Tuesday, 28 May 2013

Southport's first woman Mayor

A woman as Mayor is today scarcely remarked on-indeed Maureen Fearn has done it three times, but there was a time when such things were fiercely controversial. In deed in Bootle they didn't get around to having a woman Mayor until the 1967/8. Indeed there was only ever one woman Mayor of Bootle, Veronica Bray .

In Southport things were a little different. Liberal Women were elected to School Boards-Birkdale's Kate Riley was the first woman elected to anything when she joined the local School Board at its inception. The first Councillor was also a Kate with the quintessential Southport surname of Rimmer. But the most prominent (although one does get the impression that Kate Riley would dispute this) was Christiana  Hartley . She became the borough's first woman Mayor in 1921.

The Hartley family hailed from Colne East Lancashire. They were strong Methodists and worshiped at St Marks Church (now a medical centre) which was colloquially known as the 'Jam Chapel' because, as you may have guessed, the family wealth came from making Hartley's Jam. Interesting St Marks was laid out more like a Anglican Church than a Methodist chapel with a chancel and was very different from the Primitive Methodism of the family's Trawden past.

 Christiana's first political role was a a member of the Ormskirk Board of Guardians under the old Poor Law and she was involved in issues of social welfare all her life. In Southport her name is most remembered as one given to the Maternity Unity in Curzon Road which she gave to the town in 1932 and the accompanying nurses home which she gave in 1940.

So when the learned  Journal of Liberal History asked in its 2012 Quiz :


 Christiana Hartley was a Liberal social welfare and rights activist, business women and philanthropist. In 1921 she was elected the first female Mayor of which Lancashire borough?

.........there should not have been one Sandgrounder who got it wrong

If anyone has a decent photo of Christiana I'd be pleased to receive a copy.

Word reaches me that there is demand for rooms at Southport Town hall



I have been drawing attention to another example of Labour waste-the unlet space in Southport Town Hall. The place is practaclly empty and yet the Council is renting rooms elsewher. Now I am informed that at least one essential service has been desperate to move into the empty space but cannot get a response from the Council.

The Coroner needs rooms. Matters are moving apace. During July the Coroners and Justice Act, 2009 will come into force. This will require that all Coroner’s court hearings are held in public, including the Opening proceedings and Pre Inquest Hearings. They must also be recorded . The family, public and press can attend.

Such hearings occur every day. The Coroner requires a court room five days per week with availability from 9 am to 5pm. Given the number of people entitled to attend, the overgrown broom cupboard which they are presently allotted is wholly inappropriate .

Time is now of the essence. The Coroner cannot wait four to six weeks and then face uncertainty as to whether facilities may become available. Sefton Council have an obligation to provide suitable facilities to H.M. Coroner,  they should get on with it and breathe some life back into a building that should be at the centre of our civic life.






Correcting Tim Farron and the Southport Visiter

The History Editor of the Blog has contacted me.

I notice that once again some inaccuracies are creeping into the stories about Ronnie's 50 years. Oddly they are the same inaccuracies. Tim Farron writing in the Dictionary of Liberal Biography  and the Southport Visiter both allege that when Ronnie was elected he was one of only three Liberal members of the Council. He was not. He was one of 27!  Both stories go on to say that in a few months he became Leader. Well actually it was 84 months.

I'm not sure who is responsible for these attempts to re-write history. It is a bit like someone editing a wikipedia entry. Those who suffer are those excellent Liberals who kept the flame of Liberalism alive in those difficult days. They were a resilient bunch and their example still inspires us. Madge and Sam Goldberg -pacifist, CND supporters and the original Mr Southport , Jack Smith Hughes, the barrister who won Birkdale West and was already well known and respected for his work with the Cretan resistance in WW2, Jack Coleman the PPC and senior Exec at Pilkingtons who was a firm and impressive advocate of European membership and Co Ownership , Joan, his wife, was Chair and President of the local party, Bob Hughes who was the Leader and a journalist on the Southport Guardian and who later went on to be an Editor and newspaper proprietor and many more besides

Correcting Tim Farron and the Southport Visiter

The History Editor of the Blog has contacted me.

