Labour’s Green Bin Tax is finally to be withdrawn – Lib Dem campaigning wins the day!

Liberal Democrats are cock-a hoop at Sefton Council’s proposed U-Turn on the £46 Green Bin Tax.

The Council was proposing to charge this amount to raise £1 million per year from 2014-2015 and Labour councillors voted for it at Sefton’s February 2013 budget meeting.

A green bin mountain, Cllr. Bruce Hubbard, and a huge pile of petitions opposing Labours Green Bill tax for Sefton

A green bin mountain, Cllr. Bruce Hubbard, and a huge pile of petitions opposing Labours Green Bill tax for Sefton

The Bootle Labour Councillors, who were planning to impose this back door 3 per cent Council Tax rise, mostly on Southport, Formby and Maghull residents, have ‘turned turtle’ after a relentless Lib Dem campaign which has seen Labour suffere the biggest by-election loss in the country in the past 3 years partly as a result of this issue. In July there was a 26 per cent swing from Labour to the Lib Dems in the two Maghull Town council wards that make up Sefton Council’s Sudell Ward.

Southport Councillor Tony Dawson, who started off the campaign with a survey in Hope Street, Southport, in May, is presenting his petition forms to the all-Labour Cabinet on Thursday. Thousands of residents from both Maghull and Southport returned surveys, rejecting the Green Bin charge by a factor of 50 to one. A report to the Council’s Cabinet for its meeting on Thursday now suggests that the Council should abandon the charge plan.

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The proposed Green Bin Tax was always an idea which did not add up. Labour refused to allow the Council’s Scrutiny Committee to consider the proposal in January. They forced it through the Council’s budget meeting in February without even trying to find a clue as to whether or not people would be willing to pay a charge for Green Bin emptying. They were prepared to throw away over a million pounds wasted on the purchase of the Green Bins which people would refuse to use and discard if the charge had come in.

It seems that Bootle’s Labour councillors were originally prepared to see thousands of tonnes of ‘green waste’ stuffed into grey waste bins, leading to the Council being ‘stung’ with massive extra charges for landfill. They were prepared to see a rise in fly-tipping all over the borough. No wonder the people of Maghull turned against them so massively in the July by-elections.

There are still considerable concerns as to what precisely Labour plan to do to replace their planned Green Bin Tax. The report to Cabinet is almost ‘back of an envelope’ stuff and contains no financial information whatsoever. But that can be looked at over the next few months. The abandonment of the Green Bin Tax proposals, which disproportionately-hit Southport and Maghull residents, is a fantastic victory for the constant Lib Dem campaign over the summer.

SAVE OUR GREEN BELT – Ducking the issue!

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I could not resist this so took a photo. It is the small fish pond in Bootle Town Hall and as luck would have it when I took this photo the 3 yellow (Lib Dem ducks) were all in a row, whilst Peter Dowd’s (Labour) red duck had been captured by a couple of green ones. I presume the green ducks are Green Belt/environmental campaigners looking to hole poor old Peter below the water line because of Labour run Sefton Council’s highly unpopular draft Local Plan.

SAVE OUR GREEN BELT – Sefton/West Lancs liaison or not!

Readers will know I have long been critical of Labour run Sefton Council’s approach to its Local Plan and the present public consultation which will almost certainly lead to high grade agricultural land being lost forever under concrete and tarmac. As an environmental campaigner I am utterly horrified.

But one of my related concerns, which I expressed at a Sefton Council meeting not so long ago, was with regard to my concern about the lack of detailed joint working with West Lancashire Borough Council as the two councils have been putting their neighbouring Local Plans together. So, when an e-mail recently hit my in box telling me that West Lancs has concerns about Sefton’s Draft Local Plan I think you will understand why I have worried about what I see as seemingly superficial liaison between the Councils. The e-mail was directing me to a letter sent by Planners at West Lancs Council to Planners at Sefton. It is rather long so I am only copying the pertinent points:-

