Tuesday, 26 May 2009





This photograph was taken exactly 100 years ago. Pictured are the members of the Re-Building Sub Committee of the grandly named Birkdale and County Liberal Club. They are standing: Messrs. SW. Chant and H. Norton (Hon. Treasurers) and W. Coward. Seated Messrs. H. G. Williamson (Hon. Secretary) Charles Brumm JP (Chairman) and A. Schofield (Architect).

A hundred years ago there were no fewer than four Liberal Clubs in Southport – a fifth the Craven Ward Liberal Club in Ash Street had closed down the previous year. The other clubs were the Southport Liberal Club at 37 Chapel Street. The High Park Liberal Club in Devonshire Road which later became the Queens Cinema and is now the Devonshire Club and the Gladstone Liberal Club was in Sussex Road. In 1912 another Liberal Club was opened at the Rotunda Buildings, Liverpool Road, Ainsdale.

At that time no intoxicating beverages were sold at any of the Liberal Clubs although the Birkdale Liberal Club’s rules permitted members to bring in alcohol but “only on special occasions and then by consent in writing of the House Committee”.

The Southport Divisional Liberal Association held a five day Bazaar in October 1907 which raised £4,000 three-quarters of which was allocated to the various Liberal Clubs, which suggests that they were not simply social meeting places but also housed much political activity. The Annual Report of the Club for 1909 referred to ‘Political addresses under the auspices of the Debating Society being delivered in the Lecture Rooms’.

The original premises of the Birkdale Liberal Club were situated in Alma Road. More commodious premises were acquired in Eastbourne Road where the Southport Guardian Reported “The Club became a political and social centre of importance in the district”. By 1894 the need for more central premises resulted in premises being acquired at 33 Liverpool Road. The grant of £1,200 from the Southport Divisional Liberal Association enabled the premises to be enlarged and renovated. The Club’s Annual Report for 1909 stated “The members are to be congratulated upon the present appearance of the building, both externally and internally; comfort and convenience have been conspicuously attained in the remodelling of the premises. This has been signally manifested by the large accession of members”.

The distinguished gentleman sitting in the middle of the front row was Charles Brumm JP, known locally as “Our CB” (so as not to be confused with Campbell-Bannerman). He had been Chairman of the Club for five years and in October 1909 was presented by members of the Club with an Illuminated Address.

The balance sheets of the Birkdale Conservative Club and B irkdale Club for 1908 make interesting reading. Significantly the licensed premises of the Conservative Club revealed receipts for refreshments of £316-3-7d whereas their Liberal counterparts totalled £146-5-1d for refreshments and tobacco.
Inevitably the Birkdale Liberal Club did eventually become licensed but gradually lost its Liberal links and in September 1957 it was reported that the committee found it impossible to carry on any longer and the affairs were put in the hands of a liquidator. Subsequently the building opened as the Birkdale Labour Club




My thanks to Michael Braham who has furnished me with this information. Good to know that Birkdale Libs were more liberal than some- allowing alcohol occasionally . Many in Southport will remember when (during the Lib Lab pact I think) when the Labour club sign fell down revealing the old Liberal Club sign.


For contrast I've included a picture taken 100yrs to the day of the present day Lib Dem committee in Birkdale

Welcome a new recruit from Labour

The full details of the Lab councillor who has joined us here. I will post more on this when I get back to Southport.

Another Labour defection

Paul Larkin, a labour councillor from Bootle has joined the Lib Dems. More to follow. The Liverpool Post has the full story for those who can't wait. Welcome. Paul is the sort of defector who is good news.
Sent using BlackBerry® from Orange

Friday, 22 May 2009

Beware small parliament

Beware that Cameron arguing for a smaller parliament will entrench the two party system with lots of safe seats. If the HofC was cut to 400 and seat to a well over 100,000 it would be desperately difficult for anyone other than the Lab and Cons to win seats. Little chance for Independents/Greens and even Lib Dems would be pushed.
Have a smaller parliament if you wish but it must be by PR and preferably by a system where the electorate and not the party machines decides between candidates from the same party. That system is called STV

bigger majority = bigger chance of expences scandal

If you read nothing else on the expenses scandal please go and look here on Mark Reckon's blog. I am no statistician but Mark is and has worked out the correlation between a safe seat and being caught fiddling the expenses system. Polly Toynbee picked it up in the Guardian and Labour's Ben Bradshaw used his research to argue for PR on Question Time.

Wednesday, 20 May 2009

What is a backbench MP for?

