Hammond V Pickes to go – It has to be Pickles

My colleague Cllr. Iain Brodie-Browne (see my Birkdale Focus link) ponders in his latest post as to which Coalition Ministers will get the chop when the time comes to bring David Laws back into Government. I agree, Laws is highly thought of and should be returned to fold ASAP but in railway circles, where people like me spend time, Philip Hammond is getting a good press. RAIL magazine issue 658 says “Hammond has tackled a job he didn’t want with enthusiasm and success” & “Hammond’s overall record is excellent”.

Sadly Eric Pickles is the Coalition Government’s embarrassing face. He is prone to showing off and inconsistent behaviour especially when he tries to play up the too-smart straight-talking Yorkshireman image. My guess is that he likes his slightly notorious reputation and I agree with Iain that it does not take much to get Tories to tell you that Pickles is a bit much.

So save Hammond is my pitch and ditch Pickles.

Sefton’s Budget Savings

We had a Council meeting last night where more savings were agreed but it looks like another £17m of savings will be required to balance the books for the financial year starting April 2011.

The context of the savings is obviously the national debt. I have said before that bankers and socialists got us into this mess but neither are doing much to help us get out of it. What with bankers still trying to pay huge bonuses and socialists, at least on Sefton Council, being in almost complete denial of the situation it falls to others to try to stop the Country sliding towards the position of Greece or Ireland and the Council from going bankrupt.

I supported the actions of the last Labour Government when it bailed out the banks as the alternative was complete economic collapse. Now we are dealing with the consequences of that bail out as the bill is in effect being paid by huge cut backs in public services. Such was always ging to be the case and I accept the cut backs in public services have to take place as there is no longer enough money to pay for them. Labour, however, on Sefton Council adopt the view that the savings don’t have to be made. In saving the banks their Party, when in government, set in train the cuts that we are having to make now. I would add, as I have said before, that Labour should have turned off the money tap well before the last election; their spending and borrowing just added to the problem and increased the savings needing to be made now.

Socialists, real ones who want a socialist state of common ownership, were amongst those protesting at the meeting last night and I respect their views whilst not agreeing with them. They want a socialist economy but we live in a capitalist one. You can’t have socialist policies in a capitalist economy; it just does not work. Thereby hangs the conflict that can’t be resolved. Of course Bootle’s unreconstructed socialists who sit on the Council want what the socialist protesters want but they are bright enough to know that they can’t deliver it. It does not stop them playing to the crowd though, pretending that if Labour were in power they would not be making savings. Labour are running with the hare and the hounds.

The savings in Sefton will be and are massive; no one wants to make those savings that impact negatively on our diverse communities. But what we want and what has to be done are two totally different things. Last night Labour proposed that around £1.6m of the identified savings to date be not taken forward but they did not identify where another alternative £1.6m of savings would come from. When challenged their response was silence. Denial, as this surely was, will only lead to greater and bigger cuts having to be made with more Council employees being put at risk of their jobs being lost. As a trade unionist myself I find that Labour aproach totally unacceptable.

Keep up the campaign for Maghull North Railway Station

If I hear another Labour politician try to kill off  our much needed new railway station………………!

What’s the matter with them; why can’t they be consistent and back the campaign? In July Labour said the station was dead, next they said they were wanted to spend some of the money set aside for the station on fireworks, then said they were launching a campaign to get the station built, now they are back on their original tack of saying it will not be built again (because the new prision has been knocked back on adjacent land). Flip flopping does not come close to describing their position/s.

The bottom line is this the new station has been on the cards for many years, well before Labour’s big idea of putting a prison next to it was thought about. The fact is that a second railway station is required in Maghull because the present one can at times be beyond capacity, its car park (though massive) is too small to accommodate all who want to use it and the roads around the present station have had to have parking restrictions placed on them as commuters vehicles were blocking drive-ways and causing access problems for deliveries and emergency vehicles. So, if Labour want to be unpopular, all they need to do is to tell folks living around the present station that they are not in favour of a second railway station, which seems to be their policy on the matter this week!

So let’s get on with the campaigning. Yes, it will not happen quickly due to the national economic crisis but sitting back and saying it is not going to happen will simply lead to it not happening.

Play is vital for the development of children

Today Sefton’s Cabinet agreed the 3rd and last round of grants under what Government calls the Playbuilder Capital Grant scheme. The 8 final schemes approved today are in Crossens Community Park – Southport, Deansgate Lane Park -Formby, Moorside Park – Crosby, Netherton Park Neighbourhood Centre, and 4 others promoted by 3 of Sefton’s Parish Councils. These 4 are Lydiate Parish Council’s Sandy Lane Park, Aintree Village Parish Council’s Harrow Drive Park and Maghull Town Council’s Glenn and Dodds Parks.

Whilst because of the national financial crisis the grants have had to be reduced the fact that we finally got this list approved pleases me greatly. When the 3 year package first appeared I noticed that Sefton did not exactly break a leg to tell the 3 Parish Councils who run their own parks and gardens in the Borough about it, so I did! In the end all 3 wanted to bid for a grant and all 3 did so. My Parish Council colleagues led by Andrew Blackburn, who is well known for his youth work in the East Parishes part of the Borough, got bids in for Lydiate and Maghull and Terry Baldwin’s Team in Aintree Village got one in from their Parish. All were good bids and now all 3 have been successful. Another feather in the caps of our local Parish Councils.

Yes, Sefton could have taken the money and used it elsewhere but my strong view was that we had allowed these 8 schemes to run on and it was just not right to pull the money at the last gasp. A little good news in a sea of very bad news as far as local government is concerned, so lets celebrate it!

A prison or not as the case may be

So Government has decided it does not need to build a prison in Maghull after 13 years of mucking about. It was 1997 when out of the blue the previous Government said it wanted to take the Ashworth South site, that had previously been the home of Moss Side Special Hospital, to build a prison on it. Things have gone around in circles ever since but in recent months the old buildings have been demolished, the site cleared and access roads put it so it was a big surprise to hear that the prison was not going to go ahead.

Just before the 19997 prison announcement was made, indeed only a week or so before, I was discussing with Maghull Town Council colleagues how we could launch a proposal to try to get the site used for a business park to help with employment opportunities locally. Of course that rug was well and truly pulled from under our feet but now 13 years later could it be an opportunity to revisit that plan? I certainly think it is worth a go.

Of course, we don’t know what Government intends to do with the site and that is the crucial bit of information we need to know. Also, how does this turn of events affect the new Maghull North Railway Station that we have been campaigning for? The prison was due to hand over £480,000 to help get it built and although this is only a tiny amount of what will be needed to gain the new station it was a starting point. Many questions and at present few answers but we will be pressing for information and to be consulted over what the site is to be used for in the future.

By the way it is worth remembering that the proposal to build the prison was highly unpopular locally with petitions being supported by Lib Dem Councillors. In those days Tories and Labour kept their heads down and said nothing, indeed they gave it planning permission. So after we lost the battle to stop the prison we got stuck in to trying to negotiate the best compensation deal that we could and my former colleague Cllr. Roy Connell did a huge amount of work to this end.  I wonder what Roy thinks about his hours of negotiating now this has happened?

Savings, savings, savings

Having been informed about the level of savings that are required to be made by local government you can’t but realise how shot full of holes our national economy is. What was normal is now very much the opposite and local government like so many public services will never be the same again.

When you look back the bankers greed did for our economy and now public services are being cut back as a consequence. Add to that the former Labour Government that just kept on borrowing and spending to its last gasp instead of turning off the money tap much earlier and you know where the blame sits. Bankers and socialists, what an odd partnership leading us to this sorry state.