Closed Sefton Libraries – Why I was so angry over Labour’s ‘just close them’ approach

www.liverpoolecho.co.uk/news/liverpool-news/first-look-inside-waltons-revamped-11457683

The Liverpool Echo has the story – see link above

I probably bored for England during my attempts to try to stop the straight closure of 7 of Sefton Borough’s libraries. And yes of course others did far more than I did to try to save their local libraries and the huge campaigns in Churchtown, Aintree, Crosby and Birkdale come to mind – all of which were sadly ultimately unsuccessful.

Fighting for Southport's Libraries

Fighting for Southport’s Libraries

What angered me was the lack of imagination and forward thinking in Sefton Council. The fact that under the dead hand of its Labour Leadership straight closure seemed to be the only possibility being seriously considered. Yet across the UK innovative ideas have been tried to re-purpose/reorganise community libraries to give them a viable future and I have commented on many of these ideas before.

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And here we have another one and it’s on Sefton’s doorstep in Walton! I am not saying that all 7 of Sefton’s closing libraries could have been saved like this but I am saying that with innovation maybe they could all have had a future in differing ways.

Oh for the dead hand of local political leaders!

Sefton Labour – The sun shines because of them you know!

Here in Sefton Labour have gained a reputation for saying one thing and then doing just about the opposite and they also claim credit for things they have had little or nothing to do with. In one case they claim credit for a motorway junction upgrade that is only happening because they voted to build houses on Green Belt/high grade agricultural land that they said they were going to defend from development!

Lets look at the local cases of Labour claims:-

Brooms Cross Road/Switch Island – Thornton Link Road:- Not down to Labour at all. The last Labour Government failed to give the final green light for the construction to start. They had been in government for years but kept kicking the road into the long grass. What’s more the real campaigners for it were the people and Parish Council of Thornton. A dodgy claim if ever I heard one comrades.

Thornton residents marching to get the new road built.

Thornton residents marching to get the new road built.

Maghull North Station:- This soon to be built station was given the green light and 95% of the money to build it by the Coalition Government, not by Labour. Another very iffy Labour claim.

Site for the new Maghull North Railway Station.  Photo taken looking north from School Lane road bridge. The former Moss Side Hospital site is to the right and Mersey Avenue to the left.

Site for the new Maghull North Railway Station. Photo taken looking north from School Lane road bridge. The former Moss Side Hospital site is to the right and Mersey Avenue to the left.

We will defend the Green Belt:- Er no, Labour voted to build on it on Sefton Council. No ifs no buts Labour said one thing, even putting up posters saying one thing, and then did the opposite.

Labour poster displayed in Lydiate - October 2013

Labour poster displayed in Lydiate – October 2013

We are getting the motorway junction on the M58 at Ashworth made into a full junction:- Well yes and er very definitely no. Here’s what Labour don’t tell you, the money for it from Government is on the back of a huge urban extension to Maghull (1,500+ houses ans an industrial park) on high grade agricultural land and Green Belt. What’s more, and I refer back to the Labour defending Green Belt issue, this site was one (of many) approved by Labour on Sefton Council who had said they would fight against Green Belt building. So yes they can claim some motorway junction success here but only because they did the opposite of what their propaganda said they were going to do! A really dodgy claim brothers and sisters of the revolution.

Closing Sefton Libraries:- Strangely Labour are not claiming credit for their Library closures or refusing volunteers in Aintree and Crosby from running closing libraries. Then again when Labour treated the volunteers so badly its no wonder they want this one swept under the red carpet.

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Closing Youth Facilities:- Another one that Labour are not claiming credit for is the closing youth facilities in Maghull (Stafford Moreton Youth Centre and Maghull Youth Coffee Bar) despite the fact Labour marched young people around the streets of Maghull allegedly trying to stop the closure of youth centres in 2011. You had better continue to keep quiet about this double standard Labour.

Maghull's former Stafford Moreton Youth  Centre boarded up.

Maghull’s former Stafford Moreton Youth Centre boarded up.

Labour in Sefton Borough – Saying one thing, doing another and claiming credit for things they have had little or nothing to do with

Aintree Library – A sad end to the campaign to save it

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www.liverpoolecho.co.uk/news/liverpool-news/disused-aintree-library-set-turned-10681279

The Liverpool Echo has the story – see link above

I can’t really express who sad and indeed angry I am to see the former library in Aintree Village being sold off for housing. It was a lovely library, a real heart of the community facility for Aintree Village and Melling.

