Sefton Borough – Back to the old days & ways!

The East Parishes (Park, Sudell and Molyneux wards) of this Merseyside Borough played second fiddle (or even 3rd) to the coastal communities – Bootle, Crosby, Formby & Southport – from day one of the Borough’s creation in 1974. And after a period when this injustice was righted it seems that the old way of doing things in Sefton has been adopted again.

I raise this as things have been stirring in the Labour Party grasses in recent times as some of their East Parishes Borough and indeed Parish Councillors have found themselves at odds with the Labour-run Borough. It’s led, as far as I can see, to 3 Labour Borough councillors either leaving, being chucked out or deselected.

Obviously, I don’t know the detail of the troubles as I’m not a Labour member and indeed am an opponent of Labour as a Social Liberal of the left. However, recent events have brought me to the conclusion that things have reverted to how they were before I set about changing things back in 1999.

I won a seat on Sefton Council in 1999 in Molyneux ward and it did not take me long to realise that Sefton was all about its coastal communities and the East Parishes were just a bit of an irritant. My view was that this approach was both within the political parties and senior officers of the Council too; it looked to me like settled opinion and nothing would move it, or so it seemed. And then via a run of unrelated political events something that had never happened before took place – a Sefton Council Leader was elected from the East Parishes and it was me! Well if this was not the time to rebalance the Borough then it would never happen.

So I set about challenging the old political and senior officer outlook and at every opportunity banged away along the lines of ‘and what about the East Parishes’ when proposals came forward that excluded them. This approach slowly turned around the oil tanker that was Sefton Council and as a consequence we got Meadows Leisure Centre built and opened in 2010. I think I got what was then a balanced council (no political party with a majority) to look at the East Parishes as an equal partner. However, I stood down as Council Leader in May 2011 having done the job since 2004 and it did not take long for the old ways to start to regain traction. This happened because the Council was going back to the days of its leaders coming from one of the Borough’s political power bases (these had always been Bootle or Southport) and ever since I’ve felt the influence of the East Parishes slipping away. I would add that it was never my wish to make the East Parishes dominant, just simply to ensure they got their fair share.

I ‘left’ Sefton Council in 2015 at the invitation of the Park ward electorate (I’d moved East Parishes wards in 2011) as they’d had enough of me but that movement, back to the old ways, has sadly gained even more traction since and its the cause of the present difficulties. In my view, the 3 East Parishes wards need Borough Councillors who are a pain in the leadership’s neck otherwise the area will not be heard. It may well have taken rather too long for this penny to drop again but clearly, it has now! However, the big problem that the areas 9 Borough Councillors face now is that they don’t have the advantage which I did. That advantage was the then balanced council where the 9 (then Lib Dem members) could be an effective awkward squad with one being the Council Leader!

I wish those who are challenging not only Sefton Council but the political leaders of their own former party well and I hope they find a way to recreate the kind of rebalancing of the Borough that I managed back in the day.

Community ‘Fair Deal Campaign’ pits Maghull Labour v Sefton Labour

Having been involved in politics here on Merseyside since 1980, one of the many things I’ve learned is that whilst the Labour Party fight like ferrets in a sack internally they always, always try to put forward a united front in public.

But hey, things may be changing as Maghull Labour are rightly trying to turn the screw on big brother Sefton Labour. You’d expect it to end in tears for Maghull Labour but let’s give them credit for standing up to Sefton Labour. I have a feeling that the Maghull Town Council/Sefton Borough Council relationship may be getting a little fractious.

So what’s the conflict all about? Well, a community ‘Fair Deal campaign’, with Labour-run Maghull Town Council taking the lead, has been launched because, well to put it bluntly, Sefton Council (also Labour controlled) has in my view been diddling the communities of Maghull, Lydiate and Aintree Village* for a few years now

And by the way, for the benefit of any doubt, I’m very much supportive of the campaign. My recent blog posting regarding ‘Double Rating’ makes the point and here’s a link to it:-

tonyrobertson.mycouncillor.org.uk/2022/02/14/double-rating-maghull-lydiate-aintree-a-history-of-ups-and-downs/

I also had a letter published in the North Liverpool Champion newspaper on 16th March on the same subject.

Here are some scans of the campaign leaflet that’s presently being delivered around Maghull, Lydiate and Aintree Village (you’ll need to click on each scan to enlarge for reading):-

As I pointed out in both my blog posting (linked above) and in my letter to the Champion Newspaper, whilst austerity was the reason given for the ‘Double Rating’ being withdrawn in reality the formula for it simply needed adjusting to take into account Sefton Borough Council’s reduced expenditure on its own parks and gardens. The total withdrawal of DR was simply wrong and I opposed Labour’s move to do that when I was a Sefton Councillor because it meant Maghull, Lydiate & Aintree Village council taxpayers were being disadvantaged. Here’s the relevant part of the submission made by Lydiate Parish Council explaining that very fact:-

a) To continue to make the payments but at a lower level commensurate with the reduced standards of grounds maintenance that the Borough has already budgeted for and may well budget for in the future. This option would mean that all of Sefton’s communities would be treated the same by the Borough Council no matter whether the parks and gardens are run by Borough or Parish Council.