I was chatting to a Labour Councillor of my acquaintance recently. He is a well informed and asserted that he got more case work than a particular MP he knows. I was intrigued by this suggestion. It has struck me over the last 20 years that with all the quangos, arms length organisations and privatisations that have been created the balance of power has shifted away from local councillors. As a result folk are more likely to go to their MP with a complaint about, say, the water company, than they are to come to a councillor. Now granted that the backbench MP he was talking about has not got a desperately high profile and (at present enjoys a safe seat) probably does not advertise him/herself in the way that a Lib Dem MP or an MP in a marginal seat might do. If so why is s/he there? They are not seeking ministerial advancement. Select committees are feeble things and certainly not an alternative career structure as they are in the States. I doubt they would find much satisfaction in putting down the toadying questions that the whips hand out.

All this could change . If the House of Commons became a real vital part of our democracy; holding public hearings, confirming ministers or quango chiefs in office etc, then clearly that would be a proper job and the MPs whose sole fulfilling role is to do their casework would be drawn into a meaningful contribution. What then would happen to there 'super social worker' role if they had a proper 'day job' to do?

I guess that strengthening local democracy and accountability is part of the answer. Local councillors should and could be responsible for local casework and if they had real influence they might bend their minds to fixing the problems that give rise to the queries in the first place. Part of fixing the constitution is to clear what the role of MPs is that are not ministers or waiting to be minister. We will not get good folk to stand if we send them to Westminster to have the minds numbed.

No popish plot

One of the highlights of last nights coverage of the fall of Speaker Martin was the sight of George Foulkes looming into a view to assert it was 'anti' catholic'. This I genuinely doubt, despite the Archbishop fighting his corner, frankly it is about as plausible as suggesting that there was a 'popish' plot not to criticise him.

Reform

The world of politics may not be newly made this morning but the chance that it may be is real-and that cannot be said to have been the case for too long. I've heard all the sage old uncles tell us about strengthening the parliament against the executive, elected Select Committee Chairs and even electoral reform.
One dimension of the reform I have not heard is the need to strengthen the local and provincial against the centre. It is often said that England is the most centralised of unitary states. One of the key measures of how reformed our new system is will be how much power is wrestled from Westminster government to Town Halls and if we create new structures like the Welsh Assembly within England.

Tuesday, 19 May 2009

Time for wider political reform

We don't get this opportunity very often, but let us go for it.. We need to go for further than tinkering with who is Speaker. Lets go for an elected House of Lords, the full Freedom of Information Act Labour denied us, a proper written Constitution which among other things limits the power of the Prime Minister, decentralises power away from Westminster/Whitehall and gives us fix term parliaments.
Voting Reform need also to be on the agenda too but we need to be aware that those who have fiddled most appear to be from 'safe' seats. Some PR systems do create very safe seats so we must not be bought off by those who wish to give us ASS or party lists but go for systems which allow the electorate to state their preferences between candidates

“blown out of proportion and I would prefer not to comment it will only encourage feeding on what is a load of alarm-rousing piffle

This has been blown out of proportion and I would prefer not to comment it will only encourage feeding on what is a load of alarm-rousing piffle.” said Ann Winterton when challenged about her dodgy claim. The Daily Telegraph has the story. Judge for yourself. If I were in Congleton today I would have an online petition demanding that she pays back every penny.
Mark Pack at libdem voice has sussed out the voting on the motion that stymied expences reform last year. Here are the key bits:

Last summer an unholy alliance of Labour and Conservative MPs voted to
block a series of major reforms to MP expenses, such as requiring receipts for
all claims, having outside checks and major changes to the Additional Costs
Allowance (ACA).......
On looking through the details of the vote it is good to see that all the Liberal Democrat MP voting went through the lobbies in favour of reform. Of course, the bulk of the blame for blocking the reforms must lie with the Labour Party as 146 of their MPs voted to block the reforms but given David Cameron’s strident recent comments, it’s striking to see that seven of his frontbenchers, and 21 MPs in total, voted to block reform when they had the chance. This was enough to see the measure defeated.

The 21 Conservative MPs who voted to block reform were:

David Amess
James Arbuthnot
Henry Bellingham
Brian Binley

John Butterfill
Christopher Chope

John Greenway
Gerald Howarth
Bernard Jenkin
Julie Kirkbride
Eleanor Laing

Andrew MacKay
Anne McIntosh
Andrew Rosindell
Hugo Swire
Sir Peter Tapsell
Angela Watkinson
Ann Widdecombe

David Wilshire
Ann Winterton
Nicholas Winterton

Monday, 18 May 2009

Cameron gets it wrong

I've never been much impressed by Cameron but even I admit that in media terms he has got the right tone in the last week and given the rotten hand Tory MPs gave him he has minimised the damage to his party. Now I think he has blown it. The BBC are reporting that he has a petition going calling for an immediate General Election. That sound far too much to me like putting narrow party interest in front of what is good for the nation

The Kama Sutra of European positions

With Chris Davis in town I thought this bit of European analysis should get an airing:

Writing in the Observer, columnist Nick Cohen argued that Conservative MEPs will
be "isolated" in the European Parliament, and "will make the journey from
influence to irrelevance overnight."

