Wednesday, 31 March 2010

The power of transparency

I have a confession to make - today I have made my first FOI request and it feels good ;-)
The Freedom of Information Act is a really powerful piece of legislation without which the whole debacle of MP's expenses would not have come to light..  I would advise anybody who has a question which they never seem to get answered to submit a FOI request.  Its really easy to do.

My request can be seen by clicking this link What Do They Know.

I'll keep you updated on how I get on.

Tuesday, 30 March 2010

"Oh what a Vince Night"

Didn't post last night following the Chancellor debate on Channel 4 between Alistair Darling, our own Vince Cable and the Tory George Osbourne because I was too caught up in the Twitter sphere following the thousands of comments made as the debate was on air and then afterwards in a post debate twitterthon.

Undoubtedly there will acres of newspaper space given to discussion of the debate with many people airing their views but in my opinion and in the opinion of many people, Vince Cable was undeniably the winner. He talked sense, he didn't get into ping pong politics with the other two, he gave answers which people could understand that weren't wrapped up in political spin and ..

above all he got the loudest applause - bring on Huwy Greens clap-om-meter

Sunday, 28 March 2010

State of the pavement outside Queens Road Shops

Sometime ago I, together with local residents, organised a petition that asked Sefton council to take action to improve the state of the pavements outside the shops at Hesketh Park Mansions on Queens Road.

I have spent the last 4 years trying to get something done to improve this frontage however the key stumbling block to any action is the fact that this frontage is NOT owned by Sefton Council and as a result the Council has no responsibility to maintain it.  I have written to the managing agents of this area on a number of occasions to ask for a commitment from them to undertake work and despite receiving written confirmation that something would be done there has still been no action.

I have also done some research into possible legal routes available.  One possible avenue was case law set in the case of ..... When responsibility for the maintenance of a track was established to lie with the local authority since the track was shown to be a public footpath.  Unfortunately this case law cannot be applied to the frontage of Queens Road shops since this area does not meet the specified definition of a public footpath i.e. a defined and clearly visible single path which has been used by the public for a period of 20 years or more.  Since people walk in many different directions across this frontage, I am told by the senior solicitor for the Council that this the area cannot therefore be classed a public footpath.

Needless to say I am very disappointed with this and as a resident of the area, I know from first hand experience just how dangerous this frontage can be especially when icy.

Despite this latest set back, I want to reassure you that I will continue to fight on your behalf to get something done here.  I am also aware that the junction of Queens Road, Park Road and Park Crescent is very busy and potentially dangerous and again is something which I am working with the Council on to get some improvement.

Saturday, 27 March 2010

Reflections on the underground

On my way back from London - I am continually amazed at how easy it is now to get to and from London in a day.  Arrived at Euston at 10am, hop, skip and job across London on the underground, meeting, lunch, meeting, then hop, skip and juimp back to Euston.

It was during my hopping, skipping and jumping around the underground that I was reminded of the time I was robbed and left stranded in London.  (I have been left stranded in London on a number of occassions - probably the most devastating was when London was hit by suicide bombers in the 7/7 attack - but that's another story)

Back to my robbery - I'd been in London for a meeting again and was making my way back via London Bridge underground station when someone on the escalator bumped into me. To be honest, I didn't think too much about it until I got out of the tube at Euston and realised that my purse was missing.  It dawned on me pretty quickly that I was in a bit of a spot since, not only did my purse have all my money, my debit & credit cards but also my return ticket to Southport.  Despite making a desperate plea to staff in the ticket office, my plight was ignored and I was forced to call husband, who happens to be a rather resourceful chappy.  Quick as a flash, he went to Southport, purchased a ticket and got them to fax proof of purchase to Euston who then issued me the relevant ticket.  So I made it home.

But that is not the point of this story - there are two things I learnt  that day.

1. Good Samaritans are not easy to find and so should be cherished.
By way of explanation - I did not meet one that day - on the train home I was recounting my tale to another passenger who told me on several occasions how important and rich he was - but depsite his wealth, or perhaps because of it, the man made no attempt whatsoever to buy me a coffee, even though he went to the refreshement car on two occasions and was very aware of my plight.  He was defintely NOT a Samaritan

2. Always have a £5 note stuffed in a your bra.

Moving Movement at Full Council

There are times in your life when you meet someone who is truly inspirational and I was very lucky to meet a lady I would put in that category at a presentation before the full Council meeting on Thursday last week.

