The local council’s Southport Area Committee last night voted for independence for the town. The 21 Southport Councillors who make up the committee were responding to a public question from Lib Dem council candidate Teresa Smith who complained about the way that the Bootle-led Sefton Council had recently ignored Southport’s needs over Brookdale daycare closure proposals and the unnecessary cutbacks at the Botanic Gardens.
The Southport Councillors overwhelmingly backed a motion proposed by Lib Dem Councillor which called for the Borough of Sefton to be split in two.
Councillor Dawson described Sefton Council’s role in Southport as being that of an occupying force and said that most people in the town felt they were ‘an occupying farce’. In last year’s local elections, support for Labour in the town dropped with Labour coming fourth in terms of votes cast for councillors for Southport’s seven wards.
Councillor Dawson listed the key areas of Southport’s priorities which had been highlighted in a modest budget amendment, properly-costed, which would have preserved the Botanic Gardens provision, reduced parking charges and retained support for vital tourist services. This had been supported by all the Southport councillors except the turncoat Tony Crabtree who had jumped ship to Labour after being elected as a Conservative.
“Cllr Crabtree did not just join the Labour Party, he joined the Bootle Party,” Cllr Dawson said. He agreed that separating from Bootle would not be a simple easy ride. But it would mean that Southport residents would elect their own councillors and hold them accountable for the decisions they made. Mrs Mary Pointon, co-opted member of the Committee referred members to the millions of pounds of parking revenue every year which was extracted from Southport compared to the pitiful sums which were taken from parking elsewhere in the Borough.
The neglect of Southport happened in many ways. Cllr Dawson pointed out that our roads were full of potholes which it now seemed to be left to councillors to report rather than the Council fixing themselves. Large chunks of Southport Town Hall had been left empty for ages. He had even discovered that very evening, when he had asked for the heating to be switched off because the council chamber was getting stuffy that it could not be switched off and this situation had been the same for three whole years. The Council was spending a fortune, day and night, heating the Southport pigeons rather than spending on the real priorities of the town. They were losing 130,000 per year on the market but would not spend a third of that to keep quality in the Botanic Gardens. They knew little of Southport and cared less.
Seconding the motion, Ainsdale Lib Dem Councillor Haydn Preece reminded people of the way in which the Bootle councillors had penalised Southport, closing down three local libraries which were busier than the ones in Bootle which they preserved. He also condemned the Boolte Labour councillors for rushing through the demolition of a perfectly good sports hall in Ainsdale High School. They had even removed Southport’s last public toilet with no facilities even being left at the busy Ainsdale beach.
Councillor Mike Booth spoke of the way that the Bootle Labour councillors had repeatedly cut back on the services to the local coastline over the past few years. Sand would not be cleared from the Marine Drive footway/cycleway, There would be no Rangers to deal with anti-social behaviour on the beach and sea front. Even the dog-free part of the main Southport beach was not going to be enforced, meaning that residents and visitors alike would have to watch their every step and be especially careful for their children’s every move instead of being able to relax.
The ignorance of Southport of the ruling Bootle councillors was also highlighted. Councillor Fred Weavers described an episode where a Bootle member of the council’s planning committee had driven past Pleasureland in a council bus and said “I thought it had all closed down.”
Note: Three Labour candidates for the coming elections in Southport put down questions to the Area Committee meeting last night but not one of them turned up to ask the questions.
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