Green Belt – Sefton just does not seem to be able to muster a robust defence of it!

Sefton Council’s Labour dominated Planning Committee discussed an item last week associated with Green Belt land in Knowsley Borough just the other side of boundary between the Melling part of Sefton and the Kirkby part of Knowsley. I used to represent the Parish of Melling on Sefton Council so know the area well enough to be concerned when I see that a plot of land in Knowsley, that was a former golf driving range, is down to have over 200 houses built on it.

Sefton, under its Labour rulers also has a plan to build on Green Belt land in Melling butting up to the Knowsley boundary so it does not take long for you to work out that if both Boroughs are potentially going to allow building either side of the boundary there is every possibility that the two could eventually meet up with all the current Green Belt land being gobbled up.

The recommendation to the Planning Committee was that the report be noted and that an officer response be agreed. Frankly, that was too wishy-washy for the Lib Dem members of the Planning Committee so we opposed the recommendation whilst calling for a more robust protest to be sent to Knowsley Borough making it clear that Sefton opposed the potential loss of part of Knowsley’s Green Belt.

Sadly, the Labour and Conservative members of the Planning Committee were not willing to back us and this despite the fact that 2 Labour members of the Planning Committee now represent Melling.

Maghull Town Council – Will it challenge big brother Sefton?

Lydiate Parish Council, as I posted recently and as many folks also read about in a recent edition of the Aintree & Maghull Champion, has challenged Sefton Council’s plan to stop making ‘Double Rating’ payments to the 4 Parish Councils in the Borough that maintain their own parks and gardens.

Residents should not be paying twice

The challenge is of course right because if Sefton Council goes ahead with its plan Lydiate, Maghull and Aintree Village residents (and to a lesser extent Melling) will find that they are paying Sefton Council to do a job in their community (maintain parks and gardens) only for that money to be spent by the Borough Council elsewhere in Sefton! This will happen because the 4 Parish Councils covering these communities legitimately raise Council tax money to maintain their park and gardens.

Lib Dem Lydiate leads the fight for fairness

Lydiate is leading the charge for fairness but what will Maghull Town Council do? Will they fight for the money that should be fairly paid to their community or will they follow Bootle Labour Party orders and keep their heads down saying nothing?

Will Labour Maghull put its community first or keep taking orders from Bootle?

It’s a big challenge for Maghull Labour who are used to being told what to do by either Bootle Labour or MP Bill Esterson’s office.

Lydiate Parish Council – Please don’t make our residents pay twice!

Double Rating in Sefton – Lydiate Parish Council’s response to Sefton MBC’s proposal to stop repaying the affected Parish Councils

Dear Sefton Council,

In Lydiate, Maghull and Aintree Village (and to a lesser extent in Melling Parish – see note below) all of the parks are looked after by the Town or Parish Councils and these Councils charge residents for the cost of doing this, via the Council Tax – the separate ‘parish precept’.

Sefton Council also charges for looking after parks in Lydiate, Maghull and Aintree Village even though it does not deliver any such service in those three communities. This means residents potentially paying twice for having their parks looked after. This is clearly not fair or right so, some years ago, an agreement was reached for Sefton Council to pay these Parish & Town Councils the same per acre that Sefton spends on its own parks, elsewhere in the borough. This stopped residents paying double, so the agreement was called “Double Rating”. In other words Sefton has been returning to these Parishes what it has been taking from them but not spending on their parks.

However, Sefton Council is now planning to scrap the “Double Rating” agreement and the payments it makes to the Parish Councils which maintain their own parks and gardens. This will mean residents paying twice for having their parks looked after. First they will pay their Parish/Town Council for actually maintaining the parks and second they will pay Sefton Council to do nothing to them. Sefton will just take the money it raises in Lydiate, Maghull and Aintree Village and spend it on parks elsewhere in the Borough.

Lydiate Parish Council’s view is that Sefton Council’s proposal to stop paying back Double Rating money to the affected Parish Councils is clearly unfair and the Borough Council needs to reconsider. If the proposal is carried forward the result will be that Maghull, Lydiate and Aintree Village Council tax payers will be paying twice.

The good news, however, is that Sefton Council does have two quite viable alternative options to resolve this matter without putting the Council tax payers of Lydiate, Maghull and Aintree Village at disadvantage. These options are:-
a) To continue to make the payments but at a lower level commensurate with the reduced standards of grounds maintenance that the Borough has already budgeted for and may well budget for in the future. This option would mean that all of Sefton’s communities would be treated the same by the Borough Council no matter whether the parks and gardens are run by Borough or Parish Council.
b) For Sefton Council to charge a differing level (lower) of Council tax in the Parishes which maintain their own parks and gardens than in the rest of the Borough. This option would stop Sefton Council collecting money in the Parished communities that look after their own parks and gardens and then having to refund the money via the Parish Councils. Doing this would also mean that Council tax payers in the affected Parishes would not be put at a disadvantage.

Simply stopping the repayments to the Parish Councils is unfair and will lead the Borough Council open to the charge that it is raising money in one part of the Borough simply to spend it elsewhere. We contend that this is not a position that the Borough Council should wish to find itself in.

Finally, we would add that we fully appreciate the level of savings the Borough Council has to make; all we ask is that in this case of Double Rating the savings are made fairly.

Yours sincerely

Lydiate Parish Council

*****

Note 1:- Melling Parish is also affected but in Melling there is recreational land provide by both Sefton Council and Melling Parish Council so the situation there is more complex.
Note 2:- The other 6 Parish Councils in the Borough do not own or lease land that is used as parks or for public recreational purposes so ‘Double Rating’ is not an issue for them.