Gee Walker, pictured at Bootle Town Hall, spoke to Sefton councillors about the pain and loss both she and her family had felt following the tragic murder of her son Anthony Walker as a result of a racist attack in Huyton on Mersyeside.  The fact that Gee was able to stand there and express such personal pain was moving but the sight of this mother telling everyone that she forgave her sons killers was one of the most powerful acts of courage and faith I have ever witnessed.

As a mother, I sat with tears in my eyes and made sure my babies had an extra special hug when I got home.

Following this tragedy, Gee has worked hard to create the Anthony Walker Foundation which works and campaigns at both local and national level to put a stop to hate crime

An Accident waiting to happen

Uploading my latest stories to the blog whilst travelling very quickly to London on the Virgin West Coast.  Have to admit I have upgraded to first class (paid for by myself) because not only are the seats more comfortable, you can have free WIFI which allows me to do my emails, blog and work.  I know working on a Saturday at 9 am is rather keen and going to London with 40 days to the General Election is nutty but I have been summoned for a key meeting with the head Lib Dem party honchos.

 Anyway the latest story (accompanied by a particularly unflattering picture) details some serious concerns I have regarding road safety at the junction of Marshside Road and Marine Drive.  Because of the lack of lighting here, this is always a rather dangerous junction but my fears have been increased since sections of the fence of the former Sandwining Car Park have been damaged creating a gap.  This gap in the fence is allowing motorists to leave the car park over the raised pavement directly on to this very busy junction which is total madness.

I have raised the issue with the Highways Team and stressed the urgency.

Tackling Double Parking on Saunders Street

A number of residents have raised concerns about the on-going problems of getting into and out of their drives as a  result of cars parking on both sides of Saunders Street.  This problem is made worse since Saunders Street is one of the first roads from the town centre which has no parking restrictions meaning that many people who work or visit Southport use this road as a car park.

In response to this, I have visited the site with Dave Marrin from the Highways Team of Sefton Council to see what options are available to resolve this on-going problem. 

Mr Marrin has explained that although he can understand the problem, the situation does not meet the requirements set for the Council to take action.  However, if as a ward councillor, I can demonstrate that residents of Saunders Street support the introduction of some form of parking restriction, possibly limiting car parking to one side of the road only, then the council would be prepared to investigate the matter further.

As a result I am asking residents of Saunders Street if the would support the introduction of some form of parking restriction.

Friday, 26 March 2010

Park Avenue Update

As you have no doubt seen in the Visiter, the cabinet member for Technical Services DID NOT approve Park Avenue for resurfacing this year.  I was bitterly disappointed at this decision and did what I could to argue the case for the need for action to be taken sooner rather than later.  I would also like to thank Mary Pointon from Park Avenue for adding her voice to this debate.  Mary has a long and detailed correspondence on this issue and was able to add a great deal of historical data.

The following are the agreed outcomes:

1. all pot holes will be filled asap
2. a section of Park Avenue will be included in the micro surfacing schedule this year - this section is 150m from the junction with Park Crescent.  This was a concession given as a result of the lack of grit provided by the council.
3. the criteria for deciding which roads to resurface will be reviewed with additional weight given to those roads which are subject to heavy traffic flows.
4. Park Avenue will be reconsidered as a priority for inclusion in the maintenance program for 2011/2012

The actual highway maintenance program for 2010/2011 will be agreed at the Southport Area Committee on the 31st March.  You can see the roads listed by following this link and clicking on the Highways Maintenance report

I will be visiting some of these roads before the meeting next week to see if I can argue the case that Park Avenue is in a worse state - I'll let you know how I get on.

Wednesday, 24 March 2010

Fish & Chip Supper Great Success

Friends, local party members and councillors turned out in force last night to support the Cambridge Ward Focus Team's latest fundraising event - a Fish & Chip supper at the newly opened Fylde Fish Bar.

The evening was an great success with everyone delighted at the supper supplied by the newest "chippy" in Southport.  As organiser of the event I was really pleased that the evening was such a success, the service was great, conversation was excellent with people meeting  friends old and new and we were able to support a new local business.

All in all a great night.

Monday, 22 March 2010

Community Action is Path to Success

Residents of Fleetwood Road have finally got a tidy and safe pathway thanks to community action from local
Liberal Democrat Councillor Sue McGuire, the North Meols Civic Society and local school children.

