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

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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.

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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.

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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.

Maghull – Council tax paid twice but only half cut hedges

This is a follow up to my recent postings about hedge cutting (or the lack of it) in Maghull by its Town Council.

Half cut hedge at Whinney Brook Field, Maghull.

Half cut hedge at Whinney Brook Field, Maghull.

You see Maghull Council tax payers actually pay to have the hedges in and around their parks cut twice and I don’t mean twice per year, I mean they pay Maghull Town Council (who have been doing the cutting) and Sefton Council who have never done the cutting). Yes, you do not misunderstand me the bill is paid twice but the hedges around the parks, at least on recent evidence, are only half cut and that’s infrequently.

Sefton Council charges Maghull Council tax payers the same as they do say Bootle or Crosby or Southport Council tax payers but in those communities Sefton cuts the hedges around the parks. In Maghull Sefton Council does not cut any hedges at all around the Town’s parks (unless there are any hedges in Old Hall Park as that is the only park in the Town run by Sefton) because Maghull Town Council owns the hedges and raises its own Council tax (technically its called a Precept) to do the work.

Until Labour took control of Sefton Council it used to refund to Maghull Town Council what Sefton would have spent on cutting the hedges if it maintained them. The refunds were called Double Rating payments but Labour scrapped them meaning Maghull residents really do pay twice to have their parks hedges cut.

Trouble is that Maghull Town Council is clearly having trouble cutting the hedges these days, so despite paying twice residents of Maghull are seeing their hedges left uncut!

By the way Aintree Village and Lydiate residents suffer the same pay twice for hedge maintenance problem. Not only that residents of Maghull, Aintree Village and Lydiate also pay twice to have the grass cut in their parks and gardens as Sefton Council does not provide any parks in those communities (except Old Hall Park in Maghull) despite charging the residents the same Council tax as they do in Bootle, Crosby, Formby and Southport etc.

Maghull, Lydiate and Aintree Village residents have every right to feel aggrieved at this point……

Sefton Council – So this is the Bootle Bunker

Last Thursday Cllr. Fred Weavers and I went to observe a meeting of Sefton Council’s Cabinet at Bootle Town Hall, known to some as the ‘Bootle Bunker’.

The meeting lasted all of 27 minutes by my watch but some important issues were on the table before the 7 person Cabinet (all Labour, all representing Bootle Constituency), which for the record is made up of 6 middle aged men and one young woman. I mention gender balance as I understand that Labour has previously had a pop at Aintree Village Parish Council for a perceived gender imbalance. Those who live in greenhouses should not chuck stones comes to mind……..

Sefton's Bootle Bunker

Click on the photo to enlarge it.

A Sefton Cabinet meeting is never likely to be entertaining but they are all open to the public to attend. So what happened at this one? Here are a few highlights:-

Item 4 (Public Health Annual Report 2014) – Page 15 of this document (Page 35 of the Cabinet meeting papers) annoyed me as it tried to say that the Sefton Local Plan ‘promotes accessible open green space so children and families can enjoy the outdoors’ – That is of course if you ignore the acres of green fields that are to be built upon under our Labour ruler’s plan!

Item 5 (Adult Substance Misuse Contract Extension) – Some ‘underperformance’ by the present contractor was in the Key findings but the Cabinet did not ask for details, which I thought odd.

Item 7 – (Child Sexual Exploitation) Quite a bit of discussion over this report and it is also going to the Council’s Overview & Scrutiny (Children’s Services) Committee on 31st March. A Council officer spoke at length about it and answered the Cabinet’s queries but what stood out for me was the use of Merseyside-centric speak.

It was as though it had not occurred to the Council that places like Southport and Lydiate have huge boundaries with Lancashire and that child exploitation does not recognise council boundaries. From what was said you could only conclude that there is little or no liaison with Lancashire (shades of the Local Plan)! I fear the Sefton Council Bootle bunker has its face turned only to look at things from a Merseyside perspective when, as I have said many times before, Lancashire needs to be just as important a partner for Sefton Borough.

The only mention of Lancashire was that they, as a neighbouring authority, do not need to tell Sefton if they are placing children in homes within Sefton. There is clearly a concern about the number of private children’s homes within the Borough as the young residents of them are seemingly potentially more vulnerable to child exploitation than other sections of child population. As far as I could understand Sefton has only a very small number of children who are subject to child sexual exploitation plans. Clearly this report was very much written on the back of those horrible events in Rotherham. Frankly, I thought the Cabinet dealt with this most serious of matters well but oh if they could only open their eyes to encompass all the local authorities surrounding Sefton!

There were no confidential items on the agenda so we sat through all the meeting.

Sefton Central Area Committee – It’s still a poor excuse for localism.

A 3-monthly Sefton Central Area Committee came around again last Thursday. This time the mini-conference (for that is what it is) was held in Maghull Town Hall yet all of the items of substance for residents were with regard to Formby and Crosby!

I was only able to stay for half the meeting as I needed to go to see an elderly chap whom I help to look after. I have the feeling that I was the lucky one though as others sat through more than I.

Participants in last Thursday's Sefton Central Area Committee

Participants in last Thursday’s Sefton Central Area Committee

So what did I see and hear?

I raised a correction with regard to the minutes of the previous meeting as ‘Maghull’ had been quoted instead of ‘Lydiate’ when identifying a location in them. Some Labour members at the meeting seemed to find this correction amusing – I know not why.

Parish Councillor David Warren of Hightown complained it took a 6 month wait to get a reply from Sefton Council over a matter he had raised!

I raised a question during the Police Report about a recent raid on a property in Church Lane Lydiate.

Bellway Homes took some stick over their activities in Formby. Complaints about the behaviour of their workforce were made by residents and Independent Cllr. Maria Bennett.

Cllr. Steve Kermode and I also raised continuing concerns about motorbikes on the Cheshire Line Path and the tow path of the Leeds Liverpool Canal with the Neighbourhood Police. We both know that the Police have a tough job to catch the nutters who make the canal tow path and Cheshire Lines path so dangerous with their motorbikes and appreciated the response of Inspector Phil Hatton. Steve and I may be in very different political parties but we often seem to on the same hymn sheet about local matters.

Aintree Village Parish Councillor Peter Gill reported on the voluntary library that is now operating out of Aintree Youth and Community Centre following Labour’s disgraceful closure of Aintree Library and their utter refusal to allow volunteers to take that building over. So despite the Sefton Council the community in Aintree and Melling have set up their own voluntary library that Sefton can’t close or disapprove of. But did I notice Labour councillors approving of the new voluntary library even though their Party stopped one from from being formed, I think I did!

Another item on the agenda was the new Parish Charter which allegedly forms the basis of an agreement between Sefton Council and the 10 Parish Councils in the Borough about how they will interact with each other. Good luck with that then is the best I can say as the previous publication of this Charter, which I had a hand in writing, was unceremoniously (and rightly) ripped up in front of Sefton’s Labour-run Cabinet not so long ago following them treating Aintree Village Parish Council like something you may find on the sole of a shoe! Labour don’t do partnerships with any organisation that does not carry a Labour Party membership card in my experience and their removal of grants to some of Sefton’s Parish Councils now means that the residents of those Parishes are paying for some local services twice.

But to return to the meeting where Formby residents had been forced to travel Maghull to raise their very local concerns……if that’s localism then I am a Dutchman as the saying goes.