Sefton Central Area Committee – It’s still a poor excuse for localism.

A 3-monthly Sefton Central Area Committee came around again last Thursday. This time the mini-conference (for that is what it is) was held in Maghull Town Hall yet all of the items of substance for residents were with regard to Formby and Crosby!

I was only able to stay for half the meeting as I needed to go to see an elderly chap whom I help to look after. I have the feeling that I was the lucky one though as others sat through more than I.

Participants in last Thursday's Sefton Central Area Committee

Participants in last Thursday’s Sefton Central Area Committee

So what did I see and hear?

I raised a correction with regard to the minutes of the previous meeting as ‘Maghull’ had been quoted instead of ‘Lydiate’ when identifying a location in them. Some Labour members at the meeting seemed to find this correction amusing – I know not why.

Parish Councillor David Warren of Hightown complained it took a 6 month wait to get a reply from Sefton Council over a matter he had raised!

I raised a question during the Police Report about a recent raid on a property in Church Lane Lydiate.

Bellway Homes took some stick over their activities in Formby. Complaints about the behaviour of their workforce were made by residents and Independent Cllr. Maria Bennett.

Cllr. Steve Kermode and I also raised continuing concerns about motorbikes on the Cheshire Line Path and the tow path of the Leeds Liverpool Canal with the Neighbourhood Police. We both know that the Police have a tough job to catch the nutters who make the canal tow path and Cheshire Lines path so dangerous with their motorbikes and appreciated the response of Inspector Phil Hatton. Steve and I may be in very different political parties but we often seem to on the same hymn sheet about local matters.

Aintree Village Parish Councillor Peter Gill reported on the voluntary library that is now operating out of Aintree Youth and Community Centre following Labour’s disgraceful closure of Aintree Library and their utter refusal to allow volunteers to take that building over. So despite the Sefton Council the community in Aintree and Melling have set up their own voluntary library that Sefton can’t close or disapprove of. But did I notice Labour councillors approving of the new voluntary library even though their Party stopped one from from being formed, I think I did!

Another item on the agenda was the new Parish Charter which allegedly forms the basis of an agreement between Sefton Council and the 10 Parish Councils in the Borough about how they will interact with each other. Good luck with that then is the best I can say as the previous publication of this Charter, which I had a hand in writing, was unceremoniously (and rightly) ripped up in front of Sefton’s Labour-run Cabinet not so long ago following them treating Aintree Village Parish Council like something you may find on the sole of a shoe! Labour don’t do partnerships with any organisation that does not carry a Labour Party membership card in my experience and their removal of grants to some of Sefton’s Parish Councils now means that the residents of those Parishes are paying for some local services twice.

But to return to the meeting where Formby residents had been forced to travel Maghull to raise their very local concerns……if that’s localism then I am a Dutchman as the saying goes.

Sefton Central Area Committee – round 3 of the muddle in the middle!

I will try not to have another rant about this ridiculously large Area Committee which covers around a third or more of the population of Sefton Borough but it still does not hang together despite this being the best of the first 3 meetings of the Committee.

Last night's Sefton Central Area Committee meeting in Formby

Last night’s Sefton Central Area Committee meeting in Formby

It was dominated, at least as far as the public was concerned, with Formby traffic matters but at least the meeting was in Formby this time! But this led to an odd situation when it came to a vote on a particular traffic matter in Proctor Road Formby. I will not rehearse the rights and wrongs of the report before the Area Committee as frankly I know nothing of this very local matter because I represent a community miles away from it. However, the 3 Formby councillors from Harrington Ward clearly have been living the matter for months because there have been 3 rounds of consultation with the residents about a parking matter.

The interesting point though was the vote because the Chair effectively called for it to be of just those 3 members when previously this massive Area Committee has all voted on everything. Now don’t get me wrong I am all for localism but I wonder if what happened was constitutional? And I was not the only one sat there wondering that!

Flooding and coastal erosion were big issues in Formby and Hightown following much damage as a consequence of the winter storms of the past few weeks. Council reports on this worrying problem are bound to follow but it was Formby and Hightown Parish Councils leading the charge for action.

On an amusing aside I inadvertently referred to Inspector Phil Hatton of Merseyside Police as Cllr. Hatton! Shades of Militant there with my slip of the tongue but I hastily corrected myself amongst much humour around the Committee.

It was nice to see the 10 Parish Councils, which are all within the Central part of the Borough, making their presence felt because frankly they have been shunted into a siding in recent times by Sefton Council and its leading councillors in my view. A re-write of the Borough’s Parish Charter is now on the cards formally and despite being given credit for the original Charter last night I am happy to see it updated so long as the Borough does not try to water it down of course.

Can this Area Committee work? Well no it can’t; all that can happen is that it is able to work as best it can. It is and always will be a dog’s breakfast of a muddle that the Labour-run Council just needs to admit it is not fit for purpose.