Complaints have been made about the state of the footpath seven running from Fleetwood Road to the sea bank on Fleetwood Hesketh Golf Clubs. Last Sunday woodchippings were laid to improve the surface of the path which has been slippy and muddy.

This was the second stage in the operation to improve the pathway. Last November students from Stanley High School joined with the Civic Society and Councillor McGuire to litter pick and widen the road, and earlier this month Councillor McGuire managed to secure woodchippings from the Council.

"The path was in a shocking state," said Cllr McGuire. "But now its wider and the woodchipping means that its much better and safer to walk on. This is a great example of partnership working between the Council and a local voluntary group.

 "The Council has responsibility for maintaining public footpaths, but because of lack of funds working in partnership with voluntary organisations is becoming essential, and is a great way to work round
financial shortfalls.  The Council has provided the woodchipping and support to lay it out has come from the North Meols Civic Society and other volunteers. However, there is still more work to do and volunteers are
always needed. If anybody can help please get in touch with Ken Bridge from the North Meola Civic Society."

Thursday, 18 March 2010

Why saving Old Swans' fire engine was so important

Cambridge Ward Liberal Democrats learnt this morning of an arson attack in Old Swan, Liverpool.

The fire was deliberately set on a brand-new Council funded children's play area in Doric Park and accelerated using deodorant canisters. The first adults on the scene were the Old Swan Liberal Democrats- who were canvassing the area- including Councillor Keith Turner. They quickly alerted the emergency services, and two of the young activists began helping a young local boy who had inhaled some of the toxic smoke released from the burning of rubberised tarmac. Luckily, no-one was seriously hurt in the incident.

Old Swan Liberal Democrats, who recently (and fortunately as this incident proves) saved the Old Swan fire engine, commented that this was a "tragedy" and "the local children have waited so long for a safe place to play, it is truly terrible that they will now have to wait even longer."

Southport Councillor, Sue McGuire said, "it is always a tragedy when mindless acts of violence hurt so many- the Council tax payers, the local residents who would have benefited and especially when children are injured as a result. In a financially tight year for all Councils across the country, we cannot afford to waste money, and having to spend the money to refurbish Doric Park twice will unfortunately, have to effect the regeneration of other areas of the borough. I am saddened for the people who will lose out."

Cllr. Sue McGuire, who has been a long-time supporter of improving children's services across Sefton, also highlighted the repeated arson attacks on Christ the King sports hall several years ago, and more recently the unnecessary destruction of the river caves in Southport Pleasure Land as pointless acts of violence that damage property, communities and future enjoyment for many people.

Liverpool City Council security are investigating the incident.

Wednesday, 17 March 2010

Ambulance Assurances for Southport Residents

Local Lib Dem Councillor Sue McGuire met with ambulance chiefs after tragedy was narrowly avoided when a Southport boy almost died whilst being taken to Ormskirk Hospital for treatment.

Long time health campaigner, Sue met with Ambulance bosses in an attempt to ensure the incident is never repeated, and asked them to clarify whether Ambulance crews were taking critically ill children to Southport for treatment when needed. Whilst Hospital bosses claimed they had no influence over the kind of incident that saw Aaron Bishop, of Fylde Road, taken to Ormskirk despite being in a serious condition, CEO Jonathan Parry told Cllr. McGuire that the decision to do so would have been the ambulance crews - something the Lib Dems are now attempting to clarify.

Sue commented this morning, "This is as serious issue as it's possible to imagine, It's all very well having a policy which says the crews can make the decision, but if this isn't happening, then children's lives are at risk."

"That's why I've asked Ambulance bosses for assurances that all of their crews realise the responsibility for deciding which hospital to take children to is theirs - and theirs alone. Southport hospital can't refuse to treat anyone who an ambulance crew have decided needs to be taken there. This is a crucial link in emergency care for our children, which is why we need these assurances that this policy is working."

Tuesday, 16 March 2010

The Saga of Knob Hall Lane

The Cambridge Ward Canvassers were out in force on Friday evening on Knob Hall Lane - listening and talking to residents about various local and national issues of concern.  

One key issue which comes up regularlly is the absolutely appalling state of Knob Hall Lane which as an unadopted highway is not maintained by Sefton Council.  
When I was first elected to the Council, I requested a report on the history of Knob Hall Lane together with details of all past attempts to get a resolution.  I have detailed below the text of this report which I have to say makes interesting reading.

