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March 23, 2011 - Bill Esterson's Westminster Diary

Bill Esterson


The cut of the 351 bus from Maghull was the latest cut in bus services suffered by people in Maghull. It means that east Maghull has an hourly service to Liverpool instead of the previous half hourly service.


When I met Arriva they told me that the 351 service was losing money so they had to withdraw the service. This is a blow to people who rely on bus services and many people have written to me or called my office to complain.


At the meeting with Arriva, Maghull residents Patrick McKinley, Tom O'Brien, Ron Adlington and Melling Parish Council Chairman Gerry Lee all told Arriva what they thought of the changes and how they relied on the buses.


Gerry was pleased to hear that the 345 is not under threat in Melling.


It seems to me that we should be trying to encourage more people to use buses, so cutting services will not help. In my view, the fewer buses, the less that people will use the remaining services. The answer is to have more buses and to make it easy for people to leave their cars at home.


But for Arriva that is a difficult option as they have to make a profit.


This brings us to some of the other problems. Deregulated bus services mean that companies like Arriva will only run buses if they can make a profit. Many of us rely on our cars but there are many people who don’t have cars so rely on buses and trains.


Merseytravel used to have the option of subsidising bus routes but the government has cut their budget by an extraordinary two thirds. I hope that we can persuade the government to have a rethink when it comes to support for Merseytravel and that more people can be encouraged to use buses in Sefton.




The United Nations has decided to defend civilians in Libya and passed a resolution allowing intervention to do just that.


I support the United Nations and I believe that if Gadaffi’s forces had been allowed to attack the people of Bengazi, they would have murdered thousands of people. But like many people I have questions and I also have very deep concerns about the way that the military action has been carried out so far.


Arab countries said they supported the intervention but  I am concerned that western governments did not insist on Arab countries providing aircraft or other military support for the attacks.


There is a very big danger that this will be seen by people in Libya and across the Arab world as Western countries attacking an Arab country especially if civilians are killed in the bombing. I am also concerned that the government has no idea how long we will be involved or how much it will cost.


A cruise missile costs £500,000. A Tornado jet is £30 million.


At a time of deep cuts, should we be paying for this action and at a time of deep cuts in our armed forces, how can we afford this and do we have enough military resources to take this action with our commitments in Afghanistan and elsewhere?


I think we had to support the United Nations but there is no agreement to remove Gadaffi  and no agreement for troops on the ground. The United Nations has stopped a massacre in Bengazi. The question is what next and our government has some vitally important questions to answer about our involvement  and about gaining Arab involvement.





The greenbelt is a proud achievement of the Labour government after the Second World War and must be protected. The protection of the greenbelt and urban greenspaces has become a vital issue in Melling, Aintree, Formby, Hightown, Ince Blundell and in Lydiate because of changes to planning rules brought in by the government.

The rules have been relaxed to allow developers greater freedom to build.

Sefton Council is now considering plans for as many as 1,000 new homes on sites around Melling alone. We have a massive housing shortage in Sefton but building on the greenbelt is not the way to start addressing the shortage.

The council should use empty homes and former industrial land before even considering building on either greenbelt or urban greenspaces like our play areas and parks.

In my view, residents should be asked for their ideas before any plans are even drawn up. Serious questions need to be answered about any plans to build on our green spaces. These include, are the roads able to cope, are there enough shops, schools, doctors and play areas?

And what about the cuts in bus services like the 351?

All of these things need to be taken into account. Communities like Melling could see their populations swell under the plans. I am really worried that developers could be allowed to build what they want without listening to those of us who live here already.

The scale of the cuts by the government make it unlikely we will see the development of new services for large housing estates and residents will rightly worry that new estates will be built which create problems for the future.

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