Looking at the party politics is interesting because the area of Sefton Borough covered by this campaign is known as the East Parishes and it has 3 Borough Council wards – Park, Sudell and Molyneux. Until recently these 3 wards had 3 Labour members in each (total of 9) but 2 of the councillors (1 in Park, 1 in Molyneux) have parted company with Labour, sitting now as Independents. I suppose the question is what will the 7 East Parishes wards Labour members of Sefton Council do if the issue comes to a vote on the Borough Council? This question assumes, of course, that Labour-run Sefton Council doesn’t capitulate and pay up, which I hope they will.

Anyway, back to the campaign. You’ll have noticed the reference to the ‘New Homes Bonus’, ‘Section 106’ and the 1700 new homes to be built in Maghull from the scanned leaflet. The issue for me here is that as a former Maghull Town Councillor myself, I ran the successful campaign to stop the very same ‘Land East of Maghull’ being developed back in 1998**. I didn’t see Labour-run Maghull Town Council opposing/campaigning against Sefton Council’s most recent and successful bid to build on the land, which they (Sefton) won, almost without a shot being fired! In other words, there’s a certain amount of shutting stable doors after the horse has bolted going on here.

So there you have it, the party political tectonic plates are shifting in Labour-run Sefton and in ways that would have seemed inconceivable not so long ago. My feeling is that all may not be well with Keir Starmer’s seeming bid to take the Labour Party to a centre-right position in UK politics and this may be causing some of the local Labour Party unrest. If all this unrest resolves a great injustice for the East Parishes council taxpayers of Sefton Borough then some good will have come from it.

* I note Melling Parish Council is seemingly not involved in this campaign and wonder why. I say this as at one time Melling PC did get some Double Rating money for the wild-flower meadow they maintained on Melling Rock. Maybe they no longer have responsibility for it?

** That was during the development of what was then called the Sefton’s Unitary Development Plan. The new plan, which this time has approved the building on this vast piece of high-grade agricultural land, is called the Sefton Local Plan. I opposed the Local Plan as a Sefton Councillor (and after I’d been invited to leave the council by the electorate) as this piece of land is high-grade agricultural land that grows the food we eat.

Bridges, bridges & more footbridges

I blogged a while back about Lydiate footpath No.5, which links Southport Road to Eagar Lane, as a bridge over a stream needed replacing. Here’s a link back to that posting:-

tonyrobertson.mycouncillor.org.uk/2021/07/01/lydiate-footpath-no-5/

Well, it took a bit longer but the new bridge is now in place. However, concerns have been raised that the step up to the bright blue bridge is too high at around 14 inches**. Lydiate Parish Cllr. Edie Pope* tells me that a Sefton Council officer agrees it’s too high a step so I’m guessing that an additional step will be added? Here’s Edie at the bridge:-

I’ve been wondering why the bridge is bright blue as not so far away a couple of footbridges on paths linking Lydiate, The River Alt and Ince Blundell have also just been replaced and they are a far more discrete brown colour – see below:-

No, I’m not asking for a repaint, just curious about why some footbridges are brown and some blue.

* A section of this footpath actually runs along the boundary of Cllr. Edie Pope’s Church View Farm and she tells me that at some point in the distant past before she owned the land the footpath seems to have been moved from one side of the stream to the other. This must be back in Lancashire County days i.e. well prior to local government reorganisation in 1974. This being the case, if the path had been on the other side of the stream, there would have been no need for a bridge.

** Many local footpath bridges have steps up to them and I have previously pondered on this, amongst other reasons, being a form of obstruction to deter motorcycles. Our historic footpath network in England has never been disability friendly so such steps usually don’t make the paths any more inaccessible. It’s only very modern public rights of way where disability has been/is catered for.

Lydiate’s 1994 Centenary

Lydiate Parish Council celebrated its centenary back in 1994 and a civic service was organised to mark the milestone. Parish Councils were created via Gladstone’s 1894 Act of Parliament, Lydiate is one of the original 1894 Civil Parishes.*

Above is the front cover of the pamphlet produced for the event. I recall many of the names on the Parish Council back then as I was, back in 1994, a neighbouring Maghull Town** Councillor. Some of the members from 1994 still live in Lydiate whilst others have sadly passed on or have left Lydiate***.

I’ve not scanned the whole pamphlet into this posting (the order of service has been omitted) but here are the other pages which may be of interest:-

Please click on each scanned page of the pamphlet to enlarge it for reading.

* More Parish Councils have been created since then. Locally, Hightown PC and Formby PC are later additions to Sefton Borough’s present list of 10 such councils. Oddly, one Parish Council in the Borough (Netherton) was abolished quite some years back.

