Politically Correct by Howard Ballard

County Hall politics closed our libraries

I was shocked when I saw that not only has Lancashire County Council decided to close Thornton Library down, but also Cleveleys and Northfleet.

This removal of three libraries in such a small area is beyond belief and will leave many people struggling to access a library and a lifeline.

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We can, of course, all get into the blame game, but some facts need pointing out.

Labour left us with no money in 2010.

We were spending considerably more than we were earning as a country and despite great strides forward, that is still the case, albeit with a much smaller deficit.

The fact is money is still tight and decisions have to be made. However, it is how we chose to make those decisions that need examining.

Lancashire County Council’s financial woes are many fold, least being among them is the reduction in Government grant.

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The County’s budget is over £1billion and they sit on about £400million of reserves. They spend and waste money; one example being paying £6m for an ‘efficiency’ consultant, yet they make the ‘cuts’ announcements before his report is even published.

Conclusions can be drawn as to why, 12 months prior to an election, the County chooses to make what can only be described as a political statement of intent.

However, this is not all about money.

Wyre has seven libraries, three to close and four to stay open. What happens if there is a mechanism where all seven can stay open, but would require out of the box thinking.

That’s what my colleague, Coun Alan Vincent has just done. I accompanied him and others when we visited York Council. York, faced with similar challenges, transferred their libraries to the ownership of a not-for-profit Social Enterprise Company.

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These libraries are now thriving, offer additional services, with more staff and a secure future. This is what we want to replicate in Wyre, it is just a shame the grand political statement of Lancashire County Council is to say NO outright putting politics before people!

Working with powerhouse

Being a Bourne Ward councillor one of the biggest features of may ward is the old ICI site, known as Hillhouse International and operated by NPL Estates.

Behind the foliage and fences few people know just what an economic powerhouse this site has become.

Hillhouses’ success was one of the reasons Paul Maynard MP was able to have it made an Enterprise Zone, an assisted status area, and successfully lobby for the new A585 by-pass.

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High tech companies are growing, creating high skilled jobs. However, with success comes responsibility to the local area and I have been working closely with the management at NPL on behalf of residents to make some things better.

They are a listening company and I have developed a good relationship with them and I am pleased to say I believe this respect is two-way.

Recently I have been pleased with NPL’s decision to open up a pathway from Hawley Gardens, cutting through past the Burn Naze so local children can walk to school easier and without the dangers of the busy Fleetwood Road.

I am also pleased with how the new allotment site is developing, which will be handed over to an interested local community group to manage once built.

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One of the long term issues has been over flooding to the gardens and homes of local people. NPL, working with Fleetwood Town Football club are determined to work on significantly reducing instances of flooding. They have plans in place and are committed to the engineering works required.

There may still be the occasional niggle, we may sometimes need to disagree, but I’m confident working with NPL rather than against them can lead to better outcomes.

Interest in local politics not dead

People say political involvement is dead and no one is interested. Well, I disagree.

As a new councillor just celebrating my first year anniversary I have been amazed just how vibrant the political scene is. When I deliver my in touch leaflets, people stop me and talk. They know who I am and what I do and pick up so much intelligence. I can see what needs doing where, I can hear about people’s problems; it gives me what I need to get something done and I am quite pleased so far with the improvements being made in Bourne Ward.

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A pleasant surprise recently has been the enthusiasm I have experienced with local people not only wanting to chat about politics, but getting involved. Initially sceptical, I was persuaded to join forces with Andrea Kay and Lynn Walmsley – both local councillors – to start a new Conservative Branch in Thornton. I was surprised just how many people have come forward, new members, new fundraisers, new helpers, and new people offering that all important intelligence. We welcome anyone and everyone, as long as they share our aims. Get in touch for more information.