The demise of public toilets – Maghull just one of many towns to have a shopping center with nowhere to spend a public penny.

Maghull’s closed public toilets at the Square Shopping Centre.

The Mirror has an interesting a sad story to tell about the demise of public toilets across the nation – see link below:-

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I remember only too well trying to save the public toilets at Maghull Square Shopping Centre, toilets that in the 1980’s had been award winners in the Loo of the Year Awards. Of course by the time they closed they were a shadow of that former glory having been vandalised and unmaintained. Indeed, by the time they closed few people would use them anyway due to their condition.

The same toilets were not looking good back in 2012 well before closure.

Now in Maghull Costa, and the Health Center provide the only toilet facilities. It would be nice if the Maghull Morrisons store had a toilet too like so many of their supermarkets.

Austerity as we think of it post the financial crash is far from being the whole story of the decline in council services

There is no doubt that austerity as either implemented by the Coalition Government (and then sadly pushed far, far harder by the present Tory Government) or indeed as outlined by Alistair Darling (his austerity would probably have been harsher than the Coalition’s some commentators say) on behalf of the Labour Party prior to the 2010 General election has had a huge impact on the ability of councils to deliver services.

But in fact there is a funding crisis that goes back much further than the financial crash of 2007 that has impacted on local authorities. That funding crisis is back in the headlines now but I recall it rearing its head almost every year that I was Sefton Borough Councillor during the budget setting process. In fact it was twofold i.e. children in care and care for the elderly.

Year on year senior council officers would present the need for extra money to be put into these two care budgets, often the amounts asked for, year in year out, would be have six 000,000’s behind them.

My point is that the elderly and children in care budgets have been eating further and further into council budgets for many, many years so austerity as far as local authorities are concerned did not start with the great financial crash but maybe 10 to 15 years prior to that.

And what made me think of this matter which must have been impacting on every local authority with responsibility for elderly/child care? Well two things really. The elderly care crisis is hitting the headlines yet again because politicians refuse to address it properly and have failed to do so for a least the last 20 years. And the other very local issue that made me think about it is the demise of public toilets and in particular the former award winning ones in Maghull.

Maghull's closed public toilets at the Square Shopping Centre.

Maghull’s closed public toilets at the Square Shopping Centre.

Public toilets have been in decline for a long time and the Maghull ones are an interesting and sad example not least because Sefton Council would once boast about them being award winners (Public Loo of the Year or some such award) back in the 1980’s. But since those days the Council’s focus, you could say its priority, has been slowly but surely moved towards funding the elderly and children in care.

What’s happened has been a creeping process whereby the amount of money each local authority has to spend on other services has got smaller and smaller as the budgets for elderly and children in care have got bigger. And this well before the consequences of austerity and the financial crash hit them via government grant cuts.

The thrust of government policy has in effect been to force local authorities to spend their money in these two key social care areas and on little else. Yes there’s no doubt that the austerity that followed the financial crash sped up this process beyond what anyone could have conceived but it had been a trend for a long time, one which was pursued by governments of all colours.

In reality local authorities (this does not include Town and Parish Councils – they don’t get an government grants) are now focused on delivering statutory services and have almost no money to deliver things that local people may want. Public toilets, for example, are a non-statutory service hence their demise across the UK.

Personally, I have thought that the funding of local authorities has been inappropriate for many years because they are in reality delivering two very different things i.e. local often non-statutory services for their communities and statutory services where they are in effect simply an agent delivering governmental/national services. The two got muddled up in the times of plenty and it did not seem to matter. However, in times of scarce money it is the local mainly non-statutory services that have been lost as the money has gone to prop up the statutory ones.

The former Aintree Library - closed by Sefton Council.

The former Aintree Library – closed by Sefton Council.

Sadly, it is more complex than that even because if you take the example of libraries they are a statutory service i.e. local authorities have to provide them. But the level to which they are provided is a different matter so Sefton Council was able to reduce it’s libraries from 13 to 6 without falling foul of the law not so long ago.

