Policing in Sefton

I had my first meeting today with Sefton’s newly in-post Police Chief Superintendent Nickie Holland and I am pleased to say I found her approach just as positive as her predecessor Ian Pilling.
We discussed many things as you would expect with me being the Sefton Cabinet member for Community Safety. Obviously, some of it has to remain in confidence as it surrounded matters that the Police are presently working on or investigating. However, two important matters really are worth commenting on.
Firstly, the savings that Merseyside Police are having to make, like all other public sector organisations, are not having a detrimental effect on the Neighbourhood Policing operations across the Borough. That is good news indeed and shows how important Neighbourhood Policing has become since it was resurrected by the former Chief Constable of Devon & Cornwall in the later 1970’s/early 1980’s. Before then the Police had become remote and centralised, hardly knowing their communities at all anymore. It was this subject amongst others that brought me in politics as I knew then that policing had to change radically and it was the matter I first wrote to a local newspaper about. Chief Superintendent Holland’s message is one she is keen to let everyone know so she has been telling it to MP’s and councillors. Indeed, Bill Esterson MP was seeing her for the same sort of chat just before me today.
Speaking of Bill (photo opportunity) Esterson he was having his photo taken with our new local police chief as I arrived at Crosby Police Station. I wonder what next week’s press release and article in the Champion newspaper will say as Bill can’t allow an edition to go by without his photo being in it!
The second big issue has become a bit of a hobby horse of mine in recent times that I have been pushing to anyone who will listen. In many ways it is an obvious extension of proper neighbourhood policing in that you gain and use whatever information you can to target those groups and families that have the greatest detrimental effect on the Borough and its diverse communities. This is done by pulling together whatever information the Police, Probation, Dept. Of Work and Pensions, Fire Authority and Council hold on people associated with problem groups or families. You then co-ordinate that information to better target the activities of the criminals. But more than that the interventions are also meant to try to break the criminal ways of a family that are passed down from one generation to another. This latter point is a tough ask as there is of course little wonder that children living in a criminal family can easily grow up to be criminals as well. This kind of approach is gathering credibility across the Country and Nicky Holland is, I am glad to say, very keen on developing it further in Sefton.
So welcome to Nicky and let’s hope she manages to take forward her good ideas in partnership with the Council and indeed Sefton’s communities.

Maghull Town Council – Labour decide to sit on resident’s money and do nothing with it!

Labour voted down our proposal for the Town Council’s budget last night and left the Council awash with Council tax payers money just sitting in the bank.

This was our Lib Dem alternative 2012/13 budget proposals:-

‘*Take £159,350 from the Precept Support Reserve reducing it to £32,784
*Reduce Precept requirement on Maghull households by £63,350 – a 10% reduction.
* Add £50,000 to the Amenities Development Fund, from the money taken from Precept Support Reserve, for renewing children’s play area equipment at Round Meade, Moss and Moorhey Parks. Also, add in to the Amenities Development Fund (when it becomes available) the money to be received from the Section 106 agreement, which Cllr. Mainey has helped negotiate, from the development off Gatley Drive which is specifically for play equipment in Maghull’s parks. This S106 money is presently estimated by Sefton Planning Dept. to be in the order of £50,000 so providing a total Amenities Development pot of around £150,000 in 2012/13 to be available for the renewal of these 3 play areas.
* Add £46,000 to the Skateboard Park project (also from the money taken from the Precept Support Reserve) making a total of £50,000 as the £3,000 previously in the Town Council’s budgets was only for the cost of a feasibility study. The proposed £4,000 budget will not be sufficient to deliver the building of a skateboard park in the Town.
* To bring to an Amenities and Town Hall Committee meeting at the earliest opportunity proposals for design options for the 3 play areas for subsequent public consultation in the areas surrounding each park and a progress report on the development of a Maghull skateboard park.’

Allegations of improper conduct in public office

In the latter part of 2011 I received two of these. One referred to Merseytravel and one to Maghull Town Council.

I must admit that I have rarely had such things put to me before so to get two of them within weeks of each other was a surprise. I have taken advice on both from senior officers of Sefton Council and have passed them both on for further investigations as advised.

The Merseytravel allegations reached me anonymously but the one about Maghull Town Council came via someone that I know, if only slightly. Indeed, the allegations in this latter case came to me via a member of my family who was told about them, very unexpectedly, during a conversation with a local tradesman who was working on our house.

Clearly, in both cases, the allegations may have nothing in them but it is important (and I understand it to be my duty under Standards Board rules) to report any allegation of improper conduct that I as a local councillor become aware of.

