A battle – rekindle journalism

I was interested to read this piece (see link below) in The Post, Liverpool’s new(ish) online newspaper, which I’ve found very interesting:-

www.livpost.co.uk/p/bored-of-publishing-clickbait-the?token=eyJ1c2VyX2lkIjoxOTMwNDk2OSwicG9zdF9pZCI6NDk2NzAwODEsIl8iOiJiQjllOSIsImlhdCI6MTY0NzI1MTQxNiwiZXhwIjoxNjQ3MjU1MDE2LCJpc3MiOiJwdWItMTA3MDE4Iiwic3ViIjoicG9zdC1yZWFjdGlvbiJ9.nkHp8j3eYvMYEcob_DeiJcpPrKFG054XbqKWUCfSfCU&s=r

My response to Reach and the Liverpool Echo.

I do still visit your Liverpool Echo website from time to time but to be honest, your concentration on crime is really depressing. I want to read interesting, well-researched articles about the Liverpool City Region and some good investigative journalism digging into the dark corners of councils, companies and organisations who would rather such reporting was not happening.

I appreciate that your business model has been turned upside down because of online news and let’s face it who under the age of 65 buys a newspaper these days. A friend of mine who died quite recently was a journalist for local newspapers and he knew the community where I live very well. He immersed himself in the community getting to know all kinds of people and those who represented them. Yes, he was an old fashioned reporter but when he passed away our communities in the East Parishes of Sefton Borough lost a great deal.

I think it fair to say that news reporting (like policing) is done remotely these days and, like the police, reporters are not on the ground where things are happening and they’re not picking up important intelligence/stories. Indeed, this leads to superficial reporting without the depth to it that we all used to enjoy.

Frankly, I have seen the emergence of The Post as a very positive thing that may to some extent help us turn back the clocks with regard to reporting on local/sub-regional matters, if only to some extent.

Please don’t be opposed to what The Post is doing but find ways to work with it. If the reaction of Reach is as described above it sadly reminds me of how the Labour Party reacts to other progressive parties i.e. wanting to crush them. Progressive and open journalism should be a positive thing that makes those with power at any level and in any organisation keep an eye over their shoulder for fear of their not being seen to be doing things for the benefit of our communities and indeed wider society.

Double Rating in Sefton – My letter to the Champion Newspaper

Dear Sir,

I support Independent Sefton Park Ward Cllr Andy Wilson’s campaigning for Double Rating payments to be reinstated from Sefton Council to those parish councils who maintain their own parks and gardens as without it the council taxpayers of those communities are paying twice.

When I was a Sefton Cllr. and Leader of Sefton Council I ensured that those payments were improved to reflect the real costs of maintaining parks and gardens in Lydiate, Maghull & Aintree Village. That was around 2007, but sadly in around 2013, after I’d stepped down as Sefton Leader, the payments were stopped altogether creating great injustice. I opposed the stopping of payments and wrote Lydiate’s Parish Council’s submission* to the ‘consultation’ prior to them being stopped.

Since then Maghull, Lydiate and Aintree Village Parish Councils have lost many, many thousands of pounds and have had to fund all their parks and gardens maintenance from the separate precept those councils raise on their council taxpayers. It has meant that in these communities residents have been paying their respective parish councils who do look after their parks and gardens and also Sefton Council who don’t!

What possessed Sefton to stop the payments completely, baffles me as the formula agreed in around 2007 was meant to be flexible in that the money paid (revenue and capital) to the parish councils was meant to reflect what the Borough Council would spend on those parks and gardens if it was responsible for them. So if Sefton reduced expenditure on the parks and gardens it runs, then the payments to the parishes would drop proportionately. Of course, the opposite would apply too.

The irony of some Labour politicians jumping up and down over the matter now is not lost on me though, as it was Labour-run Sefton that stopped the payments in the first place!

Yours sincerely

Tony Robertson
Former Leader of Sefton Council

* My posting of 14th Feb 2022 refers

The letter was published on 16th March 20222

HGVs on Greens Lane Downholland

Having cycled Eagar Lane/Greens Lane for some years now I’m finding the surface of the single track Greens Lane to be in very poor condition presently. Eagar Lane is in Lydiate Civil Parish (Sefton/Merseyside) whilst when it becomes Greens Lane it’s in Downholland Civil Parish (West Lancs/Lancs County).

Greens lane canal swing bridge (known as Rimmer’s Bridge locally) – Photo from 2018.

