Sunday, 31 January 2010
Nigh on a quarter of a century ago I made a mess of taking my Birkdale colleague's wedding photos. This misdemeanor slipped my mind when I handed him my camera on Saturday. The meeting with Vince was held in the Town Hall-the same venue as his wedding to Lyn. When he handed me the camera back after my photo call with Vince I had a lovely picture of the banister. He did better. So no hard feelings.
Vince Cable, Treasury Spokesman and Deputy Leader of the Liberal
Democrats, visited Southport Town Hall last Saturday to take questions
from local business people about the economy, banks and the recession.
"Vince's economic knowledge is second to none," said local MP and
Treasury team colleague, Dr John Pugh. "it was great that members of
the local business community had a chance to ask their questions.
The majority of the concerns raised by those who attended centred
around the danger of heading back into recession and also about how
the power of the banks can be curbed."
Dr Cable was the first MP to predict the financial crisis when
Gordon Brown was proclaiming that he had 'abolished boom and bust'.
He opened the meeting by paying tribute to the hard work of local MP
and colleague John Pugh at a local and national level. He then went on to
talk about the state of the economy, comparing the UK to a heart
attack patient on life support following a crash. He went on to
outline his and the Liberal Democrats prescriptions for a return to
He said that the recent report of a 0.1% growth rate should not be
taken as a sign of a full recovery, and warned of the danger of the
country sliding back into recession. He warned that the patient has
been artificially propped up by the policy of quantitative easing,
and the support has to be withdrawn gradually to prevent the patient
Apart from careful budget planning, he also emphasised the urgency
of large scale banking reform. He argued that banks should be
separated into high street and investment banks to prevent a future
financial crisis from occurring.
He also placed investment in infrastructure and education and training at
the top of the list ensure recovery and a more stable economy.
He also talked about the issue of public sector pensions and the
rising costs of senior judges, Civil Servants and MP's."There needs
to be more of a sense that the Country is being fair when it comes
to tax policy."
He was then quizzed on a variety of topics by members of the
audience on everything from credit card debt, to health and safety
He stressed the need for sensible spending cuts and identified areas
where these cuts can be made. 'Quangos are not accountable, and can
be extremely financially wasteful. The Government scrapped the
Learning and Skills Council, yet there are now three more bodies in
its place. Also, while Regional Development Agencies may be
worthwhie in the North of the Country, why should they be needed in
London and the South, where the majority of business is concentrated?'
Combatting personal debt was another area on which he touched,
"Credit and Store card debts have caused problems for many young
people especially. Asset repossession has rocketed because many
simply did not know what the interest rates on these cards were. The
only way to stop this is to set a cap on interest rates, and to make
things more transparent."
When questioned about what steps he thought needed to be taken to
help small and medium sized businesses, he pointed out that the
Government has not used the nationalisation of several of the banks to
the full advantage of a key part of the economy. "The Credit Guarantee
Scheme was introduced by the Government to encourage smaller
businesses, but its not working. When business owners apply for the
scheme they are not told about the complex fifty pages of
forms they have to fill in. The Government now has Directors on the
Boards of several banks and they have not taken advantage of their
position to make it easier for businesses to get the help they
Saturday, 30 January 2010
It is hard to keep pace with the civil war in Southport Tories. Newspaper headlines like: ‘Angry Rift leaves Town’s Tories in Crisis’, Former Tory MP backs Lib Dems, Feuding between Southport Conservatives leaves Brenda Porter's campaign in disarray, ‘Cameron puts Southport Tories in ‘Special Measures’ or Respected Tory ex Mayor Suspended, or Former Tory Leader (Tom Glover) Suspended, or 'Former Tory Leader (Les Byrom) leaves Party', they keep coming.
To explain the implosion of the Southport Tories we need to go back to the autumn of 2007 and the eve of the General Election that didn’t happen. Gordon Brown’s honeymoon lifted the Labour Party poll ratings and that was the moment the local Tories ‘A’ listed candidate decided to resign. There was clear panic in the ranks and Southport Tories’ Constituency Executive swiftly embarked on a truncated selection process. On the Chair’s casting vote they chose a rookie Councillor, Brenda Porter who only days earlier had said she didn’t want the job. The wider membership was not involved. Long time Councillor, NW Tory Leader and former by election candidate (Wirral) Les Byrom was excluded on a technicality. The disintegration had begun.
