A woodland without a forester? – Part 2

Since I posted the first half of this blog (here’s a link to part 1 – tonyrobertson.mycouncillor.org.uk/2021/05/14/a-woodland-without-a-forester/) a fellow local environmental activist, Frank Sharp, has been in touch and he’s suggested that the downed wooden owl may actually be the body of a carved spider. I had been told that there had been/maybe still is a 2nd carved piece of public artwork within this particular wood so Frank could well be right. For reference here’s the photo again of the one I have seen and which we thought maybe an owl:-

Well as for progress I have none to report. Sefton Council hasn’t provided any further response and I’ve heard nothing from Mersey Forest and the Groundwork Trust. So who does have the maintenance responsibilities for Sefton Meadows No.3 woodland? The bottom line is that I have no idea and the powers that be whom I’ve contacted – Forestry England, Mersey Forest, Sefton Council, Merseyside Waste Disposal Authority (MWDA) & Groundwork Trust – either don’t seem to know (Forestry England and MWDA) or don’t seem keen to engage over the matter (Mersey Forest, Sefton Council, Groundwork Trust).

The mystery remains unsolved……………….

Sefton Labour Councillor goes Independent

It’s not been hard to pick up on the fact that Molyneux ward Labour Party have not been a happy bunch of campers for quite some time so when Sefton Cllr. Tony Carr announced he was resigning from the Sefton Council’s Labour Group, last week, to see out the rest of his term as an independent it did not come as a complete surprise to me.

If memory serves Tony was elected to serve for Molyneux ward (Southern Maghull, Melling and Aintree) in 2010 the year before I moved from Molyneux ward to Park ward (western Maghull and Lydiate) as a Lib Dem Sefton Councillor. I continued as a Sefton Councillor until 2015 so served alongside Tony for 5 years. My memory is of him being someone who was a good caseworker for residents and of a decent guy too. Like me, his background was from within the trade union movement. I think he was from UNITE, whilst I was PCS. I’ve noticed in the past that lay trade unionists can also make decent councillors as in reality the roles are not dissimilar; both need good communication skills and a willingness to help folk in difficulties.

I must admit to not really knowing Tony very well so I’m not sure where he would sit within the very wide spectrum of Labour activists. I’m guessing that he will not hold views as progressive as my own as a Social Liberal but I might be doing him an injustice there. It’s just that experience has taught me over many years as a trade unionist and politician that most Labour folk hold views that are to the right of me, some very much so.

I do hope there won’t be calls for Tony to resign his seat due to him leaving Labour to sit as an independent because my understanding is that he’s well thought of across the political divides and in particular by Molyneux ward residents.

And yes I have noted the very public allegations that Tony has made (via Facebook) with regard to his reasons for leaving Sefton Labour. Suffice to say that they are troubling indeed.

I wish Tony well as I’m not particularly tribal in my politics and am willing to say when someone from a differing political tradition to my own is doing a good job.

Operation Close Pass day – Still trying to get Lancs & M’side Stats

My posting below from 26th April mentioned a national policing campaign which was held on 14th April this year called ‘Operation Close Pass Day’ when police forces across the country would be sending out officers on cycles to try to catch those drivers who dangerously overtake cyclists by passing far too close to them. Here’s a link back to that posting:-

tonyrobertson.mycouncillor.org.uk/2021/04/26/a-random-act-of-abuse-on-a-beautiful-day/

Photo from Cycling UK showing the likely change to the Highway Code for passing a cyclist.

I said back then that I awaited a response from both Lancashire and Merseyside Police about how they engaged with the campaign day and the results of their participation. To date, I’ve still had no response so, with the help of Cycling UK, I’ve now contacted them both again this time via their respective Road Safety Partnership websites in the hope that they will answer my queries.

