Since Bootle Labour gained control of Sefton Council my role as a councillor has been diminished. The Labour group always vote as a group and, due to their numerical advantage they win every vote.
Although Bootle controls Sefton, they only have 1 councillor in the Southport area. There are 7 wards in the Southport area with 21 councillors. This consists of 15 Liberal Democrats, 5 Conservatives and 1 Labour(recently converted from Conservative).
I therefore have a greater affinity with Southport than Sefton; a sentiment that is echoed by the “Southport out of Sefton” campaign.
With this in mind I have read through Labour’s proposals for the budget to be discussed by them on 27th November at Bootle Town Hall.
Rather than listing the proposed cuts I have decided to present them in the eyes of a potential visitor to Southport.
Southport - England's Classic Resort
- You found us - well done! Sefton Council have drastically reduced their budget for promoting Southport as a tourist resort.
- When you arrive at Southport you will be expected to pay increased charges for parking anywhere in the centre of the town.
- You will be advised not to bathe on the beach as the water quality will be a health threat and the removal of the lifeguard may be life threatening.
- If you do decide to visit the beach you will not be able to gain access with wheelchairs or prams due to wind-blown sand that has not been removed.
- Be careful where you tread on the beach because there will not be a “dog free” zone and bye-laws that control dog mess will not be adhered to.
- Do not attempt to park on the marine parade car parks at times of high tides as staff will not be available to police this, or any other emergency.
- Do not walk bare footed on the beach as litter will not have been cleared and dangerous glass etc may be present.
- If you decide to follow the council’s advice and divert to Ainsdale beach, do not do so between September and May as you will not be able to park on the beach. If you do visit in summer you will join a long queue of traffic as the number of parking spaces has been reduced.
- When you leave the beach do not search for public conveniences as there aren’t any anywhere in the town.
- You may decide to visit Southport’s famous Botanic Gardens at Churchtown. If you do, remember to take some small change as parking charges have now been introduced.
- Whist in the park you will be able to view the reduced flower beds but you will not be able to purchase any plants as the shop has been closed. If you have small children with you they will not be able to play on the swings as they have been removed for safety reasons.
- The gardens include a magnificent Fernery, but you will probably not be able to gain access due to reduced opening times.
- Finally, before leaving for home in the evening, you may decide to visit Southport’s famous Atkinson Centre(restored at a cost of £17 million). This will depend on the restricted opening hours due to a review which led to the loss of 10 staff.
Or you could always stay on the motorway and go to Blackpool.
The above may appear to be dramatic and unbelievable, but this is only the beginning. The above cuts are proposed as part of the £32.4 million needed to be cut in 2015/16. What we do not know yet is where Labour will find the extra £22.3 million needed in 2016/17. There have to be cuts but there are better ways of wielding the axe. One example being the reduction of the number of councillors and the reduction in the allowances paid to Cabinet Members.
My party do not control Sefton Council and whatever we vote for Labour always vote against us. Labour lead the council and Bootle Labour took all of the Cabinet seats when they could have shared them, along with the responsibility for the cuts, with all parties. It is the Bootle Labour group who will decide where the axe falls.
As a Southport councillor in opposition to the ruling group I see my role as one of defending Southport as England’s Classic Resort. Local businesses, with the support of the BID team, are backing the town. We have just witnessed the best Christmas Lights Switch-On the town has ever had. My views may bee seen as purely political, but I see them as the views of a Southport resident who is proud of his adopted town and who wants to see it prosper. Taking away assets and putting barriers in the way of potential visitors will see other less politically ambitious boroughs prosper. Our losses will be gains for Blackpool and the shopping centres of Liverpool, Preston and Manchester.