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Formby Parish Council Precept

I understand that last night Sefton MBC agreed the budget for next year. It will mean an increase of '62p extra per week for the council’s services'. In the budget process every year the 10 Parish Councils in Sefton also raise money for their services by means of a 'Precept'. This is added to the Council Tax figure as set by Sefton. Other statutory bodies also raise a Precept, for example the Police and Fire Authorities.

I thought you might like to see all the Parish Council Precepts and the impact they have on your pocket. This chart use a Band 'D' property for illustrative purposes, some properties will pay less and some will pay more.

Precepts

There are several items that are worth a comment, firstly the Precept always reflects the size of the Parish Council, small Councils have small budgets but the precept pro rata tends to be more per household. Compare Little Altcar and Formby for instance. Secondly compare Formby and Maghull, most of us will be familiar with the Maghull Town Hall, but the Council manages a ranges of services locally that Formby does not, hence the size of the budget.

Interestingly an equivalent precept in Formby would cost much less per household and yet produce a figure that could provide the same level of services enjoyed in Maghull. Some critics complain that this leads to 'double taxation' ie. that you pay twice for the same service, in these circumstances the District Council is supposed to 'return the revenue'.

If I succeed and Formby Parish Council adopts a 'Participatory Budgeting' approach next year, we can examine all of the issues raised in this item.

Business Forum at Range High School

FormbyBusinessCards1  The meeting this morning  was very popular, I noted 24 participants. There were representatives from a range of businesses including advertising, management consultants, retailers of various kinds, financial services, business training, fitness training, counselling, the Post Office, the U3A, Health Service Providers and Leonard Cheshire Homes. The retailers included computing, book selling, cafes and designers. There were also some who are considering starting up a business, which was very heartening.

I hope this list does justice to all those who were there, we were also joined by staff and young people from Range High School, some of whom were there in addition to the participants. In the hour long meeting, everyone agreed on the importance of the local business sector and wholeheartedly agreed with the 'Shop Local Campaign' . Several people repeated, it was absolutely crucial that local residents spent and exchanged their money in local shops. Members also discussed the importance of increasing footfall and how Marketing and developing a Formby Brand was of paramount importance.

Members also talked about developing networks between traders and increasing the visibility of local traders in the local area. Traditional print based and IT based means will receive consideration in future meetings. I have undertaken to illustrate the techniques that underpin this blog, with a view to encouraging local traders to try the technology for themselves.

Some participants circulated their business cards and I've added them on the right, click on the image to see them in detail.


Breakfast meeting at Range High School

RangeHighLogo Tomorrow morning I am attending an early morning meeting at Range High School starting at 7.30am. Other people attending will include representatives of local shops and businesses in Formby as we continue to discuss the threats and opportunities before them at this time.

FormbyPoolTrustLogo Later I will be in the swimming Pool Cafe, holding my usual surgery from 10.30am, ready to meet and talk to local residents about the issues that pre-occupy them at this time. I will be joined by the Chair and Vice Chair of the Council to complete the arrangements for the next newsletter.


Fire service to rescue

My thanks are due to Formby Fire service who came to my aid on Saturday afternoon. I was on one of my usual cycle rides around Formby and I had taken a coffee break in the village. When I came to unlock my bike, the combination lock failed and my bike was fixed firmly to the cycle rack. Cue many embarrassing minutes trying by all means to open the lock and yet trying to avoid looking as if I was someone who had forgotten the code - I promise you I had'nt.
Anyway to cut a long story short, with half my bike in the back of the car and enroute to the cycle shop to seek advice I came across the fire crew conducting a routine visit.
The firefighters were true to their word and half an hour later cut my remaining front wheel free. I have  now reconstructed my bike, but as I prepare to leave the house my wife has just said, 'I not sure I can let you out on your own again, without me!', to make matters worse she also proved right with her advice that I should have asked at Formby Hardware Stores in the village, they do have a large bolt-cutter which would have done the job as well. Ah well, you live and you learn.


What's Local?

Just before I retired, over 6 years ago, I realised as I was driving to work across the Moss to Liverpool that I knew nothing about the landscape and the local agriculture, the crops were a mystery, but I gradually detected a pattern in the planting and the time of the year when livestock was moved into the fields. That started me thinking about 'local', after all I had being driving to work from Formby for 35 years+. Eventually I became a Parish Councillor as a result. That interest in localism is becoming much more widespread and discussed by others. For instance. Dave Press writing by invitation on Paul Evan's blog writes:

One of the problems is one of definition: just what does ‘local’ mean - and if it turns out that its meaning is different to different people, does that matter?

