Barry will soon be retiring for the second time!

I mentioned in my review of 2010 how highly I regard Barry Smith who has been acting as Interim Town Clerk of Maghull Town Council in recent months.

Barry worked for the Council for 13 years before he retired in 2008 but due to some unfortunate circumstances whereby his successor but one took seriously ill in March 2010 we put a call out to Barry to see if he could help the Council. He agreed to do so despite not being in the best of health himself. Suffice to say that Barry is still unwell and he will be leaving from the Council at the end of January.

So many public servants are unloved by the public yet Barry is a person who you just take to from the off. He is kind, firm and above all determined to try to do his best at all times. There is no doubt that the Council will miss Barry and we wish him all the very best for the future. Men like Barry do not come along often and when they do we should celebrate what they have done as excellent public servants.

Racism raising its ugly head again?

Many years ago when I was cutting my teeth as a trade union officer in Bootle I got into conversation with a fellow trade unionist who also happened to be a Labour Party member. He said something to me then that I have never forgotten, I suppose because it rather shocked me at the time. What he said was that there were more racists in the Labour Party than in the Conservative Party or what was then then old Liberal Party.

I have posted on racism before as I have no time for it but remember the Phil Woolas affair that caused him to be recently chucked out as Labour MP for Oldham East and Saddleworth? Well, if you read the offending literature where he said things about this Lib Dem opponent that were untrue and were the cause of his downfall, the underlying point of the offending comments was clearly of a racial nature.

Now we have Jack Straw stereotyping Asian men in response to the exploitation of young girls in Derby. Come off it, those who exploit young girls in such a way come from all communities and backgrounds. To point to one racial group only smacks of a popularist response to a deeply worrying matter and frankly it clearly raises an issue in an unhelpful racial way.

Sadly, I am beginning to wonder if that long lost trade union colleague of mine was right?

In Prison, in Ashworth and in print

Today, together with colleagues from Maghull in Bloom, I visited both Melling’s Kennet Prison and Maghull/Melling’s Ashworth Hospital. It is an interesting fact that the Parish boundary between Maghull and Melling runs right through the middle of Ashworth Hospital.

We went to pursue working relationships with both organisations so that they can get further involved with Maghull in Bloom. The Prison will be growing flowers for us and Ashworth will continue to make items for us such as planters. I have been to both sites before and remain impressed with the reception we received and the helpfulness of the staff. In Kennet we discussed things with prison officers and offenders who will be growing the plants for us. Frankly, other than for the 18ft fences, it did not feel like a prison but then again it only houses mainly category C offenders. The efforts that are clearly being made to turn the lives around of the offenders by giving them training and self -worth is a credit to the Prison.

A visit to Ashworth Hospital, can be sobering experience as you realise the troubled nature of the patients there but again the dedication of the staff is very uplifting. They deal with some of the most disturbed people in England yet still manage to be very caring and upbeat.

The security precautions at both institutions is significant indeed but at Ashworth the level of security is extremely high. All in all time well spent seeing things that one would not normally see and thanks to the staff of both for making us so welcome.

My final comment today is about a statement in this week’s Champion newspaper (but only the Southport and Formby editions) about an interview with me. Can I say to start off that my relationship with the press is fine and always has been; being misquoted is a rare event to me. However, can I point out that the article about the snow and ice in Sefton on page 4 has me saying ‘The Council only has three snowploughs, but they are not in the best condition’. I think the word ‘not’ has slipped in to the article in error. I have informed the paper of this. Whatever else happened during the cold-snap in terms of Sefton Council’s poor response the condition of the ploughs was not an issue.

Nottingham CCC to play in Southport!

Those who know me realise that I love cricket and because I am from a Nottinghamshire mining community (the one where the greatest fast bowler of all time was born – Harold Larwood of Bodyline fame) my team is Notts.

I don’t get to see cricket much but next summer Notts are to play Lancs at Southport so I hope to be there. My colleague Cllr. Iain Brodie-Browne has already posted on his blog that he hopes that Notts will not be as successful against Lancs as my football team (Mansfield Town) were against Southport earlier this football season. Well he can hope, but Notts are the County Champions. Seriously this should be a good crowd puller and good for the Southport tourist economy.

Did I ever mention Derek Randall’s (Notts modern day cricket hero)  score of 174 in the Centenary Test of March 1977……………………………. England lost that Test but 34 years later we have won the Ashes.

Learning the lessons from the snow and ice

I am pleased to see that Margaret Carney, Sefton’s Chief Executive, has been up front (see Sefton’s Web Site) and agreed with the view of residents and indeed that of Councillors that the Council’s response to the cold-snap was just not good enough.

I have posted on this subject many times throughout the past couple of weeks but most importantly we have residents, councillors and council officers singing from the same hymn sheet across Sefton Borough. The common tune is that we have to do better next time by learning from what went wrong, why it went wrong and what can be done better in future. 

Labour having trouble with facts again

Today we have seen both at a national and local level that Labour are nothing more than rather poor political opportunists.

Nationally, they are trying to distance themselves from the unfortunate VAT rise yet we all know, because Lord Mandleson has told us, that Labour planned a VAT increase had they been re-elected last May!

Locally, here in the East Parishes part of the Borough Labour are putting out a leaflet that carries an article that is without doubt untrue! They say, with regard to children’s  playground funding, “Liberal Democrats wanted to spend the money on Sefton Council play areas which would have excluded the parishes’. In fact what happened was just the opposite of their made-up story. Together with my Sefton Council/Parish Council Lib Dem colleagues and Independent Parish  Councillors, we fought for the money to be made available to the Parish Councils that run their own parks and gardens. My previous post of 16th December 2010 headed ‘Play is vital for the development of children’ gives real story. What did Labour do here? Well apart from claiming credit for projects they have had nothing to do with the development of nothing at all actually.