Maghull – An unexpected contributor to a Maghull Radio show about local journalist Jim Sharpe

Yesterday I was asked by presenter Dave Hughes to call-in and contribute towards an interview/broadcast he was doing live on his Maghull Radio show. The person being interviewed was none other than well known local journalist Jim Sharpe.

Jim Sharpe in the recording studio of Maghull Radio – with apologies for the reflections caused by the glass partition.

The thing was Jim did not know I had been invited so he was surprised when I walked into the recording studio of this internet based radio station, which is run from Maghull Town Hall, part way through his interview.

My point of my being there was to say what I thought about Jim and his journalistic work in Maghull and district over the 25 years I have known him. He need not have worried, if indeed he was worried about what I may say, because it was all complementary.

Jim is an old school journalist who knows more about Maghull than the vast majority of politicians who have been elected to serve it and I first got to know him as he sat through Maghull Town Council meetings (I was a Maghull Town Councillor for 30 years – 1985 to 2015) making notes of the discussions and debates that were going on. He first worked, as I knew him, for the Maghull & Aintree Star newspaper and then he moved on to work (as he still does) for the Aintree & Maghull Champion. I would add that he started work at the Ormskirk Advertiser group of newspapers and that he worked in public relations for Pilkington’s and BT after that.

He started to write a One Man & His Dog column for the Star and this then transferred with him to the Champion. Nowadays the column is quite general as it is published throughout the whole range of Champion editions. However, in its original form it was just about Maghull and Lydiate. The thing is Jim used it to keep the local politicians honest although he may not have seen it quite like that. What he did was to look at things going on in the Maghull area in detail and comment on them. If he thought something was going on that was not to the credit of the Town he would say so and folks took notice of what he had to say. This is how I think he kept the politicians honest. His One Man & His Dog columns are not like that these days because they have to be of general interest over a much wider geographical area and I think we in Maghull/Lydiate area have sadly lost something.

I like Jim as he speaks his mind and because he cares about his locality. We may not always agree but such is the way a free press should operate in a free society.

You know its not a bad idea that local politicians have to look over their shoulder to see what a free independent press really think of their actions, indeed I don’t think there’s enough of that going on these days as the media generally becomes more remote. Yes it’s fine getting press releases via e-mail, the odd phone conversation etc. But Jim looks into the whites of your eyes, in a very friendly way, when he meets you and he gains other opinions about what you are doing.

I like old fashioned journalism where newspapers were campaigning publications that flushed out stories and got to the facts, it may be unfashionable now but when Jim’s generation of journalism finally disappears we will all be the worse for it.

It was nice to say good things about Jim on Maghull Radio.

One of the most famous quotes about the press and my personal favourite comes from a fictional 19th century Irish bartender named Mr. Dooley.

On 7th October 1893 the Chicago Evening Post journalist and humorist Finley Peter Dunne introduced his readers to a character called Mr. Dooley in a newspaper column. And Dooley said:-

‘The job of the newspaper is to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable’

These days we would have to replace ‘newspaper’ with ‘media’ as there are so many ways that people get their news now, but the powerful nature of the quote still resonates. I like to think that Jim would subscribe to this quote. For ‘afflicted’ read Joe and Jane Public, for ‘comfortable’ by the way read ‘politicians’

Maghull & Sefton Borough – The Champion’s Jim Sharpe is on the mend

Jim Sharpe will be known to many for his quirky ‘One Man and his Dog’ columns in the Champion series of newspapers across Sefton and West Lancashire.

I am not aware of many pictures of Jim as he is always stood beside the press photographer (usually Martyn Snape) but here he is in 2014 caught on camera press notebook in hand with Cllr. Edie Pope.

I am not aware of many pictures of Jim as he is always stood beside the press photographer (usually Martyn Snape) but here he is in 2014 caught on camera press notebook in hand with Cllr. Edie Pope.

Jim collapsed a few days ago whilst aptly walking his dogs and has been in the Intensive Care Unit at Fazakerley Hospital ever since. I visited him tonight and can confirm he is doing OK after giving all of us a real fright. Oh and before you ask his dogs are being well looked after.

Jim (on the right) notebook in hand as always talking to Don Billington and Doreen Prescott of Maghull in Bloom - December 2013

Jim (on the right) notebook in hand, as always, talking to Don Billington and Doreen Prescott of Maghull in Bloom – December 2013

I enjoy our long chats putting the world to rights and hope we will be having many more when Jim is fully recovered.