I live in a house on a street, in a village, within a parish, that is in a district, a parliamentary constituency and a county too. I’m also close to a city which I visit, sometimes attend meetings......

And the article goes on to suggest that we need to understand peoples notions of 'local' and 'neighbourhood'. I have been arguing for some time that Sefton is not one place but a series of places and as Sefton starts to move towards 'Neighbourhood Management' understanding what being local in Formby means, becomes even more significant.

I believe that 'participatory budgeting', see my last post, would help us understand our local town better. What do you think, are you prepared to help?


Council Tax, Precepts and the Public?

I notice from recent reports in the local press that Sefton MBCs' Political Parties appear to be jockeying for the position of making the lowest claim on our pockets through Council Tax. Why do they concentrate on 'cuts and savings'? Is it because they believe their Party interests are the overriding factor and voters will choose the cheapest option? In other words their political self-interests come before the community. Is this the only way they think?

This is not the sort of debate I approve of, I want to know what our local needs are; for example,  is the population aging and by what sort of figure, are the number of children in school going up or down, these factors should determine a budget. Or on a more immediate point what do we know of local demands and needs, for instance, the huge increase in waiting list for allotments in Formby is another example of changing circumstances.

I want to hear the Political Parties addressing a wide range of issues in detail, I want to know what their priorities are, where they would spend more and where they would spend less. In other words I want a carefully conducted debate about the issues and needs in our local communities. I want to hear alternative constructive proposals on how to meet those needs as they change year on year. I don't want to be treated as a fool simply faced with a choice as to which is the 'cheapest option'.

I for one will be arguing that next year at the Parish Council level we should introduce 'participatory budgeting', where we involve the public in helping to determine the precept. It's your money, you are best placed to decide what the local priorities should be, what to spend money on.

And to answer your question, the precept is the sum of money that a Parish Council agrees to add to your basic Council Tax bill, in common with other statutory agencies. Last year Formby residents shared a total of around £35,000 to meet the budgetary needs of the Parish Council, approximately £3.50 per household per year. I will write on another occasion about that expenditure.


Formby Pool

As usual I spent just over an hour this morning in the Formby Swimming Pool Cafe ready to meet any Formby resident who cared to seek out advice or simply meet one of their local Parish Council members.

I was struck by the large number of users, reflecting, no doubt the local schools' half-term break. Pool2
Outside the 'Active Sefton' team were preparing for events later in the day, I'm sure the climbing wall is going to prove a popular attraction.
The swimming pool cafe area is an example of  a 'good third place', where people can meet for a variety of purposes. The Pilates class had just finished as I arrived and the pool staff were in their usual efficient and friendly way restoring the space to it's normal configuration.

Continue reading "Formby Pool" »


Formby Images

Following on from the two 'flickr' slideshows I featured at the time of the President Obama inauguration I've decide to feature occasional slideshows about Formby. In this case I searched 'flickr' for the 'tags', 'formby' and 'beach'.
I notice that the Mayor Elect of Sefton our own Formby District Councillor Alf Doran is inviting people of Sefton to enter a photographic competition based on local photographs. Seems like a good idea to me, I've not looked at all these photographs but I'm sure they will be a useful inspiration, enjoy.


If you want to know more about individual photographs then please visit the 'flickr' website for the details and the photographers involved. Please remember though these photographs are available for view the rights of the photographers must be respected.


Usual surgery postponed

For family reasons I will not be available for my usual surgery on Wednesday 11 February, but I will be at the Swimming Pool Cafe as usual the following week. Please accept my apologies if this causes any inconvenience. Two new twin granddaughters have my prior attention at the moment.


Woodvale future in doubt?

Am I wrong or does the story in todays' Guardian about a £12bn MoD project suggest that the future of RAF Woodvale is in doubt? The reporter writes:

The idea behind the review is to contract out training for the navy, army and RAF in a single place, a former RAF aircraft repair base at St Athan, south Wales. Training establishments are currently scattered around the country.

The story is about the credit crisis and it's impact on a 'long-planned' project, but it clearly raises questions about the long term future of RAF Woodvale.  Is  the future of this local base in doubt, does this also apply to the Altcar Training facility? What will happen to the land if these facilities are disposed of, more building? Could this be the start of a belt of continuous housing from Hightown to Southport?

This is a major strategic issue, what do our local Sefton MBC Councillors know? Have they been consulted? Have they discussed these questions? what are their views?