Tuesday, 28 February 2012

Allotments and the Liberal legacy

This is a post that appeared on Lib Dem Voice yesterday. Michael is a Lib Dem member here in Southport-part of the Rimmer, Dodd Ashton team in Meols ward.

Our peaceful occupation of land in England for leisure or gardening or amenity is the result of a century of struggles for land access. “He who controls the land controls the life of the people”: and our native soil was alienated to landlords by the Enclosure movement and in Scotland by the vicious Highlands Clearances; and today such risks are still real. Fortunately Liberals began a defence of the people’s land-rights in the reforms of the 1906-1911 Parliament.

More land cannot be produced by landlords no matter how high its price goes. Charging more for it is no remedy for its scarcity, however fashionable such views sometimes become by those who argue for land or site rent increases. The better future lies in fairer access for the majority, not restricting it to the wealthy by excluding or patronising the poor, and fairer access is what the Liberal reforms from 1906 onward aimed for.

The 1908 Small Holding Act marked a turning-point in this struggle for decency. All 8500 civil parishes in England, along with the larger councils where parishes are missing, are now providing, as a result, statutory allotment garden authorities. They have the duty to provide land to the citizens when six or more ask them to look for it, a rare example of truly benevolent legislation. It is land for amenity, keeping hens and rabbits, growing food, conservation, health as a “green gym”. We have achieved a democratic means to protect and build up a great national asset for our communities if we band together and use it. Sadly the Small Holding element has been eroded, but could be restored.

Unfortunately this excellent state of affairs has come under attack from the old “investment finacialisation”, reinforced by the weird “free market” idea that paying more for land somehow creates more of it. The price-system and private landlords cannot create more land, nor can they take into account the social, environmental and health benefits that access to land offers. In spite of noble examples private benevolence has not yet produced the abundance of long-term low-cost community land assets we need.

The 1908 Act restricts eviction by cash-strapped local authorities and others (there is a power to buy the land), and frees us from profit-taking owners. Private provision too often means no compensation for improvements, no security of tenure, no long-term guarantees or community inheritance. The sacred beauty and variety of nature is profaned, community tradition destroyed and the cultivators dispossessed. – And now people are sometimes tricked by the promises of land-banking.

So Liberal Democrats! – We urgently need to use the powers of democratic acquisition of land, as green space and amenity and in fairness, wherever parishes and towns and Districts flinch from this duty and the people want it.

* Michael Parsons has had a long interest in politics since being an active student Liberal in the late fifties and early sixties.

John Dodd speaks out on the Fernery

My colleague John Dodd has sent me a copy of a statement he has made about the Fernery in Botantic Gardens. I know John speaks for many people in the town on this issue-indeed over 2000 have signed a petition. I sincerely hope that this matter can be resolved. Her is John's statement

Lib Dem Cllr John Dodd has spoken out against Labour’s proposed budget cuts in funding for the Botanic Gardens aviary and fernery.

Cllr Dodd declared “Botanic Gardens is the jewel in Sefton’s crown. The fernery and aviary are two of the popular attractions that draw visitors to the Botanic Gardens and to Southport as a whole. It is outrageous that, due to further budget cuts, they will be forced to close. The road-train and boats were casualties of previous cuts and again, last year, the Botanic Gardens took another tremendous hit. ENOUGH IS ENOUGH! I vehemently support the retention of both the aviary and fernery. I will continue to campaign to this effect up to, and including Thursday, 1st March when Sefton Council’s budget meeting takes place at Bootle Town Hall. I simply cannot take a back seat and casually observe the brutal, continuous destruction of Southport‘s rich heritage”.

Thursday, 23 February 2012

John Pugh on health risk register

Southport's MP John Pugh has voted against the Government over the need to relese the national Risk Register on the NHS Bill.