I notice that once again some inaccuracies are creeping into the stories about Ronnie's 50 years. Oddly they are the same inaccuracies. Tim Farron writing in the Dictionary of Liberal Biography  and the Southport Visiter both allege that when Ronnie was elected he was one of only three Liberal members of the Council. He was not. He was one of 27!  Both stories go on to say that in a few months he became Leader. Well actually it was 84 months.

I'm not sure who is responsible for these attempts to re-write history. It is a bit like someone editing a wikipedia entry. Those who suffer are those excellent Liberals who kept the flame of Liberalism alive in those difficult days. They were a resilient bunch and their example still inspires us. Madge and Sam Goldberg -pacifist, CND supporters and the original Mr Southport , Jack Smith Hughes, the barrister who won Birkdale West and was already well known and respected for his work with the Cretan resistance in WW2, Jack Coleman the PPC and senior Exec at Pilkingtons who was a firm and impressive advocate of European membership and Co Ownership , Joan, his wife, was Chair and President of the local party, Bob Hughes who was the Leader and a journalist on the Southport Guardian and who later went on to be an Editor and newspaper proprietor and many more besides

Friday, 24 May 2013

Free Boilers for older people in Southport


I welcome this initiative from our local Age Concern which will give many local pensioners the opportunity to have a new, low cost, low emission boiler. Please check it out here and pass it on to anyone you know who may qualify 

Liverpool Construction Company, Fletchrose, has teamed up with Age Concern Liverpool & Sefton to deliver a programme of free boiler replacements for older people across Merseyside.
Under the Affordable Warmth ECO Scheme (Energy Companies Obligation) home owners and people living in private rented accommodation are entitled to receive a fully fitted high performance boiler as part of a commitment to reduce carbon footprint and tackle fuel poverty by the UK’s leading energy firms.

Pugh parliamentary question on Mersytravel financial mismanagement




John Pugh (Southport): To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, if he will investigate the recent financial management of Merseyside Passenger Authority

This follows mon from last weeks Liverpool Post story reported here

I have written to Liam Robinson the new chair of Mersytravel, asking him to publish the auditors report and to name all other companies Dowd and Scales set up

Monday, 20 May 2013

Bonkers, loons and co education

Lord Bonkers was drawing our attention to The Telegraph story that Tory members were defecting to UKIP because of the so-called 'loons' smear.

Now given Farage's reception in Scotland and given my distaste for banding around derogatory remarks usually aimed at people with mental ill health I got to thinking about loons

It is, as I pointed out to his lordship, a perfectly good Scots word defined as: loun [lun]
n. A youth, boy, fellow, rascal.
dim. lounielounock(ie)

You can hear it here in a poem, Co Education by John C Milne,  written in the 'doric' the characteristic speech of the NE of Scotland. The poems is read by my mother and recorded 20 years ago. She had known John Milne before WW2 in Aberdeen. She died several weeks after recording this and a number of other poems in her native speech.










rate payers multi million losses down to poor governance under Sefton Lab new info

Bootle Labour Councillor
Dowd's legacy of extravagant waste
'the lack of prudence beggars belief'-Liverpool Post

No apology, unrepentant and unreconstructed Mark Dowd sits on the Labour front bench at Sefton glowering his defiance. His colleagues protect him and rubbish every report issued that details his outrageous behavior describing them as 'tawdry and rubbish'. How much more is there to come out? When will the Labour party act . 

To date we know about what the Daily Post calls:
...............'the monstrous black elephant that is Merseytravel's monolithic HQ at Mann Island' which it describes as having 'entered the realms of the extravagantly bizarre' and goes on 
'This particular exercise of corporate vanity is gobbling up our money to the tune of £4m a year'  

The full story of how they entered into that mega loss making deal, when they had a perfectly serviceable HQ already, needs to be told. It reveals what happens when decisions are made behind close doors with no opportunity for the proper checks and balances

Now we learn that he was responsible for pouring millions into a loss making exercise like a drunken gambler unable to break his addiction. But it was our money they were pouring down the drain.

