Monday, 30 May 2011

Sunday Times reports purge of Tory approved parliamentary candidates – local detail awaited

This week’s Sunday Times has an interesting article saying that the Tories have carried out a massive purge of their approved candidates list.

No doubt the local impact of the purge will emerge in the next few days, but the story makes interesting reading as it stands.  To quote a couple of paragraphs:

"Deborah Dunleavy, a 2010 candidate who featured in a newspaper spread of "Cameron's cuties", is also among about 150 Tory hopefuls, most of whom have fought in one or more elections, who were dumped from the party's approved list last week."

"There were also claims that Conservative headquarters was targeting right-wing and Euro-sceptic candidates.  One of those rejected, an avowed Eurosceptic. said: "It's a wholesale slaughter of right-wingers."  "

If Right-wingers and Euro-sceptics are being dropped so freely, there must surely be serious doubts about the future of those unsuccessful parliamentary candidates who have been widely criticised for sounding more like "Municipal Socialists" rather than Conservatives..........................

Thursday, 26 May 2011

The ink was hardly dry before Labour ratted on the deal......

A tale of Sefton Labour Party

Roy Jenkins-the best home Secretary in my lifetime-wrote a book called 'Mr Balfour's Poodle'. The poodle was a Tory in fact it was 500 of them. As Lloyd George remarked they were; '"Five hundred men, accidently chosen from among the ranks of the unemployed". They were the House of Lords. They abused their power at the behest of Mr Balfour -the Tory leader- to cling on to unwarranted privileges in the teeth of the will of the elected government. Well they were Tories and as Vince reminded us they are "ruthless, calculating and tribal" and the gullible and naive amongst them honestly believed that they were behaving properly and everyone else was just playing politics

Anyway I was thinking about this during the cabinet meeting the other morning. In Sefton we have a set of 'protocols or conventions' which govern the arrangements that we operate under in the hung council. The document is signed by all three leaders-Councillors Parry, Robertson, Dowd. We have all stuck to these agreements and they have ensured that for the passed 30 years we have been able to operate. The conventions clearly deals with the allocation of places on Joint Boards-Merseyside Transport (ITA), Waste disposal ,  Fire etc. This is done under section 17 of the Local government and Housing Act which confirms the power on Local Authorities to come up with a local arrangement. Ours are proportional. 

After the elections the Labour Leader Dowd (minor)  at the leaders meeting confirmed that he saw no reason to change the conventions and they were endorsed for another 12 months

Elsewhere on Merseyside the knives have been out for Cllr Dowd's older brother the chair of the Integrated Transport Authority . I should be clear it is our understanding that these are Labour knives . A while back the City Region Cabinet appointed the Leader of Halton Council to the transport portfolio an action that it is said Dowd (major) interpreted as a hostile act. Concerns have been publically raised about the Mersey Tram fiasco and about governance arrangements. I have also been extremely frustrated by the way the ITA delay publication of the expenses and allowances of Councillors until after everyone else meaning that the press interest has waned and Dowd (major) does not suffer the level of scrutiny appropriate to the highest claimer  on Merseyside-first class travel entitlement et al.  No super injunction apply but it is widely held that other Labour groups would happily see Dowd (major) removed. More details on this will be coming into the public domain shortly.

Now there are those who would tell you that Dowd (major) acts as if a thunderous glare is an acceptable substitute for reasoned argument. He is the sort of Labour politician who would be described by some commentators as tribal, a dinosaur -in fact on some issues he would make the likes of Blunkett, Reid, Straw etc look progressive (surely those are amongst the worst three Home Secretaries of my lifetime-certainly Hurd, Whitelaw and Clarke were better) 

Let us return to Section 17 of the Local Government and Housing Act. Our local arrangement is allowed because it has all party support. The act is written so that if one party withdraws the arrangement falls and reverts to a default position.  Some time after the Leaders met (post election) and the annual meeting of the council someone may have whispered in Dowd (minor) ear that if he pulled the rug from under the conventions then the default position would advantage Labour by gaining a seat on the ITA. Such a vote may be essential in the Labour caucus when they vote on their candidate for Chair. 
And so it came to pass that the other morning Labour ripped up the convention and got themselves an extra  seat on the ITA. 
And what of the poodle? Some wag remarked that it was cocking its leg against an iron man somewhere in another place...................

