Saturday, 30 June 2012

Banking reform-the Radical Liberal alternative

A timely article in the Independent today makes the point we have been struggling to  advocate-namely that the dominant model of ownership-the plc- is central to the problems of Britain's economy.

At a time when shareholder-driven business is reeling from self inflicted wounds, mutuals – which are owned by and accountable to their customers –have been seen by many as part of the solution........... Vince Cable said last week: "The destruction of the British building society movement ... was one of the great acts of economic vandalism of modern times."

Just as we need to up our advocacy of employee owned business so we must also present an alternative model of ownership for financial institutions. Both require us to democratise the plc structure. The Liberal Party used to argue for such a reform of company law. It is long over due. I'm sure hedge funds and other city folk would resist it and no doubt fund pamphlets to rubbish the idea. Nevertheless even the 'lite' German version of co-determination is more radical than anything advocated in mainstream politics and it is not unconnected with the success

Thursday, 28 June 2012

Problems with shareholder banks continue-what about the mutual alternative?

I was very sceptical when some Lib Dems were suggesting that there should be a a give away of the nationalised banks and wrote about it at the time (.

With more details of the indifference of shareholder towards the ethics of companies that they invest in emerges it is time to explore the alternatives. Shareholders are interested in very little other that a quick return on their investments. Short-termism is built into their DNA.

Vince Cable was one of those who opposed the demutualisation of the Building Societies. Recently he identified that action -prompted as it was by a crude view of the virtues of simplistic market mechanisms and the supposed superiority of the PLC model of ownership-as one of the great acts of economic vandalism in modern times. He wrote about the unavailability of capital for house building:

A key reason is the destruction of the British building society movement – or much of it – in the two decades after the late 1980s. This was one of the great acts of economic vandalism in modern times. And the commercial banks largely abandoned locally based relationship banking in the decade before the recent financial crisis. There is now no institutional structure in place to offer countercyclical lending, particularly small and medium sized businesses, in place of the banks.

I did not feel Mr Williams MP had a very good idea in promoting another shareholder owned bank. Ed Mayo from Co-Operatives UK made a similar point in an interview with the FT:

“We would say co-operative member democracy works better than shareholder democracy,” he said.

Responding to an idea by Nick Clegg, the deputy prime minister, to transfer the government’s stake in Lloyds and Royal Bank of Scotland to all adults in the UK, he said. “If you look at the ‘Tell Sid’ privatisation [of British Gas] you get a one-off boost for small shareholders then the traditional forces quickly take over.”

He also called for Northern Rock, the bank that was nationalised to prevent its failure, to be remutualised..................

(The full interview is here:

The issue has always been allegedly the raising of the capital but a paper from Kellog Colleg Oxford charts a way in which this could be realised.

Vince Cable's comment came ion his speach to CentreForum about learning lessons from the 1930s and the rest of the paragraph reads:

By contrast we are now in a downward, opposite spiral. A key reason is the destruction of the British building society movement – or much of it – in the two decades after the late 1980s. This was one of the great acts of economic vandalism in modern times. And the commercial banks largely abandoned locally based relationship banking in the decade before the recent financial crisis. There is now no institutional structure in place to offer countercyclical lending, particularly small and medium sized businesses, in place of the banks. A major and urgent task of government today is to ensure that we have banks that meet that requirement, alongside counter cyclical regulations and liquidity measures of the kind set out at last Thursday’s Mansion House speeches. We now look enviously at Germany where the Sparkasse and KFW underpin a business and mortgage lending system which works.

Wednesday, 20 June 2012

'Bonkers' Bootle Councillors' Gravy Train - 67% Pay Rises proposal!

This is a cross posting from Mike Booth over on the Kew blog

The recent news that there is a recommendation to give seven Sefton Labour councillors pay rises of between 25% and 67% has understandably provoked fury.

What has happened is that Sefton Council’s “Independent Remuneration Panel” proposed the massive increases at its meeting held on 6th June. This was the first meeting of the Panel since Labour took overall control of Sefton Council in the May local elections.

Many of us in the Lib Dems had expected the Panel to propose a cut in the level of additional Special Responsibility Allowances (SRAs) paid to 16 of the more senior councillors. In fact they did exactly the opposite.

