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A View From The Gallery

On 22 November Sefton MBC convened for a normal meeting. In this case, however, the public gallery was full to overflowing and other members of the public stood outside the Town Hall. In the first time in the memory of Council officials over 4000 residents had submitted a petition. The full agenda item is shown below.


Public Petition

In accordance with the Council’s Petition Scheme, a petition containing 4,298 signatures has been submitted by Formby Residents Action Group Opposition From Formby (FRAGOFF)

Petition Summary and Background:

Discussions regarding the Local Plan have been on-going for a long time without any way forward and the residents of Sefton have now been left exposed to developers with no concerns for the local community and leaving us unprotected.

The action petitioned for is:

“We the undersigned urge the Council, to include its officers, elected members and its Leaders, to implement a Local Plan which protects the green belt, farm land, countryside and residents in Sefton from any development on such land and that they address this issue as a matter of urgency.”

The lead petitioner, Mrs Maria Bennett, from Formby, is the Chairperson of FRAGOFF and she will be permitted to address the Council for 5 minutes at the Council Meeting. The petition will then be discussed by Councillors for a maximum of 15 minutes and the Council will decide how to respond to the petition at the meeting.”

The whole debate lasted around 23 minutes. Maria Bennett spoke in support of the motion and was followed each in turn by Peter Dowd (Leader of the Council, Labour), Tony Robertson (Deputy Leader of Lib Dems) and Terry Jones (Deputy Leader of Tories) responding on behalf of the Council members present. There was one more contribution to the debate by Cllr Sir Ron Watson (Former Leader of the Council) responding to comments about the role of Officers.

All of the speakers noted and welcomed the views of those present and supported the suggestion that their views should be incorporated into the Local Plan Consultation Framework within the existing timetable. Sefton Council’s consultation process for the Core Strategy/Local Plan has so far received over 3000 responses.

In that respect this was a very great success and the organisers and the public are to be congratulated on their hard work and support.

Why then are so many people disappointed?

All Council meetings are ‘Statutory Bodies’ they are governed by Law and a written Constitution. Each of the Councillors commented on the necessity to ‘follow’ the Law.

PCCouncilGuideaHere’s an illustration this inch+ thick book sets out to guide Parish Councillors on their legal powers, rights and duties.

Parish Councils are much smaller and their legal powers limited in comparison with Metropolitan Councils. But failure to follow the requirements of the Law in all Councils would lead to decisions which can be overturned.

In the case of planning issues, a failure to follow the Law, would enable Developers to successfully overturn any such flawed decisions.


Why Did the Council just resolve to note the petition?

A review of the documents submitted by officers to the Planning Committee and the Cabinet reveals the constraints imposed by Local Government legislation on Council procedures. The consultation process has to be followed even, if as in this case, residents would like to see the completion of a Local Plan sooner rather than later. This explains the constant reference to ‘The Law’ by all of the Councillors who spoke.

Why were questions disallowed?

The petitioners were surprised and annoyed they could not ask questions, the answer lies in the Council Constitution which is referred to in the motion preamble ‘the Council’s Petition Scheme’. No questions are allowed. There is a different procedure for questions.

Why were there so few speakers?

Many have commented about the very limited debate by Councillors. Again the Council Constitution may hold the key.

15. Where you have been involved in campaigning in your political role on an issue which does not impact on your personal and/or professional life, you should not be prohibited from participating in a decision in your political role as a Member. However, DO NOT place yourself under any financial or other obligation to outside individuals or organisations that might seek to influence you in the performance of your official duties.’ (Page 33 Sefton MBC Constitution September 2012)


‘214 The Council’s Code also sets out the duties and responsibilities of Members. It states that whilst Members owe a special duty to their ward constituents including those who did not vote for them, their overriding duty is to the whole community. Members should not favour any individuals or groups and although they may be influenced by the opinions of others, they alone have the responsibility to decide what view to take. Members must therefore represent their constituents as a body and vote in the interests of the whole Borough.’ (Page 277 33 Sefton MBC Constitution September 2012)’

Under these constitutional requirements Councillors frequently try to avoid giving outside bodies an impression of Pre-determination or Bias and therefore  an opportunity to accuse them of making an unlawful decision. The Councillors who did speak confined their comments to the requirements of Law, the on-going consultation process and the increasingly wide public concern regarding the future of the Greenbelt in general.

There are many more facets to the Councils Constitution which bear inspection and I recommend further study for those who are interested. They are readily available on Sefton MBC web site.

To finish on a positive note, the Petition was very successful and in my view it will contribute greatly to the final version of the Local Plan.  You may have a different view from mine, please use the 'My Comments' link to add your comments. Remember they must be legal and decent.



