2019 Parish Council elections in Sefton Borough – Some interesting situations

I’m a bit of a parish council nut as I’ve been a parish councillor since 1985 and always seek out quirky things on the notice boards of parish councils when I travel around England.

This year was the year in which all parish councils were potentially up for re-election. Unlike most district and Borough councils (who tend to elected in thirds) parish councils are elected once every 4 years when the whole of the council is potentially at the mercy of the electorate. Some parish councils however never really have elections as only enough or too few nominations are forthcoming and candidates are elected unopposed.

There are 10 parish councils within Sefton Borough – they are:-

Little Altcar PC – had an election
Formby PC – had an election
Ince Blundell PC – no election
Thornton PC – no election
Hightown PC – no election
Sefton PC – had an election in one of its 2 wards
Melling PC – had an election
Lydiate PC – had an election in all 3 wards
Maghull TC* – had an election but only in one of its 4 wards
Aintree Village PC – no election

* There is no real difference between a Parish or Town Council other than a Town Council can elect a Mayor instead of a Chairperson

Here are a few highlights from the elections which took place on 2nd May at the same time as the Sefton Borough elections

Little Altcar Parish Council (7 seats) – Formby Residents Action Group 6, Green Party 1

Formby Parish Council (15 seats across 2 wards) – Formby Residents Action Group 11, Conservatives 3, Labour 1

Ince Blundell Parish Council (5 seats) – Only 3 nominations for the 5 seats on this council – Independents 2, Formby Residents Action Group 1 (all elected unopposed), vacancies 2.

Thornton Parish Council (7 seats) – Only 2 nominations for the 7 seats on this council – Conservative 1, Green 1 (both elected unopposed), vacancies 5 * – potentially the additional 5 seat can be filled by the 2 unopposed/elected councillors co-opting up to another 5 councillors? Could be time to consult the Bible of Parish Council administration by Charles Arnold-Baker.

Hightown Parish Council (7 seats) – Only 5 nominations for the 7 seats on this council – Independents 5 (all elected unopposed) Vacancies 2.

Sefton Parish Council (7 seats across 2 wards) – Independents 6, Green Party 1

Melling Parish Council (11 seats) – Melling Resident 8, Labour 1, Independent 1, Asst Leader Cub Scouts 1 – Labour put up 12 candidates for the 11 seats but only got one elected. However, a Labour Borough Councillor for Molyneux ward (which includes Melling Parish) stood as a Melling Resident and came top of the poll.

Lydiate Parish Council (9 seats in 3 wards) – Labour 7, Lib Dem 2

Maghull Town Council (16 seats in 4 wards) – Labour 12, Conservative 2, Independent 1, Vacancy 1 – Labour effectively lost 4 seats having previously held all 16 on this council. It seems that a candidate elected under the Labour banner subsequently declared as an Independent after the elections. It also looks like a Labour member of this council sits on Melling Parish Council as well but as a Melling Resident not as a Labour councillor.

Aintree Village Parish Council – (12 seats across 2 wards) – Independent 8, Green 2, Labour 2 (all elected unopposed)

My thanks to Andrew Blackburn who helped me trawl through information on Sefton Council’s and other websites to pull together this information. I hope the information is correct but if you see an error please flag it up so that I can correct it.

Oh and one final note – Vacancies on Parish/Town Council can be filled by an election being held, however, if no candidates come forward to stand in an election then the council has the power to co-opt people to fill the vacancies.

Maghull – Hedges removed at Pimbley Field because they are dangerous?

The story was scooped by the Aintree and Maghull Champion newspaper on 8th May and what a seemingly bizarre story it is too.

You see I was a member of Maghull Town Council for 30 years (until) 2015 and chaired it’s former Amenities Committee for many of those years and I can’t recall anyone asking for the hedges at Fieldway/Bridge Road to be taken away. I’ve also spoken with another former chair of that committee, former Maghull Town Councillor Andrew Blackburn, and his recollection is like mine.