1.0      Background

Knob Hall lane runs between Radnor Drive and Marshside Road. It was constructed after 1835 and is therefore not an ancient highway. This means that it is not maintained by the highway authority (adopted) as of right, It is one of a number of roads that were first dedicated as public highways by agreement between Anna Maria Hesketh and Edward Hesketh, the owners, and the Southport Corporation.  This agreement was enacted into statute under the Southport Improvement Act 1885.  

In the Agreement the road is not referred to by name but is described as the "road leading out of the last named road to Marshside Lane". The last named road being "road from Baker's Lane to the shore" ie Radnor Drive. Under the terms of the Agreement it is agreed that that the roads described in the Agreement would be "temporarily made fit for traffic to the now existing widths and maintained in good order by and at the expense of the Corporation" The Council, along with all previous authorities, interpret "in good order" as keeping it safe and fit for purpose and not necessarily to the usual standard expected of an adopted road. The Agreement sets out when and how the roads should be made up to adoptable standards and how the works should be paid for. In brief it is to be made up when the Council and the owners mutually agree that it necessary and desirable that it should be done.  The cost is to be agreed and apportioned according to the length of the property frontage to the road and is to be paid for by the property lessees.  The Council has tried, without success, on a number of occasions going back as far as 1938 to reach agreement with the owners/occupiers to have the road made up and adopted.  The proposal has always fallen because the majority of owners/occupiers have been opposed to having to pay their proportion of the costs.

Legal Issues
Under the terms of the Highways Act 1980 and earlier Highways Acts an unadopted road would be subject to the provisions of the Advanced Payments Code and the Private Streetworks Scheme requirements.  The Advanced Payments Code provisions require anyone erecting a new property fronting on to an unadopted road to deposit with the authority or to secure for the benefit of the authority sufficient payment to cover the cost of making up that part of the road in front of property.  Under the Private Streetworks requirements, if a deposit has been made in accordance with the Advanced Payments Code and more than 50% of the owners or occupiers of properties fronting on to an unadopted road wish the road to be made up and they are willing to pay their portion of the costs of doing so, the authority must make up the road and adopt it.  Those owners who are unwilling or unable to pay their portion of the costs will have a 'Charge' placed upon their property and the authority may collect this Charge when the property is next sold. In some circumstances, owners of properties that don't front onto the road but gain some benefit from the road being made up must pay a proportion of the costs involved. The Highways Act allows the authority to borrow money to cover that portion of the cost of the works that would normally be due from those who are unwilling or unable to pay their proportion of the costs.  The authority is able, as referred to above, to place a Charge on the property but it should be noted that the Charge will rise by the addition of any interest due on the money borrowed.  The owner or occupier can if they wish pay off the Charge by regular payments to the authority or leave it to be paid when the property is sold.   

The Private Streetworks Scheme requirements of the Highways Act are therefore similar in terms of the method of payment for the works as the terms of the Agreement within the Southport Improvement Act but there appear to be some anomalies between to two Acts when fully considering the liabilities of them various parties involved and the conditions to be fulfilled to progress the construction and adoption of Knob Hall Lane.  Any action by the authority to progress a scheme must therefore be carefully considered at each stage by the  Councils Legal Department to ensure that it is not open to challenge.

3.0         Previous Consultation

The last consultation exercise was undertaken in 1998 when the owners of 33 properties were contacted.  These 33 properties were those that the records indicated had not made a deposit or secured a payment under the Advanced Payments Code and were therefore considered as those likely to have to make the biggest financial contribution towards the cost of making up the road.  Of these 29 owners responded and only 4 of these indicated a willingness to make a payment subject of course to the amount of the payment required.  At the time of that consultation there were 50 properties fronting Knob Hall Lane that would be required to contribute to the cost of the road works.  Of these 17 had either made a deposit or through the builder of the property had secured a sum towards the cost of highway works. There are now 53 fronting the road that would be liable to pay towards to cost of the works.

The fact that 25 were negative in their response meant that the conditions of both the 1885 Act and the Highways Act could not be met.

In February 2001 a petition was received requesting the adoption of the road. The petition read: "We the undersigned note with grave concern the deteriorating condition of Knob Hall Lane and the Council's lack of willingness to come to an agreement for the adoption of the road by the Council. In view of the large sums of money now held by the Council for the adoption of the road we feel that there is a moral obligation for them to proceed." 

