Crosby – What will become of that lovely old library

The now closed former College Road Library in Crosby is of course a Carnegie Library and it’s a building of some merit. So sad to see it stranding there empty. Out of the shot is a Sefton Council ‘To Let’ sign.

It’s not so long ago (2012) that a fierce community-based campaign was run to save the library from closure – I covered the campaign on this blog site – see link below:-

tonyrobertson.mycouncillor.org.uk/2012/11/22/save-our-libraries-a-look-at-college-road-library-in-crosby-sign-our-e-petition-at-www-seftonsays-co-uk/

I really do hope that a useful purpose can be found for this listed building, a long slow decline with minimum maintenance would be a terrible end.

Austerity as we think of it post the financial crash is far from being the whole story of the decline in council services

There is no doubt that austerity as either implemented by the Coalition Government (and then sadly pushed far, far harder by the present Tory Government) or indeed as outlined by Alistair Darling (his austerity would probably have been harsher than the Coalition’s some commentators say) on behalf of the Labour Party prior to the 2010 General election has had a huge impact on the ability of councils to deliver services.

But in fact there is a funding crisis that goes back much further than the financial crash of 2007 that has impacted on local authorities. That funding crisis is back in the headlines now but I recall it rearing its head almost every year that I was Sefton Borough Councillor during the budget setting process. In fact it was twofold i.e. children in care and care for the elderly.

Year on year senior council officers would present the need for extra money to be put into these two care budgets, often the amounts asked for, year in year out, would be have six 000,000’s behind them.

My point is that the elderly and children in care budgets have been eating further and further into council budgets for many, many years so austerity as far as local authorities are concerned did not start with the great financial crash but maybe 10 to 15 years prior to that.

And what made me think of this matter which must have been impacting on every local authority with responsibility for elderly/child care? Well two things really. The elderly care crisis is hitting the headlines yet again because politicians refuse to address it properly and have failed to do so for a least the last 20 years. And the other very local issue that made me think about it is the demise of public toilets and in particular the former award winning ones in Maghull.

Maghull's closed public toilets at the Square Shopping Centre.

Maghull’s closed public toilets at the Square Shopping Centre.

Public toilets have been in decline for a long time and the Maghull ones are an interesting and sad example not least because Sefton Council would once boast about them being award winners (Public Loo of the Year or some such award) back in the 1980’s. But since those days the Council’s focus, you could say its priority, has been slowly but surely moved towards funding the elderly and children in care.

What’s happened has been a creeping process whereby the amount of money each local authority has to spend on other services has got smaller and smaller as the budgets for elderly and children in care have got bigger. And this well before the consequences of austerity and the financial crash hit them via government grant cuts.

The thrust of government policy has in effect been to force local authorities to spend their money in these two key social care areas and on little else. Yes there’s no doubt that the austerity that followed the financial crash sped up this process beyond what anyone could have conceived but it had been a trend for a long time, one which was pursued by governments of all colours.

In reality local authorities (this does not include Town and Parish Councils – they don’t get an government grants) are now focused on delivering statutory services and have almost no money to deliver things that local people may want. Public toilets, for example, are a non-statutory service hence their demise across the UK.

Personally, I have thought that the funding of local authorities has been inappropriate for many years because they are in reality delivering two very different things i.e. local often non-statutory services for their communities and statutory services where they are in effect simply an agent delivering governmental/national services. The two got muddled up in the times of plenty and it did not seem to matter. However, in times of scarce money it is the local mainly non-statutory services that have been lost as the money has gone to prop up the statutory ones.

The former Aintree Library - closed by Sefton Council.

The former Aintree Library – closed by Sefton Council.

Sadly, it is more complex than that even because if you take the example of libraries they are a statutory service i.e. local authorities have to provide them. But the level to which they are provided is a different matter so Sefton Council was able to reduce it’s libraries from 13 to 6 without falling foul of the law not so long ago.

However you look at it local authorities are the fall-guys for austerity because governments of all colours over the past 20+ years have not funded statutory services, particularly adult/elderly social care, properly.

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.

Library closures in Liverpool – Let’s hope those wanting to save them are given the chance to do so

Remember Sefton Council going through this process and how badly I said it treated volunteers wishing to take over College Road Library (Crosby) and Aintree Library?

/www.liverpoolecho.co.uk/news/liverpool-news/proposals-rescue-liverpool-libraries-come-7906866

The Liverpool Echo has the story (see link above) of how folks are trying to save Liverpool’s threatened libraries.

Sadly this placard could also read 'NO' to volunteers taking over Aintree Library!

Sadly this placard could also read ‘NO’ to volunteers taking over Aintree Library!

I hope Liverpool’s elected Mayor Joe Anderson has more confidence in volunteers wanting to take over libraries than Sefton Labour did when they dismissed the volunteer bids in an appalling way.

Can volunteers save Whiston Library (Knowsley Borough) when in Sefton its Labour rullers told volunteers to sling their hook?

www.liverpoolecho.co.uk/news/community-group-campaigning-save-merseyside-7668726

The Liverpool Echo has the story – see link above.

This sadly takes me back only a few months to the farcical situation that two volunteer groups faced in Sefton when they tried to take over Aintree and College Road (Crosby) Libraries. The bottom line was that Labour-run Sefton was simply not going to let them.

I really do hope that Labour-run Knowsley is prepared to give their volunteers the chance that Labour-run Sefton was not prepared to do. I would hate to think of more volunteers being given the run-around.

Labour – There’s a lot to protest about in Sefton!

There have been a quite a number of public protests in recent years across the Borough of Sefton against things like:-

The Post Office closure programme pursued under the last Labour Government which saw Maghull and Lydiate having 4 Post Offices axed:- Below are Lib Dem protestors fighting for the former Coronation Road Post Road Post Office in Lydiate.

rsz_protesting_about_labours_post_office_closures_in_lydiate

Labour-run Sefton Council’s plan to close public toilets across the Borough. This fight was won by campaigners like those pictured below:-

rsz_toilet_campaign_02_13_lab

Labour’s £46 Green Bin tax for Sefton. This was fought off in the Summer of 2013 but the comrades are expected to try to bring it back once again having only deferred it:- Cllr. Bruce Hubbard is pictured below with his massive petition against the green bin tax which caused Labour to lose 2 council by-elections to the Lib Dems in Maghull.

rsz_bruce_green_bin_petition_pile

Building on Sefton’s Green Belt. Labour have got into big trouble over this by saying they would defend it whilst voting to build on it! Talk about being found out! Below are environment protestors lobbying a Sefton Council meeting at Maghull Town Hall. They were ignored!

rsz_green_belt_protestors_outside_maghull_th_06_06_13

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

A petition against building on Green Belt being presented to Cllr. Dave Russell Chairman of Lydiate Parish Council.

A petition against building on Green Belt being presented to Cllr. Dave Russell Chairman of Lydiate Parish Council.

Then there’s the hugely unpopular library closure programme pursued by Sefton Labour Party on the Council. 7 Libraries have been closed and Labour have even refused to let volunteer community groups run two of the closed libraries!

Sadly this placard could also read 'NO' to volunteers taking over Aintree Library!

Sadly this placard could also read ‘NO’ to volunteers taking over Aintree Library!

rsz_protesting_about_library_closures_-_southport

The photo above was taken outside Southport Town hall as protestors tried to save 3 libraries in the Town from closure. Sadly, like the Green Belt protestors, they were ignored.

Lib Dem campaigners fighting Labour's library axe

Lib Dem campaigners fighting Labour’s library axe

Yes, there is a lot to protest about in the Bootle-dominated, Labour-run socialist republic of Sefton.