Sefton Borough – Do Labour really want to merge it with Knowsley and Liverpool Councils?

Sefton Council Logo

www.liverpoolecho.co.uk/news/liverpool-news/joe-anderson-open-liverpool-merging-14756310

The Liverpool Echo has the story on its web site – see link above

In times when it looked just about possible that the Borough of Sefton could be split up I recall that Bootle Labour Party were seemingly of the view that merging Bootle in with Liverpool City Council was akin to them all being captured by the enemy. They certainly seemed to view the prospect with more than a little spluttering into their coffee so to speak.

Now it seems that some Labour folk are saying Knowsley Borough may not be viable in the future (I seem to recall that was a phrase used to describe West Lancs Borough not that long ago) and Joe Anderson suggesting that merging Liverpool with either or both Knowsley/Sefton is worth considering.

The church of St. Helen in Sefton Village, This village gave the name to Sefton Borough.

Sefton certainly is a muddle of communities with few common interests and there can be little doubt that it was somehow cobbled together by the Local Government Boundary Commission in 1974 to suit some purpose but no one is quite sure what that purpose was. Unloved would be a good way to describe Sefton Borough. I have blogged about this before and here’s a link to that previous posting dated March 2015:-

tonyrobertson.mycouncillor.org.uk/2015/03/28/borough-of-sefton-what-a-mixture-of-diverse-communities-that-have-little-common-with-each-other/

Of course Labour-run Sefton has now got rid of its Area Committees (mentioned in the March 2015 posting) as they have acted to centralise power in Bootle Town Hall once again.

Sefton Borough artwork recognising the year the Borough was created.

So having rehearsed that history, how on earth would merging Sefton with either or both Knowsley Borough and/or Liverpool City help empower Sefton’s diverse communities – Answer it wouldn’t, indeed it would most probably place the decision making power base even further away in Liverpool.

The other question is why do some Labour folks in Knowsley and Liverpool want to merge their councils areas with Sefton Borough. Is it just a bigger is better approach to local government?

The talk of mergers is probably little more than that but of course we Liberals need to be on our guard as we are very much opposed to the big is beautiful approach to local government because we are decentralisers by nature and instinct. Creating a huge Merseyside Council taking in Knowsley, Liverpool and Sefton would achieve what? A Liberal view is that it would be more remote, less in touch with the needs of individual communities and pretty much impossible for residents to hold to account. In reality we need smaller councils with far less highly paid officials running them.

With thanks to Roy Connell for the lead to this posting

Maghull – 2 parks come BACK under Town Council control, but how will they generate income and why all this talk about developing/building on them?

Old Hall Park, Maghull

I scratched my head quite a bit when I read an article in the Aintree and Maghull Champion dated 23rd May headed ‘All parks now back under control of town council’

Firstly, the parks concerned Old Hall Park and Bobbies Wood had originally been taken from Sefton Council by the Town Council quite a number of years ago but then the Labour-run Town Council decided to give them back to the Labour-run Borough Council. Now they have reversed that decision and once again taken them back under control of the Town Council. Of course this begs the question why give them back only to take them back again?

Wild flowers in Bobby’s Wood a few years ago (junction of A59 and L’pool Rd Sth) in Maghull.

Secondly, the article informed Maghull residents that ‘these sites will be development-free’. What on earth does that mean? No one other than the Labour Party has talked about local parks being developed and as both Sefton Council and Maghull Town Council are Labour run are we being told that parks run by Labour Sefton will be/may be developed but parks run by Labour Maghull TC will not be? In other words is one municipal arm of Labour pro-building on parks and one anti building on parks?

Thirdly, what does the phrase ‘will generate much needed revenue for the council between 2018-21’ mean? Are we talking revenue for Sefton Council or revenue for Maghull Town Council? And how will these parks generate revenue anyway?

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m quite happy that the parks are back under the Town Council’s control, after all when I was a Maghull resident and councillor I arranged for them to be transferred to the Town Council the first time. But all this Labour talk about parks being vulnerable to development in Sefton Borough really is a worry. Of course Labour-run Knowsley Council has already gone down the route of allocating parks for building land so is that what Labour-run Sefton are also considering? This needs flushing out as does how the parks that are safe from building on (the ones run by Parish Councils?) going to be used to ‘generate much needed income’.

Far more questions than answers but Labour must surely have the answers?

Fracking on our doorstep – The opposition is getting organised

I suppose that fracking was always going to appear locally following Government giving out licences to companies wanting to explore for shale gas. Trouble is the wider political establishment is wedded to this source of fuel, which is far from being a green/renewable source of energy.

