Sefton Council – 2% tax rise, another rejection of community-run libraries and Green Belt wobble amongst a lot of socialist tub thumping

Sefton’s budget meeting was last night and Labour has imposed a 1.99% tax rise on the hard pressed Council tax payers of the Borough, which we Lib Dems opposed.

Labour also slapped down Lib Dem proposals that would have seen comunity-run libraries take over many of the former library buildings that sit redundant after Labour’s closure programme.

Oddly and despite there being nothing on the agenda about the Local Plan and building on Green Belt land Labour got hot under the collar about their own plans to press ahead with such building.

All this was amongst a number of tub-thumping socialist speeches from Labour members some of which would not have been out of place in Liverpool City Council’s chamber during the Militant era. Indeed, Sefton Labour seem unable to grasp that their party nationally is promising more and bigger welfare cuts whilst sticking to Coalition spending plans! In Sefton Labour’s world they delude themselves into thinking that Ed Balls is marching them towards a socialist state of common ownership!

These are the headlines – more to follow.

Save our Libraries – Labour’s Aintree Library ‘Advice’ an utter disgrace

Sefton’s opposition Lib Dem’s are furious over the comments made by a Labour councillor in last week’s (Wednesday 19th Feb’ edition) Aintree & Maghull Champion about Aintree Library and the failure of Labour-run Sefton Council to agree a take-over package with Aintree Library Action Group’s volunteers.

Me outside the Aintree Library before Labour swung the axe to close it and then block volunteer efforts to reopen it.

Me outside the Aintree Library before Labour swung the axe to close it and then block volunteer efforts to reopen it.

As someone who represented Aintree for 12 years, I was flabbergasted by the Labour view. I personally invested time assisting volunteers who wanted to take over Aintree Library (and College Road Library in Crosby) because I was convinced by the case the volunteers put forward. Where were the 3 Labour councillors who now represent Aintree during that campaign? I never saw them backing Parish Councillors, such as Peter Gill and Terry Baldwin, and the volunteers.

This is Independent Aintree Village Parish Councillor Terry Baldwin speaking at a meeting. He and Peter Gill ran a great campaign to try to save Aintree Library.

This is Independent Aintree Village Parish Councillor Terry Baldwin speaking at a meeting. He and Peter Gill ran a great campaign to try to save Aintree Library.

For a Labour councillor to say now that the group should have followed Labour’s advice is ridiculous; it was the Labour Party closing the Library and Labour blocking the volunteer bid to run the Library!

Only on Merseyside could its leaders look so dysfunctional!

www.liverpoolecho.co.uk/news/liverpool-news/merseyside-super-council-called-halton-6719391

The Liverpool Echo has the story.

You could not make this up! And down the East Lancashire Road in another place, where the Councils do get on, the investment will continue to made by Governments (of whatever colour) and their council leaders will be having a good old chuckle at this latest example of self inflicted Greater Liverpool embarrassment.

Lancashire V Sefton – Forget partnership because sadly it has become a neighbour dispute!

I have commented before about my concerns regarding this relationship. It should be good, positive and comprehensive yet sadly it is very far from that. The Council area that Sefton has the most common interest with, other than Liverpool, is the one that it seems to have the worst relationship!

My concerns have been long standing and relate to the lack of joined up thinking over health and transport going back a long way and certainly to the reorganisation of local government in 1974. With a shared hospital Trust covering Ormskirk and Southport and joint transport challenges you would have thought the two councils would have been drawn together to solve common difficulties but no; the invisible Merseyside/Lancashire boundary is, in local government terms, all but a brick wall and a tall one at that.

More recently it became apparent to anyone taking a close interest in the emerging Local Plans for Sefton and West Lancs that the expected co-operation and joint working was simply not happening beyond the odd stone being tossed over that brick wall with a message wrapped around it.

West Lancs has criticised Sefton’s draft Local Plan because Sefton has a big idea to close up the Green Belt boundary between Lydiate (in Sefton) and Aughton (in West Lancs). Similarly Sefton is cheesed off because West Lancs is to allow the building of houses bang up against the Southport (in Sefton) and Halsall(in West Lancs) boundary. This means that West Lancs gets the housing it wants but Sefton has to provide all the services for the new Halsall residents such as GP’s, schools, dentists etc.

So as you can see and indeed as I have commented about before the cooperation between these two neighbouring Councils has been and is at such a low level as to be of little use to anyone.