I often come across people who think that improper conduct is rife in the public sector yet I have virtually never come across it in all my years as a councillor. However, one case that still amuses me now happened many, many years ago over a planning application. I am told that a councillor got a call from a chap who was trying to gain planning permission for alterations to his house. The chap offered the councillor, who sat on the Planning Committee, a free painting and decorating job if he could get the plans agreed. The councillor reported the offer and the chap got a visit from the Police asking why he was trying to bribe a councillor!

So, as you can see here, a councillor actually stopped an improper thing taking place.

Obviously, I can’t presently comment on the recent allegations made to/via me as they need to be properly investigated but I will return to this matter if and when it is appropriate for me to do so.

Trade Unions ditching Labour

Well, my very recent predictions about Labour being in big trouble with the trade unions has come to fruition quicker than even I expected.
From listening to trade union barons today, hellfire and damnation are being visited upon Labour, Mr Balls and Mr Miliband. But at least we now know that Labour is in favour of the cuts and savings having said they were opposed to them for the past 18 months. Public sector workers in particular, whom Labour has been spinning a line to more than most, really do now know that pay freezes and cuts are back by Labour.
All this puts Labour in even a worse situation than we Lib Dems were in over Student Fees as they have been pulling the wool over the eyes of millions of folk who work in the public sector. Whilst we Lib Dems made a right old mess over student fees at least we ensured that the poorest students would be better off than they were under Labour.
Watch out for more talk about a new political movement or party for the trade unions. They have been close to getting one off the ground before but the anger within the trade unions, because they have been conned by Labour, is real and revenge is on their agenda!

Demise of local newspapers but we still have one star shining brightly

This week I learned that one of the local newspapers serving the East Parishes part of Sefton has stopped being published by Trinity Mirror.

It seems that our rush to get our news on line is killing off traditional print media. I always thought this would be the case with national newspapers but it seems that local titles are suffering as well.

Sadly local papers are hardly able to train up reporters these days and the sad thing is that when you do speak to a local reporter the chances are that they do not know the community, the street, and the community groups well at all. Sometimes they are based in offices miles away from the community they are reporting on. Do they have the time and training to check out stories and get to the bottom of things? I wonder because at times you get the impression that cutting and pasting press releases from the Council and political parties is pretty much what is happening much of the time.

Having said all that the East Parishes communities are a little spoilt as we have an old fashioned reporter who lives here, knows just about everyone and whom we all like and trust to report matters well. Why he even attends Parish Council meetings to get real parish pump stories. I bet that is almost unheard of in most places these days. So well done Jim Sharpe a reporter who loves the Town he lives in.

Nutters, Labour and PCS Trade Union

What an odd week it has been in politics! Locally, Labour in the form of a PCS Trade Union Official attacked local Lib Dems because we call our FOCUS delivery team ‘The Nutters’. In this politically correct world of New Labour we were accused of calling residents nutters and of making fun of people with disabilities. Of course we were doing no such thing. What a ridiculous carry on and no, we will not be changing the name of our FOCUS delivery team or indeed our similarly named quiz team just because Labour don’t like it. Nutters we have been for 20 years or more so Labour know what they can do with their ridiculous misrepresentations.
Moving on Ed (the wrong) Miliband (won) decided that pretending Labour could and would reverse all the cuts the Coalition Government has made, to try to save our economy, was no longer an option. Now he and his arch rival Ed Balls are backing the public sector pay freeze and confirming that they will not be reversing the cuts. At face value a complete policy U-turn yet seeing Mr Miliband on the Andrew Marr show this morning was at best a confusing affair. Was he backing the cuts? Was he still criticising the cuts? Was he going to pledge to reverse them? Was he in a right old muddle? Sadly for him the latter was seemingly the case.
Of course Mr Miliband’s paymasters, the trade union barons, are about as happy with him as a farmer would be with snow falling at harvest time! Fronting up on the TV for the angry trade union barons was the Leader of PCS trade union for which I was an officer for many years. Miliband was clearly being sent a message he would not like and surely the trade union cheques that keep Labour afloat will be stopping soon.
As I have said before the unions hated New Labour in Government and clearly they hoped that by putting Ed Miliband in charge of Labour the Party would lurch back to the left. Well that plan seemed a good one whilst Labour continued to be deficit deniers but with their poll ratings slipping Ed has decided to ditch what the trade unions want in favour of an economic policy U-turn. Where this leaves trade union officials who are Labour Party members beats me but they can’t be comfortable (or wanted?) again in Ed’s brave new world.