3 Sefton Libraries on just 3 or 2 day a week opening – 3 on 6 day opening

Maghull Library has been on a 2 day week as a consequence of Covid Lockdown for quite some time now and I’d been assuming, always a dangerous thing, that it would soon be opening up 6 days per week. However, a recent enquiry seems to indicate that increased hours/days may not presently be on Sefton Council’s agenda. Anecdotal evidence indicates, I might add, that staff shortage may be the reason for keeping it to 2-day opening.

Time to try and get to the bottom of this me thinks so I’ve approached 2 Sefton Councillors asking them both to try to find out what’s going on.

Maghull Library is within Meadows Leisure Centre and has been since the centre was opened in 2009, although sadly Sefton Council has steadily been reducing the size of this library in favour of other activities. It’s now, I guess, less than half the size it started out at just 11 years ago. Interestingly, Meadows Leisure Centre itself is now opening, according to Sefton Council’s website, at these times –

Monday to Friday 6:30am – 10.00pm
Saturday and Sunday 8:00am – 5:00pm

Whist Maghull Library only opens on a Tuesday and Friday 10:00 am – 4:00 pm.

A check on the opening hours of the other Sefton Borough libraries reveals this:-

Bootle –
Tuesday 10am-4:30pm
Wednesday 10am-4:30pm
Friday 10am-4:30pm

Crosby
Monday 10am-4:30pm
Tuesday 10am-4:30pm
Wednesday 10am-4:30pm
Thursday 10am-4:30pm
Friday 10am-4:30pm
Saturday 10am-1:30pm

Netherton –
Wednesday 10am-4:30pm
Friday 10am-4:30pm

Formby –
Monday 10am-4:30pm
Tuesday 10am-4:30pm
Wednesday 10am-4:30pm
Thursday 10am-4:30pm
Friday 10am-4:30pm
Saturday 10am-1:30pm

Southport –
Monday – 10.00am-4.00pm
Tuesday – 10.00am-4.00pm
Wednesday – 10.00am-4.00pm
Thursday – 10.00am-4.00pm
Friday – 10.00am-4.00pm
Saturday – 10.00am-2.00pm

I’m not sure what’s going on here as personally, I’d expect there to be reasonably common opening hours across all of Sefton’s libraries. Clearly, 3 libraries, (Bootle 3 days and Netherton/Maghull 2 days) are bearing the brunt of whatever problems Sefton Council are facing but I fear the short opening hours could well have further-reaching consequences. Firstly, what about vital access to IT equipment which those who are job seeking and/or on benefits use our libraries for as the cost of having broadband at home is beyond their budgets. Surely the 3 libraries in the Borough on 3 and 2 day opening only cause problems for them which if they live in Crosby, Formby or Southport they don’t face. A postcode lottery you might say?

My other concern is the viability of these 3 short-hours libraries because reducing them to just 3 or even 2-day opening is akin to reducing the number of buses on a route or trains on a railway line; you get to the point where folks just stop using them and try to find other ways around the lack of availability. In my view Sefton Council needs to get the 3 short-hours libraries back up to similar opening hours as the 3 that are already running 6 days per week and this needs to happen sooner rather than later.

As always, if I’ve got any facts wrong in this posting please let me know and I’ll try to put things right.

Urban transit systems feed the beast at the centre

Passing Merseyrail trains at Aughton Park Station on Merseyrail’s Northern LIne to Ormskirk

It’s true, they all tend to serve the city at the centre of things and rarely offer connectivity between the satellite towns/districts. I’ve often thought about this because of my experience with Merseyrail but the same will be true of virtually all metro/transit systems. The link below addresses Greater Manchester’s very similar problem:-

www.youtube.com/watch?v=s0yekbZWMWw&t=482s

But like Greater Manchester, there are potential solutions available subject to the money to do them and the political will. Readers of this blog site will probably recall that I’ve always been sceptical of the Liverpool City Region as a concept because it potentially sets up power and resources being pulled into Liverpool at the expense of towns such as Bootle, Southport, St. Helens, Ormskirk, Kirkby and Birkenhead. To my mind, Liverpool City benefiting from losses in the districts is simply bad politics, bad for the wider than Liverpool local economy and bad social policy. Yet the Liverpool City region is set up with a public transit system which is in effect designed to deliver such outcomes!

I don’t want there to be excellent transit to Liverpool but crap irregular and unreliable buses joining up important district centres. So what are the possible solutions? I’ll look at just two for the Liverpool City Region but from it, you’ll get my drift, I hope.

Expanding Merseyrail

If you take the Liverpool – Southport and Liverpool – Ormskirk Merseyrail Northern Lines they effectively head north from Liverpool in a ‘V’ shape with Southport and Ormskirk at the top of the ‘V’. What’s needed is for the Ormskirk Line to head further north to Burscough (a fast-growing town in itself these days) and then for it to finish at two destinations – Preston and Southport. The track/trackbed’s already there to enable this, indeed the only bits without track and regular train services are the two ‘Burscough Curves’. It really is a ‘no brainer’ because at a stroke you’ve ended up connecting Ormskirk with Southport and Southport with Preston. What’s more, you’ve converted the present hourly service between Ormskirk and Preston to a far more regular Merseyrail service.

