Monday, 28 February 2011

The story of the loose stones

In response to a question from a resident of the road, the LibDem team have turned sleuths to discover the truth behind the "loose stones" on Marshside Road.

Focus Editor Lauren Keith and Councillor Sue McGuire inspect Marshside Road
following reports that the recently resurfaced road is not up to scratch. 

The road, which was resurfaced last year, now has signs warning drivers of lose stones.  It appears that the recent severe weather may have caused the newly laid surface to disintegrate creating a significant amount of loose chippings on the highway and a visually scarred surface.  Officers from the Council have met with the highway contractor who undertook the resurfacing work land it has been agreed that the contractor will undertake remedial work at his own expense later in the year.

In the meantime, the Council will continue to monitor the condition of the road and will do further sweeping if necessary.

Friday, 25 February 2011

Crocus Walk marches on in fight against breast cancer

This years Crocus Walk for Breakthrough Breast Cancer will be taking place at 11am on Saturday 26th March at Hesketh Park.

The walk now in its ninth year is open to everyone and we are encouraging as many people as possible to take part. As local activist Lauren Keith, explained “Everybody is welcome! It can be a nice relaxing stroll around the park to admire the Spring flowers, a healthy jog or, for those more energetic, a sprint! Over the years its raised thousands of pounds for a great cause. Statistics out earlier this year indicate that the chances of getting breast cancer have risen from one woman in nine to one woman in eight. This means it’s more important than ever for money to be raised not only to help those already suffering with the disease, but to be directed towards more research into the disease.
Lauren Keith and Sarah Harding stepping out at last years event

Lauren adds "Please bring along lots of family and friends, and help to make this a record breaking fundraising year.”

For more details about the walk contact Councillor Sue McGuire on 07766968162 or email

Saturday, 19 February 2011

The Locomotives of History

I felt a bit guilty sitting in my nice family kitchen eating my poached egg for breakfast while reading this morning’s Independent. The front page carried a picture of Bahraini protesters on the streets on Manama, with the headline ‘They didn’t run away. They faced the bullets head on.’

Robert Fisk has been leading the journalistic charge. His accounts from the streets of Egypt and now Bahrain have been fascinating, insightful and highly emotive.

People have been drawing parallels between the Egyptian protests and the Iranian revolution of 1979. However, the marked difference is the lack of Anti-American and Western feeling . Ayatollah Khomeini’s traditional Shia Islamism appealed to a people who felt their culture had been eroded by the Shah, who was of course a symbol of colonialism, having been installed after the West had decided that Prime Minister Mossadegh was far too dangerous after he had had the audacity to nationalise what had been the British controlled Anglo-Iranian oil industry.

The current protests are less to do with religion and culture, and are more to do with jobs and democracy. Frustration and despair that the police were preventing him from selling his fruit and vegetables drove twenty five year old Ahmed Hashem el-Sayed to set himself alight, kickstarting the Egyptian protests. The unrest that started in Tunisia and which is spreading throughout the Arab world, actually bears more resemblance to the European revolutions of 1848.

These revolutions are often overlooked, obviously overshadowed by the First World War and the massive political and social changes that this heralded. 1848 saw revolutions in many countries including France, Germany, Switzerland and Belgium. Like the current protests, people across many of these countries had common problems. In 1848, new and radical ideas where taking hold; ideas that were later to form the backdrop to the First World War. The Habsburg Empire, Germany and Italy were all made up of many states comprising many nationalities. Nationalism and democratic ideas were gaining currency; yet many people were still peasants, tied by bonds of servitude that had changed little since Medieval times and ruled by absolutist monarchies.

These Revolutions failed to make as much impact as many at the time thought they would. It did result in the French Second Republic and lasting reforms in Denmark and the Netherlands, but in many other countries it simply petered out. One of the reasons behind this was that Government’s offered moderate reforms, which satisfied the protesters. In many cases, these ‘reforms’ didn’t occur and in some cases regimes cracked down to ensure that rebellion couldn’t flare up again. For instance in Hungary, the Emperor of the Hapsburg Empire, Ferdinand, promised the country a constitution, yet this failed to materialise and Hungary ended up under brutal martial law.

The protesters of 1848 were not people who had any experience of questioning the status quo; ideas about personal freedom and liberalism were still in their infancy. Also, it’s fair to say that they were more trusting of what their monarchs and Governments promised. In a world of instant communication protests are not hard to start, and so unlike 1848 this genie will be very difficult to put back into the bottle.

I hope that the protesters in Bahrain and Egypt can achieve concrete, democratic changes, that really do transform politics and society. As Marx said, ‘Revolutions are the locomotives of history.’ Lets hope they keep moving!

Monday, 14 February 2011

The Big Society is nothing new!

I recently stumbled across a dog eared copy of Winifred Holtby's novel 'South Riding' in a charity shop. I had never heard of the novel or its author, but it is one of the best and most emotive books I have read.

By a strange coincidence BBC One have just filmed a version of it which starts next Sunday, but its actually not very strange at all. While this book was written in 1935 the message it has is still resonant and relevant now. Its about a community and its political figures making and dealing with tough economic times and decisions, and through her fantastically defined and vibrant characters she explores deeper questions about what society means and how people in a community are affected and impacted by even the smallest decisions that people can often unconsciously make.

