Maghull Health Centre – My letter to Champion newspaper

Dear Sir,

I read with a sense of déjà vu your article about the frustrations of MP Bill Esterson regarding the lack of action/urgency within the NHS to rebuild Maghull Health Centre as I and my then Sefton Council Colleagues, in particular Cllr. Geoff Howe, went around very similar circles about this very same project years ago.

That Maghull Health Centre has not been rebuilt in 2022 and for it not to be a fully-fledged NHS Drop-In Centre is a scandal in my view. I ceased to be a Lib Dem Sefton Councillor for Maghull in 2015 but from around 2000 Geoff and I badgered and pushed various local and regional NHS bodies to get on with a significant rebuild of this outdated building only to go through a cycle of yes, no, and maybes year after year.

It culminated in a senior Sefton Council Officer of the time confirming to me that NHS approvals had been given for the project only for me to be then subsequently attacked by the NHS when I made this news public! This must have been around 2010ish.

That Bill Esterson MP is now getting a similar run-around and is at the end of his tether with NHS funding bodies years later is both depressing but sadly unsurprising.

Yours Sincerely

Tony Robertson

Published 30/03/2022

Those in poverty & councils left in Sunak’s £150 lurch

The link below to a Northern Agenda page is both revealing and informative:-

e.manchestereveningnews.co.uk/interface/external_view_email.php?RJ71505719661254712zzzzz64ab6bfc1951a9ec9ce22b275a3623a2dbd1922a018ed047c176281f5d378977b6&varId=

It shows how, with a government made up of the wealthy, a ‘system’ to get a £150 fuel bill relief help scheme is actually aimed at those who pay their council tax bills by direct debit. The poor don’t use/can’t use direct debit so they and the councils who need to get the money to them are left in a bureaucratic mess.

I’ve seen this at first hand via talking to a Sefton Borough resident who is trying to get a payment process set up but who, due to being in poverty, is left to negotiate a methodology with the Council who seem unsure what to do. A number of telephone calls by the resident to the Council have yet to resolve the matter.

Basing a process on what the middle and upper classes do is crass and insensitive and it makes you realise how little the powers that be understand about poverty and the consequences of it.

And as an aside could this payment be seen as a one-off UBI?

HGVs on Greens Lane Downholland

Having cycled Eagar Lane/Greens Lane for some years now I’m finding the surface of the single track Greens Lane to be in very poor condition presently. Eagar Lane is in Lydiate Civil Parish (Sefton/Merseyside) whilst when it becomes Greens Lane it’s in Downholland Civil Parish (West Lancs/Lancs County).

Greens lane canal swing bridge (known as Rimmer’s Bridge locally) – Photo from 2018.

I’ve been on the Lancashire County Council website a couple of times in recent months reporting huge potholes at 3 points along Greens Lane and at first, I assumed it was the often massive agricultural vehicles of our modern-day churning up the surface. But a second thought was, well why has it got so bad in recent times? Then a conversation with a fellow cyclist (and one with a fellow Lydiate Parish Councillor) made the penny drop so to speak. The point made to me was that adjacent to the canal swing bridge, which is very close to the County boundary, there’s some form of waste recycling going on and I was told it was at times visited by huge HGVs. I’d not encountered them until today when I came across a skip lorry and then a huge (long) articulated HGV. The skip lorry could both have only come from the recycling site, I guess, due to the weight limited canal swing bridge? The huge HGV was actually exiting the site.

It strikes me that Greens Lane will need a significant upgrade if such traffic is going to be using this single track lane for much longer, otherwise, Lancs County Council will have to be out fixing the surface very regularly.

Interestingly, at the Lydiate end of the route i.e. at the beginning of Eagar Lane, this new sign has recently popped up:-

Eagar lane, Lydiate

It will have been erected by Sefton Council and whilst the obvious reason for it will be the canal swing bridge, why has it just gone up? have the HGVs visiting the site on the other side of it been trying to use Eagar Lane?

Whatever the case, I’m assuming that Sefton and particularly Lancashire Council are on the case. If I find out more I’ll update.