However you look at it local authorities are the fall-guys for austerity because governments of all colours over the past 20+ years have not funded statutory services, particularly adult/elderly social care, properly.

Maghull’s Public Toilets – Is Maghull Town Council about to ride in to save them?

There has been much debate, especially on Maghull’s Facebook community pages about the state of and indeed future of the public toilet block in Maghull’s Leighton Avenue which serves the Town’s shopping centre.

I have mentioned these toilets many times before on this blog site, toilets which were once award winning in the 1980’s but that have sadly been in a steady decline ever since.

They have in fact been closed recently due to vandalism and this was the scene on 29th December – They were very firmly locked up:-

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When I was a member of Maghull Town Council and I could see the decline in the toilets and wanted to do something about it. Indeed, I made a proposal to the Council on 24th July 2013 – it read ‘To support an MTC [Maghull Town Council] capital investment in Maghull’s rather down at heel public toilets in Leighton Avenue, with the aim of working up a project in partnership with Sefton Council to restore these public toilets to their previous award winning condition’.

And here we are some 3 and half years later and Maghull’s public toilets are even more run down, vandalised and sadly closed.

These toilets were not looking good back in 2012

These toilets were not looking good back in 2012

There’s a danger here that I just shout ‘I told you so and you did nothing’ but that would be churlish. Yes, of course I am disappointed that nothing happened following my putting down a resolution for the Town Council to take action BUT three and a half years on it just could be that that the Town Council is about to step in.

Word is that Maghull Town Council has meetings planned for January 2017 with Sefton Borough Council and London & Cambridge Properties (they own the shopping centre) with a view to the Town Council potentially taking a part or even a lead in the issue of toilet provision for Maghull’s shopping centre.

Watch this space……………..

2016 – A year to forget? Well yes, but there was the odd glimmer of hope

BAD NATIONAL & GLOBAL EVENTS

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* Given the biggest self-destruct button the UK electorate has probably ever been tempted by i.e the EU referendum – they pressed it!

* Sociopath Trump wins in America, seemingly with help from Putin in the Cremlin!

* We manage to get rid of a centrist (for a Conservative that is), if hardly competent, Tory Prime Minister (Cameron) for him to be replaced by someone who looks utterly lost, is in a job probably well above her pay grade and who is riding us off into a inglorious right wing sunset!

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* Our NHS and elderly social care system has been systematically neglected and left to wither on the vine by our clueless government whilst we chuck goodness knows how much money on a replacement for the Trident nuclear missile programme that will never be used. There are guilty people in all political parties over this.

AND GOOD NATIONAL & GLOBAL THINGS?

* Well Lib Dem anti-Brexit candidate Sarah Olney winning the Richmond Park Parliamentary by-election comes to mind.

* The beating the right took in the Austrian Presidential election was a pleasant if somewhat surprising turn of events.

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* Prime Minister Justin Trudeau shining a light for tolerant, inclusive and progressive politics from over the pond in Canada. Is there anyone else in power on the global stage who can match his progressive approach to running a country?

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* The low and high of Notts and England batsman James Taylor being struck down by an almost fatal undiagnosed heart condition and then him coming through it. Yes we have lost on brilliant batsman but so glad he is still alive. And yes I am an Notts supporter.

AND LOCAL LOWS AND HIGHS?

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

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

* LOW – We had the depressing news that Labour-run Maghull Town Council was finally killing-off the innovative Youth Coffee Bar in Maghull Town Hall which local youngsters had started 20+ years ago. And hey what a surprise (NOT) anti-social behaviour is a problem in the area of Maghull where it once operated!

St Catherine's otherwise know as Lydiate Abbey

St Catherine’s otherwise know as Lydiate Abbey

* HIGH – The ‘Friends of the Abbey’ in Lydiate gaining a Lottery grant to start the process of trying to conserve and preserve the ruins of St Catherine’s Chapel for future generations.