Speaking in Parliament in the debate on the NHS Bill yesterday, John Pugh MP said:

"Another day, another Health Bill debate: it is a groundhog day, déjà vu experience for many of us. On these occasions, I often find myself sounding like that irritating little man with the flat cap and glasses who was in Harry Enfield's programmes and went around all the time saying, "You don't want to do that." It is a matter of record that I have described the Health and Social Care Bill as a huge strategic mistake and that I have from the start publicly and privately-but, I hope, politely-tried to discourage the Government from progressing with it. Even thought it is Ash Wednesday today, I do not intend to repent of my ways, although I do agree with Alan Johnson that the onus is now on critics to come up with a viable alternative to what the Government propose to implement.

"Regardless of the merits of the Bill, the politics of it have turned into an absolute nightmare, to the extent that there are now two clearly defined schools of thought in Parliament. There are two opposed camps: those who think that the Bill is very problematic and that we should drop it, and those who think that it is a problematic but that we are stuck with it. All that is despite the good intentions of Ministers, the constructive amendments of both Houses and the work of the NHS Future Forum. I essentially agree with Tim Montgomerie, who publicly acknowledged what some Cabinet Members privately acknowledge: it is toxifying for the Tories and detrimental to the Liberal Democrats, which is sad.

"Over the past 20 months, I have tried-possibly ineptly-to get that message across. I even e-mailed the Prime Minister's advisor on strategy, Andrew Cooper, a man for whom I have appreciable respect. On 14 April last year I wrote to him saying that over the previous 10 months I had "watched the coalition in terms of health policy cheerfully prepare to be driven over the cliff by the Department of Health." On 4 May of the same year I told him that the Government risked ending up in a no-win situation, and on 6 September that the Bill was unnecessary and would create uncertainty, divide the coalition, lower morale and harm Government ratings-which it has. There are no happy endings, I said.

"I get no satisfaction from being proved right. After all, nobody welcomes a know-all. However, nobody likes gigantic Government schemes that do not come off-especially not, as John Healey said, in the Department of Health. That is why it would have helped so much to have had a gateway review of Connecting for Health, the Government IT project. That was not published by the Blair Government, and blew £12 billion of taxpayers' money. A review was demanded by my hon. FriendMr Bacon, but Blair decided to press on bravely through the signals of danger, aided and abetted by a report from McKinsey. I was relieved to find out that the Government do not rely on advisers to the extent mooted in the press, at any rate, because their advice has not always been solid or sensible.

"Would not we all have really liked, however, to see a gateway review of Connecting for Health, and would it not have saved the country an appreciable amount of money? Why did we have to wait nine years-and spend £12 billion-before the NHS essentially settled on the position mapped out by my hon. Friend the Member for South Norfolk in a paper in 2006? Should we not have seen the review? Perhaps Labour should adopt an "I'll show you mine if you show me yours" policy as the best way forward, for in truth there are not many good arguments against transparency in the case of this NHS risk register-and I have heard some pretty bad arguments, both today and in recent days.

One particularly poor argument has been that Members should not support this call because that would endorse the Labour party's position. I think that is called political tribalism, which is not attractive and which poisons this place. It is always wiser to agree with people when they are right and to disagree with them if they are wrong, regardless of party. Another bad argument that has been made several times this afternoon is that the Labour Government did the same thing and refused to publish risk registers. That is a pretty weak argument in terms of its general logic. Just because the Labour Government fought an illegal war in Iraq, that would not justify the coalition's fighting another war in a country of its choosing. Then there is the weak argument that publishing the register would create a precedent, but what is the precedent? Surely, it is that risk registers may be released when the Information Commissioner-a role that was set up by our legislation-so decrees when interpreting our legislation.

More to follow and a link to hansard

Saturday, 18 February 2012

Pugh-Working in the Coalition

An impressive and diverse crowd gathered at S&B Cricket Club last night to hear John Pugh Southport's MP talk about the Coalition and to ask questions. It was good to see so many activists there but more impressive was the high number of  non aligned folk from the town who just wanted to hear the discussion. On a personal note I was delighted to see Stephen Hesketh turn up-he made a very good contribution to a discussion thread online the other week. John was on fine form and deliciously off message. Indeed one of his targets was of 'media advisers'- who will no doubt be seeking to exercise their influence over the media coverage of the Health and Social Care Bill which John described as'the worst piece of legislation I have ever had anything to do with' and for which he predicted  that there can be 'no happy endings'.

