Sunday, 30 October 2011

A Prima facie case is not enough to convict

Latin, On the first appearance.] A fact presumed to be true unless it is disproved.

In common parlance the term prima facie is used to describe the apparent nature of something upon initial observation. In legal practice the term generally is used to describe two things: the presentation of sufficient evidence by a civil claimant to support the legal claim (a prima facie case), or a piece of evidence itself (prima facie evidence)

The Labour leader made a rather bizarre speech on Thursday evening. Essentially he was arguing that because his brother (Chair of the Mersey transport Exec) had asserted that suddenly ditching a long standing policy of Merseytravel -without the benefit of any published officer advice was in his view sensible the rest of us should shut up and accept his decision. Tony Robertson rehearses some of issues here

The trouble is many folk think the decision is potty and will cost us money and pass up the chance of having a better local railway. As Jim Hancocks the doyen of NW political correspondents wrote in the Liverpool Post:

The decision by councillors to turn their backs on a bid by Merseytravel to own their rail network is truly shocking
Since 2006, the two men have worked together to gain control of the rail tracks to complement the authority’s responsibility for the train services. One-and-a-half million pounds has been spent on plans for “vertical integration.”

It’s a technical term meaning that Merseyside passengers would have one company running train and track.........

Cllr Dowd railed (no pun intended) at Network Rail’s refusal to let go.
“I just do not see why Network Rail cannot understand the logic of our argument,” he is quoted as saying as the campaign continued in 2008.
I understand that the decision to shelve the bid to run the track was taken without a full report being prepared for members of the Transport Authority. If true, it beggars belief. Why were councillors asked to reverse a policy which they had faithfully backed for years without a reasoned argument being put before them?
Now in Peter Dowd's speech this highly questionable act became a prima facie case for abandoning the policy. He said it 14 times as if using a latin tag some how invested this truly shocking action with a defence that no sensible person could dare question. Well there may or may not be a prima facie case-I cannot tell nobody has published the advice not even (I understand) to members of the authority. But even if there was a pria facie case we do not take thing at face value-they should be tested- scrutinised aad reviewed. Well not in Merseytravel.
Of course this has nothing at all to do with the rumoured enthusiasm of some Labour people on Merseyside to abolish Merseytravel and put it under a City Region or elected Mayor- any such suggestion would be outrageous

Read More

A few political predictions few will believe...........

The conventional political wisdom is that some ideas are dead and unlikely to to see the light of day for a generation. So just for the record and so I can claim mystical powers when my predictions come true:

British Membership of the Euro
Electoral Reform
Federalism within England/UK (and Europe for that matter


At the at Conference in September I suggested to Jon Ball -late of this Parish and now resident in Ealing- that the Euro would be back on the political agenda. He did not agree! Now is not the time to go into great detail  in support of my view but basically I have always thought that the Eurozone countries would always land up doing what ever it takes to sort the crisis and that post crisis economic growth would return to those countries. The single market and the high proportion of UK trade with zone will mean that we will inevitably be tagging on behind with no authority and no choice-much like the Irish Pound used to do with Sterling. I know it is unfashionable view decades of euro sceptic propoganda from Murdoch etc have poisoned the debate -but as Will Hutton notes in his Observer column this morning:

................ England will dissociate from the EU and try to build an economy as an offshore financial and tax-avoidance centre. Scotland, horrified by the options offered by England, will vote for independence and join the eurozone, leaving England as the country of Little Englanders.

But there is another future – holding Britain together as a federation, building a high innovation economy and aiming eventually to be in the same political club, with its currency, as the best in Europe. I know my preferred option and I suspect, if ever spelled out in these terms, it would be shared by most of Britons. But the chances of that are negligible. To get there, we may have first to drink deeply from the eurosceptic cup of failure.

Electoral Reform
The Labour Party will belatedly wake up to political reality. Boundary reform will lead to fewer MP's in Wales and the same in  Scotland and more of what is left from SNP.   (that's if they don't win the Independence Referendum) means that there will a permanent Tory majority  in Westminster. 

Regionalism UK federalism
The distaste for elected Big City Mayors clearly evident in this part of the world and echoed in Birmingham means that England is the most grossly over centralised nation in Europe. We need the benefits of devolution clearly evident in Scotland and Wales-and even London. Just because Pescott screwed up English regionalism by incompetence doesn't mean that the status quo is acceptable.  