We already knew that Dowd refused to put in place the usual opportunities for scrutiny. All issues raised by the Post, and much more besides, were unknown to most elected members

It is symbolic that he had a credit card from Merseytravel that he used for personal expenditure

They wasted Millions on buying steel rail for a tram that was never built-even though their own government indicated as much

At the last minute, and without briefing or reports they scrapped the policy of running and intergrated (rail and stock) railway despite having spent mega sums lobbying the government to be allowed to do so! (co incidentally the NUR were against the idea)

And as the Post revealed last year the Auditor was concerned that they entered into contracts without all the proper procurement procedures being undertaken 

When brave individuals like Andrew Makinson challenged Dowd they got the fully Bootle Bully Boy treatment, by which I mean that (at Merseytravel's expense) top legal firm Hill Dickinson was hired.

When we raised this at Sefton Council, Dowd is a Sefton Councillor, we were treated to rants that dismissed and rubbished all the reports no matter how detailed the reports or qualified the authors. And they kept nominating Dowd to Merseytravel as a Sefton rep and used constitutional maneuvers to prevent us challenging the nomination -even though there was more than enough evidence to question the appointment. Take a look at Dowd expences

Liam Robertson, the man who finally ousted Dowd as Chair, has done a good job. Now he must rise above the tribal party loyalty that has protected Dowd for so long and establish a full independent inquiry. Nothing must be buried or covered up. The police must be be informed and given all the evidence.

Not since the days of Militant have we seen outrageous, high handed behavior like this. Like Militant he got his way because there were no proper challenge to his actions, many of them were unknown to members. The audit and the 151 procedures failed-and if this was due to the way Dowd and Scales ran the organisation-that must be fully established  



The Daily Post report begins:


MORE than £6.5m of taxpayers money was wasted by transport authority Merseytravel on the purchase of a smartcard company that never made any money.
An internal audit has found that Merseytravel’s acquisition of Livesmart delivered “little tangible benefit” to the organisation or the taxpayer.
The Post has seen parts of the audit, which is being kept under wraps by Merseytravel.
The review, which was overseen by St Helens council, said “significant failings in corporate governance” by Merseytravel led to the huge loss.


Read more: Liverpool Daily Post Merseytravel wastes £6.5m of taxpayer’s money on smartcard company - Liverpool News - News - Liverpool Daily Post http://www.liverpooldailypost.co.uk/liverpool-news/regional-news/2013/05/16/merseytravel-wastes-6-5m-of-taxpayer-s-money-on-smartcard-company-99623-33336056/#ixzz2TdUnM6VU

Friday, 17 May 2013

50 years a Southport Councillor Ronnie Fearn's presentation photos


IBB,(Group Leader) Ronnie and Joyce Fearn
I posted recently about Ronnie reaching 50 years service as a Liberal/LD councillor

Last night we held a celebration at Auberge Brasserie in Southport

The picture shows Ronnie and Joyce  having received a cut glass rose bowl in recognition of his service.

Ronnie joined the Southport County Borough Council at a time when there were 23 Liberals out of 45 members. He went on to serve as Leader of the Group, MP and is now in the House of Lords. By any measure he is the most successful Southport politician of his generation. He is well known as a champion of the town and and as youth worker. His regular appearances in the annual All Souls Pantomime will live long in the memory and those who saw his Tina Turner impersonation wish now that they had taken a video camera.

Congratulation to Ronnie and all his team

Wednesday, 15 May 2013

SEFTON COUNCILLORS’ EXPENSES FOR 2012/13


Earlier this week I wrote about Bootle Labour’s problems with ‘transparency and accountability’.  This has prompted my Birkdale colleague Councillor Simon Shaw to send through full details of his expenses claims from Sefton Council for publication in the interests of transparency.

Simon is one of just a handful of Sefton councillors who make any expenses claims at all.  Since 2007 councillors have to bear the cost of travel to committee meetings etc themselves.  However cost of travel outside the Borough can be claimed for and Simon is involved with two activities which qualify:

  1. He has been a member of the Local Government Association’s Human Resources Board and the Local Government Pensions Committee since 2005, which meet in London.