Maghull – So Labour closed the Youth Coffee Bar because tennis lessons are a better alternative facility? Now just run that logic past me again!

Readers of this blog site will know how angry I am about the closure of Maghull’s unique Youth Coffee at Maghull Town Hall, but I was certainly not prepared for the reasons Labour have given for the closure.

Maghull TH Youth Coffee Bar

To be honest I thought they would try to blame it on cuts to Council grants from Government etc. even though as a Parish Council Maghull Town Council does not get any such grants. Certainly that’s a line Labour have used before i.e. playing on the fact that Joe and Jane Public will not know what’s really going on. But hey, no such defence this time and they went for the utterly ludicrous ‘explanation’ instead!

When I read the Aintree & Maghull Champion last week my first thought was how did reporter Jim Sharpe keep his face straight when Labour told him they were replacing an all year round indoor youth facility with tennis coaching lessons? OK, this is not funny, but it is certainly very peculiar!

But what’s this about the numbers dropping at the Coffee Bar? Well they would because Labour has had a habit of randomly closing it in recent years. And then there’s some talk about anti-social behaviour but hang on a minute that is exactly what the facility was attempting to combat. The adults who used to help out at the Coffee Bar were all capable of helping youngsters who were troublesome due to poor family backgrounds etc. And yes there had been successes, I am told, in helping local youngsters with their problems. But this sort of thing needs dedication and working at. Where on earth are the youngsters needing such help in Maghull going to go now?

Sorry, in my view, this is abandoning young people who need help and offering tennis coaching and a Duke of Edinburgh Award Scheme as an alternative. That’s not the way forward for a progressive community that looks after it youngsters, it’s tuning your back on them.

Having sat on Maghull Town Council for 30 years until I stood down in May 2015 (because I had moved to Lydiate) I must say that I never thought I would see a day like this. After all the years of dedicated input into local youth by people such as Nickie Smith, Nova Rimmer and many others who would have thought that this unique and successful project would be tossed on the scrapheap.

Lydiate – Christmas Tree on the Village Green today

Now call me an old misery guts if you like but I am not sure that Christmas decorations going up in November or early December is all that great.

You see they look good but by the time we finally get to Christmas haven’t we heard just a few too many Christmas songs and seen too many decorations?

The way we are going Christmas will soon last 2 months, if we are not there already!

Anyway enough of my muttering, here’s a little bit of Lydiate Christmas for you as the lights on the holly tree (yes you read that correctly – holly tree) were switched on today.

LYdiate Vilage Green - Christmas 2015

Why a holly tree? Well it was already growing there, was about the right size and shape so what the hell let’s dress it as a Christmas tree thought the Parish Council. What’s more it is a little more environmentally friendly than chopping down a large mature pine tree and cheaper for Lydiate’s ‘hard working families’. Yes I know that phrase grates against me as well but I threw it in to remind all politicians to pledge not to say it again in 2016!

Goodness me am I turning this blog site into a ‘One man and his dog’ type thing? Sorry Jim Sharpe (and the Champion newspaper), I think you should have written this piece or maybe you did!

Lydiate – Arriva’s 311 route is to be no more from 30th August

I was contacted recently by a concerned resident who told me that he had heard from an Arriva driver that the 311 bus route was changing through Maghull & Lydiate and that he was concerned to hear that the bus would probably no longer serve the vast majority of Lydiate.

He told me that he had been told that it would cease to run along Southport Road and Moss Lane in Lydiate and could I try to get to the bottom of what was going on.

Mm, now who knows more about local buses than just about anyone else in Maghull & Lydiate? My old chum Jim Sharpe who is also the local reporter for the Champion newspaper. But no, on this occasion Jim knows nothing of any 31ll bus route changes so he starts to put out feelers within Arriva.

