Barry Smith – former Clerk to Maghull Town Council – A tribute

Barry died yesterday after a very long struggle with poor health.

He was Clerk of Maghull Town Council for 13 years and then, despite declining health, he returned just over 2 years after his retirement to help out at the Council when his successor as Town Clerk but one took seriously ill. Barry stayed with the Council for a few months on a part time basis until his health precluded him from working any longer.

My memories of Barry are of a good humoured chap, who was good at his job, who did not suffer fools gladly and who worked very hard indeed.

An accountant by trade Barry was recruited by The Town Council from his previous job within the NHS. He liked to save money and an often used phrase of his was ‘I have done a deal’ when he had negotiated a reduced price on a contract, purchase etc.

On one occasion, whilst Barry was still getting to grips with how to work with an elected body like the Town Council, he said to me that he had found a better way to get the Council’s wages/salary processed and that he had given the work to a specialist company. A great initiative but Barry had not taken into account that the Council needed to approve such a move before he implemented it! With hindsight this showed how committed Barry was to getting good value for money and we often laughed about it in the following years.

In many ways he was a quiet unassuming man with a dry sense of humour but you could not but like him. What’s more the people who worked for him liked him too, probably because whilst being firm and clear in what he wanted he was also a kind and caring man.

My most memorable Barry moment was at his interview for the Town Clerk’s job. You see we got to that part of the interview when we had asked each of the applicants to present a short paper on a particular matter but Barry told us we had picked the wrong approach to the subject and launched into his own take on the matter. It was a risky approach to take but we were hugely impressed with what he had to say and he was clearly the stand-out candidate and was appointed to the job.

Barry leaves behind a lovely family whom he clearly thought a great deal of. His daughter Nickie became a local councillor herself and she has been the inspiration behind Maghull’s unique Youth Coffee Bar and unstinting in her support for Maghull & District Youth Council. I know Barry was proud of her even though he was not the kind of chap to overtly praise anyone.

But finally, my private Barry moment was when I went to him for a bit of advice. Finding myself in a position whereby I was likely to become not only the Leader of my political group on Sefton Council but also Leader of the Council I wanted an independent view on whether I should take on such responsibilities. I knew Barry would give it to me straight, whether I liked the response or not, so I asked him what he thought. He was supportive and told me to go for it, adding that if I turned the opportunity down I would regret it. I followed Barry’s advice and the rest, as they say, is history.

We have lost a great public servant, a decent and kind man and I will miss him.

Maghull Town Council’s Labour rulers go for slash and burn despite a mountain of cash in the bank.

The cash reserves of Maghull Town Council, as set at its budget and precept meeting on 20th March, are truly enormous – £420,153 and this figure has been rising for quite some time now. Ironically, when the Lib Dem’s ran the Council I clearly recall an auditor raising concerns that a reserve of £50,000 was too high! However, I hear chatter from within the Labour run Council that indicates a desire to get the cash reserves even higher. It is this cash awash background in which I make the following comments.

Why take away from local youth groups across Maghull a small fund of £1,500 made available each year to help with youth projects?

Why take away funds of £4,000 which were aimed at kick starting the establishment of the skateboard facility in Maghull and also refusing to allocate the required capital money to make this long-promised facility for the Town’s young people a reality?

Why refuse to support a £20,000 proposal to work in partnership with Sefton Council to refurbish Maghull Town Centre’s down at heel public toilets?

Why refuse to put £20,000 to one side in case it is needed to keep the Town’s highly successful Youth Coffee Bar going?

Why take away the money to run the Town’s annual fireworks display when it helps keep families who want to celebrate 5th November safe and without the need for far more dangerous private displays?

Why refuse to reduce the Town Council’s tax demand on Maghull’s Council tax payers by 10%?

Why indeed……………………………..

All the above could easilly have been done if Labour had supported the Lib Dem budget proposals on the Town Council.

Green Waste Recycling – Sefton Council plans to charge you

http://suemcguire.mycouncillor.org.uk/

My thanks to Cllrs. Sue McGuire and Pat Keith (both Cambridge ward of Sefton) for giving this ill thought out policy some prominence. You can read their concerns, which I share I would add, via the link to their blog above.

