Sefton Borough – Back to the old days & ways!

The East Parishes (Park, Sudell and Molyneux wards) of this Merseyside Borough played second fiddle (or even 3rd) to the coastal communities – Bootle, Crosby, Formby & Southport – from day one of the Borough’s creation in 1974. And after a period when this injustice was righted it seems that the old way of doing things in Sefton has been adopted again.

I raise this as things have been stirring in the Labour Party grasses in recent times as some of their East Parishes Borough and indeed Parish Councillors have found themselves at odds with the Labour-run Borough. It’s led, as far as I can see, to 3 Labour Borough councillors either leaving, being chucked out or deselected.

Obviously, I don’t know the detail of the troubles as I’m not a Labour member and indeed am an opponent of Labour as a Social Liberal of the left. However, recent events have brought me to the conclusion that things have reverted to how they were before I set about changing things back in 1999.

I won a seat on Sefton Council in 1999 in Molyneux ward and it did not take me long to realise that Sefton was all about its coastal communities and the East Parishes were just a bit of an irritant. My view was that this approach was both within the political parties and senior officers of the Council too; it looked to me like settled opinion and nothing would move it, or so it seemed. And then via a run of unrelated political events something that had never happened before took place – a Sefton Council Leader was elected from the East Parishes and it was me! Well if this was not the time to rebalance the Borough then it would never happen.

So I set about challenging the old political and senior officer outlook and at every opportunity banged away along the lines of ‘and what about the East Parishes’ when proposals came forward that excluded them. This approach slowly turned around the oil tanker that was Sefton Council and as a consequence we got Meadows Leisure Centre built and opened in 2010. I think I got what was then a balanced council (no political party with a majority) to look at the East Parishes as an equal partner. However, I stood down as Council Leader in May 2011 having done the job since 2004 and it did not take long for the old ways to start to regain traction. This happened because the Council was going back to the days of its leaders coming from one of the Borough’s political power bases (these had always been Bootle or Southport) and ever since I’ve felt the influence of the East Parishes slipping away. I would add that it was never my wish to make the East Parishes dominant, just simply to ensure they got their fair share.

I ‘left’ Sefton Council in 2015 at the invitation of the Park ward electorate (I’d moved East Parishes wards in 2011) as they’d had enough of me but that movement, back to the old ways, has sadly gained even more traction since and its the cause of the present difficulties. In my view, the 3 East Parishes wards need Borough Councillors who are a pain in the leadership’s neck otherwise the area will not be heard. It may well have taken rather too long for this penny to drop again but clearly, it has now! However, the big problem that the areas 9 Borough Councillors face now is that they don’t have the advantage which I did. That advantage was the then balanced council where the 9 (then Lib Dem members) could be an effective awkward squad with one being the Council Leader!

I wish those who are challenging not only Sefton Council but the political leaders of their own former party well and I hope they find a way to recreate the kind of rebalancing of the Borough that I managed back in the day.

Maghull – Stafford Moreton Youth Centre demolished

My previous posting about the the demolition of this and the old Maghull Library refers – see link below:-

tonyrobertson.mycouncillor.org.uk/2016/06/09/maghull-old-library-and-youth-centre-are-demolished/

Maghull's former Stafford Moreton Youth  Centre boarded up.

Maghull’s former Stafford Moreton Youth Centre boarded up.

The Youth Centre was a 1960’s building named after a prominent local councillor called Henry Stafford Moreton, indeed the adjacent Stafford Moreton Way is also named after him of course.

I did not know him as my time in local politics (starting in 1980) coincided roughly with him retiring from it. I do know his nephew Chris Bayliss though and Chris’s Uncle Frank Bayliss was also a local councillor during my early years on the council.

Many Maghull folk will have memories of attending the Youth Centre although I am not one of them. For some reason, despite the fact I came to live in Maghull in 1968 at the age of 10, I never set foot in the place as a youngster although I don’t know why.

I became aware of it though in my years as a Maghull councillor with various of my councillor friends being members of the Management Committee. Phil Watterson and Andrew Blackburn, Merrick Stott, and Cliff Mainey come to mind but I am sure there were others.