Clearly John regretted that the coalition had not ushered in a new politics of rational debate and an earnest seeking after the common good but rather that in the first phase of coalition there had been a 'realignment of the political tribes'. Now as one who has sought realignment all my political life it is depressing to see it achieved in this negative way. We have wondered too far from Jo Grimond's campaign to 'realign the Left'. Where now is the talk of a 'radical alternative to socialism' or 'socialism without the state'? Instead we had a litany of the ills visited on the body politic by the tribal culture of Westminster: policies opposed because another party proposed them,  cynical whips determined to 'educate MP's' from listening to debate and argument, a macho culture that stops Ministers accepting that they made a mistake and a system dominated by whips.

Some of the debate centred on how Liberal Identity can be maintained whilst being in the coalition. He was clearly unimpressed by the strategy of 'spasmodic cabinet spats' as practised by Chris Hulme and (predictably) had little time for the mindless messaging whose advocates entreated MPs to repeat slogans at every opportunity rather than address the questions put to them. Interestingly he held up Vince Cable's success prior to the General Election as a result of his willingness to rationally answer the questions he was asked. 

John began his talk by arguing that what drew people toward a particular political party was not a 100% adherence to its policies but rather a general sympathy towards its values. From that he argued that although the Westminster political culture militated against rational discussion and respect for other parties but that must be the direction we should champion.

I was surprised how much John perceived that the whips still  had a malign influence on Westminster politics both because of the tribal element and because of their control of patronage and in particular perferment in government. In fact John sounded a bit like John Arlott circa 1950 in the way he analysed the whips influence

It has struck me for some while that the we need to re-examine the separation of powers in the Westminster model. The malign influence of the whips comes from their control of jobs in government. If the House of Commons was an elected legislative assembly holding the executive to account then it would not attract the sort of people  whowanted a career as Government ministers. Maybe we have to concede that USA has something to teach us and be less tribal in our support of the Westminster model.

Another question that was raised was over Scottish independence when the frightening spectre of a permanent Tory majority in Westminster was described if Scotland voted Yes. John expressed his concern about the present situation where an Orkney MP  was trying to whip him to vote for the Health Bill pointing out that the Bill would not apply in Scotland. And so the West Lothian Question was raised. There is a perfectly good Liberal answer to this question. It is called federalism. It is good to hear the Welsh First Minister raise the possibility of a fully federal solution. It is fast becoming the policy that dare not speak its name. London based writers derided it failing to see that a unitary state of 50+million is far too centralised. It is  a situation that cannot be remedied by giving a few token powers to local government.Although I would stress that I wholly approve of Local Authorities taking powers from Whitehall in areas where that is appropriate--schools for example. In that context I was impressed with the article in the Independent 18/02/12 by Graham Allen and Philip Blond calling for a new Magna Carta for local government. Personally I feel we need a thorough going review of the constitution which makes the checks and balances on the Executive, the devolution of powers and a new local government settlement part of a new written constitution which Westminster cannot tamper with or suspend. Back in local government the sort of powers we need to take away from London are the powers that would go to Scotland under 'devo max' and cannot be effectively exercised by councils. If we are talking of malign influences then we must  add the American influenced Libertarian Right. To a person they are Con federalist and despise the Federal government. We are not. David Grace has a excellent post over at the Disgruntled Radical  looking at that debate in a European context. Time to fight back on Federalism and not let Prescott's NE incompetence ruin it for the rest of the nation. 

