Recycling on Merseyside – It’s presently a rubbish experience!

Having left it a while since Merseyside Waste Disposal Authority (MWDA) started to reopen its recycling centres I realised I had wood, metal and and a huge amount of garden waste to recycle. So what to do? Check which recycling centres are open, what’s the waiting times etc.

Well the internet was not a great deal of help other then telling me which ones were open. No live waiting times, no web cams of waiting vehicles, nothing to help me or you assess whether a journey to a recycling centre is worthwhile. Ho well, fill up the car and let’s see how we go. BIG mistake!

It’s about 6 miles from my Lydiate home to South Sefton Recycling Centre in Bootle but when I got there earlier today the queue was massive. Finding my way to the end of it I asked a young lady who was directing traffic how long it takes to get into the centre. At least 2 hours came the response! Well I can think of better things to do than sit in a queue with a car full of rubbish, so you won’t be surprised to hear that I headed home having given the junk a trip out.

But I return to the lack of live information on the internet. I wasted petrol, time and most importantly I added to our climate crises by using my car for a wasted/pointless/unnecessary journey. If I’d known how bad the queue was I’d not have set off in the first place!

And another thing, why would I or you be willing to spend 2 or more hours in a queue for a recycling centre? Maybe it’s me and my lack of willingness to queue for pretty much anything. I’ve never got the British queuing thing which so amuses folk from other countries.

‘If it’s worth queuing up for it’s not worth having’ as the old saying goes

Come on MWDA you can do better than the very limited amount of information you put on your website. I took my rubbish back home and will try another day in the future but as the photo at the head of this posting shows, the irresponsible will and do dump their rubbish in country lanes and ditches.

The case for free public transport and getting on with (rather than talking about) bus re-regulation

Vintage Ribble bus photoed at the West Lancs Light Railway in 2018

Very soon after I got involved in politics I attended a Liberal Party conference in Blackpool, I think it was in 1980. On the agenda was a motion for debate that was all about making public transport free to use in and around towns and cities. If memory serves David Alton, MP for Liverpool Edge Hill, was backing the motion and he must have made a powerful case because ever since I’ve held the view that free public transport (or with a nominal fare) would one day become a reality.

David Alton MP

That conference motion of 40 years ago was clearly well before its time so to speak but the reasons for it were sound then and look even more sound now as we have arrived at a Climate Emergency and are suffering air pollution problems that are quite literally killing us!

Of course the underlying reason for that 1980 debate was to try to start a process of reducing reliance on cars by making high quality public transport a viable attractive alternative particularly in urban areas. That only 2 years later the Conservatives passed the Bus Deregulation Act pushing things in totally the opposite direction is at best ironic! What’s more urban areas like Manchester and Liverpool are presently trying to find ways to re-regulate bus services because they are in crisis, but more on that later.

In rural areas, sadly, bus services are all but extinct in parts of Lancashire although that’s as much about the lack of public money to subsidise vital routes as it is a cause of the Bus Deregulation Act. Add into all this the chaos created via the privatisation of our railways, which are now widely seen as dysfunctional, and it should make politicians who created this mess (and those who have failed to get us out of it) feel very much ashamed – but of course it doesn’t.

So whilst we should have been developing high quality subsidised public transport to tackle road congestion, air pollution and accessibility to all kinds of services for those without access to cars our governments have been pushing public policy further towards reliance on cars!

Merseyrail train at Maghull North Station

But across Europe’s cities and regions there’s been experimenting with and policy changes in favour of free public transport, whilst they’ve rarely gone down the road & rail to ruin routes that the UK has chosen for itself. I think Luxembourg is the latest convert. The downside to public transport being free (other than paying for it of course) is the potential for it to have the unintended consequence of encouraging folk to do the exact opposite of what they need to do. I’m talking here of walking and cycling because if we create a system where say short walkable journeys reduce because folk get on the free public transport we’ve solved one problem but inadvertently created another with negative health consequences.

But to go back to that re-regulation issue, which I’ve heard talked about for more years than I care to mention particularly on Merseyside, is it going to be action or more taking? I ask as the Liverpool City Region Mayor has popped up recently to rehash all the old arguments in favour of re-regulation. Now don’t get me wrong I with him but I just wish he’d get on with it! No more talking Steve!!!!

310 Ribble bus in Maghull – Photo credit Arnold Richardson/Photobus

We know the bus companies and their shareholders won’t like it, that’s a given, but we need as a matter of some urgency an integrated public transport system of high quality buses and trains. What’s more we need it to deliver far less CO2 emissions (thinking of diesel powered buses in particular here)and be good enough (punctual, fast, reliable and running 7 days per week) to make us want to ditch our cars for many local journeys.

