December 22 2010

Bill Esterson

 

 

Sefton was hit especially hard this week. The cuts to the council were far worse than even the council had feared.

I met the Lib Dem local government minister, Andrew Stunnel and he indicated that the cuts would not be as bad as we had been led to believe. The Conservative secretary of state, Eric Pickles said the same thing in the House of Commons. Yet when the figures were revealed this week, the cuts were far worse than expected and will lead to hundreds of jobs being lost and thousands of vulnerable people being put at risk.

Then there were the police cuts. Some estimates suggest 800 front line police jobs will go in Merseyside, which must risk public safety. A similar story in the fire service and then there is Merseytravel. How on earth is Merseytravel supposed to survive with its budget cut by 2/3?

At this rate we’ll be lucky if there are any buses in most of Sefton.

The closure of the Coastguard station continued the government theme of undermining public safety and while some will welcome the scrapping of the prison in Maghull, that means no new jobs, no community facilities and no new North Maghull station. All this is before the impact on the health service has been considered.

The government has admitted that those on low and middle incomes will have to pay for the mistakes of the banks, which caused the financial crisis and the deficit. Yet while those on low and middle incomes are being forced to pay for the banking crisis, companies like Vodafone and Top Shop are getting away with avoiding tax worth billions of pounds.

The campaigns against the owners of Vodafone and Top Shop shows that many people think that the wrong people are being made to pay for the crisis.

The cuts will hit people in Sefton on low and middle incomes. They will also hit people who run their own business and rely on those who work in the public sector who are their customers. Meanwhile Tory (and some Lib Dem) councils in the south face no cuts at all and in the case of Dorset will benefit from an increase in grant. Surely a case for a re-think by government and a case for a fairer approach to paying off the deficit.

Over the last few days I spoke to a number of people about the cuts. They all felt they were too deep and that they were not fair. That is a message that I will be taking back to the government at Westminster.


Over the weekend I spent a lot of time enjoying the snow with my family. But for many people the cold weather is not fun at all.

Spare a thought for elderly people and others who are scared of slipping on the snow and ice and also for the many people who face a choice between having enough food or heating their home.

It was also clear that inspite of the weather forecast, the authorities were just not able to cope with the heavy snowfall. Last winter, there were complaints about a lack of grit and the lack of salt bins in parts of Maghull. This year its been the failure to use snowploughs to clear the roads before putting the grit on.

Some boroughs seem to have coped better than others and in Liverpool the roads were cleared before the grit was spread. Hopefully Sefton will learn from that lesson for next time.

 

The snow gives a very festive feel to our communities and it has been good to walk around. Everyone has been very friendly and it has been great to see neighbours helping each other clearing paths or starting cars. There is little doubt that we face the worst of times as Dickens would have said.

The cuts are going to hurt a lot of people and that’s a bleak prospect especially just before Christmas. I am not going to pretend that the new year brings hope for many of those who face an uncertain future.

I will be fighting for a change of heart from the government when it comes to the impact on our communities here in Sefton and I urge everyone to work together and to support each other.

 

To everyone in Sefton, have a very merry Christmas and even in these difficult times can I wish you a happy new year.