Livewire - January 30, 2013

Fred Moor, FCAG clerk

Fred Moor, FCAG clerk

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Localism

Fylde Civic Awareness Group (FCAG) is a non-party-political, not-for-profit community group whose mission is helping people understand how Local Government works, how priorities are decided, and what our money is spent on.

In 2008 Fylde Council had angered lots of local people (financial mis-management, pool closures, etc). Fourteen community groups came together and asked FCAG to hold a public meeting to vent the public anger. We did.

It closed with a resolution from the floor expressing ‘no confidence’ in FBC’s Cabinet System of governance and called for a return to the tried and tested former Committee System. The call was put to Town and Parish Councils throughout Fylde, and those representing more than half Fylde’s residents supported the call for change. It went unheeded by Fylde Council. The Localism Act now allows Councils to change back. Four plan to do so in May, another 40 are considering change. FBC is not among them.

But the Act also allows community groups to petition for change. If five per cent of the electorate petition for a referendum, Fylde, (or any council) will be obliged to hold a local referendum to change the way it is run. If the result of the referendum is for change, Fylde will be obliged to do so. FCAG (in fulfilment of its mandate from 2008) is the first group in the country to use the Localism Act to attempt to change the way our council is run.

To kick-start the process we’re holding a seminar at the Glendower Hotel in St Annes on February 15.

It features speakers from the Parliamentary Outreach Service; people who are well versed in the Localism Act regulations; and a Fylde councillor who has operated under both systems at a senior level.

Most of the interest is quite local of course, but we have one councillor coming from Dorset.

He wants to know more about how to change a council back to the committee system.

Soon after the seminar we will start collecting signatures on a petition (five per cent is a bit less than 4,000 people in Fylde).

We’re currently arranging a network of places across Fylde where people can sign, or deposit completed petitions they have downloaded and printed from the internet (there has to be a physical signature on these petitions, so we can’t use electronic versions).

We will also be offer free information presentations for community groups in Fylde.

If we get the 4,000 signatures, Fylde Council will be obliged to hold a local referendum on whether to change. We understand there is no threshold on the referendum, a simple majority is sufficient. More details: www.fylde.biz or 01253 728047

* To contribute to Live Wire email jacqui.morley@jpress.co.uk