One end of the mothballed North Mersey Branch seen here from the platform of Aintree Station.

Coming down the present ‘V’ towards Liverpool you have a second very clear opportunity to connect up Bootle and Aintree using the currently mothballed North Mersey branch. Or look at it a different way. Presently, if you live say in Maghull and want to get a Merseyrail train to Southport you have to travel south all the way to Sandhills Station in Liverpool to change trains to then go back northwards towards Southport. Under what I’m outlining here you could go via Ormskirk without needing to change trains.

None of this needs land to be acquired, buildings to be demolished or major engineering works but it would significantly help to connect up north Merseyside and Lancashire communities assisting their economies.

Of course, there will be other similar solutions in other parts of Merseyside/Liverpool City Region such as reconnecting Skelmersdale with the railway network. That project, which does require heavy engineering, land to be purchased etc. is being seriously looked at despite it having an eye-watering price tag.

Lydiate’s 1994 Centenary

Lydiate Parish Council celebrated its centenary back in 1994 and a civic service was organised to mark the milestone. Parish Councils were created via Gladstone’s 1894 Act of Parliament, Lydiate is one of the original 1894 Civil Parishes.*

Above is the front cover of the pamphlet produced for the event. I recall many of the names on the Parish Council back then as I was, back in 1994, a neighbouring Maghull Town** Councillor. Some of the members from 1994 still live in Lydiate whilst others have sadly passed on or have left Lydiate***.

I’ve not scanned the whole pamphlet into this posting (the order of service has been omitted) but here are the other pages which may be of interest:-

Please click on each scanned page of the pamphlet to enlarge it for reading.

* More Parish Councils have been created since then. Locally, Hightown PC and Formby PC are later additions to Sefton Borough’s present list of 10 such councils. Oddly, one Parish Council in the Borough (Netherton) was abolished quite some years back.

** Parish and Town Councils are exactly the same in terms of powers and functions, the only difference being that a Town Council elects a Mayor and a Parish Council a Chairperson.

*** I’ve lost contact with my old friends Ray and Hazel Hughes; Ray being PC Chairperson at the time of the Centenary. They moved to either Haskayne or Halsall within the past couple of years. If anyone has their contact details please contact me via e-mail – t3robertson@gmail.com

Note – A copy of the 1994 pamphlet was given to me recently by Peter Gibson – Thank you Peter.

More perspectives on the World Heritage Status loss in Liverpool

The ‘3 Graces’ on Liverpool waterfront taken from the new Museum of Liverpool, which may well be one of the planning compromises too far?

I’ve posted about this previously and here’s a link back to that posting:-

tonyrobertson.mycouncillor.org.uk/2021/07/21/liverpool-world-heritage-status-lost/

Scouser opinions on the move/loss seem to be, as a generality, – ‘we did not ask for WHS’, ‘it was of no value’, ‘glad it’s gone’, ‘who cares the visitors will still come’ etc. etc.

Here’s a Scouser having his say having given the matter significant consideration – be prepared for a long read – Phil, an Everton fan and good friend of mine, does not have a short button!:-) –

phlhldn.blogspot.com/2021/08/the-liverpool-blitz-and-if-you-know.html

And here’s a quite different perspective, one that my professional historian relative agrees with –

sevenstreets.substack.com/p/unescos-binned-us-off-what-next-for

I’m not a Scouser as I only came to live on Merseyside aged 10 in 1968, so I’m not sure how long it will be before I’m adopted. My perspective is one of looking at the management of Liverpool City Council over quite a number of years and thinking along the lines of, ‘with better local management this rather sad (to me) situation need not have happened at all’.

Heritage is very important to me and I despair of old buildings and landscapes being lost so that another developer can make a quick Buck. Liverpool has changed massively since the dark days of the 1970s/1980s but I’m far from convinced that politicians and planners for the City really do have a strategic plan to carefully weave in new developments so they don’t compromise historic views and landscapes.

Other historic cities manage to do this successfully, or at least more successfully, so what’s gone wrong in Liverpool? Yes, planning laws and policy have been progressively (or is that more appropriately regressively) ‘relaxed’ over many generations by UK governments of all colours, in the name of speeding up the timescale of new developments. The trouble is, with historic landscapes, this rush to build anything cheap as fast as possible will clearly lead to unfortunate compromises. Personally, I’d rather see strengthened planning policies, especially ones adopted at a local level, so that due consideration and indeed protection can be given to historic buildings, Listed Buildings, Conservation Areas etc. etc.

