MP calls for government probe into Morecambe Town Council ‘antics’ during Westminster debate

David Morris has raised concerns about ‘extraordinary’ events in Morecambe, including a 230% Council Tax precept hike, and claims the town council’s ‘antics’ are putting progress in the area at risk.
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The Morecambe MP highlighted multiple worries and allegations about Morecambe Town Council when he spoke in a debate about parish and town council precepts at Westminster on Tuesday.


Mr Morris criticised the new Morecambe Town Council precept, saying it has been raised by more than 230 per cent for the new financial year.

David Morris MP at WestminsterDavid Morris MP at Westminster
David Morris MP at Westminster
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He also queried town council publicity which appeared to suggest some of its finances and/or a new fund could be used to build a £1m reserve fund to develop the former Frontierland theme park site in Morecambe.

However, the site is owned by Lancaster City Council.

Mr Morris believes the town council hopes to create a £1m reserve to help it bid for further sources of cash elsewhere, or to attract like-for-like ‘match funding’.

Furthermore, he said the town council’s wage bill and spending has risen significantly in recent years. It appeared to be duplicating public services already provided by other authorities and paid for by tax-payers, or seeking to take on services done by other councils, such as weeding work by Lancashire County Council.

David Morris was speaking in a Parliament debate on Tuesday.David Morris was speaking in a Parliament debate on Tuesday.
David Morris was speaking in a Parliament debate on Tuesday.

The MP also queried the number of paid staff at Morecambe Town Council.


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Mr Morris raised questions about the apparent conduct of some Morecambe councillors. He claimed some town councillors who are also elected to Lancaster City Council appeared to have been ‘silent’ about the new precept at an important city council budget planning meeting in February.

At that February meeting, new town and parish precepts across the Lancaster district were discussed along with the new council tax and other 2023-24 budget details.

However, information on Morecambe Town Council’s planned new precept was not available for city councillors to see on that night.

Mr Morris said most councillors at the February meeting probably expected the Morecambe precept would remain at a similar level. However, the Morecambe increase was then rushed through at a subsequent town council meeting with little time for consideration, he suggested.


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The MP also directly questioned the role of Morecambe Town Council’s paid clerk, Luke Trevaskis, who also uses the title of chief executive.

He said Mr Trevaskis earns £60,000 from Morecambe Town Council and carries out work for five town or parish councils.

Morecambe Town Council expenditure has “gone from £200,000 historically to nearly £2m in the two years since Mr Trevaskis arrived,” he said.

Town council salaries have nearly doubled in 12 months, going from £185,000 to £360,000 for 10 staff, including two apprentices.

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Mr Morris claimed that the ‘antics’ of Morecambe Town Council are putting progress in the area at risk, such as regeneration, successes with funding for the Eden Project and the restoration of the historic Winter Gardens.

And he suggested an auditor or official regulator should ascertain whether the conduct of the town council is fit and proper and legally compliant.

"The Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities assures me that he will take advice and see what he can do in this extraordinary case," he said.

Morecambe Town Council, Mr Trevaskis and individual councillors, and Lancaster City Council, have been approached for comment.


David Morris MP raised his concerns about Morecambe Town Council at Westminster Hall at a debate on town and parish council precepts.

The meeting was chaired by Stewart Hosie MP and attended by Lee Rowley MP, the Under-Secretary of State for Levelling-Up. It was video streamed on the Parliament Live website and Mr Morris’s comments also appear in the Hansard record of Parliament.

Below are some of his comments, as reported on Hansard.

Mr Morris told the Westminster meeting: “This debate is about Morecambe Town Council and the huge parish council tax rise that it has inflicted on my constituents in Morecambe. The rise—reportedly of anywhere between 231 per cent and 237 per cent—is believed to be the highest such increase in Britain, bearing in mind that the base precept for this town council increased by 66 per cent last year and 50 per cent in 2021-22.

“I will not mention any political party or politician, as there are local elections, but I will name responsible officers. I have no political interest in Morecambe Town Council, because the Conservatives do not field candidates for Morecambe Town Council, as it has historically been mired in controversy and accusations of financial impropriety.

