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.

Maghull North ward (or should that be Shooting ward?) by-elections 21st March (3 seats up for election – all Labour held prior to resignations)

What a campaign, 2 shootings in the ward as well as politicians taking verbal pot-shots at each other! These by-elections were held whilst leafy Maghull has sadly been going through an unprecedented crime wave. The elections are over and we can only hope that the crime wave is as well. Our normally quiet community has had a gut full of violent crime.

So what of the election results? Well we Lib Dems did remarkable well, far better than could ever have been expected. To come so close was a pleasant surprise.

The result:-

Labour 514 elected – Labour hold
Labour 509 elected – Labour hold
Labour 499 elected – Labour hold
Lib Dem (Bruce Hubbard) 410
Lib Dem (Wyn Maher) 391
Lib Dem (Jen Robertson) 398
Green 66

Turnout 20.51%, Swing – Labour to Lib Dems 3.2%

(Note- there was only one Green candidate for this 3 seat election and both the Tories and UKIP did not put up candidates at all. The expected intervention of independent candidates did not materialise either)

We called for the elections to be held to fill the 3 seats vacated by Labour’s resigning councillors who had got elected but did not want to be councillors. The farce whereby Labour held a secret meeting (following the last Labour resignation from the Council) and co-opted a Labour supporter onto the Council could not be allowed to happen again.

Bruce, Wyn and Jen our valiant Lib Dem candidates wish to thank the folks who voted for them in a hard fought campaign over the past 6 weeks.

Socialism remains the favoured creed in Maghull and the Town’s ability to forgive and forget all kinds of Labour cock-ups since they have been running the Town Council shows that sadly Labour really can get away with almost anything at present.

Maghull Town Council – A budget & precept is finally agreed with Lib Dem proposal to reduce the tax on Maghull residents being voted down by ruling Labour councillors

Maghull Town Council has finally set a budget and a precept to demand from Maghull’s hard pressed Council tax payers for 2013/14. Despite all their recent ducking and diving the comrades, who now run the Council, finally forced through a budget last night.

We Lib Dems proposed an amendment that would have reduced the taxation demand on Maghull’s Council tax payers by 10% but Labour were having none of it despite the Council being sat on a huge money mountain of reserves well above £400,000!

We also proposed that the Council reinstate funding it had taken away from youth projects, the Town’s yearly firework display and money to provide a local skateboard park. Labour rejected these proposals too.

Finally, we asked the Council to put money aside to work with Sefton Council to refurbish the down at heel public toilets at Maghull Square which were recently saved from closure by Lib Dem campaigning. Yes, you have guessed it they rejected that as well!

But despite their lack of vision and understanding of what Maghull needs at least the Council now has a legal budget and precept. Readers will recall that the Council has been pretending that it had set a precept over recent weeks when it had done no such thing. Indeed it gave false information to Sefton Council asking it to collect the extra tax on Maghull people without any resolution of the Town Council being proposed and agreed to authorise such an extra tax.

What will the auditors say about the false information? What will Maghull’s Council tax payers think as they get their bills that could have been 10% lower in terms of what has to be paid to the Town Council?

Not setting the Council tax – My letter to Maghull Town Council leader Caroline Esterson

Below are some extracts from my letter of 7th March to Caroline Esterson – wife of Sefton Central MP Bill Esterson

Dear Caroline,

I am trying to get to the bottom of how the Town Council has put itself in the invidious position of having asked Sefton Council to collect a precept figure for 2013/14 which even as I write simply does not exist and will not do so until the Full Town Council meeting on 20th March approves a budget and precept for 2013/14.

As you will be aware the Parish Councils in Sefton usually set their budgets and precepts for the following year in January or early February yet Maghull Town Council has done neither to date and only intends to do so on 20th March. However, it is very clear that someone acting on behalf of the Council (I know not whom or the date it was done) telephoned Sefton Council informing its Finance Department that the Town Council had set a precept for 2013/14 and even gave them a figure to collect from Maghull’s Council tax payers. Sefton followed that telephone call up with an e-mail requesting confirmation and a copy of the Town Council’s budget.

You will be aware that I raised this issue at Sefton Council’s budget meeting on 28th February because I knew that the information that Sefton was supplying to its councillors in its own budget report, where it referred to the Town Council, was erroneous and indeed completely without foundation. I attach a copy of a letter that Sefton’s Head of Finance circulated on 1st March referring to the matter.

The fact is that the Town Council has not set a precept and should not be trying to pretend that it has prior to actually doing so.

I also raised my concerns at last night’s Town Council Finance Committee meeting and was told at first by Cllr. McKinley, who was chairing the meeting, that a precept had been set and that such was minuted. Cllr. Blackburn pointed out that there were no minutes saying any such thing. I was then told that a ‘direction of travel’ had been agreed and that the precept was not going to increase. I am not sure what this means or who agreed to the ‘direction of travel’ but on the basis that my Group is proposing a reduction in the 2013/14 precept (tabled but not voted upon last night) it certainly is something that has not been discussed at any meeting we have been invited to.

In case there is any doubt, can I make it clear that a Parish Council budget and precept has to be agreed at a meeting of the Full Council and no one acting for the Town Council has the right to anticipate what a precept may be and ask for it to be collected without such authority.

I realise that you may well be operating with what I will call an unofficial Cabinet made up of the Committee Chairs and Vice Chairs. Could it be that this unofficial body, which has no powers what so ever within Parish Council legislation and has not been sanctioned by the Full Council, gave the instruction to report a precept to Sefton Council as the billing authority?

Whatever the circumstances that led to the Town Council acting in the way that it did I would appreciate sight of any documents or minutes where the authorisation was given, to anyone acting on behalf of the Town Council to contact Sefton Council and declare that it had set a precept. If you require a Freedom of Information request to be able to provide me with such evidential material then please make that clear.

Should no documents or minutes exist which authorise the course of action outlined above please detail for me in writing what your understanding is of the process used to declare to Sefton Council that the Town Council had set a precept.

Yours sincerely.

Cllr. Tony Robertson