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?