Maghull – Youth Coffee Bar gone, CAB gone, retired bowlers given huge price hike, long established cricket club with nowhere to play? – Just what’s the Town Council up to?

Firstly a confession, I was a member of Maghull Town Council from 1985 to 2015 and I helped get Maghull’s unique Youth Coffee Bar and CAB facility set up in the 1990’s so I may be a little biased here.

Since Labour took over Maghull Town Council in 2011 a lot has changed and much of it I have scratched my head about wondering what the motivation has been.

Do we really want a band stand on KGV Park? Certainly I have never heard an outcry for one yet the Council seem to see it as a priority issue.

Was it sensible to close down the Town’s only publicly funded youth facility that was set up by local youngsters? It made no sense to me what so ever.

Losing the CAB facility has clearly been a backwards step. A Town the size of Maghull clearly needs accessible local advice for it’s citizens.

The bowlers, many of them retired, have been handed huge increases in the cost of their green fees. This has meant some of them no longer play at KGV Park.

And what about the dispute between the Town Council and Maghull Cricket Club that has been filing the pages of the Aintree & Maghull Champion newspaper in recent weeks? How on earth does a Council end up at such loggerheads with a long-established and important community organisation?

This weeks Champion newspaper made me want to shout out – ‘Just stop this nonsense NOW!’ because the Cricket Club issue was laid bare in three separte items in the paper.

Firstly on page 3 the Cricket Club is pleading for a change of heart from the Town Council who are wanting a ‘market value’ for the lease of the cricket ground. For goodness sake this is a community organisation not Donald Trump doing a business deal! What on earth is to be gained if the Cricket Club goes under?

Then on page 38 there’s an advert from Maghull TC wanting to sell on the lease of Council owned property by the Leeds Liverpool Canal, with car park, pavilion, changing rooms etc. Who will buy the lease? Another Cricket Club? Another organisation who would then sub-let back to Maghull Cricket Club? This can only end in tears.

Then on page 48 (the back page) there’s a report of a Maghull Cricket Club match against Liverpool under the heading ‘Downpour thwarts Maghull’ It’s certainly a massive soaking that Maghull Cricket Club is presently getting and that’s not because of rain!

I live in neighbouring Lydiate these days so have no connection with Maghull Council any more but I look over at some of the things happening in Maghull, in the name of Maghull people, and I really do wonder what on earth is going on in the Town Hall bunker.

Yes I know there have been huge cut backs in the public sector because of austerity but Maghull Town Council has never had an Government grants to loose. It has lost its Double Rating payments from Sefton Council though but that in itself is an appalling act meaning that Maghull Council Tax payers (along with Lydiate and Aintree Village) are now paying twice for their parks and gardens! So if Maghull TC is crying poverty for at least some of its motivation for chasing community organisations for more money then the root cause of their problem is Labour-run Sefton Council who made the decision to impose the unfair Council tax situation in the first place.

I can’t tell you how sad this appalling situation makes me feel having lived in Maghull for 43 years.

Labour loves tennis – OK but why the obsession with this particular sport?

Readers will recall that in closing down the innovative and unique Youth Coffee Bar in Maghull Town Hall Maghull Labour said it was to change the offer to local youth and that they were introducing tennis coaching as an alternative.

Maghull TH Youth Coffee Bar before Labour shut it

Maghull TH Youth Coffee Bar before Labour shut it

Well hard on the heels of that momentous (some would say ridiculous) decision neighbouring Lydiate Labour (who run Lydiate Parish Council) are trumpeting that they have refurbished the tennis courts (rebuilt the fencing) at Sandy Lane Park, a project that the Lib Dem opposition on Lydiate Parish Council supported I might add.

So Labour in Maghull & Lydiate are keen on tennis, that seems very clear. So keen in fact that they were willing to shut down an all year round youth facility in Maghull seemingly so that tennis coaching can be offered as an alternative by Labour-run Maghull Town Council. Maghull Council does not have any non-Labour members by the way.

Looks like Labour thinks they may have the tennis vote all sown up in Lydiate and Maghull. Trouble is they have successfully alienated many local young people in the process and may have made themselves about as unpopular with the younger generation (all except tennis players of course) as Nick Clegg did when he U turned on Tuition Fees! What’s more the surface of the Lydiate tennis courts leaves much to be desired but more on that in a further posting.

