Packed out Green Belt meeting at MCA

I have just returned from a meeting organised by a Maghull resident that was held in Maghull Community Association’s Green Lane premises. There must have been 150 people present and they were to a woman and man determined to defend their local Green Belt.

Colin who organised the meeting is a consultant on regenerating land so he really knew his subject. Local Labour MP Bill Esterson, Maghull’s Deputy Mayor and myself formed a panel to answer questions from the residents and a really enjoyable campaign meeting it was too.

One of the contributors to the meeting had been a teacher of English at Maghull High School when I was there in the 1970’s and we managed to have a short chat about times past. To be honest we did not recall each other and I am happy about that as it probably confirms that I was not a trouble maker at school!

Returning to the Green Belt there is an obvious and very strong momentum that seems to grow every day here in the East Parishes part of the Borough against any development in the Green Belt and the way folks are talking if councillors vote for such development they will be strung up.

As a defender of Sefton’s Green Belt all of my adult years I am thankfully on the right side of that debate.

Well Vince Cable was right – News International

My posting of 23rd December 2010 said this:- 

So Saint Vince (together with a number of other Lib Dem Ministers) is in a bit of bother having been the subject of a sting operation by the Daily Telegraph, but did he say anything that is really shocking about the power of Murdoch’s media empire? I think not. My guess is that Vince just said what many people think but in his position, as a Minister, we are collectively shocked.

Clearly, he was not going to give Murdoch a free ride (and he was right) but will we be able to say the same for the Tory Minister who will now deal with the Murdoch BSkyB matter?

My Dad used to get the Telegraph when he was alive and I guarantee he would be upset with their stunt. In his last years he was always complaining that the paper had lost its way and its standards.

But more than anything it is good to see that Lib Dem Ministers in the Coalition Government are still being radical Liberals. It’s being free thinkers that sets us Lib Dems apart from Tory and Labour politicians. Yes, of course we Lib Dems disagree with Tories over many things but why do the media think that is so surprising just because we are in Government with them?

My posting of 26th January 2011 said:-

I could never quite fathom why Cameron stuck with Coulson as it was always going to end in tears because of that News of the World phone tapping issue. Judgement has clearly been lacking at number 10!

Thinking further about Cameron’s bad decision to employ Coulson and indeed Miliband effectively following that lead by employing his own News International bod as his communications guru you can only conclude that they both felt they needed someone in that role who knew how to deal with the mighty news grouping. Clearly, many politicians and the leaderships of both Labour and the Conservatives in particular have been so in terror of NI that they both took the risk of having a NI person in their team. Why else would they have taken such a risk that, with the benefit of hindsight, must look very foolish to Cameron and Milband now?

Merseytravel – Feeling the heat at last

I notice from the Champion newspaper (a paper not particularly well known for making Labour feel the heat) that has just dropped through my letter box that Merseytravel’s councillors allowances are under the spotlight at last.

Readers will recall that we Lib Dems recently exposed the ridiculous level of allowances being paid by the Labour run local Transport Authority. The paper quotes a Merseytavel spokesperson as saying  “The Authority has agreed to an independent review of members’ allowances and has approached someone appropriate for the role.”

I wonder who the reviewing person is? I also wonder why when all local Councils have had Independent Remuneration Panels for many years now setting the amount of councillors allowances why Merseytravel has not had one?

Now we want an independent inquiry into the £70m Merseytram fiasco and Merseytravel’s recent backing out of local railway integration which we are told cost £1.5m. Merseytravel are feeling the heat of public scrutiny but not soon enough in my view.

So well done the Champion for helping to turn the heat up on Labour; you may have surprised me but it has been a welcome surprise.

Maghull’s Execellent Youth Coffee Bar

Within Maghull Town Hall there is one of the best youth facilities for miles around. It is run as a three-way  joint project by Maghull Town Council, Maghull and District Youth Council and Sefton Council’s Youth Service.

For quite some time now it has regularly been attracting more youngsters than many of Sefton Council’s more traditional youth clubs have been able to do.

It was set up following campaigning by local youngsters who asked the Town Council to set up such a facility. The then Lib Dem run Council listened and acted upon the expressed wishes of local young people. Ever since the doors have opened each Monday and Thursday evening to a facility that is far more relaxed and certainly less rigid then formal youth clubs run by Councils usually are.

