Why we need more Low traffic Neighbourhoods

As far as I can see we are still building new communities and housing estates so they’re car-dependent when clearly we should be doing just the opposite!

I’ve been trying to get my head around another green initiative called ‘Low Traffic Neighbourhoods’ and here’s a good explanation of what they are from Sustrans:-

www.sustrans.org.uk/our-blog/get-active/2020/in-your-community/what-is-a-low-traffic-neighbourhood

Car drivers often get very angry when there are suggestions/plans to reduce car use. Their often irrational response is because they’re addicted to their car which they use for virtually every journey. Indeed, their whole life has been built around them being car-dependent and they want it to stay that way as they know and care little about alternatives. Pedestrians are strange, why walk when you can drive, aren’t these people weird? Cyclists are a damn nuisance who need running off our roads. Horse riders should be in fields. Drivers who follow speed limits are forcing me to take on dangerous overtaking manoeuvres to get past them.

Does pollution not matter to these drivers? Well no, not unless someone in their family has been made ill by airborne pollution. And what about vehicle accidents?, oh they happen to others, not to me. Green issues generally?, oh that’s for politicians to sort out, nothing to do with my car. In reality, the vast majority of vehicle drivers will never volunteer to reduce their car use. They may well buy an electric car (if they are comfortably well off that is) as it may make them feel ‘green’ when actually the production of their ‘green’ car is anything but green!

I suppose it comes down to this. We all want the road we live on and the one our child goes to school on to be car-free and safe but we want every other road to be a vehicle free for all where we can drive however we want and not suffer any consequences.

The approach of the government is to build car-dependent communities as developers like, where they like. It’s for another generation to sort out the mess that poorly planned housing developments are creating. Oh and let’s build more new roads even though we know they just generate more traffic. And the climate change/green agenda?……………………

Editor’s Note – I Drive, Cycle and walk.

Maghull Health Centre – My letter to Champion newspaper

Dear Sir,

I read with a sense of déjà vu your article about the frustrations of MP Bill Esterson regarding the lack of action/urgency within the NHS to rebuild Maghull Health Centre as I and my then Sefton Council Colleagues, in particular Cllr. Geoff Howe, went around very similar circles about this very same project years ago.

That Maghull Health Centre has not been rebuilt in 2022 and for it not to be a fully-fledged NHS Drop-In Centre is a scandal in my view. I ceased to be a Lib Dem Sefton Councillor for Maghull in 2015 but from around 2000 Geoff and I badgered and pushed various local and regional NHS bodies to get on with a significant rebuild of this outdated building only to go through a cycle of yes, no, and maybes year after year.

It culminated in a senior Sefton Council Officer of the time confirming to me that NHS approvals had been given for the project only for me to be then subsequently attacked by the NHS when I made this news public! This must have been around 2010ish.

That Bill Esterson MP is now getting a similar run-around and is at the end of his tether with NHS funding bodies years later is both depressing but sadly unsurprising.

Yours Sincerely

Tony Robertson

Published 30/03/2022

Sefton Borough – Back to the old days & ways!

The East Parishes (Park, Sudell and Molyneux wards) of this Merseyside Borough played second fiddle (or even 3rd) to the coastal communities – Bootle, Crosby, Formby & Southport – from day one of the Borough’s creation in 1974. And after a period when this injustice was righted it seems that the old way of doing things in Sefton has been adopted again.

I raise this as things have been stirring in the Labour Party grasses in recent times as some of their East Parishes Borough and indeed Parish Councillors have found themselves at odds with the Labour-run Borough. It’s led, as far as I can see, to 3 Labour Borough councillors either leaving, being chucked out or deselected.

Obviously, I don’t know the detail of the troubles as I’m not a Labour member and indeed am an opponent of Labour as a Social Liberal of the left. However, recent events have brought me to the conclusion that things have reverted to how they were before I set about changing things back in 1999.

I won a seat on Sefton Council in 1999 in Molyneux ward and it did not take me long to realise that Sefton was all about its coastal communities and the East Parishes were just a bit of an irritant. My view was that this approach was both within the political parties and senior officers of the Council too; it looked to me like settled opinion and nothing would move it, or so it seemed. And then via a run of unrelated political events something that had never happened before took place – a Sefton Council Leader was elected from the East Parishes and it was me! Well if this was not the time to rebalance the Borough then it would never happen.

