Tuesday, 31 March 2009

Lessons from East Birkdale

The clocks went forward this weekend and the I felt the need to obey the traditional annual call to go canvassing. A team set off in Birkdale last night. There are no local elections this May but our body clocks are so conditioned to go out that uncomplainingly we went.
We started in an area of mixed housing; some former council houses, some small owner occupiers of terraced houses and some RSL stock.
I had an very well informed chat about global warming with one young Mum and she told me how pleased she was with our kerbside recycling collection. There was one very aggressive older lady who slagged off politicians as a class. Looking at the canvass cards(in Birkdale we have records going back more than 25 years)it was clear that she had 'previous' for such views. Overall it was a positive evening. I was struck by the attitude of almost all the pensioners we met. Even quire mild mannered folk were angry about the bankers and contrasted their own struggles with the governments hand out to bankers. I can fully understand them. I guess that many of them had taken pride in saving for their retirement and looking after themselves. Their savings have been savagely hit by recent events. They are the innocent and powerless victims of the folly of others.

Harry Potter wants his invisability cloak back

I'm sure it has been said a thousand times but I've never heard it before. Within 40seconds of the start of Southport's match against Stafford Rangers on Saturday the visitors had scored. It was one of those occasions when everyone was open mouth as it appeared to be massively offside. The players are quite close to the crowd at Haig Ave and when someone called to the Stafford No 10 he looked up. 'Harry Potter wants his invisibility cloak back!' He had the good grace to smile and run away with his back to the crowd.
Apart for the 3minutes at the end of the frist half when Southport scored three times it was a poor game. A full report here. As one wag said 87 minuted Meols Cop Rec, 3 minutes Real Madrid. Indeed the crowd was more entertaining that the game. At half time one elderly gent began talking to me about how cold it was. I agreed. 'Ah' he said, 'It is cold enough to hang meat.' Well the thought had not occurred to me.
Tonight Southport have a crucial game. They need to play better that they did on Saturday how ever cold it is.

Sunday, 29 March 2009

more crocus walk photos

Oops, I forgot to post this photo of all the folk who turned out for the charity walk yesterday.

Saturday, 28 March 2009

empty sites for low cost housing should be developed now

Why is this government giving our tax payers money to a quangos to buy up important sites in Birkdale earmarked for urgently needed low cost housing and then allow them to lie empty and undeveloped for years.
I have identified two sites in and around Birkdale that have been acquired by Servite Housing Association and left empty. One is in Upper Aughton Rd and another is behind the Thomas Moore site. Now we learn that Servite Housing is selling off it's sites to another housing association so there is yet more delay.
We need to get a move on. We are paying building workers unemployment benefit whilst there is real work that needs doing. Public money has been used to fund housing associations and yet they are leaving sites empty and overgrown. They are an eyesore.
I am urgently going to seek a meeting with the new owners as soon as we learn who has bought these sites. We want them to get a shift on and build the houses Southport desperately needs.

Who was in power in 1922

One of the oddities of the debate in the council on Thursday was the jibe that was uttered from the Leader of the smallest party. She suddenly declared, seemingly without cause, that the last time the Liberal party was in Government was 1922.

I was intrigued on what basis she made that assertion. Clearly the Liberal party was in the Churchill government during the 2nd World War with Sinclair as Minister for Air and along with other Liberal Ministers took part in cabinet discussions and committees.

The last Liberal government to be elected was Asquith's. Much as in the 2nd world war Liberals joined with war time coalition during the 1st World War and it was led by a Liberal . After the War the coupon election was held and something like 400 Tories were returned to parliament. The Liberal Leader Asquith stayed outside of the post War government and the Liberal Party meeting at its Assembly in Leamington Spa in 1920 formally distanced itself from the Coupon government and hence forward decided to oppose it's supporters at elections.

So when Mrs Parry asserted that the Liberals were last in Governement 1922 I suggest she was wrong.

Carr Lane Rec

How are we going to get our playground back? asked an angry Richard Hands.

Because of the crazy system of funding such projects there is a real danger that there will be no money for the scheme.

Richard explained:

Money coming from the developer who had planning permission to develop the land behind the Thomas Moore site was earmarked for funding the new play facilities in Carr Lane.
Now we find that because the scheme has not gone ahead there is no
money for this scheme'

All this shenanigans has been inflicted on becomes of the shambles of local government funding. The Labour Party has been in government for 8years and have done nothing to sort the situation. It is important that local schemes are not dependent on the lottery of whether a developer can find a bank to lend them money..

1979-the night the government fell

The BBC parliament channel has tonight carried an evening remembering the night in 1979 when the Labour government lost a vote of confidence by one vote.

One gem was the discussion chaired by Robin Day and involving Michael Foot, Francis Pym and John Pardoe. I had forgotten just how formidable a debater Pardoe was. These were difficult times for the party in the aftermath of the Lab/Lab but Pardoe more than held his own and effectively promoted the Liberal case.

At the time of the debate I was helping at the Edge Hill by election which was held the next day and which we resoundingly won defeating the Labour party.

Update on I love Southport because.......

The "I love Southport because ...." campaign is mainly funded by £5,000 provided by Southport Area Committee, which was agreed at its early February meeting. Birkdale Lib Dem councillor Simon Shaw was the driving force behind getting the funding for this fantastic initiative, over some opposition from Ainsdale Conservative councillors. However their more sensible Tory colleagues from Dukes Ward (covering the town centre and shoreside Birkdale) managed to embarrass them into finally voting for the idea which Simon had proposed.