Maghull – It’s innovative Youth Coffee has been killed off by Labour – How desperately sad

News reaches me that Labour has finally decided to kill off the innovative Youth Coffee Bar in Maghull Town Hall after a few years or more of seemingly hoping it would simply die off. I understand that they have given the worker employed to help run the Coffee Bar notice to quit.

I have covered this story many times before through all its twists and turns and here is a link to those previous postings:-

tonyrobertson.mycouncillor.org.uk/2015/11/15/maghull-so-whats-happened-to-the-towns-innovative-youth-coffee-bar-this-time/

As I have said before it was pretty obvious from the start of Labour’s tenure on Maghull Town Council that they simply did not care for the Youth Coffee Bar, possibly because they could not control it? Indeed, it had been deliberately set up so that young people ran it themselves and only relied on adult input as they required it. It was all about them doing things as they thought best, learning life skills along the way.

Sefton Youth Service was involved from the start but they were never really on-board with the concept as they wanted control, education curriculum related activities etc. When Maghull TC was Lib Dem-run we stuck to the format that young people told us they wanted and there were quite a few run-ins with Sefton Youth Service. There were, however, some notable exceptions to the dead hand of Sefton’s Youth Service in a number of individual youth workers who could see what was being created and why. Dear Nova Rimmer headed the list of enlightened youth workers and I was delighted to meet her in Southport a couple of weeks ago looking really well after a period of very poor health in her retirement. She was an absolute star and was so sad to hear of the demise of the Coffee Bar which she stuck her neck out to develop in the face of her employer’s grudging and limited backing.

The original idea for the facility was not a political one from the Lib Dems or any other party for that matter. It grew out of the ideas of young people attending Maghull’s local high schools. They came to the Town Council and the then Lib Dem administration ran with their ideas and made them a reality. We did not ask the youngsters to deliver leaflets for us or to join the Lib Dem Party in return for our support, we simply tried to give their ideas a chance to succeed.

Maghull TH Youth Coffee Bar

Nickie Smith was a leading light within the original group of young people who got the Youth Coffee Bar off the ground and my old chum Andrew Blackburn, back in the days when he was a Maghull and Sefton Councillor, took on all comers who had a downer on the Coffee Bar. And yes there were those who said they did not want a Youth Coffee Bar in the Town Hall which they felt was for adults. Andrew saw them off!

And you know what it became a huge success, regularly attracting numbers of young people well above what traditional youth centres were getting through their doors in Sefton Borough. What’s more folks from across Merseyside and beyond, with an interest in youth facilities, came to look at the Youth Coffee Bar as they considered replicating it in their own communities.

Maghull & District Youth Council, which the Town Council also nurtured, was a part of the management process but Labour-run Maghull TC seem to have let that slip away too.

This is all so very sad. Have Labour killed it off because they could not control it? Because they could not live with a project initiated during the Lib Dem era? Because they have no interest in youth facilities?

So sad, so sad, so sad…………….

Maghull Town Council – Just how many houses would the planners have had to have dumped on Maghull before the Town Council said NO?

I really have no idea what figure Labour would have finally baulked at despite being a member of the Town Council as an opposition councillor. This Labour-run Town Council have made some tentative noises about concerns they may have about the Local Plan (which is dumping many hundreds of houses on the Town) yet the Council, in my view, is still a long long way from really fighting for the Town.

Green Belt campaigners outside Maghull Town Hall at a previous meeting.

Green Belt campaigners outside Maghull Town Hall at a previous meeting.

Last night we Lib Dems voted to oppose the Town Council’s submission to the Planning Inspector who will assess Sefton Borough Council’s Local Plan. We did so because the Town Council is still basically going along with the Plan whilst saying there could be a few issues around infrastructure that worries it. Not good enough.

That’s more like sitting on the fence than fighting for Maghull. I told Labour members that I would have far more respect for them had they fought and lost rather than not have fought at all. But they continue to hide behind their survey conducted in 2013, a survey we Lib Dems would not back as in our view it was flawed. And I would add it’s a survey which I am now told has had all its background data destroyed! Bearing in mind that I had asked to see this data quite some time ago and was told by the Council that the information was held by the Labour Party, I now find it has been disposed of. Read into that what you wish.