So I set about challenging the old political and senior officer outlook and at every opportunity banged away along the lines of ‘and what about the East Parishes’ when proposals came forward that excluded them. This approach slowly turned around the oil tanker that was Sefton Council and as a consequence we got Meadows Leisure Centre built and opened in 2010. I think I got what was then a balanced council (no political party with a majority) to look at the East Parishes as an equal partner. However, I stood down as Council Leader in May 2011 having done the job since 2004 and it did not take long for the old ways to start to regain traction. This happened because the Council was going back to the days of its leaders coming from one of the Borough’s political power bases (these had always been Bootle or Southport) and ever since I’ve felt the influence of the East Parishes slipping away. I would add that it was never my wish to make the East Parishes dominant, just simply to ensure they got their fair share.

I ‘left’ Sefton Council in 2015 at the invitation of the Park ward electorate (I’d moved East Parishes wards in 2011) as they’d had enough of me but that movement, back to the old ways, has sadly gained even more traction since and its the cause of the present difficulties. In my view, the 3 East Parishes wards need Borough Councillors who are a pain in the leadership’s neck otherwise the area will not be heard. It may well have taken rather too long for this penny to drop again but clearly, it has now! However, the big problem that the areas 9 Borough Councillors face now is that they don’t have the advantage which I did. That advantage was the then balanced council where the 9 (then Lib Dem members) could be an effective awkward squad with one being the Council Leader!

I wish those who are challenging not only Sefton Council but the political leaders of their own former party well and I hope they find a way to recreate the kind of rebalancing of the Borough that I managed back in the day.

Council tax is an unfair tax

Well, of course, no one has ever been able to say it’s a fair tax but the Northern Agenda article, linked below, makes the unfairness point only too clearly:-

e.manchestereveningnews.co.uk/interface/external_view_email.php?RJ71505719662298712zzzzz64c68a4d3e1794bc99a33b43250a6a9c232f6ba71613cef4688be9e3596964a40e&varId=

Anyone would think that a more fair and equitable way of funding local government had never been thought of or proposed. Oh but hang on, wasn’t it those pesky Liberal Democrats who found what they thought at the time (Charles Kennedy era) was a solution – Local Income Tax – based on the ability to pay? Think it may well have been! Here’s a link about LIT from Institute for Fiscal Studies:-

ifs.org.uk/publications/14006

Now the Lib Dems are not so keen on LIT as the solution to local government financing but, apart from a little tinkering around the rough edges of Council tax, there’s not really much of a political push from any direction to find a local taxation methodology that’s fairer, particularly towards the less well off/less affluent parts of the country.

Too difficult a nut to crack? Fear of the political consequences of proposing a fairer system, if the middle classes don’t like it? Too many memories about the Poll Tax?

Community ‘Fair Deal Campaign’ pits Maghull Labour v Sefton Labour

Having been involved in politics here on Merseyside since 1980, one of the many things I’ve learned is that whilst the Labour Party fight like ferrets in a sack internally they always, always try to put forward a united front in public.

But hey, things may be changing as Maghull Labour are rightly trying to turn the screw on big brother Sefton Labour. You’d expect it to end in tears for Maghull Labour but let’s give them credit for standing up to Sefton Labour. I have a feeling that the Maghull Town Council/Sefton Borough Council relationship may be getting a little fractious.

So what’s the conflict all about? Well, a community ‘Fair Deal campaign’, with Labour-run Maghull Town Council taking the lead, has been launched because, well to put it bluntly, Sefton Council (also Labour controlled) has in my view been diddling the communities of Maghull, Lydiate and Aintree Village* for a few years now

And by the way, for the benefit of any doubt, I’m very much supportive of the campaign. My recent blog posting regarding ‘Double Rating’ makes the point and here’s a link to it:-

tonyrobertson.mycouncillor.org.uk/2022/02/14/double-rating-maghull-lydiate-aintree-a-history-of-ups-and-downs/

I also had a letter published in the North Liverpool Champion newspaper on 16th March on the same subject.

