Prescot a town under the thumb?

Last night I was guest speaker at Prescot Lib Dems excellent Christmas Dinner. I have been a regular at this event for 10 years now and the quality of the food is always top notch at Prescot Leisure Centre and the meal was a bargain at £15.95. But is Christmas 2010 the last one for this long-standing community building that is both run by and the home of Prescot Town Council?

I have known and campaigned with Prescot Lib Dems for many years and had great fun doing it. Their Leader Ian Smith is a Liberal through and through whom I have huge respect for, so imagine my surprise to hear that Ian is being reported to the Standards Board by Knowsley Borough Council! That’s about as off the wall as David Tattersall (Sefton’s Cabinet Member for the Environment) being reported to the Standards Board and in effect being found guilty of doing nothing! Ian and David are both kind hearted but determined community campaigners. So what has Ian Smith done? Well it seems he has simply and very robustly defended his community against the might and will of socialist big brother Knowsley Labour; what any good Liberal would do when their community is under attack.

The issue is the proposed closure and demolition of Prescot Leisure Centre that Labour, who run Knowsley, has decided to take forward. My point being that whenever possible decisions about community facilities need to be taken in consultation with the level of local government nearest to the people, in this case Prescot Town Council. Yet here, I am told, instead of a partnership approach to matters in Prescot, Labour have taken a ‘we know what’s good for you’ stance. No surprise there then as socialism is all about doing things to people (no matter how benevolently) rather than facilitating communities to tackle their own challenges and opportunities. Of course, it is all about power and dependency. Labour wants to be seen to be exercising power over a dependent community. We Liberals seek to empower communities by giving them the power and responsibility to decide their own destiny.

The contrast between Prescot and Maghull could not be greater as in Maghull a new Leisure Centre has recently been built in partnership between Sefton Council & Maghull Town Council. Maghull TC put land and money into the project and three other local Parish Councils also chipped in money (Lydiate, Melling and Sefton PC’s) as did  the Trustees of the former Lydiate Voluntary Youth Club. This new leisure centre is connected to Maghull Town Council’s community building and the aim is to ensure that both work as a seamless community facility. It can be done if power is put in the hands of the community.

So good luck to Ian Smith and his brave community campaigners who are fighting for Prescot’s Leisure Centre. I look forward to another excellent Christmas Dinner in 2011, wherever it may be. Prescot and Proud  is their rallying cry.

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