Close passing of cyclists is highly dangerous and in my part of the world, the roads where it seems to be a big problem are Southport Road and Moss Lane in Lydiate and Prescot Road in Aughton, although it can happen on any road particularly where it’s one which vehicles are driven along at high speeds. Even drivers who would normally leave plenty of room when overtaking a cyclist can end up passing one far too closely. This often happens where a vehicle has started an overtaking manoeuvre and then the driver sees another vehicle approaching on the opposite carriageway. Obviously, most drivers will pull back in such circumstances but the impatient ones carry on sometimes coming within inches of a cyclist. Sadly, this can lead to cyclists being knocked off their bikes just because a driver is in too much of a hurry.

The present Highway Code is a little vague about this as it says that as much room as possible should be left when overtaking a cyclist. The plan is to change that to 1.5m of room must be left when overtaking a cyclist as the photo above demonstrates.

So there you have it or in the case of Lancs & Merseyside Police there you don’t have it as I still do not have their data from the campaign day. Let’s hope my contact via their Road Safety Partnerships delivers or it will have to be Freedom of Information Requests and I really hope it does not have to come to that.

Blair – Progressive but authoritarian

Tony Blair is a man much disliked particularly within Labour Party circles but, without doubt, he has been the most progressive PM the UK has had in many generations. Yes, I know that’s not saying a great deal because all the other PM’s who have won General Elections, have been Conservatives.

The left and particularly those who are within Labour’s fold seem to hate Blair with about as much passion as they hate Thatcher. This has long intrigued me not least because all the other elected PM’s, as I said, in recent times have been Conservative and therefore regressive of political nature.

Why does the left despise Tony Blair so much?

Readers of this blog site will know that I’m no supporter of Blair or indeed Labour as both are generally too right-wing and authoritarian for me. As a Social Liberal, I certainly don’t see myself as a centrist or a moderate, more as someone who is of the left but not a socialist. Having said that, I am happy to acknowledge that Blair is the nearest thing we have had to a progressive winning elections and sitting in No.10 because for me it’s a statement of fact. Yes, he was too moderate, too centrist, too authoritarian and not progressive enough for my political taste and of course he fouled up hugely over Iraq but having said all that he is still the most progressive PM to win general elections in many a year.

Listening to Labour folk talk about Blair over the years I think the reason they dislike him is due to his perceived middle-classness. With Labour very much a class-based party being working class is very important to them. And how many times have I mentioned the Labour Group on Sefton Council launching into a chorus of ‘we are old Labour’ whenever Blair or New Labour came up in a council meeting whilst TB was PM; it must have meant a lot to them to need to be seen to distancing themselves from their own party in government. The odd part of all this is I’ve rarely if ever heard Labour members chuntering about Blair because of Iraq. You see to those of us lefties who are not within the Labour fold that was his greatest foul-up.

I’m also guessing that being anti-Blair is something those within the Labour Party have to be for them to have credibility, so there’s probably a fashion in Blair-slagging even from those Labour members who have a sneaking but unspoken liking for him and his governments.

Do I like Blair? No, not really, he often comes across to me as rather superior and irritating to listen to. Having said that he sometimes has well thought out progressive things to say and at times I’ll say Blair is right. Trouble is most Labour folks cover their eyes and put their figures in their ears whenever Blair appears on the TV.

Blair’s Government called it both right and wrong over Sefton’s Council Housing

One of his government’s unnecessarily authoritarian moves affected the Borough of Sefton and in particular its council housing stock and it shows how Blair could be good and bad at the same time. He was spot on when it came to realising that council/social housing across the UK was not up to standard so his government devised a policy called Decent Homes Standard. Sefton Council was in the frame for a big chunk of his government’s money to bring its council housing up to this new standard BUT, in a typically Labour move, they took the view that the council was not the appropriate body to get the work done. They demanded, as my friend and former Borough Councillor Geoff Howe recently pointed out, that the Council transfer its council housing stock over to a housing association or there’d be no money provided to bring Sefton’s council housing up to the new Decent Homes Standard. It sounded to me like blackmail then and it still does now. It led to Sefton having to ballot its council house tenants over such a transfer, which on the first ballot they refused but then agreed to via a 2nd ballot.

