The Bickerstaffe Record
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Summer 07 Bickerstaffe Record

Cotterill on the Council

07.24.07 | Comment?

Cotterill on the CouncilAs we go to press, your new Labour councillor Paul is in his third month of service.  Just for the record, he receives an allowance of around £4,600 per year for this service, and this counts as taxable income (see page 7 on Paul’s mileage allowance). 

We won’t be boring you with a lot of the stuff he does ‘in committee’.  With a Conservative majority in place most discussions and votes are mere ritual and foregone conclusion. The real action for a (decent) local councillor takes place in the Ward, and will be reported on in the Bickerstaffe Record.   

Paul intends to make most comment about ‘Council business’ on the Bickerstaffe Record website, once he gets the hang of ‘blogging’ (see p5.) 

However, in this first post-election edition, there are a few comments to make, so that people know what he’s up to in Ormskirk as it relates to his work in Bickerstaffe. 

Paul on planningFirst, he has been appointed to the Planning Committee, and this has important implications for his work in Bickerstaffe.  The ‘quasi-judicial’ nature of the Planning Committee means that those councillors who sit on it must remain free from any accusation of ‘bias’ or ‘pre-determination’.   

Failure to do can, for example, provide an unsuccessful applicant with grounds for appeal on the basis that her/his application has not been dealt with fairly (as well as getting the councillor in trouble with the Standard Board).   

 

 

 

What this means locally is that, while Paul will be more than happy to hear the views of local residents on planning applications, and will always, he will not be able to give an indication of how he might vote at Planning Committee.  The advantage is that, when asked by residents (or Parish Councils) to hear views, he is entitled to request that a planning officer from the Council arrange and attend such a meeting to hear those views also. 

Lies about leisure?Second, and unlike most ‘newbie’ backbenchers, Paul has been appointed as shadow portfolio holder.  Paul’s new portfolio covers leisure and culture services. 

The Conservative Council outsourced most of its leisure provision to SERCO Ltd in 2005, and Paul’s first job has been to review the performance of SERCO since then, given the deep concerns expressed at the time of the outsourcing about potential inequalities in provision and steep price rises that might be introduced by a provider intent less on public service than on maximising profits.   

This work is ongoing, but an assessment of the price rises introduced last year produces one ‘interesting’ finding.   SERCO claims in report to the Council that the average price rise is 3.29%, which is within inflation.   

The devil is in the detail, however.  If the average price rise calculation is done to take into account the usage figures, the price rise suddenly seems to be well above 10%!   Paul will be asking more question about the ‘real’ rises and how this fits with the rise limits set out in the contract between the Council and SERCO. 

In the meantime, Paul is keen to hear about the experiences of Bickerstaffe residents – both good and bad – as they relate to the leisure and culture services provided by the Council,  so that he can build a full picture of his new role.

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