C-TAG: The Clitheroe Action Group

C-TAG: Clitheroe Town Action Group launches today

Today sees the launch of C-TAG: the Clitheroe Town Action Group. C-TAG is made up of high experienced and knowledgeable dynamic local Entrepreneurs as well as representatives from both the Borough and County Councils. The Group which will act as consultative forum – drafting papers on key issues like Parking, Empty Shops and the design of Community Shopping Spaces and making proposals on the regeneration of Clitheroe Town Centre on behalf of key local stakeholders – both High Street Retailers and Local Residents alike – will report to the Economic Development Working Group of Ribble Valley Borough Council.

Chaired by Ribble Valley Borough Councillor, Ged Mirfin, an Economic Development Specialist who helped lead the North West Development Agency’s Rapid Response initiative to address the issues facing Businesses during the Recession of 2008 to 2010, the Team also includes Ian Sowerbutt (MD of  Sowerbutts Furniture;  Ian Lloyd (a Director of Mortimers Estate Agents & Chartered Surveyors); Ian Brown (a Director of Local Business Valley Associates as well as being Ribble Valley Borough Councillor for the Salthill Ward and County Councillor for Clitheroe) and Kevin Horkin (MD of the Horkin Group which encompasses well known Town Centre Businesses: Spex Opticians, Lady Clitheroe & Ken Varey’s Outdoor World as well as being Mayor of Clitheroe and Ribble Valley Borough Council for the St. Mary’s Ward). The Group will co-opt additional members with specialist knowledge as it moves forward.

The drive for the establishment of a Town Action Group stems from the Grimsey Report released to much aplomb last month at Westminster, which recommends establishing a commission for each town centre to build a long-term vision supported by a broad-based business initiatives, achieved through frequent consultation and regular public meetings.

We believe that an empowered and emboldened Town Centre Action Group for Clitheroe will provide the dynamic impetus that is required to drive the necessary change to push through initiatives that will improve the Retail Environment and Shopping Experience in Clitheroe for the better in the long-term.

Ged Mirfin

07841 729 146

ged@mirfin5064.freeserve.co.uk

Tuesday 04th November

Clitheroe is Still Open for Business: C-TAG Calls for Dramatic Reductions in Business Rates for both New Start-Up and Established Businesses

C-TAG: the Clitheroe Town Action Group supports the recommendation by Dominic Raab MP, a founder member of the highly influential Free Enterprise Group of Conservative MPs revealed on Monday 18h November at the Think Tank the Institute for Economic Affairs which called for a 3 year freeze in Business rates. The proposal, which was previously articulated by MPs Charlie Elphicke &  Kwasi Kwarteng, recognises the need to do more to help small firms and High Street Businesses in particular. The tax that High Street Businesses struggle with most is Local Business Rates. Property values for Business Rates were last valued in 2008, at the height of the boom. These taxes act, in effect, as a tax on the high street. There is a need to ease the pressure on smaller firms, and ensure that it isn’t business rates that send them out of business. We agree with FEG that it is time to look into the system and to consider increasing the Business Rates for clicks – internet companies so that High Street Business with a physical location – bricks are not disadvantaged.

In the Grimsey Review, Bill Grimsey also recommends immediately reintroducing 2005 business rates to realign property values and freeze rates from 2014. Any future increases, he argues, should be based on annualised CPI inflation. In our response to the Grimsey Review two of the founder members of C-TAG Ged Mirfin & Kevin Horkin acknowledged that Business Rates are too high and are having a damaging effect – currently working to the disadvantage of successful Businesses in more prosperous areas.

For some High Street Retailers in Clitheroe Annual Business Rates are absorbing two complete months worth of turnover even before Staff Wages & National Insurance, VAT, Utility Bills, Insurance and Rent to Landlords are taken in account. Quite simply it is driving some retailers out of Business.

C-TAG believes that something needs to be done urgently in order to address the problem!

We highly commend the recent proposals put in place by Blackburn with Darwen Borough Council including, a discount on business rates for a 12-month trial period of up to 100 per cent for a year for new or expanding creative businesses or independent shops which occupy an empty retail premises from April next year. Bars are also set to get rate reductions to put on weekly live acts and student nights as part of a bid to bring back a night time ‘buzz’ to the town. The strategy aims to attract new independent shops and creative industries to the town centre.

C-TAG agrees that Business Rates should be frozen for the foreseeable future, at least until the Economy achieves a sustained Growth Rate of 2.5%. We also advocate a downward Business Rates re-valuation, believing that Business rates should directly be related to the economic vibrancy of the High Street in which Retail Businesses are located. We will be lobbying Ribble Valley Borough Council to this effect.