“there are three areas of concern that West Lancashire Borough Council would like to raise with Sefton Council and request that Sefton Council look at how potential impacts could be mitigated through the Sefton Local Plan or that a particular allocation be reconsidered.
Firstly, there are a number of proposed development allocations (in Policies SR4 and SR5) that are located adjacent, or very close, to the borough boundary with West Lancashire, particularly in the Southport, Churchtown, Ainsdale and Formby areas. While West Lancashire Borough Council does not object to these allocations, we would wish to ensure that all potential impacts of these sites on land and communities within West Lancashire have been considered and that policy requirements for mitigation for any negative impacts on the West Lancashire side of the boundary are included within the Sefton Local Plan.
Secondly, those same allocations have the potential to generate fairly significant traffic travelling through West Lancashire on the A570 and/or the local moss roads in the Western Parishes. Policy SR10 is supported when it prioritises “Improved access to Southport from the east [A570 corridor]” but West Lancashire Borough Council would welcome further detail or discussion on what these improvements may be, especially where the improvements are needed within West Lancashire. In particular, the impact of increased traffic on the A570 on Ormskirk must be considered, as there is already significant congestion within Ormskirk and through-traffic travelling between Southport and the M58 contributes to this. Indeed, one of the reasons that the West Lancashire Local Plan 2012-2027 does not focus more development in the Ormskirk area is the added congestion this would likely cause, and so West Lancashire Borough Council would have concerns if additional traffic generated in Sefton were to add to this congestion in Ormskirk. Regard should also be had to the forthcoming West Lancashire Highways & Transport Masterplan from Lancashire County Council on this matter.
Thirdly, West Lancashire Borough Council wishes to express concern regarding the allocation of the two sites to the north of Lydiate as reserve housing sites (SR4.47 and SR4.48). These sites would be released from the Green Belt and, in the long-term, would likely be developed. The release of this land from the Green Belt would close the strategic Green Belt gap between Maghull / Lydiate and Aughton / Holt Green. The village of Holt Green to the south of Aughton is only 1.5 km from the existing built up area of Maghull/ Lydiate. The release of these sites from the Green Belt would reduce this gap to less than 1 km. The gap to the main built-up area of Aughton would be reduced to 2 km. As such, given the potential impact on the purposes of including land within the Green Belt (in particular that of preventing neighbouring towns from merging into one another), West Lancashire Borough Council would ask Sefton Council to reconsider the allocation of these sites and review whether alternative sites would have less of an impact on the purposes of the Green Belt, for example, sites on the western side of Maghull which do not form part of a strategic gap and are partially contained by the existing built-up area. It is West Lancashire Borough Council’s view that the release of sites SR4.47 and SR4.48 would be better considered as part of a cross-boundary strategic Green Belt review given that it affects a strategic gap between two settlements in separate authorities.”

Now, does this or does it not indicate a lack of detailed joint working? I think I know the answer as will other environmental campaigners.

With regard to points being made by West Lancs Council a couple are fascinating. Regarding their 2nd point i.e. ‘Improved access to Southport from the east’. Why on earth does that need spelling out to West Lancs? Are they really saying that they have not heard of the project to reconnect the Southport/Wigan and Ormskirk/Preston railway lines at Burscough or the long talked about Ormskirk road by-pass! And on their 3rd point they clearly have concerns about the two ‘reserved’ development sites in Lydiate and the effect that building on these sites will have because it could well ‘close the strategic Green Belt gap between Maghull / Lydiate and Aughton’.

My fears about Sefton not working closely with West Lancs over the Local Plan seem to be coming true but bearing in mind the ridiculous Merseyside Joint Authority proposals, which do not include West Lancashire (see my guest posting from Cllr. Nigel Ashton of yesterday), should I be surprised? We seem to have an invisible ‘Berlin Wall’ being built around Merseyside and it will be to the detriment of both Sefton and West Lancashire’s communities.

More Leeds Liverpool Canal shots in Lydiate

Continuing my irregular look at the Leeds Liverpool Canal in Sefton here are 3 shots, all taken in Lydiate.

The first two are taken from our garden and they feature the Pride of Sefton II barge which I have blogged about previously and which is run by a charitable trust. The last photo I took a few days ago of Lydiate Hill Bridge (otherwise known as Billy’s Bridge) looking back towards Lydiate.

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Parish Councils and Planning applications

I was just a little taken aback when I picked up Private Eye edition 1346 to find Balcombe Parish Council in the sights of this respected investigative publication because it had not opposed the drilling associated with fracking when it had been asked to comment on the planning application by West Sussex Council, the planning authority.

An internet search for Balcombe PC brings up quite a few hits, which is hardly surprising based on the amount of national media attention this rural community has been getting recently.

It seems that Private Eye’s jab at Balcombe Parish Council is on the money because a BBC web site posting records the Parish Council apologising for their error of judgement.

This incident must be a wake up call for all Parish Councils not to be superficial or disinterested in planning applications that could have a significant or detrimental affect on their community.

I sit on two Parish Councils. One (Lydiate) has a list in front of it of every plan submitted in the Parish since the previous meeting of the Parish Council. The other (Maghull) hardly ever discusses planning applications at all these days. Indeed, whilst not on the scale of Balcombe, Maghull failed, or more accurately effectively seemingly refused, to discuss a hugely controversial planning application for a development on a piece of urban green space (Damfield Lane) in the Town not so long ago and this despite being asked to do so on 3 occasions by former Cllr. Cliff Mainey, present Cllr. Andrew Blackburn and me!

Planning applications, most of which will be of little consequence, have to be given serious consideration or surely a Parish Council can find itself being accused of failing in its duty to represent its community well.