Mixed messages on recycling

Charles Clover in the Times newspaper commented not so long ago on the confusion over recycling in different areas of England. He points out that recycling rates in England have dropped to 43.2% and are in danger of dropping further. He explains that householders are unsure about what can and cannot be recycled, while families are also cynical about whether recyclables are actually recycled. Mr Clover also notes that rates in Scotland and Wales have improved, because of a clear and standardised best practice for recycling schemes.

epd_wheelie_bins_group

I think there is something in this. As a Liberal my usual instinct is not to support standardisation everywhere because it can stifle innovation but here the differences between the approach of local authorities is unhelpful. The priority has to be to get recycling rates up as high as they can go and uncertainty about what can and can’t be recycled is in no ones interest.

With thanks to the LGiU for the lead to this story.

Maghull/Lydiate Labour – made up stories & misinformation in their upside down world

Labour leaflets in the Maghull & Lydiate area in recent times have been little more than bizarre with oft repeated stories that are utterly ridiculous and untrue.

Maghull Town Hall Roof repairs/refurbishment – It cost £500,000 say Labour – In the words of the independent Clerk to Maghull Town Council ‘The actual cost was £206,816.79’. Labour also say they had to take out a loan to pay for the work. No they did not, they had the option to take out a loan and they chose to do that.

Closure of Deyes Lane Post Office – Labour say it closed because of the Lib Dems. Utter nonsense, it closed because the Post Master retired and no one wanted to take over the Post Office in the Deyes Lane row of Shops. The only offer that the Post Office had was for a new Post Office which has now opened at the Moss Lane/Dodds Lane junction about half a mile away. I have a letter from the Post Office confirming the reasons for the closure.

Green Bin Tax – Labour say they rejected the Lib Dem green bin tax. We never proposed a green bin tax for Sefton; it was Labour who proposed it! We fought against Labour’s green bin tax and they eventually backed off.

Top Lib Dem resigns? – This is a Labour headline in their recent leaflets but no one knows who they are taking about. No top Lib Dem has resigned in Maghull and Lydiate. Labour seem to play this odd card in relation to Cllr. Andrew Blackburn but he was sat there large as life at a Maghull Town Council meeting only last week, which is more than you can say for 8 Labour councillors who have resigned in recent times!

Green Belt – Labour say we Lib Dems are biggest threat to it yet we are the ones fighting Labour’s plan to build on the Green Belt around Maghull & Lydiate! Labour started off saying they were going to defend the Green Belt but then they did a ‘U’ turn and decided to back building on it!

Maghull Parks – Labour says they are planning improvements to Maghull parks yet it was Labour-run Maghull Town Council who took the money for such improvements out of the Council’s budget! We Lib Dems opposed the money being removed.

Maghull’s Neighbourhood Plan – Labour claim all sorts about this but it is simply cover for them to build on the Green Belt and high grade agricultural land whilst trying to look like they are doing something else.

Policing cuts – Labour blame the Lib Dems for this yet it was Labour, whilst in Government who so ruined the UK’s finances with their spend, spend, spend mentality, that helped put us all in the mess that we are all in now. What’s more the closure proposals for Maghull Police Station are being put forward by the Labour Crime and Policing Commissioner for Merseyside.

You begin to wonder whether they have begun to believe all their own ridiculous propaganda!

Why are Sefton’s Labour councillors not campaigning for the communities that elected them?

In the south of the Sefton Borough Aintree, College Road, Litherland & Orrell Libraries have all been shut down by Labour-run Sefton Council as part of its savings drive. All these closures have been in wards with at least one Labour member yet Labour councillors have, as far as I know, been at best distant from the community campaign groups trying to find a sustainable way forward for the libraries. 3 more libraries have also been closed by Labour in Southport wards where there are no Labour councillors.

We all knew the Council needed to save money but to close libraries was Labour’s choice. However, when community bids came in to run Aintree and College Road Libraries, using volunteer help, what on earth made Labour councillors rejected those bids?

