Money awarded to Preston Sea Cadets and Broadgate Residents Action Group

Two local community groups have been awarded money from the Preston City Council Central Area Forum.

The Preston Sea Cadets received money to help repair and maintain their wooden centre near Strand Road.

The Broadgate Residents Action Group received money to buy a photocopier and help increase the number of households they can reach with their newsletter. They currently reach 700-1000 of the 2,100 households in the Broadgate area of Preston.


Council leader claims all services are ‘value for money’ in 2008 review

All council services passed a 'value for money' review

All council services passed a 'value for money' review

At the Preston City Council Central Area Forum the leader of the Council Ken Hudson claimed that in a Value for Money exercise conducted by local councillors they found that all council services were giving value for money.

The Council has achieved efficiency savings of over £850,000 and by all accounts it looks to have been a successful year for the Council.

Cllr Hudson outlined the priorities for the Council in 2008 were:

  • To have Preston recognised as the North West’s third city
  • To have a brighter future for Preston’s people
  • To have a clean, green, environment
  • To have a safer city
  • To connect with communities
  • To have a sharper, smarter and well run council

I’ll take you through what Cllr Hudson picked out as the highlights in each of the priorities:

3rd city

The Council has confirmed Marks & Spencers and a large cinema chain for the Tithebarne development. There has been external investment in Avenham and Miller Park and also investment in the Harris Museum. There has been recognition from central government for some of the Council’s projects.

Brighter futures

A scheme over the summer of 2008 saw 77,000 young people involved in sports development. 1547 homes have been raised to the ‘decent homes standard’ and there is now better provision for homeless people to keep them off the streets.

Clean/green environment

The city is now recycling and composting 30 per cent of its waste and has maintained green flag standards for most of its parks.

Safe city

Violence and vehicle crime is down for the second year running and crime is reduced overall by 50 per cent.

Connecting with communities

The Citizenzone scheme has been launched, allowing the Council to go out and make council services accessible to all in the community via the Citizenzone bus. The Council website has been relaunched and there have been a large number of consultations with the public on special projects including the Winckley Square redevelopment.

Have your say in our poll below on whether you agree that all council services are ‘Value for Money’.

Row over concessionary fares likely to push City Council overbudget

concessionary travel will be at the centre of local authority budgets for 2009/2010

Concessionary travel will be at the centre of local authority budgets for 2009/2010

At the Preston City Council Central Area Forum a presentation was made about Preston City Council’s finances for the year ahead and the year that is nearly passed.

The forecast for the 2009/2010 budget shows that the Council could be nearly £1.5 million over budget due to the changes to the concessionary fares travel scheme. The government has launched a central initiative to get council’s to pay for concessionary fares (cheap travel for pensioners and those with disabilities) and changed the way they are paid for.

Councillor Eric Fazackerly outlined the changes in his speech:

As Preston is a major transport hub, we are likely to pay twice for a concessionary fare as people pass through our bus station. For example, if someone is travelling from the Ribble Valley to Southport via Preston they will pay for four journeys.

The journey from Ribble Valley to Preston will be paid for by Ribble Valley. The journey from Preston to Southport will be paid for by Preston. The journey from Southport to Preston will be paid for by Southport. The journey from Preston to Ribble Valley will be paid for by Preston. Preston City Council is paying half of the concessionary fare cost, while the two other local authorities are paying a quarter each.

The Council is having urgent meetings with relevant local authorities and also with government ministers to put their case – as areas such as Preston that are major travel interchanges will be the ones who take the brunt of the concessionary fare changes.

In 2008/2009 so far the Council has budgeted to spend £101 million. It generates £70.7 million from sales, fees and charges. This leaves a budget to find of £30.3 million. The breakdown of this is £9.7 million comes from council tax, £19 million from a central government grant and £1.6 million is found from council reserves (money put away from better years).

If the concessionary fares charges were to add £1.5 million to the council’s budget for 2009/2010 this can either be paid for by increasing council tax or digging deeper into council reserves. The council reserves currently sit at around £2.6 million and they are told by central government to always keep around £1.1 million in reserve.

