Town hall reshuffle to ‘take resort forward’

Blackpool Town Hall

Blackpool Town Hall

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This is the team to take Blackpool forward...

That is the bold pledge of council leader Simon Blackburn today as he unveiled a radical town hall shake-up designed to give councillors a stronger grip in shaping the resort’s future.

And the re-elected leader has unveiled a hit list of top priorities his administration will focus on in the next four years.

Tourism, better housing, creating more jobs, improving exam results and eradicating social inequalities will form the backbone of the Labour group’s new cabinet.

Coun Blackburn, who will be formally installed as leader for a second term at tomorrow’s annual council meeting, pledged his new team would be “dedicated” to the town’s communities.

The reshuffle sees Coun Graham Cain, the tourism portfolio holder, promoted to cabinet secretary.

Coun Gillian Campbell is taking tourism on as part of her new role as deputy council leader, taking over from Coun Fred Jackson.

She was previously cabinet member for housing and public protection.

Coun Blackburn said: “Both Gillian and Graham have done superb jobs in the two departments they were in prior to the election, and I have recognised that commitment by promoting them.

“I see them both as potential future leaders of the council, and it is really important for the town, the council and the Labour group to see how they manage that high level of responsibility.

“Tourism will still be as much a priority and some of the work will come under Coun Mark Smith’s new role as cabinet member for business and economic development.

“Mark represents Talbot ward where there are a lot of hotels and tourism businesses, and he has great knowledge of the private sector and tourism industry.”

It is hoped the changes will free up the cabinet members to concentrate on the council’s key goals rather than being swamped by wider responsibilities which will be picked up by Coun Campbell and Coun Cain in their new strategic roles.

Coun Blackburn said: “For example John Jones will be able to focus on GCSE results and safeguarding which are key issues.

“All the rest will be picked up by Graham Cain who will still be the designated lead member for children’s services.”

But further details of how each key goal will be tackled are yet to be released.

They will be given in the Council Plan for 2015-2019, which will be presented to Full Council in September for approval.

Coun Blackburn said all cabinet members would be more involved in decision-making under the new structure which he described as a response to anticipated Government cuts of £58m to the council’s budget over the next four years.

He said: “We need to turn our attentions to creating a Blackpool that can withstand the ravages of another five years of Conservative Government.

“These appointments are a response to the need to define a new role for elected members, which recognises that old systems of governance are increasingly irrelevant, and the workload of councillors has increased immeasurably as more and more front-line council staff have been laid off thanks to Government cuts.

Coun Blackburn added: “We will be much more political in our outlook and approach – we will continue to highlight the vast unfairness of Conservative policy, which will take a further £58m at least from our spending power in the next four years.

“We will not let that disparity prevent us from investing where investment is needed, being bold when boldness is required, facing down the vested interests, righting historic wrongs, and setting forth on a journey of increased professionalism and dedication to the needs of our communities, in order to repay the faith that they have shown in us.”

The key issues being set out will include economic growth, jobs creation, ensuring tourism remains a key economic drive, improving GCSE results, getting the third sector ready to step in where council cuts hit services,· reducing health inequalities, improving housing, stabilising communities, reducing dependence on the public sector, safeguarding, generating income from new sources and ensuring council employees, direct and indirect, and our contractors, are paid appropriately.

Coun Tony Williams, leader of the Conservatives on Blackpool Council, said: “I am cautious about there being so many new responsibilities and committees as what we need are people who have the time to do these jobs.

“Putting people in brand new roles without experience is a recipe for disaster.

“What we are more interested in is communities and investment into the town.

“Without a real plan for inward investment we are going to stay stagnant and the good news about a Conservative majority government is that the economy is being turned round.”

The changes, which will be ratified at tomorrow’s annual meeting starting, at 2pm at the town hall, will see Coun Campbell take responsibility for tourism, economic growth and jobs, with three cabinet members reporting directly to her.

They are Coun Christine Wright, cabinet member for housing, procurement and income generation; Coun Fred Jackson, cabinet member for municipal assets, and Coun Mark Smith, cabinet member for business and economic development.

Coun Cain’s role as cabinet secretary means he will take on similar responsibilities as Coun Campbell, with three cabinet members reporting directly to him.

They are Coun John Jones, cabinet member for school improvement and children’s safeguarding, Coun Eddie Collett, cabinet member for reducing health inequalities and adult safeguarding, and Coun Maria Kirkland, cabinet member for third sector engagement and development.

In addition to these posts, Coun Ivan Taylor is appointed as cabinet member without portfolio, and will work on specific projects as arise from time to time, and will report directly to the council leader.

Coun Vikki Singleton will become assistant to the Deputy Leader, and Coun Debbie Coleman will become assistant to the Cabinet Secretary.

Councillors Kath Rowson and Amy Cross both leave the cabinet and return to the back-benches.

Coun Lynn Williams takes over from Coun David Owen as chairman of planning and Coun Adrian Hutton retains his role as chairman of licensing.

Former council leader Coun Peter Callow is also due to be installed as Mayor at tomorrow’s meeting.·

Other roles are - appeals committee chaired by Coun Gary Coleman; chief officer employment, Coun Simon Blackburn; and standards committee chaired by Coun Fred Jackson.

The health scrutiny committee will abolished with its functions discharged to the new resilient communities scrutiny committee which along with the new tourism economic growth and jobs scrutiny committe will replace the existing scrutiny committee.