Sefton Council – Going bust?

Sefton Council Logo

The Liverpool Echo has the article on its website – see link below:-

www.liverpoolecho.co.uk/news/liverpool-news/merseyside-council-faces-27m-black-18487709

Bootle Town Hall

For as long as anyone involved in local politics can probably remember local authorities have shouted from the roof tops at every government of every colour that they don’t understand them and the pressures they are under. Usually and indeed during every one of my 15 years as a Sefton Borough councillor the underlying cause of this shouting was associated with the ever spiraling cost of adult social care and children in care. This time the causes are very different but like the ever present and rising costs of social care the effect will be similar across many if not all local authorities. Indeed, this has led the Local Government Association to to say that local authorities will go bust, which if I recall correctly, is actually illegal as they are not permitted to run deficit budgets.

The underlying problem is that local authorities for the most part are actually just agents for the delivery of government prescribed services. They have many statutory duties to do this that and the other although the level/standard to which they do these functions is often not prescribed so one local authority will major on one thing but another will put more effort into another etc. etc.

There’s surprisingly little room for maneuver and that’s why party political changes within local authorities only see changes at the margins, over 90% of the policies/spending won’t and don’t change with differing political council leaderships.

But returning to Sefton, that most odd of virtually all local authorities from a geographical perspective, is it doing the best that it can during the pandemic? Well that’s a difficult question to answer as like all one-party states and governments it will only tell you what it wants to tell you and what it has no choice but to tell you. But here are my thoughts.

Sefton is far too centralised with virtually everything being controlled and directed from Bootle Town Hall via a small political elite in the every bottom corner of this vast Borough. It has dismantled all the previous community related infrastructure for delivery of services to the extent that it has gone back to a ‘one size fits all’ at best. You could say a typical old socialist model of local government.

The buying of Bootle Strand Shopping Centre for a huge amount of money a couple of years back was not only a financial risk to the whole Borough and it’s Council tax payers (should the deal go wrong) but it also defined where the local authority’s priorities were i.e. Bootle, Bootle and Bootle. There are significant fears that this particular chicken could be coming home to roost soon as the value of that retail property falls.

Sefton is slow to react and ponderous and it’s always had a tendency to be so. I suppose this relates very much to its centralised nature and to me it has often seemed unwilling to innovate in a meaningful way. When it did innovate it was at a community level but as I say that level has been all but snuffed out.

I don’t don’t doubt that Sefton, like many local authorities, is in very deep financial trouble as a consequence of the pandemic on top of austerity. Whether it could have been in even a slightly better position if it were run differently is the question no one can really answer. Having said that those of us who are advocates of decentralised and more transparent local government may well say it probably could be better placed if only at the margins.

That the slow moving and ponderous oil tanker which is Sefton Council will continue and will survive one way or another is all but a given. However, with its finances badly holed at the waterline and it being permanently moored at Bootle Docks it will also continue to fail to deliver the kind of modern day services its diverse communities require, except that is for its generally much appreciated domestic waste and recycling doorstep collections.

Memories of Sunny Southport

Having found these two videos – see links below – on You Tube about Southport, it’s history and how it was promoted in the 1970’s (both uploaded by Michael Dawson) I had to share them:-

www.youtube.com/watch?v=pgLAZ90BXNQ

www.youtube.com/watch?v=w6MyE-ptbK8

And how the seaside resort is presently promoted in Covid 19 times:-

www.visitsouthport.com/

What’s interesting is that clearly in the days of the former Southport Borough Council and indeed into the early days of Sefton Borough Council there was significant promotion of the famous seaside resort by or at least organised by the council. That this lead in the promotion of Southport has been all but lost via the changing priorities of the present Council and indeed austerity measures must surely have had a detrimental effect on the local economy.

I recall that during my time on Sefton Council (1999 – 2015) with 7 years of that period being as Council Leader one of my long-term concerns was that the Council was always under pressure to reduce spending on the promotion of Southport. So yes the issue well pre-dates modern-day austerity. And the reason for this pressure? The need to spend an ever greater proportion of the budget on adult social care and children in care. Now you can see why politicians of all parties had to put the elderly and children first but never the less the effect was an ever dwindling amount of money to promote our local seaside resort.

Now probably more than ever Southport needs to be promoted so this proud and historic seaside resort can return to prosperity returns after the pandemic.

Maghull – Cycling the A59 – Alt Junction to Switch Island

I mentioned recently my concerns as a cyclist (and those of pedestrians) about how the Alt junction has been reconstructed and here’s a link back to that posting:-

tonyrobertson.mycouncillor.org.uk/2020/05/26/maghull-a59-alt-junction-reconstruction/

Sefton Council had told me that two additional pieces of work were to be undertaken along with the junction ‘improvements’ to improve cycling access. So far with contractors having left site one has only been partially done and the other has not been done at all.

The major cycling work is to extend the cycle path/route which comes from Switch Island so that it reaches the Alt Junction. Clearly some works have been undertaken but a section over the River Alt bridge has been left just as it was, a narrow pavement – see photo below. Why?*

The other item is such a small change one wonders why it had not been sorted out years ago. It’s at the junction of Moorhey Road and the A59/Northway Service Road where a cycle route starts taking cyclists towards Switch Island. However, at the very start of it there’s no dropped kerb, which I’ve complained about before and been told by Sefton Council it would be attended to during the Alt junction ‘improvements’. So far, as you can see, the job remains outstanding:-

And yes, I’ve brought my concerns about both these matters to the attention of Sefton Council’s Highways Dept.

* After I wrote this posting but before publishing it I became aware of the plans to redevelop the former Motor Range site for an ALDI etc. so the curtailed works to the cycle path/track could possibly be associated with the changes required should that proposal gain planning permission? Just a thought.