The Youth Centre bobbed along although the opening of the Youth Coffee Bar in Maghull Town Hall some 20 years ago, which became very popular, must have had an effect on the numbers of youngsters attending it. I also recall that Stafford Moreton YC had a local group for youngsters with disabilities meeting there each week for many years.

Then the recession hit us and Stafford Moreton was slated for closure, this must have been late 2010 or early 2011. Indeed, you may recall that Labour led a march around the Maghull to try to stop the closure from happening, which is quite ironic based on what actually happened later on.

My view was that the Youth Coffee Bar, a specifically developed (by young people) modern youth facility in Maghull Town Hall, could have been used more often and Stafford Moreton’s groups moved there but the powers that be seemed more concerned with just closing things down.

Youth facilities across Sefton Borough continued to decline with the Youth Coffee Bar being a beacon of hope in Maghull because the Town Council funded it rather than Sefton Borough Council.

Of course Labour then took control of Sefton Council and what did they subsequently do? They closed down Stafford Moreton Youth Club which they had marched young people around the streets of Maghull to stop the closure of!

And it has stood there rather forlornly for a number of years awaiting someone to buy the land. Readers who are close to local issues will recall that at the very time Labour-run Sefton Council was meeting to sell the Youth Centre and Old Library land to the highest bidder (which turned out to be Netto) Maghull’s Labour Party commenced a sham consultation exercise about the future of the site in community use via the Champion newspaper! Yes, you could not make it up but it happened. Of course the consultation was was never heard of again as it was just a Labour publicity stunt.

Stafford Moreton Youth Centre gone - June 2016

Stafford Moreton Youth Centre gone – June 2016

So here it is being demolished for a supermarket to take its place. What’s even more sad is that Labour has recently also shut the doors on the Youth Coffee Bar in Maghull Town Hall for the last time. Now which political party marched youngsters around Maghull to fight for local youth facilities? Oh yes, that’s right, the one that closed them all down!

Aintree Village – Another bid to use Aintree Library for the community gets the brush off from Labour-run Sefton

www.champnews.com/newsstory.aspx?story=3067550&word=&userid=

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The Aintree & Maghull Champion has the story – See link above

How sad but I can’t say I am surprised by Sefton Labour’s latest kick in the teeth for Aintree – at least they are consistent though! But what does surprise me is that the area’s Labour MP is surprised!

Frankly, having seen the previous bid to run Aintree Library using volunteers being given the short shrift by Sefton and then the MP’s objections to his own councillors plan to build on acres of Green Belt being ignored you would have thought that Bill Esterson should have almost been expecting another rejection.

This Labour MP says one thing but his Labour councillors on Sefton say just about the opposite is becoming an unfortunate farce.

PS. I sent this piece to the Aintree & Maghull Champion newspaper but it was not used.

Sefton Local Plan – Lydiate Parish Council’s submission to the Planning Inspector

Firstly, we attach copies of the previous submissions that we have made to give context to the further comments we make now. (previous posting refers)

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tonyrobertson.mycouncillor.org.uk/2011/07/30/lydiate-parish-councils-submission-to-sefton-councils-core-stretegy-consultation-dont-touch-our-green-belt/

It is our view that the Local Plan process has been flawed and inappropriately conducted, a view we share with our MP Bill Esterson. Instead of a community based approach Sefton Council has led the process very much from its Planning Dept. based in Bootle. It feels like an imposed plan rather than one arrived at through genuine community engagement.

Not an effective Plan

We are concerned at what we see as a lack of genuine and effective cross-boundary working with West Lancashire Borough Council. We have been raising this concern over a long period and have not been reassured by the denials of Sefton Planners. Indeed, the more we think about this aspect of the Sefton Local Plan the more we think that it should have been pursued as joint plan with West Lancashire Borough Council as has happened in other parts of England.

