Aintree Library – Putting the Labour Cabinet Member with responsibilities for Parish Councils in Sefton on the spot

Below is the question that I asked to Labour Cabinet member Trish Hardy at the meeting of Sefton Council meeting last night.

Clause 4 of Sefton’s Parish Charter states that ‘In their role as democratically accountable bodies, parish and town councils offer a means of reshaping the decisions that affect their communities. They offer a means of decentralising the provision of services and of revitalising local communities.’

Is the Cabinet Member satisfied that this clause of the Parish Charter has been complied with, having regard to the way the Borough Council has treated Aintree Village Parish Council in relation to the recent application to operate a community/volunteer run library service in Aintree?

Incredibly her answer was:-

“I am not aware that Aintree Parish Council have applied to operate a library Service”

To which I replied – “Is the Cabinet Member seriously saying that she was unaware that Aintree Village Parish Council was the major funding partner of the community bid to take over Aintree Library and that the bid had been rejected by the Cabinet because it saw Aintree Village Parish Council as being an unreliable source of funding for this bid to be approved?”

I have no idea what she was trying to say in response to my follow up question!

Save our Libraries – Aintree rumbles on as Sefton grumbles on.

I have posted many times before about the determination of Aintree Village Parish Council to save its community library from closure. So determined are they that around £20,000 has been pledged, per year, by the Parish Council to support the new volunteer led venture.

But things look like they may be stalling with Sefton Borough Council potentially getting cold feet? The sticking point looks likely to be the one-off investment in the property by Sefton to bring it up to a reasonable standard of maintenance before the hand over is agreed.

Lib Dem campaigners fighting Labour's library axe

Lib Dem campaigners fighting Labour’s library axe

I am informed that the Borough has been and maybe still is seeking some form of binding/legal agreement with the Parish Council/volunteer group along the lines that they will guarantee the funding and running of the library under its new guise for 25 years. Personally I think that is unreasonable and in bad faith.

The Borough will still own the building and the site it sits on even if the new venture fails (which we all clearly hope it will not) at a future date so where’s the risk? The site is quite large so realising its value should not be an issue if the worst happens.

And what of the Parish Charter with Sefton Council and its 10 Parishes which says how they will try to work together etc.? It seems that going forward as a partnership based on mutual trust and what is best for the Aintree Village community is not the highest of Sefton’s priorities, more that it is looking suspiciously upon a Parish Council and volunteers who have frankly embarrassed it by their determination to try to save their library.

I hope this saga has a good outcome but time is ticking with the Borough wanting to close the Library in December. They just need to trust the Parish Council and volunteers to try to make the venture work and encourage them in the process rather than being grumpy and difficult.

And this is what a Labour-run Borough Council does. How very sad. I do hope that the Labour great and good don’t stand outside the Library for a photo opportunity, if they finally decided to let it live, claiming they saved it! You know the cheeky beggars would.

Save our Libraries – Aintree Library – Will Labour-run Sefton give an answer before they close it?

rsz_al_collins_at_a_save_aintree_library_public_meeting_on_26th_october_12_2

Below is an extract from a newsletter being delivered around Aintree Village by Aintree Ratepayers Association.
*****
As we go to print we have still not heard anything from Sefton Council as to whether we will be able to take over the running of the Library or not. To say that we are disappointed would be a massive understatement. The Library is due to close on December 20th with a run down in hours up to that date. We would ask you to put as much pressure on your elected members on the Borough Council to support the Library as there has been no support to date.

This is Independent Aintree Village Parish Councillor Terry Baldwin speaking at an outdoor meeting. He and Peter Gill have run a great campaign to save Aintree Library

This is Independent Aintree Village Parish Councillor Terry Baldwin speaking at an outdoor meeting. He and Peter Gill have run a great campaign to save Aintree Library

The fear is that if Aintree Library where to close on 20th December and no decision has been reached that it would become increasingly more difficult to reopen it. This would then deteriorate into a worse condition than it is in now and would look a complete eyesore.

We assure you that your Ratepayer Association will not give up the fight!
*****

I can’t tell you how sad it made me when I read this newsletter as I have been full of admiration for the work that Peter Gill, Terry Baldwin, Aintree Ratepayers and Aintree Parish Council have done to try to save their Library from Labour’s axe. They have moved mountains and embarrassed a slippery Labour Party in the process. I do hope that Labour-run Sefton will now play ball and not just let the Library die.

Stop Press: I hear that there is a Special Meeting of Aintree Village Parish Council on Wednesday 6th November to discuss the crisis.