He also argued that

"Britain has three coherent European policies: to leave (Ukip); to go further in (the Liberal Democrats); and to co-operate but remain aloof from full integration (the Major, Blair and Brown administrations). Cameron lacks the courage to choose any of the above and his indecision will produce a crisis"

Ralph Gregson

I am sure that we were all sorry to hear of Ralph Gregson's illness. Ralph has been a fixture in the community life of Birkdale for decades. He has given his time generously to the Civic Society and Farnborough Rd Infants School and the Conservative party. It follows that we may not always have agreed with Ralph but nobody doubted that he was genuine in his efforts.

Ralph went into hospital on Monday 12th May to remove a tumour behind his ear. The operation went ahead on Tuesday but took a lot longer than anticipated. On Thursday Ralph had a stroke. I understand that his speech and memory are ok but his right arm is numb.

We wish him a speedy recovery and hope that he is soon home with his wife Pat. I understand that until then it would not to appropriate to be send emails to him

Open and Honest MEP expencess........


Chris Davis brought his petition on open and honest expences to Southport this morning.
Chris the MEP who had the courage to 'out' Den Dover the man elected as a TORY MEP who claimed £700,000+ .
Chris is seen here with David Sumner, Sue Maquire and me

Chris Davis and I Love Southport


On his visit to Southport our MEP met the 'mastermind' of the 'I love southport because...' campaign. Jim presented him with one of the campaign's badges.


Chris Davis backs the Burscough Curves campaign

David Sumner met with Chris Davis -who had just got of the train from Bolton- to sign him up to the campaign to restore the Burscough curves. This will restore the rail link to Ormskirk and Preston and onwards to the main west coast route north.

Sunday, 17 May 2009

Another dimension of Baby a

As the aftermath of Baby a is being worked out-I sincerely hope that is being worked out (altho I would be more comfortable if all the new childcare measures being introduced in the borough were badged 'response to Baby a' as opposed to referring to Haringey and Baby P all the time) I noticed this brave comment from David Boyle. It begins:

I don’t really know why, but I find I’ve been haunted all weekend by the
story of the mother who hit her child on the arm with a hairbrush because he
wouldn’t get dressed for school. Maybe it was a bank holiday awareness of the
difficulties of bringing up children; maybe it was just wondering whether I had
the nerve to write this. Who knows...........

The Chartist wanted payment of MPs

My eye caught a post from the Warwick and Leamington PPC urging a return to the spirit of the Chartists. I too have found my thoughts turning to the Chartists in recent days. Like many teenagers swotting for History O levels/GCSE I learnt a list of the six points of the Charter :
Payment of MPs
Equal electoral districts
annual parliaments
abolition of the House of Lords
universal male suffrage
and one other I can't remember at present
Anyway I learnt the list in Leamington Spa where I went to school and at about the time I was doing my O levels I joined the YLs.
The Chartists championed payment of MPs so as to make it possible for candidates who were not wealthy to enter parliament. Much the same reasoning was used to pay councillors. In truth I doubt either the Chartist or those who wanted more generous allowances for councillors dreamt that things would turn out the way they have. However much we maintain that we deserve our payments and justify them with job evaluation report and independent pay panels the magic ingredient of public approval does not automatically follow.
Every year our allowances are published and folk nod their heads believing that it confirms their view we are in it for the cash.
It is the same with Senior Officer pay. Sefton advertised the CEO job at £150k on the advice of 'independent' experts and no doubt a 'Hay' job evaluation. In recent years there has been mega inflation in Senior Officer's pay. I'm sure we all look at the average pay for Chief Execs and think to ourselves that we want to be a bit above the average and so the average creeps up. And, of course there are officers on hand who sagely tell you that you are doing the right thing. It is only by acting together across local government that we will bring the cost under control. Personally I doubt that there will be a mass exit to the private sector or emigration to Canada.
At least in local government these things are all done in public and not clouded in secrecy-which brings to mind the final point of the Charter-secret ballots.
Interestingly the only 2 points of the charter to be enacted have been payment of MP's(1911) when Lloyd George was Chancellor and the Secret ballot (1872)when Gladstone was Prime Minister.

Phew, Pugh publishes expences

Southport MP opened his books to John Siddle in the Visiter this week revealing that he is 515th in the league of claimers. (I'm not sure why Siddle gets all these jobs; he was the one who Les Byrom -former Tory Leader-opened his heart to when he walked out on his erstwhile squabbling colleagues) Well done both Johns.

Pugh's claims contrast dramatically with the mega claims of next door Lab MP Clare Curtis Thomas.