Sefton has a huge boundary with West Lancashire, vastly greater than any boundary it has with Liverpool or Knowsley Councils. Lydiate, for example, is surrounded by West Lancashire on 3 sides with only its southern boundary being connected to the rest of the Borough of Sefton and indeed to Merseyside. Our economic, housing, education, health and social needs are as much if not more connected to those of our neighbouring communities in West Lancashire as they are to those in Sefton/Merseyside. Sefton Council just does not grasp or want to grasp this and seems to adopt an inward looking Merseyside centric approach which works to the disadvantage of communities like Lydiate. This is not a sound approach to a Local Plan process.

No firm case has been made for a Green Belt breach or for building on the highest grades of agricultural land yet more of it is to be built upon.

Since we made our last submission things have if anything got worse for Lydiate as what was once a ‘reserve’ site under a previous iteration of the Local Plan is now down as a development site (MN2.28) plus an additional site has been added on the Maghull/Lydiate boundary (MN2.27) to the west of the community. What’s more former ‘reserve’ site (now numbered MN8.1) has been re-designated as ‘Safeguarded Land’.

Whilst MN2.27 could be said to be a relatively small development it is still to be built on high grade agricultural land which frankly we find a ridiculous thing to do. Have we learned nothing from being an island nation dependent on importing food? This is not sustainable development, indeed it is unsustainable development.

But if such concerns apply to MN2.27 then they apply massively to sites MN2.28 and MN8.1 as both cover a vast area of high grade agricultural land in Lydiate Civil Parish.

Lydiate does not have scale of housing need imposed on it by this plan

Lydiate simply does not have the huge housing requirements that this plan is imposing upon it. Its housing needs are of a much smaller scale and very much associated affordable housing which this plan is not seriously addressing. But overriding all this has to be the nature and uniqueness of the high grade agricultural land surrounding our community.

Conclusion – The Plan is neither sound nor effective

Our view is that the Sefton Local Plan needs to go back to the drawing board as it is inadequate, poorly conceived and is not consistent with sustainable development. We also fail to see that a case has been made by the Borough Council to breach its Green Belt and what case it does make seems to be based on population growth projections that have changed with just about every draft of their Local Plan.

Lydiate Parish Council

Sefton Central Labour – 9th Councillor resigns!

What is it about the Sefton Central Labour Party and its resigning councillors? 9 of them have now gone since late 2011.

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To date all of them have been from the Maghull part of the constituency where 8 Labour Councillors have chucked the towel into the ring. Now a 9th Labour member has resigned, this time from Formby.

What is it with Labour councillors resigning in Sefton Central Constituency? All political parties face the odd councillor resigning now and again for all sorts of reasons but 9 all from one party in one constituency in just over 3 years!

Answers on a post card to Sefton Central Labour Party as they could clearly do with some advice in this area of local governance.

Struggling to deal with the Green Belt building plans they voted for

I keep saying that things must be getting a little too hot for Labour councillors in the Sefton Central Constituency since they voted to back building on Green Belt via the Sefton Local Plan. I have also previously mentioned the independent environmental campaigner’s You Tube video on the matter which pulls no punches what so ever.

That video must be causing grimacing in the comrade’s bunker as they hobble towards the local elections on 7th May (same day as the General Election) where they face a stiffer test than they have had for years. Gone must be the days when Labour could say and do anything they liked knowing they would win Council seats whatever they did.

This blog site rates the video as a PG (Politically Gritty) and those of a sensitive disposition are advised not to laugh (or cry) too much as Labour’s thought police are never far away.

And I am told that over in Bradford someone has now produced a Yorkshire version of the video.

But do I hear that the comrades may be considering fighting back with talk of legal action against the independent environmental campaigners? Yes, sadly I do hear this although I hope it is not true. Sounds to me like sabre rattling to try to scare them off.

And it’s surely not as if Labour’s Sefton Central councillors can’t see the flaws in what I see as their flip-flopping stance on the Green Belt? Their Sefton Central MP, who to give him his due has consistently opposed building on the local Green Belt, has publicly and rightly condemned the Sefton Local Plan from which the building will flow.

On that basis instead of trying to defend what looks like the indefensible to me why don’t Labour’s Sefton Central councillors simply come out and confess their sins whilst asking for forgiveness, to put the matter in religious terminology? You never know they may gain more respect for that than trying to pretend black is white or green is brick coloured.