West Lancs smoking ban

I’ve not written anything here about the West Lancs Council smoking ban that has been reported in the press recently. This is partly because it has yet to go to full council in December. That said, I did attend the cabinet meeting when it was discussed. Unfortunately, all that we mere-mortal non-cabinet-members can do is sit and listen, but it can be fascinating.

All the press coverage seems to have been about the report that was on the agenda, but on the night, Cllr Bailey introduced a number of amendments that drastically watered down the smoking policy. Where once there was to be no smoking at all on council premises, smoking outside the buildings would be permitted (just not “near” the doors, whatever that means).

There were other changes too, which meant that a radical non-smoking policy put forward by officers was trashed. Weirdly, it seems that the council then went on a media offensive pushing the story of the no smoking ban without reference to the u-turn on the night. Probably to spare the blushes of those who had trailed the policy as unique.

The ban that we have is no more radical than that announced by Welwyn Hatfield council back in 1998. It certainly isn’t unique. Since 2000, other councils have implemented such bans and West Lancs is now tagging along. Liverpool’s plans for a smoke-free city were way more radical, and in Scotland they actually got on and implemented it.

Of course, next year there will be a ban in England too, which will make this re-written policy in West Lancs irrelevant.

SSCF update 2

The government has said (apparently) that the Safer Stronger Communities investment (SSCF) for year 1 has to be spent by the end of the financial year. This is regrettable because the first half of the year has been spent talking to residents in the SSCF neighbourhood and setting up the board, which was further delayed because of a change in policy by the Local Strategic Partnership to hold elections for the board.

The upshot of trying to get the community involved in the process is that now there is an almighty rush to get the money spent. Of course, there are all sorts of lead times for spending in local government, which means that realistically we have to have a proposal for the spend in the next couple of weeks.

This represents 1/3 of all the capital spend – in other words, the bricks and mortar changes in the Digmoor area…

It’s disappointing that, because there has been an attempt to engage with the community, the board now has to go back to the County and District councils to draw up plans quickly to spend the money. A cynic would suggest that the process was set up this way to bounce the board into going along with what the council wants. I tend to think it’s more cock-up than stitch-up. I hope I’m not being┬ánaive.