People who have influenced me

The other day I got into conversation about who influences you as you grow up and develop outside of the family. It makes you think about who you are and why you are who you are.

At school my fondest memory is for Jack Petty, a Southport man who taught history, geography and craft subjects in my early years at Ormonde Drive Secondary Modern School in Maghull  (now grandly know as Maghull High School). Jack, if I understood properly, left the forces after WWII and simply became a teacher. I guess he was not carrying huge qualifications yet he was the best teacher I ever had. Kind, engaging and encouraging are the words that come to mind; I learned a lot from Jack.

In politics the late great David PenhaligonLiberal MP for Truro is probably top of the pile and if anyone wants to read an uplifting and very human book I would recommend the one written after David’s untimely death by his widow Annett Penhaligon entitled simply PENHALIGON. I still remember the announcement of his death in a road crash on 22nd December 1986 like it was yesterday. A truly great man and a politician loved by all who met him.

Ludovic Kennedy’s writings have also been a significant influence on me. His books on religion (All in the mind – A farewell to God), crime (A presumption of innocence) and Scottish history (In bed with an elephant) are great reads. And as a railway buff I can’t forget his Great Railway Journey across America for BBC TV.

Many others have influenced me over the years such as Andrew Beattie and Peter Gibson. They are not well known and sadly Andrew died suddenly in 1999 but they, at a personal and local level, probably had just as much influence on me as did the two more famous politicians mentioned above and dear Jack Petty the school teacher.

Around Maghull & Lydiate Through Time – Book Review

Local historian John Rowlands (still former Maghull GP Dr. Rowlands to me) has come up with another one of his books on the history of Maghull & Lydiate and a good one it is. This time he uses before and after shots of buildings and sites and it works well.

Imagine my surprise to find our own family home on page 31 in both the before and after shot. Our house, one of the very few terraced houses in Maghull, was built around 1886 and the oldest photo (which looks to have been taken between the turn of the Century and the First World War) is still quite recognisable. I was given a copy of the same photo by an old lady called Mrs Cook who lived in our row of houses. Sadly, she died around 10 years ago. She also gave me a copy of the photo that John uses on page 30 of the former Coach and Horses Pub, which moved a few yards further north along Liverpool Road North and still stands.

John Rowlands was given Maghull’s Civic Award a few years ago for his work as a local historian and it is great to see that he is still documenting our local history.

Liverpool City Region – What will its future look like?

City Regions have always been an ill-defined entity. Labour set them up but did not give them any powers. In many ways what we now call the City Region Cabinet has been there for years as it was previously known under the less grand title of the Merseyside Leader’s Group. In those days it existed to debate common problems and challenges across Merseyside, to explore collaboration to save costs and generally to ensure that an avenue of communication existed between the 5 Merseyside Councils. All sensible stuff although for a Council like Sefton, which has a longer boundary with Lancashire that it does with Merseyside, not having Lancashire County Council and West Lancashire Borough Council involved was always the big downside. Then along comes the City Region concept, which was intended to be larger than Merseyside and could probably be best defined as taking in the communities with a significant number of residents travelling to work in Liverpool. Well that certainly takes in West Lancashire as many Burscough, Ormskirk and Skelmersdale residents work in and around Liverpool. However, the City Region was never formalised, no powers were handed down as Labour had promised and it all rather fell by the wayside. The City Region, which adopted Halton Borough Council (Runcorn and Widnes) some years ago taking it up to 6 local authorities, carried on doing what it used to do under the old title with some added bells and whistles.

But where are we going now in the Coalition Government’s’s brave new world where there is little money (gambled away by bankers and spent and borrowed by Labour) and localism (at last) seems to be king? Well, one thing is for sure there is not going to be a powerful public sector City Region organisation although we are threatened, for want of a better word, with either a City or City Region Mayor. I must say that the latter does nothing for me; why concentrate power in the hands of one person? Sorry, this is wrong headed thinking.

So we seem to be back to collaboration where it is sensible, spreading best practice and debating things of wide importance. BUT if we get it right the City Region will drive forward the local economy with the private sector, tackle transport issues etc. which will be all to the good. However, Sefton still wants to work with Lancashire by encouraging their Councils to work more closely with our Borough and indeed the City Region.