FA Cup draw,,10431~2499595,00.html#continue
Barnet FC report their FA Cup draw against Southport. They don't sound too confident! I am also left wondering what Southport Chairman Charlie Clapham has done to leave such an impression on Barnet................

I was going to write up this story but Tony Robertson has done it for me!

At last Thursday’s Sefton Council I again tried to push Merseytravel to publish the background papers and and evidence they used when they made their highly surprising policy ‘U” turn earlier this year on vertical integration of our local Merseyrail network.
Whilst this can be perceived as a complex issue it is all rather straight forward. For years rail experts have been saying that splitting the operator and infrastructure parts of the railways up has led to greater costs and therefore higher ticket prices. They also say that we could run our railways better if the two were joined back up. Most folks who have looked at this, probably with the exception of die hard Conservative privatisers, have agreed that the two parts need joining back up. So a campaign started during the last Labour Government to push them into doing this. By the time the wheels of Whitehall had final got around to it the Government had changed but fortunately the Coalition Government was in agreement. A couple of pilot areas were agreed, one being Merseyside’s Merseyrail network, to see if it could be made to work, what the savings would be etc. All well and good, as Merseytravel had long wanted to be such a case study. However, Labour run Merseytravel then backed out, as I have posted before, for reasons they are far from keen to talk about.

Follow the link above for the full article

Wednesday, 26 October 2011

A nice letter from lancashire CCC:

20 October 2011
Mr P Fraser
Senior Committee Administrator
Sefton Council
Governance & Civic Services
Corporate Commissioning Department
Town Hall
Lord Street

Dear Mr Fraser

Many thanks for your letter of 30 September congratulating the Club on winning
the County Championship after such a long wait!
It has indeed been a great achievement particularly when you consider the small
squad that the coaching staff had to manage with this year.
I have indeed passed on your best wishes of the Area Committee to the team and
everyone else connected with the Club and let us hope that this is the start of
many more to come!

Kindest regards

Yours sincerely

Jim Cumbes

Chief Executive/Secretary


This is the statement issued by Tony Robertson last this notion was flavour of the day.

A report was published last week co-authored by Tory heavyweight Lord Heseltine (former Deputy Prime Minister) and Sir Terry Leahy (former chief executive of Tesco).
Michael Heseltine was dubbed "Minister for Merseyside" in the 1980s, following his efforts in the aftermath of the Toxteth riots, and Liverpool-born Sir Terry Leahy was Chief Executive of Tesco from 1997 to 2011.
The independent report "Rebalancing Britain: Policy or Slogan? Liverpool City Region - Building on its Strengths" was commissioned by Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron.
Liberal Democrats in Southport and Sefton have welcomed aspects of the Report but are strongly opposed to one of its key elements: an elected Mayor for Merseyside.
Lib Dem leader Cllr Tony Robertson who is Sefton Council's Cabinet Member for Communities, said: "I and my fellow Lib Dem councillors am strongly opposed to the idea of an elected Mayor for Merseyside. I think it is bad news for Sefton and its diverse communities."
"The vast majority of our Borough, and I am thinking here of Southport, Formby and Maghull, has a boundary with Lancashire. So the idea of a "Metro Mayor" would only put yet another artificial barrier between our Borough and those neighbouring Lancashire areas with which we naturally sit."
Lib Dem Councillor Simon Shaw is Cabinet Member Environmental, and said: "There are certainly aspects of the report that I warmly welcome, for example its support for the Mersey Barrage project, for establishing a proposed Green Investment Bank in central Liverpool and relocating civil service jobs to the region."
"However the idea of an elected Mayor for what they term the 'Greater Liverpool' area is a complete non-starter for me. I know that Sir Terry has said that he thinks our area needs a 'Boris'. I'm much more worried it might be a Derek Hatton instead."
"I suppose if the people of Liverpool and Knowsley and Bootle want an elected Mayor, then that is up to them. Just leave us out of it."
Lib Dem Councillor Mike Booth, the Cabinet Member for Tourism and Leisure on Sefton Council, welcomed what the report had to say on opportunities for boosting tourism throughout the area.

Cllr Booth said: "For example the report highlights the issue of trying to resolve the issue of whether cruise liners are allowed to start and end their journeys at Liverpool. To have that would not only benefit Liverpool, but Sefton and Southport as well, with our wide range of attractions to tourists."

