Aughton/Lydiate – Lancashire/Sefton

A countryside walk down Sudell Lane recently brought this interesting boundary marker into view:-

an-unusual-aughton-lydiate-or-lancs-sefton-boundray-marker

Click on the photo to enlarge it

It was by the side of Sudell Brook which forms the boundary between the Civil Parishes of Aughton and Lydiate and of course the County of Lancashire and Metropolitan Borough of Sefton in Merseyside.

It seems to be of reasonably modern design to me, so I wonder who had it made? Aughton Parish Council? Whomever did it I think its a nice touch and baring vehicle accidents it should be there for generations.

The photo is also amongst my Flickr photos at:-

www.flickr.com/photos/86659476@N07/

Southport – Planning for a positive future

birkdalefocus.blogspot.co.uk/2016/02/the-british-lawnmower-museum-and-town.html

Above is a link to the blog site of my good friend Cllr. Iain Brodie Brown, please take a moment to click the link and read his posting. It is pure community politics to my mind.

Southport viewed from the end of its pier

Southport viewed from the end of its pier

Click on the photo to enlarge it

There can be little doubt that the towns/boroughs surrounding Liverpool have not benefited from being a part of the Liverpool City Region. Indeed, my own view is that centralising power in Liverpool as both Tories and Labour are planning for, with a Metro Mayor, could well be the road to ruin for places like Southport St. Helens, Birkenhead, Maghull, Formby, Prescot etc.

Whilst Iain’s posting is all about what needs to be done to give Southport a bright future his fundamental concerns could well be about any of Liverpool’s satellite communities that sit outside of the Liverpool City Council boundary.

Centralising power and influence in Liverpool will just not work, except for Liverpool itself. Unlike the Greater Manchester communities, which mostly seem look towards Manchester, the same can’t be said of Merseyside. Southport has always seen its connections with Preston and Lancashire as being of great importance but it was wrenched away from such historical links by local government reorganisation in 1974. Much of Wirral Borough has historic connections with Chester and Cheshire but it too was forced into Merseyside.

Merseyside because of its odd geographic shape was never likely to be a runner as a viable unit of local government and the years that have passed since 1974 have only proved that theory correct. Sefton, itself a strange collection of diverse communities, realised this some years ago and it began a process of decentralisation. Bizarrely though Labour then slammed this process into reverse when its Bootle based party took control of the Council. What was their motivation to say ‘the Borough will work well as a one size fits all because we say it will’ not least because this approach had failed miserably when first tried?

Presently we are seeing the start of a process to take 1000’s of civil service jobs out of Netherton, St Helens and Bootle for them all to be centralised in Liverpool. Liverpool’s gain will be big losses for Sefton and St Helens Boroughs.

Make no mistake the Tories are wedded to cities being made more powerful at the expense of their surrounding towns and boroughs. What’s more Labour are pretty much behind this process, why else did the 6 Labour Council Leaders on Merseyside sign up to a 3rd rate devolution deal?

Towns surrounding big cities need investment, public and private, not dependency on the nearest City because that is the road to ruin except for the big cities of course.

The photo above is amongst my Flickr shots at:-

www.flickr.com/photos/86659476@N07/

Sefton Council – So this is the Bootle Bunker

Last Thursday Cllr. Fred Weavers and I went to observe a meeting of Sefton Council’s Cabinet at Bootle Town Hall, known to some as the ‘Bootle Bunker’.

The meeting lasted all of 27 minutes by my watch but some important issues were on the table before the 7 person Cabinet (all Labour, all representing Bootle Constituency), which for the record is made up of 6 middle aged men and one young woman. I mention gender balance as I understand that Labour has previously had a pop at Aintree Village Parish Council for a perceived gender imbalance. Those who live in greenhouses should not chuck stones comes to mind……..

Sefton's Bootle Bunker

Click on the photo to enlarge it.

