‘Joe Anderson is a Tory!’

Not my words but words of letter writers to the Liverpool Post and Echo which Joe Anderson has felt the need to respond to.

He has been labeled a ‘Tory’ by some people in Liverpool because his Labour run Council passed a legal budget a few weeks ago. The letter writers wanted him to set an illegal budget and not make any savings. The fact that Joe refused to do this is clearly to his credit as he will know better than most Council Leaders what happens when Labour goes down the Militant denial of reality track as happened in Liverpool during the 1980’s.

Joe’s response was robust and pragmatic but it also inadvertently highlighted the activities of Sefton Labour Party who did go down the denial of reality track during Sefton Council’s budgetary processes. Readers will recall that if Sefton Labour had been in a majority their voting would have brought in a 29% Council Tax increase!

I respect Joe for his forthright response to the deficit deniers and the fact that he not only set a legal budget but was willing to defend what he had done to members of his own Labour movement who were calling him a ‘Tory’. My only gripe with Joe, whom I know reasonably well, was that he set a budget that closed 4 Children’s Centres. Having said that I understand that he has backed off from that position since the budget meeting.

So to all those who think I don’t give Labour any credit may I say that the letter which Joe wrote to the Daily Post a few days ago in defence of his actions deserves some credit.

Some facts to consider about the economy

These are difficult times for people across Britain, but this week has shown that this can also be an opportunity to reshape Britain into a fairer, more equal and greener country.
Labour’s financial legacy has left Britain needing to borrow an extra £400million, every single day, just to get by. Labour also left us paying £120million in interest on our debt each and every day – for that we could build a new primary school every hour. 
Sefton’s share of the country’s debt now stands at a dangerous £9.47billion and something needs to be done. 
But despite all this, Liberal Democrat policies coming into action this week are making a positive difference to people’s lives.
Over the last seven days in Sefton, thanks to Liberal Democrats:
  • 95000 people are getting a £200 income tax cut – benefiting 23 million people across the country
  • 4400 people have been lifted out of paying income tax altogether, with more to come
  • £625million extra has gone to our schools, aimed at the most disadvantaged pupils – rising to £2.5billion a year by 2015
  • 66000 pensioners have been given an extra £4.50 a week – and those retiring from today will be on average £15,000 better off over their retirement.
Liberal Democrats in government will not stop there.
This week also saw Pensions Minister Steve Webb announcing that the Government will be introducing a simple, flat-rate state pension of £140 to replace the current complicated, unfair and means-tested system.
Business Secretary Vince Cable is cutting regulation to promote small business and create jobs.
Energy and Climate Change Secretary, Chris Huhne revealed that Britain will be hosting the 2012 Clean Energy Summit – putting Britain at the heart of the Green Energy Revolution.
The Liberal Democrats have entered government at one of the most challenging times for the country. We did not choose the moment but we have not shrunk from our responsibility to act in the national interest. We will not miss the opportunity we have to build a greener, fairer and more liberal Britain. 
I can’t claim that these are my words, although I agree with them, so who wrote them?

Southport Blind Aid Society

Today I went to an event organised by this group together with Lord and Lady Fearn of Southport.

What a great self help group they are and what an uplifting experience to see many people, who are far less fortunate than many of us, having such a positive attitude to life.

They are merging with Galloway’s Society for the Blind and from what I saw today a long and successful future is likely for this organisation.

I met Alex there who is an almost totally blind Church of England Minister in Southport. I have met him before as he has been the Mayor of Sefton’s Chaplain over the past year. He has been blind since birth yet a more positive and engaging person you could not meet and I say that being a person who does not hold any religious beliefs.

What I learned today is that those with the greatest difficulties are often the most positive of people. An enjoyable day indeed.

Green Belt v Grade 1 Agricultural Land?

