I have long opposed an elected Metro Mayor/City Regional Mayor/Merseyside Mayor call it what you will and without going over too much ground this is why:-
* Merseyside is too small to be a successful competitive City Region with areas such as Ellesmere Port and West Lancashire being excluded from it.
* A Borough like Sefton which has a majority border with Lancashire could end up being even more disconnected with its neighbouring communities. I am thinking of Southport, Lydiate and Formby here especially.
* What’s so cleaver about centralising power in one person’s hands? Surely this is an illiberal idea that goes against the long held view in the UK about how local governance should be set up. Indeed, it is an American idea imported to the UK.
* Electing a candidate whom people can genuinely respect would be crucial if the idea is taken forward on Merseyside against all my other significant reservations/objections above. A Party hack from one particular political tribe who wants to lord it over Merseyside will be no good for anyone.
But despite my reservations is it going to happen? Well it seems it may well just do so if you take on board what is said in the Liverpool Echo article – see link above.
Of course Liverpool already has an elected City Mayor but the role was in reality imposed on the City without a referendum by Labour-run Liverpool City Council. On that basis clearly he electoral legitimacy test of whether the City wanted a elected mayor at all was dodged. The only say Liverpool folk got was who was going to get the job.
What’s more quite a few cities/communities that have held referendums on whether they wanted an elected mayor have said no they don’t. Where elected mayors have been successful will have been where, probably more by chance than anything else, a person of widely respected stature has been elected. In other words it is a game of chance; get a good elected mayor and it may possibly work out get a bad one and it could be an utter nightmare. Such is the result when power is not shared by a group of elected people.
I still think it is a bad way forward and will be campaigning against this Americanisation of UK local government.
I first won a seat on Sefton Borough Council in 1999 in Molyneux ward (which was then made up of Aintree Village, Melling, Thornton, Ince Blundell and Sefton Parishes) by taking it from Labour.
The Labour candidate and sitting councillor back then was a friend of mine and fellow trade union officer! I genuinely felt bad about beating him. His name? Tim Hale.
16 years later and the boot was almost on the other foot as I was in the process of losing my Park Ward (Lydiate, Sefton & Lunt Villages and western Maghull) Sefton Council seat to a Labour candidate whilst Tim was in the process of winning a seat for the Labour Party in Formby’s Ravenmeols ward.
I think it fair to say that Tim expected to lose to Formby’s new environmental movement party FRAGOFF but he just scrapped in some 16 years after I took his Sefton Council seat off him!
We had a long chat about the old days as trade union officers in the Civil Service and of course how bad we both felt on a personal level about me taking his Sefton Council seat all those years ago.
But there was another a parallel with the 1999 election count for me. My mates in the Lib Dems have always ribbed me about the look on my face when I won in 1999 – they call it my rabbit in the headlight moment as I and indeed they were shocked that we had won a seat we did not expect to pick up until the following round of local elections. Of course I was also pondering how I was going to be able to look my old friend Tim in the face again!
Well it happened again in last week’s Parish Council’s election count – another rabbit in the headlight moment for me. What was it? My winning a seat on Lydiate Parish Council again. Winning was just not a possibility in my mind; Labour were going to sweep the board and that was that. Imagine my complete shock when I was told I had been re-elected to Lydiate Parish Council, I was utterly speechless for a few moments and did my second rabbit in the headlight moment at an election count.
My best wishes to Tim. On a political level I obviously did not want him to win as I have worked closely with Fragoff with whom I share many environmental concerns. On a personal level I am happy for Tim who has been out of office for 16 years all because of me! I also realise that Tim has been dealing with the illness of a close family member in recent times and hope his long awaited return to Sefton Council is just the thing to lift his family’s spirits.
So Sefton has a new Leader (Cllr. Ian Maher) and surprise, surprise it’s another Labour Councillor from Bootle and his Deputy will be, yes you have guessed it, another Labour Councillor from Bootle (Cllr. John Fairclough).
The Bootle Labour Party has dominated Sefton politics for some years now with Bill Esterson’s Sefton Central Labour tribe being kept firmly away from power even though they are the voting fodder that enables the Bootle Labour Bucks to dominate us all in the Borough.
Peter Dowd was a Leader of some ability and I say that as someone who opposed him over many things in my time on Sefton Council. Peter was was a quick thinker on his feet and his speeches were usually of high quality whether you agreed with him or not. What I can’t see here is a Labour and indeed Council leadership that can match Peter Dowd’s skills. Is that why Peter is staying on as a councillor despite having just been elected MP for Bootle?
The County of Merseyside and its County Council were created as a consequence of the Conservative’s hugely controversial local government reorganisation of 1974. It took many communities out of Lancashire and into this newly invented beast and it has probably been the most unpopular act associated with local governance of living memory.
Unloved and often hated from the start (I mean the County of Merseyside but you can read into this sentence another connotation!) Margaret Thatcher then killed off or put down Merseyside County Council in the 1980’s.
But on an isolated lane in Melling on the border with West Lancashire, Cunscough Lane to be precise, there sits to this very day a symbol of that once short-lived County Council together with its crest or coat of arms:-
What was once – A short lived County Council
The photo is amongst my Flickr shots at:-
Sadly, I have just received this message via e-mail having given a small donation to try to assist Merseyside Maritime Museum in their bid to acquire a shipbuilder’s model of this famous Liverpool Liner at auction.
Mauretania Auction update
Many thanks once again for your recent gift towards our appeal to bring the Mauretania home to Liverpool.
Unfortunately, we were unsuccessful in our bid.
Here is a quote from Janet Dugdale, Director of Merseyside Maritime Museum:
“We are hugely disappointed with today’s outcome. Our intention was to bring the Mauretania home to Liverpool, at a critical time in the city’s maritime history. It is sad that we cannot do this. However, I would like to thank every single person who contributed. The donations raised were fantastic and will be used to improve the Merseyside Maritime Museum and its collections”.
The Liverpool Echo has the story – See link above.
There is a depressing regularity about these shootings in Sefton Borough and on Merseyside generally. Will they ever end?