Bridges, bridges & more footbridges

I blogged a while back about Lydiate footpath No.5, which links Southport Road to Eagar Lane, as a bridge over a stream needed replacing. Here’s a link back to that posting:-

tonyrobertson.mycouncillor.org.uk/2021/07/01/lydiate-footpath-no-5/

Well, it took a bit longer but the new bridge is now in place. However, concerns have been raised that the step up to the bright blue bridge is too high at around 14 inches**. Lydiate Parish Cllr. Edie Pope* tells me that a Sefton Council officer agrees it’s too high a step so I’m guessing that an additional step will be added? Here’s Edie at the bridge:-

I’ve been wondering why the bridge is bright blue as not so far away a couple of footbridges on paths linking Lydiate, The River Alt and Ince Blundell have also just been replaced and they are a far more discrete brown colour – see below:-

No, I’m not asking for a repaint, just curious about why some footbridges are brown and some blue.

* A section of this footpath actually runs along the boundary of Cllr. Edie Pope’s Church View Farm and she tells me that at some point in the distant past before she owned the land the footpath seems to have been moved from one side of the stream to the other. This must be back in Lancashire County days i.e. well prior to local government reorganisation in 1974. This being the case, if the path had been on the other side of the stream, there would have been no need for a bridge.

** Many local footpath bridges have steps up to them and I have previously pondered on this, amongst other reasons, being a form of obstruction to deter motorcycles. Our historic footpath network in England has never been disability friendly so such steps usually don’t make the paths any more inaccessible. It’s only very modern public rights of way where disability has been/is catered for.

RIP Barry Griffiths & Ron Coffee

I’ve learned in recent days about the deaths of two former councillors that I served with.

Barry Griffiths was a Conservative member of Sefton Council until 2012 and I recall him being a very polite and good-humoured chap. During my time as Leader of Sefton Council (2004 – 2011) Barry was a senior member of the Tory Group on what was then a balanced council with no one party in overall control. As Leader I often felt a bit like a Circus Ringmaster as I tried to corral differing views into a common way forward. Often things were tense but I recall that on odd occasions Barry would take the trouble to come up to me and say a few encouraging words. I appreciated his kindness over what I suspect was a very wide political gap between us.

Ron Coffee was a Liberal Democrat member of Lydiate Parish Council in the late 1980s through to the early 1990s if memory serves correctly. I think he was on the council for around seven years having originally won his seat at a Parish Council by-election. Ron, who lived in Lydiate for many years, was a college lecturer by trade. My distinct recollection of him was that he had a deep interest in public transport and would often be found commenting on the performance of buses, trains and Merseytravel. My apologies for the poor quality photo of Ron.

RIP Barry and Ron

Bootle – As seen by an article in the Liverpool Post

Bootle New Strand shopping centre

I found the article (linked below) by Joshi Herrmann in the Post very interesting.

www.livpost.co.uk/p/bootle-retains-optimistic-air?r=bhrt5&utm_campaign=post&utm_medium=web&utm_source=

I spent my whole working life in what used to be called Bootle’s ‘Mini-Whitehall’ i.e. the collection of 1960s office blocks full of civil servants. Those jobs were brought to Bootle throughout the 1970s and into the 80s as part of what some called ‘Exit London’. The idea was to bring decent jobs into a deprived area whilst saving government the high costs of buildings and employing people in the southeast. It always struck me as a good policy but now my former employer HMRC is upping sticks and moving into central Liverpool and abandoning Bootle. I have long struggled with the new policy direction as to me it seems to simply overturn a good idea with a poor one and Bootle has clearly lost out, not least with the spending power of civil servants in the likes of The Strand.

Bootle Town Hall

My other issue is the lack of political competition in Bootle as everyone knows that a Labour MP will be returned together with a collection of Labour councillors. To my mind, this breeds electoral stagnation and I think places like Bootle would benefit from a proportional electoral system (wouldn’t we all) maybe even more so than other communities. New ideas outside of a Labour Party which has always seemed to me to be rooted in political battles of the past may emerge, you never know.

I’d like to see Bootle do well, I really would but I also fear it’s a community where the far-right may try to exploit the poverty.