  1. He has been a member of the Merseyside Police and Crime Panel since 2012.

An analysis of expenses for 1. is to be found here: Expenses 2012/13

In summary, for last year, Simon has claimed:
  • £658.15 in total, for 8 trips to London
  • an average of £82.27 per trip, which includes rail fares, tube fares and also hotel & subsistence on one trip (this compares with the Standard Open Return from Southport to London Euston which costs £299.00)
  • £54.60 for mileage for 4 round journeys to Police & Crime Panel meetings in Huyton (168 miles @ 32.5p per mile)

Just checked 10 Select Com Chairs Lab.

Last night at the Council meeting the appointment of committees and their chairs was on the agenda. It is pretty dry stuff-and yet beneath it there are important principles which if not observed undermine democracy .

These committees are the checks and balances on the Executive. This is how, in a mature democracy, the policy and actions of those in charge are challenged, scrutinised and reviewed. This is the mechanism that put a break on corruption and holds people to account. Failures in corporate governance often leads to bad decision making, wasting public funds and make corruption much more likely. Those who hold power need to checked up on, or as Lord Acton said 'all power corrupts'

Last night Labour's strategy of closely down avenues for challenging their actions continued. The took all the chairs of the Scrutiny and Review committees including the Audit and Governance Committee. They have reduced the meetings of Area Committees and render pretty well useless the arrangement for the central area of the borough. Questions in Full Council are not answered and the meetings of the cabinet are over in a few minutes-I think the record is 4 mins 10seconds.

When confronted with his actions Labour were struck dumb. Only the Leader spoke and he went off on a rant about the Government and how wicked it was. He failed totally to answer the question about why he was destroying the checks and balances on the executive. To hear Cllr Dowd speak you would believe that the government doesn't have a system of select committees or that if they did they were all creatures of the whips-like his Scrutiny Chairs. Well, just for the record here is a list of the Opposition led  Select Committee chairs:





Scottish Affairs: Mr Ian Davidson LAB and Co-Op

Transport: Mrs Louise Ellman LAB
Business, Innovation and Skills Mr Adrian Bailey LAB Co-Op
Communities and Local Government Mr Clive Betts LAB
Environmental Audit Joan Walley LAB
Home Affairs Keith Vaz LAB
Political and Constitutional Reform Mr Graham Allen LAB
Public Accounts Margaret Hodge LAB
Science and Technology Andrew Miller LAB
Work and Pensions Miss Anne Begg LAB


Oh, and if you want to see how they deal with folk who have the audacity to ask questions look at the answers given under item 6 of the Council Meeting on 28/02/13

Monday, 13 May 2013

Southport and the negative impact of Labour rule. BBC Politics Show



Why have Labour chosen to balance their budget by adopting charges that hit Southport far more than the rest of the borough?

Rising £500,000 extra from parking charges when 85% of all parking fees are raised in Southport

The green wheelie bin tax hits Southport

And they want to close our Libraries-leaving one in Southport and keeping three open in Bootle. (one Bootle Library only had 35 000 items issued in one year compared to 115 000 in the Birkdale Library-but it is Birkdale they have proposed to close)

This has given some folk the impression that they are willing to raise the money in Southport and spend it in Bootle

Bootle Labour seem congenitally incapable of giving up their old ways

Polly Toynbee  “the worst of the old Labour party, the knuckle-dragging neanderthal tendency, emerged to roaring opposition to the guests. David Blunkett, John Reid, Jack Straw, Diane Abbott, now unleashed from government, reminded the world how backward, how unprogressive, tribal and sectarian much of the People’s Party still is”.



I caught Peter Kilfoyle (formerly Labour MP for Liverpool Walton) talking on Radio 4 about his time fighting Militant in Liverpool (oddly he didn't mention that he spent some of the key period in Australia) When asked what was so bad about Militant the first two things he mentioned-before even the thuggish intimidation- was that they lacked 'transparency and accountability'.