I never quite got why the council would not be an appropriate body to get the work done; did Blair’s government think Sefton would take the money and use it unwisely? It certainly showed a lack of trust in the council in my view yet there’d been no previous fall-outs with them before they took what I saw as an unnecessarily authoritarian position; a position which led directly to a new housing association having to be set up to deliver the Decent Homes Standard with both land and housing needing to be transferred to it. I still think the whole saga was a waste of time and resources because it also meant that Sefton Council no longer had control over its social housing stock. It was a ‘we in Westminster know what’s best for Sefton and if you don’t agree there’s no money to do up your council houses’ position and it was ridiculous authoritarian micro-management. I don’t have a problem with housing associations, I might add, it’s just that in Sefton’s case it was simply an unnecessary requirement to have to create one in my view.

So yes I have big issues with Blair both nationally and locally but whichever way you cut it he is still the most progressive politician to win the PM’s seat in General Elections for far too many years. On that basis can I suggest that hounding Blair for his failures whilst not being willing to acknowledge his generally progressive position on a number of important social issues is counter-productive as the alternative has always been a Tory one!

A woodland without a forester? – Part 1

A friend of mine recently mentioned an issue with regard to an area of woodland to the west of the River Alt within Sefton Borough in the Civil Parish of Sefton. The issue is about a carved wooden owl which had, I think, been provided/erected as a piece of public artwork (on a concrete base) probably when the woodland was laid out/created around 2002. The owl has keeled over or even been pulled over as this photo illustrates:-

The area concerened is the green shaded one with the location of the carved owl where the red circle is drawn.

My first thought was, oh that will be a matter to be raised with what was the Forestry Commission, now rebranded as Forestry England. After further thought, other organisations came to mind who had or may have had a hand in the laying out of the various pieces of woodland in this part of Sefton Borough back in the early 2000s, or who hold ongoing maintenance responsibilities. Those other organisations are The Woodland Trust (I think they just coordinated the early 2000s work), Groundwork Trust, Merseyside Waste Disposal Authority (MWDA) and possibly Sefton Council. I mention MWDA because quite a bit of the land over which the woodland planting was done had previously been used as landfill sites.

A walk in the woods (nothing to do with Bill Bryson’s excellent book I might add) was required to orientate myself and my friend acted as my guide. As we entered the relevant section of woodland this sign came into view:-

Clearly, it has the logos on it of two of the organisations I mention above.

So I fired off an email to pretty much all of the organisations I’ve listed and replies started to roll in. MWDA told me that their responsibilities are only associated with the landfill under the woodland. They thought the relevant part of Groundwork Trust had gone bust around 2005 and that it was possible that Sefton Council had taken on the land. Forestry England confirmed it was not one of their sites and they said they thought it may have passed through the hands of more than one organisation finally indicating that they felt the site was likely to the responsibility of MWDA. They also sent me this updated site plan:-

The area we are looking at above is the green one without a red line around it.

And then yet then another organisation came to mind called Mersey Forest so I emailed them too.

In words used to title the Isaac Hayes album – To be Continued – Keep an eye out for posting two……….

Dogs – Love them or dislike them these are the Sefton rules

Here’s a link to the updated rules for dogs on public land and highways:-

www.sefton.gov.uk/dogs

I’ve not had a dog since I was 14 but I do occasionally look after this lovely old chap called Chester:-

I’ve said it before but I really do wonder how one person can look after 6 dogs. Frankly, keeping Chester out of mischief is a big enough job when he comes to stay with us, another 5 Chesters is utterly mind-boggling to me.

Anyway, as Sefton Council has updated its rules which I might add will apply to all parks and gardens in the Borough (including those run by Maghull Town Council, Aintree Village Parish Council & Lydiate Parish Council) I thought I’d put the new rules out there.