Great divides? Community boundaries – Mean a lot, mean a little?

I have often pondered on boundaries especially those associated with local government. What forms a boundary, why was it chosen and who chose it?

Here are two boundaries close to my Lydiate home. One is with Maghull and the other with Aughton:-

Maghull Brook - On the left Lydiate (and me) - on the right Maghull.

Maghull Brook – On the left Lydiate (and me) – on the right Maghull.

Sudell Brook - On the left Lydiate - on the right Aughton

Sudell Brook – On the left Lydiate – on the right Aughton

In both cases the boundary is obviously a stream and this can often be the case with local government boundaries where watercourses have been chosen to divide communities up.

The boundary between Maghull and Lydiate simply divides the two Civil Parishes of Lydiate and Maghull and the only real obvious difference this creates is the amount of Council tax or Precept that the residents of these two communities pay to either Lydiate Parish Council or Maghull Town Council. Both Civil Parishes are in Sefton Borough and both are a part of the Liverpool City Region/Merseyside.

The Lydiate – Aughton boundary is of far greater significance though as it is all but an invisible barrier rather than a boundary because Aughton Civil Parish is in West Lancashire Borough and the County of Lancashire. The world does not look any different on either side of Sudell Brook but in fact it is as the Sefton Borough – West Lancashire boundary has, since 1974, become a local government barrier. Why you can almost hear senior council officers saying ‘we are a Metropolitan Borough [Sefton] and they are just a County’ and of course the reverse will apply too. Sadly, whilst I may well be exaggerating here the reality is that since 1974, in local government terms, Sefton’s communities and those in West Lancashire have mainly planned for their futures in glorious isolation – a great divide indeed.

Considering the massive boundary between West Lancashire and Sefton you would think there would be a huge amount of cross-border co-operation and planning for the joint communities. You would think so but I assure you there is not.

I recall during my time as Leader of Sefton Council I went to Ormskirk to meet the Leader of West Lancs Council to try to kick-start closer working relationships but it seems that those who followed us have not developed things further. What sense does separate transport planning in the two Boroughs make? Environmental protection issues must be similar surely? Health issues surely do not stop at a stream do they? Why we even have an NHS Hospital Trust on split between Southport and Ormskirk either side of the great divide.

I recall when Sefton and West Councils were planning for building on the Green Belt and on the highest grade of agricultural land in England that I started to ask questions about how closely the two two planning departments were sharing and consulting each other. The answers I got were hardly an example of close cooperation in my eyes and I wondered if the contact was little more that phone calls with one side saying ‘we are doing X’, ‘well we are doing y’, ‘OK speak again next year maybe’.

The bottom line is that Merseyside and Lancashire are very different worlds in local government terms. Is this something that is hammered into local government officers from an early age akin to religious indoctrination? Whatever the case it is very much to the disadvantage of communities which are near to a significant local government boundary in my view.

Sefton Council – Consulting on where you may no longer be able to take your dog off its lead etc.

modgov.sefton.gov.uk/documents/s71240/8.2.%20Dog%20Control%20Easy%20Read.pdf

Consultation on the ideas about a Public Space Protection Order – Dog Control (PSPO).

The link above is to a document produced by Sefton Council on this subject. The link at the end of this posting enables you to take part in the consultation.

The consultation runs from 15th February till 1st April 2017.

Dog control is a serious issue but like many things in life it is the activities of the minority that cause those in power to consider moves that in this case will clearly restrict the activities of the many considerate dog owners.

I don’t have a dog myself so have no axe to grind here (although fouling of pavements and public open spaces drives me as mad as the next person) but having become aware of this consultation only recently I thought it was something that required wider sight amongst Sefton Borough residents.

My thanks to Roy Connell for the lead to this posting.

PS. Is it me or is the Sefton Council document in the link above just a little patronising?

www.engagespace.co.uk/sefton/consultation_Dtl.aspx?consult_Id=921&status=2&criteria=I&DisplayMode=Details

Bootle – Its present day troubles & a vision for the future

Bootle Townscape

Bootle Townscape

Click on the photos to enlarge them

www.liverpoolecho.co.uk/news/liverpool-news/police-crackdown-yobs-bootle-smashing-12387480

www.liverpoolecho.co.uk/news/liverpool-news/rooftop-restaurant-swimming-pool-development-12384716

The Liverpool Echo has both the stories on its web site – see links above

It is somewhat ironic that on the same day I found a very negative and a potentially very positive story on the Echo web site about the town I have worked in all my adult life.

