Published and promoted by Mike Booth, on behalf of Kew Ward Liberal Democrats, at 35 Shakespeare Street, Southport PR8 5AB. Hosted by Blogspot, who do not know or endorse the contents of this posting.

Sunday, 26 April 2015

Rare RSPB sighting in Southport

It's difficult to see in its natural environment and it is extremely rare. This is one of the three that I have seen in Southport. Yes it's a rare Blue Backed Conservative poster board. Otherwise known as a Rare Southport Poster Board, or RSPB for short. Much more common are the popular Orange Backed Lib Dem poster boards with sightings all over Southport and into Ainsdale. Experts now believe that the Orange Backed Lib Dems are settled and multiplying in local gardens.
Like · Comment · 

Friday, 6 March 2015

Labour's Cuts to Southport's Services

Leader of Sefton Council Opens the Atkinson before cutting it's hours

No, I didn't go the Thursday's budget setting meeting in Bootle, due to work commitments that I couldn't get out of.

I didn't really need to be there though. Anybody could have predicted the outcome. Labour voted for the proposed budget and they didn't listen to the proposals put forward by my party to .

So the residents of Southport can look forward to:

  • the closure of the shop at the Botanic Gardens with the inevitable effect on the hard work put in by volunteers
  • the refusal to set up a proposed pot of money to help set up volunteer libraries
  • reduced opening hours for the one library left in Southport after Bootle closed down Ainsdale, Birkdale and Churchtown libraries
  • no lifeguards on Southport beach and notices being posted advising bathers to visit Ainsdale instead of Southport
  • more dog mess on the beaches
  • bathing water quality that doesn't meet the required standards
  • steps onto Southport beach becoming inaccessible due to wind-blown sand not being removed and the added danger to cyclists of sand not being removed from cycle paths
  • increased anti-social behaviour on the beaches and in the sand dunes
  • no access to Ainsdale beach for cars during winter months
  • no public toilets in Southport
  • increased car park charges for Southport
  • reduced opening times at the newly opened Atkinson
the list goes on.....

What winds me up me the most is the smug attitude adopted by our Labour leaders. Bootle is one of Labour's strongholds, if not its strongest. Bootle based Labour candidates, in May's election are safe in the knowledge that they will win, no matter what they do or don't do between now and the election.

Taking the axe to Southport's status as a tourist resort will not lose them any seats. 

If anything the smugness has got worse since they came to power in Sefton. We got quite used to the bullying tactics and lambasting of opposition benches with shouts of "shame on you" etc. They have now diverted their anger to the coalition government, blaming them for all of Sefton's problems.

In the same way that UKIP manage to say one thing and do the opposite. Sefton's Labour group are now doing the same. They used to bore me with their incessant references to the coalitions handling of the deficit. They wouldn't do the same if they were in power. If you read the link to my colleague's blog below, you will find that, if anything, Labour will be increasing the cuts to local councils if they do form the next government.

Monday, 19 January 2015

How to make a cut that isn't a cut

Southport's famous Botanic Gardens are once again in the news concerning proposed "cuts" by Sefton Council.

I read with interest a recent posing on Southport Visiter's Facebook page by Sefton's labour leader Peter Dowd.

He made a couple of statements that I'd like to comment on.

Firstly, he stated:

“In my view there has been a lot of misinformation flying around about the proposals that suits some political parties, and what they are saying is boarding on fantasy."

I think I can safely assume that he refers to my political party, the Liberal Democrats. Yes my party has been campaigning to save the gardens, but we have not campaigned to save them from closure, the campaign has been to save them from the effects of the cuts. The proposal is to make the 3 members of staff redundant and this will have a huge impact on the level of support presently offered by volunteers working in the park. I've not heard of any plans to close the park, unless Labour are including the park as one of their potential sites for building houses on green spaces.

Secondly he stated:

"The staff are in the line for redundancy – more than £40,000 will be saved through that option and all that money will then go back in to continue to run the gardens."

Once again this is incorrect. How can you "save" £40,000 and then put it back into the parks budget? If it is taken as a saving it is taken away isn't it?

Monday, 24 November 2014

More Suffering for Southport

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.

Friday, 7 November 2014

Southport Surviving Recession but Needs to Change

A conference was held last week in Grange over Sands. The conference was entitled “Destination Coast” and I decided to attend at my own expense(all of £12 for the rail fare).