Dickenson Court -serial cock up

I've got to know several of the residents in Dickenson Court over the months. Let us start at the beginning. One of the tenants contacted me because for number of residents they had was not enough bins. I took it up with the council and it was agreed that the 30+ flats they required an additional bin.
I thought that was sorted and filed it away in the done pile. I then got a phone call to say that the bin had not been delivered. I contacted the council who, it transpired, had delivered the bin to the wrong address. They promised to rectify the situation.

I thought this was now put to bed. Sadly a couple of weeks ago I met one of the residents who told me that the new bin had not been collected. Once again I got on to the council. The following week I met the resident again who told me that they had missed the bin again. I was getting very annoyed and so were they!

This morning was Cabinet and so I took the chance to speak to the man in charge. He went away promising to sort it. No sooner had Cabinet ended than I got a call from a different resident who told me that today was bin day and guess what? the new bin had not been collected.
I got straight back on to the person I spoke to earlier. I understand that the bin will be collected today, fresh instructions will be issued to the crew and an apology will be issued to the residents
photos by Lyn Shaw

Tuesday, 24 May 2011

Allotments waiting lists in Sefton

 I have had a number of enquiries about waiting lists for the various sites in the borough. Below I am publishing the reply that I have received. I ought to say that the council is now letting half plots to new folk so that will speed things up. In addition the sites are of markedly different size, for example Birkdale Irrigation is
roughly 4 times the size of Town Lane. Some of the sites are self managed so those waiting for plots on those  sites need to contact the Associations directly. 
Allotment Name
Number on Waiting List
Blundell Lane, Southport
Moss lane, Southport
Town lane, Southport
Birkdale Irrigation, Southport
Altcar Road, Formby
Hoggs Hill, Formby
Scape Lane, Crosby
Sherwood Road, Crosby
Queensway, Crosby
Beach Road, Seaforth
Hatton Hill, Litherland
Dunnings Bridge Road, Bootle
Not available
Gardner Avenue, Bootle

Please note persons may well be on more than one waiting list across different sites. The Council only manages some of the allotments and we keep waiting lists for these only. Other sites are leased (self managed) and the allotment associations keep the waiting lists and manage the sites.

However, the details of persons on 'Council managed' sites by area are as follows:

Southport waiting lists is 317
Crosby waiting list is 393
Bootle waiting list is 164

Thursday, 19 May 2011

Sefton Labour vote for tax cut for high earners

Now please enlighten me as to how Labour came to support this Tory motion. Let us recap on the scheme which supports low earning students by taxing those with higher paid jobs:

  • Everyone pays 9% of their income over £21k.
  • This means every graduate will pay less per month than they do now. 
  • They make payments until the cost is met or 30 years has passed. Our models show 40% of graduates will have to repay the full amount.
  • Graduates who do particularly well and go on to be high earners will contribute the full cost of their tuition and pay a higher interest rate.  Around 20% of graduates will pay back more than they borrow and the top 30% of earners are likely to pay back more than double the bottom 20% of earners. This allows us to offer protection to those who do not go onto earn high wages or have period out of employment.   
  • Ending upfront fees for part-time students. Anyone studying at more than 30% intensity will have access to the same system as full time students and be able to repay the cost when they are earning.
  • No one starts making monthly payments until they are earning more than £21k, increased from £15k today
  • We will apply an interest rate of up to 3% above inflation dependent on earnings. At £21k the graduate accrues 0% real interest; at £41k the graduate accrues 3% real interest. Between these points the interest rate increase related to earnings.