I’ve been on the Lancashire County Council website a couple of times in recent months reporting huge potholes at 3 points along Greens Lane and at first, I assumed it was the often massive agricultural vehicles of our modern-day churning up the surface. But a second thought was, well why has it got so bad in recent times? Then a conversation with a fellow cyclist (and one with a fellow Lydiate Parish Councillor) made the penny drop so to speak. The point made to me was that adjacent to the canal swing bridge, which is very close to the County boundary, there’s some form of waste recycling going on and I was told it was at times visited by huge HGVs. I’d not encountered them until today when I came across a skip lorry and then a huge (long) articulated HGV. The skip lorry could both have only come from the recycling site, I guess, due to the weight limited canal swing bridge? The huge HGV was actually exiting the site.

It strikes me that Greens Lane will need a significant upgrade if such traffic is going to be using this single track lane for much longer, otherwise, Lancs County Council will have to be out fixing the surface very regularly.

Interestingly, at the Lydiate end of the route i.e. at the beginning of Eagar Lane, this new sign has recently popped up:-

Eagar lane, Lydiate

It will have been erected by Sefton Council and whilst the obvious reason for it will be the canal swing bridge, why has it just gone up? have the HGVs visiting the site on the other side of it been trying to use Eagar Lane?

Whatever the case, I’m assuming that Sefton and particularly Lancashire Council are on the case. If I find out more I’ll update.

Double Rating – Maghull, Lydiate & Aintree – A history of ups and downs

It’s all about why in Sefton Borough Lydiate, Maghull & Aintree Village Council Taxpayers pay twice to have their parks maintained

This shot of Rigeway Park in Lydiate was taken in 2017

Well, this is a subject I’ve blogged about a few times in the past. Here is one such posting that explains things, it’s from 2017:-

tonyrobertson.mycouncillor.org.uk/2017/04/06/maghull-land-money-maintaining-old-hall-park/

And here’s Lydiate Parish Council’s submission (June 2013) to Sefton Council’s consultation on the withdrawal of Double rating payments to the parish councils doing their own parks and gardens maintenance:-

Double Rating in Sefton – Lydiate Parish Council’s response to Sefton MBC’s proposal to stop repaying the affected Parish Councils

In Lydiate, Maghull and Aintree Village (and to a lesser extent in Melling Parish – see note below) all of the parks are looked after by the Town or Parish Councils and these Councils charge residents for the cost of doing this, via the Council Tax – the separate ‘parish precept’.

Sefton Council also charges for looking after parks in Lydiate, Maghull and Aintree Village even though it does not deliver any such service in those three communities. This means residents potentially paying twice for having their parks looked after. This is clearly not fair or right so, some years ago, an agreement was reached for Sefton Council to pay these Parish & Town Councils the same per acre that Sefton spends on its own parks, elsewhere in the borough. This stopped residents from paying double, so the agreement was called “Double Rating”. In other words, Sefton has been returning to these Parishes what it has been taking from them but not spending on their parks.

However, Sefton Council is now planning to scrap the “Double Rating” agreement and the payments it makes to the Parish Councils which maintain their own parks and gardens. This will mean residents paying twice for having their parks looked after. First, they will pay their Parish/Town Council for actually maintaining the parks and second they will pay Sefton Council to do nothing to them. Sefton will just take the money it raises in Lydiate, Maghull and Aintree Village and spend it on parks elsewhere in the Borough.

Lydiate Parish Council’s view is that Sefton Council’s proposal to stop paying back Double Rating money to the affected Parish Councils is clearly unfair and the Borough Council needs to reconsider. If the proposal is carried forward the result will be that Maghull, Lydiate and Aintree Village Council taxpayers will be paying twice.

The good news, however, is that Sefton Council does have two quite viable alternative options to resolve this matter without putting the Council tax payers of Lydiate, Maghull and Aintree Village at disadvantage. These options are:-
a) To continue to make the payments but at a lower level commensurate with the reduced standards of grounds maintenance that the Borough has already budgeted for and may well budget for in the future. This option would mean that all of Sefton’s communities would be treated the same by the Borough Council no matter whether the parks and gardens are run by Borough or Parish Council.
b) For Sefton Council to charge a differing level (lower) of Council tax in the Parishes which maintain their own parks and gardens than in the rest of the Borough. This option would stop Sefton Council from collecting money in the Parished communities that look after their own parks and gardens and then having to refund the money via the Parish Councils. Doing this would also mean that Council taxpayers in the affected Parishes would not be put at a disadvantage.