So yes re-regulate the buses, integrate them properly with the trains and start to look seriously at either free public transport or nominal ticket prices.

Could Heathrow Climate Change victory cause a Rimrose rethink?

Friends of the Earth has the article on its website – see link below

friendsoftheearth.uk/climate-change/heathrow-third-runway-uk-government-actions-ruled-illegal

Rimrose Valley Country Park.

The FotE court victory is very welcome news indeed but it immediately got me thinking about the potential knock-on effects of the ruling for other transport projects in the pipeline which need to be rethought because of the Climate Emergency that has been declared.

Unsurprisingly my thoughts have turned to the Highways England plan to build a road right down the Rimrose Valley Country Park to create better freight access to the Port of Liverpool and I’m sure I’m not the only one having such thoughts.

It also makes you realise that Sefton Council’s Judicial Review of Highways England’s Port of Liverpool Access Road was utterly on the wrong grounds. If they’d made the challenge on basis of climate change as opposed to wanting a road tunnel they could well have won!

Maghull – Heavy rain reminds us of the potential peril of building on agricultural land locally

The recent heavy rain got me thinking about the soon to be built and vast urban extension to Maghull of @1700 houses. I went to have a look at the site on Sunday 23rd February. The photos below really speak for themselves as they start with the waterlogged site as I saw it followed by where the water eventually drains to i.e. Dovers Brook and the River Alt.

Maghull East Site from Ashworth Motorway junction 23 02 20

Maghull East Site from Poverty Lane 23 02 20

Dovers Brook at Sefton Lane looking north 23 02 20

Dovers Brook at Sefton Lane 23 02 20 – the bridge is all but lost under the floodwater.

River Alt 23 02 20 looking south from Bridges Lane.

Having lived locally for over 50 years I can’t say I’m surprised by this situation as our low-lying land has always been liable to flood after heavy rain. Of course climate change is making those floods more regular and at times worse than they have been in the past.

What has not, in my opinion, been effectively resolved is how the floodwater is dealt with as flooding of Sefton Lane is far from unusual each year these days. What worries me is how the local drainage network is going to cope after a vast area of presently agricultural land (the Maghull East Site) is put under concrete, brick and tarmac. The implications will not be just on that site, if the drainage issues are not fully addressed, but potentially to the west of it to the River Alt which takes a great deal of Maghull’s surface water run-off.

That the Maghull East Site site will be developed is a given as Sefton Council’s Local Plan has already designated it for building on but, and it’s a very big but, what guarantees are going to be put in place that this building will not make a presently unresolved flooding problem even worse?

Sefton Council and the developers of the land have to get this right otherwise those of us who fought against the vast site being designated for building will be reminding the powers that be that they were warned about the consequences.

My thanks to Andrew Blackburn for the lead to this posting

An economy which has to give welfare to those in work effectively subsidies rich corporate companies who refuse to pay their employees enough to live upon.

If you feel that our economy is failing the poorest in our society and underinvestinging in our vital public services then read on and have a look at the link below to a video from the Tax Justice Network:-

www.youtube.com/watch?v=qcWr3Yad2WY&feature=youtu.be

If you think our economy reasonably and fairly distributes wealth, provides excellent public services and looks after those who are less fortunate then surely you’ll not have read this far. But if you hold such views and have got this far and even looked at the video you’ll probably be spitting feathers by now!

Now you may be not be surprised to learn that this old Social Liberal and former trade union officer thinks the video actually hits a very important nail squarely on the head.

The fault-line in our economy is oft pointed at as starting with Thatcherism and has been developed by every government since. To quote a phrase from the video we have been on ‘a race to the bottom’, in my view, for 40 years or more. In that time the poor in comparison with the super-rich have been progressively getting poorer as the economic gap has widened as a direct consequence of governmental policy.

I don’t expect you to agree with me if you have done well out of an economic system designed to do what it has done unless of course you have a social conscience as well as wealth that is.

What I like about the video is that it paints a picture which makes it very clear that our political classes across all the major parties have bought into the economic structures which have delivered the the state we are in. The capitalist model is now being run globally in an extreme form which only benefits massive corporations and our politicians, across the political spectrum, have made it happen. It’s no use jumping up and down about the evils of Thatcherism as many are prone to do when we have have been voting for alternative supposedly progressive parties which have effectively been delivering versions of the same thing!

What the video does not address though is that moving forward our capitalist system is going to have to change fundamentally to combat climate change and the our climate crisis. Investing in oil and coal for example will have to stop in favour of renewable energy and it will require governmental action to make this happen. Just look at Australia, a country literally on fire but which mines massive amounts of coal on which its economy is very much reliant and which is the direct cause of its present and indeed future environmental crisis!

