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.