The local government boundaries created in 1974, when Merseyside was formed, have sadly been a barrier to working with Lancashire and breaking them down is important for economic, health and transportation reasons, to name but the obvious ones. So the battle goes on to open up the Merseyside Lancashire boundary, with Sefton leading the welcoming party. Talks have started, more are planned and hopes are high. Any visitors from another planet would think that a fence had been built bewteen Sefton and Lancashire in 1974, yet no fence exists. However, fences of a different nature were built slowly and by default from 1974 onwards as local government and health providers, for example, created their own separate structures that grew apart. Breaking down those structures made over 35 years does not happen over night but health collaborations across Southport and West Lancs are being developed further and you never know one day, if Government really does pursue the localism agenda all the way, we will construct structures to manage communities as they best suite those communities rather than big brother in Westminster.

Parish Councils meeting hits buses nail on the head

Last night I attended a meeting of the ’10 Parishes’(the umbrella organisation that brings all 10 Parish Councils in Sefton Borough together) if only for a sort time because of other commitments. They were discussing the preparations for the 3rd Local Transport Plan (LTP) for Merseyside and had a transportation expert from Sefton Council leading the discussion. Now LTP planning has filled more pages over the years than I care to remember, principles, policies, strategies, aims……………… you get my drift. But it took Gerry Lee the present Chairman of Melling Parish Council to say that all he wanted is ‘for someone to listen to us about the poor buses services in our Parish’ or words to that effect. Gerry was of course right and others chimed in with similar concerns from across the Borough. Access or the lack of it by public transport to Ormskirk and Fazakerley Hospitals (and Litherland NHS Drop-In Centre, I would add) were the big concerns.

What we can all learn from this is you can have as many glossy brochures as you like, costing loads of money to produce, but if like Melling Parish Council you have shouted from the roof-tops for 10 years that  bus services in the evenings, on Sundays and on Bank Holidays are non-existent why on earth should you think that another round of glossy brochures is going to solve the problem?! 

Like Melling Parish Council I have been raising with Merseytravel time and time again how poor Melling’s bus services are and like them I have had the brush off. I have posted blogs about this before and will probably end up doing it again.

Frank Hornby Trust – Good news and progress

Well we had our Trustees meeting with officials of Liverpool Museum on Monday and a positive meeting it was (my blog of 14th November refers). I am sure we can reach a partnership agreement with the Museum to work with the Maghull based Trust.

Our challenges are to build up our collection of Hornby artifacts and to develop educational opportunities around the work of the Trust to satisfy the Heritage Lottery Fund to whom we are looking for some financial help. The odd thing about a collection is that we trustees are sceptical of the need to have a significant one as we can easily source items for display from collectors or indeed Liverpool Museum. We thought we had proved that case by the success of the 3 hugely popular public exhibitions in Maghull Town Hall that we put on in 2007, 2008 and 2009. However, Heritage Lottery say they want us to have and to hold a collection of significance.  These two differing views will need to reconciled as we move forward. What we want to collect are the things that the collectors and museums do not hold but I am sure we will resolve this issue.

The really good news is that the new waterfront Museum of Liverpool which is due to open next year wants to partner with us. They will obviously have some exhibits about Hornby and his famous Liverpool factory on display but what they have offered to do is to signpost folks visiting their new museum to Maghull to see our dedicated facility. This is excellent news and it fits well with discussions that I have been having around Phil Redmond’s Cultural Collective Table about the whole City Region needing to benefit from people visiting Liverpool.

Uncle Albert – He saw the bombing of Liverpool from a birds eye view point

One of my greatest friends is Charles Walker a still quick witted and lively 89 year old who only got into politics when he was 74! I mention Charles because of a chance remark about Remembrance Day that I overheard today. The remark was made between two people I do not know but it was to the effect that neither knew anyone who had taken part in WWII.

Charles is Uncle Albert to his close friends and yes it does come from the old chap in Only Fools and Horses who was famous for the catch phrase ‘During the War’. When we got to know Charles he would, without too much prompting, tell us about his experiences during the war. On one occasion I recall him telling us about when he worked in George Henry Lees Department Store in Liverpool and how he would be sent to stand on the roof at night to fire watch during the bombing raids. In fact Charles was on that roof the night the church at the top of Bold Street was bombed out. The walls of the church are still standing as Liverpool folks will know and so is Charles although his knees are not quite as strong as they once were. Strangely, he does not seem to think of himself as brave but how many of us in this day and age would stand on a roof in a city being bombed to hell and back?

By the way Charles is a Town Councillor in Maghull and was a campaigner for the now hugely busy interchange at Maghull Station. He has also campaigned against the spread of Japanese Knot Weed locally but most of all he is one of the nicest and kindest people I have ever known.