We recognise that there are some powers best exercised locally but that others are only effectively exercised nationally or pan nationally. There are some neo-con free marketeers who oppose governmental institutions  on principal and argue against 'new levels of government'. The economic collapse caused in significant part by the market failure  and the absence of regulation should challenge that view. We are not part of the Tea Party anti government movement. The Allen/Blond prescription is to entrench sovereign  Local Authorities and guarantee a new financial settlement, as they say:

......political independence for councils would mean less than nothing without financial independence. Of all local authority spending, the bulk is now provided by central government and only a fraction (one eighth) raised locally by the council tax. This dependency culture must end. A radical new settlement is needed on taxation, with HMRC sending the appropriate tax take back to local councils via an independent redistribution commission. Central government could continue to be free to assist councils with funding on particular problems, just as the federal governments of the US and many European states do.
Local councils, assured that the funding of most of their expenditure was secure, could then be free to raise the remainder of their income via property rates, sales taxes or local bond issues. In a mature democracy, local authorities would be confident and competent enough to raise and spend what they decide is appropriate. Citizens knowing what they pay and why they pay it will constitute a firmer discipline and stronger bulwark against central interference than any statute.

I was interesting that so many constitutional issues came up in the discussion How Governments are formed and sustained and the level of scrutiny and challenge they face clearly interests the public more than is generally assumed. All in all it was an excellent evening . It proved there was an appetite for political debate. John's conclusion: more rational debate and less macho Ministers!

Friday, 17 February 2012

Academy in Special Measures-Accountabilty deficit? Question at Full Council

I put a question down at Full Council last night on Birkdale High Scool. The answer to it raised further concerns about the Chair of Governors. it is reproduced below (my italics etc). Fuller details and a link to the report can be found here

I have contacted our MP about this issue.

Mine was the third question on the order paper. I shall comment further on this matter. Can any let me know if they have an example of a school going from Good to Special measures and the fate of the Chair of Governors and Headteacher?

(3) Question from Councillor Brodie-Browne to the Cabinet Member -

Children, Schools and Families - (Councillor Moncur)

“Many Southport residents have become alarmed by reports that

Birkdale High School has been put into ‘special measures’ following an

Ofsted inspection. Can the Cabinet Member report on any meetings

he or the Council’s senior staff have had with the Chair of Governors or



“As members will be aware Birkdale High School converted to an

academy in August 2011. As part of the process the Local Authority

were instructed by the Secretary of State to cease maintaining the


Birkdale was inspected by Ofsted on 12/13 December 2011 and as a

result of that inspection was placed in special measures (the lowest

category in which some 9% of secondary schools nationally sit). Whilst

the Local Authority have no statutory role in respect of academies it

was felt that we had a moral obligation to the pupils in the school and

immediately the Council became aware of the inspection result senior

Officers contacted the Chair of Governors to offer support if it was

needed and this was followed up in writing, on behalf of the Cabinet

Member, on 15 December. This support was offered on the basis of

our recent track record with St Wilfrid's, where the team assembled by

the Local Authority moved the school out of special measures in the

space of four terms (virtually unheard of). The Chair of Governors

declined to take up the offer at that time.

Statutory responsibility for intervention in failing academies rests with

the Secretary of State and senior Officers contacted the DfE on 18

January to enquire as to their plans and to offer support from the Local

Authority, based on our recent track record, if it was needed. The local

Authority was contacted by the Department for Education (DfE) on 8

February explaining that they had received a copy of Birkdale’s action

plans which were being evaluated, and would be meeting with the

academy within the next couple of weeks but stating that the Head

Teacher was unaware of Sefton’s offer of support. The Strategic

Director immediately wrote to the Chair of Governors to reiterate that

support from the Local Authority was available if required. The Chair of

Governors responded to say the original offer had been discussed with

the Head Teacher and they had decided to enlist support from another

local authority (which we understand to be Liverpool).

The DfE have been asked to keep Sefton up to date with progress.”

Councillor Brodie-Browne gave advance notice of the following

supplementary question to the Cabinet Member:

“What have we put in place for the schools that have not opted out, to

support them through the new Ofsted inspection regime?”


“The new Ofsted inspection framework came into effect on 2 January

2012 (Birkdale High School was inspected under the old framework).

In order to prepare schools for the new framework, a series of training

events have been held for school leaders and governors. Schools

performance is monitored by the Local Authority and school specific

targeted support is provided for schools as required. Support for all

maintained schools is provided in the run up to an inspection, during

the inspection and as part of any follow-up action required.