Crocus Walk

The Annual Crocus Walk which in Southport is held in Hesketh Park. This year on a cold spring morning there was a good turn as the pictures show. I will report later on the amount raised but suffice it to say the donations and sponsorship form returned on the day was very encouraging. The event was brilliantly organised by Cllr Sue Mc Guire.

Friday, 27 March 2009

I love Southport because...

The Birkdale blog has already reported on this excellent initiative. The campaign logo is on the right and is already beginning to appear on cars throughout the town. At last night's council meeting the Lib Dem councillors were almost all sporting the lapel badge. More details here

Action on business rates

Simon Shaw's question at full council, reported below, has be taken up bu our MP. The Visiter has the story

Sir Ron shows up his detractors (again)

Sir Ron Watson was in fine form last night at the full council meeting moving his motion on Council Tax which can be found on the agenda here.

Now let us be clear Sir Ron was only after staging a debate and getting a discussion going on this issue. He was of course intent on scoring a few point against the government and the Lib Dems. I regard that as entirely appropriate and like Sir Ron regret that the structuring of the council with an executive cabinet has militated against such debates. Of course such debates require us all to be be grown up and not react to the debate in a hyper personal fashion.

From time to time we have staged them in recent years-for example over the Iraq War (when all the Tories voted with Labour ) and later over ID cards-when once again prominent Tories sided with Labour in support of them-altho' we have all noticed how some who thought supporting ID card would be popular and having since discovered otherwise have changed their position. I would like to say they had changed their minds but sadly I suspect it was mere populist instincts that drove them to their first position. I must admit to being a tad gobsmacked by the shameless way the change sides and enjoy their irritation when some has the temerity to point it out. Mind you our Tories just think that it is bad manners!

Anyway back to Sir Ron who sought to frighten us with all sorts of horrors that the Labour government might visit on the middle classes. It is undoubtedly true that the government has forced up Council tax massively during their time in office. The tax is unfair, it is regressive and suffers from the flaw that when the Tories sought to replace the poll tax in a hurry they nationalised local council's spending. In consequence local government is overwhelmingly dependent on central government funding and 'he who pays the piper plays the tune' . If local government is ever to regain it's standing then central government is going to have to withdraw from it's micro management and give us the responsibility of raising most of the money we spend and become answerable ourselves at the ballot box for our actions. Sir Ron, who likes to champion localism, would do well to take on board that localism will only flourish in those circumstances.

The debate was joined by all sides in good humour. Sir Ron effortlessly displaying how superior he is as a thinker and public spokesman than those Tories who have sought to push him out and write letter to the press denigrating him! I suspect when the Tory leadership have time to reflect they will realise that no one in the present Tory leadership comes close to him-and they will not like that.

We had a contribution from a novice councillor from Manor ward who foolishly-and unnecessarily-open up the issue of public transport and bus services. We all groaned inwardly as Mark Dowd lumbered to his feet to explain how the government had failed to put into place the proper framework to run an excellent bus service(and here was me thinking his beloved party had been in power for 8yrs. Clearly he is not as influential and he believes himself to be)

Next up was Dowd (minimus). He moved a clever but wholly out of order amendment borrowing the structure and words of Ron's motion but talking about inheritance tax. It was ruled out of order, with mock reluctance, by the Mayor. Sad that as I would have happily voted for it.

My colleague Cllr Shaw spoke next. He was keen to illustrate that no other tax had such a complex mass of rebates to temper it's essential unfairness. He could have also pointed out how poor the take up of that benefit is especially amongst the elderly.

When the vote came it was carried. The council tax is a bad tax and should abolished.

Wednesday, 25 March 2009

Towards the sound of Gunfire

Richard Clein has an important item in this weeks Formby Times about the increase in noise caused by the army. The interesting point to note is that residents haven't complained until the MoD (without any public consultation) closed other bases and transfered their operations to a residential area!

Tuesday, 24 March 2009

David Heath's fuel poverty Bill

All those of us who have been campaigning on fuel poverty and energy conservation will be aware that David Heath's important Bill went down in the House of Commons last Friday for lack of MP's in attendance-full story here

At the last Sefton cabinet meeting I attended John Fairclough (Lab Bootle) exalted us all to ensure that our MP's turned up-the Tories appeared to agree(which is slightly strange given the attitude of many Tory MPs)

Interesting I noted that of those who voted:

20 Conservatives (out of 193)
28 Labour (out of 350)
45 Liberal Democrats (out of 63)
1 independent

Given John's advocacy I looked to see how the two Labour MPs for Sefton voted, both had signed the supporting early day motion and neither turned up.

Liberal Democrats launch G20 development plan

In advance of the G20 London summit, the Liberal Democrats have challenged the Government to deliver a ‘G20 Compact’ to protect the developing world from the effects of the global financial crisis.
Read about it here

credit crunch own goal



Within the last week, I (as well as Southport’s MP) have been contacted by a small business within Birkdale whose 2009/10 rates bill has increased by 48% over the previous year – a rise of over £1000 in the amount payable.

It appears that this enormous increase is solely due to the decision of the government to abolish “transitional relief” from April 2009. This was the relief designed to ensure that businesses whose rateable values increased at revaluation (most recently the 2005 revaluation) did not suffer excessive increases in rates payable.