Thursday, 20 October 2011

Coalition does not fulfil the promise made in its agreement

I regret that there is more truth in this statement than we should be comfortable with:

Leaders of the mutuals sector have today said that the government must do more to promote mutual forms of business.
Speaking ahead of the 2011 Mutuals Forum, Peter Hunt, Mutuo Chief Executive said:
“The Coalition Agreement promised to ‘foster diversity and promote mutuals.’  So far, there is little evidence of a coherent Government plan to do this.  At the same time, the Mutual sector is the strongest it has been in many years. It employs over a million people and turns over more than £110 billion annually. It’s clear to us that the government needs to work much harder in this area if it is to honour its commitment.”
In the financial services sector, Government has already missed opportunities to move the sector forward by:
·       ending Child Trust Funds, more than 60% of which were successfully provided by mutuals
·       rejecting plans to re-mutualise Northern Rock, even before HM Treasury has received a report on the feasibility of this
·       Treasury failing to support mutual insurers as they argue that their capital structures should be treated different from plcs by Regulators
In the public services, the Cabinet Office has stated an ambition of 1 million public sector workers owning their own firms by 2015.  So far, it has achieved less than 5% of this number.  Unless it immediately makes plans to provide comprehensive support to public sector managers, it is already clear that this target will not be met.
Peter Hunt added:
“When confidence in other types of institutions has collapsed, mutuals have grown, strengthened and showed the way for responsible business in our country. Were the government to seize the opportunity to engage more fully with the sector we would be in a position to genuinely secure and grow more customer focused businesses and radically transform methods of public service delivery.”

Coalition does not have a credible plan to promote mutual business

Southport's amazing comeback

For those of us listening to the BBC Radio Newcastle commentary on the game between Gateshead and Southport on Tuesday night it seemed that the fairy tale of Southport's extended run of away victories was over by half time when they were two nil down. But no! The second half brought victory. Watch especially Shaun Whalley's second goal.

Gateshead v SFC highlights from leaguenetwork on Vimeo.

Wednesday, 19 October 2011

Shirley Williams gets health bill concession

We always follow with interest Baroness Williams of Crosby and today Political Home are reporting her doings:

Liberal Democrats may win a key concession on the controversial Health and Social Bill before the legislation is passed, PoliticsHome has learned.

Sources have indicated that the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats, including key rebel Baroness Williams, have struck a deal which would allow Lib Dem peers currently opposed to the legislation to secure changes to the role of the Health Secretary. They are currently concerned that the Bill will mean the Secretary of State is not responsible for ensuring that patients across the country receive the same services and standards of care.

PoliticsHome understands that the responsibility of the Health Secretary to ensure the provision of health services could be re-written so that it allays fears that he could "wash his hands" of the NHS.

Full story here

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

I support Southport,Lancs. Thanks

Sign our petition here

The Boundary Commission for England have issued draft proposals to make all Parliamentary constituencies roughly equal in size.  This requires Southport constituency to be expanded, which could be done in one of two ways.

One way would require adding on half of Formby, splitting Formby in two for the first time in its history.  Not surprisingly, the people of Formby seem generally to be unhappy with this idea.

The other idea would be to rejoin Southport with its historic Lancashire hinterland - the villages to the north and east of our town whose people mainly work and shop here and who have already been taken out of the West Lancashire constituency.  Southport newspapers circulate in this area and, not surprisingly, some residents of this area already initially contact the Southport MP, rather than the South Ribble MP.

Coupled with our SouthportLancs MP proposal is an idea to allow the whole of Formby to be re-united with the Ormskirk constituency in which it was placed for most of the past hundred years. Please note that having a shared MP would IN NO WAY affect the pattern of local government provision in the area.

Residents of Southport, Banks, Hesketh Bank, Tarleton etc, have until 5th December to make their views known. You can help us send a clear message to the Boundary Commission by signing our "SouthportLancs MP" petition either online or by downloading a printable copy.