We knew little of Mrs Porter. She had fought a homophobic campaign attacking Lib Dems for their policy of abolishing Section 28 when first elected. She attracted some very ‘untypical’ Tories supporters –her chief cheer leader, best known for his Pagan beliefs, constantly wrote and spoke up in her favour, seeming to push out more experienced and knowledgeable advisers. He even went so far as to pay to have a book published in which he ‘slagged off’ senior Tories as ‘imprudent old toffs’ ..’traitors’ and much worse.
Whilst the Tories set about squabbling in earnest we kept our attentions firmly focused on the electorate. Whilst up and down the land Conservatives were making gains in Sefton they fell back. They lost three seats (one per year) to the Lib Dems between 2006-08 and landed up with only 6 of the 21 councillors in
We sat bemused as Mrs Porter and her friends turned on their colleagues. David Pearson a popular ex Mayor found himself suspended and wished a long and happy retirement. He fought back and even though the whip had been withdrawn he was selected to fight his Dukes Ward seat which he easily won. Les Byrom, the former Leader-deposed by Mrs Porter and her friends- got so fed up with the back-biting and squabbling that he left the Tory Party and became the first Labour Councillor in
Then one morning we woke up to another series of damaging headlines for the Tories; ‘Tory HQ in melt down’, ‘Tory President resigns’, ‘Tory Treasurer arrested’,! Respected local solicitor Jeremy Myers stood down along with four other professional men from the constituency executive. We were at a loss. Then we got a tip off to look at the Southport Conservatives return to the Electoral Commission where the Chair states that by the end of the next financial year ‘this Association will be financially unstable’
More was to follow. The constituency treasurer –one of those who signed off the accounts to the electoral commission-was arrested in relation to the ‘disappearance of £21,000 from their HQ’. Southport Tories are no strangers to financial scandals. Chris Davis has done much to expose the antics of Southport Tory and MEP Den Dover who still has not repaid the £500,000 demanded of him by the European Parliament for false expenses claims.
In normal circumstances a candidate like Mrs Porter would be exposed by debate and the cut and thrust of politics as ill-suited to the role thrust upon her. The heart of the criticism made by many of her colleagues is that she is out of her depth, with little understanding of Tory policy or philosophy. She has made few ‘political’ utterances-opposition to the repeal of section 28, opposition to redundancies in the Post Office, opposition to the proposal from the Council Chief Exec to cut back on senior posts in the local authority. She sometimes appears confused-demanding that her vote is recorded against a motion in cabinet only later to declare that she is in favour! In some quarters she is called Big Spender Brenda because when faced with proposals to reduce expenditure (eg over the reduction of top earning council officers, the trimming of the council capital programme) she plaintively pleads ‘why can’t we have it all’
There must be many, even amongst that tiny cabal of Tories who narrowly selected her in 2007, who recognise that she is being asked to a job for which she is ill suited. It is easy to understand why, fearing an imminent General Election, they selected her, but as time goes on it is evident that the mayhem she has wrought has undermined the cause she was called upon to champion.
The latest debacle is the ousting of the Chair of the Conservative Association, Jackie Glover, for not giving sufficient support to the parliamentary campaign. The national Conservative Board has imposed a Chair from out of town on the association. Jackie and her husband Tom-a former Tory Leader of the Council -have between them 112 years of devoted service to the Conservative Party. Mrs Porter’s campaign manager effectively wrote an open letter denouncing Mrs Glover-a copy on our website-which was widely leaked by Conservatives who received it.
Early on the Conservative candidate presented similar difficulties as Sarah Palin did to the Democrats. How do you lay a glove on a well meaning 71 year old women who knows little of politics? We soon discovered we need do nothing but stand by and watch the Tories tear themselves apart.
Thursday, 28 January 2010
It is significant as Conservatives keep telling us that they are a localist party and that constituency parties are the keystone of their operation. To decide to dump the chair and bring in one from outside tells its own story
Wednesday, 27 January 2010
Tuesday, 26 January 2010
Local businesses have been invited.
Commenting on his visit local MP John Pugh said;
" Whatever your politics no-one can dodge economic reality and this is a chance for local businessmen to quiz the man who gets most predictions right on the road ahead.
Working with Vince on the on the Liberal Democrat Treasury team I know how approachable he is and how generous with his time.
With the economic outlook so uncertain nationally and locally, its an opportunity to quiz the only major politician to have predicted the recession about his take on current events."
