Merseyside Leaders ‘On the Buses’ – But would they all want to be Reg Varney (Butler) driving off to 6 different destinations?

www.liverpoolecho.co.uk/news/liverpool-news/merseyside-bus-network-should-controlled-8979823

The Liverpool Echo has the story – see link above.

rsz_bus_009

Yes, great idea. As someone who thought Bus Deregulation was a disaster in the 1980’s I find this a positive step forward. BUT could we/would we trust the 6 Labour Council leaders on Merseyside to pull it off?

Remember they could not even agree to a name for their new Joint Authority, they bicker in public over matters they should resolve between themselves and they are seemingly not looked upon by Government as being capable of taking on devolved powers like Manchester.

Fine in principle but we don’t want to end up with a worse bus service than we have got now! Think long and hard before stepping onto a bus driven by Merseyside’s Labour Leaders.

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.

Liverpool – Joe has a big whinge – He’s not going to be a Metro Mayor

www.liverpoolecho.co.uk/news/liverpool-news/merseyside-missed-boat-metro-mayor-8592520

Cllr_Joe_Anderson,_Leader,_Liverpool_City_Council.jpeg

The Liverpool Echo has the story but in reality this is good news not bad. Why would any of the surrounding Boroughs want to be bossed about from Liverpool Town Hall? Having said that Sefton Council Labour seems to be backing Joe as it voted not to have a public ballot before any Metropolitan Mayor is imposed on Merseyside/The Liverpool City Region. But, if I am not mistaken, St Helens, Halton, Wirral and Knowsley Councils have all given Joe Anderson’s ambitions the elbow.

Devolution of powers has always been possible to Merseyside if the Labour Council Leaders and Liverpool’s Mayor could just stop bickering for a while. They could not so that’s why the opportunity may well have been lost. No one else to blame but them.

Who would have an elected Mayor? The Liverpool experience has not been a good one

www.liverpoolecho.co.uk/news/liverpool-news/liverpool-council-opposition-parties-unconvinced-8536519

Cllr_Joe_Anderson,_Leader,_Liverpool_City_Council.jpeg

The link above takes you to a Liverpool Echo article which is worth a read. Readers of this site will know how utterly opposed I am to the communities of Sefton being run from Liverpool Town Hall by a Metro Mayor.

And let’s be honest it’s no surprise that Merseyside’s Labour leaders are kicking lumps out of each other yet again in public:-

www.liverpoolecho.co.uk/news/liverpool-news/metro-mayor-war-words-liverpool-8548345

Liverpool City Region – Sefton Labour don’t want communities to have a vote before a Metro Mayor is imposed on Merseyside

One thing that had slipped my mind as Labour Council Leaders across Merseyside have been kicking lumps out of each other about whether our area will be bossed around by a Liverpool centric Metro Mayor is that there has actually been a vote on Sefton Council on this very matter.

It happened at a meeting I missed on 20th November but the result is quite illuminating. This is the what was being debated:-

It was moved by Councillor Brodie – Browne, seconded by Councillor Dawson:

“This Council believes that there should be no elected Mayors imposed upon communities such as the Borough of Sefton without the clear consent for such a constitutional change being agreed by the votes of the communities concerned.

The Council is concerned to avoid a piecemeal approach being adopted to the subject of devolution of government power to the North West Region and calls for the early establishment of a North West Constitutional Convention.”

ALL SEFTON’S LABOUR COUNCILLORS PRESENT VOTED AGAINST THIS MOTION!

Liverpool – Joe Anderson cuts a lonely figure as Merseyside Leaders isolate him.

www.liverpoolecho.co.uk/news/metro-mayor-st-helens-leader-8422491

www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/battle-lines-drawn-over-creation-of-metro-mayor-for-liverpool-9971225.html

The links above are to the Liverpool Echo and Independent newspapers and they paint a grim picture for Joe Anderson and indeed they do nothing for Liverpool and Merseyside.

Joe my well want to be the elected Mayor of Merseyside or the Liverpool City Region (call it what you will) but it must be pretty obvious to just about everyone that his views are not shared or supported much beyond his own campaign team.

This horrible row is no surprise though. Merseyside’s Labour Council Leaders sadly have a history of kicking lumps out of each other but I think we all wish they would put a sock in it. Do we really want to read week in, week out, that our local Leaders are at war with each other? Do they think their public rows are good for Liverpool and its surrounding communities?

This is not Toy Town politics it Toy City Region politics and no good will come of it.