The campaign to have a new Southport constituency including parts of Lancashire has been supported not only by the Liberal Democats and John Pugh MP, but also by the Southport Area Committee and the Southport Party. Parish Councils throughout the neighbouring areas are also being asked to consider supporting the proposals.
Link for online petition

John Pugh in Hillsborough debate

Newspapers today are listing the contributions from Merseyside MPs to the debate on Hillsborough. They have missed John's contribution. Maybe it is just prescience on their part and they already regard Southport as a Lancashire seat! Anyway here is what John had to say: 

John Pugh (Southport, Liberal Democrat)
I begin by congratulating, on behalf of, I think, all of us here today, Steve Rotheram. None of us can hope to match his eloquence, passion, persistence and, frankly, the raw emotion he has displayed today. I first knew him as a very effective mayor of Liverpool city council, and he has today proved to be a very effective champion of his area and of Merseyside as a whole. I want to thank him for associating me with his efforts in making the all-party applications; this has been an all-party endeavour. I also want to mention the hon. Gentleman’s predecessor, Peter Kilfoyle. Even though he was a lifelong Evertonian, he did a lot of work for this cause in the House.
I should declare an interest. I am a Liverpool FC supporter. My entire family came from Liverpool, and I grew up there, although I had the misfortune originally, as a child in a city that was oozing football success, to be taken every Saturday toKnotty Ash to watch our one and only rugby league team get beaten repeatedly week after week—thereby amply preparing me for life as a Liberal.
I think I understand the Liverpool character as well as most. A history that has often been quite brutal has endowed that character with two marked traits. The first is a profound emphasis on social solidarity. People have learned to depend on each other—on family and neighbourhood. That was beautifully summed up by Bill Shankly in the following quote, of which I have a copy in my office:
“the only way to live and to be truly successful is by collective effort, with everyone working for each other, everyone helping each other, and everyone having a share of the rewards at the end of the day.”
The second major trait has also been forged by a hard history. It is a lack of reverence—a suspicion and questioning of authority and all the pomposity and cant that often underpins it. That is the reason why Liverpool produces so many comedians. It is a feeling that the world is not necessarily on our side—and, indeed, often it is not, especially for those who spend their time questioning authority, and the pomposity and the cant underpinning it.
Hillsborough was a terrible tragedy for Liverpool. At the time I was a councillor in Sefton, and we outside the immediate Liverpool area lost many people. Afterwards, there was an opportunity to show that things could be different, but what happened? As expected, there was a massive, deeply impressive show of solidarity, and it continues, confirming that this is the city where the way forward is not “walking alone” and where social solidarity is important. The people were, however, let down by the powers that be: the national media, including The Sun, about which much has been said today; those in the legal system, about which we have not said as much as we ought to have done; and the police—we have mentioned Duckenfield—who tried to shift blame. Some—but not all—of them perpetuated, relied on or were diverted by prejudices, not just about football supporters but specifically about Liverpool football supporters. That was the case both knowingly and, sometimes, unknowingly, and explicitly and implicitly. Unsurprisingly therefore, there has been no closure. The narrative not only of what happened but of how different people told—or tried to tell in order to fix—that narrative has never been fully before us.
I genuinely believe that we get better inquiries and inquests if the people running them are prepared to look at their limitations and flaws. We get better reporting if the media at least acknowledge their failings. We also get better policing if the police openly account for their wrongdoing and the error in their own ranks. Truthfulness at all levels is the path to improvement.

"I am aware from books written on this topic that certain people in the offices of The Sun questioned Kelvin MacKenzie about his decision on that day.
Liverpool people are not stupid; they know there are good and, sometimes, not so good men in all uniforms. They know that judges are likely to spend more time at Twickenham than on the football terraces so do not necessarily have adequate knowledge of the latter. They know that lawyers can be, and have been, both cynical and noble in addressing this issue. They know that football supporters also come in all shapes and sizes, and that everyone has their prejudices. The antidote to all that, however, is not reports and procedures; rather, it is a single-minded pursuit of the truth. The antidote is not a narrative that suits one or another group or institution, or even one that allows all interests to make peace.
Liverpudlian John Lennon’s song “Gimme some Truth” puts this point most simply. One verse—I am unsure whether it applies to any Member who is present—states:
“I’m sick and tired of hearing things
From uptight, short-sighted, narrow-minded hypocrites
All I want is the truth
Just gimme some truth”.
The full truth will not necessarily make everything right again. The horror that was Hillsborough will recede in time, even though for some it is, of course, relived every day. However, we owe it to them and the victims to ensure that what passes into history is not a myth or a convenient narrative, but is, so far as is humanly possible, the true and full account of the events."

