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.
It is good to see the Coalition Government trying to defend what is left of the Post Office network following both Tories and Labour in previous Governments continually reducing the number of Post Offices in our communities. I do hope that the Royal Mail can have a sustainable future as well as for too long it has been floundering.
Which brings me to one of my big moans. Why on earth do those companies wanting to send me goods through the post send it by carriers other than the Royal Mail? Whenever I can I tell those mailing goods to me not use anyone but the Royal Mail. Yes, it helps keep the Royal Mail going but even more than that I hate getting those cards through my door from all kinds of delivery companies when I am not in. You know the cards well I assume, the ones that say you can pick the item up from their ‘local’ depot! Trouble is their local depot is miles away on some run down trading estate. If I am to pick an item up I want to pick it up from somewhere close to home such as the Royal Mail local Sorting Office! We all know where they are, the cards pushed through your letter box when you are out from the Royal Mail are clear about what to do and I find my visits to my local Sorting Office in Maghull a breeze.
Today I had an excellent meeting with Cllr. Ian Grant the Leader of West Lancashire Borough Council. Surprisingly, even though we are Borough neighbours, Ian and I had not had chance to have a long chat about issues of mutual importance before but this meeting proved to be very useful.
As I have posted before Sefton has a bigger boundary with Lancashire than it does with the other Merseyside Councils. We have transportation, health and economic interests that are common so we need to try to break down the artificial barriers created by local government reorganisation in 1974.
What pleased me about today’s informal chat was that Cllr. Grant came over as a practical and determined chap who is quite happy to work with partners for the common good. We discussed a number of things but settled on the railway links between Sefton and West Lancs as being the matter we would most like to take forward. Again, I have posted before about the daft situation where the Ormskirk to Preston railway line crosses the Southport to Wigan line but the curves connecting the two have been taken away. I have worked with OPSTA, West Lancs Council, Sefton, Merseytravel and Lancs County Council for longer than I care to remember to try to get the curves reinstated but 30 years on the problem still remains there for all to see.
What we want is really quite simple, trains from Ormskirk to Southport and Southport to Preston as well as the present Ormskirk to Preston service. To me the project is a ‘no brainer’ as the advantages to communities in Sefton and West Lancs would be significant. If we can try to move this project on and greater co-operation with West Lancs Council helps us get there then let’s do it.
Today, whilst driving between business appointments, I happened upon one of those radio phone-in programmes that I rarely listen to. I was about to find another radio station when I realised I was listening to a racist. I could only stomach his ranting for a few seconds but the thrust of his call to the station seemed to be that most murders in this Country are committed by people who come from outside the UK! What a load of racist rubbish and to give the presenter his due he told the chap this very directly.
But this reminded me of a journey that I made by taxi a few months ago when I was treated to a lecture of a similar racist nonsense nature by my driver. His view was that the Council where he lived was helping drivers from eastern Europe gain taxi licenses with the poor old white taxi drivers having to wait in the queue behind the lucky east Europeans. I checked it out and guess what it was utter rubbish; an invented story passed around that had become something that those with a tendency to racism chose to believe and repeat.
I have been an active trade unionist for over 30 years (a branch secretary for 22 of them) but I must say that I get a little frustrated these days when I hear trade union leaders, many of whom utterly despised Labour when they were in government, seemingly getting caught in Labour’s opposition web.
Of course, I realise that trade unions and the Labour Party are historically joined at the hip but I have often felt that unions being bound up with one political party was and still is a big mistake. Personally, I think unions should be politically independent so that they can put their members first and that is particularly the case in the public sector where often ‘the bosses’ are a political party at a national or local government level.
But my point is this if you accept, as I do, that the last government was in part responsible for the mess that we are in economically why let them off the hook? My fear is that trade union leaders are doing just that, letting Labour off the hook. Trade union members are losing their jobs, especially in the public sector, in large numbers but the over-spending and over-borrowing of the last government is one of the reasons (the other being the greedy bankers of course) that those jobs are being lost. So for the unions to calmly slip back into Labour’s web and chant a similar song about the evils of the Coalition Governmnet is quite simply letting the membership down. The reason this happens is, of course, that many trade union leaders sadly seem to feel a loyalty to Labour that is stronger pull than that of their members.
I tested my theory by writing to the magazine of my own union saying something along the lines of this blog. The response I got from my General Secretary (who is always quoted in the media as a ‘left winger’ or a ‘thorn in Labour’s side’ or with some such label) was that ‘The national deficit was not caused by excessive public spending’. But that is my very point, it was excessive public spending (together with the greedy bankers) who put us all in the deep hole that we are now in. It’s no use union leaders wrapping themselves in a comfort blanket that says the last governmnet (and let me remind you again that it was universally unpopular with trade unionists) was OK really and we should not have hated it.
Sorry, but it is clear that jobs are being lost now in big numbers because the last government did not restrict spending and borrowing when all the signs were that a crash was on the way. Vince Cable and others warned them long before we hit the brick wall of economic reality but Labour did not listen. The jobs being lost now are, in part, a consequence of that Labour ‘deaf ear’ and our unions really need to wake up and smell the coffee.