We simply do not want volunteers to run Council services, what other conclusion can you come to?

I have posted quite a few times about the roller coaster of a ride that Aintree Village Parish Council has had with Sefton Borough as it has tried, unsuccessfully so far, to take over the running of Aintree’s local Library.

To recap the plan was to take over Aintree library, one of 7 that Labour-run Sefton Borough had decided to close, and run it with volunteers and Parish Council finance. All was going well and the bid was seemingly being welcomed but then the Borough (i.e. Labour) started to put all kinds of obstacles in the way.

Eventually Sefton decreed that Aintree Library could not be taken over by volunteers, funded by Aintree Village PC, because there was no guarantee in place for funds to be available for 5 years. No if’s, no but’s, put 5 years funding on the table or sling your hook was seemingly the Borough’s attitude.

Things went from bad to worse in the relationship between the Borough and Parish and the local Parish Charter, which had been ignored anyway, was ripped up in front of the Borough’s Cabinet by an Aintree Parish Councillor.

But underneath all this something very odd was going on as another library was down to be taken over by volunteers and they also got told to shut the door after they left. This one was not in a Parished part of the Borough (it was College Road Library in Crosby). The common denominator was volunteers and them being seen to be unreliable, so much so that they were not given a chance to have a go at running their respective libraries despite both groups having significant business and professional input from the two reasonably affluent communities.

A Sefton Full Council meeting debated volunteers taking over Council facilities, at my instigation, but it became quite clear to me that the Council’s ruling Labour Party held the view that they were not having any of their services, even ones they say they can no longer afford to run, being taken over by volunteers.

The matter concluded, for now at least, with a Sefton Scrutiny Committee going through the motions of examining the matter and then the majority Labour members of it voting to back the Cabinet decision without any really meaningful in depth and independent reviewing of the situation what so ever. Or put it another of the 70 odd questions submitted raising concerns about the process of reviewing the 2 volunteer bids, how many do think came from Labour Councillors? Less than say one………..

So in Sefton which, not so long ago, was developing a good relationship with its 10 Parish Councils and its diverse communities an about face has been done with Parishes and indeed volunteers being shown the door. So much for parish charters, localism and volunteering in the Borough.

This article was originally written for and published on a differing web site.

Sefton does not want volunteers to run the services it can no longer run?

Well it seems so from the debate that we had at the Council meeting of last Thursday. Whilst we Lib Dems were pressing the case for volunteers to be encouraged and helped to put in bids to run things Labour were at best disinterested and at worst damn right hostile to the suggestion.

Not one speaker from the controlling Labour benches rose to speak up for and back the two volunteer groups wishing to take over the running of Aintree & College Road Libraries.

Yes Labour members, like us Lib Dems, spoke positively about volunteering across the Borough generally but when it came to backing groups wanting to help run Council facilities and services the Labour barriers were all too clearly up.

3 Labour members represent Aintree and 1 represents the part of Crosby where College Road Library is sited but none engaged in the debate which surrounded my motion that I posted details of a few days ago on this site.

In the end Labour, via their majority numbers, watered down and amended my motion beyond all recognition until the straight forward thrust of it was lost in a sea of political rhetoric.

But we saw the whites of the Labour member’s eyes. They were angry at being put on the spot. They were unwilling to embrace volunteers and help them make a success of their ideas to run the two libraries. They were, in my view an utter disgrace to the Borough they claim to be running.

What chance that the Sefton Scrutiny meeting (with its inbuilt Labour majority), which reconvenes on 11th February, will tell the Labour run Cabinet it got it wrong and that it should think again about telling the volunteers to shut the door on their way out?