This petition was signed by 41 of the owners of properties fronting onto Knob Hall Lane.  It was apparent that the residents were of the view that the Council had received large sums of money by way of Advanced Payments Code deposits when in actual fact only £1178.00 had been received.  With accrued interest this sum at May 2000 increased to £5183.00.  In addition to this sum the Council held a bond the value of which was £27457 towards any costs payable by the owners of properties 5 to 25 and 39 to 47 Knob Hall Lane. At that time it was estimated that the cost would be in the region of £120000 to £150000 assuming that it would only be necessary to overlay the road. A report was considered by the Technical Services Ratification Committee and it was resolved to seek immediate payment of the Bond so that it could be deposited in an interest bearing account.

The current value of the money held as Advanced Payment Code deposits has not been calculated but given the interest levels compared to the inflation costs of construction works it is certain that the deposits are falling behind.

4.0   Scheme Options

The Council Design Services Section has since carried out a survey of the road and investigated to existing ground conditions.  This has revealed that much more works than originally envisaged would be required.  The road would in fact require a total reconstruction to bring it up to adoption standards.  Two design options have been produced. These differ only in the fact that one provides for a high kerb on the south side of the road to avoid vehicle override and maintain a clear footway and the other providing a lower kerb.  Both include traffic calming to reduce possible rat running. The cost of these schemes, based on prices at February 2005, are £302,066.00 for the option with a low kerb and £304,565 with the higher kerb.  These costs do not include the cost of the relocation of statutory undertakers equipment.  The statutory undertakers cannot provide an estimate of their costs unless they are first paid to undertake investigations.  We are unable to pay the required fee until there is a commitment to proceed with a scheme. In addition these estimates do not include for the design, contract administration, site supervision and legal costs of undertaking a Private Streetworks Scheme. These costs could add a further £30,000.

5.0      Apportionment   

 The usual method of apportioning the costs is according to the length of the frontage that each property has to the road.  The Council as the highway authority would be responsible for the payment of any frontage that is already adopted highway.  In this case the authority would pay for the section fronting Granby Close, that fronting part of 61 Knob Hall Lane and the frontage to Croston's Brow and 72/74 Knob Hall Lane.  This can possibly be better understood by referring to the attached extract from the adoption records.  The cost apportionment for the frontage to Cotty's Brow and Knob Hall Gardens would be shared between the owners of the properties in those roads.  It is also  possible that some further portion of the costs could be charged to these
properties based on the degree of benefit that these properties enjoy as a result of the making up of the road.  It is extremely difficult to say what the degree of benefit would be. It would probably be necessary to seek the opinion of a land property value consultant. The overall frontage to Knob Hall Lane is about 860 metres.  The apportionment of the cost would therefore be approximately £389.00 per metre of property frontage. The shortest frontage is that to number 26 which is approximately 5.0 metres.  The owner of this property could therefore be expected to have to pay about £1945.00 towards the cost of making up the road.  The longest frontage is to number 62. This frontage is approximately 63 metres long.  This equates to an apportionment of some £25,074.00.  The Council does not hold any deposits in favour of these properties.  Properties numbered 5 to 47 (odds only) will benefit by approximately £150.00 per metre from the deposit held as a result of the payment of the Bond referred to above.  The apportionment to the owners of these properties would therefore be about £239.00 per metre of frontage. .In the case of number 41 the cost would be around £8,604.00 and for number 43 about £3,107.00. The only other properties that have the advantage of having had a deposit paid are I understand, Nos. 30, 54 and 56.  The value of these deposits would need to be updated if a scheme were to be progressed. The frontage length for which the Council would be responsible is 52 metres.  A scheme based on the above costs would therefore require a contribution from the Council of some £20,230.00

6.0   Final Comment

Attempts have been made on 5 or 6 occasions to progress a scheme for the adoption of this road.  Detailed schemes have been produced every 10 to 15 years during the last 50 years. All have failed because the owners of the properties are not willing to fund the cost of the works. The survey and design referred to above is the latest and probably most detailed. Each request for a scheme has involved the Council in considerable expense.  These costs can
only be recovered if the scheme goes ahead. It should be noted that the above figures and subsequent calculations are based on estimated costs as of February 2005. Construction and materials costs are continually rising between 5% and 7% per year.  If any of the above figures are to be quoted to any 3rd party they should be made aware of this point and that these figure are quoted without prejudice.

Saturday, 13 March 2010

Crocus Walk 2010 - Thank You

A huge thank you to everyone who joined this years Crocus Walk in Hesketh Park today.

