'' Is there a ''takeover by stealth'' plan by the Labour controlled administration on the South Ribble Council for Labour controlled Chorley to takeover South Ribble Borough Council?'' - asks Mathew Forshaw Conservative candidate in the Bamber Bridge East by-election.
Mathew asserts '' I believe that after the Covid pandemic that South Ribble and Bamber Bridge people need a strong independent council to represent them which can play its part in levelling up the quality of life of people in the country and take advantage of Brexit.
''The actions of the current Labour administration in South Ribble Council point to a plan for Chorley to take over South Ribble Council so the two become combined. The former Chief Executive Heather McManus warned the Labour Leader Councillor Paul Foster, during the May 2019 council elections, that Labour could not promise if in power to reject a planning application and change the Borough Plan to build the houses elsewhere. The reasons she gave were that a planning authority must act independently, judicially and without political partiality. Any promises to reject applications would be show predetermination of the application and open the Counil to criticism. Within days of Councillor Foster and his Liberal allies taking control, Heather McManus was suspended by Councillor Foster from her job. She spent 12 months under suspension and then she was dismissed. Two further deputy chief executives were told their services were not required and all 3 were replaced by Chorley officers who now administer both Chorley and South Ribble Councils.
''A number of Chorley and South Ribble Council services have been merged with Chorley officers appointed to senior posts. Discussions have taken place behind closed doors in camera and the voters of South Ribble have not had access to these meetings and are left in the dark. I have to ask the question - will is the next step be a merger with Labour controlled Preston to create a unitary council ? ''
''Heather McManus has sued Councillors Foster and his deputy Councillor Titherington personally along with SRBC for unfair dismissal. The case is ongoing but the public can click on link below in Ribble Valley Conservatives Facebook page to get a clear summary of the evidence as it was given in court and reported by the Lancashire Evening Post. Judgement is still waited from the industrial tribunal.
''My view is that if the two Councils have the same management from top to bottom, which it appears is the direction in which the two councils are going, there will be big problems. If South Ribble voters elect a Conservative administration in the future and Chorley remains Labour, and the 2 administrations have fundamental disagreements, it puts council officers in an impossible position - which master do they serve ? It is recipe for disaster. Consideration of further shared service proposals should now be stopped. This will head off the argument which I fear may be made by Labour in the future that takeover/merger is unavoidable due to the cost of unravelling the arrangement and one local authority will finish up being formed. ''
''I will argue fiercely against any further combining of services between the two authorities until the voters are consulted in South Ribble and from my point of view particularly Bamber Bridge residents.''
''In the Conservative party we regard shared services as a way of getting value for money, making savings and making service delivery more efficient. It is usually achieved from services delivered direct to the public, like refuse collection. This potential Labour 'takeover' involves control by senior management from the top of the council to the bottom, effectively creating one authority ready for takeover. This process needs to be halted and the voters consulted.
The shared services process must become open and transparent. No more in camera meetings except where employee’s personal details are considered. Councillors should ask local residents do they want their own independent South Ribble Council to disappear ? Shared services to save money is one thing, giving away control to another authority is another.''.
''If there is finding against Councillors Titherington and Foster that they unfairly dismissed Heather McManus the CEO, voters want to know if these councillors will they be paying their own costs or will the council tax payers of South Ribble have to foot the bill ? ''
Promoted and published by Ken Hind on behalf of Mathew Forshaw both of 9 Railway View Avenue, Clitheroe BB7 2HA