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.

Maghull Town Council – Will it challenge big brother Sefton?

Lydiate Parish Council, as I posted recently and as many folks also read about in a recent edition of the Aintree & Maghull Champion, has challenged Sefton Council’s plan to stop making ‘Double Rating’ payments to the 4 Parish Councils in the Borough that maintain their own parks and gardens.

Residents should not be paying twice

The challenge is of course right because if Sefton Council goes ahead with its plan Lydiate, Maghull and Aintree Village residents (and to a lesser extent Melling) will find that they are paying Sefton Council to do a job in their community (maintain parks and gardens) only for that money to be spent by the Borough Council elsewhere in Sefton! This will happen because the 4 Parish Councils covering these communities legitimately raise Council tax money to maintain their park and gardens.

Lib Dem Lydiate leads the fight for fairness

Lydiate is leading the charge for fairness but what will Maghull Town Council do? Will they fight for the money that should be fairly paid to their community or will they follow Bootle Labour Party orders and keep their heads down saying nothing?

Will Labour Maghull put its community first or keep taking orders from Bootle?

It’s a big challenge for Maghull Labour who are used to being told what to do by either Bootle Labour or MP Bill Esterson’s office.

Lydiate Parish Council – Please don’t make our residents pay twice!

Double Rating in Sefton – Lydiate Parish Council’s response to Sefton MBC’s proposal to stop repaying the affected Parish Councils

Dear Sefton Council,

In Lydiate, Maghull and Aintree Village (and to a lesser extent in Melling Parish – see note below) all of the parks are looked after by the Town or Parish Councils and these Councils charge residents for the cost of doing this, via the Council Tax – the separate ‘parish precept’.

Sefton Council also charges for looking after parks in Lydiate, Maghull and Aintree Village even though it does not deliver any such service in those three communities. This means residents potentially paying twice for having their parks looked after. This is clearly not fair or right so, some years ago, an agreement was reached for Sefton Council to pay these Parish & Town Councils the same per acre that Sefton spends on its own parks, elsewhere in the borough. This stopped residents paying double, so the agreement was called “Double Rating”. In other words Sefton has been returning to these Parishes what it has been taking from them but not spending on their parks.

However, Sefton Council is now planning to scrap the “Double Rating” agreement and the payments it makes to the Parish Councils which maintain their own parks and gardens. This will mean residents paying twice for having their parks looked after. First they will pay their Parish/Town Council for actually maintaining the parks and second they will pay Sefton Council to do nothing to them. Sefton will just take the money it raises in Lydiate, Maghull and Aintree Village and spend it on parks elsewhere in the Borough.

Lydiate Parish Council’s view is that Sefton Council’s proposal to stop paying back Double Rating money to the affected Parish Councils is clearly unfair and the Borough Council needs to reconsider. If the proposal is carried forward the result will be that Maghull, Lydiate and Aintree Village Council tax payers will be paying twice.

The good news, however, is that Sefton Council does have two quite viable alternative options to resolve this matter without putting the Council tax payers of Lydiate, Maghull and Aintree Village at disadvantage. These options are:-
a) To continue to make the payments but at a lower level commensurate with the reduced standards of grounds maintenance that the Borough has already budgeted for and may well budget for in the future. This option would mean that all of Sefton’s communities would be treated the same by the Borough Council no matter whether the parks and gardens are run by Borough or Parish Council.
b) For Sefton Council to charge a differing level (lower) of Council tax in the Parishes which maintain their own parks and gardens than in the rest of the Borough. This option would stop Sefton Council collecting money in the Parished communities that look after their own parks and gardens and then having to refund the money via the Parish Councils. Doing this would also mean that Council tax payers in the affected Parishes would not be put at a disadvantage.

Simply stopping the repayments to the Parish Councils is unfair and will lead the Borough Council open to the charge that it is raising money in one part of the Borough simply to spend it elsewhere. We contend that this is not a position that the Borough Council should wish to find itself in.

Finally, we would add that we fully appreciate the level of savings the Borough Council has to make; all we ask is that in this case of Double Rating the savings are made fairly.

Yours sincerely

Lydiate Parish Council

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Note 1:- Melling Parish is also affected but in Melling there is recreational land provide by both Sefton Council and Melling Parish Council so the situation there is more complex.
Note 2:- The other 6 Parish Councils in the Borough do not own or lease land that is used as parks or for public recreational purposes so ‘Double Rating’ is not an issue for them.

NEW CHAIRMAN FOR AINTREE VILLAGE PARISH COUNCIL & SOME LIBRARY NEWS

At it’s A.G.M. Aintree Village Parish Council selected a new Chairman, Cllr Peter Gill was elected unanimously. Peter said “I am delighted and honoured to be asked to serve the community of Aintree Village once again. I look forward to the coming year, it will be testing with all the cuts culminating in our campaign to keep Aintree Library open, we are making great strides and are hopeful that we can transfer it to a community run library. I would like to pay tribute to the retiring Chairman Cllr Terry Baldwin, he has been Chairman for eighteen months and has found it quite stressful at times. He, along with other library campaign leaders fought an excellent campaign which is online to keep Aintree Library open. Terry has always been community led, proof being his membership of St John Ambulance, serving for over 50 years.”

Retiring Chairman Cllr Baldwin said “It has been a long 18 months but most of that time I have thoroughly enjoyed serving the residents of Aintree Village. I will be leaving the area in the near future and will take with me some wonderful memories having lived here for over 40 years. I wish the new Chairman Cllr Peter Gill well for the coming 12 months and thank everybody for their support over the last 18 months.”

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No one should underestimate the contribution that Terry Baldwin has made to Aintree Village and the wider community. I count Terry (and indeed Peter Gill) as personal friends. I first came across Terry via his work with St John Ambulance and of course he was given Maghull’s Civic Award some years ago for that work. Whilst Terry has been feeling his age he put everything into trying to stop Sefton Council from closing Aintree Library and if it does become a community run library the credit will be down to him and other parish councillors like Peter Gill. I really do hope that the comrades who decided to close the library do not have the cheek to try to claim that they saved it when the real work was done by Terry and Peter and a small band of determined Aintree Village parish councillors and residents.

Aintree Davenhill – Official Reopening following rebuild

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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.