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.



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.


Paparazzi 


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

Loadsamoney!



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. 






Saturday, 23 November 2013

Southport Caravan Club


Work has finally started on the extension to Southport's caravan Club site at the back of Victoria Park.

This project was one of the last I dealt with when I was a member of Sefton's Cabinet a couple of years ago. The final decision being made by the Planning Committee.

This will greatly increase the capacity for this very popular caravan site.

The site was originally known as the archery butts where, presumably, archery once took place; although I cannot remember seeing this happen during the time I have lived in the town.

For many years the only use for this , very boggy and waterlogged land, has been dog walking.

As part of the agreement, the club will rebuild the perimeter wall surrounding the site, which is in a terrible state and a danger to passing pedestrians.

Hopefully the larger site will feature more prominently in the clubs magazine and in other caravan magazines, attracting more visitors to the resort.

The building being erected in the above photo is the new toilet and shower block. The 2 white buildings have always been there and I am intrigued to know what purpose they serve or served.




Saturday, 2 November 2013

Flat, Cottage and Boat or Baguettes.

Time for an update since my last posting:

Council side of my life relatively quiet lately when compared to life when control was shared between 3 political parties. More future postings on: defeating Labour's green bin tax, libraries, successful canvassing, improvements to my ward, visits by high ranking Liberal Democrats etc

Governor side of my life very busy during and since the recent OFSTED inspection - more of that in later postings

Domestic side of life very busy and complicated as follows:

Before we moved to Southport, some 17 years ago, we lived in my flat in Southport with our dogs.

When we moved to Southport I kept my flat, due to negative equity, and my neighbour and friend Geoff moved in. The arrangement was originally intended to be a temporary arrangement, but time moved on and Geoff stayed for the full 17 years until he sadly died last May.

This leaves us with a decision to make on what to do with the flat. Having decided that we will not let it.

Option 1(the sensible option)

Sell the flat and use the proceeds to pay off our mortgage on the cottage where we now live. Continue living in Southport for many years to come. With more cash in our pockets.



cottage




Option 2(less sensible but why not?)

Sell the cottage, move back to Warrington, pay off the mortgage and buy a narrowboat with the proceeds).

You'd need to know that we previously owned a narrowboat and we have both missed it and totally regretted selling it - due to lack of finance at the time.

Also, Warrington would be an ideal place to moor a boat as it is within easy reach of many canals.

flat

typical narrowboat


Option 3(totally radical)

Sell both properties and live somewhere completely different. This would depend on where we could find work(we meaning Claire in reality). We both enjoyed recent holidays eating baguettes and drinking red wine in The Dordogne.

enjoying a beer in France


Option 4 - not thought of yet

Whilst weighing up the pros and cons of the above we will be busy decorating my 1970's ground-floor flat. A project that will take as long as it takes, depending on how much time we can spend there.

So if I look a little more "distant" than I usually do whist sat in the council chamber it will not be due to my deep concentration on the political arguments being performed in front of me, I will instead be thinking about: paint, wallpaper, canal moorings and what the average temperatures are in The Dordogne.




Tuesday, 1 October 2013

Liverpool City Region


LABOUR AND CONSERVATIVES COMBINE TO VOTE THROUGH LIVERPOOL CITY REGION ‘COMBINED AUTHORITY’ PLAN OVER LIB DEM OPPOSITION
Last Friday, 27th September, saw Sefton Council holding an Extraordinary Council Meeting to discuss a move to give powers over transport and economic development to a new Liverpool City Region ‘Combined Authority’.  At the end of the meeting at Bootle Town Hall, Labour and Conservative councillors voted by a majority of 40 to 13 to support the proposal despite Lib Dem opposition.  Details of the proposal are here: http://modgov.sefton.gov.uk/moderngov/documents/s48671/LCR%20Review%20of%20Strategic%20Governance%20Report.pdf 

During the meeting a Lib Dem amendment, voicing concerns over inadequate arrangements for scrutiny and transparency, and also the failure to explore the inclusion of West Lancashire, was voted down by 39 votes to 17, with Labour and most Conservatives voting against it.  .

The proposal to join the super-council, which is comprised of 6 Labour council bosses (five from Merseyside and one from Halton Council), has been attacked by Lib Dems across Southport including my colleague, Birkdale’s Councillor Iain Brodie Browne, Leader of the Lib Dem Group on Sefton Council and also by Southport MP John Pugh.