As colleagues may be aware, the new Ofsted Chief Inspector took up

post in January and has already indicated that he will revise the

inspection framework. Officers will ensure that maintained schools are

kept up to date with any changes, with specific support available for

individual schools.”

I know that concern is very widespread on this issue. Either Ofsted have got it badly wrong-in which case the school need to show compelling evidence of that -or else the Leadership of the school are in a very difficult position. 

I genuinely fail to see how the school can be turned around if key players do not believe that there is a problem. I have sight of a letter sent to the Chief Exec which asks many of the same questions:

If this had been a Community School we would have been made aware of the position of the School and the subsequent plans needed to address its problems.  There would have been a mutuality amongst all parties to ensure the best outcome for pupils and staff. And yet here we have a failing school within the Authority acting like a secret cabal and ostrich like in its acknowledgement of failure.

If there are those in Senior positions who think that all they have to do is to keep their heads down and all this will go away and that nothing much needs to change they are mistaken. Unless the school do more than signal that Ofsted are incompetent and wrong but show some robust evidence to support their stance the pupils will be the losers. 

Friday, 10 February 2012

Victory! Labour's Merseytravel Gravey Train is derailed

VICTORY! - as Labour's Merseytravel “Gravy Train” is derailed, saving £100,000

Cutbacks in councillor pay on Transport Authority Merseytravel, following independent review, will save local Council Tax payers £100,000 a year, say local Lib Dems.

Proposals for a massive pay rise for some Labour councillors were unanimously rejected yesterday, (9th February) at a meeting of Merseytravel. However, councillors agreed to accept the recommendations of an independent review axing many of the “Special Responsibility Allowances” previously paid to councillors.

The rejection of the proposed pay increase, and the axing of 25 Councillors' 'Special Allowances' is projected to save Merseytravel £100,000 a year.

Following a strong campaign by Liberal Democrat councillors, which also highlighted the way in which Labour's Merseytravel Chairman, Sefton Councillor Mark Dowd haad been using the public credit card as a 'bank' for his holiday expenditure in California, the Merseytravel chair's pay has finally been cut back from £63,000 a year (£9,000 as a Sefton Councillor, plus several allowances from Merseytravel totalling £54,000) to £39,000 a year. Lib Dems are claiming this as a victory for the travelling public and for commonsense.

“This is a massive victory for Merseyside Council Tax payers, and for the Liberal Democrats who have long campaigned for reform of “Labour’s Gravy Train.”

says Cllr Andrew Makinson, leader of the Lib Dems on Merseytravel.

Southport Councillor and Merseytravel Board member John Dodd says:

“We always believed the level of allowances that Labour Councillors were paying themselves was impossible to justify. This independent review has proved that the Liberal Democrats were right all along.”

Southport Lib Dem chair Tony Dawson says:

"At a time when passengers are having to face fare rises, it was an insult to see Labour Councillors considering taking more from the public pot. I hope that the Merseyside Fire Authority will now make similar moves on their Allowances. Last year, Labour councillors cut 92 Firefighters jobs while retaining their own first class rail travel perks."

On June 27th 2011, Labour Councillors voted against Liberal Democrat calls for an independent review of allowances, and an end to the practice of claiming multiple allowances. However, a widespread public backlash forced a dramatic U-turn just a few weeks later.

Sefton Lib Dem leader Cllr Tony Robertson said:

"I am delighted that we have been able to help to put public money before councillors pockets. This is no time to even think about pay rises for councillors."


Editor's note:

The Independent review report is attached.

Merseytravel’s bill for Councillor's Allowances previously totalled £1/4 Million. All Councillors receive a “basic allowance” of £5,500, but there were also 35 “Special Responsibility Allowances” paid to councillors. There are just 18 members on the Authority, drawn from the five Merseyside Councils.

For further information please contact Councillor Andrew Makinson on 07939 220 336; Tony Dawson on, John Dodd on:

Pugh on Health-will no one rid us of this 'friendless Bill'. ?

