Today would have been Uncle Albert’s 100th birthday

My good friend Charles (Uncle Albert) Walker at Birkenhead Tramway Museum next to a restored Wallasey tram that he rode on as a boy.

If my dear Uncle Albert had made it he would have been 100 today; frankly many of us who knew him well very much expected him to make the milestone but sadly it did not come to pass and my obituary from 2017 is linked below:-

tonyrobertson.mycouncillor.org.uk/2017/01/11/goodbye-uncle-albert/

I don’t really commemorate such anniversaries but I make an exception in Uncle Albert’s case because he was exceptional. A man whom I did not get to know until he was 74 became a very close friend indeed and I loved being in his company. He was funny, cheeky, well informed, and had led a fascinating life which he loved to tell folks about. All you had to do was to sit down and listen to him and take in his wartime and wider experiences and you learned so much. His mind seemed to be one of a young man which was open to learning more and he was able to make friends with anyone he came across. I never met anyone who did not like Charles Walker – Uncle Albert was his nickname which many of his friends used.

I still miss him terribly as I could run things past him, seek his advice, and as I said before learn from his wide range of experiences.

Andrew Blackburn and I would tease him unmercifully about him being the living embodiment of the part played by Buster Merryfield in Only Fools and Horses and he loved it. Indeed, he even changed his name badge at a conference we attended with him to ‘Uncle Albert’!

Happy Birthday Uncle Albert; I know you’re not looking down on me as I’m an atheist and don’t do heaven and earth. However, the other big tease we had with Charles was that if he went anywhere it would be downwards due to the terrible and very rude RAF songs he would occasionally launch into! The first time he did it was on a car journey with Andrew Beattie (who sadly passed on in 1999), Andrew Blackburn, and myself. To say we were taken aback is putting it mildly but the 4 of us became very firm friends from that day onward – we knew we’d come across a right one!

Note – Charles lived in Poverty Lane Maghull from 1960 until his death and was a Maghull Town Councillor for 15 years or more up to the age of 90. He was originally from the Wirral but had also lived in Bootle. His daughter Carole, son-in-law Phil, grandsons, David, Michael, and their families are today holding an online quiz in his memory as he loved to attend the quizzes that were once a weekly fixture of Maghull Town Hall.

What is consultation actually all about?

I think it fair to say that the public sector is generally poor at genuine consultation (partly because proper consultation costs too much) and it often is simply engaged in what is no more than information sharing (telling folks what is going to be done) and box ticking. So telling folk what is going to be done to their community, neighbourhood etc. is often dressed up as ‘consultation’ when in reality the comments made may well be (politely) ignored/rejected.

I recall a ‘consultation’ event being held at Maghull Town Hall a few years back about the then proposed building of what is now the newish Maghull North Station. That consultation was, at face Value, useful but I got the distinct impression that there were always going to be good reasons not to take forward suggestions which were made by attendees at that event. I blogged about it at the time – see link below:-

tonyrobertson.mycouncillor.org.uk/2015/12/14/maghull-consultation-response-on-towns-2nd-and-new-railway-station/

My somewhat cynical response was ‘and it does make you wonder whether Merseytravel and their partners (Network Rail & Merseyrail) really do want to hear alternative views at all. Seems some things are sadly set in stone.’ If you look back at the suggestions which I noted were made whilst I was at the event

* The draft design of the station is too boxy and bland – Don’t want to end up as nondescript as Aintree Station when it was modernised.
* Will some of the circular buses be diverted there because the bus access along narrow roads is poor to the present Maghull Station?
* Can there be a memorial included to reflect the historic Moss Side Hospital that was on the site before? This refers to the pioneering work done there during and after the First World War into shell shock.
* Can the old Maghull Station be renamed Maghull Hornby to differentiate it from Maghull North?
* Can Maghull North name be changed to say Maghull Moss Side for example?

you could say that only one was actually followed up on – the memorial and an excellent memorial it is too. The others were rejected (or not even taken seriously?) it seems and there may well have been others I did not hear about.

So why start banging on about ‘consultation’ now Robertson?

Well my good friend Roy Connell, once a fellow Sefton Borough and Maghull Town Councillor, has public sector consultation buzzing around his head presently.

In his case it involves consultation by office of the Merseyside Police & Crime Commissioner regarding the amount of extra precept (an addition to our Council tax bills) it wants to charge in the financial year 2020/2021. Roy’s view, if I’ve understood him correctly, is the consultation has in effect been all but tokenistic. 2072 people expressed a view on the matter via either being telephoned directly or through them commenting on the matter via the survey (no, like you I didn’t know about it) on the Police and Crime Commissioner’s website. When you consider that Merseyside has a population of approximately 1.4m then a couple of thousand taking part in a survey/consultation is a very small percentage.