Former Maghull/Lydiate Borough Councillor Robbie Fenton with the petition she raised to try to save the Leighton Ave toilets a few years ago. Sadly they are all but gone now via neglect and vandalism.

Former Maghull/Lydiate Borough Councillor Robbie Fenton with the petition she raised to try to save the Leighton Ave toilets a few years ago. Sadly they are all but gone now via neglect and vandalism.

* LOW – The running down of and then appalling vandalism to Maghull’s once award winning public toilets in Leighton Avenue.

The long view of 2016 winter planting down Westway looking from the Leighton Ave junction towards the A59 Northway.

The long view of 2016 winter planting down Westway looking from the Leighton Ave junction towards the A59 Northway.

* HIGH – The continuing success of the Maghull in Bloom and Maghull Station Volunteers as they try to improve Maghull’s environment.

A Maghull Town Council leaflet from 1998 - Strangely this time round the now Labour-run Town Council did not fight the Green Belt grab.

A Maghull Town Council leaflet from 1998 – Strangely this time round the now Labour-run Town Council did not fight the Green Belt grab.

* LOW – The rubber stamping of the Sefton Local Plan which will ruin Green Belt and kill off some of the 2% highest grade of agricultural land in England. A black cloud for for environmental campaigners indeed.

Canal Bicentenary

* HIGH – The Bicentenary celebrations of the completion of the Leeds Liverpool Canal

On a personal note the start of 2016 was grim as I attended 4 funerals of people I knew in the first 4 months – former Lib Dem Councillors Joan Blackburn, David Rimmer and Kath Jones together with Lib Dem activist Susan Ashton. It finished with a further death this time of a relative in December whose funeral I could not get to because of traffic jams on the M6. But of course there were personal highs as well –

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* Being invited to play Santa for a session to help Maghull & Aughton Rotary Club and Maghull in Bloom fund raise was great fun.

Me sat in my old choir stall  at Sefton Church. I recall sitting in this very seat - if memory serves at all of course - it was over 40 years ago!

Me sat in my old choir stall at Sefton Church. I recall sitting in this very seat – if memory serves at all of course – it was over 40 years ago!

* Being invited to rejoin the choir of St Helen’s Church in Sefton Village, where I had been a choirboy in 1970, despite being an atheist was lovely. Obviously I politely declined.

Carl Cashman for Mersey Metro Mayor Launch 08 16 - Credit Charlie Green

* Helping a great young man to be selected as Lib Dem candidate for the Liverpool City Region Mayoral election to be held in May 2017. Carl Cashman is that young man. I have known him for some years now and am delighted he will be on the ballot paper.

Iain Brodie Brown - Mayor of Sefton at the Leeds Liverpool Canal Bicentenary celebrations in Maghull

Iain Brodie Brown – Mayor of Sefton at the Leeds Liverpool Canal Bicentenary celebrations in Maghull

* My old chum Iain Brodie Browne becoming Mayor of Sefton. A Liberal down to his boots and one of the most radical, capable and compassionate politicians I have ever come across.

So sadly 2016 has been a year of some very significant lows indeed. Some of those lows we will be grappling with the consequences of for maybe 10 years or more. Fortunately the odd bit of good news did filter through but surely 2017 has to be better?

Labour – There’s a lot to protest about in Sefton!

There have been a quite a number of public protests in recent years across the Borough of Sefton against things like:-

The Post Office closure programme pursued under the last Labour Government which saw Maghull and Lydiate having 4 Post Offices axed:- Below are Lib Dem protestors fighting for the former Coronation Road Post Road Post Office in Lydiate.

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Labour-run Sefton Council’s plan to close public toilets across the Borough. This fight was won by campaigners like those pictured below:-

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Labour’s £46 Green Bin tax for Sefton. This was fought off in the Summer of 2013 but the comrades are expected to try to bring it back once again having only deferred it:- Cllr. Bruce Hubbard is pictured below with his massive petition against the green bin tax which caused Labour to lose 2 council by-elections to the Lib Dems in Maghull.