Conservative Home this morning has a much publised editorial calling on Cameron to drop the Health Bill. At lunch time Southport Lib Dem  MP appeared on BBC World at One pleading with the powers that be to find a way to curtain the agony that the passage of this Bill is causing. You can listen here, it is the second item:


The BBC reports his comments:

Lib Dem MP John Pugh - who has criticised the reforms - told BBC Radio 4's World at One that the ConservativeHome report "chimes .. with what I myself have learnt in conversations with Conservatives and Liberal Democrats in the last few days".

He said the bill had been improved - but was still about the "marketisation of the NHS", and professional and public opinion had "hardened quite considerably against that".

John-along with other Lib Dem MP's -has signed an Early Day Motion

That this House expects the Government to respect the ruling by the Information Commissioner and to publish the risk register associated with the Health and Social Care Bill reforms in advance of Report Stage in the House of Lords in order to ensure that it informs that debate.

We are clearly seeing the final act of Lansley's Bill. Iain Duncan Smith has been identifies as one of the 3 Tory Cabinet members who want to ditch the Bill (and therefore Lansley)  I put a health warning on the next quote from Guido

Is Andrew Lansley talking about Tim Montgomery working for IDS?


(Handbags at dawn outside he Cabinet Room?)

“Tim’s sole achievement in politics was to be chief of staff to the most unpopular leader in Conservative history, so forgive us if we don’t take any lessons from him. He clearly wants to take the party back to the bad old days of constant infighting and no policy. He should stick to talking about gay marriage and leave serious issues like the NHS to the grown ups.”

Once again John Pugh has been in the forefront of the debate on the future of the NHS. It is hard to see how the issue can be kept off the agenda at the Lib Dem Conference next month

The Tate,, The Lowry, The Walker and now The Atkinson?

What to call the complex which includes the Town Library, Art Gallery and the old Arts Centre (formerly the Cambridge Halls).There are several ideas doing the rounds. 

First amongst these is William Atkinson. He was a great Victorian benefactor in the town who made his money in cotton and hailed from Knaresborough. By all accounts he had a sickly wife who liked to holiday in the town.  Atkinson kicked start the project with a donation of £6,000 and his name is already widely used in relation to the Library and Art Gallery and his name is inscribed in the stonework above the Art Gallery door.. He also gave money for the addition of the Clock Tower to the Cambridge Halls which with this current restoration will finally get a proper face on all four sides. Atkinson gave money to other causes in the town including the Provident Society for Fisherman which held its meetings in the Temperance Hall in Shellfield Rd Marshside (where local Liberals used to also hold social events) Both in Southport and in Ashton Hayes -where he lived immediately prior to settling in the town -he donated generous sums to church buildings. Atkinson was a Liberal supporter and funder.

The second contender is to maintain the link with the Duchess of Cambridge after whom the theatre complex was originally named.Southport is awash with references to the last Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, The Duke, Prince George-had an appetite for irregular relations with women which was impressive even by royal standards. We have Cambridge Rd, Cambridge Gardens, Cambridge Walks all of which were named after the promiscuous prince.

Apart from is entangle private life  Prince George is best remembered for being the last Royal Commander in Chief. He was seen as a major obstacle to reform of the army and it fell to Campbell Bannerman to remove him. He did not want to go. Queen Victoria was keen that the Duke of Connought should take over and he was bitterly disappointed when CB scuppered that plan. Nevertheless it is a mighty testimony to CB's diplomatic skills that he got his Army Reforms through complete with the removal of Prince George and that he managed to fall out with none of the key players. 

Fortunately for those 'back to basic campaigners' in the town the Halls were named after the Duchess of Cambridge and it will have escaped nobody's notice that we have a new Duchess of Cambridge. The Halls were originally opened by her namesake .........

There are two other possible candidates. Firstly Miss Ball who established the permanent art collection with a donation of watercolours and oil paintings .