A number of other businesses within the Borough will be similarly affected.
Would the leader:

Confirm that Sefton Council has no control over such massive increases in
business rates (or, indeed, the level of business rates generally);

Confirm whether the report in the Daily Telegraph of 24 March is
correct when it states “It means that in 2009, for the first time in 19 years, there is no cap on the amount that a business rates bill can rise.”

Agree with me that a 48% increase in rates payable is “excessive” in
anyone’s language, especially when we are experiencing the current severe recession;

Join me in supporting calls for the government to urgently reconsider its previous decision to scrap business rates transitional relief with effect from 1 April 2009.

Anatomy of a letter

By common consent Vince Cable's performance on last weeks Question Time was very impressive. Ken Clarke was also on trying desperately hard to add a gloss of common sense to the Tory profile. His further attempt to do so has caused quite a storm well reported elsewhere. Locally we have had our own manifestation of the wider problem.

My colleague Cllr Peter Hough (Victoria ward) and a psychologist by training casts his eye over the goings on:

A letter has appeared in the local press that has caused a few eye-brows to rise amongst my colleagues. It reads:

'After watching former Chancellor Kenneth Clarke's outstanding performance on
Question Time last Thursday I think we should just allow him to the run the
country on his own. The other Members of Parliament can fetch his beer and
cigars whenever he requires them.'

The raised eye-brows were caused because the writer is Tory Manor Ward councillor, Martyn Barber. Colleagues who read it were asking; but what does it mean? The editor of this webpage then asked me to cast a psychological eye over the words to extract the nuances and sub-texts suggested by the two sentences.

On the face of it the meaning is obvious. Martyn wants the world to agree what an outstanding politician Ken Clarke is. What is surprising is that while Clarke is a moderate centre-ground politician, and very pro EU, Martyn is neither. According to colleagues who know him better than me, Cllr Barber is to the right of *******, and at the UKIP end of the Tory spectrum when it comes to Europe. So what does it mean?

Martyn quite clearly is saying that Ken Clarke should be running the country. By implication he is also saying that he has no faith in David Cameron and George Osborne, and Ken should replace them. Things must be pretty dire in the Conservative party if a right wing politician (albeit on local level) is now asking for a former chancellor, cast into the Tory wilderness for years because of his uncompromising support for the EU, and twice rejected in leadership contests, be given the top job. Is Cllr Barber a lone voice in his Party, or is he the first of many brave enough to publicly speak out?

If the explanation is the former, then it hints at the bigger problem within Sefton Conservatives. Under the current leadership of Parry/Porter it has become idiosyncratic, unstable, and showing clear signs of dementia. Kangaroo courts have been convened where Tory councillors have been stripped of their positions and in one case deselected because they wouldn't toe the line. This psychosis has outwardly manifested in one councillor fleeing to the Labour Party, a stand-off with two more, and others chewing on their finger nails, wondering where the paranoia will lead next. This has resulted in a contraction of the Conservative Group, with three seats in as many years going to the Liberal Democrats. One of them was in Cllr Barber's own ward, where even he and Westminster hopeful Debi Jones couldn't stop the votes hemorrhaging.

So what does it mean? Speaking as a psychologist, I would say that in order to extract any further meaningful analysis, it would be necessary to conduct a scientific study, with certain Sefton Conservative Group members as participants, and journalists as controls. Then we would see if the results were statistically significant. As long as it didn't include the LibDem group too...

Peter Hough

More lessons from Shrewsbury Market visit

My colleague Councillor Simon Shaw came away from his fact-finding visit to Shrewsbury Market Hall last September with quite a few photographs. Following his visit he forwarded these on to the senior Sefton Council officers who, since last July, have been preparing the key report which was finally considered by Cabinet last week.

As well as the photograph posted on Saturday which clearly shows the mezzanine floor at Shrewsbury, Simon has sent through some more photographs from his 2008 visit to that town, also famous for its Flower Show.

The first photograph shows Simon outside one of the organic produce stalls on the main floor of Shrewsbury Market. The style of the market hall, which was completely rebuilt in the 1960s, is interesting with an attempt to recreate the appearance of an outdoor market, but indoors.
Photograph 2 shows another view of the mezzanine level above the main floor. Simon first called last August for consideration to be given to using the space above Southport’s market hall, which. of course, is presently ground floor only.

The last photograph shows Simon with a Shrewsbury Market Hall bag showing their “mh” logo. The quality of branding and signage was one thing which impressed Simon on his visit and Liberal Democrats were delighted when the Council decided at the end of October to put some money into improved signage at Southport Market.

The rather grand looking building In the background of the last picture is apparently the former Shrewsbury workhouse. Simon claims that he was educated there, but we assume that is just his strange sense of humour

Monday, 23 March 2009

100 people leave their homes after major gas leak

I got an email asking me to turn up to a briefing at the enclosed address. I fed the information into the 'sat nav' which promptly rejected it-'no such address' and offered me a range of alternatives. As I knew roughly where I was going I set off. Arriving at what I thought was close to my destination I noticed my colleague Mike Booth wandering around. He looked as if he knew where he was go. I parked up and went to join him. It transpired that he was as lost as I was. There was certainly no number relating to the address on the invite and we were at the end of the road. Peering through a metal fence beyond a patch of land overgrown with budleigha bushes and the like we saw parked cars. We had found our destination.

Quite why the Emergency planning team are so hidden is a question we didn't pursue. It was a good time to visit the team in the immediate aftermath of the evacuation of Town Lane when the press reported that 100 folk had had to leave their homes because of a gas leak-many of them sleeping over at the Dunes leisure centre. Mike represents that ward and was keen to learn more about how the response was organised.