The hawthorn hedges have been there literally for generations so how on earth can they be a danger to pedestrians or even vehicles? With regular trimming and clearing up those trimmings all should be fine, birds can nest there and all should be well with Maghull’s world.

When I went to have a look at the grubbing up of the hedging (Sunday 12th May) the part of it along Bridge Road was still in place although it looked to be in desperate need of a hair cut so to speak:-

Is it that a lack of maintenance has caused complaints to the Town Council? If so surely all that was required was a trim rather than complete grubbing up of the established hedge?

I’ve come across some bizarre stories in my time but this one is right up there and it’s so sad and unnecessary too. What were you thinking Maghull Town Council? I think our local MP Bill Esterson needs to get into this environmental disaster story. I’m sure he would like his photo taken with the residents who are upset with the actions of Labour run Maghull Council.

Maghull – What on earth was this (now faded sign) all about?

This sign (I’m talking about the lower faded one of course) has been up on the Maghull boundary on the A59/Northway (Switch Island end) for a few years now but what purpose was it intended to serve?

Bearing in mind that drivers will have been going past it at 40mph+ and with it being both small with even smaller print on it, what hope has there ever been of its significance being noticed even before it became faded?

‘Our Maghull – Our Future’ is looking a little faded don’t you think?

Maghull – Former Town Mayor Jane Day RIP

I am sorry to have to report that former Maghull Town Councillor and indeed Town Mayor Jane Day has died.

Back in September 2017 I posted about Jane leaving Maghull to live nearer to her daughter and the book we produced to mark her many years involvement in the local community. Here’s a link to that posting:-

tonyrobertson.mycouncillor.org.uk/2017/09/03/jane-day-leaving-maghull-after-50-years/

An amusing incident Jane got me involved with was to do with her fire alarm at her house on Liverpool Road South (she later moved to Mayhall Court on Westway before her move down south in 2017) which had gone off and Jane could not make it stop. She called me and I went to her house and unscrewed it from the hall ceiling. I was expecting to find a battery to remove but it was one where the battery was built in and not removable. We ended up in Jane’s back yard with me bashing hell out of the damn thing until it finally stopped. We were both doubled up laughing at the situation and how stubborn the alarm was.

RIP Jane day, I will miss you and your at times wicked sense of humour.

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.

Maghull – Bob’s Field, Bobby’s Wood or Bobbies Wood?

The photo above is of a piece of public land (maintained by Maghull Town Council but owned by Sefton Council) at the junction of Liverpool Road South and Northway (A59). If you know of it you may refer to it by one of the names at the head of this posting, but which is right and why?

I have always known of it as Bobby’s Wood but that’s just because someone told me it’s name many years ago. I never questioned it nor did I know it seeming had a very similar name (but with a different spelling) or indeed yet another name.

I guess community given names like this grow over time and if there’s more than one version doing the rounds then unless a formal title is given to the land by say a council, which then puts up a plaque/sign to that effect, then the differing names will perpetuate.

Anyway in one of my other lives, as a Maghull in Bloom volunteer, I wrote a posting for the Maghull in Bloom News Facebook Page (which was copied to the Official Maghull Community Page) recently regarding a volunteer/community activity taking place on this piece of land today Saturday 20th October.

The list of former Mayors

The posting led to this exchange with between former Town Mayor (1984/85) Maghull Rhona Simon and myself (see photo of former Mayor’s board in Maghull TH above):-

Rhona Simon – In the fifties, this area was known as Bob’s field, don’t know where Bobbie’s wood came from! I climbed my first tree there!

Tony Robertson – I wondered that too. Someone mentioned a connection to me about the Police hence Bobbies.

Rhona Simon – There was a horse called Bob that was kept in that field, hence the name. Someone else out there must remember him!

So now we know it’s name is actually Bob’s Field or at a push Bob’s Wood, it has nothing to do with Policemen or women of a previous generation.

Thanks for setting the record straight Rhona

Note: click on the photos to enlarge them