Rochdale Town Hall drone footage

Liverpool born architect Alfred Waterhouse designed the Tower after the original one was destroyed.

I’ve blogged about this magnificent building previously but having come across some quite excellent drone footage of it on You Tube I just had to share it:-

www.youtube.com/watch?v=cnnzhXFUouw

Quote from You Tube commentary – ‘This Gothic Revival architecture was designed by William Henry Crossland in 1864 and is widely regarded as one of the finest municipal buildings in the UK.’

What’s more the footage is set to one of my all time favourite tunes – Going Home by Mark Knopfler from the sound track for the film Local Hero.

And it you want to read more of my ramblings about this building here’s a link back to my previous posting:-

tonyrobertson.mycouncillor.org.uk/2014/06/07/bootle-town-hallrochdale-town-hall-buildings-of-victorian-civic-pride/

I really don’t like cycling on pavements

I’m a regular almost daily cyclist for fitness, shopping, and local visits for whatever within a few miles of where I live – Lydiate, Merseyside. You may therefore be surprised that I have some negative things to say about some of my fellow cyclists who use pavements to get around rather than being on the road where they belong. To me cycling on a pavement is dangerous for pedestrians especially when bike riders all but creep up on them from behind without even announcing they’re there as it’s uncool to have and to use a bell. It’s bad enough cyclists expecting pedestrians to move out of the way when they are cycling illegally and don’t have any right of way but when also scaring the elderly and people with disabilities out of their wits it’s nothing but utterly disgraceful.

You won’t be surprised that I take a similar view with vehicles parked on or driven on pavements as pavements are for pedestrians unless they have been designated as shared space with cyclists by a local council.

I was exchanging views recently with a Sefton Borough councillor on this matter and the following is a reply that Borough Councillor recently received to concerns he had raised on behalf of residents in his ward who, like me, want the police to put a stop to riding on pavements – The reply concerns Southport but clearly the police are making general, if not nationwide comments:-

‘Cycling on the pavement is an offence but we have to adapt a common sense approach. It has
been agreed nationally that momentary use of the footpath should not be construed to be an
offence. Also we have be mindful of the dangers certain roads also pose to cyclist.

Cycling on pavements is something that does get reported to us, particularly in the summer
months. In recent years we have seen a dramatic increase in cycling, partly due to the British
successes in major cycling events but also under the current COVID-19 restrictions as a
recognised way of keeping fit and safer travel.

We do however recognise that whilst there is a large majority of responsible cyclists, there are
those that do not abide by the rules and can pose a risk of injury to themselves and others.
They are often attracted by the wide pavements that exist in Southport and the reduced risk to
themselves from motor vehicles.

This is something that we discuss with the local Council and over the years there has been the
introduction of cycle lanes and pedestrian areas. These are designed to facilitate cyclists
around the town and protect them from increased motor vehicle traffic and reduce the impact
upon pedestrians. You will be aware of the recent introduction of more cycle lanes designed to
alleviate the problem and also the change in description regarding the Chapel Street area. This
formerly prohibited cycling but now contains a cycle lane and has adapted the “Share with Care”
approach.

We currently liaise with local cycling groups and Schools in an attempt to educate cyclists,
raising awareness of the consequences and also conduct spontaneous operations to tackle
these offenders. Some offenders are advised regarding their conduct and others are fined.
We will continue to address incidents of cycling on pavements when staffing and conflicting
demands allow but based upon the threat, harm and risk to the Community, combined with the
number of incidents reported it is not presently a priority.

What we are targeting is anti-social behaviour in the Town and this often includes inconsiderate
or even dangerous use of pedal cycles. We have dealt with a number of offenders through the
justice system under the anti-social issues rather than specific cycling alone. This is not always
visible to members of the public as it may be addressed by later prosecutions as attempting to
stop the cyclist there and then can further danger themselves and other pedestrians.

I must add that such enforcement also receives complaints due to an opposing view in favour of
the cyclist.’

When I first read the police view I must admit to thinking along the line of that’s a good politician’s response as it says a lot whilst not really addressing the fundamental issue i.e. the safety of pedestrians. However, on reflection I think there is some hope, if only a very small amount, that Merseyside Police do understand the issues whilst rarely having the spare resources to tackle those who put pedestrians at risk. It would be interesting to see some stats on police interaction with illegal cycling across Sefton Borough and indeed Merseyside as a whole as I have a horrible feeling that such interaction only really happens when a pedestrian has been injured by a reckless cyclist on a pavement.