I guess it is a bit personal with me but the Tory couple from Cheshire really seem to be getting off light. I fought two General Elections against Mrs Winterton in the 1990s. She loved to play the 'grand dame' refusing to do public meetings and often sending other people to answer questions. Anyway for all her moralising and back to basics politics the Daily Telegraph noted:

Sir Nicholas Winterton and his wife Ann, who are both Tory MPs, claimed more
than £80,000 in rent for a small London flat that was owned by a trust
controlled by their children.

Read the full story here

I predict that they will not pay back the £80,000 and if Cameron moves against them then they like Den Dover will hang on to the money-after all they think they've done nothing wrong.

Birkdale Fairtrade coffee morning

Cllr Hands and I made an early stop at the Faitrade Coffee Morning at St John's yesterday morning. I understand that there was a good turn out with many folk making purchases.
Further details can be found at:
http://www.thefairtradestore.co.uk/
The firm is based at the Birkdale Trading estate on Liverpool Rd and so provides an opportunity to shop locally whilst supporting producers from the developing world. I was impressed by the range of goods available so please visit their web site.
The photo shows Richard chatting to the firms founder.

Saturday, 16 May 2009

Cambridge Ward Coffee morning




Ronnie Fearn won a raffle prize again and Charlie did the washing up so business as usual. A good turn out both of Councillors and Cambridge ward supporters








Friday, 15 May 2009

In April at the begining of the scandal surrounding MPs' expenses I noticed an article in the local paper about a local resident being sent to prison over a housing benifit case. I thought I would reproduce it now. I was thinking what are the odds that the Winterton's have repaid all the money; not because it was outside of the rules but simply because their behavior was wrong.





I write this with care. Today's Southport Visiter carries a front page story about a man who has been given a 10month prison sentence for fiddling his welfare claims. I have no objection to that. As I read down the story I found he has claimed about £16,000 pound housing benefit from Sefton council. It turned out that as the Visiter
reports:
"The local authority’s investigation discovered that the property
was held intrust by Charles and Pauline Smith, who are the claimant’s parents."


Now let us turn to a wholly separate story to see how somebody else was
dealt with who handed over their property to a trust and then claimed expenses. This report from the Daily Telegraph.



I watched Question Time last week and there was a discussion on Jacqui Smith's claim for a second home allowance. I suspect that rather like the Winterton's the claim it is within the rules. In the programme Sarah Teather revealed that as the MP for Brent -which is classed as on outer London Borough -under the rules she is entitled to a second home allowance! This clearly barking and to her credit Sarah has not claimed the allowance. Sadly the Winterton's have not exercised the same moral
judgement

Kew Ward Councillors on Tandem



At last night's mayor making I showed a picture of Maureen-our new Deputy Mayor-on a tandem with her ward colleague Fred Weavers. In response to several requests I've posted the photo on our website: http://birkdalelibdems.org.uk/ if you follow the links to 'photo gallery' you can get a high quality version

Birkdale fair Trade event

There will be a FAIR TRADE COFFEE MORNING on Saturday 16th May, 2009.

The venue is the Church Hall, at St John`s Church, St Johns Rd, Birkdale. (near to the Tesco Express on Liverpool Rd)

Commencing at 10am until 12noon. Entry is FREE and free, easy parking is available nearby.

The Southport based business, THE FAIR TRADE STORE, will be displaying a full range of beautiful Fair Trade Gifts, Every Day Items and Food and Drink for sale.
Check out their full range at

http://www.thefairtradestore.co.uk/


Tea, Coffee and snacks etc will also be available and a raffle will be held.

Everyone is welcome, so please come along and "help to make a difference"

Please call 01704 551900 if any further information is required.


and for Lib Dems worried about the clash with Cambridge Ward Coffee Morning-fear not, there is time to do both as there's (which is switched to Sue Maquire's) starts at 10.30am.

Cycle town

I've finally received the 'official' photos from the launch of one of our Cycle Town initiative. This scheme provide bikes for visitors to hire from hotels and from the Eco Centre.
In the picture Left to right: Simon Shaw, Mike Booth, Fred Weavers, David Pearson, the Chair of Cycling England, Ronnie Fearn and me

Mayor Making

Last nigh Alf Doran was installed as Mayor of Sefton. Alf is a popular choice and is well liked and respected across the council. We all wish him well.








Southport's Food and Drink Festival

Southport's Food and Drink festival is underway. After Cabinet yesterday we went to have a look round.
I've already reported on the 'Love food hate waste' campaign. There was lots more beside-including many local suppliers and producers promoting their goods. It is well worth a visit.