The Panel has recommended that the Chairs of Sefton Council’s four Overview and Scrutiny Committees and of the Audit Committee should each receive a 67% pay rise taking their total pay from £12,780 to £21,300.

In addition, they propose that the Chairs of the Planning and Licensing Committees should be awarded a 25% pay rise – up from £17,040 to £21,300.

This all follows on last month’s disgraceful decision from Labour when they controversially seized all the Overview & Scrutiny Chairmanships following their gains in the local elections. In other councils these important posts are normally shared between the political parties, on the basis that these committees exist to scrutinise the actions of the Cabinet – which are now all Labour in the case of Sefton Council.

Labour councillors scrutinising the decisions of Labour councillors – that’s going to be really effective, isn’t it?

So the really surprising news is that all seven councillors proposed to receive the massive pay rises are Labour.

My colleague Councillor Shaw comments: “I regard these massive pay rises as completely unacceptable. In fact, in this year’s budget Lib Dems proposed an average cut of 10% in the level of SRAs – extra allowances paid to senior councillors – but we were outvoted by the other two parties. At a time of continuing reductions in Sefton’s spending on vital services such a cut in councillors’ pay seemed to us to be the right thing to do, and we assumed that the Independent Remuneration Panel would be sympathetic to that viewpoint.”

“I simply cannot understand how the Panel have gone in exactly the opposite direction. I recognise that it is one of those classic thankless tasks that they face, but they really need to be asked to think again.”

“Such massive increases in pay to these seven Labour Chairs, taking them to over £21,000 per annum, means that that they would be paid more for performing a part-time, public service role, than the majority of local people earn through paid employment.”

The overwhelming majority of Sefton councillors – 50 out of 66 – receive only the Basic Allowance, which the Pay Panel has recommended to be remain frozen at £8,520 per annum following an earlier cut of 5%. Members have to meet the cost of travel and other expenses from within the Basic Allowance.

If you want to read the whole shocking detail, full details of the decision of the “Independent Remuneration Panel” meeting of 6 June are to be found (see Minute 7) at:

When it comes to top pay; what about the workers Vince?

Liberal have for generations argued against the model of company control that says all the power rests with the owners of capital. Our policy was that owners and workers should be on a common register. Sadly the crude capitalist model that sees ownership and control being only in the hands of the owners of capital has a strong hold on economic thinking. Today the Business Secretary launched his plans to control top executives pay and sadly he has once given all the power to the shareholders.

Liberal plans for co-ownership of industry and even more radical plans for out right employee ownership all looked to replace the idea that building shareholder value was the objective businesses. Owners of capital are looking for the biggest possible return on their investment in the shortest possible time and this leads to short-term-ism and high risk taking. Not many shareholders were complaining about executive pay when their dividends were good. At the extreme this leads to daft decisions like the sale of Cadbury's to Kraft. The destruction of firms which had long term viability for short term profit.

It interesting to note that employee owned enterprises have controlled executive pay much more successfully than PLC's. There is also good evidence that they have better productivity, happier workers, create more jobs and are less tempted by short-term objectives.

Robert Oakeshott and others pointed out that there were other benefits of this model of ownership-the redistribution of wealth. David Steel and Professor James Meade made that point in the Steel edited book; Partners in one Nation and an American academic interviewed recently asserted:

I am of the opinion that we can’t address the problems we’ve got just with the standard fare of income-based measures and government transfers. Given the scale of problems that exist when thinking about economic inequality, the idea that we can bridge the gaps that exist through these traditional strategies, through government transfer payments, earned-income tax credits, or whatever you may come up with, is really not enough. If you’re looking at the drivers of income inequality, it’s not just paychecks, it’s wealth. Rich people are rich because they own stuff and that stuff gets more valuable as they sleep. The greater mass of the population is being asked to survive on paychecks—on income. That’s a race they’re never going to win. Strategies that intervene at the point of ownership of productive assets of business are, therefore, an important place to be. 

There are some Labour politicians in Britain who are genuinely interested in this approach but generally speaking both in opposition and in government the Labour Party have done little to advance this alternative model of ownership. Indeed up to and including the last Labour government the Trade union Movement have been hostile to this approach. This dates back to the Webb's opposition to producer co-operatives. In this little clip from a documentary on the successful Mondragon co-ops explains their opposition (start at about 8mins-altho all of it is interesting!)