Notice of Motion by Councillor Sir Ron Watson

To consider the following Motion submitted by Councillor Sir Ron Watson:

“That the Council in response to the consultation process on Tuition Fees for Students indicates its strong opposition to any moves to impose a financial penalty on those students who find themselves in a position to repay the loan in advance of the normal maturity date."

Even David Willetts got the point as he showed in a parliamentary question to which he replied saying:

Mr Willetts: The Government are committed to the progressive nature of the repayment system. It is therefore important that those on the highest incomes post graduation are not able unfairly to buy themselves out of this progressive system by paying off their loans early. .........

Sadly Bootle Labour are against this element of progressive taxation. They were of course not thinking of the issue as one of policy but displaying a tribal response-don't bother me with issues of principle or policy I just want to be angry and anti..............

Monday, 16 May 2011

Ale, man, ale's the stuff to drink

Following on from Southport brewery's Royal kiss and the Liverpool Organic brewery's local heroes the latest in our series on micro brewery bottles comes from Woods brewery

pouring the pints-the role of an MP?

We had our thank you party on Saturday. It rained. We had secured a barrel of beer from the Southport brewery to toast our success and in an effort to keep it at the correct temperature we set it up outside.  As the photograph makes clear we had a willing volunteer to do the bar work.

Thursday, 12 May 2011

Compare and contrast

New Statesman - The Laws and coming out

Jacqui Smith rented a room from her sister, and designated it her "main home". That wasn't a desire to prevent her sororal habitation habit from being known: it was a desire to maximise her cash take. For that she was censored by, but not suspended from, the Commons.

Wednesday, 11 May 2011

Southport MP in action over Burscough Curves

This is a video of our MP John Pugh arguing the case for investment in small rail schemes like the Burscough Curves. The Southport Visiter has a version of the story too

As John's website says:

In a debate at Westminster today (27th April), John Pugh urged the "Government to be bold...and to put down a piece of rail that had not previously been there - as happens in other countries...At the moment, we have no such practice or history to look at. We know about bypasses and what happens as a result of them, but we have no idea whether restoring the Todmorden, Halton or Burscough curves will involve either the impact that the promoters believe, or some of the costs that the Government fear."

The most popular question this week....

The question that I have been asked most often this week is not why on earth have the Tories declared that they are going to let  Labour run the council but: Will Rushden and Diamonds FC go into administration .

Southport FC were relegated from the Conference Premier League this year on goal difference. But it now seems possible that R&D may go into administration and thus be kicked out of the League. Last night a 'rescue' meeting was held and it is reported on the Blue Sq Premier League website:

Diamonds need to raise £250,000 by the end of next week or face a Company Voluntary Agreement (CVA), administration or liquidation, the Northants Evening Telegraph is reporting.
The Nene Park management have been operating under a transfer embargo, while it is understood the playing staff have not been paid for the last three months.
Fans have now been urged to buy season tickets and make any donations they can to help pay off the club's debts - believed to be in the region of £750,000.
"A lot rests on what happens in the next seven to 10 days," Cousins revealed at a supporters' meeting of more than 400 people.
"We are in the most appalling position.

One part of the Liberal family did well in May's elections

It is worth pointing out that one bit of the Liberal family did well in May-The Alliance Party. Interstingly their one Westminster MP has not taken the Lib Dem whip although in the Lords they do.
Full detail here

Tiny Tory group put Labour in control of Sefton

Don't take my word for it the Southport Visiter has the story  The third party on the Council, the Conservatives , have decided to put Labour in control even though they do not have a majority, as the Visiter report:

'Conservative deputy leader Cllr Brenda Porter said there was “no chance” of the Tories linking up with the Lib Dems.

She said Labour would be given an opportunity to take leadership of the council.

Some Conservative members have urged well-respected Cllr Robertson (Lib Dem) to stay as leader.

Sir Ron Watson said: “The question is do you have a new leader of the council whose policies are not followed by the other two parties, or do you have a leader from a minority party? I would like to see a vote of confidence in Tony Robertson. The council needs to test the waters.”