Our bottom line is that Maghull Town Council, under Labour, has not robustly stood up for the Town. It has not taken the fight to the Planning Officers of Sefton Council and Maghull is now going to have 100’s and 100’s of houses dumped on its Green Belt and high grade agricultural land. Why if the Town Council (then Lib Dem run) could fight and win a similar battle with the planners in 1998 did Labour think it was a good idea not to put up a fight this time around?

Frankly I can’t get my head around this socialism lark; it’s all smoke and mirrors. Labour having told Maghull folk they were going to save the Green Belt then vote to build on it via Sefton’s Local Plan! Party politics before local people is one answer but hang on a minute the local Labour MP says the Local Plan needs to go back to the drawing board or words to that effect. I reminded his councillor comrades of that last night and told them that on this I was with the MP over his advice to ditch the plan and and start again with a community based approach. However, just like last week at Sefton Council the MP’s councillors utterly ignored their own MP!

But don’t you feel that a Local Plan is a very municipal socialist thing for Labour to want to put together anyway? They love dictating what they think is good for us, trouble is this Plan is a hopeless Local Plan

Oh yes, a couple of other gems from last night. The environmental campaigners who attended last week’s Sefton Council to lobby against the Local Plan were criticised by Labour for not staying for the debate on Sefton Council’s budget. Environmental campaigners generally were also criticised by Labour for not opposing the new Switch Island to Thornton Link Road. The spurious link here being that Labour said the land could have been used for 600 house instead of the road. Yes, I can’t quite get my head around that argument either!

This carry on resembles a Brian Rix farce and Maghull is being very poorly served in my view. When it comes down to it did Maghull Town Council under Labour not put up a fight because their bosses (Bootle Labour) had already decided what was going to happen?

Filming Council Meetings – Not getting answers at Council meetings

www.youtube.com/watch?v=sVNgplfx0PE

The link above is to a You Tube video of a Parish Council meeting in Beyton.

If you watch and listen to it you can hear allegations being made but seemingly little coming back from the Council by way of answers. Yes, this is a parish pump type matter for that particular community and not necessarily a big issue outside of that community but it does go to the heart of openness in local government.

No doubt the councillors here were frustrated and wanted to move on to other business but why were the allegations not fully answered? It seems the Chair of the meeting was of the view that the allegations/questions were incorrect but, at least on this video, no explanation was offered as to why they were thought by the Council to be incorrect.

My view is that when a member of the public turns out for a Council meeting and asks questions they should get answers there and then even if greater clarification and information needs to passed over later. Surely we want a questioner to leave any council meeting thinking that they have been listened to and that the Council had tried to give answers without prevarication.

I say all this as one of the fundamental differences between the present Labour-run Maghull Town Council and the former Lib Dem run Council is this very issue. You see when we ran the Council we did try to engage with people who came to make representations and ask questions. We did try to answer questions and give out information. Under Labour the questioners are told they will not get an answer at the meeting but will be written to after it. When I recently asked the Town Clerk for copies of letters sent out to people raising matters during public participation sessions I was in effect told there were no such letters.

Recently a Maghull resident came to a meeting asking whether the lead political group (Labour) whipped its members to vote a particular way. He was told the answer would be provided later. I thought it only proper to write to the resident myself to confirm that the Lib Dem opposition group on the Council did not whip its members and they were free to say what they wanted as free thinking liberals. I wonder if he ever got a response from the Labour Group or the Council?

Openness and transparency is important as is the willingness to answer questions in public without prior notice of the questions.

Is Maghull’s greatest priority – a bandstand?

I have commented previously about this and frankly I can’t get my head around it at all.

In these days of Councils being short of a few bob why do Labour think that a bandstand, to be built in Maghull’s KGV Park, is a priority?

Yes, they have started some consultation on the matter but when Maghull Town Council struggles to fund deserving community voluntary projects why look to invest scarce resources in this way?

Alternatively, you could say with £500,000 in the bank why has Maghull TC cut back on its support for voluntary projects such as Maghull in Bloom?