Sunday, 16 October 2011

A local Liberal hero who knew why Liberals still banded together to continue-extended and amended the struggle

'The truth is that Liberalism is the only hope of a world in which dictators still rule; in which preparation for war is the only insurance against chaos; in which men can be victimised because of their colour or creed; in which there is one law for weak and another for the strong. It is because we know this that we Liberals are still banded together to continue the struggle.' 

David Bentliff  January 1952

In those difficult days for Liberalism Southport Liberals still commanded significant support in the town. Local newspapers described 'the old world part of the town (Churchtown and Marshside)' as ' for so long a Gibraltar of Liberalism'. Today Nigel Ashton is the inheritor of that tradition which was founded on Methodism and temperance.

Maybe it is because of the unbroken tradition of Liberalism in this town that quite a few names and personalities from that time are still remembered. The 1945 general Election was fought by Robert Martin ( yes that Martin family who  Jonathan Calder was moved to remark on.....Bob Martin was father of Robert Martin.  Bob was the founder of the the dog medicine firm in 1892. He was the President of the Southport Liberal Association and gave £1,000 a year to the Infirmary for the last five years of his life. There was a  Bob Martin Ward named after him..) Sam and Madge Goldberg -Sam came second in the 1959 General Election. He was one of very few who achieved that in a three cornered fight. (Michael Meadowcroft writes about that campaign in Liberator January 2010 page 16-17). Suffice to say Sam was the original Mr Southport to whom we shall return in a separate article later. Sydney Hepworth went on to be the Liberal Leader of the Council organising a Lib/ Lab pact to defeat the Tories before an unfortunate entanglement with a Mr Poulson. Then there was Ken Tissot the Lord Street Chocolatier and finally Billy Watson. Watson was born in Birkdale and found fame as a footballer. He started out with the Blowick Wesleyans  and moved on via Burnely and Accrington Stanley to be capped for England. He served two terms as a Liberal Councillor and after his death his widow was a stalwart of the WLA.

And yet against this colourful backdrop it is the bespectacled  barrister Hubert David Bentliff who upon retiring as Under Secretary to the National Assistance Board became the Liberal Parliamentary candidate in 1951 that the blog's resident historian has nominated as our first local hero.

No Liberal candidate held their deposit in a by election in this period. It was not until John Bannerman in 1954 fighting Inverness that the long march back began. Bentliff took to holding outdoor meetings in the local parks and recruited a whole generation of candidates and activists.Despite the unpromising circumstances Bentliff rallied the Liberal supporters and laid the foundations for the associations subsequent growth. He established local ward committees in Ainsdale, Marine, Sussex and Birkdale along with three Womens' Liberal Associations.  Our own committee in Birkdale was reformed in 1952 and in 1956 Mike Drury became the first Liberal councillor in Birkdake South for thirty years-he won by 2 votes! 

It was his unfortune luck to come on the scene at a time when the party was still in electoral decline. He fought the 1951 General Election along with only109 other Liberals. Most of them lost their deposit. Bentliff did not he polling 8,000 votes. His by election vote in 1952 was the lowest by a Liberal candidate since 1886. Nevertheless he kept organising and campaigning, Even as he was being rushed to hospital for an operation on a perforated duodenal ulcer he was signing the nomination papers for a council by election in Scarisbrick Ward. He died three days later in  Southport infirmary. The by election was delayed because of his death but when it was held we won by 79 votes.

Bob Martin paid tribute to him saying: 'He felt passionate about injustice wherever it lay and was endlessly mindful of others. He spared nothing of himself in fighting to defend those less able than themselves' His memorial service was taken by Revd George Young-himself a former Liberal candidate -who described him as a twentieth century David out to slay every Goliath who stood in his way.'  

The Southport Guardian-alas no longer with us covered the by election result and Bentliff's reaction.

Southport Guardian  for Saturday 9th Feb 1952. The death of the King rather overshadowed the by-election but  there are some interesting quotes from Bentliff. At the count he said “ I am ready again and again .. The fight goes on”. He is also quoted  as saying “The unexpected drop in the Liberal vote has done nothing but to steel me for the fights again”. I think you will agree that it was a remarkable response from someone who had just lost his deposit.  

