Sefton’s Green Belt – Labour push ahead with consultation on a Local Plan that is simply not robust enough

Near three hours of debating last night failed to persuade Labour run Sefton Council to seriously think again with regard to their draft Local Plan.

FRAGOFF PUT POWERFULL CASE BEFORE COUNCIL

The evening started with an excellent and in depth presentation from Fragoff the once Formby but now Borough-wide environmental campaign group. This was in support of their petition to the Council and I suppose the real thrust of their message was that the Council is working on flawed and potentially inaccurate information – A view that I share.

We then moved on to the main debate of the night where many councillors from all 3 parties made contributions. The debate split down party political lines with Labour backing Green Belt grabbing for housing and industrial building and both Lib Dem and Conservative members defending the Green Belt. Of course Labour won the debate as they have a majority on the Council but it would be fair to say that they left the Council chamber somewhat battered and bruised.

But we now know who is on which side of the argument as my Group called for a ‘card vote’ where every single Councillor present has to clearly say whether they are for or against a matter.

LABOUR MP’S OWN COUNCILLORS DO NOT TOE HIS PARTY LINE

One of the most telling contributions though was from Cllr. Tony Dawson of Southport who quoted from items on the web site of Labour MP for Sefton Central Bill Esterson. Under the heading ‘Sefton Central Labour Party opposes any plans to build on the greenbelt’ Tony pointed out that the MP had said “The Labour Party is on your side with this. It is my view and the view of Labour Party members that we should not allow our greenbelt to be destroyed.” Tony reminded the Labour councillors present from Sefton Central constituency of this before the vote was taken yet they all then voted to consult on a preferred option for the Local Plan that does involve building on Green Belt land!

LABOUR COUNCILLORS VOTE TO CONSULT ON BUILDING UPON THE GREEN BELT

On the basis that the Labour members of the Council did not vote the way that the MP’s comments would lead you to expect them to vote the question is why does the MP’s web site not make it clear that his councillors would be voting to consult on building upon the Green Belt? The point here is that the MP’s views are actually simply that, views, because the people with the power are his councillors and when given the chance to vote they have consistently not supported his line.

Maghull Town Council – What the former Labour Leader of the Town Council has said about the running of the Council under Labour!

Only days ago I posted about Labour’s troubles in the Central Sefton Constituency in which Maghull is located. I knew Labour councillors had been at each others throats so to speak but even I was taken aback to read what the Council Leader (until just a few weeks ago) had to say in the Aintree & Maghull Champion newspaper.

The following is a direct quote which I have neither added to nor deleted from under the heading:-

Why I quit as Leader of the Town Council

“Some decisions are being taken within the town council which I feel are mainly in the interests of political expediency.

I more democratic approach would be a better way of doing things

I feel that Maghull Town Council is at present being used to further political careers rather than for what is essentially a parish council’s first priority – which should be the use of taxpayers’ money to help the greatest number of people

As a long-standing Labour party member, I think some councillors appear to hold values which I do not share

I found myself in a position which was intolerable and so felt unable to continue”

Labour’s troubles in Sefton Central – It’s Carry on Councillors!

Labour have swept virtually all before them in elections in the Sefton Central Constituency since 2010 yet they seem vulnerable, unhappy with each other and riven with internal disputes.

At an MP Council Leader level, despite the odd smiling photo in the press, it is seemingly common knowledge that MP Bill Esterson and Sefton Borough Council Leader Peter Dowd simply don’t get on. And a question on many lips is who actually controls Labour Parish, Town and Borough Councillors? Some Labour sources say the MP’s office pulls all (too many) of the strings whilst others say that Bootle Labour Party holds all the power. Whatever the case there certainly seems to be a big internal battle going on.

In Formby Labour’s councillors seem to be in a continually fractious relationship with a vocal community group called Fragoff who are trying to save Green Belt land from development.

In Maghull, where do you start; it seems to be one internal problem after another with 7 Labour councillors resigning from Maghull Town Council in just 2 years and that same Council having 4 Labour Leaders in the same 2 year period. Indeed, when Labour gained control of Maghull Council in 2011 they won 13 of the 16 seats but to date 6 of the original 13 have resigned and 1 who was co-opted to replace the first to resign has also packed in.

Across the Constituency the MP talks about Labour opposing developments in the Green Belt but Labour councillors are clearly on a different agenda as they consistently vote to build on Green Belt.

Labour’s Green Belt woes started in Lydiate when some Labour councillors voted to allow a canal marina to be built on Green Belt land. Then, however, Labour had yet to gain a majority on Sefton Council and they were out voted by a combination of Lib Dem and Tory councillors who blocked the planning application. It did not and has not stopped Labour trying to give the impression that they didn’t vote to build on the Green Belt when of course they did.

Returning to Maghull, Labour backed residents who were opposing the development on a significant piece of open green space in the heart of the Town only for Labour Councillors to vote to give the development planning permission.

Also in Maghull there is the strange question of why the Labour run Town Council decided not to make a submission to Sefton Borough Council in defence of the Green Belt during the 2011 Local Plan consultations. Who or what spooked them and made them decide not to make a submission when one had been written up by a Labour councillor? Bearing in mind that the biggest of all the Borough’s Green Belt housing and industrial developments is planned by Labour run Sefton Council to be in Maghull it makes that lack of a submission from Maghull Town Council look all the more devastating.