Thursday, 14 May 2009

Richard's leak



On Monday of this week my colleague, Richard Hands, noticed that there was a water leak on the pavement in the village he contacted United Utilities who sent an inspector out 2 days later the workman are fixing the leak . That's what I call service

Tuesday, 12 May 2009

Toothless Cameron

I know he is strutting around desperate to seem in control of events and issuing dire threats against Tory MP's with dodgy expenses claims, but wait the man has 'previous'. Remember Den Dover, the man from Southport elected as a Tory MEP who took £700,000+ in expenses paid to a family firm. Cameron huffed and puffed and demanded he pay it back. Has he??



Compare and contrast these two videos as Chris Davis (the Norman Baker of the Euro parliament) tries to hold the Southport man to account.



Congratulations to Gateshead

  • Despite having every opportunity to win their play off tie against Gateshead Southport were unable to score the elusive goal even tho they had the giants share of possession for long periods. Gateshead have been promoted for the second successive year. Ah well, at least at the Conference level we do not have the scale of problems that Vince Cable outlines in his article in today's Daily Mail. It is certainly worth reading

Monday, 11 May 2009

new poll in Times

Tuesday's Times has a new poll which puts the Tories below 40% and Labour down another 4%. Lib Dems are up and to within touching distance of Labour. This poll was taken before the Telegraph got round to the Tory Grandees mega expenses claims. I suspect that a Tory tumble in the polls will follow. The question is whether any Lib Dems have screwed up. If they have I suspect that Clegg must move against them decisively.

Phone mast survey


My colleague Peter Hough has launched a survey on Sefton's policy on phone masts. I have logged an on line version at:

Labour's Post Office row comes to Sefton




I see that there is an attempt by the Bootle Labour Party to drag Sefton Council into the internecine warfare that is going on within in the Labour Party over the future of Royal Mail. The Left is trying to launch a campaign aimed at undermining their own governments approach to Royal Mail. Bootle Councillor John Fairclough has a motion down to this weeks cabinet. You know when a governing party is 'past it' when their backbench MP's boast about taking it on.

Now let us be clear backbenchers should revolt if their government is way off track. My problem with Bootle Labour party is that it was way too pusillanimous to take on their government over the illegal Iraq War. When we moved a rather mild motion-that had gained Labour support in other areas-not one of them had the moral courage to vote with us or even abstain. There were Labour MP's who did have that courage. Robin Cook memorably resign and our MP, John Pugh, described Cook's resignation speech as the most impressive parliamentary occasion he has witnessed. Not so Bootle Labour Party. Now all of a sudden they want to square up to their own government. Frankly it is a declaration that they are no longer interested in governing and want to have a bust up in the Labour party. The electorate will judge them harshly. They don't like divided squabbling parties-even if the rebels have a populist cause. Cllr fairclough's motion is a bit of an internal Labour Party dispute and tied up with motions passed at the labour party conference.

John Major's government suffered over Europe, the Alliance suffered over defence and now the Labour Party is tearing itself to bits over a trade union campaign.

Anyway let us not intrude on private grief and instead look at the issue.

John Thurso the Lib Dem MP who speaks on these matters in the House Of Commons has written:






The Royal Mail Group consists of two distinct operations: Post Office Limited which is responsible for all the post offices and Royal Mail which is responsible for the collection, sorting and delivery of mail.

The Post Office network has been badly underfunded by a succession of governments. Both the last Conservative and the present Labour administration have overseen a huge programme of post office closures as a direct result. The
Liberal Democrats have long campaigned for the maintenance of the Post Office
network and recognised this problem some years ago. Our policy calls for the
Post Office network to be wholly ring-fenced as a publicly owned enterprise
which should benefit from investment to enable it to develop into a “postbank” as well as being a point of contact for people requiring advice with regard to benefits, pensions and tax credits.

The Royal Mail, as the Hooper Report points out, has a difficult problem. The most significant competitor to the Royal Mail is now email, text and other forms of electronic communication. It is vital that Royal Mail begins to use modern techniques in order to be able to continue to uphold the universal service obligation.

Liberal Democrat policy therefore is to sell 49% of the Royal Mail, ensuring overall control is retained by the Government and the staff, and to use some of the proceeds to invest in a modernised Post Office. Further, we would put at least one-quarter of the Royal Mail into an employee-owned trust so Royal Mail workers become employee owners along the lines of the John Lewis model.

I have signed EDM No. 668, which
advocates an excellent solution for the Post Office network and reads:

“That this House notes the vital importance of the Post Office
network to communities both urban and rural; believes that the Post Office
network is well placed to deliver a range of financial services and products
which would assist in combating financial exclusion; further believes that the
Post Office network offers an opportunity to act as an advisory interface
between the state and the citizen in matters such as benefit and tax credit; and
further believes that in light of the Hooper Review the Post Office network must
be ring-fenced as a discrete, publicly owned network, and that the Government
should invest in the network to create a postbank and advisory service.”