But none of this lets Liverpool City Council off the hook though as the ‘Caller Report’, limited in scale as it was, has recently pointed a very critical finger at the Council’s activities, not least in the area of regeneration, property management, highways, and planning. Some Liverpool folk may well not want World Heritage Status back, I accept that, but I really do hope they want their City Council to get back on track in the area of regeneration and planning at least.

Historic buildings don’t exist in isolation, they sit in landscapes and the buildings close to them, in particular, need to be sympathetic in their design. My view is that Liverpool lost the art of fitting historic buildings in with new developments quite some time ago and yes the Museum of Liverpool was, for me at least, probably the start of the misstepping of regeneration and planning in the City.

The ball’s in the back of the net!

Lydiate Parish Council announces the opening of their new facilities at Sandy Lane Playing Field.

Councillor John Bailey, Chair of the Parish Council said “Three years in the planning with lots of twists, turns, own goals and hat-tricks we are so grateful to the Parish Council staffing team and our funders Sefton Council, The Football Foundation and Sport England who have made this project a reality. Our new changing rooms and café will improve the facilities for residents and visitors who use Sandy Lane park”.

NEW CAFÉ – Callaghan Bites Grand opening 3rd September @3.30pm

Residents are invited to the opening of the new café/kiosk facilities on Friday 3rd September 2021. There will be free ice creams for the children and hot drinks for adults – please do join us to have a look around. Lydiate resident and former Liverpool and England international footballer Ian Callaghan will officially open the café /kiosk at 3.30 pm on Friday 3rd September and said, “I have lived in Lydiate for many years and am honoured the new café “Callys” has been named after me. My sporting days may be over but I still like to watch a good match and drink a good cup of coffee. I hope more people will use these excellent facilities. I hope to see as many of you as possible at Sandy Lane at 3.30 pm on Friday 3rd September to have a look around.”

During construction works but prior to new changing rooms being delivered.

Time for new Changers! Saturday 4th September @10am.

Lydiate Parish Councillor Ian Wilson who plays football at the site said, “I am overjoyed to see that separate football facilities are now available for women’s and youth teams. The refurbishment of the current changing rooms has significantly improved our facilities. These improvements together with the improved drainage on the site will result in Lydiate having some of the best facilities in the area”.

On Saturday 4th September 2021 at 10 am, Lydiate resident and former Everton and Ireland international footballer Kevin Sheedy will mark the beginning of the football season at Sandy Lane by officially opening our new sports changing rooms. Mr Sheedy said, “Football and sports are in our blood, the improvement in grassroots sports facilities from when I played in the ’80s to now is amazing. I am overwhelmed that the new changing rooms are named after me. I hope these new facilities will encourage more people in Lydiate to take up sports.”

Café opening 3.30 pm Friday 3rd September 2021.

Changing rooms official opening Saturday 4th September 2021.

As the project was taking shape with the new changing rooms in place.

1979 – My political awakening

The Liberal Party leaflet scanned above is from the period of my party political awakening and as I’ve said before on this blog site I ended up joining the old Liberal Party on New Year’s day 1980. I mention it now because my dear friend Peter Gibson presented me with the leaflet a few days ago as he thought I’d like and appreciate it. He was right.

My original grasp at politics was with a small ‘p’ when I decided to become an activist in my trade union IRSF (Inland Revenue Staff Federation) in 1978 and it was only after this that my thoughts turned to politics with a big ‘P’. I was sure I was not a Conservative as at the time I lived with a sometimes card-carrying one (my Dad) but frankly I was not particularly well versed in party politics. This pondering was brought to a head by my old friend Andrew Beattie who sadly died back in 1999. Andrew obtained the 1979 GE manifestos of the 3 major political parties; well he did work in a book shop! Anyway, we set about reading and debating them; him from a left-leaning household, me from a right-leaning household. In the end, we both concluded we were in fact Liberals by instinct and joined the party of that name together, at Peter Gibson’s house, on the 1st day of 1980.

It soon became clear to me that the Liberals were streets ahead of Labour in terms of worker rights and and worker participation in companies. I recall listening to policies outlined by the likes of Richard Wainright MP and thinking that’s what I think too. Richard saw Labour as a party tinkering around the edges of employment issues but without the courage to really empower workers in the workplace. I liked the idea of worker cooperatives, mutuals, and meaningful worker participation in companies as opposed to the ‘us and them’ approach to industrial relations offered and indeed promoted by Labour and Tories.

It’s interesting that this old political leaflet talks of a ‘A new industrial partnership that gives workers equal rights with shareholders, joint decision making, employee ownership and profit sharing’ and those ideas are still needed over 40 years later!

I met Steel once in Liverpool and saw him on many more occasions. He was a good political performer although having developed my true political opinions to one of being a Social Liberal I must admit he was actually selling a moderate centrist outlook which with hindsight (always a wonderful thing) lacked a truly radical Liberal edge.

So interesting memories were brought back to mind by a historic political leaflet.