Thursday, 16 July 2009

Lynton Rd street sweeping

One of those bits of casework that make you realise thing aren't quite as joined up as you would wish came yesterday from Lyton Rd. They have a street sweeper-about whom everyone is complimentary ( I hope they tell him that and not just me ) Sadly his rota sends him to Lynton Rd on the same day as the dustbin men come; which means he is not around to sweep up if there are any spillages. I must say that the introduction of wheelie bins and the alternative weekly collect has significantly reduced the amount of spillage. We no longer get vermin, dogs and foxes splitting open the black plastic sacks that used to line our streets. Never the less there is still a problem. Sefton is doing a review and if should be finished in 12 months I'm told. I'm pleased to tell the Lynton Rd folk that in the meantime I have asked for some action to be taken and the key bit of the reply is printed below.

'I have asked the Street Services Officer if as a 'one off' they can change
this particular Road so we can address the problem'

Wednesday, 15 July 2009


I've been writing Focuses since at least 1973. If you are running a campaign, survey or petition I've frequently had back what the headline writer would call a 'massive response'. In our most recent edition there is no such attempt to get residents to contact us other than the usual details of how to get hold of your councillor; but I can honestly say I have never had such an unsolicited response from so many people just ringing up for a chat and to thank us for our work. I've even loaded the edition on to the website where it is filed under the download section.

Southport baby dies as paramedics forced to bypass nearest A&E

Many people in Southport have feared this day. The A&E department for children was shut in 2003 and relocated across the county boundary in Ormskirk. It is hard to imagine how the family of the 4 day child who died are coping. I'm sure everyone's first thoughts are with them and the ambulance crew who rang the closest hospital after resuscitating the child only to be told to drive across the Moss to Ormskirk
The Southport Visiter has the story . John Pugh was quickly off the mark and has called for a public inqiry. the Story was front page news in the Daily Post:

An ambulance was called to tend to the child after he stopped breathing due
to suspected heart problems.
Paramedics rushed to the home in Bank Square, in Southport town centre, just after 1.20am yesterday, and tried to resuscitate the child.
But when they radioed ahead to Southport and Formby District Hospital,
they were told they must take the child eight miles to Ormskirk.
The ambulance finally arrived at Ormskirk A&E at 2.05am, but the baby later
Southport MP John Pugh is demanding an inquiry as to why the child
could not be treated at its local hospital.
He said: “There needs to be a proper, independent inquiry into how this happened and why the sophisticated resources of Southport hospital were bypassed.
“If they could have saved this poor mite’s life, it puts a huge question mark against the assurances and policy that NHS bosses have doled out for the last few years.
“Children have to be treated in Southport.”
A post mortem will be carried out on the child later today.

The NHS Trust put out a statement which even those without an higher degree in textual analysis can see is far from the full story:

A Southport and Ormskirk NHS Trust spokesperson said: “A call was received at Southport and Formby Hospital from the ambulance service control room in the early hours yesterday about a baby at a residential address in Southport.
“As is normal in such situations, the ambulance service was advised to take the baby to Ormskirk Hospital because the children’s A&E Department there is fully equipped to deal with emergencies.
“The baby was not refused admittance to Southport and Formby, and was taken directly to Ormskirk.”
A North West Ambulance Service spokesman confirmed the ambulance carrying the child acted on instructions and went straight to Ormskirk.

Well, if it was normal practice to have nothing to do with Southport why did the para medics ring the hospital?

Assurances have always been given that common sense would prevail. As you can imagine the local websites have been full of comment. The following contribution took my notice:

"My heart goes out to the babies family, I can understand totally what they are going through, as my wife and I lost our baby girl last March aged 3 days, she was taken to Southport and Formby DGH by the paramedics from our home in Southport and died a short time later. I could not Fault the staff at Southport A+E that directly worked on our daughter.

"Question: Why was the baby in March taken to Southport DGH BY PARAMEDICS, whereas with Bank Sq baby PARAMEDICS were told to take her to Ormskirk?"

We need to know if the protocols have changed in the few months between these two incidents? We need a transcript of the radioed message from the para medics to Southport Hospital.

