I went to an informal meeting at Lydiate Village Centre on Friday morning where representatives of Maghull & Lydiate Home Watch (Incorporating Sefton Village) were talking to residents at a coffee morning organised by Lydiate Parish Council about the work of Home Watch.
A very interesting discussion that looks like it will lead to a campaign to encourage more Lydiate residents to both join Home Watch and become active in the organisation.
Home Watch is a very important volunteer organisation in many communities and the Maghull & Lydiate group are particularly active in trying to help to combat crime via advice and help for local folks. Definitely a ‘Big Society’ thing is this.
Check out my link to their web site.
My good friend Jane, a retired lady with a disability, had a smoke alarm fitted by Merseyside Fire and Rescue Authority a couple of years ago and pleased with it she was, well until last Tuesday anyway.
Last Tuesday the thing became faulty and let out a loud screeching noise every 10 minutes and would only be calmed down by the pressing of a button. Trouble is this button needed pressing every 10 minutes!
Jane rang the designated number and asked for some urgent help. She was promised a visit that day/evening. It did not happen and she was up all night with the damn thing going off every 10 minutes. Then all through Wednesday and Wednesday nights. She mentioned her trouble to me on Thursday evening so I went around and put the alarm out of it’s and her misery.
Merseyside Fire and Rescue Authority own Jane an apology for not turning out; they have let her down and she is far from happy with them.
Returning to the subject of Sefton Council’s AGM where the Labour Leader on this balanced authority (where no one party has a majority) became the Leader of the Council as his Group is presently the largest on on the Council. For the record the seats are split 28 Labour, 23 Liberal Democrat, 11 Conservative, 3 Independent Conservative and 1 UKIP.
Just before the meeting Labour made a bid for more power demanding an extra seat on their favorite local gravy train Merseytravel, which is the Transport Authority for Merseyside. Their action was designed to take a seat which had already been allocated to the Lib Dems, under a long standing agreement, which they said they are entitled to under a mathematical formula. Obviously we opposed their bid but the Tories backed Labour and the issue will now go on to the Cabinet to resolve. The ‘old pals act’ (Lab and Con) worked against us again!
Then Labour backed a motion from an Independent Conservative councillor which was promoting the interests of the rich against the poor! I am sure Labour did not fully understand what they were voting for as the motion was aimed at letting rich students off paying back tuition fees costs with the consequence being that if the policy was ever enacted the poor would end up paying more to compensate! A funny sort of socialism going on here with us Lib Dems backing the poor and the ‘old pals act’ backing the rich.
Hardly the best start for the newly Labour led Council i.e. blatant self interested power grabbing whilst backing rich folks and ditching the poor. We could be in for a very interesting year indeed.
I have had a few days away with my old chum Keith. As usual at this time of year we went up to the Lake District to canoe and walk. Trouble is the weather was poor most of the time. But never mind we enjoyed the break and here are 3 photo’s of our trip:-
Canoes at Nichol End on Derwent Water - A nice launching point with a good cafe
The Eden Valley Railway at Warcop - Volunteers are trying to reinstate the railway to Appleby. We had a ride of course!
Sizergh Castle near Kendal - a place to go in the rain as National Trust members. A good cafe here as well
Now is the big test for Labour; they are the largest party on the Council and hold the Leader’s post. BUT what will they do? If they act as they did during the last municipal year then trouble is not far away.
What they need to learn is that being on a Council means that tough decisions have to be made and you can’t keep ducking them as they have been doing in recent times.
We Lib Dems will not be taking the tough decisions for them but we start another year with no one party having a majority on balanced Sefton so we must be positive and hope that lessons have been learned by the comrades.
Being a trustee of a charitable trust (The Frank Hornby Trust) and finding it a useful vehicle to make things happen I have often pondered on how such trusts can bring more community accountability and involvement to facilities that are presently run by Councils and other public bodies.
You see Local Authorities (and I certainly don’t include Parish Councils here) often bring with them the dead hand of red tape and rules/regulations that can defeat even the most determined campaigners! Community organisations and Charitable Trusts can be the very opposite of such central control, be more flexible and can certainly keep red tape to a minimum. They are very much what Liberals believe in and promote as we seek to give power back to communities.
As Sefton Council, like many other Councils, strives to keep community facilities going in the face of the worst economic collapse that many of us have ever seen I hope that finding sustainable ways of giving away suitable community assets to willing community groups will be encouraged and facilitated. I know such a process will be difficult for those who believe in centralised, all powerful local authorities but if we are to really empower our communities the days of municipal socialism have to end.
By the way, when I mention municipal socialism, I do not just refer to that section of the Labour Party who think only the Council knows best. The rebuilding of Southport Indoor Market, against the wishes of the vast majority of Southport councillors, is a very clear example. Clear because this ridiculous bout of municipal socialism was backed by Conservatives on Sefton Council! If you recall Sefton Council borrowed £8m to rebuild this indoor market (in a Harrods Food Hall type development where there will be no room for small market traders) together with the rebuilding Netherton Activity Centre in Bootle. Neither of these projects is affordable and jobs within the Council will be lost to pay for the borrowing.
A combination of devolved decision making (localism) and councillors who do not think the Council is the best vehicle to move many things forward would have stopped Southport Market in its tracks and money and jobs would have been saved.
The solution to many community issues and challenges is not always to get out the public purse and spend, spend, spend! Often bringing like minded people together in a community will find local solutions and one of those solutions may be setting up a sustainable charitable trust.