Sefton Focus Review of 2018

It’s always interesting to look back at a year just ending – lessons can always be learned from history (even very recent history) but that’s a piece of traditional advice many of our present-day politicians really seem to struggle with.

So let’s look back at the past 12 months via 12 Sefton Focus postings – each month has a link back to my original posting. It’s my personal take on 2018:-

January – A celebration of everything Hornby:-

In the Hornby Room at Meadows Leisure Centre Maghull – Michael Portillo with Frank Hornby Trust Chairman Les French as seen on TV this year.

Well, I had to start this review with the TV programme which put Maghull firmly on the map. I refer of course to the Town being a part of one of Michael Portillo’s Great Railway Journeys celebrating the life and works of Maghull’s most famous resident – Toy maker Frank Hornby:-

tonyrobertson.mycouncillor.org.uk/2018/01/18/maghull-hornby-as-seen-on-tv/

February – Pavement Politics:-

We Libs are known for our ‘pavement politics’ so it’s no surprise that in February I was going on about pot-holes! Sadly, as we shall see later, a pot-holed/poorly maintained road which I mentioned back in Feb’ ended up being a contributory factor to a cyclist’s death later in the year.

tonyrobertson.mycouncillor.org.uk/2018/02/26/the-state-of-our-road-surfaces-on-your-bike/

March – Youth and CAB make way for Police:-

The move of Maghull’s Police Station from Westway into Maghull Town Hall, facilitated by Labour-run Maghull Town Council, made my blood boil because a successful CAB help point (still not replaced when we were told it would be) and a unique youth facility (a Youth Coffee Bar run by local young people) were both lost to make way for the boys and girls in blue.

tonyrobertson.mycouncillor.org.uk/2018/03/24/maghull-cheering-on-the-new-police-station-no-remembering-what-we-lost-to-rehouse-the-police/

April – Oh for decent services on the Southport-Wigan-Manchester line:-

Departure board at Southport Station.

Railways have always been of great interest to me and I’ve been a member of OPSTA for many years now. Their campaigning to bring about a decent train service from Southport to Wigan and Manchester has been long-running and as I type it still is. This was the state of things back in April BEFORE the complete melt-down of the May timetable changes. Note – I think it fair to say that Merseytravel have now upped their game a little regarding services on this line but the reliability of it (It’s run by Northern Trains) is still very poor indeed.

tonyrobertson.mycouncillor.org.uk/2018/04/18/southport-loss-of-trains-to-manchester-airport-and-piccadilly-seems-merseytravel-has-form-here/

May – Did Merseytram burn Merseytravel’s fingers?:-

This promotional Merseytram bookmark is about all that Liverpool City Region has to show for its big tram ideas.

In May I mused about the lack of significant public transportation developments across the Liverpool City Region and pondered on whether the failed Merseytram project burnt Merrsytravel’s fingers too hard.

tonyrobertson.mycouncillor.org.uk/2018/05/25/merseytravel-did-merseytram-knock-the-stuffing-out-of-innovative-progressive-transport-planning-in-the-city-region/

June – Canal Breach in Melling:-

The Leeds Liverpool Canal breached in the Waddicar part of Melling during June, stopping the many pleasure boats that use the canal during the summer season. The canal was closed for quite a few weeks whilst repairs were undertaken by the canal and River Trust.

tonyrobertson.mycouncillor.org.uk/2018/06/13/melling-canal-breach-this-mornings-photos/

July – How accessible is the new Maghull North Station?:-

I penned this posting a few weeks after the new station was opened. The level accessible route into the station has now been provided although there’s still no dropped kerb for cyclists off School Lane.

tonyrobertson.mycouncillor.org.uk/2018/07/23/maghull-its-new-north-station-an-accessible-interchange/

August – The sad death of a local Councillor and cyclist:-

The August posting links directly back to the one I highlighted in February i.e. the fatal accident involving Melling Parish Councillor Alion Doyle who was cycling on one of the lanes in Aughton which I raised concerns about back then. A stretch of this lane, maybe a 100 yards or so, is still in terrible condition this December and I have raised this with Lancashire County Council. Such a sad loss of life. RIP Allison Doyle.

tonyrobertson.mycouncillor.org.uk/2018/08/20/aughton-fatal-accident-on-bold-lane/

September – The battle against fracking:-

Being an environmental campaigner the battle against Fracking is important to me as it is to many others. This month’s chosen posting is about Lydiate Parish Council gaining information from the volunteer campaigners against fracking. And yes, Lydiate PC did subsequently agree to put £500 to one side to help the volunteer Moss Alliance with their legal costs.

tonyrobertson.mycouncillor.org.uk/2018/09/27/lydiate-parish-council-gets-insight-into-fracking/

October – Building on high-grade agricultural land, which feeds us, is the politics of the madhouse:-

The vast Maghull East urban extension (presently high grade agricultural land) site as seen from Poverty Lane, Maghull

Another environmental campaign that I feel passionately about. That governments and councils (of any political colour) can allow building on the highest grades of agricultural land, which grows the food we eat, is utterly mad to me – a subject I have blogged about many, many times…..

tonyrobertson.mycouncillor.org.uk/2018/10/15/we-import-50-of-our-food-now-do-opposition-politicians-get-why-i-keep-banging-on-about-saving-high-grade-agricultural-land-from-development/

November – Ormskirk to Preston Line – The worst performing in the UK?:-

Ormskirk Station – The train in the foreground is Preston bound (when it’s not being replaced by a bus). The one behind it is Liverpool bound.