The cynics may think that David Cameron's apology over Clause 28 was just a result of seeing the polling evidence-echoed and reinforced today by the survey into British Social Attitudes -which confirms the great change in public opinion. I am willing to give Cameron the benefit of the doubt. He has at least apologised for section 28. Some will of course point to his alliances in Europe with some blatant homophobes and the departure of Edward MacMillan Scott. Nevertheless he did apologies.
In all the time I fought Mrs Winterton the issue of gay rights was never raised with me by a member of the public. I concluded that I rwould not respond to her but took every opportunity to support equal treatment for all citizens. In fact the only time it has been raised with me on the doorstep was during a municipal election in Southport when the current Tory PPC stood for election. In her leaflet-published by her husband who wrote the ill judged letter leaked by Tories to us recently-it declared:
Do you want to repeal Clause 28?
Your Liberal Democratic M.P. does and voted to repeal this clause.
Your Local Liberal Democratic Councillor considers it UNIMPORTANT (Champion 22nd March)
This clause prevents the promotion of homosexuality in Schools
This is not the only such statement. I will publish more later. To date there has been to apology, no mea culpa. The election was won by the Tories in a tight race and several of us had this mentioned to us on the doorstep when canvassing. The Tories were reassuring their core vote . I guess what is more nauseating is the recent remodelling of the said PPC as a champion of diversity. The U turn would be welcome if it were accompanied by an apology for a nasty bit of scaremongering the like of which many in her party have apologised. Clearly her attempt was to smear the Lib Dems as morally lax and untrustworthy when it came to protecting children. It did garner her some important votes. It implies nasty things about gays. It suggests that the ban on important pieces of literature and appropriate discussions on morality that happened as a result of clause 28 was right. It was offensive and a decent person would apologise without having to being asked.
We have always found it difficult to hold this women properly to account. She seems believes that it unreasonable to ask her to justify her actions. In a democracy politicians should not come over all upset when electors want to challenge them.
Monday, 25 January 2010
Sunday, 24 January 2010
Thursday, 21 January 2010
'.............above all else the party itself was on exhibition. The time, after all,comes when pretensions have to be lived up to, claims vindicated, both justified.......From now on it will stand or fall on the showing that it makes in the big league, and it may well be that this week was its last chance before a General Election...
The article goes on to set a test for Liberals; whether it can live up to the Leaders claim 'that it is a serious political force now'
OK this is 1962 but has anything changed? The article goes on to review Liberal policy on key matters like Industrial Policy where the redoubtable Nancy Seear was arguing the case for different models of the ownership and control. That was serious. Half a century the Labour Party is groping toward the solution that she outlined to the Liberal Assembly in 1962. This is evidenced by their new found enthusiasm for John Lewis Partnership model and by the COMPASS pamphlet.
I am listening to the Government responding to the issues raised in the House of Lords last night about the Foreign Office funded activities in the border lands between Pakistan and Afghanistan. This is a serious matter. Many of you will have heard William Wallace on the Today programme this morning discussing this issue which the Lib Dems raised. Interestingly the BBC news item accompanying the live coverage of Parliament doesn't mention the Lib Dems or William, but instead carries a quote for William Hague.
At Prime Minister's questions this week Nick Clegg raised the issue of a nationalised bank -RBS-funding a US based multi national company to take over Cadbury's and the threat that brings to jobs and our manufacturing base in the UK. A serious matter. By today the media have pretty well written us out of the script.
For too long Liberals have believed-with Anthony Howard- that they have to prove their seriousness in order to play in the big league. Time and again we have proved that seriousness-whether it is Vince Cable on the Economy, Kennedy on Iraq, or issues like Europe, constitutional reform etc. It hasn't made a tad of difference to the media. They seem congenitally incapable of reporting 3 party politics (let alone multi party politics)
Anthony Howard's article goes on to indulge in a lot of 'unserious' knocking of the party. Regrettably that part of Howard's article has become the template for lazy journalists when forced to report the Lib Dems.
Nevertheless,even with the first past the post electoral system, the party has progressed. In those days I think Grimond was our only MP to win a three cornered fight in the 1959 General Election. (There were only a handful of second places, one of which was Southport where Sam Goldberg came 2nd) Today the people in many diverse places across Britain take us seriously. One wonders how long it will take the media to catch up with the people.