Lib Dems fighting for Aintree Library

Lib Dem campaigners fighting for the Libraries that Labour shut. Labour even stopped volunteers from reopening two libraries!

Then there’s the Green Belt. In Maghull, Lydiate, Formby, Thornton & Southport (which, as noted above, does not have any socialist councillors) community campaigns are trying to stop the Green Belt and high grade agricultural land from being concreted over. Sadly, it is Labour-run Sefton Council that is proposing to allow the building.

A petition being presented to Cllr. Dave Russell Chairman of Lydiate Parish Council next to a threatened Green Belt development site.

A petition being presented to Cllr. Dave Russell Chairman of Lydiate Parish Council next to a threatened Green Belt development site.

And what about the Green Bin tax that Labour wanted to impose on Sefton residents. That needed a huge community reaction (and the loss of two Labour council seats in Maghull) to make Labour back off but they have only deferred the imposition of this local tax and we await them trying again to impose it.

A green bin mountain, Cllr. Bruce Hubbard, and a huge pile of petitions opposing Labour's Green Bill tax for Sefton.

A green bin mountain, Cllr. Bruce Hubbard, and a huge pile of petitions opposing Labour’s Green Bin tax for Sefton.

Libraries, Green Belt and the Green Bin tax are massive community issues yet Labour councillors are not standing with the residents who elected them, indeed they seem firmly stood against residents.

Sefton – A Review of 2013

Welcome to my review of 2013 for Sefton, a personal trawl through some of the things that made the headlines in a year when the Borough was ruled from Bootle by people who seemed quite out of touch with things to the north and east of Netherton.

Library closures – As 2013 draws to a close I must say that I can’t for the life of me understand what on earth Sefton Council is doing in its seeming mad dash to do all it can to stop volunteers taking over some of its closing libraries.

Will volunteers ever be allowed to stack these shelves with books again - Not if Labour-run Sefton has anything to do with it!

Will volunteers ever be allowed to stack these shelves with books again – Not if Labour-run Sefton has anything to do with it!

Many of my posts during 2013 have been about the closure of 7 out of Sefton’s 13 libraries. The closure programme has now concluded and the Borough has lost more than half the libraries it once had, but the remarkable side story to this has been the obstacles that volunteers have faced in their attempts to take over some of the closing libraries.

One would have thought that with ‘localism’ being on the lips of virtually every politician across the land volunteers would be embraced and encouraged yet in socialist Sefton we seem to be in a parallel universe where volunteers are seen to be challenging and unwelcome! Indeed, it is remarkable to see what lengths Sefton will seemingly go to keep the volunteers at a distance.

Maghull Town Council – Well what can you say, 6 of the ruling Labour Party’s councillors resigned in 2013 and 2 more were all but disqualified from office but saved themselves by turning out at the last possible meeting to stop by-elections 8 & 9 of the year!

Aintree & Maghull Champion 12th June 2013

Aintree & Maghull Champion 12th June 2013

The Council also said it had set a precept for 2013/14 when it had done no such thing and, when it finally did set a budget and precept, it took money out of the 2013/14 budget for the Town’s annual fireworks display, voted against an amendment to put the money back in but then held a fireworks display anyway!

What an odd world Maghull Town Council has been since Labour took over in May 2011 and, for the record, I still await responses to the two Freedom of Information requests that I made to the Council months and months ago. Maghull must be the only Council in the UK to have a special dispensation from the Information Commissioner enabling it to ignore FoI requests.

Green Belt and Sefton Local Plan – This one will run well into 2014 and flow over into 2015 but 2013 has seen environmental campaigners (such as FRAGOFF) give Sefton Council a torrid time. Who would have expected a Labour-run Council to propose, for example, that vast areas of Maghull and Lydiate’s Green Belt and high quality agricultural land be concreted over to create massive urban extensions for these communities? Lydiate’s housing could now increase by 35% and Maghull’s by 25% if Labour carries through what it has consulted on in 2013.