The 'left' in America has been equally unsupportive as the academic Christopher Mackin clear in the same article:

This point of view stands in contrast to an extremely fuzzy vision of a lot of my friends on the left, who, with the best of intentions, say we should have what they call “social” ownership of the means of production. At the end of the day ambiguous language like this is an invitation for supposedly enlightened government bureaucrats to make the tough calls. Does this vague idea of “social” ownership mean government ownership? Not really. Does that mean it’s worker ownership? No, not that either. This fundamentally ambivalent social ownership view comes out of social-democratic and socialist traditions that ultimately do not trust workers with ownership for fear of imagined crimes and misdemeanors that enlightened social democrats—who truly hold the reins of power—believe they alone can avoid. They believe this at the expense of the workers and at the expense of the possibilities that should be allowed to take place when there is genuine democracy at the level of the firm.

It is therefore in the context of a wider debate about ownership that we should look at the policy to control executive pay. Welcome though the steps Vince has taken are they do not contribute the the wider agenda which British Liberals have advanced for generation namely of democratising ownership and spreading wealth.

Tuesday, 19 June 2012

redefining liberalism

It has been fascinating to follow Gladstone's Library (St Deniol's) as it seeks to redefine Liberalism. Little snippets have been leaked from their sojourn at the Hay Festival where hundreds of people filled in their 'liberalism' voting cards'. I guess a summary will appear shortly on their blog devoted to the project .

The contribution from pollster Peter Kellner -who was a 'don't know'  seemed to think we were useful people to have around ...................

'I am a Liberal because I desire earnestly the advancement of the people morally, intellectually, and materially, by the redress of all wrongs that fall upon the weak, and the removal of all obstacles that stand in the way of the true happiness of men'

That little gem from Andrew Reid, Why I am a Liberal (1885)

Monday, 18 June 2012

a great act of economic vandalism...........

It has been well signed posted, but at last this morning Vince Cable set out his views about how Government could act to help drive Britain out of the recession. Drawing lessons from the 1930's he argued that housebuilding had a key role to play. The BBC reported his speech

He pointed out that Britain got out of the "slump" of 1931 in part by building more homes - with private housebuilding increasing from 130,000 homes in 1931 to more than 300,000 three years later.
He said these days there was an "unmet demand" for social housing and the government could do more to help housing associations get access to cheap credit by using government guarantees.

Also of significant interest was his return to an old theme:

Recovery requires a big expansion in social and private housebuilding", he said - and he decried the difficulty in giving aspiring homeowners access to mortgages. In the 1930s there were 1,000 building societies - their "destruction" was "a great act of economic vandalism".

It is the hope of many of us that as part of Banking reform the government will play its part in the creation of a thriving mutual financial sector. Ownership really does matter in this context. If all our financial institutions are PLC  it is not good news. We need bodies whose first priority is to serve their members not to make the fastest , biggest buck.

Merseytravel Alliance Signals Good Governance

Extraordinary circumstance require extraordinary reactions. John Dodd approached me a while back to discuss how best to take things forward on the 'Scandal hit' Merseystravel. Labour's record at the transport authority is an embarrassment to almost everyone. Some credit does rebound to the Labour rebels who finally took on Mark Dowd but we must ask; what took you so long? Loyalty to the Labour Party or sheer funk stayed their hand for too many years at great loss to the tax payers and to the reputation of local government. Next time there is a proposal to give extra powers to local government  you can imagine the mandarins of Whitehall whispering in the Minister's ear; 'Remember Mark Dowd and how he ran Merseytravel......' 

Anyway John has responded to the shenanigans bravely and constructively. He and Andrew Makinson have raised many matters of concern over a long period. Sadly Labour were not as supportive as we would wish. Today John has issued this statement

Cllr John Dodd, Sefton Liberal Democrats' representative on Merseytravel and Cllr Les Rowlands, the Wirral Conservative representative have formed an alliance group on Merseytravel: 'Merseytravel Alliance Signals Good Governance'. Cllr Rowlands says: "We have formed this alliance from two political parties to assist in bringing Merseytravel's governance into the twenty first century."

