Melling – There’s a price to pay for democracy but surely its better than co-option?

I read with interest the article on the front page of this week’s Aintree & Maghull Champion newspaper regarding the cost of holding a by-election to fill a vacancy on Melling Parish Council.

There can be little doubt that this particular vacancy came out of unusual circumstances i.e. a Labour candidate who had won one of the 11 seats from this May’s full parish council elections decided not to take up the seat they had won on Melling PC. I wonder what changed their mind? According to the paper the winning candidate has not said why he did not take up the seat and the local Labour Party (Sefton Central Constituency) has not commented either.

The thrust of the article was the cost of holding the by-election – some £5,000 – which the parish council involved will have to pay for. The alternative way of filling a vacancy on a parish council is to co-opt a new member if no one calls for an election to be held and this is a matter I have blogged about previously. Here’s a link to my most recent relevant blog about co-options:-

tonyrobertson.mycouncillor.org.uk/2018/09/18/co-options-onto-parish-councils/

My understanding is that the ensuing by-election (held last week) was won by an independent who defeated a different Labour candidate.

So there you have it. I still come down on the side of a by-election each time there’s a vacancy on a parish council because it is the best way forward for our democracy. Co-option, whilst being perfectly legal, is something for me from another era when maybe it was deemed to be OK for those who have been elected to select someone else to join them on a parish council. We would not accept sitting MP’s selecting another MP to fill a vacancy in Parliament so why is it OK for this to happen at the first tier of local democracy – our parish councils?

And by the way, it is not always the case that a by-election takes place on a parish council when an election has been called for because if only one candidate puts themselves forward they will be elected unopposed. Clearly in this case two people wanted to be on the parish council so a by-election took place. I celebrate that because the alternative, say the two potential candidates being interviewed by the already elected council to fill the vacancy, does not sit comfortably with me.

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.

Bold Lane, Aughton – It’s still in very poor condition despite that seemingly contributing towards a cyclist’s death back in August

Melling residents will recall with great sadness the recent death of one of their Parish Councillors – Alison Doyle – in a cycling accident on Aughton’s Bold Lane back in August.

I raise the matter again as yesterday I cycled up Bold Lane due to my alternative and usual route via Sandy Lane being closed for roadworks. I virtually never cycle up Bold Lane because the surface of the road, north of the Sandy Lane junction, is very poor as I’ve mentioned in previous postings going back to February of this year.

Sadly, if anything the surface has deteriorated even more and a section of it is breaking up badly. The odd patch repair has been done but clearly some major resurfacing of say a hundred yards or so is urgently required. What I can’t get my head around is why Lancashire County Council has not done the work even if only in memory of Cllr. Doyle’s death.

I stopped to take some photos of the flowers at the side of the road where the accident took place:-

While I was stopped another cyclist came along and we talked about the condition of the road surface. We agreed that Lancs County Council really does need to get on with the resurfacing because not only had that terrible accident taken place due of a pothole but the surface had been marked out for repairs months ago but little has actually happened and the markings have now been all but worn/washed away.

I’ve raised the matter with Lancashire County Council hoping that they will get this road surface sorted before we have another serious accident.

Alison was a member of Sefton Velo Cycling Club.

The lead photo is also amongst my Flickr shots at:-

www.flickr.com/photos/86659476@N07/

Melling – Have you visited The Delph a local wild flower meadow?

Up on Melling Rock at the side of the Bootle Arms Pub is small meadow and wild flower field called the The Delph that is looked after by Melling Parish Council. When the wild flowers are out it looks delightful.

The site has been a sandstone quarry, riffle range and landfill site in the past.

Some years ago when I was leader of Sefton Council I was given a pamphlet-type book written by Irene Birch about her mother Bertha (Mattocks) Birch called A Melling Lassie “Pottery Days” Melling’s Scottish Heritage. In it on the title page is an photo of ‘The Old Melling Delph’ – a different old black and white photo from the one on the entrance board to The Delph above.

Of course that very same area of what is known as Melling Rock was also once known for Melling Pottery – there was even a Melling Pottery Band.

Anyway enough of my rambles why not take a short ramble yourself through The Delph when the wild flower meadow is in bloom next summer, you won’t be disappointed I hope.

I told you the comrades were having another set to – Labour resignation No.8!

My posting of 15th May refers:-

tonyrobertson.mycouncillor.org.uk/2014/05/15/more-trouble-within-sefton-central-labour-party/

Yesterday I received a call from Maghull Town Council telling me that Labour Cllr. John Jarvis had resigned his seat. He had been elected to the Council at one of the many by-elections, which have followed previous Labour resignations, in March 2013. Originally, he had won a seat for the Conservative’s on Melling Parish Council in May 2011 but he resigned that position and stood for Labour in March 2013.

Incredibly, there have now been 8 Maghull Town Council Labour resignations since they snatched control of the Council from the Lib Dems in May 2011. It’s only a 16 member council altogether so half of the Councillors have resigned in just 3 years ago. The present balance of the Council, following this latest resignation, is 10 Labour, 5 Lib Dem and 1 vacancies.

Of the 13 Labour members elected in May 2011 8 have thrown in the towel although this is complicated by the fact that 2 of the newer Labour members who won by-elections, caused by their colleagues resigning, have resigned themselves.

The last 3 resignations of Labour members led to the Lib Dems gaining 2 Labour seats in the July 2013 by-elections.

Can there possibly be another Council in the UK where 50% of the councillors, all from the same ruling political group, have resigned? Answers on a post card to Maghull Town Council, Maghull Town Hall, Hall Lane, Maghull, L31………….

Melling – Why not celebrate this historic community?

Having previously represented Melling Parish on Sefton Council I have often pondered and why at times some Melling addresses are said to be in Maghull.

A lovely view of Melling Rock and St. Thomas Church

A lovely view of Melling Rock and St. Thomas Church

Take the Pear Tree Pub that is closer to Kirkby than it is to Maghull, yet its web references, at least some of them, say it is in Maghull when it is very firmly in Melling.

Then there is HMP Kennet, not a part of it is in Maghull yet it promotes its self as having a Maghull address. It’s in Melling.

I also recall having an odd conversation with a resident about a road called Beechway in Melling, odd because whilst the whole of the road is in Melling Civil Parish the resident was most insistent that she lived in Maghull.

But you could say this identity issue goes back at least as far as the late 1800’s when the former Maghull and Melling railway station was renamed just Maghull. Agreed, the station is wholley within Maghull Civil Parish but on its far eastern side and clearly serves Melling as well.

If some folks think that Melling may be having an identity crisis let’s help it fight back. Here are some interesting Melling links:-

www.mellingparishcouncil.org/

www.animals-in-need.co.uk/

www.mellingtithebarn.org.uk/barn.htm

A final word. Some years ago, whilst I was a Borough Councillor for Melling, I was given a book called ‘A Melling Lassie’ by Irene Birch which told the story of the Scottish potters who came to live and work in Melling. How many people know that Melling once produced pottery?