Friday, 28 February 2014

Shirley Williams come to Southport

Shirley will be at Southport tonight to speak at our fundraising dinner. The tickets have sold like the proverbial hot cakes, thanks in no small part to Pat Keith's hard work.

Recently Robert Milligan popped into the office in Shakespeare Street. Robert volunteered on day one of the 1983 General Election. He was brilliant. He ran 'front of house' meeting and greeting all comers and sorting out deliveries. Robert had been tidying up and come across a file from 1983 including a batch of photographs.

The first photo is of a previous visit to Southport by Shirley. We are stood outside the old cinema facing the Lord Street Gardens waiting for David Steel. He was late. When I say late I'm not talking 5 or 10 minutes, I mean late. A size-able crowd had gathered and so Shirley and I started the meeting. I think it is the longest public meeting I've ever spoken at. Fortunately we did not disagree too much. The main area of contention was the so called British independent deterrent
Finally Steel arrived and Robert captured the moment. Over Steel shoulder you can see Pratap Chitnis. He was the genius behind the Orpington by election victory and was a prime mover in the Liberal Party Local Government Department that recruited Michael Meadowcroft from Southport. In many ways he was the first of a line including John Spellar, Andrew Ellis and Chris Rennard .
I will return to the folder of photos and leaflets that Robert dropped off which included Shaun Brady's election literature-and if you are reading this Robert ; thank you.

Monday, 24 February 2014

The Land

Now the blog's lttle video of the Land Song has topped 4,500 hits on youtube it is due another outing here. The best place for information is here

Volunteers needed to help enforce the 20 MPH on Birkdale

I visited the Southport Police Station last week to discuss with the new Sargent for Birkdale enforcing the 20mph in the ward. He was most helpful. He outline the action already taken -including fines levied and talked about the role volunteers can play. We already have citizens locally who help the police identify speeding traffic and the Sargent is keen to expand this team. If you are concerned about speeding traffic please don't sit around moaning-volunteer. The police offer training and support. Just a few additional volunteers would make an enormous difference. Please contact the Police Station

Saturday, 22 February 2014

Freedom of Information Request on Library stock

Dear Councillor Hands,

Thank you for your Freedom of Information request submitted to the Business Intelligence Unit on 13th January, regarding ‘The Closed Libraries books, CD’s, DVD’s, Games, Computers and records’.  Your request has been passed to me for response and you will find the related information supplied below.  Please note that seven libraries have been closed, not five, as you outline in your letter.

1 How much money was made on the sale of books, CDs, DVDs, Games, Computers and records for each library?

The library service does not offer Games, and the Computers belong to the Council’s ICT provider Avarto, who have collected all of the items from the libraries.

Ainsdale                     £343.50
Aintree                        £268.30
Birkdale                      £948.40
Churchtown                £207.60
College Road            £396.80
Litherland                   £330.50
Orrell                           £94.20
Total                            £2,589.30

2 What happened to all the music collects?

Birkdale is the only closed library that had a music CD collection.  A donation of specialist titles was made to Sefton Music Service.  The remaining titles were either transferred to Crosby Library’s collection or are being stored as a reserve.

3 What happened to all the computers?

No IT equipment was sold.  The People’s Network and staff computers were returned to arvato. 

4 How many and what proportion of books, CDs, DVDs, Games, Computers and records  were destroyed, sold or used elsewhere?

Once a library item is withdrawn from stock its record is automatically deleted by the library management system.  There is no residual record in place on the system to analyse ongoing activity.  The following breakdown is a cumulative summary taken from stock level reports, income figures, donation records, and records of items set aside for possible use by community library groups :-

56,981 items were retained within the service - 40%
An estimated 18,125 were sold via book sale to the public – 13%
An estimated 5,000 items were donated to 47 Sefton organisations – 3% [further details Q7]
28,674 items have been retained as possible donations to community library groups – 20%
The remaining items have been withdrawn by book collection companies for disposal or possible resale – 34,136 items, 24% [further details Q6]

5 Who were they sold to and what did they purchase?

The items sold were those made available for the general public to purchase.  The majority of items were books in relatively poor condition which were not deemed suitable for re-use by the library service.  Copies of older DVD and music CD titles were also sold in limited numbers.

6  If any of the above items were destroyed, who were they sent to?

The disposal of remaining titles can prove very expensive in terms of staff time, packaging materials, and transportation.  The costs of managing this process in-house exceed the minimal financial return that could be reasonably expected from ageing library books that have not been purchased via public book sale.  Therefore, book collection companies are widely used by public library services to attain value for money in the withdrawal of library stock.  These companies do not charge for their services and share the revenue of any ongoing sales achieved. 

With support from the Council’s Central Purchasing Unit, the library service undertook a comprehensive procurement exercise to commission services from the best of these companies.  Two companies have entered into a framework agreement; both have been used widely by other services within the North West Libraries Consortium.

