Library Closures in Sefton – Labour’s rank hypocrisy

Let’s return to that sad affair of Labour closing many of Sefton’s libraries. The only hope for those libraries earmarked for closure under Labour’s plan would be the local campaign groups battling away to save 5 of the 7 libraries i.e. Aintree, Ainsdale, Birkdale, College Road and Churchtown.

Now, only weeks ago at Sefton Council’s budget meeting an amendment was proposed by the Conservative Group on the Council which we Lib Dems supported. The amendment was to use £150,000, of a £1m fund (which Sefton Council had set aside to help with services that had been cut back) to support the efforts of the library campaign groups across the Borough – all the Labour members voted against this sensible idea.

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At last night’s Sefton Central Area Committee what do you think Labour councillors had the brass neck to suggest? Yes, you have guessed it, the beggars suggested using money from the very fund they had opposed using money from to support the College Road Library campaign Group.

Rank hypocrisy just about sums Labour up!

Reactions to Labour run Sefton Council’s Green Belt Grab

Not surprisingly the plans recently unveiled by Labour run Sefton Council to grab more high grade agricultural land to build upon have gone down very badly.

The Champion newspaper’s East Parishes reporter Jim ‘The News Hound’ Sharpe calls the master plan ‘bonkers’.

Dr. John Pugh Lib Dem MP for Southport

Dr. John Pugh Lib Dem MP for Southport

Dr John Pugh the Lib Dem MP for Southport says the plan will create a ‘hollowed out sprawl’.

Maria Bennett of Formby Residents Action Group (Fragoff) says ‘Sefton’s plan is completely flawed’

Tonight at Maghull Town Hall a large number of concerned residents and environmental campaigners mixed in with folks who have seen through Labour’s con-trick of one part of that Party in Sefton promoting the green belt grab whilst the others condemn it, turned out to voice their concerns.

Lib Dem Deputy Leader Simon Hughes MP with Sudell Ward Sefton Cllr. Bruce Hubbard at the site in Maghull where Labour run Sefton Council wants to built 1,600 houses on high grade agricultural land. Bruce's Lib Dem team opposes Labour's plans

Lib Dem Deputy Leader Simon Hughes MP with Sudell Ward Sefton Cllr. Bruce Hubbard at the site in Maghull where Labour run Sefton Council wants to built 1,600 houses on high grade agricultural land. Bruce’s Lib Dem team opposes Labour’s plans as they did last time Sefton Council tried to earmark the site for building land

The meeting was of the first of the quite ludicrous Central Sefton Area Committee i.e. everywhere that is not Bootle or Southport in the Borough. I wondered what would happen as Labour like to hush up and crush up protestors as Aintree Library campaigners found out when they attended a meeting of the former East Parishes Area Committee trying to stop Labour from closing their library.

Like back then the protestors were out in force because they thought that their community leaders were off on a course of action which would damage their community. Well they were right over the Aintree Library (although the community may well have stopped the closure by taking it over themselves) and many, many folks think they are right now to fight Labour every inch of the way over the Green Belt grab.

This is what happened. The campaigners asked 3 questions about the detail of the proposals under Labour’s Local Plan. Did they get any answers? No. My Lib Dem colleagues and I deliberately sat and watched because we wanted to know what the Labour councillors present would do. In effect Labour said they did not know the answers to the questions and would get back to the questioners. Well at least the questioners were not shouted at but answers there were none!

Maghull Town Council – 3 more Labour Councillors resign bringing the total to 7 in just 2 years!

Bizarre is about the best description of what has been happening on Maghull Town Council in recent times but with 7 resignations in 2 years, all from the ruling Labour Group, what other comment could you make?

As an opposition member of the Town Council even my mouth was agape when I heard that another 3 had put their cards in on top of the 4 that had already thrown in the towel. What’s more one of the resigning number was the Council Leader until last week’s AGM (and had been Town Mayor just a year ago) and another had been co-opted onto the Council to replace the first of the 7 Labour Councillor to resign.

The really odd part about these resignations is they all signed up to be local councillors for a period of 4 years yet just half way through that term more than 50% of the 13 Labour members have given up and walked away. Of course, I appreciate that councillors resign because they move away, become ill or have to look after someone close to them who is ill but none of the resigning councillors has pointed to such difficulties.

The other interesting fact is that all 3 of the most recent batch to go are locals from Maghull & Lydiate. If it had been the 3 Bootle Sefton Borough Councillors chucking in the towel you could almost understand it as those poor beggars were just making up the numbers when oops they got elected!

But what could the cause of the resignations be? Could they be upset because Labour run Sefton Council is targeting the Green Belt around Maghull for development? Could it be a massive internal fall-out within the Labour Group? Could it be because the Labour Council has been trying to cut things like the yearly Town firework display? Could it be all these things and more? Oh to be a fly on the wall of a Maghull Town Council Labour Group meeting but you would have to duck the flying blood as it hit the walls!

Maghull Town Council – How many Leaders?!

Labour won the election to take over the running of Maghull Town Council in May 2011 by taking 13 of the 16 seats – we Lib Dems taking the other 3.

Labour’s problem was that it was pretty obvious from the start that they had not expected to take control of the Council and many of them did not want to be Maghull councillors. One came from Crosby, two from Aintree and 3 were and still are Bootle Labour Borough Councillors – all 6 were clearly making up the numbers on the Labour slate rather than being dedicated to the Maghull community.

