Sefton picks a fresh new leader — the local MP’s niece
Plus: is it snowing in Liverpool this week?
Dear readers — welcome to this week’s Monday briefing, covering dozens of important topics, including the big one: is it going to snow this week?
“Predicted snow could nearly be as bad as the snow storm everyone remembers,” reports the Echo this afternoon, although that very clickable headline seems to be referring to the country rather than us.
“Liverpool is also set for hail flurries, some snow, and icy conditions,” says the city’s newspaper of record. BBC Weather is forecasting light snow from 2am tomorrow morning, although that transitions to the much less sexy “sleet” by 4am, and there’s no sign of any extended snowfall for the rest of the week. However, we earnestly hope that the Echo is right and the BBC is wrong.
Here’s a stunning Geoff Drake shot of a snow-covered Liver bird last year that might tempt the weather gods.
Click here to check out Geoff’s photos.
Our big story today is about Sefton, a borough where political power has been split between two families (dynasties even): the Dowds and the Mahers. It encapsulates the themes of all the best family dramas: split loyalties, warring factions and ultimately the bloody power struggle of succession (as bloody as you can expect from regional council drama, at least).
Today the chalice passes down a generation and Sefton has a new leader, Marion Atkinson: the first woman to take on the role. But don’t worry, she’s still a member of the Two Clans. More on that below.
Over the weekend, subscribers were treated to another wonderful read from David Lloyd – this time exploring why the city’s Fabric District might just be the slow burn success story we’ve all been waiting for. Here’s a little taster from that:
“It’s this spirit of industriousness that the Fabric District is trying to distil, and nurture. But to enhance, too: to make the area a neighbourhood of grocers, bars, workshops and apartments too. In other words, bring it back to what it once was. Healthy, thriving and complete. A place that works.”
Earlier in the week, readers were treated to a slice of political analysis from Lisa and Abi, reporting from Sefton. Shall we just go ahead and open a Post bureau in Sefton? Might as well.
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This week’s weather
Tuesday ☀️ Light rain showers and a moderate breeze with highs of 5°C
Wednesday ☀️ Sunny with a gentle breeze with highs of 2°C
Thursday ☁️ Sunny with a moderate breeze with highs of 4°C
Friday ☁️ Sunny with a gentle breeze with highs of 5°C
Weekend 🌧️ Light rain and a fresh breeze with highs of 8°C
This week’s weather forecast is sourced from BBC Weather and it’s for Liverpool.
The big story: A new era in Sefton?
Top line: Marion Atkinson has been named as the new leader for Sefton Council. It wasn’t quite a Succession-style power struggle in the end though: Atkinson was the only candidate to make the shortlist for the role.
Context: Ian Maher, who has run the authority since 2015, announced his resignation at the first cabinet meeting of the year. It prompted a contest to replace him, the details of which we covered in-depth last week.
Rewind: Ian Maher’s daughter cabinet member Trish Hardy put her name into the hat alongside relative outsider Carla Thomas but neither was considered suitable by regional Labour Party officials.
With Labour North West reopening applications last week, Marion Atkinson was the only candidate to put herself forward.
Following interviews carried out on Friday, it was confirmed she was the only candidate who had made the shortlist and will become the borough’s new leader.
Who is she? As the niece of the Bootle MP Peter Dowd, Atkinson belongs to the other big political family in Sefton. Her ascendancy means the Dowd family now sits atop the local authority as well as one of Sefton’s parliamentary seats. This news will hardly allay fears that the borough has a less than meritocratic political environment.
Highest standards: Atkinson said it was a “huge honour” to be chosen, adding that it was a “privilege” to become the borough’s first female leader. She spoke of Sefton being her home borough and "the only place I would ever want to serve”. She also said that under her leadership she would “ensure politics in Sefton is conducted to the highest standards in an open, transparent way.”
Reactions: Aside from Atkinson’s comment, released via Labour North West at the weekend, there’s been very little reaction so far. On social media there has been little by way of congratulations from fellow Sefton politicians, although Atkinson was out campaigning with colleagues this weekend.
What next? After being formally approved as new leader tonight, it is expected Atkinson will lead the next meeting of the borough’s full council on Thursday. She gave a hint of her priorities in a statement released on Saturday: public transport, the need to bring new investment into the borough and to tackle “deep-rooted issues” faced by many residents.
Looking ahead: There are some key challenges ahead for the new leader, including transforming the borough’s children’s services, still in special measures and overseen by a government commissioner following a series of dire Ofsted inspections. For more on that mess, read our report from last May.
Bottom line: It remains to be seen whether Atkinson will bring a ‘new broom’ to proceedings at Sefton Council or retain much of the current cabinet. It is likely a new deputy will be chosen, and possibly more changes afoot to committees and cabinet positions in the coming days — the rumour mill is already working overtime. Know something? Let us know.