A Sefton Cabinet meeting is never likely to be entertaining but they are all open to the public to attend. So what happened at this one? Here are a few highlights:-

Item 4 (Public Health Annual Report 2014) – Page 15 of this document (Page 35 of the Cabinet meeting papers) annoyed me as it tried to say that the Sefton Local Plan ‘promotes accessible open green space so children and families can enjoy the outdoors’ – That is of course if you ignore the acres of green fields that are to be built upon under our Labour ruler’s plan!

Item 5 (Adult Substance Misuse Contract Extension) – Some ‘underperformance’ by the present contractor was in the Key findings but the Cabinet did not ask for details, which I thought odd.

Item 7 – (Child Sexual Exploitation) Quite a bit of discussion over this report and it is also going to the Council’s Overview & Scrutiny (Children’s Services) Committee on 31st March. A Council officer spoke at length about it and answered the Cabinet’s queries but what stood out for me was the use of Merseyside-centric speak.

It was as though it had not occurred to the Council that places like Southport and Lydiate have huge boundaries with Lancashire and that child exploitation does not recognise council boundaries. From what was said you could only conclude that there is little or no liaison with Lancashire (shades of the Local Plan)! I fear the Sefton Council Bootle bunker has its face turned only to look at things from a Merseyside perspective when, as I have said many times before, Lancashire needs to be just as important a partner for Sefton Borough.

The only mention of Lancashire was that they, as a neighbouring authority, do not need to tell Sefton if they are placing children in homes within Sefton. There is clearly a concern about the number of private children’s homes within the Borough as the young residents of them are seemingly potentially more vulnerable to child exploitation than other sections of child population. As far as I could understand Sefton has only a very small number of children who are subject to child sexual exploitation plans. Clearly this report was very much written on the back of those horrible events in Rotherham. Frankly, I thought the Cabinet dealt with this most serious of matters well but oh if they could only open their eyes to encompass all the local authorities surrounding Sefton!

There were no confidential items on the agenda so we sat through all the meeting.

Borough of Sefton – What a mixture of diverse communities that have little in common with each other

The debate about the future of Sefton Borough has recently been ignited again by Southport Councillors calling for the Borough to be split. I share their frustrations despite living in Lydiate and representing Maghull and Lydiate on Sefton Council.

This wall art is on a former railway now pedestrian tunnel behind Bootle's New Strand Shopping Centre. Sadly it has gained a little unwanted graffiti.

This wall art is on a former railway now pedestrian tunnel behind Bootle’s New Strand Shopping Centre. Sadly it has gained a little unwanted graffiti.

Sefton is an odd place geographically and my guess is that few would suggest otherwise. It is, of course, this odd geography that is in many ways the underlying problem. At one end we have the seaside resort of Southport and at the other the northern part of the Port of Liverpool in Bootle. Between are numerous communities many of which are agricultural by their history but which are now very much part pf Liverpool’s commuter belt.

Sefton Council's Logo

Sefton Council’s Logo

Sefton started its tormented life as a troubled child of the infamous 1974 local government reorganisation. Frankly, it has rarely been happy with itself since despite now being a middle-aged 41. Many folk resented being taken out of Lancashire and that cry can still be heard pretty much across the Borough.

Two places strike me as being more out of place in Sefton than maybe others are, although this is just a personal view and other people may hold differing but just as valid views. My two are Southport and Lydiate. The Southport case has been rehearsed many, many times and it is no surprise that this large former County Borough resents being ruled by folks who live miles away as is the case at present with Sefton Council’s Cabinet all representing Bootle Constituency seats.

The Southport issue is, therefore, amongst other things, about the loss of former power and control over its own destiny and being ruled by others who don’t have any affinity with the Town. Having said that one counter-argument that can’t be forgotten is that Southport would not have gained European money to the extent that it did (by being in Merseyside) had it been outside of what is now called the Liverpool City Region. An issue for me now is that West Lancashire is not also an equal partner within the City Region. This means that virtually all of Southport’s hinterland is outside of Sefton and Merseyside and to all intents and purposes behind a ‘Cold War’ type invisible wall.

cropped-Lydiate-Parish-Council-Logo-e1372273297819

Lydiate is an interesting example of Borough’s bizarre geography as its only land connection to Sefton and therefore Merseyside is via a short boundary with Maghull. Its far larger boundary, in effect the other 3 sides of the community is with West Lancashire. Out on a limb is one way of putting it.

