Tuesday, 13 February 2018

Southport Libdem Conference Morning Coffee and Afternoon Tea

Morning coffee at The Atkinson in a café run as a social enterprise by the charity Autism Initiatives called A Great Little  Place is recommended .This venue is part of the Atkinson Art Gallery/Museum/Theatre/Library complex on Lord St next to the Town Hall. There is lots going on there during the conference, check out their
calendar of events


 Caron Lindsay rather jumped the gun by mentioning Afternoon Tea when she was reporting the most read Libdem blogs last week. Now is the moment:

Southport is fortunate to have a goodly number of independent tea room. We do, of course have some chain operating as well. My advice is to check out the former. Let us start with Lillibets Tearoom (and here I am reviewing their pastries and not their politics.) I have to say, in my opinion, it is the best. It is situated on Lord Street. If you walk up to Lord St from the conference along Neville St turn left into Lord Street, five minutes walk) As they say on their website 'Our signature pâtisserie is entirely handmade on the premises using the finest, fresh ingredients which we mostly import from France to ensure the highest quality and authenticity. Our delectable pâtisserie is made daily (and the range changes seasonally as it does in France!) and can tempt you from our display cabinet in the tea rooms. We use free range eggs which come from ‘Happy Hens’, juicy Madagascan vanilla pods and always oodles of fresh seasonal fruit from our local Grocers in Birkdale village.'


all photos from Lillibets
Westminster Tea Rooms  also on Lord Street, this time turn left onto Lord Street from Neville Street. Finally the Nostalgia Tea Room also on Lord St on the way to the Westminster. The big hotels also serve afternoon Tea and I have heard good things about Vincent Hotel







Southport's biggest employer and the impact of 750 people working in a residential area

John Pugh and I outside Smedley Hydro
Over the years there have been complaints about parking in the roads around Smedley. A little background will assist in understanding the issue. This Government facility which includes the staff with the Home Office and NHS digital is Southport's biggest single employer. There are about 750 staff overwhelmingly drawn from the local area.  There are only 245 car parking spaces. It is not difficult to see why residents close to the facility feel they have a problem.

The issue was raised at the public Forum in Southport Town Hall and so it was John and I arranged to meet folk at Smedley to discuss the issue. In fairness the number of complaints I have received has significantly diminished over the years, a judicial application of yellow paint has helped as have the approach of the Smedley staff. As a generalisation I would say that the difficult manoeuvre of managing the disruption when 750 staff turn up to work in the heart of a residential area has been broadly achieved. There are, and will continue to be, incidents when that co-existence is not as successful as all would wish.

Since my last engagement with this issue Smedley have introduced a 1 mile rule that precludes anyone living in that distance from having a car parking space. And so it is that it is not unusual to see folk walking to work and some cycling. Smedley have introduced a drying room and a shower facility and the council have funded an extra cycle shed. I enquired about the take up of the Bike2WorkScheme but this being the Civil Service they didn't have figures, it was dealt with by another department. I intend to follow up this point. As the photo shows I cycled there as I live close by (I'm the one who forgot to take his cycle clips off).They have a car share scheme but in truth the numbers taking that up, although welcome, are not significant.

Smedley also have flexible working pattern which reduces the 'rush hour impact' and the night shift is only about 40 people.

I suspect that this is one of those issues that require eternal vigilance. A less concerned team at Smedley could easily result in local chaos

Wednesday, 7 February 2018

Birkdale flooding

'Arty' photo by SJS
Residents have been reporting problems with drainage. I have reported several sites to the council where the situation is significantly worse than is usually experienced after a downpour. These include outside Tesco's on Liverpool Rd, Halsall Rd and Hartley Cres where this photo was taken.

The gullies have been cleared but the problems persist suggesting that some more significant is the at fault. I am pleased to see workmen at the Tesco site but I am still awaiting confirmation of when the other sites will be dealt with.

The incidents of flooding are on the increase as we experience more extreme weather events. This is happening right across the globe. Scientists are convinced that many of these are events are a consequence of man made climate change. 