Several speeches were made on topics ranging from Improving bathing Waters to Making the Most of Natural Assets.

 However , what caught my interest was the opening speech on “Seaside Towns in the Age of Austerity - Recent Trends in Employment in Seaside Tourism in England.. The speaker was Professor Steve Fothergill from Sheffield Hallam University. His speech was based on a publication he jointly authored.

The 50 page report contains a lot of data and maps that were of particular interest to me as a Southport based councillor and, in particular, as a past Cabinet Member for Tourism.

The findings showed that Southport employed 4,400 directly related to tourism in 2012 compared to 5,300 in 2008, a loss of 900 jobs in 4 years. This compares with Greater Blackpool losing 3,200 jobs and Eastbourne gaining 800 jobs during the same 4 year period.

The authors believe that the loss of jobs in Southport is due mainly to the competition offered by Liverpool to our retail offer, while Blackpool’s losses are down to a drift away from traditional B&B’s to Travelodge type hotels that employ fewer people.

The figures back this up. Greater Blackpool employs 59% of its total in hotels/restaurants and only 18% in retail compared to Southport’s 43% in both retail and hotels/restaurants. 

I drew the following conclusions: Whilst austerity can be blamed for Southport’s job losses it cannot explain a national growth in tourism employment from 207,000 to 212,000. Neither can everything be blamed on a north-south divide, though this is generally evident; for example Morecambe and Bridlington both gained 100 jobs. Southport has to do something to combat the competition coming from Liverpool’s retail sector. We can either improve our retail offer in an attempt to draw tourists away from Liverpool, or look to improving our traditional seaside attractions and look for new attractions that our competitors do not have. My personal belief is that we have a better chance if we encourage the development of new tourist attractions rather than trying to compete with Liverpool's retail offer.

The report itself drew the following conclusion: “ The seaside tourist industry has, it seems, weathered the post-2008 economic downturn relatively well and even sustained the modest growth that was evident before the recession. The survival of a large seaside tourist industry should be good news, not just for most seaside towns but also for UK plc. The challenge now is to ensure that the industry delivers its full potential in the coming years.”

Thursday, 11 September 2014

Playing Politics

On Tuesday night I attended the Overview & Scrutiny, Performance and Corporate Services Committee meeting at Bootle Town Hall.

I have posted in the past on Labour's political games regarding their instance on having Labour chairs for these committees. To jog memories, Labour(who lead the council and never tire of telling us) have chosen to have Labour Councillors chairing committees that scrutinise the decisions made by Labour Cabinet Members.

On Tuesday night the Labour Cabinet Member for Older People & Health was in attendance. He was there to report on an item on the agenda titled "Welfare Reform in Sefton - A summary of the impact on people, services, housing and the economy 2013/14".

His report began in a reasonable manner as he outlined the work and the part played by officers. This was a lengthy report, totalling 80 pages, which rightly deserved committee time to discuss it's contents.

However, this report also provided an opportunity for him to have a general rant about the government and his opposition parties on Sefton Council. This was compounded by the Labour chair joining in with this political game.

In my opinion chairs of committees are simply that, "chairs". It is their responsibility to ensure that those present have an opportunity to speak whist, at the same time, ensuring that the meeting is ran in a civilised and timely manner. It should not be seen as an opportunity to play political games at every opportunity.

I revert back to my initial reminder about the imposition of Labour chairs on these committees. Tuesday night's meeting saw a Labour Cabinet Member being allowed to make political statements by a chair from his own party. These committees exist to ensure that decisions made are for the benefit of Sefton's residents, not to provide a platform for political gain.

Sunday, 10 August 2014

Pleasureland is a Pleasure

I must have a go on this.

Yesterday my wife Claire and I, went for a bike ride to enjoy the fine weather before today's gales and rain.

We completed out circuit, as we often do, at King"s Gardens. I'm becoming a bit of a bore now as once again I sang the praises of this, soon to be completed, transformation of a tatty park into something that Southport can be proud of.

My way of a change we decided to take in Plesureland on our way home as neither of us had visited it for some time.

We were both amazed at how busy the "fair" was, but more amazed at the cleanliness and planting and landscaping of the grounds, as pictured below.

