Banging the Environmental drum

Over recent years a number of sites across the East Parishes part of Sefton have have their grass verges protected from vehicles driving on to them via the use of post and shrub planting.

This is me at Eastway/Deyes Lane, Maghull a while ago when such post and shrub planting was taking place

In the right places this can work quite well and it looks far better than concrete bollards. I think the idea for them came from my dear old mate and former local councillor Roy Connell, he certainly developed it if he did not originally dream up this solution up.

The snag is that last winter the cold snap killed off a number of the shrubs and dead ones can be seen in Maghull’s St Andrew’s Conservation Area and at Poverty Lane to name but two sites. Earlier this year I started looking for a way to replace the shrubs and whilst realising that Sefton Council would obviously have no money due to Council budget cuts I did occur to me that Maghull Town Council may well be able to fund the replacements from its Environmental Fund.

The Town Council’s Environmental fund was set up to fund any type of environmental improvement in the Town whether the project be promoted by the Town Council itself, the Borough Council or a community Group. And what’s more the Town Council helped Roy with money from this fund before with such projects. 

So I have asked Sefton Council’s Neighbourhood Officer who looks after the East Parishes to ask the Town Council to assist with some funding to replace the dead shrubs. I am hoping for a positive response.

Kris Brown joins the Lib Dems

Kris Brown, until recently a member of the Labour Party, and who worked for Labour MP Bill Esterson has joined the Lib Dems.

When things like this come out of the blue it is both surprising and enjoyable. In the past few days I have spent time talking to Kris and of course welcoming him to the Lib Dem fold. He has already been out in Formby campaigning for us.

Whilst it is not for me to put words into Kris’s mouth I have picked up one very clear message from my discussions with him. The steady drift of Labour to the left and away from the more Social Democratic positioning of New Labour has clearly been a big factor in his political move.

Ironically Kris stood against me in May as the Labour candidate in Park Ward and he came very close to unseating me! I am sure that he must have wondered how I would react to him joining the Lib Dems but in reality he had nothing to be concerned about; we are a friendly bunch of community activists and Kris is very welcome amongst us.

He will be taking up employment in London in the very near future so the real Lib Dem gain of having a talented person like Kris will be had by the party in London.

Merseytravel & Reputational Damage!

Merseytravel told us all a few weeks ago that they were to fund (i.e. to use public money) legal action against one of their own (opposition) members who had issued a press release that the Chairman of Merseytravel did not like. The reason for funding the action, we were told, in defence of the Authority’s Labour Chairman, was due to reputational damage to Merseytravel allegedly caused by a Lib Dem member’s press release.

I have heard some daft things in my time but is it not the case that the reputational damage done to Merseytravel has been caused by the action of the Autority? Merseytravel have put themselves in more tight corners than you can shake a stick at. They have:-

* spent tens of millions on the infamous failed merseytram project

* made utter fools of themselves by backing out of a pilot study to reintegrate the local rail network just as their wish had been granted and having spent, we are told, £1.5m getting Government to agree to the pilot.

* had to reduce their many, many committees to a handful in the face of being ridiculed for their bloated bureaucracy.

* paid more special responsibility allowances to Labour councillors than any other Integrated Transport Authority by miles and miles, until that is their very recent retreat on this.

* been in the local and national press over corporate credit cards.

Reputational damage; just as if a single press statement from a Lib Dem Councillor could do anything close to the damage the Labour run Authority has done to itself! Oh and by the way Merseytravel are now saying that they are not going to fund the legal action. I wonder why? Could it be that the penny has finally dropped that public money is scarce and should not be spent in a way that adds to the the Authority’s tattered reputation?

Southport Cockle Picking

Last Friday I was invited in my Cabinet Member capacity to a debriefing on the recent opening of cockle beds off the Sefton, West Lancs & Flyde coast.

Of course Southport has a long history of cockle picking and there are road names in the Town that make that history very clear.

On the 1st September a number of very large beds were opened and within Sefton Council and the emergency services there was a great deal of nervousness about how the picking, especially in the first few days, could be safely managed. We can all remember those terrible times off Morcombe only a few years ago.

I have been more than impressed with the organisation of the Council, the emergency services and agencies of Government who have all come together to try to ensure that as far as reasonably possible the picking process is as safe as it can be.

But whilst the first weeks are now behind us the the picking will continue on a smaller scale throughout the winter until the end of April 2012. Clearly we can expect bad weather and I just hope that all those who embark on cockle picking know how to remain safe as some of the beds are a long way out to sea.

Fireworks at Maghull Council meeting

Words were had at last Wednesday’s Maghull Town Council meeting with the Labour administration and I coming to verbal blows about the carry on over the Town’s firework display (which after all the fuss is now back on) and also over the weeks of closure of Maghull’s unique Youth Coffee Bar that operates from Maghull Town Hall.