As we enter a new 'age of austerity,' as focus shifts to what decisions are being taken at a local level and Prime Minister David Cameron announces that it is his 'mission' to make the Big Society a successful initiative, this book and its ideas make fascinating reading.

The 'Big Society' as defined by the Prime Minister is based on the premise that both the traditional politics of the left and right have failed; that the introduction of the welfare state meant that people became detached from traditional associations with guilds and other civic society organisations. Then Margaret Thatcher's big bang came along with all the de-regulation that happened in the City and turned us all into selfish beings governed simply by a sense of rugged individualism.

So now, the focus apparently has to be shifted away from Government and back on to society to empower people. While the central theory is a great idea the concept is proving difficult to communicate as there seems to be a lot of reference to stock phrases such as 'social recovery,' 'broken Britain,' and 'social cohesion'. You need look no further than the Chair of the Government Committee on the Big Society, Francis Maude's, appearance on last weeks Question Time to see that those apparently in charge of the policy don't really know what it is they are defining.

I think they should have stuck to what we Lib Dems have been championing for a while...Localism. This isnt as airy fairy as the 'Big Society' slogan, which, lets face it, was probably dreamt up in a drab boardroom in a think tank in London. Localism has already begun to be implemented following the introduction of the Localism Bill which confers greater powers on residents when it comes to planning and service need, and gives them the ability to hold their local institutions to greater account.

Devolving more powers to people at a local level will automatically integrate communities as people come together to campaign, or to oppose and propose various initiatives or schemes. Essentially Local Government will act as a springboard for a bigger, more vibrant, society.

I'll leave you with some of Winifred's wise words on the importance of Local Government:

"But when I came to consider local government, I began to see how it was in essence the first line defence thrown up by the community against our common enemies-poverty, sickness, ignorance, isolation, and social maladjustment. The battle is not faultlessly conducted, nor are the motives of those who take part in it all righteousness or disinterested. But the war, is, I believe worth fighting...we are not only single individuals, each face to face with eternity and our separate spirits; we are members one of another."

Saturday, 12 February 2011

Planning Application S/2011/0117 for Hatherlow House, 29 Park Crescent

An application seeking planning permission to erect a part three, part four storey residential care development comprising 35 individual suites at the Hatherlow House site has been submitted  to Sefton Council. This will involve the demolition of the current building.

As Lauren explained "I have some concerns regarding this application given that the current building is so very iconic for this area of Southport forming as it does a gateway entrance for Hesketh Park.  It is vital that developers work with the original building as much as possible to retain the architectural character of this area of Southport."

To see the full planning application please go to the Sefton Council web site  If you would like to object you can write to Sefton Council’s Planning Department, Magdalen House, 30 Trinity Road, Bootle L20 3NJ or complete the online form.

It is also possible to organise a petition against the application. The petition must be supported by at least 25 residents and signed/supported by a local councillor (which Cllr Sue McGuire would be very happy to do). If a petition is raised it will provide the opportunity for one of the petitioners to speak for 5 minutes at the planning committee meeting.

Friday, 4 February 2011

Waving My Baby Off

At 6am this morning you could find me, together with a number of other parents, standing anxiously by a coach to wave our babies off on their school trip to Belgium to visit the World War 1 cemeteries in Ypres. (I say babies loosely - my son is 13 years old and nearly 6 foot tall but you get the idea)

The fact that they are studying World War 1 got me thinking back to my days at high school and the history I studied - from the Italian Renaissance to James II.  Thrilling as they were, they are not topics which come up too often in conversation and not ones which really prepare you for today's world. So I was really pleased to learn the Key Stage 3 History Curriculum now includes the following topics:
European and world history

  • the impact of significant political, social, cultural, religious, technological and/or economic developments and events on past European and world societies
  • the changing nature of conflict and cooperation between countries and peoples and its lasting impact on national, ethnic, racial, cultural or religious issues, including the nature and impact of the two world wars and the Holocaust, and the role of European and international institutions in resolving conflicts.
If we want our children to understand the world today and their part in it then its vital that they are given the opportunity to study those recent events which have shaped it and this means not glossing over the history of the 20th Century or the Two World Wars (as I believe happened in my day).  

Children must see and study for themselves the effect wars have on real people, on governments and on countries. Its essential that their view of war is not dictated by Hollywood blockbusters or more worryingly by graphic video games.

Thursday, 3 February 2011

Paper on the back of your car window

Not sure how true the following or how often it has happened but I thought I would post onto the blog.


You walk across the car park, unlock your car and get inside. You start the engine put it into Reverse.  When you look into the rearview mirror to back out of your space, you notice a piece of paper stuck to the middle of the rear window. So, you stop and jump out of your car to remove that paper (or whatever it is) that is obstructing your view. When you reach the back of your car, that is when the carjackers appear out of nowhere, jump into your car and take off.

And guess what, ladies? I bet your purse is still in the car.
So now the carjacker has your car, your home address, your money, and your keys. Your home and your whole identity are now compromised!

So think on - if you see a piece of paper stuck to your back window, lock your doors and just drive away. You can remove the paper later. 
And be thankful that you read this blog post.