“I do not receive a bill from the town council because, thankfully, I live one street out of the catchment area. I very rarely, if ever, get involved in local politics. But I cannot not get involved in this issue of double taxation and needless spending that has inflicted a cost of living crisis on approximately 17,500 homes in my constituency, which equates to approximately 33,000 people.”

“My inbox has been flooded with messages from angry constituents who are paying an extra £100-plus—in some cases, even more—but have no idea for why or for what.

“I have forensically researched this issue, which is so complex and at times perplexing that I will try to articulate the main problems as best I can. All sources for my research—Companies House, the Charities Commission, media reports and Morecambe Town Council itself—are in the public domain, on the internet. For the minister, I have printed the 2023-24 Morecambe Town Council budget, before, I fear, it is taken offline after this debate. It looks as if it has been written and amended copious times, because the more I read it the more contradictory information I find.

“I have spoken to several town councillors—some have whistle-blown to me and some have already resigned—and they all tell me the same story. They say that they voted on this budget without being given the full papers in adequate time.

“There was a question in the full council meeting of the larger Lancaster City Council in February that the print for the billings in regard to the budget was not there, and it was asked why the Morecambe Town Council precept was not listed. It was believed that the precept would stay the same and there was silence from the city council members who were also town councillors. They evidently did not know about this huge increase—or just did not care.”


Mr Morris continued: “I was told that the recent town council budget was voted on in a rush, and the controversial motion that has caused all the huge increases is set out in the box at the bottom of page 26. It states: ‘Proposed earmarked reserve to be collected to safeguard the former Frontierland site for community use’.

“The main controversy is that there have been copious reports in the press that Morecambe Town Council wants to buy the Frontierland area but it is already owned by the taxpayer. The city council, which owns it, states that it is not for sale and already has guidelines in place for development interests. Some town councillors who are also city councillors should already know that and make their declaration clear in their respective meetings.

“All of these proposals are for land that is owned by the taxpayer and is not for sale. There have also been reports in the media of begging letters to raise capital to buy this land, but I cannot confirm that they are true because I have not seen one. As I have said, the land is already owned by Morecambe taxpayers as it was bought by the city council for £3m. It is therefore unlikely ever to be sold for £1m.

“There has been an admission in the press that the town council has engaged architects, at the cost of £48,000, to design a community centre on Frontierland—a site that the town council has no ownership of, and it has not even sought or been given outline planning permission. It is needless spending and blatant double taxation. According to the town council clerk, Luke Trevaskis, in the local press, the council has also created a ‘£1m community action fund’ to respond to the call from residents for a community project to be delivered on the former Frontierland site.”

He continued: “A parish council cannot create a second reserve fund, but only a reserves fund up to a reasonable safeguarding of the running costs of the parish council.

“In plain English, the town council wants to have a separate £1m from the reserves to borrow against, based on the consent of 1.3 per cent of residents. The taxpayer will inevitably be asked for more and more money over the ensuing years. That cannot be right.”

“Since 2012-13, the Government has had the power to require parish and town councils to hold a referendum if their precept increases by more than a set threshold. Thresholds are imposed on principal authorities every year. The Government has decided not to require parish and town councils to hold a referendum for 2022-23, however this policy has only been set for a period of one year and it is not known if the Government will impose such restrictions in future years.”

“That is a giveaway. To me, it means ‘get as much out of the local taxpayers as quick as you can, while you can’.

"What is needed is auditor or an official regulator from the department to ascertain whether the conduct of the town council is fit and proper and legally compliant, given the exorbitant tax rises and various excuses given to do so.

"Yesterday, I had a meeting with the Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, who assures me that he will take advice and see what he can do in this extraordinary case."

You can read the full debate online at

A Morecambe Town Council spokesman said: “The council would remind residents to be wary of misinformation and scaremongering, and the council has requested a meeting with David Morris MP to clarify facts.

“In a normal year, the council’s precept is approximately 50% of the national average (£44 per annum per Band D property).