My previous posting on this subject was in January of this year and it is accessible via the link below:-

tonyrobertson.mycouncillor.org.uk/2018/01/06/fracking-its-getting-closer-exploratory-drilling-in-great-altcar-is-on-the-agenda/

Opposition locally is being led by ‘The Moss Alliance’ who held a public event in Haskayne Village Hall on 10th February.

On 4th January 2018 Aurora Energy Resources submitted a scoping request to Lancashire County Council. This is the stage before submitting a planning application. They want to dill 2 boreholes on Altcar Moss. The site is more or less level with Formby and to the east of it inland. Please note the site is actually within Lancashire (due to the most odd local government boundaries locally) not Sefton but Formby will be the biggest community that is nearest to the site.

Lancashire already has experience of dealing with shale gas exploration and drilling due to the Cuadrilla site near Blackpool which has had a great deal of coverage in the media.

I understand that Aurora will be holding their own public event, also at Haskayne Village Hall, on 17th February.

A final goodbye to Jim Byrne

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It was Jim’s funeral today and it was nice to see so many folks turning out to pay their respects to a chap who had dedicated much of his life to the Maghull and wider Sefton Borough community.

Both the current Mayors of Sefton and Maghull were there as well as 2 former Sefton Mayors and 4 former Maghull Mayors, so Jim was getting a great send off.

Here are a few photos about Jim’s work on the council. The first photo is of the 1984 opening ceremony of Maghull Town Hall and Jim is 3rd from the left:-

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Here’s a shot of the past Mayor’s board at Maghull Town Hall. As you can see Jim was Mayor in 1975/76:-

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And Jim was Chair of the National Association of Larger Local Councils in 2003 and the plates below were presented to him by Barry Town Council in South Wales. They remain on display in the Council Chamber of Maghull Town Hall:-

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Jim really was a nice chap whom everyone liked and it was fitting that someone who had done so much for his community was given such a great send off. Indeed, I think it was goodbye to ‘Mr Maghull’.

Jim Byrne RIP

Jim with former local councillor Sylvia Mainey at the site of the former Lydiate Voluntary Youth Club prior to Lydiate Village Centre being built.

Jim with former local councillor Sylvia Mainey at the site of the former Lydiate Voluntary Youth Club prior to Lydiate Village Centre being built.

A am sad to have to report that former Maghull councillor Jim Byrne died on 31st December.

Jim had been a local councillor on Maghull Town Council, Sefton Borough Council and Lydiate Parish Council over many, many years. Indeed, he was first elected to Maghull Town Council in the early 1960 if memory serves.

Jim and I sharing a moment together.

Jim and I sharing a moment together.

Jim was fun to be around as he would often have some amusing remark to make about any situation. I recall his legendary old Ford Cortina car. Well put it this way it was old, probably one of the first off the production line, but he kept it going for years. Andrew Blackburn, Robbie Fenton and I thought he had bricks in it for suspension as the ride across The Moss to Southport for Sefton Council meetings was like a fairground ride!

Jim at the then derelict site of the former Albany Cinema, where Lidl is now of course.

Jim at the then derelict site of the former Albany Cinema, where Lidl is now of course.

I understand he had been a county level table tennis player in his younger days. Later in life he would really enjoy the quizzes that used to be held at Maghull Town Hall each Wednesday night where he could often be found deep in conversation with Charles (Uncle Albert) Walker about their time doing National Service. Yes, neither of them were actually taking a great deal of notice of the actual quiz, that was left to Andrew Beattie, Andrew Blackburn, myself and whomever else had turned out for our ‘Nutters’ quiz team.

Jim was a Maghull Town Council member when Maghull Town Hall was planned for and built and if you ever pop in there look out for the photo of the opening of the building in the foyer as Jim is on it.

He was also a member of Lydiate Parish Council when the successful campaign was launched to build what is now Lydiate Village Centre on Lambshear Lane, on the site of the former Lydiate Voluntary Youth Club. And he was a member of both Maghull Town and Sefton Borough Councils as we fought to get Meadows Leisure Centre & Library built by Sefton Council.

One part of the work of local councils that Jim loved was dealing with planning applications and he rose to become the Chairman of Sefton Council’s Planning Committee. I think he enjoyed that more than anything.

There can be few people indeed who have been involved in the work of local councils in this area from the 1960’s to early 2000’s who will not have known Jim. I think it is fair to say that I have never come across anyone who did not like Jim.

He often said that he was no politician and in many ways never a truer word has been spoken as Jim just liked doing things for the community. From my perspective it is nice to celebrate the life of a really nice chap who did his bit for his community.

Jim leaves behind a loving family whom he would constantly chatter about when in company. He clearly thought a lot of them and them of him.

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……………..