Councillor Brodie Browne said: “We have to do what is best for Southport.  Submerging our identity further with Bootle and Liverpool is not in our economic interests.”

 “If we are to increase investment in Southport - whether in tourism, retail, manufacturing or service industries - we need to dramatically improve the rail and road links to Preston in the North and Manchester in the East.  Today they are a disgrace.  Those urgently needed improvements, for example at the Burscough Curves for rail or an Ormskirk by-pass, lie outside the Liverpool City Region.”

John Pugh MP added: “A cosy, closed club of Labour council leaders is no-one's idea of a good formula for economic progress in the region. But to leave out West Lancs just makes matter worse.  Anyone who manages to drive from Southport to St Helens (both in the City Region) and avoids going through the heart of West Lancs is probably plain lost. If transport connections are supposed to be important for the City Region you can't help thinking that Labour city bosses have lost the plot too."

Lib Dem Councillor Nigel Ashton, who represents Churchtown and Crossens, also attacked the proposal, saying: “We are very concerned that the new ‘Combined Authority’ will simply be 6 Labour council bosses.  There need to be some checks and balances, but we could easily end up with it being nothing more than scrutiny by another 12 Labour councillors.  That is a recipe for bad governance.”

Monday, 30 September 2013

New Term New Toy



Purely by coincidence the start of the new school year was also a time to change my mode of transport.

For the last 4 years I have owned and loved a BMW motorcycle. Owned and loved but rarely ridden. Due, in part,  to a combination of weather, the need to wear a suit for meetings, a bad back and fear of dropping the thing; I have never really managed to get my money's worth out of an expensive toy.

Therefore I finally, after much research and deliberation(part of the fun for us blokes), I traded the bike in for my new pride and joy pictured above.

Yes, it is a car often owned by lady's hairdressers and no, I will not be able to feel the wind in my hair.

But it's mine, I love it already and, most importantly, it's my new toy.

As long as I have my toys I have not grown up.


Friday, 9 August 2013

All Councillors are Lazy



"All councillors are lazy. They sit on their backsides all day and they get paid for doing nothing"

The above is typical of the accusations aimed at myself and other councillors from people who don't really know what they are talking about.

Admittedly, the meetings I attend are now much shorter in duration and held less frequently now that Labour are in control in Bootle. However, stacked against this is the fact that Labour now insist on most meetings being held in Bootle, thereby adding travelling time from Southport and back(and no we do not get travelling expenses for doing so).

I have been meaning to keep a log of a typical month's effort that I put into being a Southport councillor but I've been too busy to get around to it.

When I thought this through it wasn't as straight forward as it sounded.

When I became a councillor I did so by first becoming an activist for a political party. Inevitably this involves attending meetings, delivering leaflets, canvassing and supporting social events.

Most Lib Dem councillors are also members of school governing bodies, which also involves attending meetings and school events.

Then there are the numerous amounts of casework that involve emailing, writing to or visiting residents to try to solve the problems that they have.

As you can see a typical month will be hard to represent in terms of hours spent.

I'm going to try though and the following is my first attempt to give an indication of one role and the time taken in it's delivery (literally).

All Southport's Lib Dem councillors produce their own Focus newspapers. They produce them, print them and deliver them.

The time I spend in this action, which occurs every couple of months is as follows:

Production, usually in partnership with my ward colleagues: 4 hours approx

Printing and folding on our own machines: another 4 hours

Delivering batches of papers to our volunteers: 2 hours

Delivering several hundred leaflets myself: 8 hours

Total time spent = 18 hours

Technology means that I can map the distances I walk on each delivery. Typically I walk 15 miles during my 8 hours delivering.

I'm not claiming that delivering papers should be introduced as a new olympic event. Neither do I claim that my own party are the only ones pounding the streets. But I do refute the claim made by many that all councillors are lazy sitting around waiting for their allowances to arrive in their bank accounts.

Although some may be!




Tuesday, 16 July 2013

Councillor not Police Proof



A few days ago my wife was on her way home driving our car along the M58 when suddenly blue flashing lights appeared in her mirror and she was pulled over by the Police.

After an initial panic she was informed by the officer that the car did not have a current MOT certificate and that it was now 3 months overdue.

As the maintenance of the car is one of my chores she wasn't aware of the offence and (quite rightly) blamed me.