** Parish and Town Councils are exactly the same in terms of powers and functions, the only difference being that a Town Council elects a Mayor and a Parish Council a Chairperson.

*** I’ve lost contact with my old friends Ray and Hazel Hughes; Ray being PC Chairperson at the time of the Centenary. They moved to either Haskayne or Halsall within the past couple of years. If anyone has their contact details please contact me via e-mail – t3robertson@gmail.com

Note – A copy of the 1994 pamphlet was given to me recently by Peter Gibson – Thank you Peter.

Maghull/Lydiate – Cycling the A59/Northway

This is a subject I’ve blogged about quite a few times previously. It’s one where progress is being made yet some confusion seems to surround it (as well as some significant gaps) so I’ve taken up a number of queries with Sefton Council once again. Here’s the current situation as I understand it to be:-

Starting at Switch Island the cycle path/track has been upgraded over almost all of the stretch to the traffic-lighted junction with Liverpool Road South (Alt Junction) yet odd things have clearly not been done. There’s a stretch of maybe 100 yards over the River Alt where the track/path has not been widened yet either side of this isolated stretch has been. Moving towards the Liverpool Road Sth junction there’s no signage showing cyclists how to safely cross L’pool Rd Sth to access the safe cycling route (or for drivers to be aware too) along the service road to reach Hall Lane junction.

When you reach the Hall Ln junction, having used the service road, again there’s no signage for cyclists to access the recently widened footpath/shared pedestrian/cycle space northwards towards the newly rebuilt Damfield Lane junction. Indeed, there are no signs to say that the widened path is indeed a shared pedestrian/cycling space.

Looking southwards towards Maghull Town Hall/Hall Lane junction with the new and widened shared space path.

There’s presently no cycle track/path north of the Damfield Ln junction to the Westway junction so we’ll leave that section out for now pending Sefton Council finding the resources to provide such.

North of the Westway junction there is a safe cycling route, again using the A59/Northway service road, to the Dodds Ln junction and beyond that but not as far as the Kenyons Ln junction so there’s another missing link. An aside here is that a traffic engineer tells me that they’ve tried to tweak the traffic lights at this junction so that the pressure pads better recognise cyclists.

Kenyons Ln junction

North of the Kenyons Ln junction, again there’s no safe cycle facility to the next junction at Robins Island, however, whether I like it or not (and I don’t) the agricultural land abutting this section of the A59/Northway (known locally as ‘Tyson’s Triangle’) is to have a new housing estate built upon it. However, the silver lining here is that it throws up the distinct possibility of Sefton Council being able to negotiate with the developers via what is termed a Section 106 agreement. It means the developer will need to pay for some local infrastructure improvements and I’ve thrown my two penneth in along the lines of some of that money being used to create a safe cycling route between Kenyons Ln and Robins Island. I’ve also asked Sefton Council to extend the cycle path, which is already in place north of Robins Island, back into Liverpool Road so that cyclists are no longer forced to use either the pavement or Robins Island. This is really a minor piece of work but it will make a significant difference for cyclists.

So there you have it. The goodish news is that I’ve been able to engage in a dialogue with some of the traffic/highway engineers at Sefton Council to discuss these issues and I’m pleased to say that we seem to be on a similar agenda. Indeed, I was delighted when one of the engineers told me that he is a fellow cyclist so he clearly understands things from a cyclist’s perspective.

I don’t know how long it will be before there’s a clearly built and signed cycle track/path alongside the whole of the A59/Northway corridor from Switch Island to the West Lancashire boundary, which is just north of Robins Island, but I’m more hopeful than I have been for a long time that the campaign to have it constructed is making slow if steady progress.

More news when I have it.

Tony Devine RIP

Lydiate Parish Councillor Tony Devine at Sandy Lane Playing Field- Photo early 2000’s

Tony Devine was a stalwart of the community in Lydiate where he had lived for many a year.

A retired teacher, he spent a considerable number of years as a Lydiate Parish Councillor serving as Vice Chairman. After he decided to leave the council he continued to serve the community as a leading light within Lydiate Bowls Federation.

Lydiate Parish Councillors back in the late 1990’s when Tony was on the Council – Robbie Fenton, Pat Foster and Tony

I first got to know Tony in The SDP/Liberal Alliance days. I recall his house being used during a by-election on polling day but whether that was in the Alliance days or later when the parties merged to form the Liberal Democrats I’m not sure.

I last saw Tony out walking the lanes of Aughton with his lovely wife Dot back in the spring whilst I was out cycling. I stopped, we had a chat and I recall thinking back then that Tony looked well, so you can imagine how surprised I was to be told that he was very seriously ill only two or three weeks ago. Moving on it really shook me when I was told that sadly Tony had died.

A good and decent man who cared about his community.

RIP Tony Devine