Monday, 18 January 2010
Now Pete brings me up to date:
It kind of gets better. The link is now working as intended for me. However before you reach the blog, which look a little sparse, you go to a link page with the following message"You are now leaving the website of Southport conservatives. Southport Conservatives are neither responsible for, nor necessarily endorse the content of the site to which you are going"
Thanks Pete, I've not been checking Brenda's site recently- the Tories clearly don't so why should I bother. I guess they are far too busy squabbling amonst themselves to care what ordinary punters want to tell them.
Sunday, 17 January 2010
I thought it might be a good idea to make sure some key facts were in the public domain about the decisions for the Southport Cultural Centre.
The decision- supported by the Tories and Labour and opposed by the Lib Dems -to rule out all the options on the table for a temporary Library meant that officers of the council stopped looking for premises. As the Labour Leader made plain 'the cabinet voted against a temporary Library'.
We were furious about this decision and challenged it by calling in the cabinet decision. Lib Dems -led by my Birkdale colleague Richard Hand- took the action needed to have that decision reviewed. The Tories did not.
As a result of that 'call in' cabinet 'took note' of the suggestion that political parties could add it to their budget proposals. This would not have happened without Richard's swift action. The cabinet's policy would have remain the decision not to have a temporary Library and for officers not to spend time or resources looking for one.
Clearly all the protracted discussions that Political parties may have been involved in would have been held in private and not necessarily in parallel. Books were disappearing off the shelves and being disposed of. Action was needed. Lib Dem Cabinet members David Tattersal and Iain Brodie Browne took that action and finally, finally we have hope that we will get a temporary Library.
The decision to agree the Cultural Centre funding passage was agreed by the whole cabinet. That means the Tory party supported it. Secondly the cabinet member responsible for these issues considered the matter at his meeting when the Tory spokesman was present. Tom Glover is the Tory spokesman. If he was dissatisfied with the plan he could have challenged the plan and 'called' in the decision.
(Now here the wretched state of the Tories personal relations is a problem. We now know because Tories have given us a copy of a letter from the Tory campaign manager in which he makes it plain that he has told their Parliamentary Candidate and leading councillor not to be in the same room as Tom Glover. This must make communication a tad fraught. This may also explain Mrs Porter's confusion on the matter)
Let us end with a bit of Milton:
'And though all the winds of doctrine were let loose to play on the earth, so Truth be in the field, we do injuriously by licensing and prohibiting misdoubt her strength. Let her and Falsehood grapple; who ever knew Truth put to the worse in a free and open encounter'
I read in the Sunday Times today about your ageist abuse of Paddy Ashdown where your sort to draw attention to his age and called him 'frail and confused'. My colleague Alex Folkes a councillor in Cornwall first drew my attention to your regrettable behavior earlier in the week.
Now not only is Paddy remarkably fit, his mind is agile, he is impressively well informed and works well with his colleagues. I've never know him to get the wrong end of the stick, or vote the 'wrong' way because his mind wandered or he was confused by simple procedures.
This attack is quite cruel and will upset many elderly folk in Southport-we have the 8th highest concentration of pensions of any parliamentary constituency. I hope you will apologise and withdraw the comment
Friday, 15 January 2010
This Thursday all your hard work paid off as the cabinet meeting at Southport Town Hall changed its mind about a replacement town centre library.
Previously, it was decided that residents would have to use the locallibraries in Ainsdale, Birkdale and Churchtown during the 3-yearclosure. However, the 7000-strong petition you signed was reported helpedchange the councillors minds.
The Liberal Democrats yet again putforward a resolution calling for an affordable temporary replacementfor our Southport town centre library. This was agreed, thanks to the change of heart of the three Conservative councillors on the cabinet who previously had supported the branch library solution. Council officers have now been given firm instructions to take swiftaction andinvestigate all opportunities to deliver a town centre library.
Also,councillors have been working behind the scenes to find a suitable building and there has been one option that, at this stage, looks very promising. Everything hinges on getting the right building at the right price.But where there is a will there is a way.
Thanks again for your efforts and support, and we will keep you informed about the progress of the search to find a suitable venue.
All the best,
Iain Brodie Browne
Save Southport Library Campaign
Just for background since Mrs Porter became their parliamentary candidate the local Tories have been at each others throats. There are only six of them left on the council ! This latest outbreak is against Tom Glover the longest serving Tory first elected in 1963. When Tom was Leader 0f the Council there were 18 Tory Councillors in the Town.
