John Pugh MP on Sefton’s mad rush to join the Merseyside Joint Authority

pugh

“A cosy, closed club of Labour council leaders is no-one’s idea of a good formula for economic progress in the region but to leave out West Lancs just makes matter worse. Anyone who manages to drive from Southport to St Helens (both in the City Region) and avoids going through the heart of West Lancs is probably plain lost. If transport connections are supposed to be important for the City Region you can’t help thinking Labour city bosses have lost the plot too.”

Maghull Town Council – Oops an illegal meeting has to be cancelled.

I have posted many times before about the strange goings on at Labour-run Maghull Council but they just keep on coming.

This time it’s a meeting that was called without regard to the due legal notice period that all Councils have to observe and it’s a problem this Labour council has fallen over before. On this occasion the notice was issued on a Monday for a meeting to be held on a Thursday when the earliest a meeting that is called on a Monday can be held is the following Friday. There has to be 3 clear days between the date the agenda is issued and the date the meeting is held. Fortunately, the mistake was spotted and the Thursday meeting cancelled, although strangely no official cancellation notice was actually issued to members of the Council.

And what was the Special Meeting all about? It was to do with Sefton Council’s highly controversial Local Plan which is now in its second period of public consultation. The first period being back in 2011 when Maghull Council said er nothing! In fact the second 3 month period of consultation finished today Friday 27th September.

I am told that in the absence of a properly called Council meeting the Town Council has sent in a provisional position statement that will be open to be amended when the Council next meets on Wednesday 2nd October. What the provisional statement says your guess is as good as mine, as I post this item, but hey I am but a humble opposition member of the Council.

Maghull Town Council – Meeting 18th September – Fireworks and Iniquitous taxation

It was Jen Robertson’s first meeting (following her taking one of 2 seats that we Lib Dems won from Labour in the recent Maghull by-elections) and like Andrew Blackburn and me before her she took her place as the current youngest member of the Council.

There were two interesting items on the agenda.

Firstly, there is to be a Maghull firework display on 5th November despite the fact that the money for it was taken out of the budget by the Labour-led Council a few months ago and they voted against the Lib Dem proposal to put it back in! However, common sense seems to have prevailed but why take the money away, vote against it being put back then propose to fund and have the display anyway? An odd way to run a Council in my book.

Secondly, we had a discussion about Labour-run Sefton Council’s proposal to tax Maghull residents for a service it is not going to provide! For years Sefton has given money back to Maghull Town Council, to help pay for parks, because it charges the same Council tax in Maghull as everywhere else in the Borough but does not provide any parks in the Town. Their plan is the stop refunding the money but to keep the Council tax at the same level. This, to put it bluntly, will mean that Maghull Council tax payers will be getting diddled because that part of the Council tax that goes towards parks will be spent elsewhere in the borough providing parks for other communities!

What gets me here is that Labour run Maghull Council is not fighting for the Town. It should be exposing the iniquitous nature of the plan not sitting back and accepting the situation. Presumably Labour’s rulers in Bootle have told Labour in Maghull not to kick up a fuss?

Old Hall Park in Maghull, one of 15 run by Maghull Town Council. This is the only one not owned but leased from Sefton Council.

Old Hall Park in Maghull, one of 15 run by Maghull Town Council. This is the only one not owned by the Town Council; it is leased from Sefton Council.

We proposed that Maghull looks to work with Lydiate and Aintree Village Parish Councils, whose communities are in a similar boat, to oppose what Sefton is doing and to investigate the possibilities of getting this iniquitous situation judicially reviewed. I fear though that this will all be kicked into the long grass and, if nothing changes, that Maghull, Lydiate, Aintree Village Council tax payers will be diddled by their own Borough Council!

We Maghull Labour just following orders from Bootle Labour

This reminds me of the recent £46 pa Green Bin Tax that Sefton Council was going to impose on the Borough because despite Maghull being hit hard by it Maghull’s Labour councillors did nothing and it took us opposition Lib Dems to raise the profile of the issue and force Sefton’s Bootle rulers to back down. It seems to me that following orders from Bootle is Labour’s priority not standing up for Maghull.

If you would like to read more about the Maghull, Lydiate, Aintree Village Council tax issue have a look at my postings of 31/03/2013, 07/07/2013 & 17/07/2013 or Lydiate Parish Council’s web site at :-

www.lydiateparishcouncil.gov.uk/

SAVE OUR LIBRARIES – I brief look at the innovative York solution

I mentioned in a recent posting about Sefton’s appalling library closure programme that I had been to York this summer and had become aware of what that Council is doing to try to bring the costs of running its libraries within the available budget.