Sadly, I also had to remind the Labour Mayor that it was not her job to make party political remarks as we all look to Mayors to be impartial whilst in their year of office.

The trouble started (over the firework display) about 3 weeks ago when Labour spin doctors issued a press release saying that the annual Town fireworks display was under threat and that if sponsors could not be urgently found it would not go ahead this year. They even claimed that the problem was Government funding cuts! A bit rich when Parish and Town Councils don’t get any funding from Government and the only money that had been lost was what we all saw as temporary fireworks funding from Sefton Council which the Town Council had benefited from over the past couple of years. For donkey’s years the Town Council had happily funded its own display having taken it over from the Round Table in the early 1990’s.

Anyway we Lib Dems hit the roof when we heard that Labour were trying to kill off the display. Fortunately, the Labour back tracking started almost immediately though. By the time we got to last last Wednesday’s Town Council meeting the written report, saying the event should be cancelled (and the money used as a budget saving) had been overturned and now Labour were fully supporting us opposition Lib Dems in saying that the firework display should go ahead.

Thank goodness for that but what on earth was all the original fuss about? It could hardly have been money as originally claimed as a useful question (from a Labour member) brought forth an answer from an independent officer of the Council that the Labour run Council is running, in the present financial year, with an unallocated under spend/reserve of between £130,000 and £150,000.

So we got there in the end and the firework display has been saved but it left a nasty taste in the mouth when it became apparent that Labour were seemingly trying to push the blame for the proposal to ditch the fireworks display on to the Town Clerk when it was clearly their own public statement that had caused all the problems in the first place.

As to the closure of the Youth Coffee Bar during the summer, the fact is that we Lib Dems on the Council did not accept the Labour view that the Coffee Bar had to be closed for Health and Safety reasons during building work on the Town Hall roof. Our view was that youths climbing the scaffolding was not going to stop by simply shutting the Coffee Bar, as it also happened on evenings when the Coffee Bar was not open. Other solutions to ensure the scaffolding was not readily accessible should have been pursued. Our view has not changed and shouting at us because we have consistently challenged the ruling Labour Group’s view on this matter is not going to change our minds. The fact is that had we Lib Dems been running the Council the Youth Coffee Bar, which we provided at the request of local youngsters, would not have been shut.

And this was at a parish council meeting!

Bin Money!

Sefton Council’s Lib Dem Cabinet Member Environmental has responded to recent Government announcement of £250m Fund for “weekly bin collections”

Last week the Government announced a £250 million Fund to help local authorities in England maintain weekly bin collections.

Sefton’s Cabinet Member – Environmental, Cllr Simon Shaw is hopeful that Sefton Council will be eligible for a share of the Fund.

He particularly welcomed the comments of Caroline Spelman, Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, who said that “This new fund will help councils whose residents want their rubbish collected more frequently to reinstate weekly bin rounds for smelly waste.”

Cllr Shaw said: “Locally we have maintained a weekly collection of smelly waste through the food waste collection service.  From the fairly limited information available so far, that seems to be exactly the sort of service which the Government is proposing to support through this Fund.  But, as always, the devil is in the detail.”

“It won’t mean an enormous financial benefit, as the £250 million is spread over 5 years.  Sefton’s share of that could be something like £1.5 million – that’s £300,000 per year.”

“It certainly isn’t enough to cover the cost of changing to collecting general waste every week, despite what some misleading recent newspaper headlines may have said.”

“In fact, a while ago Sefton officers worked out how much extra it would cost to switch from the present AWC system to emptying the grey wheelie bins each week.  It came out at more than 10 times the amount the Government would give us.”

“However, if this money can be used by Sefton Council to develop an even better weekly food waste collection service then that’s obviously good news.  Around 50% of local households already use that service, but it would be great to get that figure even higher.”

Some key facts:

• Sefton operates an AWC (Alternating Weekly Collection) refuse collection system for most of the Borough.  For most of the year grey wheelie bins (“residual” waste) are emptied one week, and green wheelie bins (compostable garden waste) are emptied the next week.  Around Christmas, grey bins are emptied every week.
• In addition Sefton provides a weekly food waste collection service.  In 2010/11 it collected 3,000 tonnes of food waste.  50% of households have opted in to this service, and it is hoped this proportion will rise further.
• Recyclable waste (“green box” i.e. paper, bottles and cans) are collected each week.
• In 2004/5 Sefton collected 16,500 tonnes of recyclable materials.
• In 2010/11 it collected 41,000 tonnes of recyclable material via weekly recycling (glass, tin, paper and food waste), bring banks, and AWC Green Bin collections.
• 20,000 tonnes of garden (green) waste were collected in 2010/11.
• Sefton is the only authority in Merseyside to offer a weekly recycling collection service (green box, food waste caddy and paper).