Cllr Dodd adds: "Merseytravel needs to be more open and transparent In its dealings and not make decisions behind closed doors. We will be scrutinising closely and ensuring that Merseytravel can continue to be a leader in the field of providing local transport for the benefit of the public as a whole on Merseyside."
The Lib Dem and Tory councillors are particularly concerned about Merseytravel's recent move to new luxury offices near the Pier Head.
"We need to look closely at how Merseytravel came to make this decision," says Cllr Dodd, "and the advice which was received."
The new Alliance will be looking for the new chair after the AGM of the Authority on 28th June, to give an assurance of good governance for the future.
Cllr Rowland says: "We will be looking to the new chair of Merseytravel to call for a full Inquiry, by an independent body, into the issues raised in the report which was received by the District Auditor. Merseytravel, itself, needs to look closely at how all these decisions have been made and to ensure systems are put in place to ensure good governance for the future. " 

Saturday, 16 June 2012

Labour in control-is Merseytravel their template?

I urge you all to read Mike Boot over on Kew Focus, more to follow...........................

Waterloo Rd resurfacing

Starting on Monday they are going to be re-surfacing Waterloo Road in Birkdale. The work will take up to a week. The contractors claim that in order to minimise disruption they will only work 'off peak' between 9.30am to 15.30pm. (We had a promise about working hours when Guildford Rd was remade and that was ignored, I hope this will not be repeated)

Pedestrian access and access for emergency vehicles will be maintained

Nurses war memorial, VADs etc

There is no national memorial that names nurses killed in the two world wars. For many people it was the writing of Vera Britten that first drew attention to the role of nurses especially in WW1 and this was further enhanced when in 1979 the BBC televised a dramatisation of her novel Testament of Youth with Cheryl Campbell in the lead role. There was a new edition of the book a few years back complete with an introduction by her daughter Shirley Williams. In 1981 Virago published an anthology of WW1 poetry written by women Scars upon my heart  the tittle of which was taken from a poem by Vera Britten written about her brother's death on the Italian front in 1916

A committee has now been formed to establish a Nursing Memorial at the National Arboretum in Staffordshire.Yvonne Mc Ewan an historian who has written widely about the contribution of nurses in the wars chairs this initiative. The RCN is backing the campaign amongst other groups and there is a petition on their website.

One of our Councillors, Bruce Hubbard who was a history teacher until he took up leading parties to the battlefield of WW1, impressed me recently by explaining why some WW1 memorials span the period 1914-19. I was not aware of the UK's involvement with White Russians post 1918. I suspect that most people are equally unaware of the contribution nurses made in WW1.

Your battle-wounds are scars upon my heart, 
Received when in that grand and tragic 'show' 
You played your part, 
Two years ago, ..................

Monday, 11 June 2012

1929-we can conquer unemployment

Mark Pack has a posting over on Lib Dem Voice  on how leaflets used to look. Today he has a1929 leaflet. We have featured before the 1929 Manifesto 'We Can Conquer Unemployment'. I was very pleased to receive a copy kept by a long time Birkdale Liberal activist H G Williamson of Grosvenor Rd (which is now in Dukes Ward) You will note that the Southport election result is written on the top left hand corner. Our candidate was Cecil Ramage-best remembered today not as a Liberal MP, or a barrister but as an actor in Kind Hearts and Coronets where he played the prosecution counsel

Wednesday, 6 June 2012

Jobs and Growth a Liberal alternative

I guess Jo Swinson is seen as a far more friendly face to Lib Dem activists than say Danny Alexander who always does badly in polls of party workers, for it is she who has written to ask us for our views on jobs and growth. Time will tell if this is a genuine attempt to engage members or if it just looking for confirmation of a plan many -I suspect most of us- feel is unbalanced. So its time to 'get it off your chest' as all the best FOCUS leaflet say:

    Good evening Ms Swinson
    Liberals have argued for generations that the current distribution of ownership in industry is the impediment to creating sustained growth and jobs. Pumping more money into a structure that has failed us is not the answer. As long as PLC's key concern is increasing shareholder value that long will they take unreasonable risks and ignore long term job creation and the building of sustainable enterprises (and perpetuate a gross mal distribution of wealth) 
    The Ownership Commission report laid out the link between ownership and business growth. Co-Ownership/Employee Ownership is central to getting growth going again it is not a 'bolt on' after the shyster capitalists take their profit. They identified the growth of middle sized businesses -almost completely lacking in the UK economy but essential to the German success-as a priority.
    The Liberal Party used to argue that control of a company should not rest with the owners of capital alone. We argued for a common register of company members including employees and shareholders on equal terms who should elect the Board of Directors. Our present PLC model is the most regressive in Europe .We need to recapture the initiative on this issue. Employees should not be politely asking if they can buy a few shares, their contribution to company success should be acknowledged and their rights to help direct the company entrenched in a reform of company law.
    So the highest priority must be to plot a pathway from our present unsatisfactory model of predatory capitalism to one where the dominant form of ownership is employee ownership. Richard Wainwright used to tell Liberal Assemblies that the state of affairs we favoured was one in which 'labour hired capital'. We need to return to that vision.   
    I hae me doots that people that folk want hear that they have got things wrong but frankly the scale of ambition in the house building programme is embarrassingly small and hardly begins to address the scale of the challenge either in housing investment or job creation. The same is true of infrastructure plans. Of course there are some individual projects we welcome but with unacceptably high rates of unemployment and social division we need to recognise that vastly more needs to be done. Personally I cannot see that deficit reduction should be perused as the single over-riding aim of economy policy. Full employment used to be our measure of success. We need a 'balanced scorecard' approach to judging economic recovery, total emphasis on one indicator is disastrous. As the Yellow Book declared: 'We believe with a passionate faith that the end of all political and economic action is not the perfecting or the perpetuation of this or that piece of  mechanism or organisation, but that individual men and women may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly'
    I would welcome a national infrastructure bank to help fund these initiatives as I understand Vince Cable has suggested. I had hope that out of the banking collapse we would see the re-emergence of local/regional banking. Once again the model of ownership for Liberals should be central to this argument. More banks owned by shareholder seeking maximum profit is not the solution. We need a different type of ownership. One of the worst things Thatcher's crude neo liberal creed accomplished was the destruction of the Mutual sector. We need actively to recreate financial institution owned by their savers who have long term objectives. When Jo Grimond and Robert Oakeshott returned from visiting the Mondragon Co-Ops in the late 1970's they identified the Workers' Savings Bank 'Caja Laboral Popular' as a key to building a better economy. This bank and its business support activities have created100 new worker owned companies with 100 000 jobs. It has been describes as the most successful entrepreneurial support agency anywhere in the world. The outcomes the have achieved in job creation and sustainable companies puts to shame all our venture capitalist.

    • A radical plan to bring about employee ownership -including preferential treatment when it comes to new government lending and credit facilities, tax advantages in selling businesses on to employees when founders retire etc
    • A national infrastructure bank to assist funding a dramatically more ambitious programme of house building and investment in rail etc
    • Abandoning deficit reduction as the only aim of economic policy and recognising that we need a basket of indicators including full employment to measure our progress
    • development of local/regional mutual banking sector to attract local savings and invest in local enterprises
    • put back up Keynes's portrait in the Treasury!

    The shifting sands at Southport, action of prozac on shrimps and the wreck off Mad Warf

    Southport's shifting sands and what they have to reveal are amongst the themes of this week's Radio 4 Book of the Week  written and read by local multi award winning  poet Jean Sprackland. All is available on iplayer for seven days.

    Monday began with the skeletal remains of of ship wreck:

    Every so often the sands shift enough to reveal great mysteries: the Star of Hope, wrecked on Mad Wharf in 1883 and usually just visible as a few wooden stumps, is suddenly raised one day, up from the depths - an entire wreck, black and barnacled, and on either side two more ruined ships, taking the air for a while before sinking back under the sand

    Yesterday we had the impact on the famous Southport shrimps of discarded Prozac tablets-not as benign as you might imagine.  Ms Sprackland has appeared on the Birkdale blog when her previous collection of poems Tilt came to our notice back in January 2008 and again when she won the Costa poetry Award. I suspect that she will rank her appearance on Ian MacMillan's Radio 3 programme The Verb as more prestigious than a mention on a blog and the programme is available to listen to for two more days.