No litter spotted anywhere 

Credit for Pleasureland is down to the Wallis family and to Normann Wallis in particular for taking charge of this transformation. I have had the pleasure of meeting Norman on several occasions, most recently in his capacity as part of Southport's BID team.

If business leaders and politicians(myself included) all shared Norman's determination and "never say die" attitude our town would be in amuck better shape.

Pleasureland is now an asset that our town can be proud of once again.

I look forward to my next visit when I'll have a go on couple of the leas traumatic rides.

Well done Noman, keep up the good work and keep on "banging the drum" for a resort who's drum is often far too quiet!


Friday, 25 July 2014

Sit Down and Shut Up!

Last night's Full Council meeting at Southport Town Hall was relatively forgettable except for the bizarre behaviour of the Labour Mayor.

The leader of the Liberal Democrats was making a speech when he was rudely interrupted by the labour leader of the council.

The Mayor decided that he needed to intervene to bring order to the debate.

Rather than tell his own Labour leader to stop shouting and allow the speech to be concluded, he chose instead to tell the leader of the Liberal Democrats to sit down and be quiet!

I now ask myself if this has set a new precedent.

If the Labour leader doesn't like what is being said by the opposition he simply needs to shout out and interrupt the speech and his Mayor will then put an end to the annoying speech and tell the opposition speaker to sit down and be quiet.

Bizarre but, unfortunately, not too surprising in Sefton. 

Monday, 26 May 2014

UKIP didn’t actually win very much, but we seem to have lost the will to take a stand against the xenophobes

Now that the elections are over it's time to reflect on where we were, what happens and what happens next.

The following article comes from today's i paper, penned by Yasmin Alibhai Brown

Rather than make my own comments I'd encourage you ro read the article and form your own conclusions - complete article with nothing taken out - honest.

Ukip didn’t actually win very much, but we seem to have lost the will to take a stand against the xenophobes
Goodness me, what panic-cum-frenzy over a minor party. Tories, Labour, Lib Dems, commentators and voters need to get a grip, to calmly assess what really happened at the local elections last week. I am not being blasé. Ukip, led by a smiley, suited smoker and drinker, did win more seats than ever before. The reasons are obvious. For months now the blustering Farage has mouthed off on TV and radio, appeared in our newspapers, pushed himself centre stage. Several right-wing hacks cast him as the slayer of dragons for England, a man of the people and a victim of witch-hunts. What baloney. His interview with the incisive James O’Brien on LBC was not cosy, but most others were. Even Paxman played it soft. And since the results, once again, this party of sound and fury is being bigged up incessantly, given cachet and esteem. The other parties are scared.
So here are some facts and thoughts that may just bring down the fever. The BBC regularly projects from local election results what the share of votes would be in a national election. It is plain, honest statistics. In 2013, the projected share for Ukip was 23 per cent; this time, it is 17 per cent. Not a single council is run by Ukip and they still have only 163 seats out of about 4,200 in England. So why the shock and awe? Let’s look at more detail. Thirty-six per cent of the new Ukip seats came from a tiny number of councils – four in Essex, one in nearby Havering, and others from Rotherham, Portsmouth, north-east Lincolnshire and Newcastle-under-Lyme. Some of the places where Ukip support was highest have barely any migrants. Chimeras and delusions can take over the human mind and I can feel only pity for such folk.
Ukip also pulls into its embrace those with unshakeable racist, sexist and homophobic views. They can’t vote for the existing main parties; the BNP is a spent force and the English Defence League is not quite there yet. Not all Ukip supporters are racist, but all of them are supporting a party that attracts racists and xenophobes.
London, our diverse and dynamic capital, engine of the nation, where most immigrants live, did not fall for Ukip’s fear-mongering. When I said that on the BBC, I was told by others on the programme that it was important not to focus on London. So, if Ukip had succeeded in the metropolis, that would not have been significant?
Labour’s good show has been written off. In Ealing, it took 12 seats from the Tories and one from the Lib Dems; in Hounslow, 14 seats were taken from the Tories; in Tory Wandsworth, six seats went to Labour; Hammersmith and Fulham is now led by Labour; in Brent, the Lib Dems lost 16 seats to Labour, and so on and on. Beyond London, in Manchester, Redditch, Nuneaton and Milton Keynes, Labour again made significant gains. In Bradford, where ethnic tensions are high, Ukip gained one seat but so did Labour. I am not being partisan – I have many quarrels with the Labour Party, but it is surely unacceptable for their wins to be treated with such indifference, at times even contempt.
In Rotherham, Ukip gained 10 seats but I think there is a microclimate in that town. Denis MacShane’s conviction, some unpleasant Muslim politics, and economic stresses have led to disillusionment and anger. I have not heard any analysis in the past two days about the particularities of such places. Everything has been swept into one loud victory song for Ukip.
What frightens me is not Ukip, but the way it has been puffed and still is; and, more seriously, the cowardice of mainstream politicians who will probably be even more discombobulated after the European elections. Ed Balls is already muttering anti-immigrant sentiments. (He, shamefully, would say and do anything to stay in power.) Right-wing Tories want a pact with Ukip. The infighting among Lib Dems will kill them off before the voters do, although I praise Nick Clegg for taking on Farage in those debates and for defending Europe and the contributions of migrants. Sadly, the blasts and bombast of Nigel Farage beat him down.
To reclaim good politics we need politicians with integrity and courage. We have had some such leaders over the centuries who stood up against xenophobia. At the end of the 16th century, Sir John Wolley defended immigrant craftsmen in Parliament. When, in 1690, Sir John Knight, MP for Bristol, wrote a pamphlet, Consideration upon the Mischiefs that may arise from Granting too much Indulgence to Foreigners and called in Parliament for all non-natives to be thrown out of the country, he was roundly condemned by fellow MPs and his speech was ordered to be burned. In the 20th century, Ted Heath stood up to Enoch Powell and Margaret Thatcher invited in Vietnamese refugees. Farage needs to be taken on, not pandered to or imitated. Is there anyone up to this task?

