Maghull – Youth facilities – I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry

Readers of this blog site will know how I and others supported the ambitions of local youth when they created Maghull’s unique Youth Coffee Bar within Maghull Town Hall some 20+ years ago. You will also know how distressed I am about Maghull Town Council closing down the facility in 2016.

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

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

But having read in the Aintree & Maghull Champion a quote about youth facilities in Maghull I did not know whether to laugh or cry! – ‘developing an appropriate youth offer to engage young people in productive activities is the right thing to do’. This was said, according to the Champion, by Town Council Leader Patrick McKinley.

Now what was the Youth Coffee Bar meant to do? Yes you have guessed it, just what the quote above says! So why run it down over 3 or so years and then close it? Why not have taken it to the next stage, whilst engaging further with local youngsters and getting them to take the lead yet again?

It was the idea of local youngsters in the first place, the Town Council of the day just helped them develop it, fund it and put in place the management processes to ensure it worked. Setting up Maghull & District Youth Council was a part of this process.

It was not something imposed on youngsters by adults, it was their plan which adults aided them, only as required, to fulfill.

Now the facility is mothballed (although Maghull CAB still use it I guess as they always have done) and it may even become a Police Station if that’s the part of Maghull Town Hall the Merseyside Police are moving into.

Sorry Patrick, I hear your words but I despair, I really do.

The Champion newspaper printed an edited version of a letter which I had sent to them about this matter in its edition dated 18th January.

Maghull – It’s innovative Youth Coffee has been killed off by Labour – How desperately sad

News reaches me that Labour has finally decided to kill off the innovative Youth Coffee Bar in Maghull Town Hall after a few years or more of seemingly hoping it would simply die off. I understand that they have given the worker employed to help run the Coffee Bar notice to quit.

I have covered this story many times before through all its twists and turns and here is a link to those previous postings:-

As I have said before it was pretty obvious from the start of Labour’s tenure on Maghull Town Council that they simply did not care for the Youth Coffee Bar, possibly because they could not control it? Indeed, it had been deliberately set up so that young people ran it themselves and only relied on adult input as they required it. It was all about them doing things as they thought best, learning life skills along the way.

Sefton Youth Service was involved from the start but they were never really on-board with the concept as they wanted control, education curriculum related activities etc. When Maghull TC was Lib Dem-run we stuck to the format that young people told us they wanted and there were quite a few run-ins with Sefton Youth Service. There were, however, some notable exceptions to the dead hand of Sefton’s Youth Service in a number of individual youth workers who could see what was being created and why. Dear Nova Rimmer headed the list of enlightened youth workers and I was delighted to meet her in Southport a couple of weeks ago looking really well after a period of very poor health in her retirement. She was an absolute star and was so sad to hear of the demise of the Coffee Bar which she stuck her neck out to develop in the face of her employer’s grudging and limited backing.

The original idea for the facility was not a political one from the Lib Dems or any other party for that matter. It grew out of the ideas of young people attending Maghull’s local high schools. They came to the Town Council and the then Lib Dem administration ran with their ideas and made them a reality. We did not ask the youngsters to deliver leaflets for us or to join the Lib Dem Party in return for our support, we simply tried to give their ideas a chance to succeed.

Maghull TH Youth Coffee Bar

Nickie Smith was a leading light within the original group of young people who got the Youth Coffee Bar off the ground and my old chum Andrew Blackburn, back in the days when he was a Maghull and Sefton Councillor, took on all comers who had a downer on the Coffee Bar. And yes there were those who said they did not want a Youth Coffee Bar in the Town Hall which they felt was for adults. Andrew saw them off!

And you know what it became a huge success, regularly attracting numbers of young people well above what traditional youth centres were getting through their doors in Sefton Borough. What’s more folks from across Merseyside and beyond, with an interest in youth facilities, came to look at the Youth Coffee Bar as they considered replicating it in their own communities.

Maghull & District Youth Council, which the Town Council also nurtured, was a part of the management process but Labour-run Maghull TC seem to have let that slip away too.

This is all so very sad. Have Labour killed it off because they could not control it? Because they could not live with a project initiated during the Lib Dem era? Because they have no interest in youth facilities?

So sad, so sad, so sad…………….

MY REVIEW OF 2015 – Some Maghull & Lydiate events

Its always difficult to know where to start and what to leave out of a review of a year just past but here goes with 5 memorable issues for me in 2015.

Loss of the 311 Bus – Thanks Arriva! – This was a big issue for Lydiate in particular and it now means that Lydiate folk can only get to Ormskirk, if they don’t have a car, by getting the 231 bus to Maghull station and then a train to our local market town.

This is me with the Lydiate & Maghull resident's petition earlier this year at a 311 bus stop in Lydiate. The petition was not collected by me I would add but by the hard work of locals concerned about the loss of this Arriva route to Ormskirk.