The final choice is Samuel Lawson Booth  of who the reference books report:

Samuel Lawson Booth

Samuel Lawson Booth was an accomplished English painter whose works were exhibited many times in the Royal Cambrian Academy. He was born in Leeds and was an art teacher at the Leeds School of Art, then Art Master at the Technical College in Bradford and the Art School in Wigan. He lived most of his working life in Southport, where he was Mayor, an Alderman and a Justice of the Peace. He socialised in elevated circles. In 1902 he visited Egypt and the Holy Land and on his return exhibited the paintings made during his tour by royal command of King Edward VII. He subsequently received His Majesty’s thanks and compliments and was presented to the King. This picture of the Valley of Josaphat in Palestine is typical of those completed during the tour and is likely to date from this time.

Booth was a major benefactor of the Art Gallery and I'm sure I've seen a large oil painting of the Langdale Pikes somewhere around the Town Hall or Art Gallery attributed to him. He too was a Liberal and represented Talbot Ward-part of the present Norwood Ward which today still returns Liberals. Of course ther maybe some folk who -for purely partisan reason would not like the name Bootheto be considered!

The Atkinson, lost tiles and coat of alms

On my visit to the Arts Centre I reported that during the renovation some fine floor tiles had been uncovered. In particular the old banking hall-the home to the Library since the 1920o's-revealed some fine examples. The hope was expressed that it may be possible to display some in the new building and there was speculationu that a coat ofarms may have been in front of the fire place as was often the case in banksof the period. Nobody seemed to know which bank.

The observant amongst you will have noted that the bank building does have a coat of arms in the stone work and there is a photo of the restoration of it stuck up on the screen around the building. To the naked eye it look remarkably similar to to town crest.

In January 1881 there was a run on the Southport and West Lancs Bank Ltd. The previous year the bank had moved to impressive new buildings at the cost of  £20,000.The Banks directors included the Mayor and Mr Boothroyd-of department store fame and well as the usual quota of Southport names-Wright, Rimmer and Ball.. William Atkinson was also a shareholder. the Bank was finally taken over by Parr's Bn from St Helens and finally landed up as part of RBS -another insolvent company.

I'm told that this is the bank that occupied 1 Eastbank Street and became the Town Library in the 1920's-so if a coat of arms is revealed it will most likely be one we are all familiar with.

Wednesday, 8 February 2012

The King died, Liberals lost their deposit and Ronald Cyril Fearn was 21-60 years ago

Press cutting from the Southport Journal 6/2/52

More on the by election later but in the meantime happy 81st birthday Ronnie

Tuesday, 7 February 2012

Call for Head to go? Crisis as new Academy is in special measures

Update: last night the Leader of the Council has called on the Chair of the Governors David Jones and the Headteacher of Birkdale High School to consider their position

From Good with outstanding features to special measures as a new academy is a journey  no school wishes to travel. But to make that journey as a new flagship Academy raises important questions of accountability and governance.

Birkdale High School has made that journey. Ofsted visited in December 2011  and yet the report was only published on the website this morning. It is well known that drafts have been in circulation for some time. I have never before heard of such a delay.  Please read the report it can be found here:


It does seem wrong that if this school had still been under the LA the Director of Education would have already visited and the Headteacher and Chair of Governors would have been interviewed. As an elected representative I could have asked questions of the Chair of Education/Cabinet member and the Director of Education. Is the Secretary of State going to answer such questions about hundreds of schools?

The report states:

Inspection grades: 1 is outstanding, 2 is good, 3 is satisfactory and 4 is inadequate Please turn to the glossary for a description of the grades and inspection terms
Inspection judgements

Overall effectiveness: how good is the school?
The school's capacity for sustained improvement
Main findings
In accordance with section 13(3) of the Education Act 2005, Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector is of the opinion that this school requires special measures because it is failing to give its pupils an acceptable standard of education and the persons responsible for leading, managing or governing the school are not demonstrating the capacity to secure the necessary improvement.
Progress is inadequate and students do not achieve as well as they should.
Students’ performance in their best eight subjects at the end of Key Stage 4 has declined over the last three years. In many subjects other than English and mathematics, attainment is too low and progress too slow in relation to students’ above average starting points on entry to the school. Teaching and the use of assessment are inadequate in securing consistently satisfactory progress. In the large majority of lessons observed by inspectors work was not pitched appropriately to meet students’ different learning needs. The failure of senior leaders to improve teaching quality and tackle inappropriate behaviour has contributed to a far less favourable picture of provision and outcomes than at the time of the previous inspection.
Although there are examples of good practice, these are too infrequent. While opportunities for independent learning were observed in some lessons, they were ineffective in securing progress for all students because some students chose not to participate and set tasks were insufficiently challenging. Some good examples of marking were observed but the use of attainment levels and students’ targets to plan learning appropriately are inconsistent.