Then on page three there is a letter from  him which I quote in full

On  Wednesday 3776 Southport men and women stood fast to their Liberalism – nearly 4,000 fewer than at the General Election last October. To the 3776 I give my thanks in a message on another page of the “Guardian” today.
I have no message for those who fear or dislike Liberalism.It is quite natural that they should be jubilant or scornful of what has happened to the Liberal vote this time.
My message is to those Liberals who stood aside from their convictions. I ask trhe to think of the damage they do to what they believe in by allowing themselves to be diverted even only temporarily by considerations which have no bearing whatsoever on any of the grave problems which they know full well can be solved properly only by the application of Liberal principles 

David Bentliff, 10 Lord Street West.

Other points of interest is the message of thanks, referred to in David Bentliff`s letter, which read

DAVID BENTLIFF THANKS all the 3,776 Southport men and women who worked and voted for him and refused to allow ANYTHING to divert them from their Liberalism on February 6th.

On the front page the following appears under the heading  “ It is whispered that….”
A former Liberal agent facing Thursday morning`s realities asked a fellow bus passenger “Does this mean the end of the party in Southport ?

The election campaign appears to have been a very civilized one  with the victorious  Roger Fleetwood Heasketh inviting David Bentliff and Labour candidate, Alan Tillotson, who had stood as a Liberal candidate in one of the Bolton seats in 1950 , for lunch at Meols Hall the next day. I couldn`t imagine Ian Percival Thatcher's Solicitor ewho I fought in the 1983 General Election in Southport or the discredited extreme right winger Ann Winterton who I fought in the two subsequent General Elections extending a similar invitation to me

Many thanks to Michael Braham for the historical research and corrections

Saturday, 15 October 2011

Unanswered questions Lib Dems should demand to have answered

I see the ring wing of the Tory party is joining the Labour Party in suggesting that Lib Dems have not joined in the Fox hunt for fear of what might happen to Chris Huhne. On the assumption that is not true there are some key questions that need to be pursued.

Craig Murray was on Radio 4's Week in Westminster this morning. Craig is a former British Ambassador (and YL). On his website earlier this week he posed some of the questions that need to be addressed in a form of a letter to the British Ambassador to Israel:

'You are widely reported in the media to have met Mr Werritty with Liam Fox at a meeting in the MOD before your posting to Tel Aviv.
1) Was this part of your official series of pre-posting briefing meetings?
2) Who organised the meeting? Was it organised by another official, eg in Heads of Mission Section (if it still exists) or the geographical department?
3) At what stage did you know that Werritty would be in the meeting?
4) How was Werritty introduced to you?
5) Who did you think that Werritty was? In what capacity did you believe or presume or were you told that Werritty was at the meeting?'
Craig clearly feels that the links between Werrity and Israel may include Mossad-that was the bit that was edited out by Radio 4 this morning . 

Monday, 10 October 2011

Gladstone quiz

The deadline is long gone for you to enter the Gladstone Library's quiz-prize- free accommodation at St Deniol's as it used to be called. Nevertheless I'm sure there will be some readers who who wish to test their knowledge . The full quiz can be found here.

I should say that i have not kept the details of the quiz back to stop anyone entering. I only noticed it late on Friday. i do wonder if they had launched it in conjunction with Liberal History Group whether they would have spread their net a little wider.
Anyway just to get you started here are the first few questions

The Gladstone Quiz

1) The acronym G.O.M. for Grand Old Man was popularly applied to Gladstone. What was Disraeli’s interpretation of those letters?

Answer: _______________________________________________________________________

2) As a reversal of G.O.M. what did the initials M.O.G. stand for?

Answer: _______________________________________________________________________

3) Who painted a pair of distinguished portraits of Gladstone and Disraeli?

Answer: _______________________________________________________________________

4) When was Gladstone’s first ever Budget speech as Chancellor of the Exchequer?

Answer: _______________________________________________________________________

5) Whom did Gladstone refer to as being “in public the perfect Bismarck”?

Answer: _______________________________________________________________________

The rest are here. I would say that the prize would have been well worth winning. Peter Rainford whose blog charting his time in USA on a Churchill Fellowship has featured on this blog has chosen to write up his report at the Library .