Fair comment?

Thursday, 1 May 2014

Nigel "Arthur Daley" Farage

That Coat

As usual, last Sunday, I attended the Bothy Folk Club in Southport. Before he began his first song one of the resident musicians made the following comment.

He said that "The most annoying thing about Nigel Farage is his coat!"

He referred, in particular, to the coat he wears with the velvet collar, seeing it as very "uncool".

Whist I agree with the annoyance of the coat I do not agree that this is the most annoying aspect of the man.

The man and his party annoys many as stated by the New Statesman:

The danger with extremism is that, when filtered through eyes and minds of reasonable people, it appears ridiculous. The reasonable assumption is that others will view it through the same filter and find it equally ridiculous. But, while The Reasonable laugh, support for extremist views creeps up. Because what The Reasonable failed to notice is that fear and insecurity have a way of robbing others of reason.
Ukip’s manifesto is a collection of promises selected, seemingly, on the basis of “twenty things that really annoy people”, with no inkling of implementation method or any costings; a wish list for The Annoyed.
Scared of immigrants? Vote Ukip.
Insecure about the financial crisis? Vote Ukip.
Hate the smoking ban, HS2, Brussels, travellers, burqas, regulation, tax, Boris, debt, wind farms, quangos, foreign aid, crime, Abu Qatada, tuition fees, lazy people, Muslims, foreigners, the hunting ban? Vote Ukip.
I couldn't have put it better myself.

Back to the coat. I knew that I's seen it somewhere before but couldn't quite place it. Then I remembered how Mr Farage likes a glass of wine and a fat cigar. He likes to see himself as a "Jack the lad", a man of the people. This jogged my memory, it's not a Farage Coat at all it's better know as being an Arthur Daley Coat(for those of us who remember him).

Friday, 25 April 2014

Labour's Lack of Gratitude

I attended Sefton's Full Council meeting on Thursday night at Southport Town Hall. As it was the last such meeting before the elections there wasn't much on the agenda. However, the Mayor did bring to our attention the fact that several sitting councillors were about to retire after many years service. I will not list each member but I will emphasise the retirement of Sir Ron Watson.

Sir Ron has served as a councillor for 40 years(or there about) as a member of the Conservative Party and recently as an independant Conservative. Despite him being from party that I do not support, he has always been polite, hard-working, and very entertaining. Sefton has been lucky to have members such as Sir Ron servicing for so many years. My own party lists Maureen Fearn, Lord Ronnie Fearn and in the past Brian Rimmer amongst others from the other 2 parties serving a similar length of time.

I expected the current Labour leader of the council to make a speech thanking the retiring members and to include a few memorable(perhaps funny) stories of their activities over the years. Instead we were given a general and brief, vote of thanks.