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Building on Sefton’s Green Belt. Labour have got into big trouble over this by saying they would defend it whilst voting to build on it! Talk about being found out! Below are environment protestors lobbying a Sefton Council meeting at Maghull Town Hall. They were ignored!

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The photo above is amongst my Flickr shots at:-
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A petition against building on Green Belt being presented to Cllr. Dave Russell Chairman of Lydiate Parish Council.

A petition against building on Green Belt being presented to Cllr. Dave Russell Chairman of Lydiate Parish Council.

Then there’s the hugely unpopular library closure programme pursued by Sefton Labour Party on the Council. 7 Libraries have been closed and Labour have even refused to let volunteer community groups run two of the closed libraries!

Sadly this placard could also read 'NO' to volunteers taking over Aintree Library!

Sadly this placard could also read ‘NO’ to volunteers taking over Aintree Library!

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The photo above was taken outside Southport Town hall as protestors tried to save 3 libraries in the Town from closure. Sadly, like the Green Belt protestors, they were ignored.

Lib Dem campaigners fighting Labour's library axe

Lib Dem campaigners fighting Labour’s library axe

Yes, there is a lot to protest about in the Bootle-dominated, Labour-run socialist republic of Sefton.

Sefton – A Review of 2013

Welcome to my review of 2013 for Sefton, a personal trawl through some of the things that made the headlines in a year when the Borough was ruled from Bootle by people who seemed quite out of touch with things to the north and east of Netherton.

Library closures – As 2013 draws to a close I must say that I can’t for the life of me understand what on earth Sefton Council is doing in its seeming mad dash to do all it can to stop volunteers taking over some of its closing libraries.

Will volunteers ever be allowed to stack these shelves with books again - Not if Labour-run Sefton has anything to do with it!

Will volunteers ever be allowed to stack these shelves with books again – Not if Labour-run Sefton has anything to do with it!

Many of my posts during 2013 have been about the closure of 7 out of Sefton’s 13 libraries. The closure programme has now concluded and the Borough has lost more than half the libraries it once had, but the remarkable side story to this has been the obstacles that volunteers have faced in their attempts to take over some of the closing libraries.

One would have thought that with ‘localism’ being on the lips of virtually every politician across the land volunteers would be embraced and encouraged yet in socialist Sefton we seem to be in a parallel universe where volunteers are seen to be challenging and unwelcome! Indeed, it is remarkable to see what lengths Sefton will seemingly go to keep the volunteers at a distance.

Maghull Town Council – Well what can you say, 6 of the ruling Labour Party’s councillors resigned in 2013 and 2 more were all but disqualified from office but saved themselves by turning out at the last possible meeting to stop by-elections 8 & 9 of the year!

Aintree & Maghull Champion 12th June 2013

Aintree & Maghull Champion 12th June 2013

The Council also said it had set a precept for 2013/14 when it had done no such thing and, when it finally did set a budget and precept, it took money out of the 2013/14 budget for the Town’s annual fireworks display, voted against an amendment to put the money back in but then held a fireworks display anyway!

What an odd world Maghull Town Council has been since Labour took over in May 2011 and, for the record, I still await responses to the two Freedom of Information requests that I made to the Council months and months ago. Maghull must be the only Council in the UK to have a special dispensation from the Information Commissioner enabling it to ignore FoI requests.

Green Belt and Sefton Local Plan – This one will run well into 2014 and flow over into 2015 but 2013 has seen environmental campaigners (such as FRAGOFF) give Sefton Council a torrid time. Who would have expected a Labour-run Council to propose, for example, that vast areas of Maghull and Lydiate’s Green Belt and high quality agricultural land be concreted over to create massive urban extensions for these communities? Lydiate’s housing could now increase by 35% and Maghull’s by 25% if Labour carries through what it has consulted on in 2013.