Humans are increasingly influencing the climate and the earth's temperature by burning fossil fuels, cutting down rainforests and farming livestock.
This adds enormous amounts of greenhouse gases to those naturally occurring in the atmosphere, increasing the greenhouse effect and global warming.

Monday, 5 February 2018

Lib Dem Southport Conference, places to go for food, drink and visit for interest starting with breakfast



The tide comes in at Southport surrounding the longest iron pier in Britain 

Featured on Liberal Democrat Voice The Lib Dem Conference is coming to Southport in March so I thought it might be helpful to if I did a guide to our town. In later posts I will go into more detail about some of the things that should be part of any visit to the town like the British Lawnmower Museum, excellent bookshops like my favourite Broadhurst's , the best places for afternoon tea (top choice Lillibet's), pubs and breweries, restaurants, Southport shrimps ,fish and chip shops, our brilliant municipal gardens, RSPB nature reserve, and will even do some research about our championship golf courses. And if you take a walk at twilight along the sand dunes at Birkdale you make hear the Natterjack toads.

Close by to Southport you can see the Red Squirrels at Freshfield, or visit the Wildfowl andWetlands Trust Nature Reserve at Martin Mere  or the Anther Place- Gormley's statues on Crosby Beach.


Oh, and did you know that Southport provided the inspiration and template for the tree line boulevards for Paris? Louis Napoleon lived in the town when he was in exile in 1846. Check it out  and in a Guardian Leader and in the Southport Visiter

And we have a bust of Dan Dare from the Eagle comic which was created in Southport

We'll start with breakfast...If you are self catering or have a room only deal you may be looking for breakfast. I suggestion would be Tapper's in Union St opposite the Guest House pub-more of which later



Friday, 26 January 2018

Keeping pensioners in the dark


Back in December the street light (No 5) went out in Grantham Close and the elderly residents in the maisonettes reported it to the council. Opposite their homes the is a big open space and, understandably, they were concerned that the unlit street made them insecure. The darkest and longest nights of the winter passed and there was no action from Sefton council despite residents chivvying the council. As I write the light is still out. This is an unacceptable level of service from the council. Street lighting plays an important part in helping residents feel safe. The housing development id principally for older people and you would have hoped the Council could have got its act together to sort out this problem. I have now taken the matter up with the council and I hope it is will soon be sorted.

Tuesday, 12 December 2017

Fury at Council severe weather policy that shuts the doors at 9.00pm and refuses access...

Featured on Liberal Democrat Voice Update: 15.53 on 12th December:


Hi Iain,

I contacted Bosco house Bootle for an update on their policy. They can take an extra 8 or 9 people in the extreme weather and they have been told to turn no one away but they are still applying the policy that the homeless have to turn up between 8 and 9.

I then phone Leyland Road Southport and they have taken the furniture out the room so they can accommodate an extra 6 or 7 people. After that they are referring them to Bosco House. Again they are still applying the policy that the homeless have to turn up between 8 and 9 or otherwise they will be turned away.


Just be clear for the third night running where severe weather pushed the temperature well below zero Sefton's policy  is shut the doors of its shelter and refusing access after 9.00pm to vulnerable adults who are rough sleeping


I was first elected in 1984. I don't think I have found myself as angry about anything at any time since then as I did yesterday.



I was chipping the ice of my car window screen yesterday morning. We had sub zero temperatures over night again. I was grateful when the phone rang and I could get back into the warm.

The lady on the phone had a tale to tell. She had gone to pick up her daughter from a night club in the early hours of the morning. Her daughter was most distressed when they met because she come across someone sleeping in a shop doorway. It was my now -2C and felt more like -6C. Mother and daughter had gone home a found some warm things and returned with them.
Surely ,she said, on a night as cold as this there was somewhere to go.