Once again the small Tory group is divided. All last year the Labour party opposed the essential budget reductions playing up to ever aggrieved group seeking to give the impression that if they were in control that thing would be different. As the Tory leader told the Visiter:

Conservative group leader Paula Parry said: “Labour were just electioneering by opposing everything that we did. It was their government that started all this.....

All of which begs the question why the Tories would choose to put the Bootle Labour Party in control of the council instead of following the hardheaded advice of their former Leader who nobody would accuse of lacking political nouse.

MP backs Southport resident for Knighthood

Whilst many Southport FC fans are busily searching the web for information about the fate of Rushden and Diamonds and how their many creditors are acting some Southport people whose football allegiance is to Liverpool have other concerns. John Pugh who is a big Liverpool FC fan has signed the Early Day motion in Parliament urging that Birkdale resident Kenny Dalglish should be give a knighthood.

Knighthood For Kenny Dalglish

EDM number 1733 in 2010-11, proposed by Steve Rotheram on 26/04/2011.

That this House notes the outstanding contribution to British football by Kenny Dalglish as both a player and manager; recognises his support alongside his wife Marina for charitable causes; further notes his continued support for the dignified campaign by the families of the 96 Liverpool FC supporters who died at the Hillsborough Disaster on 15 April 1989; calls on the Government to recommend that Kenny Dalglish be knighted; and believes that any award would be a fitting tribute to the Hillsborough families' unstinting campaign for justice for the 96.

more information here

Southport MP backs allotments in House of Commons

Southport MP has backed an Early day Motion in parliament about allotments-and I promise you I haven't lobbied him, although I am his Councillor and if he reads the blog he will have seen this artcle which pre-dates his signature. Lib Dem colleague John Leech MP from Manchester proposed the motion:

Provision Of Allotments

EDM number 1763 in 2010-11, proposed by John Leech on 27/04/2011.

That this House notes that under the Small Holdings and Allotments Act 1908, a local authority has a statutory duty to provide a sufficient number of allotment plots to meet demand; further notes that under this legislation, should allotments be lost due to the development of that land, local authorities must provide an equal amount of land for use as allotments in its place; further notes that the Allotment Act 1908 has been included in the recent list of legislation to be reviewed; further notes that, despite this clear statutory obligation, the long and rapidly increasing waiting lists for allotments clearly show that local authorities are not discharging this duty; and therefore calls on the Government not to abandon the legislation but instead to ensure that it is properly enforced.

Full details here

Tuesday, 10 May 2011

John Pugh on Health 'reforms'

Southport John Pugh was appointed chair of the Lib Dem backbench committee on Health back in June 2010. He immediately set out to find the views of party members about Lansley's views writing on the 14th July he asked Lib Dem Voice readers for feedback observing :

  • Is the NHS ready for another structural upheaval/reform?
  • How will GPs cope with their new role?
  • And are we going to get a local NHS which is more accountable to the citizen and tax payer?
  • Will the NHS work better for the patient without PCTs and Regional Health Authorities?
  • Can we make progress without these changes ?

John also sought the views of others with knowledge and interest in the health service. It was not long before he began to express a clear critique of the reforms. He has raised his concerns and played a central part in the motion to the Lib Dem party Conference on the changes Lansley was promoting.

I give this little history lesson as there are some folk who who are seeking to promote the false impression that Lib Dems approved of the reforms. It is clear from the beginning that the party at large did not take that view and that if anyone had paused to ask they would have received the same feedback as John got.

Things have moved on. The 'reforms' have been on hold for a while and yesterday their was a debate in the Commons.  The Liverpool Daily Post carries a report this morning:

 The Southport MP turned up the heat over the controversial Health Bill by accusing his own party leader of not realising the implications of opening up the NHS to competition from the private sector.
The comments came as Dr Pugh warned the Bill must be dumped if it cannot be significantly improved, saying: “Unless it gets radical, surgical treatment than it shouldn’t go through.”
Increasingly, other Lib- Dem MPs – and even some Conservatives – are echoing Dr Pugh’s warning that the Bill threatens “chaos and confusion” if it goes ahead.

the report continues:

Dr Pugh repeated his criticisms of “a flawed piece of legislation”, highlighting:
The need for GPs to be helped by people with “expertise” in commissioning care;
The need for “democratic accountability”, from elected local councillors;
The danger of market competition leading to “fragmentation of the NHS”.

