Thursday, 21 June 2018

Social Liberal Conference details


SLF Conference Agenda 2018

10am-10.30am: Reception and coffee
10.30am-11.25am: Session 1 - A New Liberal Economics: 
Plenary with David Howarth, Stuart White and David Boyle, and chaired by Helen Flynn.
11.25am-12.20pm: Session 2
Breakout 1: Climate change Economics: With Ed Davey
Breakout 2: Housing: With Alex Marsh and Emily Davey (tbc). The session will have as one of its focuses the green paper on social housing due to come out on 24 July.
12.20pm-1.05pm: Lunch
1.05pm-2pm: Session 3 - Beveridge Memorial Lecture by Layla Moran MP
2pm -2.55pm: Session 4:
Breakout 3: Climate Change—Duncan Brack and Louise Harris, subject to be determined
Breakout 4: Regional Inequality—Paul Hindley and someone from Equality Trust
2.55pm-3.05pm: Tea
3.05pm-4pm: Session 5 - Radical Policies for a Post-Brexit World
Plenary focusing on radical social and economic policies with Baroness Kishwer Falkner, Caron Lindsay and Layla Moran.
End.

Be the first to comment

Follow Reactions
If you're not Iain Brodie Browne, click here.
Hi Iain Brodie Browne.


Monday, 18 June 2018

More of Sefton taxpayers’ money is being poured down the black hole of the Bootle Strand


I am grateful to the many people who have contacted me about the council ballooning spending on Bootle Strand, in particular Tony Robertson (and via him Roy Connell) and Graham Winkles all of whom have brought to my attention new pieces of information

Look around are there not more important things for Sefton to spend your Council Tax money on? Social Care, pot holes and road maintenance, our parks and libraries (if they haven’t already been shut) all need investment but we are constantly told there is no money and yet it seems there is always money for this pet project of property speculation.
Bootle Strand




After spending over £32million pound buying The Strand shopping centre local people are having to foot the large bills for major repairs.

Bootle Labour party have been peddling the line that this project is ‘fully funded’ because the Council has borrowed the money. This turns out not to be true.

Firstly, anyone who has taken out a mortgage knows that such a loan may fund the purchase of a property but that loans repayments cost you. Saying it is fully funded is misleading.

Secondly additional expenditure is now being revealed that Sefton Council taxpayers are going to have to fund. £307,000 on structural works following the collapse of part of the roof structure in the T J Hughes store and now an extra £3.115m on "General works to improve the customer experience” In addition to at least £700,000 they have spent on professional advisers (see: https://birkdalefocus.blogspot.com/2017/11/sefton-council-leader-should-come-clean.html )

If these costs were known about at the time of the purchase then they should have been revealed rather that asserting that the loan was fully funding the project. If they were not known, no wonder the offshore company, via which The Strand was sold, were so keen to offload it. They must be laughing all the way to the bank with Sefton Council tax payers’ money.

I am very uncomfortable with the Council becoming involved with multi million-pound property speculation. Many experts have question the financial sense of this project. Sefton Council became the butt of jokes on the satirical TV quiz show ‘Have I got news for you’ and major national newspapers joined in the criticism. Given that nigh on £3/4million was spent on professional advisers one would have hoped these cost would have been revealed at the time. It is alleged that the council knew about the repairs needed in March and buried the information until after the local election...….


Wednesday, 28 March 2018

Southport Councillor launches new book: ‘Four Go In Search of Big Ideas’



A new book was launched in Southport this week. Iain Brodie Browne was one of four people who came together to seek out ‘big ideas’.
Iain explained: ‘We are angry and frustrated about the state of politics in Britain, it is too short term, too tribal and fails to face up to some of the big challenges that confront our nation and our planet. I am pleased to contribute an essay and to be one of the four who produced the book.


The new book, which is available from Broadhurst’s Bookshop in Southport, attempts to look at some of those issues. We approached people from across the progressive political spectrum to contribute. I am pleased that we got an excellent response. Independent academics, politicians from different parties and none were involved, they put aside party differences to discuss important issues.

As the introduction to the book, Four Go in Search of Big Ideas, makes clear that ya-boo culture in politics is stopping progress:

‘Challenging conventional wisdom is hard work, particularly when it’s embedded in public opinion or party stereotypes. We need to break down the barriers between political tribes which inhibit open discussion on big policy issues such as those addressed in this book. Many of these ideas are broadly shared by people of a progressive perspective across party boundaries. Our goal is not just to win political office and to manage the system within the constraints of existing opinions and prejudices. We want to create a shared analysis of problems and a new political narrative so that we can forge a new future based on very different attitudes.’
Please support Broadhurst’s our local independent bookshop, but if for any reason you can’t get there the book is online at http://www.socialliberal.net


Contributors include:
Vince Cable
Norman Warner (Minister of Health in the last Labour Government
Helen Flynn, Chair of the Social Liberal Forum
Ed Davey ( Lib Dem and formerly Secretary of State for the Environment and Climate change)
Professor David Howarth Cambridge Univeristy
Richard Corbett Lab MEP and Leader of the Labour Group at the European Parliament
Professor Alex Marsh University of Bristol
Stuart White Fellow at Jesus College Oxford
Rebecca Taylor formerly Lib Dem MEP for Yorkshire
Edward Robinson on Climate Change


Friday, 16 March 2018

Four Go In Search of Big Ideas

I am one of the The ‘Four’ who came together 60 years after George Watson’s book The Unservile State unleashed a host of radical, liberal and distributivist ideas. We believe the time has come for a new initiative, building on those ideas and new ones for the world we now inhabit.


