Lancashire – Still squabbling over local government changes

I’ve said before that the piecemeal reorganisation of what was once the huge county council (with numerous small district councils such as West Lancs Borough) area of Lancashire has ended up leaving a mess of everything that has not already become a unitary authority.

Former BBC and Liverpool Post reporter Political commentator and writer Nick Hancock debating with Sefton’s Cllr. Iain Brodie Browne.

Below, via the link, respected north west journalist Jim Hancock updates us on the tortuous ‘progress’ towards a resolution (scroll down to ‘Driver’s Umbrella’):-

Lancashire should have been sorted out as one whole package

The process of doing bits here and there over numerous years via different governments has led directly to this mess and muddle. I support the move to unitary authorities as in my view having a County, a District and often a Parish/Town Council too has not worked.

Power to the Parishes!

Getting rid of the muddle in the middle i.e. the District Councils is the right thing to do. However, it should be being done whilst devolving more powers and responsibilities to the network of Parish and Town Councils across the County (and set up new ones where they don’t presently exist) – of course that’s not being done!

Lancashire – Is it about to get an elected mayor?

Map of the Borough of West Lancashire.

Jim Hancock has the posting on his blog site – see link below:-

Jim, as ever, has an interesting and informative take on the long running saga about how Lancashire will be run in the future. It is to put it bluntly a dogs breakfast of a local governmental mess presently as I guess most will agree. Trouble is there’s been no consensus to agree how to sort out the mess which pre-dates John Prescot’s attempt resolve it as Deputy Prime Minister many years ago. Those with long memories will recall he wanted to split West Lancs and put half of it in Wigan Met Borough and half of it into Sefton Met Borough. It went nowhere and neither has any other plan it seems at least up until now?

My gripe with Jim, as those who know me will expect of me, is that he seems to back Metro Mayors and I can’t abide them. Jim says this ‘The success of the elected mayors in Greater Manchester and the Liverpool City Region may finally have ended the squabbling in Lancashire over an elected mayor with a combined authority.’

Well Jim if having an elected mayor for the Liverpool City Region has been a success I would not like to see failure. Not enough devolved powers (I have often referred to the LCR deal as 3rd rate) and putting them in one persons hands is simply wrong to me. And just what has our elected mayor done that could not have been achieved without us having one?

But my other big gripe, which admittedly may not apply in Lancashire with it having no major cities, is that regional mayors operating from a big city have a detrimental effect on surrounding towns. Just ask Southport or Bootle or St. Helens or Birkenhead. A good example of my concern is the thousands civil service jobs being taken out of Bootle and centralised in Liverpool for HMRC. The jobs were put in Bootle for a very good reason in the 1960’s and 1970’s i.e to address an unemployment black spot and help the local economy. Taking them out reverses that piece of good work. And what has our City Region Mayor done to try to put a stop to this process?

Maybe as a Liberal I see the concentration of power in a single persons hands as fundamentally wrong but Tories and Socialists see otherwise? Maybe also as a Liberal I see true devolution of power very differently to the crumbs off the governmental table which is the present format of devolution. Frankly, no I don’t see Lancashire having an elected mayor being a big positive for a newly formatted local government structure in the county.

I like Jim’s commentary on politics in the North West of England and he’s often both well informed and right. However, we’ll have to agree to disagree that having an elected mayor in the Liverpool City Region has been a success. Indeed, I would go so far as to say it has been an abject failure for the majority of LCR – a bit like the present local government arrangements have been in Lancashire for a long time now.

If regional mayors are the solution you’re asking the wrong question.

Jim Hancock’s solution to the BBC conundrum

Former BBC and Liverpool Post reporter, political commentator and writer Nick Hancock seen here debating with Southport’s very own Cllr.Iain Brodie-Browne a while back.

Readers will be far from surprised to hear that I’m no fan of the BBC’s news/current affairs output of recent times, indeed at times this great institution has really angered me and sadly it continues to do so. In my view the BBC failed spectacularly during the EU Referendum and Brexit debate process to deal with political lies and fantasies. Just putting someone up who will say the direct opposite of someone peddling nonsense does not inform where the facts really are. The very recent BBC tweet giving publicity to a racist rant from Question Time shows that there’s at best questionable editorial control.

