Fracking – So do you think it’s a good idea? It’s really NOT!

Fracking is on our doorstep but how many folks really appreciate that and indeed the troubles that it could well cause in mid-Sefton and West Lancashire?

The process is advancing in Great Altcar, West Lancashire and at some point, subject to further permissions etc. a green light could be given to start fracking under our communities. Lydiate, Formby, Ince Blundell, Little Crosby, Hightown, Crosby, Little Altcar, Great Altcar, Maghull, Downholland are all within range for the process to take place below them.

But, have a look at this Channel 4 News video which details what has happened in Holland and then turn around and tell me, those of you who back fracking, that you are still happy for it to take place under your community.

www.channel4.com/news/why-the-dutch-are-ditching-gas-extraction

You may want to consider backing the work of the Moss Alliance if you are not doing already, who are trying to fight off fracking locally:-

themossalliance.org/

Lydiate Parish Council, on which I sit, has allocated £500 to assist the Moss Alliance in any legal battles they may fight as I have mentioned before on this blog site.

The trouble with Parish Councils

This posting follows my reading a very interesting piece by Joanie Willett titled ‘Parish Councils are a vital space for participatory democracy – but they are in crisis’ on LSE web site – here’s a link to the article:-

blogs.lse.ac.uk/politicsandpolicy/parish-councils-engagement/

Having continuously been a Parish Councillor since September 1985, firstly on Maghull Town Council (until 2015) and then on Lydiate Parish Council (to date) plus having been a Sefton Borough Councillor with Parish Councils in my wards this is a subject close to my heart. As well as being a member of 2 Parish Councils I’ve had varying degrees of interaction with the other 8 parishes in Sefton Borough – Melling, Aintree Village, Sefton, Thornton, Ince Blundell, Formby (which I had a small hand in setting up), Hightown and Little Altcar.

The interesting thing about this list of 10 Parish Councils within Sefton Borough is that they probably in their own way pretty much represent the wide range of Parish and Town Councils nationally in that Maghull is one of the largest in England, Lydiate, Formby and Aintree Village are medium sized with the other 6 being much smaller to differing degrees. When I talk about size I am particularly referring to the precept (amount of council tax) they charge and the services they are involved in delivering.

My view is that for parish councils (and I do take the trouble to seek out Parish Council noticeboards all over England) to continue to thrive they need to move with the times. Having been set up by Gladstone in 1894 I sometimes wonder whether some are still stuck in that era. Modern communities demand services being delivered to them and who better to deliver some of those services than your very local parish council, should you have one of course. Yes I know some parish councils are reluctant to take on powers and responsibilities but it is in my view the future. Parks, gardens, children’s play areas are an obvious thing they could/should be running in their communities but how about youth facilities, community halls/village halls, public toilets, street cleaning/litter picking etc. etc. Surely such essential community services are better managed and delivered at a very local level aren’t they? Of course there are parish councils across England delivering such services already and more.

But they need regular 4 yearly elections too not just have enough nominations so as not to have to hold an election. The churn of elections is good, it brings in new people, new ideas, helps things move along with the times. Oh and co-options for vacancies caused by resignations etc. need to be put a stop to as I’ve mentioned in a previous posting of not so long ago. Here’s that posting:-

tonyrobertson.mycouncillor.org.uk/2018/09/18/co-options-onto-parish-councils/

Too many parish councils are below the radar with the same usually well meaning people on them for generations. Goodness me I was on Maghull Town Council (a Town Council is exactly the same as a Parish Council other than it has a Mayor rather than a Chairperson) for 30 years and I faced many elections in that time period. But, and I kid you not, there will be some parish councillors who have never faced the electorate because they were co-opted onto their parish council and at each 4 yearly round of elections there will have been just enough nominations (or sadly in some case too few) for there to be no need of an election. This in my view is not healthy democracy.

But don’t let my grumbling about parish councils mislead you, I love them in all their quirky and diverse ways. No two parish councils are alike because whilst they exist under the same legislation they have each grown or ventured in they own ways. Borough, District and County Councils (whomever controls them politically) are creatures that are 95% (at least) the same as each other because they deliver statutory services on behalf of government. Parish Councils don’t deliver statutory services unless of course something has been devolved to them by a big brother Council. They don’t get government grants either. They are truly free to do what they think their community wants and needs and to raise money from the Council tax payers to do that work. Many simply see their role as being the voice of their community and they seek no other role, others do all kinds of things to try to better their communities.

I’m keen on devolution of powers to the lowest level of government commensurate with delivering quality cost effective services so I want to see parish councils saying we can do that in our community, whatever that may be that their particular community requires or thinks can be delivered better by their very local council.

There are great opportunities out there for parish councils to grasp and in many communities that grasping is happening with dynamic parish councils leading the way but in others little is happening other than a monthly grumble meeting about troubles in their community and how the District, Borough or County Council is not solving these troubles. The best solutions are nearly always the ones delivered by the people closest to the challenge/problem and often that will be a parish council. Oh if only more parish councils had the confidence and ambition to really lead their communities they could then seriously call themselves the level of democracy closest and most in touch with their community.

My thanks to Cllr. Bill Honeyman for making me aware of the LSE paper mentioned above.

Lydiate – Notes from a Small Parish

Yes I know, I could not help but pinch the title of Bill Byrson’s excellent book but it felt appropriate to me anyway.

