2019 Parish Council elections in Sefton Borough – Some interesting situations

I’m a bit of a parish council nut as I’ve been a parish councillor since 1985 and always seek out quirky things on the notice boards of parish councils when I travel around England.

This year was the year in which all parish councils were potentially up for re-election. Unlike most district and Borough councils (who tend to elected in thirds) parish councils are elected once every 4 years when the whole of the council is potentially at the mercy of the electorate. Some parish councils however never really have elections as only enough or too few nominations are forthcoming and candidates are elected unopposed.

There are 10 parish councils within Sefton Borough – they are:-

Little Altcar PC – had an election
Formby PC – had an election
Ince Blundell PC – no election
Thornton PC – no election
Hightown PC – no election
Sefton PC – had an election in one of its 2 wards
Melling PC – had an election
Lydiate PC – had an election in all 3 wards
Maghull TC* – had an election but only in one of its 4 wards
Aintree Village PC – no election

* There is no real difference between a Parish or Town Council other than a Town Council can elect a Mayor instead of a Chairperson

Here are a few highlights from the elections which took place on 2nd May at the same time as the Sefton Borough elections

Little Altcar Parish Council (7 seats) – Formby Residents Action Group 6, Green Party 1

Formby Parish Council (15 seats across 2 wards) – Formby Residents Action Group 11, Conservatives 3, Labour 1

Ince Blundell Parish Council (5 seats) – Only 3 nominations for the 5 seats on this council – Independents 2, Formby Residents Action Group 1 (all elected unopposed), vacancies 2.

Thornton Parish Council (7 seats) – Only 2 nominations for the 7 seats on this council – Conservative 1, Green 1 (both elected unopposed), vacancies 5 * – potentially the additional 5 seat can be filled by the 2 unopposed/elected councillors co-opting up to another 5 councillors? Could be time to consult the Bible of Parish Council administration by Charles Arnold-Baker.

Hightown Parish Council (7 seats) – Only 5 nominations for the 7 seats on this council – Independents 5 (all elected unopposed) Vacancies 2.

Sefton Parish Council (7 seats across 2 wards) – Independents 6, Green Party 1

Melling Parish Council (11 seats) – Melling Resident 8, Labour 1, Independent 1, Asst Leader Cub Scouts 1 – Labour put up 12 candidates for the 11 seats but only got one elected. However, a Labour Borough Councillor for Molyneux ward (which includes Melling Parish) stood as a Melling Resident and came top of the poll.

Lydiate Parish Council (9 seats in 3 wards) – Labour 7, Lib Dem 2

Maghull Town Council (16 seats in 4 wards) – Labour 12, Conservative 2, Independent 1, Vacancy 1 – Labour effectively lost 4 seats having previously held all 16 on this council. It seems that a candidate elected under the Labour banner subsequently declared as an Independent after the elections. It also looks like a Labour member of this council sits on Melling Parish Council as well but as a Melling Resident not as a Labour councillor.

Aintree Village Parish Council – (12 seats across 2 wards) – Independent 8, Green 2, Labour 2 (all elected unopposed)

My thanks to Andrew Blackburn who helped me trawl through information on Sefton Council’s and other websites to pull together this information. I hope the information is correct but if you see an error please flag it up so that I can correct it.

Oh and one final note – Vacancies on Parish/Town Council can be filled by an election being held, however, if no candidates come forward to stand in an election then the council has the power to co-opt people to fill the vacancies.

Lydiate’s parks and open spaces – An update on my previous posting ‘Maghull – land, money & maintaining Old Hall Park’

Lydiate PC grounds maintenance staff at work in Liverpool Road outside St. Gregs Church.

I wrote not so long ago an article that was based on complaints made by residents about the standard of maintenance at Old Hall Park in Maghull. That posting can be accessed here:-

tonyrobertson.mycouncillor.org.uk/2017/04/06/maghull-land-money-maintaining-old-hall-park/

This is in effect a follow up piece although the detail is about neighbouring Lydiate’s parks and open spaces. I have used Lydiate to further illustrate the points I was making in my first posting as the detailed information is to hand for that community. However, such information should be available about Maghull and indeed Aintree Village as the same principles apply and double payment of Council tax by residents of these three communities also applies.

St Catherine’s also known as Lydiate Abbey, where Lydiate PC does grounds maintenance work.

Let’s start with a brief recap. In Maghull, Aintree Village and Lydiate Council tax payers in effect pay twice for the maintenance of their parks and open spaces, once to their Parish/Town Council who do the work and again to Sefton Council who don’t. Why do I say this? Because the amount of Council tax charged by Sefton Council is exactly the same in these communities as it is in Crosby, Formby, Bootle and Southport where Sefton Council does maintain parks and open spaces. On that basis Maghull, Aintree Village and Lydiate Council tax payers are paying Sefton for a service it does not supply to them, except in the cases of Old Hall Park & Bobby’s Wood in Maghull. If you’re still not with me have a read of my first posting linked above and things should become clearer.