Nickie Smith is President of Maghull & District Youth Council and was one of the original campaigners for the Youth Coffee Bar who subsequently became a Maghull Town Councillor

Sadly, a problem has popped up in the last couple of weeks that local youngsters seem to be getting the blame for. The problem is the scaffolding around the Town Hall that is there for major roof repairs and the installation of solar panels that I have posted about before. It seems the scaffolding is accessible to adventurous young people who have been climbing up it in the evenings. But rather than make it secure the response seems to have been to close the Youth Coffee Bar. Well if that move was seen as restricting access to young Hunt’s, Scott’s, Hillary’s and Tensing’s it has not worked as they have been up there on evenings other then Monday’s and Thursday’s!

My message to Maghull Town Council is don’t shut the best youth facility in the area because of the scaffolding problem, fix the scaffolding problem. Maghull’s young people fought hard for their unique space to meet. Give youth a break I say; with positive things to do young people will in the main respond positively in my experience.

Saturday meeting for Sefton’s Cabinet

Sefton’s Cabinet members, senior officers and party political leaders met yesterday for an informal 4 hour session, at Formby Teacher’s Centre, to make preparations for the Council’s 2012/13 budget.

The Council is starting earlier this year to tackle another difficult budgetary round and the aim of yesterday’s meeting was to raise awareness about the financial targets that will have to be met and the timescales to meet them.

This year’s budget will be a Labour led one as they are now the largest party on the Council. I don’t envy them their task as it will be tough indeed. Having sat, in effect, outside the budgetary process last year letting others take the tough decisions Labour find themselves firmly responsible for the Council’s financial situation now.

We Lib Dems intend to scrutinise what Labour bring forward in terms of proposals to balance the budget whilst we will be looking to try to protect vital services for the Borough’s residents.

Merseytravel – Let’s get to the bottom of what they were up to when they chucked out ‘Vertical Integration’ of the Merseyrail Network

Last night my good friend Cllr. Iain Brodie-Browne tried to get Standing Orders suspended at Sefton’s Full Council meeting to facilitate an urgent debate on the increasingly strange activities of our highly paid (very highly paid) local Transport Authority, Merseytravel.

Readers may recall Merseytravel took a lot of flak recently for withdrawing (out of the blue I would add) from a process to integrate the local rail network and to save Merseyside Council tax payers some money in the process.

The move was a genuine shock to just about everyone but possibly the RMT union who it seems may well have been the reason for the policy U turn. The talk is that they may have pushed the Labour run Authority into the change of policy but so far Labour have not been keen to explain what went on and why. Clearly, some in depth scrutiny of Merseytravel is required as we are told they had spent £1.5m promoting the integration! Who will pay that bill now? And the answer better not be the Council Tax payers of Merseyside.

Returning to last night you will not be surprised to hear that the Labour Group on Sefton Council blocked having the debate by refusing to support Cllr. Brodie-Browne’s motion which fell needing just 5 more votes to have been passed.

This is what we wanted to debate:-

(1) This Council notes with disappointment the decision made by the controlling Labour Group on the Merseyside Integrated Transport Authority to end immediately, without further reports, or the results of any business case study the opportunity to take local control of the Merseyrail Electrics network from Network Rail.

(2) Council notes that this process has been ongoing for many years, and that in 2005/06 a business case for Full Local Decision Making (FLDM) was prepared and submitted showing clear benefits for Merseyside.  This was endorsed by the Merseyside Passenger Transport Authority and was a Key Policy in Local Transport Plan Two (LTP2).

(3) Council further notes that FLDM was relaunched as Localism for Merseyrail (LFM) in 2010 and that the imperative for greater local control over the network infrastructure remains and the commitment to developing the case for this was reiterated in Local Transport Plan Three (LTP3).

(4) Council also notes that LFM has the support of the Department for Transport (DfT), Network Rail, Office of the Rail Regulator (ORR) and the Rail Freight Industry.

(5) Council believes that a fully integrated Merseyrail network would be in the best interests of Merseyside’s commuters and would enable local people and rail customers to have greater say in the decisions taken affecting the rail network in Merseyside.

(6) Council notes that £1.5m was spent promoting this scheme.

Council therefore requests:

(1) That the Chief Executive write to the Chief Executive and Director General of Merseytravel, Neil Scales, and to the Chairman of the Merseyside Integrated Transport Authority (MITA), expressing our Council’s disappointment at the decision made at the Authority’s meeting on 27th June, 2011.

(2) That MITA reverse the decision made at its meeting of the 27thJune and ask that Merseytravel Passenger Transport Executive (MPTE) commission a Business Case Study to determine benefits and risks of LFM.  The results of that study are considered by a future MITA Authority meeting before a final decision is made on whether to move this matter forward to the next stage. 

Well Sefton Labour ran for the hills and stopped the debate, but short term gagging of those who want to get at the facts will only make us more determined to find out what on earth is going on within Merseytravel.