Sefton Council – Sefton Central Area (Farce) Committee – Parishes despair of it too!
I attended a meeting of what we call the 10 Parishes last night. It’s an umbrella grouping made up of representatives of all of the 10 Parish Councils within Sefton Borough and interestingly they all within the geographic area of the Sefton Central Area (Farce) Committee.
My previous postings of 7/6/13, 6/9/13 & 15/9/13.
We were informed that representatives of the 10 Parishes had met with a couple of Labour Cabinet members in an attempt to try to persuade them of the useless nature of the now huge Area Committee where the voice of the Parishes is lost or drowned out by the 27 Borough Councillors that are present. It seems that the first words from Labour were ‘we are not changing it!’ So no negotiation there then.
My own views on the Central Sefton (Farce) Committee are hardly repeatable in polite company but in the interests of trying to help this ridiculous Labour-created mess become a little more useful I suggested that:-
• The Sefton Council Officer who looks after the Committee should, as each item comes forward for inclusion on the next Area Committee agenda contact the relevant Parish Council to let them know.
• That the Officer should ask the Parish Council if it was a matter they wanted to make representations about either in writing prior to the meeting or in person via a representative of the Parish Council at the meeting.
• This would lead to the Chair of the Area Committee ensuring that when particular matters came up they ensured that everyone knew of either the written Parish Council submission or called on the Parish representative to make their verbal contribution.
It will be interesting to see if Labour will allow such a system to operate.
One very strange part of 10 Parishes discussion was that no one at the meeting seemed at all sure which of six Labour Cabinet members (this excludes the Leader) holds responsibility for Parish Council matters in the Borough. So is it Pugh, Pugh, Barney McGrew, Cuthbert, Dibble or Grubb?
I could not help but develop my case for returning the central part of Sefton Borough to 3 sensible Area Committees following my posting on this subject on 6th September.
I have long championed decentralisation in local government and when I was Leader of Sefton Borough we created a number of Area Committees around recognisable communities or groups of communities that had common interests. Sadly things have gone into reverse now and all seemingly to try to save a very small amount of money.
Take the middle part of Sefton Borough which is made up of many diverse communities including 10 communities with Parish Councils. Originally this central area was divided into 3 Area Committees, now it has all been lumped into one!
Maghull, Formby and Crosby are the major towns in this part of the Borough with many smaller communities not least of which is Aintree with its famous racecourse. In total this central area of Sefton has 9 Borough wards totalling 27 Borough Councillors. Add in a representative from each of the 10 Parish Councils and a fair smattering of Council Officers and you don’t so much have an Area Committee where everyone knows where every street in the patch is but more a an unwieldy conference where at any one time two thirds of the participants know almost nothing about the local areas they are being asked to make decisions about!
What’s more I feel that Parish Councillors attending to represent their communities are being swamped by the huge number of Borough Councillors and their voice is becoming all the more distant from the decision making process.
This new Central Sefton Area Committee, which is 2 wards bigger than the Sefton Central Parliamentary Constituency, has met twice to date but it only meets every 3 months when the previous Area Committees met every 8 weeks.
The big issues, as far as the public have been concerned, at both meetings have been traffic regulation matters in Formby so on both occasions folks with concerns about matters in Formby have had to travel to Maghull or Crosby to get their voices heard.
This is not bringing democracy closer to the people, its making it harder for them and their Parish Councils to engage in the activities of the Borough Council
I attended the 2nd meeting of this now huge Area Committee of Sefton Council last Wednesday and just like the first one it was a farce.
The major issues, as far as the attending public were concerned, were about traffic regulation matters in Formby yet the meeting was being held in Crosby at the lakeside Centre! Readers may recall that the 1st meeting was held in Maghull, at the Town Hall, and it was also dominated by Formby matters.
It was ludicrous in my book to bring the 3 former area committees of Formby, Crosby & the East Parishes together in the first place (purely for cost cutting purposes) and all that I have seen in the first two meetings has confirmed my concerns. This is no more accessible local democracy for residents living in the central part of Sefton than I am a Dutchman.
Please, let’s return to the former Area Committees which clearly represented communities and neighbourhoods with a community of interest. From my perspective I probably know every road in Park, Sudell and Molyneux wards (the East Parishes), have walked them all myself and undertaken casework for their residents. But I can’t claim to know much about Formby, for example, yet I am asked to make decisions about that community at this new and huge Area Committee. This is utterly ridiculous and against the spirit of true decentralisation in the Borough. I continue to despair!
Not surprisingly the plans recently unveiled by Labour run Sefton Council to grab more high grade agricultural land to build upon have gone down very badly.
The Champion newspaper’s East Parishes reporter Jim ‘The News Hound’ Sharpe calls the master plan ‘bonkers’.
Dr. John Pugh Lib Dem MP for Southport
Dr John Pugh the Lib Dem MP for Southport says the plan will create a ‘hollowed out sprawl’.
Maria Bennett of Formby Residents Action Group (Fragoff) says ‘Sefton’s plan is completely flawed’
Tonight at Maghull Town Hall a large number of concerned residents and environmental campaigners mixed in with folks who have seen through Labour’s con-trick of one part of that Party in Sefton promoting the green belt grab whilst the others condemn it, turned out to voice their concerns.
Lib Dem Deputy Leader Simon Hughes MP with Sudell Ward Sefton Cllr. Bruce Hubbard at the site in Maghull where Labour run Sefton Council wants to built 1,600 houses on high grade agricultural land. Bruce’s Lib Dem team opposes Labour’s plans as they did last time Sefton Council tried to earmark the site for building land
The meeting was of the first of the quite ludicrous Central Sefton Area Committee i.e. everywhere that is not Bootle or Southport in the Borough. I wondered what would happen as Labour like to hush up and crush up protestors as Aintree Library campaigners found out when they attended a meeting of the former East Parishes Area Committee trying to stop Labour from closing their library.
Like back then the protestors were out in force because they thought that their community leaders were off on a course of action which would damage their community. Well they were right over the Aintree Library (although the community may well have stopped the closure by taking it over themselves) and many, many folks think they are right now to fight Labour every inch of the way over the Green Belt grab.
This is what happened. The campaigners asked 3 questions about the detail of the proposals under Labour’s Local Plan. Did they get any answers? No. My Lib Dem colleagues and I deliberately sat and watched because we wanted to know what the Labour councillors present would do. In effect Labour said they did not know the answers to the questions and would get back to the questioners. Well at least the questioners were not shouted at but answers there were none!