But then another neighbour dispute pops up if those above were not enough! This time it’s back to the joint transportation problems and it’s associated with Sefton’s response to the West Lancashire Highways and Transport Masterplan drawn up by Lancashire County Council. Readers will recall that I have covered this quite recently but there has been a further twist in that Sefton Council (report dated 31st January) has all but given the draft Masterplan a two fingered salute! A few quotes:-

“the Council [Sefton] is disappointed that it has received no further contact or consultation from Lancashire County Council since an initial stakeholder meeting in April 2013.”

“the document makes no reference to the current configuration of health services offered by Southport and Ormskirk NHS Trust.”

“On page 20 the Masterplan seems to suggest that some reduction in car traffic may occur, which does not seem consistent with the assumed growth in traffic on page 25.”

On the Masterplan’s suggestion that Southport bound traffic from the M58 be routed via Switch Island and the presently being constructed Link Road Sefton says “Sefton Council does not consider this proposal either acceptable or appropriate. The Council is disappointed that it has not been approached for any discussion about this proposal in advance of it publication.”

The response is far more detailed than the scything quotes above but you get my drift i.e. the Sefton – West Lancashire/Lanachsire County partnership is sadly becoming no more than a battleground!

The Priory – Litherland – Another local pub has gone

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As we all know pubs across the Country are closing in large numbers and there have been examples across Sefton Borough of the demise of numerous outposts of the pub trade. The photo above was taken on 24th January with the battle to save the pub seemingly all but lost.

The Priory is in a prominent location and is an interesting building in its own right so why would anyone want to demolish it?

The story of its demise and the fight to stop it closing and being demolished has been carried in the Champion newspaper – read on via these links:-

www.champnews.com/newsstory.aspx?story=3043277

www.gopetition.com/petitions/save-our-pub-the-priory-save-our-pub.html

www.ipetitions.com/petition/save-the-priory-pub

The Pub Co’s have a lot to answer for in my view – Pubs are not just property to be bought and sold they are usually at the very heart of a community.

Maghull Town Council Budget meeting 22nd January – We don’t need a Neighbourhood Plan but we do need Maghull in Bloom and youth facilities.

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With reserves of £400,000 this Labour-run Council had room to pledge a £5,000 support grant to Maghull’s ‘In Bloom’ volunteers and to back a small financial package to secure the Town’s unique Youth Coffee Bar but it stubbornly refused to do either.

We Lib Dems have always seen youth facilities as being vital that’s why we set up Maghull’s unique Youth Coffee Bar in Maghull Town Hall when we ran the Council. Labour’s shutting of the facility for a number of weeks last December was appalling but they are simply not investing in our young people. Labour has stopped the yearly grant to Maghull & District Youth Council and chopped out the Town Council’s Youth Projects fund. To counter this we Lib Dem proposed that £5,000 was put aside to help run the Youth Coffee Bar when volunteers are unavailable to run it.

On the environmental front Maghull folk are delighted with the floral displays in the Town’s shopping centre, at Deyes Lane shops and at Treeview Court. But the volunteers, who put on the prize winning displays in partnership with the local business community and the Town Council, can’t produce the displays from nothing so Maghull Council has long been a significant financial supporter of the ‘In Bloom’ Volunteers. But, under Labour the Council’s support has been slipping with no guarantee to the volunteers over the certainty of the Council’s support in the future. The Lib Dem view is that this is simply not on so we proposed that the Council return to supporting Maghull in Bloom to the tune of £5,000 per year. Labour sadly voted the grant down.

However, Labour’s major objective is an odd thing – a Neighbourhood Plan that it is planning to spend £10,000 on in the coming year and probably a significant amount more in future as these plans can cost £70,000+! Why they want to do one no one knows because they will not say despite being asked to do so by the Lib Dems.

A Neighbourhood Plan is a smaller version of a Local Plan, of which Sefton Council is presently putting one together for the whole Borough. Of course, Sefton’s Local Plan is hugely controversial because Labour-run Sefton wants to build on Green Belt and high grade agricultural land, especially around Maghull!

But Maghull Town Council is Labour run too so why can’t they simply add whatever the matters are that are buzzing around in their bonnets straight into the Sefton Local Plan? They could do that for free instead of spending goodness knows how much Council tax payers money doing a separate Neighbourhood Plan for Maghull.

Our concern is that Labour may have an agenda to build even more houses in Maghull because a Neighbourhood Plan is not allowed to include anything that disagrees with the Borough’s Local Plan; so they could build more houses via a Neighbourhood Plan but they could not build less. I think it is about time Labour came clean on their secret Neighbourhood Plan objectives for Maghull because Labour Maghull Town Councillor and Sefton Leader Cllr. Peter Dowd has already signed up publicly to Ed Miliband’s doubling of the present house building targets.