Row over Lord Street plan for black road sur­face

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HUGELY con­tro­ver­sial plans to close Lord Street in South­port for six weeks to lay a new black road sur­face are be­ing chal­lenged by coun­cil­lors.

Sefton Coun­cil had an­nounced it would re­lay the sur­face, which was de­scribed as ‘dan­ger­ous’ in of­fi­cial doc­u­ments, but it was later re­vealed that the dis­tinc­tive red colour would be lost in a mon­eysav­ing move, a de­ci­sion which caused wide­spread back­lash from politi­cians and res­i­dents.

The new black sur­face will cost £420,000, half the amount of red, and comes at a time when the coun­cil is be­ing forced to make more than huge sav­ings.

With the is­sue be­com­ing in­creas­ingly heated, Lib Dem coun­cil­lors have now ‘called-in’ the de­ci­sion to close the road, mean­ing it will be de­bated at a spe­cial meet­ing of the Overview and Scru­tiny Com­mit­tee.

John Pugh, who served as MP from 2001 un­til this year, at­trib­uted the de­ci­sion to Boo­tle Labour, point­ing out “there is his­tory here”.

The Lib­eral Demo­crat, who is cam­paign­ing to move South­port out of Sefton, said: “When Lord Street was last resur­faced and Sefton Coun­cil was un­der fi­nan­cial pres­sure, the money for red Tar­mac was found but the vo­cal re­sent­ment of Boo­tle coun­cil­lors was in­tense and is on record.

“The coun­cil then was hung and we in­sisted on pre­serv­ing Lord Street’s dis­tinc­tive look. Lib­eral Democrats and Con­ser­va­tives out-voted Labour coun­cil­lors.

“Pay­ing a few bob more to keep Lord Street dis­tinc­tive is not an im­pos­si­ble task if there is will to do so”.

He later added: “I sym­pa­thise with any coun­cil strug­gling with tough bud­getary de­ci­sions and voted against the tough set­tle­ments for local gov­ern­ment for the last two years but the fact re­mains £32mil­lion has been found by Sefton to buy the New Strand and 150K for to hire a new a strate­gic di­rec­tor.

“This is not a coun­cil that can­not find money for its pri­or­i­ties.”

Sefton Coun­cil leader Cllr Ian Ma­her re­acted an­grily to those com­ments, ac­cus­ing Dr Pugh of hypocrisy for not do­ing more to pro­tect local gov­erne­ment fund­ing while at West­min­ster.

He said: “By 2020 Sefton will have lost some 50% of its rev­enue fund­ing. As such, hard de­ci­sions have to be made.

“The squeeze on the ser­vices we pro­vide is, quite frankly, un­bear­able.

The Labour coun­cil­lor said that at­tempts to ig­nore re­spon­si­bil­ity for this by both Con­ser­va­tives and Lib­eral Democrats were “sim­ply pa­thetic” and claimed: “Their con­tin­ued de­mon­i­sa­tion of Sefton Coun­cil in such cir­cum­stances is as un­for­giv­able as it is shame­less.”

He con­tin­ued: “The de­ci­sion on resur­fac­ing Lord Street and in­deed other such works must be cost-ef­fec­tive.

“The dif­fer­ence be­tween red and black Tar­mac cost is sig­nif­i­cant.

Ex­plain­ing the orig­i­nal de­ci­sion, a Sefton Coun­cil spokesman said: “In con­sul­ta­tion with cabi­net mem­bers we have de­cided to use black surfacing with black chip­pings rather than red as­phalt due to a sig­nif­i­cant dif­fer­ence in cost.

“At a time when the coun­cil is faced with se­vere bud­get cuts, it is im­por­tant that we as­sess our spend­ing and en­sure that we are get­ting value for money.”

The meet­ing will be held at Boo­tle Town Hall on Thurs­day, Septem­ber 7, fol­low­ing the com­ple­tion of a re­port by the coun­cil’s head of reg­u­la­tion and com­pli­ance.

The road­works were due to be­gin on Septem­ber 18 and car­ried out in four stages, with di­ver­sions put in place.

Lord Street in South­port is fac­ing a six-week clo­sure for resur­fac­ing, Cllr Ian Ma­her, left

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