Summary of main points discussed, decisions and actions agreed
1. Welcome and Introductions
Lesley Middleton introduced herself and Bill Waller (Residents’ Association Chair and Vice-Chair respectively) and welcomed those present, including Alf Clempson (assistant to Ben Wallace MP) who was congratulated on his recent election as an LCC Councillor. The Wyre Councillors in attendance introduced themselves.
Attendees: Approximately 140 members of the public plus Councillors Roger Berry, Barry Birch, Simon Bridge, Peter Gibson, Ramesh Gandhi and Gordon McCann.
Apologies for absence received from some members of the public and from Councillors David Bannister, Graeme Cocker, May Gandhi, David Henderson and Lesley McKay.
After this, the seventh Forum meeting, there would be approximately £290 in the Association’s bank account. Bill Waller explained that donation boxes were at the back of the hall as usual but, as a one-off, rather than a request for donations towards meeting costs, it was proposed that donations should instead be given to The Royal British Legion in memory of Fusilier Samuel Flint-Broughton.
Update: Almost £120 was raised and a cheque has been sent for £120. Thanks to everyone who contributed.
3. Lancashire Police and Crime Commissioner
Clive Grunshaw gave a presentation about his role as Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC). He explained that elected PCCs have replaced Police Authorities and are responsible for strategic planning. Chief Constables remain responsible for operational matters and are accountable to their PCC.
PCC plans are expected to reflect voters’ concerns and priorities and to this end he had undertaken extensive consultation using road-shows, emails, a public panel and liaison with Local Authorities, voluntary sector and other partners.
The key priorities, which were consistent across the County, were visible policing, tackling domestic abuse, supporting victims, serving isolated communities, working with businesses to reduce crime, and working with potential and actual offenders to stop offending and re-offending.
These priorities, which are continually being reviewed and revised, are reflected in The Police and Crime Plan (see www.lancashire-pcc.gov.uk). The plan is being delivered in the context of very difficult financial situation. Savings of £43million had been made over the last 3 years and a further £24million had to be found in the next three. As a result some 500 Police Officers and 200 staff had gone and a number of offices and facilities had been closed.
The following points were made in response to questions from the floor:
Police and Community Support Officers (PCSOs): PCSOs are employed to work in the community and support warranted Police Constables by freeing up their time and providing valuable intelligence. They can be fully funded from the PCC budget or part-funded for example by Local Authorities, schools or the NHS. Mr Grunshaw had committed to match any part-funding and this had been done. Until March, Wyre had 13 fully funded PCSOs and 10 part-funded by the Council. With the budget no longer available, the Council had taken the view that all posts should be fully funded, as was the case in Fylde, and part-funding had therefore ended with a consequent reduction in numbers.
PCC Office size/budget: Technically, every employee who is not a warranted officer works for the PCC and they number about 2000. Mr Grunshaw has one deputy, three assistants and fourteen full time equivalent staff. The costs of this team have been reduced by £100,000 despite them having significantly greater responsibilities than the Police Authority organisation from which they evolved.
PCC Costs: Overall costs are reportedly 13.8% higher than for the Police Authority. The point was made that comparison is difficult because the PCC budget includes some funds, e.g. for community safety partnerships, that were not allocated to Police Authorities. Although there has been some recruitment, a number of vacancies are currently being carried because the PCC has to live within its budget. Various options are being explored including organisational restructuring, shared back-office services, use of Special Constables as well as PCSOs, and encouraging volunteers. After six months in office, the PCC’s top strategic priority remains visible policing.
Late night revellers: The question of how many officers to deploy was a matter for the Chief Constable and his Divisional Commanders rather than the PCC. The Pub Watch Scheme was explained by Sergeant Freaney. This operates in a number of areas in the County and blanket pub bans are imposed on offenders. Mr Grunshaw did wish to take forward the possibility of establishing one in Poulton.
The important work done by the volunteers running Poulton’s CCTV system was highlighted – there will be a presentation on this at the next Forum meeting.
Future Consultation: Mr Grunshaw confirmed that the bi-monthly public meetings held by the Police Authority had been discontinued. They had been replaced by ad hoc meetings such as this Forum and by the road-shows, which will be starting again in July. Questions and comments can be put to the PCC using the on-line form on their website (www.lancashire-pcc.gov.uk) and there is also a Twitter account. Lesley offered to forward any immediate questions from residents without internet.