Since Mrs Porter became PPC two of the councillors have been suspended, one has left because of the bitter in fighting, the Treasurer has been arrested and Mrs Porters chief cheer leader has paid to have a book published which roundly slags off Cllr Sir Ron Watson.
We understand that since this latest outbreak Tory members are consulting their lawyers.
I've been holding this story for a good while now wondering how long it would last. I thought with so much bad news for Southport Tories today I would (as an act of charity) send in out today. If you go on to the Southport Conservative website the lead is a picture of their parliamentary candidate and a link to her website. I urge you to follow that link to: http://www.tellbrenda.com/.
There you will find the photo opposite and a marketing agencies selling all sorts of services including 'dating'
I guess Brenda has forgotten to pay the bill for her website and the marketing agency has bought it up hoping to pick up hits. I fear they will be disappointed. But why have the Tories failed to notice? It has been like this for some time. I suspect that they have been too busy kicking lumps out of each other to notice.
'Tell Brenda' used to be quite an active website with regular postings. It was always my opinion that her blogging would cause her problems. She readily says the most amazing things which if costed up would make Osborne's eyes boggle. Anyway she started to slow down on the blogging front. I regret that. Mind you the most memorable thing was always the list of the things she had eaten and the recipes! We will miss the recipes. Then she started on twitter. Two tweats and she twittered no more. Now all the Tories are doing is driving customers to an advertising site.
There is an alternative view advanced by a mischievous Tory who is on the 'naughty step'. 'It is all part of Brenda's make over, she has been on the 'presentational course' (we've certainly noticed a change there) it is sad the Central office didn't send her on the remedial economics course as a first!
It was a wretched day for Southport Tories yesterday and the behavior of their candidate-who is also a councillor-at yesterday's cabinet will only have served to confirm the openly expressed views of party members that she is not up to the job.
If you've not read the extract from the extraordinary attack on top Southport Tories by Porter's chief cheer leader you should do so now. Follow the links to Dirty Politics from our website
Eric Pickles and the Tory bosses cannot be amused. I guess that they will be in touch with Southport's most respected Tory-Sir Ron Watson. I can only guess at what he would say in private. He too has been attacked by the Porter faction.
The big question is one of Porter's judgement which does appear to getting very erratic. Why has she not distanced herself from her supporters who went so far as to pay to have a book published slagging off her most senior colleagues.
Now let us count up. In Southport there are 6 Tory Councillors. Porter has now fallen out-or allowed her supporters to aggressively undermine-all three of the Dukes ward Tories (one former leader and parliamentary candidate left the party). Now she has fallen out with another former Tory leader who also led the council and who was first elected in 1963 ! In her own ward the turn over of Tories is very high. Tony Brough a highly respected local business man and one genuinely liked and listen too did not last and has not made any public comment. Another left to join the priesthood.
On top of this the police have arrested a Treasurer of the association.
Leaving on one side for a moment Porter's gaping policy vacuum-she is called Spenda Brenda as she often says 'why can't we have it all' when confronted with tough spending decisions-her interpersonal skills clearly leave a lot to be desired. Do the Tories not check these things out? I thought Eric Pickles ran a tight ship. Well in Southport they keep throwing their best folk over board.
Thursday, 14 January 2010
At this morning's cabinet meeting the Lib Dem moved a motion to get the officers to evaluate the new options for a site. Thanks to all the support we have received from the people of Southport-over 7000 people signed our petition-we have woken up the local Tories.
Lib Dem councillors have been working hard behind the scenes to find a town centre place for a library and have worked up the outlines a financial plan. We believe that the scheme we have identified is one that the Council can afford.
Tuesday, 12 January 2010
One has contacted me again today outlining her struggle with the association:
'.... the tenant initially rung the emergency out of hours contact centre about this matter at 7.20 am on Friday 8th January. As at the time of writing this e-mail (8.15 am Monday 11th Jan), no engineer has visited her house, and she is having to stay in yet another day today, wondering if they will "turn up" and possibly loosing a days pay at work.
The following are times that she has rung the emergency number, only to be fobbed off with feeble excuses, and no compassion from the person at the other end of the phone, It's a disgrace, and we think it needs to be highlighted through yourselves, or the media, how One Vision are quite prepared to leave their rent-paying tenants, with no running hot water, etc, for over 3 days during sub-zero temperatures!!
Times rung on Friday:-7.30am,1.30pm, 4.30pm, 6.30pm.
