Aintree Village Parish Council – It seems that relations with the Labour-run Borough Council are not what what they were under the previous Lib Dem-led Council

I was interested to pick up such concerns that Aintree Village Parish Council seem to have because what it illustrates, in my opinion, is that the now Labour-led Borough Council does not have the same level of commitment to keeping the Parish Council updated and included in matters that the previously Lib Dem-led Borough Council had.

When I represented Molyneux ward with 2 fellow Lib Dem colleagues our aim was to try to keep Melling and Aintree Village Parish Councils in the loop about things affecting their Parishes which crossed our desks/came to our attention. We did that as we always wanted to know how the Parish Council felt about things and whenever possible we would take the views from the Parish Council as being the community view because Parish Councillors are closest to the residents of their Parish. This was a natural thing to do for us Lib Dems because we know that Parish Councils are the bedrock of effective local democracy.

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Things started to go wrong, certainly in Aintree Village, when the ruling Labour Group on Sefton Council voted to close Aintree Library. It’s taken the Parish Council to come up with a plan to try to save the library despite the actions of Sefton’s Labour Council! No wonder things are a little strained and the Labour Borough is getting reminded to keep the Parish Council informed over community matters.

Religious teaching row

The Church of England has recently criticised the government over limited resources being devoted to training religious education teachers, branding it as a scandal that is affecting “an essential part” of every child’s studies. The criticism comes as a Ofsted report finds that more than half of all schools have been failing pupils in their religious education, a subject which the watchdog claims is increasingly important “in an ever more globalised and multicultural 21st century” because of the way it promotes respect and empathy. Ofsted added that children are leaving school with a “very limited understanding” of Christianity.

I picked this up from a Local Government Information Unit briefing and it made me think about my religious education at school. To be honest I can’t really recall any of it at all! What I knew about religions on leaving school I had picked up from my C of E church going (St Andrews – Maghull & St Helens – Sefton Village) and things I had read myself. On that basis the criticism above goes back around 40 years and probably more! Evan as an atheist I can see the value of youngsters gaining some insight into major world religions as what you may call ‘useful information for life’.

By now you will have realised that I walked away from religion, many years ago I would add, but I guess that I did so not because of what I did or did not learn about it all at school but because of my own reading and discussion with friends.

The big test for our society is not what religion we follow (or not) but how tolerant we are of those with differing views and beliefs, how we embrace the diversity of differing views and whether as free thinking individuals we close to take up a religion or not. Other than providing useful information about the value systems of various major religions I see no other need for this to be a part of a youngster’s education; it certainly was not a part of mine but maybe religious readers of this posting would say that contributed towards me becoming an atheist. Now there’s a thought……….

What have the Lib Dems ever done for us?

With thanks to Cllr. Nigel Ashton for this posting

Over the last three years Liberal Democrats in Government have:

•given a £700 tax cut to more than 20 million working people and lifted nearly three million of the poorest workers out of paying income tax altogether
•helped businesses create more than a million jobs
•created a record 1.2 million apprenticeships
•given extra money for the children who need it the most through the £2.5billion pupil premium
•given generous rises in the state pension through our ‘triple lock’ now worth an extra £650 since Labour
•given the poorest two-year-olds and all three-and-four year-olds 15 hours of free childcare per week
•introducing equal marriage for all couples
•announced that all Reception, Year One and Year Two pupils in England will receive free school meals

Primary School Places in Sefton – Why is Labour-run Sefton Council seemingly blocking scrutiny?

Allegations that Labour is stopping a Council Scrutiny Committee from looking into the problems occurring due to a shortage of primary school places in parts of the Borough (particularly Southport & Formby) are being made.

Although the official figures for Sefton Council’s Primary School placements have not yet been published, it is known that many Southport and Formby Primary schools, in particular are full up already – with a rising birth rate putting more pressure on in the coming few years.

Birkdale Lib Dem Councillor Richard Hands, who proposed that the Council’s Children’s Services Scrutiny Committee should study the School Place problems says
“I do not know what Labour are playing at. They have Scrutiny Committees looking at all sorts of issues that the Council can do little about yet they refuse to look into the problem of school place provision which is a number one consideration for young families in many parts of the Borough.

I have been monitoring the pupil numbers for some time and have raised my concerns repeatedly. There over 900 houses being built soon on the Kew estate and the surrounding schools are full. Where are those children going to go? Will we be having to bus children to other parts of the borough?”

Southport councillor Tony Dawson has been asking for the figures on school places and demand for each school all through the summer.

“I have been fobbed off with the most bizarre excuses. Firstly, I was told that the figures were only provisional. Apparently, in Stalinist Sefton Council, some council officers are allowed to see provisional figures but no one else is.

More recently, I have been told I cannot see the figures because the Cabinet Member has not seen them yet. Maybe if the Cabinet Member was as interested in the problem as I and my Lib Dem colleagues are, perhaps we could all share the figures and see what needs to be done to address the problem?!”

Earlier this month, Ainsdale Lib Dem Councillor Haydn Preece caused uproar in the Council Chamber when he declared that the lack of a sensible policy for school places in Southport & Formby meant that we could face a prospect of bussing small children to Bootle where there are hundreds of spare school places.

Liverpool Overhead Railway – Museum of Liverpool talk

Sheila, Jen and I went to a fascinating talk by Sharon Brown the Curator of Land Transport at Liverpool Museum last Saturday. Here are three photos. The first is of the talk from Sharon (seen in the blue dress), the second is of the tunnel mouth where the Overhead Railway actually used to go underground at the south end of the line approaching Dingle Station, the third is a part of the model of the railway in the Museum of Liverpool.

Click on the photos to enlarge them

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Sharon clearly knew her subject and put it over well with a number of slides showing the building of the line in the late 1800’s right through to its closure in 1956. Some in the audience were old enough to recall travelling on the Overhead, locally known as the Dockers Umbrella. The talk was part of Heritage Month.

SAVE OUR LIBRARIES – I brief look at the innovative York solution

I mentioned in a recent posting about Sefton’s appalling library closure programme that I had been to York this summer and had become aware of what that Council is doing to try to bring the costs of running its libraries within the available budget.

York’s solution is innovative and seemingly really positive as its aim is just the opposite of Labour run Sefton. In Sefton Labour is closing 7 libraries unless community groups wish to save them and they are doing it in some of the poorest communities in the Borough! In York the Labour run Council are trying to keep the network of libraries up and running; closing them seems to be the last thing on that Council’s mind!

The unique café/library in York's Rowntree Park

The unique café/library in York’s Rowntree Park

A visit to Rowntree Park in York brought all this to my attention because in that lovely park (which is similar to say to Botanic Gardens or Hesketh Park in Southport) there is a relatively new an innovative facility. It is a café which also doubles as a form of library. It seemed to be hugely popular with park users and with parents of young children in particular as they were in and around it drinking coffee whilst reading to their youngsters. A really fascinating leaning and relaxation experience for all.

But what I also learned via a string of detailed information posters placed in this café/library was that York was setting up a new way of running all its libraries called a Community Benefit Society, in effect a charitable company/organisation.

There was huge amount of information and if I understood it all properly library staff and library users were really up for giving it a go. But what has really got my goat is that Labour run Sefton refused to look at such options that library groups and indeed we Lib Dems have been suggesting where volunteers and paid staff work together to deliver quality library services.

OK it may not work but why on earth simply plump from closures of Libraries without in communities across Sefton without trying out such an innovative solution? Oh, the narrow mindedness of socialism in Sefton really is so stifling!