We were joined by Council Leader Tony Robertson and together the team talked us through how the incident was dealt with. Their systems were very impressive and the team of three were clearly dedicated and enthusiastic about their work. After any major incident there is a need to reflect on practice and to critically evaluate how things went. I was pleased to see that the team were up for that process and were keen to learn from experience.

Many of the system used last week are relatively new and clearly represent a significant improvement on previous systems. Any procedure like this needs co operation across the public services and utilities and a lot of time has been spent preparing this work

Sunday, 22 March 2009

Time to get on and invest in homes

Upper Aughton Rd has an empty site on it which has been boarded up for years. It is apparently owned by Servite Housing Association. We are desperate for rented accommodation in Birkdale. Regrettably we have already seen houses repossessed in the area. Families whose main earner has lost their job are struggling to keep up with their mortgage payment.
Vince Cable has made a series of suggestions about how to improve the housing situation, some of which the government is slowly introducing.
One clear thing that can be achieved is is provide jobs for growing army of unemployed construction workers by building social housing. This makes long term economic sense. We need the housing, we have workers who need the work and we have sites like Upper Aughton Rd that can be developed. It is time to get on with it!

Where is our bin

This is getting silly. After much prompting and pushing we managed to get the passage way between Guildford Rd and Essex Rd swept and litter picked. We then sorted out the placing of a litter bin close t0 the bus stop, but like some buses it has never arrived. My colleague Richard Hands is on the case.

Yellow lines missing

I've written (again) to the council about the yellow lines which should have been installed at this junction by St Peter's Church. We are also waiting for another safety marking on the next corner at Bolton Rd where the money has been agreed.
We have introduced a new monitoring system to try and improve the council's poor performance in this area. This includes reporting back in public session as to the progress of
such improvements. This takes place at the Southport Area Committee which meets shortly........

Carr Lane bin

We've had complaints from people in Carr Lane about the siting of the Litter bin on the south side of the road. My colleague Richard Hands has managed to get it moved and would like to thank the residents who have been in touch to say how much they appreciated his efforts.

Parking relief for Church and rugby club....

How daft is this; a resident taking his disabled wife to churchparked his car in the bus stop bay on a busy Sunday outside the Southport Rugby Club and opposite the Catholic Church, this spot is very busy on a Sunday, the Church is busy and the rugby club run a very successful junior section-there are NO buses on Sunday stopping here and the resident got a parking ticket!
My colleague Richard Hands wants to have the restrictions revised.

unjustified rise

At the height of the recession it seems to us daft to rise car parking fees by a massive 25% (A bit like forcing up business rates on small firms by 50%)-but that is what the Labour and Tory groups voted for on Sefton Council. Lib Dems opposed the move.

Free Park and Ride

Now here is the good news; free Park on Ride at the weekend for 12 weeks ! This was a suggestion made in January and Sefton Council has acted remarkably quickly. The pictures were taken on the Kew site. So if you are a visitor or local resident and coming to Southport follow the signs to the free Park and Ride situated off the Kew roundabout coming in from Ormskirk or at the eco centre off the coast road. A real bargain

Saturday, 21 March 2009


Thursday’s decision to give the go-ahead for a multi-million redevelopment of Southport’s Indoor Market has been warmly welcomed by Birkdale’s Lib Dem councillors. Sefton’s ruling Cabinet agreed, on a cross-party basis, a major redevelopment scheme at its meeting on 19th March

Birkdale’s Councillor Simon Shaw is particularly pleased that the Council have decided to go for a comprehensive scheme of redevelopment rather than the basic refurbishment agreed in principle last July.
Simon says that the scheme now agreed very much shows the vision which he first publicly called for in August last year.
Simon wrote to senior council officers on 12th August 2008 calling for “a fuller development of the Southport Indoor Market, rather than the mere refurbishment of the existing single storey building.”

Simon also issued a press statement which was the basis of a story in the Visiter at the end of August in which he called for the Council to be ‘bold’ and ‘to explore a more ambitious redevelopment scheme than has previously been talked about’.

“Seven months ago I publicly called for the Council to be bold and that is certainly what is being proposed now, “ says Simon.

“What I said then was that doing nothing more than refurbishing the existing building would represent the loss of a major opportunity to develop the Market Hall site to the long term benefit of Southport.”

“I am obviously delighted that officers and external consultants have had the vision to propose a market fit for the 21st century. It is just what Southport needs as a ‘Classic Resort’”.
In his letter to Sefton officers, Simon referred to Shrewsbury Market which has a mezzanine floor, and which he felt could be a pointer to the sort of adventurous development which could considered for Southport.

In September, Simon was able to visit to Shrewsbury Market Hall and fed back photographs to council officers. He is pictured (above) on the mezzanine floor there, and is particularly keen that the idea of a new mezzanine should be considered in Southport Market Hall
Assuming the decision on the future of the Market Hall is not ‘called in’ it will become definitive by 31st March.

Thursday, 19 March 2009

Member of UK Youth meeting with Southport Councillors

We were very please to meet up again with Ian Goley Southport's member of the UK Youth Parliament. Southport councillors had a briefing last evening and we arranged to meet Ian when it had finished. (picture shows Ian, Mike Booth, Sue McQuire and me. Fred Weavers took the photo and Simon Shaw was late. Richard Hands is still not well and went home after the briefing. (Thanks to all who are still asking after him)

The UK Youth parliament has been in the news recently with the House of Commons agreeing that they should meet and debate in the Westminster chamber.

