Yesterday what we expected to happen did happen i.e. the Tories on Sefton’s Cabinet backed Labour in their grubby bid to gain an extra seat on Merseyside Integrated Transport Authority (Merseytravel). Of course Sefton Tories have form here in that they have a history of backing Labour when it comes to Merseytravel.
But now may well be the time for a bit of history to be revealed which shines some light on the potential motives for Labour’s power grabbing.
Ever since it became clear that Merseytram was on the rocks there have been serious concerns about Merseytravel who promoted the failed tram project which, we are told, cost £70m of public money. Those concerns were, I understand, held by senior councillors and council officers across the County and I include Halton here as the adopted Merseyside Council from Cheshire.
Let me be frank, it was very clear to me that soeme in the Labour Party wanted to clip the wings of Mark Dowd the Labour Chair of Merseytravel indeed some Labour people made it clear to me that they felt it was time for him to go. This concern manifested itself in the City Region Cabinet setting up a Transport Portfolio which, as you may guess, went down like a lead balloon with Merseytravel! Relationships between the City Region Cabinet and Merseytravel have been strained ever since and that is being polite about it. I have been at meetings where you could cut the atmosphere with a knife.
Let me suggest a possible explanation for the Labour Party’s behaviour and the likely connection between it and recent history. It is all to do with political power in my book and the need to ensure that another Dowd loyalist is placed on Merseytravel so that when the challenge comes to unseat Mark Dowd it can more easily been seen off. Strangely, as Labour has gained a large majority on Merseytravel their Chairman has seemingly become more vulnerable from his own Labour Party benches. In fact he was probably more secure when he was being propped up by the Tories in the days when Labour was not the largest Party on the Authority (and the Lib Dems were) but the Tories kept Labour in power.
The need to act must have been urgent as events show that on 9th May 2011 the Labour Leader on Sefton backed (as did I and the Tory Leader) what we call the Political Conventions document which all 3 party leaders had originally signed up to on 29th March 2010. This document had within it the methodology for allocating seats on Merseyside’s ‘Joint Boards’. The other two Joint Boards for these purposes being the Fire Authority and Waste Disposal Authority. Yet only a few days later on 17th May and out of the blue Labour did a u-turn and said they wanted to back out of what they had just agreed to. Clearly, things were moving and it is my belief that it had become apparent to Labour people who support Mark Dowd that others within the Labour Party had the knives out for him again. Such was the concern that Sefton Labour found itself having to back out of what it had just agreed to but fortunately for them the Tories were willing to lend a hand.
And there you have what I think were the causes of the row at Sefton’s Cabinet yesterday. Are things starting to fall apart already with Labour leading a 3 party Cabinet? Well yes it seems that they are and frankly we Lib Dems will not be putting up with any more power grabbing. If the Tories do want to try another coalition with Labour as they did in 2008 then they should just get on with it. Yes, they failed spectacularly then as the Lab/Con coalition lasted less than 2 months but we Lib Dems are more than happy to provide the opposition on Sefton Council should they want another stab at it.
Tonight at Lydiate Parish Council’s meeting campaigners who want to defend the Green Belt attended to ask for the Parish Council’s support. They got that support and of course we Lib Dems have already launched a petition to try to stop development on Grade 1 and 2 agricultural land in the East Parishes.
The attending campaigners have their own petition going and now the public consultation phase of this battle for land, which comes under the vague title of ‘Core Strategy’, has commenced.
The issues at stake here are huge and when they are finally resolved the future and nature of Sefton’s communities will be set for many years to come. I hope that Sefton residents will engage in the consultation process but as was pointed out by the volunteer campaigners tonight there is a fear that Joe and Jane Public have not so far had the significance of the process made clear to them. As I said ‘Core Strategy’ is hardly a catchy stapline or one that readily indicates what the real issues are. We will see but the bottom line, especially here in the East Parishes part of the Borough, will be defending the Green Belt from development
Today I chaired another meeting of the Maghull in Bloom Steering Group and was pleased that the new Leader of Maghull Town Council, Maurice Byrne, was able to be there. I must admit that having been the Leader of the Town Council for 23 years it does seem odd to be saying that someone else is now doing the job. However, I wish Maurice well, I am sure he will do his best for the Town.
Returning to Maghull in Bloom, things are progressing well and if you are not a regular train commuter from Maghull Station please take a moment to look at the wonderful display of flowers organised by Maghull Station Volunteers who are a part of the wider ‘In Bloom’ local grouping. I took this photo only a couple of days ago:-
I was in W H Smith in Southport yesterday getting my regular fix of railway magazines. Nothing odd there unless you think buying railway mags is odd of course!
When I got to the till I got a 60p discount and was given a copy of the Sun newspaper for free. Being from Merseyside I declined the newspaper for reasons we can all recall. I was then told that I had to have a copy or I would not get the 60p discount! I said OK, paid the required amount and then gave the Sun back to the shop assistant.
I don’t read national newspapers and have not done so for many a year but to have a copy of the Sun foisted upon me on Merseyside was I feel an inappropriate activity for W H Smith and one that was not good for their local business. This was confirmed by the lady behind me in the queue who was not only supportive of my stance but was going to do the same thing herself.
I went to an informal meeting at Lydiate Village Centre on Friday morning where representatives of Maghull & Lydiate Home Watch (Incorporating Sefton Village) were talking to residents at a coffee morning organised by Lydiate Parish Council about the work of Home Watch.
A very interesting discussion that looks like it will lead to a campaign to encourage more Lydiate residents to both join Home Watch and become active in the organisation.
Home Watch is a very important volunteer organisation in many communities and the Maghull & Lydiate group are particularly active in trying to help to combat crime via advice and help for local folks. Definitely a ‘Big Society’ thing is this.
Check out my link to their web site.
My good friend Jane, a retired lady with a disability, had a smoke alarm fitted by Merseyside Fire and Rescue Authority a couple of years ago and pleased with it she was, well until last Tuesday anyway.
Last Tuesday the thing became faulty and let out a loud screeching noise every 10 minutes and would only be calmed down by the pressing of a button. Trouble is this button needed pressing every 10 minutes!
Jane rang the designated number and asked for some urgent help. She was promised a visit that day/evening. It did not happen and she was up all night with the damn thing going off every 10 minutes. Then all through Wednesday and Wednesday nights. She mentioned her trouble to me on Thursday evening so I went around and put the alarm out of it’s and her misery.
Merseyside Fire and Rescue Authority own Jane an apology for not turning out; they have let her down and she is far from happy with them.