Yesterday evening I was at Melling in Bloom discussing with this great group of community volunteers how to take things forward in the summer of 2011. Next week we are having another Steering Committee meeting for Maghull in Bloom.
And ‘In Bloom’ is not all about flowers, it’s about environmental protection, recycling, litter, community clean-up’s and grot-spot tidying. If we can bring together folks who care enough about their community to want to make a difference then our communities will be all the better for that effort.
The summer of 2010 saw the Melling volunteers change the whole look of Ledson’s Bridge in the Waddicar part of the Parish by their wonderful barrier planters on the bridge parapet. My ward colleague Cllr. Geoff Howe is pictured with the display.
Local history is fascinating and just down the road from our house is Maghull’s newest historical plaque. It commemorates the ‘Old Forge’ that was Maghull’s blacksmith for many years.
It is now the lovely home of the Olsen family but prior to them recently renovating the property it had been a place where time had literally stood still. You see the blacksmith business closed many years ago but the property remained as it was the day the business ceased. Only 3 or 4 years ago you could walk right up to the window and be treated to a previous time some of some 40 years ago.
Pictured is Mayor of Maghull Geoff Howe with Mayoress Jenny and the Olsen family on the day the new plaque was unveiled.
Lib Dem Deputy Leader Simon Hughes was in Sefton last Friday as part of an education policy review that he is conducting. He visited a Bootle School and College during the day and later spoke to Lib Dem campaigners from across the Borough in a packed event at the Bold Hotel, Southport. Here I am welcoming Simon to the Borough.
The letter in the Times from Lib Dem councillors was measured but tough. I have said before that Eric Pickles is unimpressive and that is clearly a widely held view and not just within the Lib Dems. I know of Tories who are equally unimpressed with him.
Today the Times had a follow up letter from some south of England Tory and if it was not a childish put-up response to genuine Lib Dem concerns I would be surprised. What it accused Lib Dems of i.e. spending too much money when in office is laughable when here in Sefton we have been trying for months to stop Labour, with Conservative support I might add, spending £8m on a new Southport Market and new Netherton Activity Centre that the Council simply does not have and can’t afford to borrow! That ridiculous spending means that we are having to make bigger savings elsewhere!
We Lib Dems are fully signed up to getting the British economy back on the rails after the bankers and Labour had done quite a job in bankrupting us. So that means we must make cuts in public expenditure, tough though they may be. No disagreement there then. BUT our message to the Coalition Government through that letter was on two specific issues. Firstly, the cuts are having to be made in a hurry and that means we don’t have enough time to turn around the slim down the Councils in a controlled way. In other words we have said that Government must understand that giving local government a little more time to make the savings would result in better outcomes. Secondly, as I said earlier we do not have any confidence in Eric Pickles as the Minister responsible for local government. I don’t take any satisfaction in saying that but his gunboat diplomacy and wise-cracking remarks do not go down well with anyone.
Like everything else in the Borough Youth Centres are likely to be cut back as we desperately try to balance the Council’s books. What terrible times we live in economically!
Yesterday evening I went to spend some time at one of Sefton’s largest Youth Centres to see things for myself and talk to youngsters and youth workers. You probably don’t need me to tell you that what I found were dedicated staff and volunteers doing their bit well for local youngsters, which makes it all the more difficult to make these savings.
I was asked whether the savings were being made because the Council had been told that the Youth Centres were not performing well. No, this is certainly not the case, it is simply the huge lack of money to run many services in the way that the local authority has done in the past.
I was asked by a young person why young people were paying a price for what adults had done and it is more than a little difficult to explain to a young teenager why the collapse of banks some 2 years ago now across the world has ended up with their local youth facility being under threat.
I left the Youth Centre full of admiration for the work being done but with that ever present big black cloud saying you have no money to fund these facilities following me home!
At a full Sefton Council meeting on 27th January I proposed that the Council took a step back from the officers proposed course of action i.e. that we should not just agree to close the phase 2 and 3 centres as a consequence of reduced funding but do a full review of all the Centres across the Borough to see what savings can be found. This was agreed (with Labour opposition) and does not mean the crisis is over but it does mean a more in depth review can take place.
I was interested to read today that Labour MP for Birkenhead, Frank Field, has proposed a similar course of action where Councils are short of money to keep their Children’s Centres going. “Mr Frank Field (Birkenhead) (Lab): Would a more sensible and humane approach for local authorities, which have suffered cuts in grants, be to consider withdrawing some of the services Sure Start provides, so that they keep the whole network?” – Hansard.
It’s a shame the Bootle Labour Party can’t be so constructive! Indeed, the Children’s Services Cabinet Portfolio is in the Labour Party’s hands on balanced Sefton Council, where no one party has a majority, so you would think Labour would be examining all the possibilities and making recommendations. Not a bit of it; it is the Lib Dems who have called on officers to review the Early Years Intervention budget (which funds Children’s Centres amongst other things) on top of the agreed recommendation of Council that I referred to before.
With Militant sitting on Sefton Labour Party’s shoulders again of recent times they are in danger fighting their own internal battles rather than helping Sefton address its funding crisis.