Pictured at the end of the walk are most of this years supporters including members of Southport Netball Squad (in the red sweatshirts),  local Councillors Mike Booth and Carmel Preston together with walk organiser Councillor Sue McGuire.

Thanks also go to to Heartbeat actor David Lonsdale, Southport MP John Pugh and Lord & Lady Fearn who joined the walk but are not pictured.

Friday, 12 March 2010

Travel passes changed - but not stopped

Many thanks to my colleague Norwood Councillor David Sumner for supplying the following guide to the changes in rules for  Concessionary Travel Passes.

The Department for Transport have announced that, from 6th April 2010, the age at which a travel pass can be applied for will change from the current 60 years to 65 years.  This change will be introduced over the next 10 years and will mean that eventually the concessionary pass will start on the same day as the state pension.

To see what this will mean for you, please visit the pension age calculator on the Direct Gov website. As an example if you were born on 26th June 1950 you can apply for the concessaionary travel pass from 6th September 2010 (not on your birthday as was previously the case) or here's a good one, born between 6th July - 5th Aug 1953 you would be eligible on 6th Nov 2016 but born on the 6th  August, you don't get a pass until 6th Jan 2017.

 Confused? It's worth having a look at the the calculator.

This does not affect disabled passes.

Thanks David.

Thursday, 11 March 2010

Goodbye to the old aviary in Hesketh Park

I am delighted to have the opportunity to post this picture of a big digger which I came across early this morning in Hesketh Park.

The digger is pictured at the old aviary in Hesketh Park where it is working to create a new picnic area following the removal of the old run down derelict structues.

This work will complement the recent refurbishment of the park, which all agree is looking the best it has for years.

Road Policy Changed After Council Rejects Resident's Complaints

Your Lib Dem Team are pleased to report that they have forced a review of council policy after residents of Park Avenue were left furious when their longstanding complaints - backed by nearly a hundred signatures - were 'effectively ignored' in a recent review.

Cllr McGuire has met with Park Avenue residents on several occasions to discuss their concerns over what she calls "a shocking, even dangerous road surface". In some places on the street, the original cobble road is now clearly visible, with the effects of several developments having rendered the surface 'dangerously uneven' according to the local Lib Dem.

The council promised to look into the matter, and subsequently issued a report which describes the road as having 'a range of defects', being 'badly crazed', and containing 'a number of potholes' - and yet which then concludes that no action should be taken. As the Cllr put it:

"The council agreed that the road is in a terrible state, agreed that a resurfacing would be of benefit, but said they wouldn't be doing anything as other roads are even worse. Agreeing with residents complaints, but ducking responsibility to take action simply because other roads in the borough are also appalling simply isn't a solution".

Cllr McGuire put this argument to council officers at a meeting to discuss the report on Wednesday, and they have now agreed to renew the policy procedures that led to the decision.

"Having ducked this issue for too long already, it's unacceptable to admit that there's a problem but refuse to come up with a workable solution. Roads that have been designated an HGV route, or are subject to heavy traffic, simply cannot be considered under the same criteria as normal domestic streets not subject to the same wear and tear."

"Put simply, Park Avenue is a disgrace, and the council are now belatedly admitting that without taking action it will deteriorate still further. Any policy concluding that nothing should be done in such circumstances clearly isn't working, and I'm glad the council are now waking up to that fact."

Customer Service - Does it still exist ?

Although your Lib Dem Team use this website to report details of our action and stories related to our area, I couldn't resist the opportunity to report a recent experience of good old customer service (or in this case lack of it).

My mum and I went to a very well known electrical retailer this week to purchase a tumble dryer.  When in the store we located the dryer section but there were no assistants available.  We proceeded to study the various machines making the decision to buy one model but still no assistants came to assistant.  Thinking all the assistants must be very very busy we made our way to the cash desk to confirm our purchase.  Imagine our surprise on reaching said cash desk  to find 4 assistants actively involved in the ancient art of chatting.  We waited patiently to get their attention but when after several minutes they still hadn't noticed us, my mum used the age old technique of clearing her throat, rather loudly.  This had the desired effect and one assistant broke off his conversation and ambled over to us.  We explained our interest and our decision (and the fact that we were seriously in the market to make a cash purchase) but explained that we needed to check a couple of things.  It was at this point that the assistant said "Well I don't know about tumble dryers" followed quickly by  "the bloke that does know isn't in today can you come back tomorrow "

Now the questions were not particluraly difficult and there were three other assistants that could have been consulted but since no attempt was made on either option, mum and I decided that the store did not deserve our trade.

