The future of local government

The changes that will be brought about by the reductions in Government grants to local government are going to be on a massive scale. In future Councils will not have thousands of staff (many only doing the bidding of whatever Government is in power anyway) and the scope of council services will be far less than it has been for many years.

In principle, to a Liberal like me, ‘Big Government’ is normally bad governance as it means more rules and regulations controlling our lives. Locally big government manifests itself as ‘municipal socialism’, it has taken over our lives and it has not only been promoted by Labour! Seriously, Sefton Tories have pursued and indeed are still pursuing some local unaffordable projects such as the rebuilding of Southport Indoor Market (against the wishes of the vast majority of Southport’s councillors) and the rebuilding of Netherton Activity Centre. Both will cost millions that Sefton does not have and if this is not municipal socialism gone mad I don’t know what is.

What we need is local governance with services being managed at a very local level. Ever since the Second Word War and probably before it we have been centralising power and control in Westminster and indeed within remote and large councils. Take Sefton as an example, it covers all the way from Southport in the north right down to Bootle in the south taking in Formby, Crosby, Maghull and many other smaller communities. It has been a local government entity since 1974 but can it ever have been able to claim that it knows its communities well and that it delivers services appropriately to those very diverse town and villages? The answer has to be a resounding no as for many of its years it tried to govern on a one size fits all basis. It has not worked and thankfully lessons have been learned. We are now embarking on a new era which I hope will lead to true community empowerment; a process I have been very keen to drive forward.

The spending cuts are going to change councils forever but what we need to do is to focus that change on real communities. The challenges are enormous but the prize of better local governance and less of big brother telling us all what to do is a big one.

Abusive remarks about politicians

‘Ginger Rodent’, I think I can beat that insult as local Conservatives have likened me to Robert Mugabe – see Aintree & Maghull Champion newspaper 14th July 2010. Yes, I know, this is the bottom of the barrel but never the less it beats the insult from Labour’s Deputy Leader to Danny Alexander – Chief Secretary to the Treasury by some miles.

 But the context of insult about me is interesting. See my posting of 11th October headed ‘Democracy – The local Tory view is weird’ because the reason they chucked this child-like insult at me is there. They said it to try to hide their own failings i.e. when they only put up one candidate for Maghull Town Council and that candidate lost their response (some 3 years later I would add) was to say that I and my Lib Dem colleagues, because we had won many seats, must be branded a ‘Mugabe-like regime’! I kid you not and these people expect to be taken seriously?

Personal political insults rarely work and they usually say more about those who chuck them than they do about the recipients. My advice is don’t do it. 

Agricultural issues

Representing a ward that is significantly rural in parts has its challenges. Today I met with some members of the Melling farming community who have concerns about a planning application for use of a large field. The concerns are not that it will cease to be used for farming but that buildings proposed to be erected will be inappropriate next to long-standing agricultural cottages. There are wider concerns too but you only have to be with the farming community for so long before, like any other specialist area of work, they tell you things that frankly you don’t know much about. How about nitrate run-offs as an example.

I think that the next few weeks will see me well on the way to being a trainee farmer!

Buses – Strange things happening after years of being ignored

Has the penny finally dropped with Merseytravel that Melling and Aintree Village need better bus services? I have been battling for improved bus services in these two communities for longer than I can remember as has have my ward colleagues Cllr. Geoff Howe and Jack Colbert. We have had the brush off many times from Labour run Merseytravel and over the past 10 years (whilst Labour was running the Country as well) and the bus services have got worse not better. If Merseytravel are serious about making belated improvements then all well and good but why spend the last 10 years ignoring the pleas for action? It’s only a few weeks since I raised the need for the 236 bus to run on Sundays and Bank Holidays and this prompted Labour to attack me in the press for pressing that case on behalf of residents who had asked for my help!

 

Then out of the blue, in an article in the Aintree & Maghull Champion on 20th October, Merseytravel’s Labour Leader effectively put Melling and Aintree Village on a promise of a new community bus for the area. Come on then let’s get it going ASAP and please don’t forget the 236 needs to run on Sundays and Bank Holidays (that would benefit Maghull & Lydiate residents too) and that the isolated community around the Pear Tree junction in Melling needs to be put back on the local bus map as well.

 

But why has Labour suddenly shown an interest in this long-standing bus problem; as I said it was only a few weeks ago that they had a go at me in the Champion for raising the 236 matter. Is there something we should be told? From attacking those raising such concerns to putting folks on a promise of a new service and all in the space of a few weeks is very odd. I think there is more to this Labour promise than is being revealed.

Business Advice – Buy a handbag!

Today I went to see a new local retailer at the Meadows shops in Maghull. She had contacted me seeking advice and help for a new business. Her shop by the way ‘Glitz N Glamour’ sells ladies handbags and accessories so I took my good lady along for moral support. However, the visit cost me the price of a new handbag as you might have expected but frankly I thought the prices were very good indeed. Which brings me to a wider point along the lines of us all trying to support our very local traders whenever we can. Yes we all use the local plumber, electrician etc. but how often do we travel away from where we live to buy something that we could have bought locally?

I have put the lady retailer in touch with our local business help and support group called Altside Business Village. I am sure they will do what they can for her and it turns out that she lives only yards away from where Les French our present Business Village Chairman operates his company. I hope things work out for her as this is clearly a good local business deserving of our support or more to the point that of the 50% of locals who use handbags and want a stylish bargain.

The Ashes

Cricket’s biggest contest starts soon and our lads are off to Australia tomorrow. Let’s hope that they are more successful than the last time down under!

My cricketing hero is Derek Randall of Notts who scored 174 in the 1977 Centenary Test at Melbourne. I can still remember like it was yesterday listening to cricket through the night on a small portable radio and I will be doing it again this year.

Talking of Notts we won the County Championship this year but my boss at work is a Lancs supporter. Throughout each summer we engage in banter about the fortunes of each team but is it not amazing that Lancs have failed to win the County Championship for so many years. When you think of all the great players they have had in the side especially in the 1970’s. David Lloyd, Frank Hayes, Clive Lloyd, ‘Flat’ Jack Simmons, Peter Lever, Farook Engineer etc. etc.