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!

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.