This is me with the Lydiate & Maghull resident’s petition earlier this year at a 311 bus stop in Lydiate. The petition was not collected by me I would add but by the hard work of locals concerned about the loss of this Arriva route to Ormskirk.

I worked alongside local residents during the summer who raised a petition to try to save the 311 but Arriva were not for turning to quote the Iron Lady and the bus was lost at the end of August. By the way the Bus Deregulation Act that brought in private company control of most bus routes was a Thatcher era move.

Boxing Day Floods – Well they are fresh in memory and the subject of recent postings on this blog site so just to say that I hope those affected by them are recovering from them.

Hall Lane, Maghull with a Merseyside Fire & Rescue worker trying to clear debris from Whinney Brook.

Hall Lane, Maghull with a Merseyside Fire & Rescue worker trying to clear debris from Whinney Brook.

Building on Green Belt & high grade agricultural land – Sadly, Sefton Council continued in 2015 to plough ahead with its proposals to concrete over vast swathes of land especially in the East Parishes part of the Borough. They are looking to allow massive urban extensions to be built around Maghull and Lydiate together with other significant Green Belt building sites being identified across the Borough.

Campaigners, outside Maghull Town Hall trying to save Sefton Borough's high grade agricultural land from development.

Campaigners, outside Maghull Town Hall trying to save Sefton Borough’s high grade agricultural land from development.

As 2015 closed a planning inspector was reviewing Sefton’s Local Plan which details the Labour-run Council’s environmental destruction. So frustrating that few local decision makers seem to value our exceptionally high grade agricultural land which grows the food that we eat. Where will our children grow their food?

Maghull’s Stafford Moreton Youth Centre & former Maghull Library sites – This must surely be a candidate for farce of the year as it tangled Labour up in knots all of their own making. To recap, Labour-run Sefton Council put the side by side sites out for sale by tender. When the bids came in the Council’s all-Labour Cabinet took the highest bid. Labour back bench councillors protested (well after the horse had bolted) saying they wanted a pause in the process to see what the community wanted to do with the site or words to that effect. Their Labour Cabinet bosses said no we are selling it, tough. But the day before the Cabinet confirmed its original decision Labour back benchers launched a community consultation via the Champion Newspaper! The consultation lasted less than 24 hours and was pointless anyway as their Labour bosses were determined to sell the site. Later we found that Netto are likely to build a supermarket on the site. What a carry on.

The former Stafford Moreton Youth Centre and old Maghull Library in the heart of Maghull's shopping area.

The former Stafford Moreton Youth Centre and old Maghull Library in the heart of Maghull’s shopping area.

But then as December crept up on us all too quickly I was told that a former local chap called Henry Stafford Moreton had either donated the land and or money to have the Stafford Moreton Youth Centre built in the 1960’s. This being the case (and I am trying to verify it) then surely our Labour councillors should not be selling the land off and stuffing the money in Sefton Council’s back pocket but they should be investing the proceeds of the sale of the Youth Centre part of the site in youth facilities in Maghull. 2016 will determine whether or not Henry Stafford Moreton’s donation of land or money (assuming that it did indeed happen) will be wisely reinvested in Maghull’s youth or otherwise. Watch this space.

The demise of Maghull’s unique Youth Coffee Bar – In August it shut its doors and I am not aware of them reopening. How sad and how ironic that later in 2015 we encountered the sale of Stafford Moreton Youth Centre for a Netto to be built. Youth facilities have certainly taken a bashing in Maghull.

Nickie Smith was a former Chairperson of Maghull & District Youth Council and was one of the original campaigners for the Youth Coffee Bar who subsequently became a Maghull Town Councillor

Nickie Smith was a former Chairperson of Maghull & District Youth Council and was one of the original campaigners for the Youth Coffee Bar who subsequently became a Maghull Town Councillor

When Nickie Smith had to pack in helping to run the the Maghull Town Hall Coffee Bar earlier this year she did so because she realised that Maghull Council’s heart was no longer in project. In all my wildest dreams I did not see Labour’s disinterest in youth facilities coming when they took control of Maghull Town Council in 2011. Ironically, the facility had previously been visited by Burscough Parish Council and Knowsley Parish Council (both Labour -run) as they wanted to see what it was all about and because they also had an interest in youth facilities like the then Lib Dem-run Maghull Town Council.

Well that’s probably enough grumbling about 2015 and let’s hope that 2016 holds better hopes out for our environment, our young people and local transport amongst other things.

Maghull – So what’s happened to the Town’s innovative Youth Coffee Bar this time?

Maghull’s innovative Youth Coffee Bar in the Town Hall has now been closed again and for quite some weeks; since August I understand. What’s going on?

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

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

I have blogged before about Maghull Youth Coffee Bar as it was an important step forward in youth provision when it was launched all those years ago. It’s aim was to put young people in control of their own facility and for that facility to be at the heart of the Town – in the Town Hall.

