Rochdale Pioneers Museum

I lived in Rochdale as a lad in the 1960’s (went to Lower Place Primary School – lived on Weston Avenue) and had a vague memory of the Toad Lane Co-Op shop/museum so last week Sheila and I travelled over to Rochdale from our Merseyside home to have a look at it and learn more about the Rochdale Pioneers.

The Toad Lane Shop/Museum of Rochdale Pioneers with the Baum pub nextdoor

The Toad Lane Shop/Museum of Rochdale Pioneers with the Baum pub nextdoor

The staff were very friendly and took a real interest in us; we had a great time looking around. They even recommended a great real ale pub for us to get an evening meal and it was right next door!

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Rochdale has changed one hell of a lot since my childhood days but we enjoyed our visit and being a Liberal I am of course very supportive of Co-Op’s and mutuals. I would recommend a visit to the museum and indeed The Baum pub!

The photo is amongst my Flickr shots at:-

www.flickr.com/photos/86659476@N07/

Maghull – Morrisons/Health Centre/Old Library/Former Youth Centre – What’s going on?

Ever since Morrisons took over their Maghull store from the former Somerfield there has been talk of the store needing to be enlarged. It is clearly far too small.

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At one point a complicated but positive plan was put together involving the NHS who own the adjoining Health Centre, London and Cambridge Properties who own the land on which Morrisons sits (together with the other shops on the southern side of Westway) and the associated car park. The plan also included land that Sefton Council owned and in fact still owns. The land in question being that of the former Maghull Library (which moved to Meadows Leisure Centre in 2010) and that of the former Stafford Moreton Youth Centre.

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The plan was to redevelop the Health Centre which the NHS had authorised at a high level I was told by senior NHS and Sefton Council officers. Sadly, the NHS then backed out, why has never really been explained and Maghull residents with longish memories will recall us Lib Dems pressing at every turn for the new Health Centre to have an NHS Walk-In facility within it. Our contention is that Sefton Primary Care Trust (now abolished under NHS reorganisation) had undertaken to do all it could to provide an NHS Walk-In facility in Maghull after the one at Litherland Town Hall had opened. Of course it has never happened but then again the building it was supposed to be in was never rebuilt. Maghull and district residents have every right to feel aggrieved about this as Litherland Town Hall NHS Walk-In Centre is simply not accessible from the East Parishes part of Sefton Borough by public transport.

The closed Stafford Moreton Youth Centre and the old Maghull Library

The closed Stafford Moreton Youth Centre and the old Maghull Library

So the NHS element of the plan went west so to speak, but what of the rest of it. Surely Morrisions still needed a bigger Maghull store? Surely cash-strapped Sefton still wanted to dispose of the land it owned to bring some money in? Well you would have thought so in both cases but nothing has happened and all this has been going on for years and years. Indeed, it costs Sefton Council money each year to keep its two old buildings secure and safe.

Does it all come down to London and Cambridge Properties and Morrisons? What is the problem? Maghull & District needs a better range of food retailers. Just think about it in terms of the major UK food retailers (I appreciate that there are a number of excellent local convenience stores) this is all that there are in the East Parishes:-

Lydiate – None at all!
Maghull – A small Morrisons, Lidl, Iceland, a small Co-op
Aintree Village – A Tesco Metro, an M&S Food and a huge ASDA
Melling – None at all!

I was told quite some time ago that Aldi were actively looking for a site in Maghull and my strong suspicion was that they were looking at the old library/youth club site, but so far that has seemingly come to nothing.

What strikes me is that if Morrisons does not make a decisive move and sort out their long-term future in Maghull they are likely to end up with a competitor right on their doorstep as surely Sefton Council will not sit on its land for ever.

By the way I have written to Morrison twice asking them where their planning is up to but answers comes there none so far.

But could there be an other option on the table – one that has been the subject of considerable rumour in recent times? Read my posting next Wednesday involving the ‘The Old Bill’.

Co-operatives, mutuals and Co-op movement

In the Nottinghamshire coalfield where I was brought up there was a Co-op on every corner or so it seemed and most people shoped at the Co-op. I remember my grandmother talking about her dividend from being a Co-op member/regular customer. You could identify a Co-op store as much by its architechture as anything else; in Notts and Derby they all seemed to be built in a similar and at times grand style. Many had a black and white timbered roof apex I seem to recall and I thought as a young lad they all had to be built like that.

This is the grand looking former Co-op building in Youlgrave - now a YHA. The arched window panels give its history away

This is the grand looking former Co-op building in Youlgrave or Youlgreave (depending how you wish to spell it) – now a YHA. The arched window panels give its history away

Oddly and by chance I then moved at the age of 6 to where many people see the birth of the Co-operative movement – Toad Lane, Rochdale.

www.rochdalepioneersmuseum.coop/

Much later in life my good friend Cllr. Bruce Hubbard became a member of the Co-operative Committee for a while.

The link below seems to sum up the ideals of the co=operative movement all be it in this case in America.

www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-25455991

Here in the UK the Co-op company has hit the headlines for all the wrong reasons in recent times as its banking side of the business has run into hard times and scandals.

I have often wondered why the Co-op Party (the political wing of the Co-op movement) is still a sister party to Labour as it has moved far away from the ideals of mutual businesses particularly since the Blair years when it became a Party of big business. Indeed, the political will to promote mutuals is now far more firmly embedded in the Lib Dems than it is in the modern Labour Party. My years of working in the trade union movement also led me to think that it too is hardly enthusiastic about co-ops and mutuals generally. It seems that the potential independence and individuality of co-ops and mutuals can be at odds with many socialist ideas about centralist control.

I would like to see Nick Clegg and the Lib Dem Leadership champion co-ops and mutual ownership of businesses even more though because if we Liberals don’t who will in this capitalist world we live in.