News that Sefton’s Lib Dem MP (John Pugh – Southport) has come out against the rise in tuition fees pleases me. John is a deep thinker and is not one to do knee jerk reactions when the pressure is on so if he is stating his case so clearly that is good enough for me and it is to John’s credit that he is doing so.
My view is that a pledge is a pledge so the answer to the question, ‘should we put up tuition fees?’ has clearly got to be NO.
Last night I was guest speaker at Prescot Lib Dems excellent Christmas Dinner. I have been a regular at this event for 10 years now and the quality of the food is always top notch at Prescot Leisure Centre and the meal was a bargain at £15.95. But is Christmas 2010 the last one for this long-standing community building that is both run by and the home of Prescot Town Council?
I have known and campaigned with Prescot Lib Dems for many years and had great fun doing it. Their Leader Ian Smith is a Liberal through and through whom I have huge respect for, so imagine my surprise to hear that Ian is being reported to the Standards Board by Knowsley Borough Council! That’s about as off the wall as David Tattersall (Sefton’s Cabinet Member for the Environment) being reported to the Standards Board and in effect being found guilty of doing nothing! Ian and David are both kind hearted but determined community campaigners. So what has Ian Smith done? Well it seems he has simply and very robustly defended his community against the might and will of socialist big brother Knowsley Labour; what any good Liberal would do when their community is under attack.
The issue is the proposed closure and demolition of Prescot Leisure Centre that Labour, who run Knowsley, has decided to take forward. My point being that whenever possible decisions about community facilities need to be taken in consultation with the level of local government nearest to the people, in this case Prescot Town Council. Yet here, I am told, instead of a partnership approach to matters in Prescot, Labour have taken a ‘we know what’s good for you’ stance. No surprise there then as socialism is all about doing things to people (no matter how benevolently) rather than facilitating communities to tackle their own challenges and opportunities. Of course, it is all about power and dependency. Labour wants to be seen to be exercising power over a dependent community. We Liberals seek to empower communities by giving them the power and responsibility to decide their own destiny.
The contrast between Prescot and Maghull could not be greater as in Maghull a new Leisure Centre has recently been built in partnership between Sefton Council & Maghull Town Council. Maghull TC put land and money into the project and three other local Parish Councils also chipped in money (Lydiate, Melling and Sefton PC’s) as did the Trustees of the former Lydiate Voluntary Youth Club. This new leisure centre is connected to Maghull Town Council’s community building and the aim is to ensure that both work as a seamless community facility. It can be done if power is put in the hands of the community.
So good luck to Ian Smith and his brave community campaigners who are fighting for Prescot’s Leisure Centre. I look forward to another excellent Christmas Dinner in 2011, wherever it may be. Prescot and Proud is their rallying cry.
Today Sefton’s Cabinet met with senior officers in an all day session to discuss the need for the Council to make huge savings. £10m+ of savings has already been agreed by the Cabinet but it seems that another £15m may be needed to balance the books for the financial year 2011/12 with more to come after that.
The purpose of today’s work was to go through options in great detail. It was not a decision making meeting, more one to explore all possibilities. Suffice to say that no part of the Council will be immune from savings but we can’t see the whole picture until we get a settlement for 2011/12 from the Government that defines exactly where we are as opposed to the estimates that we are presently working on. The Government announcement is expected any day now. Such meetings must be going on in Councils across the UK as the recession and the overspending by the last Labour Government hits them hard.
We have all just heard via the national media that Phil Woolas the former Labour MP for Oldham East and Saddleworth has lost his appeal against being disqualified from office. I must say that I was not surprised by the end result having seen some of the leaflets put out in his name at the last General Election.
Some credit must go to the Labour Leadership for ditching Woolas as soon as he lost the legal case but as we all know some Labour MP’s were fund raising for Woolas to help him appeal! I was astonished by this move and I wonder if it was the old trade union and labour movement saying ‘an attack on one is an attack on all’ that was driving them to blindly do what was clearly the wrong thing? Anyone who doubts what I say should find a copy of one of the offending leaflets on the Internet, they are appalling.
I hear that there is concern out there in the media world that Sefton’s Cabinet is to have an ‘away day’ to consider the budget. ‘Away’ is an inappropriate word as the meeting is within Sefton and it’s in a Sefton building. The cost of the lunch is £2.50 per head and I have my money ready to pay over. Sorry, no junket on the rates here.
My colleague Ian Brodie-Browne has posted (click on Birkdale Focus in my list of links) about the potential for workers at Sefton Council’s plant nursery to take over the operation. Iain raised this at our Cabinet meeting last Thursday as an option he wanted to be fully investigated. The response of Cabinet was to both support this particular idea and to widen it to any other potential opportunities that there may be as Sefton Council tries to make very large savings.