This is an issue I took up back in 2013. Regular readers will recall at that time Sefton Council's idea of fulfilling its obligation to provide for rough sleeps in severe cold weather was to tell them to get on a bus and go 20+miles to Liverpool and then find there way to a hall in Liverpool 8 . After that a separate service was established in Southport in the YMCA building which I visited in the cold weather. A mixture of staff and volunteers were doing an excellent job. I had no reason to believe that that service, although it had been relocated, had been pulled.

As a result of the phone call I thought I ought to check. During the day I and others made a serious of phone calls and I have become increasingly angry about what I have found.

The first thing that we were told-and it was repeated, was that if you had not booked into the service by 8pm then you would be allowed in. (Now my hunch is that those actually doing the frontline work may ignore that. Nevertheless it was the information tat was being given out and we were told that was the normal practice. A quick check found that not to be the case, Whitechapel who run the service in Liverpool were quite categorical that they would not turn anyone away no matter what the hour.

we then checked out St Martin's in the Field and they said in sub-zero temperature they would not turn anyone away. They referred me to the attached guide which may be of help. I’ve also attached the link to the website. They also said across London worked on the same policy.





Secondly, the folk on the street know that during severe weather 2 additional places are added to the existing service in Southport. When I went into this in some detail in 2013 it was clear that there were about 20 people who, in common parlance, would be seen as rough sleepers. So there is a question of capacity.

Thirdly this group of people often have multiply needs and the main issue they may have could well be substance abuse. It does raise the concern that one small service for seven people may not be appropriate.

In truth Southport has a good story to tell. There are a range of services in the town some of which have listed below. But in the matter of provision in severe weather the council must think again. To that end I have written to the CEO of Sefton Council seeking clarification. In particular I want to see precisely what has been commissioned by the council for severe weather provision. It is clear to me that the people delivering the service are not those with questions to answer. The Council and its commissioning strategy that needs to be held to account.

Services for vulnerable people in Southport:


TRUSSELL TRUST FOODBANKS:



Monday – Lakeside Church, Promenade 1-4pm

Tuesday -Grace Baptist Church, Princes Street 1-3.30pm

Wednesday – Scarisbrick Rd Baptist Church 11am-2pm

Thursday - Ainsdale Methodist Church 11am-3.30pm

Friday 1) Holy Trinity, Formby 1-4pm

           2) Lakeside Church, Promenade 1-4pm



To access the Foodbank, a voucher needs to be redeemed and these can be arranged through Light for Life, Parenting 2000, The Life Rooms, Sefton Council, and other organisations.



There is an evening meal available at Café Vivesco on a Thursday evening at 7pm.



The Soup Kitchen is open Wednesday and Thursday from 11am to 2pm and Saturday and Sunday 11am-2pm.



There are also independently run services offering food at Shoreline Church (daily 5pm), The Marion Centre (St Maries Church) 10-12 noon and 2-4pm Monday to Friday.



The Rough Sleeper Service for Sefton is based at Light for Life on Eastbank Street with outreach workers who make contact daily with those Rough Sleeping and other vulnerable people including those with addiction issues and mental health difficulties. The staff can provide access to emergency accommodation (which is increased during periods of cold weather and open 8pm -8am every night). The service also provides a night café open 10pm to 6am on Sunday nights for drop in, access to accommodation advice and support. The main office provides a daily bakery service with bread, cakes and pastries.



There are several accommodation services commissioned to provide hostel/supported living in Southport which can be accessed through a Mainstay assessment available at the Housing Centre on Eastbank Street. There are over 70 bed spaces in accommodation such as this across Sefton.



Light for Life also provides Housing Options service on behalf of the Council for the Southport area.



Merseycare Ambitions (10 Church Street) are commissioned to provide the Substance Misuse service for Sefton.



Merseycare also run a range of services from the Life Rooms in Scarisbrick Street.





******OVER CHRISTMAS: The Christmas Shelter is open 22nd Dec for 5 days offering breakfast from 9.30am an three course cooked meal and a takeaway service in the afternoon at Alchemy, Mornington Road Southport (behind Parenting 2000). This service is run by a steering group including professionals from a range of services for vulnerable people.





