Community clubs for children with disabilities

There is no doubt that such clubs are important both for the social development of the young people and indeed as a short form of respite for the families of the youngsters.

Due to huge financial problems affecting Sefton Council (and every other local authority locally) it is likely that the traditional youth centres run by the Council will cease to be viable. Some are not well used being empty for long periods of each week but even if this is the case the facility will be used for odd youth sessions and for disability clubs each week. But if the youth centres become non-viable as it seems they will how do we find sustainable ways of keeping youth facilities going in our diverse communities across the Borough. That is the challenge that Sefton Council faces over the coming weeks and months and tough it will be!

I am keen to prioritise efforts to help the disability groups in particular. Maybe they can meet in in other community buildings be they owned by the Council, churches or other community groups. I have certainly made this view well known to the Council officers who will be running the review of more cost effective youth services across the Borough and I have spoken with many parents of disability affected youngsters.

These are tough times so we need to be innovative to keep youth facilities going.

National Trust, British Waterways & the Pride of Sefton

I have been a member of the Trust for many years, together with my wife, and yesterday their 2011 handbook dropped through the letterbox. The work that the Trust does is vital and whilst I realise that their Leadership has had some troubles over recent years the organisation is good for the heritage of the UK. Locally, the Trust has a big influence on some of Sefton’s excellent coastline as it is a land owner in Formby

I hear that there is still some talk of British Waterways being turned into a National Trust type organisation, it will be interesting to see whether this comes off as we have a considerable length of the Leeds Liverpool Canal running through Sefton Borough. And on the subject of this canal there is an excellent charity called the Pride of Sefton which runs two narrow boats locally that are very disabled friendly. I went to the launch of their second boat last year and impressive boat it is. The kind people who run the charity, which Sefton Council has supported with grants in the past, have invited me to have a trip on one of their boats and I hope to take them up on that offer later in the year.

Appalling Cuts!

There is no other word for it in terms of the savings that Sefton Council made last night. Voluntary and community Groups were hit and so were Youth Centres to name but a few areas where cuts in funding were voted through.

As I have said many times we are in this mess because of the last Labour Government. They borrowed far more than was sensible, they spent far more than we had and they did nothing to sort out the bankers who finally all but made us bankrupt. Now we are all facing the music, or are we?

Here in Sefton Labour have drifted off into a fantasy world where the savings do not have to be made, money is still being promised to anyone who asks for it and they still want to borrow more for projects the Council can’t afford. That was the road to ruin for Liverpool City Council in the Militant era and it seems it is the direction of travel for Sefton Labour Party.

 ‘Closure caused by Labour’ is now firmly stamped on many important community facilities that are to be lost. We are only in this mess because of what they did or did not do when in Government yet they pretend it has nothing to do with them!

Coulson, Johnson, Balls and Militant

I could never quite fathom why Cameron stuck with Coulson as it was always going to end in tears because of that News of the World phone tapping issue. Judgement has clearly been lacking at number 10!

As for Johnson going, I was as surprised as everyone else. I always thought he would have been the best person to lead Labour after Brown had gone because of his communication skills and common touch. Not quite a Charlie Kennedy in that regard but a far better communicator with the public than Miliband. By the way, if you spell check Miliband the first offering is Militant! Johnson is a sad loss to the political landscape.

Balls will seemingly be leading a lurch to the left so maybe this will give some hope to those inclined to the kind of policies that Militant once pursued on Merseyside. We have certainly noticed that shift in Sefton’s Labour Party already i.e. denial of reality, promising things that there is no money to pay for, proposing things that will bankrupt the Council etc.

Children’s Centres – Council officers sound warning bells

I think it is fair to say that many of us on the Council were surprised when the previous Labour Government launched phases 2 and 3 of Children’s Centres. It is not they were not desirable but we felt that they would not be financially unsustainable. Sadly, that concern/view has risen to the surface over the last week or so. By the way Phase 1 Children’s Centres were targeted at deprived communities, which was the stated aim of the national project originally.

Now Sefton Council senior officers have told Council members that there will, in their view, not be enough money in 2011/12 to run the Phase 2 and 3 Children’s Centres and that by implication they think that only Phase 1 Centres can be funded. It is this stark fact put before us that all members of Council have to consider. If Council Officers are right (and we are presently investigating things) then the Council could only keep the Phase 2 and 3 Centres open by ceasing funding elsewhere within the Council and moving the money to fund the Centres. However, the Council has already made savings of £26m for the 2011/12 year and it needs to make a further £17m for that same year to balance its books. It is for this reason that senior officers have said there will be no money to run the Phase 2 and 3 Centres. The Lib Dem Group, on balanced Sefton Council where no party has a majority, is presently looking at all options before it but the honest answer to concerns is that finding the huge amount of money needed to keep the Phase 2 and 3 open is a monumental task. A more likely possibility is to try to save some of what they presently deliver. It is this that we are investigating.You may be told that the Council does not need to make the savings (by Labour) but if you are this is untrue. The Council has to set a legal budget that balances by March of this year and to do that it is estimated that it needs to reduce spending by the £17m mentioned above on top of the £26m savings already made. Please beware of anyone offering to save the Centres as the only way that can be done is by extra millions of Pounds being found. Unfortunately Phase 2 and 3 Children’s Centres are under pressure and closing across the UK due to the economic crisis affecting the Country.

More community facilities being lost, on top of many jobs, all because of Labour’s economic madness whilst in Government! When will it end?

In terms of progressing this issue to define what will be the outcome I think that will take more time for us all to understand the financial pressures, the potential for more cost effective delivery of some services etc. More water to go under this bridge I would suggest.

Walking the Lakes, Dales etc.

It’s that time of year when I start to think of the nights starting to get shorter and the days slowly warming up. Time to consider walking trips.

Twice a year a mate of mine and I (there were 4 of us once but two sadly fell off the perch) go on walking/canoe trips. The older we get the less energetic we are and the pull of a country pub can be very strong indeed. We normally go for 3 or 4 days leaving families behind, its been like this for more than 25 years!

We go to the Lake District to canoe but often elsewhere on walking trips. Living in Maghull with the motorway network so close you can be miles away within an hour or so.  We go to the Yorkshire Dales, Derbyshire Dales, North Wales, Shropshire and up in the Pennines.

Come on Keith get your thinking cap on, we need to make some decisions so that we can look forward to days without snow, ice and bitter cold.