Grimsey also advocates that any business occupying a retail property in the retail core of a town centre that has been vacant for 12 months should receive 50% rate relief for two years. More than 11pc of shops in Britain, or 40,000 units, currently stand empty. CTAG would like go further offering 100% rate relief for new independent Business that want to move into vacant properties for a 12 month period followed by a 50% rate relief in the 6 months following as the Business establishes itself in the crucial first 18 months of trading.

We will be putting a proposal to Ribble Valley Borough Council to this effect in an attempt to ensure that empty properties are re-occupied as quickly as possible and that New Independent Retailers are attracted into Clitheroe Town Centre.

Ged Mirfin

Chairman C-TAG

@NorthernTory

 Kevin Horkin

C-TAG Member

@KevinHorkin

Back Off!

As part of the government’s long-term economic plan, Communities Secretary Eric Pickles on 6th December, 2013 set out a billion pound package of support for the UK’s high street. The support package includes a new consultation to tackle aggressive parking policies, which harm high streets. The government will also cap increases in parking penalty charges for the rest of this Parliament, with immediate effect. These steps will make it cheaper and easier to park, encourage people to shop locally and help with the cost of living, encourages councils to attract shoppers by setting competitive parking charges  and to improve the quality of parking in town centres so that it is convenient, safe and secure.

C-TAG is hugely supportive of the initiative on the back of which it has launched its own Campaign to ameliorate the impact of the aggressive policing of Car Parking in the Town Centre dubbed “Back Off!” The Campaign was prompted by highly vocal complaints to the Mayor of Clitheroe, Kevin Horkin, as a consequence of the overzealous impact of Parking Attendants. Last Thursday Local Traders counted in excess of 30 Parking Tickets issued over a couple of hours on the afternoon of Thursday 05th December.

Kevin states that, “How can Shoppers be expected to enjoy what the High Street has to offer in Clitheroe if they are constantly looking at their watches wondering if they are about to get a ticket? Several Shop Owners have said to me that Shoppers have had to leave their premises in a hurry, rushing off saying that they back to their vehicles before they get a ticket! This is hardly the experience that we want to promote!” C-TAG believes that such over-zealousness is having a damaging effect and deterring potential regular shoppers from returning to the Town Centre let alone the potential loss of revenue incurred in fines. C-TAG has therefore issued a Freedom of Information Request to Lancashire County Council seeking to establish:

  • How many Parking Tickets have been issued by Wardens in Clitheroe in the last 12 month period and what the Total Amount of Fines levied is
  • It has requested a breakdown of this Data for Clitheroe by Day of the Week and by Time of Day
  • C-TAG has also requested comparative Data for similar Towns in East Lancashire: Accrington, Chorley, Colne & Rawtenstall to see where it ranks in a league table of the aggressive policing of parking.

The Secretary of State recommends new measures to promote common sense rules on parking. The intention is to ensure that parking strategies complement and enhance the attractiveness of our high streets and town centres. Parking penalty charges changes will seek to ensure that local authorities do not misuse their civil parking enforcement powers and to keep the cost of living down. To that end, the government proposes to:

  • freeze all parking penalty charges from today until the remainder of this Parliament, with immediate effect
  • introduce a right for communities and businesses to require authorities to review their parking strategies
  • legislate to allow “grace periods” before penalties are issued for minor contravention
  • update parking enforcement guidance to advocate a less heavy-handed approach to parking enforcement (including for medical staff on emergencies

The policy also advocates Local Councillors issuing to put in Freedom of Information Requests to establish baseline data on how aggressive the policing of parking in a local authority is. C-TAG is taking up the challenge on behalf of Shop Keepers & Shoppers in Clitheroe today,

Ged Mirfin Chair C-TAG @NorthernTory

Kevin Horkin Member C-TAG @KevinHorkin

We Want Our Fair Share

 

Today, Monday 25th November, 2013, we launch our Campaign for Our Fair Share of Public Funding. We believe that the Ribble Valley has been short-changed over a number of years and that it has not received its fair share of public funds. Indeed we believe that because we are a Rural Authority we have been the historic victims of systematic underfunding. The recent rapid deterioratioin in the quality of Roads and Pavements has been the most visible aspect of this problem. Just take a look at the amount of potholes that remain unfilled on roads across the Ribble Valley and the rapid detrioration in the state of the pavements across the Borough particularly in Clitheroe Town Centre.

As members of C-TAG we are also hugely concerned about the inadequate funding of Public Transport – Buses and Trains – and the impact that this is having on the High Street and the Night Time Economy of Clitheroe. Witness the large number of closures of High Street Businesses that have taken place in the Town Centre, Public Houses especially. The Retail Business Economy struggles because Shoppers struggle to get into Clitheroe on Public Transport and return home at a convenient hour in the evening because of the lack of adequate access to Public Transport.