As the year dragged on for the poor long-suffering passengers of Northern Rail questions began to be asked about whether the line from Ormskirk to Preston could possibly be the worst performing in the UK. The question was taken up by BBC News with particular reference to a whole week without a single train running on the line. Performance can only improve in 2019, it just could not get any worse.

tonyrobertson.mycouncillor.org.uk/2018/11/23/northern-trains-could-the-ormskirk-preston-line-be-the-most-poorly-performing-in-the-uk/

December – The battle to try to save Rimrose Valley Country Park from Highways England’s plans for a new road:-

Idyllic view of Rimrose Valley Country Park

And to close 2018 a subject I have oft-blogged about, the campaign to try to stop Highway’s England building a new road to the Port of Liverpool through Rimrose Valley Country Park. There have been many angles which I have reported on but the bizarre tangle Sefton Council’s Tory Group have got themselves into takes a lot of beating.

tonyrobertson.mycouncillor.org.uk/2018/12/04/rimrose-valley-country-park-are-sefton-tories-backing-highways-england-plan-for-new-road-through-it/

Maghull – Cheering on the new police station? No, remembering what we lost to rehouse the police!

The former Maghull Police Station in Westway, Maghull.

My letter to the Champion newspaper in response to all the cheering about the Town’s new Police Station

Dear Sir,

So Maghull has a brand new police station within Maghull Town Hall, but please forgive me if I don’t join in the cheering of Maghull Town Council and the local MP.

You see the Town lost a youth facility and a CAB help point to make way for the police to move into the Town Hall from Maghull Square.

Sorry I don’t see Maghull and district’s policing benefiting except that they will have lower overheads in their new premises. But where and when will the CAB facility be rehoused locally, many months after it was closed down in the Town Hall? And where are the youngsters now going that used to use the Youth facility?

This is at best a 2 – 1 defeat i.e. CAB and youth out – police in. You could even argue that it’s 3 – nil defeat as the police already had a home in Maghull and they were originally said to be downsizing to a shop unit.

I despair I really do.

Tony Robertson

Maghull – The math behind the Police station move to Maghull Town Hall

The present Maghull Police Station in Westway, Maghull.

The curious move by Merseyside Police out of their Maghull Police Station on Westway and into the former Youth Coffee Bar and CAB facility space in Maghull Town Hall has had folks head scratching.

Poster on Maghull Town Hall noticeboard recently

When Merseyside Police announced their new accommodation strategy in response to budget cuts it was clear that Police Stations across the County would be downsized and that they could well end up being in shop units in shopping centres.

Maghull TH being converted into a Police Station – Photo from Sept. 17

However, in Maghull things took a surprising turn in that its Town Council in effect invited the Police to rent space from them within Maghull Town Hall. Sadly, resurrecting the recently closed youth facility and Citizens Advice, both of which occupied the same space as the soon to be opened police station, would no longer be possible though. But it’s going to be a nice little earner for Maghull Town Council because it will get a yearly rental income of £11,000 from Merseyside Police.

The £11,000 includes all utilities bills thrown in I understand but then again the Town Council was paying them before as part of the overall utility bills for the Town Hall so in reality MTC is £11,000 better off per year.

The running cost of the present and soon to be closed Police Station on Westway per annum is £101,581, so its no surprise that Merseyside Police jumped at the chance to move into Maghull Town Hall thereby very substantially reducing what it would have cost them to rent a shop unit say in Maghull Square Shopping Centre.

So if my math is correct Merseyside Police has at a stoke reduced its annual running cost of having a Police building in Maghull by £90,581. And Maghull Town Council is a winner too as it has £11,000 coming in each year and no youth support staff to pay either as the youth facility is no more. If memory serves the CAB facility was provided by the Town Council at nil cost to Sefton CAB.

The cost of converting the youth facility into a police station? A budget of £60,000 has be allocated by Merseyside Police for the work.

Inside the Youth Coffee Bar after a refurb’ a few years ago

So everyone’s a winner? Not quite as somehow in the public policy making process Maghull has lost its last publicly funded youth facility and a Citizens Advice facility as well.

The figures used in this posting were supplied to me by Merseyside Police following a Freedom of Information request that I made.

