Today Sefton’s Cabinet met with senior officers in an all day session to discuss the need for the Council to make huge savings. £10m+ of savings has already been agreed by the Cabinet but it seems that another £15m may be needed to balance the books for the financial year 2011/12 with more to come after that.
The purpose of today’s work was to go through options in great detail. It was not a decision making meeting, more one to explore all possibilities. Suffice to say that no part of the Council will be immune from savings but we can’t see the whole picture until we get a settlement for 2011/12 from the Government that defines exactly where we are as opposed to the estimates that we are presently working on. The Government announcement is expected any day now. Such meetings must be going on in Councils across the UK as the recession and the overspending by the last Labour Government hits them hard.
We have all just heard via the national media that Phil Woolas the former Labour MP for Oldham East and Saddleworth has lost his appeal against being disqualified from office. I must say that I was not surprised by the end result having seen some of the leaflets put out in his name at the last General Election.
Some credit must go to the Labour Leadership for ditching Woolas as soon as he lost the legal case but as we all know some Labour MP’s were fund raising for Woolas to help him appeal! I was astonished by this move and I wonder if it was the old trade union and labour movement saying ‘an attack on one is an attack on all’ that was driving them to blindly do what was clearly the wrong thing? Anyone who doubts what I say should find a copy of one of the offending leaflets on the Internet, they are appalling.
I hear that there is concern out there in the media world that Sefton’s Cabinet is to have an ‘away day’ to consider the budget. ‘Away’ is an inappropriate word as the meeting is within Sefton and it’s in a Sefton building. The cost of the lunch is £2.50 per head and I have my money ready to pay over. Sorry, no junket on the rates here.
My colleague Ian Brodie-Browne has posted (click on Birkdale Focus in my list of links) about the potential for workers at Sefton Council’s plant nursery to take over the operation. Iain raised this at our Cabinet meeting last Thursday as an option he wanted to be fully investigated. The response of Cabinet was to both support this particular idea and to widen it to any other potential opportunities that there may be as Sefton Council tries to make very large savings.
It is good to see the Coalition Government trying to defend what is left of the Post Office network following both Tories and Labour in previous Governments continually reducing the number of Post Offices in our communities. I do hope that the Royal Mail can have a sustainable future as well as for too long it has been floundering.
Which brings me to one of my big moans. Why on earth do those companies wanting to send me goods through the post send it by carriers other than the Royal Mail? Whenever I can I tell those mailing goods to me not use anyone but the Royal Mail. Yes, it helps keep the Royal Mail going but even more than that I hate getting those cards through my door from all kinds of delivery companies when I am not in. You know the cards well I assume, the ones that say you can pick the item up from their ‘local’ depot! Trouble is their local depot is miles away on some run down trading estate. If I am to pick an item up I want to pick it up from somewhere close to home such as the Royal Mail local Sorting Office! We all know where they are, the cards pushed through your letter box when you are out from the Royal Mail are clear about what to do and I find my visits to my local Sorting Office in Maghull a breeze.
Today I had an excellent meeting with Cllr. Ian Grant the Leader of West Lancashire Borough Council. Surprisingly, even though we are Borough neighbours, Ian and I had not had chance to have a long chat about issues of mutual importance before but this meeting proved to be very useful.
As I have posted before Sefton has a bigger boundary with Lancashire than it does with the other Merseyside Councils. We have transportation, health and economic interests that are common so we need to try to break down the artificial barriers created by local government reorganisation in 1974.
What pleased me about today’s informal chat was that Cllr. Grant came over as a practical and determined chap who is quite happy to work with partners for the common good. We discussed a number of things but settled on the railway links between Sefton and West Lancs as being the matter we would most like to take forward. Again, I have posted before about the daft situation where the Ormskirk to Preston railway line crosses the Southport to Wigan line but the curves connecting the two have been taken away. I have worked with OPSTA, West Lancs Council, Sefton, Merseytravel and Lancs County Council for longer than I care to remember to try to get the curves reinstated but 30 years on the problem still remains there for all to see.
What we want is really quite simple, trains from Ormskirk to Southport and Southport to Preston as well as the present Ormskirk to Preston service. To me the project is a ‘no brainer’ as the advantages to communities in Sefton and West Lancs would be significant. If we can try to move this project on and greater co-operation with West Lancs Council helps us get there then let’s do it.