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!

SAVE OUR LIBRARIES – An update on the 7 closures in Sefton Borough

At present Aintree Library looks to be the only one of the 7 threatened libraries that may have a reasonable chance of surviving Labour’s cull although I understand that last ditch efforts are being made, once again, to pull an iron out of the fire in respect of Birkdale Library.

This is Independent Aintree Village Parish Councillor Terry Baldwin speaking at an outdoor meeting. Terry is highly respected so to see him being told he could not make representations to an Area Committee Committee meeting by Labour Councillors was a low point of the campaign indeed.

This is Independent Aintree Village Parish Councillor Terry Baldwin speaking at an outdoor meeting. Terry is highly respected so to see him being told he could not make representations to an Area Committee Committee meeting by Labour Councillors was a low point of the campaign indeed.

Sadly the other 5 – Ainsdale, Churchtown, Litherland, College Road and Orrell look to be all but dead in Labour’s water.

4 of the 7 down to be culled fought every inch of the way i.e. Aintree, Ainsdale, Birkdale and Churchtown with a later attempt being made to save Collage Road Library in Crosby. We Lib Dems supported all the campaign groups. Can anyone tell me what the Bootle Labour councillors representing the wards served by Orrell and Litherland Libraries did to stop their branches from closing?

Cllr. Andrew Blackburn fighting for Aintree Library

Cllr. Andrew Blackburn fighting for Aintree Library

Aintree is interesting as the campaign to save it was run very much by Aintree Village Parish Council, supported by Melling Parish Council some local community groups and prominent local business. It has been fronted by the redoubtable Ratepayer Parish Councillors Peter Gill and Terry Baldwin whom I have praised before and have a great deal of respect for.

Cllr. Peter Gill

Cllr. Peter Gill

As the campaigns got going I attended rallies and meetings in support of Aintree Library as did my local Lib Dem colleagues Bruce Hubbard and Andrew Blackburn, whilst Aintree’s Labour ward councillors did not know what to do as it was their party proposing the closure of Aintree Branch Library and the other 6.

The proposal now is for Aintree Library to go forward as a form of chartable trust funded mainly by Aintree Village Parish Council. Melling Parish Council may help fund it to a small degree as well but they have not promised long-term financial support, I understand.

The Library will be renamed and it will be run by volunteers from the local community. A coffee shop within the building is a possibility.

Sefton Council will, I understand, provide books and internet access but that’s about it.

The detail of this is presently being worked up but if all goes according to plan Aintree Library could well be up and running in its new guise by the end of the year.

Separately, I went to York a couple of weeks ago and a visit to Rowntree Park provided evidence of a totally different approach to the funding and provision of libraries in that Council’s area. I will post about what seems to be a far more enlightened way of doing things in York soon.

Litherland Library – A call to save it

Readers of this blog site will know how I and my Lib Dem colleagues have tried to save the 7 threatened libraries in Sefton from Labour’s axe. 3 Library campaign groups in Southport (Churchtown, Birkdale & Ainsdale) together with one in Aintree have recently been putting together plans to run the libraries in a different way to try to save them. So far only Aintree seems to be making headway under the leadership of my good friends Peter Gill and Terry Baldwin and the team they have put together. I am not sure what has happened to the campaign to save College Road Library in Crosby.

Sadly, the picture continues to look bleak other than for Aintree at present.

This was our Lib Dem Team campaigning outside Litherland Library earlier this year

This was our Lib Dem Team campaigning outside Litherland Library earlier this year

I say all this by means of an update and I also publish below a plea for Litherland Library (built in 1937) which came my way very recently following someone now living many miles away hearing of the demise of his old library in Litherland. It is in the form of a letter to the Leader of the Council.

Shelving with style at Litherland library

Shelving with style at Litherland library

*****

I owe Litherland Library an incalculable debt of gratitude. As a child it was a treasure trove, sparking a love of books, opening my eyes to the world and fostering an intellectual curiosity which has remained with me throughout my life.

Litherland and Linacre wards include some of the most severely deprived urban communities – not just in Sefton, but in the whole of Britain – on a range of measures including child poverty and adult educational attainment.

A good library is widely acknowledged to be far more than simply a repository for books. Far more, even, than a social and information hub – important as that is in many less privileged communities. More than forty years in primary education have convinced me – if I had any doubt – that a well-run library with an imaginative programme of activities from pre-school story groups, to author visits and senior citizen reminiscence – can change lives.

An accessible, local library is an engine for aspiration and social mobility.

It is heartening that so many communities within Sefton have sprung into action with imaginative proposals to preserve affordable library services in their area. Nowhere in the borough needs and deserves a thriving local library more than the communities around Litherland Library. It would be a tragedy if, for want of foresight and imagination, future generations were to be deprived of a facility which has served the community so well for almost eighty years.

The Leader of the Council has expressed his willingness to listen. Even at this late stage it is not too late to reconsider.

Carved stone above the door to Litherland Library

Carved stone above the door to Litherland Library

Aintree Davenhill – Official Reopening following rebuild

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I was delighted to be invited to the formal reopening ceremony yesterday in the presence of the Countess of Wessex. Whilst I no longer represent Aintree Village I am told that my efforts in pushing for the School’s rebuild were remembered.

When I was first elected to serve Molyneux Ward (which includes Aintree Village) in 1999 I picked this up as a major issue to be pursued along with the rebuilding of the Oriel Drive GP practice building. Thankfully both have been successfully completed.

I met with Sefton’s then Director of Education in 1999 and followed it up with further lobbying at every opportunity. Finally, the pushing and shoving worked but the real effort was made by Aintree Ratepayers Association and Aintree Parish Council all I did was to get those in control of the local purse strings to take notice and prioritise the School’s rebuild.

The event yesterday was a great success with much singing by the children of Davenhill. A good day indeed.