UKIP – Their candidate withdraws at last minute from Maghull North Ward by-election

It is very unusual for a candidate to withdraw from an election having being validly nominated. Yet that is just what has happened in the soon to be held Maghull Town Council North ward by-election; one of 3 Town Council vacancies caused by Labour resignations as a consequence of their present civil war in the Sefton Central constituency

What’s also odd is that the very same UKIP candidate, who also stood in Sefton Council’s Park Ward in 2012, was pictured with Labour MP Bill Esterson a few weeks ago in the Aintree and Maghull Champion.

It’s a funny old world.

Sefton Council – The lack of scrutiny of the Executive (Cabinet)

My Leader on Sefton Council, Cllr. Iain Brodie-Browne, has previously raised this issue in the context of all of the Council’s Overview and Scrutiny Committee Chairs being held by Labour councillors when the Council is also Labour run.

The party political system and party loyalty can clearly get in the way of in-depth scrutiny so having those in charge of the scrutiny being from the same party as those they are scrutinising is not ideal. Indeed, it is often the case in local government that those doing the scrutiny are scrutinising their own party political bosses! Of course the opposite could also be true in that opposition politicians could act irresponsibly in a scrutiny role if they are looking to score points rather than genuinely scrutinise things.

In Parliament the Chairs of Select Committees are from all parties no matter which party or parties are in power and this seems to work well. For example, in the present Parliament, we have seen Labour chairs of Select Committees sensibly pushing at issues such as big corporations and their financial responsibilities. All in all I think we generally see the chairs of Parliamentary Select Committees as acting reasonably impartially.

Returning to Sefton Council, the problem is that the executive (Cabinet) is not only all Labour but all 7 of them represent wards within the Bootle Constituency. The need for serious scrutiny of their work is therefore required for geographical reasons on top of the usual reasons for scrutiny.

My point in raising this again now is that at the last Sefton Council meeting the chairs of Overview and Scrutiny Committees all submitted written reports of what their Committees had been looking into over the past 12 months. The reports were accepted but they were, in my view, hardly an exercise in holding the Cabinet to account. One report in particular made me wonder as it said things like:-

‘have built strong relationships with the four Cabinet Members whose portfolios are with our terms of reference.’

‘we have continued to welcome update reports from Cabinet Members’

‘the Committee are briefed on current Cabinet Member activities.’

‘It allows Committee to make judgements and offer assistance to the Cabinet Members where they agree it’s required.’

Is that what we want to see? Whilst there seems to be a good working relationship between the scrutineers and those being scrutinised, surely that is not what scrutiny is all about? To my mind Cabinet Members need to be looking over their shoulders at times wondering if they are going to be challenged and knowing that the scrutiny committees really do leave no stone unturned.

Sorry, cosy scrutiny on a one party run Council seems nothing much like scrutiny at all to me and having opposition politicians in control of some scrutiny functions is clearly required.

Lydiate Parish Council’s boundary sign is KO’d

A knock on my door around 6.30pm yesterday told me that there had been a road accident on Southport Road down by the Maghull boundary and that Lydiate’s boundary sign had copped for it!

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I went to look and whilst one of the poles was mangled the sign was OK. Sefton Security and the Police were there and said that a contractor was coming to take the sign away as it was dangerous. I took an executive decision and unbolted the boundary sign and have it in my back garden because having been through such before in Maghull (Melling Lane) the sign never subsequently resurfaced and had to be remade.

I will pass in on to Lydiate Parish Council as they paid for it to be put up a few years ago. The Parish Council will have to fix up with Sefton to get it put back up when a new pole has gone in.

My understanding of the accident is that a vehicle came from the Maghull direction at speed and hit a parked car. It was the parked car that was shoved up the verge and into the sign. Must have been quite a bang! I hope no one was hurt.

The irony is that the sign askes drivers to drive carefully!

Parish Councils and Public Toilets

Toilets are a necessity for us all especially when we are out and about and often Parish Councils provide them in the community.