The party has clearly identified the foolishness of the competition monitor being set up with no regard to the need for co-operation and integration between providers.

Oliver Letwin and Danny Alexander were meant to have checked out the proposals before they were issued. Alexander is a Scots MP and as such does not have a role in looking after health for his constituents-it is a responsibility of the Holyrood parliament.

I have felt for a while now that our Scots colleagues could do with the services of a bright young Highland MP to help rebuild their fortunes. No doubt if David Laws is rehabilitated Mr Alexander will do the decent thing 

House of Commons Strangers Bar gets Southport Golden Sands brew

Word is reaching me that the Southport Brewery is poised to become the smallest brewery every to supply the House of Commons Strangers Bar. I understand the the Award Winning Brew Golden Sands will be available on draught in Westminster before the summer recess.

Well done to John Pugh MP for promoting local businesses and sharing with visitors to the Palace of Westminster the delights of an excellent golden ale. More news as I get it.

Friday, 6 May 2011

Lib Dems win most seats and most votes in Southport

We just failed to take a 5th by 16 after a recount
Sent from my BlackBerry® wireless device

Southport turn out figures

Cambridge Ward  44.0%
Dukes  39.6%
Norwood 35.3%
Kew  33.6%
Birkdale  41.0%
Ainsdale 48.2%

More to come, results through in about one hour

Thursday, 5 May 2011

brewing a celebration

The Palace banning beer from the Royal wedding -it is enough to drive you to be curmudgeonly Republican. The Independent has the story :

Prince William has meanwhile already provided a snapshot of our times by refusing to serve beer to the 650-odd guests at his reception, According to reports, champagne will instead be the order of the day. The Mirror, which broke this news, said the "ban" had been introduced because ale is "unsuitable" for a state event. "Let's face it," a palace source told the newspaper, "it isn't really an appropriate drink to be serving in the Queen's presence."
I went to a wedding on Friday and delightful it was. My cousin was marrying his longterm girl friend. They had been working in Belfast for several years and had become enamored with a local micro brewery-Whitewater. For the reception they had shipped a goodly supply of the Belfast ale and the lager. Both were quality, flavorsome brews.

The massive increase in microbreweries is one of the great successes of recent years. Here in Southport our local brewery ignored the possibility of royal disdain and produced an excellent celebration brew Royal Kiss which at 3.9% was just right for a party session ale.  

A couple of other examples of the micro breweries development are worth mentioning here. Many them have seized the opportunity to identify with their locality. Southport Brewery produces a special ale for the football club as well as brews like Sandgrounder, Golden Sands and Old Shrimper. On my canal travels we stopped at the pub at the foot of Foxton Locks and sampled the brew. The final picture shows the top lock at Foxton and some of you may identify the noble lord shutting the gate. As he remarked; its is monarchist who put you off the monarch. Cheers

Lauren Keith and the promiscuous prince.

Southport is awash with references to the last Duke of Cambridge, Prince George-whose appetite for irregular relations with women was impressive even by royal standards. We have Cambridge Rd, Cambridge Gardens, Cambridge Walks all of which were named after the promiscuous prince.

Apart from is entangle private life  Prince George is best remembered for being the last Royal Commander in Chief. He was seen as a major obstacle to reform of the army and it fell to Campbell Bannerman to remove him. He did not want to go. Queen Victoria was keen that the Duke of Connought should take over and he was bitterly disappointed when CB scuppered that plan. Nevertheless it is a mighty testimony to CB's diplomatic skills that he got his Army Reforms through complete with the removal of Prince George and that he managed to fall out with none of the key players. 