"This year, following an overwhelming response to a public consultation, the council raised a one-off community action fund through council tax to fund the development of a community hub, with most properties paying an increment of £1.32-£1.55 per week.

“Accusations of councillor misconduct is nothing more than unfounded conjecture. Parish and town councils are given until March 1 to submit their precept request each year.

"Lancaster City Council held their budget meeting on February 22, one day prior to the meeting held by Morecambe Town Council, for the same purpose.

"At the Lancaster City Council meeting held on February 22, no members of Morecambe Town Council would have been in a position to comment on its budget at that time as the matter had not been discussed or agreed by the council and doing so could have given rise to accusations of predetermination.”


“Following a recent independent review by the National Association of Local Councils, Morecambe Town Council is delighted to have been recognised nationally for its high standards in transparency, responsible governance, and exceptional community impact.

“Being the first council in Lancashire to receive a Quality Gold Award for its achievements in the last two years, the town council is grateful to have such a dedicated team of officers working tirelessly with members to achieve positive outcomes for residents.

“The town council’s precept is the only part of a council tax bill that is solely spent on local projects within Morecambe's boundary. This means that, unlike all other tax levies, any money collected by Morecambe Town Council will not be spent elsewhere in the district or county and will remain solely for the benefit of local people.

“Over the past 10 years the north of England in particular has been disproportionately affected by funding decisions.

“One example can be found in youth services, which have been cut by over 70 per cent. The impact this has had on some areas of Morecambe is startling, with one ward falling into the top 0.1% most deprived communities in England.

"Morecambe Town Council has stepped in to fund many local youth organisations; including More Music, Stanley’s Community Centre, West End Impact, Morecambe Foodbank, and LGBT Out in the Bay.

"The council has also increased its annual budget to safeguard £100k for local events, £25k for community grants, and it is investing a further £150k to enhance local recreational facilities and open spaces.

"The council has additionally ring-fenced £80k for Morecambe’s 'Baylight Weekend’ following a request from County Coun Charlie Edwards.

“After 20 years of bureaucratic inertia, the council has created a Community Action Fund to create a welcoming hub on the former Frontierland site, that fulfils multi-purpose functions to create maximum flexibility over time,

encouraging creativity and free-to-access community infrastructure such as culture hubs, outdoor classrooms, a mini open-air theatre, and a community centre.

"A Community Forum of residents has been set up to lead a community development on Frontierland and the council is excited to work closely with the townspeople who are at the heart of this project.

"The strength and resilience of our neighbourhoods should not be underestimated and Morecambe Town Council is committed to firmly returning power to the hands of people, so residents have a voice in their future,

increased control of public finances, and empowerment to do things their way.

"The council hopes to work closely with Lancaster City Council to achieve its vision, which has been locally coined as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to build community wealth and social capital.”


“The assertions made by David Morris MP regarding officers are wildly inaccurate. There are no employees of the council related to (or associates of) councillors, the council does not provide any home office allowances for

employees who work from home, and all levels of remuneration are in line with nationally agreed rates of pay.

“It is quite common for officers of parish and town councils to work for multiple authorities - it helps to reduce overheads and enables costs for training to be shared across more than one council.

“For much of the council’s existence prior to 2020, it employed three officers to facilitate its core administrative functions, with an annual staffing budget of up to £66,690.

"Following a re-organisation in 2020, the council recruited a part-time Chief Officer to undertake the three core administrative roles, which reduced annual staffing expenditure by 32%.

“Under the stewardship of the new Chief Officer, the council has experienced significant improvements in efficiency and outcomes, and this has resulted in continued core cost savings, alongside the generation of additional income streams.

“Last year the Chief Officer secured approximately £50k from external grant funding streams, and oversaw events that raised a further £20k. Success has continued into this year, with £73k additional income secured from tenders and grant opportunities, and a further £91k expected to follow in the coming months.

"This additional revenue has helped the council to offset costs, and create new job openings for local people, making improvements to service delivery which will have an overall positive impact on the wellbeing of our residents across the town.”