Chief quizzed on trams, shops and child poverty

Updated artists impression of a proposed new conference centre for Blackpool.
Updated artists impression of a proposed new conference centre for Blackpool.
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From the excitement of Blackpool’s multi-million pound transformation to the misery of child poverty in the town - and much in between - council chief Simon Blackburn was grilled on it all.

In a live video link on Thursday night, Coun Blackburn took part in a Facebook Live Q&A for the first time, answering questions fed through to host Tom Molineux, a 24-year-old Blackpool graduate who works with young people in the town.

Blackpool Council leader, Coun Simon Blackburn, held a question and answer session with residents via Facebook.

Blackpool Council leader, Coun Simon Blackburn, held a question and answer session with residents via Facebook.

And at one point the leader was even asked by a desperate resident if he could help in her struggle with “drug dealer neighbours”, to which told her to drop him an email about it.

It was all part of the wonders of a brave new world in which council leaders have an alternative way to make contact with residents, not in a church hall or community centre, but via new technology such as Facebook Live.

Coun Blackburn was quizzed on topics such as the tram link, new shops for the town centre, promenade traffic and on-goings plans at Blackpool Airport.

But some residents also had concerns about child poverty and youngsters in care.

Visitors viewing the plans for the Blackpool Airport Enterprise Zone

Visitors viewing the plans for the Blackpool Airport Enterprise Zone

The session, packed into just 20 minutes, seemed to go fairly smoothly, despite a brief technological glitch when the link seized up.

Coun Blackburn explained: “We’re looking at different ways to communicate with and listen to residents, it’s a bit of an experiment.”

Asked what the transport plans were after the extension of the tramway was finished, Coun Blackburn said: “We need to have a modern integrated transport public transport system, this is what people wanted to see and it’s a great boost for Blackpool North station.

“It will be easier for residents to use the trams for commuting purposes, for linking up with buses and the new electrified railway.”

Quizzed about what will happen to the Wilko store in the wake of the tramway extension, Coun Blackburn said it was due to relocate to Tower Street as part of the second phase of the Houndshill Centre, along with a new Imax cinema and added that grants were available for town centre shops to spruce their exteriors up.

One resident described the new layout of the promenade in front of the Tower as being like a country lane and asked why it didn’t have a dual carriageway.

But Coun Blackburn said: “Some people are upset it’s not a dual carriageway but I’ve fallen in love with it.

“It is a shared space, not somewhere cars can race down at 30mph, it is shared by donkeys and horse and carts and tourists.

“It is not a quick way but is it more picturesque.”

Asked how people could report dog fouling, he said: “On the council website. Give a description of the dog and the time, the more details there are, the more we can help.”

Coun Blackburn was also asked about Blackpool Airport, and said: “When we bought the airport it was not for a return to jumbo jets but a viable and sustainable air side operation” and the creation of between 3,000 and 5,000 jobs through the Blackpool Airport Enterprise Zone.

The council chief also pledged to try and tackle child poverty by providing a new affordable housing model for struggling working families to make it easier to pay bills and tackle fears of eviction.

After the Q&A, Coun Blackburn said: “Thanks to everyone who tuned into our online Q&A.

“Thousands of followers use our Facebook page to find out about services we provide to them and their families, and we hope people will continue to use social media to ask us questions about what’s happening in Blackpool.”

lTo view the Q&A, visit: https://www.facebook.com/bpoolcouncil/videos/2046716708702787/ and https://www.facebook.com/bpoolcouncil/videos/2046754272032364/