Co-Options onto Parish Councils

My heart always sinks when I see a Parish Council using its power of co-opting a person onto its Council. The power is used to fill a vacancy amongst the Parish Councillors caused by death, illness, disqualification, resignation etc. of an incumbent councillor. It’s never a good sign to see co-option taking place, in my view, because it means that local democracy is not working well and no one wants stand for election to fill the vacancy via a by-election.

My personal view is that this power should be withdrawn as it should have no place in a modern democracy.

Don’t get me wrong I’ve been on a Parish Council when co-options have taken place and yes I have gone along with them in the past. But the last time one came up on Lydiate Parish Council I voted against the co-option, not because I had a problem with the person concerned, how could I – knew nothing of them, but because I have grown to realise that co-option is not something I can continue to support. If someone is willing to be co-opted then they should also be willing to stand in a by-election where all the electorate of the Parish or ward of the Parish gets the opportunity to vote them in or not so long as more than one candidate stands for the vacancy of course.

I know co-option is favoured by many associated with Parish Councils because it saves on by-election costs but just think on that a minute because it’s side stepping democracy is it not?

And what made me think of this matter again now? Seeing a public notice for a Parish Councillor vacancy on Aughton Parish Council and along side it an agenda for a Parish Council meeting which had an item on it associated with making a co-option. I’m not trying to single out Aughton Parish Council by the way (it may well be one of the best Parish Councils in England for all I know) as co-option is common-place across many Parish Councils in England but I am saying that the practice should be brought to an end.

Maghull – Sefton takes action at Green Lane over 11 years of car sales

Well this has been one very, very long saga indeed but at last Sefton Council has taken what looks to be effective action.

I think my first involvement in this issue will go back to around 2007 when a Liverpool Road South resident contacted me in what was my Sefton Councillor capacity back in those days. The complaint was that the ‘Hammer Head’ at the end of Green Lane was being used for commercial car sales and could I help get it stopped/addressed? I blogged about the matter back in March 2011:-

tonyrobertson.mycouncillor.org.uk/2011/03/26/the-strange-story-of-the-green-lane-car-sales/

Subsequently I contacted Sefton Highways quite a number of times to see if they had come up with any solutions but I got the distinct impression we were all going around in circles. One resident even suggested to me that Knowsley Council had addressed such issues by using Anti Social Behaviour laws but Sefton were not keen on taking that route.

What it seemed to come down to was that Sefton Highways were saying that a car sales company could sell up to 2 vehicles in one location on the public highway and no one could stop it, or words to that effect. When I pointed out that there were usually 3 or 4 cars for sale on Green Lane I was told that they were being sold by two separate companies so Sefton’s hands were still tied.

I then ceased to be a Sefton Councillor for Park Ward in 2015 (and had moved from Maghull to Lydiate) and whilst the car sales were still on going the complaints, to me at least, had stopped. However, I retained an interest in the matter and discussed it with one of the present Sefton Councillors for the Ward.

Then out of the blue about 4 weeks ago Sefton Council had a contractor out in Green Lane installing parking restrictions. Well I thought to myself 11 years on and a solution has finally been found, who said that the wheels of local government turn very slowly!

Here’s a couple of photos of the end result:-

Ormskirk – Trouble at Council meeting leads to Police being called over Planning objections

The Liverpool Echo has the story on this web site – see link below:-

www.liverpoolecho.co.uk/news/liverpool-news/west-lancashire-local-plan-police-15141325

Planning applications, particularly those for vast new urban housing estates on what has to date been Green Belt and/or high grade agricultural land, always causes huge public upset. We’ve seen it neighbouring Sefton Borough in Formby, Southport and Lydiate/Maghull as is recorded on this blog site numerous times.

Having been on a Borough Planning Committee my thoughts are this. Local people do not have enough control over how their communities are developed, the planning system is far too complicated and difficult for ordinary folk to engage with and Councils are poor at engaging with their own residents.

As I’ve have also said time and time again there is a huge disconnect between planning and environmental policy making with the environment usually taking 2nd place in the process.

But probably more than anything else I bet that the house building that is planned for West Lancashire will, like in Sefton Borough, fail to meet the actual needs of local people anyway. More 3, 4 and 5 bedroomed properties when the need is almost bound to be for social housing, smaller properties & bungalows/single level properties. The land will be sacrificed, often land that grows the food we eat, but even then housing need in the real world will sadly not be met.

No wonder folk get angry with the system!

With thanks to Roy Connell for the lead to this posting

Liverpool – Former Labour councillor joins Lib Dems

The Liverpool Echo has the story on its web site – see link below:-

www.liverpoolecho.co.uk/news/liverpool-news/liverpool-councillor-who-quit-labour-15135059

Extract from article – “I think Labour have got really complacent in Liverpool and we need councillors to hold them to account.”

Formby – Locals push Bootle Town Hall bosses all the way in attempt to save steet trees

Formby folk are not ones to take decisions they don’t like or think may be wrong on the chin. And things have been hotting up in the village shopping centre in recent times where more beautiful mature trees are in line to be cut down by big brother Sefton Council in Chapel Lane – trees like this one:-

Formby Parish Council were amongst those leading the charge on behalf of angry local Formby folk and they even engaged their own tree expert to see if a more positive solution to keep and preserve the trees could be found.