Sunday, 12 July 2009

sefton youth have a voice

sefton youth
A great couple of hours today with young folk from Birkdale, Meols Cop, Litherland, Skelmersdale and Oldham youth clubs. Congratulations to evryone. I'll write up the full details later . If you 'click'on the photo you should get a slide show.

and finally

The expenses and allowances of councillors on Mersyside Transport have been published. Why did it take them so long? From the file name you would think that the information has been prepared for several weeks. All councillor's expenses are meant to be published as soon as possible. Draw your own conclusions. There are persistent rumours that the MPTE does not benefit from the advice of an independent panel. I find that hard to believe. It would be such a blatant rejection of good practice. The details can be found at : - then hover over "Corporate" near the top, then click on "About Merseytravel" in the list. MITA Member Allowance 2008/09 is 14th out of 16 on the list. They can also be found on the website (link on the left) in the download area.

Friday, 10 July 2009

RBS to blame for collapse?

Two key projects are under threat in Southport and some are wondering if it is the nationalised bank RBS who are to blame for closing a line of credit to the developer who has now gone in to administration.

Scarisbrick Ave is in the heart of Southport's tourist quarter linking Lord Street with the Promenade. Blythe Homes were developing the site and it was to accommodate the borough's Independent Living Centre and some social housing. To most folk the level of guaranteed investment should have ensured that the project was completed. Rumours persist that the attitude of Blythe's bankers RBS has led the scheme into difficulties

I had understood that we owned RBS as it has been nationalised. How come projects like this are grinding to a halt for want for credit? It would seem to me to illustrate two things; firstly the need for the government to take a more direct approach to the nationalised banks and secondly that when the banks return to profitability and are ( I hope) broken up and disposed of by the state that establishing regional banks so that locally based financial institutions can make informed local decisions is considered .
Below is an extract from the report made in public session to councillors this week. The full report is in the download section of the website:

Southport Commerce

2.39 The Bus Link Road
project, which would provide public transport access improvements to Southport
Commerce Park, and at the same time bring forward a further 2.9 hectares of the
remaining 20 hectares of development land within the Park, has now completed its
first phase, which is the removal of topsoil, and the compaction of the base.
The second phase is expected to start in July, which entails the actual
construction of the road surface. The project is expected to be completed by
November 2009.

2.40 The second
project on the Commerce Park involves bringing forward a new office development,
which would create some 5,776 m² of commercial floor space (1.2 hectares of
land) in order to provide quality office accommodation to meet potential local
demand. The total cost of this project is approximately £9,773,000, and due to
additional costs associated with land remediation works, Blythes Development
Ltd, the company responsible for this project, is seeking some £1.3 million from
the new European Programme. However, this project is now at risk as a result of
Blythe’s other company undertaking the Scarisbrick Avenue development project
going into administration, as indicated in paragraph 2.48

2.41 Members may be aware that on
the back of the proposed Blythe’s development above, Sefton Council was able to
‘secure’ £3.07m of RDA funding for the provision of electric power supply and
some remediation work. However, if Blythe’s proposals to create additional
commercial space does not progress then the argument for needing additional
electric power capacity will not be accepted by the RDA, thereby putting the
project at risk. Officers are currently working with the RDA and Blythe’s to
explore potential options.

An Independent
Living Centre

2.42The White Paper ‘Our Health, Our
Care, Our Say, provides a framework for the future delivery of health social
care, and imposes a statutory duty on local authorities to provide Independent
Living Centres by 2010. The Cabinet at its meeting on 30th October 2008, agreed
to the development of an independent Living Centre on Tulketh Street Car Park
(West), Southport. However, the location of the Centre at this site would have
resulted in loss of car parking income, and would have entailed the relocation
of the Cleansing operation, the cost of which were not quantifiable at the

2.43 Cabinet at its meeting on
26th February 2009, considered a report setting out the background into the
development of part ERDF/HLF grant funded 19–35 Scarisbrick Avenue, Southport
project by Blythe's, and the difficulties the developer was encountering as
result of the current economic climate. In order to ensure the completion of
this project, and minimise the possibility of claw-back of grant Members agreed
to the location of the Independent Living Centre on the ground floor of this

2.44 Unfortunately, the
developer Blythe’s has recently been put into administration, and officers are
currently having discussions with the appointed administrators,
PriceWaterhouseCoopers to explore potential options for the completion of this

indicated in paragraph 2.40 above, the developer undertaking Scarisbrick Avenue
Project as gone into administration as a result of the current economic
downturn. Consequently, the project is not yet completed, and unless Sefton
Council as the accountable body can demonstrate before the end of June 2009 that
the project will be completed, not only will the Council lose outstanding grant,
but will be required to repay the grant already claimed to date.