Times rung on Saturday:-8.20am, 9.30am
I do not have the list of times rung on Sunday, but will e-mail them to you later. Various call waiting times range from 9 minutes to 45 minutes, and each call is costing her money as they are not freephone numbers.
A representative did call round, on Sunday morning, he was from One Vision, and was just handing out fan heaters and her name was on the list. If One Vision were obviously aware of the unprecedented number of call outs, surely they should have drafted in extra resources.
XXXXX is now getting to the point were she is not only frustrated, but angry and annoyed. We trust through you we can seek some form of compensation, why should she have to pay 3 days rent, when she can't even wash or shower properly, coupled with the phone calls made.'
Now Southport is the constituency has the 8th highest number pensioners and on that basis there may be as many as 3000 pensioners failing to claim the winter heating allowance in Southport
Nationally 1.7m pensioners will miss out on Cold Weather Payments says Prof Steve Webb (Lib Dem MP) writing on the party's website he says:
Up to 1.7m pensioners will miss out on Cold Weather Payments triggered by the recent weather, according to analysis of Government figures by the Liberal Democrats.
Cold Weather Payments of £25 a week are paid to people on low incomes who receive a qualifying benefit, such as Pension Credit, which goes unclaimed by as many as 1.7m pensioners.
Commenting, Liberal Democrat Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary, Steve Webb said:
“It is a scandal that pensioners on the breadline are missing out on these payments, worth an estimated £42.5m. “Fuel prices are at an all time high, making Cold Weather Payments all the more important to people already struggling on a poverty pension.
“Government should be making every effort to identify pensioners who are missing out and get them this extra cash.”
Labour has failed pensioners by creating a complicated system that makes it difficult for them to get the help they desperately need.
Monday, 11 January 2010
I fully expect any day now for more of the infighting to break out in public again and the Tory leadership to wish Tom and Jackie Glover a long and happy retirement. (Well that is how they announced their death sentence on popular Tory Councillor David Pearson and his wife Barbara-and how they long to do it to Sir Ron Watson I guess). For those who haven't seen it you should look at the extracts from the Dirty Politics book that the Tory PPC's chief cheer leader paid to have published last year. It is a hoot. Talk about self inflicted wounds. I wait to hear the Tory PPC distance herself from the outrageous (and incidentally age-ist attack on the most successful Tory councillors) I'm delighted that she has been inadequate in this matter.
Mind you there were a few heads in hands again last week after her performance in the council chamber. Everywhere Tories are telling us that we have to cut public spending deeper and quicker. Not our Brenda-the big spender!
"why can't we have it all" she said repeatedly when others were trying to reduce the multi million pound deficit that the council faces. Capital schemes we have not signed contracts for and which aren't priorities have to go ahead. After all she says 'we need to invest now'.
When it is pointed out that failure to cut such projects will mean reductions in other areas-we get a lecture about redundancies being a bad thing. She has already pledged herself in public against redundancies in the Post Office!
I have identified one rare bit of possible unity in the Conservative ranks-climate change denial. I may be wrong but I fancy the distinctly odd bunch clustering around the Tory candidate disbelieve the scientists about global warming etc-their opposition is possibly rooted in the Pagan faith. In addition there was some evidence that old right wing Thacherites like Sir Ron take the same view.
Sunday, 10 January 2010
We had a 7000-strong petition passionately presented by a local resident, Mrs Paddy McNeish, calling for Southport Indoor Market to be used as a temporary home.
The petition was followed by a debate on a motion moved by my colleague, Birkdale Councillor Richard Hands. Richard called on Sefton’s Cabinet to reverse its previous decision not to provide a temporary town centre Library for Southport residents.
Regular Birkdale Focus Blog readers will recall that Conservative and Labour councillors keep attempting to defend their decision to vote against the “Library within a Market” proposal because of what they say would be the cost. The figure of £500,000 has misleadingly been bandied about. We have challenged this constantly.
We have done some detailed research and have always said that the real figure cannot be anywhere near this amount. To give just one example: no mention has been made of the Lord Street library savings during its closure e.g. rates, cleaning, maintenance, heating etc.
So it was good to have public confirmation last Wednesday night in an answer to a question submitted by a member of the public, that council officers now acknowledge that the “savings of closing Southport library are £54,550 per annum.” Over the nearly 3 years of closure that means something approaching £150,000 will be saved.
Richard’s motion referred to these savings, and pointed out that they could be used to cover most or all of the costs of a temporary Library in the Indoor Market.