The other option is for the council to make ‘efficiency savings’ or cost cutting. In 2008/2009 the Council has made over £850,000 worth of efficiency savings, just over £100,000 ahead of the government’s target of £752,000. It’s not likely the Council would be able to make further efficiency savings to pay for the shortfall in concessionary travel.

What do you think? How should the council pay for this? Is central government being unfair? Should concessionary fares be increased?

Ashton Park to be home to new skate park

Ashton Park will be the site for a new skate park

Ashton Park will be the site for a new skate park

The Preston City Council Central Area Forum revealed on Thursday 29th January 2009 that Ashton Park has been chosen as the location for a brand new skate park.

This is good news for Preston’s skater community. The decision was taken on the potential location after consultation with local schools, youth groups and other key local groups. The Council is now looking into funding and may apply to the Big Lottery Fund again after the successful bid for £80,000 for a Moor Park kids play area.

Crime down in central Preston wards

At Preston City Counci’s Central Area Forum meeting there was a representative there from Lancashire Constabulary, she went through the crime figures for all the wards covered by the Central Area Forum (St George’s, University, Town Centre, Moor Park, Riversway and Tulketh).

All crime was down by 18 per cent for the period from October 2008. The detection rate for crime now stood at 50 per cent. The biggest reductions were in personal robbery (mobile phone snatching and the like) which was down by 67 per cent and burglary was down by 61.8 per cent.

Vehicle crime across the wards was down by 25.9 per cent and theft/robbery was down 38 per cent overall.

She was also pleased to announce that 10 new staff had been allocated to the division with two new staff joining the Avenham units.

There was also a report on the restorative justice initative. This is where the victim and the criminal are brought together and the criminal apologies and is shown the damage they have done.

Central Area Forum report: Flag Market redevelopment

preston's flag market is set for redevelppment

preston's flag market is set for redevelopment

On Thursday 29th January 2009 the Central Area Forum of Preston City Council met to allow the public a chance to see all the designs for Preston’s historic Flag Market in detail.

Scale models of the six designs had been produced, along with boards showing the designs and explaining the rationale behind them. There was also a scale model of the current Flag Market layout.

The Central Area Forum covers the St George’s, University, Town Centre, Moor Park, Riversway and Tulketh wards.

The presentation on the Flag Market redevelopment was made by Mike Brogan, Assistant Director (City Projects). He was the man who made the recommendations to the City Centre Committee and produced the report about the Flag Market redevelopment.

Brogan outlined the reason for the proposed redevelopment. The Flag Market is supposed to be the historic centre of Preston but due to the development of the city in the 1960s it has lost its place as the ‘centre’ due to the movement of people away from the Flag Market and towards Friargate/Fishergate instead.

He showed the assembled public and councillors through the six designs, their positives and negatives and gave a lot of background about how a redeveloped Flag Market would sit alongside the Tithebarne redevelopment.

The key development will be the levelling of the slope on the current Flag Market. This slope causes problems for running events on the space and brings extra costs to the Council and those wishing to host events as they have to find ways to level off things like ice rinks/ferris wheels/fountains etc.

Brogan is also keen to see the removal of the trees and street clutter leading from Friargate up to the Flag Market as this restricts the view of the Harris Museum. This is an excellent idea as the Harris is an impressive building and easily Preston’s best looking building and at the moment it’s hidden when you walk up from Friargate.

the moving fountain on preston's flag market was a popular choice of event with the public

the moving fountain on preston's flag market was a popular choice of event with the public

There was also some outline of the sort of events that would take place with the public consultation revealing that the movable fountain in the summer of 2006 was the most memorable and successful use of the space in the public’s mind. This was an excellent use of the space, it was fun, free and excellent for everyone all ages – plus much needed in the sweltering heat!

The obelisk that currently stands at the Cheapside/Harris end of the Flag Market would be moved back to its intended position at the head of Friargate as you approach the Flag Market. Brogan showed how the obelisk had moved three/four times already (and had even been in someone’s garden for 100 years before being recovered by the Council!) and that historic records showed its original place was where the winning design planned to move it to.