'MPs have voted to allow members of the Youth Parliament to hold a meeting on the
floor of the House of Commons.
The move, resisted by several Conservative MPs, will see the chamber being used other than by members of the lower house for the first time'

It was good to have the opportunity to discuss with Ian what he would like to do during his year in the Parliament and the role he can play within Southport and with the council. I hope that at the end of the year he will be able to look back and point to some improvements in which he and his colleagues have been involved. I also hope we did not shrink his vision to those thing that Sefton Council deals with
Yesterday began with a Cabinet member (Governance and performance)meeting. We received a report about Sefton's achievement of retaining it's four star status. We should again be clear that this New Labour obsession of targets is not healthy-as the good people of Stafford will no doubt testify. Nevertheless to gain and maintain four stars is a real achievement and many council employees have worked very hard. We should and did acknowledge their hard work.

The rest of the meeting discusses the review of Governance for the council which I am chairing. We are now moving into interesting territory thinking about how we exercise some democratic influence/scrutiny over the burgeoning number of quangos and arms length bodies that deliver government policies. We have also begun working through our thoughts on how the council can take forward the decentralisation strategy. A report his gone to this month's Cabinet meeting which was held this morning and can be found on the council's website

Wednesday, 18 March 2009

St Patrick's night at the Falstaff

Simon Shaw, Sue McGuire (please note correct spelling) and I had arranged a meeting yesterday evening to discuss a couple of local issues. At about 6.30pm as folk were clearly keen to go home we adjourned to the Falstaff pub.
Now none of us had quiet cottoned on to the fact it was St Patrick's night and as we entered the pub we were met with a sea of green, a live band and a promotion on Guinness. Sue entered into the spirit of things not only drinking a pint of Guinness but donning a leprechaun's hot (top left).
Adrian, the landlord, had clearly put in a lot of work and was out in front leading his staff by example. We sadly hear of many pubs shutting but the Falstaff is an example of a pub which is clearly determined to survive the recession. The good value home cooked food is liked by a large loyal following of residents especially at lunch time. The beer is good-a favourite with CAMRA members -and I noticed that they had acquired the award for have a 'good cellar'
The Landlord has also joined enthusiastically in with the shop locally campaign and had 'I love Southport' stickers well in evidence.

Tuesday, 17 March 2009

Credit Crunch reaction in Southport

the Lib Dems moved a motion back in October 08 exploring ways which the council could respond to the credit crunch. Our motion was mostly about the issues thrown up by crash in house prices;repossessions, homelessness, shortage of social rented housing, loan sharks etc.

This Thursday the cabinet will look at a far wider report which is well summarised in the Visiter by John Siddle.

"The strong, multi-faceted response to the recession comes as figures reveal that 27% of Sefton’s businesses are on a knife-edge,unemployment is soaring above the national average at 4.4% – with a 36% jump in those seeking jobseekers’ allowance – and nearly 20% of units on Lord Street are currently empty."

There are many interesting suggestions and one or two extra that need to be looked at but the purpose of this posting is the proposal that park and ride should be free at the weekends. I am delighted that this idea which I have been floating for some while has been taken up. After Margaret Carney, the new CEO of Sefton, visited Birkdale in January, I wrote to her summarising our conversations and this was one of the proposal I made. I am pleased that the idea in the report is bolder than my suggestion which was for Sunday shopping. There is always a clammer for more parking which I fully understand. Nevertheless I think we are obliged to explore ways of accommodating the motor car with out capitulating to it's needs.

The credit crunch is very real but of greater long term importance is the 'climate crunch'. If we can offer a really attractive Park and Ride option we can reduce cars in the town centre improving the safety of pedestrians, reducing pollution and making the whole environment better.

This in addition to such initiatives as the 'Cycle Town' and improved train links (we keep campaigning for improved links to the North and East-which are fully costed in the Lib Dem national plan for transport investment)we can position ourselves for the economic upturn as a town with 21st century transport infrastructure.

I think shops have been slow in responding to the changing transport patterns caused by the reduction of car use. Home delivery services are the missing element. In my youth it was normal for shops to deliver. Supermarkets have taken up online shopping. But if we want to keep the town Centre vibrant and healthy then there is a need for those who shop in person to have there goods delivered.

Some entrepreneur needs to think about this. I remember a conversation whilst canvassing last year with a retired milk man. He was bemoaning the loss of the door step milk delivery and pointed out that Britain had the highest number of electric vehicles in Europe, why he asked instead of them lying idle are they not use to ferry shopping home?

Monday, 16 March 2009


One of the issue we were discussing at the Governance working party this morning was area committees-Southport, Formby, Crosby etc could be given more control over the services in their communities. In order to achieve this we would need to make a transparent apportionment of the budget. Personally I welcome that especially as it would stop such whinging nonsense as we got from Bootle.

The recent minutes of St Oswald and Netherton and Orrell Area Committee state re the 09-10 Highway Maintenance Programme:

"Of the 34 schemes highlighted in the footway reconstruction programme, 27 were
in the Southport and Maghull areas and it was considered that the south of
the borough did not receive its fair share of works, not only in the above
programme, but in all other programmes"

I wouldn't mind but a significant amount of time and energy (and good will) is expended by councillors of all parties in Southport explaining why Bootle get all the extra revenue from central government that is not available for the north of the borough. I am perfectly happy to stand up for extra investment in economically deprived areas and take the flak. Sadly it would appear that playing a childish populist card is to greater temptation for some of our colleagues......