Lib Dem Deputy Leader Simon Hughes MP with Sudell Ward Sefton Cllr. Bruce Hubbard at the site in Maghull where Labour run Sefton Council wants to built 1,600 houses on high grade agricultural land. Bruce's Lib Dem team opposes Labour's plans.

Lib Dem Deputy Leader Simon Hughes MP with Sudell Ward Sefton Cllr. Bruce Hubbard, Lydiate Parish Councillor Wyn Maher, Cllr. Jen Robertson and myself at the site to the east of Maghull where Labour-run Sefton Council wants to build 1,600 houses on high grade agricultural land. Bruce’s Lib Dem team opposes Labour’s plans.

In Formby the whole community seemingly rose up to oppose a Green Belt grab there, and with some success too, as the developer ducked out just as the planning application was to go before Sefton’s Planning Committee. Will they be back? Don’t doubt it, developers are not going to give up in their quest to concrete over areas of Sefton’s land which future generations will need to grow food upon.

And don’t forget that the Council for the Protection of Rural England (CPRE) has been accused of not fighting for the Green Belt and high grade agricultural land in the Borough.

The best of the rest –

The Hawthorne’s Free School – will it be given the chance to try to make a step change in educational attainment in Bootle? Sadly, Sefton Labour just won’t take a positive step and back it. Having been there I am sure it is taking a welcome risk to improve education in Bootle; that’s a risk we should all be backing. And will St Mary’s in Crosby in Crosby follow suit and convert to a Free School? It seems so and as the aim is quality education that has to be a good thing.

rsz_photo0246

Maghull’s Mad March – Usually quiet leafy Maghull had a bizarre few weeks when gun crime visited the community. Police say it was drug related gang members shooting at each other but what chaos it created in one of Merseyside’s lowest crime areas. It went as quickly as it came but Maghull residents for a short period had the opportunity to see the madness of guns so loved by Americans. The right to bear arms? More like the right to create fear and mistrust in a community/society.

Here I am at Maghull Police Station where the Neighbourhood Policing Team must have had a tough time during Mad March.

Here I am at Maghull Police Station where the Neighbourhood Policing Team must have had a tough time during Mad March.

Southport Pier – It was quite a fright when we leaned that it needed urgent repairs. A landmark like no other in the locality; fortunately it does seem to have a good long-term future.

imagesZT144XGA

The Liverpool Pigeon, A Micro-Pub for Crosby – Now here was an innovative development in 2013 that could herald a new type of pub not joined at the hip to those pub management companies who are strangling the life out of British pubs everywhere.

logo1

HALT – This environmental campaign group sprung up in opposition to the idea of building land-based wind turbines as tall as Blackpool Town on high grade agricultural land between Ince Blundell and Lydiate. I have been happy to support this group.

rsz_halt_pbells_ln_24_10_13

Closure of Public Toilets – Sefton tried to shut them but campaigners fought them off. Maghull’s public toilets survive but for how long? Frankly it was a huge disappointment to me that the Town’s own Council refused to invest in them. They were once award winners and could be that again but Maghull TC seems sadly disinterested in them.

Maghull's Lib Dem  toilet campaigners fighting Labour's axe.

Maghull’s Lib Dem toilet campaigners fighting Labour’s axe.

Sefton’s Bin Tax – This has to have been a really mad moment in Sefton’s bid to save money – a proposal to charge residents to have their green bins emptied! Surely anyone with the slightest understanding of the Borough would have known this was a tax too far but the Labour-led Council had to be hit between the eyes (and in the ballot box) with the anger of residents before that Penny dropped. This and the Green Belt land grab were the major reasons why Labour lost two Council by-elections in Maghull during July to the Lib Dems.

A green bin mountain, Cllr. Bruce Hubbard, and a huge pile of petitions opposing Labours Green Bill tax for Sefton.

A green bin mountain, Cllr. Bruce Hubbard, and a huge pile of petitions opposing Labours Green Bill tax for Sefton.

All years are unique but we certainly have seen some odd events in Sefton Borough during 2013.

PS. A piece of good news is that the expected closure of W H Smith’s shop in Bootle New Strand, which I commented on not so long ago, is not now going to happen.