I'm told the officer was very pleasant and even commented on our well behaved dogs - before he issued a fixed penalty notice for £60.

Normally an unexpected bill for £60 would annoy me, but in this instance my own stupidity was to blame and I was genuinely pleased too see that the Police were going about their business and booking illegal motorists in a courteous manner.

The following morning I quickly booked the car in for the missing MOT test at a local garage.

Lightning then struck twice, as I too was pulled over by blue flashing lights on my way to the garage.

The officer seemed quite surprised when I was able to tell him why he pulled pulled me over before he could do so.

He accepted my plea that I was on my way to the test station, but(just to make sure) he appeared my the corner of the garage as I arrived.

Well done Merseyside Police for being diligent and for the increased use of Vehicle Recognition Cameras. I hope the £60 is put towards the cost of more of these intelligent cameras.

I have now downloaded an App for my phone which will remind me when insurance, road tax and MOT's are due on both cars and motorbike.



Tuesday, 25 June 2013

Linaker win National Competition




I am a very proud Chair of Governors of Linaker Primary School this morning.

Yesterday I attended an awards ceremony in London along with five children and two members of staff. The event took place in The Houses Of Parliament.

Linaker already knew that they were regional winners of the competition to promote the safe use of Information Technology. Twelve other schools joined them as they waited to hear who the overall winners were.

For Linaker there was extra tension as they came second overall in last year's competition.

The climax of the day arrived and Linaker were announced as overall winners of this national competition!

Pictured above are the children waiting to hear the results in The Strangers Dining Room. I have also included a picture, below, of the very impressive Westminster Hall.

The long day began with  6am start at school, followed by a train journey to London. We then visited the London Dungeons attraction, followed by a tour of The Houses of Parliament. A trip on The London Eye was included and after lunch we returned to Parliament for the awards.

The children were also met in Westminster Hall by our own Lord Ronnie Fearn. Ronnie spent an hour showing the children around the more private parts of The House of Lords.

My thanks go to Ronnie for his time spent with the children, to the head teacher Colin Coleman and IT teacher Nick Dempster for including me in the trip and (most importantly) to the five children who received the award. Their behaviour was exemplary throughout the day and I thoroughly enjoyed their company.






Friday, 14 June 2013

Threat to Sefton's Greenbelt



On Wednesday night, I attended Sefton's Planning Committee, as one of the Liberal Democrat members.

I have read many articles and emails on the contentious subject of the need, or lack of a need, to build on greenbelt land.

I approached the meeting with an open mind, but as the meeting progressed my reservations grew.

I was not convinced that the statistics used for future population trends were accurate. In particular the emphasis on an inward migratory trend.

Not enough protection had been given to high grade agricultural land. I asked a question seeking clarity on the meaning of "mitigation and compensation" reffered to several times in the papers. Apparently, a detremental impact on an environment can be rebalanced by the provision of an improved area of equal size elsewhere in the borough. I do not see how this can be applied to high grade agricultural land that has taken generations to develop. Once this land is gone it is gone for good.

I was not happy with the planned consultation process. It appears that changes can only be made to the plan if the "soundness" of the plan is brought into question. If "soundness" means the need to meet legal criteria, the likely protestations of residents will be reported but changes, in my opinion, are unlikely to occur. 

Not enough cooperation has occured with West Lancashire, the local authority with the longest border adjacent to Sefton's. They were asked to help with Sefton's housing needs but we were told that they couldn't do so. For "couldn't" I believe "wouldn't" is probably the most accurate assessment.

For these and several other reasons I couldn't accept that Option 2, as it stands, is the best option for the future needs of Sefton's residents.

Consequently, I joined 3 other Liberal Democrats and 1 Conservative and voted against the proposal.


I was surprised to see all Labour members voting for the proposal. My surprise wasn't due to any staements made on the night, it arose from the strong opposition to the option made by their Labour colleagues and by MP Bill Esterton. On his blog recently Bill stated "Along with many residents, councillors and parish councillors, I will be challenging proposals for building at Formby or elsewhere in our green belt." 

I accept that members of the Planning Committee put party politics to one side when voting, as demonstrated by one of my colleagues and one Conservative member voting for the proposal, I simply found it surprising that none of the Labour members present echoed the beliefs of Bill Esterton, an MP from their own party.

The plan will now go to cabinet and then to full council before a final decision is made.