York’s solution is innovative and seemingly really positive as its aim is just the opposite of Labour run Sefton. In Sefton Labour is closing 7 libraries unless community groups wish to save them and they are doing it in some of the poorest communities in the Borough! In York the Labour run Council are trying to keep the network of libraries up and running; closing them seems to be the last thing on that Council’s mind!

The unique café/library in York's Rowntree Park

The unique café/library in York’s Rowntree Park

A visit to Rowntree Park in York brought all this to my attention because in that lovely park (which is similar to say to Botanic Gardens or Hesketh Park in Southport) there is a relatively new an innovative facility. It is a café which also doubles as a form of library. It seemed to be hugely popular with park users and with parents of young children in particular as they were in and around it drinking coffee whilst reading to their youngsters. A really fascinating leaning and relaxation experience for all.

But what I also learned via a string of detailed information posters placed in this café/library was that York was setting up a new way of running all its libraries called a Community Benefit Society, in effect a charitable company/organisation.

There was huge amount of information and if I understood it all properly library staff and library users were really up for giving it a go. But what has really got my goat is that Labour run Sefton refused to look at such options that library groups and indeed we Lib Dems have been suggesting where volunteers and paid staff work together to deliver quality library services.

OK it may not work but why on earth simply plump from closures of Libraries without in communities across Sefton without trying out such an innovative solution? Oh, the narrow mindedness of socialism in Sefton really is so stifling!

SAVE OUR GREEN BELT – Maghull Town Council – A complete lack of leadership

I was recently asked by the Labour administration whether the now 5 strong group of Lib Dem Opposition members on Maghull Town Council would like to help Labour in its proposed sample survey of the Maghull population over the draft Local Plan that Labour run Sefton Borough Council is putting forward. That draft Local Plan, which has already been endorsed for consultation by the majority Labour Group on Sefton Council, means a huge chunk of Maghull’s Green Belt is down to be concreted over.

I got to see a copy of the proposed survey and after consultation with my fellow Lib Dem members we decided not to work with Labour over this matter. But why did we make that decision? Don’t Lib Dems believe in co-operation with other political parties? Well yes we do but…………….

Our problem with Labour over the Sefton Green Belt is that whilst they have been shouting ‘save the Green Belt’ they have been voting to consult on doing just the opposite. What’s more some of the Labour members of Sefton Council also sit on Maghull Town Council; in fact 5 Labour members of Sefton Council (including 3 all-powerful Bootle Cabinet members) are members of Maghull Council.

Separately, Maghull Town Council Labour Group recently published a plan for their own proposed activities over the next year or so. Included in this plan was the proposed Green Belt survey. We Lib Dems said then that the Town Council needed to lead the community to oppose the Green Belt grab rather than launching an all too late sample consultation.

You see the real problem here is that any sample public consultation should have been undertaken in 2011 when the first round of public consultation took place over the Green Belt. All of the Parish Councils in Sefton made submissions to the Borough Council about their concerns back then but Maghull Town Council, under its Labour leadership, made no comment at all!

Two years down the track and Big Brother Labour run Sefton Council has proposed the biggest of all the Green Belt developments in the Borough should be on Maghull’s high grade agricultural land east of Poverty Lane. If Maghull TC had fought for the Green Belt back in 2011 we may not now be facing the attack on the Town’s Green belt now. If you don’t make representations when it matters you should not be surprised if failing to make representations drops you in it!

Also back in July across 3 of Maghull’s 4 electoral Town Council wards there were by-elections where Labour lost 2 of the 3 seats up for grabs and clung onto the 3rd by just 9 votes. And what were the two big issues in those by-elections? Not surprisingly they were opposition to Labour’s proposal to build on the Green Belt and to Labour’s plan to charge folks to have their green bins emptied. Two of those by-elections (the 2 Labour lost) were fought across the two Town Council wards that make up the Borough ward of Sudell. My point? Sudell ward is where all the Green Belt building is proposed to happen in Maghull!

Elections are the biggest test of opinion in a democracy as everyone on the electoral register has the chance to vote should they choose to do so. In Maghull North and East wards (the two which make up Sudell ward) Labour failed the public consultation test because they were proposing Green Belt building and charging for Green Bin collections. Don’t you think that the public consultation has been done, that it is very recent and that the result is clear; do I.

Labour’s consultation smacks of ‘we did not like the result of the last consultation (elections) so lets try again to see if we can find a way of getting a different answer’.

Please Labour, stop this carry on now and reaffirm the Town Council policy from 1998 (when it was Lib Dem run). Back then the Council led the community and fought a hard campaign to see off Sefton Borough Council who wanted to build on the Green Belt. It may be very late in the day, it may well be that saying nothing in 2011 showed an appalling lack of community leadership, but Labour can repent if they just stop running around in circles and do what the electorate said in July – fight to save the Green Belt instead of voting to build on it!!