In my view the economic/social model which works well is that used in differing ways across the Scandinavian countries.

Liberalism and socialism go their separate ways in two specific areas I might add. Liberals believe in individual freedom (with responsibilities of course) whilst socialists believe in the collective/authoritarian model with policy being decided centrally and handed down to people. We also promote very different economic models as Liberals will back individual freedom to invest and innovate whereas socialists will want to centralise economic policy controlling most if not all aspects of investment and innovation. What we seem to have under our present economic model is actually too much freedom to invest irresponsibly and against our wider environmental and social interests with too little governmental guidance and direction especially when it comes to the environment and the distribution of wealth.

If you are comfortably off you may well be spluttering into your coffee having got to the end of this posting!

My thanks to Stephen Hesketh for the lead to this posting.

2019 in 12 postings – And what a sad year for progressives

2019 must go down in politics as a really sad year for anyone who describes themselves as a progressive. That the UK has become more isolationist and racist is regretfully a given but for me as a passionate internationalist our frankly bizarre decision to become at best semi-detached from our European neighbours both economically and politically is profoundly depressing. I’m reminded of the play ‘Brick up the Mersey Tunnel’ as 2019 could easily be the start of us, at least in the abstract, bricking up the Channel Tunnel.

Anyway here’s my year; some big issues, some matters close to my heart and some personal reflections:-

January – Elected Mayors – too many and too costly tonyrobertson.mycouncillor.org.uk/2019/01/20/metro-mayor-tax-another-call-on-your-pocket/

February – Why we have a housing crisis on our hands tonyrobertson.mycouncillor.org.uk/2019/02/20/council-housing-social-housing-housing-associations-whats-gone-wrong-and-why-we-have-a-housing-crisis-on-our-hands/

March – HS2 the Brexit of the railway world tonyrobertson.mycouncillor.org.uk/2019/03/16/being-anti-hs2-is-a-bit-like-brexit-its-all-about-the-rose-tinted-past/

April – Rotten Boroughstonyrobertson.mycouncillor.org.uk/2019/04/23/local-elections-are-rotten-boroughs-creeping-back-into-out-creaking-democracy/

As an aside I still remember a remark made to me on the day that I became Leader of Sefton Council in 2004. It was in the form of a question to me along the lines of ‘what’s the most important thing for the Leader of Sefton Council to do? Answer – Keep the Council out of the ‘Rotten Boroughs’ page of Private Eye!

Michael Portillo with Frank Hornby Trust Chairman Les French as seen on TV.

May – Time to celebrate in 2020 – 100 years of Hornby ‘O’ Gauge trains tonyrobertson.mycouncillor.org.uk/2019/05/27/maghull-2020-will-be-100-years-since-the-towns-most-famous-resident-brought-his-o-gauge-trains-to-the-market/

June – Still getting the local housing market wrong! tonyrobertson.mycouncillor.org.uk/2019/06/22/sefton-council-draft-strategic-housing-market-assessment-update-2019/

I realise that the link within the article no longer works

July – Co-option is not democratic, just stop it tonyrobertson.mycouncillor.org.uk/2019/07/14/melling-theres-a-price-to-pay-for-democracy-but-surely-its-better-than-co-option/

August – Air conditioning in shops and cafes an environmental disaster tonyrobertson.mycouncillor.org.uk/2019/08/26/supermarkets-cafes-shops-turn-down-or-even-better-turn-off-your-air-conditioning-shut-that-fridge-door/

September – A look back at New Heartlands in Bootle tonyrobertson.mycouncillor.org.uk/2019/09/04/bootle-newheartlands-pathfinder-housing-initiative-a-look-back/

October – The late great Isaac Hayes with Donald Byrd tonyrobertson.mycouncillor.org.uk/2019/10/25/isaac-hayes-the-master-jointly-cut-a-track-id-missed-back-in-1981/

Norman Lamb

November – Norman tonyrobertson.mycouncillor.org.uk/2019/11/06/norman/

December – Tactical voting (by progressives) did not work tonyrobertson.mycouncillor.org.uk/2019/12/16/why-peoples-vote-and-other-tackical-voting-orgs-sites-got-so-much-wrong/

So that, for me, was 2019 – a year when housing policy/practice remained far removed from the reality of our housing crisis, when the very real crisis of climate change took a back seat to the made up crisis of Brexit and when the crisis within progressive politics was exposed as much by our warped electoral system as by the lack of leadership from progressives. A year to forget unless of course you back the politics of the right and far right…….