I’m an environmental campaigner at heart so it’s probably no surprise to anyone that knows me that I see the cutting down of mature trees as a last resort after all other possibilities have been exhausted, especially trees that have been a part of the local street scene for decades.

As I type this posting it seems that all potentially viable options may indeed have been exhausted and sadly Sefton Council plans to remove the elderly street trees in October with Formby Parish Council providing funds for new trees to be planted.

Here’s a link to a page on Formby Parish Council’s web site about the trees:-

www.formbyparishcouncil.org.uk/index.php/latest-news/75-trees-on-chapel-lane

With thanks to Chris for the lead to this story.

Cycling safely – what are the issues?

Should all cyclists be made, by the law, to wear helmets like car drivers are made to wear seat belts? This link to the BBC web site discusses differing views on this issue:-

www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-45312756

My own view is that for adults the jury is out on this question but for children the matter is very clear, they should always wear a helmet. I always wear one, preferably in a bright colour as it helps other road users see you as well as offering some protection in case of an accident or fall. I’ve just bought one with a detachable visor and rear flashing red LED. The visor is great as it means I can keep my specs on and have protection from the sun. Wish I’d bought one like this ages ago; the visor is useful in the rain too.

Why do some cyclists ride on pavements? I try not to do this unless it is to avoid a dangerous junction because the most important thing on the public highway is the pedestrian. Also, I find pavement riding hazardous. Bouncing up and down kerbs at junctions, vehicles and pedestrians exiting driveways obscured by hedges and fences. I know that some cyclists ride on pavements because they fear traffic on the road but to my mind it’s safer on the road for cyclists.

And what about potholes? They are probably the greathest danger to cyclists as avoiding them or indeed hitting them can put you in conflict with traffic. My way of dealing with them is to be looking 20 to 30 yards ahead and to be very wary of puddles as they can hide potholes. Best to cycle more slowly on poor roads or even to avoid such roads as I do with the likes of Bold Lane in Aughton.

And what about cycle paths? Great if they are reasonably well maintained and have logical starting and ending points BUT. One ‘but’ is that many are not well maintained and that encourages cyclists, particularly those who wish to travel at speed, not to use them. This in turn frustrates vehicle drivers who, if they are not cyclists themselves, can’t understand why the cyclist slowing them down is not on the adjacent cycle path. The other ‘but’ is that often cycle paths begin and end in odd or even unsafe places or because they run for just short stretches of routes and cyclists are on and off them like a yo-yo. Coming on and off cycle paths into traffic is dangerous and the UK has great deal more to do to make cycling much safer via the development and extension cycle paths/routes.

An example of poor cycling facilities is the A59 from Ormskirk to Switch Island. You have to get out of Ormskirk well into Aughton before there’s a cycle path and when you reach it there’s both a pavement and cycle path side by side. Trouble is the pavement is well overgrown and the cycle path is rutted. It then gets much better until you reach Robins Island where through Lydiate and Maghull there’s no cycle path/safe cycle route at all until you reach the last half mile coming out of Maghull towards Switch Island. Thankfully Sefton Council has an eye to doing something about this but its not going to happen quickly.

Why don’t some cyclists wear bright clothes all the time and/or use lights in the dark? I really don’t know, maybe they have a death wish or in the case of teenage lads its probably not cool to look safe so they would rather be at risk as their mates approve of that. For goodness sake unless you are nuts put on some bright day-glow clothes; it’s called being safe!

Do car drivers hate cyclists? Well some car drivers hate anything that stops them driving around like a crap Formula 1 driver. But just think who are the most important on the road? – 1 pedestrians, 2 cyclists, 3 buses, 4 everything else!

Why do cyclists run red lights? Because they are trying to get themselves killed? Because it makes them feel cool? Because like many vehicle drivers they are in too much of a hurry? Take your pick but as a cyclist and driver I have no sympathy with cyclists who jump red lights.

Cycle in the gutter you are in my way say angry car drivers? No cyclists don’t cycle in gutters because they are too dangerous! Dropped grids broken kerb stones etc. Most cyclists will cycle a couple of feet away from the kerb.

Why do cyclists take up too much room where the carriageway is narrow? Because if they try to make the passing possibilities greater mad drivers will try to push past them causing danger. I will usually make the gap impossible for a vehicle to pass me where the road is narrow such as at pedestrian refuge islands. Drivers need to pass cyclists with care leaving as much room as possible. I saw a warning sign on the Kirkstone Pass in Cumbria the other day saying drivers need to leave 1.5m of space when they pass a cyclist.

Why do cyclists sometimes cycle in packs side by side? Don’t know really, would never do it on a busy road myself as it causes congestion but I guess some cyclists can be just as inconsiderate as some drivers. Lets be honest inconsiderate drivers who also cycle are probably also inconsiderate cyclists.

I love cycling, I used to cycle miles when I was a young lad living in Rochdale with Nigel Collison. Then as I got older I fell out with cycling and only got back into it in my late 50’s. It’s great exercise and you actually see things rather than speeding past them in a vehicle. Cycling fits with my love of taking photographs too as I can stop pretty much where I want which clearly you can’t do in a car. Oh and its good for the environment and for local journeys much cheaper than using a car.

Go on give it a go, but please cycle safely.