A significant proportion of the items are likely to prove unsuitable for resale, and the companies would then dispose of these according to environmental standards. 
Income to date from book collection companies = £448.10

7  If any of the above items were used elsewhere, who were they used by and what did they acquire?

The majority of donations were made to local schools, who received books appropriate to the age of their students.  Given the diversity of donations from each library the precise number of items was not recorded.  A conservative estimate would be an average of 100 items to each recipient, leading to approximately 5,000 items being donated in total.  Some recipients of donated stock have received items from more than one library.  The breakdown by donating library is as follows :-

Ainsdale – 3 Primary Schools, 2 Secondary Schools, 1 College, 1 Community Centre, 1 Civic Society

Aintree – 2 Primary Schools, 1 Secondary School

Birkdale – 3 Primary Schools, 2 Secondary Schools, 1 Community Centre (Easy Read materials for adults), Craft and musical items to 2 local churches, 1 additional needs group, 1 care home

Churchtown – 1 Nursery, 4 Primary Schools, 1 College Visual Impairment group, Homestart service, 1 Children’s Centre

College Road – 2 Primary Schools, 3 Secondary Schools,

Litherland – 1 Nurseries, 1 Primary School, 2 Secondary Schools, 4 Community Centres, 1 College HMP Kennet, 

Orrell – 1 Primary School, 1 Secondary School, 1 Community Centre, HMP Kennet

Central Ave Potholes due to repaired in 5 days

 Pot holes seem to be appearing everywhere. Amongst the worst ones we discovered in Central Ave. They have all be reported. I'm pleased to say that we have a positive response to our complaints

'I thank you for your e-mail regarding the defects at the above location and would inform you that an instruction has been issued for the potholes to be repaired accordingly within the next 5 days.'

Central Avenue flooding

During the heavy rains we saw a number of areas in Birkdale where 'ponding' was more persistent confirming what many of already thought that there was need for remedial work. One such place was in Central Avenue. We have been lobbying to ensure these problems are fixed

Graffiti on Birkdale Library building removed

Thanks to all the residents who contacted me about the graffiti on Birkdale Library. I'm pleased to say that I managed to get the Council to remove it.

It is bad enough that Bootle Labour Party has closed our library leaving only one library in Southport whilst maintaining three in Bootle without the building being disfigured with graffiti.

Lamp post is the Southport Civic Colours retained

Over the years Birkdale Lib Dem Councillors have campaign to keep some of the things that give our town its character. We have sought to preserve the footpaths that are paved with the small blue tiles ( from Buckley in North Wales) that were laid by our Victorian forbears.

We have also striven to maintain the civic colours on lamposts. This has been a hot topic recently as the council began removing old lamp standards and erectly ugly galvanised steel replacements. I'm pleased to say that after a lot of community pressure the cream and burgundy paint has been got out with pleasing results

Aiming Hiigh: Birkdale Primary rooftop playground

Last week I went along to Birkdale Primary for the opening of there new classrooms. The school started life as a Board School back in the 1885. School Boards were one of the first things that women could be elected to and the redoubtable Birkdale Liberal Kate Riley became the first women to be elected to a public body in the town when she joined the Birkdale School Board.

The site is very small and the inventive architects came up with the idea of putting the playground on the roof in order to free up land for the extension..

I was mightily impressed when I was shown round by my colleague Richard Hand who is Chair of the Governors. I understand that the children call him the BFG-the Big Friendly Governor!

Should Southport leave Sefton

Southport is governed by Labour-run Sefton council. Every member of the councils cabinet is based in Bootle and no Southport councillor is represented on the executive.
I am introducing a bill to parliament which will allow communities who feel they aren’t being represented to force the boundary commission to review the electoral arrangements

Thursday, 20 February 2014

EXPOSED: How one charity has cost Sefton over £350,000 in lost rates over 4 years

An investigation by Birkdale Lib Dem Councillor Simon Shaw has revealed that one charity has cost Sefton Council £350,000 in lost rate income over the last four years on the two shops it operates in Southport – money that could have helped keep our lost library open.

 Healthy Planet is a national charity operating around 30 “Books for Free” stores around the country. In Southport they have one shop in Cambridge Walks and another in one of the large units next to Homebase at the Meols Cop Retail Park.

 Back in January Simon wrote to senior Council officers calling for an investigation as to whether both sites meet the requirements for bona fide charitable reduced rates. Charities, including charity shops, are entitles to a 80% reduction in their rates bill as “mandatory” rates relief.

 “I was staggered to be informed that £253,000 of charity rate relief has been granted to Healthy Planet in just four years,” said Cllr Shaw.

 However that wasn’t the only loss to the Council. Simon found that, through the practice of “flipping” between two adjacent units at Meols Cop Retail Park, Healthy Planet had caused a further loss of £95,000 through Empty Rate Relief.

 “Every time they “flipped” and vacated, the landlord became entitled to 3 months’ Empty Rate Relief, which amounted to £19,000 to £28,000 a time. 4 “flips” so far takes the total lost rates income to £350,000.” “Almost all that loss has occurred since Labour took over control of the Council in 2012. At a time when we have seen three of our town’s libraries shut down to save around £50,000 a year or so each, why weren’t Labour Cabinet members on top of this massive loss of income to the Council,” asks Simon.

Tuesday, 4 February 2014

Rail track works at Hillside

I have received the following note about work to be undertaken on the railway in Birkdale