     I know from the feedback that local people greatly appreciated her poem 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.

    from Tilt (Cape, 2007)

    Carol Ann Duffy appeared with Jean Spracland in the studio theatre in the Arts Centre (pre renovation and pre poet laureate status) in the Sefton Celebrates Writing Festival. The Arts Centre -now named The Atkinson- has undergone major renovations not least to the Studio Theatre and the work was part funded by a grant from the 'Sea Change' fund which brings us back to Strands and the BBC book of the week which is about Sea Change

    Strands is available from all good Bookshops. Broadhursts in Market St (pictured) had sold out this afternoon but were confident of getting new supplies in tomorrow and is anyway always worth a visit.

    Deeper crisis at merseytravel- time for dithering is long since past

    I warned at the Southport area committee last week that the impact of the Labour infighting at Merseytravel was set to jeopardise investment in our region's transport infrastructure. If you were the government you would think twice before handing over more money to an organisation with Merseytravel's record of poor governance-not to mention the spending decisions they have taken. I know there is more to come. The Daily Post this morning has a new angle on the story:

    The crisis engulfing Merseytravel follows revelations that millions of pounds had been spent on consultants without proper tendering for the work.

    District auditor (DA) Julian Farmer said the authority could have problems showing it had spent the money properly.

    His letter followed the distribution of a highly critical report by Labour councillors on Merseytravel – authored by Cllr Joe Hanson from Liverpool council – about governance at the organisation under the leadership of Cllr Dowd and departed chief executive Neil Scales.

    Concern crisis will hurt reputation

    OFFICIALS at Merseytravel are becoming increasingly concerned about the impact the crisis in the authority is having on its reputation.

    Merseytravel is run by an executive of officials but overseen by an authority controlled by councillors elected to the region’s five district councils.

    Usually the two parts operate in tandem, but a source said the two were being split by the row within the ruling Labour party.

    The row flared up after a report written by Cllr Joe Hanson into the governance of the organisation was circulated.

    According to correspondence seen by us, the executive demanded this report be deemed not to have official status. But this has not happened.

    Early in May legal director Louise Outram emailed the clerk to the authority Steve Maddox, outlining the concerns of the executive, of which acting chief executive Jim Barclay is in charge.

    In that email she explains the fears of the executive about Cllr Hanson’s report, the contents of which were set to be published in the The Liverpool Post.

    The Post published a story which revealed a catalogue of failures.

    In the email Ms Outram says that the executive wants the authority to acknowledge that Cllr Hanson’s report "is not the review of the executive as anticipated by the authority and that this document has no official status".
    That has not happened.

    Read More

    Friday, 1 June 2012

    Southport and the decline of Western Civilisation

    Over on Liberal England there is a posting today charting the decline in Western Civilisation as it is reflected in railway advertising. Jonathan chooses as his example of the best in advertising the 1925(?) picture by Fortunino Matania of Southport. This is just one of a number of collaborations between London Midland and Scottish Railways and Southport Council to promote the town. When The Atkinson art gallery re-opens it's doors visitors will be able to see the original artworks again. Initially Matania was commissioned by Southport to produce six paintings of 'Sunny Southport'
    The same poster that Jonathan uses was also used by the old Cheshire Lines Railway best remembered in Southport today for the excellent Cheshire Lines pub on King Street.

    The Atkinson also has the original of the famous painting advertising Winter Holidays in Southport which I note the catalogue says is from 1925. I'm a little uncertain about that as the Garrick Theatre was not built until the 1930's on the site of the Opera House which had burnt down. The theatre in the picture is clearly the art nouveau building designed by local architect George Tonge

    There are those who if they wished to chart the decline in western Civilisation would choose the Garrick Theatre site which has gone from Frank Matcham's Opera House to Bingo Hall since 1891.

    There is another link between Fortunino Matania and Liberal England; namely Charles Masterman an old dear friend of Lord Bonkers. Masterman headed up the British War Propaganda Bureau in WW1. It was he who commissioned War Artists like Paul Nash to go to the front. Fortunino Matania was also commissioned and in the royal holiday period it is worth recording he was a greatly admired by King George.

    Masterman belonged to a generation of radical Liberals. He was closely involved in parliament in the introduction of the People's Budget and the National  Insurance Act. His book The Condition of England focused primarily on the life of the 'labouring classes'. As such he was part of the move away from a simplistic belief in markets and the 'small state' towards the Social Liberal case championed by L T Hobhouse that there was a necessary and proper relationship between the state and other economic actors. There is no doubt the Southport Corporation investing in Fortunino Matania was a shrewd move and helped local businesses to grow....