Aintree Youth Centre

Traditional youth clubs may well be old hat and as I mentioned a few days ago if Maghull’s innovative Youth Coffee Bar in Maghull Town Hall is anything to go by this more modern approach to youth facilities could well be the future or at least part of it.

In Aintree Village there is a traditional youth club and in recent years it has hardly been buzzing with activities for young people day in day out. Having said that some excellent sessions have been run there in recent times (indeed they still are) and a session particularly for a disability group is highly thought of.

However, when I was a ward councillor for Aintree Village (up until May of this year when I moved to neighbouring Park Ward) I quickly came to the conclusion that if this youth club was going to survive it needed to reinvent itself. A dynamic new Chairperson was then found and things are really moving now.

The way things are going I can see the youth club building being taken over and run by the community and for it to provide a wide range of facilities. Some exciting plans are being work on and I really do hope they prove to be successful. I am sure that a community run trust type organisation will be far more innovative and involved with the community than the building continuing to be in the hands of the local authority and it being used only part of the week.

I wish the group of resdidents who are putting the bid together to breath new life into Aintree Youth Centre every success.

Green Belt – sorry for going on and on about it but….

I don’t think I have ever been lobbied or spoken to so much about any issue in all my time as a local councillor as I am being at present regarding our precious Green Belt.

As readers will know I have been preaching for months about the value of Grade 1 and 2 agricultural land (that makes up virtually all of the Green Belt land in Sefton’s East Parishes) until I am blue in the face but now my comments are being repeated to me which is nice to hear.

But talking of blue, there is a Tory MP on message too. She is Laura Sandys who represents South Thant and she is trying to bring a Bill to Parliament in October ‘to prohibit local authorities granting planning permission involving the development of Grade 1 agricultural land other than in exceptional circumstances’.

I mentioned this at the packed meeting last Thursday but the lady MP’s name escaped me at the time. The surprising thing here for me is finding a Tory opposing land development and what’s more for ‘green’ reasons.

Mark Dowd – Are Labour after him again?

I have posted before about how the Labour Party across Merseyside have been doing their utmost to unseat the Labour Chairman of Merseytravel – Cllr. Mark Dowd. This has a long history to it but it certainly goes back as far as the appalling £70m Merseytram debacle if not further. The Labour Party’s problem has always been been that Mark Dowd is the biggest beast in their Merseyside jungle and all their attempts to remove him have failed to date.

However, sources tell me that Liverpool City Council’s Labour Group may well be on Mark’s case and that they may have caused Dowd’s embarrassing and expensive (£1.5m) U turn over local rail integration. If you recall the RMT union were being ‘blamed’ for Dowd’s U turn and I am sure they were at least a part of the pressure on him but it seems that the issue may well have been latched onto by Labour Councillors as as a way to try to destabilise Cllr. Dowd.

It should be remembered that Peter Dowd (Mark’s brother) is Labour Leader on Sefton Council where Mark is also a councillor and a few weeks ago there was stunt pulled to gain an extra Labour seat on Merseytravel for Labour at the expense of the Lib Dems. We knew at the time that Dowd (senior) was under pressure and needed another supporting vote on the Transport Authority and it now seems that the reason for that could well have been Liverpool City Council Labour turning up the heat on Mark.

I supect this story will run for a while.

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.