Our excellent Independent Bookshop
is stocking the book
We are angry and frustrated about the state of politics in Britain, it is too short term, too tribal and fails to face up to some of the big challenges that confront our nation and our planet.


The new book, which is available from Broadhurst’s Bookshop in Southport, attempts to look at some of those issues. We approached people from across the progressive political spectrum to contribute. I am pleased that we got an excellent response. Independent academics, politicians from different parties and none were involved, they put aside party differences to discuss important issues.
As the introduction to the book, Four Go in Search of Big Ideas, makes clear that ya-boo culture in politics is stopping progress:

Helen Flynn editor, is joined at the launch by
Prof David Howarth and Rt Hon Ed Davey


‘Challenging conventional wisdom is hard work, particularly when it’s embedded in public opinion or party stereotypes. We need to break down the barriers between political tribes which inhibit open discussion on big policy issues such as those addressed in this book. Many of these ideas are broadly shared by people of a progressive perspective across party boundaries. Our goal is not just to win political office and to manage the system within the constraints of existing opinions and prejudices. We want to create a shared analysis of problems and a new political narrative so that we can forge a new future based on very different attitudes.’
Please support Broadhurst’s our local independent bookshop, but if for any reason you can’t get there the book is online at http://www.socialliberal.net

There are three main sections of the book, Economics, Welfare Society and Climate Change and a final essay on Europe

I was chiefly involved in the first section for which I wrote the introduction and which includes essays by Professor David Howarth, Stuart White, David Boyle and Vince Cable. This section clearly follows on from the Unservile State. The first two essays grapple with maldistribution of ownership and challenge the current rights that accrue to ownership in the British economy. Both draw on the long radical tradition including Mill, Keynes and Meade. This was dominant tradition in the party of my youth. At the time of George Watson's book a battle for the soul of our party was being fought out between those who wanted to turn the party into a 'free market' economic sect and social liberals under the banner of the Radical Reform Group. A generation later the proponents of the 'sect' re-emerged with the Orange Book. David Howarth's magisterial reassertion of the social liberal position is worth the £9.50 by itself, but in addition we have Stuart White rehearsing the importance of that tradition and challenging us to reconnect with those ideas.

I shall return to the final essays by David Boyle and Vince Cable but for now here is and extract from David Howarth:

Professor David Howarth, formerly LibDem MP for Cambridge, contributes to the new Social Liberal Forum book with a powerful, closely argued essay on Liberal economics. This an extract:
Here is a puzzle: if JS Mill, JM Keynes and James Meade were all Liberals and economists, what is a ‘neo-liberal’ economist? One might have thought that it would be someone who updated their thought to consider new facts and new problems.
In a highly successful example of propaganda and disinformation, ‘neoliberal’ has come to mean the doctrines of Friedrich Hayek or Milton Friedman. But those doctrines are anything but ‘neo’. They hark back to the era before Mill. We need to rectify names. Instead of ‘neo-liberals’ the followers of Hayek and Friedman might be called ‘paleo-partial liberals’.
The next step is to reclaim the Liberal tradition. That was the avowed aim of the editors of the Orange Book, but what some of them seemed to mean was not updating Mill, Keynes and Meade but abandoning them in favour of paleo-partial liberalism. Admittedly the diagnosis was not entirely wrong. The Liberal Democrats, as a political party, had wandered a long way from the Liberal tradition and had succumbed to various forms of conventional wisdom.
But the most distinctive feature of Liberal policy was its stance on corporate governance. From Mill onwards, through the Yellow Book to support for codetermination, Liberals argued for a different way of organising firms, not as hierarchical structures dominated by the owners of capital but as partnerships between labour and capital, incorporating democratic representation. James Meade provided a continuation and deepening of this tradition that should have formed the basis of the merged party’s position.
The Liberal Party showed interest in another intellectual movement pre-figured by Mill, ecological economics and rejection of GDP growth as a universal measure of success.
The way forward, as seen from the early 1980s, was a new synthesis of old themes: economic policy should be aimed at political liberation; the market is a useful tool but not a God; the aim of political liberation encompasses reform of the internal organisation of firms on a more democratic basis; and the search for endless environmentally damaging economic growth is a painful phase elongated by mistakes of policy. Added to those older themes a newer theme was awaiting incorporation, the theme of community, which was the centre of the party’s community politics but whose economic consequences were never fully thought through. The value of voluntary association and small scale collective effort as an alternative to both the market and the state was implicit, but the economics of community remained largely unspoken.
But that new synthesis did not happen. Instead the party drifted into dull conformity with a centre ground between paleo-partial liberals and conventional macro-economics. Eventually the Orange Book took the party so deep into that conventional wisdom that it became indistinguishable from other parties ‘of government’ (which was, of course, its purpose).
Regardless of why the new Liberal synthesis failed to materialise in the previous generation, it is now time to revive it. That means above all reclaiming the name Liberal. The Liberal tradition in economics is that of Mill, Keynes and Meade, and now Ostrom, not that of Hayek and Friedman. The question is where it goes next.