Your Post briefing
A court has heard how the anti-asylum seeker riots outside the Suites Hotel in Knowsley last February became violent, with police officers injured and vehicles set alight. Five men and three women, all from Merseyside, are on trial accused of violent disorder. All admit being at the scene but deny “using or threatening unlawful violence”. The prosecution told the court that the accused chanted “get them out” as police vehicles were burnt. We reported extensively on the protest at the time, speaking to both attendees and asylum seekers in the hotel, one of whom told us he was “afraid for [his] life” as events played out. The prosecution says the far-right English Defence League called for the protest and that police officers sustained injuries throughout the night as missiles were launched including rocks, fireworks and paving slabs. One officer required hospital treatment for concussion and “whiplash-like injuries”. The Guardian has the full report.
There’s more trouble afoot among Merseyside’s Conservatives after concerns were raised over the party’s regional candidate for this year’s metro mayor election. We broke the news a few weeks back that the selection of Jenny Johnson as the party’s Wirral West candidate had caused ruptures, after it came to light that she had shared posts from a number of far-right accounts on X (formerly Twitter). Johnson has since defended herself. But now, in an email sent by the Conservatives' Merseyside Area Chair to the party’s members, Tory candidate for metro mayor Jade Marsden is described as an unpopular choice for the position, with “strong and widespread opposition” to her candidacy after her underwhelming performance against current mayor Steve Rotheram at the last election in 2021. The email also appeals for new candidates to step forward “very quickly indeed”.
A person is receiving treatment after getting their legs trapped between two containers on a vessel at Seaforth Container Base. A spokesperson for Peel Ports, which operates the port, said they were unable to speculate on the incident, but that an “official investigation” was underway to establish how the accident happened. The person injured is currently in hospital being treated for their injuries.
Ketamine usage is on the rise among young people in St Helens, according to a worrying report in the Echo. A series of recent incidents — including a group of 12 and 13-year-old schoolchildren who were rushed to hospital after taking the drug in November — have raised concern among local authorities.
☕ Head to Duke Street Market this Wednesday for a beginners Spanish lesson accompanied by freshly brewed coffee. The hour-long session teaches key phrases, including coffee orders and self-introductions. Find out more here.
🍷 On Thursday, the City Wine Bar is hosting a Paint Liverpool event based on Van Gogh’s famous Starry Night painting. All the art supplies are included — buy a ticket here.
😂 Enjoy a triple headline bill at Hot Water Comedy Club this Saturday with performances from Danny Mcloughlin, Adam Staunton and Phil Chapman. Doors open at 6pm with the show beginning at 7pm — find out more here.
🎸 East London indie band Folly Group head to Jacaranda this Wednesday to celebrate the release of their debut album, Down There. Tickets are available for £12.35 and come with a CD copy of their new release. Find out more here.
Home of the week
This gothic two bedroom home in Wallasey is brimming with character and charm. While the decor is currently a little on the quirky side, the home has plenty of potential for renovation for those who don’t wish to live inside a Tim Burton film. Find out more here.
Our favourite reads
From the back end of last year, Unherd catch up with ex-Liverpool defender Jamie Carragher; with the conversation covering everything from his dramatic birth (he had gastroschisis and was rushed to Alder Hey) to the groundswell of conspiracy theorism in Liverpool to local suspicions of Sir Keir Starmer. He also discusses the stark divides within the city: “I think there’s always been a feeling in Liverpool that there’s not just the North-South divide in the country, but in the city as well,” Carragher says. “So when you come north from the city centre, you’ve got Bootle, you’ve got Kirkdale, you’ve got Walton.” Perhaps he’s been reading The Post.
Business is booming up in Prescot, according to The Telegraph, where visiting outsiders “may be forgiven for thinking they have stumbled into a Shakespearean theme park.” Since the arrival of Shakespeare North, which we covered back in 2022, the town has fully embraced its new identity — one shaped wholly around the Bard and his legacy — with Shakespeare themed pubs (from the more niche, like The Mermaid Tavern, named after “a Cheapside establishment that was frequented by Elizabethan dramatists” to the more obvious: The Bard), bistros and barbershops. The article cites tourism experts who claimed the theatre and its buzz will attract more than 100,000 new visitors to the area each year.
Letters from readers
Thanks @liverpoolpost brilliant article on the Fabric District. As co-author of the ‘SIF’ we were directed to the ‘hot areas’ nearer the middle, but us and Deloitte (yes, Deloitte!) pushed hard for the ‘distinctive neighbourhoods’ approach. Low volume, slow burners win every time. The ‘Ten Streets’/ Northshore needs to go the same way. ‘Neighbourhoods aren’t about branding, but people. The Fabric District understands that‘, Pete Swift
Great piece. So good to read a positive (mostly...) story about regeneration in our fabulous city. ‘Neighbourhoods aren’t about branding, but people. The Fabric District understands that‘, Rose Green