Sefton Council – Central Area Farce Committee

I attended the 2nd meeting of this now huge Area Committee of Sefton Council last Wednesday and just like the first one it was a farce.

The major issues, as far as the attending public were concerned, were about traffic regulation matters in Formby yet the meeting was being held in Crosby at the lakeside Centre! Readers may recall that the 1st meeting was held in Maghull, at the Town Hall, and it was also dominated by Formby matters.

It was ludicrous in my book to bring the 3 former area committees of Formby, Crosby & the East Parishes together in the first place (purely for cost cutting purposes) and all that I have seen in the first two meetings has confirmed my concerns. This is no more accessible local democracy for residents living in the central part of Sefton than I am a Dutchman.

Please, let’s return to the former Area Committees which clearly represented communities and neighbourhoods with a community of interest. From my perspective I probably know every road in Park, Sudell and Molyneux wards (the East Parishes), have walked them all myself and undertaken casework for their residents. But I can’t claim to know much about Formby, for example, yet I am asked to make decisions about that community at this new and huge Area Committee. This is utterly ridiculous and against the spirit of true decentralisation in the Borough. I continue to despair!

Lydiate Parish – Boundary signs on the Leeds Liverpool Canal?

Well no there aren’t any actually but it is a thought because there is quite a bit of barge traffic travelling through Lydiate these days. Indeed, Parish Council Chairman Dave Russell has pondered on putting Welcome to Lydiate signs at either end of the stretch through the Parish showing where boaters can pick up supplies, have a pint, a meal etc.

A similar thought occurred to me when I ‘rescued’ the Lydiate boundary sign a few weeks ago after the road crash in Southport Road (see previous posting) so I stuck the sign at the end of my garden, which is on the canal, and photographed it. Just for laugh you may say.

rsz_lpc_sign_03_07_13_-3

rsz_lpc_sign_03_07_13_-3_1

Dog Fouling

I was interviewed on Monday by the Champion newspaper about my views on the curse of dog fouling.

Anyone who has been a local councillor just about anywhere in the UK will have had folks on to them demanding that action is taken to address that small minority of dog owners who allow their dogs to foul pavements and other public places and refuse to clean up after them.

Of course it is an offence punishable via fines but the problem is no one really gets caught at it; allowing their dog to foul a mean. The problem is that the dirty deed is often done late at night or in the early morning when there are less people about to witness it. It must also be the case, at times, that residents are not willing to say who allowed a dog to foul and then be willing to go to court as a witness. This is probably due to wanting to maintain good neighbourly relations or even fear of retributions?

Whatever the case evidence is rare. In Sefton the Environmental Officers will respond to foulling complaints by working outside normal hours to try to catch folk whose dogs are doing the fouling in areas where there are significant complaints. But this time has to be paid for by Area Committees or Parish Councils stumping up the cash. This ‘Operation Collar’ as it is called has been used across the Borough many times but the culprits seem not to be caught.

Oh for a few heavy fines and those responsible getting their photo in the local newspapers, now that would be a really good deterrent.

A look at Sefton Council’s web site will explain the legal matter referred to in this week’s Champion newspaper article –

www.sefton.gov.uk/default.aspx?page=12605

A couple of random thoughts on those Maghull by-elections

Visceral – Mm, now there’s an interesting word, but what does it really mean? Coming from Nottinghamshire I am well read in cricket and coal mining but I don’t use posh words like these modern day socialists do.

So I Google Visceral and an odd sort of word it is too, with meanings such as:-

• Relating to deep inward feelings
• you feel it in your guts
• something that is instinctive or emotional

But why do I mention this odd word? Well it is one used by the Labour Leader of Maghull Town Council to describe the winning Lib Dem campaign which saw Labour loose 2 of the 3 seats being fought over in the elections a few days ago.