Councillor's allowances

At last night's Full Council I asked a question to my colleague Tony Robertson:


9 JULY 2009


1. Question submitted by Councillor Brodie Browne to the Leader of the Council (Councillor Robertson)

“Can the Leader use his best endeavours to have placed on the Council website a detailed list of all allowances actually paid to individual Councillors, both by the Council and by those bodies - both locally and nationally - funded from the Council tax through a precept or levy”

This may seem a strange question so let me explain the sub text. Many councillors sit bodies that are funded via local councils. There are allowances -which are in some cases very substantial -which the average interested member of the public looking on the Council website would not know about. So if I was interested in, say, Mark Dowd's claim and looked on the Sefton website I would come away with the impression that his total payment was circa £10k. I reality it is much closer to £60k. It would seem sensible that all the claims were published in one place so a member of the public seek to understand his/her councillors allowances does not have to become a private detective. This transparency is long over due. The same thought has occurred to the Labour Leader of Wirral Council.

Of course if it is to work there has to be some standardisation of accounting systems. Firstly all councillors payments must be published as soon as practically possible. That may not always be the case. Several months after the year end there are still no sign of the Merseyside Transport Authorities (or what ever it is now called) information. It would be strange if that information was not already prepared. Equally if the public is to compare like with like then we require some standardisation. The public have been most interested in expenses claims. Now if a body has an account with-say-a taxi firm and does not allocate to individual councillors the amount spent on that account or say a booking of a hotel or flight, then the public could get a very false impression. My colleague Fred Weavers occasioned some press comment for his travel expenses-all of which were perfectly proper. I do wonder if the public knew the full extent of expenditure incurred by other whether they might have taken a different attitude.

I asked the Leader a second question last night; 'would he use his best endeavours to ensure that all allowances paid to councillors have been subjected to review by an independent re numeration panel?'

Shock, horror, you don't mean that there some council bodies where the member make up their own allowances regime like the MPs? Surely not.

Sign up to KGV petition

The Southport Visiter deserves praise for taking the initiative and launching a petition about the KGV VIth College funding crisis. John Pugh MP has been on the case and raised this matter in Parliament. I think it is important that everyone gets behind the petition.
Writing in The Visiter John Siddle says:

KING George V College today thanked the Southport Visiter for leading a campaign calling on the government to release £40m it had promised for a dream rebuild.
On Friday, we launched a Downing Street petition demanding Gordon Brown delivers on a pledge to transform the town’s flagship college.
College chiefs were given a green-light to transform the Scarisbrick New Road campus into a world-class learning facility by the government-backed Learning and Skills Council (LSC).
They then spent £2m of taxpayers’ money in preparation of anticipated building work.
But their visionary plans were last week left hanging by a thread after the cash- strapped LSC suddenly scrapped the scheme.
The Visiter is continuing to call on the town to sign the petition, while the college has circulated an email to all staff and students asking for them to back our campaign.
KGV marketing director Tony Langan said: "We are really grateful for the backing the Visiter has given the college and the support it is showing.
"We are delighted such a strong local presence has launched a key campaign over the predicament we find ourselves in.
"We are very grateful."
Alumni of the college have rushed to the Downing Street website to sign the petition.

Richard McCulloch, 24, left KGV in 2003.
He said: "It’s a no-brainer to sign this petition. The government, via the LSC, promised the college much-needed money to bring it into the 21st century and those responsible need to be held to account."
A total of 79 college improvement schemes were given "approval in principle" only for it to emerge that the £2.3bn pledged did not exist.
Just 13 colleges will receive some form of funding.
Unsuccessful institutions – like KGV – will be reconsidered in 2011, but by then Britain will be in the grip of a squeeze on capital spending, raising serious questions about whether the scheme will ever go ahead.
Visiter editor Andrew Edwards said: "The money may be available in two years’ time, but there will be a general election before then, so who knows what will happen.
"We urge you to sign the petition and get Mr Brown to take positive action."
To sign our petition, visit

Worshipful Company of Paviors

Worshipful Company of Paviors have given Southport its top award. The work includes amongst other things the space around the War Memorial and in London Street. Well done. Residents have mentioned to me several times what a good job has been done.

