Sefton Central Area Committee – It’s still a poor excuse for localism.

A 3-monthly Sefton Central Area Committee came around again last Thursday. This time the mini-conference (for that is what it is) was held in Maghull Town Hall yet all of the items of substance for residents were with regard to Formby and Crosby!

I was only able to stay for half the meeting as I needed to go to see an elderly chap whom I help to look after. I have the feeling that I was the lucky one though as others sat through more than I.

Participants in last Thursday's Sefton Central Area Committee

Participants in last Thursday’s Sefton Central Area Committee

So what did I see and hear?

I raised a correction with regard to the minutes of the previous meeting as ‘Maghull’ had been quoted instead of ‘Lydiate’ when identifying a location in them. Some Labour members at the meeting seemed to find this correction amusing – I know not why.

Parish Councillor David Warren of Hightown complained it took a 6 month wait to get a reply from Sefton Council over a matter he had raised!

I raised a question during the Police Report about a recent raid on a property in Church Lane Lydiate.

Bellway Homes took some stick over their activities in Formby. Complaints about the behaviour of their workforce were made by residents and Independent Cllr. Maria Bennett.

Cllr. Steve Kermode and I also raised continuing concerns about motorbikes on the Cheshire Line Path and the tow path of the Leeds Liverpool Canal with the Neighbourhood Police. We both know that the Police have a tough job to catch the nutters who make the canal tow path and Cheshire Lines path so dangerous with their motorbikes and appreciated the response of Inspector Phil Hatton. Steve and I may be in very different political parties but we often seem to on the same hymn sheet about local matters.

Aintree Village Parish Councillor Peter Gill reported on the voluntary library that is now operating out of Aintree Youth and Community Centre following Labour’s disgraceful closure of Aintree Library and their utter refusal to allow volunteers to take that building over. So despite the Sefton Council the community in Aintree and Melling have set up their own voluntary library that Sefton can’t close or disapprove of. But did I notice Labour councillors approving of the new voluntary library even though their Party stopped one from from being formed, I think I did!

Another item on the agenda was the new Parish Charter which allegedly forms the basis of an agreement between Sefton Council and the 10 Parish Councils in the Borough about how they will interact with each other. Good luck with that then is the best I can say as the previous publication of this Charter, which I had a hand in writing, was unceremoniously (and rightly) ripped up in front of Sefton’s Labour-run Cabinet not so long ago following them treating Aintree Village Parish Council like something you may find on the sole of a shoe! Labour don’t do partnerships with any organisation that does not carry a Labour Party membership card in my experience and their removal of grants to some of Sefton’s Parish Councils now means that the residents of those Parishes are paying for some local services twice.

But to return to the meeting where Formby residents had been forced to travel Maghull to raise their very local concerns……if that’s localism then I am a Dutchman as the saying goes.

We simply do not want volunteers to run Council services, what other conclusion can you come to?

I have posted quite a few times about the roller coaster of a ride that Aintree Village Parish Council has had with Sefton Borough as it has tried, unsuccessfully so far, to take over the running of Aintree’s local Library.

To recap the plan was to take over Aintree library, one of 7 that Labour-run Sefton Borough had decided to close, and run it with volunteers and Parish Council finance. All was going well and the bid was seemingly being welcomed but then the Borough (i.e. Labour) started to put all kinds of obstacles in the way.

Eventually Sefton decreed that Aintree Library could not be taken over by volunteers, funded by Aintree Village PC, because there was no guarantee in place for funds to be available for 5 years. No if’s, no but’s, put 5 years funding on the table or sling your hook was seemingly the Borough’s attitude.

Things went from bad to worse in the relationship between the Borough and Parish and the local Parish Charter, which had been ignored anyway, was ripped up in front of the Borough’s Cabinet by an Aintree Parish Councillor.

But underneath all this something very odd was going on as another library was down to be taken over by volunteers and they also got told to shut the door after they left. This one was not in a Parished part of the Borough (it was College Road Library in Crosby). The common denominator was volunteers and them being seen to be unreliable, so much so that they were not given a chance to have a go at running their respective libraries despite both groups having significant business and professional input from the two reasonably affluent communities.

A Sefton Full Council meeting debated volunteers taking over Council facilities, at my instigation, but it became quite clear to me that the Council’s ruling Labour Party held the view that they were not having any of their services, even ones they say they can no longer afford to run, being taken over by volunteers.

The matter concluded, for now at least, with a Sefton Scrutiny Committee going through the motions of examining the matter and then the majority Labour members of it voting to back the Cabinet decision without any really meaningful in depth and independent reviewing of the situation what so ever. Or put it another of the 70 odd questions submitted raising concerns about the process of reviewing the 2 volunteer bids, how many do think came from Labour Councillors? Less than say one………..

So in Sefton which, not so long ago, was developing a good relationship with its 10 Parish Councils and its diverse communities an about face has been done with Parishes and indeed volunteers being shown the door. So much for parish charters, localism and volunteering in the Borough.

This article was originally written for and published on a differing web site.