This is former Aintree Ratepayer Councillor Terry Baldwin speaking at a meeting to try to save the library.

This is former Aintree Ratepayer Councillor Terry Baldwin speaking at a meeting to try to save the library.

It was great to campaign to try to save the library alongside friends like Peter Gill and Terry Baldwin and many others in 2013 /2014. It was, however, terrible to see how poorly they were treated by Sefton Council and its Labour rulers. All they wanted was a chance to try to run the library using volunteers. They had the support support of Aintree Village Parish Council but Sefton Council denied them the chance to run the library for reasons I still can’t get my head around but assume were of a political nature.

Cllr. Peter Gill another hero of the campaign to try to save Aintree Library.

Cllr. Peter Gill another hero of the campaign to try to save Aintree Library.

Yes local Labour MP Bill Esterson did his bit but he was let down by his own Labour Councillors who refused to to either save the library or let the volunteers have a go at running it. Sorry, but Sefton Labour should hang their heads in shame over this and the other closing library sites in the Borough where volunteers were effectively held at arms length.

Now housing is going to be built on the site. Sefton Council has closed the library and disposed of the site but good folks of Aintree have got nothing from the deal.

One thing in the Echo article above is rather ironic though where it says ‘Later that year [2013], 20,000 protesters and local MPs and councillors campaigned to keep local library services running’. Well that’s true but the councillors were Lib Dem and Tory members of Sefton Council, the Labour Group were the ones axing the libraries!

Formby – Bill seems to be at odds with his Labour Sefton councillors again

www.southportvisiter.co.uk/news/southport-west-lancs/mp-formby-car-park-charging-9919399

The Southport Visiter has the story – see link above

So Labour MP Bill Esterson seems again to be at odds with his fellow Labour Councillors who run Sefton Council; there is a pattern developing here!

Library closures – Bill opposed them but his Labour councillors ignored him and closed them.

Building on the Green Belt and high grade agricultural land – Bill opposed it but his Labour councillors ignored him and voted to build on it.

Parking charges in Formby – ?

I do wish Bill had been motivated to oppose the Tories Welfare Bill recently, like Lib Dem MP John Pugh (Southport) and Labour MP Peter Dowd (Bootle) did, instead of abstaining in the crucial vote because the Labour Party’s official line was to vote neither in favour nor against it. Surely I must speak for Labour councillors in Sefton when I say how disappointed they must have been that he voted a different way to what they surely would have wanted?

Libraries – Just look at this innovative project in Wigan

book-cycle.org/wigan

Ever since Sefton Council ran into its library funding problem and then seemed to lack the will and imagination to reinvent community libraries around the power of volunteers I have been looking at other places where volunteer library projects were given an opportunity to flourish.

Sefton’s Labour Council simply turned its nose up at volunteer bids to run Aintree and College Road Libraries if you recall (see many previous postings on this blog site). Instead of encouraging them they were made to jump through so many hoops only then to be told they had failed the test and to sling their hooks.

Aintree Library - Now up for sale by the same Council that shut it!

Aintree Library – Now up for sale by the same Council that shut it!

Well, as I have said before such negative thinking is not replicated elsewhere. Indeed, in Wigan a Labour run Council there has worked with volunteers and just look at this result:-

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If it can work in Wigan why were Labour so determined that volunteer library ventures would not be given a chance to succeed in Sefton?

Sefton – Labour blocks move to set up a Community Library fund

It looks like Sefton Council will finish the present financial year with money unspent and probably it will be a significant underspend. Yes, I know this seems odd with all the Council cut-backs but there you have it.

So considering how much trouble there has been over library closures and the refusal of the Council, under its Labour rulers, to allow volunteers to run closing libraries the opposition Lib Dem group on Sefton made a budget proposal last week. Our plan was to set aside £250,000 of any 2014/15 underspend to assist those residents who are trying to set up community libraries. Sadly, Labour, who have a majority on the Council, voted to oppose it.

But I suppose you have to say that at least Sefton Labour are consistent in their anti-volunteer library stance even though no one outside of their ever more isolated Bootle bunker has any idea why they have adopted this negative policy.