Saturday, 9 May 2009

Birkdale Fish and Chip Supper




A good night was had by all at the Birkdale Fish and Chip supper. The Grantham Rd Chippy did us proud with their excellent fish and chips. Ronnie Fearn could not attend but inevitably won a raffle prize-so to did Tony Robertson who walked off with a bottle of whisky.
We, of coursed, 'shopped' locally so as well as the Grantham Rd Chippy we had beer from the Southport Brewery. Joan Coleman - a real ale aficionado-was most impressed with the brew which was Carousel.
Thanks to all who helped.


Friday, 8 May 2009

Was their blood on the walls of the Tory group meeting?

Last night saw Sefton council's annual meeting.Rumours have swirled around for some days that the Tory group meeting was less than happy. Readers should be aware that whatever improvement there has been in Tory fortunes elsewhere in Sefton they have lost seats to us in each of the last three years-and there has been one defection to Labour. Mrs Parry now leads the smallest ever Tory group on Sefton. In addition her vindictive behavior to the most successful Tory ward in Southport (Dukes) means that even within that small group there are some members have been forced to be semi detached. We all noted that Cllr David Pearson has been left with very little; well nothing commensurate with his ability-which is a loss to the council as a whole.

So was Vinnie Platt pushed or did he fall. Vinnie has been a Tory cabinet member for a year-hand picked by Mrs Parry, now he has been dropped. The spin doctors were out in force last night saying that this was not an example of nastiness but good man management done for sound and sensible reasons. For the sake of balance I should also say that there were Tories eager to tell me that if I believed that I was lacking in understanding!

We do know that Mrs P did allow a vote on whip and Cllr Barry Griffith's replaced Vinnie in that role. By any definition that is a swing to the right. Cllr Griffiths will be judged by some as an inappropriate choice for the portfolio which includes equalities and was described to me last night by a well informed observer as a 'golf club reactionary.' I didn't get the impression that meant he necessarily belonged to a golf club.

Thursday, 7 May 2009

Lib Dem council positions

At their AGM Sefton Lib Dems voted for who should serve on which bit of the council. Other groups give this power to the Leader, we trust our members. All elections are carried out by STV or AV as appropriate.
A full list is lodged on the download part of the website which can be accessed via the button on the left of that site.

Love Food Hate Waste


One of the great successes of Sefton alternative weekly waste collection has been the introduction of the weekly food waste pick up which is done with other recyclable material.

Sefton has seen a significant increase in recycling since our wheelie bin system was introduced. Initially there were many (Tory) knockers of the policy-although they never produced a budget amendment to fund the multi million gap that would arise if it were scrapped. in particular we have out performed neighbouring authorities by reducing the amount of waste that goes to landfill-and hence have a lower tax bill from the government. You would have thought that those who are claiming to be eco friendly would have embraced the idea.

Anyway one issue that we all noticed was the vast amount of food waste. Clearly prevention is better than cure so I was pleased to get this invitation this morning:



Launch of the “Love Food Hate Waste” campaign for Merseyside & Halton at Southport Food & Drinks Festival.
11am Thursday 14th May in the Demonstration Kitchen, Festival Pavilion. (In front off Southport Town Hall/Arts Centre)

Recently money was secured from the national Waste Resources Action Programme and MWDA to deliver a food waste prevention campaign ‘Love Food Hate Waste’ for Merseyside and Halton.
The "Love Food, Hate Waste" campaign aims to raise awareness of the need to reduce the amount of food that we throw away and inform of how doing this will benefit us as consumers and the environment.
We all throw food away. In fact households in the UK throw 6.7 million tonnes of food away every year. Put another way a third of food bought is thrown away. Food waste makes up 17% of Merseysides and Halton’s ~ 800,000 tonnes of household waste; this is a huge amount of preventable waste going to polluting landfill and at a significant and increasing public cost.
Wasting food costs the average family £610 a year and has serious environmental implications too. The food we throw away is a waste of resources. Just think about all the energy, water and packaging used in food production, transportation and storage. This all goes to waste when we throw away perfectly good food.
If we all stopped wasting food the CO2 impact would be the equivalent of taking 1 in 5 cars off the road. Food waste can be significantly reduced by applying knowledge of portion size, appropriate food storage, use by/ best before dates and recipes using leftover ingredients.
Come and join us at the Merseyside and Halton “Love Food Hate Waste” launch event and find out more. If you cannot join us you may want to find out more about the practical tips on how we all can reduce food waste at lovefoodhatewaste.com

More pictures from Cycle Town Launch



















As you will have guessed I left my camera behind at the launch as was dependent on my phone to take the photos. I had popped in earlier in the week to look at the set up and so have some pictures from my earlier visit.


The bikes Southport has chosen are English built Pashley's as ridden by Miss Redgrave in the film 101 Dalmatians -well not exactly because the model we have chosen is the one used by the Royal Mail posties.

Nick Clegg - A Past-Life Rock Legend?




