Forums are ‘useless’ says chairman

Leyland My Neighbourhood Forum, at South Ribble Council's Civic Centre
Leyland My Neighbourhood Forum, at South Ribble Council's Civic Centre
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A row has erupted after the chair of a group set up to give residents a greater say in their communities slammed the forum as “useless”.

Penwortham My Neighbourhood Chair, Coun Keith Martin, said the five groups across the borough were being controlled by cabinet members. This is disputed by the council’s portfolio holder Coun Phil Smith, who said the claims are unjustified.

Coun Martin said: “They’re useless. We used to have area committees and they had some power, people would come to them and have their say on things like planning. But now all this is for display, it’s another way of (the cabinet) controlling what you do.

“As a chair I’m meant to be able to work it my way, but now you’re told how to do it, it’s not really free thinking. I want to do a lot more social stuff, but our hands are tied.

“The cabinet member has to sign everything off and if he doesn’t like it, he doesn’t sign it or delays it.”

Residents of Walmer Bridge have previously accused their local forum of “not being fit for purpose” and gate-keeping community funds.

Coun Smith questionned why Coun Martin spoke out, having publicly congratulating My Neighbourhood Forum officers for sucesses including Penwortham Autumn Show and Penwortham Live.

He said: “All were a resounding success and a credit to the dedication and determination of our officers who have a passion to deliver the very best for the residents in Penwortham. It isn’t just me who thinks this either – you only have to ask the businesses in the town and they will tell you the same.”

He added: “I can also say categorically that I have never stopped a decision being made by the forums. I simply haven’t needed to. My role is to ensure that our residents are receiving real value for money and that underpins every single decision made at the council.”