Since then 4 Labour members (the one from Crosby, the 2 from Aintree and more surprisingly one from Maghull), a quarter of the Council, have resigned and been replaced by 4 new Labour councillors. The first one was via the dodgiest co-option, in my view, you are ever likely to come across and other 3 via by-elections forced upon the ruling party by the opposition.

Also since May 2011 the Town Council has had 4, yes 4, Leaders of the Council. First we had Maurice Byrne, then Caroline Esterson (wife of Sefton Central MP Bill), then Sandra Williams and just last week Patrick McKinley was elected as Leader. This is quite some turn-over and must point to difficulties within the ruling Party. Indeed, the 3rd Leader who only left office at the AGM is not now a chair or vice chair of any committee and she is not replying to my correspondence about FOI requests that seem to be being improperly politically interfered with.

The word on the streets is that the ruling Labour Group is still far from being a happy bunch of campers and that further resignations can’t be ruled out according to my sources.

I don’t think any of us will be surprised if there are more internal ‘difficulties’ within the ruling political group.

Above is how I finished the draft a few days ago but before I published the posting word reached me of another 3 Labour councillors resigning including the last Leader of the Council! More to follow on that I think.

Carla Lane Animals in Need, Melling – Issue of fundraising stall at Maghull Square

I was not able to attend the meeting of Maghull Town Council yesterday evening but as this highly popular local animal charity was proposing to lobby the Council at the meeting I put together the briefing note below for the rest of the Council.

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Dear Council members and Animals Need representatives,

As I will not be at the Maghull TC meeting tomorrow evening when the charity is attending to ask for the Town Council’s support in their fight to continue to hold their fund raising stall somewhere in Maghull’s shopping centre I have put this short note together because I have been trying to help the charity in their hour of need.

When I became aware that the owners (Maghull Group) of the northern side of Maghull’s shopping centre had in effect given the charity notice to quit I lobbied the company to see if I could get them to reconsider. They made it clear that their mind was made up and they would not be allowing the charity to pitch their stall on Maghull Group land in future.

I then spoke a number of times to Margaret Brady of the charity, Jerry McConkey (a Highways Officer at Sefton Council), Alex Scott (a Neighbourhoods Officer at Sefton Council) and passed on the contact details to Margaret Brady of the owners of the southern side of the shopping centre (London and Cambridge Properties).

My hope was that either Sefton would allow the charity to pitch their stall on Sefton Council owned land or that London and Cambridge Properties would.

Sefton were not unsympathetic but then it became clear that any application to pitch a stall on public land on the northern side of the shopping centre (i.e. northern side of Westway) would be objected to by Mason Owen the agents for the Maghull Group. On that basis Sefton via Jerry told me and the charity that if they applied for permission it would in all likelihood be refused due to the anticipated objections from Mason Owen.

After a lot of discussions it became clear to me that the only way forward would be for the charity to make the formal application and then try to appeal against the expected refusal. I think any appeal would need to go via the appropriate Sefton Cabinet member i.e. Cllr. John Fairclough and I have sent a note to John recently telling him to expect the charity to make contact with him. I have not heard back from him as yet.

The last I heard London and Cambridge Properties had not responded to the charity in terms of whether they would allow it to pitch a stall on their land but if there has been any movement here I am sure the charity will update the Council.

I think we all know how well supported this animal charity is and how devastated their supporters are by the recent turn of events. My hope is that the Council will back the charity and try to put pressure on the Maghull Group, Sefton Council and London and Cambridge Properties in an attempt to try to find them a suitable fund raising pitch for their stall.

Best wishes
Cllr. Tony Robertson – 28th May 2013

NEW CHAIRMAN FOR AINTREE VILLAGE PARISH COUNCIL & SOME LIBRARY NEWS

At it’s A.G.M. Aintree Village Parish Council selected a new Chairman, Cllr Peter Gill was elected unanimously. Peter said “I am delighted and honoured to be asked to serve the community of Aintree Village once again. I look forward to the coming year, it will be testing with all the cuts culminating in our campaign to keep Aintree Library open, we are making great strides and are hopeful that we can transfer it to a community run library. I would like to pay tribute to the retiring Chairman Cllr Terry Baldwin, he has been Chairman for eighteen months and has found it quite stressful at times. He, along with other library campaign leaders fought an excellent campaign which is online to keep Aintree Library open. Terry has always been community led, proof being his membership of St John Ambulance, serving for over 50 years.”

Retiring Chairman Cllr Baldwin said “It has been a long 18 months but most of that time I have thoroughly enjoyed serving the residents of Aintree Village. I will be leaving the area in the near future and will take with me some wonderful memories having lived here for over 40 years. I wish the new Chairman Cllr Peter Gill well for the coming 12 months and thank everybody for their support over the last 18 months.”

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No one should underestimate the contribution that Terry Baldwin has made to Aintree Village and the wider community. I count Terry (and indeed Peter Gill) as personal friends. I first came across Terry via his work with St John Ambulance and of course he was given Maghull’s Civic Award some years ago for that work. Whilst Terry has been feeling his age he put everything into trying to stop Sefton Council from closing Aintree Library and if it does become a community run library the credit will be down to him and other parish councillors like Peter Gill. I really do hope that the comrades who decided to close the library do not have the cheek to try to claim that they saved it when the real work was done by Terry and Peter and a small band of determined Aintree Village parish councillors and residents.