Tony Greaves talks to Westinster Hour about Health Bill revolt

Tony Greaves was on Radio 4's Westminster hour pondering out loud whether he was going to support the Health Bill in the House of Lords this week. You can listen to it here for the next 6 days.

I must admit I was not persuaded by Tony's objection to alternative providers being engaged in the provision of services. Tony appeared to have a very minimalist approach to the contribution that can be made-restricted to specialist services and innovation on the margins.

As a Liberal I have always been uncomfortable with monopolies. I do not change my mind because it is a state owned monopoly. A plurality of providers and -with the introduction of individual health budgets-a plurality of purchasers is broadly to be welcomed.

Where I do have real concerns is over the issue of ownership. I know that this is one of the issues that Will Hutton's Ownership Commission is examining. I do believe that after Southern Cross et al we should look to see whether there are forms of ownership that are inappropriate for health and social care. The venture capitalist and hedge fund with there driven emphasis on return on capital may be just plain wrong for this sector which should be the preserve of not for profit charities and mutuals.

The whole area of ownership has -to the shame of Liberals-slipped off the agenda and we need to raise its profile once more not just in relation to health and social care but in the wider economy. I shall return to this issue

Thursday, 6 October 2011

Credit where it is due- Labour Leader has acted responsibly

I was very critical last year when I felt  Sefton Labour Leader Peter Dowd opted out of the budget process and licensed his group just to campaign against the cuts. Many thought that they gave the impression that if Labour had been in control of the Council things would have been different.

This year as Leader of the Council Cllr Dowd has stepped up to the crease and published a list of spending cuts he wants the council to consult on. This is the responsible thing to do. These will be difficult decisions. Some, when the economy is stronger,  we will wish to reverse. But to govern is to choose as someone once said and Cllr Dowd has chosen. His actions reveal his sense of priorities and we will scrutinise his judgements. There are some we will want to challenge and others accept. We may wish to suggest alternatives. This is the proper process of politics and Cllr Dowd reserves recognition for having fully engaged in the process

Labour publish their cuts for Sefton

Labour publish their cuts for Sefton

Cllr Tony Robertson the Lib Dem Leader on Sefton Council said in response to the Labour led Council publishing a list of cut backs for consultation,

"It is local residents who now have to pick up the tab because the last Labour Government allowed the deficit to run out of control. They borrowed an eye watering £150 billion in their last year in office. Labour and their banking mates got us in this mess. 

Last year, when the Lib Dems led Sefton Council, Labour refused to behave responsibly and said that they would have made cuts in a completely different way.  Well, now is the public's chance to see what Labour's priorities are to cut.

This is Labour’s £25 million package of savings and it is very telling to see what they are willing to cut and what they want to save. They want to keep us paying for bin bags in Bootle while seeming happy to take millions of pounds out of services for children, elderly and the disabled."

The next wave of cuts will bring home to local people the depth of the damage done by Labour's years of spending money they hadn't got.  The kinds of cutbacks they are considering in road repairs seem too high.  And the Tourism Department must be saved: it is our lifeblood of the Southport and indeed Seftonwide economy. We need to encourage people to visit Southport as the money they spend benefits our local economy"

It better not be the start of a Labour budget for their Bootle heartlands with everywhere else suffering greater cuts."

Wednesday, 5 October 2011

Southport on target

Southport's amazing goal
Southport v Cambridge from leaguenetwork on Vimeo.

Breaking news: Labour Councillor joins Lib Dems in Sefton

I shall leave it to my colleague Tony Robertson to give you the full story

Total Politics Top 35 Councillor Blog

That was a surprise thanks to the sharp-eyed folk who brought to my attention that we were placed at No 8 in the Total Politics awards

Garenin closes permanently

It is with enormous saddness that I learn that the Gatliff Trust have come to the decision to close their amazing 'Black House' Crofters Hostel on Lewis. I first visited there about 20 years ago and I have written before about the couple who ran the hostel. I returned a couple of years later with my regular walking companion.

Those who have travelled up from the Callinish Stones to Garenin will never forget the landscape-or the unfamiliar experience of people stopping their cars unbidden to offer lifts. I am please that the three remaining Gatliff Hostel continue to prosper they are well worth a visit If you go to the Harris Hostel at Rhinigidale  don't go by the new road but walk from Tarbet by the hill path.