Labour’s Green Bin Tax is finally to be withdrawn – Lib Dem campaigning wins the day!

Liberal Democrats are cock-a hoop at Sefton Council’s proposed U-Turn on the £46 Green Bin Tax.

The Council was proposing to charge this amount to raise £1 million per year from 2014-2015 and Labour councillors voted for it at Sefton’s February 2013 budget meeting.

A green bin mountain, Cllr. Bruce Hubbard, and a huge pile of petitions opposing Labours Green Bill tax for Sefton

A green bin mountain, Cllr. Bruce Hubbard, and a huge pile of petitions opposing Labours Green Bill tax for Sefton

The Bootle Labour Councillors, who were planning to impose this back door 3 per cent Council Tax rise, mostly on Southport, Formby and Maghull residents, have ‘turned turtle’ after a relentless Lib Dem campaign which has seen Labour suffere the biggest by-election loss in the country in the past 3 years partly as a result of this issue. In July there was a 26 per cent swing from Labour to the Lib Dems in the two Maghull Town council wards that make up Sefton Council’s Sudell Ward.

Southport Councillor Tony Dawson, who started off the campaign with a survey in Hope Street, Southport, in May, is presenting his petition forms to the all-Labour Cabinet on Thursday. Thousands of residents from both Maghull and Southport returned surveys, rejecting the Green Bin charge by a factor of 50 to one. A report to the Council’s Cabinet for its meeting on Thursday now suggests that the Council should abandon the charge plan.

epd_wheelie_bins_group

The proposed Green Bin Tax was always an idea which did not add up. Labour refused to allow the Council’s Scrutiny Committee to consider the proposal in January. They forced it through the Council’s budget meeting in February without even trying to find a clue as to whether or not people would be willing to pay a charge for Green Bin emptying. They were prepared to throw away over a million pounds wasted on the purchase of the Green Bins which people would refuse to use and discard if the charge had come in.

It seems that Bootle’s Labour councillors were originally prepared to see thousands of tonnes of ‘green waste’ stuffed into grey waste bins, leading to the Council being ‘stung’ with massive extra charges for landfill. They were prepared to see a rise in fly-tipping all over the borough. No wonder the people of Maghull turned against them so massively in the July by-elections.

There are still considerable concerns as to what precisely Labour plan to do to replace their planned Green Bin Tax. The report to Cabinet is almost ‘back of an envelope’ stuff and contains no financial information whatsoever. But that can be looked at over the next few months. The abandonment of the Green Bin Tax proposals, which disproportionately-hit Southport and Maghull residents, is a fantastic victory for the constant Lib Dem campaign over the summer.

Green Bin Tax – When will Sefton Labour signal their final retreat from this most unpopular taxation proposal?

A green bin mountain, Cllr. Bruce Hubbard, and a huge pile of petitions opposing Labours Green Bill tax for Sefton

A green bin mountain, Cllr. Bruce Hubbard, and a huge pile of petitions opposing Labours Green Bill tax for Sefton

We have seen much shuffling about over this matter from Labour in recent times. Indeed, despite the fact that the £46 per year tax was a part of their last Sefton Council budget they have even tried to pretend that it was a Lib Dem policy that they were opposing! That silly stunt was seen through by the electorate and it helped Labour in their loss of 2 Maghull Council seats 3 weeks weeks ago.

The Labour Cabinet member responsible for the environment on Sefton Council has all but conceded defeat for this policy but it is still alive and awaiting to be put out of its misery.

A tax proposed by 7 Labour Cabinet members from Bootle but which was always going to have the biggest impact on communities outside of Bootle, where large gardens are the norm, was always going to go down like proverbial brick budgie and so it has. But even comrade Bill Esterson MP, hardly know for missing a passing band wagon, has not been opposing this unfair tax on his own constituents. Could that be because it is a Labour devised tax; you can bet it is.

I wonder what it has done for the fractious relationship between Bill and Labour Council leader Peter Dowd? It can hardly have helped build bridges, can it!