Anyway, Richard’s motion was passed overwhelmingly, by 12 votes to 1. All 6 Conservatives abstained, which was a little odd. In one way it represented progress, as previously there have always voted against a temporary Library.
The matter now goes to the Cabinet next Thursday and we must only hope that at least one of the Conservatives sees sense. Last time it was lost 6 to 4.
We only need the one Southport Conservative who sits on the Cabinet to take account of the weight of public opinion, and switch their vote, and the vote will then be 5 - 5. We would then win on the Chair's casting vote.
Saturday, 9 January 2010
Personally I would have found it impossible to justify the cancellation of the meeting. How would we have explained to the public who turned up that we were calling off the meeting. If they could get there so should we.
I was impressed by the boy Scouts this week. Over 2000 0f them turned up for a winter camp in Essex and are spending two nights under canvas. That's the spirit. Full marks to Farnborough Rd Junior School too, they were open this week and had an Ofsted inspection. (I must declare an interest as I am chair of the Governors-but I was mighty proud of them this week)
So last Monday, 4 January, Simon submitted an official “call-in” request which means that councillors on Sefton Council’s Overview and Scrutiny Committee will take another look at the matter at their meeting on Tuesday 19 January.
In his call-in notification, Simon identifies a number of matters which should concern any right-thinking resident. He warns that the £3.2 million scheme is unaffordable and speculative, particularly in the current economic climate. Simon quotes the following warning from officers in their December 2009 report to Cabinet: “These issues coupled with the present economic conditions and the resulting volatility in the retail sector meant that there was still substantial risk retained in this project.”
Another point of concern raised is the lack of an external partner, even though in March 2009 the Cabinet decided that “officers be authorised to explore options for external partner funding and support”. Simon suggests that the lack of one must cast serious doubt on the financial viability of this project as currently proposed.
Another key concern raised is that it is proposed that there will be massive increases in rents charged to traders, up by a minimum of 20%, with some of the smaller stall-holders facing rises of over 40%. According to the Lib Dem call-in request “such increases are likely to be unaffordable for many current market traders or prospective market traders.”
The final worrying area identified is in relation to “Public Realm” works - a crucial part of the overall scheme. However it appears that these have now been substantially cut. The recent report to Cabinet states that the costs of Market works are higher than originally estimated, and that "the net impact is that scope of the public realm improvements will need to be substantially reduced accordingly."
If you want to read Simon’s official “call-in” request you can find it here
Also, if you want to look at the December report from officers it is here
Tuesday, 5 January 2010
The attacks on David Pearson are well documented-including a clumsey attempt to deselect him which he saw off! Les Byrom got so fed up he joined the Labour Party and Sir Ron is just light years ahead of them in experience, intellect and general ability that he has stood his ground and easily seen off the attacks.
All of which leaves Tom Glover. Now body language alone would make you think that he was next to be picked on. The PPC behaves as if she has been instructed not to be left alone in his company. Worse still vile looks have been directed at his wife Jackie. Now most of us have always thought Jackie is the most formidable of the Tory women and if she had been born into a later generation she would have been the councillor and Leader not Tom. Upsetting Jackie would be a high risk strategy. Well some of the things that it is reported have been said about her make the nasty comments about Sir Ron look tame. Standby for fireworks. In such a show down my money is on Jackie.
Therefore there was an intake of breath round here when in a Tory candidate loudly complained when a local sports club held a quiz and included a question about her voting record. Now most of us would have shrugged our shoulders and got on with life. She was ringing them up demanding an apology and telling everyone about it. The real fun bit was that apparently everyone got the question right thus confirming how widespread the knowledge of her gaff.
Now if we had the values of the Daily Mail we would be producing cruel cartoons and pour scorn on her confusion. She managed to vote 'the wrong way' and demanded to have a vote recorded despite the issue we were voting on being read out 3 times. Politicians should be accountable for their actions. Refusing to explain your actions and getting very annoyed if you are challenged is not acceptable................................
Monday, 4 January 2010
In summary, the e-mail accuses councillors of all parties of putting their own pet projects and their own financial interests ahead of the interests of UNISON members employed by Sefton Council, some of whom face redundancy to help cover a £25 million funding gap.
To quote from the e-mail, it refers to decisions in relation to efficiency savings “made by our elected members with matters of their own constituencies often taking priority over the people who provide the service (our Members).”