Simply stopping the repayments to the Parish Councils is unfair and will lead the Borough Council open to the charge that it is raising money in one part of the Borough simply to spend it elsewhere. We contend that this is not a position that the Borough Council should wish to find itself in.
Finally, we would add that we fully appreciate the level of savings the Borough Council has to make; all we ask is that in this case of Double Rating the savings are made fairly.
*****
Note 1:- Melling Parish is also affected but in Melling, there is recreational land provided by both Sefton Council and Melling Parish Council so the situation there is more complex.
Note 2:- The other 6 Parish Councils in the Borough do not own or lease land that is used as parks or for public recreational purposes so ‘Double Rating’ is not an issue to them.

Entrance to Dodds Park Maghull

And I suppose you’re wondering why I’m banging on about this great local injustice again now. Is it just an old politician musing on former wins and losses? Well, actually the reason I’m back on the subject is due to a discussion with Maghull & Lydiate’s Sefton Park Ward Independent Councillor Andy Wilson. You see Andy has got the Double Rating bit between his teeth and wants to try to get things rebalanced. Of course, I agree with him. Well, I would, wouldn’t I, having put so much effort into getting a fair system put in place only for it to be pulled a few years later on the altar of austerity. So good luck Andy, I look forward to the oil tanker that is Sefton Council being turned around again and in doing so helping Parish Councils, like Lydiate, to reduce their precept on local council taxpayers.

Kenyons Park – Lydiate

After the trains had gone

Lydiate Station after closure – From Neil Reston Collection

A look back at the Southport & Cheshire Lines Extension Railway by Keith Hick, published with the OPSTA Connexion Magazine Issue 155 – Feb 2022

There’s a great supplement to the OPSTA magazine for Feb’ 2022 in the form of a pamphlet written by locally renowned railway historian Keith Hick which, if I’ve understood things correctly, will form a part of a larger piece of work about the history of Southport’s railways in general. Having checked with OPSTA I’ve scanned the 12 pages of the supplement and present them here. You need to click on each page to be able to read it.

This railway has always fascinated me. Aged 10 in 1968 I went to live on Sefton Lane Maghull, just a quarter of a mile from the former Sefton & Maghull Station. I recall the platforms still being in place back then. This excellent piece by Keith Hick is very much spot on and appreciated.

And finally for this post what the trackbed looks like today as part of the Cheshire Lines Path/Trans Pennine Trail –

Farm access bridge over the former Cheshire Lines railway between the former Lydiate & Sefton & Maghull Stations.

A look back at the Mersey Railway

Oh, I do like a bit of railway history especially if it involves Nottinghamshire or Merseyside. So imagine my delight when Phil Rimmer shared some very interesting photos with me regarding the Mersey Railway which he found and purchased on a stall at the National Model Railway Exhibition at Alexandra Palace about 5 years ago. Interestingly, Phil’s grandfather Thomas, on his Dad’s side, was once Station Master at Southport and with a name like Rimmer a Southport connection is of course no surprise.

Well here goes with the photos, with any copyright issues being noted where I know them. Any background that other railway enthusiasts can fill in will be most welcome of course.

Mersey Railway No.13 Brunlees at Rock Ferry

The hand stamp on the reverse of this photo says Mr F Dean of St Annes on Sea so it could be his copyright?

Mersey Railway No.6 Fox. This is an old postcard noted as F Moore’s Railway Photographs

Mersey Railway EMU entering Birkenhead Central on train from Rock Ferry 15 May 1956

The copyright for this photo is noted as Rail Archive Stephenson (Photomatic) N431

A postcard noted as F Moore’s Railway Photographs.

Phil has given me this note associated with the photo above – The reference to Broughton Colliery on the wagon is interesting. This might have been taken on the Birkenhead-Wrexham line. There was a coal seam under the River Dee with mines at Broughton and Mostyn on the Welsh side and at Burton and Ness on the Wirral side.

6851 as N0. 15 BND Dk 23-09-23

There are no notes on the reverse of this photo other than noted in the caption.

So there you have it, these Wirral Railway photos and postcards were brought together and framed by a person unknown possibly many years ago. They were rescued by Phil who has another railway connection with Merseyside – ‘My grandad’s Father was a waggoner, moving goods between Birkenhead and Liverpool Docks by horse and waggon, using ferry then tunnel. Grandad told me that goods trains did sometimes use the closed Seacombe branch but I’ve never read that anywhere.’

Do Mersey Railway historians out there have any background information to share or do they have any input with regard to Phil’s oral family memories?

Note – Click on each photo to enlarge