School Uniforms – Lib Dems put pressure on schools

School uniforms, if they are bought at shops such as ASDA or Tesco to name but two cheap outlets, are affordable even if you are on a limited budget. However, some state schools still ask parents to shell out for expensive colours or parts of a uniform that can only be purchased at certain shops. This despite the last Government issuing ‘advice’ over the matter some years ago. 

In these times of austerity schools need to ensure that their uniforms are easily affordable and we Lib Dems are reminding them of what we think is their obligation. We say this in the context of Sefton Council withdrawing the subsidy that it used pay to families who struggled to fund school uniform costs. There is no longer any money to subsidise uniforms. However, if you turn the issue the other way around is it not ridiculous that the public purse should have to subsidise school uniforms when they are so cheap in the supermarkets?

I support school uniforms as they teach children about the need to dress appropriately for the world of work. Not only that uniforms help keep parents costs down when it comes to children clothes as they preclude the need for children to be in a costly fashion parade at least during school hours. So please Sefton Schools help parents obtain affordable uniforms by making them easy to obtain on the high street. It’s not a lot to ask in these hard times is it?

Richard Kemp – Pickles and Shapps / Labour’s Sefton dilemma

Cllr. Richard Kemp, the Lib Dem Leader on the Local Government Association – LGA, is a calm and sober commentator on political events so to hear him saying publicly via the national media today that Eric Pickles (see my posting of yesterday) and Grant Shapps (not a Minister that I have really noticed) are both in a world of their own as Coalition Ministers (my words not his) then all is not well. By the way Sefton Council voted to give notice of withdrawal from the LGA last Thursday as a cost cutting measure.

The Tory Party have always had their eccentric off the wall characters and my hope has been that they and the loony right (who Cameron clearly wants rid of) would be pushed to the sidelines via the Coalition Government. However, a couple of them seem to have sneaked through to positions of power which is regrettable. A test of Cameron will be what he does if they continue to be flaky. All political parties are themselves coalitions of differing views. Remember how Kinnock, Smith and Blair tried to rid themselves of Labour’s extreme left. Remember how John Major became a prisoner of the Tories loony right wing when he was Prime Minister. I am sure there are other examples and I am quite prepared to accept that we Lib Dems have our odd fringe people as well!

My firm view is that the Coalition is right but then again I sit on a Council that has been run by a 3 party coalition since 1986! To believe that any single political party has a monopoly on wisdom is to delude one self. On Sefton Council 95% of the decisions have all-party agreement to them; that is a positive not a negative thing. Yes, I know that Labour suggested that they were likely to remove themselves from Sefton’s Cabinet last Thursday to become an opposition party, but will they really do that? Should they really do that? Their dilemma is that their Leader is one of two Deputy Leaders of the Council so if they truly want to oppose the Council’s required savings, that I have posted about previously, then they may have to walk away from Sefton’s multi-party governance to do that with any credibility. But if they walk away they will cease to be able to influence the Cabinet. What will they do, we await their decision with interest.

I see advantage in having a wider political tent than just one party; it should lead to better government as it makes it less likely that extremists can have undue influence which was clearly what brought Major to his knees. Multi-party government would also have stopped Margaret Thatcher who, in my view, did far more harm than good. This, of course, means we need to vote yes in the fair votes referendum next May. Extremists and loonies need to be marginalised in British politics like they are in most modern western democracies.

Hammond V Pickes to go – It has to be Pickles

My colleague Cllr. Iain Brodie-Browne (see my Birkdale Focus link) ponders in his latest post as to which Coalition Ministers will get the chop when the time comes to bring David Laws back into Government. I agree, Laws is highly thought of and should be returned to fold ASAP but in railway circles, where people like me spend time, Philip Hammond is getting a good press. RAIL magazine issue 658 says “Hammond has tackled a job he didn’t want with enthusiasm and success” & “Hammond’s overall record is excellent”.

Sadly Eric Pickles is the Coalition Government’s embarrassing face. He is prone to showing off and inconsistent behaviour especially when he tries to play up the too-smart straight-talking Yorkshireman image. My guess is that he likes his slightly notorious reputation and I agree with Iain that it does not take much to get Tories to tell you that Pickles is a bit much.

So save Hammond is my pitch and ditch Pickles.

Sefton’s Budget Savings

We had a Council meeting last night where more savings were agreed but it looks like another £17m of savings will be required to balance the books for the financial year starting April 2011.