Equally surprising was the lack of gratitude from Sir Ron's own Conservative party, their leader offering an even briefer general vote of thanks.

Yes I am biased, but thankfully appropriate words and stories were offered by the leader of the Liberal Democrats to rescue the situation. He also thanked the Mayor for her year of office, which the Labour leader also omitted.

I'd like to finish with a quote from the Buddhist Inspiration for Daily Living by Daisaku Ikeda as follows:

The ungrateful feel that it is below them to show any kind of appreciation. They are under the delusion that showing gratitude to others diminishes their own worth. But it is this sense of appreciation that elevates, enriches and expands the human spirit. A lack of gratitude is actually a sign of arrogance.

I may have misjudged Sefton's leader(and the leader of the Conservatives) and appropriate words may be forthcoming at a later occasion, I only hope it isn't too late for those deserving our gratitude. 

Saturday, 19 April 2014

Bacup Goes Nutters

Today I spent a very enjoyable easter saturday in backup watching the Britannia Coconutters Morris Dancers, in Bacup.


Without going into great detail, they are a unique bunch of men who perform their annual ritual though the streets of backup and the adjacent villages.

If you have seen them, then you'll know what I mean, if you haven't then try looking them up on YouTube.

Guess how she got a black face?

Having arrived with my friends David and Julie, I spent the rest of the day bumping into old friends whilst enjoying a pint or four in the local hostelries.

Great to see an old tradition being kept alive, despite the threats of a ban from the local council who took safety to an unacceptable and pointless level.

Looking forward to next year already - particularly if the same weather can be arranged.

The band

Saturday, 12 April 2014

Lib Dem's Rubbish

Hope the title got your attention

This afternoon, Jo Barton(a Meols Ward Lib Dem) organised a much needed litter-pick at Kew's main roundabout by Tesco.

Over a dozen volunteers turned up and, after battling with thorn bushes and dodging the traffic, we removed a large amount of litter, including several road cones and a fire extinguisher!

Below are several shots taken during the afternoon. Hopefully we will return to finish the job soon, as a set of ladders will be needed to remove the bags from the trees- unless Tesco/McDonalds/B & Q are interested?

Special thanks go out to Jo for organising the event and Ian for tirelessly ferrying bags of rubbish in his bike's trailer.

Ian and Fred discussing cycling as usual

The final pile

Fearless Fred after his afternoon marooned on the island

Dan ready for anything

Off to the pub!

Thursday, 13 March 2014


I spent Tuesday night attending a meeting at Southport Town Hall.It was the last meeting of the Performance and Corporate Services Overview and Scrutiny Committee.

All such committees are chaired by Labour chairs and all receive an extra financial allowance for their duties, to the tune of £4,260.

The purpose of the scrutiny committees is to scrutinise the decisions made by the all Labour Cabinet, which begs the obvious question of how can a Labour chair scrutinise his own Labour masters?

My reason for this posting however,  is to take a look at the the financial gains made by the Labour chairs.

I have yet to receive all of the statistics required to take a detailed look at all paid positions, but as a taster here's my first foray.

The chair of Performance & Corporate Services O & S has chaired 6 meetings during this political year. The meetings, according to Sefton's statistics took up a total time of 9.5 hours.

Therefore the chair received compensation of £447.36 per hour for sitting in his chair.

A bit excessive in my humble opinion.

The same Labour councillors all voted against my party's suggestion of a cut in allowances to finance the rescue of 4 of the libraries that they are closing.

Draw your own conclusions.

Thursday, 20 February 2014

Birthday Boy

Happy Birthday to me

It's February 20th 2014. Way back in 1957 I was born in Crumpsall Hospital Manchester. Naturally I automatically became a life long Man United supporter. My love of Holt's bitter(an acquired taste), black puddings, whippets and pickled walnuts came later in life. For some reason I never acquired my father's love of tripe.

I have definitely enjoyed the inevitable transformation into a grumpy old git. I now: prefer to sit down in pubs rather than stand, I don't understand rap music at all and hanker for the "old days" when beer was £1 a pint and you could still buy Spangles.

I have the obvious signs of a 57 year old: distinctive hair style, bad hearing, backache, reading glasses(always being lost) and wearing 5 layers of clothes and still feeling the cold.

However(there has to be a however), I refuse to grow up! 

