Posted by: westlancashirerecord | August 10, 2018

What Does Skelmersdale Need? Not A Town Council!

“The Skelmersdale Independence Movement was established with the aim of helping to get our town its own Town Council. We are not a political party.

“We would like to thank Councillor Neil Fury for advertising Skelmersdale Independence Movement on page 16  of the Champion this week!! Unfortunately, Neil incorrectly attributed the letter published on 25th July to us, when it was in fact written by our friends at Skelmersdale New Town Council Group!! While Neil is entirely entitled to his opinion, that is all it is, an opinion. I would like to remind him what he wrote to me on 6th September 2016 “If residents strongly support this then as a Council we will have to listen and take a report to members” Cheers Neil.

“Welcome to the Skelmersdale Independence Movement (SIM) page. Initially, we have one aim – to get Skelmersdale its own “Independent” Town Council – As the largest town in West Lancashire, with the biggest population and the most businesses and industry-We deserve our own council – We should HAVE A SAY and not be dictated to by West Lancs Borough Council based in Ormskirk or Lancashire County Council based in Preston, or indeed by the members of the House of Commons based in London – they DO NOT REPRESENT US.

“We have had lots of passionate, dedicated Councillors over the years that have been affiliated to the two mainstream parties – Labour and Conservative – but because people have been disillusioned with the Parliamentary Parties from both sides, this has led to our local community losing some of its most hard working and passionate champions it has ever had. Westminster does not represent our “local” community – EVER!!

Be honest, when was there ever a change of Government in London that directly benefitted you? – in the last 50 years? – NEVER. Well NO MORE – PLEASE!! This is the ideal time for the people of Skelmersdale to stand up and be counted. We call on the people of Skelmersdale – who are disillusioned by the Political elite of our country to forget Party politics, to engage with your local community, to make a difference – Because the Political elite – certainly aren’t making any difference to YOU, or OUR Community”.

Who can ever forget the Wally Westley interview on the BBC Radio 4 Consumer Affairs Programme “You and Yours” in 2014? A retail survey showed that three–quarters of vacant shop units in Skelmersdale had been empty for more than three years and as a consequence 90% of all retail spending was done outside of the town. Leader of West Lancs Council, Councillor David Westley, who appeared on the programme as well, commented “I had not realised that the vacancy rate figures were as high as that. I acknowledge that there is a problem in Skelmersdale. The problem in Skelmersdale is down to the way it was built in the 1960s and that there is no night–time economy. We are trying to address this”. How’s that for mastery of the subject by the elected member of WLBC and previously Resources and Transformation Portfolio Holder?

This “Memorandum” by Colin Pickthall MP  West Lancashire Constituency (NT 36) Select Committee on Transport, Local Government and the Regions Memoranda described the state of Skelmersdale in 2002. “Skelmersdale, in my constituency, suffers from all the problems of other New Towns with the addition of being relatively isolated (it has no rail links) and in an area of high unemployment since the 1970s.

“Over many years I have sought to make the point, to successive Governments, that concentration on Inner City deprivation, important as it was, led to an ignoring of the needs of smaller urban centres like Skelmersdale. These towns’ needs were similar to those of Inner Cities yet they had few of the compensating advantages (decent public transport, cultural infrastructures, shopping choices, leisure facilities, plus special Government investment and attention).

“During the 1980’s the local West Lancashire District Council and myself made repeated representations to Government asking that the assets in the New Town left in the hands of the Commission for New Towns (later with English Partnerships) should not simply be stripped off, but at least a proportion should be left in the town as “seed corn” for regeneration projects. These pleas were ignored, not to say ridiculed. The recessions of the 1980’s and 1990’s did long term damage to employment in Skelmersdale and created unemployment levels in some of the New Town wards that were amongst the highest in England. Like most New Towns, Skelmersdale was built in a hurry over a period of about a decade. “Originally intended to house 80,000 people, its growth was stopped at about 40,000, thus ensuring that the town never got the basic infrastructure it expected its hospital was cancelled; its public transport system was never developed. It has no cinema and very inadequate sports and fitness facilities.

“Most importantly, its housing has grown prematurely old all at the same time. Housing put up in Skelmersdale used virtually every experimental method known, many of them proving to be failures. Thus the local authority, which took over responsibility for the social housing from the Development Corporation at the end of the eighties, has been faced with a major problem of refurbishment and even rebuilds, throughout the nineties and into the new century, a problem that Governments have not fully recognised in its Housing Grant allocations.

“There is no means by which government has ever recognised the physical structural problems of New Towns built on the Radburn principle. This means that every Council Service costs more, especially refuse disposal and local transport. It also creates many more problems of crime and disorder and of social alienation than are experienced in traditional towns of similar size”.

And so back to Dave and Neil. While Tory West Lancashire preferred to ignore Skelmersdale, what has Labour West Lancashire been doing for it? Some major investments for phase one of the town centre scheme, some new homes, some new business opportunities, but no rail link and poor public transport. Aren’t these the services that should have priority?

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