I was recently reporting on the continuing ructions in Southport Tory party and in particular the resignation of Lady Lesley Watson. I fear I may have failed to adequately explain the enormity of her departure. If we were talking earthquakes this would be up around 9 on the Richter scale. She comes from arguably Southport`s most influential political family. Her grandfather was Sir Herbert Barber, three times Mayor of Southport, Leader of the Council for donkeys years, knighted for services to Tory party in 1953. Her father was Harold Barber , Councillor 1949, Alderman 1961,Mayor 1966 and father in law of Sir Ron. And I might say in her own right she is a formidable women.
It is impossible to fathom an explanation for the behavior of the Tory Leadership in the town. Dark words are muttered about their cabinet members of which the politest imply that they are out of their depth. At the last full council the 3 suspended Tory Councillors (Sir Ron Watson, David Pearson and Tom Glover O.B.E-two former Leaders and one former Mayor) were stripped of all their positions an the councils committees. At the upcoming cabinet we expect the hapless Mrs Parry seconded by Mrs Porter to move that they are thrown off all outside bodies.
The three Independent Tories have served over 110 years between them on the Southport /Sefton Councils. Tom since October 1962 – over 48 years, Sir Ron since 1969 – almost 42 years and David Pearson since 1991 – almost 20 years. I think Tom`s OBE is for services to Southport and of course Ron`s Knighthood was for political services. The remaining Tories are pygmies in comparison
Freed from the restraints imposed by the Tory whip Sir Ron has moved to establish the superiority of the suspended Tories -I might say that the 3 are appealing against their suspension, but obviously there is no presumption of innocence. At the last Council Sir Ron had two motions down in his and Tom Glover's name and had clearly prepared to ensure that his contributions outshone Mrs Parry-Mrs Porter didn't speak. This week he has unleashed a tactical nuclear strike. Since the emergence of Mrs Porter some would suggest that the usual instinct of the Tories not to spend money has been replaced by a spend spend spend mentality. Our former Chief Exec proposed that senior posts in the Council should be axed saving by now about £1m she opposed the cull and then again it was the settled policy of the council to sell the market hall which was in need of significant investment. Even in these difficult financial times she insisted that the council-with no private sector involvement- should take on a multi million pound capital scheme. And with the economic crisis at its height and when we are struggling to find enough money to keep the facilities we have openly she backed the Labour party in building another Leisure centre in Bootle again with a multi million pound price tag. When challenged Mrs Porter opined; 'why can't we have it all?'
Now Sir Ron is, I fancy, a man who would love to stand in front of a leisure centre and declare ; 'This building is now closed' and so one can only imagine his state of mind when at a time of severe cuts he was being whipped to approve nigh on £10m capital spending on projects which didn't even make it on to his priority list. With particular reference to the market hall no private sector organisation has been prepare to put up the cash and the business plan does not command universal confidence. I have met one real enthusiast of the scheme. He was the agent of the company who own the plot next to it. You can see his point of view. If the Council makes a multi million pound investment the land price of his site will rocket. He will grow rich in his sleep and the tax payer will have funded his windfall.
Sir Ron has this week put out a press release calling for a rethink on the market. The existing contractor ROK is in administration so a new contract has be awarded. It is an ideal time to call a halt.