Derek Forrest

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Five Minutes with Council



Mr Mayor  Members. 

I thought it might be useful if I spoke to you with my suggestions for the future of South Ribble Council on this the first full Council of 2008 

I am speaking not as a Liberal Democrat but as a former member with eight years experience and a keen interest in the future of local government in general and our local government in particular.  

Lets face it , although we do remarkably well ; we are just  too small. It’s no secret we have great difficulty recruiting and holding staff as we cannot offer the prospects of large unitaries. Illness and loss of key personnel can drastically reduce our performance as we have seen recently in regeneration. 

Two tier councils produce confusion for the electorate as I am sure new members are just discovering especially in highways. 

Whitehall has of late consistently favoured the unitary approach to local government. The latest example you may have seen is Cheshire where it was announced just before Christmas that they were losing all their district councils and turning into two unitary councils. 

The writing has been on the wall for a long time . Just like Cheshire there are only two viable alternatives -a large county wide unitary or two to three unitaries  made up of several district councils 

That is where we found ourselves in the last administration.Lancashire County Council or a City of Central Lancashire; we had to choose. 

We (and I think that was cross all parties) had no enthusiasm for Lancashire County which we felt was too officer led and with little or no public participation. Our preference was for a new Central Lancashire City ideally with Chorley as well as Preston 

It was not a question of merging with Preston as Mrs Fulbrook claimed but more of producing a new more effective alternative to the giant unchanging Lancashire Unitary and,  being in it at its formation,  we were confident we could mould it in our image. 

What of the future? 

There are two processes going on. On the one hand there is Lancashire with its Lancashire Locals ; its now functioning call centre and its enhanced two tier working .On the other the present policy of merging of services with Chorley. 



Lancashire County I would liken to Hitler’s Germany slowly and imperceptibly eating away our Czechoslovakia. So that next time the ministerial gaze turns towards Lancashire there is no choice but the one giant Unitary. It having effectively taken all our functions away .We would disappear and Lancashire County with its messes and zero public participation would stand triumphant over its Reich of a Greater Lancashire. 

Sharing services raises all sorts of difficulties over control and accountability and priorities. It is no more than a short term expedient. 

My preference is to work towards the Central Lancashire City Unitary. 

We then have the opportunity to set up an authority from scratch to our own design and free from the habits and customs  of the 19th century   

This is what Cheshire will be doing as they set up their 2 new unitaries. We should brook no delay. We should open up negotiations to prepare the way for a well prepared and funded bid as and when the opportunity arises remembering the last time when our bid foundered in the face of a vigorous and well prepared County Lobby. 

That is the grand scale but let’s not forget the micro scale. Whatever unitary proposal  we  adopt, it is likely to be too remote from the voter . Our ancestors, for reasons best known to them selves left out Leyland and Brig from the Parish structure   

We now have the opportunity to rapidly reinstate it regardless of County or even Whitehall and so provide an important protection from a remote and overweening Unitary.  

We would also be responding to public pressure for a restoration of local institutions such as Leyland Festival which would be first priority for the new Leyland Town  and Bamber Bridge Parish Councils.