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.

A further thought on Sefton’s declining Governance

Maghull, Lydiate and Aintree Village are positively being victimised by Sefton Council under Labour these days.

You see the former payments the Borough Council made to their respective Parish Councils to compensate for the fact that Sefton raises the same Council tax in those communities but provides little or nothing in the way of parks and gardens (the Parish Councils provide them) have been stopped.

The effect of this is that those communities are being ripped off because the money they pay to Sefton for park and gardens is being spent elsewhere in the Borough!

Talk about rowing in the opposite direction to the one the Boundary Commission requested!

Save our Libraries – Labour’s Aintree Library ‘Advice’ an utter disgrace

Sefton’s opposition Lib Dem’s are furious over the comments made by a Labour councillor in last week’s (Wednesday 19th Feb’ edition) Aintree & Maghull Champion about Aintree Library and the failure of Labour-run Sefton Council to agree a take-over package with Aintree Library Action Group’s volunteers.

Me outside the Aintree Library before Labour swung the axe to close it and then block volunteer efforts to reopen it.

Me outside the Aintree Library before Labour swung the axe to close it and then block volunteer efforts to reopen it.

As someone who represented Aintree for 12 years, I was flabbergasted by the Labour view. I personally invested time assisting volunteers who wanted to take over Aintree Library (and College Road Library in Crosby) because I was convinced by the case the volunteers put forward. Where were the 3 Labour councillors who now represent Aintree during that campaign? I never saw them backing Parish Councillors, such as Peter Gill and Terry Baldwin, and the volunteers.

This is Independent Aintree Village Parish Councillor Terry Baldwin speaking at a meeting. He and Peter Gill ran a great campaign to try to save Aintree Library.

This is Independent Aintree Village Parish Councillor Terry Baldwin speaking at a meeting. He and Peter Gill ran a great campaign to try to save Aintree Library.

For a Labour councillor to say now that the group should have followed Labour’s advice is ridiculous; it was the Labour Party closing the Library and Labour blocking the volunteer bid to run the Library!

We simply do not want volunteers to run Council services, what other conclusion can you come to?

I have posted quite a few times about the roller coaster of a ride that Aintree Village Parish Council has had with Sefton Borough as it has tried, unsuccessfully so far, to take over the running of Aintree’s local Library.

To recap the plan was to take over Aintree library, one of 7 that Labour-run Sefton Borough had decided to close, and run it with volunteers and Parish Council finance. All was going well and the bid was seemingly being welcomed but then the Borough (i.e. Labour) started to put all kinds of obstacles in the way.

Eventually Sefton decreed that Aintree Library could not be taken over by volunteers, funded by Aintree Village PC, because there was no guarantee in place for funds to be available for 5 years. No if’s, no but’s, put 5 years funding on the table or sling your hook was seemingly the Borough’s attitude.

Things went from bad to worse in the relationship between the Borough and Parish and the local Parish Charter, which had been ignored anyway, was ripped up in front of the Borough’s Cabinet by an Aintree Parish Councillor.

But underneath all this something very odd was going on as another library was down to be taken over by volunteers and they also got told to shut the door after they left. This one was not in a Parished part of the Borough (it was College Road Library in Crosby). The common denominator was volunteers and them being seen to be unreliable, so much so that they were not given a chance to have a go at running their respective libraries despite both groups having significant business and professional input from the two reasonably affluent communities.

A Sefton Full Council meeting debated volunteers taking over Council facilities, at my instigation, but it became quite clear to me that the Council’s ruling Labour Party held the view that they were not having any of their services, even ones they say they can no longer afford to run, being taken over by volunteers.

The matter concluded, for now at least, with a Sefton Scrutiny Committee going through the motions of examining the matter and then the majority Labour members of it voting to back the Cabinet decision without any really meaningful in depth and independent reviewing of the situation what so ever. Or put it another of the 70 odd questions submitted raising concerns about the process of reviewing the 2 volunteer bids, how many do think came from Labour Councillors? Less than say one………..

So in Sefton which, not so long ago, was developing a good relationship with its 10 Parish Councils and its diverse communities an about face has been done with Parishes and indeed volunteers being shown the door. So much for parish charters, localism and volunteering in the Borough.

This article was originally written for and published on a differing web site.