Control has just told me who you are

After a couple of hours this morning at a Governance working party I retired to a coffee shop to read the papers and take on some much needed caffeine. One gem from the letters page of the Guardian is worth recording:

It's hardly surprising that police cameras focus on journalists in
demonstrations (Report, 11 March); they focus on politicians, too. Last summer
my wife and I stopped at RAF Menwith Hill to support the weekly demonstration by
the Campaign for the Accountability of American Bases. In the middle of a
conversation outside the gates with a MoD policeman, filmed by a police video
camera from a distance, the policeman received a call on his radio. "Control has
just told me who you are," he told me. Perhaps they've got the whole House of
Lords on their database?

William Wallace Lib Dem,

House of Lords

Sunday, 15 March 2009

For Cllr A Hill

Anthony Hill went on about how impressed he was with the new leader of the Welsh Lib Dems when we met at the Birkdale Ward meal at Tyndall's that I thought I ought to check it out. He was right-she is impressive-and she mentioned the Yellow Book!

Saturday, 14 March 2009

Liberal England: House Points: Vince Cable on bonus culture

I can't keep pace with Vince Cable's triumphs nor could I write them up as well as Johnathon, so take a look at:

Liberal England: House Points: Vince Cable on bonus culture

Unjustified increase in car parking charges

The Southport Visiter has picked up the story of Conservatives and Labour voting together to increase car parking charges by 25%. They did this back in November. The Lib Dems voted against. Sadly the Visiter appears to have been duped by a bit a spin because their story begins by saying:

"The decision was passed by senior Conservative and Labour
councillors in November – before the true gravity of the economic downturn became apparent. "

Pardon me.

I was at the cabinet meeting in November when the Tories and Labour voted to increase the parking charges. David Tattersall and I both warned that this was the wrong thing to do in a recession.

It is not credible to suggest that 'the true gravity' of the economic downturn was not apparent. Earlier that week the Chancellor had made his statement and reduced VAT and had said we were in recession. The closure of MFI and Woolworths was in every newspaper. Unemployment had reached a 14 year high in the USA and Obama had defeated Bush. The British government had already nationalised one bank.........

Putting up the parking charges in November in a town where retail is a major employer was crass political and economic judgement.

Worse still it is not the first time that the Tories have displayed poor political judgement.

Why on earth did they vote against better links with Lancashire and demand that their opposition was recorded in the minutes?

Why do they gang up with Labour to throw out a million saving over two years achieved by a reduction in top paid officials.

Why did the give long time Tory councillor Les Byrom such a 'kicking' (his word) that he left and joined the Labour party! (Les played a national role for the Tories on Fire matters and led the Tory group on the old NW Regional Assembly. He also fought the Wirral parliamentary by election)?

Why did they suspend David Pearson from their council group and announce to the press he wouldn't be standing again-even going so far to wish him and his wife a happy retirement? (David, possibly the most respected and liked Tory Councillor in the town was made of tougher stuff and was supported by his ward and in defiance of the leadership held his seat)

The problem is if you try to hold them to account they get very upset and refuse to explain. Apparently it is bad manners to draw attention to their voting record.

I voted against the car parking charges.

Morning coffee with May and Robert Hamilton

Another successful social and fundraising event was had by Birkdale Lib Dems this morning; Morning Coffee at the home May and Robert Hamilton.
It was good to see Richard Hands there running his tombola stall. May and Robert made us all most welcome.
In the garden green house Robert had all his potatoes chitting ready to plant out on the allotment on Good Friday as is the tradition in these parts.
I arrived on my bike as befits councillor for a town which is going to be one of the demonstration cycle towns. My colleague Fred Weavers who really ought to receive great credit for Southport getting Cycle town status came from Kew ward to support us.

Ainsdale Police Station

The Birkdale Blog is backing a petition launched by local MP John Pugh concerning the police station serving Birkdale and Ainsdale. The wording of John's petition is below and their is a link if you wish to print it off for others to sign. We have also launched and online petition where you can sign up straight away.

The police are carrying out a review of the hours and staffing of Ainsdale Police Station. We the undersigned call upon the Chief Constable to dismiss any suggestion of reduced hours or reduced police staff at Ainsdale Police Station.

Click here to get a printable petition sheet you can use to collect more signatures.

We are concerned that the local station may be further downgraded and therefore it is important that we let it be known that a local police station in the heart of the community is kept open at know times. Please sign up and support John's petition.

Friday, 13 March 2009

Abbey Gardens

It is good when people say 'thank you'. Well Richard Hands was on his way to join me for a coffee in Birkdale village when he was approached by a local resident who wanted to thank him for getting the garden at the back of Abbey Gardens tidied up.
Now it may just be that he was pleased to see Richard out and about after his spell in hospital and just wanted to chat.

Thursday, 12 March 2009

Birkdale ward fundraiser

A very good turn out tonight for the Birkdale Lib Dem dinner held at Tyndall's restaurant. Tyndall's is one of Southport's entries in the Good Food Guide.
The food was excellent. Anthony Hill getting the prize for choosing the most spectacularly presented dish. Despite entreaties I am not going to record what we all ate but my crab soup followed by chicken stuffed with black pudding was very fine.
It was particularly good to see so many of our volunteers turn up. In Birkdale we are lucky to have so many folk who help deliver, stuff envelopes etc. Many of them are actively involved in our community. I was particularly pleased to have the chance of talking with Nova Rimmer who is active in the Friends of Bedford Park group. I had a walk round the park this evening with the dog and there really are some encouraging signs of improvement.
David Heath the Lib Dem MP from Somerset came 2nd in the ballot for private member bills which means he has a real chance of proposing a bit of legislation that may reach the statute book. David has selected to promote the Fuel Poverty Bill.