4. Updates from Forum on 18th February
4.1. Trains: Virgin’s London-Blackpool Voyager trains will stop at Poulton station. No announcement has yet been made about the high speed Pendolino service from 2015 but Ben Wallace MP, Councillor Clempson and Wyre Councillors are committed to another lobbying campaign if necessary. Councillor Clempson confirmed that there are no current plans to close Poulton’s ticket office. The Government will review in the summer and we will be informed of any change.
4.2. Energy Switch: Sainsbury Energy won the dual fuel auction and Scottish Power won the electricity only. Some 60,000 residents registered and should by now have been contacted so as to decide whether to switch.
4.3. Street/Road/Transport-related issues
i) Waste bins - Lamp-post bins on Breck Road are being replaced with larger pavement bins. Any problems with lack of capacity and/or bins not being emptied should be reported to Councillor Gibson.
ii) Taxi Parking – although helping night club customers to get home quickly was a priority, the extent of double parking on Vicarage Road and Chapel Street is an issue. Councillor Gibson thanked Councillor Henderson for the work he had done on this and reported that a meeting had been arranged to discuss options. It had also been noted that the road markings and signage at taxi ranks were incompatible - a matter for LCC.
iii) Kerb lowering – Councillor Clempson will speak directly to people with specific cases but had established that the average cost is approximately £1000. This can vary, if for example there are particular features such as drains or lamp-posts involved but anyone who feels they are being over-charged should contact him.
iv) Baines School Crossing – Councillor Clempson is to request a pedestrian/traffic count which will lead to the need for a crossing being given a rating and, in turn, a priority. Consultation will follow and he would welcome views.
v) Beckdene Avenue/Hardhorn Way being used as a “rat run” – Councillor Clempson has a meeting scheduled in June. More generally he has identified a range of issues to do with parking, signage, pavements, pedestrian safety and potholes, with the latter a priority. He would welcome feedback on specific problems and will ordinarily be available at the Cosy Cafe in Poulton between 10 and 12 on Saturdays.
5. What’s On
5.1. Poulton Gala 1st June – John Bailie gave an update on plans for the Gala, advertised the availability of limited edition prints of the 1913 Gala and conveyed thanks to Wyre Council and to all the local traders for their support.
5.2. Friends of Vicarage Park 14th July – there will be entertainment in the park itself and a Hog Roast in St Chads Church Hall.
5.3. Friends of Poulton Library 5th June – there will be a talk by the curator of Marsh Mill at 2.15pm.
5.4. Cottam Hall Playing Fields 31st May/1st/2nd June – fun fair.
5.5 Hooray for Hollywood 6/7/8th June – The Chaddeans show at St Chads Church Hall. Telephone Sue on 884073 for tickets. Proceeds are for the upkeep of the hall.
6. Booths Development
The refurbishment/decant process in the Teanlowe has started and is expected to be complete by the first half of 2014. Redevelopment of the supermarket will then start with an opening date in 2015.
7. Any Other Business
7.1. Preesall Gas Storage: Lesley reported that in early April the application by Halite Energy Group to store gas had been turned down by the Department for Energy & Climate Change because it had “failed to demonstrate the suitability of the site’s geology for salt cavern storage”. Halite’s Chief Executive had responded “We will now need time to examine the reasons behind the turn down carefully before deciding on our next steps.” Councillor Gibson confirmed that Halite have decided on a legal challenge. Their application for a Judicial Review is a challenge of the process rather than the decision itself.
7.2. Car Parking Charges: A suggestion that high car parking charges are damaging the economic health of the town was debated. It was felt that if no charge were levied then parking would be abused as had happened in the past. Charges are consistent across the Borough and the Resident’s Permit – at £25 initially and £10 for renewal on a change of licence plate number – is very good value. Different experiences of Traffic Enforcement Officer behaviour were reported. Councillor Gibson cited the absence of empty locations for displaced Market Hall traders, the arrival of Costa Coffee, the planned Booths development and the enquiries received from national and international chains about the Market Hall and Booths sites as evidence of Poulton’s good economic health.
i) Dog litter bins in Vicarage Park have been removed but there should be sufficient general bins which can be used instead.
ii) It was acknowledged that the cobbles in the Market place might be a potential hazard but also recognised that retaining some of the town centre’s Victorian features was desirable and that a balance needed to be struck.
iii) Hodgson School has planning approval for off-road bus bays which should help improve traffic flow on Moorland Road.
iv) Consideration should be given to inviting a representative from the ‘fracking’ company Caudrilla to a future meeting.
8. Date of Next Meeting
The next meeting will be at 7pm on Monday 19th August 2013 at St Martin’s & St Hilda’s Church Hall, Carleton
You can find agendas and notes of previous meetings as well as events in the local area on www.visitpoulton-le-fylde.co.uk
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