Ian Birch – Master Builder

Sheila and I have had some significant building work done to our new house and it was done by Southport based builder Ian Birch.

Ian was recommended to us by a friend who had a neighbour that Ian had done some building work for. We visited the property Ian had worked on and spoke to the owner. Clearly Ian was well respected and his work was of a high standard.

On the basis of the recommendation and seeing the standard of work we engaged Ian to work for us. His workforce is hard working, friendly and the standard of work has been very good.

Like many people who have not used a builder before we were nervous about engaging a reliable quality builder. Fortunately, we found a builder of quality who we are very pleased with.

A private meeting – Why did Maghull resident Cliff Mainey get turned out of a public session Maghull Town Council meeting by the Labour Committee Chairman?

On 23rd November Cliff Mainey, a Maghull resident of many years standing, went to a meeting of Maghull Town Council’s Amenities Committee but no sooner had he got into the meeting room in Maghull Town Hall than he was informed by the Labour Chairman of the meeting that it was a private meeting. Cliff left but rightly raised the matter in the public session of the following Finance meeting and the minutes of that meeting record Cliff’s representations and the response. The minutes say this :-
Councillor Mainey(for Cliff is not only a Maghull resident but a Sefton Borough Councillor for Maghull and a former member of the Town Council and Town Mayor) stated that there was no indication on the door that it was a ‘private meeting’ and was therefore open to the public. The Town Clerk explained to elected members that members of the press and public can only be excluded from Council meetings if there is confidential business being transacted. The Council Leader Councillor Maurice Byrne duly apologised to Councillor Mainey for the misunderstanding.

A ‘misunderstanding’ there certainly was but who was misunderstanding what? Cliff was clearly in the right as acknowledged by the apology but why would any chairman of a Council meeting want to exclude people from what was obviously a public session of the Council? Sorry but this incident, whilst it was partly resolved by the apology issued by the Council Leader on behalf of the Committee Chairman, indicates to me a worrying potential for Council business to be done behind closed doors and not in the full light of democratic public scrutiny. I have been a member of Maghull Town Council since 1985 and can’t recall an incident like this happening before. Indeed, my clear recollection is of Committee Chairpersons welcoming members of the public into meetings. Never have I heard of someone being asked to leave unless the matter before the Committee was of a nature whereby the Council had passed a resolution to exclude the press and public. Such a motion can only be put in very defined circumstances such as a legal matter being discussed. Obviously, no such motion had been put nor had there been reason to put such a motion prior to Cliff Mainey entering the room so no one had the right to claim the meeting was private.

Unsurprisingly, I raised this at the next meeting of the Full Council, which was held last night. My clear aim was to get a firm commitment to the Council doing business in public. The Council Leader acknowledged the ‘mistake’ but I was surprised that the Committee Chairperson who in effect asked Cliff to leave the meeting did not take the opportunity to clarify his position. This will be something that needs keeping an eye on in the future

Access to the Port of Liverpool

Today I spent some time at a briefing meeting which had been called to update councillors on the study that has been taking place into road, rail and indeed water based transport options for the port.

The vast majority of the active port is actually in Sefton and the A5036 (Dunningsbridge Road etc.) is the main road access to it; running from the end of the M57 and M58 motorways at Switch Island through to Seaforth Docks. This road can be very busy at times and bearing in mind that we need the Port to grow to create jobs and boost the local economy it follows that a growing Port will need to be accessed more than it is at present by lorries, trains and those who work there.

The study was started whilst I was Leader of Sefton and the work it is doing will have to be developed and refined over the coming years but in the main the present conclusions are no surprise. However, as a rail enthusiast, I am pleased that the study group wants to do all that is possible to get as much freight onto trains as possible. This is also a ‘green’ issue of importance. Frankly, the low amount of freight moved into and out of the Port by rail at present is an embarrassment.

There is no doubt that there will be some tough issues to tackle further down the road as the study group of transport and economic experts has also come to the conclusion that in the end a new road will have to be built as the A5036 will not be able to cope with the anticipated amount of traffic in 5 to 10 years time.

From an East Parishes perspective the major issues will be the positive creation of jobs at the Port and the challenging problems that congestion will cause if the end results of all this work and the selected end projects do not solve the traffic problems. East Parishes residents use Switch Island and its feeder roads to get to work in Bootle and Liverpool so they will need a sustainable solution that does not create jams and travel delays to their journeys.

Sefton in Bloom

Last Thursday evening I attended a short 2 hour conference organised so that the various ‘In Bloom’ groups from across the Borough could come together to share experiences and learn from each other.
Fellow Lib Dem Councillors Andrew Tonkiss, who Chairs Crosby & Waterloo In Bloom and Mike Booth, who is both the Cabinet Member with responsibilities for In Bloom and who works with the Southport In Bloom Group were there as well.
From the East Parishes part of the Borough the lead volunteers from Maghull in Bloom and Melling in Bloom were present and they gladly engaged in the discussions with the groups from Southport and Crosby.
In my time as Leader of Maghull Town Council I realised that the In Bloom volunteers in the Town were very much worthy of the Council’s support. So the Council made financial donations to the volunteer group and agreed to use its grounds maintenance staff to water the summer hanging baskets in the Town’s shopping Centre.
A couple of years ago the volunteers suggested that a Maghull in Bloom Steering Group be formed to bring together all the community organisations, councils and partners who are working towards In Bloom success in the Town under one umbrella. The volunteers asked me to chair the group and despite me it has gone on to significant success
I remain very proud of the volunteer’s work and dedication and I hope that the Town Council under its new Labour administration will continue to approach Maghull in Bloom with the enthusiasm that the former Lib Dem administration did.
I took a few photos at the conference and here they are:-

Attendees at the Sefton in Bloom Conference held in Formby

A display by Melling in Bloom

St Lukes Church in Crosby also put on a display of their 'In Bloom' work

Did any good come from the public sector strikes on 30th Nov’?