But despite holding such views I also know that the BBC is vitally important to our society and it is part of what makes us British. Yes reform the BBC but not on Johnson’s agenda or indeed any other biased politicians whim. That politicians in government or indeed out of it fear BBC journalism is good for our democracy. Politicians tell lies and the BBC’s job is to expose such lies. For fear of offending it seems the BBC has moved to a position whereby it simply gets another politician with an opposing view (however ill-informed it may also be) to ‘balance’ a story out. Not good enough and not what we expect of the BBC, get back to exposing the political liars and fantasists without hiding behind other political fibbers please.

So is Nick Hancock’s solution the right one? Certainly it has merit and is a calm and sober reaction from a well respected journalist and commentator. I’d like to see more analysis of the BBC and how it should move forward before I say yes to one way or another but please no scrapping of the BBC, that’s just what those who peddle falsehoods and prejudice want.

Brexit – Jim Hancock’s view is worth sharing

I’ve long had a soft spot for Jim Hancock’s well thought out views on many subjects. Above you will find a link to his blog posting about our troubled relationship with Europe as we walk away from it for the foreseeable future.

Yes I’m angry at the utter stupidity of what we have done to ourselves and future generations but I lost, Little England won. I’ll leave it there with no further comment……

Devolution frustrations as seen by Jim Hancock and Richard Kemp

The article is on Jim’s blog site accessed via the link above

I remember Jim, as others will, from his BBC North West Regional News days and respect his views. I’m sure he and other devolution skeptics (and I include myself here) are right to think that government is not that keen on the process of devolving power to the regions of England, except that is when it suits them to be able to blame the regions for whatever the troubles of the day are.

It might seem odd me being a Liberal, having been brought up on a diet of power needing to be exercised at the lowest possible level of government, but I opposed the devolution deal for the Liverpool City Region. I opposed it as it was a second if not third rate deal that was hardly worth having. My views have not changed.

Yes we now have a City Region Mayor but for me that post, whomever holds it, is a bit like the Police and Crime Commissioner one in that no one really thinks either will bring any positive change to Merseyside.

What has also concerned me since first hearing that government wanted a city region mayor for Merseyside is that it would make the sub-region more Liverpool centric with the towns and communities surrounding Liverpool always playing second fiddle. I’ve seen little to change that point of view either. Bringing more power and influence to Liverpool is often at the expense of its surrounding communities.

Devolution as presently practiced in England is indeed half hearted and deeply flawed.

And later on the same day that I published this posting I found that Cllr. Richard Kemp was on a similar theme:-

Lord Ronnie Fearn of Southport at 50!

No Ron is not 50 but he has recently completed 50 years as a councillor for the same area of Southport – Craven Ward now called Norwood Ward.

The man of the moment, Lord Ronnie Fearn of Southport, pass on a little advice last night.

The man of the moment, Lord Ronnie Fearn of Southport, passes on a little advice last night.

Yes Ronnie has served as MP for Southport and now he is in the House of Lords but it is his remarkable record of continuously serving the people of Southport on Southport Borough Council (until 1974), Merseyside County Council (until Mrs Thatcher abolished it) and Sefton Borough Council from 1974 to date that this posting pays tribute to.

Ronnie Fearn, Shirley Williams, John Pugh & Anette Pugh

Ronnie Fearn, Shirley Williams, John Pugh & Anette Pugh

Last night a gala dinner was held the Ramada Hotel, Southport to celebrate Ronnie’s remarkable achievement. The room was packed with Liberal friends from across the UK as well as many local people who have worked with Ronnie over the years.

Former BBC and Liverpool Post reporter Nick Hancock debating with Sefton's Lib Dem Leader Iain Brodie-Browne.

Former BBC and Liverpool Post reporter Jim Hancock debating with Sefton’s Lib Dem Leader Iain Brodie-Browne.

Guest speakers were John Pugh the present Lib Dem MP for Southport and the redoubtable Baroness Shirley Wiliams.

A great night was had all round. Congratulations Ronnie – 50 years a councillor. I am coming up for 30 years and frankly 50 seems like a target I may well not want to hit!