This is a live Twitter stream, use #formbyflooding to add your information or ask questions.

Green Belt Petition Presented to Sefton

Formby residents campaigning to protect the green belt and resist housing development have presented a petition to Sefton Metropolitan Borough Council. The petition calls for a full Council meeting to discuss the issue.


Residents outside Bootle Town Hall with the petition.


The residents handing the petition to a Sefton Council Official.


A Sound Reflection on The PCC Elections

Rather than write a comment I thought you might like to hear a short personal reflection directly on last Thursday's elections for the Merseyside Police and Crime Commissioner.


Do you have any comments of your own, please add them using the 'Your Letters' link above.

Police and Crime Commissioners Election

Today Formby residents have the opportunity to cast their vote in the first election for a Police and Crime Commissioner. The person elected will replace The Police Authority, which consisted of locally elected Councillors and others. The Councillors were chosen by the leadership of the constituent local Councils like Sefton etc. The public had no say in that process, membership of Police Authorities was determined in private meetings by local Party Politicians.

There are six candidates in todays election:

  • Jane Kennedy (Labour candidate)
  • Geoff Gubb (Conservative candidate)
  • Paula Keaveney (Liberal Democrat candidate)
  • Paul Rimmer (English Democrats candidate)
  • Kiron Reid (Independent candidate)
  • Hilary Jones (UKIP candidate)

The Polling Stations are open from 7am to 10pm.

More information about the candidates is available here: http://policecrimecommissioner.co.uk/Merseyside

Remembrance Sunday 2012

Graves of Polish Pilots stationed at RAF Woodvale, Formby who died in World War II and are buried in Our Lady's RC Church Cemetery

"When you go home tell them of us, and say
for your tomorrow, we gave our today"


Formby Village Stocks

The fun and mischief associated with Halloween and Bonfire Night has come to an end.  There have been one or two examples of stupid behaviour reported on Twitter. But so far as I can make out there has been no serious breach of the peace here in Formby.

Time to heave a sigh of relief. It did set me thinking about how unacceptable behaviour was dealt with in the past and this brings me to the 'Stocks'. 


Stocks were used in Medieval, Renaissance and Colonial American times as a form of physical punishment involving public humiliation. Offenders were partially immobilized in the stocks by their feet or their hands and head. Exposed in a public place such as the site of a market or village green they were subject to the scorn of those who passed by.

Since the purpose of putting offenders in the stocks was to expose them to ridicule and mockery, passers-by were encouraged to throw mud, rotten eggs, mouldy fruit and vegetables, smelly fish, offal, and excrement (both animal and human) at those being punished

Here in Formby the village stocks were located on the green in front of the Cross House Hotel but they were moved many years ago. However, they still exist and if you take  a stroll around the graveyard in St Luke's Church grounds you'll find the original stocks, now unused but still in apparent good order. Though covered in ivy, they remind us of a past when unruly behaviour was punished very robustly.

Seasonal Celebrations

Well, that's one seasonal celebration over and done. Just bonfire night to come and then it will really feel as we're rushing toward the end of Autumn. Of course for some today is actually 'All Saints Day'.

All Saints' Day (in the Roman Catholic Church officially the Solemnity of All Saints and also called All Hallows or Hallowmas, often shortened to All Saints, is a solemnity celebrated on 1 November by parts of Western Christianity, and on the first Sunday after Pentecost in Eastern Christianity, in honour of all the saints, known and unknown.
In the Western calendar it is the day after Halloween and the day before All Souls' Day.
(Source: Wikipedia) 

I suppose when you think a little more about these apparently common place events it's nice to recall the longstanding histories behind the event itself. 

Bonfire Night is an annual event dedicated to bonfires, fireworks and celebrations. Different traditions celebrate Bonfire Night on different days. Some of the most popular instances include the United Kingdom's Guy Fawkes Night, which is also celebrated in some Commonwealth countries.
(Source: Wikipedia) 

And so now as we approach Bonfire Night, once again I urge a note of caution and commend the following statement from our local Neighbourhood Police Team for Formby, who write:

This is one of our busiest times of year as, unfortunately, the behaviour of a minority of people can sometimes spoil the fun for everyone else. Your Neighbourhood Team will continue to work with communities to tackle anti-social behaviour. 

You will see more officers on patrol during this busy period. We are working with partners and communities to take illegal fireworks off the streets and I would encourage you to attend one of the many organised bonfire and firework displays available. There are lots of fun activities and events for young people and families this autumn.  You can find out what’s going on in your area and how to stay safe by visiting www.merseyside.police.uk