Press Freedom – A bizarre attack by Sefton’s Labour and Tory Cabinet members

I posted an item about the business of Sefton’s Cabinet yesterday but something else happened which was quite disturbing. I was chairing the Cabinet and its fractious debate about Council savings when out of the blue Labour got really upset about a reporter from a local newspaper who was recording events. As far as I was concerned she was simply doing her job but Conservative Cabinet members also got upset with her. The concern was that she was speaking to another person who was also witnessing the debate. The other person was Cllr. Sue McGuire who is not a Cabinet member, I would add.

The thrust of the attack on the reporter seemed to be that she was showing disrespect by talking whilst the Cabinet was in session! Well, I was sat nearer to the reporter then any other member of Cabinet and I could not hear what she said. Things got more than a little heated and the reporter was clearly upset by what was happening. But if that was not enough a motion to report the reporter to her Editor for showing disrespect was put down and carried with only the 4 Lib Dem Cabinet members opposing it. My reaction to this bizarre carry on was to say ‘is it national over reaction day?’

By the way it soon transpired that all that the reporter wanted to know was which Cabinet member was which as she had not been to a Cabinet meeting before. She asked this quietly to Cllr. McGuire and for the life of me I can’t see what all the fuss was about.

I felt really sorry for the young reporter who, as I say, was simply doing her job. Lib Dem Cabinet member David Tattersall was furious with Labour and the Tories for their attack on the young reporter and as a former member of the Nation Union of Journalists he jumped to her defence.

Politicians like to think they can get the press on their side but this shows how to wind the press up so you get some bad publicity!

Sefton Council savings – Labour in a muddle

Today at Sefton’s Cabinet meeting we had another package of savings before us on this all-party committee. The savings had been crawled over in detail by each political party and we came to the meeting with 3 lists of savings. Two of the three lists had all-party agreement with the third being one where each item had the agreement of only two of the three parties. Things started to go off at a tangent straight away when Labour called for all the savings before us to be postponed until December. Clearly independent council officers advising the Cabinet were surprised at this turn of events and advised against postponing. Their reasoning was sound (the officers that is) as they made it very clear that they needed time to consult with staff and their unions and delaying things would just make things more difficult. Indeed, if we don’t make savings soon we will have to make even bigger savings putting even more jobs at risk. I was perplexed by the Labour move and I assume the trade union reps sitting with us during the meeting were as well. The proposal to postpone could only mean more grief for their members and our staff!

Things went down hill from there with Labour clearly intent on filibustering for reasons best known to them. We got there in the end but frankly it was a farce.

I have said before that the mess our economy is in is down to the bankers and Labour spending and borrowing too much whilst in office. I suppose therefore that Labour’s aim is to distance themselves from the consequences of their party’s own actions whilst in government. A form of denial?

For my part we simply have to make the savings to balance the books; if we don’t more jobs will be at risk and Council services will grind to a halt. I realise that agreeing to making the savings may well be seen by Labour as them admiting their own guilt but they have to get real.

Private Eye No. 1275

The front page of this edition is really wonderful – Downturn Abbey with the Coalition Cabinet plus Simon Hughes and Maggie Thatcher portrayed as the family from the recent hit TV series.  A classic Private Eye front page and worth me finding myself standing in Morrisons laughing to myself whilst others looked on wondering about me!

Ashworth Hospital visit

I have been to Ashworth Hospital today, the first time I have been there for a while. The purpose of my visit was for a catch-up chat with a couple of their senior managers and we focused on the future of the Special Hospital.

There have been rumours doing the rounds in the Maghull & Melling community (the site is half in Maghull and half in Melling) for a while about whether the hospital has a future. Today I learned that it certainly does and there are no plans for it to be run down. This is good news for jobs locally.

A specific matter we discussed is the planned sell-off of some of Ashworth’s land for housing in the not too distant future. Putting it simply the Mersey Care Trust, who run Ashworth Hospital, want to dispose of surplus land so that they can raise money to invest in the hospital’s facilities. I urged the managers to consult the nearby community as their plans developed and they said they were happy and already prepared to do that.

We all know that Ashworth deals with some of the worst offenders with mental health problems in the Country but most people would not know it was in the heart of our local community. The 1980’s were a time when this Special Hospital gained a lot of bad publicity for the way it was run yet now all is calm and many local people work there and that helps our local economy. I have to say that the meeting was very positive and constructive and I enjoyed my chat with two pleasant and constructive senior Hospital managers. 

Postscript – No sooner had I got home than the phone rang; it was local resident looking for my help but it soon became clear that he worked at Ashworth. Not only that but he went to school with a good mate of mine! An embarrassing photo of my mate as a young lad is promised!

Loads a money!

I often think of the Harry Enfield character when I see Labour politicians saying daft things about our economy. We know that the bankers were responsible for the financial crisis in a big way but Labour were spending and borrowing like there was no tomorrow. I have no doubt that the cuts we are having to face now would not be so significant if Labour had been more prudent with our cash. The tax revenues of UK plc were never going to match Labour’s spending plans so they simply borrowed more and more.

But have Labour learned? I suspect not as their chant now is along the lines of the cuts do not need to be so harsh! If only they had said the spending and borrowing does not need to be so big when they were running the Country.

Labour can duck and dive as much as they like in opposition but I, like many other public sector workers who could be made redundant, know that they had a good hand in getting us into this mess.

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 known 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.