Readers' letters - March 3

Reduce costs of democracy

By The Newsroom
Friday, 4th March 2016, 2:41 pm
Updated Friday, 4th March 2016, 3:46 pm
The number of Preston councillors could be reduced to save money suggests a reader. See letter
The number of Preston councillors could be reduced to save money suggests a reader. See letter

Your report about the setting of the council tax level for 2016/2017 was interesting and informative, particularly in respect of the Conservative proposal for an alternative budget, a part of which was to recommend that the number of councillors at Preston be reduced from 57 to 40 (LEP February 26).

This proposal was roundly defeated by 35 votes to 18. Not too surprising I suppose, as it was a bit like asking turkeys to vote for Christmas!

That detail prompted me to calculate the potential savings to tax payers across Lancashire if a similar or even a greater reduction of councillors were made to the other 14 local governments that exist to govern a county of just over a million inhabitants.

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Assuming an average of 50 elected councillors on each of the 14 borough councils, you have a total of 700. Add on another 100 for the county council and you have a grand total of 800 elected representatives. What do all these people do?

Each one of these worthy people receive an allowance which varies from council to council. If you took an average of £6,000 per member that produces £4.8m.

Add on, say, another £1,500 per member for travel and subsistence costs, and the total rises to £6m at least.

In an era of public sector cutbacks by central government, some important questions need to be answered.

Why do we need so many councillors on each council? Why do we need 800 or more for a county the size of Lancashire?

The city of Chicago in America serves a population of 10 million. It has an elected mayor who is the chief executive and a total of fifty elected councillors (called aldermen). Chicago doesn’t seem to suffer too much from such a small number of elected members. It is a prosperous and diverse city, covering thousands of acres, and has over four million visitors a year.

Why not have another review of the structures of local government – the last one was back in 1974 over 40 years ago?

Why not have a single authority for the whole of Lancashire with an elected mayor and, say, seven elected councillors from each of the present boroughs? If that is too much to swallow in one bite, then double the number of authorities from one to two.

Either of these alternatives would produce several million pounds of savings in the cost of democracy account alone.

Why are our local council leaders currently looking at creating a new body of elected representatives to overlay the present system as part of the Northern Powerhouse movement?

Many would say that if the present arrangements cannot operate such a system then get rid of the present arrangements and create a larger body for all local services that can punch its weight.

If you only do half the job by creating a super body and leave the existing arrangements intact then the next logical change, in a decade or so, would be to wrap up the existing boroughs and turn them into parish councils – with no member allowances and expenses at all!

I rest my case and will await with interest the response of the turkeys rushing to their laptops.

Red Rose Council Tax Payer

We won’t pay for brown bin

We no longer wish to avail ourselves of the ‘service’ provided by Preston Council relating to the brown bin/garden waste collection. We have no intention of paying the £30 charge.

We wish the bin to be removed from our property and will take any garden waste to the rubbish recycling centre ourselves!

This raises a few questions. How does Preston Council intend to bring in this extra charge as an addition to the council tax? How do we ensure we are not going to be charged for a service we do not require? Will they remove the bin from our property without charge or shall I go down to Argyll Road and get a receipt? Can Preston Council let us know the answers? Pro bono publico.

Barrie & Sue Tomlinson, Preston

Happy hours at Darlingtons

It was interesting to read the letter from Barbara Garrett regarding the lack of shops in Church Street (LEP Letters, March 1).

She mentioned Darlingtons which was situated at 43 Church Street. I spent many happy hours there as a child in the 1940s and 50s as it was owned by members of my family.

My grandmother was called Emma Darlington, who married my grandfather James Bowman Charteris. My mother Margaret Watson (Peggy) was her daughter. She often helped out at the shop on Saturdays.

We had a prominent position to watch Guild Processions during the 1952 Preston Guild.

In those days, there were several family shops, such as Deacons Gents Outfitters, run by Claude Deacon. His wife Edna had a milliners shop very close by.

Unfortunately, the area has deteriorated since those halcyon days. It would be nice to hear from anyone else who can share such memories. Unfortunately I don’t have a photograph of the shop at that time.

John Darlington Watson,

Lytham St Annes

Remembering ‘forgotten’ war

The 371 British servicemen who died in the ‘forgotten’ war – on Cyprus in the 1950s – are to be commemorated at the National Arboretum in Staffordshire.

Thanks to ex-Royal Military Policeman David Littlemore and the RAF, a large piece of Cyprus stone has been brought back to the UK. A stonemason will drill out a special chamber to house a copper capsule which will contain a roll of honour bearing the names of the servicemen who died on the island between 1955 and 1959. The Cyprus Emergency, as it was known at the time, saw a series of attacks on servicemen in the then British colony by EOKA – the Greek acronym for National Organisation of Cypriot Fighters.

The stone should arrive soon at The National Memorial Arboretum in Staffordshire, but we’re still waiting to hear when it will be officially unveiled.

I’d love to hear from any Cyprus veterans who served between 1955 and 1959, along with friends and relatives, so I can keep them updated on progress. Since 2009, some of the next of kin of our deceased comrades are entitled to receive The Elizabeth Cross. Email [email protected]

Peter Eckersley via email