The story does have a happy ending however because, after we left the store, we nipped next door where we found the same machine for £10 less, a young assistant who knew his stuff and 2 other assistants who were more than happy to help us load the machine into the car.

I'm sure there is a moral in this and you are more than welcome to draw your own conclusions but I'm just going to pop the children's sport kit  into my brand spanking new tumble dryer!

Saturday, 6 March 2010

Action to tackle speeding on Marshside Road

Your Lib Dem Team have been out again in Marshide today, talking with residents about our proposal to install a flashing variable speed sign to warn drivers of their speed and prompt them to slow down.

This follows the recent move to install a similar sign on nearby Fylde Road (see post below). 

This sign would be installed to the sea side of the bank at the top end of Marshside Road.  Evidence suggests that these signs are one of the most effective ways of traffic calming and so by installing the sign here we believe that drivers speeding from the Coast Road will be prompted to slow down as they approach the 20mph school zone around Stanley School.

The issue is set to be debated at the SouthportArea Committee on Wednesday March 31st so we would like  the views of residents to ensure that the installation of this sign would be fully supported by everyone in the area.  Please email if you support this initative.

Friday, 5 March 2010

Out and about in Marshside

Your Cambridge Ward Team have just spent a happy hour out on the streets in Marshside listening and talking to residents and despite the cold (near freezing temperatures) the reception from our residents was very warm.

Councillor Preston and myself have sought the views of our residents, on their doorsteps, thoughout the year whenever time and the weather has allowed, generally with a residents survey asking people their views on a number of key issues including council services, the police and transport. We see this role as a vital link with our residents at all times, not just during an election campaign.

Southports Liberal Democrat MP, Dr John Pugh was also out tonight conituning his year round visits to residents both in our area and in other parts of the town.

All those we spoke to agreed that, whether or not they supported our party, the Liberal Democrats are the only party that actively meets residents on their doorsteps and keeps them informed by our regularly delivered Focus newspapers. 

Tonights activity willl be repeated many times, in other parts of the ward, over the next few weeks as the election campaign gains momemtum and we will continue once the election is over. We are looking forward to covering as much of the ward as possible. If we do knock on your door and you are not available, we shall leave our contact details for you to reach us with your views and requests. 

"Visiter" Office confirmed as site for temporary library

Your Lib Dem Team are delighted that at yesterday's meeting of Sefton's Cabinet it was agreed to lease the ground floor of the Southport Visiter’s Tulketh Street offices while work is underway on the £15 million Southport Cultural Centre project. 

This decision will mean that Southport will retain a town centre library at a site only 300 yards from the present Library.

The decision has also been warmly welcomed by Southport MP John Pugh who campaigned strongly against the original decision last November of Labour and Conservative councillors not to provide any temporary library.

Local Liberal Democrats organised a 7000-strong petition which was presented at Southport Area Committee and also persuaded Southport resident Jean Alexander (former Coronation Street star ‘Hilda Ogden’) to speak to a Council meeting voicing support for a temporary library.

John Pugh praised the work of Southport Lib Dem councillors who had taken a lead in securing the the Visiter site. Having heard that space might be available they got the ball rolling in pushing officers to negotiate with Trinity Mirror, owners of the Visiter Group. 

"Before Christmas both Conservative and Labour councillors were saying that a temporary Southport town centre library could not be afforded," commented Dr Pugh. "My Lib Dem colleagues on the Council have done a great job in pushing for an affordable location. The Visiter newspaper offices will cost less than a third of the figures previously quoted."

Councillor Sue McGuire added " I am delighted this decision has finally been made and I think the location will bring benefits to the traders in Wesley Street which can only be a good thing."

We should make it clear that there is plenty of room for the Library on the ground floor of the Tulketh Street building leaving ample space for the Visiter on the first floor.

What a week that was !

Followers of the Cambridge Ward blogspot could be forgiven for thinking that the Cambridge Ward team had forgotten them this week given the few posts made.  This is far from the case and I hope that posts today  will more than make up for the scarcity of strories so far this week.