Well he may have been nearer the truth than he thought because these 3 definitions (above) seem to neatly encompass what the electorate was saying about Labour run Maghull Council. There can be little doubt that electors had deep inner feelings in their guts and their instinct told them to give Labour a good old kicking! A Lib Dem wag even came up with this slogan:-

spindoctor

The other fascinating thing is how many folk stopped me in the street, supermarket and pub to ask what the result of the elections was; this before the Champion newspaper came out last Wednesday that is. Frankly, this has never happened before as most people either don’t vote in local elections or soon forget about politics when have done so. However, things seemed very different this time and each person that asked me smiled, rubbed their hands together or said that’s great news when I told them Labour had lost 2 seats. Don’t get me wrong I am not doing a Labour spin doctor routine here trying to tell you that my party is worshiped far and wide but what I am saying is that folks were just happy that Labour had got one in the eye so to speak. Whilst folk are happy the Lib Dems had won my guess is that Labour could have been beaten by the Girl Guides and the joy on those their faces would have been the same. This reaction, probably more than anything, shows the bind that Labour in Maghull has got into.

Lessons for Labour from Maghull by-election defeats

There were 4 very clear messages coming across from the electorate in the three Maghull wards where by-elections were held last week.

Sick of Labour’s internal warfare

Firstly, residents are heartily sick of Labour’s local infighting and the consequent 7 Labour councillor resignations. One thing the electorate does not like is political party splits and this recent long-running one has really damaged Labour’s credibility.

Green Bin Tax

Secondly, Labour’s proposed Green Bin tax for Sefton Borough has clearly been binned by the electorate. There can be little doubt that it has really got people upset as they see it as an idea from Bootle Labour Party being imposed on a community like Maghull (but you could easily say Crosby, Formby, Southport etc.) where virtually everyone has a garden. Residents also see it as a back door Council tax rise and are having none of it. The outright lie that was published in one Labour election leaflet which said that the Lib Dems were bringing in the Green Bin tax and that Labour was opposing it was openly being laughed at as ridiculous desperation.

Building on Green Belt

The third big issue was the Green Belt. Labour councillors voting to build on the Green Belt whilst saying they opposed building on it has made folk angry. This is a huge credibility issue for Labour and time after time people have been saying things like ‘Labour said they were not going to let building take place on the Green Belt and then their councillors go and vote for just that!’ Interestingly, Cllr. Peter Dowd, the Labour Leader on Sefton Council and a Maghull Town Council member seems to have a little more credibility than his Labour colleagues over this issue. Electors had noticed that whilst he was advocating building on the Green Belt, which they opposed, at least he was doing it by promoting it as a positive thing rather than saying one thing and doing another whilst blaming just about everyone else, as his Labour colleagues have been doing.

Embracing austerity

The final issue is a national one. Labour’s national position of recently embracing austerity and agreeing to follow Coalition spending plans, if Labour gets elected at the next General election, is making people wonder why Labour locally has been presenting itself as being against all cuts and seemingly giving the impression that it will reverse them. This issue is important in a community like Maghull because of the high numbers of public sector workers. Obviously, Labour’s ploy nationally, between 2010 and early 2013, was to play to this public sector worker audience. However, with Ed Miliband now backing off from that message it leaves local Labour Party folk who continue to hammer this for all they are worth very exposed. Public sector workers now know Labour will not reverse the cuts in their pay, pensions etc. so why should they continue to troop out and vote for a party that promised them everything but then dropped them like a stone.

These are the factors that led to the significant collapse in Labour’s share of the vote in the 3 Maghull Town Council by-elections.

Save our Libraries – Birkdale Library

I think it fair to say and I think I said it myself when it first became apparent, some months ago, that Sefton Council for Voluntary Service (CVS) wanted to take over the Library, that I was at best uncomfortable with the idea.

Cllr. Iain Brodie-Browne

Cllr. Iain Brodie-Browne at Birkdale Library

You see I look upon Sefton CVS as being there to support volunteers yet in Birkdale they went over the heads of the volunteers who had come together to try to save the Library and put in a bid of their own. This is hardly supporting volunteers, more seeing an opportunity.

Sefton CVS is one of the biggest CVS’s across the Country and I know that in some quarters there is a fear that it has grown into too much of a business and not enough of being a volunteer organisation. And I must say that I have heard such concerns over a number of years.

Moving on, please take a look at Birkdale Focus the blog site of Cllr. Iain Brodie-Brown as the consequences of the CVS bid to take over Birkdale Library seem to quite profound indeed.

http://birkdalefocus.blogspot.co.uk/