Maghull once had award winning public toilets run by Sefton Borough Council in its shopping centre. Sadly, now they are down at heel because of spending cuts and frankly a lack of enthusiasm to provide the best from the Borough Council.

Only months ago there was a proposal from the Borough Council to close all the public toilets in Sefton but they were given an eleventh hour reprieve following public protests. But what have we got above just saving them? Not a lot, not much quality and I suspect the closure proposal will be revisited in due course.

Maghull toilet campaigners fighting Labour's axe

Maghull toilet campaigners fighting Sefton Council’s axe

I had hoped that Maghull Town Council would at least go into partnership with Sefton Borough to refurbish and brighten up Maghull’s toilets and once again make them public toilets to be proud of. Sadly, the Town Council refused to even consider my proposal despite it being sat on a mountain of cash.

And then a few weeks ago I went for walk in that lovely area of Silverdale and Arnside with my old mate Keith. Two things struck us, one was the notice board for Silverdale Parish Council and the reference to a toilet leak. Secondly, we came across a really nice toilet block run by Arnside Parish Council on their estuary frontage.

From Silverdale Parish Council notice board - Item 18. To decide how to proceed with the toilet leak

From Silverdale Parish Council notice board – Item 18. To decide how to proceed with the toilet leak

Arnside Parish Council's Public toilets

Arnside Parish Council’s Public toilets

Maghull Town Council may not have any interest in the public toilets in its Town but clearly some other Parish Councils are a little more enlightened.

I wonder if Silverdale have managed to fix their leak yet?

Lower Alt Windfarm – A letter from West Lancs Borough Council to Lydiate Parish Council

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I hope those interested will be able to read the above letter. Please click on each page of it to enlarge.

I have published the letter as I thought it may be of interest as this subject is a big issue in some parts of Sefton and indeed West Lancashire. It is in response to concerns raised by Lydiate Parish Council about the proposed wind farm development.

I will publish more postings as things develop.

Sefton’s Green Belt – Labour push ahead with consultation on a Local Plan that is simply not robust enough

Near three hours of debating last night failed to persuade Labour run Sefton Council to seriously think again with regard to their draft Local Plan.

FRAGOFF PUT POWERFULL CASE BEFORE COUNCIL

The evening started with an excellent and in depth presentation from Fragoff the once Formby but now Borough-wide environmental campaign group. This was in support of their petition to the Council and I suppose the real thrust of their message was that the Council is working on flawed and potentially inaccurate information – A view that I share.

We then moved on to the main debate of the night where many councillors from all 3 parties made contributions. The debate split down party political lines with Labour backing Green Belt grabbing for housing and industrial building and both Lib Dem and Conservative members defending the Green Belt. Of course Labour won the debate as they have a majority on the Council but it would be fair to say that they left the Council chamber somewhat battered and bruised.

But we now know who is on which side of the argument as my Group called for a ‘card vote’ where every single Councillor present has to clearly say whether they are for or against a matter.

LABOUR MP’S OWN COUNCILLORS DO NOT TOE HIS PARTY LINE

One of the most telling contributions though was from Cllr. Tony Dawson of Southport who quoted from items on the web site of Labour MP for Sefton Central Bill Esterson. Under the heading ‘Sefton Central Labour Party opposes any plans to build on the greenbelt’ Tony pointed out that the MP had said “The Labour Party is on your side with this. It is my view and the view of Labour Party members that we should not allow our greenbelt to be destroyed.” Tony reminded the Labour councillors present from Sefton Central constituency of this before the vote was taken yet they all then voted to consult on a preferred option for the Local Plan that does involve building on Green Belt land!

LABOUR COUNCILLORS VOTE TO CONSULT ON BUILDING UPON THE GREEN BELT

On the basis that the Labour members of the Council did not vote the way that the MP’s comments would lead you to expect them to vote the question is why does the MP’s web site not make it clear that his councillors would be voting to consult on building upon the Green Belt? The point here is that the MP’s views are actually simply that, views, because the people with the power are his councillors and when given the chance to vote they have consistently not supported his line.