The Fuel Poverty Bill will bring in two measures:

A major energy efficiency programme to bring existing homes up to the current energy efficiency levels enjoyed by modern homes

Social tariffs to limit vulnerable households’ exposure to high energy bills

This is a very important measure and in line with our modest attempts in Birkdale to increase the take up of existing energy conservation schemes

I was pleased at the last Sefton Cabinet when John Fairclough an (old) Labour Councillor from Bootle urged everyone to contact our local MP to make sure they turn up on Friday afternoon to make sure the Bill survives it's second reading. The Tories were saying 'me too'. I did pause to think whether they knew what they were talking about. This weekend at Harrogate I found Liberal Parliamentary candidates who had challenged their Tory MP's to support David's Bill only to be rejected. The young, and very impressive, Theo Butt Philip was one who had clashed in public over the issue.

Have a look at this page on the Liberal Democrat website

Wednesday, 11 March 2009

More trees for Birkdale

My colleague Richard Hands has been very active over the years in increasing the number of street trees in Birkdale. The latest phase of this programme has seen planting in Liverpool Rd.
The picture shows Cllr Lord Fearn and me along with a member of Sefton council's Tree Team. I am reliably informed that the tree is a narrow leaved Lime.

Vince Cable met some Lib Dem Blogger recently and there is more than a hint in this video that he might join them!

Tuesday, 10 March 2009

baby on DNA register

I noticed this story on Liberal England which also carried the Liverpool Post story on local banks

This story has just gone up on the Sun website:

A baby's genetic profile is on the national police DNA database, ministers admitted last night.
Home Secretary Jacqui Smith said the youngest person on the database was aged less than one.
There was no explanation of why the baby was there.

Lib Dem home affairs spokesman Chris Huhne blasted keeping kids’ profiles as “illegal, immoral and ineffective”.

Ministers have pledged to remove under-tens from the database.It is great to see the Sun defending our liberties. I wish I believed it would be so keen to do so under a Conservative government.

Monday, 9 March 2009

Local banks

Vince Cable has backed plans to set up a local bank. The expropriation of mutual societies pursued by Thatcher-particular the sell off the the Trustee Savings Bank and the disappearance of local building societies has removed an important local/regional banking sector

Many of us have been talking about the need to localise banking once again. We clearly have a problem now with the large High Street banks having so centralised their decision making that there seems to be little local input into those decisions.

Liberals and other have been looking into how to expand the 'mutual' sector and explore the possibility of utility banking being sponsored by municipalities. Hence the article in the Daily Post today.

Sunday, 8 March 2009

Lessons to learn from Obama

A very calm and measured Howard Dean addressed the conference on Saturday. In fact the place was awash with Americans who were keen to share the lessons learned from the Obama campaign. Dean's speech can be seen on this video and is well worth watching
On the same evening there was a fringe meeting where more Obama folk shared their story. That meeting was organised by Lib Dem Voice and they have a podcast of the event on their website. Interesting though Howard Dean was I thought this second event was of more practical use.
The thing that shone through was the eternal truth of campaigning which is that this or that technique is all find and dandy but if you have not got a clear message then it will not help you. The message is the thing.

Harrogate Conference

I'm just back from Harrogate where the Lib Dems have held a very successful Spring Conference.

Nick Clegg's closing speech did sum up the mood of the event; namely that Labour has lost it's way and the leadership of progressives in politics was ours if we were bold enough to step up. His speech can be read in full here. Anybody who was anybody in the party was there keen to display their support at this critical moment.

Interestingly Clegg displayed a clear vision of how he wanted to achieve that objective. Firstly he identified a fair tax system. Vince Cable and he have clearly costed and identified the tax loop holes that are exploited by the super rich so that they pay a smaller proportion of their income in tax than those on the minimum wage. He renewed his commitment to cutting taxes for those on middle and low incomes. (It is interesting how those who mocked this policy believing that it was undesirable/unachievable in a recession have now gone very quiet) Secondly he exposed the farce of the VAT cut that cost billions but did very little and called for this to be reversed and the money spent on creating green collar jobs as Obama has advocated in the US.

Next he turned to banking reform and called for the nationalisation of those banks bailed out by the government and to stop the fiddling and messing around that Labour have gone in for. He was clear that he expected large scale reform and the split up of the banking industry into utility banking and high risk investment banking. He made it clear that the bonus culture had no place in the utility sector and in the high risk banking he asserted that there would be do government bail out in the future if they failed they would be left to sink. In the medium term he spelt out that the state should not seek to maintain the banks in the state sector.

He got a particularly extended period of applause when he called for the disqualification from board room posts of those banker involved in this crisis. I had not realised that 10 directors had been disqualified after the collapse of Barings Bank but to date none have been disqualified as a result of the banking collapse.

Sefton 4 star again

Sefton has been awarded four stars again and this does represent a lot of hard work by many staff who deserve our congratulations. The Visiter has the story. As the cabinet member for Performance you would guess that I am pleased. Nevertheless a word of caution. Scurrying round casing the targets of a London Government does distort performance. We see all the time that this target culture is not the answer to the question; 'how do we improve local government'. Rather it is the answer to another less relevant question; 'which council's are good at meeting government targets'.
David Boyle has some trenchant views on the topic especially in his book 'The Tyranny of Numbers'

Friday, 6 March 2009

Birkdale benches

The Southport Visiter has carried the story of the new benches in Lord Street.

