Town Hall chiefs in ‘secrecy’ storm

Coun Liz Oades
Coun Liz Oades
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TOWN hall bosses have been blasted for deciding in secret where to spend a £100,000 grant – but the decision will stand.

Fylde Council’s cabinet was called in by the scrutiny committee for holding “informal” – and private – meetings to discuss spending the Government cash designed to improve the high street.

It ruled to spend it on consultants to help new and struggling businesses. And despite criticism of that idea and the way the decision was reached it will stand after a vote calling on cabinet members to reconsider was narrowly lost on Wednesday night.

But opposition leader Coun Liz Oades hauled leading councillors over the coals for not allowing other elected members to influence key decisions.

Coun Oades, who instigated the scrutiny meeting to call for the decision to be reconsidered, said: “I’ve been very concerned at a number of cabinet meetings which seem to be rubber stamp committees.

“I feel even if they have had meetings beforehand and formulated a decision they should still pay us the compliment of debating it within the meeting – I’m elected in exactly the same way as members of the cabinet and I still don’t know what was debated.”

Council leader David Eaves said other options for spending the £100,000 had been considered at two informal meetings, and cabinet members had a rigorous debate about what was best for residents.

He told the committee: “There was an informal meeting on May 23 and there was considerable discussion on all of the options, and cabinet formed a clear view the business support scheme was the best available.

“A further informal meeting was held on June 25 and this scheme was again considered and received cabinet recommendation, and it was announced at the cabinet meeting on June 27.”

The money is designed to stop empty shops on the high street and members of the scrutiny committee criticised the cabinet for not seeking advise from council members with business expertise.

Coun Simon Cox said: “To me it would make sense if you asked business owners what they wanted.”

And Coun Elaine Silverwood added: “A number of us have business expertise and I think it’s insulting cabinet decided not to involve the other members.”

But votes to send the matter to full council or back to cabinet were lost, and cabinet will now proceed investigate how to proceed with its plan.