This is a copy of an email from a colleague confirming the response they got when pursuing this query







Hi Iain,

Following your query yesterday I contacted xxxxxxxx from Sefton .She informed me that the homeless had to be in the que by 8.00pm at the latest or they turned away and not given shelter for the night.

I then contacted the White Chapel centre in Liverpool and they informed me that their policy in cold severe weather was that the homeless could present themselves at any time of night at the shelter and would never be turned away and would be provided with shelter. They informed me that their centre had been relocated to the centre of Liverpool to make it more accessible for the homeless and they would try and get them an assessment the next morning.

I then contacted both Southport and Bootle Sefton Supported Housing Group shelters directly to ensure I had stated in my original query that I was asking what their policy was in cold severe weather and both centres informed me that if the homeless turned up after 9.00pm they would be turned away. I reiterated that I was referring to cold severe sub-zero temperatures and both centres said they would be turned away. I asked would they refer the homeless somewhere else and they both said no.





Saturday, 9 December 2017

Time to sign up and support Birkdale Community Hub and Library

It is time to sign up and support Birkdale Community Hub and Library. There are two easy ways you can contribute. Follow the link above and join the 200+Club and/or become a friend of the project for £12.

The library, which is a charity, opened its door during the Village Victorian Fayre and it was good to see so many local residents taking an interest.

The project, which is based at the Station Master's House next to the station, has ambitious plans. They need the support of Birkdale residents.Congratulation to all the volunteer team they have done marvellously well. Please sign up

Friday, 8 December 2017

Disinvestment in Southport Conference trade and visitor economy needs to be reversed

A pathetically inadequate document was presented to Southport Councillors this week entitled Southport Economy and Development Frame work.

A cursory glance at the report would lead you to believe that  all was going swimmingly in the best of possible worlds for the Southport economy. After all: 

• Visitor Numbers – 8.7 million a 1.4% increase; 
• Staying Visitors – 722k a 4.2% increase; 
• Economic Impact (visitor economy) £518 million a 4.1% increase; 
• Total Employment (visitor economy) 6,449 a 1.4% increase. Staying visitors are the most valuable to the destination in terms of economic value; therefore a 4.2% increase in 2016 represents a strong economic return

This look like good news until you factor in that this reporting period included the Open Golf which comes at best every 8 years. As the detail of the report shows the one-off impact is enormous. 'In July Royal Birkdale, Southport hosted The Open for the 10th time. Played over 8 days including practice days the event attracted over 235,000 people making it the biggest Open in England of all time. The expected economic benefits of The Open are forecast to be around £100 million, this includes the media value.' 

First off let us congratulate the Royal Birkdale Club they laid on a first rate event. I spoke at theier annual dinner prior to the Open. I was unstinting in my recognition of the crucial contribution that the Open coming to Birkdale has on the local economy. But it is a one off. Strip it out from the figures and the trends are not that rosie.

One area I want to concentrate on is the state of our conference trade. As the report says :
The Southport Theatre and Convention centre (STCC) is regarded as an excellent venue for medium to large scale conferences. In 2016 the venue hosted 19 conferences that generated 20,480 bed nights worth an estimated £9 million to the local economy.

Gulp, only 19 conferences in the entire year. Just over a thousand bed nights spread over,say 60 nights. What happened to the other 300 nights? This is the direct result of Sefton Council's disinvestment in Southport's visitor economy. On the Council Southport member have tried to stop the cuts to the towns tourism budget by moving costed amendments to the budget. Regrettably the Bootle cabal who run the council refuse to listen.   

Let us be clear, We have a good product. As Mayor I opened a goodly proportion of those conferences. I mingled with the delegates getting feedback about the town and the accommodation. I have recorded elsewhere how pleasantly surprised I was by the universal praise I heard from delegates about the hotels and guesthouses (big and small) the restaurants  and the places for afternoon tea. The conference hall and the floral hall provide a great venue so why is our conference trade not stronger?