I’ve not updated on the activities of the Parish Council for a while but as we have just had our October meeting here goes with a few notes:-

* We donated £73 to the WW1 Lydiate Project to help them produce 100 additional printed booklets on their work. Here’s a link to this primary schools based project:-

madcos.org.uk/project/ww1-lydiate/

By the way have you seen/read ‘Great War Britain – Liverpool – Remembering 1914-18’ by Lydiate historian Pam Russell? May well be worth tracking a copy down – it was published this year. The copy below was for sale in Liverpool Central Library:-

* After the Brexit carry on it will hardly be surprising if Lydiate folk look upon another referendum with a skeptical eye but there is going to another very local one early next year. It will just be for Lydiate voters and it will be regarding whether the community accepts the Neighbourhood Plan which the Parish Council has put together. I’ve blogged about these plans many times before – watch out for a polling card popping through your letter box.

* We have put £500 to one side, in effect pledged it, to the Moss Alliance to help pay for their legal costs against fracking. My previous posting on this matter is available via this link:-

tonyrobertson.mycouncillor.org.uk/tag/the-moss-alliance/

Sandy Lane Changing Rooms building

* The Parish Council continues to look for ways to improve the changing room facilities and indeed the old tennis courts at Sandy Lane Playing Field. I’ve mentioned this a number of times previously. Suffice to say that the project may now take the form of a small extension to the present building but with a far more substantial project to provide modern changing rooms and a multi use games area (MUGA) to follow. It all depends on funding and grants and it could take a while to bring this project forward.

* It looks like funding to help with the lighting of the Christmas Tree (actually its a holly tree) on the Village Green will no longer be provided by Sefton Council after Christmas 2019. There’s a challenge for Christmas 2020 and beyond….

Lydiate – Parish Council gets insight into Fracking

I’ve blogged about fracking previously and indeed mentioned The Moss Alliance who are organising the opposition to it locally.

Lydiate’s Park Ward Independent Sefton Councillor Pat O’Hanlon is a leading light within The Moss Alliance and she together with two other members of this voluntary campaigning group were at the last Lydiate Parish Council meeting. The group is trying to raise a significant amount of money to enable them to employ planning experts who will help the group effectively campaign against fracking. Here’s some details of their present Crowdfunder appeal:-

They were at the Parish Council meeting on 25th September to brief the Council on the current situation and the threats, as they see them, being faced by local communities in Sefton Borough should fracking go ahead in neighbouring Great Altcar Civil Parish.

Here’s a map showing where the well site will be situated in Great Altcar:-

And here’s the area covered by the license the fracking company holds for our part of the world:-

My apologies for the poor quality graphics which are caused by me copying handouts from The Moss Alliance.

As you can see a large area is covered by licence PEDL 164 so it is reasonable to expect that should the fracking go ahead locally that at some point it could well be underneath any or all of the communities within in it.

I’m firmly against fracking and I’m hopeful that Lydiate Parish Council will make a financial contribution towards The Moss Alliance at its next meeting. Here are some contact details for the campaign group:-

Renewables have to be the way forward, not more fossil fuels for our future energy requirements

Click on any of the photos to enlarge them

Co-Options onto Parish Councils

My heart always sinks when I see a Parish Council using its power of co-opting a person onto its Council. The power is used to fill a vacancy amongst the Parish Councillors caused by death, illness, disqualification, resignation etc. of an incumbent councillor. It’s never a good sign to see co-option taking place, in my view, because it means that local democracy is not working well and no one wants stand for election to fill the vacancy via a by-election.

My personal view is that this power should be withdrawn as it should have no place in a modern democracy.

Don’t get me wrong I’ve been on a Parish Council when co-options have taken place and yes I have gone along with them in the past. But the last time one came up on Lydiate Parish Council I voted against the co-option, not because I had a problem with the person concerned, how could I – knew nothing of them, but because I have grown to realise that co-option is not something I can continue to support. If someone is willing to be co-opted then they should also be willing to stand in a by-election where all the electorate of the Parish or ward of the Parish gets the opportunity to vote them in or not so long as more than one candidate stands for the vacancy of course.

I know co-option is favoured by many associated with Parish Councils because it saves on by-election costs but just think on that a minute because it’s side stepping democracy is it not?

And what made me think of this matter again now? Seeing a public notice for a Parish Councillor vacancy on Aughton Parish Council and along side it an agenda for a Parish Council meeting which had an item on it associated with making a co-option. I’m not trying to single out Aughton Parish Council by the way (it may well be one of the best Parish Councils in England for all I know) as co-option is common-place across many Parish Councils in England but I am saying that the practice should be brought to an end.

Lydiate – Progress with Multi Sports area and changing rooms at Sandy Lane Park

Sandy Lane Changing Rooms building in March 2016

I’ve not come back to this subject in a while as I’ve had little to report but things are moving again I’m happy to say. To recap my last posting from January this year said this:-

tonyrobertson.mycouncillor.org.uk/2018/01/13/lydiate-the-long-haul-to-try-to-address-sporting-deficiencies-at-sandy-lane-playing-field/

Last week The Parish Clerk, Parish Chairman and I met again with a representative of Liverpool County FA to take forward our discussions and seek their support for our project.

At present our two potential major funding partners are likely to be the Football Association and Sport England and we will be progressing applications to them over the coming weeks. The advice and assistance of Sefton Council’s Planning Dept. is also being taken up, so we hope to have a bigger picture of the project over the coming weeks and months.

This is the run-down condition of the Sandy Lane Park tennis courts surface. Could they be rebuilt as a multi-use games area – MUGA?

In simple terms we want to upgrade and enlarge the changing rooms so that they are accessible and suitable for women’s football as well as for men. The sad fact is that Sandy Lane’s changing facilities are inadequate to say the least, being very much from a previous era. We also want to upgrade the football pitches to deal with drainage problems and to turn what are presently run down tennis courts into a multi-sports area.

This continues to be a very big project and I’m sure the Parish Council will have to overcome all kinds of hurdles as it tries to bring it to fruition.

More news as I get it.