Stanley Road Bootle

There can be no doubt that Bootle is presently going through some tough times indeed not least because of the recent withdrawal of retail giant M&S and the impending removal of all the 2500+ HMRC staff working in Bootle and Netherton to central Liverpool.

Well surely there has to be a positive vision otherwise the only alternative is further decline. We can only hope that investment private & public follows the vision.

Southport – Queenscourt Hospice has their Christmas lights nicked!

www.southportvisiter.co.uk/news/southport-west-lancs/can-you-help-find-vandals-12387186

The Southport Visiter has the story on its web site – see link above

‘Volunteers at Queenscourt Hospice have been left devastated after vandals made off with Christmas tree lights from outside their BoxTree Kitchen.’

What on earth possessed folk to steal from a hospice? Appalling, utterly appalling and in the season of good will as well.

My good friend Roy Connell spotted this so sad story.

Maghull Police Station – Some flesh on the bones but answers needed about whether there’s a connection with Youth Coffee Bar

Following the recent news that Maghull Police Station is likely to move into Maghull Town Hall (and thereby Merseyside Police become a tenant of Maghull Town Council) I thought I would try to get to the bottom of what the new look Community Police Stations are expected to look like when they open. I say they as this model of Community Police Stations is to be rolled out across Merseyside I understand.

Who best to go to for the info’ than the Police themselves and this is what they have provided to me:-

index

*****

COMMUNITY POLICE STATIONS

The intention behind a Community Police Station is accessibility. “Community Police Stations will be at the heart of communities and each community served by a station will have access to officers on the beat.” This is planned to be achieved by:

· Having an identifiable police station consisting of an office, preferably within a shared location with partners, where officers can access Force systems and undertake any necessary paperwork, parade on and have their lockers, airwave and CS cabinets installed if required, with some parking facilities and bicycle storage, with out of hours access.

· Holding regular, advertised drop in surgeries for the public at the station.

· Allowing members of the public to book appointments with officers/PCSOs at the station.

· Having a private interview room available for private one to one meetings.

· Holding larger public meetings.

· Having TV screens visible externally but located within the building with rolling messages advertising surgery times and also any information that we might want to convey to the public.

. Having a yellow telephone external to the building that allows members of the public to contact the Force directly

In terms of timescales – “We will begin detailed planning and design work around the end of March/ April next year. The work will take a few months to complete, depending on any complications we might come across”.

*****

So now we know a little bit more but Maghull Town Hall is quite small compared to many traditional town halls so where will the Police accommodation be within it?

Maghull Town Hall

I still have fears that the innovative Youth Coffee Bar which the Town Council closed not so long ago could well be a part of the accommodation to be leased to Merseyside Police but it would be nice to hear from the Council that my fears are groundless. However, if the Youth Coffee Bar was closed simply to accommodate the Police I and many others who support youth facilities and in particular this previously highly successful one will be even more unhappy than were were to receive news that it was closing in the first place.

Can we have answers please Town Council? – Watch this space

BBC – John Humphrys dealt with by Hogan-Howe

I stopped listening to the Today programme on BBC Radio 4 in the mornings quite a while back as I got sick to hearing the hectoring confrontational interviews that some of the presenters seemed to revel in.

I got the impression that the BBC was just out to create a row rather to get to the bottom of the subject at hand and before breakfast particularly it was just too much.

But recently I have drifted back and generally it has been a bit better, that is until I came across John Humphrys interviewing Bernard Hogan-Howe the Met Police Commissioner a few days ago.

There was no doubt that they were debating a very serious issue but in my view the interviewer seemingly had just one objective i.e. not to let Hogan-Howe get a word in edgeways! But Hogan-Howe was having none of it and gave back as good if not better than he got.

I met Hogan-Howe a few times when his time as Chief Constable of Merseyside and even to me as a Liberal who takes the view that you should never trust anyone in power he came across as impressive. I know other people who were members of the former Merseyside Police Authority who were impressed by him too.

I have also met numerous other policemen and women during my 30 plus years in public life. In some cases I wondered what on earth they were doing working for the police as they seemed most unsuited to the role, controlling authoritarian types if you get my drift. But many others have been great people doing a tough job in difficult circumstances and Hogan-Howe is I think one of those.

The Met must be almost impossible to manage. It is huge and I would be surprised if some of the people working for it are ones that the Commissioner despairs of. Hogan-Howe was very good at rooting our poor and bad coppers when he ran the Merseyside Force and I can’t but think he took those attitudes to his new job.

So I was pleased that he stood for no journalistic nonsense on the Today programme and did not allow what seemed to me to be an overly aggressive interviewer to grind him down.