An unremarkable start to 2010 as I recall but, like everywhere else, General Election fever was doing the rounds. In the end, despite all the fuss and huge amounts of money being spent by the political parties, NOTHING CHANGED in Sefton! The 3 constituencies in the Borough stayed as before i.e. 2 with Labour MP’s (Bootle and Sefton Central) and 1 with a Lib Dem MP (
The middle constituency (renamed as Sefton Central, which sounds more like the name for a railway station to me) significantly changed its boundaries but whilst the bookmakers predicted a Tory win that was well off the mark as Labour walked it. Why did the bookies get it so wrong I wonder? We realised that Labour were going to win the seat some 3 weeks before polling day but unless I read the Tories very wrong indeed they, like the bookmakers and indeed some in the press, thought they were going to win the seat right up until the last gasp. It has to be remembered that the Tories were so confident of winning that their candidate had resigned her Sefton Council Manor Ward seat as the Parliamentary victory was seen by them as a shoe-in. Poor old Formby Conservative Councillor Anne Ibbs was to get the backlash from this though in the Autumn.
By the way as an aside Sefton’s Manor Ward must be quite unique in that it now has one councillor from each of the 3 major parties representing it! Proportional representation by default?
George Howarth had been the Labour MP for the old Knowsley North & Sefton Central seat (which the new Sefton Central seat in effect replaced) and a generally well respected and liked constituency MP he had been too for many years. He was certainly someone from another party that I could get along with well and I was genuinely sad to see George going off to represent the new Knowsley seat. In
Southport John Pugh MP won again but this time by his largest majority to date. In
Bootle there was never any question that Joe Benton would win no matter what happened, which is of course why we need to have a new electoral system that makes all votes’ worthwhile casting. By the way this comment is no reflection on Joe who is a likable man well respected across the political spectrum
Richard Clein fought the Sefton Central seat for the Lib Dems. A Merseyside man born and bred, who had previously worked as a Drive Time presenter on Radio Merseyside. Richard built himself a good reputation and deservedly so but he did not have the limitless supply of UNITE trade union money that the unknown Labour candidate had. Neither did he try to pass himself off as a local celebrity as the Tory candidate seemed to. In the end money won and a Labour councillor from Medway in
Kent became the MP. So much for folks saying, as they often do, that they want a person who knows the area to be their MP as when push came to shove that did not seem to matter one jot. Having said that it is of course our ridiculous electoral system that gives voters no real choice.
And here is another by the way. Richard Clein had never held any public office before he became the Lib Dem Parliamentary Candidate. He had never claimed and never been given any allowances from the public purse. So what you may say. BUT if we go back just a few weeks before the general election we find the terrible goings on of the Parliamentary expenses row. Supposedly we were all going to vote for candidates untainted by being previously paid from the public purse; at least that is what the media told us we were going to do. My point being that logically Richard should have benefited from being the only candidate from the big 3 parties in Sefton Central not to have previously been on the public payroll. This would be an interesting one for a deeper piece of work and it reminds me of that ill-fated Lib Dem proposal at a previous General Election for a Penny on income tax to pay for education. The polling said it was hugely popular and folks would vote for it. The reality is that it went down like a lead balloon as we don’t actually vote in the cold light of day the way we say we will prior to going to the polling station.
On that same day in May we had Sefton Council elections and popular local Lib Dem Molyneux councillor Jack Colbert lost his Molyneux Ward seat to Labour. A big shock this as Jack had been well known and well liked by all who met him during his 10 years representing Melling,
Village and the southern part of Maghull. I saw some of the letters that were sent to Jack from well wishers (not Lib Dem supporters, I would add) following his defeat and they were fulsome in their praise of him. But if Jack is anything he is a fighter and he will be back trying to win a seat on Sefton Council next May.
Also, on the day where nothing much changed in Sefton there was one quite remarkable result. This was the Lib Dem victory in Ainsdale Ward where Haydn Preece took a Conservative seat where previously there had been large enough Tory majorities to declare the ward simply by weighing the Tory votes rather than needing to count them. Add to that the fact that the Tory Parliamentary candidate for
Southport was a councillor for the same ward and the Lib Dem victory was all the more remarkable.
So in the local elections Sefton Lib Dems won 1 seat on the Council and lost 1. The Tories, as has often been the case in recent years, came of worst again.
Then came the Coalition Government and the spending review, which is well documented elsewhere. What was coming, whom ever had been elected to
Westminster, then came to Sefton and every other local council across the Country – massive reductions in Government grants to local authorities. This got Sefton Labour in quite a spin as they knew the cuts were a consequence of their Government’s bailing out of the banks and Gordon Brown’s rush to spend and borrow in the last months of Labour being in power nationally. So what would they do? How about brazenly taking the stance of it’s nothing to do with us, the cuts are not needed and we will not agree with them? Yes, that’s what they did and what they were still doing at turn of the year, denying the consequences of what they, in Government, had created!
On a personal note I had a great Autumn day out at Southport Football Club when my team
Town went to play them. The fact that
Mansfield won made it a very good day indeed but I really do hope that Southport FC can do well this season. They have had quite a struggle on in 2010 but they are such a welcoming club they deserve a bright future.
Also in the Autumn Sefton Tories engaged in another one of their now infamous local blood-letting events that they have become so well known for in recent years. This time they deselected highly respected Ravenmeols Councillor Anne Ibbs to find a place for their failed Sefton Central Parliamentary candidate who now wants to get back on the Council she had resigned from when she thought she was going to become an MP. My guess is that this one is yet to fully play out but then again the number of attacks the Sefton Tory leadership makes on its own membership means that more trouble is virtually guaranteed!
As the year ended Sefton was still looking for around another £17m of savings to balance its books for April 2011 and it seems that Labour are not willing to find a penny of those savings. Indeed, they have been so brazen in their stance that it has led to them being challenged to say why they feel it is appropriate for them to remain on the Cabinet of Sefton Council, taking their substantial wages, when they are not willing to participate in sorting out the finances of the Borough. As I write they have yet to answer this fundamental question.
The year also ended with severe weather impacting hard on the Borough through Christmas week with residents questioning the ability of the Council to address the cold snap as well as they expected it to. I have commented, via this blog, in detail about the snow over the last few days so I am not going to repeat it all again in this posting. Suffice to say that the inquest into this will clearly spill over into 2011 but the first round of that inquest was held on 29th December with myself and 6 other concerned members of Sefton Council questioning Council officers in great detail.
I will end by thanking two people, amongst the many, who have been important in keeping the wheels of local democracy rolling in 2010. Firstly, Margaret Carney Sefton’s Chief Executive has proved to be a safe pair of hands who works very hard indeed. Margaret has impressed me and I value her efforts greatly. Secondly, Barry Smith the Interim Town Clerk of
Town Council. Barry retired two years ago but stepped back into the post when his successor took very ill. Barry is a remarkable man whom I have huge respect for.
Happy New Year