Many of us consider that under Bootle Labour we have a crisis of accountability and transparency  today in the Sefton Borough.
  • The have used the chairing of Overview and Scrutiny Committees as a bit of patronage. All the chairs are Labour, even the chair of Audit and Governance. Under Labour Chairs the committees have been neutered with many meetings cancelled. The executive has been given a soft ride
  • An alternative path for challenging the executive is via the Area Committees. Labour cannot put their own people in to chair them all as in 1/3 of the borough they have no councillors at all. So they have cut the number of meeting and in central Sefton have produced an area committee which combines vastly different communities across a large geographical area with no public transport adequately linking the communities -Formby,Hightown, Crosby, Blundellsand, Maghull, Lydiate etc
  • Of course we could (and do) turn up to observe the democratic process in action. Legislation compels them to meet in public. But guess what? The decisions are made elsewhere and the public meeting which used to discuss and debate decisions now  last a few minutes. Hatton Style.
  • The Labour Leader usual response is to blame the Government.  This threadbare excuse completely unraveled at the last Council meeting when we were appointing the Health and Wellbeing Board. In line with their usual practice all three places were taken by Labour. This situation was worse than it as first seems as the Southport and Formby Area have separate commissioning arrangements for Health than the rest of the borough and not one local councillor was appointed. The needs of the Southport area with its concentration of elderly people are distinctly different to those in Bootle, but so determined were they to keep all the places to themselves they denied the area any say in the Health and Social Care policy. And they couldn't blame the Government it was in their power to behave properly, but they just could help themselves.
  • I guess the other way to hold the Executive (made up entirely of Bootle Labour Councillors) is to ask questions in public at full council. Observe the response. So respectful of democracy and transparency and aware of the need for accountability. 


As Lord Acton observed: All power corrupts

COUNCIL – 18 APRIL 2013

QUESTIONS RAISED BY MEMBERS OF THE COUNCIL

 Question submitted by Councillor Dawson to the Cabinet Member – Communities and Environment (Councillor Hardy)

            “Could the Cabinet Member provide her Department’s current best estimate of the likely number of Green Bins which will become redundant when charging comes in (based upon the estimated price for charging included in the 2013-2014 budget assumptions), together with the original (or current replacement) purchase price of those Green Bins in:

            (a)       The Sefton MBC area as a whole

            (b)       Southport

            (c)        Formby

            (d)       Sefton East parishes

            (e)       Crosby

            (f)         Bootle and Litherland”



Response:


“Providing the best estimates at this stage would be inappropriate.”

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------





Well that is, what the kids would describe as, 'pathetic'. We have a right to know and a duty to challenge. What is going happen to the 64,252 green wheelie bins that they expect to be 'given up'? What is the cost of disposal? How much extra will be pay in land fill tax as a result of people putting garden waste in the 'non recycling' grey bin. What is the cost of the fly tipping that will result?How robust are these estimates based on the experience in the Wirral. I ferreted the information out for myself, but frankly the executive should have made the data available without me having to do the job for them. 


The policy is based on 70% of people giving up their bins so why is it inappropriate to tell us? 
Grossly embarrassing, yes, but not a reason for the Labour Part to keep us in the dark 



Sum of green bins by bin type & ward
Wards
G1100
G240
Total
Ainsdale
1
4,987
4,988
Birkdale
0
5,527
5,527
Blundellsands
0
3,739
3,739
Cambridge
5
3,364
3,369
Church
0
1,573
1,573
Derby
0
1,876
1,876
Dukes
1
2,695
2,696
Ford
0
4,971
4,971
Harington
0
4,928
4,928
Kew
0
4,973
4,973
Linacre
0
1,107
1,107
Litherland
0
2,403
2,403
Manor
0
5,124
5,124
Meols
0
5,021
5,021
Molyneux
0
4,922
4,922
Netherton & Orrell
0
4,794
4,794
Norwood
0
5,495
5,495
Park
0
4,625
4,625
Ravenmeols
0
4,995
4,995
St Oswald
0
4,921
4,921
Sudell
0
5,560
5,560
Victoria
0
4,181
4,181
Total
7
91,781
91,788