We support the Rural Services Network Campaign  case for a fairer funding settlement for rural local authorities which sees 50% more per head going to urban councils, Rural residents pay £75 more Council Tax per Voter but urban areas receive government grants 50% higher per head than those countryside. The RSN has called for the funding gap to be reduced by at least 10% by 2020, narrowed to no more than 40% by 2020.

The problem is compounded in the Ribble Valley because of the value of house prices. The Rateable Value of Properties in the Ribble Valley is thereforefore high. Consequently the amount of money collected by Lancashire County Council in Council Tax is extremely high, especially with Ribble Valley Borough Council having on of the lowest default rates in the entire UK. The critical question is how much do the residents actually receive back in services and how does that compare with other Local Authorities in Lancashire?

We have therefore issued a Freedom of Information Request under the 2000 Freedom Of Information Act to Lancashire County Council requesting the following information:

A breakdown at Local Authority Level (by Borough & District Council) of the average amount spent by Lancashire County Council per head of population in each Financial Year in the period 2001 to 2013.

  • A breakdown at Local Authority Level (by Borough & District Council) of the total amount spent by Lancashire County Council on Highways in each Financial Year in the period 2001 to 2013.
  • A breakdown at Local Authority Level (by Borough & District Council) of the average amount spent by Lancashire County Council per mile on Highways in each Financial Year in the period 2001 to 2013.
  • A breakdown at Local Authority Level (by Borough & District Council) of the total amount spent by Lancashire County Council on Public Transport in each Financial Year in the period 2001 to 2013.
  • A breakdown at Local Authority Level (by Borough & District Council) of the average amount spent by Lancashire County Council on Public Transport per head of population in each Financial Year in the period 2001 to 2013.

 All We Want is Our Fare Share! Ribble Valley is one of the largest rural constituencies in the UK. One of our wards Newton, Slaidburn & Bowland is as big as Hyndburn and Blackburn with Darwen fits into the Ribble Valley more than 3.5 times. The scale of our needs ought to be better recognised.

 Cllr Ged Mirfin

@NorthernTory

Cllr Kevin Horkin

@KevinHorkin

Cllr Ged Mirfin

6 Abbey Terrace

Billington

Clitheroe

Lancashire

BB7 9LQ

Jo Turton

The Chief Executive

Lancashire County Council

PO Box 78

County Hall

Fishergate

Preston

Lancashire

PR1 8XJ

Freedom of Information Request

 

Dear Sir;

The Freedom of Information Act 2000 (FOIA) gives rights of public access to information held by public authorities.

The FOIA gives you a “right to know”.

I am therefore enacting my legal right to request the following information:

  • A breakdown at Local Authority Level (by Borough & District Council) of the average amount spent by Lancashire County Council per head of population in each Financial Year in the period 2001 to 2013.
  •  A breakdown at Local Authority Level (by Borough & District Council) of the total amount spent by Lancashire County Council on Highways in each Financial Year in the period 2001 to 2013.
  • A breakdown at Local Authority Level (by Borough & District Council) of the average amount spent by Lancashire County Council per mile on Highways in each Financial Year in the period 2001 to 2013.
  • A breakdown at Local Authority Level (by Borough & District Council) of the total amount spent by Lancashire County Council on Public Transport in each Financial Year in the period 2001 to 2013.
  • A breakdown at Local Authority Level (by Borough & District Council) of the average amount spent by Lancashire County Council on Public Transport per head of population in each Financial Year in the period 2001 to 2013.

 Yours Faithfully;

 Gerald X. Mirfin

 Ged Mirfin

 ged@mirfin5064.freeserve.co.uk

Back Off!

As part of the government’s long-term economic plan, Communities Secretary Eric Pickles on 6th December, 2013 set out a billion pound package of support for the UK’s high street. The support package includes a new consultation to tackle aggressive parking policies, which harm high streets. The government will also cap increases in parking penalty charges for the rest of this Parliament, with immediate effect. These steps will make it cheaper and easier to park, encourage people to shop locally and help with the cost of living, encourages councils to attract shoppers by setting competitive parking charges  and to improve the quality of parking in town centres so that it is convenient, safe and secure.

C-TAG is hugely supportive of the initiative on the back of which it has launched its own Campaign to ameliorate the impact of the aggressive policing of Car Parking in the Town Centre dubbed “Back Off!” The Campaign was prompted by highly vocal complaints to the Mayor of Clitheroe, Kevin Horkin, as a consequence of the overzealous impact of Parking Attendants. Last Thursday Local Traders counted in excess of 30 Parking Tickets issued over a couple of hours on the afternoon of Thursday 05th December.