Aintree Village Parish Council – It seems that relations with the Labour-run Borough Council are not what what they were under the previous Lib Dem-led Council

I was interested to pick up such concerns that Aintree Village Parish Council seem to have because what it illustrates, in my opinion, is that the now Labour-led Borough Council does not have the same level of commitment to keeping the Parish Council updated and included in matters that the previously Lib Dem-led Borough Council had.

When I represented Molyneux ward with 2 fellow Lib Dem colleagues our aim was to try to keep Melling and Aintree Village Parish Councils in the loop about things affecting their Parishes which crossed our desks/came to our attention. We did that as we always wanted to know how the Parish Council felt about things and whenever possible we would take the views from the Parish Council as being the community view because Parish Councillors are closest to the residents of their Parish. This was a natural thing to do for us Lib Dems because we know that Parish Councils are the bedrock of effective local democracy.

rsz_al_collins_at_a_save_aintree_library_public_meeting_on_26th_october_12_2

Things started to go wrong, certainly in Aintree Village, when the ruling Labour Group on Sefton Council voted to close Aintree Library. It’s taken the Parish Council to come up with a plan to try to save the library despite the actions of Sefton’s Labour Council! No wonder things are a little strained and the Labour Borough is getting reminded to keep the Parish Council informed over community matters.

SAVE OUR LIBRARIES – An update on the 7 closures in Sefton Borough

At present Aintree Library looks to be the only one of the 7 threatened libraries that may have a reasonable chance of surviving Labour’s cull although I understand that last ditch efforts are being made, once again, to pull an iron out of the fire in respect of Birkdale Library.

This is Independent Aintree Village Parish Councillor Terry Baldwin speaking at an outdoor meeting. Terry is highly respected so to see him being told he could not make representations to an Area Committee Committee meeting by Labour Councillors was a low point of the campaign indeed.

This is Independent Aintree Village Parish Councillor Terry Baldwin speaking at an outdoor meeting. Terry is highly respected so to see him being told he could not make representations to an Area Committee Committee meeting by Labour Councillors was a low point of the campaign indeed.

Sadly the other 5 – Ainsdale, Churchtown, Litherland, College Road and Orrell look to be all but dead in Labour’s water.

4 of the 7 down to be culled fought every inch of the way i.e. Aintree, Ainsdale, Birkdale and Churchtown with a later attempt being made to save Collage Road Library in Crosby. We Lib Dems supported all the campaign groups. Can anyone tell me what the Bootle Labour councillors representing the wards served by Orrell and Litherland Libraries did to stop their branches from closing?

Cllr. Andrew Blackburn fighting for Aintree Library

Cllr. Andrew Blackburn fighting for Aintree Library

Aintree is interesting as the campaign to save it was run very much by Aintree Village Parish Council, supported by Melling Parish Council some local community groups and prominent local business. It has been fronted by the redoubtable Ratepayer Parish Councillors Peter Gill and Terry Baldwin whom I have praised before and have a great deal of respect for.

Cllr. Peter Gill

Cllr. Peter Gill

As the campaigns got going I attended rallies and meetings in support of Aintree Library as did my local Lib Dem colleagues Bruce Hubbard and Andrew Blackburn, whilst Aintree’s Labour ward councillors did not know what to do as it was their party proposing the closure of Aintree Branch Library and the other 6.

The proposal now is for Aintree Library to go forward as a form of chartable trust funded mainly by Aintree Village Parish Council. Melling Parish Council may help fund it to a small degree as well but they have not promised long-term financial support, I understand.

The Library will be renamed and it will be run by volunteers from the local community. A coffee shop within the building is a possibility.

Sefton Council will, I understand, provide books and internet access but that’s about it.

The detail of this is presently being worked up but if all goes according to plan Aintree Library could well be up and running in its new guise by the end of the year.

Separately, I went to York a couple of weeks ago and a visit to Rowntree Park provided evidence of a totally different approach to the funding and provision of libraries in that Council’s area. I will post about what seems to be a far more enlightened way of doing things in York soon.

Aintree Davenhill – Official Reopening following rebuild

rsz_photo0176

I was delighted to be invited to the formal reopening ceremony yesterday in the presence of the Countess of Wessex. Whilst I no longer represent Aintree Village I am told that my efforts in pushing for the School’s rebuild were remembered.

When I was first elected to serve Molyneux Ward (which includes Aintree Village) in 1999 I picked this up as a major issue to be pursued along with the rebuilding of the Oriel Drive GP practice building. Thankfully both have been successfully completed.

I met with Sefton’s then Director of Education in 1999 and followed it up with further lobbying at every opportunity. Finally, the pushing and shoving worked but the real effort was made by Aintree Ratepayers Association and Aintree Parish Council all I did was to get those in control of the local purse strings to take notice and prioritise the School’s rebuild.

The event yesterday was a great success with much singing by the children of Davenhill. A good day indeed.