My colleague Lauren Keith-who is contesting Cambridge Ward today- has suggested that when the refurbishment of the Arts Centre is complete the building should revert to its original name -The Cambridge Hall. 

Tuesday, 3 May 2011

Surely this is a load of twaddle-but wait Pickles is involved........

If you asked any Liberal activist of the Edwardian era to list the great successes of the Liberal Government of 1906 s/he would have included the allotment legislation. The Liberal Party had long campaigned for access to the land and this legislation forced reluctant councils -like Birkdale - to make proper provision. News yesterday in the Sunday Independent that Pickles was actively considering dismantling this great Liberal achievement is I trust just twaddle.

In truth we could do with planning guidance as to the proper provision of allotment sites in new developments. So many apartments are being built with no access to land and modern houses often only come with just enough space to hang out your washing.

When the Workers Take over.......

There was a time when if I began a paragraph by writing that there was an interesting article in the 'Financial Times' I would have hesitated. But last week there was another interesting article that is well woth reading (it is free to read if you register)

It charts the transition of a Fife paper mill, Tullis Russell, from a family business to a wholly worker owned enterprise. As the article explains:
David Russell had thought about an employee trust in the 1970s and had some conversations with John Lewis, but had decided not to pursue it. But Mr Erdal, as he explains in Beyond the Corporation: Humanity Working, his latest book about employee ownership, decided to revive the idea after reading an article in the Financial Times about the employee buy-out of Baxi, a boiler manufacturer that was about the same size as Tullis Russell.

Having talked to Philip Baxendale, the architect of the buy-out, and then visited Mondragón, the hugely successful Spanish network of more than 100 co-operatives, which has been an inspiration to employee ownership crusaders, Mr Erdal became convinced that this was the way forward for Tullis Russell"

The collapse of the economy the preceded that last general election was largely a  of market failure. Companies that had their sole objective as improving 'shareholder value' took risky, daft, short term decisions in pursuit of that false god. If we truly want to re-balance the economy one of the key changes that we need to make is to the model of ownership and governance. The story of Tullis Russell demonstrates that there is an alternative.

It is interesting that one of the models that inspired Mr Erdal was the Mondragon co-operatives. As I have pointed out before this is the model that Jo Grimond championed. His book 'The Common Welfare' outlines their success not just as profit making businesses but as happy and sustainable human entities capable of taking tough long term decision.

Monday, 2 May 2011

14 go canvassing

At 4.30pm today nine of our team met up in Ainsdale to go canvassing. We were soon joined by 5 others: two parliamentarians, two activists and another Councillor.

Our objective was to meet the folks who live in the estates built by the sand dunes which is also home to the natter-jack toads. The dunes system in Birkdale and Ainsdale- part of the Ribble estuary- is a fantastic place for wild life. A couple of miles north is the RSPB Marshside Reserve but in amongst the dunes it is the natter-jack toads that are treasured

All of which gives me the opportunity to refer to the poem by Jean Sprackland

The Birkdale Nightingale (Bufo calamito – the Natterjack toad)

On Spring nights you can hear them
two miles away, calling their mates
to the breeding place, a wet slack in the dunes.
Lovers hiding nearby are surprised
by desperate music. One man searched all night
for a crashed spaceship.

For amphibians, they are terrible swimmers:
where it's tricky to get ashore, they drown.
By day they sleep in crevices under the boardwalk,
run like lizards from cover to cover
without the sense to leap when a gull snaps.
Yes, he can make himself fearsome,
inflating his lungs to double his size.
But cars on the coast road are not deterred.

She will lay a necklace of pearls in the reeds.
Next morning, a dog will run into the water and scatter them.
Or she'll spawn in a footprint filled with salt rain
that will dry to a crust in two days.

Still, when he calls her and climbs her
they are well designed. The nuptial pads on his thighs
velcro him to her back. She steadies beneath him.

The puddle brims with moonlight.
Everything leads to this.