Kevin states that, “How can Shoppers be expected to enjoy what the High Street has to offer in Clitheroe if they are constantly looking at their watches wondering if they are about to get a ticket? Several Shop Owners have said to me that Shoppers have had to leave their premises in a hurry, rushing off saying that they back to their vehicles before they get a ticket! This is hardly the experience that we want to promote!” C-TAG believes that such over-zealousness is having a damaging effect and deterring potential regular shoppers from returning to the Town Centre let alone the potential loss of revenue incurred in fines. C-TAG has therefore issued a Freedom of Information Request to Lancashire County Council seeking to establish:

  • How many Parking Tickets have been issued by Wardens in Clitheroe in the last 12 month period and what the Total Amount of Fines levied is
  • It has requested a breakdown of this Data for Clitheroe by Day of the Week and by Time of Day
  • C-TAG has also requested comparative Data for similar Towns in East Lancashire: Accrington, Chorley, Colne & Rawtenstall to see where it ranks in a league table of the aggressive policing of parking.

The Secretary of State recommends new measures to promote common sense rules on parking. The intention is to ensure that parking strategies complement and enhance the attractiveness of our high streets and town centres. Parking penalty charges changes will seek to ensure that local authorities do not misuse their civil parking enforcement powers and to keep the cost of living down. To that end, the government proposes to:

  • freeze all parking penalty charges from today until the remainder of this Parliament, with immediate effect
  • introduce a right for communities and businesses to require authorities to review their parking strategies
  • legislate to allow “grace periods” before penalties are issued for minor contravention
  • update parking enforcement guidance to advocate a less heavy-handed approach to parking enforcement (including for medical staff on emergencies

The policy also advocates Local Councillors issuing to put in Freedom of Information Requests to establish baseline data on how aggressive the policing of parking in a local authority is. C-TAG is taking up the challenge on behalf of Shop Keepers & Shoppers in Clitheroe today,

Ged Mirfin Chair C-TAG @NorthernTory

Kevin Horkin Member C-TAG @KevinHorkin

Crazy Paving – C-TAG Flags up the Poor Quality of Pavements in Clitheroe Town Centre

 

C-TAG – the Clitheroe Town Action Group, following a meeting with the Clitheroe Chamber of Trade on Wednesday 04th of December, has agreed to take part in a joint campaign to address the deplorable state of Clitheroe’s crumbling pavements.

Anybody who has walked around the Town Centre will be all too aware of the patchwork obstacle course of broken and uneven flagstones interspersed with an irregular in-fill of Black Top tarmac. Not only is the end result aesthetically not very pleasing on the eye but also the poorly positioned flagstones undulate widely and are neither underpinned or cemented in place properly. The result is a structure, which at certain locations, is that loose and wobbly as to pose a health and safety risk to Shoppers. Whilst showing Visitors around the town Ged Mirfin tripped in a crack in the pavement and fell clumsily – luckily this time more to his embarrasment than experiencing serious injury. It could however have been serious for someone less physically robust and padded.

The situation is becoming dangerous especially to elderly (and not so elderly residents) and invalided individuals utilising a variety of aids to support walking. C-TAG is extremely concerned about the impact that harsh winner weather, particularly snow and freezing frosts will have on an already weatherbeaten and severly pockmarked surface.

C-TAG has recently launched a Campaign called We Want Our Fair Share which highlights the dramatic reduction that has taken place over the last couple of years per head of population on Highways – especially Roads and Footpaths.

In an attempt to highlight the problem we took a number of photographs of what we regard as some of the worst examples of Crazy Paving in Clitheroe Town Centre.

Shoppers in Clitheroe not only feel deeply ashamed about the state of the pavements but they regard the current situation as downright dangerous.

According to Clitheroe Town Mayor, Kevin Horkin, “I regard this as the end result of a prolonged period of systematic underfunding which has resulted in a rapid deterioratioin in the quality of Roads and Pavements. It isn’t as if those in authority aren’t aware of the problem. What we can’t understand is their apparent reluctance to do anything about it.”

Ged Mirfin, C-TAG chairman meanwhile states that, “The quality of roads and pavements in a Borough is the most visible symptom of Civic Pride. Its not merely that there is a complacency about the issue from Lancashire County but also that there is an entrenched perception that just because we have a higher level of affluence in the Ribble Valley we do not merit the same level of funding as other areas. This needs to end right now. It is breeding an unhelpful inertia at County Hall to address a growing number of issues confronting a Rural Market Town like Clitheroe.”

Compare the State of the Pavements in Clitheroe with the well maintained pavements using traditional Lancashire materials – Flagstones & Cobbles – that you see in other Town Centres in East Lancashire. The photographs below were taken on a series of fact finding visits we have carried out over the last couple of weeks to compare the look and feel of pavements in locations like Accrington, Burnley & Rawtenstall. We want the same for Clitheroe!

Residents of Clitheroe, Don’t you feel ashamed? If so join our Campaign today. Say We Want No More Black Top patching from now on and better & safer pavements in the Town Centre!

 Ged Mirfin – Chair, C-TAG @NorthernTory

Kevin Horkin – Member, C-TAG @KevinHorkin