is only a small part of the bigger picture.

The bigger picture is that West Lancashire residents have been denied the concessionary travel rights made to them by authorities all around, especially when it comes to train travel. 

The council has constantly and repeatedly failed to negotiate seriously with rail operators about a sensible deal to offer free off-peak travel for a sum which is both affordable to the council and fills otherwise empty seats on trains, in what is clearly a win-win deal.  (To be honest, I’ve never quite understood why the press has never been more interested in the Tories’ disgraceful behaviour over this matter, and yes, that is a hint.)

It simply defies logic to say that no deal could be done, and the council’s proven actions in only ever seeking maximum ‘ball park’ costs from the rail operator, rather than entering negotiations is one of the key indicators that the Tory administration has given up caring about the service it provides to residents, got rid of much of the management capacity it needs to do so, and is simply content to roll out its tired mantra of  ‘affordability’, ‘tough choices’, and how it’s all Labour’s fault anyway. 

The brutal reality is that they have failed to do for their citizens what other councils do for theirs, and are not interested in doing anything else.

Their recommendation sailed through on Wednesday with their majority vote; I’m not sure half of their backbenchers were even listening.


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