Great divides? Community boundaries – Mean a lot, mean a little?

I have often pondered on boundaries especially those associated with local government. What forms a boundary, why was it chosen and who chose it?

Here are two boundaries close to my Lydiate home. One is with Maghull and the other with Aughton:-

Maghull Brook - On the left Lydiate (and me) - on the right Maghull.

Maghull Brook – On the left Lydiate (and me) – on the right Maghull.

Sudell Brook - On the left Lydiate - on the right Aughton

Sudell Brook – On the left Lydiate – on the right Aughton

In both cases the boundary is obviously a stream and this can often be the case with local government boundaries where watercourses have been chosen to divide communities up.

The boundary between Maghull and Lydiate simply divides the two Civil Parishes of Lydiate and Maghull and the only real obvious difference this creates is the amount of Council tax or Precept that the residents of these two communities pay to either Lydiate Parish Council or Maghull Town Council. Both Civil Parishes are in Sefton Borough and both are a part of the Liverpool City Region/Merseyside.

The Lydiate – Aughton boundary is of far greater significance though as it is all but an invisible barrier rather than a boundary because Aughton Civil Parish is in West Lancashire Borough and the County of Lancashire. The world does not look any different on either side of Sudell Brook but in fact it is as the Sefton Borough – West Lancashire boundary has, since 1974, become a local government barrier. Why you can almost hear senior council officers saying ‘we are a Metropolitan Borough [Sefton] and they are just a County’ and of course the reverse will apply too. Sadly, whilst I may well be exaggerating here the reality is that since 1974, in local government terms, Sefton’s communities and those in West Lancashire have mainly planned for their futures in glorious isolation – a great divide indeed.

Considering the massive boundary between West Lancashire and Sefton you would think there would be a huge amount of cross-border co-operation and planning for the joint communities. You would think so but I assure you there is not.

I recall during my time as Leader of Sefton Council I went to Ormskirk to meet the Leader of West Lancs Council to try to kick-start closer working relationships but it seems that those who followed us have not developed things further. What sense does separate transport planning in the two Boroughs make? Environmental protection issues must be similar surely? Health issues surely do not stop at a stream do they? Why we even have an NHS Hospital Trust on split between Southport and Ormskirk either side of the great divide.

I recall when Sefton and West Councils were planning for building on the Green Belt and on the highest grade of agricultural land in England that I started to ask questions about how closely the two two planning departments were sharing and consulting each other. The answers I got were hardly an example of close cooperation in my eyes and I wondered if the contact was little more that phone calls with one side saying ‘we are doing X’, ‘well we are doing y’, ‘OK speak again next year maybe’.

The bottom line is that Merseyside and Lancashire are very different worlds in local government terms. Is this something that is hammered into local government officers from an early age akin to religious indoctrination? Whatever the case it is very much to the disadvantage of communities which are near to a significant local government boundary in my view.

Liverpool City Region needs a flag? What next!!!

www.liverpoolecho.co.uk/news/liverpool-news/steve-rotheram-promises-flag-liverpool-11810925#ICID=sharebar_twitter

The Liverpool Echo has the story – see link above

Well I have heard everything now. It’s as if Merseyside does not have enough challenges and problems to solve!

Let’s talk about educational attainment, public health, housing and the environment but not about whether we need a sub-regional flag.

Lady Lever Art Gallery gets a welcome refurbishment

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www.itv.com/news/granada/update/2016-03-24/historic-art-gallery-shows-off-results-of-3-million-makeover/

ITV/Granada has the story on its web site – see link above

Now here is a project to celebrate art on Merseyside, not least because Maghull resident Jen Robertson was a part of the project team and can be seen cleaning a rare Wedgwood fireplace in the video.

You can visit the Museum’s web site via the link below:-

www.liverpoolmuseums.org.uk/ladylever/

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Southport – Planning for a positive future

birkdalefocus.blogspot.co.uk/2016/02/the-british-lawnmower-museum-and-town.html

Above is a link to the blog site of my good friend Cllr. Iain Brodie Brown, please take a moment to click the link and read his posting. It is pure community politics to my mind.

Southport viewed from the end of its pier

Southport viewed from the end of its pier

Click on the photo to enlarge it

There can be little doubt that the towns/boroughs surrounding Liverpool have not benefited from being a part of the Liverpool City Region. Indeed, my own view is that centralising power in Liverpool as both Tories and Labour are planning for, with a Metro Mayor, could well be the road to ruin for places like Southport St. Helens, Birkenhead, Maghull, Formby, Prescot etc.

