Row over Lord Street plan for black road surface
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