There were some questions from the public. One lady asked about why there weren’t more steps included in the plans, and why we should need to worry about steps – as in her day people just walked up and down them without any bother. Brogan explained that due to DDA compliance the space had to be accessible to those with disabilities and also in today’s litigous climate the chances of someone slipping/tripping and suing the council was high.

Another member of the public asked whether the wall in front of the Harris Museum could be removed and a better entrance created into the Harris. Brogan explained that due to the Harris being a listed building there was a very limited amount of work that could be done, but that the winning Flag Market design allowed for incorporation of creating a new entrance into the Harris building.

The next steps in the plans – as the Council wants to get them completed before 2012 – is to negotiate further with the developers and suggest tweaks to the winning design, particularly the electronic banners that a lot of people seem unkeen on, including councillors. There is potential funding available for the redevelopment from the North West Regional Development Agency (NWDA) and the Council needs to move quickly to secure the funding.

Find out more about the Central Area Forum

Flag market redevelopment winner decided – but how decision is reached is kept secret

flag market set for a makeover

flag market set for a makeover?

UPDATE: The Freedom of Information request related to this post was successful and the full report that was given to the City Centre Committee has been released.

Read with interest today that Preston City Council has announced the winner of the Flag Market redevelopment design competition.

The winner was design one, which includes 17-foot high electronic banners and some trees.

In the story, Councillor Anthony Gornall says: “After very careful consideration and public consultation we have chosen a design which will complement the historic nature of the Flag Market but will also improve the area as a whole.”

Careful consideration? Right. So I skipped along to the Preston City Council website to try and find out a bit more about the flag market redevelopment. I found Anthony Gornall and saw he sat on the City Centre Committee. I’m guessing they would make decisions about this sort of thing. I looked up their most recent meeting (Thursday 22nd January 2009) and on the agenda was:

5.0 Improvements to the Flag Market and Environs (Paragraph 3)

Brilliant. I could read how the council had reached their decision (which is attracting all kinds of fury from Prestonian’s over on the LEP’s story comments box). No. Wait. I got this message:

Exclusion of Press and Public

To consider passing the following resolution:

That the public be excluded from this meeting during consideration of the following item of business on the grounds that there is likely to be a disclosure of exempt information which is described in paragraph of Schedule 12A to the Local Government Act 1972 which is specified against the heading to each item, and that in all the circumstances of the case the public interest in maintaining the exemption outweighs the public interest in disclosing it.”

So in the debate over how a public space – the flag market – is to be redeveloped, the council has decided that the public interest in maintaining the exemption outweights the public interest in disclosing it. I don’t think so. Publicly elected officials discussing a report from a civil servant (which probably includes a recommendation) about a public space. If that doesn’t meet public interest, I don’t know what does.

I’ve submitted a Freedom of Information request to try and open up these discussions by the committee about how they reached their decisions – especially considering they ran a consultation in conjunction with the local newspaper to put the six designs that made it through to the final into a public vote on the newspaper’s website and in the paper itself (and in that vote, the winning design came second with 21% of the vote, compared with design #4 which won with 41% – the LEP article did not specify the number of votes).

The request went something like this:

Dear Sir or Madam,

I am writing to request the repealing of the restriction on agenda
item 5.0 ‘Improvements to the Flag Market and Environs (Paragraph
3)’ from the meeting of Preston City Council’s City Centre
Committee on Thursday 22nd January 2009
so that the public can see how the decision was reached by the City
Council’s City Centre Committee to award the winning design for the
flag market redevelopment.

I do not understand why the redevelopment of a public space, and
the discussion of councillors, elected representatives of the
people, should be hidden from the public. Particularly after the
council carried out such a public consultation with an online vote
conducted in partnership with the local newspaper.

If there are business/financial matters that need to remain
confidential then these should be omitted, but the discussions of
councillors and recommendations made to them by civil servants
should be viewable by the public.

Yours faithfully,

Edward Walker

You can follow it’s progress. They have until February 23rd 2009 to respond.

Join the discussion on the Flag Market Redevelopment

You can attend a meeting of the Central Area Forum (if you live in the St George’s, University, Town Centre, Moor Park, Riversway and Tulketh wards) where the plans will be presented. Confirm you’re coming on Upcoming.