Here are some scans of the campaign leaflet that’s presently being delivered around Maghull, Lydiate and Aintree Village (you’ll need to click on each scan to enlarge for reading):-

As I pointed out in both my blog posting (linked above) and in my letter to the Champion Newspaper, whilst austerity was the reason given for the ‘Double Rating’ being withdrawn in reality the formula for it simply needed adjusting to take into account Sefton Borough Council’s reduced expenditure on its own parks and gardens. The total withdrawal of DR was simply wrong and I opposed Labour’s move to do that when I was a Sefton Councillor because it meant Maghull, Lydiate & Aintree Village council taxpayers were being disadvantaged. Here’s the relevant part of the submission made by Lydiate Parish Council explaining that very fact:-

a) To continue to make the payments but at a lower level commensurate with the reduced standards of grounds maintenance that the Borough has already budgeted for and may well budget for in the future. This option would mean that all of Sefton’s communities would be treated the same by the Borough Council no matter whether the parks and gardens are run by Borough or Parish Council.

Looking at the party politics is interesting because the area of Sefton Borough covered by this campaign is known as the East Parishes and it has 3 Borough Council wards – Park, Sudell and Molyneux. Until recently these 3 wards had 3 Labour members in each (total of 9) but 2 of the councillors (1 in Park, 1 in Molyneux) have parted company with Labour, sitting now as Independents. I suppose the question is what will the 7 East Parishes wards Labour members of Sefton Council do if the issue comes to a vote on the Borough Council? This question assumes, of course, that Labour-run Sefton Council doesn’t capitulate and pay up, which I hope they will.

Anyway, back to the campaign. You’ll have noticed the reference to the ‘New Homes Bonus’, ‘Section 106’ and the 1700 new homes to be built in Maghull from the scanned leaflet. The issue for me here is that as a former Maghull Town Councillor myself, I ran the successful campaign to stop the very same ‘Land East of Maghull’ being developed back in 1998**. I didn’t see Labour-run Maghull Town Council opposing/campaigning against Sefton Council’s most recent and successful bid to build on the land, which they (Sefton) won, almost without a shot being fired! In other words, there’s a certain amount of shutting stable doors after the horse has bolted going on here.

So there you have it, the party political tectonic plates are shifting in Labour-run Sefton and in ways that would have seemed inconceivable not so long ago. My feeling is that all may not be well with Keir Starmer’s seeming bid to take the Labour Party to a centre-right position in UK politics and this may be causing some of the local Labour Party unrest. If all this unrest resolves a great injustice for the East Parishes council taxpayers of Sefton Borough then some good will have come from it.

* I note Melling Parish Council is seemingly not involved in this campaign and wonder why. I say this as at one time Melling PC did get some Double Rating money for the wild-flower meadow they maintained on Melling Rock. Maybe they no longer have responsibility for it?

** That was during the development of what was then called the Sefton’s Unitary Development Plan. The new plan, which this time has approved the building on this vast piece of high-grade agricultural land, is called the Sefton Local Plan. I opposed the Local Plan as a Sefton Councillor (and after I’d been invited to leave the council by the electorate) as this piece of land is high-grade agricultural land that grows the food we eat.

Those in poverty & councils left in Sunak’s £150 lurch

The link below to a Northern Agenda page is both revealing and informative:-

e.manchestereveningnews.co.uk/interface/external_view_email.php?RJ71505719661254712zzzzz64ab6bfc1951a9ec9ce22b275a3623a2dbd1922a018ed047c176281f5d378977b6&varId=

It shows how, with a government made up of the wealthy, a ‘system’ to get a £150 fuel bill relief help scheme is actually aimed at those who pay their council tax bills by direct debit. The poor don’t use/can’t use direct debit so they and the councils who need to get the money to them are left in a bureaucratic mess.

I’ve seen this at first hand via talking to a Sefton Borough resident who is trying to get a payment process set up but who, due to being in poverty, is left to negotiate a methodology with the Council who seem unsure what to do. A number of telephone calls by the resident to the Council have yet to resolve the matter.

Basing a process on what the middle and upper classes do is crass and insensitive and it makes you realise how little the powers that be understand about poverty and the consequences of it.

And as an aside could this payment be seen as a one-off UBI?