Doing an equally good job are the two men photographed with Simon and me. They are cleaning the pavements on Lord Street and removing the chewing gum. You can see their handiwork outside the Town Hall and (where we are photographed) by the bandstand. This is no easy task. The men work between 6pm and 9pm and in 9 hours this week they have made a real impact. So please don't drop chewing gum-put it in the bins provided!

A copy of the Council's press release is in the download section of the website

Birkdale Village Summer Festival


Saturday 18th July, 2009
12 NOON - 4.30PM

Trade Stalls, BBQs and Food, Fairground Rides, Live music, Children`s Entertainmener

Starting at 12 noon, Birkdale Village will come alive with activities for the whole family.
The live music, performed from a stage, starts at 1pm and runs until approximately 4.30pm
6 different acts, including singers and bands, will be performing on stage during the afternoon - with something for everyone.

There will be plenty of Fun Fair rides and an Entertainer for the kids, too.

All the usual shops, cafes and bars and pubs will also be open during the afternoon.
There will also be BBQ`s and Food available.

Various trade stalls will be offering unique items for sale.
One of these will be Birkdale based business THE FAIR TRADE STORE. They will be selling unique Fair Trade gifts, Ethnic Jewellery, Funky Handbags and Recycled Fashion Accessories, including the now infamous Ugly Betty Bag.
You can check out the range by visiting their website at:-

Please come along to Birkdale Village with your friends and family to support this event and have a great afternoon of fun and entertainment.
Remember the date - Saturday 18th July.

Thursday, 9 July 2009

'Baby a' new protocol

I have written before about 'baby a'. This child died in Sefton and I was uncomfortable with the way that the issue was dealt with. No formal protocol existed for reporting the outcome of Serious Incident Report and the informal process seemed to me to be inadequate. I believe that if we are to learn the lessons of such incidents then that has to be done in public. It keeps us honest.

My colleague Richard Hands, chairs the Scrutiny and Review Committee and has been active in trying to improve the draft protocol that was presented to them. This is all laid out in the cabinet papers today in item 21. I think Richard and his committee have done a good job. The amendments that they have suggested are a great improvement on the original.

I was concerned at cabinet this morning to fill some of the gaps in the protocol which seemed to me ended without dealing with what happened to a Serious Incident Report (S.I.R) once it was published.

At the end of the session I think we had made further progress. We agreed at my suggestion that once a S.I.R. is published it should be reported to the Cabinet Member meeting and Scrutiny and Review. Given the synopsis is a public document I take it that the item will be held in public. My second proposal was that the FULL report should be shown to the 3 party leaders. This was accepted in principle and we are going to get a further report on how that will be implemented.

Clegg takes another brave intitiative

I've been itching for someone to raise the Afghan war. With 7 soldiers killed in 7 days it is time to think again about why we are there, whether we have the right tactics to achieve our objective and wher we can do things better. At the time of the troops going into Afghanistan we were all so relieved that Labour were not leading us into another illegal war that I'm beginging to think that there was not enough scruting of the policy.

Clegg gave a good account of himself on the Today programme:

Monday, 6 July 2009

Best wishes to Pat Sumner

Many of this blogs local readers will have been concerned to learn that Pat Sumner went into hospital for planned knee surgery. We are pleased to report that Pat is back home and making excellent progress. She speaks very highly of the staff at Ormskirk hospital and the care she received. She has a period now when she needs to learn to walk again but as we all know when Pat sets her mind to something it will be done. David Sumner is also winning rave reviews as a carer!
'Best wishes Pat and we all look forward to seeing you out and about '

Whose trusted less than politicians?