Like many parts of the UK Sefton needs more land for housing or so we are told. Here in Sefton Council Officers have been doing the rounds looking for sites to build on. They tell us that very soon the Borough will run out of ‘Brown Field’ land (land previously developed) and that within a few years there will be pressure to release land from the ‘Green Belt’ (mainly agricultural land).

As a long time campaigner for Green Belt this is a big challenge to me but I also have worries of a ‘green’ nature. If we accept, and I do, that we must start to grow more food closer to where we consume it then building on Grade 1 and 2 agricultural land is not the brightest of ideas. Indeed, it looks like a very bad idea! It was for this reason that I raised the dilemma at a recent Sefton Council Cabinet meeting.

This is the official map of agricultural land qualities in Sefton's East Parishes - It is all Grade 1 and Grade 2 i.e. the best growing land

My fear is that ‘green’ issues are not prominent enough in the present study of land availability so I intend to make it prominent. It is no use consulting the public over whether Green Belt land should be become unprotected or not when probably the biggest future consideration has to be where will we grow our food? We can’t just develop Grade 1 and 2 agricultural land and then say we wish we had not done so when we find there is no where left to grow food!

The photo above is of what is presently agricultural land to the east of Maghull but for how long will it be our local food basket?

Housing is important but so must we also consider the environmental sustainability of our communities. We all know that importing food from across the world, that we could grow in the UK, is simply not sustainable.

Mental Health

Today I have been out campaigning in Aintree Village and popped into Sayers for a bacon butty. As soon as I walked into the shop I knew something was not right. A chap who looked about the same age as me was clearly acting oddly and the lady behind the counter was trying to ignore him. She jumped at serving me and the chap indicated to me that she had been rude to him (she clearly had not) and he wanted her name. You are never too sure what to do in such circumstances but eventually he went off muttering to himself.

The lady serving was relieved he had gone and told me about the odd conversation she had had with him. Clearly the chap was not well but worryingly he got into a car a drove off; sadly I think for another challenging encounter with a stranger or with a family who live with his odd behaviour day in day out.

Mental health was brought to my mind by the appalling comments of Geoff Boycott about the England cricketer Mike Yardy who had to return home from the Cricket World Cup because of depression. My good friend Iain Brodie-Browne comments on this in more detail in his Birkdale Focus Blog so have a look at it via my links.

Mental health has many taboos associated with it but Iain understands it far better than I do as he runs a charitable company which helps people with mental health problems.

Maghull Station – Buses and short trains

I posted only last week about complaints that had come my way regarding 3 car trains being used by Merseyrail (the Train Operating Company) on the Ormskirk Line at evening rush hour when clearly 6 car trains are required. I took the matter up with with Merseytravel (the public body that procures the train contract) and was asked if those raising complaints could keep a diary of times and dates when this happens. All well and good but surely Merseyrail have to supply operating stats to Merseytravel on their performance and if running short trains is not part of their performance management then it quite clearly should be! Anyway, I know they ran another short one tonight as my daughter was on the offending train that arrived in Maghull at 5.35pm. So Merseytravel and Merseyrail why was the train to Ormskirk that arrived in Maghull at 5.35pm tonight running with only 3 cars when 6 are obviously needed? Answers on a post card please………….

And to the buses! I have also previously posted on the antics of the circular buses due to them parking where passengers are supposed to be dropped off and picked up. This misuse of the Interchange area then forces car drivers to pick their family members up from the bus stops.

To night I was sat, where I should be, in the pick-up/drop-off area awaiting my daughter. There was a bus in front of me doing the usual waiting game in the wrong place you will not be surprised to hear. Then another circular bus pulled in and parked alongside me, meaning that my only way out would be to reverse into a blind bend. Thanks very much I thought and took a photo on my phone.

The bus that blocked me in but just look in my car mirror, it shows the bus stop/shelter with plenty of room for the bus!

However, things worked out as the train was late and the bus moved off before I did. But to put the tin lid on things the driver then stopped again and chucked some litter out of his window so that the Maghull Station Volunteers have a bit more work to do!