The challenges that Southport and Lydiate share are mainly caused by the invisible local government wall which is their boundary with Lancashire. Over the years Sefton Council has become increasingly Merseyside-centric and the much-needed closer working with Lancashire/West Lancashire has become little more than throwing notes tied to stones over that invisible barrier. This ‘we don’t do business with Lancashire’ approach is now firmly rooted in Sefton’s local government officers so it is not just a politicians issue. Despite Lydiate Parish Council striving to keep up links with its West Lancs Parish neighbours and Southport councillors wanting to re-establish working relationships with Lancashire County & West Lancs Borough Councils (that are at least as comprehensive as those which Sefton Council has with Knowsley and Liverpool Councils) the pull of what Merseyside wants always wins.

At one point it was possible that the Local Government Boundary Commission may have recommended that our Borough be split but it backed away from that in favour of telling Sefton to decentralise itself and empower its diverse communities. It was supposed to be the end of ‘one size fits all’ Sefton Borough and for a while it was with Area Committees being set up and Parish Councils (10 of them now and all in the middle of the Borough) being brought into the Sefton family rather than being seen as troublesome beggars who rarely got more than a pat on the head!

St. Helen's Church, Sefton Village, where the Borough gets its name from.

St. Helen’s Church, Sefton Village, where the Borough gets its name from.

I think if fair to say that Labour went along with decentralisation because they felt they had to rather than being of the view that it was a good thing in itself. Of course, centralising power is the Labour way so it was no surprise they were at best highly suspicious of giving it away. The Tories too were hardly keen but with the Lib Dems being decentralisers by nature the Council, which was in balanced for many years, found a way forward.

When Labour took control of the Council though you could almost feel the process of decentralisation being reigned in the following day. This was no surprise to those of us close to the action. Labour’s power base was and is in the Old Labour heartland of Bootle where Tony Blair’s New Labour was seemingly hated as much as Margaret Thatcher. So much so that I recall Labour members of Sefton Council joyfully shouting that they were ‘Old Labour’ at Council meetings during Blair’s rule. The point being that Old Labour wanted power and they wanted it in as few of their own hands as possible – Decentralisation was definitely off the agenda once Labour took control.

So a few years on is there any wonder that folks from places like Southport are unhappy? They have every reason to be unhappy, in my view, as the process they tried to make work after the Boundary Commission’s fudge has not only ground to a halt but has been slammed into reverse!

For local governance to work it needs to be representative of all the communities is serves – Sefton Council is not representative and it certainly is not working for its diverse communities from my perspective.

Boundary signs – Seen in Tosside – A mixed message?

Boundary signs always make me wonder about the messages that are being delivered and how the visitor may see them. The one below is in Tosside in the Trough of Bowland – its seems to mix the messages of welcome and crime in one place.

rsz_mixed_messages

Not so long ago there was a boundary sign as you left Lydiate (Merseyside) and were entering Lancashire and it read ‘Lancashire a place where everyone maters’. It has now been replaced by another one that reads ‘Lancashire welcomes careful drivers’, like the one in the photo.

Apart from the cost of changing them (just think how many there must be in a vast place like Lancashire) do these vague ‘welcome’ messages really serve any purpose?

I can see the point of say a Town like Maghull making a big fuss on its boundary signs (hint, hint) about Frank Hornby because he created a worldwide brand that makes Maghull unique and lived in the community for many years. But really, ‘a place where everyone matters’, no wonder they took it down.

The photo is amongst my Flickr shots at:-
www.flickr.com/photos/86659476@N07/