I understand that the rest of the Garenin crofters village is still open

Sefton to get its hands on Pickles grant

Simon Shaw by Birkdale Ward Councillor has issued the following following on from Pickles latest faux pas- I mean the embarrassment of the man announcing a particular form of waste collection is a Human Right, not to mention the contradition implied in both championing localism and then seeking to mirco manage a quintessentially local service. I am indebted to Lord Bonkers for pointting up the absurdities of Pickles position. Anyway back to Simon

Sefton Council’s Lib Dem Cabinet Member Environmental has responded to recent Government announcement of £250m Fund for “weekly bin collections”

Last week the Government announced a £250 million Fund to help local authorities in England maintain weekly bin collections.

Sefton’s Cabinet Member – Environmental, Cllr Simon Shaw is hopeful that Sefton Council will be eligible for a share of the Fund.

He particularly welcomed the comments of Caroline Spelman, Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, who said that “This new fund will help councils whose residents want their rubbish collected more frequently to reinstate weekly bin rounds for smelly waste.”

Cllr Shaw said: “Locally we have maintained a weekly collection of smelly waste through the food waste collection service. From the fairly limited information available so far, that seems to be exactly the sort of service which the Government is proposing to support through this Fund. But, as always, the devil is in the detail.”

“It won’t mean an enormous financial benefit, as the £250 million is spread over 5 years. Sefton’s share of that could be something like £1.5 million – that’s £300,000 per year.”

“It certainly isn’t enough to cover the cost of changing to collecting general waste every week, despite what some misleading recent newspaper headlines may have said.”

“In fact, a while ago Sefton officers worked out how much extra it would cost to switch from the present AWC system to emptying the grey wheelie bins each week. It came out at more than 10 times the amount the Government would give us.”

“However, if this money can be used by Sefton Council to develop an even better weekly food waste collection service then that’s obviously good news. Around 50% of local households already use that service, but it would be great to get that figure even higher.”

Some key facts:

• Sefton operates an AWC (Alternating Weekly Collection) refuse collection system for most of the Borough. For most of the year grey wheelie bins (“residual” waste) are emptied one week, and green wheelie bins (compostable garden waste) are emptied the next week. Around Christmas, grey bins are emptied every week.

• In addition Sefton provides a weekly food waste collection service. In 2010/11 it collected 3,000 tonnes of food waste. 50% of households have opted in to this service, and it is hoped this proportion will rise further.

• Recyclable waste (“green box” i.e. paper, bottles and cans) are collected each week.

• In 2004/5 Sefton collected 16,500 tonnes of recyclable materials.

• In 2010/11 it collected 41,000 tonnes of recyclable material via weekly recycling (glass, tin, paper and food waste), bring banks, and AWC Green Bin collections.

• 20,000 tonnes of garden (green) waste were collected in 2010/11.

• Sefton is the only authority in Merseyside to offer a weekly recycling collection service (green box, food waste caddy and paper

Monday, 3 October 2011


The winners of the musical fireworks was pyrotexfireworx
Sent from my BlackBerry® wireless device

Saturday, 1 October 2011

Brilliant film of Southport's Musical Fireworks

British Musical Fireworks Championships 2011 Southport - day 1 from RG on Vimeo.

John Pugh's NHS speach onYoutube

Haydn Preece reports on Coastal Rd campaign

"Raising awareness of speed will potentially make the Coastal Road safer"  declared Ainsdale Ward Councillor Haydn Preece after Wednesday night's Area Committee meeting to place four Actuated Signs between Weld Road and Liverpool Road.  Four flashing signs that remind drivers of their speed if over the speed limit will be in place soon.
Councillor Preece has been campaigning for improved road safety on the Coastal Road and initiated council officers reports on the Coastal Road . Cllr Preece has welcomed the decision at Area Committee to fund from Ainsdale and Dukes Ward four Actuated Signs."They will be like the ones at Ince Blundell Woods and they certainly make drivers check their speed. Stats show that a number of speed related accidents on the Coastal Road are caused by people out of town unfamiliar with the variances ion the Coastal Road. We are looking to save lives, curb speed and remind drivers of their responsibilities related to speed.  These flashing signs can play a role and if drivers react as they should we will collectively have achieved our objective.
The signs are solar powered and the precise placing of each one will be determined by the Highways Department."

New Campaign Website launched

New campaign website launched