Whilst Iain’s posting is all about what needs to be done to give Southport a bright future his fundamental concerns could well be about any of Liverpool’s satellite communities that sit outside of the Liverpool City Council boundary.

Centralising power and influence in Liverpool will just not work, except for Liverpool itself. Unlike the Greater Manchester communities, which mostly seem look towards Manchester, the same can’t be said of Merseyside. Southport has always seen its connections with Preston and Lancashire as being of great importance but it was wrenched away from such historical links by local government reorganisation in 1974. Much of Wirral Borough has historic connections with Chester and Cheshire but it too was forced into Merseyside.

Merseyside because of its odd geographic shape was never likely to be a runner as a viable unit of local government and the years that have passed since 1974 have only proved that theory correct. Sefton, itself a strange collection of diverse communities, realised this some years ago and it began a process of decentralisation. Bizarrely though Labour then slammed this process into reverse when its Bootle based party took control of the Council. What was their motivation to say ‘the Borough will work well as a one size fits all because we say it will’ not least because this approach had failed miserably when first tried?

Presently we are seeing the start of a process to take 1000’s of civil service jobs out of Netherton, St Helens and Bootle for them all to be centralised in Liverpool. Liverpool’s gain will be big losses for Sefton and St Helens Boroughs.

Make no mistake the Tories are wedded to cities being made more powerful at the expense of their surrounding towns and boroughs. What’s more Labour are pretty much behind this process, why else did the 6 Labour Council Leaders on Merseyside sign up to a 3rd rate devolution deal?

Towns surrounding big cities need investment, public and private, not dependency on the nearest City because that is the road to ruin except for the big cities of course.

The photo above is amongst my Flickr shots at:-

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

Merseyside/Liverpool City Region – Desperately needs credible political leadership

So with news reaching us that we are having a Metro Mayor imposed on us (although imposed with the endorsement of our local councils who did not consult us) and a 3rd rate devolution deal to go along with it, what next?

Putting it bluntly will Merseyside elect as Metro Mayor anyone who Labour puts up as a candidate? Or exceptionally will a really credible candidate appear who can and will take Merseyside forward?

Surely the rather unfortunate (for Liverpool), in my opinion, period of office for the City’s first elected Mayor is something that we all need to learn from. Yes Joe Anderson is larger than life but is he really the kind of person to take Liverpool or Merseyside forward? Sadly, Joe has come over to me as being a divisive character not someone that the people of Liverpool can get behind and really see as their leader. If we don’t learn from this, we will not succeed in taking Merseyside forward.

And yes, I am still utterly opposed to having a Metro Mayor and the 3rd rate devolution of power deal that has come with it for Merseyside. However, as both are coming our way whether we like it or not in our top down ‘do as you are told’ society we had better get our thinking caps on.

A 3rd rate Metro Mayor to go with a 3rd rate devolution deal and Merseyside is headed nowhere. We need leaders with vision, not class war warriors, not ‘Mr. Big’s’, not ego trippers, not a buggins turner, not the last one out of the room because no one credible wants to do it.

Will we fluff it? Sadly history seems to indicate that there must be a huge possibility of this! Or will we become enthused by a really credible candidate with great ability and vision? I really hope so but where will they come from?

Liverpool City Region – Sefton Council Lib Dem Group opposes 3rd rate devolution deal and imposed Metro Mayor

Great to see the opposition Lib Dem Group on Sefton Council standing up for Merseyside and effectively saying take this 3rd rate devolution deal and stick it where the sun don’t………!

Sefton Logo

I have commented on the poor deal previously as I see nothing in it for the Boroughs surrounding Liverpool. We get a Metro Mayor imposed on us, whom we will have to pay the wages of, for little or nothing in return that will be of any use to us.

Sadly Sefton Council Tories backed Labour in endorsing the deal, but of course Labour and Tories in Sefton have always had a close relationship.

We Lib Dems passionately believe in devolution of government powers to the lowest possible level of governance commensurate with the effective delivery of services for our diverse communities. However, that does not mean we will accept 3rd rate devolution – no control over the Police or the NHS like in Manchester comes to mind! But holding a gun to our head and being told you can only have your 3rd rate devolution powers if you accept a Metro Mayor to lord it over you is utterly ridiculous. We will not even get a referendum on these issues.

Sorry but this is not devolution it is imposition and there’s nothing good going to come from this for the people of Sefton my view. However, I await all the publicity/propaganda that will tell me how wonderful it is going to be!