So on to Lydiate where I have the detailed break down of information which illustrates the case I have been making:-

You will need to click on the graphic above to enlarge it for reading

What you can see from this graphic is a list of all the parks and open spaces in Lydiate and how Lydiate Parish Council provides maintenance for them. Sefton Council used to compensate Lydiate Parish Council for the overcharging of Council tax by making a grant back to Lydiate PC. My previous posting (linked above) explains that process which also applied to Maghull and Aintree Village. Sefton ceased making the compensation grant in 2014/15, as you can see from the chart above (the same applied to Aintree Village & Maghull), meaning that an unfair system has been reimposed on those communities.

As I say if you live in Aintree Village, Maghull or Lydiate you are paying for parks and gardens maintenance twice in my view.

Maghull – Land, money & maintaining Old Hall Park

Ive seen a couple of threads on the Maghull Community facebook Page recently raising concerns about the poor standard of maintenance of Old Hall Park and thought a full review of the issues leading up this unfortunate state of affairs was required.

Old Hall Park

Firstly, when Old Hall Park was created following the demolition of the former Old Hall High School Buildings (originally it had been Maghull Grammar School) the park was laid out and run by Sefton Council. Of course houses were also built on around one third of the site at the same time. This became Sefton Council’s only park in Maghull, all the others being run by Maghull Town Council. In fact Sefton did and still does own one other small grassed/wooded amenity area called Bobby’s Wood, which is at the junction of Liverpool Road South and Northway down at the Woodend area of the Town.

Maghull Town Council then hatched a plan. It thought that all the parks/green spaces in the Town would be better maintained to the same standard and by its own local maintenance team, rather these two areas being maintained by the Borough Council’s separate contractors. Negotiations took place and it was agreed that Old Hall Park and Bobbies Wood would in future both be maintained by Maghull Town Council, this was something like 10 years ago if memory serves.

Things remained like this until Maghull Town Council made a policy decision, not that long ago, to hand the two pieces of land back to the Borough Council – this was when the standard of maintenance started to fall.

But there is another back story to this and surprise, surprise it involves money!

Firstly, all communities in Sefton Borough pay the same levels of Council tax, but some don’t benefit from a full range of services. The stand out one is maintenance of parks and gardens. For example Aintree Village only has one park (Harrow Drive Park) which is maintained by Aintree Village Parish Council, who raise a separate amount of Council tax (called a precept) to pay for that work. However, the good folks of Aintree pay the same amount of Council tax to Sefton Council as say Formby where all the parks are maintained by the Borough Council. You are probably getting my drift here but in case you’re not the fact is that Aintree Village Council tax payers are in effect paying their Parish Council who do the maintenance of their only park but they are also paying the Borough Council who don’t do any parks maintenance for for them. They are paying twice for the same job in reality.

That situation is mirrored in Lydiate and Maghull. In Lydiate all their parks and gardens are maintained by their Parish Council, none are maintained by Sefton Council. And so we get to Maghull where the vast majority of it’s parks and gardens are maintained by Maghull Town Council with just Old Hall Park and Bobby’s Wood being maintained by the Borough Council. So Lydiate and Maghull Council tax payers are, like their Aintree Village chums, in effect paying twice for the work to be done – Once to their Parish/Town Council and again to Sefton Council.

The solution that seems obvious to most who look into this is that Sefton Council should charge a lower amount of Council tax in Maghull, Lydiate and Aintree Village but for reasons I can’t quite fully recall this has never happened. But an alternative solution was put in place in the years following the formation of Sefton Council in 1974. It was called ‘Double Rating’ payments and it led to a formula being constructed which paid money to the Parish Councils who maintained their own parks and gardens.

When a Maghull and Sefton Councillor I looked at this deal and decided it was poor and did not reflect the real costs. I set about renegotiating it and eventually it was significantly improved (around 2007 I think?) to reflect what Sefton would be paying to its contractors if it was doing the work. All was fine then for a few years.

But trouble came with the financial crisis with the Borough Council being hit by massive cuts to its grant from government to run local services. As one of many cuts to its services the Borough Council then decided to stop paying the ‘Double Rating payments to the parish councils. So in effect Aintree Village, Lydiate and Maghull are back to where they were in 1974 i.e. paying twice for parks and gardens maintenance. A very unjust situation in my book.

What happened next was that Maghull Town Council said to Sefton Council if you will not pay us the Double rating we are handing back your parks and you can maintain them. Trouble is the Borough Council’s maintenance standards are low because they are running out of money so residents of Maghull who use Old Hall Park and Bobby’s Wood are not only paying twice for their green space to maintained they are suffering the far lower maintenance standards that are now common across the Borough.

And yes Maghull is the highest rate of Council tax in Sefton (it always has been since 1974) not least now because its Town Council is having to find more money to replace the Double Rating payments that it used to get. An every which way but lose situation you could call it.

I understand, please correct me if I am wrong here, that Maghull Town Council is looking at the possibility of taking over Old Hall Park and Bobby’s Wood once again so to improve the maintenance standards.

I hope this rather lengthy explanation is of use to those interested in this matter.

Leeds Liverpool Canal – Bicentenary celebrations in Sefton’s East Parishes

2016 has been the year to celebrate the bicentenary of the completion of the Leeds Liverpool Canal. In Sefton’s East Parishes (Aintree Village, Melling, Maghull & Lydiate) we had a event on 18th June.