I attended a conference in Bournemouth this year. Representatives of the venues for that conference in 2018 and 2019 attended to promote their towns and facilities. There was no presence from Southport despite the fact that event is coming to the town with a thousand plus delegates in March. 

The conference trad is central to the visitor economy. It provides work for our citizens in hotels and restaurants. But if we are operating so for below capacity then that work instead of be permanent become casual. The council has let us down. Instead of playing at being real estate investors they should concentrate on promoting our town so that sustainable jobs are created and maintained in the hospitality sector. They have taken their eye of the goal. 

Wednesday, 29 November 2017

Hillside Christmas lights this Friday

It is good to see that Hillside Independent Traders (HIT) have arranged an event this Friday to switch on their Christmas lights and to provide some related entertainment. Congratulations to them. We were pleased to be able to make a contribution to this event from our ward funds. The event runs from 4.00pm til 5.00pm

Tuesday, 21 November 2017

Budget, the Liberal dog that hasn't barked

Featured on Liberal Democrat Voice a double dose of recognition this week as this posting was also included in Liberal England Six of the Best and it also got the seal of approval from Roy Connell
For decades, in the post-war era, there was not a budget day when the Liberal Party did not move an amendment to promote employee ownership and industrial democracy. Jo Grimond and Richard Wainwright were always looking for opportunities to make the case for the redistribution of ownership. Not only did they believe that this would lead to a fair distribution of wealth and influence they saw that it would contribute to productivity improvement-but more of that later

Donald Wade, (who for younger readers, was the MP for Huddersfield West,) laid out the argument in his pamphlet Our Aim and Purpose which sold over 100,000 copies. It is important to recognise that the Liberal idea was not just to radically distribute ownership but also to shift where economic initiative was centred:

Managers and employees, acting in partnership, should employ capital, since all business requires capital. But the idea of capital employing labour is an out of date concept. It is an old fashion notion which Liberals reject.

These ideas were not new- they go back to J S Mill. He saw total employee ownership as the final stage in political-economic evolutionary process, and in Principles of Political Economy he argues that:The relation of masters and workpeople will be gradually superseded by partnership, in one of two forms: association of the labourers with the capitalist; in others, and perhaps finally in all, association of labourers among themselves’.