Thursday, 5 March 2009

Birkdale Benches

New benches have been installed in Birkdale Village. Thanks to the good offices of David Pearson we managed to secure some quality benches from Lord Street.

Joint action between Birkdale Councillors has led to new benches being installed
in the Village on Saturday morning. Iain Brodie Browne

Originally it was suggested that a mind boggling £8000
was spent on new benches, but putting political differences aside and working
together for the good of Birkdale we have been able to achieve a much better
deal. We want to thank Cllr David Pearson who has helped secured surplus benches
from Lords Street. These are of a high quality and have been renovated and

In these tough financial times every penny must be
wisely spent and to achieve the project for only £400 is very good value for
money. ‘Re-use and re-cycle’ has been a motto of the environmental movement for
a long time and I think we can claim to have lived up to it on this
occasion. We have, I hope, demonstrated that working together is a better
way of serving the people than constant petty arguing.

Tuesday, 3 March 2009

Police re-assurance after Selworthy Rd incident

I know many local residents have been concerned after hearing rumours of an incident in Birkdale last night involving the use of fire arms. I reproduce the letter I have received from Sgt Sue Simmons.
Formby and Ainsdale Neighbourhood
Formby Police Station
Church Road
L37 3NA

3rd March 2009

Dear Resident

As you are probably now aware there was an incident at an address in Selworthy Road, Birkdale last evening, which has required police involvement and activity throughout the day.
Merseyside Police are currently investigating reports of shots fired at the house in Selworthy Road, last night (Monday, 2 February). Officers were called to the scene at around 10.25pm following reports of shots being fired. No one was injured in the incident and enquiries are ongoing at this time.
Crime Scene Investigators have attended at the scene to carry out forensic examinations and house-to-house enquiries are being carried out.
I would like to take this opportunity to reassure residents that Police believe this to be an isolated incident.
Anyone who may have information in relation to the incident is asked to call the Guncrime hotline on 0800 458 1211 or Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.
Should you wish to contact me or any of the Neighbourhood team directly regarding this incident, we can be contacted on 0151 777 4142/5 or on our email address b.bcu.wards.b5@merseyside.police.uk
Sgt Sue Simmons
Formby and Ainsdale Neighourhood

Tory 'U' turn

I've seldom heard our MP use the excuse; 'I've got a three line whip so I can't come' Well he did yesterday, so it was with more than usual interest that I listened to Today in Parliament. Now all is clear. The excellent MP for Cambridge David Howarth was widely reported speaking on the Political Parties and Representation Bill Report Stage in Commons on the funding of political parties and is well worth reading.
David, who I remember from years back as the Leader on Cambridge City Council and chair of the Lib Dem Economic Working party.He suggested that the level of savings was a key indicator of the health of the economy. Oh that they had listened. He is now getting quite a reputation even in the pages of the Daily Mail

Monday, 2 March 2009

Councillors in support

The councillors who turned and all of whom were very impressed by the team-left to right-Mike Booth (Kew, Lib Dem), Ann Ibbs (Ravenmeols, Conservative ) Council Leader Tony Robertson (Molyneux, Lib Dem) Peter Hough (Victoria Lib Dem) and me Birkdale, Lib Dem. It was good to be at an event where we could put party politics behind us and support young people. The Mayor, Cllr Paul Tweed was also present.

Sefton's team for UK Youth parliament

Ian Goley Southport's MYP

Congratulations to Ian Goley who was elected as the Member of the UK youth parliament to represent Southport. The count for Sefton's two members and their deputies was held at the Royal Clifton Hotel. I was very pleased to learn that over 3000 young people had taken part in the elections and that the positions were keenly contested with even talk of recounts.

Tonight we also heard a report back from the retiring members all of whom were very impressive and heard a band (The Hamiltons)which consisted of three of them

Ian and is colleague from South Sefton Ben Casey both talked of how they wished to change the general public's view of young people and helped present a more positive image.
Ian also wanted to speak to the council about facilities for young people.

Council Leader Tony Robertson gave enthusiastic support to the scheme and spoke about the positive impact that the Youth Council had in his area. Also on hand to give their encouragement were four other Sefton Councillors; Ann Ibbs, Mike Booth, Peter Hough and me.

Many of us started out in Youth politics and I hope that this generation have as much fun as we did. Back then significantly more young people were actively involved in the political organisation and were able to make an impact on public opinion in a way that is much more difficult today. The body politic would be much healthier if young people were more fully involved. I suspect that in order to make that happen we will have to be prepare to change the way that we operate and listen carefully to what they say about how they communicate and debate with each other. There are big issues about the way we run and organise society especially over issues like the environment, lifestyles and international economic justice. We need to be careful not to squash young people's ideas or dragoon them into our structures. We will all benifit if we have the courage to open our minds to what this generation have to say.

Fair deal for Southport FC

Birkdale MP John Pugh has backed a campaign to help non league football clubs which is reported on the Visiter website.
John told the Visiter:
The work that Southport FC is doing for young players is amongst the best in the
country. As well as funding junior teams through donations and volunteer
Southport FC is investing in youth players – despite the fact they
constantly risk having their best players swiped by bigger clubs due to unfair
transfer regulations