I the mean time I find a note about the proposed change of route of the 310/311 buses on the Merseytravel web site but there are no details of the actual changes to the route just that they are going to happen from 30th August. This is what it says on the Merseytravel web site page:-

Bus number: 310/311
Run by: Arriva
Going between: Liverpool – Skelmersdale
Date service changes: 30 August 2015
What’s changing? The route and times are changed
New timetable available? No

So off I go to the Arriva web site and I take the opportunity to have a web chat with them, trouble is it gets me nowhere at all! This is that web chat:-

*****

Please wait. An operator will be with you shortly.
Operator says:
Hello Tony Robertson. My name is **** [I have taken out the operators name] how can I help you?
Tony Robertson says:
I am looking for details of the changed route for the 311 bus which presently runs through Lydiate. I am told that the revised route misses out most of Lydiate from 30th August?
Operator says:
Where in the NOrth West are you
Tony Robertson says:
I am a Parish Councillor representing Lydiate. It is a community south of Ormskirk and north of Maghull. I have been asked about this change by concerned residents who became aware of the change via your drivers.
Operator says:
I will just check for you
Tony Robertson says:
OK thanks. The change does appear on a recent Merseytravel notification but there is no detail at all and it is the new route detail I need to be able to respond to the residents queries.
Operator says:
We’ve not been made aware of any changes to this service
Operator says:
If you contact us nearer time and we should have more info on this
Tony Robertson says:
OK, who should I speak to to get to the bottom of this as it does seem to be a reality from the Merseytravel web site of proposed bus changes. My e-mail address is t3robertson@gmail.com could you get the appropriate person to come back to me?
Operator says:
I’m afraid that you would need to contact us nearer the time and we should have further information regarding any upcoming changes
Tony Robertson says:
OK, but that is not at all helpful to me I am sorry to say.

*****

My next port of call is via a councillor (John Dodd) who sits on the Merseytravel Committee to see if he can help unravel this mystery for me. John also starts to put out feelers for detailed background information about the 311 bus.

Then Jim Sharpe gets back to me with news that is hardly welcome for Lydiate folk. Arriva have told him that the 311 will be no more and that the 310 will be the Ormskirk bound bus. Oh dear, my worst fears are realised and indeed those of the resident who originally contacted me, Lydiate is sadly going to lose yet another bus service.

I hear that Arriva are saying that the 311 was not picking up many passengers in Lydiate, which I find surprising as I would have thought that on a Thursday and Saturday in particular Ormskirk market would be a draw. Indeed, Ormskirk is the next larger shopping centre to Maghull/Lydiate.

A blast from the past a former Ribble Lydiate bound 321 bus in model form

A blast from the past a former Ribble Lydiate bound 321 bus in model form

Thinking back to Lydiate buses of the past the 302, 321 & 345 come to mind that have all been taken off. Some folk say its because so many of us have cars these days and I am sure that is right but some also say that we have to have cars because there are so few buses about these days.

So the dye seems to be sadly cast as the 311 service is a commercial one run for profit. The only possible alternative would be to get Merseytravel to subsidise the 311 bus but with all the cut backs in public expenditure I fear this would be a very long shot indeed.

Reactions to Labour run Sefton Council’s Green Belt Grab

Not surprisingly the plans recently unveiled by Labour run Sefton Council to grab more high grade agricultural land to build upon have gone down very badly.

The Champion newspaper’s East Parishes reporter Jim ‘The News Hound’ Sharpe calls the master plan ‘bonkers’.

Dr. John Pugh Lib Dem MP for Southport

Dr. John Pugh Lib Dem MP for Southport

Dr John Pugh the Lib Dem MP for Southport says the plan will create a ‘hollowed out sprawl’.

Maria Bennett of Formby Residents Action Group (Fragoff) says ‘Sefton’s plan is completely flawed’

Tonight at Maghull Town Hall a large number of concerned residents and environmental campaigners mixed in with folks who have seen through Labour’s con-trick of one part of that Party in Sefton promoting the green belt grab whilst the others condemn it, turned out to voice their concerns.

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 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 as they did last time Sefton Council tried to earmark the site for building land

The meeting was of the first of the quite ludicrous Central Sefton Area Committee i.e. everywhere that is not Bootle or Southport in the Borough. I wondered what would happen as Labour like to hush up and crush up protestors as Aintree Library campaigners found out when they attended a meeting of the former East Parishes Area Committee trying to stop Labour from closing their library.

Like back then the protestors were out in force because they thought that their community leaders were off on a course of action which would damage their community. Well they were right over the Aintree Library (although the community may well have stopped the closure by taking it over themselves) and many, many folks think they are right now to fight Labour every inch of the way over the Green Belt grab.

This is what happened. The campaigners asked 3 questions about the detail of the proposals under Labour’s Local Plan. Did they get any answers? No. My Lib Dem colleagues and I deliberately sat and watched because we wanted to know what the Labour councillors present would do. In effect Labour said they did not know the answers to the questions and would get back to the questioners. Well at least the questioners were not shouted at but answers there were none!