Vince Cable's article in the Guardian  lays out some excellent ideas and certainly addresses the case for 'progressive redistribution' with an important proposal for endowments for young people. He is good on tax avoidance wanting the government to go after tax cheats as aggressively as the Tories love to go after benefit 'cheats'. But no word on the signature policy of the Grimond revival.
It is worth rehearsing some of the arguments and looking at the 'ownership effect'. Many years ago I served, for about a decade, as a  member of the party's Standing Committee that became the Policy Committee. I recall one policy discussion based on a paper by James Meade. Meade received the Nobel Prize of economics. Let us pause for a moment and just unpick that a bit. One of the great disasters of the Clegg leadership was the way it was captured by economic commentators who had fallen under the spell of those false gods-the neoliberals. We are still living with the consequences despite Tim and Vince's efforts. This was particularly evident in the coalition negotiations in 2010. Writing in the Journal of Liberal History David Howarth observed:
.. Liberal Democrat leadership took no external advice about the issue, or about the separate issue of accelerated deficit reduction. Both the Treasury and the Bank of England would have reinforced the acceleration view, given half a chance, but that view is built into their nature. Others took very different positions on the optimal path, from the NIESR’s moderate caution to David Blanchflower’s jeremiads. The puzzle is not that the party took one view or another, but that it did so on the fly without consulting specialists. Has the party of Keynes lost touch with economics as a discipline?
James Meade was not just any economist. He struggled with the ideas that concern social liberals. He was a self-described liberal-socialist and sought ways to create a fair and prosperous society where free citizens lived rich and fulfilling lives. Decades before Piketty examined accelerating inequality he proposed policy solutions. He identified that as wealth was created it was going disproportionately to the shrinking number of owners of capital and employees were getting proportionately less. This was a situation which automation and the failure of inheritance taxation were exacerbating. Meade championed employee ownership. Writing on the Open Democracy website the academic Stuart White in his essay 'Citizen Ownership: The Lost radicalism of the Centre explores this challenge and Meade's other ideas.
If the return to capital is rising relative to labour, then the way to prevent this leading to growing inequality of income is to democratise claims over wealth – over returns to capital. This can be done in two ways.
First, the stateionatley  can enact policies to encourage a wider dispersion of privately-held wealth. This is what Meade means by ‘property-owning democracy’. Meade himself puts a lot of emphasis on designing an inheritance or accessions tax in a way that will break down large concentrations of wealth and encourage people to give wealth to those who have yet to receive much from this source. One can readily imagine other, complementary policies to help with this goal. In one interesting response to Paul Krugman’s article on the ‘rise of the robots’, Noah Smith argues along Meade-type lines, suggesting the idea of a universal capital endowment as a right of citizenship
Second, the state can itself build up a stake in national wealth and distribute this as income to citizens. For much of his career, Meade was an advocate of what he termed ‘Topsy Turvy Nationalization’. He was not supportive, in general, of the state buying up private sector firms and then trying to manage them. But he did strongly support the creation of a state investment fund. The state would own a portfolio of assets across the economy. The return on these assets could then be returned to the citizenry, e.g., as a uniform social dividend or basic income. One might call this a Citizens’ Trust.
A second issue that employee ownership answers is of particular interest to those of us who live outside of London. How do we create sustainable long-term employment in our communities? The Employee Ownership Association (EOA) -whose first chair was Jo Grimond - has some budget proposals on its website and this is an area they specifically address.
....two thirds or 4.7 million businesses, are family owned, as reported by the Institute for Family Business and the report earlier this year of the lack of business succession planning in the UK’s family owned businesses. Equally important to the future of SME’s are the ambitious plans of the Government-supported Scale Up Institute and the opportunity for employee ownership to play a critical part in engaging the entire workforce behind a growth or scale up plan.
Secondly, employee ownership is a growing feature across every regional economy. With the ability to help root businesses in a place for the long term, unlike trade sales which often result in a loss of a business or jobs, employee owned businesses contribute to more sustainable economies, with their higher levels of resilience and their longer-term orientation.
William Wallace in his Beveridge Lecture explains why the absence of regionally based sustainable business is so important. I would add to William's observation the point made by the EOA, that a lot of businesses are sold off when the founders retire and the default position of banks and accountants is to dispose of them without any thought about the long-term future of the company or the local economy. The record is that jobs are lost and in the short and medium term companies close.
Part of the problem we face is that globalization, in the form of foreign takeovers and cross-national mergers, has weakened domestic corporate leadership.  The directors of regional banks, the CEOs of companies based in Manchester, Leeds or Newcastle, are no longer there to create the ‘place-based industrial regeneration’ that government is now beginning to discuss.  
LEPs draw in the regional managers of multi-national companies, many of whom are committed to their roles for as long as they stay in their posts; but it’s striking that BEIS documents often refer to universities as triggers for regional regeneration rather than financial or corporate leaders.  And – I would argue, though some of you may not agree – that the looseness of the UK’s takeover rules, and the short-term culture of Britain’s financial institutions, continue to lead to too many of Britain’s new enterprises being swallowed by American or Asian takeovers as they grow: thus failing to generate the new regional leaders, the new players in the global market, that will revitalise the British economy.  
The contrast with Germany is striking: greater support to German companies from financial institutions, tighter restrictions on takeovers, contribute to maintaining a dynamic domestic economy the benefits of which are dispersed across the country rather than concentrated in and around the capital.
The needs to sustain local and regional business and create a UK version of Mittelstand is crucial. So what is to be done? The EOA has some budget advice for the Chancellor and I would add that we should look at employee 'right to buy' when a business is sold. This would require government-backed enterprise bank until local institutions like Caja Laboral can be established. Back to the EOA:

So what could I dare to dream of from the Chancellor this week?
That the UK Government officially recognises the employee-owned sector, and in doing so advocates and champions it via a nominated Ministerial lead.
That through this recognition, there is broad consideration of employee ownership in all policy development, and especially as HM Treasury goes about its important work of shaping the tax environment to deliver the most sustainable economic returns.
That employee ownership as a solution to business succession and scale up becomes embedded as part of the support offered by LEPs, so that every business owner is able to access advice and understand its relevance to them, from a local champion.
And that until such time as there is more widespread understanding amongst the mainstream banks of employee ownership, that there is support for the financing needs of the sector, with government-supported banks offering suitable products and security.
Employee ownership is not new; it is tested and tried and has credentials that can be seen in every sector of the economy. But just like many ideas that have yet to transcend into the mainstream, it needs government to use its voice, its influence, its advocacy and its convening power in order to realise its potential for the benefit of the UK economy.
My dream, therefore, is that Mr Hammond realises this opportunity and uses his influence to help unlock the sector's potential, and deliver more employee ownership.

Friday, 17 November 2017

Sefton Council Leader should come clean about £684,000 cost (and rising) of Bootle Strand “advice”


At last night's Council meeting I tried to get some straight answers from the Council Leader about the costs related to the £38 million pound purchase of the Strand Shopping Centre in Bootle. 

For a moment let us leaving aside the wisdom of spend such a large sum on retail property at a time when High Streets are in decline due to the Internet and this particular sight is problematical because of the near presence of Liverpool ONE- the council has been forced to agree reductions in rates because of the impact. (Added to which 3000 near by jobs are being relocated to Liverpool. The DEMOS report outlines the impact of Liverpool on the surrounding economies) Instead let us pick away an the unnecessary secrecy. Question have been dodged about the Luxembourg Company the Council bought and the tax implications. Last night I was trying to get to the bottom of the fees another area clounded in secrecy and where the council have not responded openly to press inquires. 

Here is the statement I released this morning:


Senior Lib Dem councillor Iain Brodie Browne has expressed his concern at the refusal of Sefton Council Leader Ian Maher to come clean over the cost of professional advisors employed over the controversial £32 million purchase of the Bootle Strand Shopping Centre.

Cllr Brodie Browne submitted a formal written question to Thursday evening’s (16th November) council meeting held at Southport Town Hall.

His question asked ‘would the Leader please supply, in table form, details of professional and similar charges incurred so far, to include the following: Name of Supplier, a brief description of the services supplied and the amount invoiced to date’.

However the Labour Leader declined to do so on the night, saying merely that it would be available ‘in due course’.

“There’s no excuse for the Labour Party to try and conceal this information at the present time,” says Cllr Brodie Browne. “The public, as well as opposition councillors, have a right to know how public money has been spent.”

“To try and kick this into the long grass is simply unacceptable.”

However Southport Lib Dem councillors have carried out their own investigation, using freely published data, and think they have found the answer – which is that at least £684,000 has been spent on outside advisors.

“What Cllr Maher appears to have forgotten is that all councils are required to regularly publish details of all invoices over £500.  In fact Sefton Council does this on its own website in a section called ‘Transparency Reports’,” explains Cllr Brodie Browne.

“What we have found is that there are a number of enormous invoices from firms like PricewaterhouseCoopers, Addleshaw Goddard and Lambert Smith Hampton, all charged to a particular cost centre UA25.  These are Tax Accountants, lawyers and property consultants respectively.”

“We’ve even managed to get hold of a copy of the largest invoice – for £205,950 + VAT – from PriceWaterhouseCoopers, and when you see that includes ‘Tax Structuring and Due Diligence’, then even more suspicions are raised.”


“So what we now know is that over two-thirds of a million pounds has been spent, and that was only to the end of August.  That will almost certainly have risen even more.”


“This lack of openness from Sefton Council’s Labour leadership is simply unacceptable.”