Christmas and the community

I hope you all had a happy Christmas day. We enjoyed a traditional family Christmas made all the better with blue skies and picturesque snow on the ground.

Lymm’s Christmas includes two of the biggest community events of the year, Dickensian and Carols around the Cross. Both of these bring us together and remind us that one of Lymm’s great strengths as a place to live is the large number of community organisations which rely on the work of many volunteers. Those who simply see the village as a place to live are left well alone. But, those who want to get involved, either passively, by just attending events, or, more actively, by helping to organise them, get the opportunity to do so.

Over the last year Oughtrington Community Centre has renewed its committee and the new members are tackling the work necessary to take advantage of the completion of the first phase West End project. The youth club building is being brought back into use by a very practically oriented set of volunteers and the Lymm Traders group continues to look after the interests of the Village Centre.

These are just three examples of the dozens of organizations that make life in Lymm so much better than in many anonymous suburbs or dormitory towns.

I would like to wish all of you a very happy New Year and thank personally all of those who have volunteered and worked for the community to make Lymm the place it is.

Good news for young people

Figures just released show Cheshire and Warrington to have one of the lowest numbers of young people not in employment education or training (NEET) in the country according to Connexions reported in ChesterFirst.

In Warrington, this October, only 6.4% of young people aged 16-18 are NEET, In Cheshire West and Chester it is 6.3% compared to 7.1% for England and 7.7% for the North West.

This reflects well on the town and its schools which have been recording some of the best results in the country. It also shows that, despite the recession, Warrington continues to be one of the best places to live and work.

We are also talking to developers who are planning first homes for young people which will be available to buy for a total monthly outlay comparable to the cost of a student room.

Warrington also remains a destination of choice for big employers. The latest announcement is that the Home Office is to take a major office site near to the M6 and close to Birchwood as a major regional hub.

Lymm street scene

Over the last few days I have had a lot of calls about parking, speed limits, street lighting and pot holes.

I am pleased to say that the Head of Service in Warrington who deals with these issues has agreed to visit Lymm between Christmas and the New Year to see for himself. I will be showing him some of the problems, though there isn’t that much he may be able to do given the very tight budget we have for next year.

What is really galling is the fact the Helen Jones, Labour MP  for Warrington North, constantly accuses the three Lymm Councillors, all of whom are on the Executive Board, of neglecting the deprived areas of Warrington to favour Lymm. Fat chance!

Even if we could do that, Ian Marks and I were elected on a platform of One Warrington, reducing inequalities. The recent very harsh assessment of Warrington’s administration has criticised us for failing to improve employment prospects and health in the deprived areas fast enough. We are doing our best to be fair to the wards south of the ship canal, Lymm in particular, while not neglecting the areas that really need help.

Unfortunately Warrington is funded as a prosperous area rather, than an area of contrasts. This means that business rates raised in Warrington are taken away and distributed mainly to other parts of the country. This has made it very difficult for both the Labour administration before us, and the current LibDem and Conservative led Council, to deal with the needs of areas like Lymm.

So I will be pressing the Head of Service to ensure that Lymm is getting its fair share of resources and that these are applied to the problems that residents tell me are most important to them. I am also working on the South Neighbourhood Board to ensure that even smaller bodies, such as the Parish Councils, can direct services to where they are most needed.

By improving efficiency and directing services better we will be able to resolve some of the issues that residents are calling me about. Unfortunately money is going to be very tight over the next few years so we do need to look at more inventive ways of solving some of these problems.

Liberal Democrat success in Whittle Hall by-election

A Parish Council by-election in Whittle Hall was won resoundingly tonight by Matt Newton (LibDem) in a straight fight with the Conservatives by 573 votes to 336. This in a ward next to the one currently being abandoned by Fiona Bruce (Con), who is off to fight the general election in Congleton, and an area where the Conservatives have to advance if they are to have any chance of winning Warrington South in the general election.

So why should Lymm residents care about a minor election in a far flung ward at the other end of the Borough?

It is because it is a real pointer to the opportunity you will have at the General Election. Warrington South is a three way marginal constituency. The other parties will try hard to persuade you otherwise, yet Labour has given up all hope of a win here and don’t even have an official candidate yet, following Helen Southworth MP’s announcement that she wouldn’t stand again, probably because she preferred to stand down than lose.

The Conservatives are smugly expecting victory and writing us off, because they know they have had more money to spend than anyone else and they feel that all they need to secure victory is to write off the LibDem challenge. A big mistake that takes the electorate for granted.

You will have the opportunity at the general election to decide whether you want more of the ding-dong of the two big parties that have landed us with the current economic catastrophe. Or, whether the time has come for a more consensual politics in Westminster where everyone works together to get us out of this mess.

Only additional LibDem MPs will achieve that and you will have a real opportunity to elect one here next year. Jo Crotty is an outstanding candidate and will make a brilliant MP.

Bob’s blog

Welcome to my blog. This is where you will find out about what the Liberal Democrats are doing in Warrington and Lymm to improve life for our residents.

The blog will allow me to be in touch more often than our FOCUS newsletters do, to cover more issues, sometimes at greater length, and for you to be able to reply to posts.

I will also write about national issues and why I am a Liberal Democrat. I hope you enjoy visiting this site and come back often. I will do my best to make it worth your while!