Lib Dem Deputy Leader Simon Hughes MP with Sudell Ward Sefton Cllr. Bruce Hubbard at the site in Maghull where Labour run Sefton Council wants to built 1,600 houses on high grade agricultural land. Bruce's Lib Dem team opposes Labour's plans.

Lib Dem Deputy Leader Simon Hughes MP with Sudell Ward Sefton Cllr. Bruce Hubbard, Lydiate Parish Councillor Wyn Maher, Cllr. Jen Robertson and myself at the site to the east of Maghull where Labour-run Sefton Council wants to build 1,600 houses on high grade agricultural land. Bruce’s Lib Dem team opposes Labour’s plans.

In Formby the whole community seemingly rose up to oppose a Green Belt grab there, and with some success too, as the developer ducked out just as the planning application was to go before Sefton’s Planning Committee. Will they be back? Don’t doubt it, developers are not going to give up in their quest to concrete over areas of Sefton’s land which future generations will need to grow food upon.

And don’t forget that the Council for the Protection of Rural England (CPRE) has been accused of not fighting for the Green Belt and high grade agricultural land in the Borough.

The best of the rest –

The Hawthorne’s Free School – will it be given the chance to try to make a step change in educational attainment in Bootle? Sadly, Sefton Labour just won’t take a positive step and back it. Having been there I am sure it is taking a welcome risk to improve education in Bootle; that’s a risk we should all be backing. And will St Mary’s in Crosby in Crosby follow suit and convert to a Free School? It seems so and as the aim is quality education that has to be a good thing.

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Maghull’s Mad March – Usually quiet leafy Maghull had a bizarre few weeks when gun crime visited the community. Police say it was drug related gang members shooting at each other but what chaos it created in one of Merseyside’s lowest crime areas. It went as quickly as it came but Maghull residents for a short period had the opportunity to see the madness of guns so loved by Americans. The right to bear arms? More like the right to create fear and mistrust in a community/society.

Here I am at Maghull Police Station where the Neighbourhood Policing Team must have had a tough time during Mad March.

Here I am at Maghull Police Station where the Neighbourhood Policing Team must have had a tough time during Mad March.

Southport Pier – It was quite a fright when we leaned that it needed urgent repairs. A landmark like no other in the locality; fortunately it does seem to have a good long-term future.

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The Liverpool Pigeon, A Micro-Pub for Crosby – Now here was an innovative development in 2013 that could herald a new type of pub not joined at the hip to those pub management companies who are strangling the life out of British pubs everywhere.

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HALT – This environmental campaign group sprung up in opposition to the idea of building land-based wind turbines as tall as Blackpool Town on high grade agricultural land between Ince Blundell and Lydiate. I have been happy to support this group.

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Closure of Public Toilets – Sefton tried to shut them but campaigners fought them off. Maghull’s public toilets survive but for how long? Frankly it was a huge disappointment to me that the Town’s own Council refused to invest in them. They were once award winners and could be that again but Maghull TC seems sadly disinterested in them.

Maghull's Lib Dem  toilet campaigners fighting Labour's axe.

Maghull’s Lib Dem toilet campaigners fighting Labour’s axe.

Sefton’s Bin Tax – This has to have been a really mad moment in Sefton’s bid to save money – a proposal to charge residents to have their green bins emptied! Surely anyone with the slightest understanding of the Borough would have known this was a tax too far but the Labour-led Council had to be hit between the eyes (and in the ballot box) with the anger of residents before that Penny dropped. This and the Green Belt land grab were the major reasons why Labour lost two Council by-elections in Maghull during July to the Lib Dems.

A green bin mountain, Cllr. Bruce Hubbard, and a huge pile of petitions opposing Labours Green Bill tax for Sefton.

A green bin mountain, Cllr. Bruce Hubbard, and a huge pile of petitions opposing Labours Green Bill tax for Sefton.

All years are unique but we certainly have seen some odd events in Sefton Borough during 2013.

PS. A piece of good news is that the expected closure of W H Smith’s shop in Bootle New Strand, which I commented on not so long ago, is not now going to happen.