Maghull/Lydiate/Melling – Simple cycling fixes for Sefton Council to undertake

It’s a given that the UK’s cycling network is well behind many European countries and that we seem to struggle to catch up. Major investment is required and whilst some progress is being made the pace is painfully slow.

But sometimes you know there are fixes that are easily done but which get overlooked. Here’s the obvious ones for me around Maghull, Lydiate & Melling:-

* Junction of Moorhey Road & Northway, Maghull – a dropped kerb for access to the cycle path along Northway towards Switch Island.

Just a dropped kerb and a bit of tarmac required at junction of Moorhey Rd and the Northway Service Road.

* Robins Island, Lydiate – add a small length of cycle path from Liverpool Road around the corner to the long established cycle path northwards along the A59.

Around the corner just out of shot is the present start of the cycle track. Start it in Liverpool Road where there’s presently just a narrow pavement.

* School Lane, Maghull – a dropped kerb is needed to access the new cycle path to Park Lane along side the new Maghull North Station.

A simple dropped kerb is all that is needed here on School Lane.

* Park Lane, Maghull – exiting the new cycle path from the station direction and turning right into Park Lane can be dangerous as cyclists vision is obscured by the railway over-bridge and the curvature of Park Lane. Whilst the speed limit is only 20mph on Park Lane in reality speeds can be well over 40mph. Sleeping policemen required on the approach to the bridge me thinks.

View at Park Ln end of cycle track. Cyclists can’t see speeding vehicles & they can’t see cyclists.

* Junction of Prescot Road and School Lane Melling – the new cycle path/track down to this junction from the Ashworth M58 Motorway junction finishes abruptly just before the junction as the new and still being constructed cycle path to Kirkby switches to the other side of Prescot Road. But what about the cyclists turning the corner into Prescot Road to head north? The present layout actually means that cyclists should join the road just before the junction! All that’s required is a few yards of cycle track around the junction corner.

Cycle path ends and the implication is to go on the road. A few yards of additional cycle track around in to Prescot Road would solve the problem.

What’s more I’m sure that there are many more simple cycling fixes across Sefton Borough, Merseyside and indeed the whole UK that would help tip the balance of cycling safely in favour of those of us on 2 wheels. It’s not always that grand schemes need to be the goal. And that reminds me that a similar problem applies to our railway infrastructure – simple fixes like reconnecting the Burscough Curves have been overlooked for 40 years or more.

The Burscough Curves are in West Lancashire. This historic shot of them is from when they were in place, in 1960’s.

Click on the photos to enlarge them

Maghull – Project to enhance Bobby’s Wood

Maghull folk will probably know the name Frank Sharp because of his efforts to both fund raise and improve the formerly neglected site along Stafford Moreton Way adjacent to the new Home Bargains Store in the Town.

Well Frank is now turning his attention to Bobby’s Wood (owned by Sefton Borough Council but maintained by Maghull Town Council) in the Woodend part of Maghull – the grassed and tree plot at the junction of Liverpool Road South and Northway. Here’s Frank to tell you all about it:-

‘We are undertaking an ambitious environmental crowdfunding project at Woodend (Bobby’s Wood), that we have entitled – ‘Woodend Community Woodland Project’. In essence we are trying to raise money for an (1) accessible pathway to connect current and future community driven projects and (2) a knee-high ‘birds mouth’ fence to protect the free donation of 1150 wildlife friendly hedge whips to surround the 230m site. The hedge will provide: safety for children and pets, habitat for wildlife, a beautiful natural aesthetic. There also seems to be a possibility that the hedge donors – the Tree Council will work with the environmental department at Sefton Council to undertake an evidence-based piece of research to demonstrate the effectiveness of hedges in reducing vehicle pollution (the small evidence-base currently suggest hedges can reduce this pollution by 60%). In addition, we are hoping to plant hundreds of free tree whips from Northern Forest to future proof the current trees.

There are many other costed aspirations but realistically they will be for a 2021 campaign. We have launched the campaign with a fun children’s rainbow art competition which completes on the 27.4.20 and I want to highlight the need for pledges on the crowdfunding website where there is a lovely introductory video. All the small pledges on the website make a massive difference, as it enables the large funders to decide who to allocated funds to.’

Here’s a link to the fund raising page:-

www.spacehive.com/woodend

Click on the photos/graphics above to enlarge them

Sefton Council’s Stress Reliever/Stress Ball – A nerd’s way of coping:-)

The other day I uncovered a stress ball that I had long forgotten about and had it not had ‘Sefton Travel Team’ stamped on it I would have struggled to know where it had come from.

I’m guessing that it came from my time as a Sefton Councillor, or even as Council Leader. It was probably given to me as I’m a train nut and maybe by someone who thought I was exhibiting stress at the time! Yes, it’s in the shape of a metro/transit type carriage of a generic type:-

But being a train nut I was tempted, having found it, to see if I could work out which real metro/transit train it compared to. You have to understand my level of nerdiness here of course! My conclusion? A Chicago ‘L’ train 2600-series unless anyone can be more nerdy than me and suggest an alternative. Now there’s a challenge which only a train nut would be tempted to take up……..

In the tough times we are presently facing a stress ball or two may come in handy and I actually now have 4! Here are the other 3:-`

A CWU trade union post box styled stress ball – part of their ‘keep the post public’ campaign

The trade union I worked for in a lay officer capacity for over 30 years

Well I had to have a cricket stress ball. From the 2008 Ashes Series. These were sold by M&S.

Oh and what do you think gets me stressed out? The usually poor performances of Mansfield Town FC & Nottinghamshire County Cricket Club