£9500 was raised by 3 of the 4 local parish councils (Melling had their own separate event), Sefton Council, the pride of Sefton Charity and the Rent-a-Space company to fund the celebrations.

Sadly, as we all know, the big day saw a massive rain storm in the afternoon but the celebrations went on anyway and a good time was had by all. Here are a few reminder photo’s:-

Canal Bicentenary

rsz_img_0787

Iain Brodie Brown - Mayor of Sefton at the celebrations

Iain Brodie Brown – Mayor of Sefton at the celebrations

Neatly lined up

Packed into Scrummies refreshment tent

Packed into Scrummies refreshment tent

Lining up for the Flotilla

Lining up for the Flotilla

So how was the money spent? £780 on portaloos, £480 on a Marquee [I remember sheltering in that!- Ed], £325 on the visiting hawks display, £1,700 on the stage, £500 on catering,, £964 on traffic management and of course many other items of expenditure that come along with such an event. And it all came within budget with a small amount to be returned to each of the funders I understand.

See you at the 400th year celebrations event!

NHS GP Services in Sefton’s East Parishes – It’s been a roller coaster of a journey with few ups and too many downs

The recent talk and publicity in the Aintree & Maghull Champion made me think back to the many disappointments and frustrations we have had in trying to improve the NHS primary care facilities in Sefton’s East Parishes.

Sefton’s eastern parishes cover Melling, Aintree Village, Maghull, Lydiate and part of Sefton Parish and in all my many years as a councillor rarely have there been many positives with regard enhancing local GP/primary care facilities/services.

nhs-logo

The one really big and bright exception was the building and opening of the new GP premises in Oriel Drive, Aintree Village in 2012 after considerable campaigning by Aintree Village Parish Council, The Aintree Park Practice and the then Borough Councillors for Aintree.

July 2012 at the formal opening of the new GP Surgery

July 2012 at the formal opening of the new GP Surgery

But just look at the other miss-steps or missed opportunities:-

Lydiate Village Centre – opened in 2010 – this was originally to include GP facilities but the then Primary Care Trust backed out. Lydiate does not have a GP practice at all.

Meadows Leisure Centre (Maghull) – also opened in 2010 – was also meant to have GP provision within it. Indeed, the idea was for the GP’s to be able to refer appropriate patients directly to the Leisure Centre’s gym for fitness and rehabilitation/recovery purposes. Sadly the then Primary Care Trust backed out of that project too.

Maghull Health Centre was down to be rebuilt some years ago and councillors were told that the money/authority had been obtained for that to be done. That was as I say some years ago but nothing has happened to date.

rsz_maghull_health_centre

What’s more the then Lib Dem Borough Councillors for the 3 East Parishes Wards pressed for and gained a commitment that NHS Walk-In facilities would be provided within a rebuilt Maghull Health Centre, as the nearest one in Litherland is hardly easily accessible. This we were told was given the green light but when it went public health officials said they were not now going to do it!

Melling’s GP surgery was relocated to Kirkby in Knowsley Borough not so long ago, causing great concern to the village residents.

The GP practice on the Parkhaven Trust site in Maghull needs to relocate, so are told, and this is causing all kinds of concerns as to where it will go to. The same GP practice has had its problems in recent times and originally it had been down to be run by a big private company (possibly American) under the last Labour Government’s NHS privatisation plans promoted by Tony Blair and, I think, Andy Burnham. That idea was fought off by local campaigners.

All in all it’s fair to say that folks in the East Parishes communities just want high quality GP services, a locally accessible NHS Walk-In facility and as many medical tests done locally as possible rather than having to get to the very busy Fazakerley Hospital. Not much to ask for and much of it previously possible/promised but then backed out of by NHS officials.

I am sure that the numerous NHS re-organisations by all colours of Government have not helped over the past 20 years or so but the bottom line is little has moved forward and many problems persist with primary care NHS facilities in Sefton’s East Parishes.

Please no more promises, just deliver!

Southport Model Railway Exhibition 2015

This is always a good show that is well worth a visit. This year it was held over the weekend of the 7th/8th November at Greenbank High School.

I ran into my old friend Geoff Payne who was running the West Lancashire Light Railway stand. Geoff is an Aintree Village Parish Councillor of long standing. It was nice to catch up with him especially as I not previously realised that he was a fellow railway enthusiast.

I also spied my old chum Roger Bell running the OPSTA stall. Roger is a also a Labour member of West Lancs Borough Council and was deep in conversation with someone (Roger is a big talker!). I thought I would have a chin wag with him later, trouble is he must have seen me as I could not find him on my second circuit! Only kidding Roger.

Here are 3 photos I took at the exhibition:-

A typical American steam era scene in HO scale.

A typical American steam era scene in HO scale.

A beautiful Darjeeling live steam loco on 32mm track.

A beautiful Darjeeling live steam loco on 32mm track.

In steam - a delightful representation of a British narrow gauge train also on 32mm track.

In steam – a delightful representation of a British narrow gauge train also on 32mm track.