From our popular culture correspondent


Peter Hough




While listening to Radio 2's 'Sounds of the Sixties' last Saturday, my wife and I got a shock. We thought we knew everything about our leader, so we couldn't believe our ears. There was presenter, Brian Matthews saying: "Well that was 'River Man' by Nick Clegg. "Surely Matthews meant Nick Drake? Or did he know something we didn't?


So was Mr Clegg really the cult legend who supposedly died in 1974? Allready I was thinking along the lines of 'conspiracy theory', and wondering if there was a book in it... Then we did our maths. In 1969 when 'River Man' was recorded, Clegg would barely have been out of nappies. Oh well! Perhaps the earlier news bulletin featuring a soundbite from Nick on the Ghurkhas had something to do with the presenter's Freudian slip?

Southport Cycle Town




Southport as a Cycle Town took and ride forward yesterday with the launch of the visitors cycle hire scheme. The Chairman of Cycle England cut the tape on the Hire Centre which is based at the Eco Centre. Several hotels are involved in the scheme and we were told this is the first scheme of its type in England. My colleague Simon Shaw is seen with Fred Weaver's super lightweight fold up bike.

Tuesday, 5 May 2009

Sefton's 'Drug death baby scandal'

The full page banner headline in tonights Liverpool Echo screams 'Drug Death Baby Scandal-parents has 150 drug convictions, Born a heroin addict, found dead on sofa at 3 months'

Baby A died in 2005. Last week the matter was reported to the Overview and Scrutiny Committee for the first time. A summary of the report is here under 'Agenda item, 6' There are many questions that need to be asked about the conduct of all those involved in baby A and his family. They have been picked over by a serious incident report and later by ofted and now the O&S committee is looking at the matter. My ward colleague, Cllr Hands chairs that committee.
I do not here want to examine the conduct of the professionals involved. As the report says 'urgent cultural changes' are required. At this point I would like to consider how the council dealt with the matter.
I should begin by saying that I knew nothing about this issue-but I'm only a Cabinet member so why should anyone tell me? Like many people I have followed proceedings in Haringey and watched Lynne Featherstone deal with these difficult matters. When the national Ofsted report came out at the end of last years criticising Local Authorities for the time they took to hold serious incident enquiries I decided to write to the Sefton's Children's Department to ask how we measured up. My letter was acknowledge but despite several chases I got no substantial response.
Some time later I got a note from the 'communications' department saying that the Sunday Telegraph were sniffing around a story about a child's death in the borough and that some might appear at the weekend. I hunted around on the internet for further information but no search engine came up with any further information until I managed to put in the finally correct words that came up with the Summary report. In accordance with the law this had been published on a website-but I've yet to find anyone who has found it without help. I learn that even the Sunday Telegraph journalist didn't find it!
I asked around colleagues who I thought ought to have been briefed as to whether they knew anything. All of them said that they could recall nothing. Clearly that is not the same as not having been told and I shall return to that later. I am satisfied that nothing was said to the leader of the council or our Education spokesperson at the time the report was published -which was years after the incident.
I then privately approached the new Chief Exec to bring to her my concerns. Now I do not flatter myself that I was the only person who was uneasy with these proceeding and I trust others were also acting-but if they were I knew nothing about it.
I am deputy leader of our group-the largest party on the council- and in the Leaders absence I and the Tory leader were called to a meeting with the Education cabinet member and spokespeople for the Tories and ourselves plus senior officers. This provided a full briefing.
In my role as Cabinet Member for Performance I meet other Cabinet members and senior officers twice a year to review how the council is achieving against their agreed objectives. Sefton has a system where departments draw up local service plans so this is not a matter of just looking at Government target (altho it is that) but also we explore how we are performing against objectives that the council itself believes to be important. I was keen to see how the department was learning the lessons from the serious incident report and integrating them into their departmental plans. I regret that I was not satisfied. Subsequently the Cabinet member wrote to me responding very constructively to the points that were made during the review.( I should say at this point I always keen to ensure that my Labour and Tory 'shadows' attend these meetings and have every opportunity to participate.) In relation to the Serious Incident report he reported that work was underway to establish protocols for the communication of serious incidents and that he would share them with me. My problem is that the incident happened in 2005 how come that we are only now looking at the protocols?
Finally the matter saw daylight last week at Richard's Overview and Scrutiny meeting. Clearly there is much work that still needs to be done. Firstly there is the issue of the communication raised by the Cabinet member-who knows and how are they told. It seems to me that what briefing went on was chiefly done verbally. That is not appropriate. I am told that there were briefings, that maybe so but it is hard to see how a near universal bout of amnesia was visited on Sefton's politicians, this after all is not something you are told everyday. Formal reporting procedures need to be in place. The serious incident reports are published. They are in the public domain. Politicians need to ensure that the reporting is not only timely but also public.
Secondly there is the issue of how lessons are learnt and how those learnt lessons are integrated into the departments plan.
So why have I decided to write this up now? Partly because of the Liverpool Echo's report but also because of something that happened last week. The papers for the Overview and Scrutiny report came out. I was furious when I noticed that the report on Baby A was on 'green paper' which in Sefton's way of saying it is private and confidential. I spoke to the chair of the meeting. and to his credit things were put right. It is interesting that when Richard challenged the exclusion of the press and public from this item legal officers et al readily agreed it was not appropriate for the item to be on green paper, one commenting that perhaps they were' being too cautious'. Well given all that had gone before it does seem that it is not just the Children's Department that needs its culture challenging! Like Richard I do not attribute any malice to the sequence of unanswered letters and P&C documents or the lack of adequate briefing. But I do maintain that we cannot put thing right if we are not told what went wrong. We, the elected members, are responsible and you cannot discharge that responsibility without knowledge.