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My old chum and former Maghull Lib Dem Cllr. Roy Connell has also raised concerns with me recently about the consultation process on Sefton’s web site. Roy’s concern, and again I share it, is that it is consultation after the event which does not give residents who participate in it any real opportunity to comment on the principle of charging for the collection of green waste.

Roy is of course right and the policy move is clearly not consistent with the Council’s green agenda as previously outlined by its former Lib Dem Cabinet members for the Environmental portfolio David Tattersall and Simon Shaw. Indeed, Sefton under Labour is clearly moving away from such a green agenda.

Prescot and Proud – Our Team out fighting Labour in the Socialist Republic of Knowsley

By-election candidate Carl Cashman braving the wild winter conditions

By-election candidate Carl Cashman braving the wild winter conditions

Cllr. Andrew Blackburn campaigning in Prescot in the ice and snow

Cllr. Andrew Blackburn campaigning in Prescot in the ice and snow

We have been helping Lib Dem colleagues in Prescot who also have by-elections to fight on both Prescot Town Council and Knowsley Borough Council.

Obviously, having given Labour quite a fright in the Maghull North Ward by-election last week it is time to keep them under pressure. We hear that Knowsley Labour have been a little spooked by the Maghull result where we came within just 89 votes of taking a Labour seat.

If Maghull is still in training to be a proper socialist republic Knowsley is a place where all residents are expected to be able to sing the Red Flag backwards! Putting Labour under sustained pressure there is a tall order but as they are presently on the back foot you never know….

Super Mayor Idea to be “Strangled at Birth” – Well said Dr John Pugh MP

Any effort to create a Merseyside super-mayor must be nipped in the bud according to Southport Lib Dem MP, John Pugh.

The government in their response today to the Heseltine review on rebalancing the economy is suggesting that areas like Merseyside should be allowed to form combined local authorities with possibly even a super executive mayor for all councils.

The choice will be left to local people but local MP John Pugh is keen “to strangle the idea at birth”.

“The naive assumption is that if we have our own Boris Johnson or Joe Anderson in the Boris role, we will be as prosperous as London. Frankly though there is no way Southport, Sefton, St Helens or Wirral will have any truck with this. It’s typical of Whitehall to think that what might be good for London works anywhere else. ”

“As it is going to be left to local people to decide I am determined to have their voice heard now, and will be writing to local council leaders to get their views and if possible their support in opposing super mayors.”

We believe in co-operation and have living proof that local councils can work very constructively together without being merged or bossed by a Mr Big.

A super mayor cannot effectively represent all the varied communities from Southport to St Helens and West Kirkby.

There is the serious danger that the focus of all effort will go into Liverpool and that is not the path to true economic regeneration.”

Youth facilities (in crisis?) in the East Parishes part of Sefton

Poster from Lydiate Village Centre

Poster from Lydiate Village Centre

There is still great uncertainty over how youth facilities will be delivered in the future and inside sources tell me that the reason agreements can’t be struck is associated with Sefton Council continually moving the goal posts causing great frustration all round!

I have heard the same story from Labour, Lib Dem and independent sources and such has been the frustration that Sefton’s most senior youth worker had to be called in.

The latest is that youth funding is still in place for a few months whilst deals are struck as to how they will be delivered in the future. Some are optimistic others are quite pessimistic about the outcome.

Those who have been around Sefton’s Youth Service for some time seem unsurprised by the turn of events but whatever the case Maghull, Lydiate, Melling and Aintree Village youth facilities hang in the balance whilst negotiations continue. Red tape, rules, regulations, policies seem to be at the heart of the negotiations.

No one wants to see Maghull's Youth Coffee Bar boarded up like the Town's Stafford Moreton Youth Club is.

No one wants to see Maghull’s Youth Coffee Bar boarded up like the Town’s Stafford Moreton Youth Club is.

It was because of this carry on that we Lib Dems advised Labour run Maghull TC to put some money aside, via the Council’s 2013/14 budget, to ensure that the unique Youth Coffee Bar in Maghull Town Hall does not get the chop. Despite it being a huge success and nationally acclaimed Sefton Youth Service has never been keen on it because they could not control it. Run by young people for young people but with Youth Worker support it was always the project Sefton Youth Service wanted to drop and many battles have been had with them. Labour would not listen of course so we can only now hope that it survives rather than being able to guarantee its survival.