For my part I have had a very busy week with meetings every night:
  • Monday I was glad to attend an event organised by the Merseyside Police Authority which gave residents of our area the opportunity to learn about the work of this body and also to ask specific questions regarding police activity in our area and Southport in general.
  • Tuesday was a meeting of the committee for Overiew and Scrutiny for Health & Social Care.  These meetings give councillors the opportunity to ask questions and be given up to date information from our health and social care providers icnluding Southport Hospital, Sefton NHS, North West Ambulance Service (NWAS) and the scoial services team from Sefton Council.  I raised a number of questions at this meeting including a request for an update about the phlebotomy services in Southport and the removal of the drop in service, assurances that no jobs would be lost when the cervical smear tests are moved to Liverpool Royal and perhaps most importantly for a guarantee that the NWAS staff understood and followed the protocol regarding children in need of emergency medical cover being taken to Southport hospital if necessary.
  • Wednesday was full governors meeting at Marshside Primary School where I am chair of the Financan Committee.  It's always a great opportunity to find out how the school is doing and to learn that under the new head Tony McCoy the school goes from strength to strength.
  • Thursday was a full council meeting to agree the budget for 2010/2011 and also agree the level of council tax to be charged.  It was an interesting meeting especially since all parties had worked together for many months to deliver the budget.  Each party praised the work of the officers and also the unions for their help and support of the budget process and it would have been a very amicable affair if Labour hadn't decided to throw their toys out of the pram.  Serious times need people who can be relied upon to take serious decisions and that includes local councillors with responsibility for 280,000 people.
  • and Friday is a Banger and Beer fundraiser for the Birkdale Ward team.

Tuesday, 2 March 2010

Pothole pothole wherefore art thou pothole !

If only the above were true. You know there is an issue when the subject of potholes makes it onto the Today programme on Radio 4 which indeed it did today.  So it is with joy in our hearts that your lib dem team confirm that the pothole nightmare on Park Avenue moves one step closer to being sorted out following a visit today from the Highways Team from Sefton Council.  During their visit the team marked out a large number of pot holes along the length of the road and this is normally taken as a sign that they will be filled shortly.

Councillor Sue McGuire inspects a series of pot holes on Garstang Road - these holes have now been filled in following action by your LIb Dem Team.

If you have concerns about potholes in your road then please pass on the details to your Lib Dem team.

Police & Homewatch working in our area

Southport Homewatch are holding a meeting for Cambridge and Meols wards on Wednesday 3rd March at Emmanuel Church Hall starting at 7pm.

This meeting is open to the general public and it will enable residents to inform your local inspector about the problems in your area.

The event also gives an opportunity for residents to work with the police in our area to decide the new priorites for the next three months based.  It is your opportunity to speak to your Neighbourhood Inspector Neil Moss to highlight your concerns, and also to discuss the future of the Home Watch in Southport.

My thanks to Margaret Jepson, chair of Homewatch, for supplying the above information.

Follow this link for further details on the NE Police Team

The case of the missing grit !

Remember this - Park Avenue in the snow in the days before Christmas last year. Whilst it looks picturesque, your Lib Dem team can confirm that there were huge problems with a lack of gritting on this road. In fact, your Lib Dem team asked a number of times during the freezing weather why the ice was still on Park Avenue when it was visibly cleared from Park Road and Roe Lane. We were continually told that the road had been gritted and it was just the lack of traffic (!) or the weather which was causing the ice to remain.

Having a Sherlock Holmes moment - councillor Sue McGuire went through the Winter Service Policy with a fine tooth comb to see if she could find any other reason for this obvious lack of gritting, only to discover that yes indeed Park Avenue was included in the list of roads to be gritted however it was NOT included in the actual list of roads and map which is given to each of the drivers fo the gritting vehciles. Which meant that in reality Park Avenue DID NOT GET GRITTED. Following this piece of effective detective work by your LIb Dem Councillors Sefton Council have now confirmed that Park Avenue will in future be included as part of the gritting route.

One consequence of this lack of grit however has been the creation of some very large pot holes especially at the roundabout junction with Park Crescent and Albert Road. Your Lib Dem team are asking for action to be taken as a matter of urgency since Park Avenue is part of the designated HGV route in this area of Southport.

Monday, 1 March 2010

Coffee Morning Thanks

A huge thanks go to all our members and supporters who joined us for our coffee morning on Saturday. A great morning was had by all with many people walking away with cakes and hand made cards from our various stalls.

Thanks go as always to Joan (Carmel's mum) for the handmade cards and Lily (Sue's mum) for the homemade cakes.

We will be organising other social and fundraising events throughout the year so watch this space.