Meeting with a Minister

Today the Merseyside Council and Business Leaders had a meeting with Mark Prisk the Minister for Business and Enterprise and to give Mark his due he seems to be well briefed and understanding of his portfolio.

Often visits from Ministers can be little more than Young Mr. Grace coming round if you remember Are You Being Served. He would appear now and again and say ‘you are doing very well’ and disappear. Well Mark Prisk I am happy to say is no Young Mr. Grace and his interest and knowledge of Merseyside was significant.

I asked him about how we can get youngsters to become people who want to run their own business rather than simply trying to find a job working for someone else. My point is related to the heavy dependence on public sector jobs on Merseyside caused, for all the right reasons, mainly by Civil Service work being transferred here from the south east of England during the 1960’s, ’70’s and ’80’s. My view, as someone who was ‘captured’ by the public sector when I left school, is that too many of our bright young people (not me!) slip into the public sector without a thought for setting up their own businesses and that is not good for our local economy. I remember only too well when I was at High School in Maghull in the 1970’s that careers advice seemed to be little more than ‘try to get a job in the Civil Service lad and you will have a job until you retire’ or words to that effect. 

If we can turn our local economy around and be less dependent on public sector jobs it will be all to the good.

Another great public servant

We all know that there are people out there who think that everyone who works in the public sector is lazy and unproductive. Of course this is a ridiculous stance but it is one that has to be countered. So today I pay tribute to another public sector worker who has done her bit for the community.

Cllr. Andrew Blackburn presenting flowers to Moira Blair on her leaving Maghull Town Council

I refer to a lady called Moira Blair. She has been helping Maghull Town Council during a particularly difficult period and she has done an excellent job in a short time. To recap the Town Council’s troubles started almost exactly a year ago when its new Town Clerk was taken very seriously ill indeed. It turned to former and retired Town Clerk Barry Smith and he gallantly stepped in the breach. Unfortunately Barry’s health then became a cause for concern and he had to ‘retire’ for a second time a couple of months ago. Step into the limelight Moira who was seconded from Sefton Council for the last two months of her local government career.

Moira has been great, there is no other word for it, so thanks Moira you deserve a long and happy retirement. To say our ‘thank you’ the Town Councillors chipped in to buy Moira some flowers.

The staffing problems at the Town Council are yet to be fully resolved but Barry and Moira have more than done their bit to help out.

When you get asked to attend a Police Station!

I have been at Crosby Police Station today for one of my regular chats with Chief Superintendent Pilling who is in charge of Policing across the whole of Sefton Borough. We meet up every 3 months or so to discuss issues of mutual interest or challenges that we are facing. Today we were joined for while by Deputy Chief Constable Lawson.

Sefton is generally a relatively crime free area but we do have our problems like any other Policing area associated with crime and anti-social behaviour so it is good to exchange views on the challenges that our communities face from the criminal element.

We spent some time talking about Neighbourhoods and how the Police and Council can further integrate their activities at the very local level, share costs and deliver better services. Localism as it has now been dubbed was for many years called ‘community politics’ and only the Lib Dems were signed up to bringing services, including traditional community policing back to local neighbourhoods. But over the years the penny dropped across the whole mainstream political spectrum and now localism is a process that you would think Tory and Labour politicians had thought up for themselves! But let’s not be churlish the fact that they are on board is important. The challenge is now to deliver control of local services back to our communities when since the Second World War at least we have been centralising control in Westminster and via Big Brother type institutions such as large local authorities.

I am obviously fully signed up to the localism agenda and hope that we can deliver more responsive community services in the future and this will very much be in partnership with Merseyside Police.

Frank Hornby Trust – Latest News

Things are moving on and we hope to have the Hornby Room at Meadows Leisure Centre (Maghull) themed on the life and works of Frank Hornby, the world famous toy and model maker, in the not too distant future.

This is me donating my old maccano set to the Trust. I am pictured with Trust Chairman Les French, fellow Trustee John Keogh and Cllr. Geoff Howe - Mayor of Maghull

We are also purchasing ,  having donated and are negotiating the borrowing of items for display in the cases that will soon be installed in the Hornby Room. Indeed, only a couple of days ago my door bell went and a local chap was stood there with a book he had brought to donate to the Trust. The book is all about the Hornby ‘O’ Gauge model railway system and had once been owned by his Dad. So a big thanks to the Duggan family for their thoughtful donation.

Independent Cllr. Len Green how is a fellow Frank Hornby Trust member with more donated items

Maghull Station – The Interchange area still does not work at all well at busy times

I am returning to a matter that has bugged me for a long time i.e. how the Interchange area at Maghull Station (one of the busiest on the Merseyrail Network) does not work at all well at rush hour times.

This is Maghull Town Councillor Wyn Maher - The problematic Interchange area is behind her and the Station building.

The problem is still that the circular buses serving the Maghull and Lydiate communities drive into the Interchange, drop off their passengers and then move to the other side of the Interchange to park up whilst awaiting their next job. I am told that the schedules of the bus company mean that the drivers have to have a rest period and that it has been decided (by whom I do not know) to have it at Maghull Station. The trouble is that this waiting time is spent parked in the very area where people are meant to be picked up and dropped off! In turn this means that car drivers tend to stop where the bus stops are.

Roy Connell, Richard Clein and Cllr. Bruce Hubbard by the bus stops in the Interchange area

Now I know that some of us car drivers can be selfish but in this case having watched the goings on, especially in the evening rush hour, the problem is created by where the buses lay over. As you can imagine, when the buses want to go back to the bus stops in the Interchange to pick up their passengers they can’t access them because of parked cars!

You could not make this up! The Interchange is designed in a sensible way, accepting the restrictions of the geography of the area, and then those who manage it i.e. Merseytravel and the bus company set out to use it in a different way to which it was designed. I have taken this up more times than I have had hot diners but no one seems willing to sort the situation out.

For my own part when I am picking my daughter up from the Station I park where I am supposed to park, much to the disgruntlement of some bus drivers who see the pick up and drop off point as being their rest area! I have been blocked in by a bus before now so it is no surprise that other car drivers think what the hell if they park their buses in the pick up area I will park my car in the bus stops.

So for once the much attacked car driver is the innocent party in this game of musical vehicles in Maghull Station car park/Interchange.

Now here is an interesting economic perspective

I am indebted to Nigel Ashton of Southport for drawing my attention to this fascinating piece of work.

A friend of Nigel’s is a Dr Mark Pack of London, who has done some interesting research on how the Coalition Government’s spending plans compare with Labour’s.

Mark writes: “I’ve been looking through some of the detailed figures on how the government’s plans for cutting public spending compare to what Labour was planning. There’s no doubt the cuts involve many very hard choices for people trying to deliver good quality public services, but two figures have surprised me.

One is that by 2015 the public sector is still set to employ 200,000 more people than it did in 1997.

The other is that outside of welfare and benefit changes, the government is actually planning to be spending £2 billion per year more on public services than Labour was. You wouldn’t guess from Labour’s apparent opposition to each and every cut that outside welfare and benefit changes, Labour was actually planning to spend even less!”