Intrigued to read a recent edition of the leading specialist publication "Professional Pensions". According to a survey by KPMG the reputation of personal finance advisers - those sales guys, usually on commission, who give face-to-face advice about investment - has been heavily damaged by the financial crisis. Not suprising. But the survey found that they were now seen as less trustworthy than politicians !

Sunday, 5 July 2009

and finally Cameron at LGA..............

He get good marks for theatre. Cameron moves around the platform -and especially with questions he was good at interacting with the audience. 'But was there any content?' I hear the sceptical reader ask., well not just the sceptical reader it was the anxiously asked question on the lips of Tories. I guess they were concerned because coming after Cable-who was content-rich- there was a danger that he would sound glib and 'lite'.

The answer to that question is not straight forward. He was keen to let the world know that 'he got it'; 'it' being that the world of politics has changed in the era of the internet. He praised transparency. He praised Boris for publishing the detail of all the Mayor's spending. In fact he praised the virtues of transparency so much I began to feel sorry for Caroline Spellman who was sat the the front row and whose Nanny know all about the impact of transparency.

Anyway open-ness is going save the world. It is going to lower public expenditure make politicians honest and stop Council squandering public money on 'white Elephants'.
To be fair this bit of his speech was impressive. He is not one of the politicians who is burying his head in the sand and hoping things will 'die down' and 'go away' He has recognised that the free flow of information is here to stay and that it is in a long term relationship with more exacting standards. Those politicians who think that the most significant impact of this 'transparency' has been the hurt and discomfort it has caused to themselves are going to get no comfort from him (Nadine Norries take note). Equally those who imagine that this is just a 'phase' and the public will get over it are also lost.

Welcome though open-ness is, and I approve, it is not the answer to every political and economic question. Tough questions still exist. As we all know Gordon Brown finds the whole issue of public expenditure tough. A rather clumsy question from a Lib Dem to Cameron about public expenditure cuts was quite revealing.

A little context here will help. The Tories are uptight about Osbourne. The tea rooms at Harrogate Conference Centre are open plan and you can't but help overhear other peoples conversations and indeed not having got a yellow spot on my delegates badge I was engaged in conversations with other delegates who knew nothing of my political allegiances. Osborne is a concern. Philip Hammond the Tory No2 is openly spoken of as having more nouse and actually being the 'brains'. I've no idea if this is true. Hammon's mother is a Council Leader somewhere and she was often sited as confirming this impression. Coupled with the dynamic within the Tory treasury team there is of course the problem that Vince presents to them. They don't know whether to praise him or attack him. It is in this context that Cameron's answer to the cuts in public expenditure was revealing.

Cameron suggested that in this debate there are three stages. Base one (pause for cheap joke about GQ magazine reporting that Clegg has reached base one quite a lot)-is to recognise that some thing has to be done. Cameron says our party is there. Base two is to identify obvious examples of waste-ID cards, NHS computer system etc. Base three is to identify things that you would really want to do but recognise are not possible because of the level of debt. The revealing bit was that completely unnecessarily he credited the Lib Dems with having got to Base three. He didn't even claim that the Tories had got there. Interesting.

There followed lots of predictable stuff about cutting council tax, councils sharing officers and CEO's like his council does etc. You do wonder what he would make of Sefton Tories are their spendthrift notions. Given his rhetoric what possible justification can there be for failing to accept a Chief Officer's recommendation to slim down the cadre of top highly paid staff and save the council tax payer £1m over two years as our Tory Councillors did . Well come to think of it they have never felt the need to embrace the era of open-ness and explain their spendthrift actions. I share Cameron's view that there should be no hiding place for those who waste the public's money. Sadly some of his Sefton members still think that it is the height of bad manners to raise the issue.

Thursday, 2 July 2009

LGA Vince Cable followed by Cameron

At breakfast -desperate to sit by an open window, I found myself at a table with two Labour councillors. 'What time is he on?' one asked. 'not till 10.30' said the other. They were talking not of David Cameron nor of the Labour cabinet member both speaking today but of Vince Cable.

At ten o'clock I made my way to the tearoom and struck up a conversation in the queue with an officer from the South of England. He had formerly worked in the NW and he was interested how we were getting on in the recession. He was explaining some complex scheme he was involved in when he glanced at his watch and asked me 'what time is he on?' 10.30. The room rapidly emptied as those of all parties and none made their way to hear Vince.

