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/

A review of 2017 – The meanderings of a Liberal Blogger

12 months in 12 blog postings – click on each link to read the posting

January – Loss of my dear friend ‘Uncle Albert’:-

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

February – Not being the Tory Party:-

tonyrobertson.mycouncillor.org.uk/2017/02/22/is-labour-just-an-alternative-tory-party-for-those-who-consider-themselves-to-be-working-class/

March – Developing land north of Maghull’s Turnbridge Road

tonyrobertson.mycouncillor.org.uk/2017/03/24/lydiate-land-north-of-turnbridge-road-our-response-to-planning-application-for-34-dwellings/

April – Maghull’s parks, their maintenance and money

tonyrobertson.mycouncillor.org.uk/2017/04/06/maghull-land-money-maintaining-old-hall-park/

May – Buying the Strand Shopping Centre in secretive deal

tonyrobertson.mycouncillor.org.uk/2017/05/03/bootle-sefton-council-buys-back-the-strand-shopping-centre-for-how-much-thoughso-it-seems/

June – Bugger Moderation!

tonyrobertson.mycouncillor.org.uk/2017/06/20/moderation-bugger-that-for-a-lark-im-too-angry-about-whats-happening-to-the-uk/

July – Youth Coffee Bar gone, CAB gone – Labour’s regressive policies!

tonyrobertson.mycouncillor.org.uk/2017/07/29/maghull-youth-coffee-bar-gone-cab-gone-retired-bowlers-given-huge-price-hike-long-established-cricket-club-with-nowhere-to-play-just-whats-the-town-council-up-to/

August – Those who take land out of Green Belt then protest about its development!

tonyrobertson.mycouncillor.org.uk/2017/08/19/maghulls-vast-urban-extension-labour-blasts-development-on-land-their-local-plan-identified-for-development-you-could-not-make-this-up/

September – Rimrose Valley Country Park and the Sefton Council’s part in it’s demise

tonyrobertson.mycouncillor.org.uk/2017/09/30/rimrose-valley-what-does-sefton-council-want-and-that-could-well-be-a-very-different-answer-to-what-it-says-it-wants/

October – Police move into Maghull TH but at what a cost!

tonyrobertson.mycouncillor.org.uk/2017/10/17/maghull-the-math-behind-the-police-station-move-to-maghull-town-hall/

November – Ex Southport MP John Pugh wins Sefton Council seat by an electoral landslide

tonyrobertson.mycouncillor.org.uk/2017/11/03/southport-john-pugh-takes-55-of-votes-cast-to-win-dukes-ward-by-election/

December – Maghull North Station progress

tonyrobertson.mycouncillor.org.uk/2017/12/19/maghull-north-station-construction-progress-over-4-months/

So another year comes to a close. Not a good one, indeed another poor one as the UK slips further into the Brexit mire or is that jumps over the Brexit cliff? Either way no good will come of it but a lot of bad most certainly will.

Personally I lost more good friends in 2017 which is always sad yet in looking back at my posting about ‘Uncle Albert’ I can only feel that whilst I lost him I gained so much from knowing him.

As for 2018 the omens are not good and they will remain poor so long as Jeremy Corbyn remains wedded to Teresa May’s Brexit.

The challenges of youth – The Icelandic way/solutions

www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p05mw7rd

The BBC has some innovative youth solutions on its web site – see link above

I have not been one to watch the demise of local youth facilities without saying that we are headed in very much the wrong direction and that there are and will continue be negative consequences for the wider community and the young people left wandering on our streets.

The closure of Maghull’s innovative Youth Coffee Bar set up by local youngsters for local youngsters comes to mind. On the positive side though volunteers are working to set up a new youth facility which will soon operate from within Lydiate Village Centre.

But this a is not another rant about the the failed political processes in Maghull/Lydiate that have led to the demise of publicly funded youth facilities, its a call to say hey look at what the Icelandic nation is doing and could we not do something similar?

The alternative i.e. to continue to let our young people wander the streets getting into trouble and keeping our over-stretched police force busy is hardly offering them a happy, healthy and positive future now is it?

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

Maghull – Youth Coffee Bar gone, CAB gone, retired bowlers given huge price hike, long established cricket club with nowhere to play? – Just what’s the Town Council up to?

Firstly a confession, I was a member of Maghull Town Council from 1985 to 2015 and I helped get Maghull’s unique Youth Coffee Bar and CAB facility set up in the 1990’s so I may be a little biased here.

Since Labour took over Maghull Town Council in 2011 a lot has changed and much of it I have scratched my head about wondering what the motivation has been.

Do we really want a band stand on KGV Park? Certainly I have never heard an outcry for one yet the Council seem to see it as a priority issue.

Was it sensible to close down the Town’s only publicly funded youth facility that was set up by local youngsters? It made no sense to me what so ever.

Losing the CAB facility has clearly been a backwards step. A Town the size of Maghull clearly needs accessible local advice for it’s citizens.

The bowlers, many of them retired, have been handed huge increases in the cost of their green fees. This has meant some of them no longer play at KGV Park.

And what about the dispute between the Town Council and Maghull Cricket Club that has been filing the pages of the Aintree & Maghull Champion newspaper in recent weeks? How on earth does a Council end up at such loggerheads with a long-established and important community organisation?

This weeks Champion newspaper made me want to shout out – ‘Just stop this nonsense NOW!’ because the Cricket Club issue was laid bare in three separte items in the paper.

Firstly on page 3 the Cricket Club is pleading for a change of heart from the Town Council who are wanting a ‘market value’ for the lease of the cricket ground. For goodness sake this is a community organisation not Donald Trump doing a business deal! What on earth is to be gained if the Cricket Club goes under?

Then on page 38 there’s an advert from Maghull TC wanting to sell on the lease of Council owned property by the Leeds Liverpool Canal, with car park, pavilion, changing rooms etc. Who will buy the lease? Another Cricket Club? Another organisation who would then sub-let back to Maghull Cricket Club? This can only end in tears.

Then on page 48 (the back page) there’s a report of a Maghull Cricket Club match against Liverpool under the heading ‘Downpour thwarts Maghull’ It’s certainly a massive soaking that Maghull Cricket Club is presently getting and that’s not because of rain!

I live in neighbouring Lydiate these days so have no connection with Maghull Council any more but I look over at some of the things happening in Maghull, in the name of Maghull people, and I really do wonder what on earth is going on in the Town Hall bunker.

Yes I know there have been huge cut backs in the public sector because of austerity but Maghull Town Council has never had an Government grants to loose. It has lost its Double Rating payments from Sefton Council though but that in itself is an appalling act meaning that Maghull Council Tax payers (along with Lydiate and Aintree Village) are now paying twice for their parks and gardens! So if Maghull TC is crying poverty for at least some of its motivation for chasing community organisations for more money then the root cause of their problem is Labour-run Sefton Council who made the decision to impose the unfair Council tax situation in the first place.

I can’t tell you how sad this appalling situation makes me feel having lived in Maghull for 43 years.