It goes on (remember 4 is inadequate):

........While there are examples of the governing body challenging the school, governors are not involved sufficiently in self-evaluation and the monitoring of progress against the development plan; they do not effectively hold leaders and managers to account.

and again:

These are the grades for the leadership and management

The effectiveness of leadership and management in embedding ambition and driving improvement
Taking into account:
The leadership and management of teaching and learning
The effectiveness of the governing body in challenging and supporting the school so that weaknesses are tackled decisively and statutory responsibilities met
The effectiveness of the school's engagement with parents and carers
The effectiveness of partnerships in promoting learning and well-being
The effectiveness with which the school promotes equality of opportunity and tackles discrimination
The effectiveness of safeguarding procedures
The effectiveness with which the school promotes community cohesion
The effectiveness with which the school deploys resources to achieve value for money

700 Houses in the wrong place


Lib Dem councillors in Birkdale and Kew Wards have spoken out over proposals from Ormskirk-based West Lancashire Borough Council to build hundreds of house on prime agricultural land on the fringes of Birkdale and

On Wednesday this week (8 February), Sefton Council's Planning Committee is due to discuss the controversial proposals set out in the "West Lancashire Local Plan".  In total around 700 houses could be build in these areas on the outskirts of Southport.

The main part of the area earmarked for possible future development is the ‘Birkdale Irrigation Allotments’, together with surrounding fields, amounting to 19 hectares (or 47 acres) in total.  This land is located between

Benthams Way and Moss Road on the eastern boundary of Birkdale.  The Business Park at Kew adjoins the site.

Birkdale Lib Dem councillor Richard Hands is a member of Sefton planning Committee.  He is worried that what West Lancashire planners are proposing will place enormous burdens on Southport services.

“I understand that there is the potential for something like 570 houses to be built on land opposite Christ the King School and Dobbies as well as another 130 on two smaller sites off Moss Road and New Cut Lane,
all in Birkdale.”

”Although these areas are actually part of Southport, they come under West Lancashire Council.  This means that our own local council would no say over planning applications to build these houses.”

Councillor Mike Booth represents Kew Ward which lies immediately adjacent to the the main potential development site at Benthams Way. He has also expressed concerns about the proposal:

“I am not at all happy that West Lancashire planners want to locate hundreds of new houses in Southport.  Although most of the children who might live in those new houses would go to Southport schools, it would be West Lancashire Council that receives the council tax income as well as the Government’s ‘New Homes Bonus’ and so on.”

“In fact it is entirely possible in the future that some Southport parents will lose out on their first preference of school to parents who live in these new houses in West Lancashire.  Surely that cannot be right?”

Birkdale councillor Iain Brodie Browne is a long standing allotment holder at the ‘Birkdale Irrigation Allotments’.  He said:

“This land was bought by the Birkdale Local Board in 1894, so it dates back to even before Southport County Borough as well as before Sefton.  There are over 100 allotment plots here.  As well as the threat to the allotments, much of the rest of the land is prime agricultural land.”

“It just seems plain wrong that West Lancashire Council is trying to achieve its house building target by building houses in Southport.”

Any Birkdale Blog reader who wants to read the full report to the Sefton Planning Committee can find it here:

According to the Planners, the four sites have areas and estimated house capacities are as follows:



  Est Housing

  1. Fine Jane’s Farm, Moss Road
  2. New Cut Lane
  3. Moss Road (West)
  4. Moss Road (East)




      23.6 ha.

          700 houses