The context of the savings is obviously the national debt. I have said before that bankers and socialists got us into this mess but neither are doing much to help us get out of it. What with bankers still trying to pay huge bonuses and socialists, at least on Sefton Council, being in almost complete denial of the situation it falls to others to try to stop the Country sliding towards the position of Greece or Ireland and the Council from going bankrupt.

I supported the actions of the last Labour Government when it bailed out the banks as the alternative was complete economic collapse. Now we are dealing with the consequences of that bail out as the bill is in effect being paid by huge cut backs in public services. Such was always ging to be the case and I accept the cut backs in public services have to take place as there is no longer enough money to pay for them. Labour, however, on Sefton Council adopt the view that the savings don’t have to be made. In saving the banks their Party, when in government, set in train the cuts that we are having to make now. I would add, as I have said before, that Labour should have turned off the money tap well before the last election; their spending and borrowing just added to the problem and increased the savings needing to be made now.

Socialists, real ones who want a socialist state of common ownership, were amongst those protesting at the meeting last night and I respect their views whilst not agreeing with them. They want a socialist economy but we live in a capitalist one. You can’t have socialist policies in a capitalist economy; it just does not work. Thereby hangs the conflict that can’t be resolved. Of course Bootle’s unreconstructed socialists who sit on the Council want what the socialist protesters want but they are bright enough to know that they can’t deliver it. It does not stop them playing to the crowd though, pretending that if Labour were in power they would not be making savings. Labour are running with the hare and the hounds.

The savings in Sefton will be and are massive; no one wants to make those savings that impact negatively on our diverse communities. But what we want and what has to be done are two totally different things. Last night Labour proposed that around £1.6m of the identified savings to date be not taken forward but they did not identify where another alternative £1.6m of savings would come from. When challenged their response was silence. Denial, as this surely was, will only lead to greater and bigger cuts having to be made with more Council employees being put at risk of their jobs being lost. As a trade unionist myself I find that Labour aproach totally unacceptable.

Keep up the campaign for Maghull North Railway Station

If I hear another Labour politician try to kill off  our much needed new railway station………………!

What’s the matter with them; why can’t they be consistent and back the campaign? In July Labour said the station was dead, next they said they were wanted to spend some of the money set aside for the station on fireworks, then said they were launching a campaign to get the station built, now they are back on their original tack of saying it will not be built again (because the new prision has been knocked back on adjacent land). Flip flopping does not come close to describing their position/s.

The bottom line is this the new station has been on the cards for many years, well before Labour’s big idea of putting a prison next to it was thought about. The fact is that a second railway station is required in Maghull because the present one can at times be beyond capacity, its car park (though massive) is too small to accommodate all who want to use it and the roads around the present station have had to have parking restrictions placed on them as commuters vehicles were blocking drive-ways and causing access problems for deliveries and emergency vehicles. So, if Labour want to be unpopular, all they need to do is to tell folks living around the present station that they are not in favour of a second railway station, which seems to be their policy on the matter this week!

So let’s get on with the campaigning. Yes, it will not happen quickly due to the national economic crisis but sitting back and saying it is not going to happen will simply lead to it not happening.

Play is vital for the development of children

Today Sefton’s Cabinet agreed the 3rd and last round of grants under what Government calls the Playbuilder Capital Grant scheme. The 8 final schemes approved today are in Crossens Community Park – Southport, Deansgate Lane Park -Formby, Moorside Park – Crosby, Netherton Park Neighbourhood Centre, and 4 others promoted by 3 of Sefton’s Parish Councils. These 4 are Lydiate Parish Council’s Sandy Lane Park, Aintree Village Parish Council’s Harrow Drive Park and Maghull Town Council’s Glenn and Dodds Parks.

Whilst because of the national financial crisis the grants have had to be reduced the fact that we finally got this list approved pleases me greatly. When the 3 year package first appeared I noticed that Sefton did not exactly break a leg to tell the 3 Parish Councils who run their own parks and gardens in the Borough about it, so I did! In the end all 3 wanted to bid for a grant and all 3 did so. My Parish Council colleagues led by Andrew Blackburn, who is well known for his youth work in the East Parishes part of the Borough, got bids in for Lydiate and Maghull and Terry Baldwin’s Team in Aintree Village got one in from their Parish. All were good bids and now all 3 have been successful. Another feather in the caps of our local Parish Councils.

Yes, Sefton could have taken the money and used it elsewhere but my strong view was that we had allowed these 8 schemes to run on and it was just not right to pull the money at the last gasp. A little good news in a sea of very bad news as far as local government is concerned, so lets celebrate it!