Lynne Featherstone has said all along that in Haringey it was the culture of secrecy and the wish to 'sweep thing under the carpet' that needs to change.

Corridors of Powers


It seems a while since Johnathon Fryer disturbed my breakfast with his Thought for the Day. I trust that he he using effectively his polished arts of persuasion on the London electorate. His place today was taken by someone from Sheffield who started his thought by recalling that it was the 50th anniversary of C P Snows famous lecture on the 'two cultures'.

Back in the days of 'O' levels one of C P Snow's books, The New Men', was a set text at my school. I was much taken with it and read most of the Strangers and Brothers series in the summer holidays that followed those exams.

I found myself thinking of those novels last week when I heard David Davis and Patrick Mercer cautiously advancing the suggestion that Trident may well end up being axed after an incoming Tory Government had held a Defence Review. In essence that is the central theme of C P Snow's 'Corridors of Power'. Roger Quaife is a Tory MP destined to go far. His first ministerial appointment is in defence and he is trying to steer a Bill through parliament that would renounce nuclear weapons. The action is set in a fictional Tory administration of the mid 50's.

In part C P Snow is arguing that a Labour Government can never get rid of Britain's supposedly independent nuclear deterrent, that can only be done by a Tory government. It is a bit like 'welfare reform' -which by the same logic need a Labour government to take on the vested interests for it to be successful

Personally I have never been persuaded that Britain should be a nuclear power. It has always seemed to me even in long hot summer that followed my 'O' levels that it was more a macho symbol desperately designed to proclaim to the world that we were still a first rate military world power. As such it represented a embodied a proclamation that we had not adjusted to our new position in the world.
40 years on little has changed. Ukip, BNP, the Tory party and large swathes of Labour (new and old) still have not adjusted to the new world established after WW2-let alone the one that is emerging in the 21st century. Sadly there are some Liberals who also have the default view that Europe should be shunned believing that we could go it alone, or mysteriously believing that the rest of our partners will acquiesce to whatever condition we lay down. They have not grasped that we are all in this together and that it is only together that we can successfully deal with the environmental, world development and security issues that confront. There is no point in embracing what the old Liberal Party constitution called 'the warping influence of nationalism'.
The debate about nuclear weapons and the wider matter of other defence cuts is going to be central to politics over the period. Jo Grimond made a speech up the road in Bolton in 1958 when he asked: 'Does this country need to build a nuclear striking force itself?.......I doubt it..if we were to decide not to continue to manufacture nuclear weapons nor to compete with America and Russia in arms, then we gain elbow room not only for diplomatic negotiations but for strengthening our economic situation'.
Liberal Democrats have the chance to grasp the political initiative on this matter. Like Grimond half a century ago we can offer a vision of a new and relevant role for Britain which is not based on nuclear might or on toadying up to the Americans but rather as a self confident, forward looking partner in Europe. And no doubt when this Euro election is done Johnathon Fryer will make that case in Strasbourg and Brussels or failing that will interrupt my breakfast to put the moral case on Thought for the Day.

Sunday, 3 May 2009

Vince Cable is first prize in raffle




photos by Nigel Ashton
Kew Ward held a fundraising dinner with Lord Lee at the Bold Hotel organised by Cllr Fred Weavers. A goodly crowd turned out to hear the man that was Tony Greaves's MP tell of his dissolution with the Tory Party-particularly over Europe and his prediction that this government was down and out.
Lord Lee won first prize in the raffle and took the signed copy of Vince Cable's new book-the closest thing we've had in Southport to a visit from Vince. Mike Booth took the initiative in getting the book which was most people's first choice (in fact I'm sure the whisky glasses started life in a Birkdale raffle and the wine glass set looked familiar too..-it takes you back to a time in the early 1980's when a bottle of wine from Israel kept appearing )