In Blundellsands and Aintree Labour run Sefton Council proposed closing 2 libraries and has since confirmed the closures. The Labour MP opposed his own councillor’s closure proposals so Labour had a foot in both camps again.

Now across Sefton Labour are planning to charge residents for having green waste recycling bins and this proposal is proving to be about as popular as snow at harvest.

So how are they getting themselves in such a mess? It is probably their brand of band wagon popularism as they seem willing to back anyone who knocks at their door even when they surely must realise they will end up letting some of them down. They seem to think that because of austerity folks will vote Labour no matter what they do; a we can get away with anything sort of approach?

Now, however, Miliband and Balls have effectively pulled the rug from under their feet by saying that Labour will to a large extent follow the financial austerity policies put in place by the Coalition.

Labour craved power in Sefton and eventually got it on the back of saying that austerity was not necessary, that the Coalition was evil in pursuing it and that under Labour such savings and cuts would not happen. Now the very foundation of their band wagon popularist approach has been undermined, by their own Party leaders.

Will there be more internal Labour troubles in Sefton Central, I suspect you can almost bet on it.

Maghull Town Council – 3 more Labour Councillors resign bringing the total to 7 in just 2 years!

Bizarre is about the best description of what has been happening on Maghull Town Council in recent times but with 7 resignations in 2 years, all from the ruling Labour Group, what other comment could you make?

As an opposition member of the Town Council even my mouth was agape when I heard that another 3 had put their cards in on top of the 4 that had already thrown in the towel. What’s more one of the resigning number was the Council Leader until last week’s AGM (and had been Town Mayor just a year ago) and another had been co-opted onto the Council to replace the first of the 7 Labour Councillor to resign.

The really odd part about these resignations is they all signed up to be local councillors for a period of 4 years yet just half way through that term more than 50% of the 13 Labour members have given up and walked away. Of course, I appreciate that councillors resign because they move away, become ill or have to look after someone close to them who is ill but none of the resigning councillors has pointed to such difficulties.

The other interesting fact is that all 3 of the most recent batch to go are locals from Maghull & Lydiate. If it had been the 3 Bootle Sefton Borough Councillors chucking in the towel you could almost understand it as those poor beggars were just making up the numbers when oops they got elected!

But what could the cause of the resignations be? Could they be upset because Labour run Sefton Council is targeting the Green Belt around Maghull for development? Could it be a massive internal fall-out within the Labour Group? Could it be because the Labour Council has been trying to cut things like the yearly Town firework display? Could it be all these things and more? Oh to be a fly on the wall of a Maghull Town Council Labour Group meeting but you would have to duck the flying blood as it hit the walls!

Maghull Town Council – How many Leaders?!

Labour won the election to take over the running of Maghull Town Council in May 2011 by taking 13 of the 16 seats – we Lib Dems taking the other 3.

Labour’s problem was that it was pretty obvious from the start that they had not expected to take control of the Council and many of them did not want to be Maghull councillors. One came from Crosby, two from Aintree and 3 were and still are Bootle Labour Borough Councillors – all 6 were clearly making up the numbers on the Labour slate rather than being dedicated to the Maghull community.

Since then 4 Labour members (the one from Crosby, the 2 from Aintree and more surprisingly one from Maghull), a quarter of the Council, have resigned and been replaced by 4 new Labour councillors. The first one was via the dodgiest co-option, in my view, you are ever likely to come across and other 3 via by-elections forced upon the ruling party by the opposition.

Also since May 2011 the Town Council has had 4, yes 4, Leaders of the Council. First we had Maurice Byrne, then Caroline Esterson (wife of Sefton Central MP Bill), then Sandra Williams and just last week Patrick McKinley was elected as Leader. This is quite some turn-over and must point to difficulties within the ruling Party. Indeed, the 3rd Leader who only left office at the AGM is not now a chair or vice chair of any committee and she is not replying to my correspondence about FOI requests that seem to be being improperly politically interfered with.

The word on the streets is that the ruling Labour Group is still far from being a happy bunch of campers and that further resignations can’t be ruled out according to my sources.

I don’t think any of us will be surprised if there are more internal ‘difficulties’ within the ruling political group.

Above is how I finished the draft a few days ago but before I published the posting word reached me of another 3 Labour councillors resigning including the last Leader of the Council! More to follow on that I think.

What does Bill Esterson have to say about the photoshop allegations?

It’s now 6 days since I found out about the alleged ‘photoshopped’ picture that the MP seemingly appears in yet for someone who normally has a huge amount to say about everything it does not appear that his office is saying much.

If the photo he appeared in twice – first time with a Formby Labour councillor and second time with another seemingly ‘surprise friend’ was photoshopped then why mot just apologise and promise not to do it again? If there is another explanation, although for the life of me I can’t think what it could be, then let’s hear it.

The longer this goes on the more people will wonder whether there have been other photo’s that may not have been all they seemed. If the press realise that they have been sent any ‘added to’ photos they will surely be asking questions and may well seek a statement from the MP’s boss, Mr Miliband.