My previous posts are accessible below:-

Yes, some folks opposed it when it was launched saying things like we don’t want unruly youngsters in the Town Hall, put them somewhere where they can make their noise well away from us etc. etc. But the then Lib Dem run Town Council was determined to take the project forward because it was right and because it had been devised and progressed by young people themselves. It was meant to challenge the view that young people should be neither seen or heard by older generations.

Nickie Smith was President of Maghull & District Youth Council and was one of the original campaigners for the Youth Coffee Bar who subsequently became a Maghull Town Councillor

Nickie Smith was President of Maghull & District Youth Council and was one of the original campaigners for the Youth Coffee Bar who subsequently became a Maghull Town Councillor

It worked very well for many years and was often the most successful youth facility in the whole of Sefton Borough, in terms of the throughput of youngsters, despite Sefton’s Youth Service being very sniffy about it. They were sniffy as they were only asked to/meant to support it, not run it and this went against the controlling attitudes of the Youth Service in my view. Having said that some of the individual youth workers certainly did buy into the project even if Sefton Council did not.

The Coffee Bar room could not be booked by an adult group without young people being OK with that; it was meant to empower young people and help them grow into citizens they and we could be proud of.

When Labour took control of the Town Council in 2011 you could see their disbelief about how the facility was run. After all Labour are all about control not giving power away. There have been a number run-ins with Labour since then and they have imposed closures before – my previous postings accessible via the link above refer. However, what is the Labour-run Town Council up to now? Is it that hard to put young people first without them having to be controlled by Labour?

So very, very sad.

Maghull Youth Coffee Bar – A farewell party for Nickie Smith

Last Monday I was invited to a party to celebrate the achievements of Nickie Smith who, for the reasons I posted about recently (see link below) has decided to call it day with her youth work, which she did on top of her full time job I would add.

Here are a couple of shots of Nickie and her friends at the party which was held at the Meadows Pub in Maghull.



Click on the photos to enlarge them

Nickie deserves a break as she has been campaigning and working for youth facilities in Maghull since she was 14 and I am too careful about my own safety to tell you how old she is now!

Well done Nickie; you have contributed a huge amount to the youth of Maghull and District.

Maghull – Youth Council – Nickie Smith – A big thank you and a nagging sadness

Nickie Smith writes – I am afraid I think the time is now right for me to withdraw from leading the [Maghull & District] Youth Council and the [Youth] Coffee Bar. I have been involved with the Youth Council for the last 25 years since I was 11 and with the Youth Coffee Bar since the start! In fact I was one of the members who approached the council with the suggestion of the Coffee Bar. Recent years have been very trying fighting for the Coffee Bar and the support that was once there seems very lacking these days. Now with my job and family commitments there are just not enough hours in the day and if I am honest I haven’t got the energy any more.

Nickie Smith

Nickie Smith

I hope the Town Council will continue to support the young people as the Coffee Bar and Youth Council have helped many people including myself develop and guided many vulnerable young people over the years. It seems now a days that all the good things young people do or need help with are very often forgotten or overshadowed by the minority of negative instances with young people.

I am sad to finish volunteering but I think now is the right time.

Tony Robertson writes It made me very sad to read this especially as it is from the very person who has been the guiding light for Maghull & District Youth Council and Maghull Town Hall’s unique Youth Coffee Bar from day one.

Sadly, and I think my Labour opponents will agree with me here, the Youth Coffee Bar and Youth Council have hardly been high on their priorities list since they took control of Maghull Town Council in 2011.

I have always seen young people as as a priority in my time as a councillor and that’s why I backed the setting up of the Youth Council and Youth Coffee Bar in Maghull many years ago. When we Lib Dems lost control of the Town Council it really did not enter my head that Labour would not see youth as a priority too. But you live and learn.

Nickie has done a splendid job, indeed she became a local councillor herself for number of years as a direct consequence of her work with local youngsters. She was helped along the way by many people both young and old but two people really do require a mention – Cllr. Andrew Blackburn and former now retired youth worker Nova Rimmer. Both of them stood by Nickie in the tough times and when young people came under the spotlight from those who did not support them as they did.

It can be tough working with youngsters because, by their very nature, they are trainee adults who make mistakes and sometimes act inappropriately; but we have all been there! The ethos of the Youth Coffee Bar when it was set up was that young people controlled it, looked after its finances and learned some life skills along the way. Adults were there to help when required but not to be controlling or dominant in any way.

My priority has been to put young people first and that meant the Youth Coffee Bar always being available for young people to use and it only being used by adults when young people were not using it. This was an important principle to me and indeed it used to be for Maghull Town Council. But, as I say, the priorities of one political party are not those of another and it has been obvious to me that young people are simply not near the top of Labour’s list of priorities. So much so that the Youth Coffee Bar will be closed between the 5th and 18th of November this year whilst it is used for another purpose. And yes, you have guessed it, the young people were told rather than consulted!

I have penned this tribute to Nickie and my moan about youngsters no longer being a priority more in sadness than in anger.

My previous posts on this subject are at:-