Hopes rise for 2013 Clitheroe Community Bonfire

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HOPES have risen for Clitheroe’s Community Bonfire to go ahead next year after Ribble Valley council chiefs put a new protocol before councillors.

The bonfire, organised by the Rotary Clubs of Ribblesdale, Clitheroe and Pendle View, Clitheroe Round Table and Clitheroe Lions, failed to go ahead this year following a breakdown in trust between the bonfire committee and the Event Safety Advisory Group (ESAG).

ESAG is made up of representatives from Ribble Valley Borough Council, Lancashire Constabulary, Lancashire Highways Authority, Lancashire Fire and Rescue Service and Lancashire Ambulance Service.

Following this breakdown, Coun. Allan Knox proposed a motion at a meeting of the full council back in October that the council’s chief executive Marshal Scott, in conjunction with a working group of members, should review ESAG’s policies, constitution and procedures to ensure that all the advice it provides is done in a constructive, helpful and timely manner.

A working group was formed chaired by Coun. Terry Hill and comprising Coun. Allan Knox, Coun. Kevin Horkin, Coun. Jim Rogerson and Coun. Jan Alcock. The group, which has met three times so far, reported their findings to the council’s policy and finance committee on Tuesday evening.

Coun Knox said afterwards: “I think we have made a good deal of progress and are working towards a situation where the organisers should be able to go ahead with the bonfire next year.

“The review was focusing not just on the bonfire, but on public events in general.”

Richard Dugdale and Bill Barker, chairman and vice-chairman of the bonfire committee, said in a joint statement: “The local Service Organisations which organise the Clitheroe Bonfire and Firework Display are pleased that the RVBC are currently reviewing the make up and constitution of ESAG. It would appear that they have listened to the concerns that we, and other local organisers, have had in the past and are now making steps to make it a more approachable body which will allow an exchange of ideas and ensure that we run safe events fully compliant with the law.

“We have yet to see the final make-up of the group and the new ESAG constitution so cannot prejudge our response but are hopeful that it will result in a continuance of the bonfire next year in a more agreeable environment.”

In a report to the committee, chief executive Mr Scott said the main problems of the existing ESAG related to conflicts of interest between the various roles of officers involved and the role of the chairman, plus the public perception that the chairman of ESAG was solely acting on behalf of the council and not the other agencies involved.

Other problems identified were that ESAG was still seen as a regulatory/enforcing body rather than one being helpful and advisory, plus there was a lack of clarity regarding governance, the role and responsibilities of individual members of ESAG and the relationship between the group and the local authority.

With this in mind, the working group produced a draft protocol that clarifies that event organisers are responsible for organising and managing their events safely, and also makes it clear that the Ribble Valley Safety Advisory Group is there to advise and give guidance to those planning events.

The protocol also recommends that a senior officer of the council should chair the new Ribble Valley Safety Advisory Group.

It will recommend roles and responsibilities for council officers and other agencies that make absolutely clear the involvement of Ribble Valley Borough Council officers, Lancashire Police, Lancashire Fire and Rescue and other bodies in advising and guiding those organising events.

The work of the review group is expected to be concluded by the next meeting of the policy and finance committee in January.