Whatever we as cyclists and motorists (yes I’m a driver too) may think when we are in our own little world the fact is that the most important and vulnerable thing on our roads is the pedestrian, that’s why our bikes and vehicles should not be ridden, driven or in the case of vehicles parked on or across pavements.

Sadly, I have the feeling that with police resources being so stretched (although I bet they did little cycling intervention when they weren’t so stretched) that a significant minority of cyclists will continue to put pedestrians at risk and there’ll be no one to challenge such anti-social behaviour until a pedestrian gets injured.

Political inspiration desperately needed for the left of UK politics

You might say ‘God help us we are desperately in need of dynamic political leadership on the left’, although in my case it would be your God as I don’t actually have one but you get my drift. And indeed drift is what has got the left of UK politics into the mess that it is.

But where did the rot start? For the Lib Dems after Charles Kennedy bowed out as their leader, for Labour probably when the wrong Miliband was elected their leader. Yes we can argue about when the rot started but when will it stop?

I don’t know about you but I’m desperately unimpressed with the direction progressive politics has been and may still be heading in. It could not organise itself to oppose a Brexit that virtually every progressive opposed whether they be members of PC, SNP, Lib Dems, Greens or Labour. There’s been no credible opposition to the Conservatives since 2010 at least. Yes there’s been a lot of shouting from the left but when push came to shove the left went in 5 or more directions all at once due to factional sects being unwilling to work with each other even on agendas where they shared common goals! The nearest we got was the Remain Alliance at the 2019 GE when the Greens, PC and Lib Dems tried to put out a nearly unified team, which then utterly failed.

Failure for the left is a comfortable old coat that gets passed down from one generation of left leaning party leaders to the next to give the Tories an assurance that the left is rarely going to get its act together and of course it usually tries not to!

Under our warped electoral system which virtually all other democracies ditched long ago we are left in almost every constituency with a binary choice. In most it’s left V right but it can be left V left but rarely if ever right V right. The right of UK politics is good at reorganising as the Conservative party morphs itself into UKIP when it was a threat to its ground and the Brexit Party when it reared its head. But the left stays in its own political silos pretty much come what may, no matter that it means year upon year of Conservative governance.

But the lack of serious opposition has meant the Tories have also become careless because they pretty much know they can get away with anything & everything. May’s minority Government was weak; Johnson’s is all over the place and both when the UK has needed strong governance and a clear direction. But even with a weak right the left can’t or won’t get its act together! It treads water, it shouts from the side-lines, it settles for keeping it’s own minority of backers on side. It all but takes out advertisements saying that it’s a waste of space and incapable of offering alternative leadership which folk can feel in any way enthusiastic about. Ask us in 2024 when we are near the next election and we may have woken up by then but don’t expect anything other than us going through the motions, at best, until then.

Blair understood that he needed to build an alternative movement and so did Ashdown indeed they did some of their planning in joint consultation because they knew that fighting each other would only be to the Tories advantage. Has the left learned anything from that? Clearly not and that’s because everything that Blair stood for is now policy of the devil amongst many on the left. They look upon him as being wrong about everything because he fouled up badly over Iraq and is perceived to have been too moderate and centrist. Of course he was not wrong about everything and the understanding he had with Ashdown was very far from being wrong – although it was sadly not followed through. As usual the left chucks the baby out with the bath water because well it enjoys cutting off its own nose to spite its face, it’s what the left does and in some left leaning minds it’s what it always should do.

I don’t know about you but I’m sick and tired of this carry on not least because it keeps delivering Tory Governments. But what can we do? Well the prospects aren’t good let’s be honest. To start with both the Lib Dems and Labour have middle aged white leaders who would do well to win a dull as dishwater contest even if they were the only contestants. Not sure where the Greens are going but the SNP at least has a credible leader. Ah but the Lib Dems and Labour fight like cats and dogs with the SNP because they’re unionist parties whereas the SNP is by definition a party of independence. Never mind that, putting that Scots Indy issue to one side, there may well be areas of social policy for example where there’s some common ground they still have to be seen to politically hate each other over everything. Oh what’s the point you may well say, indeed I’ve said it myself, but with the present Conservative Party having a free run to do anything they want the left simply has to stop kicking itself in the goolies and face up to providing an alternative vision. Doing nothing just puts the UK on the road to ruination, which is of course why many Scots want out!