Richard Kemp was master of ceremonies. It was a good rousing introduction by Richard. He recalled being in the House of Commons and hearing Vince mocked and heckled and called Dr Doom for suggesting that we were on the brink of a banking collapse. As Richard knows it is always best to put the Tories firmly in their place. In truth had the Tories been in power they would have done nothing different in advance of the collapse -except move to lighter regulation. They know it.

Vince was billed to talk on localism and he did for bit and then he moved on to the economy and when questions came they to were on the economy.

The problem with localism is that everyone is in favour of it and almost everyone means something different by it. Vince was clear, for him it meant meant giving power to locally elected people. He held up the confident municipal activities of Chamberlain in Birmingham and even the Independence that local government had when he was a councillor to make and carry out major projects without the let or hindrance of central government. He acknowledged that as long as 75% of local government money came from Whitehall that control would continue and suggested that business rates should immediately be returned to local government.

As we all know Vince has a very particular style of delivery. He is appealing to your reason. The command and control mechanisms inflicted on local government were demeaning and had to go. Why should we be competing like school children for 'stars' awarded by a highly paid quango. The best people to judge local government are local people at the ballot box-altho he was quick to point out that the English needed to follow the Scots in reforming their electoral system for local government.

He wants the CAA and all its works to go. He reckoned that the compliance costs of all these targets and checks was £800m and that was better spent on services. But surly, one questioned asked, there is need for central government to objectively measure how local government is performing? It is a sign of the lack of confidence that many have that such a question was earnestly asked. Why does central government have to set up an expensive quango to look at local government? We are responsible. We have a mandate and are answerable not to a quango but to the electorate.

Vince was now warming to to his topic. The standards board should go, it was a kangaroo court. The building schools for the future was nonsense born of their centralise command and control model. It require significant recourse commitment even to get to stage one.

Local government should be free to borrow against its own assets to make important investments. He was scornful of the governments approach to funding social housing asserting that they would still be consulting when the General Election came.

Later in questions he pointed out other steps that could be taken immediately to restore local government. In particular he was critical of the quango the PCT and whilst he welcomed joint working he said that if the boundaries are coterminous they should be integrated under democratic control. Other unelected quango eg the LSC who had taken over when VIth forms and F.E. were effectively nationalised should be returned to local democratic control.

We then moved on to the economy. He was unimpressed by those who predicted with certainty a quick recovery. Yes there were some signs-but it would have been amazing if there was not given the scale of the government. He said that to that the economy was not just recovering from flu, it was more like a heart attack. Not since Macmillan has the government received so little revenue. The % of GDP that the government is borrowing is enormous. There is no certainty that there will not be a major loss of confidence in the financial markets if the government cannot demonstrate a clear way to pay down the debt.

He challenged others to spell out their plans and said that the Lib Dems were taking on the challenge and listed some reduction including Trident (better late than never), public sector pensions, and tax credit system -which is fiendishly complex, unclaimed by large numbers especially pensions and goes a long way up the income scale. Clear there are some other 'big ticket' defence items which may have been relevant in cold war times. In addition he refused to endorse Cameron's pledge that the health service was a sacred cow that can't be touched. Vince drew on his own recent experience in hospital to suggest that there was scope for improved performance.

The first question was from Jack Colbert. He wanted to know if Vince thought some areas would be hit harder by the recession.
Vince admitted that he had misread this issue (note to Gordon Brown-it is ok to admit you may have been wrong)to begin with he felt that as the crisis had been 'made in' the City and that a lot of the early job losses had been there in the financial sector this recession may have been centred there. It was now evident that this recession was going to impact hardest on the poorer areas of the country. Among other economic data he pointed to the recent figures on negative equity in the housing sector which had hit the urban conurbation of the north harder than the SE.

All in all an excellent contribution form Cable. He scorned high on content. Cameron certainly scored higher on the 'theatre' of his presentation-but on the way out of his speech I overheard a couple of Tories chundering about the 'need for more substance' but I will return to that when I post about Cameron's speech.

