Sunday, 31 May 2009
Tuesday, 26 May 2009
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
Sent using BlackBerry® from Orange
Friday, 22 May 2009
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
Wednesday, 20 May 2009
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.
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
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
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
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:
Sir Peter Tapsell
Monday, 18 May 2009
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 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
Chris Davis brought his petition on open and honest expences to Southport this morning.
Sunday, 17 May 2009
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...........
Payment of MPs
Equal electoral districts
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.
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 moreRead the full story here
than £80,000 in rent for a small London flat that was owned by a trust
controlled by their children.
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.
Further details can be found at:
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
Friday, 15 May 2009
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
"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
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
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.
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
Tuesday, 12 May 2009
Compare and contrast these two videos as Chris Davis (the Norman Baker of the Euro parliament) tries to hold the Southport man to account.
- 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
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
Friday, 8 May 2009
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
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.
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
Tuesday, 5 May 2009
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.