Very little in my view and I speak as both someone who expects to receive a public sector pension and as a long serving trade union activist. Yes, an opportunity to let off some steam by those who feel aggrieved was given and many public sector bodies saved a few bob by not having to pay out a day’s wages. Other than that nothing was really achieved at all in my view.

This was was of those situations where most people in the public sector knew that their pensions were going to be hit and they also knew that private sector workers had no sympathy at all with the public sector. I got the impression from talking to some public sector workers that I know that many went along with the strike because they felt they should protest for a day even though they knew the end result would see little if any change to the situation.

This was an every which way but lose situation for the public sector trade unions. If they did nothing their members would say they had been sold down the river. If they told their members to take action it would serve little purpose. The trade union movement as a whole has been grappling with a very difficult issue as those members in the private sector, who don’t have the benefit of the terms of a public sector pension, were hardly going to back public sector members who have been getting a better deal than them. It is for such reasons that interviewed trade union leaders have seemed so ill at ease with the matter.

My personal view is still that this matter needs to be resolved ASAP and by negotiation; dragging it out over many more months will achieve little and frankly it will hardly help the image of the UK when we are trying to bring in investment. The UK on strike being shown on TV screens across the world will not help that search for investment one bit.


I woke up one day last week to see that BBC Breakfast TV was running an item about home delivery companies. I have posted on this before, not long ago, but having given the company that let my family down plenty of time to put matters right and them failing to even answer me I thought this frustrating account of events may interest readers. The complaint below was written for the company the item was purchased from but subsequently a complaint was also made directly to the delivery company; it is the latter who failed to respond.

We are appalled at the customer service standards of your delivery
company YODEL who seem to incapable of accepting responsibility for
their own failures in that they put us on to you when everything that
had gone wrong was their doing.

On 16th Sept. we had a YODEL calling card through our door. We
responded to it by visiting the YODEL web site and rescheduling the
delivery for Friday 23rd Sept. By the way they only offer 12 hour
(7am to 7pm) delivery slots which seems ridiculously inflexible.

Both my wife, who made the order from you, and I took time off work to
cover the 12 hour deliver period and at around 5.30pm YODEL turned up.
However, what they gave us was an order our daughter had made (from another company) not the one, from you, we were expecting. We quizzed the helpful driver who checked his van and said it had not been loaded and that we should check with YODEL’s help line. The driver indicated that his branch was in a muddle.

I then rang YODEL who confirmed that we had rescheduled for Friday 23rd and that it was their fault the delivery had not been made. I was also
informed that the YODEL Preston Branch was presently suffering from
difficulties as it had taken on the work of other closed delivery
Centres. He asked me to select another delivery slot/day. I refused
this option as we could not take further time off work. In the end I
agreed to drive up to Preston (some 20 miles) to pick up the delivery
myself on Thursday 29th Sept. I also asked him what Yodel was going to
do to compensate us for their failings and all he did was give me an e-
mail address to make a complaint. I have not yet done that pending
discussing the matter with you.

The next thing to happen was that a helpful chap from YODEL’s Preston
Depot rang us to say their had been informed that we wanted to pick the
delivery up but that we should know that they could not find it! I said
it’s OK we are not coming until Thursday 29th so please let us know
whether you find it or not before we set off.

As we had heard nothing from YODEL by this afternoon we rang their help
line again. Firstly the number on their calling card did not match our
address anymore when it had previously on calling them. Then when I
spoke to someone on their help line I was told that the parcel had been
sent back to the company we ordered it from!

You can imagine how I felt about that so I asked them what they were
going to do about it as the problems were caused by them making errors.
Whilst the lady I spoke to was polite she said all I could do was
contact the company we ordered the item from and in effect refused to
take responsibility for this mess. I told her I was appalled by their
customer service standards and then rang you.

Clearly we have been let down but so have you as this company
must have a contract with you. Clearly, we wanted you to know what had
gone on as it will be a contract compliance matter. Secondly, do you
wish us to pursue them for compensation or will you do that? Finally,
we do like doing business with you but can’t see the point if
we have to deal with a seemingly incompetent and inflexible delivery company
as YODEL seems to be to us. No one can reasonable be expected to  stay in for 12 hours to receive a delivery even if Yodel can get their other
problems sorted out. Can you send items via Royal Mail?

Thank you for your help in advance and we look forward to hearing from
you as soon as possible.

The company asked us to approach Yodel directly in response to the above but despite doing so we still await an answer to the complaint made via the Yodel website quite some time ago.