We live in a representative democracy where we elect people to make significant decisions about our country, region and community. The idea being that if those decisions displease us we can kick out the representatives who made them. But we seem to have developed, at least in recent years, a desire to consult folk over decisions about public policy. At face value this is a great idea but in reality aren’t the consultations rather meaningless if the vast majority of folk know nothing of them or if those being surveyed may not be taken much notice of unless they say things which fit with the policy direction being consulted on?

Maghull – Historic maps on display in Town Hall

A while back a lady contacted me saying she had a 1930’s map of Maghull which she was happy to donate for public display. I put her in touch with the Town Clerk of Maghull Town Council and the matter then passed me by so to speak.

Imagine my delight then when I went into the Council Chamber of Maghull Town Hall (for a Maghull in Bloom volunteers meeting) recently and saw 3 historic maps of the Town up on the wall where there had been none before. A closer inspection made me realise that one of them was from the lady I whom I had spoken to a few months ago.

I love maps, always have done since I discovered Ordnance Survey maps as a late teenager for country walking. Here are the 3 on display in Maghull Town Hall:-

This is the one (above) the lady mentioned to me, it’s dated October 1933 and intriguingly said to be the work of the ‘Maghull Advisory Committee’. James Longridge, whose name appears on the map as the Hon Sec of this committee was also Chairman of Maghull Parish Council from 1934 to 1938. My guess is that it was put together as part of the work to significantly expand Maghull in the 1930’s and after WW2.

The Town had other periods of rapid development in the 1960’s and 70’s and it is all happening again with the vast urban extension to the east of the Town having been designated for @1600 additional houses and business premises via the Sefton Council Local Plan adopted in April 2017.

This one is a 1908 Ordnance Survey map

I’m struggling to make out the date properly on this map but think it is 1840 – correct me if I’m wrong please.

Really pleased that Maghull Town Council has displayed these historic maps as they are a part of the heritage of a community that I lived in for 43 years and represented as a councillor for 30 years.

Click on the maps to enlarge them

Maghull – ‘Truce’ 1914-1918 Great War Sculpture

I was in Maghull Town Hall’s Council Chamber a couple of weeks back for a meeting of the Maghull in Bloom Volunteers and could not be anything other than impressed with the scaled-down sculpture/piece of artwork that is on display there:-

The original life-size version of this lovely piece of remembrance sculpture is in the grounds of Liverpool’s famous bombed out church – St Lukes at the top of Bold Street and it looks like this:-

Maghull – Comrades poke Corbyn in the eye with EU Flag?

Labour in Sefton Borough are keeping their heads down as their great party leader nationally seemingly argues more forcibly each day for a Brexit agenda that will inevitably lead to job losses, no extra NHS funding, the poor being made poorer and a crisis economy.

Yet maybe, just maybe they can see that Comrade Corbyn is leading them down a very sorry path because in full public view, if you look closely, Labour-run Maghull Town Council is still flying the EU flag on Maghull Town Hall!

A small act of defiance maybe and one that they would not like their Momentum masters to know about (so please don’t tell them) but is there just a chink of light following 4 Merseyside Labour MP’s breaking ranks to defy Corbyn recently?

Maghull – Car parking ‘disagreement’ between Councils over Meadows Leisure Centre

I’m hearing that Maghull TC and Sefton MBC are tussling once again over the issue of car parking spaces around the Leisure Centre and Town Hall.

If this is indeed the case it is yet another chapter in a very long running saga as the success of the Leisure Centre has always meant that the car parking provision, as originally planned for back in 2010 when the Centre opened, is inadequate.

Maghull’s KGV Park and Meadows Leisure Centre

When I led the campaign for the Leisure Centre to be built I always had a feeling that it would take off but even I have been surprised by how many locals from the East Parishes part of Sefton Borough have been using it. The consequence of this success is the lack of car parking spaces.

Sefton allocated money a few years a back to enlarge the car park but at Maghull TC’s request this ‘offer’ was withdrawn. Now I hear that Sefton has once again put up money but that Maghull TC is still not supportive. As Maghull TC owns the land (KGV Park) then stalemate has been reached again.

The dilemma is of course green-space/parkland V car parking spaces. But if the matter is not successfully resolved then there are of course other consequences. Those consequences are:-

* Grid-lock in the car parks surrounding the Leisure Centre and Town Hall (I’ve been in one!)
* Parking in surrounding residential roads – L’pool Rd Sth, Northway Service Road
* Users of facilities at the Leisure Centre/Town Hall going elsewhere because of lack of car parking

There’s no easy answers but which Council will blink first in this battle of grass V cars?