Ive seen a couple of threads on the Maghull Community facebook Page recently raising concerns about the poor standard of maintenance of Old Hall Park and thought a full review of the issues leading up this unfortunate state of affairs was required.
Firstly, when Old Hall Park was created following the demolition of the former Old Hall High School Buildings (originally it had been Maghull Grammar School) the park was laid out and run by Sefton Council. Of course houses were also built on around one third of the site at the same time. This became Sefton Council’s only park in Maghull, all the others being run by Maghull Town Council. In fact Sefton did and still does own one other small grassed/wooded amenity area called Bobby’s Wood, which is at the junction of Liverpool Road South and Northway down at the Woodend area of the Town.
Maghull Town Council then hatched a plan. It thought that all the parks/green spaces in the Town would be better maintained to the same standard and by its own local maintenance team, rather these two areas being maintained by the Borough Council’s separate contractors. Negotiations took place and it was agreed that Old Hall Park and Bobbies Wood would in future both be maintained by Maghull Town Council, this was something like 10 years ago if memory serves.
Things remained like this until Maghull Town Council made a policy decision, not that long ago, to hand the two pieces of land back to the Borough Council – this was when the standard of maintenance started to fall.
But there is another back story to this and surprise, surprise it involves money!
Firstly, all communities in Sefton Borough pay the same levels of Council tax, but some don’t benefit from a full range of services. The stand out one is maintenance of parks and gardens. For example Aintree Village only has one park (Harrow Drive Park) which is maintained by Aintree Village Parish Council, who raise a separate amount of Council tax (called a precept) to pay for that work. However, the good folks of Aintree pay the same amount of Council tax to Sefton Council as say Formby where all the parks are maintained by the Borough Council. You are probably getting my drift here but in case you’re not the fact is that Aintree Village Council tax payers are in effect paying their Parish Council who do the maintenance of their only park but they are also paying the Borough Council who don’t do any parks maintenance for for them. They are paying twice for the same job in reality.
That situation is mirrored in Lydiate and Maghull. In Lydiate all their parks and gardens are maintained by their Parish Council, none are maintained by Sefton Council. And so we get to Maghull where the vast majority of it’s parks and gardens are maintained by Maghull Town Council with just Old Hall Park and Bobby’s Wood being maintained by the Borough Council. So Lydiate and Maghull Council tax payers are, like their Aintree Village chums, in effect paying twice for the work to be done – Once to their Parish/Town Council and again to Sefton Council.
The solution that seems obvious to most who look into this is that Sefton Council should charge a lower amount of Council tax in Maghull, Lydiate and Aintree Village but for reasons I can’t quite fully recall this has never happened. But an alternative solution was put in place in the years following the formation of Sefton Council in 1974. It was called ‘Double Rating’ payments and it led to a formula being constructed which paid money to the Parish Councils who maintained their own parks and gardens.
When a Maghull and Sefton Councillor I looked at this deal and decided it was poor and did not reflect the real costs. I set about renegotiating it and eventually it was significantly improved (around 2007 I think?) to reflect what Sefton would be paying to its contractors if it was doing the work. All was fine then for a few years.
But trouble came with the financial crisis with the Borough Council being hit by massive cuts to its grant from government to run local services. As one of many cuts to its services the Borough Council then decided to stop paying the ‘Double Rating payments to the parish councils. So in effect Aintree Village, Lydiate and Maghull are back to where they were in 1974 i.e. paying twice for parks and gardens maintenance. A very unjust situation in my book.
What happened next was that Maghull Town Council said to Sefton Council if you will not pay us the Double rating we are handing back your parks and you can maintain them. Trouble is the Borough Council’s maintenance standards are low because they are running out of money so residents of Maghull who use Old Hall Park and Bobby’s Wood are not only paying twice for their green space to maintained they are suffering the far lower maintenance standards that are now common across the Borough.
And yes Maghull is the highest rate of Council tax in Sefton (it always has been since 1974) not least now because its Town Council is having to find more money to replace the Double Rating payments that it used to get. An every which way but lose situation you could call it.
I understand, please correct me if I am wrong here, that Maghull Town Council is looking at the possibility of taking over Old Hall Park and Bobby’s Wood once again so to improve the maintenance standards.
I hope this rather lengthy explanation is of use to those interested in this matter.