Mansfield Town 1 – Southport 3

Oh dear, the Stags got a good thumping from the Sandgrounders at Field Mill yesterday.

I hear that Southport were good value for their victory so I am just a little worried about the return game at Haigh Avenue which the Stags won 2 – 1 last year.

My dear chum Haydn Preece, who is Southport Football Club through and through, was unsurprisingly the first to let me know the ‘good’ news last night. What with fellow Lib Dem councillors Richard Hands, David Rimmer and Iain Brodie-Browne being big Southport fans it looks like I am in for a number of reminders in the next few days about how my team was turned over by the Sandgrounders!

Maghull Town Council – It does not have to be so party political

 I am beginning to wonder when a standing item will appear on Town Council agendas entitled ‘Opportunity for Labour members to have a pop at the Lib Dem opposition’ because sadly the Town Council seems to be degenerating that way.

 Some months ago on this blog I tried to describe how I hoped for a reasonably positive relationship with the new Labour majority and made reference to how the hand of friendship had initially been extended to us 3 opposition members just after Labour took control last May. However, reality has been very different and the 3 of us have felt more like a barely tolerated minority than real members of the Council. So we have reacted accordingly by fighting fire with fire. We don’t want to do this in Council meetings; we would rather have a more constructive face to face relationship with the Labour majority because after all this is parish pump politics not the rowdy and embarrassing House of Commons.

 Yes, we reserve the right to disagree with the Labour majority but as my good friend Cllr. Andrew Blackburn said to me only yesterday ‘if they could just stop having a go at us we could work with them more often than not’. And Cllr. Jane Day said ‘I just don’t feel that that I am a part of the Council; I feel like an outsider’.

 So the challenge is there for Labour; stop having a go and let’s really see if we can get along most of the time. Keep having a pop and you will keep on getting the kind of responses that you clearly don’t care for. The choice is yours but please remember this is a parish council.

Sefton’s Cabinet agrees to publish Labour’s cuts proposals for consultation

Today, Sefton Council’s Cabinet, where no one party has a majority, agreed to publish the list of cuts put forward by the Labour Leader of the Council.

We felt it would be churlish to stand in the way of Labour’s proposals being scrutinised by the public. However, we Lib Dems will be looking at all the proposed areas of cuts and will make our views known in due course.

Our initial comments are that we remain very concerned about proposed tourism budget cuts as our Southport and wider Sefton economy has great reliance on tourism. To cut the Council’s input into this vital area could well put in jeopardy our local economic recovery across Sefton and into West Lancashire. The tourism economy supports many local jobs in. We are also concerned about proposed cuts in public toilets, management of the coastline & highway maintenance. But this is just our initial view on the list and much more detailed scrutiny is required over the coming weeks.

We continue to welcome comments from the public of the Borough, special interest groups etc.

Standards in Public Life

Seeing Liam Fox squirm on the hook is not good for the image of Government but these things just keep on happening year in, year out no matter who is forming the Government. I suppose it shows that we are all capable of failings and should we think otherwise we are clearly heading for a fall.

Trying to ensure that all your interests are declared, that you don’t speak to a member of the public in a way that could cause offence and that you always behave in the way expected of an elected person, be that an MP or councillor, can be hard. You sometimes don’t see the conflict of interest until too late or even at all. Sometimes folks take offence because they want to take offence, not because you have offended them. No matter what you do someone will say you have behaved inappropriately. This is all the day to day stuff of holding an elected position and across the political parties people are always falling foul of such things.

Of course the Standards Board for England was set up, probably with the best of Labour intentions, but it has been a disaster with councillors that I know being found guilty of doing nothing or politicians using it to complain about other politicians over trivial matters. So the Standards Board is in the process of being abolished thank goodness.

You really can’t regulate behaviour because, except in serious cases where the ‘crime” is clear to all, the matter will be viewed very differently by different people.

And what of the spurious complaints made simply for spite or party political advantage or maybe worse the investigations into alleged wrong being voted upon by politicians with a motive to find another person from another political party guilty whether they did anything wrong or not! I am sure this has happened under the the guise of ‘Standards’.

Recently, I have even felt it right to report myself to the local Standards Monitoring Officer as it has been suggested to me that I have of behaved in a way that supports those who want to break the law whilst I have been dealing with a local highway matter. I don’t think I have done anything of the kind but I am expected to report myself if I am of the view that others think I have behaved inappropriately! So report the matter I have.

Sadly all this nonsense probably makes those who are considering standing for public office think twice about doing so. I hope not and I hope that when we get rid of the Standards Board that common sense prevails rather than Big Brother regulation of human behaviour that simply can’t be controlled by rules.

Sefton Council & its £20m savings plans

Sefton Council has now published its plan to consult residents, special interest groups and other organisations/partners on the savings it will have to make to balance its books for the 2012/13 municipal year.

Last year we Lib Dems were the lead Party and we took our responsibility seriously. We published a list of savings and took the bullets that were fired at us. The Labour Group on the Council refused to engage sensibly in the process, unlike virtually every Labour Group on Councils across the Country, and voted against almost all the savings. They also gave special interest groups in particular the very definite impression that they would not have made the savings or would reinstate them if they were running the Council.

Well, running the Council is what Labour are now doing as they are the lead political party with direct responsibility for proposing a Council budget. Now, so far, Labour are engaging sensibly and they have published their list of areas where they see the potential to make savings. The list totals over £25m. After last year’s Labour financial farce their willingness to sensibly engage this time has to be welcomed. (You see we Lib Dems are not so tribal that we can’t give credit to other parties where it is due)

However, what Labour have not so far mentioned is how they intend to reinstate the savings that they voted and campaigned against last time. Clearly, they have an obligation to put back the funding for Youth Centres and Children’s Centres, for example, as they marched people around the streets of Maghull and said they would not have made the savings that were proposed at the time. So we await their proposals to reinstate funding for these areas in the 2012/13 budget as well as their proposals to make savings in 2012/13. Young people in particular were made some big promises by Labour and it would be very wrong to walk away from those promises.

Our position is that we will scrutinise the savings proposals put forward by Labour and respond to them accordingly. We welcome the views of Sefton residents, community groups and organisations representing special interest groups.

We do not see our job, this year, as leading the Council’s budget consultations as, according to Sefton Council’s constitution it is for the Leader of the Council to propose a budget. That was me last year but for the 2012/13 budget it is the responsibility of the new Labour Leader.

Bill Bryson – Notes from a small island

I am rereading this excellent book some fifteen years since I first picked it up. Bryson’s take on Liverpool then was spot on and having visited other places that Bill commented on (Manchester, Wigan, Ludlow etc.) his take on them, in my view, was unerringly accurate. Now, many years later, I step out of my home in Maghull and the first words out of my mouth were ‘we must be having a festival of litter’! The infamous phrase ‘festival of litter’ was one of Bill’s comments on Liverpool and yesterday my part of Liverpool Road North, Maghull brought such a comment straight to mind.

Fortunately Bill likes Liverpool and said in the book it was his favourite English City, yet he was visiting/commenting on it at one of its lowest points. The fact that now Liverpool has picked itself up, brushed itself down and had a huguely successful year as Capital of Culture is a testament to what can be done and what we all should be proud of.

My litter problem was not of the same kind at all, it had most probably been caused by the high winds combined with a dog or urban fox opening up a waste bin bag left out for collection. A few moments picking up the mess that had blown into my property and things were soon looking better but ‘festival of litter’ has always stuck in my mind as a wonderful phrase.