Row erupts as town hit by funding snub

Coun Liz Oades
Coun Liz Oades
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A ROW over where a £100,000 windfall is spent will continue after councillors blocked plans to help start-up businesses.

Leading members of Fylde Council want to use the Government cash to provide advice and support to new businesses across the borough – but the opposition group want the plans more widely debated.

Opposition leader Coun Liz Oades has now “called-in” the cabinet’s decision – meaning another group of councillors from all sides must decide whether the business support plan is the best option for local residents.

Coun Oades, who campaigned for the cash to be spent on improving Kirkham’s high street, said: “We believe this decision is not in the interests of the inhabitants of the borough.

“A decision of this kind should only be made following rigorous analysis of the available options, and this was not available to members of the cabinet and the decision did not have the robust consideration it should have had.”

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The cash grant was handed out by the Government as a result of shop guru Mary Portas’ review into town centres, and is designed to fund innovative high street schemes to tackle empty shops.

The destination of the money was only debated by the council’s cabinet, who decided to use it to support businesses in their first 12 months, by paying an advisor to provide practical support.

But their decision will be over-ruled if the “call-in” is upheld, and Coun Oades added: “I want an overview and scrutiny committee to look at it and find the best way of spending that money, and then give a recommendation to cabinet.

“It is a lot of money.”

Coun Sue Fazackerley, the council’s deputy leader, said: “I can understand why the opposition are calling it in, but I think it’s a good idea to use it (the money) for business support throughout the borough.

“It is just as available to the businesses in Kirkham as it is to those on the coastal strip, but the councillors had other ideas and wanted to use it specifically for Kirkham.

“The money is not linked to Kirkham’s bid to become a Portas pilot town so we are under no obligation – moral or otherwise – to give Kirkham the lot.”

The market town failed in its bid to become a Portas pilot town – which would have meant a £100,000 grant – but will bid again later this year.

The money in question was issued to Fylde as a whole as part of a separate grant.

The issue should have been debated by last week’s policy development scrutiny committee but had to be postponed because of new rules which mean any councillors running a business are not eligible to participate in this debate.

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