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/

Maghull – A community survey by the churches of the Town

I attended a meeting a couple of days ago where members of the church community from Maghull, led by Maghull Baptist Church, gave interested local councillors a briefing on the survey they had conducted within the past year about community views on various matters.

The survey, which 380 people had responded to in detail, covered a wide range of matters – social, economic, crime, environmental, community facilities etc. and I think it fair to say that there were no really big surprises in the results presented to us. However, it was fascinating to hear a perspective from the religious community (and I say that as an atheist) about their engagement with the Maghull community.

One very interesting aspect for me was with regard to debt, housing and food bank issues that came out of the survey. To me these 3 things are linked and I would like to see some further in depth work done on them by Sefton Council in particular because of our straightened economic times.

Food banks are now a regular feature of media comment and they are being set up across the UK to assist folks who are really struggling to feed themselves and their families but trying to find out what the underlying need is for them, at least in my part of Sefton Borough, is like pulling teeth. I have asked Sefton Council on a few occasions to let me have some stats as to the need for, referrals to, take up etc. for food bank use in the 3 wards that make up the East Parishes part of the Borough but so far with nothing coming back to me.

However, this churches survey, which was conducted in one part of Maghull rather than across the wider community showed that of the 380 respondents 3 (1%) had made use of a food bank, 1 of debt counselling and 2 of housing advice. At face value these are all lower figures than I would have expected to see bearing in mind that the area of Maghull selected would be the one with the lowest average incomes in general terms. BUT when you look at the more detailed figures things seem to be different in that an additional 4% would use a food bank and 12% may use one.

My point here is that this is matter for which we need better data so to fully understand what is going on. The fact that the Council does not seem to know and that it took local churches to provide some stats does not fill me with a great deal of confidence in the Council.

Is it really the case that up to 17% of the 380 people surveyed may at some point need to use a Food bank because if you add up the 1% who have used one to the 4% who would use one and the 12% who might use one that is the figure you come to?

And this is in the context of Maghull and the East Parishes part of the Borough not yet having a formal operating food bank in terms of one of the Trusell Trust type that is now the generally accepted format for them. One is being set up though by the local churches who have obviously been acting as a more informal food outlet for those on hard times as the religious community has indeed done for generations. Despite being an atheist I a have often admired and supported the Salvation Army in their work to help those who have the least in our society.

So, what did I learn from the presentation by the churches? I suppose I learned that we still don’t know enough about poverty in our communities, even in relatively affluent ones like Maghull and that is not exactly something to be proud of is it.

Lydiate – A Parks Inspection

Here are the Lydiate Parish Council Team at Coronation Park

The Lydiate Parish Council Team at Coronation Park

Last Wednesday evening Lydiate Parish Council conducted an inspection of a number of its areas of public open space. Some are owned by the Parish Council and some are leased from Sefton Council.

The condition of play equipment, trees, fences etc. was on the agenda and the expedition was led by the redoubtable chairman of the Council’s Amenities Committee Cllr. Andrew Blackburn.

Andrew has, in a previous life, been chair of Amenities at Maghull Town Council and he would often lead such inspections across that Council’s vast acreage of land spread around some 15 or more sites so visiting 5 of much smaller Lydiate’s sites was a breeze for this seasoned campaigner.

The good news is that things were looking well, it was a great evening out and we had a chat with some of the many residents who use Lydiate’s parks. Here are some further shots of the inspection:-

Cllrs. Edie Pope, Robbie Fenton, Andrew Blackburn and Parish Clerk Barbara Keenan discuss an issue with Head Groundsman Steve at Mallory Avenue Park

Cllrs. Edie Pope, Robbie Fenton, Andrew Blackburn and Parish Clerk Barbara Keenan discuss an issue with Head Groundsman Steve at Mallory Avenue Park

Amenities Chairman Andrew Blackburn with Parish Clerk Barbara Keenan at Oakhill Park bowling greens

Amenities Chairman Andrew Blackburn with Parish Clerk Barbara Keenan at Oakhill Park bowling greens

THis is Kenyons Park

This is Kenyons Park

Sefton Central Labour – Watch out they are spitting their dummies out!

You don’t need me to tell you that Sefton Central Labour is in one hell of a mess at present because:-

7, yes 7 of their councillors have resigned in recent times

They are fighting pitched battles with people who are trying to defend the Green Belt

Their proposed Green Bin tax is about as popular as snow at Harvest!

But now the panic button has really been pressed hard as the comrades try to make out that black is white over the Green Bin tax and just about everything else. In a move that surely shows political fear (something you should never show to the opposition, I would add) they have produced a leaflet which is circulating in Maghull that is so over the top it is laughable.

As we all know (and this is on public record) Labour run Sefton Council proposed in its 2013/14 budget to introduce a Green Bin tax; a budget that Lib Dem councillors opposed.

Now, on the basis that if you are going to tell untruths tell whoppers, how about a Labour claim that ‘Labour has binned the Lib Dem proposals to introduce a green bin tax which would have hit us here in Maghull hardest’! From ‘which would have hit us in Maghull hardest’ I agree with but to claim that Lib Dems proposed a Green Bin tax and that Labour binned it is turning black into white!

How rattled can you get to try to pretend that your own policy which has proved so unpopular is that of another party!