UNISON go on to claim that Sefton’s Cabinet on 17th December agreed expenditure of £195,000 for Tree Planting and also agreed £1million to refurbish Splash World.
They also claimed that the Full Council meeting, also held on 17th December, rejected a request for Councillors’ Allowances and Expenses to be frozen.
In fact all three of these claims are untrue.
Reports to (and Minutes of) the Cabinet and Council meetings held on 17th December are available to the public via the Council’s website and they explain what was really going on.
Dealing with each of those three UNISON falsehoods in turn:
1. Tree Planting
Paragraphs 3.1 to 3.3 of the Report to the Cabinet meeting (http://modgov.sefton.gov.uk/moderngov/Published/C00000139/M00004774/AI00009551/$TreePlantingTender.docA.ps.pdf) explain that around 90% of the cost of trees (i.e. £225,000 out of £250,000) is being funded from "Section 106 monies",. Section 106 monies are what property developers have to pay when they get planning permission to develop more than a very small number of houses. As an alternative to providing e.g. play areas and landscaped areas within the boundaries of the development, they can agree to pay the Council a calculated sum instead (under s. 106 of the Town & Country Planning Act 1990).This minute is about agreeing to proceed with tree planting, the cost of which overwhelmingly comes from outside sources (s 106). Accordingly, the UNISON implication that the Cabinet is "frittering away" money on trees which could have been used to avoid redundancies, is false.
2. Splash World
What the Report to (and the Minutes of) the Cabinet make clear
(http://modgov.sefton.gov.uk/moderngov/Published/C00000139/M00004774/AI00009699/$SplashWorldReport.docA.ps.pdf) was that there was originally a "Sinking Fund" for Splash World involving an annual contribution of £200,000, so that over 5 years the fund would have built up to £1million, to be used for a refurbishment of the pool attraction.Around nearly 2 years ago (i.e. in the run up to the start of the 2008/09 budget), the Council decided to "save" the £200,000 it was contributing each year, so as to mean a slightly lower council tax rise. Instead it agreed that when the 5 years had elapsed (i.e. in 2013/14, as referred to in the minutes) it would borrow the money then instead. What was agreed 2 years ago was a "clever" accounting transaction, if you will.Thus all that part (3) of the resolution is doing is recapping what was agreed nearly 2 years ago, which included the intention of carrying out a refurbishment scheme in around 3.5 year's time. Again, for UNISON to imply that the Cabinet agreed, a week before Christmas, "fritter away" £1million on Splash World, is false.
3. Councillors’ Allowances and Expenses
When UNISON say that the Council meeting on 17th December rejected a request for Councillors to take an ‘expenses freeze’, this is the exact reverse of the truth.
On 17th December, the Council had before it a recommendation from the "Independent Remuneration Panel" (IRP) which had met in November 2009
(http://modgov.sefton.gov.uk/moderngov/Published/C00000143/M00004574/AI00009809/IRPReportAnnex2.pdf). This recommended paying higher allowances to 4 individual councillors. There were no changes proposed for the remaining 62 councillors. If agreed to, the total allowances bill would rise by £22,150 in a full year.
The problem was that the IRP had made the same suggestion earlier in the year, and the Council had said that it was unwilling to agree anything that meant an increase in the total cost. The Council resolved the following on 9 July 2009:
(1) the IRP recommendations be noted and, while supportive of the principles, this Council believes that the overall Councillors Allowances Budget should be capped at the present level; and
(2) accordingly, this matter be referred back to the IRP to consider how the IRP principles can be achieved whilst staying within the overall Councillors Allowances budget and the IRP be asked to examine the overall Councillors Allowances budget in the light of the current financial climate with a view to possible reductions in the budget.
Although the IRP meeting in November 2009 was presented with a proposal (by the Lib Dems, as it happens) that would have cut the allowances paid to the councillors in the Cabinet so that the allowances paid to those 4 members could have been increased without increasing the TOTAL cost of members' allowances, the IRP felt that they knew better - you can read what they said in the document referred to above.There was therefore an impasse at last Thursday's Council meeting, with the IRP wanting the total bill for councillors allowances to go up, and councillors saying that they did not want any increase in the total cost. Note that this is effectively the exact reverse of what UNISON said in its e-mail to members.The conclusion was that the Council voted to make no change at all at the present time (Minute 58, to be found at: http://modgov.sefton.gov.uk/moderngov/ieListDocuments.asp?CId=143&MId=4574 )