Maghull – Police in, youth and CAB out in Town Hall shake up

Work has now started on remodeling the former youth facility in Maghull Town Hall to turn it into a Police Station and Maghull Town Council seems to think this is worth celebrating. But is it? My letter to the Champion newspaper puts the matter in context:-

Dear Sir,

Is there really much to celebrate because part of Maghull Town Hall is to become a Police Station soon?

In my view what we have lost far outweighs what we are going to gain. The accommodation that the Police are moving into was specifically remodeled into a youth facility from its original use as a sports changing room not so many years ago. What’s more that accommodation was shared with the Citizens Advice (CAB). So whilst gaining a Police Station within the Town Hall we have lost the last publicly funded youth facility in the area and the CAB.

What’s to celebrate, the match has sadly been lost 2-1.

Yours sincerely

Tony Robertson

Poster on Maghull Town Hall noticeboard recently

Having campaigned to bring a CAB facility to Maghull and backed the establishment of the innovative Youth Coffee Bar I am rather saddened by this turn of events, indeed it angers me.

These are the plans (above) that ensure that the youth facility can never be reopened. Surely using this space for a Police Station to serve the Sefton East Parishes part of the Borough (Lydiate, Maghull, Melling and Aintree Village) is a wrong-headed priority. Of course the area needs a Police Station but we also need a youth facility and a CAB.

There are plenty of vacant shop/retail units locally so why take the space that had been specifically converted as youth facility and occupied for that use until recently – it could have and should have been revived.

And to put the tin lid on it we are told that there are concerns about the rise in anti-social behaviour as though having a active attractive youth offering would not be part of the solution to that problem!

Click on the photos and the plan to enlarge them

Emergency Services – Austerity causes innovative and welcome/unwelcome thinking

We are all sick and tired of austerity which has in effect been inflicted upon us as a consequence ‘casino banking’ and the subsequent financial crash. And yes it has caused great harm to the public services we all rely on.

But one, maybe the only positive consequence is that public services which for years have operated in glorious isolation from each other have had to look at innovative solutions to service delivery. Basing ambulances in fire stations or other similar solutions that bring together sometimes all 3 emergency services under one roof is an example.

Having said that the principle is good I was personally not supportive of the local solution which put ambulances, once based in Lydiate, in a fire station in Netherton. I wanted the Lydiate Ambulance Station and Maghull Police station merged onto the Maghull Police Station site but sadly no one was listening and the joined up thinking was not joined up as the Police were separately (and seemingly in glorious isolation) planning to shut down Maghull Police Station and sell off the land…….

But another innovative solution to service delivery is just up the road from my Lydiate home in neighbouring Aughton where the local Police Station is actually on Town Green Railway Station’s Liverpool bound platform. See photo below:-

As for Maghull the Police Station, we are told, it is going to occupy space within Maghull Town Hall. This may well have been a welcome and innovative solution if it had not meant the loss of the Town’s only surviving publicly funded youth facility. Plus that facility also doubled up to house the Town’s CAB but that has also now gone and a joint community the size of Maghull/Lydiate now sadly has no CAB.

So readers will understand why I am not at all happy with Maghull/Lydiate’s rather unwelcome public service delivery ‘solutions’. When the move of the Police Station to Maghull Town Hall will actually happen we don’t presently know as all has gone quiet on the matter.

Maghull – Youth facilities – I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry

Readers of this blog site will know how I and others supported the ambitions of local youth when they created Maghull’s unique Youth Coffee Bar within Maghull Town Hall some 20+ years ago. You will also know how distressed I am about Maghull Town Council closing down the facility in 2016.

Inside the Youth Coffee Bar after a refurb' a few years ago

Inside the Youth Coffee Bar after a refurb’ a few years ago

But having read in the Aintree & Maghull Champion a quote about youth facilities in Maghull I did not know whether to laugh or cry! – ‘developing an appropriate youth offer to engage young people in productive activities is the right thing to do’. This was said, according to the Champion, by Town Council Leader Patrick McKinley.

Now what was the Youth Coffee Bar meant to do? Yes you have guessed it, just what the quote above says! So why run it down over 3 or so years and then close it? Why not have taken it to the next stage, whilst engaging further with local youngsters and getting them to take the lead yet again?

It was the idea of local youngsters in the first place, the Town Council of the day just helped them develop it, fund it and put in place the management processes to ensure it worked. Setting up Maghull & District Youth Council was a part of this process.

It was not something imposed on youngsters by adults, it was their plan which adults aided them, only as required, to fulfill.

Now the facility is mothballed (although Maghull CAB still use it I guess as they always have done) and it may even become a Police Station if that’s the part of Maghull Town Hall the Merseyside Police are moving into.

Sorry Patrick, I hear your words but I despair, I really do.

The Champion newspaper printed an edited version of a letter which I had sent to them about this matter in its edition dated 18th January.