Daily Post roasts Labour run Merseytravel!

After my posting about Merseytravel’s sky high councillors allowances yesterday I find myself posting again about further troubles within our local Transport Authoritty.

I must admit to being somewhat surprised when I picked up today’s Daily Post because of the vehemence of its attack on Merseytravel. Certainly I know folk who think that the Post has always given Mersytravel too much of a sympathetic ear in recent years.

But can I say well done the Daily Post for roasting Merseytravel and its Labour leadership over the Authority’s U turn regarding bringing all track/infrastructure under local control. The original policy was right so why drop it now having spent £1.5m (according to the Post) promoting this common sense approach to our local rail network?

I think that Labour are running scared because of pressure from other quarters, yet why do the U turn now when you have held to the policy for a very long time? Like many things within Merseytravel it is trying to untangle the spin from what is really going on.

Why is so much paid out? – Merseytravel and councillors allowances

Merseytravel (our local Transport Authority) had its AGM, yesterday.  Labour Councillor Mark Dowd was elected chair of Merseyside Integrated Transport Authority and also chair of two committees – Policy & Resources and Rail Services – giving him, I am informed, the measly sum of only £42,184 in allowances!  

The Lib Dem group on the Authority proposed the following amendment:   

Amendment to item 17 – Members Allowance Scheme 2011/12

Delete recommendations (i) and (ii) and replace with:-

(i) Note the continuing opposition of the Liberal Democrat group to the payment of multiple special responsibility allowances (SRA’s) on the authority.

(ii) Merseyside Integrated Transport Authority is the only ITA that allows members to claim more that one SRA at any one time, has more positions which pay special responsibility allowances, and spends more on member allowances than any other ITA.

Merseytravel West Midlands Tyne & Wear Greater Manchester West Yorkshire South Yorkshire
35 SRAs 16 SRAs 6 SRAs 7 SRAs 12 SRAs 9 SRAs
No limit on SRAs claimed Only 1 SRA per member Only 1 SRA per member Only 1 SRA per member Only 1 SRA per member Only 1 SRA per member

Furthermore, Merseyside Integrated Transport Authority is the only ITA where councillors set their own allowances, whereas all other authorities appoint an independent panel.

(iii) The authority recognises the need for transparency and public confidence in the way Councillors are paid.

Therefore the authority resolves to defer decision on the suggested member allowance scheme, subject to a full review by an independent panel whose membership is to be subject to agreement by the three party leaders.

The above amendment was defeated by the Labour members of the Authority. Surely the time has come for Merseytravel to fall into line with other Transport Authorities in terms of councillors allowances after all it is public money that funds them.

Jack Straw has a good point to make about ambulance chasers

Turning on the Radio 4 lunchtime news today whilst out and about on Council business in my car (going to visit Chief Superintendent Pilling the boss of Merseyside Police in Sefton in fact) I quickly picked up on former Home Secretary Jack Straw going on about how when you are involved in a car accident the ambulance chasers keep chasing you.

It rang a bell as it has happened to me. A couple of years ago a woke up to a note pushed through my letter box. The note said that a Merseyside Police car had bumped my car during the night during a turning manoeuvre and it gave contact details.

The damage was not great and as readers will have already worked out I was not only away from the car when it happened I was sound asleep in my bed. However, some weeks down the line I started to get phone calls from accident companies who wanted me to say I had been injured so that they could help me make a claim. I got about 4 of these calls and started to question the callers as to who they were and how they knew about my car’s accident. They were always evasive as to how they had got on to me but the fact is that they were being given my personal details by someone.

Frankly, I found it a bit much and then I got another call only a few weeks ago ! If I understood Jack Staw and other contributors to the radio programme correctly today they seemed top be saying that insurance companies, garages doing the repairs and even the Police are selling the information to the ambulance chasers! What on earth is going on here; how dare these bodies treat personal data as a commodity they can sell for their gain.

Clearly, this is an issue that the Information Commissioner has to sort out and my thanks to Jack Straw for giving this matter some profile. I never thought that I would be congratulating Jack Straw for anything but there you go.

Southport Model Railway Village

Jen (my daughter) and I paid this great Southport attraction a visit yesterday having not been for a couple of years. It is not expensive to get in and I recommend it.

The folks that run it (Ray Jones and his family) are friendly and it is a good place to relax whilst watching some large scale trains run through the model village. The track gauge is ‘G’ i.e. 45mm between the rails so the model engines and rolling stock are quite large; much bigger than say the usual OO gauge model railways that most of us are used to.

Ray and I got into a discussion about the plans to upgrade the area around his site via a Heritage Lottery Grant application that Sefton Council is presently pursuing in partnership with the likes of the Model Railway Village and other nearby attractions. Clearly there are some challenges to be overcome here and I agreed with Ray that I would raise some of his concerns with council officers pursuing the Heritage Lottery grant bid.

Here is a photo that I took on a previous visit in 2007. The same engine is still running now as Ray maintains them all himself.

Labour starts to come clean on their failings

I have been posting for ages about the failings of Labour when in Government but now they are agreeing with those of us who have been making such comments. The article below is from the Independent:-

‘Labour will not win the next general election unless it admits the mistakes it made in power and learns the lessons, the head of the party’s policy review warned yesterday.

 Liam Byrne, the shadow Work and Pensions Secretary, admitted the last Labour government did not secure value for money from all its spending. “Oppositions that stay in opposition for a long time are the parties that fail to confront and take on the weaknesses the public see in them,” he said. Mr Byrne acknowledged that Labour had:

 * failed to spend every pound wisely

 * underestimated the effect of eastern European migration and failed to manage it properly

 * moved too slowly on welfare reform and demanded to little from benefit claimants who were not trying hard enough to get a job

 * failed to regulate the banks properly and stop executives rewarding themselves for financial failure.’

A further admission that Labour borrowed too much would be nice but confessing too many sins at once may be too much to hope for. Having said that I hear that the wrong Miliband who got elected as their Leader is going to confess more sins today. We will see……

Green Belt campaigners turn out in force at East Parishes Area Committee meeting

Last night the Sefton East Parishes Area Committee met in Aintree Methodist Church and a fair number of angry residents turned out to let Planning Dept. Officers and councillors know how upset they are about the threat to our local Green Belt.

A very strong message that came through was that Sefton Council had not made residents aware of the process at all well and much of the debate was around this aspect of the process. Interestingly, the only organisation that has leafleted virtually every house in Aintree Village, Melling, Sefton and Lunt Villages, Lydiate and Maghull with details of the Green Belt threat is the Lib Dems. Our campaign team issued a special FOCUS leaflet which majored on this subject during March.

Sadly neither Labour or the Tories gave residents the information they required and Labour led Sefton Council is now being criticised and put in a similar category. I am informed that Aintree Ratepayers Association also leafleted Aintree Village though about this matter.

This is what the Lib Dems issued to East Parishes residents in March:-

This was the Molyneux Ward edition but the same leaflet went out in Park and Sudell Wards

The reverse side was common across all 3 wards