Friday, 8 July 2011

Drought in the Horn of Africa, Energy crisis in the UK and locally a Labour scandal that beggars belief

The Mayor's Chaplain last night prayed that we would temper our contributions with brotherly concern. Well the Leader of the council certainly took that message to heart. I had the temerity to ask a formal question at the Council meeting about the conduct of Merseyside Integrated Transport Authority (ITA) better known to you and me as Merseytravel.

I had a wide range of option I could have asked about

The Leader  the Council is Peter Dowd (Minor), the leader his brother Mark Dowd (Major) leader of the ITA. They are a bit like rabbit in Winnie the Pooh -their friends and relations are all over the Labour Party locally. It is a fairly open secret many of the other Labour people regionally think Dowd Major needs sorting. My colleague Tony Robertson has spoken more about this. 

For many people things have come to a head with the spectacular hand break U turn that the Labour group did at the ITA over rail integration. For year Dowd and the CEO of Merseyrail have lobbied and campaigned to be allowed to run both the rail and the rolling stock instead of the split between network rail and themselves. They commissioned expensive reports to back up the proposition. There is much sense in this proposal. Dowd really got quite shirty with those who opposed it and said during the campaign I  just do not see why Network Rail cannot understand the logic of our argument".

The morning of the ITA there was a comprehensive briefing from the CEO Neil Scales about the 'ambition' of the authority and the next steps that were to be taken to fulfil their plan of taking over the Network Rail  functions. I understand that there was no dissent. They broke for lunch and followed that with the formal meeting of the ITA. It was at that point that Dowd announced that despite spending £1.5million they were going to forgo the improvements to Merseyrail and the significant cost savings. Why? Well under questioning the name of Bob Crowe came up.

I think Jim Hancocks of the Liverpool Daily Post has the best summary of what happened next:

One gets a clue to Neil Scales’s view of the councillors’ decision in the statement issued on behalf of Merseytravel. It speaks of being “instructed”, refers specifically to union opposition and ends with this telling sentence, “Members don’t want Merseyside to be emblematic . . . for reducing the costs of the UK railways


And so we come to my question at the full council meeting last night. I decided that the best opening was jst to ask the Leader Dowd (Minor)  'can he comment on the decision of Merseyside ITA to abandon its plans to integrate the rail and rolling stock?'

OK the English Teachers and others out there will have identified that I failed properly to distinguish between 'can' and 'will' which makes the Leader's answer more laughable as I got fobbed off with the one word reply:

'No'

Now I must say that this has a very close family resemblance to Dowd (Major) response to the media. Both local and National papers tried to contact him and he did not return the calls. Clearly the plan is to bury the item by not talking about it. I 

I got no further with my supplementary so I decide that the next stage was to try and suspend standing orders so as to force the council to discuss this issue. I won the vote ! but procedurally Labour blocked it because the total number of those voting for the motion was less that half the full council (33) Did I mention that one of the absentees was Mark Dowd.? So Labour blocked the discussion. So much for accountability and transparency.

This matter will not go away. The decision of the ITA came too late to include a motion on the Council agenda but there is always next time-and of course there are other avenues to explore.

Can I thank all members of the Labour party who have helped in the preparation of this article.  


Maybe it would concentrate all our minds if the Chaplain begins the next Council meeting with the prayer that goes  


We acknowledge and bewail our manifold sins and wickedness, Which we, from time to time, most grievously have committed, By thought, word and deed,..........We do earnestly repent, And are heartily sorry for these our misdoings; The remembrance of them is grievous unto us; The burden of them is intolerable

On a different matter there always come a time when those who see themselves as 'big beasts' in the jungle fall. It is usually when they loose their menace and folk start explaining where all the bodies are buried and retribution is finally on the agenda . But if I were Andy Coulson





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