On Thursday last I witnessed something that I could not imagine a Lib Dem councillor doing, or indeed in this case, not doing.
The issue was important for two local communities (Blundellsands/Crosby & Aintree Village) who had both been told by Sefton Council that their respective libraries (College Road and Aintree) are closing. The communities were told this some months ago (along with 5 other communities in the Borough) and their libraries close this month.
The crunch last Thursday was all about the two communities playing what was likely to be their last significant card to set up viable community run libraries and them sadly getting knocked back by the Council’s all-powerful Labour controlled Cabinet.
The eye opener was not the debate (which I will return to in a future posting) about the rights and wrongs of the community bids, which I personally think the Council got very wrong in these two cases, but the fact that on the day these big issues were being decided the Labour ward councillors were not present to stand side by side with the community campaigners. I would add that the local Labour MP was not there either despite saying he supported the Aintree community bid. He should have been there, in my view, to back the campaigners. As it was they were left to fight their case with just the support of their Parish Council in terms of people elected to serve Aintree Village. Bundellsands/Crosby has no Parish Council to fight its corner.
Yes, I realise that the closing of the libraries is being pursued by a Labour run Council but I simply can’t get my head around why Labour ward councillors chose not to be there last Thursday. Indeed, in the case of the Borough councillors representing Aintree Village they were roundly condemned for their lack of involvement and support for the bid to turn Aintree Library into one run by the community. This condemnation came not from me but from representatives of Aintree Village Parish Council (during a BBC TV interview after the Cabinet meeting) who are independent of the main political parties.
I represented Aintree Village for 12 years until 2011 so I thought it important to be there to stand with the campaigners and the Parish Councillors whom I have worked with in the past. I now represent the next door ward but my fellow Lib Dem councillor Andrew, who has never represented Aintree Village, also wanted to be there to support the Aintree campaigners.
Liberals by instinct work with communities, not for party political gain, but because we try to put communities before party politics.
Andrew and I have (together with Bruce, another Maghull Lib Dem Borough councillor) stood side by side with the Aintree Village campaigners a number of times over the months of campaigning there have been to try to save Aintree Library. I can honestly say that even if Sefton Council had been Lib Dem run and it had been proposing library closures I and my fellow Lib Dem councillors would have standing with the campaigning community groups in the wards we represent.
In my time as Leader of the Lib Dem Group on Sefton Council and indeed my 7 years as Council Leader I expected and always tried to embrace challenges to the Council from Lib Dem councillors, or indeed opposition councillors, who had issues of concern in their wards to fight for. To a Liberal fighting for the community you have been elected to represent has to be the number one priority, not your political party.
Since Sefton Council has been Labour controlled my observations lead me to the conclusion that sadly socialists do not see things as we do.