I still have my toys(boys without toys=grown ups). 
I still think like a 16 year old where woman are concerned.
I refuse to watch Coronation Street.
I'm constantly researching for my next toy.

As I approach my bus pass I look forward to more cantancerous years and wonder when I too will start to use the phrase "I'm only an old age pensioner" and when I will constantly tell people that I'm xx "years of age".

For all the younger people out there, in your 30's or 40's, beware the day when you suddenly understand what a "draught" is. My mother would constantly tell me to close doors to keep out draughts when I was a child. I never really saw what all the fuss was about. I don't know when it happened but I now share this obsession with battling against draughts by grumpily closing doors.

I'm quite happy being 57 years of age and I look forward to getting my bus pass and state pension when I too can spend my time filling up the buses and watching younger people stand on their way to work.

I'm off to the shops this afternoon to buy my first jar of Horlicks and to look at cardigans, slippers and high-waisted trousers.

Wednesday, 12 February 2014

Robert Hamilton

Pictured above, on the left, is my friend Robert Hamilton, who was recently killed in a tragic accident.

I attended his funeral yesterday and I would like to add my own few words to the many that have already been expressed.

We will all miss Robert for our own personal reasons. I will miss him as a friend and political colleague. I will miss him most because of that word "political". Despite both being active members of the Liberal Democrats, I always looked for Robert's company at events because politics was always the last topic for us to discuss.

I do not really see myself as a politician, despite the various chairs I have sat in(previously posted on). I therefore looked forward to my time spent with Robert.

One of our main topics and a shared interest, was our difficulty in finding clothes to fit us. We are both deemed to be dwarfs(no disrespect to dwarfs intended) as we do not have the beer-guts and long legs that now seem to be standard for men in the UK. The local Rohan shop in Southport have lost a valuable customer and I have lost a competitor on the reduced "small sizes" rail.

Robert Hamilton - missed but never forgotten.

Thursday, 6 February 2014

Chairs are in my Genes

I was chatting to my friend and colleague Fred Weavers on Sunday night at the Bothy Folk Club, a club that is well worth a visit if you haven't already done so.

We talked about this year's elections and I was reminded that my current term of office ends in 2015.

During my first 7 years as a councillor I have sat on many committees and been to many interesting events.

Within a relatively short time I also began to chair many of these meetings. I have concluded that there must be something in my genes which attracts me to "chairs" as my father had the same habit. When I was a child he was always setting off to chair meetings at church and the local community centre. He also hated being referred to as "chair". He used to tell committee members that he was a person, not a piece of furniture. He always insisted on having the title of chairman.

I therefore decided to compile a list of my chairs, so far, as follows:

Chair of Birkdale Liberal Democrats
    "     "  Kew Liberal Democrats
    "     "  Cabinet meetings for Leisure, Culture and Tourism
    "     "  Southport Area Committee
    "     "  Southport Operations Group
    "     "  Southport Area Partnership
    "     "  Sefton Beach Users Group
    "     "  Governors at Linaker Primary School

                                    That's enough chairs for a decent sized dining table!

Monday, 3 February 2014

Confused Labour

Residents of Kew Ward, my ward, have recently received the latest Labour leaflet on their doormats.

Theses leaflets are rarely seen, they are printed in Liverpool, usually on A4 paper and they are always full of inaccuracies(I'm being polite here).

The latest takes some beating.

It is styled on a typical election leaflet. All that's missing is the large X next to the candidate's name.

May I therefore take the opportunity to explain where they have become "confused".

1. Southport Market - Saved by labour.

Yes, my party have, for a long time, question the wisdom in spending millions of pounds on a failing market. Our view was quite simple. If the market was worth investing in why weren't the private investors forming a queue at the Town hall? If you take a walk round the market today you will not fail to see the number of empty stalls.

Saved by Labour - this is a bit rich as it was the then Conservative Councillor Porter who championed the initial refurbishment. Her party were aided by Labour, perhaps the printers forgot to add this to their leaflet.

2. The Atkinson - mismanaged by Lib Dems and saved by Labour.

When the work on the then Arts Centre was originally planned it had the full support of all 3 parties. I was Cabinet Member for Leisure, Culture and Tourism at the time and I had the full support of the spokesperson from the Labour party, she even came on a tour of the complex during construction when the problems unearthed were discussed. I don'r remember anybody questioning the management of the project during my tenure.