Hiding the Euro bag

It was lunch at the LGA conference in Harrogate and the delegates were all talking about the Cable/Cameron session-more of which later-when I met Jack Colbert. He and I were heading for the teas and coffees when we spied a third Sefton Councillor , Ron Watson. I was a tad surprised to see him at the Euro stand-but recalled that he does have some important role concerning Europe within the LGA. Jack and I were just about to say hello when Ron left carrying a striking blue and yellow plastic bag emblazoned with the logo of the European Union. He paused at the next stall to pick up a plain cotton bag and stuffed the Euro bag in to it. Is it not the done thing for a Tory to be seen with Euro material?

Wednesday, 1 July 2009

Mark Dowd got all the votes

Most Local authorities apportion their votes according to the strength of the various parties elected to them. I have 2 of Sefton's 4 votes 1 each being given to the two smaller parties. Not so it appears with Meseyside Passeger transport authority-or what ever it is called nowadays. The Chair Mark Dowd gets the lot even though Labour haven't even got a majority of the councillors and are only kept in power by an arrangement with the Tories! One Labour councillor, who was telling me this, complained that Dowd simply didn't 'get it' A quick read of the auditors report shows that it is not only other labour councillors who are concerned about some of the governance arrangements at the old MPTE.

Sandi Toksvig at LGA

At the LGA today we had Sandi Toksvig promoting the campaign for more women councillors and as part of that she spoke at the Lib Dem group meeting this afternoon. She had a very good joke about stress and a rectal thermometer which will doubtless be recycled so I will not spoil it by repeating it here. Sadly the leadership had managed to have a 'top table' full of men (see photo). Apparently of the 4300 Lib Dem councillors in England a third are women and a third of our group leaders are women. Altho that is progress it is hardly equality. Ms Toksvig then had her photo taken with our women councillors including, from our neck of the woods, the Deputy Leader of St Helens Suzanne Knight who is in the front row of the photo-I hesitate to describe fashion but she is wearing the blue/green top.
Public sector pensions are a big talking point here in Harrogate. It is worth checking out what Vince Cable has written here

LGA part 3

About a hundred Lib Dems turned up to the group meeting and 150 to the annual dinner. Richard Kemp was elected unopposed for a further 2 years as the group leader. He has been very visible at this conference summing up on the Climate Change motion, responding to the debate on local government's response to the credit crunch and again in the evening (pictured above) speaking to the annual dinner. Richard loves to please an audience. He was full of praise for the role of District Councils which pleased many delegates, but he always manages to smuggle some content into utterances. In the economic session he was firm in telling councils not to involve themselves in empty gestures, to be a head of the curve in local intelligence about changes in the economy and to be prepared to innovate. In particular he praised Essex Council for the launch of its local bank. It will be interesting to see whether Vince Cable takes up that theme tomorrow, He has argued for along time that the big banks need breaking up and has suggested that the mutual model of ownership may be appropriate. In the NW we have lost our local banks and many building societies, recreating them out of the nationalised bank would return to the regions a level of economic power that has been lost.

LGA part 2

It was good to bump into Sir Ron Watson at the conference he is seen above pictured with Cllr Jack Colbert a Maghull Lib Dem Councillor. Ron is held in high regard by many Tories in the local government world and one or two have siddled up to me to ask about what is going on with Sefton Tories; what with Les Byrom desertion to Labour and the involvement of the wider party in the David Pearson botched deselection.
Sir Ron is well known for his love of Jazz and the Goon show. I was told by one delegate that Sir Ron had delivered the spoof political speech from the Goon Show in the Sefton council chamber and that nobody had noticed!
David Williams-for many years the leader of Richmond Council and a Lib Dem councillor there for several decades also spoke highly of Sir Ron (altho not of his politics!) He shares a passion for jazz but admitted that Ron's taste in these matters was a bit more 'advanced' than his.
I was interested to hear from David their experience fighting the Tories in Richmond, where the mega rich Zac Goldsmith is pouring money into the seat. He and others said that the Tory campaign was very negative with lots of knocking copy. It does make you wonder. The BBC radio programme The Age of MING examined how the negative campaign against Ming Campbell was successful. Now Ming is a fit man-ex Olympic Sprinter, and nobody ever left a meeting with Ming thinking that he hadn't understood what was going on. Food for thought.