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.

Smug socialsts 2 – Aintree & College Road Volunteers Nil

Last night was the second half of the Sefton Overview & Scrutiny meeting looking into Labour’s Cabinet decision not to allow volunteers to take over the running of Aintree and Collage Road Libraries in the Borough. The first half of the meeting having ended in chaos in early December 2013 as previously noted on this blog site.

The result was sadly quite predictable as Labour members of the Committee used their inbuilt majority to back their Cabinet colleague’s previous decision to, in effect, tell the volunteers to sling their hook.

What Labour had to gain from refusing to allow the volunteers an opportunity to have a go at running the now closed libraries is anyone’s guess but they were simply not going to let it happen.

It is Municipal socialism gone mad! This was no longer about whether the Council had the money to keep the libraries open it was about a Labour-run Council saying we have decided not to run these 2 libraries any more and we are not going to let volunteers do it either.

Interestingly, this time the Council’s Chief Executive answered virtually all the questions rather than the Council officers who had taken so much heat at the first meeting. Also, Council Leader Peter Dowd said nothing this time, having all but taken over the meeting in December when his own Labour members had effectively pressed the panic button is the face of well informed volunteers who had them on the rack.

Labour members of the Committee asked no questions what so ever and simply sat there voting down Lib Dem proposals for the matters before the Committee to be sent back to the Cabinet to be reconsidered or sent to a meeting of the whole Council for a full debate.

Labour should hang its head in shame; treating volunteers so badly is nothing to be proud of. Indeed, I saw Labour supporters smiling at the end of the meeting! Smiling at what?

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!

Library volunteers – growing nationally but rejected in Labour Sefton!”

www.thirdsector.co.uk/go/news/article/1226079/number-library-volunteers-surges-year-march-figures-show/

Those of us who have been close to the campaign to save 7 of Sefton’s libraries from closure and also trying to assist volunteer groups to take over our libraries have been hitting against a brick Labour wall and this blog site has chronicled the appalling carry on in the Borough.

Sadly this placard could also read 'NO' to volunteers taking over Aintree Library!

Sadly, in Sefton this placard could also read ‘NO’ to volunteers taking over Aintree Library!

But the rest of the UK is not as prejudiced against volunteers indeed it welcomes them as the link above confirms.

By the way the 2nd half of the Sefton Scrutiny meeting that was hearing appeals from 2 volunteer groups bidding to take over their closing libraries (College Road, Crosby and Aintree), which Labour-run Sefton had given the two fingered salute to, is to be on 11th February.