Tuesday, 13 February 2018

Southport Libdem Conference Morning Coffee and Afternoon Tea

Morning coffee at The Atkinson in a café run as a social enterprise by the charity Autism Initiatives called A Great Little  Place is recommended .This venue is part of the Atkinson Art Gallery/Museum/Theatre/Library complex on Lord St next to the Town Hall. There is lots going on there during the conference, check out their
calendar of events


 Caron Lindsay rather jumped the gun by mentioning Afternoon Tea when she was reporting the most read Libdem blogs last week. Now is the moment:

Southport is fortunate to have a goodly number of independent tea room. We do, of course have some chain operating as well. My advice is to check out the former. Let us start with Lillibets Tearoom (and here I am reviewing their pastries and not their politics.) I have to say, in my opinion, it is the best. It is situated on Lord Street. If you walk up to Lord St from the conference along Neville St turn left into Lord Street, five minutes walk) As they say on their website 'Our signature pâtisserie is entirely handmade on the premises using the finest, fresh ingredients which we mostly import from France to ensure the highest quality and authenticity. Our delectable pâtisserie is made daily (and the range changes seasonally as it does in France!) and can tempt you from our display cabinet in the tea rooms. We use free range eggs which come from ‘Happy Hens’, juicy Madagascan vanilla pods and always oodles of fresh seasonal fruit from our local Grocers in Birkdale village.'


all photos from Lillibets
Westminster Tea Rooms  also on Lord Street, this time turn left onto Lord Street from Neville Street. Finally the Nostalgia Tea Room also on Lord St on the way to the Westminster. The big hotels also serve afternoon Tea and I have heard good things about Vincent Hotel







Southport's biggest employer and the impact of 750 people working in a residential area

John Pugh and I outside Smedley Hydro
Over the years there have been complaints about parking in the roads around Smedley. A little background will assist in understanding the issue. This Government facility which includes the staff with the Home Office and NHS digital is Southport's biggest single employer. There are about 750 staff overwhelmingly drawn from the local area.  There are only 245 car parking spaces. It is not difficult to see why residents close to the facility feel they have a problem.

The issue was raised at the public Forum in Southport Town Hall and so it was John and I arranged to meet folk at Smedley to discuss the issue. In fairness the number of complaints I have received has significantly diminished over the years, a judicial application of yellow paint has helped as have the approach of the Smedley staff. As a generalisation I would say that the difficult manoeuvre of managing the disruption when 750 staff turn up to work in the heart of a residential area has been broadly achieved. There are, and will continue to be, incidents when that co-existence is not as successful as all would wish.

Since my last engagement with this issue Smedley have introduced a 1 mile rule that precludes anyone living in that distance from having a car parking space. And so it is that it is not unusual to see folk walking to work and some cycling. Smedley have introduced a drying room and a shower facility and the council have funded an extra cycle shed. I enquired about the take up of the Bike2WorkScheme but this being the Civil Service they didn't have figures, it was dealt with by another department. I intend to follow up this point. As the photo shows I cycled there as I live close by (I'm the one who forgot to take his cycle clips off).They have a car share scheme but in truth the numbers taking that up, although welcome, are not significant.

Smedley also have flexible working pattern which reduces the 'rush hour impact' and the night shift is only about 40 people.

I suspect that this is one of those issues that require eternal vigilance. A less concerned team at Smedley could easily result in local chaos

Wednesday, 7 February 2018

Birkdale flooding

'Arty' photo by SJS
Residents have been reporting problems with drainage. I have reported several sites to the council where the situation is significantly worse than is usually experienced after a downpour. These include outside Tesco's on Liverpool Rd, Halsall Rd and Hartley Cres where this photo was taken.

The gullies have been cleared but the problems persist suggesting that some more significant is the at fault. I am pleased to see workmen at the Tesco site but I am still awaiting confirmation of when the other sites will be dealt with.

The incidents of flooding are on the increase as we experience more extreme weather events. This is happening right across the globe. Scientists are convinced that many of these are events are a consequence of man made climate change. 

Humans are increasingly influencing the climate and the earth's temperature by burning fossil fuels, cutting down rainforests and farming livestock.
This adds enormous amounts of greenhouse gases to those naturally occurring in the atmosphere, increasing the greenhouse effect and global warming.