Saved by Labour(again!) - what have they done to save it? They have simply concluded a project that all 3 parties have supported from the beginning.

They also like to grab any glimmer of limelight. I'm told that at the official opening ceremony the Labour leader was joined by several Labour candidates at a celebration costing over £2,000. A celebration that Southport councillors were not invited to - more on this in a later posting.

3. King's Gardens - neglected by Lib Dems and £millions spent by Labour.

Once again we have a project that began under my tenure and fully supported by all 3 parties. Once again I heard no complaints or questions. The only time I saw Sefton's leader on site was to get his picture in the papers. During my tenure I attended many meetings and was involved in setting up the Friends of King's Gardens group. I do see this as neglect. The physical state of the gardens has been due to many years of underfunding, for which all 3 parties are jointly responsible.

Millions spent by Labour - wrong again.

Most of the money has come via Lottery funding. Southport Area Committee has also invested it's money received from investors in the town. This section 106 money amounts to £1 million.

I could go on but I believe my point is clear.

It's always interesting to see Labour leaflets as they are a rare sight - but they would be more effective if they were truthful rather than making false claims for credits.

Wednesday, 29 January 2014

Overview and Scrutiny

To those that don't know, Sefton Council has Overview and Scrutiny Committees within it's structure. Sefton states the following on it's website:

The function of Overview and Scrutiny is based on the model of the parliamentary select committees at Westminster and is one of the most significant ways in which a nonexecutive councillor can influence the local decision making processes and provide community leadership for local people. Overview and Scrutiny does not hold any actual decision-making powers, rather the role of the function is to provide a balance to the decision-making powers of the Executive. Its job is to ensure that decision-making is efficient, transparent and accountable and that the Executive makes the best decisions in the interests of the local people. Councils must have at least one Committee to carry out the Overview and Scrutiny function, and Members must not be on the Executive. 

Quite an important set of committees then.
I am a member of one of the 4 Overview and Scrutiny committees(O & S) and during my time as a councillor I have also sat on the other 3 committees.
In my opinion these committees were effective when the borough was not controlled by one political party. In this days the chair of ech committee were shared out amongst the 3 political parties. Now that Labour are in control all 4 committees are chaired by Labour members.
As each committee's members are allocated with respect to the political balance of the borough this leads to the ridiculous situation where a Labour Cabinet is scrutinised by a committee made up mainly of Labour members with a Labour chair.
My reasons for putting this posting together are due to the poor chairing of a recent committee and the inaccurate production of the minutes of another.

A lack of political correctness was evident at the call-in when the meeting was taken over by the Labour leader. A proposal to refer the decision to full council(one of the three options available) was made by Cllr Weavers and seconded by Cllr McGuire. Before a vote could be taken the Labour leader informed the committee that the meeting was to be closed and deferred to a later date(not one of the three options available).

I have posted in the past about Labour's bullying so take the above as a further example.

The inaccurate minute taking took place at a different O & S committee on which I sit. During the meeting we discussed Liverpool City Region’s draft response to the Government’s consultation on the creation of a Combined Authority for Greater Merseyside (CA).

We were asked for comments that would be considered by the Labour cabinet at their meeting 2 days later.

I commented on my long held fear of the lack of political balance on the future scrutiny of this proposed body. It had been stated that scrutiny would take the following form.

In addition our proposals include a model of joint scrutiny to scrutinise decisions made at the City Region level in respect of those functions under the remit of the Combined Authority. This would be carried out by a panel (or pool) of Councillors nominated by the six Local Authorities in the Liverpool City Region.

My fear was that we had not been told of the number and political composition of the scrutiny pool. It would not surprise me for the Labour leader of Sefton to nominate a panel composed entirely of Labour members. The same could happen with all other constituent members that are Labour controlled.

My comment has appeared in the minutes as:

In particular, a question was asked as to who the Members would be serving on the Scrutiny Panel.

This is incorrect as I don't care who the members are but I do care which political party they represent.

I now await the deferred call-in meeting to be held on 11th February. I hope that (a) the proposal to send the decision to full council is voted upon and (b) the chair controls the meeting rather that the Leader of Sefton Council.

I'd like to call this "fun and games" but the behaviour of Sefton's  Labour leadership isn't fun and if they are playing games they are doing so with the services that Sefton's residents are paying for.