So the two dull as dishwater leaders have to start talking and they have to find to try to some accommodation with the SNP. If they do nothing else they need to look back at the Blair/Ashdown talks of not that many years ago and as Ashdown is sadly no longer around even consult Blair.

You know there are good people in the Labour Party, in the SNP and even in the Lib Dems who can find ways of not declaring war on each other at the drop of a hat. If they don’t do this, if they can’t summon up some left leaning political inspiration to capture the hearts and minds of the electorate but particularly of young people then we all on the left deserve to go to the Tories version of hell in their rickety hand cart.

Merseyside or Liverpool City Region?

or

With Merseyside/Liverpool City Region being somewhat the centre of attention presently due to the recent spike in Covid 19 it’s been interesting to hear how the media and politicians interchange Merseyside with Liverpool City Region. I’ve even seen a posting on Twitter explaining what Liverpool City Region is made up of as even on Merseyside it’s a matter of some confusion with Joe and Jane Public.

First a bit of history. Merseyside was created as part of the big local government reorganisation which came into effect in 1974. It comprised and indeed still does comprise the council areas of Knowsley, Sefton, St. Helens, Wirral and Liverpool. Mrs. T did not like the uppity Metropolitan County Councils and the Greater London Council so she abolished them. The powers that were held by Merseyside Country Council were given to joint boards made up of councillors from the boroughs or they went straight to the borough councils. The lead photo is of one of the last surviving Merseyside County Council boundary signs that I know of. It’s on Cunscough Lane on the Bikerstaffe/Melling – Lancashire/Merseyside boundary or at least it was last time I looked. You’ll note that the County Council had a crest which is displayed on the sign.

Then many years later there was a developing trend, particularly amongst Tories, to ape US/Australian local/regional government process and with that came the creation of Liverpool City Region, a City Region Mayor and a Police Commissioner. It also meant that Liverpool City had two elected mayors leading to the City Mayor becoming known as the ‘Spare Mayor’ in some circles. I think it’s fair to say that Police Commissioners have been a complete flop whilst the regional mayors are hardly viewed as being a successful policy move either.

The difference geographically between Merseyside and Liverpool City Region (LCR) is that LCR includes the Borough of Halton (Widnes & Runcorn) and the graphic below illustrates the area covered by LCR

But why did Merseyside morph into Liverpool City Region? Well it happened whilst I was leader of Sefton Council and the theory was this. The Council Leaders were told that potential investors in Merseyside did not know where it was, whereas they did know where Liverpool wass. You can follow this through reasonably logically by thinking about the huge successes of Liverpool Football Club who together with the Beatles put Liverpool on the world map. I get all that but to be honest I was never particularly sold on dropping Merseyside for LCR but a decision had to be made so eventually LCR was the title agreed but not with much enthusiasm I think it fair to say.

The irony of where we are now due to Covid 19 is that LRC may well mean a clear area of the UK for outside investors but to locals, politicians and the media in the UK it’s still Merseyside.

The name change has not really worked and it possibly never will with locals.

Hydrogen powered train makes UK debute

The BBC has the article on its website – see link below:-

www.bbc.co.uk/news/av/business-54350046

This is a significant and very welcome environmental development in terms of powering trains in the UK and beyond.

Germany already has operating passenger trains using this new to rail power source (see link below from 2018) but great to see UK rail companies working it up too.

www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/sep/17/germany-launches-worlds-first-hydrogen-powered-train

Southport’s Lakeside Miniature Railway

I recently purchased the old postcard shown below of Southport’s Lakeside Miniature Railway:-

There’s a date on the reverse of the postcard – 10th August 1971 but no other writing.

The caption, also on the reverse, says – SOUTHPORT, LANCASHIRE, ENGLAND. A delightful resort with beautifully laid-out gardens and a famous Marine lake. The Lakeside Miniature Railway is a scaled-down version of the real thing, and is an ever popular source of enjoyment for children and adults alike. Original by T. R. McIlroy

Click on the postcard to enlarge the photo